OCTOBER 14, 1996
Tom takes Bridgestone, Yamaha and Diniz
As we predicted as long ago as April 29 (INSIDE F1, Week 18) Bridgestone finally confirmed its plans to enter F1 a year earlier than the company originally announced in March when it revealed its F1 ambitions.
Bridgestone has been conducting F1 testing since 1989 with a variety of different cars and drivers. The initial tests were carried out by Paolo Barilla and Christian Danner in a Formula 3000 Reynard-Mugen although in 1990 the company then acquired a Tyrrell-Mugen 018 which was driven by Volker Weidler and Johnny Herbert. A Tyrrell 020 followed with drivers Aguri Suzuki, Mauro Martini and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all doing development work. In all these tests totaled 21,000km of running between 1989 and 1994. There was no testing in 1995 but this year Jos Verstappen, Aguri Suzuki and TarsoÊMarques have completed another 8,000km with Bridgestone's Ligier-Mugen JS41 and with the regular Footwork-Hart FA17s.
Bridgestone is expected to be a major financial partner in Arrows as well as the team's tire supplier and the tires are likely to be designed specifically to suit Damon Hill's driving style. Hill is expected to begin testing for Arrows in the middle of November. Walkinshaw's deal with Yamaha is for one year only and leaves open the possibility that Tom will use Honda works engines in 1998. Honda president Nobuhiko Kawamoto visited several teams at Suzuka including Arrows and Benetton. There have also been some conversations with Williams.
The one-year deal will put pressure on Yamaha to do a better job while allowing TWR to move elsewhere if the relationship is not successful. We understand that Walkinshaw has managed to convince Yamaha management that it needs to double its F1 investment. John Judd's Engine Developments company will continue to manufacture and rebuild the engines but the research and development program is to become the responsibility of TWR Engines under ex-Cosworth designer GeoffÊGoddard. The first major goal will be to improve Yamaha's quality control to make the engines reliable.
Walkinshaw had been hoping to get Mugen Honda engines for 1997, but when Mugen signed a deal with Ligier, Tom had to look elsewhere. He says that he will see how the Yamaha relationship develops but F1 insiders reckon that his ultimate aim remains to become the Honda works engine team in 1998.
The deal with Diniz (which we predicted last week) will bring the team as much as $13m of extra budget. Diniz bringing a sponsorship package worth around $10m and Parmalat being happy to throw in $3m to be associated with WorldÊChampion Damon Hill. Walkinshaw hired the 26-year-old Brazilian last year when he was running Ligier and reckons that Pedro has surprised many people this year.