July/30/99 1999 GERMAN GRAND PRIX - PRESS CONFERENCE Excerpts from the Bridgestone press conference held at Hockenheim on Thursday July 29. Taking part: Mr Hirohide Hamashima (Technical...
July/30/99 1999 GERMAN GRAND PRIX - PRESS CONFERENCE
Excerpts from the Bridgestone press conference held at Hockenheim on Thursday July 29. Taking part: Mr Hirohide Hamashima (Technical Director, Bridgestone Motorsport); Eddie Irvine (Ferrari driver) and Ralf Schumacher (Williams driver)
Q. Mr Hamashima, can you explain Bridgestone's policy this year and the system of manufacturing four different types of dry-weather tyre in Extra Soft, Soft, Medium and Hard compounds?
HH: At the beginning of this year we tested many different types of tyre and eventually selected just four of them, to cover what we expected would be the requirements of every circuit in the world championship. In fact, so far this season we have used only three types of tyre at the different circuits. In recent races virtually every driver has chosen to race on the softer of the two tyres which we are permitted to bring to each race. I believe the reason for this is that they are now finding the best setup for the softer tyre, whereas earlier this year some of them were unable to use the the softer tyre because of difficulties with wear and handling which the teams had not yet sorted out. Thanks to their development programmes, the teams can now exploit the same softer tyres to the full.
Q. What would Bridgestone's response be if the teams and drivers requested even softer tyres?
HH: Usually a driver wants a softer tyre, but some of them had difficulties with understeering at Monaco, where we offered the Extra Soft tyre, and they were unable to chose it. Now that they have more experience with the softer tyre they feel much more confident about choosing it.
Q. Usually F1 cars perform at their best when they are on fresh rubber. However, in Austria last the teams were reporting that the tyres performed better after one or two laps. Can you explain why this happened?
HH: It is possible that the drivers weren't pushing very hard when the tyres were new.
Q. Do you plan to make any changes to the specifications of the dry-weather tyres for next year?
HH: We don't have anything planned at the moment. If we make any significant changes it means that the teams will also have to modify their cars. That involves every expense for everybody. However, if there happens to be a demand from the drivers and teams for a change in tyre specification, then we would have to consider it.
Q. Eddie, what would the drivers like to see as far as tyres are concerned in 2000?
EI: It doesn't make a lot of difference when everyone is using the same basic equipment. There is still the choice of a harder or a softer tyre at each race, and the differences are marginal, but it is good that everyone does have a choice, because it helps us to get our cars sorted out the way we want them. I think that the reason we are getting better times on the second or third lap is because the car is better balanced on slightly used tyres and goes quicker, even though the overall grip which you can expect on new tyres is slightly reduced by then. It is quite a technical challenge to get your car good for qualifying and to keep it good for the race. The setups are very different for each situation and it is only the cleverer teams and drivers who are able to do it.
Q. Wouldn't you prefer to have even softer tyres available?
EI: I don't see any point in that when everyone is on the same brand. The tyres which we are using at the moment don't represent the leading edge technology which the Bridgestone engineers are capable of providing. I am sure that Bridgestone has the potential back home in Japan to manufacture much better tyres if they were asked to do so. But that would defeat the objective of the FIA, which is to slow the cars down. The tyres we are using are consistent, which is very pleasing. It also makes it a little more interesting to have the choice of a softer and a harder tyre at each race, because although the softer one is usually the better choice, it is not everyone who can get it to work well. I have certain personal doubts about the merits of the aerodynamic regulations at present, but I think the tyre regulations work pretty well.
Q. Ralf, I have the impression that you would much prefer to have a softer tyre made available...
RS: It's more than just a question of having a softer tyre. A lot of drivers are complaining about not having enough grip, and of course Eddie is right about everyone being on the same product and therefore being faced with the same problems. But it would make it nicer for us if we could have a quicker tyre, perhaps one with a different construction. I agree that this year's tyres are more consistent than I remember from experience on a different product last year, and they are nice and driveable.
Q. Eddie, did you have a chance to talk to Michael Schumacher after you had won the race in Austria?
EI: No, on Sunday night I was in no fit state to talk to anyone, and Monday and Tuesday were a bit busy for me. Maybe I will speak to him next week.
Q. Is there a heavier work load for you now that you're leading the team?
EI: Not really, in fact in some ways there is less work. Mika Salo has a few things to do which save me having to do them, which helps me. I get a bit more attention from the journalists, but that's all.
