Hankook has ruled out becoming Formula 1 tire supplier in 2014 if Pirelli does not agree a new contract.
The South Korean company, which currently supplies tires in a number of categories including the DTM and the Formula 3 European Championship, is open to a move to grand prix racing in the future. But Hankook's DTM competition engineer Michael Eckert has confirmed it is too late to consider such a move next year. He added that the lack of testing opportunities could also prevent such a move in the long term.
"For 2014, it's completely impossible not only because of the lack of tire development time," he said when asked about the viability of a move into F1 next season. "Even if Hankook wants to take three, four, five years to jump into Formula 1 as a supplier, the lack of testing opportunities would make it impossible.
"With the current cars and drivers, it's impossible [to test] so you need to find a suitable number of vehicles and drivers that would allow you to get some reliable feedback."
RULES UNCERTAINTY DISSUADES HANKOOK
Eckert added that question marks over the long-term tire regulations would also make it difficult to commit to developing F1 rubber given the lead time required.
"Even if we started this year with the first tire test, it would take easily three years until you can finish a safe and performing F1 tire," he said. "Now the regulations are changing; engine formula, chassis, and aerodynamics... nobody even knows about the dimensions of the tires for 2014 – they are still not fixed.
"It's not 100 per cent certain they'll continue with 13-inch tires. It might be 15 or even 17. "It could happen in the next five years that F1 cars are on 18-inch tires."
Eckert confirmed that Hankook would like to continue the expansion of its motorsports portfolio. In recent years the DTM and European F3 have been added, as have Superstars, Auto GP and other high-profile series.
F1 NOT ESSENTIAL IN EXPANSION PLANS
F1 will remain an option, although he stressed that no decision has been taken that it must end up there.
"It's not obligatory that F1 has to be the final destination series," he said. "From an engineering point of view, F1 is the greatest challenge, but from a financial point of view it is a huge investment. You have to be ready with all aspects of your company, not only with the tire itself but the infrastructure regarding the logistics.
"Currently, all the Hankook tire production is in Korea and it would be a big help to have a European base like Pirelli does with Turkey. We are not ready to jump into Formula 1 for 2014, it's not our goal short term.
"Certainly we will follow up on it and we are interested in new opportunities from a business point of view and also, from a branding point of view, to go into new markets."