MICHELIN BIDS A FOND ADIEU TO FORMULA ONE The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix marks the end of an era as Michelin bows out of Formula One for the second time. The Clermont-Ferrand company has competed in 216 world championship grands prix, initially...
MICHELIN BIDS A FOND ADIEU TO FORMULA ONE
The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix marks the end of an era as Michelin bows out of Formula One for the second time. The Clermont-Ferrand company has competed in 216 world championship grands prix, initially from 1977-1984 and more recently from 2001-2006. During that time it has scored 102 victories with seven teams and 20 drivers en route to amassing nine world championship titles (five for drivers, four for constructors).
Michelin is the world's most prolific road tyre manufacturer and strongly believes that competition improves the breed. An early motorsport pioneer, it has cultivated a proud track record over the years on both two wheels and four. It has also notched up countless wins and titles in fiercely competitive disciplines such as F1, the World Rally Championship and MotoGP, as well as touring car and endurance racing (notably the Le Mans 24 Hours).
Michelin has had a considerable impact on Formula One since it returned in 2001 - so much so that it was supplying 70 per cent of the field by 2005 and had other potential clients queuing up. It voluntarily relinquished some of its custom this season, however, in the interests of fairer competition.
At the same time, it also confirmed that 2006 would be its final campaign in F1, which it has served so well for the past six seasons. Its withdrawal reflects the changing nature of the sport. The tyre regulations were altered at the end of 2004 and again one year later, but each time Michelin responded effectively and provided products that enabled its partner teams to compete for race victories and world titles. Renault proved as much by sweeping to a championship double in 2005 and repeating that feat during the season just past. Motor racing's governing body the FIA announced that F1 would have a single tyre supplier from 2008, however - a decision that dilutes an element of the cutting-edge competition the sport is supposed to represent. Michelin thus opted to pull out at the end of the 2006 campaign.
As Michelin's motorsport director Frédéric Henry-Biabaud says: "F1 is supposed to be competition in its purest form and you eliminate a key part of that if you remove the rivalry between tyre manufacturers. I don't see the appeal in participating in a series on those terms. We compete in F1 to prove we are able to give our partner teams a performance edge. If you are in the sport on your own, people will talk about tyres only if some kind of problem arises. As Edouard Michelin used to say, 'In an arena where its motorsport products finish simultaneously first and last, there is no marketing value'."
Michelin scored its first F1 victory on January 29 1978 when Carlos Reutemann dominated the Brazilian GP in Rio de Janeiro. The 102nd and most recent fell to Fernando Alonso and Renault in Japan, more than 28 years later.
Michelin might be bowing out of F1 but it will remain fiercely committed to other forms of motorsport. Will the Bibendum logo grace grand prix racing ever again? Not in the foreseeable future, perhaps, but this isn't an industry in which one ever says "Never"...