Bridgestone to make surprise F1 exit

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

There'll be a different name on F1 tyres in 2011
There'll be a different name on F1 tyres in 2011

F1’s exclusive tyre supplier Bridgestone has made a surprise announcement it will quit the sport at the end of the 2010 season.

This means F1 will have a new tyre supplier from 2011, but there’s no indication yet the FIA may allow the resumption of the ‘tyre war’ by letting in more than one supplier.

A history of controversy

Bridgestone have been in F1 since 1997 and, for better or worse, have had a considerable influence on the sport and its rules.

In 1998 they supported the unpopular move to grooved tyres. Rival manufacturer Goodyear quit the sport after a 24-year stint because they didn’t want the change.

That left Bridgestone as the de facto exclusive tyre supplier in 1999 and 2000, before Michelin returned to the sport in 2001.

The rivalry between the two led to controversy, notably in 2003 when Bridgestone and Ferrari successfully lobbied the FIA to change its rules to make Michelin’s tyres illegal late in the season.

In 2005 the FIA banned tyre changes during races, requiring the cars to run an entire Grand Prix on a single set of tyres. Michelin dominated the championship, winning every race – with one infamous exception. At Indianapolis they suffered a spate of tyre failures and their teams had to withdrew as the FIA refused to make any concessions to allow their teams to race. Just the six Bridgestone-shod cars contested the ‘race’.

The FIA later announced it wished to end the tyre war and bring in an exclusive tyre supplier. Michelin declared they did not want to be in the sport without a rival manufacturer to compete against and did not put in a tender for supply. They pulled out of the sport at the end of 2006 having won both of the last two championships with Renault.

That left Bridgestone as the only tyre supplier in 2007, and they began the first year of their three-year exclusive contract in 2008. This year the FIA finally ditched grooved tyres, and Bridgestone’s current deal expires at the end of 2010.

In the meantime Bridgestone encouraged the FIA to bring in rules requiring the drivers to use two different tyre compounds in each race. The rule came in for some criticism earlier this year as it forced drivers to use unsuitable tyres in some races. They used the green stripes intended to mark the different compounds to promote their “Make Tyres Green” initiative.

Why did Bridgestone quit?

Announcing the decision Bridgestone Motorsport’s director Hiroshi Yasukawa said:

The decision made by the board of directors comes after considerable and lengthy evaluations and has been based on the company’s need to redirect its resources towards further intensive development of innovative technologies.
Hiroshi Yasukawa

In short, they no longer felt the marketing benefit of being in F1 was worth the cost involved in supplying the tyres. With up to four more teams in F1 next year, they are facing a 40% increase in their annual supply demand, and it’s doubtful they were going to get 40% more exposure in exchange for it. And that’s before one considers the additional cost of an extra two races.

The economics of tyre supply increasingly seems to favour having more than one supplier and bringing back the tyre war. But doing that would create a new problem as the governing body would no longer be able to use tyre compounds to limit cornering speeds.

The exclusive tyre suply is therefore likely to stay. But whoever pitches for the tender to supply F1 tyres from 2011, they will want a much better deal than Bridgestone had.


94 comments on “Bridgestone to make surprise F1 exit”

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  1. great article keith

    1. Pirelli are avoiding questions about 2011 F1

  2. HounslowBusGarage
    2nd November 2009, 13:32

    So. No more tyre development in 2010 from Bridgestone?

    1. When was there any development in the past three seasons?

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        2nd November 2009, 14:13

        Take your point.
        Prior to the announcement, I had been wondering if Bridgestone would develop a super-compound for the (100kg) heavier cars at the start of the races next year.
        If they are leaving F1, I expect they won’t.

    2. Brigestone hasnt developed the racing tires for F1 in a while.
      The marketing value was gone years ago when Michelin put the hurt on them.
      As far as Marketing was concerned I would never buy their tires in the first place. I have always used Michelin or Pirelli or Dunlop.
      I just hope that Michelin and maybe Avon and Goodyear come back.

      1. When I’ve learnt to drive I will use Bridgestone, Pirelli or Dunlop. I also hope that Goodyear and Avon come back but preferably Goodyear. It’d be a “good year” for F1 :)

        1. When you’ve learnt to drive you’ll probably buy whatever fits on your car and you can afford.
          …Like everyone else :D

          1. You’re so right…!

          2. Umm, not everyone. I insist on having the best boots for my motors, no compromise there. Rather lose a car than have some running on budget rubber.

  3. redirect its resources towards further intensive development of innovative technologies.

