Why F1 won’t go back to having a tyre war

2020 F1 season

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On Friday RaceFans revealed Hankook has been approved as a rival bidder to Pirelli for the rights to be the official Formula 1 tyre supplier from 2020 to 2023.

The emergence of Hankook as a bidder means that for the first time since the sport became a single-spec tyre competition there are two manufacturers seeking to be chosen as F1’s preferred brand.

There was a time when two tyre manufacturers with an interest in F1 would have made their own approaches to the teams, each arranged supply terms with some of them, and fought it out on the track. But the FIA ended the ‘tyre war’ after the 2006 season. As the next tender runs until 2023, that is unlikely to change any time soon.

According to Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola, costs are a strong argument against allowing competition between tyre suppliers. At present Pirelli produces seven dry-weather tyre compounds (only six of which are being used in races this year), but a tyre war would require unique products for almost every track in order for them to be competitive with a rival.

“It depends on the regulation you define for competition,” said Isola when asked how a tyre war would change their approach to tyre supplies.

“If it is a completely open competition I am 100% sure you need different tyres and not just compounds but also constructions for different circuits, at least in the past, not only in Formula 1.

“But you can also fix rules with restrictions so we have to, like in rally you have different tyre manufactures but you have some restrictions or in WEC there are other examples. In Formula 1 it’s quite difficult also to fix the restrictions because then you need to police everybody is respecting the rules and it’s not really easy.”

As a tyre war isn’t on the table at the moment, Pirelli hasn’t calculated what the costs involved would be, but Isola said he “can imagine easily three times” current costs.

“But not just for Pirelli,” he added. “Then the teams need a proper test team, a car running. It’s a big difference, the approach is completely different. For the teams the budget is a lot higher. That’s why most of the competition are now a sole supplier.”

Some team principals who remember the tyres war days are not enthused by the prospect of a return. Having two tyre suppliers would mean “two teams will get the good tyres and the rest will get just the scrap”, said Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost in 2015.

So for now at least, any competition between tyre manufacturers in Formula 1 will be conducted in commercial negotiations, rather than on the track.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 40 comments on “Why F1 won’t go back to having a tyre war”

    1. so basically f1 is going to be stuck with rubbish tyres for years to come, thanks fia :(

      i remember when f1 was about competition, about pushing boundaries & producing products designed to be the best they could possibly be rather than be intentionally made to be rubbish because of ‘the show’. it’s turning into nascar with the same end results, the more ‘show’ they go the less people tune into watch because that simply isn’t what fans of the sport want. it should go back to been a pure sport that people find entertaining rather than a ‘show’ masquerading as a sport.

      since f1 went to a sole tyre supply in 2007 it’s been quite uninteresting in terms of the tyres, the bridgestones were too hard and the pirelli’s too fragile, neither were really pushing performance & neither have been ideal tyres for the supposed pinnacle of the sport.

      people argue that one supplier could get an advantage but honestly so what? this is what f1 is meant to be, competition where everyone involved is looking for an advantage be it in the chassis, the engine, gearbox or of course the tyres. if a team is unhappy with there current supplier there free to switch to the one they feel is better.
      f1 is too restricted now, it’s effectively become gp1 and as they clamp down more on ‘spec parts’ it’s only going to become more gp1.

      true f1’s is no more, only a memory in the minds of those fortunate enough to see it!

      1. Have to say that I agree with a chunk of that.

        I remember back in 1997 & 2001 when Bridgestone & then Michelin entered F1, It was truly exciting to have a tyre war & see tyres pushing limits again with the performance gains they brought with them. What was it a 2 second performance gain from 1996>1997 as a result of the tyre war, That was amazing at the time.

        People complain that F1 is too predictable with not enough variety well history shows that a tyre war helps with both. Look at 1997 with Panis getting some upset results or Damon Hill nearly winning the Hungarian Gp as a result of the Bridgestone’s perfectly suiting that track on the weekend. This is what F1 needs, True options & true variety rather than than the fake impression we have now with overly restrictive tyre regulations, forced strategy & tyres that are made of cheese.

      2. There would be this weird competition. If f1 had two tire manufacturers one of them would be making tires to suit the ferrari while the other one would be making tires for mercedes. Both the tire manufacturers would pick the team who has the biggest chance to win the championship and place their support 100% on that team. If there is tire war the tire manufacturer wants to win the championship as well (not just drivers and teams) and they don’t do it by making their tires good for every team. They do it by choosing one of their team who they think will win the championship and build their tires for them. The rest just have to deal with it. That’s how it was last time.

        if a team is unhappy with there current supplier there free to switch to the one they feel is better.

        That is adorable opinion of how things work in f1. Don’t like your engine, tires, gearboxes? Just switch to better one…

        1. @socksolid, if anything, it would be more surprising if the tyre manufacturers weren’t biased towards a single team, or perhaps a couple of teams, given that has been the persistent trend throughout the history of the sport.

          In the case of some manufacturers, such as Goodyear, some of their former customers accused them of not just focussing on those top teams, but actively acting against the interests of the smaller teams – knowing full well that, for quite some time, those teams couldn’t just switch because there was no rival to switch to. I get the feeling that, during that time, RogerA was probably rather focussed just on a few teams at the front, because they were the ones that tended to benefit, and probably never really cared what was happening further down the grid.

        2. @socksolid Is that you Mario?

      3. I want to watch Ferrari vs Mercedes, not Michelin vs Bridgestone. Tire wars are dumb.

      4. So you’d rather see another case of one manufacturer supporting team A and the other supporting team B, with the rest as customers? That sounds terrible. Because no matter how much you people who think it was better 20 years ago romanticise it, the end result would be the same. Assuming both Pirelli and Hankook made tires for F1 in 2020, one of them would supply Ferrari, and the other Mercedes. They would pour all their resources into developing a tire that suited that particular car, and the other teams would be left to secure customer details and figure it out from there.

        Why do people think that’s such a great idea? People complained when tires contributed to good races this year, but think this is better? If one tire is perfectly suited to a certain track, what do you think the end result would be? A shock win for Renault or Force India? LOL maybe if we see a double DNF from Mercedes and/or Ferrari. What would really happen is what we saw in 2014-15. Best car runs away and scores an easy 1-2.

        if a team is unhappy with there current supplier there free to switch to the one they feel is better.

        That’s also not even remotely how any of that works. But feel free to continue believing you understand “true F1”.

        1. @Forza Maldonado But feel free to continue believing you understand “true F1”. Judging by your narrow view of things it is obvious that you think that everybody excluding yourself are pretty stupid. Here’s some news for you you condescending arrogant ass, people don’t enjoy being spoken down to by an obvious half wit.
          Have you never heard of competition? That is what breeds product advancement. So the tyres will get better which means that the racing gets better. And if you are satisfied with the rubbish that Pirelli are current serving up then good for you.

          1. @angie Well then, since I’m such a condescending halfwit with a narrow viewpoint who constantly talks down to others, in good faith, here’s a rebuttal for you.

            The problem with having a tire war in motorsport is that the various tires create an instant disparity among the grid, even if every car were exactly the same. Do footballers who wear Nike boots gain an advantage over their opponents wearing Adidas? No. Do baseball players who use Rawlings bats gain advantage at the plate? Again, no. Things like that all come down to player preference and taste. Tires in motorsport directly influence the competition itself. If a tire constantly overheats, it’s going to blow out all the time, and many drivers’ races will be ruined as a result.

            Why then, in an era of F1 in which the gap between the have and have-nots is insanely large, and people complain that the racing isn’t close enough, should we give the frontrunners an opportunity to increase that gap even further? You claim competition breeds advancement, which is true in most cases, but this isn’t a typical consumer market. In a sporting competition, shouldn’t the plane be as even as possible for all teams? I think it’s quite naive to think that tire manufacturers would try and make a tire that suited all their teams equally well, wouldn’t you agree? The only other option would be to require every team to have their own manufacturer tire, which would easily cut the grid in half.

      5. It’s a formula. Clues in the name. The formula is contrived. Has been since racing started. Too many people think. ‘If we just changed this’. ‘ then the racing would be better’ .

        Just isn’t so, and normally there is an unintended and worse consequence.

    2. José Lopes da Silva
      23rd September 2018, 14:04

      The 1997 season was amazing in many aspects. It was quite unpredictable and the tyre war was one of the factors.

