Japanese tyre maker Bridgestone Corp will quit Formula One next year, dealing a further blow to the sport after the recent withdrawal of other high-profile firms because of the global downturn. Bridgestone said it would end its contract as the official tyre supplier to the FIA, raising questions over who would replace it after French rival Michelin pulled out in 2006 and US maker Goodyear left in 1998.
"Bridgestone today announced that it will not enter into a new tyre supply contract with the FIA Formula One World Championship series," the Tokyo-based tyre and rubber industry giant said in a statement. The move comes after Toyota Motor pulled out of hosting the Japanese Grand Prix, while Honda has sold its team as the companies struggled to fight off the global recession. There have also been casualties in other motor sports.
Bridgestone has supplied tyres to F1 for 13 years and has been the exclusive supplier to the series since 2007. Its current contract expires at the end of the 2010 season. Bridgestone, battered by a global auto industry slump amid the economic downturn, said it was "addressing the impact of the continuing evolution of the business environment." Bridgestone, which vies with Michelin to be the world's top tyremaker, posted a net loss of 38.34 billion yen (US$420 million) for January-June, a turnaround from a year-earlier profit of 37.24 billion yen.
"The business environment is changing greatly," company spokesman Makoto Shiomi said. "We need to concentrate our management resources on strategic areas and technological innovation," he said, adding that one of the priorities would be development of more environmentally friendly products. He added that Bridgestone was "not in a position to judge" which company would be the next official tyre supplier for Formula One.