Bridgestone fears trouble

Formula One could be heading for a repeat of the tyre controversy that marred the closing stages of the fight for the 2003 world championship, after one of Bridgestone's chiefs told that he was worried about the impact of new tyre regulations brought in this year.

On the eve of the new season, Bridgestone's motorsport manager Hirohide Hamashima believes that the radical change in tyre regulations, which forces drivers to keep the same set of tyres for qualifying and the entire race, could lead to trouble during the season.

In particular Hamashima is concerned that the excessive wear tyres will now experience during races could leave both Bridgestone and Michelin exposed to exceeding the same tyre tread width regulations that caused such trouble in 2003.

Back then, Michelin was forced to change the design of its front tyres following Renault's dominant victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Ferrari had complained that some of Michelin's tyres were exceeding the maximum 270 millimetres during races, even though they fell within that limit during pre-event scrutineering.

Although new tyres produced by Michelin ensured there was no further drama, Hamashima now claims that the excessive long-life of tyres this season compared to the past could lead to tyres accidentally exceeding the 270mm limit again - a factor that will be picked up only after a grand prix.

Speaking to about the front tyre tread width issue, Hamashima said: "It made me think on a few occasions last year, even though we know the width must not exceed [270mm] at any time, regardless of whether they get checked or not.

"I am not only talking about the competitor, but also ourselves. We are paying particular attention to that and this year is going to be very, very hard on that front.”

But the tyre width issue is not the only concern for Hamashima, who also fears that there may be troubles when it comes to laying down strict guidelines about when drivers will be allowed to change tyres in a race.

"You can change tyres when it is too dangerous to continue, but what is the definition of dangerous?"added Hamashima. "And what if a good driver senses something is wrong with the tyres, stops to change but after a check [by the FIA] there was nothing wrong. What is the judgement on that?

"I have not had an answer on that (from the FIA) and I suspect we will deal with it when something happens in a race weekend.”
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