The FIA would significantly risk impacting the 2014 Formula One World Championship should it opt not to extend Pirelli's tire-supply deal, McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale believes.
Pirelli's current contract runs out at the end of 2013, and the motorsport director for the brand, Paul Hembery, has warned it could quit the sport entirely should its "bizarre" situation not be remedied quickly.
Neale says moving away from Pirelli and ushering in a new supplier at late notice would be a major curveball that would inevitably compromise some of the teams' designs, and therefore their fortunes.
"I think at this stage we are assuming—and I don't know whether there is any foundation for that—that somehow the process will continue with Pirelli," Neale told a Vodafone phone-in.
"If it does, we have wind-tunnel tires and information that will support our development process. For all the teams, not just McLaren, making sure we understand exactly what tire, shape, and weight is going to be does affect fundamentally some of the vehicle layout decisions.
"If we were to get a late change, from someone coming into the sport late notice, of course we would work around that and work with whoever the FIA chose. It would be the same for everybody, so if someone throws in a curveball at the last minute I guess we'd all have to recover. But there'd be some winners and losers in that."
Neale believes that Pirelli has adequately responded to the delamination and disintegration issues that plagued the early stages of this year's championship and has provided ongoing guidance to the teams. "I think we were all pleased to see changes had been made after the delamination issues and latterly large amounts of disintegration, so Pirelli have responded to that and were obviously keen to see the sport remain safe," Neale said.
"For this weekend coming [at Spa], all the teams will be on a reasonable degree of alert given the high loads. Pirelli are being rightly cautious making sure the teams operate within certain restrictive windows on tire pressures, cambers, etc., and we're supportive of that process."
Hankook and Bridgestone have already ruled out replacing Pirelli as F1's tire supplier next year. But we'll keep you posted if another contender enters the ring.
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