Hisao Suganuma - Technical Manager The Season So Far... Five wins out of seven for cars on Bridgestone tyres so far in 2002 - is that where you expected to be at this stage of the season? No, because our aim was to win all the races so far.
Hisao Suganuma - Technical Manager
The Season So Far...
Five wins out of seven for cars on Bridgestone tyres so far in 2002 - is that where you expected to be at this stage of the season?
No, because our aim was to win all the races so far. Five out of seven is actually rather disappointing for us because we have worked hard to improve further last year's tyre performance and naturally we were hoping for a 100 per cent record. Nevertheless, we have learned a lot from Malaysia and Monaco and the experience we took from those races is invaluable for future development, so some good comes out of every race, win or lose.
While Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro is obviously Bridgestone's most competitive team, there seems to be cause for optimism among your other teams...
Yes, we are delighted that all but one of our teams has points, and we are doing everything we can to help Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda get on the score sheet too. It is fantastic to see OrangeArrows with points, and the last two races have also been successful for DHL Jordan Honda. Whilst it is true that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro does the most testing for us and is obviously a long way ahead in the championship, I think the results confirm what I have been saying recently that a good tyre should be a tyre from which everyone can benefit. Our aim now is to keep the momentum going to ensure that all our teams are able to build on their points tally.
In terms of tyre development, after last season you said Bridgestone would be doing more work on traction and heat durability. Has this made a difference to the tyre performance this year?
Yes and no. We have made good progress in terms of traction performance. We took a step forward with heat durability at the French Grand Prix last year but it still requires more work because the cars are getting quicker and quicker and the tyres have to improve constantly to keep up with them in terms of heat build-up. We have made significant progress so far but there is still room for improvement.
And yet one of your cars did not win in Malaysia - what happened there?
We have concluded that our compound in Malaysia was a little too soft for the race and therefore was not good enough in terms of both wear and heat durability. These two points were key to having good tyres in Malaysia. We understand the reason why our performance there was not what it should have been and we have used this experience in development.
Both tyre competitors seemed to claim victory in Monaco - why do you think Bridgestone was better in the race?
It is true that a car on Bridgestone tyres did not win the race, but there are several reasons to make us believe we had the better tyre on Sunday. First, Michael Schumacher clearly had more pace and if not for the lack of overtaking opportunities at Monaco he could have won the race by a strong margin. After his pit-stop he was able to push hard, setting a number of fastest laps but unfortunately he had lost time stuck behind Juan Pablo Montoya and could not build up enough of a gap to get ahead of David Coulthard after his pit-stop. After that Michael had to be content with 2nd place - at Monaco you sometimes have to just save what you have, rather than risk it and come away with nothing. The same could be said of Giancarlo Fisichella, who was lapping faster than Jarno Trulli ahead of him. Nevertheless, it was great to see DHL Jordan Honda get two more points. Heinz-Harald Frentzen's 6th place for OrangeArrows also demonstrated that a number of teams were able to be competitive on our tyres. Finally, it is worth noting that Rubens Barrichello set a new lap record of 1:18.023 and Giancarlo Fisichella drove the third fastest lap overall on Bridgestone tyres. So, in spite of not winning the race, I was pleased with our performance. In addition, we had no failures with our tyres. Where we have lessons to learn is in our qualifying performance - had that been better I think our teams would have dominated. Improving our tyres for Monaco qualifying is something we will work on for next year.
The Canadian Grand Prix was not won by a car on Bridgestone tyres last year - how have you approached tyre choice this time?
Rather like Malaysia this year, we concluded that our compound for Canada was too soft for the race. We have given careful consideration to which compounds would be right for Montreal this year, including close analysis of the track characteristics based on data such as the cars' speed and the load on the tyres. Then we selected appropriate circuits where there is similar input on the tyres for our testing of the specifications for Canada. I am confident about the way we have approached the race this year and therefore the tyres should be more competitive.
How much of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's performance can be attributed to tyres?
Ferrari's new car, the F2002, is clearly a very good car but in particular it is easy on the tyres. This is a big help to a tyre supplier. More importantly, Ferrari is in a position to carry out a lot of tyre testing for us which increases the speed of our development and means we are always moving forward in the right direction. As well as Bridgestone benefiting from this, Ferrari does too but also so do our other teams.
The reduction in lap times has been considerably less this year than that from 2000-2001. Do you think you have reached the peak in terms of tyre performance?
There is no limit on development for tyres, improvements can always be made. However, the rate of improvement this year was less than 2000-2001 because we made a giant step forward to improve our tyre performance once we had competition. Prior to that, when Bridgestone was sole supplier, we had no one to beat so there was no real reason to produce faster tyres. A further big leap in development is much harder to make but I believe we have taken another important step forward this year and there are several ways to make another jump in terms of tyre performance. This remains the technical challenge that drives us forward. Until then, the decrease in lap times will be small but it will continue as long as the regulations remain unchanged.
Where do you think Bridgestone stands now in relation to its tyre competitor?
With five wins out of seven, even though it is not a perfect result, I can say that our development direction is on course as planned. But we also know that our competitor has very good technology so we can never sit back and be satisfied since one never knows what will happen in the next few races. There is little point in thinking about where we stand at this stage, we just concentrate on our job and do everything we can to help the teams using Bridgestone tyres.
What are you targets for the rest of the season?
Of course, the ultimate target is for one of our teams and drivers to win both world championships, but we are also aiming for race wins and as many points as possible for our teams. All our effort is dedicated towards this. I believe the only way to prove tyre performance in competition is to keep on winning and that is our main target.