San Marino GP: Bridgestone press conference

Present: Ross Brawn, Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Tyre Development Bridgestone Motorsport Q: It's been a fantastic start to the season for Ferrari it couldn't be better. How has the winter testing ...


Ross Brawn, Technical Director Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Tyre Development Bridgestone Motorsport

Q: It's been a fantastic start to the season for Ferrari it couldn't be better. How has the winter testing translated into these results?

HH: We planned the winter testing after the summer time last year. We developed the construction and shape and also compounds from testing. Then, just two weeks before the Australian GP, we put it all together, and we introduced the final one [tyre]. The Australian specification was working well, and also the other two races. So far we are very happy with results.

Q: There have been a few particular developments. First of all new compounds for hot weather can you tell us about those and also about the new shaped front tyre?

HH: Last year we struggled with compounds under very hot conditions, so we developed the heat durability of the compounds. And also our weak point was braking, so we introduced the new shape. However, it came with Ferrari's collaboration, because the current F1 car is very sensitive for the aerodynamics.

Q: Just going back to the hot weather tyres. Do you feel those compounds have been tested in the first three races so far?

HH: At some of the circuits we were lucky, but in the laboratory the data shows us that heat durability is much, much better than last year.

Q: A lot of people say that other teams don't get the same specification tyres as Ferrari. Can you tell us about that?

HH: Of course. As you know an F1 car is built by each team, so the car performance is a little bit different between these teams. So the teams can choose from a variety of specifications.

Q: So you would say that they have all the specs that Ferrari have available to them?

HH: Yes of course.

RB: I think there's a timing issue, quite honestly. Quite often we will choose a tyre at the last minute. The present regulations allow the teams to have different tyres, so often we will choose a tyre at the last minute. So then at the next race that tyre is available to all the teams. I think that's normal.

Q: What part do those other teams- Sauber & Jordan for example play in tyre development?

HH: In the winter they gave us a lot of mileage. Ferrari also did tremendous mileage, but Sauber and Jordan also helped us durability wise.

Q: Ross, tell us about the development programme with Bridgestone during the winter.

RB: I think during last year we identified the areas that we wanted to improve the properties of the tyres and the tyre/car interface. The issue of tyre durability with heat is also an issue of the car, not just the tyres. We could see with the new car that we'd got much lower tyre temperatures. We achieved an improvement in terms of the stress being put into the tyres. "Hammy" and his people have been able to give us a more durable tyre, but we've also been able to make some progress with the car as well. So it's been a partnership in solving our problems.

During the year we identified the key areas we wanted to improve, and over the winter there were three programmes running a construction programme, a shape programme and a compound programme. Those three programmes were often running separately, and occasionally we'd bring them together to see how they were interacting. It probably wasn't until just before the first race that we had a tyre that combined all the different elements. I think that's why sometimes there was a critique of Bridgestone over the winter, because people weren't seeing the proper picture.

Luckily Bridgestone and Ferrari had strength to carry on what they thought was the right approach. You have to be careful, because things are very interrelated, but also it's very difficult with so many permutations to be trying them all the time as combinations. I think that's where our partnership is strong because we share all that information. We have a very open and trusting relationship. We know exactly what Bridgestone are trying to do with the tyres, and they know exactly what we're trying to do with the car.

Q: How has that actually furthered since last year how has that co-operation developed?

RB: I think during the year we saw that we had to make it even stronger. Already it was a strong partnership, but during 2003 with the pressure we were under we were having to try even harder. You think you're doing the best job you can, and you realise that you've got to do even better. I think through the year we saw the areas that we needed to improve. Ferrari made some changes to the way they work, and Bridgestone made some changes to the way they work. Together we are a lot stronger.

Q: When you actually come to choose a tyre, how much guesswork is it? Particularly as the weather we've seen so far has not been as expected...

RB: It is a little bit of guesswork. We normally pick the tyres about 10 days before the race. We'll have done our testing, and we look at the weather forecast just to see what's likely to happen. The weather forecast doesn't make a big change. Say you've got three compounds let's call them hard, medium and soft, although it's not that simple. If very high temperatures are forecast, you may go to hard/medium. If the forecast is for low temperatures, you may go to medium/soft. You just look at all those parameters together.

