Belgium GP: Bridgestone preview

Looking forward to the challenge of Spa. With both the 2002 Constructors' and Drivers' World Championships won on Bridgestone tyres, the company's primary targets for this season have been achieved. However, the next race at Spa-Francorchamps in...

Looking forward to the challenge of Spa.

With both the 2002 Constructors' and Drivers' World Championships won on Bridgestone tyres, the company's primary targets for this season have been achieved. However, the next race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is one of the most popular with the drivers and one that has specific performance demands on tyres, so Bridgestone's engineers are relishing the challenge of the weekend ahead.

The emphatic one-two finish in Hungary by Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's drivers, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, confirmed the tenth world championship to be won on Bridgestone tyres in the last five years. It also took the number of race wins on Bridgestone to 66, moving the tyre maker into 3rd place in the Formula 1 tyre manufacturers' table, one victory ahead of our current rival. In addition, Michael Schumacher's latest drivers' crown moves Bridgestone into equal third place with Pirelli, with five titles each in the drivers' championship table.

Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport, said: "Ensuring the constructors' and drivers' titles were won by a team and driver on Bridgestone tyres was of course our main aim for 2002 and we are delighted to have played a part in Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and Michael's success. However, the season is not over yet and there is still plenty of work to do. We have four other teams who want results and assisting them in their battle for points remains a target. Jordan in particular often runs well Spa, and we hope to welcome back another of our teams, OrangeArrows, this weekend. Back in Japan, our engineers are looking towards winter testing. As the championships have been tied up so quickly, they are already beginning to develop our first 2003 prototype tyres which we will start testing in November."

The Track

The contrast between the Hungaroring with its slow, twisty layout and the 6.9km Spa-Francorchamps track which is fast, long and hilly could not be greater. Located in the forested Ardennes area of Belgium, it is the longest track on the calendar, boasts a top speed of 330km/h and is renowned for its changeable weather. Track changes for this year include revisions to the Bus Stop chicane and a new pit-lane entry.

Hisao Suganuma said: "Spa is cited by many drivers as their favourite track because its corners and topography make driving the perfect lap a real challenge. From the tyre point of view, however, it is not particularly demanding and does not place any unique stresses on the tyres. That said, the relatively smooth surface requires high levels of grip and infamously fast corners like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont demand good balance and stability to give the driver confidence. The circuit's location means that rain is common at least for some of the weekend and the ambient temperature can fall rapidly. Under normal weather conditions, strategy-wise it is likely to be a two-stop race."

The Tyres

Both specifications of dry weather tyre for Spa have won races this season; tyre choice for this weekend was based both on experience of the track and experience of the tyres' performance. The rain tyre range consists of one normal wet tyre and two intermediate specifications.

Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport, added: "Although the track is not tough on tyres, its nature does mean you have to find the right combination of compound and construction. From our knowledge gained over the years, we knew which range of compound would be suitable for Spa. We can look towards the harder end of the range for the extra stability required through the fast corners but we cannot go too hard because of the need for grip on the smooth surface. A slightly stiffer construction can reduce the amount of movement that the driver feels through the tyres, but the disadvantage can be reduced grip and an increased lap time. We have to find compounds and constructions that compliment each other to provide the best overall solution."

Race 2001

Last year's race was a record-breaker, with Michael Schumacher taking his 52nd grand prix win to become the most successful driver in terms of race victories. The race was restarted when a Prost failed to move off the grid then was stopped again four laps later following a massive accident involving Luciano Burti. Giancarlo Fisichella drove to a thrilling third place behind David Coulthard.

Result 2001: Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Giancarlo Fisichella, Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello, Jean Alesi.

-bridgestone-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Luciano Burti , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Jordan