April/ 09/ 1999 1999 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX - FREE PRACTICE Bridgestone's Brazilians ready for GP battle For the three Brazilian drivers taking part in this weekend's second round of the 1999 FIA World Championship in...
April/ 09/ 1999 1999 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX - FREE PRACTICE
Bridgestone's Brazilians ready for GP battle
For the three Brazilian drivers taking part in this weekend's second round of the 1999 FIA World Championship in Sao Paulo, Interlagos will always have more significance than other GP circuits. For the two Paulistas, Rubens Barrichello (Stewart GP) and Pedro Paulo Diniz (Red Bull Sauber), it is the much-loved training ground of their youth. Even for F1 newcomer Ricardo Zonta (BAR), born in the southern city of Curitiba, it carries vivid memories, although the most recent of them now dates back to 1995.
In the days leading up to the Grand Prix, the Brazilian trio appeared on TV and in press conferences throughout Sao Paolo. For Diniz, recovering from a BMX accident last Saturday which required 18 stitches in his right knee, there was some anxiety about fitness, though his doctors have since assured him that his race will not be affected by the injury. Diniz is not concerned, however, about the durability of the latest four-groove Bridgestone tyres. "A lot will depend on the temperature on Sunday," says Diniz, "but it looks as though we will be making two or three stops for tyres and fuel."
More specific questions about the latest generation of F1 tyres were addressed to the members of the Stewart Grand Prix team in a press conference on April 8. With acknowledgement to Stewart Grand Prix, we reproduce the questions and responses here.
Q. It was noticeable in Australia that the Stewart cars were more stable than most of their rivals. Does this mean that your engineers have already resolved the handling problems which have been mentioned by other drivers? Do you think that putting grooves in the tyres is the best method of limiting cornering speeds?
Johnny Herbert: "The fourth groove which was added this year has made the cars especially difficult to drive in slow speed corners. It makes the car feel very twitchy, and this edginess was responsible for the many spins that we saw in Australia. We have to develop the car to handle better on this tyre. I can't say whether this is the way for the future. From the point of view of safety, Formula 1 has been in a difficult situation for almost five years. A lot of the concerns being expressed come from what happened in 1994 and it has been difficult to choose the correct things to be changed to make improvements in safety. We still don't know whether grooved tyres will prove to have been the right or the wrong way, but right now the cars are still a big challenge to drive. And as I said, the most critical sections on the track are those where speeds are lowest. These are the areas where the most time can be gained or lost.
Rubens Barrichello: "Although we only have the experience of one race with the four groove tyres, I have to say that I am worried about the effect they have on the car's behaviour. It is true that cornering speeds have been reduced, especially in slow corners, but there is also a loss of tyre-scrub, which may mean that any crashes will take place at higher speeds and the impact will be harder.
"At present it is very difficult for me to make any comparison between last year's three-groove tyres and this year's four-groove equipment, because this year's car is a big step forward from last year and it is already developing more grip in spite of the change in tyre specification."
Jackie Stewart: "The whole concept of putting an additional groove into the front tyres was to reduce cornering speeds. This was initiated by the governing body of the sport to try to ensure the elimination of as many as possible of the downside risks of our business, by containing accidents within the parameters of the track. From a driver's point of view I can easily understand the criticisms which have been voiced, because the cars must be more difficult to drive on grooved tyres. This is a technical problem, too, because it stretches the ability of the designers to work around the difficulties presented by the regulations.
"More than any other sporting activity in the world, motor racing has demonstrated, historically, its ability to take on a challenge of change, and to find ways of providing an answer that allows different cars and drivers to return very similar lap times to those achieved under previous, less restrictive rules, and sometimes even to be quicker than before.
"Despite the additional groove in the front tyre, this year we have discovered that our braking is superior to last year's. Most of a racing car's braking effort -- at least 68 per cent -- is generated through the front tyres.
"I believe that Bridgestone has done a fine job of creating an excellent balance of technology, and in doing it within a very short space of time. In the change from three grooves to four, nobody -- neither the tyre company nor the teams -- was given enough time to adjust. As a result, more cars ran off the track in Australia than I can ever remember seeing. But as Rubens has pointed out, most of these incidents occurred in slow corners where there was sufficient space to accommodate them without too much harm.
"Getting the cars adjusted to the latest tyres has been very challenging in this initial period of development, because of the inadequacy of frontal grip. Technically, however, I believe this will prove to have been an evolving experience.
On a damp note ...
Today's rainy weather has called for the use of Bridgestone rain tyres in practice, the first time the latest wet-weather Bridgestones have been used in an officially timed session. The 1999 Bridgestone 'wets' are made in two different compounds, using the same tread pattern. Most of the teams have already had an opportunity to evaluate these tyres in testing.
TEMPERATURES AIR TRACK WEATHER Morning 21:-21: 23:-23: Overcast - wet Afternoon 21:-21: 23:-25: Cloudy - dry to wet