We have a review together, Bridgestone and Ferrari, and we make the choice on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week prior to the week of the race. It's not an exact science, and you can get it wrong occasionally and that's when the other teams and the other tyre company will have a stronger race weekend, particularly at tracks where you don't get to test. We were here at Imola testing in 3C. You have to make some educated guess, because the conditions are different.

Q: Do you think Bridgestone has a wider temperature operating range than the rival company?

RB: I don't think it's wider. It's very difficult to build a tyre that works over a wide range of conditions. We struggle a little bit when we're on a dry tyre on a damp track. In Malaysia on the first two or three laps we struggled. So we have a window where our tyre is not so effective, and that's an area we want to try and improve. I don't know if you can say we operate over a wider range. I think when the track is properly wet and we're able to get on to wet tyres the indications are that we still have a good advantage. So we're very happy if it's wet, very happy if it's dry, we just don't want it in-between!

Q: Hamashima-san how do you make a tyre for that bit?

HH: Of course we recognise our weak point. We just have to work very hard to improve those points.

Q: Is that something in a compound?

HH: Of course the compound is the most important item. However, sometimes construction helps.

Q: Is the specification of tyres in many ways pretty well fixed at the moment, or are you still coming through with different constructions and different compounds to use?

HH: Yes. We are of course developing another generation of construction from the winter time. But we won't introduce it at the moment.

RB: It's like a car you can't stop! We made some good progress over the winter, but in doing that we also saw some things that we could concentrate on that perhaps were even better. We have a couple of constructions now which are very good, and we're trying to improve those two constructions. They're good in different ways, and we really want a tyre that is a sample of both those constructions. We want a construction which takes both those strong points and puts them together. It's just constant, it never stops. It's a very intense programme.

Q: Do you think you can win all 18 races this season?

RB: That's our ambition, but I think it should be our ambition we should try and win all 18 races! I think it would be brave to say that we will. We don't want to have a weak area anywhere. You saw the races that we were weak at last year, and of course that's the thing that we've tried to strengthen. Whether we've achieved it, we'll have to see. There are tracks where we don't get to test and we don't know whether we've achieved it until we get there and see how the package works.

We weren't particularly strong at Hockenheim last year, we weren't particularly strong in Hungary. Those are tracks where we know we've got to try and improve, but we don't get to test at those tracks, so we won't know until we go back. I think some of the reasons for the weakness we've understood, car and tyres. I think we've addressed those, so we should be in better shape. It's our ambition to win every race if we can, and Bridgestone's ambition to provide a tyre that can work in every circumstance. Of course you reach a level where you think you've achieved that and you opposition goes a bit better, and you realise that the standards have been re-set.

Q: A question for Ross how did you prepare for this race? For the first three races the cars just jumped from Melbourne to Malaysia to Bahrain, so this is the first Grand Prix where you can put a new spec on the cars. Also, what do you think about Max Mosley's proposal for the tyres, the firth groove? And the same question I want to ask Mr Hamashima.

RB: In terms of preparation, we came here in February, and we had an ambient temperature of 3C, so we were able to get a good idea of the chassis set-up, but not a complete picture on the tyres. Since February the car has moved on. We improved the set-up, we improved some technical details of the car, and the tyres have moved on. We've had to look at the data from the test and look at what we've done in between and we've come here this weekend with a combination of the two. We were very happy with the car at the test, but we've done some things since then.

So we'll start off [on Friday] with a combination of things we saw at the test and things we've done in the mean time that we think are better. There's been a three-week gap between the last race and here, and that's enabled us to introduce a new aerodynamic package for here. We have new bodywork which is much more efficient, and is quite a good step in testing. There are one or two other things we're working on which we thought we might have here, but which haven't been finished yet. We haven't got them to where we want to, so they'll come in the next couple of races. But the three week gap enabled us to introduce this new bodywork. It also brings everyone back to base.

It will be a very intense season there are a lot of back to back races this year so it's good to have that little breather. Regarding the proposals from Max, I think there are a number of proposals which are still being debated. "Hammy" can probably give you a more professional opinion on whether a fifth groove is the way. The only thing I hope is that if we have to find changes in the future that they're in balance, that the chassis, the engine and the tyres, which are the three main performance parameter stay in balance with each other.

