Japanese GP: Bridgestone press conference

Japanese Grand Prix Bridgestone Motorsport Press Conference October 6th 2004 Jean Todt Managing Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Ross Brawn Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Michael Schumacher & Rubens Barrichello Scuderia Ferrari...

Japanese Grand Prix
Bridgestone Motorsport Press Conference October 6th 2004

Jean Todt Managing Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Ross Brawn Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Michael Schumacher & Rubens Barrichello Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Hiroshi Yasukawa Director Bridgestone Motorsport
Hirohide Hamashima Head of Tyre Development Bridgestone Motorsport

Mr Yasukawa, how do you view the performance of all the Bridgestone equipped teams this season?

HY: I am extremely pleased and happy. Of course Ferrari and our technical team have collaborated together to develop very good tyres which brought very good results. But also Sauber, Jordan and Minardi, these teams did excellently. Sauber has scored many points and they have shown superb performance. And Minardi have come up with a point for the first time in two years. I was very impressed, and I think this was partly due to the performance of our tyres. But of course the Ferrari team has won 14 victories in 16 races. The world record so far is 15 victories in a season, set by Ferrari and McLaren-Honda. If we win the two remaining races, this will be a new record.

Did you expect this excellent performance?

HY: Well, no, because in the off-season testing we saw the times and all of us were concerned. However, the technical team of Bridgestone, together with the Ferrari technical team, collaborated very closely. Of course initially good times can be achieved, but we have to have consistency. Otherwise the good results will not come. Both sides collaborated very closely, and it resulted in good performance. The collaboration between Bridgestone and Ferrari has always been a close one, but this year it really went smoothly.

So the combination was even stronger this year?

HY: Yes. Last year August/September was a very difficult time. But at that time Ferrari and our team identified all of the problems, the negative points. We faced them squarely and we set targets and goals. And that has resulted in this excellent performance this year.

One of the reasons for Bridgestone's participation in F1 is to improve your brand image. As for the brand awareness, how do you perceive that?

HY: In 1997 we first joined F1. The brand awareness in Japan was very good, but not so much in the rest of the world. In Europe the awareness level is higher than 50percent. We have hard data that the awareness is increasing. In every circuit you always see these big Bridgestone signs. We are very happy with that as well.

I'm sure you have aspirations for the Japanese GP at Suzuka. What are they?

HY: Well of course, victory is the only goal I have!

Mr Hamashima, you have had a very good season this year. What was the turning point for you which race turned around the situation for you?

HH: At the Hungarian GP last year we had a terrible defeat, and Michael was lapped. That was when our new challenge began. So that was a turning point for us, and that led to our success this year.

Mr Brawn, what was the turning point for the success of your team this season?

RBr: The first indication was Melbourne. Of course over the winter we'd done a lot of testing. We recognised our objectives after a very hard year in 2003. During the winter you don't know what your opposition are doing, you don't know how they are running their cars. But we kept to our programme. We had a very well structured programme with Bridgestone during the winter, and of course Melbourne was the first time when we had an opportunity to judge our competitiveness. That was very encouraging in Melbourne we were very competitive. During the year there have been several stages. I think Hungary was very significant, because of the defeat we'd had the previous year. And it was also the introduction of a new family of Bridgestone tyres, which were performing very well. There have been many good points during the year, but Melbourne was the start, and I think Hungary was very significant as well.

This year, the races changed dramatically because of the regulation changes. The initial grip for qualifying had to be high, but consistency was also necessary, so that was a technical challenge that you were faced with. What technical improvements have you had to make?

HH: That was a very difficult challenge for us. The initial grip had to be high, but then that normally compromises the consistency. We had to balance the two properties, so since last year we have worked on this. Some of the journalists here were at the winter press meeting, and they asked questions about the bad lap times. So the initial grip had to be good, and we needed good consistency. Both had to be at a high level. We worked on this very thoroughly, and the improvements led to a very good performance this season. But the car's designers also understood our concept, and we the tyre manufacturer also fully understood the concept of the car's designers, and that collaboration was good.

Mr Brawn, when the tyre shape changes then the aerodynamic properties also change on the chassis side. This year what was the emphasis that you placed on the car design?

RBr: I think there's a secret to the success of Ferrari in the past three years, it's been the very close technical partnership with Bridgestone. The tyre and the car are optimised together to find the best solution, for the aerodynamics, the suspension geometry, and the weight distribution. Every aspect of the car is designed in combination with the tyre. So we don't have a situation where Bridgestone turn up with a tyre and say, `Try this,' and we don't turn up with a car and say, `Let's see what your tyres do.' The two are designed together, and that is the key to our performance in the last two years, and that's why our partnership with Bridgestone is absolutely crucial to any success we may have. Often there will be detailed changes to the tyre to try to improve the aerodynamics of the car. While they don't make the tyre itself any quicker, they make the package quicker. And that's the value of the partnership that we have with Bridgestone.

