In the recent Malaysian Grand Prix, five of Michelin's partners -- Mild Seven RenaultF1, Panasonic Toyota Racing, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, West McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull Racing -- took a clean sweep of the top six positions. There were plenty...
In the recent Malaysian Grand Prix, five of Michelin's partners -- Mild Seven RenaultF1, Panasonic Toyota Racing, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, West McLaren Mercedes and Red Bull Racing -- took a clean sweep of the top six positions. There were plenty of things the Michelin staff wanted to ask Pierre Dupasquier, the company's motorsport director...
Q: How do you feel about the outcome of the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Pierre Dupasquier: To see Michelin annexe the top six places was a fantastic result for the whole motorsport division. Judging from the tone of your question, it was well received by a great many employees throughout the company, too. This grand prix underlined what I was saying throughout the winter -- the latest Formula One regulations place an extra emphasis on the importance of tyres and I am naturally happy about that.
Q: The Ferraris were about 1.5 second per lap slower than the quickest runners. Why?
PD: The team's sporting director Jean Todt outlined the reasons in the press. He spoke about a "lack of aerodynamic downforce and a shortage of grip". It is quite clear that Ferrari's tyres didn't fully match their expectations.
Q: Pierre, you have half-convinced us. The combination of Ferrari and Bridgestone worked very well in 2004. Why won't it be at least as effective this season?
PD: If a set of tyres is to last 350 kilometres (about 220 miles) during a race weekend, it is vital to get the construction right, as well as the compound. Working with several different teams creates added complications, but the flipside is that you get a much broader spectrum of testing input than you do with a single chassis type. As I often say, motorsport is a fantastic research laboratory for Michelin -- but it is vital to retain an element of competition.
Q: The subject of a single tyre manufacturer hasn't been dropped completely?
PD: Some ideas tend to linger for a long time and there will always be people who would like the sport to go down that road. Michelin has consistently made it clear that it only makes sense to commit to motorsport if you can compare to rival manufacturers and prove that your tyres offer a performance advantage. If there were no such rivalry in place, our participation would be a matter of patronage rather than competition. That would not be as interesting for us, or the teams. A number of F1 principals contacted us in 1999, when there was only one tyre manufacturer involved. I remember that very well.
Q: What kind of work did the tyre manufacturers do during the winter?
PD: I can't speak on behalf of the opposition, obviously. But as you know, those of us working within Michelin are convinced that a race will be won by the driver who is smart enough to calculate the best set-up in terms of aerodynamics, engine mapping, grip and traction. Throughout the winter, we worked hard with all our partners. We bore in mind their own individual requirements but didn't do special favours for any of them. In our eyes, you can't draw definitive conclusions about the plus or minus points of tyres, aerodynamics or whatever on the evidence of a race result alone.
Ferrari and its tyre partner have taken a calculated decision to forge a dedicated partnership. That was their choice -- and it's also the principal reason that many of our teams decided to switch to Michelin
Q: Isn't there a likelihood that Michelin's rival will try to win back some partner teams in 2006, in order to boost research and development feedback?
PD: We have no reason to believe that recent trends will be reversed or that any of our partners might make such a change, unless of course any financial incentives came into play. But my team and I are very wary: we have a lot of respect for the work that Bridgestone's technicians do. They will make progress and that obliges us to do likewise. As you see, a competitive edge in motorsport is a source of constant progress and forces us to look very hard at every little detail.
Q: Final question: Pascal Vasselon -- who used to be Michelin's F1 programme manager -- is joining Toyota. What's your reaction?
PD: When we offered Pascal a chance to develop his Michelin career via a new role in the United States, he told us that he would like to remain in F1. The fact that one of our partners has offered a job to a former Michelin engineer underlines that it recognises the importance of the role tyres have to play. As for any secrets Pascal might be taking with him, I am well enough acquainted with his integrity and professionalism to know that he will conduct himself appropriately. He is -- and always will be -- a first-class engineer. We wish him every success.