1999 FRENCH GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW Traction is paramount Returning to Europe after its brief but exciting excursion to Canada, the struggle for the FIA's two world championships moves to central France, where the French Grand Prix takes place...
1999 FRENCH GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW Traction is paramount
Returning to Europe after its brief but exciting excursion to Canada, the struggle for the FIA's two world championships moves to central France, where the French Grand Prix takes place at the Magny-Cours circuit on June 27.
Mika Hakkinen's Canadian success has put him back into the lead of the drivers' championship with 34 points, four more than arch-rival Michael Schumacher. In the constructors' battle, Ferrari was glad of Eddie Irvine's 3rd place in Montreal. The Italian marque still leads handsomely with 55 points to the 46 of McLaren.
In last week's three-day test at Magny-Cours, Bridgestone's technicians were again working closely with the engineers of the nine F1 teams which had decided to take part. The 1400 tyres taken to France for the test were divided between wet and dry types, with two dry compounds -- Soft and Medium -- available for the teams to evaluate.
"This was a very positive test, especially for the teams which had not yet tested at Magny-Cours this year," commented Yoshihiko Ichikawa, Technical Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport. "Track temperatures reached as high as 50 degrees Celsius, which may well be exceeded if the weather holds over the weekend of the race."
Due also to its exceptionally smooth surface, Magny-Cours cannot be compared with any other circuit on the championship schedule. "The smoothness places a premium on traction out of the slow corners, which include three hairpins," says Ichikawa. "We spent a lot of time at the test seeking the best way to reduce wheelspin."
On the evidence now available, the choice of most teams for qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday will be the Soft compound. " Comparing the Medium compound with the Soft option, the deciding factors will be the best lap times and reduction in wheelspin that the teams can achieve," says Ichikawa, "we also anticipate that a two-stop strategy will be possible, regardless of which compound is used.
Another important point on the Magny Cours track is the dark asphalt which differs from the other tracks and contributes to intensify the increase of the track temperature."
Note: The reader might imagine that because a softer tyre compound has more grip, it follows that it will also suffer greater degradation. In this, he/she would be right. However, when car has a strong tendency to spin its wheels under acceleration, the additional traction provided by a softer tyre can actually reduce both wheelspin and any additional degradation.
In effect, the soft compound tyre actually suffers less degradation than an equivalent tyre in medium compound would. With less wheelspin the bonus points are less tyre wear and less degradation.