It seems that the tire issue is going to be with us for a long time to come yet. At the front row press conference, after qualifying at Phillip Island, Valentino Rossi hinted that he still had the option of switching to Bridgestone tires for 2008. Rossi was highly critical of Michelin, whilst conceding that the French tire company is hard at work to correct the situation for next year. At the same time, he hinted that the decision to switch to Bridgestone tires for next season was up to him and his team.
"So, we have to decide also, because we don't know exactly if it's possible to have Bridgestones. So the situation is in progress now, and also for us, we have to decide".
Rossi's comments are remarkable, as Bridgestone has already ruled out being able to supply the Yamaha and Honda factory teams with tires. His words have reignited speculation that some kind of switch could be possible, with just Rossi running Bridgestone tires in the Fiat Yamaha garage next season, while his new team mate Jorge Lorenzo sticks with Michelins. And if Rossi makes the switch, then that could also mean that the other man most vocal in his demands for Bridgestone tires, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, could also be on Japanese rubber. Despite the speculation, Pedrosa was noncommittal about the situation during the press conference, saying that "everybody has to make their own way", and that any decision about tires would have to wait until after the Grand Prix Commission meets at Malaysia.
The prospect of both the Fiat Yamaha and Repsol Honda garages using both Michelin and Bridgestone is not entirely unthinkable. According to MCN, Bridgestone's Hiroshi Yamada said that increasing Bridgestone's capacity by one rider was achievable, which presumably means they could run to two more riders as well, at a stretch.
If Rossi and his crew did decide to move to Bridgestone tires, then this could conceivably cause more problems than it solves. Firstly, the switch would deeply upset Rossi's new team mate Jorge Lorenzo, who signed with Yamaha on the condition that he would get full factory support, and be on the same equipment as Rossi. Usually, that phrase would be taken to refer to the bike, but in this case, Lorenzo could claim a breach of contract if Rossi were to be on different rubber. But more importantly, Rossi would be the only Yamaha on Bridgestone tires, and would therefore face the dual task of learning to use the new tires, and developing them to work for the Yamaha. And not having a team mate on the same rubber would mean that Rossi would have no one to compare his data with, something he currently does with team mate Colin Edwards. It is quite possible that such a move could generate more work, and more disadvantages than benefits.
Ironically, no such obstacles exist for Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard would be the third Honda rider to switch to Bridgestones, with Gresini Honda expected to continue on the Japanese tires next year, and so much of the development work has already been done. The move could therefore be much easier for Pedrosa than for Rossi.
Casey Stoner, when asked about the tire situation, was his usual unflappable self.
"I feel a little bit disappointed with some riders with the fact that they've won a lot of races with Michelin, they've won some world championships and as soon as something doesn't go correctly they want to change the tire brand. Kawasaki and Suzuki have stuck with Bridgestone, Ducati have stuck with Bridgestone, they've worked very hard in these years, and finally, Bridgestone have come stronger every season, and they did a great, great job this year".
Stoner neglected to specify who he meant by the phrase "some riders."