At this afternoon’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Bridgestone will officially say sayonara to Formula One. The Japanese tyre manufacturer has been working in the sport tirelessly (geddit?) since 1997, being the sole supplier of rubber since 2007.
They will have completed 242 Grand Prix by the time they have finished the race this afternoon.
“Abu Dhabi is likely to be an emotional weekend for everyone at Bridgestone Motorsport as this will be our final race” said Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport.
“I have been involved in Bridgestone’s motorsport operations since our very first limited entry in the 1976 and 1977 Japanese Grands Prix and pushed hard for our full time entry which finally came in 1997.
“In this time Bridgestone has grown enormously as a company, with Formula 1 showcasing our company’s strength and qualities on a world stage to an enormous audience.
“I have attended well over 200 races myself and have made so many good relationships with the participants in this wonderful sport. Next year will be very different for me and for all of my Bridgestone Motorsport colleagues.”
Bridgestone joined at the Australian Grand Prix of 1997, producing tyres for Prost, Lola, Stewart and Minardi.
“We entered the sport in 1997 against a very experienced competitor in Goodyear, who had contested so many races before, yet we were able to be competitive in our first season, even when most of the front-running teams were running on our rival’s products.” Hirohide Hamashima, head of tyre development said,
“We scored points in our first race and the first Bridgestone podium came in our second race. We even came very close to a win with Damon Hill in the Arrows Yamaha at Hungary so this was a very good debut for us.”
At the end of the season, Goodyear walked away from F1 and Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier. They would remain in this position until 2001, when Michelin came into the sport.
“From 2001 to 2006 we battled hard with Michelin,” continued Hamashima.“Our engineers in Japan and at the track were dedicated to winning and we learnt so many things in this period.”
Many top teams left the supply of Bridgestone for Michelin who had percieved to have created better tyres. Ferrari stuck with the Japanese manufacturer and delivered drivers and constructors titles between 2000 and 2004 with Michael Schumacher at the wheel. In 2005 and 2006 however Fernando Alonso, Michelin and Renault would be the success story.
The tyre war saw increasing budgets and controversy. At the 2005 United States Grand Prix the tyre war came to a head. The cars on Michelin tyres all completed the parade lap of the race and returned to the garages leaving just 6 cars on the starting grid for the race. Nothing like this had been seen before, or thankfully since. Fans were outraged, Bernie Ecclestone too was fuming. The reason behind it was the Michelin tyre sidewalls were alleged to be not strong enough to cope with the banking at the Indianapolis circuit, so in order to keep within safety regulations they pulled out of the race.
At the end of 2006, Michelin walked away from F1 and Bridgestone once again became the sole tyre supplier. It was at this time, the soft/hard compound tyre rules came in and the white stripe was added to the grooved tyres to show which driver was on which compound. The move, designed to spark greater creativity in pit stop strategy and spice up the spectacle with fans remains with us today. At the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix, green stripes were added to the tyres in order to make greater awareness that Bridgestone were being a “green” and “carbon friendly” company.
For 2009, the big news was that grooved tyres were gone and slick tyres were returning. A big hit with the fans, the soft and hard tyre compounds have provided two seasons of classic racing and championships.
Pirelli are set to take over from the start of next season, so its farewell and thanks to the Bridgestone Tyre Company for all the time, money and effort they put into creating such a vital part of our sport.
Thanks, and goodbye Bridgestone!
The fight to become a Formula One tyre manufacturer for 2011 has hotted up significantly following a series of meetings over the course of the weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix.
As we know, Michelin have submitted an application with new technical regulations at the heart, and have reduced their asking cost by almost half to appeal more to Bernie Ecclestone. British manufacturer Avon have submitted an application too, along with a new tender from Pirelli the Italian manufacturer of rubber.
However the teams have asked if Bridgestone will reconsider their decision to quit and the Japanese manufacturer is considering the move.
