Bridgestone to widen difference between tyres in 2009 – but how will we know?

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Slick tyres are making their long-awaited return to Formula 1 next year. Drivers and fans have largely welcomed the return of proper racing tyres to F1.

The FIA apparently intends to keep the rule requiring teams to use two different compounds per race. But in order to make this more of a challenge Bridgestone plans to increase the difference in performance between the two tyres.

I have two questions about this: why has this rule been deemed worth keeping, and how are we going to be able to tell the difference between the tyres?

Why keep the ‘two compounds’ rule?

The ‘two compounds’ rule was introduced in 2007 when Formula 1 switched to having a single tyre supplier.

Bridgestone, who won the tyre contract, were concerned that without the tyre war with Michelin there would be little reason for F1 commentators to discuss tyres at all. That would be no good for their marketing efforts.

So the FIA copied an idea used in Champ Car at the time (where Bridgestone also had a tyre monopoly) requiring each driver to use both a standard and a softer ‘option’ tyre at different stages during the race.

18 months on the rule has had its intended effect of making people talk about tyres more, which suits Bridgestone, but has it improved racing in F1? I don’t think it has.

Should the solution be to scrap the rule or to make the differences between the tyres greater? F1 seems to have bypassed this discussion and gone straight for option B, presumably to keep Bridgestone happy.

How will we be able to tell the difference between the tyres?

When the ‘two compounds’ rule was first introduced little to no thought was given to how F1 fans at the tracks or on TV might be able to tell which compound each of the drivers was on.

In Champ Car the softer tyre was distinguished by a red sidewall. To begin with the FIA chose to mark the softer tyres with a small white circle in F1. But they proved far too difficult to see at speed when they were first tried at the Australian Grand Prix.

So a new solution was found – Bridgestone painted a white stripe in one of the grooves on the softer tyres. This has proved successful.

But next year there will be no grooves on the tyres. A line painted down the middle of a slick tyre would surely get scrubbed off very quickly. So what will thry do instead?

I suspect some teams will oppose having sidewalls of a particular colour as it would conflict with their carefully-chosen, sponsor-friendly paint schemes.

I think the most likely solution would be to have white sidewalls with black lettering on the softer tyres. But this is F1 so expect a more complicated and less effective system to be found…

2009 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “Bridgestone to widen difference between tyres in 2009 – but how will we know?”

  1. I live next to a British Airways office, I often see Firestone Potenza adored vehicles wearing pirrelli tyres.

    I’ve been trying to take a good picture on my old phone, but I suck, and the people in said vehicles look at me like I have “issues”. I’ll be getting a new phone soon so hopefully should work.

    in regards to the tyre war, I liked it, the culmination of the 2004 season created the tyre war of recent years as we know it…. they should allow (get this) a DRIVER pick his tyre

    I know it seems like a crazy idea, you know, having the front man choose what he wears.

  2. The one race I remember it making a difference Montreal 07. Sato overtaking Alonso :) Shame it doesn’t happen much more often

  3. USA Champ Cars used two compounds, the outer sidewall
    was a RED stripe. I see little reason for two compounds but if it must be why not let a team/driver make a choice and use that compound for the entire race.

  4. The problem with the different compounds rule is that by Sunday, everyone knows the charateristics of the tarmac, so just about everyone uses the same compound pattern in their strategy.

    “Here, here” on the tyre painting next year, they will probably choose an overly complex or just plain silly system. What is wrong with painting the tyre red or blue or whatever?

  5. I may be making this too simple, but as the tires need to be directly mounted to a wheel, why not have 2 colors of wheel per team. 1 Wheel black, 1 wheel lighter valued/team color.

    As most teams are going to a wheel cover scenario anyway, why not just place a colored wheel cover to indicate tire type. That would be easy, and economical. Additionally the FIA could dictate a wheel cover spec, thus it would be cheaper for the teams to run the spec wheel types (rather than go to the trouble of painting up a bunch of wheels.)

    There’s fun for the day, (and the tire companies don’t need to redo the compounding to generate funky colors that’ll just rub off!)

  6. Of course the other option is just to invert the lettering, so that it’s a white wall, and the letters are black, (rubber showing through).

  7. I don’t care one jot about tyres and I don’t see the merit in a single or even two providers. Surely each team should be free to buy tyres from anyone they want and that team can then work with the provider to make their car work with their tyres.

    They want to make mechanical grip more important? let teams really work on it instead of compromising every team.

  8. The difference needs to be on the tyre to prevent any “team errors” that will cause controvesy later on. :D
    White on Black and invereted for the 2nd option seems the best idea.

  9. Nico Savidge
    16th July 2008, 0:33

    “Without the tyre war with Michelin there would be little reason for F1 commentators to discuss tyres at all” Oh heavens no – God forbid that we would miss those enlightening discussions… I can’t stand it when broadcasters try to make tire compounds interesting, and I’m what people would describe as a “F1 Nerd.” I’m with you, Keith – just scrap the mandatory compound change.

  10. Andrew – the problem with allowing teams to choose tyre suppliers and work with them is that manufacturer-backed teams will gain more than smaller outfits. I personally don’t fancy seeing Ferrari and McLaren moving even further ahead of the pack, while my beloved Williams boys head backwards into extinction.

    I’m quite happy to see this rule stay if it means stability with Bridgestone as sole supplier. I don’t think it helps the sport at the moment, but I also don’t see it doing any damage. If they need more exposure, then let them have it – provided it doesn’t damage the sport. I really don’t want to see a farce in F1 like the ’03 championship again – all down to tyre suppliers pulling a fast one (both Michelin and Bridgestone).

  11. “But this is F1 so expect a more complicated and less effective system to be found…”

    I love that line.

