- 2011 season
Still no decision on tyres for 2011
Kumho has joined the race to supply tyres to Formula One in 2011, although the teams favoured option appears to be for Bridgestone to stay.
Amid reports that Michelin, Pirelli and Avon are vying for a tyre supply contract, it emerged in Barcelona that F1's current supplier Bridgestone might be reconsidering its decision to leave the sport at the end of the year. It was then rumoured that Michelin - having reduced its financial terms by half - is the favoured 2011 supplier, with teams not particularly keen on the cheaper but less-experienced Avon.
Formula One Teams' Association [FOTA] chairman Martin Whitmarsh fears that opting for Pirelli or Avon could ultimately cost more because there is no available data.
"The big teams would hire their own engineers to generate data about the tyres themselves," he said. "The small teams could not afford it and we would have a two-class society."
Whitmarsh added that having a tyre war, favoured by Michelin, would be costly and that a single supplier would be the most pragmatic solution.
"We like competition in all forms but we have to be mindful, is this controlling costs?" he said. "The last time we had tyre competition it was massively expensive. We have to be mindful that we must keep a grid of 10 or probably 12 teams in F1, and many of those teams are not fit for that level of competition at the moment."
The issue was discussed at length in a meeting of team bosses at the Circuit de Catalunya, and afterwards it was suggested that yet another tyre company might have entered the race. The South Korean tyre marque Kumho, despite having no experience in Formula One, is thought to have submitted a formal letter of intent to supply teams next year.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport said the letter was sent to both the FIA and also Bernie Ecclestone, who is in charge of the issue of F1 tyre supply because it is essentially a commercial matter.
The teams' preferred option is that Bridgestone is simply persuaded to stay. FOTA is believed to have written to Bridgestone Europe, and the teams' request will now be passed on to CEO Shoshi Arakawa.
"Bridgestone have done a great job in F1 and if we can persuade them to stay in the sport that would be very strong," said Whitmarsh.
"The request is an honour," confirmed the marque's F1 boss Hiroshi Yasukawa.
The tyre issue is now a priority so that teams can get to work on the 2011 cars, but Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said there are still a lot of details to be ironed out. "It is going to take another couple of weeks, although we will talk about it again in Monaco," he said.
Another hot topic in the Monaco FOTA meeting will be KERS, as the gentleman's agreement to ban the technology is set to expire at the end of the year and Williams is indicating it will debut its flywheel system in 2011. It appears as though Renault and Ferrari will offer to supply their systems for €1 million per season.
"There was an agreement that teams could use KERS [in 2011] if they could meet some target figures in terms of costs and if they could make their system available to customers for those costs," confirmed FOTA's technical boss Ross Brawn. "I think we have to recognise that KERS is in the regulations at the moment, so anyone within the regulations can use KERS next year."