Bridgestone to widen difference between tyres in 2009 ?ǣ but how will we know?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India F1 Team, Barcelona, test, 2008, 470150

Slick tyres are making their long-awaited return to Formula 1 next year. Drivers and fans have largely welcomed the return of proper racing tyres to F1.

The FIA apparently intends to keep the rule requiring teams to use two different compounds per race. But in order to make this more of a challenge Bridgestone plans to increase the difference in performance between the two tyres.

I have two questions about this: why has this rule been deemed worth keeping, and how are we going to be able to tell the difference between the tyres?

Why keep the ??two compounds? rule?

The ??two compounds? rule was introduced in 2007 when Formula 1 switched to having a single tyre supplier.

Bridgestone, who won the tyre contract, were concerned that without the tyre war with Michelin there would be little reason for F1 commentators to discuss tyres at all. That would be no good for their marketing efforts.

So the FIA copied an idea used in Champ Car at the time (where Bridgestone also had a tyre monopoly) requiring each driver to use both a standard and a softer ??option? tyre at different stages during the race.

18 months on the rule has had its intended effect of making people talk about tyres more, which suits Bridgestone, but has it improved racing in F1? I don?t think it has.

Should the solution be to scrap the rule or to make the differences between the tyres greater? F1 seems to have bypassed this discussion and gone straight for option B, presumably to keep Bridgestone happy.

How will we be able to tell the difference between the tyres?

When the ??two compounds? rule was first introduced little to no thought was given to how F1 fans at the tracks or on TV might be able to tell which compound each of the drivers was on.

In Champ Car the softer tyre was distinguished by a red sidewall. To begin with the FIA chose to mark the softer tyres with a small white circle in F1. But they proved far too difficult to see at speed when they were first tried at the Australian Grand Prix.

So a new solution was found ?ǣ Bridgestone painted a white stripe in one of the grooves on the softer tyres. This has proved successful.

But next year there will be no grooves on the tyres. A line painted down the middle of a slick tyre would surely get scrubbed off very quickly. So what will thry do instead?

I suspect some teams will oppose having sidewalls of a particular colour as it would conflict with their carefully-chosen, sponsor-friendly paint schemes.

I think the most likely solution would be to have white sidewalls with black lettering on the softer tyres. But this is F1 so expect a more complicated and less effective system to be found…

2009 F1 season

Slick bridgestone tyre, Force India F1 team, 2008, 470

26 comments on “Bridgestone to widen difference between tyres in 2009 ?ǣ but how will we know?”

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  1. Picture a F1 car sitting in the pits with the wheels off…. Then the caption “Bridgestone or nothing”

    If this commercial ever appears I want my cut.

  2. Polak – That’s not a million miles away from Bridgestone’s current advertising campaign “the only F1 tyre”. Here’s a video:

  3. @Keith
    I think it is really unfair, to claim this rule was made for PR reasons only.

    This rule change was actually one of the few cases, where the FIA did something that really helped to cut down the cost in F1!

    F1 tyres are ******* expensive, especially the transportation to the tracks! Bridgestone is spending millions for that.

    Just look at the numbers:

    Currently for every race they bring 1120 dry tyres (7×4 “prime” + 7×4 “option” sets for each car) and 560 wets.
    From Saturday on every driver has 10 sets available, this means only 5 for every compound.

    Now, without this rule the teams would just use half of these. Teams would evaluate the compounds on Friday and then go for the better one. But this would mean Bridgestone had to bring them much more sets of one type because 5 tyres for training, Q1, Q2, Q3 and 3 for the race creates a serious shortage.

    So they had to bring at least two sets more maybe even four. Bring another 320 tyres (from which 160 get thrown away) just for keeping the teams happy?

    Instead they realised, that forcing the teams to use the
    “bad” set once in the race, spares them two sets to bring more. Plus, since the teams know, that they have to prepare for the “bad” tyres, they use them in training as well.

    And yes, we are still talking about the tyres and there is also the potential of more overtaking, is that so bad?

    This is a real case of a rule, saving money (millions) for FIA’s exclusive tyre supplier.
    That is why I find it unfair to discredit this as a sole “PR” rule. It is not or at least not primarily.

  4. @Bbbut – but it would possibly be cheaper if there were more than one supplier (in fact more than two suppliers), as they would be ‘competing’ in real business terms to provide the best tyres at the cheapest cost (which also benifits road cars). As it is Bridgestone can inflate the prices of their tyres and their services and FIA/FOM or the teams HAVE to pay since they are the only supplier allowed.
    @Sush – I know its all in the branding these days, and I can never remember who owns what! I wonder why the tyres aren’t marked as ‘Firestone’ sometimes then – hey ‘Bridgestone’ for the Hard compound and ‘Firestone’ for the Soft!

  5. Just bring back the tire war it was much more exciting have a poll on that see what people say. to be honest i know the compound make some difference in lap times. But many of the less hardcore fans couldn’t care as much as when it was michellin vs bridgestone ahhhh the good old days when car didn’t look ugly.

    1. I’d rather have slicks but no tyre war, than have a tyre war but with a return to grooves. And these days I think it’s has to be either/or to contain speeds and costs.

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