Schumacher rings Goodyear alarm bells

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER is beginning to worry that the arrival of Bridgestone tires in Formula 1 will blunt his challenge for the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship.

Goodyear has enjoyed a monopoly of tire supply in Grand Prix racing since Pirelli pulled out of F1 at the end of 1991. With the expected arrival of Bridgestone the Akron, Ohio-based firm has adopted a more aggressive development program this year, trying out different compounds at races and pushing ahead with development work with its contracted teams.

Schumacher, however, is trying to keep up the pressure and has been quoted as saying that he thinks Goodyear "has become a little lazy". Such comments will not please the Goodyear bosses.

Schumacher is worried that Damon Hill will gain an unfair advantage next year because Bridgestone seems to be planning to develop compounds which will suit his specific driving style. There is nothing illegal about doing this. The rule state that tire companies must bring only two compounds to races and that all the tires must consist of one or the other. It does mean that other Bridgestone users will be at a disadvantage as the tires were designed for Hill. Goodyear is designing tires which will suit all of six of its contracted teams (Benetton, Ferrari, Jordan, McLaren, Sauber and Williams). It seems from his comments that Schumacher is now trying to convince Goodyear to build tires specifically for his style of driving so that Goodyear does not get left behind. While this would be a logical step for Goodyear, the tiremaker does not want to upset its other contracted teams by favoring one driver or another. Nor does it want to handicap Williams, for example, if the Ferrari is not as competitive as next year's FW19.

Goodyear sources say that work is progressing well and more grip is being found at each test.

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