Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt has insisted that, had the current tyre protest positions been reversed, Michelin would have had no hesitation in protesting Ferrari and Bridgestone for running allegedly illegal rubber.

Speaking to Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung yesterday [Sunday], the Frenchman said that the nature of competition in Formula One would have seen a similar war of words had Bridgestone been thought to have produced a tyre that contravened the regulations in the way the Japanese company claims its rival is doing.

"What do you think would have happened if the Bridgestone tyres on a Ferrari were too wide?" he asked, "Do you think they would have kept quiet?

"Of course not, they would have crucified us. They would have accused us of cheating. Our opponents would have demanded we be disqualified for all the races it could be proven we had used illegal tyres."

Todt was speaking out to defend Ferrari and Bridgestone's decision to protest Michelin's latest batch of front tyres which, the two parties claim, change characteristics with use to provide a bigger 'contact patch'. This, in turn, provides better grip and performance under braking and through corners - something the struggling Ferrari team believes has aided the likes of Juan Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen to maintain pressure on Michael Schumacher in the title race.

Michelin has countered by insisting that its conform to the rules - the design passed all pre-race tests as required by the rules - but, in light of the FIA's announcement that it would be increasing the number of checks over a race weekend, has also revealed that it is working on an alternative for Monza.

Todt admitted that Ferrari could have protested the result of the Hungarian Grand Prix - at which photographic evidence of the allegedly illegal tyres was produced - but opted not to in an attempt to preserve the success of the 2003 season.

"It's our view that such an issue shouldn't be discussed at the race," he said, "We didn't want to harm the sport, but it was not an easy decision. There was enough evidence there."

Although Todt insisted that there was no intention to ruin what has so far been a better year for Formula One, he was equally adamant that the rules had to be adhered to.

"If I was running a three-litre engine to begin with and, at the end of the race, the capacity amounted to 3.5 litres, it is clear that the engine corresponded to the rules when new, but not after it had been used," he said by way of explanation, "Each part of the car must be legal during the whole weekend.

"A car consists of many components, and the tyre is an important component. If it [illegally] constituted only two-tenths, that is already too much, because two-tenths can constitute several places on the grid."

Schumacher heads to Monza this weekend with one point in hand over Montoya and two over Raikkonen. Three races remain in the F1 season.

 

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