Bridgestone Motorsport press conference, Monza, 10th September Ross Brawn, Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager Bridgestone Motorsport Q: This year you've had a tremendously successful season for ...
Bridgestone Motorsport press conference, Monza, 10th September
Ross Brawn, Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager Bridgestone Motorsport
Q: This year you've had a tremendously successful season for Bridgestone tyres, culminating in what was your most successful race (this season) at the Belgian GP, even though you didn't win it. You had second, third, fourth and fifth. What are your feelings on the season so far from the tyre point of view?
Hisao Suganuma: We are very proud of our tyre performance this year. Of course, before the season started we worked hard in the winter time to improve our tyre performance because last year we struggled a little bit even though we were champions. Then people started to say that maybe our rival had a better performance from a tyre point of view.
So we really tried to reverse that feeling in people, and we put in a lot of effort. Then when the first race started we saw that we had an advantage. And all through the season we kept that performance advantage. That was very encouraging and also gave us extra motivation to develop a better tyre.
Q: Ross, what are you feelings about it so far?
Ross Brawn: I think last year was a tough year, but it was a great catalyst for us to look at how we could go even further in our relationship together - Bridgestone and Ferrari. We've had a very good partnership for several years. It's nice sometimes to have that extra challenge, which we had last year, and to see how people react. At Ferrari we were able to look internally at how we wanted to improve, and the great thing was to see Bridgestone respond, and how they improved.
For me personally it's been a very rewarding and fascinating period. To work with a completely different culture, Japanese culture, has been really invigorating. I think for our Bridgestone friends to work with a sort of pseudo Italian Anglo-Saxon culture has been very interesting. Because we do things differently, there's no doubt about it.
To discover the way we do things, and how we can work more effectively together, has been a real reward. And the reward has been these championships. I've certainly never experienced this close a technical partnership with a company as Bridgestone and Ferrari have.
I think it's a huge asset to both companies that on a human level and a technical level we've responded in the way we work together. It was great. Last year was tough, and it could have gone either way this year, and instead it went up. I'm delighted with this season.
Q: One thing this year has been the fact that it takes your tyres a little bit longer to heat up. Can you explain why that is and is there an advantage somewhere else?
Hisao Suganuma: Yes, that kind of characteristic is down to mainly compounds. Our compound characteristic means it takes a little bit more time to get to the right temperature to work. But once it gets to the right temperature, it shows good performance, and it stays longer. To have better consistency, like you have seen in this year's races, we have to give away that kind of performance.
Q: Ross, have you been happy with that side of things?
Ross Brawn: Let's say we've accepted it, because the overall package is the correct combination. The tyres have been fantastic, consistent, and in race conditions they've been great. There's been a price to pay, which is the warm-up performance, which we've known about. It goes without saying that Bridgestone are trying to improve that aspect of the tyre, because at places like Spa with three safety cars, it hurts us.
But if you look at the season overall, that's not the most important factor, the warm-up performance. The most important factor is the consistency and overall performance in the race, and that's been great. We've accepted it and Bridgestone have accepted it, but they are trying to fix that without losing the strong characteristic of the tyre, and that's a very difficult thing.
Q: We saw a new philosophy of tyre at Hungary this year. Can you tell us about it and are we going to see it again?
Hisao Suganuma: I think that you may see it in the near future. We were really trying to make a big step forward, and in Hungary we saw a really big step forward. That tyre is still under development, and we need to make sure everything is OK. That is why we didn't use it after that race. That [tyre] had really improved grip performance and traction performance.
Q: Do you think you will want to use that tyre again, Ross?
Ross Brawn: Oh yes, it was a very good step forward, but we just don't have enough experience on it at tracks like this. It was developed for a specific purpose, which was to win Hungary, and it was very successful at that. But it now needs to be developed for us to be able to use it at other tracks. We've made some steps, and I think we will see that concept of tyre used before the end of the season. It's the basis of the concept of tyre for next year.
Q: Can you tell us also about the philosophy regarding the tyre choice in Belgium as well? We got the impression that it was a relatively conservative tyre, but conservative for safety reasons.
Ross Brawn: Yes, both we and Bridgestone treat safety as the ultimate priority. We could have taken the Hungary tyre to Spa. But we didn't have the experience with it, and we certainly didn't have enough high speed running with that tyre to be able to say that we were comfortable with it. So in fact in Belgium we went for an older spec tyre which we knew would be safe and durable, and that was the tyre we raced.
