OCTOBER 14, 1996
With 11 teams expected in F1 next year - the current 10 plus Stewart Grand Prix - Goodyear will need seven teams. The company currently has six under contract: Williams, Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton, Sauber and Jordan
Bridgestone has announced only one team to date - Arrows - but will have to supply at least three others. These are expected to be Minardi, Tyrrell and Stewart. Bridgestone has shown no interest at all in being involved with Ligier which Japanese sources suggest is because of a dispute between Bridgestone management and Mugen's Hirotoshi Honda.
Goodyear will step in but will probably want to make sure it is a long-term deal so that there are no teams available to Michelin if the French tiremaker decides that it wants to enter F1 in 1998. Michelin has a secret F1 tire development program at Clermont-Ferrand and is rumored to be keen to get into the battle with its two major competitors in the world's tire markets.
Goodyear's thinking appears to be that Ligier will almost certainly be taken over by Alain Prost in 1998 and that this will become the much-vaunted French national racing team. If it happens Peugeot will be part of that package and logic dictates that Michelin would follow as the tire company has a significant (but minority) shareholding in Peugeot. This dates back to 1934 when Citroen was struggling and gave Michelin a large block of its shares in lieu of payment for tires. Pierre Michelin, the son of Michelin founder Edouard, became Citroen president. The Citroen stock was converted into Peugeot shares when Peugeot and Citroen merged in 1976.
Ligier will probably want to avoid a long-term Goodyear deal but may have to accept it if the team wants tires for 1997.