Pirelli with the Upper Hand…For Once

There is something seriously wrong with a sporting entity when one of, if not THE, most important of its partners threatens to quit; full-stop, no regrets, quit. Pirelli has been subjected to some of the worst working conditions in the history of the sport, so their threats are completely understandable.

These are not empty threats. Pirelli would be fully justified in their decision to quit supplying tires to Formula One. A lucrative business Formula One is, it is not whiteout its headaches. As the sole supplier, Pirelli has all the pressure resting upon its on-track performance. In a way, Pirelli’s reputation is similar to that of a competing team: results matter. While there isn’t a tire manufacturer championship (wouldn’t that be fun, though?), results in terms of quality, durability and usability are the lifeblood of Pirelli in Formula One; they ensure the company’s place in the championship just as podiums and wins and points ensure Ferrari or Mclaren doesn’t pack up and leave.

It would come as no surprise, then, to hear that Pirelli would not hesitate to quit should its desires–nay–needs not be met just as the teams’ are. The recent strategy meeting this past Monday included Pirelli, but none of its desired points of discussion were mentioned. With only four races to go in the season, preparations for 2014 should be, and are, well underway back in Pirelli’s manufacturing plant in Turkey. But in order to ensure the Formula One teams are getting the best product possible from Pirelli in 2014, significant preparations must be made. The most important of which is testing.

Pirelli were recently denied permission to test their prototype tires at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX with a two year-old Mclaren because of fears Mclaren would benefit from the knowledge of the still-new track. The stupidity and unnecessary nature of this denial only serves to accentuate the issues with Formula One already laid bare for all to see.

Let’s get over the fact that Pirelli were denied permission to test. That isn’t what this is about. Pirelli’s threats now put them in a great position of leverage when it comes to their future desires.

Pirelli could easily pull out of the sport. It would save them a great deal of money, and it would help their already shaky reputation. Should Pirelli leave, Formula would be comprehensively stuck for 2014. It would be impossible to find a tire supplier in time for them to construct reliable tires for the huge demands of the new technical regulations. Formula One absolutely CANNOT let Pirelli go. It would put the whole championship in jeopardy, to the point that it might have to be skipped entirely for 2014. But F1 won’t let that happen. They can’t.

Pirelli will be able to test, because they are the only thing keeping the sport together, in a way. If there are no tires, there is no championship. Simple as that. Pirelli wants to test in Brazil immediately following the season finale with teams willing to stay on. That seems a simple request. All the teams would be there anyways, and there isn’t another race to head off to. Yes, the new cars need to be built, but preparations are already so far underway at this point that a one or two day test wouldn’t make a difference.

This makes complete and total sense. Too bad Formula One doesn’t have a great track record with the whole logic thing. I understand completely. Sometimes I get confused when plain and simple facts are spelled out for me in an easy to understand way. You never know, they could be trying to trick you.

But, as I said, Formula One cannot afford to not give in to Pirelli’s demands. The reputation of the sport relies on their compliance. This is why Pirelli holds all the cards in this situation. And I mean ALL the cards. The FIA has no credible argument for denying Pirelli this necessity.

Let’s hope logic dictates the outcome of this unfortunate situation.

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