The Michelin vs. Bridgestone tire battle continues to be recognized as a crucial turning point in Formula 1 history and has helped to define the racing genre. These two tire manufacturers ultimately abandoned Formula 1 as a result of their bitter competition in the early 2000s.
The best races and the finest drivers in Formula 1 demanded the high-quality tires that these two companies made but the competition was succeeded by Pirelli in 2011.
The giants hit the market in about the same era. In 1997, Bridgestone became a certified provider of tires, and Michelin followed in 2001. They did not, however, provide identical products. Although Michelin’s tires were lightning-fast throughout qualifying, these tires wore down rapidly amidst races while Bridgestone lasted longer. But they occasionally struggled to keep their tires warm and were unfit for damp conditions.
One of the keys to Michael Schumacher’s success at Ferrari was his bespoke Bridgestone tyres. Could Pirelli be replaced by Bridgestone as F1’s control tyre supplier in 2025? Would this end the era of thermal tyre degradation in F1? Pic: Dreamstime pic.twitter.com/9wVizTh5oe
— Duxbury Networking (@dux_net) June 21, 2023
While most of the teams demanded for Michelin tires, Ferrari was the sole buyer of Bridgestone. In fact, the 7xWDC champion who battles a tie with Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher won four of his championships in Bridgestone tires between 2001-2004. Regardless, the manufacturer remained unpopular even though they had a higher success rate as compared to their competitor. However, Bridgestone retired from the F1 arena in 2009.
The shocking F1 controversy surrounding $22 Billion Michelin
The 2005 United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis was the beginning of the downfall of Michelin. During Friday’s practice session, at turn 13, a fast-banked bend that makes use of the oval portion and is a rarity in the sport, the Toyota driven by Ralf Schumacher was brutally destroyed and the reason behind it was the failure of Michelin tires. When Ricardo Zonta, Schumacher’s substitute, too had a tire mishap, things took an unsettling turn.
#OnThisDay 18 years ago, only 6 cars started the 2005 United States Grand Prix after 14 cars using Michelin tyres withdrew.
— Leow2002 🇲🇾 (@hwanglikleow) June 19, 2023
The fact that Michelin warned that if the cars didn’t slow down in Turn 13, they weren’t able to guarantee their tires for more than 10 laps, was a serious concern for the teams. Pit stops for new tires during races were off-limits at the time. Multiple inquiries and attempts to find a solution were made, including Michelin’s attempt to alter the track configuration to safeguard the safety of their teams.
Later clashes with the FIA over numerous policies and regulations further strained their relationship. After the 2006 season, Michelin finally said goodbye to Formula 1. The possibility of a fresh tire competition never materialized, despite Michelin’s brief desire for a comeback in 2017 as Pirelli’s Formula 1 contract neared its expiration. The matter was simply resolved by Pirelli extending its contract.