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Will it depend on the tyre manufacturers ?  
6 July 2001 Volume 3 - Issue 21  

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Bridgestone seem to have turned the tables on Michelin in one week. At the Nurburgring Michelin were faster after a scrubbing in period; one week later at Magny Cours Bridgestone was matching their best performance almost from lap one.

To be competitive at Magny Cours Michelin shod cars were going out on well scrubbed or scuffed tyres while Bridgestone were sending cars out on brand new tyres. Although it was hard to determine, it appeared that Bridgestone had the better tyre from the start.

A scrubbed (or scuffed) tyre is a tyre that has seen several laps use already. This is not new to motor racing. A brand new tyre, regardless of the effort that has gone into the manufacture and preparation of it, will have different characteristics once the sheen of the outer layer of rubber has been worn off. Because of this many teams in all forms of motor racing prefer to bed their tyres in before they use them in anger.

Some tyres have faults that were not discovered during the manufacturing process and only become apparent once they are used. Scrubbing also eliminates some of the risk of being caught out on tyres that do not perform during the race (although it did not seem to work for Ralf at Magny Cours - his second set were scrubbed and performed poorly).

But, there is scrubbing and SCRUBBING. At Magny Cours the Michelin shod teams were going to more than extreme lengths to bed their tyres down - rumours of some 12 to 14 laps! This indicates that the tyre has to be substantially worn before it delivers the required performance and one must wonder how much life the end of a stint leaves.

Ralf Schumacher was on a two-stop strategy i.e. stopping around every 25 or so laps. If he was going out on tyres that have already done 13 laps by the time he came in for a tyre change, his tyres had done a total of 38 laps which is pretty close to half race distance.

If Ralf could get the desired performance out of unscrubbed (or lightly scrubbed) tyres he would have been far better off stopping only once as we know that the extra horsepower of the Williams will allow him to carry the extra fuel with relative ease.

Michelin tyres seem to take much longer than Bridgestone tyres to get to their optimum performance level. Both Ferraris were fast before the end of the first lap out of the pits while it took the Williams cars several laps to get back into the groove.

The pattern that we saw in Canada, where Williams were a lot faster once their tyres were in "the sweet zone" even though it may have taken four or five laps to get there, was no longer apparent in Magny Cours. Sure the Michelins still took longer to get to optimum performance but when they got there they did not appear to work any better than the Bridgestones.

It certainly looks as if Michelin's advantage on a hot dry track has evaporated.

I wonder if they are still suffering from their earlier poor performance in the wet or on colder tracks?

Michelin will certainly be back to the drawing board to get their earlier edge back, but Bridgestone will also be working hard to get ahead. The battle is on!

Michael Schumacher drove another near perfect race. He took advantage of Ralf's slower pit stop to get ahead and after that he was in total control.

Now Michael has an almost unbeatable lead in this year's Driver's Championship. He leads by 31 points and that is to Coulthard who is less likely than brother Ralf to be challenging for the lead in the remaining races.

Sure, both Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher can still beat him in theory, but I can't see it.

David Coulthard also drove a near perfect race, with the exception of entering the pit lane a tad too fast.

At the Nurburgring we saw Ralf drop out of contention after taking a 10 second penalty for driving over the white line on the exit of the pits and now Coulthard also suffered a 10 second penalty in the pits.

Fair it might be but in both cases it took a lot of excitement out of the race.

Many of the Coulthard fans will be thinking that if it was not for the penalty he may have won the race.

Races are always unpredictable and anything could have happened but the fact that he finished 17 seconds behind Michael, after losing 30 seconds in the penalty stop, does not necessarily put him 13 seconds ahead of Schumacher without the penalty.

After Montoya retired from the race there was no reason for Michael to keep up a competitive pace. He was well clear of Ralf and until Coulthard managed to get past Barrichello and Ralf, all he needed to do was to maintain a reasonable gap and conserve his car.

Without the penalty stop Coulthard may have been closer to Schumacher in second place but even if he could catch him, if he could not get past Barrichello how would he go at passing Schumacher?

No, without the penalty his best chance would have been 2nd.

Barrichello, with help from Ross Brawn, did very well to finish on the podium.

It was not a comfortable race as he had David Coulthard all over him for the last third of the race and he either did not have the tyres or the brakes to effectively defend his position. Keeping the McLaren behind him was a great achievement.

Although both Ferrari and McLaren appeared a lot faster I believe that it was only due to the improved Bridgestone tyres. Williams still have the faster car and if Michelin gives them a competitive tyre they will be formidable on the faster tracks that dominate the rest of the season.

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