Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) set fastest time on the opening day of the German Grand Prix, 12th round of this year's world championship. The Northern Irishman headed a 1-2 for Michelin's partners by lapping in 1m 41.424s, just 0.063s...
Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) set fastest time on the opening day of the German Grand Prix, 12th round of this year's world championship. The Northern Irishman headed a 1-2 for Michelin's partners by lapping in 1m 41.424s, just 0.063s ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team).
"The Michelin tyres work very well here and combined with the recent aero changes to the car, the whole package has become a lot easier to drive" said Eddie.
British GP winner Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes) was third fastest, ahead of the Ferraris of 2000 German GP winner Rubens Barrichello and world championship leader Michael Schumacher.
Pedro de la Rosa underlined the apparent effectiveness of the Jaguar at the low-downforce, high-speed Hockenheim track by posting sixth fastest time, just ahead of Schumacher Snr's closest title rival David Coulthard (McLaren).
Jean Alesi (Prost-Acer/Michelin) also had a good day. The Frenchman was eighth fastest.
Things did not go quite so well for second Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher. Although the German ran strongly in the first part of the two-hour session this morning, he spun off the track early in the afternoon and was unable to take any further part. He was credited with 10th fastest time - the fifth Michelin driver in the top 10.
Other Michelin drivers had a relatively untroubled day. Giancarlo Fisichella (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport) was 11th, but his team-mate Jenson Button (15th) was slightly delayed by a spin this morning. European Minardi drivers Fernando Alonso (21st) and Tarso Marques (22nd) tripped over each other in the afternoon; Marques spun at the second chicane and Alonso, who was right behind, had to take to the gravel to avoid a collision.
Alesi's Prost team-mate Luciano Burti was just ahead of the Minardis, in 19th place.
Elsewhere, Ricardo Zonta was 13th fastest on his return to the Jordan team.
MICHELIN'S RACE :
Pierre Dupasquier, Motorsport Director :
What kind of strain is placed on a tyre at 350km/h (217mph) ?
"The loads are enormous. When a tyre reaches the limit of its performance, it is usually due to high speeds. When we are evaluating a tyre, one of our first jobs is to check how it performs under duress. We create a pre-determined level of pressure by using plenty of negative camber and running at high speeds with lots of downforce. Today, we ran at speeds of up to 354km/h (220mph). What's more, although cars don't run with a lot of wing here, the amount of downforce generated is substantial as a function of the high speeds. Obviously, you have less of a safety margin in such circumstances. And whenever that margin is reduced for any reason, we have to make sure our tyres are up to the job. We don't leave anything to chance and keep a very close eye on how are tyres are performing."
Do tyre manufacturers take any risks in an effort to guarantee the best possible performance?
"Not at all. The safety margins might be smaller here, but we are running a zero-risk policy, just as we do every other race weekend. We have been given every guarantee that our tyres are reliable."
What are your two tyre options this weekend?
"Hockenheim isn't terribly demanding in terms of wear rate. The cars certainly slide around a but in the stadium section, because they don't have much downforce, but there's nothing to cause alarm. We have brought along two tyres that we believe will suit the track - and we feel comfortable with our choice after today's free practice. Both tyres are competitive and that could open the door to some interesting race strategies. It sounds as though the weather will remain very hot, but one of our compounds could prove to be just the ticket if temperatures drop a little."
Are drivers risking tyre damage by hitting the chicane kerbs?
"You can put a strain on the tyre carcass by bouncing across the kerbs. That said, it is often the least loaded tyre that hits the kerb, which helps limit the potential damage. Let's be clear that an ultra-sophisticated F1 tyre is not designed to play the role of a shock absorber. We took this into account when we decided which tyres to bring here."