Head expresses concerns over Michelin

Williams technical director Patrick Head believes the impending tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin could hinder the Oxfordshire-based team next year

Head expresses concerns over Michelin

Michelin are re-entering Formula 1 after an absence of more than 15 years and will supply six of the 11 teams competing in 2001. Big guns Ferrari and McLaren are both sticking with Japanese supplier Bridgestone, but Williams are switching to the French manufacturer's rubber.

"Towards the end of the season Bridgestone certainly raised the performance level," Head said in an exclusive interview with Autosport.com, "and I'm certain in 2001 they will raise it even further. For Michelin it's going to be quite steep wall that they are going to have to climb to get on the same sort of level.

"I think inevitably you'd have to say there is going to be more chance that Michelin will get the tyre compound for a particular track and a particular condition wrong more times next year than Bridgestone will."

Bridgestone entered F1 in 1997, and the Japanese company initially experienced manufacturing inconsistencies, a problem insiders believe could plague Michelin next year.

Head believes the importance of tyre development cannot be overstated, to the extent that it heavily influenced the team's choice of test driver for 2001. A veteran of two seasons with Minardi, Marc Gene is charged with testing duties for the Grove-based outfit.

"An increasing amount of fine judgement is needed for Formula 1 testing," said Head, "particularly when assessing tyres is involved. So we have decided that the test driving role should go to somebody who is quite seasoned in the F1 business, rather than a raw recruit."

Benetton, which is also set to use Michelin tyres next year, gave its new test driver, F3000 ace Mark Webber, a seat fitting at the team's Enstone base on Thursday. Jenson Button was also at the factory to meet the engineers of his new team.

Webber is to test an interim B200-spec Benetton next Friday, when the November testing ban comes to an end. The Australian will be the first to sample Renault's all-new F1 engine, which has a revolutionary V-angle of 111 degrees.

To read Patrick Head's 'My Season' review click here.

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