F1 needs a tyre supplier for 2011 – and a new tyre war isn’t the answer

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Bridgestone tests F1 tyres ahead of what could their their last season

Bridgestone tests F1 tyres ahead of what could their their last season

Bridgestone announced last year it will stop supplying F1 tyres at the end of 2010.

On the face of it, replacing them might not seem like the most pressing problem FIA president Jean Todt has to deal with.

But F1 teams will be pressing ahead with their 2011 car designs soon and for that they’ll need to know what tyres they’re going to be using. And finding a replacement for Bridgestone – or convincing them to stay – may not be easy.

Bridgestone

Bridgestone announced its withdrawal from the sport the day after the last race of 2009. It issued a press release which rather vaguely said it desired “further intensive development of innovative technologies and strategic products”.

Inevitably, one has to wonder whether Bridgestone might be talked back from this position and might just be angling for a cheaper deal for the next three-year contract.

With up to three new teams on the grid this year and two more races on the calendar, both of them ‘flyaways’, Bridgestone face an expensive 2010.

But the FIA have gone some way towards mitigating that by reducing the numbers of tyre available to teams. Last year each driver had 14 sets of dry tyres to use per Grand Prix weekend. That has been reduced to 11 (the allocation of wet and intermediate tyres remains unchanged at four and three respectively).

Had the tyre allocation remained the same in 2010, Bridgestone have to have supplied 5,187 sets of tyres throughout the season – 45% more than last year (excluding testing). The reduction in allocation means they only need to supply 4,446.

That’s still almost 1,000 more tyres than they provided in 2009. But if US F1 and Campos fail to materialise, and Stefan GP don’t win a place, Bridgestone will only need to bring 3,762 sets. That’s just 212 more than they did in 2009, and in return they gain exposure in Canada and South Korea.

Will that be enough to tempt them to stay?

Michelin

Michelin tyres beat Bridgestone's in 2006

Michelin tyres beat Bridgestone's in 2006

In the past few days rumours have gained pace that Bridgestone’s former F1 rival Michelin could return to the sport to take their place. The rumours seem credible because Michelin are one of few tyre manufacturers likely to have the data necessary to manufacture F1-standard rubber and the infrastructure to fly thousands of sets of tyres around the world.

Michelin left F1 in 2006 on a high after winning back-to-back world championships with Renault. But their time in the sport was beset by controversy.

In 2003 their tyres were abruptly ruled illegal late in the season, forcing a re-design which scuppered the championship chances of Michelin-shod front-runners Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren).

They suffered a drubbing at the hands of Bridgestone in 2004 but bounced back in 2005 when new rules banned tyre changes during pit stops. The French company’s product won every race – bar the infamous debacle in Indianapolis.

We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the Indianapolis episode automatically rules Michelin ineligible to be F1’s sole tyre supplier. Different tyre suppliers have faced similar problems in the past including some at the same circuit. NASCAR’s race on the Indianapolis oval in 2008 was ruined by repeated Goodyear tyre failures.

NASCAR at least managed to have some sort of race thanks to co-operation between Goodyear and the championship organisers. A similar compromise was not found at Indianapolis in 2005 – not least because Ferrari’s team principal Jean Todt, eager to capitalise on the team’s only chance to win a race that year, wanted no concessions made to their rivals.

It now falls to Todt in his capacity as FIA president to broker a deal with his countrymen. Hopefully that Indianapolis episode is water under the bridge to all concerned.

Tyre war?

Some will ask, why have a single tyre supplier at all? Why not let teams arrange their own deals with tyre suppliers and allow them to develop newer and faster compounds.

In short, why not bring back the tyre war?

Tony Dodgins has argued for this in Autosport (link, subscription required) but I disagree. F1 cannot afford the consequences of a new tyre war.

Tyre technology is fixed at the moment – bring back the tyre war and lap times will be slashed by whole seconds per lap. The FIA will have to find new ways of keeping speeds under control. I think limiting the tyre specification is preferable to further constraints on car design and engine performance.

Bring back the tyre war and we’ll go back to the days of tyre manufacturers developing rubber specifically for whichever team can pay the most. No-one wants a return to the one-sided domination of a single team we saw in 2001, 2002 and 2004.

F1 car performance has become increasingly close in recent seasons, thanks in no small part to the end of the tyre war. Bring it back and the gap between the teams will increase once more.

As well as impairing the competition, resuming the tyre war will force costs up. Nothing racks up testing mileage like developing new tyres. Even with a single tyre supplier the FIA has seen fit to beef up restrictions on simulated tyre testing in the 2010 rules. Imagine the lengths they’ll go to if tyre technology is freed up again.

