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MONACO (Reuters) - Formula One has formally opened the tyre tender for a sole supplier to the series for three seasons from 2017, with interested parties invited to apply by June 17.
Pirelli's current contract expires at the end of 2016 but they will be favorites to continue despite interest from French rivals Michelin, who would want a change to allow bigger rims and longer-lasting tyres.
Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has already indicated he favors Pirelli.
"All Michelin would do is make a rock-hard tyre that you could put on in January and take off in December because they don't want to be in a position where they can be criticized," he told autosport.com last week.
"Pirelli will always do what we ask them to do, and if we had to have an 18-inch rim they could do it," added the 84-year-old.
"At the moment we don't need to change the tyres because what is currently working works well."
The governing FIA said in their tender document that "whilst the wheel diameter is currently set at 13 inch, this should not preclude an increase in diameter if the tyre manufacturer feels there may be advantages to the competitors by doing so."
Pirelli motorsport head Paul Hembery told reporters that, while he did not know whether Pirelli would still be in Formula One in 2017, the company felt a proposal to move to wider rear tyres was a good one.
Formula One's Strategy Group, which brings together top teams, the FIA and Ecclestone's Formula One Management, has proposed changes from 2017 to make cars quicker, louder and faster.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer