A strange day Michael Schumacher momentarily ran off the track during free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix - but the incident did not hamper his preparations for the fifth round of this year's FIA Formula One World Championship. The German...
A strange day
Michael Schumacher momentarily ran off the track during free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix - but the incident did not hamper his preparations for the fifth round of this year's FIA Formula One World Championship. The German has won three of this season's opening four races and he was quickest again today - although his Ferrari was only 0.070s clear of German Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Arrows.
Although Frentzen has not raced at the front so far this year, his second place did not cause any particular surprise. Drivers run with varying fuel loads during free practice and the difference in weight makes a substantial difference to lap times at this track: it is estimated that removing 10 litres of fuel might make a car almost half a second per lap faster.
Jenson Button (Renault F1) was fastest of the Michelin drivers in third place - just 0.313s adrift of Schumacher - while Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), Olivier Panis (BAR-Honda) and Enrique Bernoldi (Arrows) rounded out the top six.
Of the other Michelin drivers, Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren-Mercedes) was seventh ahead of Jarno Trulli (Renault F1, 10th), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, 11th), David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes, 12th), Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW, 15th), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW, 17th), Mika Salo (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 18th), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 19th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi Asiatech, 20th), Allan McNish (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 21st) and Alex Yoong (KL Minardi Asiatech, 22nd). Most of them had a relatively trouble-free day as they concentrated on fine-tuning their race set-ups for Sunday. Trulli stopped practising early, however, after sliding off the circuit and running through a gravel trap while Yoong was delayed by a couple of spins.
Michelin's day - Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Everybody says Barcelona is the toughest Formula One circuit for tyre manufacturers. What makes it so?
"There are two particular characteristics. Firstly, most of the corners are quite long so the tyres are under extreme loads for a high percentage of the lap. Secondly, the track surface is very abrasive. We are accustomed to dealing with one or other of th ese elements at most circuits, but here we have both. It is a tricky combination."
Does that mean there are likely to be concerns about tyre wear?
"Not at all, because the compounds we have brought here are hard enough to cope with the conditions. Furthermore, tyres are not likely to be used for ultra-long stints because computer simulations suggest a one-stop strategy is not the most suitable here. The weight of the extra fuel tends to be too punitive: an extra 10 litres of fuel can make a difference of three- or four-tenths per lap."
Are you concerned that Jenson Button was the only Michelin runner among today's fastest cars?
"No. As everybody is aware, teams do all kinds of different things on a Friday and it is hard to know who is running what fuel levels and when. I am pleased to see that Jenson was on the pace today because we believe in a simple premise: if just one of our cars can perform like that then it proves our tyres are capable of doing a good job."
Do your primary (A) and option (B) tyres both seem well suited to this track?
"Different teams have been coming to different conclusions about the two tyres, but overall there doesn't seem to be a great deal to chose between them in performance terms. We still have a lot of data to go through before we can draw any firm conclusions but I think it's fair to say that we might see both types being used in the race on Sunday."