Bridgestone has pulled the plug on their F1 tyre supply today, leaving the FIA needing to find a replacement beyond the 2010 season.
Bridgestone indicated that F1 was no longer in its long term interests are a tyre manufacturer, backed up by a statement by Motorsport Director Hiroshi Yasukawa.
“The decision made by the Board of Directors of Bridgestone comes after considerable and lengthy evaluations and has been based on the company's need to redirect its resources towards the further intensive development of innovative technologies and strategic products.”
“Formula One has been of strategic importance to Bridgestone in developing its technologies, raising the company's brand awareness and providing its strategic business units around the globe with promotional and marketing tools that are intrinsically linked to our company's core products.”
He continued, “Our sincere appreciation is also extended to Mr Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management, the Formula One teams with whom it has been an honour to have worked alongside, and the many Formula One fans who have followed our activities over the past 13 years.”
Despite this, Bridgestone will continue to supply the GP2 and GP2 Asia series, as well as MotoGP until at least 2011.
This however leaves a rather worrying void to fill with the task of finding a new supplier could be harder than expected.
One major downside to a tyre manufacturer is the lack of competition. Under current rules only one manufacturer is allowed, which could discourage some suppiers.
A comeback by Michelin is doubtful considering the way they were acrimoniously dumped by the FIA when put head to head with Bridgestone, which wasn’t helped by the 2005 Indianapolis GP debacle.
Goodyear has also been mentioned by many, and is already the sole supplier to NASCAR. An F1 return could be more likely than of Michelin, plus they already have experience of producing slicks for F1.
At the end of the day, any manufacturer should do the job. Most fans will be satisfied with whoever takes up the mantle of Official F1 Tyre supplier, as long as it’s not Robert Wiseman pawning off used milk bottle tops. But hopefully it won’t come to that…