Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bridgestone leaving Formula 1 after 2010 season

After what will be 14 seasons of Formula 1 involvement, Japanese tire company Bridgestone will be withdrawing from the series.

Running brief but unsuccessful venture into Formula 1 in the 1970s, Bridgestone returned in 1997 committed to embedding themselves deeply into F1 history. Entering in competition with the incumbent tire supplier Goodyear, this first of two so-called tire wars occurred during the 1997 and 1998 season. Though Bridgestone went winless in 1997, the 1998 grand prix season fared far better as Bridgestone secured McLaren's Formula 1 operation under the supply banner. McLaren with driver Mika Hikinnen scored Bridgestone's first victory on their first outing together on route to the 1998 F1 World Championship. As Goodyear backed out of Formula 1 after 1998, Bridgestone went unchallenged in F1 competition for several years until Michelin reentered the sport (Michelin had previously introduced radial tires to F1 in the late 1970s). Since Michelin pulled out of Formula 1 following the 2006 grand prix season, Bridgestone has been the sole tire supplier in the Formula 1 championship series.

For the still distant 2011 season, Formula 1 will need to be courted by a new tire company to supply the grand prix grid. With Formula 1 likely to pursue a sole supplier in interests of race day equality and safety, there have been few indications to a successor to Bridgestone. Michelin is currently supplying tires to the A1GP series through 2012 but will probably not have resources to return to Formula 1. Tire companeies such as Dunlop and Pirelli have also had past involvement in Formula 1.

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