Bridgestone plays hard ball with Michelin

F1 tire supplier Bridgestone is set to play hard ball with its new rivals Michelin as winter testing gets underway this coming week at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.

The Japanese tire supplier is apparently intent on ensuring that as little as possible in terms of technology or circuit knowledge is transmitted to Michelin in advance as the French tire company gets to grip with fielding grooved racing tires for the first time in its history.

"Our word is that Bridgestone is trying to persuade everybody from its teams to the FIA to make it as hard for Michelin as possible," said a source close to the BMW Williams team this week. While Bridgestone's position may be regarded as understandable by many, by the same token the Michelin runners are extremely worried that their technology will find a back-door route to Ferrari and Bridgestone via the Prost team which is running Michelin tires this season.

"How can we be sure that tire data will not find its way back to Ferrari," said a Michelin runner. "It's a grey area about which there are concerns, despite any assurances which may or may not be given."

Both Jaguar and Benetton are understood to be deeply concerned by the implications of this situation. Meanwhile, Williams technical director Patrick Head has reaffirmed his belief that Michelin will initially face something of an uphill struggle - despite all the preliminary testing mileage they have accumulated with an ex-works Williams FW21B chassis driven by Jorg Muller and Tom Kristensen at their test circuit in southern France.

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