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.