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Goodyear cornering the market

THE Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is quietly in the process of cornering the market among the top Formula 1 teams, leaving F1 newcomer Bridgestone with smaller - and less competitive outfits.

In recent years Goodyear has supplied all the F1 teams, but has had special development contracts with Williams, Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton and Sauber. These have meant that while everyone gets the same rubber at races, the development work is done by the top teams and so the tires produced are more likely to work on their cars.

The planned arrival of Bridgestone - expected next year but not due officially until 1998 - means that Goodyear has had to rethink its tire supply policies. Soon after Bridgestone announced its plans Goodyear quickly secured new long-term deals with both Ferrari and Williams. Sauber also signed up. Since then Goodyear bosses have been negotiating with other top teams to ensure that Bridgestone does not grab any of the big players. These talks have involved McLaren, Benetton, Jordan and Tyrrell.

We understand that deals are now in place with McLaren and Jordan, while talks with Tyrrell are well-advanced. This means that Goodyear has five or six of the top teams under contract.

In order to enter F1 Bridgestone must be willing to supply 40% of the field if called upon to do so. Goodyear will not make life easy for Bridgestone and so will probably force the Japanese tiremaker to take on the smaller F1 teams.

At the moment Bridgestone seems to have a deal with Arrows - nothing is official, but Tom Walkinshaw's team is now openly testing tires for Bridgestone. The results of these tests will be used to produce racing tires for 1997. Inevitably, these tires will be best suited to the Arrows chassis, and any other team which uses them is likely to struggle.

This means that it is extremely likely that Benetton will sign up with Goodyear as the team will not want to use tires developed for Arrows. At the moment, however, Benetton seems to be waiting to see what happens with engines as the team is known to be chasing Honda - which has traditionally worked with Bridgestone.

Goodyear's signing of McLaren confirms rumors that Michelin is not now planning to enter F1 immediately. The French tiremaker is probably going to see how Bridgestone does against Goodyear before deciding to come into F1.

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