Group Michelin opposes Formula 1 racing's proposed change to a control tire and single tire supplier for the 2008 season and beyond on several grounds, saying it would reduce the series' image as a ``technological showcase'' and squelch innovation.
At the same time Michelin appears to be on the verge of reducing the extent of its involvement in Formula 1, as various motorsports media report that two or perhaps three of the seven two-car teams Michelin is supplying this year may switch to Bridgestone Corp. for tires next season. Michelin earlier this year appealed to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula 1's sanctioning body, for more equity in the tire supply situation.
Michelin Competition Director Pierre Dupasquier complained recently that the FIA's proposal would reduce the tire to a ``banal component'' with no value other than permitting the cars to be mobile.
``As the world's leading tire manufacturer,'' Mr. Dupasquier said, ``that is something we cannot accept;...you have a responsibility vis-Ã -vis your profession, or in any case a responsibility as we see it at Michelin.''
Earlier, Group Michelin Chairman Edouard Michelin underlined the company's attitude, saying, ``Formula 1 must remain the marvellous technological showcase that it is, thus allowing the world's automobile players to compete, while offering a true show for the fans, as well as providing benefits within the automotive industry.
``It is with this in mind that tire manufacturers must be able to make their own contribution toward improving the performances of the teams they supply. This supposes that there be at least two tire manufacturers involved, maybe even more.''
Regarding the FIA's concern about costs, Mr. Dupasquier said Michelin proposes restricting the types of tires available even further-the current regulations allow three sets of each type of dry weather tire (two types per race weekend) and one set of tires to cover qualifying and the race-and reducing the amount of testing. Based on the firm's estimate of $1,280 per testing mile, Mr. Dupasquier said these provisions could cut $160 million in team costs.
He noted Michelin would not want to curtail testing altogether. ``We believe that, for safety reasons, tire companies should be allowed to test at new circuits or tracks where the surface or the layout has been changed,'' he said.
The FIA disclosed its control tire proposal in July, saying such a move:
* Would allow a bigger safety margin;
* Would reduce tire testing needs;
* Would ensure that no team would be adversely affected by being contracted to the ``wrong'' supplier;
* Would allow a return to slick tires as a part of the low-downforce and high-mechanical-grip package; and
* Would allow for the use of lower profile tires that would give the wheels and tires a more modern look and permit more freedom on brakes and suspension.
Regarding Michelin's action should the FIA impose the control tire stipulation, Mr. Dupasquier said: ``The principle of control tires in no way corresponds with the vision of Michelin's directors, and that goes for all the types of motorsports in which Michelin is involved. Naturally, if it was a question of giving a helping hand to F1, we would certainly assume our responsibilities.''
Michelin has been supplying F1 teams since 2001.
Bridgestone, an F1 supplier since 1997, has not commented publicly on the proposed change. Kumho Tire Co. Inc., which is exploring an entry into F1 by the 2007 season, also hasn't commented publicly.