Michelin faces tough challenge in Spain

Michelin faces a tough test at the Circuit de Catalunya next weekend, as the Spanish Grand Prix gets underway. With Ferrari deciding to field its new Bridgestone-shod F2003-GA at the event, the pressure on the French manufacturer to pull something special out of the bag is especially intense

Michelin faces tough challenge in Spain

"People are keen to know whether the excellent early-season form of McLaren and Michelin is going to upset the F1 formbook in the long term, or whether Ferrari's introduction of new chassis might re-establish last year's hierarchy," says Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier.

"What we can say for sure is that the race in Imola confirmed the pace of the McLaren/Michelin combination and we picked up another healthy helping of championship points."

But despite a healthy start to the 2003 season, Michelin knows it cannot afford to rest on its laurels. The company has produced several new compounds for its partner teams in Spain, which, regardless of the wet weather warnings of Brazil, have all chosen dry-weather options for the weekend.

"We carried out an enormous amount of research and development work in Barcelona last winter," says F1 project manager Pascal Vasselon. "Following the most recent series of tests, our five partner teams have chosen four dry-weather tyre options for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix. They feature the same method of construction but the compounds are different and have not previously been used during a race weekend."

"It is vital to have a well-sorted chassis in Barcelona and getting the set-up right can be something of a delicate exercise," adds Dupasquier. "The circuit features a very long main straight and also has a number of fast, testing corners that place a great strain on tyres - an issue compounded by the nature of the track surface, which is very abrasive.

"We have a different challenge on our hands this weekend because the Circuit of Catalunya and Imola are not at all alike. Will our tyres be sufficiently fast and durable? We'll see on Sunday, but I feel confident."

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