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Bridgestone under pressure to review exit

With no suitable alternatives, Bridgestone could come under pressure to rethink F1 withdrawal.
Bridgestone's planned withdrawal from Formula One at the end of the 2010 season is apparently being fought by the powers that be, who are afraid that the category may not have a replacement lined up to cover the absence of the Japanese giant.

According to reports in Spain's El Mundo Deportivo, measures are being evaluated that may persuade Bridgestone to remain in the sport, where it has been the sole supplier of rubber since rival Michelin pulled out at the end of 2006. Bridgestone announced that it too would be quitting F1 immediately after the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, despite having a year to run on its current deal.

"The decision made by the board of directors of Bridgestone comes after considerable and lengthy evaluations, and has been based on the company's need to redirect its resources towards the further intensive development of innovative technologies and strategic products," the official line ran at the time, "While we understand and respect the reasons for this decision, it has nevertheless come as a great disappointment.

"Bridgestone's relationship with the FIA F1 World Championship stretches beyond being a tyre-supplier. F1 has been of strategic importance to Bridgestone in developing its technologies and the recognition of Bridgestone as a leader in the global tyre industry, raising the company's brand awareness and providing its strategic business units around the globe with promotional and marketing tools that are intrinsically linked to our company's core products. Having achieved these goals, Bridgestone is now poised to take its technological and brand-building efforts to the next level."

Although Bridgestone insisted that the economic downturn was not to blame for its decision - unlike that taken by former F1 partners Honda, BMW and Toyota - business sources reveal that the company made a net loss of around $420m in the first half of 2009, with net profits for the current financial year - to March 2010 - expected to plummet by 42 per cent year-on-year.

Despite that, however, negotiations are apparently underway in order to find a solution that could see Bridgestone remain as tyre supplier to the top flight. The latest F1 rules reveal that teams will only have eleven sets of tyres per car in 2010, as opposed to the previous 14, and this figure could fall further if cost-cutting for the supplier becomes a sticking point.

With Pirelli immediately ruling itself out of the running to replace its rival, and Michelin havering - initially saying non before admitting that it would consider the position according to circumstances being made more favourable - Korean brands Kumho and Hankook were promoted as the new frontrunners [see story here], but interest is apparently waning in both companies, particularly given the major technological and financial investment required and the limited time left to develop suitable tyres before the 2011 season.

Tagged as: Hankook , tyres , Bridgestone , Kumho , Michelin

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