Pirelli has reacted to claims that Michelin may be poised to challenge its hold on F1's tyre contract by warning that making a change this late in the season would be disastrous for the sport.
Rumours of Michelin's interest resurfaced at Spa-Francorchamps, with BBC Sport
going as far as suggesting that secret talks had been staged with the FIA and a meeting arranged between Bernie Ecclestone and Michelin director of motorsport Pascal Couasnon.
While it has been widely assumed that Michelin would not countenance a return to F1 before 2015, due to the scale of the production challenge involved in supplying all the teams on the grid, sources say that the company is confident that it could be ready for 2014 if given the contract by early September. Any deal, however, would require a change in the regulations, with Michelin not keen to follow Pirelli down the route of acceding to the FIA's demand for tyres that degrade quickly to make pit-stop strategies a crucial part of the racing.
Degradation and failures have been a talking point of the 2013 campaign, with Pirelli coming under fire from all quarters after a chaotic British Grand Prix that saw three cars suffer blow-outs and prompted a switch back to a tyre construction mirroring that of 2012.
Pirelli has yet to be confirmed as the official supplier for 2014, despite holding contracts with the majority of teams and the commercial rights holder, and motorsport director Paul Hembery warns that changing manufacturer at this late stage would have repercussions for the sport as teams are currently waiting for the deal to be finalised as they work on the design of next year's cars.
Amid a wholesale change in the F1 regulations – including a new engine and powertrain technology – that will see the teams able to test as early as January next year, the 2014 tyre specifications need to be set in stone in the next few weeks.
"We have contracts in place, and we would hope people would respect them,” he told Reuters
at the Belgian Grand Prix, "Quite frankly, a tender in September when you are running in January would be farcical. You should have done that in September last year. Everybody would look ridiculous in that scenario."
Although Hembery claims that confirmation of a FIA contract would not be forthcoming until next month, he insists that Pirelli was already sufficiently advanced with its more conservative 2014 design to provide the necessary data to the teams, with further private tests planned between now and the end of the year to ensure that it would be ready for the pre-season.
"It will be the year of the powertrain, a year where you talk of other things and strategy will be about how to manage the energy recovery and when to use it, the fuel management," he said, "It's not the year for us to give them a tyre challenge."