Martin Whitmarsh of McLaren and FOTA says that he wants Michelin or Bridgestone to be the supplier, because there is no data for Avon or Pirelli. While the latter manufacturers are asking less money for their package which would appeal to smaller teams he fears they may end up spending more to develop, or even hinder their performance more than currently.
“The big teams would hire their own engineers to generate data about the tyres themselves,” he said. “The small teams could not afford it and we would have a two-class society.”
He is also concerned that a tyre war would drive costs up again.
“We like competition in all forms but we have to be mindful, is this controlling costs?” he said. “The last time we had tyre competition it was massively expensive. We have to be mindful that we must keep a grid of 10 or probably 12 teams in F1, and many of those teams are not fit for that level of competition at the moment.”
Meanwhile to make matters worse, Kumho the South Korean manufacturer has said it is applying to enter the race to be a manufacturer.
Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi was lucky to get out of his car unharmed this morning in Free Practice 1 in China after a massive accident at the end of the back straight.
Buemi, who drivers for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, was doing approximately 195mph on the straight which is fed from a high speed banked turn not long before the end of the lap on the Shanghai Circuit, when disaster struck. A failure of the upright structure caused the front right tyre to detatch from the vehicle, but the failsafe mechanism caused the front left tyre to part company with the STR4 chassis as well.
As a result of losing both front wheels, Buemi was a helpless passenger as his Red Bull branded car went toboganning down the straight and into the gravel trap before catching a concrete wall and sliding to a halt in the sand.
The driver was shaken and alarmed, and ran back to his team garage to argue with his mechanics about what had just happened. He was incenced at the dangerous situation he was in.
A Toro Rosso spokesperson told us that an upright on the front right hand side of the car, which had been re-designed for the weekend had suffered a “complete and total failure”. The subsequent pressure load forced onto the opposing component on the left hand side “was far too much for it to cope with” and that failed too. It was a new design brought in for this weekend. Alarmingly, the wheel tethers failed and the two front Bridgestone tyres were flung across spectator fences. It is unknown is Toro Rosso will recieve a fine and reprimand for this, as safety with tyres is paramount following the death of Henry Surtees in F2 last season, the young 19 year old was struck a fatal blow to the skull from a loose tyre via a failed wheel tether.
Buemi said this evening, once calmed, that he is prepared to drive again tomorrow.
“The track was really wide there, with a lot of run off. It looked quite spectacular but from inside the car, it was not so big. Afterwards [once the car stopped], it took a bit of time to understand what happened, but it was not too bad. Something broke, and it happens. We’ve changed the [parts on the] car, and it will be fine to go out again. As a driver we don’t think about it any more.”
“It is a bit difficult because we don’t really know how the car is going. We have [Jaime] Alguersuari’s data so we have to study that for tomorrow, as going into FP3 means we will have a lot of work to do, to be ready for qualifying.”
Michelin, the French tyre manufacturer have told Bloomberg News that they are in contact and negotiations with the FIA over becoming the next sole tyre supplier to Formula One.
The company withdrew at the end of 2006 following title victories in the 2005 and 2006 seasons with Renault, as F1 went to a one make series with Bridgestone following intense rivalries throughout the 2000′s.
“We might consider returning but there are some very clear conditions,” said Jean-Dominique Senard, a Michelin Managing Partner
“The major point is to make sure the tyres show what they can bring to the automotive industry.”
Meanwhile Bridgestone confirmed today that they are unlikely to be fighting for a supply contract beyond the end of this season.
“Bridgestone’s position remains the same,” a spokesperson explained to GPUpdate
“It will not enter into a new tyre supply contract with the FIA Formula One World Championship series; the current contract is set to expire at the end of the 2010 season.”
Bridgestone motorsport bosses have announced they will not be continuing with their exclusive tyre production contract with Formula One, instead deciding to leave the sport at the end of the 2010 season.
The Japanese tyre manufacturer, who joined Formula One in 1997, and became the exclusive tyre supplier in 2007 are intending to focus on new innovative technologies. They will continue supplying MotoGP until 2011, and also the Gp2 Asia series.
Bridgestone Motorsport director Hiroshi Yasukawa said in a statement: “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.”
