The season so far... Q&A with Hisao Suganuma, technical manager How would you evaluate the season after the first three races? "Overall, it has been a good start, but not perfect because a car on Bridgestone tyres did not win in Malaysia.
The season so far... Q&A with Hisao Suganuma, technical manager
How would you evaluate the season after the first three races?
"Overall, it has been a good start, but not perfect because a car on Bridgestone tyres did not win in Malaysia. Nevertheless, our tyres performed very well in Australia where we had relatively cool weather, and in Brazil where it was extremely hot. Both these wins have given us a lot of encouragement as they show that our tyres can win whatever the weather and localised conditions at different tracks."
"But we are analysing why we could not win at Sepang - we have to learn from the past to make progress in the future. Two wins out of three is not bad, but is not a completely satisfying result because I believed we were capable of winning all of the first three races. To have not achieved that is a little disappointing."
Was there a problem with the Malaysia tyres?
"We are still investigating what happened with our tyres in the race in Malaysia because our performance in Qualifying was promising, with both Ferrari drivers in the top three. Certainly, it seemed that the tyres struggled in the extreme heat we encountered at Sepang, but of course we have experienced those temperatures before. We have to accept that our tyres could have been better. Part of our response to Malaysia was the specifications we took to Brazil, but even there I was not 100 per cent satisified with the result."
After the Brazilian Grand Prix, some people expressed surprise that the Bridgestone tyres performed so well in the race. What is your view of their performance throughout the weekend?
"Some people seemed to write us off in Brazil, but in Qualifying Michael Schumacher went quickest through the middle sector on our tyres. This is the technical part of the track and requires good balance and traction so it was clear our tyres were performing well, particularly through this section of the lap. This also proved to be crucial in the race since it gave Michael the advantage going into the final sector, the only part of the lap where Ralf Schumacher could have overtaken him. Michael was able to pull out enough of a lead so that his brother was unable to catch him at the first corner, the only realistic opportunity he had to get past."
"Michael could also brake late into turn one, confident that his tyres would perform well under braking. We knew the specification Ferrari chose was capable of a race distance as we had done race simulations in Barcelona the week before, albeit in much cooler temperatures, and the data we collected at Interlagos indicated it was possible. Obviously, Ferrari were confident of the tyre's durability otherwise they would not have opted for a one-stop strategy for Michael."
So far 2002 has been a case of three races, two victories and one winning driver - do you envisage the season continuing in the same way?
"Clearly, Michael and Ferrari have the upperhand at the moment but I do not rule out the possibility of other teams, as well as Rubens Barrichello, winning races this year. Rubens, for example, was in a position to win the race in Brazil and I'm sure it won't be long before he is on the podium. Likewise, Sauber have been unlucky and we know that Nick Heidfeld is capable of finishing on the podium. We are fortunate to have some excellent drivers on Bridgestone tyres so it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds. In addition, all our teams work with us testing new tyres for future races so hopefully everyone will benefit from the improvements we make and be able to use them to their advantage."
Overall, are you happy with the development direction you opted to take during the winter, and what kind of developments can we expect to see in up-coming races in Europe?
"Yes, I am reasonably happy but again not 100 per cent as only by winning races do we know whether we have gone the right way or not. We believe there is still room for improvement. Competition between the Formula 1 tyre manufacturers is now so intense that we need to use all available resources in our company to improve our performance."
"There is no doubt this is going to be a very tough season for our engineers. Now we are back in Europe, the variety of tracks and different weather conditions we can expect for each race is immense and this all has to be brought into consideration when we decide the tyre specifications and what is required of them. As last year, it's likely we will see new specs, in terms of compound and construction, for most of the grands prix coming up."