JANUARY 11, 1999
Ferrari's big advantage?
ACCORDING to reports in the European press Ferrari is to have a big advantage over its rivals in Formula 1 in 1999, following the news that the Italian team is going to be allowed to have 200 more tires from Bridgestone than the opposition will be allowed.
The extra tires are understood to be part of a three-year deal which the Japanese company has signed with Ferrari which involves the fitting of Bridgestone tires as original Ferrari equipment when they leave the factory. This is worth a considerable amount of money to the Japanese.
But the deal - if it is confirmed - will lead to a storm of opposition from rival teams, which will argue that the deal is unfair and that Bridgestone should treat all teams in the same fashion. The FIA rules insist that if there is only one tire company in the World Championship it must equip 100% of the entered teams. It is unclear whether or not the testing restrictions which the FIA has imposed are included in the Concorde Agreement or whether Ferrari and Bridgestone have cleverly worked out a way around the rules.
There is also ambiguity over tire supply to other teams such as the Honda F1 team, which has started testing in preparation for 2000 and the BMW test team which will begin work within the next few months. At the recent Varano testing Honda had unlimited supplies of Bridgestone tires although the Bridgestone men tried to play down the link.
The deal is further incentive for F1 teams to go out and find an alternative source of tires - which is exactly what Bridgestone wants as the F1 program is likely to be threatened unless there is competition - if only because a tire war raises the level of exposure for tire companies.