With the frenzied excitement at the crowning of a new champion yesterday it was quite easy to forget that one of the sport’s key players over the past 14 years bowed out in Abu Dhabi.

Yep this weekend we said goodbye to long-time F1 tyre suppliers Bridgestone, who have quit the sport and will be replaced by Pirelli in 2011.

That means no more red Bridgestone caps (as seen below) for the top three finishers. It’s likely next year’s podium headgear will be either black or yellow.

Credit: Red Bull Media

Abu Dhabi was the Japanese manufacturer’s 240th race since entering F1 full-time in 1997, when it was Goodyear who ruled the F1 roost (they still do in terms of overall starts).

But Bridgestone are now the second most successful tyre supplier in F1 history, with  ten drivers and constructors championships, 174 race wins and 167 pole positions. Okay, they were often the only supplier on the grid, which made victory a certainty, but this is still the end of an era. Bridgestone tyres have shod some superb cars – McLaren’s MP4-13, Ferrari’s F2004 and most recently Red Bull’s all-conquering RB6 to name just three – been part of hours on-track action and misery in the pits.

Who can forget the U.S Grand Prix of 2005, where the Michelin runners refused to race on safety grounds? That left only the six Bridgestone-shod drivers quite literally in a race of their own, and with those six being two Ferraris, two Jordans and two Minardis it was never going to be a classic.

In fact it was a farce – though this was no fault of Bridgestone’s. Schumacher led Barrichello in an unsurprising one-two whilst Thiago Monteiro won the battle of the backmarkers to secure his only F1 podium. If you’re ever asked who the only Portuguese driver to finish amongst the top three is there’s your answer.

Yes, they’re just a tyre manufacturer, but they’ve been part of the F1 furniture for as long as some people can remember. It’s just a shame that we can’t keep Bridgestone and gain Pirelli – and Michelin, whilst we’re at it. A bit of tyre competition is always good for a story.

Credit: Bridgestone Motorsport Media