A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP FOR A FORMULA ONE TITLE DOUBLE After six years of productive collaboration, Michelin and the Renault F1 Team are going their separate ways. But they are doing so with a spring in their step following further title success.
A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP FOR A FORMULA ONE TITLE DOUBLE
After six years of productive collaboration, Michelin and the Renault F1 Team are going their separate ways. But they are doing so with a spring in their step following further title success. The secret? Mutual confidence.
As the sun sets on Michelin's final Formula One season, the company's staff can leave the paddock in the knowledge that their mission has been accomplished: for the second consecutive season they have fulfilled their objectives by providing tyres that played a significant part in the double world championship success of Renault.
The results obtained by the French company and the Renault F1 Team are a perfect illustration of how a collaborative partnership should work. During their time together, the two parties have developed certain methods and systems that have allowed them to react effectively to changing circumstances - the different tyre regulations imposed at the start of the past two seasons, for instance. This has inspired tremendous mutual confidence - and that has been the backbone for many race successes all over the world.
"We were always very keen to work with Michelin again," says Pat Symonds, the Renault F1 Team's executive engineering director, with a smile. "I have always had very happy memories of working with them from my time with Toleman in 1984. I was well aware of the depth of technology Michelin could bring to the sport.
"When the Renault-Michelin alliance began again in 2001, I wasn't disappointed. Motorsport is a deeply rooted part of the culture at Clermont-Ferrand and we quickly established a proper working partnership. Michelin has a genuinely deep appreciation of both tyre technology and racing cars. We gradually developed very close links."
Between 2001 and 2006 the two partners worked their way up the F1 hierarchy. As the range of tyre products became ever more finely tuned to the car, so performance levels increased. "Throughout our working relationship, greater experience helped us to develop ever greater understanding," Symonds says. "It was an exciting process. On the one hand, Michelin did everything it could to meet our demands - but on the other we were constantly asking for more."
After finishing fourth in the world championship for constructors in 2002 and 2003, Renault moved up to third in 2004 and then fulfilled its objectives in 2005: last season, the French team won both F1 world championship titles.
The key to success? Michelin's F1 director Nick Shorrock says: "In my opinion there were three key factors: development, utilisation and the quality of the employees. We faced a steep learning curve at the beginning, while we were coming to terms with the dynamic characteristics of a new car and formulating suitable products."
"Once we had made the tyres, we evaluated them rigorously but methodically, in order to sift out the best options. In that respect, it was advantageous for Michelin to have several partners - we were able to measure all the gains from successive tyre evolutions and adapt our range according to the requirements of each partner. After that, it was the quality of dialogue that made the difference."
After those dramatic successes in 2005, just four years after Renault's return to Formula One, the two partners laid down a new challenge: the successful defence of both world titles. "We soon came to realise that winning the championship hadn't diluted Renault's motivation one iota," says Nick. "From the team management to the technical department, I could sense the same will to win that was so apparent beforehand. Michelin was poised to quit F1 at the end of the season and we wanted to bow out on a high note."
For the two partners, another exceptional season lay in wait. Renault scored another eight victories, including Michelin's 100th F1 success (in Montreal, courtesy of Fernando Alonso). "In 2006 I have been hugely impressed by Michelin's efforts," says Pat Symonds. "We have constantly been pushing its engineers and their response has been incredible. The volume of our collective test and development work has been enormous."
As the curtain comes down on a successful partnership, the Renault F1 Team acknowledges Michelin's contribution to its success. As Renault F1 president Alain Dassas points out, "Our championship successes underline the excellent performance of our whole team and prove that Renault and Michelin know how to work and win together."