It appears that the selection of tyre-supplier for the F1 2011 World Championship campaign has now boiled down to just two options, following a further meeting of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) in Monaco at the weekend.
Prior to the FOTA reunion in McLaren-Mercedes' Monte Carlo motorhome, it was understood that five contenders – Michelin, Pirelli, Avon Cooper, Kumho and present incumbent Bridgestone – were in the running to take on the job, but with the latter still keen to withdraw despite teams' calls for the Japanese company to stay, and doubts over Avon and Kumho's ability to provide rubber of a sufficiently high standard, Michelin and Pirelli have emerged as the clear front-runners.
Whilst it was hoped that the latest meeting would resolve the issue – with competitors understandably keen to make progress with their designs of next year's cars – a decision has again been deferred, with the two bids characterised by distinctly different pros and cons and the manufacturers and independent teams similarly having contrasting priorities dictated by cost.
“It will probably take another week,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali told Motorsport-Magazin.com
, “perhaps next weekend. There are only two possibilities – Michelin and Pirelli.”
“It's not clear-cut which way it will go,” added Mercedes Grand Prix CEO Nick Fry, speaking to SPEEDTV.com's
Adam Cooper. “The technical and commercial packages are different. We think Pirelli and Michelin can both do the job, and to be honest we are ambivalent about it.”
Whilst the offer from Pirelli is the cheaper one, Michelin has far more recent experience of F1 – having only departed the fray at the end of 2006 – and the French manufacturer has halved its price from €5m per team to €1.5m in a bid to compete.
Its Italian rival, meanwhile, is the exclusive tyre-supplier to the all-new supporting GP3 Series – enabling it to log vital data on the European circuits the championship visits this year – and has tabled a deal that would include trackside advertising, from whose revenue the teams would benefit.
“Discussions are going on,” Mercedes team principal and the head of FOTA's technical group, Ross Brawn, is quoted as having said by grandprix.com
. “We had a very good proposal from Pirelli, which I think needs looking at seriously. We're in a better position than we were a few months ago, because F1 has got some serious proposals and a few months ago we had nothing.
“We're greatly encouraged by the interest, and I think both the tyre companies and the car designers want to get on and start doing things now – or else it's going to compromise us and get expensive. Worst of all, someone might get lucky and design their car around a tyre and get it right while other people don't, through no fault of their own – just lack of time. The teams have got together again to discuss the situation, and hopefully there will be a decision soon.”