Lewis Duncan

Puig hits back at Michelin MotoGP chief over Indonesia tire comments

After the standard 2022 tires suffered blistering in February’s pre-season test at the Mandalika circuit due to the extreme heat, Michelin elected to bring a stiffer tire construction not used since 2018.

While most felt the older tire design generally offered less grip, these problems affected Honda – who topped the Mandalika test on the standard tire – the most.

Pol Espargaro was worried he wouldn’t be able to finish the race due to the stress being put on the front tire as a result of his lack of rear grip, while Marc Marquez suffered a horrifying high-side in the warm-up session which ruled him out of the race and has led to more double vision problems.

After the race, Puig said Honda had to understand what went on with Michelin – though the latter insisted “there was no problem” with the tires in Indonesia and suggested Honda simply didn’t know how to get it to work.

In a lengthy statement issued to Motorsport.com from Honda, Puig said he feels Michelin boss Piero Taramasso’s comments were “not necessary”.

“Well, speaking frankly, and in my personal and own opinion – I am not very surprised,” Puig said of Taramasso’s comments.

“In my last Track Report, I only mentioned that we would have to analyze the situation with Michelin – that’s all.

“And we see how Mr Taramasso reacted when prompted by the media – it was not necessary at all…

“It’s a bit strange when he says, in a polite way of course, that Honda doesn’t know how to adapt.

“Honda has been adapting to many technical changes, including different regulations, tyres, engine sizes, classes, etc. etc. since the beginning of the world championship series back in 1966 and it has been the longest lasting and most successful company in GP history with 25 premier class constructor championships and 21 premier class rider world championships.

“Does this mean we don’t know how to adapt? OK, it’s the first I’m hearing this.”

Michelin says its findings on the tires were based on its own data analysis, but Puig believes in instances like this rider opinion means more than “a line on a computer”, while noting that Taramasso “has a mentality” to “not admit any error “.

“From my own experience in racing, you have to talk to the riders first – not to Apple, IBM or Dell where you see a line on a computer,” he added.

“You must listen to the riders and if you have riders that have been world champions, multiple times, you can assume that these riders are guys who know what they are talking about.

“In this paddock, manufacturers talk to manufacturers, riders talk to the organiser, IRTA (International Race Teams Association) talks to the teams and many times we disagree on many subjects.

“But it is always within the limits of discussions and debate where we evolve and find good solutions that allow us to move forward in the interest of all parties and of the sport. Mr Taramasso looks to have a mentality that every time someone talks directly about his tires, he becomes hypersensitive, not admitting any error from his side and this, from my perspective, is wrong and too radical.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“We all make mistakes, him as well.”

One of Taramasso’s complaints stemmed from Puig not having been at the February test to understand the tire issues.

Puig – who was undergoing surgery at the time of the test – thinks his experience as a rider gives him a good understanding of situations like this, and highlighted the fact that the carcass Michelin brought to Indonesia was designed for a completely different type of circuit layout .

“My understanding, or apparent lack thereof, that Mr Taramasso mentions is clearly not precise,” Puig stated.

“For Mr Taramasso’s information – I was racing for many years and even had a few really good races back in the 1990s, with Michelin tires by the way.

“So, I understand very well what a rider feels and needs from a tire when they are racing a machine that produces over 200 bhp.

“In fact, you can only understand a racing tire if you have raced.

“If you are in the office or in front of a computer you can understand some things, the theory, but you can never understand the reality, the feeling of what a racing slick tire is.

“The tire Michelin brought for the Indonesian GP was used in Thailand and Austria a few years ago (2017/2018), tracks that have long straights.

“Mandalika is a completely different circuit, it’s a track where you do not have many long straights and where the bike is nearly always carrying some lean angle or with some banking.

“These kinds of tracks need good edge grip, you clearly don’t need a rock-hard tire at this type of track.

“This older carcass had, and has, its own issues especially around getting the tire up to temperature.

“We can see that during the Mandalika weekend most of the crashes were in the first two laps – a problem that was common with this 2018 tire and why Michelin developed new tires.

“Furthermore, you must develop a MotoGP machine around the tires of that season, so when you change the tires suddenly to one which the bike was not designed for, it complicates the situation a lot for all teams. Honda were not the only manufacturer to find their riders’ pace and feeling suddenly gone during the Indonesian GP weekend.”

Due to the Mandalika track breaking up at the last corner, the MotoGP race was shortened from 27 lapses to 20.

Puig believes this could have been an option in the first place to get around the tire blistering problem from the test, while also suggesting a flag-to-flag contest in the dry – as was the case in Australia in 2013 and Argentina in 2016 when tire issues prompted safety concerns.

He also felt a misinterpretation of his riders’ comments about the age of the tire by Taramasso was “not very respectful to them”.

While Marquez’s warm-up crash was a result of the rear of his Honda letting go through Turn 7 in the warm-up session ahead of the race, Puig insists that he doesn’t believe at this stage Michelin is fully to blame for the incident .

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team after his crash

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team after his crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“No, absolutely not,” he concluded when asked if Marquez’s crash was entirely the tire’s fault.

“I never said that, I said that we must understand the situation fully and talk to Michelin for clarity and to understand what the plan is in case this kind of situation happens again.

“But Mr Taramasso has overreacted to my words. I’ve always considered Michelin to be a very technically advanced company, an industry leader in the development of racing tires for both cars and bikes.

“They are experts in competition and have spent many years working for and achieving massive success in their field and have produced very good materials throughout these years of racing.

“I have been involved in racing for many years and with this have been able to understand that when a rider crashes and there is no clear mechanical problem then it is a rider mistake.

“But in all crashes, there are elements that contribute to the crash and tires are a part of the equation.

“If Mr Taramasso cannot understand or accept this, then I do not understand his mentality or approach. You know, there are many people in this paddock that talk all day, constantly talking about everything.

“This is not my case, I don’t talk a lot, I only talk when I am asked to talk or when I have something to say. The situation in Mandalika is such a case and the only thing I said was that we had to talk deeply with Michelin.

“That is the point. There has been an almost unbelievable reaction to wanting to further understand the situation.

“Mr Taramasso must understand that if some of my riders have some problems or doubts about anything regarding our bike, it is my job, my responsibility, as team manager to investigate the issue and give solutions to my riders.

“I understand this is my job, I do it this way and I will not change.”

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