In an ideal world F1 could have free development in every area of car technology – engines, aerodynamics, tyres, the lot. But costs and speeds have to be kept in check because the sport cannot be allowed to spend itself into oblivion or compromise safety.

A return to the tyre war isn’t the answer. A new tyre supplier – or a new deal with the old one – is.

Bridgestone

Images (C) Bridgestone, Renault/LAT

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135 comments on F1 needs a tyre supplier for 2011 – and a new tyre war isn’t the answer

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  1. adaptalis said on 16th February 2010, 10:54

    [quote]Bring back the tyre war and we’ll go back to the days of tyre manufacturers developing rubber specifically for whichever team can pay the most.[/quote]

    I agree to this completely and is probably my biggest reason why i rather not have more tyre suppliers.

    • Bring back the tyre war > yes very correct!

      …we may even see passing too!

    • Antiriad said on 16th February 2010, 21:50

      Quite, I am delighted to see the back of Bridgestone after their shameful pandering to Schumacher in those years mentioned by Keith to the expense of the sport.

  2. I would love to see a grid with all different types of tyres, Bridgestone, Michelin, Dunlop, Goodyear, Pirelli, etc. But as you said it just wouldn’t be good for the sport.

    • Please no!!
      I don’t want to see a grid where the quality or rubber decides which teams are fast and which are not despite having faster cars and/or drivers.

      Tyres is the aspect of the car that may have the biggest impact on it’s performance on the track – thus producing the biggest advantages and disadvantages to teams/drivers who happen to have chosen the better or worse tyre manufacturer respectively.

      Such huge enaquality is more than I can handle.

      Indianapolis 2005 FOR THE LOSE!

    • I prefer the Pirelli calendar though…. :-)

    • Ned Flanders said on 16th February 2010, 12:40

      In theory it would be great if each team had a unique tyre supplier, but in reality it would never happen, there probably aren’t enough tyre suppliers around the world to supply 13 seperate teams to a similar standard….

      (a lot of unintentional assonance in the second half of that sentence!)

      • “(a lot of unintentional assonance in the second half of that sentence!)”

        Hehe :) Ssssssssasasa.

      • Icthyes said on 16th February 2010, 18:38

        Technically if it’s a load of S sounds, it’s called “sibilance”. Kudos for not just saying alliteration though ;-)

        That’s about all I remember from my A-Level English…

        • gpfan said on 17th February 2010, 2:59

          My sibilant sister is saying something I so surmise silly.

          Thank gosh we built an Empire. You are
          welcome for the English lessons. NEXT!

          LOL. ;)

    • Rikadyn said on 17th February 2010, 0:21

      Theoretically you could have multiple tyre manufactures if you simply disallowed the teams from setting up the deals.

      Have the FIA/FOM set the standard which the manufacture has to meet or beat, and a price point, Then have the teams purchase the tires from the FIA/FOM…

      • Jarred Walmsley said on 17th February 2010, 6:16

        Now theres an idea, then we have variety without having to have the competition. However as with the engines, there would have to be limits as to how many each manufacturer could supply then some teams may cry over it saying it’s not fair so a single tire manufacturer will make things easier.

  3. I agree I think a tyre war would not be of benefit to F1 at the moment.

    While generally I don’t like standardisation in F1 as I wouldn’t like to see it turn into a spec series I except that some restrictions are inevitable both for racing reasons, banning driver aids such as traction control, and for cost cutting reasons, such as the engine freeze.

    Tyres are supposed to be the area of F1 development where it is easiest to make gains as they are the single biggest performance differentiator, we just have to remember back to some races last year such as Australia when some drivers were on the wrong tyre or their tyres had gone off how they were easy prey for other drivers.

    Having a sole tyre supplier in F1 means it is possible to have a control tyre to keep speeds down rather than constantly limiting performance in other areas.

    The only thing wrong with the tyre regulations at the moment is the rule whereby drivers have to use both compounds during a race. If the powers that be want to keep this a good compromise that I a poster suggested on this site would be that if a driver wants to change tyres during the race they have to use the other compound, but otherwise they don’t have to use both compounds so there would be nothing stopping them trying to stay out on the same set of tyres for the whole race.

  4. jordan said on 16th February 2010, 11:21

    i think it will properly be, either a tire war or bridgestone supplying. only because the FIA like birdgestone and michilin are losing money; this could be due to less advertising though the f1 -partly due to recession as-well-
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8512708.stm

  5. Jay Menon said on 16th February 2010, 11:32

    Tyre war is not the answer. Keith is right in saying the highest bidder will get the best compound, remember Ferrari in the earlier part of the naughties.

