French GP Preview: Michelin


The 2005 Formula One world championship enters its second phase this weekend, when the 10th of the season's 19 races takes place at Magny-Cours, France. This is the closest F1 circuit to Michelin's Clermont-Ferrand base - the two lie about 160 kilometres (100 miles) apart - but, paradoxically, the company has relatively little F1 experience at its "home" track because teams rarely test here.

France featured on the inaugural world championship calendar in 1950 and has hosted a grand prix in all but one of the intervening seasons. Magny-Cours first staged the race in 1991 and this year's event will be its 15th, which makes it the most prolific host in French GP history. The race has also taken place at Reims, Rouen, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Mans Bugatti, Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) and Dijon-Prenois.

Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) scored Michelin's most recent French GP success, in 2003. Jean-Pierre Jabouille (Renault, 1979), Alain Prost (Renault, 1981 and 1983), Ren Arnoux (Renault, 1982) and Niki Lauda (McLaren, 1984) have also scored French GP victories on Michelin tyres.

In last season's corresponding fixture, current world championship leader Fernando Alonso was Michelin's leading finisher - he took second place after qualifying his Renalt on pole position.

Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director: "The track surface at Magny-Cours tends to be more abrasive than many on which we race during the course of the season. The layout might be fairly conventional, but the ultra- quick right-hander at Estoril and the Adelaide hairpin provide a couple of significant talking points.

"For a tyre manufacturer, the biggest challenge is to produce a compound capable of coping with the high loads generated through Estoril. It might only account for five per cent of the lap, but it dictates our range of options for the weekend. If it wasn't there, we would be able to run softer tyres."

Geoffrey Willis, technical director, BAR-Honda: "Magny-Cours is quite interesting in technical terms. The layout might not look all that unusual, but it tends to highlight any grip problems quite quickly. The track surface is very smooth and good aerodynamic stability is important. We'll also need to keep a careful eye on the weather, which can vary quite dramatically at this time of the year. Hopefully we will have our latest aero and engine upgrades available, which will give us a little extra performance.

"I know teams and suppliers take the same approach to every race, irrespective of location, but I'm sure it will give Michelin a little added impetus if it can extend this season's impressive victory tally in its home race. We'll be doing everything we can to play a part in that."

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Published: 27/06/2005
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