Italian tyre manufacturers Pirelli have taken the 2017-2019 contract to manufacture tyres for Formula One, beating out French manufacturers Michelin for the role.
Michelin had submitted a proposal to reenter the sport earlier in the year, with its bosses saying they could make tyres “to last”. This remark was repeated following Pirelli’s several issues this year, most significantly at the Belgian Grand Prix earlier this year.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari had major issues at that race weekend, held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with Nico Rosberg’s tyre exploding in practice. On race day, Sebastian Vettel, primed to take third and round off the podium, lost that spot, with the German’s tyre exploding on the final lap. The four-time World Champion was visibly incensed, with both Germans complaining about Pirelli’s tyre degradation issues.
Pirelli, for their part, blamed issues on ‘debris on the track’ and said drivers did “not follow recommendations,” absolving themselves of blame for the issue, but both drivers and several of the big teams were said to be displeased with the Italian tyremakers, who have long been accused of making tyres that degrade too quickly, providing an ‘exciting race’ but little to no endurance.
A number of teams were said to be in favour of Michelin entering the fray, but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been a vocal supporter of Pirelli, and has retained his faith in them this year. They returned to Formula One in 2011, and have supplied tyres exclusively to the sport since, joining after the withdrawal of British manufacturers Bridgestone.
In addition to exploding tyres, Mercedes and Pirelli were mired in controversy at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, where the Mercedes drivers were said to have gone below the manufacturers’ minimum mandated tyre pressure; following a race win by Lewis Hamilton, marshals briefly considered disqualifying the driver, but this did not happen. Teammate Rosberg had also been investigated then.
Next year will be Pirelli’s 8th straight season in Formula One.