European GP: Michelin preview

ONE WEEKEND, FOUR SEASONS... The fifth race of the 2006 Formula One campaign takes place this weekend at the Nürburgring - one of the classic names in motorsport history. The present track bears little resemblance to its illustrious, ...

ONE WEEKEND, FOUR SEASONS...

The fifth race of the 2006 Formula One campaign takes place this weekend at the Nürburgring - one of the classic names in motorsport history. The present track bears little resemblance to its illustrious, 22.7-kilometre (14.2-mile) neighbour, which hosted the first German Grand Prix to count towards the world championship, in 1951, but the unpredictable local weather creates a challenge all of its own.

Opened in 1984, the modern Nürburgring has hosted 13 F1 world championship events under three different names: the GP of Europe (1984, 1995-1996, 1999- 2005), the German GP (1985) and the Luxembourg GP (1997-1998).

Michelin driver Alain Prost (McLaren-TAG turbo) won the first of these, during Michelin's farewell season 22 years ago, and the company has added another two victories since it returned to F1 in 2001, with Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW, 2003) and Fernando Alonso (Renault, 2005).

This season is the 16th in which a GP of Europe has featured on the calendar: the race has also been staged in Spain (Jerez) and England (Brands Hatch and Donington Park). On Sunday, Michelin will be pursuing its fourth F1 success of the year and its 97th in the F1 world championship.

Michelin's view
Nick Shorrock, Formula One director, Michelin:

"In technical terms, the previous race at Imola was very encouraging and demonstrated that Michelin and its partners had made significant progress since 2005's corresponding fixture."

"Our tyres gave good first-lap performance but we made major progress in terms of consistency on a demanding track. These promising results have enhanced our database as the European part of the Formula One season gets into its stride at the Nürburgring, in Germany."

"Traditionally, it is difficultselecting tyre compounds for this track because the weather tends to be variable - and that might be more of a factor than ever this time, because the race is taking place three weeks earlier than it did last season."

"As a result, the tyres require a fairly broad operating spectrum - that's to say they have to be fast and consistent even if the weather forecasts are 100 per cent inaccurate, as they were at Imola. On the evidence of previous seasons, conditions could border on freezing yet could just as easily nudge 30°C."

"As for the possibility of rain, that holds no worries- the lap times our partners recorded during free practice for the Australian Grand Prix indicated just how much progress Michelin has made in that domain."

"Aside from its meteorological difficulties, the Nürburgring is not a particularly demanding track on a technical level and the asphalt is not too abrasive. We need to take care getting our tyre preparation right, however, because the circuit has a tendency to promote graining. It provides more overtaking possibilities than Imola and we analysed its blend of corners and straights very carefully when developing suitable tyres. "

"It takes a real team effort to ensure we supply our partners with competitive products - this involves research, development, diligence, shrewd logistics and dedicated technical personnel. The products we have selected for the Nü rburgring have evolved from endless hard work. So far this year our six partners have covered about 120,000 kilometres (74,500 miles) of testing and part of that has been dedicated to tyre development."

Team perspective:
Willy Rampf, technical director (chassis), BMW Sauber F1 Team:

"The last two races have shown how crucial it is to make optimum use of the tyres so as to exploit the full potential of the car. The Nürburgring track offers plenty of grip, and rubber wear isn't too extreme, which means we will be using a relatively soft compound."

"Cars tend to suffer understeer on this track, and that will be the main consideration when it comes to the car's set-up. It can be offset by the right aero balance or through mechanical modifications. That's what we have been working on this week during testing at Silverstone."

"In view of the close competition in the middle of the field at the moment, everything has to be just right, especially if we want to achieve a good grid position on the grid."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Fernando Alonso , Alain Prost
Teams Sauber , McLaren , Williams