It's just the amount of experience you have with each tyre. The tyre that we used in Spa was fundamentally the tyre that we had used at high-speed circuits last year, so it was a tyre that we had a lot of high-speed circuit experience with. We were a little bit cautious, but I think that's the right side of the ideal decision.
Q: There was a puncture here in testing [previous week]. I think it's a fairly simple story what happened. Can you talk us through it, what was left, what were you able to deduce?
Hisao Suganuma: Actually, in that case, the circumstances of what happened with that tyre meant both tyre and rim were badly destroyed. So to be honest, it is very difficult to analyse in detail. But we believe that it was likely that Michael had a puncture, and that caused the problem.
Q: How worried are you about debris on circuits, as perhaps caused the punctures to your rivals at Spa? What can be done?
Hisao Suganuma: To run safely on a racing circuit at very high speeds, air pressure is a very big factor. The tyre needs to have the right amount of pressure during running. If debris damages the tyre and it loses air, that is a big problem. So of course debris should be removed in any conditions, to make the race safer. But so far we haven't suffered with that kind of problem. Maybe we were lucky, or for some other reason, but we're really paying attention to make racing safe.
Ross Brawn: In the longer term there are two important initiatives happening. One is next year there will be the ability to suspend the race behind the safety car, so when the safety car goes out, it picks up the group of cars, comes round, and it can stop. The clock keeps running, but the cars just stop on the grid, or in an appropriate place. Then the track can be cleaned up, and as soon as the track is cleaned, the safety car starts again with the cars behind it, and then comes into the pits. That means that we have an opportunity then to look at the tyres, make sure they're OK, put blankets on them to keep the temperatures and pressures up.
I think for a severe accident, when there's debris on the track, that's the safest way. If the safety car is because of an off-track incident, then of course the safety car will keep running, because there's no need to stop it. The second thing which has been requested by the FIA, and I think there's been a very good response from the teams, is to start an initiative to look at construction methods of bodywork to stop the amount of debris we're getting when there's an impact or there's damage. The first tests look very encouraging.
Both ourselves and Williams have carried out experiments where we still use the same materials, but we basically cover them with a very tough, high-strength material like Xylon or Kevlar. And that seems to reduce the debris emission enormously. So you can smash a component like that, but all the debris stays together, even though the component may have failed. Whereas at the moment when you damage a component, there's a lot of debris spread out.
So I think there are two key initiatives which are going to be in place for next year, and we're looking at using those construction methods on front wings, front wing endplates, bargeboards, all the sort of things that tend to get lost in an accident. I think that will help a lot to reduce the amount of debris that we're seeing on the track.
Q: Hisao, you said the new rear construction that you used in Hungary would be appearing in the near future. Does that mean China?
Hisao Suganuma: It's very difficult to say. I hope so!
Q: Could you go a little bit further and tell us a little about the cultural differences, and specifically what they were?
Ross Brawn: There are some very simple things. Hisao won't mind me saying, but when a Japanese person says "yes", he doesn't mean "yes", he means "I understand"! You have to know that, and those are just simple things that you learn after a while. And our Japanese friends like to take the questions and challenges back to the office and think about them. They're probably less impulsive than Europeans.
We tend to want to make a decision and get on with it. They want to think carefully about it. Often the Japanese approach is to think carefully, plan carefully, and then do the thing quite promptly and efficiently. We sometimes get into things more quickly, but then have to recover; because we've got to reshape it as we go along. Sometimes there are frustrations, because you're not sure things are happening quickly. Then suddenly the tyres turn up at the circuit, and there it is.
So for me that's been fascinating. They're lovely people, they're nice people to work with. We share our disappointments and successes. We've got a number of Japanese people who spend a lot of time at Ferrari, and some of our people spend a lot of time in Japan. I think those groups are finding it very interesting.
Hisao Suganuma: To work with Ferrari is always very demanding for us. You should do this, you should do that. Always those requests are coming. That is always the way to improve the total package of the car performance, so we want to cope with that. But before we start to work on that immediately we think about a lot of things to solve it.
It was really tough to work with Ferrari, but also that gives us a very big challenge as engineers. The feeling is always very nice when we can solve problems, like in Hungary. Last year we had a very bad race, but this year we had a really successful race with the new type of tyre. That was one of our challenges and we solved the problems. That was a really nice moment.
