Well, that should liven up the racing!
With Bridgestone packing up its traps and getting out of the F1 business at the end of the year, unconvinced of the merits of racing against itself every other weekend as the sport’s sole supplier, Michelin – which was driven out as a result of the Indianapolis fiasco in 2005, when it had to withdraw all of its contracted cars on safety grounds – look as though it might change its mind and return to F1 next season. But only if it can trigger a full blown tyre war in the process.
That was the news in the run-up to the Malaysian GP, although I guess there will be some ready to claim that F1 is guilty of sending mixed messages to the outside world. We’ve just digested a raft of new cost-cutting regulations as well continuing in a bid to keep lap times under control. Now we’re toying with the idea of bolt-on performance goodies – because that’s what a tyre war means, make no mistake about it – which can give you a second and a half a lap at the drop of an air gun.
Are tyre wars good or bad? Well, they can certainly be interesting, as we were reminded by the sight of Damon Hill’s Bridgestone-shod Arrows-Yamaha nipping through inside Michael Schumacher’s Goodyear-shod Ferrari to take the lead of the 1996 Hungarian GP. Or Nelson Piquet blitzing the opposition in the 1985 French GP at Ricard, using Pirellis which worked perfectly in the torrid conditions but were useless everywhere else.
So will Ferrari sign with Hankook? Or Renault forsake Michelin for Kumho? It may sound barmy, but what a promotional stage for these aspirant F1 tyre makers. If, in the end they are really interested, of course.