A Michelin employee for more than 30 years, Nick Shorrock has overseen 27 race victories since becoming the company's Formula One director at the beginning of the 2005 season. The regulations have been amended significantly during his time at the helm - with the return this year of mid-race tyre stops - but the company has adjusted its working methods to maintain its competitive edge. Here, the Englishman contemplates the way Michelin tailored its approach to suit the winds of change.
Q: How did you assess Michelin's position when you first joined the F1 programme?
Nick Shorrock: It was clear that we had done lots of work with the seven partners we had at the time, but although the company had scored a healthy number of race victories since its return to the fold in 2001, it had still to add to the title successes it notched up during its original F1 involvement.
As the 2005 season got going, we began to rethink our strategy and work out how we could liaise more effectively with our partners, so that they had a clearer understanding of our tyres' potential and were able to make better use of it. This wasn't just a matter of working together during races and tests - our research and development department was very involved in identifying potential problem areas, too.
Q: Which key factors were you looking at?
NS: Everything! Wet tyre performance, wear rates, grip... During the course of 2005, we made it a priority to characterise every circuit in detail so we were sure we always had appropriate casings and understood where and when to use them. By two thirds of the way through the season we had a system in place. We were no longer simply integrating tyres to work with each team's car but were looking at ways to make chassis work better in conjunction with the tyres."
Q: Did this involve many changes at an operational level?
NS: It was clear that our technicians needed to work closely- and in complete confidence - with each partner. Gradually they became more fully integrated with their respective teams and the whole Michelin operation benefited from that. We received contrasting, detailed inputs that yielded a rich seam of information during every race or test session. Our teams collaborated very closely on tyre data and that has been a major plus throughout the past two seasons.
Q: What effect have these changes had on the product range?
NS: Throughout the whole of 2005 we ran two different types of front casing and five rears during race weekends. This year, as we have tried to meet teams' individual needs, we have used six front casings and 15 rears and have tested about 150 different compounds and 65 casings. We've also brought more than 60 compounds to the 18 races, about twice as many as we used in 2005. I think those figures reflect our more focused approach.
This has been a fantastic, competitive season- and very rewarding for the company as a whole. Tyres contribute an awful lot to an F1 car's overall performance and that has been very apparent throughout another successful, title-winning campaign.