      But our complaints about what F1 should be are not a reply to the arguments Pirelli and the team principals are
      putting.“two teams will get the good tyres and the rest will get just the scrap”, says Tost? I’ll say more: “Bridgestone is making tyres for Michael Schumacher and all the others, from Barrichello to the Minardis, have to comply with what Schumacher requires.” Are we sure that’s fair?
      Because if it is, well, there’s nothing wrong with having three bigger teams and the rest being a second-class. It’s just the logic of the sport, the stronger get stronger and that’ how it is.

      1997 was the only season of the tyre war when one of the tyre makers did not have a front runner team.

    3. Of course I would love to have a tyre war again, but I completely understand the arguments against it. Teams spend literally hundreds of millions to build and run the cars, but it could all go to waste if they do not put the right (perfect) tyre on. Having the single controlled tyre supplier does make the most sense in today’s world…there is some variety provided by the fact that teams select various compounds for each race…although I wouldn’t mind if the FIA also allowed pair of different tyres in front and back of the car.

    4. 1st, i’ll say that i would love to see more open regulations, and i’m not a fan of the “designed to degrade” tires we have now, but they are equal for everyone so that’s a positive. However, a tire war presents 2 major problems for me.

      #1 Large teams blocking smaller teams from getting the same tires. In the ALMS about 10 years ago one of the manufacturers blocked Michelin from supplying their tires to a privateer team. That’s easy enough to solve with the right rules, but would still have to be addressed.

      #2 Large teams working with tire manufactures to develop tires specific to their car while small teams are left to make their car work with whatever generic rubber the manufacture supplies.

      Take care of that and i’m on board with a new tire war.

      1. @lancer033, I think that you are thinking of the Acura ARX-02a and the fact that, to overcome the fact that the regulations were skewed in favour of diesel engined cars (even Audi admitted that the time that parts of the regulations were biased in their favour), Wirth Research designed the car to be fitted with the same width tyres at the front of the car as were fitted at the rear of the car.

        In that case, although De Ferran Motorsports was the team that ran the car, the car was being developed by Honda Performance Development – Honda’s North American motorsport arm – by Acura, their North American sub-brand. It might have been a privateer effort, but it was one that, whilst not run directly by a manufacturer, was receiving support from a manufacturer, so it wasn’t just a run of the mill team.

        Now, there probably was a fair amount of lobbying by Audi to persuade Michelin not to help De Ferran, but Michelin themselves have also been criticised quite frequently for being overly biased towards manufacturer teams in sportscar racing.

        In this case, Michelin were extremely uncooperative with De Ferran and Acura – they initially tried to dissuade them from developing that car, and when they pressed on, Michelin then refused to develop front tyres for that car. It means that Acura had to mount a set of tyres designed for the rear wheels on the front axle, whereupon Michelin then tried to persuade the governing body that they shouldn’t allow it – when they ruled that it was legal, Michelin wouldn’t supply them with just rear tyres – they had to buy a full set of tyres, even though they were then handing the front tyres straight back to Michelin, and were being forced to buy more tyres than they needed because of that.

        However, when Audi and Peugeot promptly produced new versions of their cars the following year, Michelin were suddenly a lot more co-operative and started designing bespoke wide front tyres for each of those manufacturers: privateers, though, were not given access to those compounds.

        1. didn’t know about that one. I was thinking about Corvette Racing when they switched to GT2 after previously giving LGM/Riley their blessing to develop their own GT2 Corvette. Tires were just one part of that mess, but it GMs attitude towards privateers really put me off as a fan.

    5. It seems that as far as regulations are concerned, the teams, and the FIA do not want standard cars, ala INDY CARS, so why standardise, tires.

      Competition is better than the mediocrity of a single tire supplier.
      Any banning by teams from another team choosing the same tires should be disallowed.
      F1 is about competition of the elite, so let’s have total competition.

      1. @canuckfan I couldn’t agree more with you.

    6. Why do people want to watch multiple tire companies duke it out? There’s a reason it’s called a “tire war”, because car development takes a back seat. Might as well stop calling it F1 and call it T1.

      The only competition between tire manufacturers should be in obtaining the contract.

      1. @pastaman Same could be said with regards to the engines & many other components on the car.

        F1 has never been solely about the performance or development of the car… It’s always been about the package as a whole. There are many examples through the years where the fastest car wasn’t the best package so didn’t have as much success as it could have be it due to the tyres, Engine, Gearbox or something else holding it back.

