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Suppliers ready softer tyres for San Marino 20 Apr 2004

Ferrari wheels and tyres are prepared by a mechanic.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 17 April 2003

After the high temperatures of the Australian, Malaysian and Bahrain Grands Prix, Formula One returns to the cooler climes of Europe this weekend. This will allow Michelin and Bridgestone to use their softer tyre compounds for the first time in 2004.

Michelin, still hunting their first win of the season, will be bringing three as yet unraced dry compounds to Imola. "We finalised our tyre options for the San Marino Grand Prix after completing a series of tests with our partner teams at Paul Ricard last week,” explained their Formula One programme manager, Pascal Vasselon.

“For the first time this season we will be using tyres from the 'softer' end of our range. Imola has quite a short pit entry and exit, so tactical stops take less time than they do at other circuits - and that is particularly the case this season, with the new 100 km/h limit in force on Sunday. That opens up fresh strategic possibilities."

Michelin won at San Marino with Williams in 2001, just four races into their Formula One comeback season. However, Bridgestone and Ferrari have triumphed there for the last two years, and after scoring three out of three victories so far in 2004, the Japanese company are confident of continued success this weekend.

“We have thought carefully about the track's nature which includes several chicanes and directional changes,” explained Technical Manager, Hisao Suganuma. “Traction performance exiting the slower corners will be important. Six specifications of dry tyre will be at the smooth surfaced track incorporating several new compounds which have been introduced in line with our policy of constant development. With regards to pitstops, I expect most teams will opt for a three stop strategy.”

Of course, rain is a distinct possibility at San Marino and plenty of showers during last week’s European tests allowed the teams to get in some valuable, if unscheduled, wet-weather tyre development.

“The return to Europe in April also means that Bridgestone needs to be prepared for a wide range of possible weather conditions,” said Suganuma. “We have had a busy test programme over the past few weeks and although rain was a factor enabling continued research into our next generation of wet-weather tyres, we did gather some useful dry tyre data for both the Imola and Barcelona races.”

Bridgestone, who supply Ferrari, Sauber, Jordan and Minardi, have scored 52 points to date in 2004, all bar one with Ferrari. Michelin’s six teams have taken 65 points between them.