With the departure of Michelin from Formula One at the end of this season Bridgestone goes into 2007 as the sole tyre supplier to the sport. There has been some talk that the teams that ran on the Japanese rubber this year will perhaps have an advantage over the previously Michelin-shod teams, but Bridgestone director of motorsport Hiroshi Yasukawa pinpointed fairness as one of the priorities.
"We will have two main issues to ensure: fairness and safety," he told the tyre manufacturer's website. "In 2006 our engineers were concerned with just five teams, but from next year that number will expand to 11 teams, which is more than double. Each car will have its own characteristics and we will have to produce suitable tyres for all of the teams."
For a while Bridgestone's main focus was Ferrari, as its other partner teams at the time -- Jordan and Minardi -- did not have the resources to put in a significant amount of test miles. For 2006 Minardi became Toro Rosso and switched to Michelin but Toyota and Williams joined the Bridgestone fold, as well as new team Super Aguri.
"We expanded from three to five teams in 2006, which gave us a very strong impact, especially with Toyota Racing and WilliamsF1," said Yasukawa. "Of course it was disappointing not to win the World Championship, but all of our teams worked together very well, which allowed us to take a big technological step forward."
Numerous times we heard it said this year that tyres would decide the championship. Michelin came out on top with Renault and Fernando Alonso claiming their second consecutive constructors' and drivers' titles but Yasukawa was not disappointed with Bridgestone's performance.
"We have been in Formula One for 10 years," he commented. "Sometimes we have been good, sometimes we have been less competitive; but it's true that this year we have made a very strong impact. Our tyres were very good."
Michelin opted to leave F1 because it did not agree with the FIA's proposal of a single tyre supplier, originally planed from 2008 onwards. "I am sad that it's coming to an end," Yasukawa said about the tyre war, "because competition makes the sport more interesting. It's unfortunate that our rivals want to stop, but we have to accept that situation."
Winter testing starts towards the end of November and the previous Michelin teams -- Renault, McLaren, Honda, BMW Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso -- will start acclimatizing to new rubber. In 2007 there will be the challenge of different tyres.
"They will be different to this year and the teams will have to learn how to use the tyres," Yasukawa explained. "There is a change in philosophy: in '06 we tried hard to get the tyres to suit the cars, but the reverse will be true next year. The teams will have to work hard to get their cars to suit the tyres."