Ross Brawn: The other good thing is he drinks Chianti now and I eat sushi! There's some cultural exchange...
Q: Ross, can I ask you for some more details about the tests you are doing concerning debris. It's you and Williams what exactly are you doing?
Ross Brawn: We're making components, some typical samples of components, and they're being constructed in a few different ways, and they're being impacted and broken. Then the components are examined afterwards to see how much debris is emitted from the impact. We've been working on a single carbon structure, and Williams have been working on a honeycomb carbon structure. Between the two teams and these results are all shared with the Technical Working Group we're trying to address the problem of debris left on the track.
As I say, the first results are quite encouraging. With a relatively small change in the design of the component, it seems as though we can reduce debris emission by quite a lot. We can't eliminate it completely. But in one example we crushed a carbon tube. Eighty percent of the mass of this tube was reverted to debris. With some outer coatings on that tube, we reduced it to 4 per cent. So it was a very substantial change in the debris that was emitted when this tube was destroyed.
I think Williams have had similar results on a front wing endplate where they've used Kevlar on the outside surface of the endplate. You can literally wrap it into a ball and you don't get any carbon shards coming out of it.
Q: Ross, we remember the Ferrari press day in 2002 in Maranello when your President talked about your collaboration with Bridgestone and the plan for the future in terms of method of work, method of development, human resources, and having Bridgestone engineers in Maranello. Can you talk a bit two years later about your close collaboration with Bridgestone, how it was increased?
Ross Brawn: We had a vision that the car and the tyre needed to be designed as a single entity. It possibly took a little time to convince Bridgestone, and I think the period you're talking about is the period when we'd convinced Bridgestone about our vision of a car and a tyre as one entity: not "here's your tyre and make your car work with it", or "here's the car and make your tyre work with it". It's getting to a stage where they're designing the tyre and we're designing the car, together. And I feel that's the stage we're reaching now: the car and the tyre are designed as a single entity instead of individual components which are brought together.
The 2003 season probably accelerated that process, because let's say the failures of 2003 - of Ferrari and Bridgestone - made us even more determined to accelerate our path and get there sooner. I think the results of this year are down to that collaboration, and I think it will get even stronger in the future. The more success we have with that collaboration, the more we collaborate.
Now Bridgestone share all our information on car design and vehicle dynamics and car performance, and they share their information on tyre design with us. We have a common approach. They are responsible for the tyres, and we are responsible for the car. But we have I feel a very good understanding of their tyre philosophy, and they have a very good understanding of our car philosophy.
Q: Hisao, a few weeks ago you said you'd start work on the 2005 tyres at the Monza test. Can you indicate how much work you did, and what's the prognosis on what the tyres will be like, like how much slower, and drop-off, and that sort of thing?
Hisao Suganuma: We've just started work. Basically, at first, we need to find out what is needed to cope with the new regulations of tyres, which have to last nearly 350kms. The current tyre is required to last for about 100kms, which means more than three times longer life. To run such a long distance we need to find out what happens to the tyre. So that kind of work we've started.
We made some long runs with current tyres, then those tyres have gone back to Japan for analysing. They will start giving information on where they need to be reinforced, which part of the performance we need to improve. And also what about the compounds, what about the construction? So those things we're analysing.
Q: Given the current characteristics of your tyres and your rival's tyres, would you think that the proposed regulations for 2005 will work in your favour?
Ross Brawn: I think you might say that today, but it will change. I remember last year the Michelin was a consistent tyre and the Bridgestone was the tyre that was a bit more peaky in its performance. This year Bridgestone has addressed that, and we probably now have a more consistent tyre this year. But that's now the objective for Michelin. So knowing what the objective is, Bridgestone and Michelin are competent enough companies to develop the tyre in that direction. It may be true today, but I'm not relying on it for next year.
Hisao Suganuma: To develop such a long distance lasting tyre is a big challenge from a tyre design point of view. So it is not an easy thing, and we need to make a big effort to make sure everything is OK for a tyre to run such a long distance.
Ross Brawn: I think it's important to understand that I don't think we have a circuit where we could do a race on the tyres that we have today. So the tyres that we're going to have next year will be different. Of course the wear rate is very different at different tracks. A track like Barcelona has a very high wear rate. Other tracks like Canada have a very low wear rate. The other issue is the durability of the tyre because you will have to do 350-400kms on these tyres and they are currently not designed to do that. It will be quite a different tyre next year in order to achieve the objective.