After three disastrous races in a row of Michelin, news stories on riders complaining about the French company's tires are as common as discussions of the weather in England. So much so that another story about tires barely generates any interest at all.
Unless, of course, that rider in the story is Dani Pedrosa, and the person complaining about the tires is Masumi Hamane, president of HRC. Neil Spalding interviewed the HRC boss after the race at Brno for the Spanish weekly magazine Solo Moto, and in this interview, Hamane gave his biggest hint yet that the factory Honda team will switch to Bridgestone next year.
"As an engineer, I don't understand how Michelin can make so many mistakes three races in a row," Hamane told Spalding. "We're sure Michelin is working hard, but we've had problems at the Sachsenring, Laguna Seca and here (Brno - MGPM)" he continued.
Worse criticism was to come. "We want to find a way to solve this problem, but it looks like they don't think they've found the reason for the mistakes, what's more, they certainly haven't been able to convince us," Hamane told Spalding. When asked if they would support a switch to Bridgestones for the factory team, Hamane was curt: "Yes".
If the Repsol Honda team were to switch to Bridgestones, that could mark the end of Michelin's involvement in MotoGP. The French company has always said that they will stay in the class for as long as they have a factory team they can support, a factory bike being necessary so that Michelin can have a say in bike development, exploiting the best characteristics of the bike to get the best from their tires. If Repsol goes, then only Jorge Lorenzo would be left on Michelins, and you have to believe Lorenzo, and at least his manager Dani Amatriain would be screaming for Bridgestones to be able to compete with Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa.
And should Michelin decide to withdraw, that could have a very unpleasant effect on the grid. The Tech 3 team is currently funded in large part by Michelin - witness the striking coincidence between the teams colors and those of the tire maker - and if Michelin left MotoGP, Tech 3's budget would go with them, leaving James Toseland and Colin Edwards out of a job. But even worse for MotoGP, it could leave the grid looking decidedly empty, with just 16 bikes lining up on any Sunday.
At Brno, the riders demanded that Dorna and the FIM impose a single tire rule. They may not need either of those bodies to get one, and it may happen sooner than they had hoped.