McLaren still to make tire choice

MCLAREN is still to confirm where its tire supply for 2002 will be coming from as the team focuses on creating the MP4/17 challenger with which David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen will bid to stop Michael Schumacher and Ferrari taking a third successive season by storm.

With Ilmor preparing a new 90-degree Mercedes V10 and the chassis being readied for a mid-January launch, the missing link is the tire supply and both Bridgestone - which has supplied the team since 1998 - and Michelin are keen to supply the Woking team.

McLaren managed only two wins apiece this season for Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, with the scot finishing a distant second in the drivers' championship. The McLaren has often struggled to make the Bridgestone rubber work for it as well as the Ferrari has managed for much of the past two seasons, and as a result the switch to Michelin might seem more attractive.

The French company returned to Formula 1 this year after a 16-season absence, and took a total of four wins with the Williams team. Although the Michelin tires had some little idiosyncrasies they proved increasingly competitive through the year on the Williams - with Jaguar and Benetton also going some way towards mastering the quirky rubber towards the end of the season and making great strides in performance as a result.

Mercedes has a long association with Bridgestone, which supplies its performance AMG models in production, but may seek to retain only one top team in order to focus on the mounting challenge of the French tires.

"The decision has not been made," McLaren boss Ron Dennis said at last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. "We are talking professionally to both companies."

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