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Pirelli needs clarity on future of F1

Laurence Edmondson
March 21, 2015 « Arrivabene: 'Kimi, you are like a hammer' | German Grand Prix officially dropped from 2015 calendar »
Larger rims are among changes being discussed © Sutton Images

Pirelli says it cannot commit its future to Formula One without knowing which direction the sport will take in the next few years.

The tender process for Formula One's tyre supply is due to open again this year for 2017 and beyond, with Pirelli open to, but not yet decided on, staying in the sport. Many stakeholders in F1 are hungry for change, with new regulations being discussed by the F1 Strategy Group for 2017, including new-look tyres. No changes will happen before 2017, but Pirelli needs to know what the plans are in the next three months in order to make an informed decision on whether to stay in F1.

"We've not heard any more," Pirelli boss Paul Hembery said. "When they do the tender process, which should happen in the next three months, we want that to include what's expected in 2017. Do they want 19-inch [rims], 420-wide tyres or do we stay with 13-inch? It's really down to the sport.

"It has a big impact on the amount of work involved and we'd like to know then how we can actually do some verification testing, because with such a change you don't want to end up doing your first tests in Jerez four weeks before going to Melbourne. If the changes are to the extent that they've described - maybe 1000bhp and huge rear wings - then you'd want to be doing some running back in October or November the year previous to the start.

"That's something else that needs to be included, although we will probably find out at the last minute! But we are happy to do the right thing for the sport and we have always said that. We're here to provide what they want, so if they wanted to do no pit stops and one set of tyres to last the whole race we could do that as well. We will always adapt to what the sport needs."

Asked what would happen if the sport does not make up its mind before the start of the tender process, Hembery said: "It will be almost impossible to go the board if you know there are changes in the offing, and if you don't know what those changes are, how can you make a decision costing a substantial amount of money?

"We want to see what's happening in 2017. If you have a tender process you need to see what you are signing up to and what sort of sport are we talking about. There are elements that are very good in Formula One and there are elements that, as with anything, you could say need improving,

"There's been a lot of discussions and clearly there are ongoing discussions as to what the sport should look like going into the future. If you are asking someone to sign up, it's not just as a technical supplier, it's as a major sponsor and you need to know what you are signing up to."

One thing Pirelli will not sign up for, however, is a tyre war.

"Competition is not going to happen and the teams don't want it. Ultimately, it should be a drivers' championship first and foremost and some people are not even wanting to have different engine suppliers, to that extent. So the opportunity to have competition between tyre makers is almost impossible in reality. It's one of those areas where you have to ask what benefit do you get?

"Personally, I think it would be quite interesting to have a different type of challenge, but when you win it's always the car and driver and when you come second it is always down to the tyres. It's a no-win situation. What happens generally over time is somebody disappears. You could have five manufacturers involved and within two or three years three of them could disappear because only one can win.

"That tends to happen with all components, and we saw with tyres [in the last tyre war] that one left and we were left with one tyre manufacturer. You've got to be slightly pragmatic, and if anything we should be making sure that the drivers are becoming the heroes even more. Any sport needs the hero to be the human element and in F1 that's the driver. If we have that we have happier fans."

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