In the French GP you had a four-stop strategy for Michael. We are all interested in the variety of strategies you have used. How and when do you make the decisions?

RBr: There have been occasions when we've enjoyed a considerable performance advantage because of the tyre performance, but because we make the race performance the priority it sometimes meant that our opposition has been in front of us in qualifying. We've had a very fast car, a very consistent car, and very good tyres in the race, and we've had to make different strategies to give the drivers the opportunity to use the performance of the car. These strategies are not always the fastest way to run a race if you are alone, but when you're actually racing against other cars it gives you some track space where the drivers can use the car. At Magny-Cours for instance a four-stop strategy wasn't necessarily the quickest based on calculations, but what it enabled Michael to do was have some space on the track where he wasn't held up by Alonso. He could use the performance of the car and the tyres. Most of those strategies are developed beforehand, because we know our situation. We have Plan A and then we have Plan B and Plan C. We put the changed strategies in place if we see certain circumstances evolve during a race. It's very rare to change a decision on the pit wall which we haven't planned beforehand. We assume that things are going to be different and we plan accordingly. We have very often several plans that we can adopt during a race depending on how circumstances go.

HH: What we can say is that the Ferrari team, led by Mr Brawn, the strategists, the drivers, the pit crew, all of them fully understand the strengths and the negative aspects of our tyres. In Monza we did win, but on a wet surface the performance of our dry tyres was not very good. But even if there was a spin Michael was very calm. Rubens, who was in pole position, was able to very calmly move on to dry tyres. I think the plans that they have determined previously have fully considered the performance of our tyres.

So you may have some weak points, but all of these properties of the tyres have been taken into consideration for the strategies?

HH: Yes, that is exactly true. Of course our tyres are not totally perfect. They have negative points, but we want to minimise these negative points, and I think the Ferrari team is able to minimise the weak points of our tyres. We thank them very much for that!

Mr Brawn, some of the strategies that you decide on have risks associated with them, but you were still bold enough to change them. Aren't there risks?

RBr: Yes, and it depends on the circumstances you have. Obviously if you're fighting for a championship and you need to finish in the points then perhaps you stay with a conservative approach. But we have two fantastic drivers, and often if you give them the slightest opportunity they can use it as you saw with Michael in Imola. Sometimes they are able to flatter us on the pit wall with their driving. Normally we look at the downsides and the upsides. Very often these bold decisions are really not that brave, because the worse thing that can happen is you stay in the position that you were in. The positive side is that you can give the drivers an opportunity to use the car and use the tyres. Very often we had races this year where our opposition was holding us up, and we had to try and find some window for the drivers to use the performance. So it's been a great year in that respect, possibly a year which was easy for us because there were very few negative sides to some of these apparently bold decisions.

Finally I'd like to ask you about next season. What can you share with us?

HH: Next year the regulations regarding the number of tyres that will be allowed will change, so that will slow down the lap times, and I think the FIA is trying to change the regulations to that effect. If this happens, what is important is of course the safety of the tyres. One set of tyres has to be used for about 330kms. Durability comes into question but also in a race you want to be fast so we will fully review the data from this season and develop ideal tyres for the new regulations as soon as possible.

Mr Brawn, how are you going to prepare for next season?

RBr: The regulations for the car have changed as well as the tyres. Each year we make the package faster, and it's necessary periodically to reduce the performance. So for 2005 it's quite a big step. The aerodynamic downforce will be reduced by about 20 percent. We also have to use one engine for two races, which will mean the power of the engine will be reduced. And we have to use the same tyres for qualifying and the whole race. All of those factors will mean that next year the cars are typically going to be 2-3 seconds a lap slower than this year. But it's also a great opportunity for the teams and technical partners, because it's start again, it's almost a white sheet of paper. I'm very optimistic, because I think with the partnership we have with Bridgestone there's a great opportunity for us to be extremely competitive next year and understand the new challenges. It will be quite different, particularly with the tyres to produce a tyre that can last the whole race and not give up too much performance. Along with a car that will have 20 percent less downforce, then we have quite a serious challenge ahead of us with the tyres.

So the test tyres are already in the pipeline?

HH: Well, yes. The new type of tyre that we used in the Hungarian GP is one of the tyres that we expect to use next year. We will check the data so that we will improve on them.

Mr Todt, as Managing Director, how do you view the performance of this season?

JT: This season has been outstanding, because for the sixth time in a row Ferrari is manufacturers' World Champion, for the fifth time in a row Michael is drivers' World Champion and Rubens after he won two fantastic races in Monza and China is now second in the World Championship. So we could not expect more. The main reasons I would say are we have a fantastic team, a fantastic car, and a fantastic partnership with Bridgestone. Over the years we have really built a strong partnership, and thanks to that we have been very competitive these last years. And of course this year particularly, with so far 14 wins out of 16 Grands Prix.

