Four-time world champion Michael Schumacher says improvements in his Bridgestone's tyres offer him the best chance to take his third consecutive Formula 1 title. After driving on the early prototypes of the 2002 tyres in testing this week, the...
Four-time world champion Michael Schumacher says improvements in his Bridgestone's tyres offer him the best chance to take his third consecutive Formula 1 title.
After driving on the early prototypes of the 2002 tyres in testing this week, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver identified "significant improvements" thanks to the work done by Bridgestone's designers and engineers during the winter months.
Schumacher, who rounded off last season with a win at Suzuka, made his return to the track earlier than expected when he began testing at Fiorano in Italy on January 14.
He was back in the car at Valencia last weekend. Despite it being his first time at the Spanish circuit, he led the times on Saturday and Sunday. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, together with Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, both carried out tyre testing for Bridgestone during the weekend.
With Jordan Honda at Valencia and Sauber Petrona at Fiorano last week,
Bridgestone's tyre testing programme focused on compounds, both front and rear construction and other issues.
Hisao Suganuma, Bridgestone's technical manager, explained: "During last season we identified some areas where we could make improvements so we have been trying out different ideas to overcome some minor shortcomings.
"In addition, we worked on finding the best compounds and constructions to assist in balancing the cars.
"I am happy with what we achieved. Of course, there is a lot more work to be done, but the results, especially the times recorded by Ferrari in Valencia at the weekend, were very encouraging and are useful indicators for the direction of our future development."
Testing has continued this week with Sauber Petronas at Barcelona, Jordan Honda running their new car at Silverstone following its shakedown on Monday, and Ferrari at Mugello and Fiorano.
Michael Schumacher Q&A
Why did you decide to start testing earlier than scheduled?
There is a very simple reason for that: I was desperate to drive. I couldn/t stand any more to be out of a car and not have four wheels around me. I very much enjoyed having such a long break together with my family, but in the end I called Jean Todt and asked if there was anything for me to test a bit earlier than January 19 which was supposed to be my first test day this year.
What are your first impressions of the 2002 Bridgestone prototypes?
My first impression is that we have made significant improvements through the development done by Bridgestone over the winter, which obviously makes us happy. Of course, we still continue to develop from what we have learnt in the meantime. To me, tyres is the biggest area for improvement compared to other areas of F1 this year, and as the people of Bridgestone are so determined, I am sure they come up with loads of new ideas and better versions.
What information have you gathered from the results of testing so far?
Basically I have done only one test, but a quite important one with a lot of new solutions which were good. Now we need to do further tests in order to gain information for other circuits.
Are there any areas where you would like to see improvements in the tyres based on last year's races?
Naturally, every racing driver wants to go faster any time he can. So basically you wish to have more grip or traction all the time. There are always questionmarks about where you could go faster or about the braking performance. Those are probably the two areas where we have room to improve.
What are your expectations for 2002? Do you think the competition will be tougher?
Yes, I expect it to be quite a tough season. I am sure we will be more than well prepared, but it is clear that our competitors have more room for improvements. I expect the BMW-Williams to be even stronger than last year as they might have sorted out their problems, but I also see the McLaren-Mercedes being strong. However, they have changed supplier and I could imagine them having some difficulties in adapting, at least at the beginning.