Bridgestone motorsport's technical manager Hisao Suganuma answers questions on the season so far Q: Five wins from eight races -- are you happy with the progress made so far this season? To be honest, I'm not happy to have only won five races....
Bridgestone motorsport's technical manager Hisao Suganuma answers questions on the season so far
Q: Five wins from eight races -- are you happy with the progress made so far this season?
To be honest, I'm not happy to have only won five races. I don't think this is a true reflection of the actual quality and performance of our tyres this year. I think we could have won one or two more. It just means that the competition is tougher this year. I was delighted of course for Jordan Ford's Giancarlo Fisichella, who took his first Grand Prix win in Brazil on our wet weather tyres, but the fact remains that Ferrari is still our most competitive team. I don't think our other four teams have had much luck. They have shown a great deal of potential between them but have suffered with bad luck at times.
Q: Has Bridgestone worked to improve any particular areas of its 2003 tyres?
I wouldn't say we have specifically looked at one area only. Tyre performance comes from several areas -- the tyre compound, construction and shape. We are working on all those aspects to improve our tyre performance. It's true we have tried a large number of compounds for each race venue and I would say that we've made good steps forward in compound development -- especially for grip and heat durability. However, we have also obtained some good indications for further developments regarding shape and construction design. I expect, later this season, to be able to combine all those areas of improvement, which should be reflected by a large step forward in our tyre performance.
Q: We have new tyre regulations this year. After eight races, what do you think about these changes and do you think they have made for closer racing?
Well, if you look at the race results and the number of winners you could certainly say that the regulations have made for closer and more competitive racing compared to last year. We are now in a tough and competitive situation which is a great challenge for us. But this is a good thing as it inspires us all - the engineers, the design staff in Japan, all of us.
Being allowed to make two specifications for each team has admittedly significantly increased our workload this year. But again, this is a challenge in itself and is an enjoyable situation to be in. In order for us to provide two specifications for each team we have needed to improve the communication between ourselves and our teams.
We have worked hard this year to improve in that area and I believe weRve made good progress. We need to understand each other better. After every race and test we make a summary report which is presented to the teams for later discussion. We then decide in which direction to progress so we can improve our tyre performance.
However, we can only provide one specification of wet tyre for all our teams and as we have said all along, this is not enough to cover all the possible wet weather conditions that we may encounter. From a safety point of view we still believe that there should be a minimum of two wet tyre specifications. The FIA has now introduced extreme weather tyres, which we are pleased about, despite needing the FIA Race DirectorRs permission to use them. The use of extreme weather tyres does allow us to cover most wet weather conditions we may encounter and we hope we will continue to see at least two wet weather specifications next year.
The F2003-GA itself is not so very different from the F2002 from the tyre point of view-- it is an evolution of last year's car and therefore, in terms of the tyre requirements, there are no major changes. The details may change but not by huge amounts. In order for us to maximise the performance of the tyres, the most important thing is communication between ourselves and Ferrari. We have to work very closely to find any room for improvement. However, the work we do with Ferrari can be and is beneficial for our other teams. They often benefit from any developments we have found.
Q: There has not been a Bridgestone equipped winner of the Malaysian GP since 2001. Why is this do you think and what are you doing to change that for 2004?
We are very keen to improve our tyre performance when running in the higher end of the temperature scale with softer compounds. I feel we need more consistency in our tyre performance in that area and we will be doing some development work on that type of compound. Hungary and Magny-Cours can also both be high temperature circuits, so we can use the information from running there as well. But we are also working on tyre construction as well as tyre compounds and I believe our hard work will pay off at next year's Malaysian GP.
Q: Extreme weather tyres were introduced prior to the Austrian GP but used only for the first time at the Canadian GP. Were you pleased with the tyre performance and were you surprised that Bridgestone still seems to have such a wet weather tyre performance advantage?
I was delighted with the performance of our extreme weather tyre and not just with the extreme tyre but also the normal wet tyre. Since the start of this competitive period in F1, we do seem to have kept the advantage over our rivals. I think this is because we haven't sat back but have been continually pushing forward to keep improving our wet tyres. The performance of a wet weather tyre comes from firstly, the compound and secondly, the tread pattern design.
The compound formulation is especially important for grip in the wet. We have been able to use Formula 1 as a proving ground for our wet tyres and our wet tyre technology, and have achieved great success. More importantly, the concepts of how to improve grip in the wet have already been transferred to our road car tyres.
Furthermore, in addition to the compound, we also have a pattern design tool -- hydro-simulation technology, which can be used for designing tyre patterns. We can then select the best patterns to put forward for on-track testing. This is quite an important aspect of how what we do in Formula One assists the general public with the tyres they use.
Q: Unlike 2002, we did not win in Monaco. There also seemed to be a performance difference between the tyres when running on Thursday and then later on in the week on Saturday and Sunday. What happened do you think?
We're not too sure actually! Did we lose performance on Saturday and Sunday or did our rivals lose performance on Thursday? I really don't think our tyres were lacking too much in performance, particularly when we take into account the teams' strategies. However, and this is only an example and not necessarily what happened, if our rival was running a softer compound than us on Thursday, that tyre may have suffered with graining on the track, which was still very green. Graining gives the cars understeer and drivers may not set a particularly good lap time.
However, if our tyres suffered less with graining, they would perform better on a green track. Once the rubber was laid down on the green track, the tendency to grain would have reduced and the performance of our rival's tyres would have improved. We are now analysing the results from Monaco so we can think about next year's compound. Next year will be ours I hope!
Q: Why do some teams scrub their tyres or not change them at pitstops?
Teams might use scrubbed tyres to solve understeer problems, which can be caused by graining on the front tyres. In my opinion, Bridgestone's tyres don't suffer too much from this problem which is why it is rare to see a Bridgestone team using scrubbed tyres. Personally, I think that if the front tyres are worn so much that you can't see the grooves, then that would be against the spirit of the FIA's regulations on grooved tyres. If after running, however, you can see reasonable evidence of the grooves, you should be okay.
Q: What is your target for the remainder of the year?
Of course my target is to win the remainder of this year's races and to supply the best and most competitive tyres possible to our teams. We want them to achieve good results and to be able to fight for more wins and more championship points.