Tokyo: Bridgestone Corp will not renew its tyre supply contract for Formula One after the current deal expires at the end of the 2010 season, the Japanese manufacturer said on Monday.
The sole supplier of tyres to the series since 2007, Bridgestone will continue its interest in Formula One next season but wanted to concentrate on new technology and products after that.
“The company has decided to redistribute its resources as part of a changing business strategy,” public relations manager Kaoru Tomizawa told Reuters.
“There has been a change of direction towards further developing areas of the business where demand is greatest and which support the company’s aims.”
Bridgestone’s decision to leave Formula One comes after Japan’s number two carmaker Honda pulled its team out of the sport last December to cut costs.
Subaru and Suzuki subsequently quit the world rallying championship while bike maker Kawasaki scrapped its MotoGP team in the grip of a severe market downturn.
Bridgestone insisted the global economic crisis was not wholly to blame for its decision.
“It is not mainly the depressed economic situation,” Tomizawa added. “We are looking more at where tyre demand needs to be focused.”
Bridgestone has been supplying tyres to Formula One since 1997 and became the sole provider a year earlier than scheduled when French rival Michelin withdrew after the 2006 season.
“(Our) collaboration with F1 has contributed to increased brand awareness and the recognition of Bridgestone as a leader in the global tyre industry,” the company said in a statement.
“Having achieved these goals, Bridgestone is now poised to take its technological and brand building efforts to the next level.”
Bridgestone said it would try to reassign workers at its Tokyo base but that no decision had been made about possible job cuts as a result of its Formula One exit.
“We still have a year left in F1 so no final decision has been taken on how it will impact the employees,” Tomizawa said.
“But we would like to respect their contribution before deciding about that.”
Bridgestone announced last month it was closing tyre plants in Australia and New Zealand.