And Michael?

MS: There is not very much to add except that it was very unexpected from us, because if you have seen our success over all the years and then you see the winter testing, how difficult, how tight it was, how many stories we have heard that this was going to be the year when Bridgestone and Ferrari is going to be easily beaten, and so on. Then thanks to the tremendous effort, particularly from Bridgestone, over the winter time, we came up to Australia stronger than ever, and have made a fantastic season. As I said before, a big proportion goes to Bridgestone, because they have worked so hard over the winter time. They never gave up. They came with new constructions, new compounds, and they just put us back on the winning road.

And Rubens, how about you?

RBa: There is not very much left to say, to be honest. We are a very proud company at Ferrari to work with Bridgestone, as Michael and Jean mentioned. It's a hard work, because we do a lot of mileage, but it's a very, very good one. I'm very proud of that because the results are there, and the season has been fantastic since the very beginning. We never, never stopped. We're still doing a lot of work, and basically the tyres we have for this race here are the result of last week's test. It's just a real good combination, not just a partnership, but there's also a friendship that we've developed with Bridgestone that makes us just go forward.

Mr Hamashima and Mr Brawn said that the Hungarian GP last year and this year were very critical. Michael, how did you feel at the Hungarian GP this year?

MS: The Hungarian GP was a sort of a special one for us, because last year, whoever remembers, we didn't look very good. I think it was something we felt we had to change. All year long we have improved the situation compared to the year before. We were still a little bit doubtful how it was going to look in Hungary, because that could have been one of the weak spots still. Thanks to Bridgestone, who came up with a fantastic new tyre specifically for this race, we just dominated this race better and more than any other race. That was very spectacular, in my view. It's just a big compliment you have to make to Bridgestone for this success and the way of competition and fighting back, which is pretty unique. The race itself, the drive, was great fun, after the year before.

Rubens, you're the only driver who has always used Bridgestone tyres since 1997, so you have seen the evolution of Bridgestone's tyres. Do you have a comment about this?

RBa: Again I just feel very proud about that, because it's been a long and a very, very nice relationship. One of the requests that I made when I went to Stewart Grand Prix was that we had to have the Bridgestone tyres. They accepted the idea, the challenge, and we were definitely looking at the times that Jos Verstappen was doing with the tyres a long time ago, back in 1996. Now I can look back and say Rubens and Bridgestone are doing very well, and this is so fantastic. When I joined Ferrari that was definitely the major step, and the way we processed the tyre tests and the choice of the tyres for the race weekends is so professional, and it's done in such a way that we try always to cover everything. It's a very good relationship.

What are your aspirations for the Japanese GP?

JT: Of course, it's the next challenge. You know, in our business we are always looking for what is coming next, and definitely next is this Grand Prix in Suzuka. We know that it is very important for Bridgestone I would say we are playing at home. And we want to keep doing very well. Saying that we have to look a bit farther, because after that we have Brazil, and we want Rubens obviously to do well again. And next year is a new challenge. We are already focussed on 2005, with a new tyre regulation, and we know the challenge will be completely different. In a way we have almost to start from scratch. We want to succeed, because what happened for us has to be of course enjoyed, but it's the past, and we have to look forwards. We know that if we want to be successful for the future, we can only do it if we work as strongly as we have ever done, together with Bridgestone. The Japanese GP is the next step, but I would say we are already very much focussed on the new challenge of 2005, and we need to work hard together.

And Michael, what are your ambitions for the Japanese GP?

MS: Pretty simple, I want to win.

I think this weekend there's going to be rain. What do you think?

MS: We believe that we are going to be strong in any circumstance or condition. Suzuka is for us a home Grand Prix and we certainly would like to continue the success story that we have done this year. Especially here for our partner and friend Bridgestone we would like to win this race, either Rubens or myself. It's not so important for us; we want to win for Ferrari, and Bridgestone.

And Rubens, for you?

RBa: Well obviously these last four races are quite important for us. Monza is the Ferrari Grand Prix, all the Ferrari fans, and just racing at home. China was very important for Ferrari too, so it was a mega event. Then we come to Japan. It's very, very important for our partners, Bridgestone and ourselves, and obviously the last race in Brazil for myself and for the team. We want to do as good as we can this weekend. We have been quite competitive last year in terms of the performance, and the times, and everything. So dry or wet, we can be looking forward and hoping for a good Grand Prix, just keeping the performance that we've been having at least in the last two Grands Prix.

-bridgestone-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Ross Brawn , Jean Todt , Hiroshi Yasukawa
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Minardi , Stewart Grand Prix , Jordan