The bizarre goings-on in the wake of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which have included accusations (since withdrawn) of the FIA effectively "fixing" the world championship, took another twist this week, as French tire maker Michelin suggested that Bridgestone was using illegal chemical treatments to enhance the performance of its tires.

The latest controversy centers around a photograph of a Bridgestone tire technician, taken at the Italian Grand Prix, which shows the technician wearing the sort of protective apron and face mask normally worn to handle toxic chemicals. According to Michelin, none of the normal activities of a tire tech on a race weekend - mounting and dismounting tires, setting inflation pressures, and cutting open tires for post-race inspection - would require this sort of protection.

On the other hand, chemical treatment of tires to enhance traction - a prohibited practice known as "tire doping" - involves highly toxic carcinogens in liquid or aerosol form, and suitable protective gear would be highly advisable. Such chemical treatments are widely available (one such commercial product is shown at right) and commonly used by amateur racers to extend the useful life of their expensive race tires. And yes, it really works.

The FIA responded by saying that Bridgestone explained the unusual garb to the satisfaction of the governing body, and according to a spokesman, "We...have absolutely no concerns."

[Sources: Reuters, Autosport via Winding Road]