        As to why some want to see tyre competition, Because that forced the tyre suppliers to make the best product possible & it pushes performance forward which is kind of what F1 is supposed to be about. In WEC you have Michelin coming up with new technology such as the slick intermediate because there in a fight with other suppliers, There’s no incentive for a sole supplier to do anything but take the safe/cheapest option which is why Bridgestone were too conservative & Pirelli have caved to the (Absurd) concept of high degredation tyres.

        1. @stefmeister I would agree to this if teams manufactured and supplied their own tires. As I stated above, I want to watch Ferrari vs Mercedes, not Michelin vs Bridgestone.

          1. @pastaman That’s the difference, I don’t care if it’s Ferrari V Mercedes or if multiple tyre suppliers or engine manufacturer’s also playing a role. I just want to see some good racing & competition between everyone involved because that is what F1 is to me…. Competition, technology & the pinnacle of the sport where everyone is constantly pushing everyone else forward.

            I’d also argue actually that the tyres play just as big a role now as they ever did & at times since 2011 have been a far bigger factor in car performance & race winners than was ever the case when there was tyre competition. The first half of 2012 been prime example, We had 7 winners in 7 races primarily because of the way the tyres were working. And while not that extreme today who manages to switch the tyres on, Or get them to work on a specific track is just as important as who has the best car or engine.

      2. by your logic then there should be spec engines, spec brakes and spec fuel. In that case youre better off watching F2 or Super Formula. F1 has always been a battle of the best of what teams can come up with, through the best of what their suppliers can come up with. Teams partner with various suppliers to come up with the pinacle of R and D. Tires should really in essence be the same. The only reason why people are moaning about tire wars is because its the most obvious scapegoat if their team does poorly. People forget that fuel, oil, brakes, and engines amongst other supplied parts contribute to the whole. IMO they should let whoever wants to come in as a tire supplier come in as long as they follow what is prescribed in the rules.

        If they can come up with a super tire, there will be a natural convergence to the superior supplier and thats all on them. Its no different that most teams going with Brembo. If Dunlop or Bridgestone supplies a team and does wins races, its just the same as brembo or Petronas supplying a race winning team.

        All thats happening with these useless tenders is just finding another scapegoat for people to complain about.

    7. Fans oftentimes forget that the characteristics of the tyre are not due to ‘lack of competition’ but due to the prescription from FIA/FOM.

    8. Think of the sayings “on equal ground“, “on equal footing“, “where the rubber meets the road”

      This interface should be the same for everyone, and the competition should be how your CAR manipulates the transmission of power to the road at this interface.

    9. F1 is about competition of the elite, so let’s have total competition.

      Unfortunately total competition is just too expensive. As far as tires go, I would suggest getting rid of the mandatory two compound rule, letting teams run any tire(s) of the three choices they want, either stop or not; run them full distance if you want to. Further, why no simply have the tire supplier only produce three compounds (soft, medium &hard) for the season instead of six or seven? Say to the teams ‘here’s what you get, use them as you want’.

    10. Forgive me for stating the obvious, I want to point out the inconsistency of those who rail against any suggestion that spec parts be used in F1 and the blithe acceptance of spec tires. The tires of a race car are where the car-to-track contact takes place, and they are arguably more crucial to performance than where the horsepower and torque come from, especially since the power unit is essentially a “black box” and we don’t even get to see the outside of that “black box.”

      There are two problems I see with these exclusive tire contracts. First, they fly in the face of what we hear about F1 being the pinnacle of automotive technology and innovation. As we have seen over the years, F1 gets what Pirelli gives them, and whether Pirelli give F1 the best technology available, the best tire to yield great racing, or even whether or not the tires are safe in all conditions can be debated. Second, something must be written into these contracts to prevent the tire supplier from changing basic characteristics of the tire mid-season. We have had Pirelli do this at least a couple of times, and it has impacted the outcome of the championships. When Pirelli changes the basics of the tires supplied, the teams where performance suffers have no alternative supplier that can give them a tire that works with their car. In my opinion, Pirelli’s actions in altering basic design factors in the tires it sells F1 have been entirely arbitrary and seemingly not regulated in any way by the FIA rule book.