Q. After being outqualified by the McLarens, that result must have seemed perfect to you...
EI: It was amazing. On Friday and Saturday we were getting our balls broken. But I was quite calm about it. I would have been surprised if we had been able to beat them in qualifying, but I knew the race would be much closer. After the incident [with David Coulthard] Mika was flying in the race, and in a straight fight it would have been quite difficult to have beaten him. But I think we could have beaten DC any day of the week -- and that is half of the McLaren stable beaten. My team did a great strategy in Austria and my pit stop there was one of our best this year. I didn't make any mistakes, we had a good car in the first half of the race and we did the right things -- so we picked up the trophy.
Q. To have won must have been a good response to your critics...
EI: Yes, sure, and a lot of people inside Ferrari were saying it was the best reply to have given them. But I don't think about critics. It's a waste of two minutes of your life to read all the stuff the journalists are writing. No one knows more about my life than I do, so I am not going to learn anything by reading a newspaper. It makes great entertainment for the fan in the street, but for drivers, team managers and engineers it is usually a pretty pointless exercise. I get on and do my job while they write their wonderful stories. That's what sells newspapers, and that's what their job is.
Q. Ralf, do you ever find that the press writes manufactured stories about you?
RS: I have stopped reading newspapers, which is the best thing to do. The way of writing about Formula 1 has changed. A lot of journalists are chasing the negative stories instead of the positive ones. That is what people want to read, and it's the way to sell more newspapers. Personally I don't like that, but that's the way it is. It is also the reason why we drivers are more and more careful about journalists. There are some exceptions, of course, although a lot of journalists blame us when we don't say anything. We try to be more and more careful, in order to avoid reading bad stories involving us.
Q. Many people would like to see F1 return to slick tyres. If the FIA were to authorise the use of slicks again, how long would it take Bridgestone to be ready for that?
HH: I haven't thought about this. But we would probably need at least six months, because the cars have changed so much since 1997, when slicks were last used in F1. Right now the championship is so hot that nobody would be interested in testing slick tyres for next year. Instead, they prefer to concentrate on setting up their cars to work on slick tyres for this year's championship. If we had to test slick tyres I expect we would not be able to start start until December, which would make it very difficult for next year.
Q. Eddie, can you tell me anything about the popularity of F1 racing in Ireland?
EI: Apparently Ireland has gone crazy for F1, but even though I have a house in Dublin I am hardly ever there. I have probably only spent 25 or 30 days in Ireland in the past two years, that's all. But Eddie Jordan has been in F1 since 1991, which was before me, and he is the one who lit the fire for the sport over there. Then it obviously made a big difference when RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann) got the rights to broadcast it in Ireland, because the only way before that was to watch the BBC, if the reception was good enough. After RTE started broadcasting it to the whole of Ireland I came into F1 at the end of 1993, and now that I have won two Grands Prix both Jordan and I are having our best years ever. When you remember that Ireland is such a small country -- only about 5 million -- it is a big thrill to have an Irish team owner and an Irish driver both in the top four places in the constructors' and drivers' championships. Then there is Gary Anderson, another Irishman, who designed the Jordan and is now with Stewart. When you look at the populations involved, it is pretty amazing.
Q. Are you aware of the crowd when you drive into the stadium section here?
EI: On the first lap, I certainly do. It's amazing to drive out of the country section into the stadium with fireworks going up and everything going crazy. You couldn't fail to miss it. It must be extraordinary to be sitting in the crowd when it happens: maybe one day I will get the opportunity to find out.
Q. Ralf, will the new Williams aerodynamic 'package' be of any advantage to you here, on the high speed sections?
RS: The package we had at Silverstone was a slight help there, but it didn't help in Austria and for sure it won't be of any help to us here. We have something else in line which won't be ready to race until Hungary, but at the moment there's a question mark over where we can expect to end up at present.
Q. Eddie, which is more important to you now: winning races or the championship?
EI: If you look after the first, you'll get the second! It's that simple. We are still the underdogs for the world championship, by a long way. I have beaten Mika on a couple of occasions, but as you know he has been faster than us all year and he still has the edge on us. Now we have to make sure we don't make any of the mistakes which cost us points in the first half of the year. To beat Mika we are going to have to stop making mistakes and have more races like Austria where the McLarens hit trouble. We must take advantage of every opportunity.
Q. Do you have more support from German fans this year than ever before?
EI: I have always had a lot of support from German fans. I don't understand why, but I get more fan mail from Germany than from anywhere else. Maybe it's because there are a lot of Germans: I think the population is over 80 million. It is a little surprising, but I get lots of mail sent to my house in Dublin, most of it just addressed to "Eddie Irvine, Ireland." It still arrives safely on my doorstep. But I cannot say whether I have any more German fans this year than before.