Japanese GP: Michelin preview

The Formula One season is drawing to a close and its final showdown takes place this weekend at Suzuka, Japan. Michelin remains in contention for both F1 world titles in the wake of the chaotic United States Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen (West ...

The Formula One season is drawing to a close and its final showdown takes place this weekend at Suzuka, Japan.

Michelin remains in contention for both F1 world titles in the wake of the chaotic United States Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) has an outside chance of pipping Michael Schumacher to the drivers' crown. He needs to win at Suzuka and hope his German rival fails to finish in the top eight. Juan Pablo Montoya is no longer involved in the title battle but will be fighting to help the BMW WilliamsF1 Team win the championship for constructors, in which only three points separate the two leaders.

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier has reviewed events from the most recent race, at Indianapolis, and says: "I am tempted to believe that the outcome was influenced by what happened at the start - and unfortunately that is all too often the case in F1.

"Barrichello got away very slowly from the right-hand side of the grid and held up the drivers behind - including Montoya, Alonso and Trulli, to name but three - while the Schumacher brothers scorched away on the left. That's shook up the grid order and Michael managed to thread his way into fourth place.

"Later on the unsettled weather turned the event into something of a lottery. That produced the traditional mix-ups and Montoya also suffered because of a drive-through penalty, which dropped him down the order. From a Michelin perspective, our drivers dominated the early stages of the race, when it was dry, and looked in even better shape when they were running dry tyres on a greasy track. They were less at ease in the full-wet conditions, although the situation wasn't as bad as some had expected. Drivers such as Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and Trulli have reported that our wet-weather tyres provide good grip but lack consistency. Quite simply, they were wearing too quickly and losing adhesion."

"In my view, it's a good thing to have plenty of hard work ahead of us, because it keeps us focused. We are going to Suzuka to help the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in its fight for the constructors' title and to see if Kimi Räikkönen can become F1's youngest champion. You never know. Anything is possible until the chequered flag drops. We'll be bringing some new-specification tyres to this event, including wets."

Technically speaking, with Pascal Vasselon (F1 programme manager)

The challenge
"Suzuka's figure-of-eight layout makes it a fairly well-balanced circuit in terms of tyre wear. The loads are quite high but are spread evenly across the casing. You need a chassis that can cope with constant high-speed cornering - it's a more important factor than straight-line speed. You have to strike the right balance, though, between top-end performance and grip - it's a high downforce track that requires a finely-tuned set-up. In order to keep our cars balanced through the fast corners we are able to adjust pressures to increase tyre stiffness. It is yet another track that places an emphasis on a strong qualifying performance, given that overtaking tends to be fairly difficult."

The solution
"After consultation and tests with our five partner teams, we have selected one new construction and four different dry-weather compounds for Suzuka. Three of these have not previously been used in racing conditions. We will also have a new type of wet available."

Hard times
"The track's twisty, high-speed nature and relatively abrasive surface mean that we will be using tyres from the harder end of our range in Japan."

Tactical notes
"The penalty for running a heavy fuel load is substantial at Suzuka - about 0.4 seconds per lap for every extra 10kg. Scheduled pit stops last about 30 seconds."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams