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Michelin tempers F1 rumours

27 August 2013

Michelin has dismissed suggestions that it was poised to engage in meetings with regard to an imminent return to F1, but refuses to rule out the possibility on replacing Pirelli as the sport's sole tyre supplier in the future.

Speaking to France's Le Figaro, the company's director of motorsport Pascal Couasnon insisted that there were no plans to sit down with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – as was being rumoured in the paddock at Spa-Francorchamps over the weekend – but conceded that a return to the top flight was possible, provided there were significant changes to the conditions of supply.

“I was surprised by this statement, but I'm starting to get used to them,” Couasnon said of the BBC's claim that he was due to meet with Ecclestone, “Two weeks ago, I read that Michelin had planned to hold a press conference to make a statement [about a return to F1], but nothing happened...

“There are always a lot of rumours in F1, but I do not know who is interested in them. The truth is that we are participating in rallying and endurance racing, and will soon be busy with our work in [environmental series] Formula E.”

Given that he was on duty at the WRC round in Germany over the weekend, a potential meeting with Ecclestone somewhere between Trier and Spa would not have been out of the question but, while Couasnon insisted that talks were not on the cards, he conceded that both the Briton and governing body the FIA were aware of Michelin's position.

“I guarantee that I have not scheduled any meetings with Bernie Ecclestone,” he stressed, “I hardly know the world of F1, but all of these people depend on each other. If negotiations were to begin, we would lead them to the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and the teams. We have already sent [the FIA] the same information as we've made public, so our position is known to all. If the FIA agreed to negotiate a different way of using tyres in F1, then perhaps we are ready to talk…”

Michelin has made no secret of its distain for the current tyre formula, where Pirelli is being asked to produce rubber that degrades quickly in order to artificially increase overtaking and make pit-stops a tactical element of the sport. If it was to make a bid to replace its Italian rival, Michelin insists that it would want no part of a similar scenario.

“The current state of affairs in this series does not suit us,” Couasnon confirmed, “It makes me sad and angry. By needing to change the tyres after a few laps, or even a few corners, you create an unattractive image of the product for ordinary motorists.”

Admitting that his company would be happy either as a sole supplier or in competition with another brand, Couasnon admitted that F1 still held an attraction for Michelin, but emphasised that the conditions had to be right before a comeback would be considered.

“We have always said that we were interested in the competition,” he noted, “It is quite an interesting technical challenge but one of the problems is that it doesn't mirror high-performance road tyres. If F1 is ready to go to 18-inch wheels, we'll definitely be in the championship!”

Confirming that 'this is one of the main conditions of our participation in F1' Couasnon insisted that Michelin would be able to react should talks between the FIA and Pirelli fail to produce a new contract for the Italians. Although the latter's Paul Hembery claims that changing suppliers at such a late point in the design process for next year's cars, the Frenchman said that there was still time.

“Of course, after a certain point, a comeback is impossible,” Couasnon conceded, “We need time for the production of tyres. Let's just say the end of October will be too late to change...”


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