With less than six weeks to go before the first round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship in Australia, this week's testing activities at the Catalunya and Valencia circuits provided the four Bridgestone supplied teams with some vital...
With less than six weeks to go before the first round of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship in Australia, this week's testing activities at the Catalunya and Valencia circuits provided the four Bridgestone supplied teams with some vital running time and Bridgestone's engineers with some invaluable data.
The Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda and Jordan Ford teams were all present at the Barcelona circuit whilst the sauber petronas team was in Valencia enabling Bridgestone to test the same type of tyres at two different circuits.
With conditions in Barcelona varying from damp on Tuesday morning to consistently dry but cold for the remainder of the test, Bridgestone's runners had the opportunity to run wet and dry tyres.
Over the three days, it was the Ferrari drivers of Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer (test driver) who not only consistently topped the time sheets with their F2002 cars but who also managed to get the most running. However, it was Schumacher's stunning time of 1m15.016s set on Thursday morning on one of Bridgestone's 2003 test specification tyres, breaking the unofficial winter testing lap record in the process, that will have fired the first warning shot of the season.
The B.A.R runners meanwhile of Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and test driver, Anthony Davidson completed a moderate number of laps on the Bridgestone tyres using the time to evaluate their new challenger for 2003. Villeneuve set the best time of the three on Thursday with a 1m18.195s.
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager for Bridgestone Motorsport was satisfied however with what was effectively stage two of Bridgestone's development programme saying:
"November and December testing was, for us, the first stage of the 2003 tyre programme with the initial testing of our prototype compounds and constructions. From these prototypes we chose the most promising to move forward on to the next stage. It is a gradual process of narrowing down the options.
"Consequently, in Barcelona this week, we had six different constructions and eight different compounds and I am pleased to say that we are quite encouraged with the results for these. Of course we need to conduct further tests to confirm the results before settling on a basic specification for the season. The next two or three tests will be particularly important for Bridgestone."
Regarding the choice of tyre specifications, Suganuma continued: "We had several candidates to try here which were first evaluated for short-run performance. Of these, we then chose the best to go forward for long runs and durability evaluation. The aim is to find a tyre with both top performance and high consistency, which can be put forward as a final candidate for our race specification. I should say however, that Michael's time of 1m15.016 was particularly pleasing, especially as I believe that there was still more performance to be gained from the tyre specification he was running at the time."