November/ 03/ 1998

F1 - Bridgestone tyre evaluation programme

The FIA-sanctioned evaluation test of Bridgestone's 1999-specification tyres started at Suzuka today, less than 48 hours after Mika Hakkinen and West McLaren Mercedes had sealed their successes in the 1998 drivers' and constructors' world championships. In the absence of Arrows, ten of the eleven teams which will contest the 1999 world championship had the opportunity to evaluate four-groove front tyres and matched rear tyres. Three full sets of the new product, which is still at the prototype stage, were made available to each team, some of whom plan to continue running tomorrow (Wednesday). Today's fastest lap on the very first examples of the new-specification rubber of 1:41.296s must be compared with Schumacher's pole position for Sunday's race of 1:36.293s.

Michael Schumacher (Scuderia Ferrari):

"This first test on Bridgestone tyres is obviously important because it represents the first stage in the evaluation of the four-groove front tyres that we will be racing next year. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about it because I remember the disappointment I felt last winter when we first tested the 1998-pattern grooved tyres. At the time, the car was difficult to drive and it was impossible to get consistent lap times, although there was a big improvement later.

"This time I can already feel that the difference between three and four grooves isn't so great. Naturally it has been necessary for Bridgestone to make the front tyres with a harder rubber compound, but after this first day my impressions of the prototype tyres are quite positive. I also know there is a lot more to come.

"At this early stage, and after working with Goodyear for such a long time, we have to accept that it will take time to adapt to the new and different environment offered by our new tyre supplier. But it is not going to be difficult for me to work with Bridgestone because I already have a long and fruitful relationship with the company, going all the way back to my karting days and to the Formula 3000 race that I did at Sugo, here in Japan, back in 1991. I am now looking forward to a great future together in F1."

Hirohide Hamashima, Technical Director of Bridgestone Motorsport:

"With the obligation of supplying every competitor in Formula 1 with tyres next year very much in mind, we are delighted to have had this early opportunity to work with so many teams and to prepare for the future. The limited supply of tyres did not prevent us gathering some useful data from the cars taking part. In fact, I can already say that we appear to be working in the right direction. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there is a big reduction in the lap times with the new four-groove front tyres. The following drivers attended the FIA - Bridgestone evaluation programme today:

Alesi - Red Bull Sauber Petronas Barrichello - Stewart Ford Coulthard - West McLaren Mercedes Frentzen - Benson and Hedges Jordan Mugen-Honda Fisichella - Mild Seven Benetton Playlife Hill - Benson and Hedges Jordan Mugen-Honda M. Schumacher - Ferrari Marlboro Nakano - Fondmetal Minardi Ford Takagi - Tyrrell Ford Trulli - Gauloises Prost Peugeot R. Schumacher - Winfield Williams Wurz - Mild Seven Benetton Playlife