Bridgestone reveals the scope of 2001 tire war

BRIDGESTONE's annual press review in Tokyo was somewhat overshadowed by Jean Alesi's abrupt announcement that this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, the Frenchman's 201st, will be his last. However, it was also a chance for the Japanese tire giant to explain its campaign in the burgeoning tire war with Michelin.

Company president Mr. Watanabe made a point of mentioning Bridgestone's close links with Ferrari, with whom it has won three of the last four world championships and the entire Ferrari front line of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Jean Todt were on hand to talk to the Japanese media.

Bridgestone's other race winning team, McLaren, was not present at the event, and although this fuelled further speculation of an imminent switch to Michelin the British team was not present at last season's event save for a few upper management figures.

The motor sport division's technical director Hiromide Hamashima explained that the phenomenal total of 120 different types of tires had been developed through the course of the 2001 season, and Schumacher was at pains to thank the Japanese tire maker for its support of his successful title defense in 2001.

"There are several factors that make the difference," he said. "What I can say is that F1 is very tough. You need to constantly push to the limit: whoever manages to achieve this will end up with the advantage."

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