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SEPTEMBER 13, 1999

Another tire company for F1 in 2001?

THERE have been rumors in recent days in Europe that a second tire manufacturer may be planning to come into Formula 1 in 2001. If this is to happen the company must apply to the FIA before the end of this year. There has been considerable speculation that this could be the French tiremaker Michelin but this does not seem to be very likely. Last week the company announced that it is restructuring its European operations and will cut 7,500 jobs within the next two years. This is around 10% of the staff of the company and the aim is to increase productivity by around 20% in expectation of a major tire sales war between Michelin, Bridgestone and Dunlop (which is now owned by Goodyear).

The announcement was greeted with horror by French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin who warned that employment is the chief priority of his government and that a company which has just announced a large profit should not be laying-off staff and said that he would look very closely at Michelin's plans.

Our spies at Michelin say that the company has decided not to return to F1 unless there is a third tire company involved as it does not want to put Bridgestone's efforts in F1 under the spotlight and would prefer that the Japanese company remain frustrated at the lack of publicity as Formula 1's only tire supplier. There is also a question of cost as a Formula 1 program is not cheap and Michelin would need to spend around $50m to do the job properly. And that would be hard to justify at a time of rationalization.

It is worth noting that Goodyear has already announced plans to strengthen the Dunlop presence in Europe and that F1 would be a very good way of achieving this aim. Goodyear is also rapidly integrating its racing technology with that of Dunlop and we hear that there will soon be Goodyear racing tires appearing in motorcycle racing, using technology developed in bikes by Dunlop.

It would thus be logical that Goodyear's F1 knowledge and experience be used to create Dunlop F1 tires...