Malaysian GP: Michelin preview

FIA Formula One World Championship Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang 2002 Sunday, March 17, 2002 After an incident-packed opening grand prix of the season in Australia, Michelin and its partner teams are heading for the ultra-modern Sepang track in ...

FIA Formula One World Championship Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang 2002 Sunday, March 17, 2002

After an incident-packed opening grand prix of the season in Australia, Michelin and its partner teams are heading for the ultra-modern Sepang track in Malaysia for the second round of the Formula One World Championship on March 17. The Clermont-Ferrand manufacturer had a bright start to the season in Melbourne. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) and Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) finished second and third, while the young Finn also recorded fastest race lap. Seven of only eight cars that lasted the distance were on Michelin tyres. The company's motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier says: "We might not have won in Melbourne, but we picked up a lot of vital data in a race that took place on a dry, consistent track."

Sepang: a fast, wide track and a tropical climate. The Sepang circuit measures slightly more than 5.5 km in length and incorporates a mixture of fast and slow corners that create a number of potential overtaking opportunities. Temperatures will be warmer than they were in Melbourne and an abrasive track surface makes this a tough race for tyres.

Last season, Williams-BMW driver Ralf Schumacher finished fifth here to give Michelin the first two points of its F1 comeback season. Pierre Dupasquier recalls: "At that stage we were still very much in the dark, but his third-fastest time in qualifying and fifth place in the race allowed us to begin thinking we were on the right track. "This year, with the benefit of previous experience, we are bringing along tyres with different compounds and constructions. Naturally, these meet the letter and spirit of the laws laid down by motor sport's governing body, the FIA."

From one continent to another ...

The so-called flyaway grands prix - those that take place outside Europe - can be tense and tiring for team members and drivers alike. Thousands of miles from home, they have to adapt to significant time differences, weather conditions to which they are not accustomed and a string of long-haul flights. For Michelin it represents a major challenge, both technically and logistically. Once back in Europe the engineers have to work quickly to specify the kind of tyres that will be appropriate for the next race. They do this using information gleaned under racing conditions at the previous event.

"Our production facilities in Clermont-Ferrand have a super-quick reaction time," says Gérald Brussoz, the man in charge of F1 tyre development. "That allows us to change our tyre specification between races and we have to be on constant alert. The testing we carried out last week at Paul Ricard and Silverstone allowed us to define the specification of the tyres we will use in Brazil. As for the tyres our partner teams will use in Malaysia, we were able to work out the best constructions and compounds from information we picked up in Australia. The production process ends in the early hours of Saturday morning, just eight days before the race. The tyres then leave by road for Amsterdam, where they are put on a flight to Kuala Lumpur."

After Sepang teams will prepare for the following event in Brazil... but before that there is a week of testing to get through in Barcelona, Spain.

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