Pirelli might be at risk of facing a rival bid for the rights to exclusively supply all Grand Prix teams in the F1 paddock with race tyres, when the contract comes up for renewal either at the end of the current season or in late 2014.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport
publication reported on Sunday that tyre manufacturer Michelin is close to making a formal announcement that it will enter the next tendering process for the supply contract.
Michelin was last involved in F1 in 2006 when it was engaged in a 'tyre war' with Bridgestone, but soured on its involvement after such embarrassments as the 2005 US Grand Prix which saw all Michelin-shod cars withdraw from the event before the start over tyre safety concerns.
According to the magazine, Michelin has tentatively scheduled an announcement on the matter for the middle of next week. It's thought that Michelin are planning on bidding for the rights from 2015, as it's almost certainly too late for a new company to jump into next year's production this close to the end of the current season.
Even incumbents Pirelli, who have said that their own plans for next season are well advanced, have said that it's getting dangerously late in the year for the contract to be awarded - especially given that teams need to have detailed specifications of next year's tyres by September 1 in order to begin production of their new cars under 2014's heavily revised rules and regulations.
"We will decide," said Pirelli's director of motorsport Paul Hembery, amid reports that Red Bull
are among the teams opposing a wider rear tyre designed to cope with the higher torque of the new turbo V6 engines that are being introduced next year. "No matter what the teams want - they just need to give us their data."
More likely then is the suggestion that Michelin might be considering an announcement of a rival bid for the following season in 2015 - but that could also cause some immediate shockwaves.
"If we are confronted next year with a tender for 2015, we'll be gone," Hembery is reported as saying, underlining how frustrated the company is becoming with their position in F1 and with the testing and development restrictions placed on them by the FIA sporting regulations.
Last month Pirelli was reprimanded for arranging a private tyre test in Spain with Mercedes using 2013-specification cars earlier in the season in breach of the rules, although subsequent high-profile tyre blow-outs at the British Grand Prix
caused the sporting body to swiftly authorise additional tyre testing at Silverstone to help Pirelli get on top of the issue.
The whole affair was an embarrassing one for Pirelli, leading many to question whether the company would even want to continue its involvement in the sport in the face of such risk of reputational damage.
"We want clarity this year," insisted Hembery. "Our contracts with the rights holder and some of the teams are for the next five years."