Pierre Dupasquier Q&A

Another welcome ingredient will be added to the F1 mix when Michelin returns to Grand Prix racing next year. The French company first entered the sport with Renault in 1977, and won 59 GPs and three World Championships with Jody Scheckter (Ferrari, 1979), Nelson Piquet (Brabham, 1983) and Niki Lauda (McLaren, 1984). Williams and Jaguar were the first teams to sign up for 2001, and both have provided chassis for use as mobile test beds, while Toyota will also use Michelin rubber when it joins the fray in 2002. Adam Cooper spoke to Pierre Dupasquier, the company's veteran motor sport boss, about Michelin's plans

Pierre Dupasquier Q&A

"Mainly because the company wanted to prove that after success it was able to make other decisions and concentrate on other things. It was a case of we did it, we can stop doing it, but we may come back."

"Because we didn't feel that it was the time to be in F1 again, but lately we had some good opportunities and the right environment that told us it was the right time to come back."

"There was a lot of discussion. It has been a long process of evaluating does a company like Michelin have to be there or not? That was the question. And the final decision was taken last year to come in for various reasons - marketing, the position of Michelin in the world, our relationship with car manufacturers who are our partners."

"Another way to ask that is what would you lose not being in F1. That's probably the answer! We have to think that we lose something."

"It is a challenge. When you make a challenge like that, you may lose. So you have to think twice, as we are not alone. We have a car with us, we have a team, we have drivers, we have a lot of things - so it's not obvious that we win. In the history of F1 even with equal tyres there have been many changes in the last 10 years. And so when you enter you absolutely don't know what will happen and when. So you have to be determined to put your name up front, to tell your potential customers that you had the guts to do it, to go for it, and you have the technology behind you to be successful."

"Exactly. The point is we improved a lot because of the competition, because of the change of regulations, because of the changes in cars. We had for example to develop competitive and safe tyres for the touring cars - such a little piece of rubber, with 300bhp! It has been very difficult. And the proof is that only Michelin survived that war, almost. We worked a lot and discovered a lot of things. Le Mans is not an easy track either. It's difficult. Last year we won the GT championship in Japan - the one team with Michelin. These are things which pushed us to keep thinking, keep asking ourselves some questions."

"It is important to co-operate with a manufacturer, and we've been with them for a long time. With Toyota we won the World Rally Championship, we won GT with them, and naturally they asked us, 'We've decided to go to F1, will you come in with us?' Same for BMW. There is no point for us to hope to be successful, or understand what is going on and develop, if we are not partnered with a competitive, established team at the top, understanding what's going on, knowing all about aerodynamics, with a decent engine. Which means a top team - only there do you get the right engineers, the right knowledge."

"One thing we are sure. History told us that a top team is not a top team forever. So things may change. Will change, I should say - but I don't know when."

"I don't know. I guess Bridgestone is fair enough to do the appropriate service for a team like Williams. And they are obliged to anyway, because they must supply all the teams with the same tyres."

"They are quite careful. I read some comments that they have mixed feelings about Michelin, and I understand that."

"What makes us happy is to be free, and do the best we can to solve a problem. We like to make the best possible tyre according to our knowledge to solve the problem. But it's, 'No, no, you can't do that.' It's something which is somehow frustrating."

"It's no challenge. We've made rain tyres for a long time, and intermediate tyres. It's just a question of adjusting to the particular performance of the particular car. We feel we are here to learn, we need to understand. We have a lot of things to explore, like constructions. When you try to apply your knowledge to a particular rule you have to take everything you know, and put it on the track."

"No, we had enough things to keep ourselves busy, so it was no problem. But it's the most visible thing, but I hate crowds to tell you the truth. Waking up at 4am to reach Brands Hatch like in the past - I have no interest in that!"

"I would say it was the time we won our first GP in Rio in 1978. Mauro Forghieri and I were both on the wall, to try to slow down Carlos Reutemann. He was leading by a minute. When he finished the race we told him we were afraid that something broke in the car, and we just wanted him to slow down. He said he was already so slow he couldn't go any slower! That was a good memory. It showed that we were up there, and we were competitive."

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