Bridgestone kicks off its 2004 Formula One campaign at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain next week (25-27 November). After the satisfaction of seeing the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championship titles secured by a Bridgestone equipped team...
Bridgestone kicks off its 2004 Formula One campaign at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain next week (25-27 November).
After the satisfaction of seeing the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championship titles secured by a Bridgestone equipped team and driver for a sixth consecutive year, Bridgestone has a formidable testing and development programme ahead in a bid to stamp its supremacy on cutting edge tyre technology for a seventh year.
Q: Are you looking forward to testing again next week?
Hisao Suganuma: Oh yes, very much! After the end of the season, we all took some time to refresh and recharge our batteries so now we are all very eager to get going again. We shall be working closely with the Bridgestone teams again and really building on those working relationships to ensure we have smooth lines of communication and plenty of information coming in. We intend to push hard next year.
Q: What has Bridgestone being doing since the final round of 2003 in Japan?
HS: Well, we spent some time looking back over the season, summarising what happened and pinpointing where our strengths and weaknesses lie. We've identified the areas where we intend to keep our advantage as well as those areas where we intend to snatch back the advantage. We have a very clear plan of what work must be done both by the UK based staff and by those in the Technical Centre in Japan in order to make sure our tyres are the best next year.
Once we'd done that, we made an action plan for our development direction, which has already started. We have been busy testing prototypes at our Technical Centre in Japan.
Q: What does this testing involve?
HS: These are tests done in the factory which are the preliminary stages of the testing process. We evaluate the spring rates, for example, in order to determine the vertical and lateral stiffness of the tyres. We would also check the dimensions of the tyres, the size and shape of the contact patch and so forth. The dynamic characteristics (i.e. cornering forces) of the prototypes are also evaluated. There is a great deal of work involved behind the scenes before we even get to a test track.
Q: Will you have any exciting new developments at Barcelona next week therefore?
HS: That remains to be seen as they have yet to be tested but we will have a number of new specifications at Barcelona next week incorporating new compounds, constructions and shapes.
Q: How many specifications will Bridgestone take to the Barcelona test?
HS: Approximately 20 specifications, the majority of which are new.
Q: Just how important is winter testing given that more and more races seem to take place in hot/warm conditions?
HS: Winter testing is essential as this is when we can really concentrate on future development work. It is during the winter that we make a concerted effort to take steps forward with our basic tyre specification for the coming season. Once the season starts you are concentrating mainly of refining the specifications for the teams according to which races are coming up next. There is not a great deal of time to make fundamental changes during the season so winter testing is essential.
Q: Bridgestone has had the upper hand in the wet for some years now. Will you still be developing this area?
HS: Very much so. We won't be sitting back when it comes to our dominant wet tyre technology. We shall keep up our relentless development of wet tyre compounds and tread designs. We are driven to producing better and better tyres -- especially as this will be of direct benefit to the general public due to the transfer of technology from F1 to road tyre production.