You have situations where the other tyre company can win a race, or Bridgestone can win a race... Renault can win a race with what is clearly not the best engine in F1. So if we're not careful we'll distort it so that only the strongest engines win, or the strongest tyres, or perhaps only the strongest chassis. I think at the moment there's still the potential for someone with a very good car and maybe not such a good engine to win a race. We need to make sure that we don't distort it so that only one of those performance parameters becomes the most important. I think any changes made in the future should be a change in all three areas, not just one. With regards to whether a fifth groove is a good solution, perhaps "Hammy" can comment...

HH: I think for safety we have to find the best way in many things. Not only the fifth groove, but also many other things we have to discuss more.

Q: On that same subject, it's been suggested that if it's not grooves, to have a harder compound... one way to do that would be to stop tyre changing during the race, therefore automatically tyre compounds will become harder. Is that a viable alternative?

HH: Of course it's one of the ways to reduce speed.

RB: I think there needs to be a study done on that. In at least one race this year, that wouldn't have made any difference. The other two races, it would have made a small difference. If we go to a circuit like Barcelona, it would make quite a big difference. You get a circuit like here, we haven't seen the wear rates yet, but it wouldn't make any difference. You saw last year there were races where the other tyre company didn't change tyres. I don't think it's enough to change cornering speeds that much. We get to the unfortunate situation where cars are running around with no tyres on, which of course you can always say is all part of the responsibility of the car or the tyre, but I don't think it's very nice to have a car running round at the end of the race on its treads because it's run out of rubber. So I'm not sure that's the best solution.

Q: One of the problems is the image being created for the public, and that's probably what the FIA is concerned about, is that the greatest increase in performance so far this season has come from the tyres, which is because of the tyre war. Is there any way round that? Should there be a control tyre perhaps?

RB: I don't know how you can have a control tyre when there are two tyre companies involved. I think like the car, like the engine, we need to look at how we can control the tyre performance in the future. So I don't think actually making it `longlife' is necessarily the way. We've seen this year that we've got one race engines, and we've got more power than we had last year.

Q: Could I ask you how much of a part driver input plays in developing a tyre, or is it all just down the lap times? Is there anything about Michael's style or Rubens' style of their input which has been useful in developing the tyres?

RB: The driver's input is still pretty important. One of the top parameters of the tyre is stability, it's one that we are always discussing the stability of a tyre when we turn into a corner. It's something that you struggle to see on paper, but it's something which is quite an important factor for the driver. There are certain elements of the tyre performance that we can quantify. We have ways of measuring the amount of grip in a corner and we certainly have ways of measuring the traction, the braking, that kind of thing.

An important bit of information on the stability of a tyre is from the feedback we get from the driver. You can have a tyre that has more grip, more traction, more braking, but is not stable going into a corner, then the driver will have difficulty feeling confident in that tyre. So the driver input is actually crucial. There's a lot more data analysis programmes inside the car. A few years ago it was just down to whether the driver liked it, and the stopwatch was further proof.

It's a little bit more sophisticated now because you can see where the tyre is good and where it's bad. The stability of a tyre might affect Michael more than it affects Rubens. Of course we have to find a tyre solution which is compatible with both drivers. When we are looking at the performance characteristics of the tyres we have to work with both drivers to get their opinions. Perhaps if we're just looking at a compound, the benefit of a new compound flows with both drivers, regardless of driving style or driving approach.

Q: You've talked about this tyre that we're going to see in the summer which is a new shape. When are we going to see it, bearing in mind the testing ban?

RB: I don't think it's a specific tyre. We have an ongoing programme all the time. We're working on some programmes for the future, which is what generally happens. We have what we call our long term programme, our conceptual programme, running all the time, and then there's the short and medium term programmes. Maybe something happens in our conceptual programme which we can introduce short term.

There's quite a lot of knowledge which has gone into conceptual work which gives feedback to our engineers and Bridgestone engineers. Often they are not changes that would be useful to us in races, but we want new materials, new techniques and new manufacturing processes. So there's a conceptual programme going on, and then there's a detailed programme, a bit like the car really. There is a new concept of tyre we are working on, whether that will ever prove to be better than the tyres we have now, we don't know.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ross Brawn
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Jordan