10 August 2015
Hembery: Pirelli won’t stay in F1 at any cost
It may be applying for a new F1 contract, but Pirelli says it still needs to be getting value for money from its role as tyre supplier.
Paul Hembery has warned that Pirelli will not continue to supply tyres in F1 'at any cost', saying its involvement remains dependent on its receiving positive recognition and the sport growing in certain markets.
The Italian firm has been F1's control tyre supplier since taking over from Bridgestone in 2011, with its current deal set to expire at the end of the 2016 season.
Currently locked into a tender bidding process with rivals Michelin, though Pirelli is considered a favourite to retain its contract given the lukewarm response from teams over Michelin's proposal to introduce low degradation rubber, Motorsport Director Hembery says other factors still need to be taken into account when it comes to determining its own future.
Indeed, though Hembery has previously stated Pirelli's willingness to follow F1's lead in supplying tyres to improve to the spectacle, the sport itself still has to contribute back by increasing its reach in North America and Asia.
“We're quite happy to go forward with some of the ideas they've got,” he said. “It's a big decision and very expensive. You've got to bear in mind that we're a sponsor as well as a technical supplier and our overall costs are far greater than a normal sponsor – it would be far better for us to go and do some trackside advertising and sit and have a bottle of champagne every weekend! That would probably cost about a third of what it costs now.
“Our costs of being present, net cost because we don't get anything from the commercial rights holder obviously, we're contributing to the commercial rights holder, our net cost is probably greater than [everyone] except the engine manufacturers. We could certainly run an F1 team for our budget.
“The cost is worth it so far but there's also got to be a recognition of your role. If you come along and feel that you're not getting the right recognition for what you're putting into the sport, then you start questioning it. Other people have come and gone in the past for those reasons and I'll know in October what our board thinks.
“I've always said that we won't be in the sport at any cost – it has to work as a business proposition. The sport is still strong historically in South America, Brazil in particular, and Europe but we need it to be stronger in Asia and we need to grow it in North America – we need a bigger audience in those markets.
“We compare F1 with other sponsorship activities, what our competitors do, what the automotive businesses do, other people – not necessarily in our business or area – how they go and spend money…. It's not a given that, at any cost, we want to be here but we'll be here if it makes sense for the business – and if the sport wants us to be here. If they don't want to recognise our role and involvement, then we'll do something else…”
Regarding this recognition, Hembery says he is satisfied with the role F1 has played in promoting the Pirelli brand, despite the occasion where it feels constrained, namely through the lack of testing.
“It varies with time. I think there have been some constraints places on us that were maybe unfair from certain points of view because it hasn't always allowed us to do what we would have liked to have done – and testing is the main point there. It's always a surprise to us that the only component that is the same from the winning car to the last car that tends to get a comment is the tyres, when there are thousands of other variables, and somebody wants to mention us, which is a bit bizarre really. That's the life of a tyre maker in motorsport…”
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