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What is behind Goodyear's decision to quit Formula One?

21 November 1997

Andrew Frankl
Euro Bureau Chief

I have known the Goodyear people ever since they first got involved in Grand Prix racing way back in 1965. Ritchie Ginther won their first race in Mexico, and since then they have won well over 350 races. Over the years they saw off the challenges of Michelin and Pirelli, and this year that of Bridgestone.

What must have upset them--amongst other things--was and is the total lack of gratitude. I have attended an awful lot of races since 1964 and have heard lots and lots of drivers thank their sponsors,their engine makers, their team managers, their Mums (No, not the champagne,that is always Moet, I meant their real Mums), but, to my recollection, never have they ever said, "by the way, many thanks Goodyear, the tyres were great."

In 1997 all we heard was oh, the Goodyears are awful, not a patch on the Bridgestones, terrible tyre wear, no grip, moan, moan, moan. In the end, though, who won every one of this year's races? Goodyear! Every single one of them. Of course, the Bridgestone people were handicapped by getting the also rans--Stewart, Prost, Arrows--whilst Goodyear had the cream--Ferrari, Williams, and Benetton, to name but three. Neverthless, had their tyres been really awful, even the top teams would have lost on them.

On top of the non-appreciation factor, they also incurred horrendous costs transporting literally thousands of tyres all over the world. There must have been commercial benefits, but the truth is that Pirelli and Michelin are doing perfectly well without spending millions on spoilt Grand Prix primadonnas.

Another factor, in my opinion, has been the awful smell surrounding Formula One of late. Maybe the Czars--Messrs Ecclestone and Mosley--are oblivious to it, but the farcical Schumacher "trial" and the somewhat unfortunate 1 million pound fiasco vis-a-vis the British Labour Party, who have since become the Government, did not help Grand Prix racing one little bit.

In a recent newspaper interview Max Mosley, boss of International Motor Sport, said after the Schumacher cabaret, and I quote, "we agreed to do what we thought was right and just ignore the media". Silly boy. The media has an awful habit of biting back, especially now that Formula One is headline news. Let me quote from newspapers which are read by millions of people: "Race chiefs under siege after letting Schumacher escape" and "Why motor racing is a now a sport in name only." They know it stinks, we know it stinks.

I have a funny feeling Goodyear won't be the only people who will want nothing to do with a sport which now has an image on par with professional wrestling.

I would like to thank Goodyear for their tenure in Formula One. They had some great engineers and some great personalities, such as Leo Mehl. There were long periods when without them, there would not have been any racing, as they were sole suppliers. So, before everybody rushes off in search of new tyres, let us just remember who kept the wheels rolling.