Australian GP: Michelin season opener preview

In 2001 Michelin president Edouard Michelin said: "Formula 1 has altered considerably during the past 17 years. Chassis technology has changed and so have tyres. We know we face a challenge -- but that's just the kind of thing our company really...

In 2001 Michelin president Edouard Michelin said: "Formula 1 has altered considerably during the past 17 years. Chassis technology has changed and so have tyres. We know we face a challenge -- but that's just the kind of thing our company really enjoys."

Spurred on by his upbeat approach, Michelin's five partner teams took up the challenge and the F1 comeback season fulfilled even the most optimistic expectations. Michelin notched up four wins, four pole positions, four 2nd places and three 3rds.

Australian Grand Prix -- March 3 2002

With the calendar having changed very little, the F1 season begins once again in Melbourne, Australia. For the first race of the season Michelin will renew acquaintance with four of the teams it serviced last season -- BMW WilliamsF1, Mild Seven Renault F1, Jaguar Racing and KL Minardi Asiatech -- plus two new partners, West McLaren Mercedes and Panasonic Toyota Racing.

For 2001 Michelin had to take a completely fresh approach to the art of radial construction because of the rules governing the latest-generation Formula 1 tyres. The main target was to understand how grooved tyres worked and to accumulate the maximum amoun t of data in order to develop our products and make them as effective as possible.

The results proved that Michelin was heading in the right direction and information gleaned during the season means the Clermont-Ferrand company can work quietly and confidently on its future programme with an eye on a fresh set of objectives.

You won four races last season. What's the target for 2002?
Michelin competition director Pierre Dupasquier says: "We must do better, much better. We no longer have the excuse of not knowing the circuits and we are working with teams whose abilities are well established. Henceforth the challenge is to prove that M ichelin can deliver the results everyone expects in the wake of last season's successes."

In 2002 Michelin's partner teams will be even more ambitious than before and Michelin will have to do its utmost to continue to making progress and to become recognised as the F1 tyre manufacturer against whom others should be measured.

The track and its technical characteristics
Built around a lake in the Melbourne suburbs, Albert Park first staged a world championship F1 race in 1996. It is one of the longest tracks on the calendar but also one of the least abrasive for tyres^Å or at least it is by the time the race comes around. That's not the case in Friday's free practice, however.

It differs from traditional road circuits because for most of the year it is open to everyday traffic and the surface tends to be dirty at the start of the weekend. Consequently the F1 cars slide around a lot and wear out their tyres. With every passing la p, however, the racing line becomes cleaner, more rubber goes down and the track gains more grip.

Michelin 1 project director Pascal Vasselon says: "We know that this track changes a lot as the weekend wears on. The experience we gained last year leads us to believe that the best race strategy is to do a very long opening stint. We will bring along new tyres that suit such tactics, but they won't feature all the latest developments we have been working on during the winter break.

"Like our partners we have been limited by the regulations in the amount of testing we have been able to do and so haven't been able to evaluate all our new ideas. Initial tests indicate that some developments, on which we have been focusing particularly h ard, have opened up promising new research possibilities for the future. "We have made notable gains with our wet-weather and intermediate tyres. All our partners are agreed that we have moved forward, but we won't know if we have done enough to be truly competitive until we get to the first grand prix."

The tyres
As per the regulations, each driver will have five tyre compounds at their disposal -- two for dry conditions and three for the wet.

Definition of a dry tyre
All dry-weather tyres feature mandatory grooves perpendicular to the wheel axis and running continuously around the circumference of the contact patch. When new, each dry tyre -- front or rear -- must feature 4 grooves that:

 Are arranged symmetrically in relation to the centre of the tread;

 Are at least 14 mm wide at the contact surface and taper uniformly to a minimum width of 10mm at the lower surface;

 Are at least 2.5 mm deep across the whole lower surface and spaced 50mm apart between centres (with a tolerance of ± 1.0 mm).

 The front tyres' tread width must not exceed 270 mm.

Definition of a rain tyre
A rain tyre is one that has been designed specifically for use on a track that is wet or damp.

Rain tyres must have a tread ratio equal to, or higher than, 30 per cent.

A few facts and figures:

10 kg
The weight of a front tyre (a rear weighs about 12kg).

1.2-1.3 bar
F1 tyres are inflated to relatively low pressures in order to produce the broadest possible contact patch and, therefore, a higher level of grip.

150
The number of different materials that go into the creation of an F1 tyre. They include rubber (natural and synthetic), styrene butadiene (for grip) and polybutadiene (for durability). A tyre also incorporates textile fibres such as nylon or polyester, res ins, sulphur, wax, oils and so on.

100 °C
A dry-weather tyre reaches peak operating performance when tread temperature is between 90°C and 110°C.

25,000
The number of F1 tyres we made in 2001.

100
The number of different development ideas we have evaluated.

100,000
The number of kilometres covered during 500 days of testing.

150,000
The number of times a tyre rotates during the course of a grand prix. At top speed a wheel turns 50 times per second.

25 tonnes
The total weight of Michelin tyres and related equipment packed in containers for transport to events outside Europe.

Michelin's partner teams in Formula 1

West McLaren Mercedes
David Coulthard (GB)
Kimi Räikkönen (Fin)

BMW WilliamsF1 Team
Ralf Schumacher (D)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Col)

Mild Seven Renault F1
Jenson Button (GB)
Jarno Trulli (It)

Jaguar Racing
Eddie Irvine (GB)
Pedro de la Rosa (Spa)

KL Minardi Asiatech
Alex Yoong (Mal)
Mark Webber (Aus)

Panasonic Toyota Team
Allan McNish (GB)
Mika Salo (Fin)

The Michelin team
Michelin takes a crew of about 35 people to each grand prix. They include engineers, technical assistants, fitters, storekeepers, co-ordinators, public relations staff and hospitality/catering personnel.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Toyota Racing , Minardi , Jaguar Racing