TWO MICHELIN WINS, BUT NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY Michelin and its Formula One partners aim to build on their unbeaten start to the 2005 season this weekend, when the world championship switches from south-east Asia to the Middle East. The first...
TWO MICHELIN WINS, BUT NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY
Michelin and its Formula One partners aim to build on their unbeaten start to the 2005 season this weekend, when the world championship switches from south-east Asia to the Middle East.
The first two races of the campaign took place in very different circumstances - from the relative cool of the parkland circuit in Melbourne, Australia to the searing heat of the permanent facility in Sepang, Malaysia - but Michelin recorded resounding victories in both events.
Its technicians face another type of challenge at the Bahrain International Circuit, near Sakhir - the only desert location on the 19-race calendar. Bahrain created a little bit of history in 2004, as the Middle East's first world championship grand prix host.
The kingdom comprises a group of 36 islands between the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia and the Qatar peninsula and its 5.441-kilometre (3.381-mile) circuit is located on the biggest of them, not far from capital city Manama.
The track incorporates 14 corners - six left- and eight right-handers - and the start/finish straight measures 1.090 kilometres (0.677 miles). Michelin will be looking for its maiden F1 world championship victory in Bahrain - and its 78th in all.
In last year's corresponding fixture, Jenson Button (BAR-Honda) was the highest-placed Michelin runner, in third place. Jarno Trulli (Mild Seven RenaultF1, fourth), Takuma Sato (BAR-Honda, fifth) and current world championship leader Fernando Alonso (Mild Seven RenaultF1, sixth) also featured strongly.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"As is customary, we have been working very hard on the forthcoming race - we might have made a sparkling start to the season, but there is never any scope for complacency in Formula One. Even though Michelin has so far had the upper hand in this year's tyre battle, it won't surprise anybody if the opposition ups its game.
This weekend we will face our third different set of circumstances in as many grands prix - and Bahrain poses some unique challenges. It is likely to be hot and the desert setting means there is always a risk of sand blowing onto the track, which naturally accelerates the rate of tyre wear.
Last year we came here with no experience of running at the track, although our technicians had visited the facility to allow us to conduct a number of simulation tests. This year's preparations are not really a great deal simpler, though, because the track will have evolved in the past 12 months and the tyre regulations have, of course, changed significantly.
We will have two tyre specifications for our seven partners: one has been seen before, while the other is completely new and has been designed specifically for Bahrain.
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO, Team McLaren Mercedes:
"In terms of operating conditions, Bahrain is similar to Sepang because it features high track temperatures, abrasive asphalt and is 'rear limited' in terms of tyre performance. However, the Bahrain circuit is less demanding overall than Sepang because it has more low-speed corners, which inevitably means it is more traction- oriented."
"The main challenges for tyres will be the risk of blistering and the grip variations due to the sand and dust that will inevitably be on the circuit. However, we are confident that Michelin will continue to provide us with a competitive package."