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SEPTEMBER 14, 2003

Brawn under pressure from Michelin?

Ross Brawn did not have a comfortable time in the FIA press conference on Friday at Monza and it is clear that he is under considerable pressure about remarks he is alleged to have made to AUTOSPORT magazine during the recent tire crisis. The magazine quoted the Ferrari technical director as saying that "it was an attempt by Michelin to circumnavigate the regulations. It is now clear that a large number of the Michelin teams have been running illegal tires for a considerable amount of time". When asked in Monza if those were actually the words he had used and whether he was willing to stand by them, Brawn declined to make any comment.

"I think our opinions about the situation have been expressed. I have given you an explanation of what happened and we want to try and run the rest of the championship in the best manner and best spirit that we can and I don't want to go back over those comments."

Brawn later said that "I don't believe for a minute that Michelin are trying to bypass the regulations. They obviously had an interpretation of what they felt was acceptable for the tire and they are not a company that is going to do something that they knowingly know to be in breach of the regulations."

But this does not tie up with his earlier comments (which are believed to have been taped by the journalist in question) and Michelin is very unhappy at the allegations and is believed to be seriously considering a legal action against Brawn for slander. In British law, it is up to Brawn to prove that what he said was true and not up to Michelin to prove the legality of its tires.

"The FIA, who are the adjudicators of the rules, have not declared the tires illegal," pointed out Patrick Head during the press conference. "What they have said is that from the Monza race we will be measuring tires when they are used and not when they are new. They have just clarified how they are to interpret Article 77c."

Proving illegality is thus not going to be easy and with tire company lawyers being famously sharp, there could be legal problems ahead.