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Analysis: Indy Threatened by Tyre Issue

The running of the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis is threatened with upheaval caused by yesterday's Michelin tyre failures to the two Toyotas and the subsequent Michelin advice to its partner teams that they do not feel confident that they can run the 73-lap race safely on the tyres that they currently have available

The rules require tyre selection for a race to be made ahead of the event and it would appear that the only way out of the current predicament, with regard to the need for F1 to put on a race in front of the US paying public, would be for the FIA to grant special dispensation for Michelin to use different tyres on safety grounds.

The word is that the current tyres could be replaced by a Barcelona spec' tyre specially flown out in time for tomorrow's race.

That, in turn, would provide further problems in that teams would have no opportunity to run the tyres and establish a set-up ahead of the race, which could result in further problems. It would also, of course, be outside the regulations.

If you were Bridgestone and Ferrari, therefore, you would surely feel unhappy about finishing behind Michelin-shod cars that were using tyres selected outside of the regulations.

"That would certainly be true," smiled Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn, just ahead of today's qualifying session.

Bridgestone's position, meanwhile, is that the company would not gain any credit from trying to force the opposition to race on tyres that were not considered safe by their manufacturer. Any regulatory issues, they suggest, should be left to the governing body.

The FIA, meanwhile, points out that no rule will have been broken until a car turns up on the grid at 12.30 tomorrow with a tyre that has not been pre-selected.

Brawn added: "It is important not to set a precedent, otherwise we would be in a situation of people regularly bringing tyres that were too soft for qualifying and then re-evaluating the position on Saturday night, which is obviously not what was intended."

Autosport-Atlas, meanwhile, spoke to Michelin's director of F1 activities, Nick Shorrock, immediately prior to qualifying about the up-to-the-minute position.

Q. What is the current situation?

Shorrock: We took the tyres from yesterday. All those tyres have now been looked at individually. We have also been undertaking a lot of research work in our test facilities at Clermont Ferrand overnight and one of the things we have been trying to do is to understand why we had the tyre deflation and what caused that. What we have not been able to do is recreate via the tests that we have done, that failure. So that led us to give a certain number of specifications for running this morning in free practice and qualifying this afternoon with our partners.

Q. When you say specifications, you mean cambers and pressures?

Shorrock: Absolutely. Those sort of things and obviously specific to each of the teams so that we can get the optimised running conditions.

Q. Have you any idea why the Toyotas suffered the failures?

Shorrock: Not at all. If we had that we could go even further and that is one of the reasons for our ongoing investigations. With the tyres from yesterday and also from the tyres that we have run this morning, some of those are going to be going off onto a plane which was arriving at 1pm and they will probably be going off at around 3pm this afternoon to our test facility in South Carolina.

Q. Is it correct that you have told the teams not to race on those tyres tomorrow?

Shorrock: With the information that we have right now, we feel we don't have enough information to say to our teams, you can do a full 73 laps satisfactorily. So for the time being that's where we are.

Q. And what is the situation with the FIA allowing you to use different tyres?

Shorrock: We've been back to see the FIA, they hear us and for the time being they haven't given us a final decision other than to say that until 12.30pm tomorrow, there have been no rules broken. That, obviously, is when the cars go onto the grid and the FIA starts checking the tyres.

Q. But obviously you would like to run some different tyres?

Shorrock: With the information we've got now, we don't believe we can use the tyres that we have got here. The information is being constantly updated either from the tests in Clermont or with effect from now, with information from our centre in South Carolina.

Q. Is the track resurfacing one of the roots of the problem, do you think?

Shorrock: We don't know. We obviously knew that the track had been resurfaced. We'd been out here to look at the track and it wasn't something that shocked us enormously, but it's certainly an element. A track surface is never the same on any of the courses that we run on. How does that react with the tyres, the cars, and so on? We need to follow that up.

Q. So are you expecting further instruction from the FIA later this afternoon?

Shorrock: Hopefully we are going to have more information, certainly from our side, in terms of how the tyres have performed and what's causing this problem and what we can do to go further with our teams.

Q. If you don't get permission to use different tyres, are we looking at a six-car US GP?

Shorrock: That I don't know. That's really with the FIA and how we go further with any new sets of tyres that we want to bring.

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