US GP: Michelin preview

Michelin's five Formula One partners completed their European season in Monza, Italy, a fortnight ago and will resume battle this weekend in the United States. The 15th -- and penultimate -- round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship...

Michelin's five Formula One partners completed their European season in Monza, Italy, a fortnight ago and will resume battle this weekend in the United States. The 15th -- and penultimate -- round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place at Indianapolis, one of the world's most famous racing venues. F1 personnel will have precious little time for rest as the campaign draws to a close because they face a long post-race trip to Suzuka, Japan, ahead of the seasonal finale.

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier says: "We knew that the previous race in Monza would place a greater emphasis on aerodynamics than on the relationship between a chassis and its tyres. In circumstances that perhaps favoured our main rival, however, our partners proved to be extremely competitive. Juan Pablo Montoya and the BMW WilliamsF1 Team gave Michael Schumacher a run for his money while Kimi Räikkönen and West McLaren Mercedes pushed Rubens Barrichello all the way to the end."

"Average lap speeds at Indianapolis are about 200 km/h (125mph), 40km/h (25mph) slower than at Monza -- despite the huge, banked 'straight' on the section of the track that F1 shares with the celebrated Indy oval. There is a very delicate balance to be struck because teams need to generate high top-end speeds without compromising downforce to such an extent that they will struggle on the tight, twisty infield section. This provides engineers with a real headache: you need a reasonable level of downforce to be quick over a lap but you mustn't run too much or you will become easy prey on the straight. We aim to use our cutting-edge tyre technology to help our partners overcome this dilemma."

Technically speaking, with Pascal Vasselon (F1 programme manager)

The challenge
"Indianapolis is pretty much two tracks in one. The banked section accounts for about one third of the circuit's length and features the season's longest stretch of flat-out driving. The infield section, meanwhile, is very slow and incorporates sequences of tight corners that wouldn't look out of place in Monaco."

"These two distinct facets compel us and our partners to focus as much on aerodynamics as we do on tyre compounds. The fastest part of the circuit generates a great deal of heat, particularly where the left-hand tyres are concerned. The banking offsets some of the centrifugal force by increasing the vertical load and this places a massive strain on tyres. It tests our rubber to the limit and our tyre compounds are principally designed to cope with this, the circuit's most challenging element."

The response
"We will be bringing just two different types of dry-weather tyre to Indianapolis. They are based on new constructions that were developed prior to Monza."

Middle of the road
"The nature of this track obliges us to compromise and opt for tyres from the medium sector of our range. If we brought tyres that were too soft, they would be ill suited to the banking. Hard tyres would struggle to generate adequate grip through the tighter sections of the track and would slide around too much. The surface on the banked area of the circuit is very abrasive. The infield, on the other hand, is fairly smooth -- and this is the most significant contrast between the two different parts of the track."

Stop me and try one
"A two-stop strategy will probably be the favoured tactic here, given that the fuel weight penalty is relatively slight -- less than 0.3s seconds per lap for every extra 10kg -- and pit stops are relatively swift, at about 28 seconds per visit."

-michelin-

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