Fears are growing that Pirelli may decide to walk away from F1 at the end of the 2028 season, with the sport set to choose between sticking with the Italian company or returning to Bridgestone tyres from 2025.
Earlier this year, governing body the FIA opened up applications to become F1’s sole tyre supplier between the 2025 and 2028 campaigns, with Bridgestone emerging as Pirelli’s only opposition.
Pirelli, F1’s official tyre partner since 2011, are widely regarded as the favourites to secure another term – but it has been claimed that securing a new deal could be the first step in a “strategic withdrawal” from the sport.
Pirelli plotting F1 exit strategy?
According to an analysis by the respected reporter Adam Cooper for Motorsport.com, Pirelli and Bridgestone have effectively “been played off against each other in a bidding war” by Stefano Domenicali, with the F1 chief executive aiming to secure the best possible deal for commercial rights holders Liberty Media.
Although it was thought Bridgestone’s financial offer was too good to turn down, there are concerns that a 2025 entry would come at a challenging point for the Japanese manufacturer, who would be forced to create tyres for the current-generation cars for just one season before F1’s next major rule changes come into effect in 2026.
Meanwhile, there is a “strong suggestion” that if Pirelli earn a new deal they will decide to walk away at the end of 2028 – by which time they will have supplied F1 for 18 full seasons – having achieved their marketing objectives.
That could leave F1 in a weaker negotiating position for the 2029 tender, particularly if only one manufacturer emerges as a viable option – though that may change if other companies, including Michelin and Hankook, step forward in the knowledge that the tyre manufacturer is certain to change.
The report adds that “the nightmare scenario for Domenicali” would involve no bidders at all for the 2029 tender, which may encourage F1 to switch to Bridgestone at the earliest opportunity while their lucrative offer remains on the table.
The decision surrounding the choice of tyre supplier goes far beyond the main fee, with such factors as title sponsorships of grands prix, trackside branding and even guest/paddock passes coming into the equation.
An obligation to supply F1’s feeder categories, F2 and F3, is also said to complicate matters “by the addition of an important sustainability element that wasn’t part of previous tenders.”
The report states that “there have been contrasting views up and down the paddock” about the decision facing F1, with some backing a switch to Bridgestone and others supporting Pirelli’s case.
Pirelli came under heavy criticism at last month’s rain-affected Dutch Grand Prix, where Mercedes driver and GPDA director George Russell told media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper that the extreme-wet tyre is “a complete waste of time” and called for it to be shelved until it is improved.
Bridgestone last appeared in F1 in 2010 as the sport’s sole tyre supplier, having been embroiled in a so-called “tyre war” with Michelin until the latter’s exit at the end of 2006 and played an integral role in Michael Schumacher’s dominance with Ferrari at the turn of the century.