Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli will become F1’s tyre supplier from next season onwards. They will replace outgoing provider Bridgestone, who leave the sport at the season’s end after 14 years.
Bridgestone announced their decision to quit late last year, influenced by the poor global economy and the departure of both Japanese teams, Honda and Toyota, in the previous 12 months.
After entering F1 in ’97, supplying a number of smaller teams, Bridgestone became sole supplier for 1999 and 2000 before being joined by Michelin in 2001. The French company withdrew in 2006, returning Bridgestone to sole supplier status. With their contract ending this year they decided not to renew the deal, sparking a battle to replace them as F1’s rubber of choice.
Pirelli supplied F1 tyres for the first 8 years of the championship (1950-1958) and returned for much of the 1980s. To date Pirelli shod cars have started a total of 200 Grand Prix, notched up 44 wins and taken 6 drivers world championships. Their last race victory came courtesy of Nelson Piquet’s very fortunate triumph at the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix.
Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola is confident of a happy reunion between his company and F1. “Pirelli has been involved in motorsport for more than 100 years. In all our history, we’ve showed that we have the technical ability to build motorsport tyres– in the past with F1, and recently with the World Rally Championship. I think the teams recognise that we have the ability to do it.”
Among the other companies who’d been looking to win the F1 tyre tender were Bridgestone’s most recent rivals Michelin, Cooper Avon and Korean manufacturer Kumho.
As well as F1 Pirelli will also supply feeder series GP2 and GP3 in 2010. With the path to F1 so clearly defined nowadays some drivers are going to forget any other tyre brands even exist.
Unlike Pirelli, who are happy with the monopoly system, Michelin had wanted competition between multiple manufacturers if they were to return to F1. There are clear pros and cons to a tyre war- which do you think would have been best for increasing on-track action for the 2011 F1 season?- but Pirelli’s new contract guarantees them at least three years as F1’s tyre of choice.