Michelin came away from the previous grand prix in Brazil with another point to its name, thanks to Giancarlo Fisichella. On the 65th lap of the race, the Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport driver wrested sixth place from Jean Alesi ...
Michelin came away from the previous grand prix in Brazil with another point to its name, thanks to Giancarlo Fisichella. On the 65th lap of the race, the Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport driver wrested sixth place from Jean Alesi (Prost-Acer/Michelin). Congratulations to the Enstone team for scoring its first point of the season.
Brazil was also notable for the superb performance of the Michelin-equipped BMW WilliamsF1 Team. Ralf Schumacher qualified his FW23 chassis on the front row, alongside his older brother's Ferrari, and recorded fastest lap of the race (on lap 38). What's more, his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya thrilled the Sao Paulo fans with a breathtaking manoeuvre to deprive Michael Schumacher's Ferrari of first place. He went on to keep the reigning world champion's distinctive scarlet racer tucked behind him for the next 22 laps.
Running a one-stop strategy, Montoya was genuinely on course to score his first F1 world championship victory - and at only his third attempt - but his impressive performance came to an end on the 39th lap, when he was hit from behind by Jos Verstappen. Nonetheless, his performance had injected a fresh glimmer of excitement to F1.
Alesi finished eighth, ahead of Tarso Marques (European Minardi/Michelin), but Jaguar's drivers were out of luck. Eddie Irvine retired within sight of the finish while lying sixth and Luciano Burti dropped out on lap 30.
The learning curve continues
Michelin might not have come away from its Brazilian weekend with a win (the company scored its first GP success at the same event in 1978, courtesy of Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari), but its engineers and technicians came away from South America in something of a samba mood. The feeling that the Clermont Ferrand company is making progress from race to race gave everyone a boost.
Pierre Dupasquier says: "The performance of the two Williams-BMWs gives us good reason to believe that our tyres are both competitive and durable. Ralf's fastest lap and the promising times we achieved when the rain was at its heaviest suggest we are on the pace. We have taken another step forward, but there is still much, much more work to do."
The season is now well and truly up and running and the European season kicks off when the F1 circus pitches up at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. The Latin passion of the tifosi, who have eyes for only one team - Ferrari, replaces the beat of the Brazilian samba. They will be the first fans to see evolutionary versions of some teams' chassis in action. Michelin, meanwhile, is preparing to learn about a winding, 4.933km (3.063-mile) track that features four chicanes. The race lasts for 62 laps, or 305.609km (189.906 miles).
"We don't know Imola any better than we did Sepang or Interlagos," Dupasquier says. "True, we did a private test session there with our development chassis last year, but the track was so dirty that the car was trailing a dust cloud behind it. We weren't able to learn a great deal during our time there. The way we handle the corners at Tamburello and Acque Minerale this weekend will tell us whether we are still moving in the right direction."