May 25, 2013

F1 to welcome another DTM name?

Could Pirelli be set to disappear from Formula One next season? © Sutton Images

Upon arrival in the F1 press room, one thing that tends to surprise incomers is how helpful everyone is. Far from being a feeding frenzy of competitive journalists all out to sell their own grandmothers for a scoop, it is instead an environment where stories and quotes are shared, where contacts are freely passed on.

One colleague – Sam Collins of Racecar Engineering – came up with an interesting theory in the Monaco paddock: Pirelli are being manoeuvred out of Formula One to make way for Korean tyre suppliers Hankook.

The idea certainly has basis in fact. Pirelli are currently without an F1 contract for 2014 onwards, and the Italian tyre manufacturer is running out of time. Speaking to the media before the start of the season, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery refused to set a specific deadline, but said that his company would need a contract by late June/early July if they were going to be able to create 2014 rubber for the sport.

That means that unless Pirelli have a contract signed in around six weeks’ time, we’re very unlikely to see them in the sport next year.

So where does Hankook fit in to all of this? Collins discovered a 2011 interview with Cho Hyun-bum, the chief financial officer of Hankook, in which the CFO said that Hankook’s move into DTM was a first step on the road to getting the F1 tyre contract in 2014. “We are keen to do it and DTM is a logical stepping stone,” he said at the time.

According to Cho, in 2010 Bernie Ecclestone approached Hankook about the F1 tyre supply contract. The F1 supremo was looking to get more Asian companies involved in a sport rapidly moving eastward, and Hankook were keen to get involved. But the stumbling block was the eight-month timeframe. As a company with no experience of racing rubber, eight months was not enough time to get the job done well.

Which is why the Koreans moved into DTM, having promised Ecclestone that they would be in a position to supply him with F1 rubber in 2014.

Well, 2014 is fast-approaching, as is Pirelli’s summer deadline. Pirelli are keen to remain involved in Formula One (at the moment – the board could always change their minds in light of the recent barrage of criticism and bad publicity); the teams have all said they’d be happy to continue with Pirelli; the FIA have no bones to pick with the Italian tyre manufacturer.

But the delays to a new contract continue. Collins’ theory is that the delays are coming from Prince’s Gate with a view to setting up Hankook as F1’s next exclusive tyre supplier, and I am inclined to agree with him.


Posted by American Dream on 26/05/2013

I am shocked a bit that a tire manufacturer who has nil exposure to F1 would be handed over the 2014 contract, why not offer Goodyear or bring back Michelin to F1

Posted by Brian on 25/05/2013

I don't really care who is the supplier but I hope if it is Hankook that they can keep the racing interesting like Pirelli have done.

Posted by Roberto on 25/05/2013

Interesting theory but my only question is if Hancook is working on a f1 rubber, how this hasn't been leaked to the press, if a sport has gossip and rumours is f1, so with less than a year to go for the new champiomship we should knew from sometime about the change

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'. Kate Walker