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Friday, December 16, 2005

Au Revoir Michelin

After some speculation throughout the tail end of the Formula 1 season, its now official, Michelin will leave the sport at the end of 2006. No doubt the final straw came after the October meeting of the F1 commission where it was voted that Formula 1 would revert back to a single tyre supplier come 2008. Now it seems that the FIA have got the wish a little earlier than that.

In the Michelin press statement announcing their withdrawal, Michelin cites the lack of competition in a homogenous environment and "the result of profound differences between Michelin's long-standing sporting philosophy and the way Formula One is managed by the regulating authorities, which no longer provide a clear and sustainable environment to justify long-term investments." Yee Ha.

This of course prompted a retaliatory statement by the FIA. The final paragraph of which reads: "A single tyre supplier will undoubtedly make Formula One fairer, safer and less expensive for the teams but, above all, it will avoid a repetition of the problem which arose at the 2005 US Grand Prix."

Beeatch. True, Michelin made an expensive and embarassing error there. Also true that Bridgestone did essentially the same mistake in Brazil 2003. And its probably correct to say that a single supplier will at least lead to a reduction in costs. But fairer? Fairer for whom? Ferrari? One of the reasons why a lot of teams bailed out on Bridgestone was because of all the special treatment Maranello demanded after Goodyear's withdrawal in 1998 and it received. This happened even in 1999 when all teams ran the Japanese rubber. Apparently the FIA has some strange definitions of fairness.

Michelin made one mistake. And to my memory thats the only mistake they've made in their entire history of the sport stretching back to the 1970s. They apologised and recovered to whitewash Bridgestone this year. But Max Mosley's incompetence will cost the teams and fans far longer than that. It has no remedy save for his resignation.

In truth, Michelin's grievances with the FIA stretched to 2003 when the FIA changed the rules (or at least its interpretation) mid-season at the behest of Ferrari and Bridgestone.

Bridgestone must be sitting pretty. But what for? As this article on states, the promotional value for Bridgestone is vastly reduced with no competition.

And so, we bid farewell to Michelin at the end of 2006. But before they leave, I hope they give an encore to their magnificent performance in 2005.

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