Interview with Pierre Dupasquier, head of competition, Michelin Q: In 2003 the Jaguar R4 struggled because it wore its rear tyres out more quickly than other Michelin runners. How have you worked with the team to try and solve a problem like ...
Interview with Pierre Dupasquier, head of competition, Michelin
Q: In 2003 the Jaguar R4 struggled because it wore its rear tyres out more quickly than other Michelin runners. How have you worked with the team to try and solve a problem like that?
Pierre Dupasquier: "Working with Jaguar Racing is easy. They are nice guys which helps, but they are also very open, honest and competent. That means it is very easy for us to work closely with them. So if we find something new - a problem or a cure - we will always share the information. Because we provide tyres to other leading teams we are in a good position to be able to tell Jaguar Racing if the problem is only affecting them. That's what good teamwork and partnership is about."
"If their car does a 12-lap run and comes back with significant tyre wear then they will ask the engineer we have placed with them what the other teams are finding. It's an easy way for us to be able to tell them whether the problem lies with that specific tyre compound or the car itself. If other teams have been able to run for 25 laps without a problem then that shows us where the likely solution can come from. Working like this is good for all parties because we can help every one of our partners without giving away the others' secrets."
Q: Once you have established that there is a problem, how do you go about helping a team to fix it?
PD: "After a race or a test we will go back to the factory and analyse all the data at our disposal. If we can compare the tyre wear to other factors like the car's set-up, the weight distribution or its suspension geometry, that begins to give us clues as to what is causing it."
"Sometimes the solution is simple and clear and sometimes it may need a longer-term fix. Either way we make sure that we keep talking to the team so that we understand immediately what they need from us."
Q: Next year Michelin will be supplying six teams in the championship, how do you expect the season to pan out?
PD: "Well, we have added an extra team to our partners list, which we are delighted about. We weren't looking to increase the numbers but it shows that our tyres are the number one choice in the sport at present."
"What we will strive to do is to continue to provide each team with tyres that suit them. That's a quite complex task as the demands are often different and some teams also manage to test more than others which means they can try out a larger variety of compounds."
Q: Teams have to select a single tyre compound for the whole weekend after the Friday morning test session. Does that complicate matters even more?
PD: "That could be a pain in the neck! With so little time we will have to gather all the data from every team and rather than base our decision totally on the science, come up with some theoretical judgements as well. On the one hand it will be quite an interesting exercise but on the other hand we are all spending quite large sums of money to go racing yet we're not allowed to generate that much useful data. On a Friday morning the tracks are usually dirty and haven't got much rubber on them so choosing a tyre will be difficult."
Q: And presumably it is even harder still when you go to a circuit you have never raced at before? In 2004 there are two new Grand Prix circuit in China and Bahrain.
PD: "Absolutely. We always evaluate every circuit with some scientific methods we have developed but we cannot simulate the evolution of a circuit over a race weekend. That can depend on so many factors that it is almost pure guesswork. Rain, sand, the condition and abrasiveness of the surface can all play their part in tyre wear over a three-day event."
"We don't know whether Bahrain will be particularly sandy, for example. If they get an unfavourable wind and some sand is blown across the track then that will obviously be something we have to look out for. That's not an uncommon event - the Dutch racetrack Zandvoort is built among sand dunes and when we used to race there the sand would often end up on the circuit."
Q: How do you assess the demands of a brand new track?
PD: "We evaluate the surfaces of the track and then guess the best we can! The likelihood is we would take two different kinds of tyre to a race like that. One would be a 'safe' compound that we know can cope in almost any condition and the other would be one that would only be used if we determine that the circumstances are favourable. So many factors can influence what we opt for - the temperature being just one."
Q: What are your hopes for the 2004 season?
PD: "Well, so many of our partners can score points now it could actually open up the door to the opposition to win the title. Let's hope not. At the end of the day we want to win races and show we have moved forward."