    I like the idea of each team sorting itself out when it comes to tyres. Why cant they just fit their preferred tyre? If the FIA can come up with a solid set of specs, any of the major tyre manufacturers could do build a tyre to that spec.

    If I was a tyre company, I would be very interested as I dont have to spend too much money since I’ll only be supply a few teams and the publicity will be great. It would be good for the sport as well as the competition will heighten.

    Having a two horse tyre war is not good, but a 4 horse or 6 horse war is more like it.

    F1 should adopt an open market for tyres in 2011. This way, the teams can sorting out next season’s car now!

    I think this will be a real acid test for Jean Todt…will be watching his decision closely.

  6. Michelin want to show off their tyres in a ‘green’ way, so we may go back to 2005 tyre rules, where only one set were allowed (without penalty) for the entire race.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 16th February 2010, 12:12

      Yeah I could see that happening if they come back.

      I quite liked that rule, but I’d prefer to see drivers have the freedom to chose whether they change tyres or not, rather than having rules forcing drivers to change tyres and forcing them to start on the tyres they qualified on.

      • Ned Flanders said on 16th February 2010, 12:45

        I liked that rule too, it made for some great races in 2005, particuarly towards the end of GP’s where overtaking is usually non existant (eg Monaco, Nurburgring, Suzuka etc).

        But although I agree in principle with the idea of allowing the driver the option of stopping for tyres or making one set last an entire race, I don’t think it would work in reality. I imagine one preferable system would emerge at each race, and all cars would end up on the same strategy.

        It would be great to see one driver make an extra tyre stop and blitz his way through the field to win, but overtaking is so difficult these days I don’t think this would ever happen

        • I didn’t really like that rule – pitstops will get really exciting and I really thought something was missing from the show when all that happened during pit stops was just refueling.

          • Robert McKay said on 16th February 2010, 20:06

            The one-tyre rule in the races was good, although like most rules in modern F1 the teams had adapted to it by about the two-thirds point of the season and the impact of it was much lessened.

            Still, if they did come back with newer tyres, it’d be good for a season.

            But with the FIA in the mood it is now about the “show”, without refuelling and one-tyre rules they would come out with the most horrendous gimmicks to increase “strategy”.

          • I agree – I still want pit stops and I want them to be a flurry of activity. 2005 pit stops were boring, three guys around the fuel hose and one guy sticking a probe into a tyre.

            I agree with Ned Flanders that Monaco was great that year. Alonso overcooked his rears and we saw lot’s of overtaking in the closing laps, but pit stops are mini races inside races and if we have 3 second stops this year it will be awesome!

          • Absolutely shocking that rule was awful, so awful even the FIA changed it back, that should tell you something.

      • gpfan said on 17th February 2010, 3:03

        Anything to keep us away from the
        Nascar style of weekly equalization
        of grid times and performance.

  7. Maybe a tyre war would not be so bad. Considering that the amount of testing is so limited, I think a good tyre development is just as difficult as car development. The huge testing Ferrari did with Bridgestone is definitely of the past. And the huge imput Michelin and Renault had when they came back together decades ago, was a lot of hard work and effort. Things we like to see in F1.
    I would love to add the changes of tyres. Like having two, three or even four suppliers. Maybe different dry/wet weather tyre suppliers? It will bring back supplier bringing the right tyre for the right track. Then each supplier can deliver four compounds at beginning of the year to homologate, just like the engines, fuel, etc. etc.
    I would love to see Vredestein tyres give it a try. Or see a return of Firestone to F1.

    • No tyre war please! Tyres should not be a major performance differentiator like they were before Michelin left the last time.

    • I dont mind the idea of different dry and wet weather tyre suppliers. It wouldn’t be a tyre war and costs are kept reasonably low for both providers concerned.

    • Icthyes said on 16th February 2010, 18:43

      Or, taking the idea a step further, how about a single tyre supplier for different races? Firestone could supply the Canadian race, Michelin half of the European races, Yokohama the Asian races, etc.

  8. seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 11:53

    I think the FIA should allow teams to use whichever engine and tyre they want and just limit the top speed and testing mileage. How would that be a bad idea? As far as costs are concerned, this isn’t GP2, its F1. The FIA guys are a bunch of moruns.

    • “How would that be a bad idea?”

      Just on costs alone it’s a bad idea. Mercedes spent £96.1 million in 2008 on just engine costs alone. Mercedes will leave F1 if costs do not come down significantly in the next year or two. A tyre or engine war does not help with cost reduction. It’s nothing to do with the FIA.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 16th February 2010, 12:18

      Not sure how you would limit top speed. By limiting gearing and rpm, or by some FIA bloke with a speed gun?
      Neither would be very satisfactory.

      • seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 12:24

        I’m sure that measuring the current speed of the cars would not be much of a challenge for the engineers in F1…

        • HounslowBusGarage said on 16th February 2010, 15:07

          The F1 engineers (who work for the teams directly) would not have any interest in limiting the speed of the cars, it would fall to the FIA to regulate the speeds by yet more rules or direct observance at races.
          And for what benefit?

          • Limiting speed is the worst idea imo. It’s the worst thing to have hit F1 in the recent years. I absolutely despise the FIA for this, limiting revs to 18k was good for the engines, they last more now and that in turn cuts costs. But what’s the deal with cutting speed, this is F1, it’s almost all about the speed, why work towards making it slower and thus less interesting? With safety standards having gone up by leaps & bounds, I don’t see logic in cutting speeds. The cars are super strong, the tracks are way safer than they used to be couple of yrs ago, so just let the speeds be.
            Tires, well, allow about three tire makers but limit the development costs allowed to the teams, it worked for engines, so why can’t it work for tires? If the FIA allows multiple engine suppliers, then why not the same for tires?
            Control tires are not good for the sport. It hurts innovation.
            If the development costs are kept minimal, I don’t see a reason why there can’t be 3 or 4 tire suppliers in F1! Let each team choose its own supplier.
            Adding to that, tire specs are set by the FIA, they could lay down a few more regulations and prevent the tire makers from going nuts with development while allowing reasonable freedom to alter compounds within set development costs.
            This would bring in healthy competition as all teams would have a limit on tire development expenses but have the freedom of choosing from 3 or 4 different suppliers. The limit could be set keeping the smallest team’s budget in mind, this would ensure a fair platform for all.
            As an advantage, this would also significantly bring down costs to every tire maker, as it would be supplying much lesser tires than if it had to supply to all the teams. This would keep them from calling it quits from the sport due to costs.
            It sounds sensible to me.
            What do you guys think?

      • ElChiva said on 17th February 2010, 18:47

        the idea it is just nonsense imho. But easy to implement. Your friend is the ECU. Every car sold in Japan is limited to 112 mph by law, in Europe it is 155 mph. Like i said nonsense but easily done.

    • gpfan said on 17th February 2010, 3:06

      morons

  9. Either way it’s tough. As the sole tyre supplier for F1 the only time Bridgestone gets mentioned is when the drivers aren’t happy with the tyre, or the tyre goes off. Not the positive message they want consumers hearing. If your product is constantly mentioned in a negative light, then eventually the average consumer is going to start believing that the product is bad.

    However having multiple suppliers brings about a tyre war.

    Maybe the answer is multiple suppliers, with more FIA control over the technical specifications of the tyres.

  10. seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 11:59

    Supercars aren’t restricted in their engine configurations (V8, V10, V12, W16, etc), capacities, or tyre choices. Take the Veyron for example: Custom-built 16-cylinder engine with 8 litters, 1000 HP, custom-built Michelin tyres, one million pounds. I don’t get it why the FIA is ******* up F1 like that. Why restrict the engine configuration, tyre compound, aero, etc? Why not just limit the top speed and, maybe, testing mileage?

    • It’s all to do with costs my friend. If you want F1 to be contested by Ferrari and a lot of independent, but generally inferior teams, then your idea is right on the money.

      • Patrickl said on 16th February 2010, 16:53

        That’s where the budget limit comes into play. Limit the budget and allow a greater freedom of development.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 16th February 2010, 12:18

      How exactly would you suggest limiting top speed without restricting engine configurations? As soon as you de-regulate engine development, designers will all run off in whichever direction you let them. They will find new ways of making engines faster and faster.

      And I’m taking it you’re already aware testing mileage is banned? In-season testing is banned, and pre-season testing is restricted to 15,000km and teams can only field one car at a time.

    • Aleksandar Serbia said on 16th February 2010, 13:47

      First of all because progress is what makes people decide who is better seven89x, restricting tech is not the way, getting cars to have more mechanic grip, less aero is the way! Look at champcar in its glory days, you could pass even on a short strait! Plus another gadget that champ car has is the 1 minute turbo boost you can use during the race in f1 case lets say extra 1 min of 2000-3000 revs!
      This way you could pass somebody with a better car if he used up his 1min during the race! Get back to the old spec, bigger, huge back tires and small front ones, more braking mistakes! Get rid of the diffusor, lower the aero grip and you got yourself a series. I know a lot of tech nerds here would disapprove, since they are not into racing but who has a better looking shark fin, aero intake and testing time results, we need to put more people on the stands, that means less boring racing, in a short summary lets put the driver into the equation not just the machine!

