DECEMBER 29, 2000
Michelin's public relations strategy
MICHELIN's softly softly approach to its entry into Grand Prix racing should not be taken too seriously. The head of the company's Etude Development Course in Clermont-Ferrand Pierre Dupasquier commented this week that the company is not expecting to win anything until the 2003 season because Bridgestone has the advantage. This is patently not what Dupasquier really thinks but it is probably the best approach to public relations to avoid disappointment if the company does not win in its first season.
Michelin should win in the course of the 2001 although it remains to be seen which team will emerge as the company's number one operation. Logically it should be BMW Williams. The team is capable of winning races and has a brand new BMW V10 engine which should help close the gap to McLaren and Ferrari. Benetton may show well on occasion although much will depend on the success of the new Renault V10 engine. Jaguar and Prost are less likely to win but in the right circumstances could pull off an unexpected victory.
In general terms when a new tire company enters Formula 1 most of the time the tires are as good as the existing competition although on several occasions each year the more experienced company has the advantage. However there are other occasions when the newcomer produces better rubber and the tire advantage can produce upsets. If one looks back to Bridgestone's first year against Goodyear in 1997, there were two occasions when Bridgestone cars might have won Grands Prix victories: with Damon Hill's Arrows in Hungary and with Jarno Trulli's Prost in Austria. On both occasions the victory was spoiled by a mechanical failure and so Bridgestone had to wait until 1998 for its first win.
Michelin will be hoping that with Williams and Benetton it will have the kind of team which will be capable of keeping a car running to the finish and if that is the case one must expect at least one or two Michelin wins in 2001.
However it is best that Michelin plays down its chances to avoid criticism if it is unable to score any wins.
This shows that the management at Michelin has a rather better grasp of the realities in F1 than did British American Tobacco when it came blundering into F1 a couple of years ago.
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