The 2020 F1 season might be 2 years away, but that is not stopping the race for the prestigious tire contract. Hankook, a Korean company, is taking on the famous Italian brand Pirelli. A contract as big as this would surely put Hankook on the map. They got the go sign after the FIA did a thorough investigation of their facilities. The Korean company met the requirements, which was the need to be both logistically and technically able to build tires for F1 racing cars.
Hankook F1 Tire Development Program Begins
Right now, the F1 management team is revising the financial offers made by the two companies. Mario Isola, Pirelli’s sporting director, spoke on the issue. He stated: “Our president has already clarified our position. I do not want to add anything else to that. We have our point of view, and we will make an offer. I think Pirelli has done a great job over the last eight years and always did what we wanted.”
This process does not have an official deadline. However, it should be done by the end of October, and whoever does win the contract still has to be approved by the World Council of the FIA. There seems to be a fear present that Hankook is worth a higher bid. This would bring Liberty, and the teams, more money. The management of F1 will study the offers of both manufacturers in detail.
However, the Korean company is already preparing for the potential contract. The former race director of Bridgestone, a fellow tire manufacturer, Hirohide Hamashima, was given the position of a consultant. This Japanese expert has valuable contacts within the rights holders, as well as within the World Association. An expert and a valuable asset, his opinion and his word really mean a lot. Hankook’s new development center stationed in Daejeon impressed the FIA examiners a great deal. The modern tire tests take place on test benches, while the test stands are of the latest design and technology. This surely convinced the FIA that Hankook is serious, and that they can indeed build safe F1 tires.
In addition, away from public eyes, Hankook already started the actual racetrack tests. For this, they are using two cars. One is a Formula 2 car, which was modified to the tire widths of the current F1 cars. The second car is a Cosworth engine powered 2011 Williams FW33, which they purchased for testing.
If the Korean Hankook does end up winning this hugely important bid, they will need to get their hands on a more recent F1 car model. These modern versions can simulate the hybrid drives torque. This is no easy task, because to operate and drive this type of car, a staff of up to 10 people is needed. In addition, no team is allowed to send their technicians and experts because this would result in an unfair advantage for that team, in the form of knowledge about the new tires. Hankook’s job will indeed be very difficult, especially as a newcomer, as they need to build 13-inch tires for the 2020 season, as well as 18-inch wheels for the 2021 F1 season.
An important detail is also the fact that the FIA will not decide until the end of October on who will have the honor to be the official 2020 F1 season tire supplier.