Pirelli's deal to replace Bridgestone as Formula One's official tyre supplier is perhaps not as final as many in the paddock have claimed, with suggestions that Michelin is making a renewed bid to step into the void being left by Bridgestone.
With the decision-making process dragging on, having initially been targeted at an announcement during the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, and now threatening the design and testing process for 2011 [see story here
], it had been widely believed that Pirelli, which was offering a more conducive package to the teams, would be confirmed at Istanbul Park this weekend.
However, according to Autoweek.com
, Michelin looks set to make a last-gasp bid to wrest back the deal by meeting with teams' organisation FOTA at the Turkish round. The French company had been seen as the favourite to supplant Bridgestone, despite requesting a switch to 18-inch rims and claiming a higher price from the teams, but Pirelli's arrival in the bidding process, with lower costs and a willingness to remain with the current 13-inch wheels, saw the teams swayed. Michelin has already slashed its initial price for the deal, and is now thought to be returning with an improved offer on the number of tyres it is prepared to supply per race weekend.
Bernie Ecclestone has thrown his support behind the more cost-effective Pirelli bid, as have the majority of the teams, but FIA president Jean Todt is understood to favour Michelin, and may count on Ferrari as an additional backer.
"What's important is that it's good for F1," one team boss told Autoweek
, "If it's Michelin or Pirelli, it doesn't matter."