Following the opening round of the 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship in Australia, the F1 circus returns to Malaysia's magnificent Sepang circuit. Just 21 weeks have passed since Ferrari celebrated their double Championship there last year.
Following the opening round of the 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship in Australia, the F1 circus returns to Malaysia's magnificent Sepang circuit. Just 21 weeks have passed since Ferrari celebrated their double Championship there last year. With the revised 2001 calendar, this ultra-modern circuit reverts from being the final round of the series to the second.
For Michelin, it will be another opportunity to try its products in the true heat of competition -- and 'heat' will be the operative word!
The opening round of the championship was quite satisfactory for Michelin, with fifth fastest time in qualifying (R. Schumacher) and fourth fastest race lap time, set by Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) on his 40th lap.
Sepang is the most modern of all the F1 circuits. Opened in 1999, the 3.444 mile track with a variety of very fast and slow corners features in particular a number of slow corners which each follow long straights. With a track wider than many, overtaking during the 56 lap race should be easier than is often the case at other circuits.
The surface is more abrasive than Melbourne with much higher ambient temperatures expected to lead to the need for tyres of a harder compound than those used in Australia -- or more pit-stops. Although the track was resurfaced between 1999 and 2000, the smoother surface leads to more wheel-spin and sliding, which in turn create higher tyre temperatures, which again can increase wear.
"The high temperature will be one of the biggest factors at this track," says Michelin's Grand Prix Director, Pascal Vasselon. "For only our second Grand Prix, this will be a stern challenge."
Compared to Melbourne, Michelin's knowledge of the Sepang track could be considered as much greater, since the company has won the 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix race there for the last two years. However, as Competitions Director Pierre Dupasquier points out, comparisons between the two disciplines are impossible:
"To compare a 500cc bike with an F1 car would simply not make sense. In real terms, the power-to-weight ratios are actually very similar, but the total tyre contact patch is about 13 times greater on an F1!
Therefore, although we know this circuit quite well through our 500cc activity, this does not mean that we can in anyway anticipate how F1 grooved tyres will behave. With a good chance of tropical storms, we are sure of one thing -- that we will leave Malaysia with more important information in our data-banks!"
Tyres for the Malaysian Grand Prix
* Dry weather
Compound 1: this compound should be more competitive with higher grip levels. This choice may engender more stops.
Compound 2: this is the compound that can be considered as durable. This compound should work in all conditions. This solution is less sensitive to changes in car set-up.
*• Wet weather
Three solutions with a different compound or tread design to cope with the broad spectrum of weather conditions that can be expected.