Michelin came under fire last weekend for switching the standard construction rear tire with an older design used in 2019.
The decision was made due to the challenges the manufacturer faced at the Mandalika Bay circuit. The main challenge was extremely high track temperatures during a three-day test at the venue.
Piero Taramasso said that changing tires was the only option Michelin had.
“After the test, we realized that this track is very demanding on front tires and in the rear tires, especially in temperature,” Taramasso told The Race.
“The temperature was the weak point. The rear tire was very, very high – a combination of new asphalt, fast layout, and very high track temperature. It’s not a temperature we face in other tracks. We came to the test with the standard rear tire to try and see if it worked, but we realized it didn’t.”
“The temperature was too high for the standard rear construction, and when the temperature is too high it spins a lot, and it blisters. In the end, it was clear we needed to drop the tire to about 20ºC, and the only technical solution was to go back to this casing from 2018 that we used in Austria and in Thailand.”
“We know that with this special casing, this construction, you can drop it by 15ºC easily. This was the only technical solution for us to drop the temperature.”
The result was less grip and less speed with the harder casing. A few riders did not like the switch but others such as Ducati and Yamaha were content with it. Taramasso believes the company did the right thing as this was the most challenging track they had come across.
“Now, because the casing is stronger and a little bit harder, for sure the grip is a little bit less compared to the standard one,” he admitted.
“But what you lose in grip you gain in stability. Many riders have said that the stability is better, and that’s why the lap time is not so bad. On Friday we only rode FP2 in the dry conditions, and in the end, we were six-tenths slower than the third day of the test. After a three-day test, it’s not the same [as one practice] so we’re quite happy about the choice.”
“The temperature is still on the high side, but it’s much better compared to the test. This is a good solution, the best one, and the lap time proves that. Some riders like the tire. They say that it spins more, but it’s more stable. The Yamaha guys, Jack [Miller] and Pecco [Bagnaia] if you speak to them. For me, it was the right choice and now I just hope to have more dry track time so that the teams can set up the bike better for this type of tire.”
Several teams complained about the change happening just after the test, rendering the data they had collected before pointless. This is despite the new construction having the same compounds as those tested. Michelin insists that the only way to race safely under the high temperatures is going with the harder casing.
“If they’re not happy, it’s because they don’t understand the problem,” he insisted. “The problem is very clear. The tire was overheating for every bike, not just for one or two of them. Every rider was showing over 160ºC and this is just impossible to use. If they didn’t understand, I think they have some problems because it’s easy to see.”
“The tire is over 160ºC and we need to reduce it to a good temperature to do the race distance, and this was the only situation. We already warned them during the test, explained to them, and it was the only decision to take.
“What they have to look for is to manage the spin. If you have less spin, you have less temperature, and if you have less temperature you have less tire consumption. Then you can save the tire, you can do a good race.”