Michelin says it turned down the opportunity to return to Formula 1 in 2020 because it does not want to produce a tyre which “has nothing to do with the real world”.

The manufacturer which bowed out of F1 at the end of 2006 is not among the companies which submitted tenders to become the sport’s official sole tyre supplier from 2020 to 2023. Under the terms of the four-year deal the chosen supplier will have to supply rubber for 13-inch wheels in 2020 and 18-inch from 2021-23.

“We were pleased to see that Formula 1 has accepted, after almost 10 years, the proposal of Michelin to switch F1 to 18-inch,” Michelin motorsport director Pascal Couasnon told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “That was a nice recognition of our vision.”

“But obviously the fact that we would have to produce some 13-inch tyres to start with was pretty much a no-go to start with.”

“It would have been impossible to justify developing a tyre has nothing to do with what we do in the real world,” he explained.

Michelin objected to another aspect of the tender, which requires the tyres to degrade rapidly, which it is believed will produce better racing.

“Formula 1 didn’t accept our recommendation to stop going towards the degradation with [the] tyres,” Couasnon added. “These two things made pretty much impossible to go any further.”

Based on its experience in other series, Michelin believes the quality of racing would improve if F1 tyre development focused on performance rather than degradation.

“We believe it would help Formula 1 to be more spectacular because if you look at what we’ve done in endurance or even what we’ve done in Moto GP, we bring long-lasting performance.

“In Moto GP for example we bring three choices at front and rear and at the end of the race you’ve got a fight and you have very often on the podium three different combinations of tyres there. And we believe that’s something that would make sense also in other sports.”

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According to Couasnon, F1 drivers who have sampled their rubber in different categories have been impressed by how their product allows them to run closely to other cars for long periods of time.

Moto GP, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Michelin supplies tyres to Moto GP

“We believe the tyre needs to be designed so you give the possibility to the driver to express the maximum of his talent and to fight as much as possible. And that’s not to say ‘OK I’m going to have to be careful, I’ve got one or two strikes possible and if I miss it, I cannot fight any more’.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate other in series, and it’s not just us saying that it’s when you talk to drivers who are able to race in both, not only Fernando [Alonso], Mark [Webber] has told us before, Nico [Hulkenberg] also, that they say ‘wow, it’s possible to attack and try again and it feels great’. So we believe this is the right way to go.”

F1 began using high-degradation tyres in 2011, a change which coincided with Pirelli replacing Bridgestone as the sport’s official rubber supplier. Couasnon said it is “a little bit sad” that the philosophy has stuck. “We have had rules that were put in place for almost a decade. You’ve got some young drivers who never had the chance to really see what true driving, true racing can be. That’s a little bit unfortunate.”

However Michelin may consider returning in future. “It’s not that we don’t want to come back to Formula 1 and that it’s something that doesn’t make sense for us,” said Couasnon.

“We will continue to look at the evolution and if one day would be the strategy of Formula 1 becomes aligned with the strategy of Michelin we would be happy to reconsider our position.”

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