“Our sincere appreciation is extended to Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management, the Formula 1 teams with whom it has been an honour to work alongside and the many F1 fans who have followed our activities over the past 13 years,” added Yasukawa.
It is unknown who will take over the contract, which Bridgestone rejected to sign today. Michelin could make a return, other names include Dunlop and Goodyear.
Bridgestone Motorsport today unveiled the Green tyres that F1 cars will be running this weekend at Fuji Speedway in an attempt to promote “make racing green”.
The idea is that F1 and other racing series can continue in a world dominated by fears of major global climate change.
The green will be in the grooves of the tyres.
“We hope that the launch of the Make Cars Green tyre will draw public attention to the many environmental initiatives in and around Formula One,” said Bridgestone CEO Shoshi Arakawa.
“Environmental preservation is at the centre of our work at the Bridgestone Group and we hope that this collaboration with the FIA will help to spread this ethos worldwide.”
Lewis Hamilton commented,
“Since it first launched I’ve been happy to help promote the very positive messages of the Make Cars Green campaign,”
“It is a subject that goes far beyond racing. The car is an incredibly positive thing and I think the messages of the campaign help to show us that we can all choose to drive in a greener way.
“The new Make Cars Green tyre that all the teams will be running on in Fuji is a great way to promote the campaign and a real first for Formula One. The sport can also help in other ways, especially with the launch of new energy efficient technologies next season.”
Bridgestone Motorsport have announced that they are going to be altering the slick tyre compounds for 2009.
This announcement comes on the back of the FIA deciding to allow the use of Tyre Warmers for the 2009 season and foreseeable future.
It is unknown what the compounds will change too, but we should find out at the forthcoming slick tyre testing.
“Before this decision, we were developing the 2009 tyres without tyre warmers,” Hirohide Hamashima, director of Bridgestone motorsport informed Autosport
“As a result of the news that warmers will be permitted we have changed the compound working range ahead of the test in July – although the construction will remain the same as the slicks previously tested.”
David Coulthard has expressed concerns over differeing cars and their tyre tempaeratures, which he believes could cause accidents on the new bridgestone slick tyres.
The slicks are set to make a return over 10 years since they were banned in 2009.
Tyre blankets are also going to be banned in 2009, and with the different temperatures in qualifying lets say, it could cause an accident possibly leading to death.
“I am quite concerned about the temperature differential between the cars, especially in qualifying.” Coulthard said
“I have talked to quite a few drivers about it and they all shared the same opinion that without the blankets (tyre warmers), when a car from the pits joins the track when other cars are on a hot lap, it is pretty scary. There is such a big difference of speed.”
Bridgestone are hoping that the forthcoming tests will alleviate concerns.
Bridgestone have announced that the “extreme” wet weather compound tyre will be marked with a white line down the central groove for the 2008 season.
Last season, with the introduction of the rule that stated both soft and hard compound tyres needed to be used, Bridgestone added white lines to the soft compund tyres to make it easier for the FIA, teams and fans to tell who was running what tyre.
The same system will be applied to these new tyres.
“Throughout the 2008 Formula One season Bridgestone will continue to mark the softer of the two dry weather tyres at each event with a white line along the bottom of the second from inside groove,” said Hiroshi Yasukawa, director of Bridgestone Motorsport.
“However, we will now extend the use of the white tyre marking to our extreme wet weather tyres. We hope this change will enable spectators of the sport to have a clearer understanding of the strategies used by all 11 Formula One teams when racing in the wet.
“Bridgestone is pleased to be able to play a part in increasing Formula One fans’ enjoyment of the sport.”
I’ve gotta say, interesting idea but its taking some of the uncertainty away. Why don’t the teams just publish their fuel strategies as well, and be done with it. The lack of knowledge on the tyre type, fuel level etc. is part of the excitement of watching F1, and part of the challenge for the other teams and drivers.
Bridgestone have announced that Slick tyres will be available to the F1 teams at testing in April.
