Formula One Newsline
April 23, 2001 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Michelin came into F-1 this season with Williams, Jaguar and three other teams as a challenger to Bridgestone, but expectations weren't high at the start.
But now with Ralf Schumacher’s win in Imola a week ago and Juan Pablo Montoya’s promising start to the season, Michelin is starting to earn some respect. The French tire company prepared for this Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix with a successful testing session at the Barcelona circuit before the season started.
Michelin had little knowledge of the Imola track for the San Marino Grand Prix but wound-up providing the winning rubber for Williams in only the company's fourth grand prix since its return to the sport.
They now head to Barcelona where much of their development work has taken place. Fortunately for Michelin, the Williams team has been making full use of the potential in their tires - something that is not happening with the rest of the teams.
While the combination of a Williams chassis, BMW engine, Michelin tires and Schumacher's talent proved to be the ideal blend at Imola, Michelin knows all too well that it will have to double its efforts if it wants to add to this first success.
"People are expecting a lot of Michelin in Barcelona because it is the track at which we gained most experience during our pre-season test program,” said Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director. "We hadn't done anything much at Imola before the race, but does that mean Barcelona will be even better? Not at all. For Michelin, Barcelona will be like everywhere else we have been this season, a fresh start with brand new tires."
Minardi Resurrection Underway
Giancarlo Minardi, founder of F1's perennial strugglers Minardi, believes the team will finally start witnessing success under new owner, Australian airline tycoon Paul Stoddart.
Stoddart bought out majority shareholder Gabriele Rumi’s stake in the company just in time to get the team on the grid for Australia. Minardi himself is still with the team and Stoddart will find his input invaluable as he seeks to make the steep climb up from the back of the grid.
Looking back on the crisis, Minardi himself gives the impression that outsiders had more worries about the situation than the team.
"The problems never really bothered us, otherwise we couldn't have gone forward with the decisions that were made towards a competitive season in Formula One," Minardi said. "It was always predicted that Minardi would have a future. We couldn't stop to think about it or we would not have had the strength to push ahead."
On Stoddart's arrival, Minardi has no doubts, even with the Aussie's European operation having its base in England while the other half is located in Italy.
"He's a great partner and we share the same passion, we're working very well together and right now the two companies are working very well together," Minardi said. "Each one has their precise jobs to do without any kind of overlapping."
Minardi hopes the stability that Stoddart brings will help the team look at the whole picture, not just a one season at a time approach.
"For now everything's going fine," he said. "The experience of the whole company now is helping us move ahead. We have great determination in our company."
F1 Prepares for Barcelona Rule Changes
All teams have been hard at work since San Marino and are preparing for the return of traction control systems at this week's Spanish Grand Prix.
Electronics specialists Magneti Marelli has worked closely with Ferrari for some years and also has a team working currently with Minardi to help them with the new regulations that come into effect in Barcelona.
"As far as the hardware is concerned, it stays the same as before, with two control boxes,” said Giancarlo De Angelis, the competition boss of Magneti Marelli. "The changes are all to do with software. Each team could come up with different solutions depending on their needs. The most important task for the electronic controls is to tailor the torque of the engine in order to avoid wheelspin."
De Angelis also said what some teams don’t want to hear, which is that the new traction control will most likely not affect the level of competition.
"The new system should also make life easier for the clutch, so there should no longer be any problems in this area in the event of a re-start,” he said. “The gearchange will be completely automatically controlled, which will also reduce the strain on engine and gearbox.
"Road holding will be better and that will improve safety and performance. However, we are convinced that even with the best system possible to meet the new rules, the best and most sensitive drivers will continue to dominate."