Bridgestone entered Formula 1 back in 1997 and from 2007, it was awarded the tyre contract on an exclusive basis.
It pulled away from the sport at the end of the 2010 season citing financial reasons during the global recession. The Japanese manufacturer was succeed- ed by Pirelli, which has been the tyre supplier since.
On March 20th, F1’s governing body, FIA, has already kicked off a new mandatory tender process to determine who will be the sole tyre supplier for 2025, 2026, 2027 and possibly 2028. The successful applicant will also be required to supply Formula 2 and F3.
Pirelli has been quoted as that their F1 investment is great and never an easy decision. But they are happy with the results over the past 13 years. They now must decide if they will continue from the end of the 2024 season for another three or four years, and an even bigger commitment.
It is analysing the new tender documents, the added requirements and new provisions including sustainability. However, the word coming out of Pirelli is that they want to apply to continue.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, Mario Isola also said at the official press conference: “We are happy to be in Formula 1. The sport is healthy and in a good position. We would like to make it even better with the FIA, Formula 1 and the drivers.”
However, it has gotten more interesting due to speculation that for the first time in over a decade and a half, there could be competition from another applicant to be Formula 1’s sole supplier of tyres.
In response to the article in the highly regarded Auto Motor Und Sport, a spokesperson from Bridgestone has said: “F1 is being considered as one of the various options for our future motorsports activities.”
As with Pirelli, without doubt Bridgestone too has the technology, infrastructure, and funding to build tyres for Formula 1, F2, and F3 series. The FIA are generally happy with Pirelli since 2011, when the Italians became sole supplier. It has met all the FIA’s requirements of the tyre supplier. However, it’s no longer the Bernie (Ecclestone) show, and F1’s owners Liberty Media may have a different approach.
Whoever lands the rights, it will cost them much more than existing budgets – for a number of reasons. First of all general higher costs associated constant tyre strategy changes, supplying Formula 2 and Formula 3 too, and F1’s owners Liberty Media with two applicants will be in a better negotiating position for the rights.
Interested parties have until mid-May to submit to Liberty Media, their applications/ tender for sole F1 tyre supplier covering the 2025, 2026, and 2027 seasons. There is also an option for another season in 2028. FIA and Formula 1 must agree on the candidate. Crucially, FIA and Formula 1 must agree on the winning candidate.
FIA’s perquisites and technical aspects would of course include high safety standards, tyres must have a wide working window, not overheat too quickly, but must also provide strategic options, as tyre strategy has become a key element of this sport. F1’s owner will also negotiate the commercial framework with FIA’s recommended candidate.
Tyres in more recent years
From the time Bridgestone was the only tyre supplier in F1 in 2007, they were able to provide a bigger tyre variety. Bridgestone introduced a hard and soft tyre ahead of 2007, and this was the beginning of the tyre strategy becoming more crucial in Formula 1.
In 2009, slick tyres were reintroduced into F1, and this brought faster racing to the sport. However, at the end of that season, Bridge- stone were yo announce they were leaving Formula 1 at the end of the following season (2010). They were replaced by Pirelli.
The arrival of Pirelli in F1 as the sole supplier also saw a further and even great massive increase in tyre strategy in the sport and growth in tyre choices in the years that followed up to today.
The 2011 season saw two dry tyre choices, carried on from Bridgestone previously. However by 2016, the tyre rules changed again, to give teams a choice between three tyre varieties on any given race weekend. This gave teams multiple choices between a range running between ultrasoft and hards.
In 2017 hyper-soft tyres were introduced, which were an even softer tyre. At the other end of the scale superhard tyres, the all-new hardest tyre variety were added. So, seven different tyre choices would be available that year. This must have increased research and development costs greatly for Pirelli. and two years later, this vast choice was cancelled.
For 2019 onwards, as Pirelli offered a more simplified (F1 fan-friendly) soft, medium, and hard tyres that would come in a range of compounds at each race weekend.
This year, Pirelli had six slick compounds in their range, covering the softest C5 tyre to the hardest C0, which is an expansion of one over last year.
For example, for the Bahrain race (C1, C2 and C3 compounds were offered) and for the Saudi Arabia race (the choice was between C2, C3 and C4), a softer choice similar to what was used in jeddah last year.
Formula1.com says it best – that this year the teams will have two sets of hard tyres (marked white), three sets of medium tyres (yellow) and eight sets of soft tyres (red) per car, plus intermediates (green) and wets (blue) if needed.
Bridgestone’s F1 History
It is a little known fact that Bridgestone was on the Grand Prix circuits before their high profile entry in F1 back in 1997. It took place at the Fuji International Speedway, situated close to the Fuji volcano.
The Japanese tyre manufacturer actually first appeared in the Japanese GP in 1976, when Heros Racing entered an old Tyrrell for Kazuyoshi Hoshino. With his Bias-ply Bridgestones, he qualified twenty-first out of 27, and didn’t finish the race (just 11 got to the finish line). 24 of the cars were on Goodyear tyres that day, two on Dunlop and just the one on Bridgestone.
They raced again in the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji. Bridgestone next entered Formula 1 twenty years later, back in 1997 and from the end of the 2007 season, it was awarded the tyre contract on an exclusive basis. It took 10 drivers and 10 constructors championship victories – all won on the ‘Potenza’ brand, before it pulled out at the end of the 2010 season.
Cars on Bridgestone tyres had 244 starts, claimed 175 wins and 168 pole positions. Over a hundred of those wins were as a sole supplier. Their last race was contested was in Abu Dhabi in 2010. They had a high profile association with Ferrari at the time, helping the Scuderia to six consecutive titles.
At the start of the 2011 season, the Japanese manufacturer was succeeded by Pirelli who have been the tyre supplier since.