Berger and Schumacher express fears over new Michelin tires

BMW MOTORSPORT director Gerhard Berger and BMW-Williams driver Ralf Schumacher have expressed fears that the team's new Michelin tires could stall their season in 2001.

Berger and Schumacher are aiming to better this year's performance when the team finished third in the constructors' championship in the first year of collaboration between Williams and BMW.

But both men are concerned that French tire manufacturers Michelin, who return to Formula One next year, will not be up to speed with Japanese rivals Bridgestone at the start of next season.

"We had a fantastic first season and obviously we reached results that were better than expected," said Berger. "The next step is to obviously go forward.

"We want to finish third again, but this time closer to the top-two. We must close the gap on McLaren and Ferrari. But I think it will be harder next season for us to finish third.

"We have a big question with tires. We don't know how long Michelin will take to be ready and Jordan and BAR for example will be a lot stronger.

"Consistency will be the key for Michelin and I don't think that will come in the early races, we will have to wait. But I'm confident that with their technology and ideas it will work well."

German Schumacher tested the tires for the first time at Jerez last week and said the new rubbers need a lot of development to reach Bridgestone's standards.

"We had big tire problems last week and it is obvious we still have a lot of work to do," said Schumacher. "The new tires are a lot different and at the moment they are not as good as the Bridgestones of last year."

Michelin and Bridgestone are expected to embark on a fierce tire war next season, but Bridgestone Motorsport director Hiroshi Yasukawa is hoping for a fair fight.

Yasukawa said: "There has been a lot of talk in the media about potential problems with the tire regulations now that there will be two suppliers.

"When we were in competition with Goodyear both companies fully respected the FIA's regulations and we never had any problems. Hopefully, the same situation will repeat itself now. I am sure both operations will run with the right spirit of fair play."

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