2005 FIA Formula One World Championship Round 14: Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul,
12 August: A STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN
Michelin is seeking to make history this
weekend, as the first tyre company to win a Formula One grand prix in Turkey.
Although World Rally Championship events take place
in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, this year’s Turkish GP will be the first race of its kind in the region. It will be staged at the
brand-new, 5.340-kilometre (3.318-mile) Istanbul Park circuit, which lies to the east of the nation’s capital, on the Asian side
of the Bosphorus Bridge. Hermann Tilke – the man responsible for the recently-introduced facilities in Bahrain and China –
designed the track, which features a number of dramatic elevation changes.
No Turk has ever competed in a grand prix: at present,
the country’s most eminent driver is Can Artam, who is contesting the GP2 Series – F1’s ante-chamber.
Turkey will become the
26th country to have hosted a world championship grand prix and – for the time being at least – Istanbul Park will join a list
of 10 circuits with a single grand prix to their name. The others are Avus (Germany, 1959), Casablanca (Morocco, 1958), Dallas
(United States, 1984), Donington Park (Europe, 1993), Le Mans (France, 1967), Monsanto (Portugal, 1959), Pescara (1957), Riverside
(United States, 1960), Sebring (United States, 1959), Shanghai (China, 2004 – although it will stage its second later this year,
from October 14-16).
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director "The Istanbul Park track presents tyre
manufacturers with an extra element of challenge – yet another during a season that has already generated its fair share. “We
have prepared for this grand prix with exactly the same methods we used for the new tracks in Bahrain and Shanghai last season. In
the first instance our engineers paid an inspection visit, during which they were particularly keen to analyse the track surface
characteristics. The second stage was to correlate this information with the results of the simulation tests we have conducted in
conjunction with our partner teams. “Our analysis shows that the circuit is densely asphalted, with thickly coated stones that
make the track look particularly black. At the start of the weekend cars will be running on neat tar and conditions are likely to
evolve quickly as more and more laps are completed. In some ways it is a similar situation to those we faced earlier in the
season at Barcelona and Montreal, where the circuits had been freshly – and totally –resurfaced.
“As far as the track layout
is concerned, it looks very appealing with a number of elevation changes and a blend of fast and slower corners plus a long main
straight. In theory, average lap speeds should be relatively low. Aerodynamicists face the biggest headache as they try to figure
out a set-up that generates sufficient downforce for the slow-speed corners without overly compromising straight-line performance. “When
we race at a new track for the first time, it is best to take tyre compounds with a slightly broader operational spectrum than we
usually choose, in order to minimise any risk of error. We also have to bear in mind all the meteorological conditions that might
confront us. In fierce heat, for instance, the circuit’s dark complexion will absorb bright sunlight more readily – and that
will send track temperatures soaring.”
Driver perspective: Jenson Button, B·A·R-Honda “I have driven around
Istanbul Park in a road car and it looks very exciting, with some long, high-speed corners and a spectacular blind crest at Turn
Three. It’s always nice to go to new circuits and the main thing in Turkey will be to make sure we are physically well prepared.
This is one of only three anti-clockwise venues on the calendar, along with Interlagos and Imola. That will place an unaccustomed
load on our necks – and the elevated cornering speeds will intensify the effect. “It doesn’t take long to learn new tracks,
although it’s not something you can replicate properly beforehand using computer games. They teach you which way the corners go,
but there’s no substitute for getting out there in a Formula One car. On a technical level, however, the team and Michelin have
done lots of simulation tests and these tend to be uncannily accurate. In the past Michelin has produced excellent tyres when we
have visited new circuits, such as Shanghai and Bahrain last season, so I am confident we’ll be in good shape.”
better way forward… in Turkey
For Michelin, just as it is for more than 250 French companies (including Renault, Carrefour,
Danone, etc.), Turkey is a priority market and Pierre Desmaret, Michelin's General Manager for Africa and the Middle East, says that
the tyre giant is likely to commit significant resources there in terms of both investment and staff over the coming years.
Meanwhile, it's in Turkey that the firm launched its new slogan 'Michelin, a better way forward'.
This year, Turkey will host a
round of all the major motor sport disciplines in which Michelin is involved. In addition to the WRC and the Rally of Turkey, a
Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Istanbul in August, the new FIA World Touring Car and FIA GT championships will visit the
country in September, MotoGP action is scheduled for the end of October, while the Le Mans Endurance Series will wrap up the season
at the beginning of November. And late-June will see the fourth round of the 2005 Cross Country Rally World Cup, the Rallye d’Orient,
kick off its west-east traverse of the country from the shores of the Bosporus.
Frédéric Henry Biabaud, Michelin’s
deputy motorsport director, outlines the company’s competition philosophy:
For many decades, Michelin has relied
on a shrewd blend of passion and common sense to underpin its motorsport activities. A commitment to safety in the design,
manufacture and utilisation of competition tyres has always been a Michelin trademark - as has the spirit of fruitful co-operation
that exists between the company and its partner teams.
Michelin is the world’s number one tyre manufacturer. Why is the
company involved in motorsport? “We are committed for several fundamental reasons. For one thing, we want to strengthen our
relationship with manufacturers all over the world by playing a part in their motorsport successes. This has always encouraged us to
support our partners in competition. We are also passionately committed to winning - and not just taking part - in cutting-edge,
high- tech categories and events such as Formula One, the World Rally Championship, top-level motorcycle racing, the Dakar Rally and
the Le Mans 24 Hours. All these things enjoy worldwide media exposure and there could be no finer endorsement of our participation
than to see Michelin drivers or riders appearing on the top step of a podium..
How does this involvement enhance Michelin’s
image? “Positive brand values are established in several different ways- from providing a sound commercial structure and
high standards of service to the quality and reliability of your products, not forgetting the reputation you can build through
research and investment. “It is worth pointing out that the kind of positive feedback generated in motorsport cannot be achieved
through any other means - not even a conventional advertising campaign, no matter how effective it might be. “Motorsport
highlights various strengths- including reliability and credibility - and news of good results filters through to the general public
very swiftly. It’s a good conduit. All market surveys indicate that investment in motorsport is justified when it comes to
enhancing brand image.”
How does Michelin establish its sporting partnerships? “It is abundantly obvious that a
long -term motorsport contract with a manufacturer opens the doors to a number of opportunities, both commercially and in terms of
technological collaboration. Constant dialogue with car manufacturers has allowed us to identify mutually beneficial market sectors
we can target in future. Michelin’s ability to produce competitive tyres every weekend is a hallmark of credibility. Today, one
can say that the involvement we have with world-class manufacturers in motorsport adds to that credibility and gives us the
potential to forge strong commercial relationships.”