    11. The problem with a single supplier is when you have situations where neither the teams or the drivers have much trust in the product there been supplied they have nowhere to go.

      I know for a face because i’ve been told multiple times since 2011 that most of the teams & drivers hate the product there been given by Pirelli, They don’t like the (Lack of) performance they offer & they have very little trust in the product as a whole.

      The last 2 tyre tenders the teams have wanted Michelin yet Bernie went Pirelli, The drivers are a mix of wanting Michelin or Bridgestone (Especially those who used those tyres in the past) & the only people in the paddock that have been happy with the tyres since 2011 are Pirelli & Bernie. If teams/Drivers had a say Pirelli wouldn’t be in the picture & if given a vote we probably would end up with a tyre war because the drivers especially loved those tyres because they were the fastest they could possible be & allowed drivers to really lean on them more & more which is something even the 2007-10 Bridgestone’s didn’t really offer.

    12. As a tyre war isn’t on the table at the moment, Pirelli hasn’t calculated what the costs involved would be, but Isola said he “can imagine easily three times” current costs.

      So what? Pick 4, 5 suppliers and make a World Tyre Championship with a fit prize.

      Some team principals who remember the tyres war days are not enthused by the prospect of a return. Having two tyre suppliers would mean “two teams will get the good tyres and the rest will get just the scrap”, said Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost in 2015.

      So what? Pick 4, 5 suppliers and make a World Tyre Championship. Every supplied team must score good points so the Supplier gets the championship. The preferences certainly would diminish, if not vanish at all.

      As usual, too much small talk, everything stays the same, no solution at all.

    13. Competition is generally a good thing but I don’t think the emergence and bid of Hankook was among the FIA’s plan. There is no urgency to create a tyre competition to shake up the field this time.

    14. I would rather not have a tyre war but if it meant the end of cheese tyre I would reluctantly support it.

    15. The only way for a tyre ware to work would be for both suppliers to supply all teams with 2 tyre types each weekend. During the race, each team has to use tyres from each supplier. Tyre manufacturers would have to choose between making the fastest tyre (Q3 qualy) or best race tyre. This should favour individual teams the least.

    16. Didn’t read most the comments above, so apologies if I’m repeating what someone else has already said, but the ONLY reason there won’t be a tyre war is because of the $$$ from selling the term “Official Supplier of Formula 1”. Simple as.

      I’ll also say none of the “powers-that-be” seems to know what Formula 1 is anymore. I am sick of endurance still racing, penalties for component replacement, poor tyre construction, etc.

      LET THEM RACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    17. Instead of a tyre war, surely the FIA/FOG could manage a little tyre skirmish.

      Teams switch between Brembo and Carbon Industrie for brake disks/pads – even teammates choosing a different supplier. Why not tyres? Allow both Pirelli AND Hankook to make tyres for all teams for all races. Let the drivers decide. Or failing that, let the fans decide – with a famously unbiased Liberty poll. Too kooky an idea?

    18. I hate the idea of a tyre war even more than I hate cats. And I really, really hate cats.

    19. In WEC there are two tyre suppliers, and more may enter. They each provide 2 dry compounds, inters and wets. If F1 mandated that any supplier did the same – i.e. provided the 4 exact same compounds for every race – the costs could come down considerably while still offering extra competition. Alas F1 seems intent on yet more reduction in competition.

      1. @rsp123, there are two suppliers, but in reality there isn’t quite as much choice as you suggest – if you are in the LMP1 category, or the GT categories, Michelin is pretty much the only tyre manufacturer prepared to offer tyres for those categories these days.

        As for the LMP2 class, until quite recently that was pretty much locked out by Dunlop – but, now that the ACO has changed the regulations for the LMP2 class to basically fit the old LMP1 regulations, Michelin is now entering as it can basically sell its old LMP1 tyres to those privateers in the LMP2 class.

    20. What if the tyre providers dont overlap themselves? Like letting hankook dev and provide wet weather tyres and a single dry compound by spec (the hardest or the softest). That could be interesting

    21. I actually like Michelins idea to operate like Moto GP.
      Bring a hard med and soft to every race and let the teams choose based on their strategy. No rules about “you must use this tire in the race.”
      That way we have tire battle even though there is only one manufacturer. It has been a huge plus in Moto GP.

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