Monza, September 11, 1998 1998 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX -Bridgestone Press Conference Excerpts from the press conference given at Monza by Bridgestone on Thursday, September 10, 1998 with Mr. Hirohide Hamashima, Technical Director of Bridgestone ...
Monza, September 11, 1998
1998 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX -Bridgestone Press Conference
Excerpts from the press conference given at Monza by Bridgestone on Thursday, September 10, 1998 with Mr. Hirohide Hamashima, Technical Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli.
Press conference at Monza with Mr Hirohide Hamashima (Technical Director of Bridgestone Motorsport) and racing drivers Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton Mildseven Playlife) and Jarno Trulli (Prost Grand Prix).
Q. Mr Hamashima, what qualities of a racing car are the most important on this Monza circuit?
HH: While traction is as important here as anywhere, maintaining a high median speed through the corners is even more important. Good car balance and efficient braking are two other essential qualities here.
Q. This is a circuit where there is a predominance of right-handed corners. What does this mean as far as tyres are concerned?
HH: The strain on the left rear tyre is severe. But this doesn't mean we can forget about the right-side tyres, which are submitted to a lot of sliding through some of the chicanes.
Q. Does Monza require a harder compound than, say, Spa?
HH: Relatively speaking, the compounds here are a little harder than we used at Spa. Of course, we have tested here extensively in recent weeks, and we know what characteristics are required in the tyres. The final choice of the two available tyres here will depend on temperature and brake performance tomorrow and on Saturday. We only brought in the last of the tyres at lunchtime today.
Q. Giancarlo, what are you looking for in your tyres here?
Giancarlo Fisichella: More grip, of course, good traction. We need everything.
Q. But you also want them to take a lot of punishment over the kerbs, don't you?
GF: Yes, here it is important to have good performance over the kerbs in the many chicanes here. Some of them are very high, which means we rely a lot on the strength of the tyres themselves. After so much testing here, we already know we have good, reliable tyres for Sunday's race.
Q. Benetton has brought a revised car here with different bodywork. How will that affect the performance of the car?
GF: We expect to have a bit more speed at the end of the straights, combined -- we hope -- with a little more downforce. The top speeds we recorded here in testing were between 340 and 350 km/h. I would mention, though, that some other drivers are going even faster!
Q. From your point of view, what has been the effect of this year's grooved tyres on the way the car feels and behaves?
GF: At Monza the difference between slicks and grooved tyres has not been great. It is only in the high speed corners that we notice the loss of grip this year.. But I am expecting very little change in lap times since last year. We may even be quicker than we were last year.
Q. What are your expectations for your home race?
GF: We are reasonably confident and I am hoping for another good result. But I have to admit that the favourites for the race are still the McLaren drivers.
Q. After the frightening experiences which everyone had in the rain at Spa, what is your evaluation of the latest Bridgestone wet weather tyres?
GF: Under wet conditions I am normally quick and confident about my tyres. But although I had a good balance on wet tyres in the morning warm-up at Spa, after five laps of the race I started to have difficulties under braking. The problem was in a rear brake caliper, which meant that in effect I was only getting any braking effect on the front wheels. That made the race very difficult, especially when the circuit was at its wettest. Our experience at Spa showed that the tyres were at their best when the rain was falling lightly.
Q. Welcome now, Jarno Trulli, and congratulations on taking the first world championship point of the season for Prost Grand Prix at Spa. That must have been an unexpected high point of the season for you ...
JT: Thank you. In a way it was almost like winning the world championship! After a very tough race in such difficult conditions we had the satisfaction of getting a good result which we really needed as a team. It was good for my own satisfaction and even more important for the morale of the Prost team. Everybody on the team knows he can work better and look to the future with much greater confidence.
Q. How will you be approaching this home GP?
JT: With the fans and the emotionally heated atmosphere that Monza always produces, this race is something special for an Italian like me. After the test last week we are feeling more confident. We hope to repeat our test performances when qualifying starts on Saturday. We know that the car doesn't have all the elements necessary to be competitive with the top competitors, so we have already started developing things for next year by checking their performance in testing on this year's chassis. In the next few weeks we will be concentrating even more on the 1999 chassis.
Q. Mr Hamashima, now that Akron has made it clear that there will be no Goodyear tyres in F1 next year, what are the difficulties facing Bridgestone as it prepares to become the supplier to all 11 of the teams in F1 racing?
HH: We face a lot of difficulties because we are still having to compete with Goodyear while at the same time doing everything we can to prepare for whatever will be required from us in 1999. We don't yet have the tyre making capacity to be able to supply 11 teams next year. It is something which will require our attention after the European season is completed.
Q. Will the pace of development be slowed down once you become the sole tyre supplier in F1?
HH: This depends entirely on the policy that is yet to be decided by our senior managers. If the management wants to continue with a vigorous development programme, then we will be ready. But if they want to reduce costs, that could mean slowing down the development programme.
Q. What do you know about any possible changes in the tyre regulations for 1999?
HH: Nothing is clear at the moment. Depending on whether the FIA requires changes, there may be certain difficulties in developing tyres for next year.
Q. When do you expect to be ready to supply data on your tyres to teams which have been using the rival product this year?
HH: Good question! Even if we are informed right now about a change in the regulations, it will be difficult to supply tyres before the end of December. We may even have to tell the teams that there will be no tyres available until next year. For this reason I am hoping for a decision as soon as possible from the FIA.
Q. Jarno, you raced on slick tyres last year, grooved tyres this year and in 1999 -- depending on the FIA -- you may even be asked to use tyres with additional lateral grooves. How much different will the handling of the cars be on tyres with transverse grooves?
JT: Both tyre suppliers have done a very good job this year, so good in fact there isn't a lot of difference between grooved tyres and slicks in terms of 'feel.' As we have already seen, on certain tracks the narrower cars have been quicker through certain corners and lap times this year have actually been lower at several tracks than they were in 1998. I can't say anything about the effect of the transverse grooves, though. As Mr Hamashima has pointed out, it is going to depend on many factors. But I am sure that Bridgestone will work hard to maintain performance.
Q. Mr Hamashima, in the brief tests that you did earlier this year using tyres with transverse grooves, what effect did you find on the performance of the cars?
HH: From last year to this year we found a reduction in grip of about 20 per cent. The transverse grooves are likely to add only a few percent to that. My personal opinion is that the development of the cars will compensate for any loss of grip that would come from introducing transverse grooves in the tyres.
Q. Does Bridgestone prefer to be competing in F1 against another tyre manufacturer? Or will you be happier to have a monopoly?
HH: At the moment I still don't know what the policy of our rival is to be in 1999. But speaking on behalf of the engineers at Bridgestone I can say that we much prefer to be competing against another company. One of Bridgestone's objectives in entering F1 was to be in a competitive situation. It adds to our technical knowledge, improves the process of development and helps with the education of our younger engineers.
Q. What decided the specification of the tyres which you brought here?
HH:Due to there being so many chicanes at Monza, oversteering can be a problem here as the drivers accelerate away from these slower corners. This is why we have decided to bring narrower front tyres here. Wider front tyres would allow more efficient braking when new, but the objective with the narrower fronts is to promote the slight understeer that the drivers will need as the most consistent handling characteristic over a full race distance.