Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development, talks about tyre development in the new era of competition in 2004 "Despite changes to tyre regulations in 2003, nine wins were achieved in sixteen rounds and Michael...
Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development, talks about tyre development in the new era of competition in 2004
"Despite changes to tyre regulations in 2003, nine wins were achieved in sixteen rounds and Michael Schumacher and Ferrari successfully defended their titles. At the beginning of last season, we did not feel we could make wholesale changes to an approach that had produced a triumphant result in 2002, and consequently the development may have been a little bit conservative."
"But, after the middle of the season, by capitalising on certain features of our tyres, I think we were able to develop them to become competitive for both qualifying and over sprint race distances. Of course, it still cannot be said that more is not required, and further development will continue. It should also be remembered that in the 2003 season, we showed great strength in wet conditions in the Brazilian Grand Prix when Giancarlo Fisichella won the race in the Jordan. It had been a long time since we saw a private team without a works engine win in Formula One, and we are proud to have supported such a team so well."
Q: How do you make best use of the results of 2003 for this season?
"The first task is to improve the grip of the tyres. Although it is important to retain Bridgestone's characteristically stable performance in all conditions, that alone will not be enough to be competitive under the current regulations. Whether in qualifying or when the cars are heavier and full of fuel, tyres must perform well and be quickest whenever the need arises, no matter how brief the opportunity might be. For this purpose, even though stability may be slightly compromised, it is important to develop tyres that grip more effectively."
"Therefore this season, providing tyres to suit the characteristics of each circuit and being able to select "high performance tyres that show minimum degradation" or "high grip tyres that achieve the quickest time at any opportunity" becomes the technical objective. One other thing: if we can reduce degradation of grip in a hot summer race, I think our tyres will become even more competitive."
Q: Bridgestone is supplying fewer teams this season compared to last. How do you cope with this in terms of collecting information?
"Although we are supplying one less team, we have never reduced engineering resources and support in the UK. On the contrary, by increasing manpower relative to the number of teams we have, we have developed a structure that satisfies the demands and needs of the teams we support. Also for this year, Bridgestone support staff will get more closely involved with the teams and with the sharing of information, and we shall be working on the principle of always thinking what we can do in conjunction with them. In other words, we shall be aiming to "work with" rather than "for" the teams. This should ensure that we supply tyres and team support that satisfies each one of them."
Q: What are your aims for the 2004 season?
"Of course, it is our aim to defend the championship for the Ferrari team. This will be our priority, although partners like Sauber, Jordan and Minardi are going to want to achieve better results than they did last year. In 2003, in addition to our staff in the field and our engineers in MSUK (Bridgestone Motorsport UK), our colleagues in Japan involved in development and production all did their best, so the title was achieved by the whole company working together. It is important to continue to encourage this kind of cooperation."
"In 2004, it is clear that the season is going to be even more fiercely competitive than ever before. All our people will therefore be determined to do the best they can by working together again in the same way."