    What better platform than Formula One? How else are they going to showcase their technological prowess? I think the biggest loser will be Ferrari. They owe most of their success in recent times to Bridgestone. Not sure about Michelin’s return. Even though Michelin & Jean Todt are French, not sure if he’ll support their enrty, cuz they’ve never supplied Ferrari during his tenure as team boss & he was involved in that ugly spat in 2003. So, that leaves us with Goodyear. Hope they are up to it.

    1. I think the biggest loser will be Ferrari. They owe most of their success in recent times to Bridgestone.

      I don’t think that makes any sense, are you living in 2004? Bridgestone have been supplying every team for the past three years, there isn’t a particular team that benefits moer than the others.

      1. mp4-19b just has a knack for thinking that Ferrari will do badly, that’s all.

        1. Ferrari do have extensive knowledge about the Bridgestones. In 2007 (I think) Ferrari used that knowledge to make a longer wheel base for the car, though I think that turned out to be illegal.

      2. inc0mmunicado
        4th November 2009, 12:08

        I don’t think that makes any sense, are you living in 2004?

        The McLaren mp4-19 raced in 2004….

  4. Bridgestone leaving to look for more “innovative technologies”, BMW leaving to concentrate on greener cars and technology.

    F1 better get on the “green” bandwagon soon if it wants to remain relevant. I could honestly care less if F1 is green or not. I just want to make sure it remains relevant with the public at large so I can continue to enjoy my racing.

    1. BMW is leaving because they got their butt kicked. I never bought this ‘we want to concentrate on green tech’ thing.

      1. Exactly, BMW couldnt make it happen so they collected up their toys and left..I say good ridance. Some may not like them but Ferrari in its worse time of being uncompetitive stuck it out and turned it around. BMW, what a laugh..another car company I will no longer support.
        As far as being green, F1 should look at that and run in the opposite direction, their is nothing green about racing, never was and never will be. BMW is now trying to cash in on that marketing ploy, and will probably fair ok with it as most of the people buying them these days dont drive them hard anyway.

        1. Regardless of the real reason for which BMW and Bridgestone are leaving, the fact is they’re saying it is because they want to pursue greener technologies.

          F1 needs to get on the green bandwagon for publicity’s sake, which is what the manufacturers really want. It doesn’t have to be green. It just needs to look like it is. Kind of like the Toyota Prius… By some estimates, it takes twice as much energy to build as does a regular road car, but it’s a “green” car in public’s eye.

          1. They tried jumping on the green bandwagon, and the end result was… KERS…

            Nevertheless, the statements from BMW, Honda and Bridgestone all reek of corporate Newspeak.

        2. BMW finished in the top five as a team except for one season at the number six spot by my count.That does not qualify as a ‘joke’ in my book.

    2. BMW are leving because this was supposed to be the year their F1 project fulfilled the BMW Board’s dream of winning the F1 world championship. The board was pinning it’s hopes on the F1.09 being a world beater. It turned out to be a dog, so the Board pulled the plug.

      This is why F1 doesn’t need manufacturer teams in my opinion. If the team doesn’t perform, the board pulls the plug and they come up with some lame excuse like we “want to focus on technology X” or “F1 isn’t a valuable use of our time and resources.”

      Motor manufacturers should supply engines and leave the racing to racers like Frank Williams. That is what F1 is all about.

  5. Very interesting and informative summary…

  6. Hmmm,

    So do you think they will allow more than one tyre manufacturer? I mean they have spent the last 2 years trying to standardise the sport with next years fuel rules and cosworth engines etc.

    They are hardly going to allow a number of different tyre suppliers to come in? But then again who is big enough to supply up to 14 teams with tyres for a full season on their own?

    I am suprised by bridgestones decision.

  7. HounslowBusGarage
    2nd November 2009, 13:47

    Forgive my ignorance, but are the teams charged for tyres?

    1. Very good question! Actually I don’t know!

    2. I don’t know either, good question!

      1. I also wanteed to ask the same. I thought being the sole supplier for such a cash rich sport would be heaven, even considering development costs. Clearly, it must be different. Would be great if someone in the know explains.

    3. I don’t think the teams pay. I believe Bridgestone pay for all of the tyres, out of the goodness of their heart (or more likely because the marketing benefit of F1 brings in more money than the production costs them!)

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        2nd November 2009, 21:43

        So they develop the tyres (for free), ship them all around the world in pretty vast quantities – including wets, just in case – then provide goodness knows how many people at each race weekend, plus fitters and trucks and engineers and managers and hangers-on.
        And then, they give the tyres away?
        You can understand why involvement like that is a pretty easy target for the accountant’s knife in a bad year.

      2. I don’t think they pay for tyres either. At Suzuka the teams were complaining about running in the wet during practice and said they couldn’t because of limited tyres. When questioned, the Bridgestone rep said it was budget issues.

        Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) To all of you: we all want Formula One to gain an audience but when it’s raining drivers don’t run. It’s quite strange, it doesn’t happen in other sports. Are you quite ashamed of what happened today? They paid 200 Euros for their seats and they didn’t see any cars…
        CH: I think one of the things it would be nice to address for next year and maybe Hiroshi can help us on this is that we are a bit limited on wet tyres, so we’re saving them up for the rest of the weekend, because there’s a good chance that there’s a bit of rain tomorrow. If Hiroshi’s a bit more generous with his tyres then you might see a bit more of us on the track on a wet Friday.
        HY: It’s a big problem. Our budget is also limited, so we have to strike a balance. Anyhow, our responsibility is that we have to supply equal treatment for everybody. And also, our position is very, very tough. Actually, our main business is selling our tyres for cars but if the car business is very bad, in this case we are not selling which means that we cannot make any profit. Nowadays our board members are very tough on me. I have been doing this business a very long time, so I understand the balance required, so at some stage we need to find a good compromise.

        He also mentioned that they got free signs at the tracks and of course on the podium the drivers wore Bridgestonr hats for publicity.

    4. Interesting question.

      Just tried to google it, but didn’t really get much from it. Just that a set of F1 Bridgestone tyres cost about £3,000 per set about 4/5 years ago. Not sure how true that is though.

      I personally don’t think teams are charged for tyres, as it would be unfair to expect them to pay for Bridgestone tyres when they HAVE to have them.

  8. Wow, thats a shocker.

    I was expecting one or two teams to announce their withdrawal from the sport right after the Abu Dhabi race.

    But not the tyre supplier!!

    Tyre war would be good, it will increase overtaking definitely.

    But Keith, how did you arrive at:

    The economics of tyre supply increasingly seems to favour having more than one supplier and bringing back the tyre war

    A tyre war would mean that each supplier supplies less teams, so less travel around the world. But it also means more research development, since they will have to beat the other supplier.

    Earlier (exclusive supplier) it was just a question of logistics, in case of tyre war, it will be case of logistics + research costs.

    1. yes to more suppliers, dunlop vs michelin vs Pirelli vs Continental vs Kumho?

      I would be happy with Michelin vs one or 2 other suppliers.

      Not totally surprised though as they have pulled out of other race series, seems they just get bored after a while.

      1. I think it would be good if every team had their own tyre supplier. Obviously, 13/ 14 different makes of tyre would be expensive, but I know I’d be more likely to buy a companies tyres if they were part of a teams success, rather than on every car

    2. A tyre war would give bang for buck. At the moment Bridgestone isn’t competing against anyone, so there is no comparison as to how good their tyre is against tyres from other companies.

      Having no comparison means that nothing good is ever said about the tyres. With a sole supplier, most mentions of tyres is when they puncture, flat spot, go off, or are too slow. All negative things which don’t help “sell” your brand.

      When was the last time a driver said “the tyres were really good, that’s what won me the race”. That’s what marketing people want, they want to be able to say “we make the best tyres, as proven by winning 14 out of 17 grand prix, so buy our tyres”. Being the sole supplier they cannot say that.

      1. Totally agree with PinballLes. Tyres only get a mention when the are are not working perfectly. Personally, I think the 2 compounds per race adds a little unpredictability, but it means people are always complaining about one set of tyres or the other. Why would Bridgestone want to that?

        1. Agreed guys, but we all predicted that when the FIA introduced the sole tyre supplier issue and why most F1 fans were against it in the first place…

  9. I was surprised by Bridgestone’s decision to quit F1.

    Unless Todt takes the FIA in a different direction to Mosley I doubt they would want another tyre war if they can avoid it as having one tyre supplier means they can limit speeds much easier. After all tyres are supposed to make the biggest difference in F1 performance for the amount spent on development.

  10. I hope F1 continues with one maunfacturer. I certainly do not want a tyre war. Yes it brings more competition and some excitement but it also makes F1 a glorified tyre championship. Tyres are such a crucial part of a cars performance and it takes the glory out of a championship winning team/driver. Doesnt matter if you design the best car and have the best driver. You are screwed if you dont have the right rubber.

    1. I agree. 2005 clearly illustrates that.

    2. why couldn’t Williams couldn’t win a race or had a hard time to podium while the Renault on same rubber wdc..

      Or better still why didn’t Minardi win a race constructors championship, I mean they had same rubber as Ferrari.

      I’m very keen to see tyre wars again.