      • I think your argument is sound, but I agree with Keith a tyre war is the wrong way to go.

        The last two years we have seen closer racing than in the previous decade. This year shapes up to be even betterand all of this is done on common rubber. Next year we lose th diffuser so I think we are building the right way.

        I hope Keith is right that Bridgestone stay but in the process we lose this stupid two compund rule. We all know they race on Bridgestones and if you don’t then you really shouldn’t matter to the Bridgestone marketing machine as you aren’t a fan.

  11. Solidg said on 16th February 2010, 12:15

    In a way I like a tyre war but in the end as said by keith, it would not be good for the racing.
    Remember how bridgestone developed a perfect tyre for ferrari and the races where dull!
    The great close championships are indees down to the tyres for a big part!
    I hope we see Michelin back. Imo they are the best in racing rubber!

  12. Robert McKay said on 16th February 2010, 12:30

    Tyre wars rarely actually “work”. There’s only a very limited set of circumstances in which they are a welcome additional factor. Most of the time it just unbalances everything.

  13. DanThorn said on 16th February 2010, 12:36

    Knowing the current obsession with ‘improving the show’ I wouldn’t put it past the FIA to have two different tyre manufacturers, with each car having to use both Michelin and Bridgestone during the race.

    • seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 12:39

      Right you are. Even though the FIA doesn’t know what the show should be. They think they do, but they don’t.

    • seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 12:42

      They can’t even film the races in HD, much less 3D. If the FIA were run by Japanese, I think it would have been filmed in HD now and 3D next year. But Bernie is slow…

      • Bernie still lives in the 60s. The highest level of motorsport is yet to see HD! Wow! No more than the lamely limited info on our TV screens during the race/quali/practice. No interactive stuff, no behind the scenes, no nothing! When does this lunatic leave F1? Does he have an expiry date on him or not? And the FIA… it’s just working so hard to make the sport duller, more monotonous and less popular every year, not to mention, slower too. Soon, we’ll see drivers sitting in simulators and contesting the WDC on arcade F1 instead of real cars. But we’d still have all those limits in the world and more. Bloody hell.
        I sometimes seem to support the FOTA breakaway series idea just to get rid of the FIA monarchy. Darn!

        • Rob R. said on 17th February 2010, 23:11

          I agree completely with your posts Rits, see my other posts on this page for my further opinions.

          I agree with you the regulations need to be loosened not tightened. The engine freeze has been a big mistake. Luca di Montezemolo has been speaking a lot of common sense lately, pointing out that F1 is going in the wrong direction, and hinting that Ferrari may leave if it doesn’t change. So maybe the hope for a breakway isn’t dead.

          • @Rob R.
            I read almost every comment on the pages I write on as they come to my inbox!
            Having said what I said, I would not want a breakaway series. Just that the sport is losing its charm and the ****** at FIA are doing nothing to save that. In a few years are we going to see 100 cc engines or worse, electric ones in F1, who knows? I mean, where is this sport going? Reducing speed, smaller engines, no engine dev, its all sad news and every year they come up with smthing worse. Only good thing to have happened in the recent years is the return of slicks. They’re trying to cut costs to save the sport by making it easier on teams’ expenses, good for them, but save the sport to make it duller by the day makes sense? I don’t think so.
            And Bernie is a curse on F1. He still thinks its the same year when he took over in the 70s, its more or less the same from the telecast point of view as I could figure from old videos (I was born in 85!). This sport seriously needs some overhauling and that includes losing ‘Bernie the retard’.
            btw, hope you read my post regarding tires a few comments up. Let me know what you think of that idea mate.

  14. seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 12:38

    Did the current crop of Alonso fans enjoy seeing him win back-to-back championships against Schumacher? They did, that’s for sure. Yet most of those people probably don’t know that he had better tyres, or a mass damper in 2005. They just know that the 24 year-old won against Schumacher, even though the 2005 fight was against McLaren/Kimi (who is a great driver). Better tyres and a better car allowed him to do that. There should be more than one tyre manufacturer in F1.

  15. seven89x said on 16th February 2010, 12:43

    You people shouldn’t complain about the differences in performance for the various cars. I’m sure each and every one of you has a favorite team/driver. I bet you’d love to see those win every single race, wouldn’t you? Technological superiority is key to F1. Always has been, always will be

    • Agreed! For the peeps who support less variety and more standard stuff, Formula Renault is what you should watch, not F1, not even GP2!

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