The Formula One calendar hasn't changed much since last season - the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps marks the only significant difference - and once again the world championship campaign kicks off in Melbourne, ...
The Formula One calendar hasn't changed much since last season - the cancellation of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps marks the only significant difference - and once again the world championship campaign kicks off in Melbourne, Australia.
With a few days to go before the opening race, Michelin and its five partner teams - BMW WilliamsF1, West McLaren-Mercedes, Mild Seven Renault F1, Panasonic Toyota Racing and Jaguar Racing - were busily gearing up for the challenge that lies ahead.
This season a number of rule changes promise to spice up the world championship, notably in terms of tyre choice.
"Will this disrupt Formula One? Not at all," says Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier. "Motor sport fluctuates constantly: sometimes the focus is on technological innovation, at others on specific driver rivalries or the quality of the show. The importance of the latter tends to vary according to socio-economic circumstances. It depends, among other things, on how much sponsors have invested to in an effort to put their names in the spotlight. But this sport is part of the entertainment industry and has to adapt in line with audience demands. No matter what happens, drivers and engineers will continue to revel in their task as they commit themselves to pursuing cutting-edge technological ideals. And the sport will always retain its aura for those who enjoy the good things in life."
Where do tyres fit into all this?
"Believe me," Dupasquier says, "we remain as committed as we have always been. We have done an enormous amount of work during the winter and I think we have made significant progress. I'm very happy that the new season is upon us."
The Melbourne tyre challenge - Olivier Panis's perspective
(Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers)
"The Australian circuit at Albert Park is very important for tyres because the track is very dusty on the first day. It is very difficult to find a choice between the two tyre compounds. After that I think we need to find the most competitive tyres for qualifying, particularly for 2003 with the one lap qualifying. Then, we need consistency in the tyres for the race, because it is normally a one-stop race. We don't need the tyres with a big drop-off and I know Michelin work very hard for that."
The solution, according to Pierre Dupasquier
(Michelin Competition Director)
"We know Melbourne is a track that changes a lot during the course of a race weekend - and it is not like traditional racing circuits. The roads are open to everyday traffic for most of the year and that means the surface is very dirty at the start of the weekend. Teams are liable to choose a variety of different tyres and strategies so it is a bit early yet to know what the best tactic might be. We won't know the answer to that until the meeting begins in earnest. For this race Michelin has selected tyre compounds that are best described as "medium hard". This circuit has lots of quick sections and places quite high lateral loads on tyres. The penalty for carrying a heavy fuel load is significant, too - about 0,4 second per lap for every 10 kilos."