Bridgestone to Investigate Tyre Woes

Bridgestone will investigate the tyre woes that turned Michael Schumacher's dream of a fifth Spanish Grand Prix win in a row into a nightmare on Sunday

Bridgestone to Investigate Tyre Woes

Two deflated tyres took the wind out of Ferrari's fightback and forced the German's third retirement in five races this season.

His hopes of an unprecedented eighth Formula One World Championship were left further away than ever.

"We have to accept that in this first part of the season, our opponents are stronger than us," declared Ferrari team boss Jean Todt. "But we will not get discouraged and we will absolutely not give up."

The most successful driver in the history of the sport, winner of 83 races and the first five of 2004, has just 10 points to his credit and is 34 behind Renault's Fernando Alonso.

The euphoria of the last San Marino Grand Prix, where Schumacher fought Alonso all the way to the chequered flag after starting 13th, was punctured just when a podium finish looked within reach.

"I think a third place would have been a realistic target seeing how the race was going," said Schumacher. "So it was very disappointing that I had those two problems.

"We have a lot of work to do across the entire package before Monaco," he added.

The glamour race of the Championship is next on May 22 and Schumacher will now have the added problem of having to run early in qualifying.

The champion made an unscheduled stop on the 44th of 66 laps with a deflating rear left tyre while he was in third place and his front left failed two laps later, sending him ploughing through the gravel.

He limped back to the pits and drove into the garage.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "I may have picked up some debris, although I didn't see anything. For something to happen to that front left-hand tyre is unusual.

"We didn't have any problems with tyre-wear. I would have been competitive right to the end."

Tyre supplier Bridgestone said they were investigating.

"We've had a quick look at the rear tyre and the wear on it is perfectly acceptable. It has lost air somehow," said a spokesman. "It could be some debris, a puncture, loss through the valve or something like that.

"It seems unusual because Michael was reporting on the lap before that the car became unstable and then the tyre suddenly lost pressure."

Another win for Schumacher in Spain would have equalled the record of five in a row at a single venue set by the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna at Monaco from 1989-1993.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen won the race for McLaren but home favourite Alonso finished second.

As has been the case in previous races this season, Schumacher got much quicker as the race wore on, calling into question the performance of the Bridgestone tyres.

"We knew this would be a difficult race," said Todt, "But it turned out to be tougher than expected.

"In the middle stint of the race it seemed we might be able to produce a repeat of our Imola performance, with Michael on a great climb up the order, thanks to a strategy of going for a longer first stint than his rivals."

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