Bridgestone take blame for failure

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The Independent Online

Putting aside Ralf Schumacher's comment that his race-winning BMW-Williams FW25 was "perfect and the tyres were perfect", the most apposite summary of the Grand Prix of Europe was to be found tucked away in a press release issued by Bridgestone, Michael Schumacher's tyre supplier.

Ferrari's technical director, Ross Brawn, said with diplomatic caution: "It was a difficult race. Our rivals proved clearly more competitive and there was not much we could do to change that. I don't think there is one specific area that was to blame. We must work on the whole package to improve our performance level."

Bridgestone themselves told it more like it is. "In conjunction with our teams we do need to look carefully at what happened," their technical manager, Hisao Suganuma, said. "To be honest, I'm not satisfied and we will be pushing hard in the next few weeks."

Schumacher Snr is still the best racer out there, and there is not much wrong with the Ferrari F2003-GA either. But in recent weeks the pendulum of tyre performance has swung in Michelin's favour, as their technical chief, Pierre Dupasquier, lost no time in pointing out. "I think our performance spoke for itself," he said at the Nürburgring on Sunday. "It's only in a racing situation that you get the full picture and the two tyre compounds we used performed exactly as we hoped they would in terms of pace and durability. I think Michelin has shown a clear tyre- performance advantage in the last three grands prix."

But Bridgestone, led by their experienced chief engineer, Kees van der Grint, will surely fight back. They will have been encouraged to see that Schumacher Jnr's team-mate, Juan Pablo Montoya, suffered some front-tyre graining that compromised his race.

Tyre performance is not everything, however. Reliability is just as key an issue. Since Monaco, BMW-Williams have scored 47 points between Ralf Schumacher and Montoya. Ferrari have taken 31 via Schumacher Snr and his currently subdued team-mate, Rubens Barrichello.

A month ago even their technical partners BMW were criticising Williams, but those doughty fighters, Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head, have marshalled their troops. Sheer effort from the aerodynamics team and some better chassis set-ups from the engineers have helped the team haul themselves back into contention just as their doubters were writing off their chances of ever winning another world title. With only 13 points separating BMW-Williams from Ferrari, and 15 separating the two Schumacher brothers, you will now get short odds about that possibility.