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Michelin question rule changes 28 Oct 2005

Michelin tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, 1 July 2005

Formula One tyre suppliers Michelin have said they are ‘perplexed’ at the FIA’s decision to restore tyre changes during Grands Prix next year. Michelin claim the move is a backward step, which, instead of cutting costs, will actually increase them.

This year each driver was allowed four sets of dry-weather tyres per event, with one set having to last through qualifying and the entire race. In 2006, that will be upped to seven sets per event, with drivers allowed to change tyres during the race.

According to Michelin, these new rules will immediately increase tyre development, production and logistics costs by 15 percent since, they say, 2005 solutions canot be adapted to the new 2006 regulations. Michelin say the FIA decision reveals ‘a lack of technical understanding of the product and of what a tyre really is.’

Michelin insist that switching from a tyre designed to run for 350 kilometres in 2005 to a tyre that can be changed every 100 kilometres (or less) in 2006 will require tyre manufacturers to design an entirely new generation of tyres, therefore increasing costs.

In a statement, Michelin even went as far as to suggest ‘hidden motivations’ behind the FIA’s 2006 regulation changes and hinted that at least some of their partner teams had been opposed to the changes.

In a response to Michelin's statement, the FIA pointed out that the 2006 changes had the support of an overwhleming majority of the Formula One Commission members and that they been voted in unanimously under the normal democratic procedures.

Michelin's decision to make their views public follows their earlier declaration of intent to pull out of Formula One racing, perhaps as early as 2007, should the FIA push ahead with plans to move the sport to a single tyre supplier in 2008.

Michelin’s statement in full:

Michelin is perplexed by the step backwards of the FIA's F1 regulation for 2006, felt to be incoherent with the FIA's proclaimed policy to reduce costs

On October 26, 2005 the FIA's World Motor Sport Council adopted new rules concerning the use of tyres in 2006: restoration of tyre changes during the race as well as increase in the number of tyres allotted per team. This is to be effective immediately for the 2006 season.

This urgent change, without advance notice:

Is incoherent with the cost reduction objectives sought by the FIA President

Is a step backwards in regards to the 2005 regulations presented, at the time, by the FIA solely for cost reduction purposes.

As a result, these new rules will immediately increase tyre development, production and logistics costs by 15% since, contrary to what has been said, the 2005 solutions can by no means be adapted to the new 2006 regulation. This decision reveals a lack of technical understanding of the product and of what a tyre really is.

In fact, tyre wear and grip are calculated to ensure an optimum performance for a specific distance. To switch from a tyre designed to run for 350 kms in 2005 to a tyre that can be changed every 100 kms (or less) in 2006 will require tyre manufacturers to design an entirely new generation of tyres and will therefore increase costs.

As many have said and written in the past few weeks, we can only question the meaning behind this decision which negates all of the benefits of Michelin's research in 2005 to design a tyre capable of running for 350 kms, allowing its partners to win 18 races throughout the year.

Michelin, therefore, questions the FIA's hidden motivations for the 2006 F1 regulation.

Once again, this event illustrates the F1's problems of incoherent decision-making and lack of transparency.

In light of this situation, Michelin would like to thank its partner teams who did everything possible, unfortunately in vain, to inhibit a last minute new regulation returning, in fact, to previous regulations.

The FIA's response in full:

The FIA has noted the latest press statement made by Michelin regarding the 2006 Formula One regulations.

The decision to reintroduce tyre changes in Formula One was supported by an overwhelming majority of the Formula One Commission members and by a unanimous vote of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

The Formula One Commission is made up of all the F1 stakeholders including representatives of the teams (10), event promoters (8), engine suppliers (1), tyre suppliers (1), sponsors (2) and just one representative each from the governing body and the commercial rights holder.

Michelin are clearly confused, but it is difficult to understand which part of the very basic and entirely democratic voting procedures adopted by the FIA that Michelin is perplexed by. As Michelin themselves point out this is the same regulation as in 2004 when, we must remind them, their tyres ran without problem at Indianapolis.