Ecclestone has always been close to Pirelli, while FIA President Jean Todt is known to be sympathetic to Michelin. Exactly how the tire saga will play out in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that time is running out for all concerned.
One senior team figure stated at Spa that it would require a bold decision by Todt to open the door for Michelin at this late stage, and given that an FIA election is on the way, such a controversial move seemed unlikely to happen.
When questioned by SPEED.com about Michelin’s chances, Ecclestone said simply that “FOM and Pirelli have a contract.”
Asked why there was not yet a contract between the FIA and Pirelli – the one that Pirelli boss Paul Hembery says he is awaiting – Ecclestone dismissed its relevance.
“We don’t need one, I don’t think,” he stated. “They are nothing to do with commercial. The FIA’s position is that they are regulators. They regulate all the regulations that have been agreed.”
He was keen to downplay any role for Todt in the process of selecting the tire supplier.
“Jean is the president of the FIA. If it’s a matter of a vote in the World Council, he has one vote. As it’s not a matter for the World Council, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.”
Ecclestone also denied that there was any interest from the teams in joining forces with Michelin.
“None of the teams who have spoken to me have said that,” the F1 chief executive said. “All the teams who have spoken to me say they are very happy with Pirelli, and the problems they’ve had, they’re happy that they’ve dealt with them.”
Although the regulations currently ensure that F1 has a sole supplier, there does seem some logic in a move toward competition in the future, especially if both companies are willing to pump money into the sport.
Intriguingly, Ecclestone said he does not support the idea of Michelin competing with Pirelli: “Because they will want to pick the teams that they think will win, and they’ll pay them a lot more money to take them as opposed to somebody else. We have a deal with Pirelli, anyway.”