  12. Just put a white circle around the outside of the soft tires, or “tyres.” Why on earth is that spelled differently?

  13. Steve, I think that’s an American/British English thing more than anything. :)

    The tyre compound rule doesn’t really bother me. I’m OK with it either way.

  14. So all the tyre compound rubbish is just for Bridgestone’s sake? Did they pay Bernie for the priviledge of being sole supplier? Mind you, they were already supplying GP2, so its no surprise really.
    Didn’t anybody else think it odd that when Michelin were thrown out, the likes of Dunlop, Avon, Pirelli and Firestone weren’t approached to compete for the ‘Sole Supplier’ place? Bernie went straight to Bridgestone, no matter that they were never up to Michelin standards!
    I think the teams should be able to use any supplier they want, for any part of the car, as long as its up to the current FIA/FOM specifications.
    As far as showing the ‘difference’ between the two compounds, I like the idea of the wheel covers, since they have now become part of the package, and can say ‘Bridgestone’ in any colour you want. In fact you could even go so far and make it really simple and write ‘Soft’ and ‘Hard’ on the sidewalls and on the wheel covers.
    Oh, and with only one supplier, who has already provided the wrong spec tyres on at least one occasion this year, what penalties are in place if they completely mess it up and make all the cars undrivable?

  15. “Firestone weren’t approached to compete for the ‘Sole Supplier’ place”
    firestone is the American arm of Bridgestone, so yeah they were totally asked.
    Sorry for nitpicking, i’m just pretending to have a reservoir of knowledge.

  16. Its so silly having Bridgestone giving statements after a race, that their tyres won. The price of being the sole supplier should be anonymity. If they want their tyres talked about then they should advertise on tv or printed media.

  17. One of the reasons they didn’t paint the sidewalls is that one compound can be “option” one weekend and “prime” the next and they don’t want to throw any tyres away.
    They must be able to mark the tyres quickly in the pits, I think Steve K has the best solution so far.

  18. Why does the rubber have to be black? Why not have hot pink for the ‘soft option’ and baby blue for the ‘hard option’ :D

    LOL just thought about the Ferrari cars with Clashing hot pink rubber, sounds like something Max might enjoy as well LMAO

    Gawd I crack me up!

    but seriously, I don’t have an issue with the tyre rules at the moment, when we had multiple suppliers in the sport the tyre war was getting very dangerous, just ask Ralf Schumacher

  19. I think the mandatory compound switch makes the sport unnecessarily complicated. Just get rid of it and make the drivers decide what compound they want to take.

    But as said in the article, this rule is the logic consequence of the control tyre. I never like the idea of the control tyre. Let’s get rid of it.

  20. That rule is so daft. Seriously I’d rather have the Tyre Wars back but with more than 2 manufacturers. And it can be done, let the teams pick their own tyre suppliers for the next 3 years and those companies cannoth be Bridgestone/Firestone or Michelen. After the 3 years those two/three companies are permitted to sell their tyres again.

    Would be good to see the likes of Goodyear and Pirelli return. Who knows maybe Dunlop, Avon and Continental might be interested.

  21. Picture a F1 car sitting in the pits with the wheels off…. Then the caption “Bridgestone or nothing”

    If this commercial ever appears I want my cut.

  22. Polak – That’s not a million miles away from Bridgestone’s current advertising campaign “the only F1 tyre”. Here’s a video:

  23. @Keith
    I think it is really unfair, to claim this rule was made for PR reasons only.

    This rule change was actually one of the few cases, where the FIA did something that really helped to cut down the cost in F1!

    F1 tyres are ******* expensive, especially the transportation to the tracks! Bridgestone is spending millions for that.

    Just look at the numbers:

    Currently for every race they bring 1120 dry tyres (7×4 “prime” + 7×4 “option” sets for each car) and 560 wets.
    From Saturday on every driver has 10 sets available, this means only 5 for every compound.

    Now, without this rule the teams would just use half of these. Teams would evaluate the compounds on Friday and then go for the better one. But this would mean Bridgestone had to bring them much more sets of one type because 5 tyres for training, Q1, Q2, Q3 and 3 for the race creates a serious shortage.

    So they had to bring at least two sets more maybe even four. Bring another 320 tyres (from which 160 get thrown away) just for keeping the teams happy?

    Instead they realised, that forcing the teams to use the
    “bad” set once in the race, spares them two sets to bring more. Plus, since the teams know, that they have to prepare for the “bad” tyres, they use them in training as well.

    And yes, we are still talking about the tyres and there is also the potential of more overtaking, is that so bad?

    This is a real case of a rule, saving money (millions) for FIA’s exclusive tyre supplier.
    That is why I find it unfair to discredit this as a sole “PR” rule. It is not or at least not primarily.

  24. @Bbbut – but it would possibly be cheaper if there were more than one supplier (in fact more than two suppliers), as they would be ‘competing’ in real business terms to provide the best tyres at the cheapest cost (which also benifits road cars). As it is Bridgestone can inflate the prices of their tyres and their services and FIA/FOM or the teams HAVE to pay since they are the only supplier allowed.
    @Sush – I know its all in the branding these days, and I can never remember who owns what! I wonder why the tyres aren’t marked as ‘Firestone’ sometimes then – hey ‘Bridgestone’ for the Hard compound and ‘Firestone’ for the Soft!

  25. Just bring back the tire war it was much more exciting have a poll on that see what people say. to be honest i know the compound make some difference in lap times. But many of the less hardcore fans couldn’t care as much as when it was michellin vs bridgestone ahhhh the good old days when car didn’t look ugly.

    1. I’d rather have slicks but no tyre war, than have a tyre war but with a return to grooves. And these days I think it’s has to be either/or to contain speeds and costs.

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