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MARCH 19, 2001

Head calms fears over tires

THE performance of worn tires in the first two Grands Prix of the season has reduced Williams technical director Patrick Head's concerns over tire cheats.

Before the start of the season, Head was worried that vague rulings in the area of tire grooves might end in protests and a courtroom battle over race results.

He believed teams could wear the grooves down to effectively create a slick tire, which with more rubber in contact with the road, would perform better than a grooved tire.

However, experience over the first two races has suggested the performance advantage is not as significant as he first expected with both his team's Michelin tires and rival Bridgestone rubbers.

"When they get to the point that most of the grooves have gone away there seems to be a few laps in them similar to what they were like when they were new," said Head.

"But it doesn't last very long and very soon you are running on base construction rubber and go a lot slower before anything becomes dangerous."

Head did not rule out the possibility of controversy over illegal tires, however, and believes the next race in Brazil, which is notoriously hard on tires, could develop some arguments.

"It will probably be the first race where there could be some contention," said Head. "As far as whether a tire constitutes a groove or not then if there is still a groove visible then it is judged to be a groove tire."

Williams moved to Michelin rubber this year, and the returning tire company wanted a clarification of the grooves rule before the start of the season.

But the FIA refused to oblige after Bridgestone felt a change of rules would allow Michelin to join Formula One on a more than level footing.