Michelin and F1 ‘not in agreement’ in the debate over what makes a good show

Michelle Foster
Logo of Michelin tyres.

The Michelin tyre logo on the side of a Formula 1 motorhome.

Michelin will not be applying to replace Pirelli as Formula 1’s official tyre supplier, the company’s CEO Florent Menegaux revealing their philosophy is at odds with F1’s over what makes up a good show.

Last month the FIA launched an invitation to tyre manufacturers to apply for the exclusive F1 supply deal, which will begin in 2025 and run for at least four seasons.

F1’s tyre supplier since 2011, Pirelli, were quick to confirm their interest in a statement that said the “framework described by the FIA is closely aligned to Pirelli’s motorsport strategy and so is of great interest.”

But one company that isn’t interested is Michelin.

The French tyre manufacturer last competed in Formula 1 back in 2006, that season being the last time Formula 1 had a so-called ‘tyre war’, with Bridgestone also on the grid.

However, they won’t be looking to return to the sport with Menegaux citing a difference in philosophy when it comes to what makes a good show.

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“The question is, how do we leverage technology to have a good show? And that’s where F1 comes into play, because we have been discussing with them for a very long time and we are not in agreement,” Menegaux told The Drive.

“Because they [F1] say to have the show, you have to have tyres that destroy themselves. And I think, we [Michelin] don’t know how to do this. So, we cannot agree.

“Teams should be understanding tyre performance and capitalising on the fact that the tyre is going to be performing from the first lap around the circuit to the last.

“The drivers will tell you they want to be at their maximum all the time. And when I hear the drivers in Formula 1, I like Formula 1, but they say no no, it’s not possible.”

Menegaux explained that Michelin are opposed to creating tyres that fall off a cliff edge performance-wise, after all their aim is to use the technology they learn through racing on today’s road tyres.

“First, we need to remind ourselves why Michelin is in racing,” he said. “The first element is not about the show. It’s not about the brand. It’s about the technology.

“We are in racing because it’s the best way to very quickly live test new technology. That’s the first reason.

“And of course there are side benefits—a side benefit is the show. A side benefit is the brand awareness. But in terms of brand awareness, Michelin is one of the best-known brands in the world. We don’t need to do this.”

Sole supplier or a Formula 1 tyre war?

Formula 1 swapped from a tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin to having just one supplier in 2007, that based on finances and in part safety.

The 2005 season saw Michelin pushing the envelope with their tyres to the point they couldn’t run safely through the banked corner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The sport as a whole came in for a great deal of criticism as just the six Bridgestone runners lined up on the grid that Sunday.

It was, some would say, the beginning of the end of tyre wars.

The argument to bring back tyre wars is that it can spice up the show. On surfaces or track layouts where one supplier has an advantage over the other, we could see the midfield cars challenge for podiums or even race wins.

But on the other hand it is an expense, one that most tyre manufacturers don’t want to commit to.

And if one tyre manufacturer has a huge advantage over the other, well no one wants to see a championship decided by the rubber the teams choose.