Michelin’s third year as MotoGP’s control tyre supplier began with mixed responses to Dorna’s diktat to freeze tyre development and allocation for the full 2018 season.
The decision had been opposed by the tyre company, according to a Michelin spokesman, but had been instituted by Dorna at the request of riders, and was in line with existing freezes on engine and fairing design.
Although development will continue, the French company has said, it will be targeted at 2019; while tyres for this year’s racing have already been predetermined. They will include some changes from last year, already seen at preseason tests.
Rossi remained loyal to the company that played such a big part in his championship heyday: he was the main beneficiary of a policy of delivering weekend-specific tyres, made on Saturday and delivered overnight to European tracks for race day.
This year’s approach, he said, was similar to Bridgestone’s – tyres with “a very high potential, but not much development in the last seasons, so the tyres were always the same”. He continued: “It can be positive and negative, but the tyres have reached a good level so I think it is okay to have the same tyres for the season.”
Dovizioso was guardedly in agreement. “You have to be a bit lucky because your tyre has to fit your bike and your style. But the other side is positive, because you have stability and can work more on your bike.”
But Marquez, at the same pre-race conference, took the opposite view. “We have some new tyres, and we don’t know how they will feel on other tracks. We need to have some flexibility, so we can try a new thing but maybe come back to the old one.”
Fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, talking to press later, was more outspoken. “It’s a joke,” he said. “I support Michelin, but their tyres can decide the championship.” Consistency was the problem: in tests here he had run 26 laps on a set of tyres, then fitted a new set and been significantly slower. He stopped for a third set (all supposedly identical spec), and was straight back up to speed.
“I don’t think quality control is what it should be. We are saying that what you are bringing us now. You’ll see races this year ruined because one rider is forced to choose a tyre that doesn’t work.”
By Michael Scott