Would F1 benefit from multiple tire suppliers?

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Since entering the sport in 2011, Pirelli have enjoyed the luxury of being the only tire supplier in Formula One. With all teams on the same rubber, it certainly creates equality, but with tires the key component when deciding a strategy, could a second tire supplier be good for the sport?

Pirelli’s Formula One chief Paul Hembery has made his stance clear: Pirelli are in it alone, or not at all. He believes that if there was a second tire supplier, both companies would be spending millions of dollars to gain a slim advantage. The costs spiral for the suppliers, meaning that the teams will have to make up the difference, and with many outfits struggling to stay afloat, it could cause financial trouble.

The advantage of competition between two tire suppliers would be increased efficiency. Back in 2006 (the last season with multiple suppliers), Michelin and Bridgestone worked alongside Renault and Ferrari respectively on either side of a championship battle. As the season rolled on, the tires improved in quality race-by-race. Although Pirelli do have an incentive to produce high quality tires for the sport, this would be an even greater one with the presence of a second supplier.

The ban on refueling came into effect in 2010, placing a greater importance on the tires. Just as teams have the choice between engine suppliers, by being able to choose which tire supplier they work with, it could lead to a far closer working relationship, therefore improving the standard of racing as teams can give better feedback. Pirelli do however get this feedback from all eleven teams: surely this leads to a tire that is suited to the whole grid?

A second tire supplier would add another sporting twist to Formula One, but in the current economic climate, it would be unwise. Teams are struggling to stay in the sport, so being forced to pay an extra $5m for their tires would only make things tighter. The parity currently enjoyed by the teams does also stem from them all using the same tires. Ferrari forged a particularly strong partnership with Bridgestone in the early 2000s, which many believed went too far. Whilst Pirelli continue to deliver a good set of tires which spice up the racing (which they have done so far), it is hard to find a strong argument for bringing a second company into the fray. Regardless, it is certainly an option the FIA will be considering whilst rumors hang over Pirelli’s future.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”