Honda F1 website

AUGUST 30, 2003

Michelin worried by FIA warning

Michelin is not happy about the FIA's warning to teams that there could be problems with the measurement of the contact patch of the tires at the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix.

The change of the interpretation of the rules came about when someone pointed out to the FIA that they believed Michelin tires were behaving in such a way as to increase the contact patch under loading at high speed. Bridgestone denies doing this while Ferrari has also denied any involvement in the complaint, despite the fact that FIA President Max Mosley and F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting visited Ferrari headquarters in Maranello last week.

Whiting later wrote to the F1 teams saying that: "It has become clear that under certain circumstances the total front tire contact patch on some cars can exceed 270mm in width, despite the fact that when measured statically on a new tire the apparent tread width does not exceed the maximum stipulated in the sporting regulations. With immediate effect, any part of a front tire which we consider has been in regular or systematic contact with the track will be deemed tread and will be taken into account when measuring the width of the tire as defined in the regulations."

Michelin says it has confirmation in writing from the FIA that its current tire profile was within the regulations and said that if there are to be rule changes they should not happen until next year.

It has issued a statement saying that "all Michelin's partners are concerned with this regulation change" and that it is not possible to do anything about the announcement because "the procedure to measure the width of a contact patch as required now is unknown".

The problem is that it is impossible to define "regular or systematic contact with the track" and this means that teams must either risk a scrutineering problem or err on the side of caution, perhaps at the expense of competitiveness. The warning from Whiting is not a rule as such and if teams wish to challenge the interpretation they can do so if they are protested by going to the FIA International Court of Appeal.

This latest development is not however something which the World Championship needs at a time when the close fight for the title is enough to keep the sport in the spotlight and there is a feeling in F1 circles that whoever complained to the FIA has a nasty case of sour grapes about being beaten. Michelin has been using the same specification of tire all year and to date there has not been any complaint but now with the World Championship at stake it seems that someone feels the need to chance an unofficial protest which, of course, the FIA cannot ignore.