October/ 25 /1999 1999 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW Ready for the challenge of the last Grand Prix of the millennium There could hardly be a more popular venue to host the final round of the FIA's 1999 world championships than Suzuka, the...
October/ 25 /1999 1999 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - PREVIEW
Ready for the challenge of the last Grand Prix of the millennium
There could hardly be a more popular venue to host the final round of the FIA's 1999 world championships than Suzuka, the circuit which is not only home to Bridgestone but which was an important part of the F3000 careers of the Grand Prix winners of 1999 like Eddie Irvine, Heinz-Herald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert.
Paradoxically, however, almost all of Bridgestone's F1 tyre evaluating and testing in 1999 has been carried out on the more conveniently situated European circuits, leaving Suzuka as a special treat at the end of the season.
"The important characteristics of Suzuka are its interesting and difficult combination of medium- and high- speed corners, together with an abrasive surface," says Yoshihiko Ichikawa, Technical Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport. "These factors led us to offer the F1 teams a choice of our Soft and Medium compounds for Suzuka, which from our point of view most closely resembles Barcelona and Silverstone."
Not only has overtaking at Suzuka never been easy, but the layout includes some challenging ess-bends. "On the Soft compound, although a lap will undoubtedly be quicker, we anticipate that the steering response will not be as good as on the Medium tyre. There is a tendency for the softer rubber in the tread to "move", says Ichikawa.
"Nevertheless, the difficulty in overtaking puts an even great premium than usual on qualifying well," says Ichikawa, "and it is inevitable that many teams will therefore choose the Soft compound. They will have to bear in mind, though, that the Soft can be expected to suffer high degradation which will almost certainly require those who choose it to probably make two pit stops."
Making a first public appearance at Suzuka will be Bridgestone's latest Medium and Heavy Wet tyres, developed for even better performance in rainy conditions. The new tyres, designed to reduce aquaplaning and improve wet-road grip, share the same slightly modified current tread pattern. The tread compound for the Medium Wet tyre is now improved, being similar to that developed for the Heavy Wet introduced in mid-season.