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Pirelli hints at ‘lock it or lose it’ ultimatum to F1 teams

24 May 2013

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has warned that F1 could be left without a tyre supplier if the teams do not hurry up and agree to a new contract with its sole supplier.

The Italian firm stepped into the breach when Bridgestone pulled out at the end of the 2010 campaign, and has worked diligently to produce tyres that help to improve the spectacle rather than using the sport purely as a marketing tool. However, amid concerns that this year's rubber may have gone 'too aggressive', the teams are prevaricating over an extended deal, despite demanding 2014's specifications in time to complete the planning for their new cars.

"Apparently, on 1 September, we are meant to tell them everything that they need to know for the tyres for next season,” an exasperated Hembery confirmed during his regular meeting with the media in Monaco, “We are now in mid-May, so you can imagine how ludicrous that is when we haven't even got contracts in place.”

What Hembery said next needs to be taken seriously by the F1 fraternity, as there does not appear to an obvious exit strategy in place for the sport should the threat be real.

“Maybe we won't be here anyway," the Briton continued, "At a certain point, somebody has got to make a decision. Things are getting extremely serious because the changes next year are so substantial that the sport has to make a rapid decision."

No other tyre manufacturer has shown serious interest in providing specialist rubber for the top flight and, with a new technical specification for next year's car and engine design, time is needed to ensure that the tyres provided are up to the job of dealing with the new turbo-charged 1.6-litre V6s and energy recovery systems mandated for 2014.

"It's not a case of putting a harder compound onto this year's tyres," he insisted, "The changes are so dramatic that we probably need to do a thorough re-engineering of the tyre and that takes time. The longer [the delay over a new contract] goes on, it makes our job impossible and there comes a point where probably you say 'we don't have time to do the job any more'."

Although no public deadline was mentioned during the briefing, Hembery indicated that Pirelli HQ has apparently set a date by which it needs to have a deal in place for 2014. Speculation suggests this could be the anniversary of the 23 June announcement that brought the Italian giant back into F1 in 2010, giving the teams a month to decide whether they want to continue with the current supplier or face the uncertainty of not having a replacement signed up.