The Japanese tyre firm, who are the sole supplier to F1, are making the tyres available for evaluative work as they look to rule changes in 2009 removing grooved dry tyres and replacing them with slicks.
Tetsuro Kobayashi, Bridgestone’s technical manager, said: “We are looking to a possible bigger change (to tyres) for next season, and that is why we will be evaluating our latest slick development tyre when we next test in April.”
Bridgestone also gave a sneak preview on this season’s tyres.
“The changes are very minor evolutions to the tyre construction and relate to safety,” said Kobayashi.
“In terms of car set-up and driver feel, there is no difference from last year’s tyres so all the data accumulated last season is of use.”
Bridgestone, the sole tyre supplier to F1 have announced that they will be producing slick tyres for the teams to use in testing in Jerez.
This will mark a return for the no-groove tyres, the first time they will have been used since grooved tyres were introduced back in the 1998 season.
The tests are said to be in preparation for the 2009 season, where it is likely that the grooved dry tyres will be abandoned in favour of these slicks. However, Bernie Ecclestone and Bridgestone have admitted that it is too early to be discussing 2009 plans.
“Bridgestone are supplying these tyres as a response to a request from the teams and the testing committee, as the teams want to gain data as they look to the 2009 season,” commented a Bridgestone spokesman
“It is too early for Bridgestone to comment on our tyre range for the 2009 season, however we are always available to discuss ideas with the teams and the FIA.”
The mileage done in testing with the slicks will not count towards the teams’ overall testing mileage.
Kimi Raikkonen has publically denied that the supersoft compund of the Bridgestone tyre that will be used in Interlagos this weekend will not be disadvantageous to Ferrari.
The tyre, previosuly used in Monaco and Canada has been seen to benefit McLaren quite highly, leaving critics believing that Kimi was going to have trouble in Brazil.
However the Finn denies the problems and insists the reasons they had poor results on the occassions that this tyre was used was down to the overall package of the car to the tracks, and added that the Interlagos circuit and the F2007 final aero packaged car would be fine there.
“I’ve been reading stories that the supersoft tyres should be better for our competitors,” Raikkonen said on Ferrari’s official website.
“That might have been true early in the season. But then things improved for us in terms of the set-up. So we just have to wait and see how it goes in Brazil.
“We go to Brazil in position three, so I’m not really the favourite for the title. But as we saw at Shanghai two weeks ago anything can happen. Whatever will happen, it’s going to be a very exciting race. We will give it all.
“We couldn’t do very much to prepare ourselves for Interlagos,” Raikkonen continued. “We have just done some simulations and analysed the data.
“At Interlagos we need a strong package, especially the engine is very important for the long rising main straight. Let’s hope that everything will be all right for this demanding and bumpy track. I know that the track has been redone, but we have to wait and see.
“I think that our competitors have done their job as we did. There’s lots of pressure on both sides. They have two drivers in the race for the title and they also fight each other. Hopefully we can benefit from that.
“I go into this race the same way as into the last two: my aim is to win, and the rest is not up to me. It is a similar situation as in 2003, when I lost the title to Michael [Schumacher].
“Hamilton has seven points more than us: there’s not much to calculate. We have to win and that’s it.”
Bridgestone top technicians are already expressing their concerns that the Brazilian GP at Interlagos will cause problems for their tyres.
Bridgestone will be taking the Soft and Super-Soft compounds of the Potenza F1 tyres to Brazil, the same combination used in Monaco.
The twisty corners infield, and the dusty track on Friday is likely to cause some serious front tyre graining problems.
“Interlagos looks like a circuit that would be quite severe on tyres, but this is not the case, as it is not actually that harsh,” said Bridgestone head of tyre development Hirohide Hamashima.
“High levels of grip are an important requirement here, especially in the infield section. Because of these grip requirements we will bring the soft and super soft compounds, the softest tyres we have in the 2007 Bridgestone Potenza Formula One range. However, we expect to have less grip here than when we were in a competitive situation last year, so teams and drivers will have to work hard to find the best set-up.”