Michelin shows promise from the start

MICHELIN's latest assault on F1 honors looks extremely promising, if the first two days of testing at Jerez are anything to go by. Although both Williams technical director Patrick Head and his opposite number at Benetton, Mike Gascoyne, expressed the initial view that Michelin might struggle for the first few races of the year, first signs have been extremely positive.

Initial indications are that Michelin's rain and intermediate tires - as used by Juan Montoya to produce an impressive second fastest time on Wednesday - are already extremely competitive. Bridgestone still has the upper had in the dry, although interestingly it seemed that the drop-off in performance on the Japanese company's "control" compound was between 0.7sec and a full second per lap.

By contrast, the corresponding Michelin had much less in the way of degradation, being around 0.3/0.4sec a lap, and Jaguar team leader Eddie Irvine expressed the view that "they are as good after 30 laps as they are after three."

Commented Michelin spokesman Andy Pope; "We've been running with the three contracted teams - Jaguar, Benetton and Williams - and we now know just how much work has to be done. It's all been very much as expected."

Michelin have brought a total of 15 different compounds to Jerez, with each of their teams running one driver on the "control" tire and his more experienced colleague using the development compound.

Meanwhile Michelin competitions manager Pierre Dupasquier has received a clarification from the FIA that there will be no changes to the current F1 tire rules for 2001 in terms of how the post-race legality of the remaining, worn tread pattern will be interpreted in scrutineering. Dupasquier fears that a tire war may well bring with it protest and counter-protest after the races as rival teams, egged on by their tire suppliers, object as to how little in the way of a tread pattern remains visible. Could be a tense old time.

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