Tyre suppliers Michelin are cautiously optimistic they are on the verge of breaking Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s stranglehold on Formula One.
Michelin had high hopes of finally taking a world championship this season following a barren run since their return to the sport three seasons ago.
McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya both pushed Schumacher hard in the drivers’ championship while their respective teams appeared to have the edge in the manufacturers’ battle.
But Michelin’s poor record in the wet came back to haunt them as rain at the United States Grand Prix effectively handed Schumacher and Ferrari their fourth straight drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship double.
Now Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier has sounded a note of optimism as he looks to mastermind the end of Ferrari’s – and rival tyre supplier Bridgestone’s - dominance.
After testing in Spain and France, he said: “We are at an early stage of our development curve and mustn’t get carried away.
“But our partner teams have commented favourably on the progress we have made with our compounds and constructions, particularly with regard to our rear tyres. This is only a start – but it has been a good start.
“These tests have largely been an opportunity for the grand prix circus to blow away a few cobwebs and for drivers to familiarise or reacquaint themselves with their cars.”
Dupasquier admitted major improvements in Michelin’s wet weather performance were high on the agenda.
“Our teams have been taking part in a wet-weather test programme,” he added. “There has been a fair amount of rain at Barcelona, Valencia and Jerez.
“This worked in our favour because we wanted to evaluate our latest wets and didn’t have to soak any of the circuits artificially.”