Edouard Michelin, Chairman and CEO of leading tyre manufacturer Michelin, hosted a 5th Feburary press conference in Paris to officially announce the company's partners in the 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship. Mr Michelin was joined by some...
Edouard Michelin, Chairman and CEO of leading tyre manufacturer Michelin, hosted a 5th Feburary press conference in Paris to officially announce the company's partners in the 2001 FIA Formula One World Championship. Mr Michelin was joined by some of the leading names in the sport, including Sir Frank Williams, Bobby Rahal, Flavio Briatore and Alain Prost</B>. The company was also represented by Pierre Dupasquier, Director of Motorsport and Pascal Vasselon, Michelin's F1 manager who gave details of Michelin's testing progress less than four weeks ahead of the first Grand Prix in Australia.
Michelin had already announced its return to Formula One racing after an absence of 16 years, but this was the opportunity to bring together the heads of the leading teams already announced as campaigning with Michelin tyres in 2001: BMW WilliamsF1, Jaguar Racing, Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport and Prost Grand Prix. Having welcomed his guests, Mr Michelin reiterated the reasons for his company's return:
"Michelin's decision to return to Formula One competition is both a business investment and a technical calling. We must manage the image of a brand that is widely known and respected in Europe and North America and extend this awareness to the rest of the world. We must also respond to the appeal of the vehicle manufacturers who are our customers and who asked us to join them because they trust us. Finally, we are hoping to develop public awareness of the major role played by the tyre on a vehicle's performance. And besides... our entry into Formula One is also a way for us to pay tribute to our personnel who, day in and day out, put all their heart into the production of thousands of tyres," said the 37 year old CEO.
After a technical presentation on Michelin's F1 tyres from Pascal Vasselon, Motorsport Director Pierre Dupasquier emphasised the challenge facing his team in the coming season. He said: "Michelin takes part in nearly all the world's leading motorsport fields. But F1 is a new subject with its own rules both on the cars and in which the tyres must work.. We did a lot of testing in 2000 with a '99 Williams and a Stewart Ford. What did we discover? Firstly that the regulations' grooved tyres were not simply slicks with holes cut in them! They are a completely new concept that we have to develop and get on top of. Since the beginning of December we have been testing with `real' F1 cars and trying to get the delicate balance of construction and compound right for the 2001 season. We feel we have used our time well, but the rules which do not allow us to test on most of the actual circuits and the regulation which only allows us to bring two types of tyre to each race, mean that for example in Melbourne we really have no chance of being good there."
On behalf of BMW WilliamsF1 team, Sir Frank Williams said "BMW believes in having its own technical partners, this is why we are working with Michelin." When asked about Michelin's progress, he replied: "I have to say it's `fast-track'. However, we all know that their competitor has three years experience and that at the moment Michelin is still behind. But they are catching up fast!"
Bobby Rahal of Jaguar Racing was also cautious about Michelin's first year back "Like for us, 2001 will be a year to place the building blocks for the future. Michelin is a strong technical, strategic partner and it was a good decision by Neil Ressler to work with them. We feel that in the end it will be an advantage." Commenting on the testing so far undertaken, he added "The tyres are very consistent. We've done some long runs on full tanks and we can set our fastest time on the last lap as the fuel burns off and the car becomes lighter. There is more performance to be gained from the tyres than from any other part of the car or engine."
Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport boss Flavio Briatore said: "For us 2001 will be a learning year. We need to learn the engine and the tyres. We know how difficult it will be in the first year and we do not expect magic. But this is a long-term commitment and we already have a very good relationship with Michelin."
Alain Prost finished the question and answer session by saying "For us working with Michelin is very important. As we are not a big team, Michelin's philosophy of sharing its technical information with all its partners can only help us. One thing that Michelin has, is the fact that we can talk very closely to the technicians and they listen to us."
Summing up the conference, Edouard Michelin said, "Rest assured that from the very start in Melbourne (March 4), along with our partners, 130,000 people from the Michelin Group will be alive with enthusiasm on every single lap. This is the `spirit' of competition."