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Tire war ahead!

THERE is definitely going to be a tire war in 1997 and beyond, and the International Automobile Federation is not planning to stop it happening.

The governing body of the sport will, however, restrict tire use and insist that tire companies do not favor one team or another so that everyone who races with a particular tire supplier gets the same tires.

The idea of having a single tire supplier in F1 has been shelved and our sources at the FIA say it is now "a dead issue." FIA president Max Mosley was in Monaco last weekend and met with the team principals on Saturday afternoon to inform them of the FIA's plans which, he says, will not involve any need to change the existing regulations.

The F1 Technical Working Group - made up of the top engineers from the teams - met for five hours on Friday afternoon and discussed ways in which tires could be restricted to avoid the use of qualifying tires. We understand a proposal that may be put forward to the FIA F1 Commission is for each driver to be restricted to 20 tires for a weekend - rather than the existing 28 - and that a driver must start the race on the tires with which he set his fastest lap in qualifying. FIA sources say that this is quite easy to police and would effectively wipe out the use of qualifiers as teams would have to save tires for the races.

Rumors in Monaco suggested that there may be as many as four tire companies interested in competing in F1: Goodyear being joined by Bridgestone, Michelin and perhaps even Pirelli.

Goodyear is already in the process of ensuring that it has 60% of the F1 field under contract, and is concentrating on signing up all the top teams. Deals are already in place with Williams and Ferrari, and at Monaco Goodyear chairman and chief executive Stanley Gault visited the F1 circus for the first time: holding talks with McLaren, Benetton, Sauber and Jordan in addition to Williams and Ferrari. He was accompanied by the chairman of Goodyear Europe Sylvain Valensi and Goodyear France boss Peter Palusci.

There was no sign of the Bridgestone Motorsport men who have been at recent races and Michelin men were also keeping a low profile.

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