French GP: Michelin preview

A FAMILIAR STRANGER This weekend's French Grand Prix will be the 56th to count towards the Formula One world championship - and the 761st race in the series' 57-season history. It is very much home territory for Michelin, whose Clermont-Ferrand...

A FAMILIAR STRANGER

This weekend's French Grand Prix will be the 56th to count towards the Formula One world championship - and the 761st race in the series' 57-season history. It is very much home territory for Michelin, whose Clermont-Ferrand base lies just 150 kilometres (95 miles) away from the circuit. Paradoxically the company has precious little F1 experience at the track, because grand prix teams rarely use it as a test venue.

This will be the 16th consecutive French GP at Magny-Cours, which first hosted the event in 1991. The race has also taken place at Reims (11 times), Rouen (5), Clermont-Ferrand (4), Le Mans Bugatti (1), Le Castellet (also known as Paul Ricard, 14) and Dijon-Prenois (5).

Michelin scored its maiden French GP victory with Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Renault in 1979 - a landmark success, because it was the first in F1 for a turbocharged car. It has since won the race on a further six occasions, with Alain Prost (Renault, 1981 and 1983), René Arnoux (Renault, 1982), Niki Lauda (McLaren TAG turbo, 1984), Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW, 2003) and Fernando Alonso (Renault), who led home Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren Mercedes) as Michelin notched up a one-two in last season's corresponding fixture.

Michelin's view
Nick Shorrock, Formula One director, Michelin:

"Following an intense, emotional and essentially successful period in North America, Formula One racing returns to Europe and in particular to Magny-Cours. It is considered to be the "home GP" for both Renault and Michelin although Michelin does not carry out any testing on the track."

"Competition in amongst teams remains very tight but we shall be looking for a good performance to add to the current overall positive results of 2006. The track at Magny-Cours is relatively recent and is a very flat track. As such, it allows for lower ride heights and the use of a relatively stiff chassis."

"The long finish strait is followed by a long 180° bend at Estoril which puts rela tively high demands on the tyres in terms of endurance. There are also tight, slower turns that put high demand on good traction."

"The preparation of the tyres for this year's event have been prepared at the test session at Jerez with the participation of all our partner teams who have also been testing changes to their different car packages."

"Due to the short pit lane and therefore reduced time loss when "pitting", the teams will be reflecting on their race strategies and possible number of stints."

"The climatic conditions can be very variable from one day to the next. Should conditions turn to rain, it could give us the opportunity to use our latest rain tyres that have been recently introduced."

Team perspective
Pat Symonds, executive engineering director, Renault F1:

"Tyre choice often presents engineers with a difficult conundrum at Magny -Cours. The circuit's track temperature fluctuates significantly according to the ambient conditions, so we often find ourselves using tyres outside their optimum operating range during the course of the race weekend. This means we need to take a selection of tyres that is able to cope with a range of conditions."

"The tyres tend to be from the medium area of the Michelin range in terms of compound. Although the circuit features very few high-speed corners, there are numerous traction events exiting the slow corners, so we have to monitor rear tyre wear very closely."

"We worked hard during pre-race testing at Jerez to select appropriate compounds and constructions and feel we have a very competitive range of products available to us this weekend. Both Renault and Michelin have worked hard to ensure we bounce back from Indianapolis with a competitive performance."

"The 2006 French Grand Prix will also be a historic milestone for both Renault and Michelin because it marks the centenary of grand prix racing. The original grand prix in 1906 was won by a Renault on Michelin tyres and we are determined to enjoy more success at our home event this year."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ralf Schumacher , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Niki Lauda , Jean-Pierre Jabouille , Alain Prost , René Arnoux
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams