Friday March 16th, 2001
Eddie Irvine's fifth place during today's first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix highlighted Michelin's good performance at the Sepang circuit on Friday.
The French manufacturer, who visits the Malaysian circuit for the first time, believes having three cars in the top ten is an evidence of the improvements made since the Australian Grand Prix, where they were unable to score on their return after an absence of 16 years from Formula One.
"At this early stage after just the free practice session, I think we can say that we seem better than we were at Melbourne in terms of overall competitivity, judging by the performance of some of our cars," said Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier.
The Frenchman, however, was concerned about the lack of information about the track, something that will make their tyre choice even harder for Sunday's race, when temperatures are expected to be very high again after reaching 38 degrees Celsius today.
"With the little information we have been able to gather on our two tyres here in Sepang, I think the choice between
them will be very difficult," he added.
"Generally, itís sliding that increases tyre temperatures which consequently adversely affect tyre performance and wear. The more you slide, the worse for a tyre, while the less you slide, the more the tyre is allowed to work in its proper operating range.
"So if one of our tyres, even the soft, slides less here in Sepang, it could prove to be the judicious choice, while remembering that this may mean a different race strategy."
Jaguar's Luciano Burti was eighth fastest at the wheel of the second Michelin-shod Jaguar, while Williams' Ralf Schumacher was tenth.