The performance differential between the ‘prime’ and ‘option’ Brigestone tyre compounds shared out across the field in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix served as a graphic reminder as to just how a fully-fledged F1 tyre war would unfold if the current view that it is better for the sport to have a single tyre supplier did not prevail.
In the current climate of cost control and reglementary restriction, there is probably an enduring case for a single tyre supplier to continue servicing the entire field after Bridgestone stands down at the end of this year. But those who recall the Goodyear/Bridgestone battle in 1998 and the subsequent Michelin/Bridgestone confrontation from 2001 to 2005 may conclude that having a standard tyre makes no more sense than having a standard engine and/or gearbox.
When Ferrari switched from Goodyear to the emergent Michelin at the start of 1978 it was regarded as every bit as exciting as when the Maranello team pioneered the transverse gearbox in F1 three years earlier. It was cutting edge competition, a team seeking a performance advantage from a switch of tyre manufacturer just as it might from changing its engine configuration
Alright, I obviously accept that F1 was slow off the mark when it came to cost containment in recent years and the FIA very much took the initiative in forcing through cost reductions. But I remain unconvinced that a single tyre manufacturer is the best way to go for the sport in the longer term.
Strange how things change, of course. Two decades ago Goodyear always made the point that competition with another brand was important. Seems today that for Michelin and Pirelli, the two companies slogging it out to get the new deal, just being involved in and associated with F1 is enough in itself. Which certainly says something about the image of the world championship.