Bridgestone, the Japanese tyre-makers, may make a dramatic U-turn on their decision to quit Formula One at the end of this season. According to many paddock sources close to the company, who have been tyre suppliers to the sport since 1998 and sole suppliers since 2006, they are having a change of heart and considering their position after first announcing their intended withdrawal at the end of last season. A meeting of the Formula One Teams Association (Fota) at the Circuit de Catalunya during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend resulted in several, mostly tight-lipped, team bosses indicating that Bridgestone may stay.
Hiroshi Yasukawa, Bridgestone's director of motor sport, gave little away after seeing the Australian Mark Webber claim victory for Red Bull, but said: "This has been a very strong weekend for us. "We hosted guests from the USA and Brazil as well as many from our European markets, which has illustrated the importance of Formula One as a business tool. Our sales companies continue to support our Formula One activities, showing the significance of this to our business.
"We are proud to have the support of all of the teams in this fantastic sport and now look forward to heading straight to Monaco [for this weekend's Grand Prix] for what is likely to be another fabulous race meeting." This may not have been a clear signal that Bridgestone are set to stay, but was widely coded as a sign that they are considering their position again. Already, Michelin, the French company, Italy's Pirelli and the British Cooper Avon outfit have declared their interest in succeeding Bridgestone.
Martin Whitmarsh, the chairman of Fota and the McLaren boss, said he was keen to find continuity, experience and consistency with the tyre suppliers. He said: "'F1 is a very technically challenging environment and we have to be careful with newcomers that we don't take too big a risk with the sport. "People who know about F1 minimise the risk. If we can convince the experienced operators to be in F1, that would be a good thing."