  11. I dont know if teams are charged for tyres but tyre supply should be subsidised by the FIA or the teams themselves. Tyre suppliers should not be out of pocket -Thats just a daft situation. All that knowledge Bridgstone have built up could be wasted.

    whoever replaces them I hope it is just one company and not two. I like this two compound per race rule. It makes tyre strategies an important part of the weekend, and yet everyone is playing to the same rules.
    as soon as you introduce a better tyre and a weaker tyre, you have issues over fairness. Teams then blame tyre companies whether they are wrong or not.

  12. It’ll be interesting to see when the FIA issues a tender for 2011 and beyond, and which tyre manufacturers will enter.

  13. Crazzzzzy suggestion! how about instead of using two of the four compounds per race and having to use both for at least a stint. Why not have two different manufacturers produce different compounds, e.g. michelin produce super soft and medium and goodyear/dunlop/whoever produce soft and hard? that way they don’t directly compete for superiority and the teams have to compromise and make the car work on the varied compounds, as they currently do. Could even stipulate a little communication and co-operation so the compounds stay seperated and have their own ‘treadware’/operating temperature range similar to the current tyres.

    I know its strange but there are many reasons why this should work, obviously the lack of ‘direct’ compound competition to make the best tyre isn’t their, they can still compete in some ways. semi-nuillifies the immense costs of R&D of four new compounds each at a much more comeptitive fighting level, still have the benefits of no one supplier having the bring such an immense amount of tyres and equipment to each event, or at least only one per event bringing just the two compounds

    1. Thats clever actually. I like it!

    2. I don’t think this would work. Often times there is only one compound that works best for all the teams. This means that at some races someone will eventually say the *enter tire manufacturer’s name* was rubbish. Not good for marketing since the manufacturer didn’t have much control over their tire being good on a particular circuit.

  14. I have been of disliking towards Bridgestone when they came with the ‘one race, two compounds compulsory rule’. I find it quite a fix of a race instead. It’s like setting up the show, like a drama.

    Now since Bridgestone has come up with calling it a day after 2010, I suppose we won’t see tyre developments of larger rear wheels and smaller front wheels for 2010 then.

    How i wish to see Goodyear and Pirelli to return and bring back the tyres of how 1989 or 1990 looked like with the huge rear wheels.

    Good riddance Bridgestone finally figured out their not welcomed existence.

    Goodyear & Pirelli for 2011. Hooray to wide cars, huge rear and smaller front wheels! F1 back to good old days!

    1. Goodyear & Pirelli for 2011. Hooray to wide cars, huge rear and smaller front wheels! F1 back to good old days!

      All for it!!

      1. Certainly not for it, the cars today have too little power for the grip they have. The last thing we need is more contact patch. Many challenging corners will be easy flat.

    2. Now that’s just plain silly. The FiA aren’t about to change the rules just because Bridgstone are leaving…

      1. Well, you never know. With refueling banned, the cars will definitely be heavier and with the current regulations it may cause the cars harder to drive, so this might indicate wider cars to return as such of e.g: 1992, or perhaps 1993 would be good enough.

        Further, definitely the return of Goodyear (G) and Pirelli (P) we will see huge rear slicks as they have experience in this field in the past and have the equipment to make the tyres. *Do remember that Bridgestone once mentioned it would be expensive to invest in making larger rears as they don’t have the equipment, but able to make smaller fronts instead?*

        So i’m up and all awaiting for Bridgestone’s farewell after 2010 and keen to see either G or P or both to return in 2011 with the mentioned huge rears, narrow fronts then. See who’s right! ;)

        F1 will soon be back to the sliding ‘n spinning ways of how a real racing machine for the real men!

  15. Be nice if FIA opened it up to multiple suppliers. They could limit all-out development thus curbing an all out tire war. It would be cool to see Goodyear and Michelin and Pirelli and even another supplier involved!

  16. “..would create a new problem as the governing body would no longer be able to use tyre compounds to limit cornering speeds.”

    Surely that is a good thing?
    More mechanical grip + more downforce limiting regulations = unchanged cornering speed + more overtaking.

    Everybody wins?

    1. Agree. Especially that any decision on tires must be looked at in conjunction with aerodynamics.

  17. I expect the FiA will tender for a single supplier; unless nobody suitable comes forward. Realistically, only Goodyear, Continental and Pirelli are contenders; they’re the only companies with enough resource to do the job properly. Michelin are unlikely to want to come back as a single supplier.

  18. Sure demand will increase 40% next season, but they could ask the FIA to remove the silly “must use two different compounds” rule to simplify things.

  19. but other rival companies like yokohoma with the advan brand might give it a try.personally i want to see hankook or toyo would spice up things.

  20. I’m expecting an announcement from the FIA that they’re going to tender out the whole pitstop process to Kwik-Fit…

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