Bridgestone -- Michelin has made us quicker

BRIDGESTONE technical manager Yoshihiko Ichikawa has admitted that the introduction of tire rivals Michelin into Formula One this season has made them produce a better product.

"We have deep respect for our competitor," said Ichikawa. "This has driven us to make significant improvements in performance.

"Our evolution tires are already as much as three seconds a lap faster than the equivalent 2000 equipment although the aerodynamic changes imposed by the FIA for 2001 will have the opposite effect."

Reigning world champion Michael Schumacher has already backed Bridgestone's commitment during the past few weeks after spending much of his testing time on tire evaluation.

"We can be sure of being well prepared for the first races," Schumacher said. "There has been a lot of progress on tire development and we must not be concerned.

"To me, tires are more or less the most important single factor of winning races. I expect strong competition between Bridgestone and Michelin because they are both very strong, but I think Bridgestone will have the advantage."

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