US GP: Michelin preview



Formula One’s two-race sojourn in North America concludes this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Michelin will be aiming to extend its comfortable lead in the world championships for drivers and constructors.

The United States has a long but fragmented relationship with grand prix racing. America’s most prestigious domestic race – the Indianapolis 500 – counted towards the world championship between 1950 and 1961, to ensure that the nation had a presence on the calendar at a time when there was no suitable circuit for F1.

The first conventional United States GP took place at Sebring in 1959 – and there have since been another 47. America has hosted F1 world championship races at nine circuits, more than any other nation: Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix preceded the purpose-built Indianapolis road course, which opened in 2000 to stage the first United States GP since 1991.

Michelin has yet to notch up its first victory at Indianapolis but has a proud F1 track record in America. Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari, Long Beach and Watkins Glen 1978), Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari, Long Beach and Watkins Glen 1979), Alan Jones (Williams-Ford, Long Beach 1981), Niki Lauda (McLaren-Ford, Long Beach 1982), John Watson (McLaren-Ford, Detroit 1982 and Long Beach 1983) and Nelson Piquet (Brabham-BMW, Detroit 1984) have all scored world championship grand prix victories for Bibendum on this side of the Atlantic. In last season’s United States GP, Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda, third) was the highest- placed Michelin finisher.

Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:

“Indianapolis represents a real challenge because tyres have to cope with sustained heat build-up for more than 20 seconds as cars negotiate the season’s longest flat-out section, which incorporates the banking and the pit straight. In addition, they also need to generate sufficient grip to maximise traction on the tight infield."

“These two contrasting characteristics oblige teams and suppliers to make compromises in terms of aerodynamic set-up and tyre compounds. The banking imposes a significant strain on the left-hand side of a chassis because it partly compensates for centrifugal forces by increasing vertical loads, which are then transmitted to the tyres."

"In fact, the banking limits the extent of what we can do when it comes to finalising our tyre compounds. We have to base our selections on this, the most demanding part of the track. Softer compounds wouldn’t survive the banking but tyres that are too hard would struggle on the infield and would soon be chewed up through sliding around excessively."

"The surface of the banking is very abrasive – and that adds another contrasting factor to our preparations, because the infield is quite the opposite.”

Driver perspective:
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team McLaren Mercedes:

“I always enjoy racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As a venue it holds some great memories and the fans are always so supportive and enthusiastic. It is like a home race for me, with so many Colombians in the crowd."

"The two contrasting elements of the Speedway – the tight, twisting infield and fast, banked, oval section, where we run at full throttle for about 20 seconds – present us with a unique challenge. There is a very high loading on the tyres around the banked section, which puts an emphasis on durability, but we need to find a compromise because we also have to generate vital low-speed grip for the infield.”

Technical focus
Nick Shorrock, Director of Michelin F1 activities:

Q: What are your impressions of the season’s evolution on tyre choice?

“Moving into the 9th race of the season we can see several examples of the importance of needing a total package in order to be successful. Our partners work extremely hard to develop their cars, the chassis, the aerodynamic package and the engine."

"For Michelin, there is also a challenging programme of testing several weeks before a Grand Prix in order to define the tyre choices to be used. Such testing involves essentially the choice of the rubber compounds, although there is a regular review of our casing performance; mainly endurance."

"The major part of the testing is done internally at Clermont in our laboratory tests facilities at Ladoux prior to finalising the decision with our partners at the track. These final tests are done in conjunction with our partners as part of their vehicle tests."

"These tests are a vitally important part of the race preparations as we are able to tailor the tyre choices to adapt to the need of each of our partners and their vehicle set-up. This again stresses the importance of the essence of competition and the different developments possible. Each of our partners has developed their vehicle in a different way and requires that our tyre products are adapted accordingly.”


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