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More on Michelin

FOLLOWING our recent story about secret Michelin tests, further evidence is coming to light that the French tire company will be in F1 next year - and there is even a suggestion that Michelin's arrival will force the Bridgestone/ Firestone empire to join the F1 battle as well.

We have heard that senior Michelin tire designers from the German Touring Car Championship team have been transferred to a special research group at Michelin's headquarters in Clermont Ferrand, France, and that several Michelin-supplied teams in that championship have had to pay for their tires this year, whereas the rubber was free in previous years. The money which is being saved by Michelin is believed to be funding the research and development necessary for the F1 program.

In the meantime, Bridgestone will be taking 150 VIP guests to the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza in a fortnight. Bridgestone has been sniffing at the edges of F1 for some years, testing its tires on occasion in Japan in old Tyrrells which have been driven by drivers such as Mika Salo, Aguri Suzuki, Christian Danner and Volker Weidler. The company is also believed to be supplying tires for the testing of the mysterious factory Honda F1 car which continues to test from time to time at Suzuka.

There is, therefore, a distinct possibility of a three-way tire war in F1 as early as next year. Goodyear's recent decision to run very soft rubber at the Hungarian GP would seem to have been a message to the F1 bosses that if there is a tire war, the lap times are going to be drastically cut, despite the reductions in downforce and engine power. In other words, if the FIA wants a tire war, it is going to have to make dramatic changes to the technical regulations for next year to compensate for the extra time which will be found in the tires.

A tire war would be a disaster for the smaller F1 teams, which will be forced to pay for their tires and will not be given the same rubber as the big teams. This may be in line with what Bernie Ecclestone wants as we continue to hear suggestions that he will be satisfied to have nine strong teams, each with factory engines and good sponsorship, rather than 12-15 teams which are dissipating the available money without much success.

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