MAGNY COURS, France (July 3, 2001) – Bridgestone Corp. will continue “as long as possible” to supply tires to the international Formula 1 racing series, according to Chairman Shigeo Watanabe, speaking at a press conference prior to the French Grand Prix, where Ferrari's Michael Schumacher scored the 50th win for Bridgestone tires in the company's fifth season of competing.
Mr. Watanabe's comments came at a time when international media have been speculating the financial dilemma poised by the company's recall problems in the Americas would cause Bridgestone to rethink its F1 racing program.
“Since we joined Formula 1 in 1997,” Mr. Watanabe said, “…our brand awareness has dramatically increased all over the world…. Being in Formula 1 has boosted our corporate image generally, and has put us at the forefront of tire technology in the eyes of the world.”
Mr. Watanabe also threw fuel on the rumor mill surrounding a possible Goodyear re-entry into F1 by saying, “In the future, more car manufacturers will be involved in Formula 1 and we believe the number of tire manufacturers will increase also. This will enhance further the profile of our business once again.”
A Goodyear spokesman acknowledged Stu Grant, Goodyear's general manager of global racing, has attended a handful of Formula 1 races this year, but stressed nothing is imminent. “When we left F1 after the '98 season, we said we'd always continue to monitor the situation,” the spokesman said.