Q and A with Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Hirohide Hamashima, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development, has looked back over the 2007 Formula One championship season, the first year that they have singlehandedly supplied the eleven teams on the grid after Michelin opted to leave the pinnacle of Motorsports in 06.
What was the biggest change for Bridgestone in 2007 compared to last year’s season?
The biggest change for Bridgestone has been adapting to supplying all eleven of the teams in the pit lane, compared to the five we supplied the year before, and ensuring that we are fair in our supply to all of these teams. This fairness needs to be more than just in our supply of our tires, but also in our supply of information and technical service. As we saw in the pre-season testing it was not only the teams we supplied previously who were quick on our tires, but also teams who previously used our competitor’s tires as well. This continued during the season and we have seen three teams who have been very competitive, two of which used our rival’s tires last year. We are very satisfied with this aspect of the 2007 season.
Will there be any changes for next year?
We are still expecting to provide four dry tires with varying compound levels from hard to super soft and one wet weather tire and one extreme weather tire. These tires will generally be the same as this year. We are of course reviewing all the data from the year to see if any minor adjustments need to be made but at this stage, we are not expecting to make any big changes to the specifications. There is a small possibility that we may change the allocation of some of the tire compounds for certain grands prix but we will review the season’s data first before making any decisions.
Does that mean Bridgestone could bring different tires from within their range to certain grands prix?
We are reasonably happy with our allocation for 2007 and the results we saw with them, but there are always areas where we can improve. For example, the super soft compound did not perform as expected in Canada, and we are considering the possibility of modifying this compound for next season. Equally, there is the alternative that we could bring the soft and medium compounds to these circuits instead. Also, in Turkey we noted the stress level on the front right tire was higher than we expected. To prevent any problems there in 2008 we are looking at modifying the construction of the dry tire for next year in the interests of safety.
One of the innovations of 2007 was the compulsory use of two compounds of dry tire at each race. How well did this work?
I think this has made for some exciting racing and has meant that teams had to use different strategies. This regulation also provided us with quite a challenge though as we had to mark the tires after we had already made and shipped them. The need for this came about as a result of a late regulation change to make each compound distinguishable and we followed the FIA’s recommendation for a white spot at the first race of the season in Melbourne. However, it was soon apparent that this was not visible enough and we ran with a white band on the tires from the Malaysian Grand Prix. We were helped by the pen manufacturer, who created a new pen for us which was exactly the width of the tire grooves. Consequently, we were able to mark the tires much more quickly than we could initially and we thank Teranishi Chemical Industry for their help with that.
Will the change in regulations to eliminate traction control in 2008 make a difference?
Changing the regulations to have no traction control could make the difference between cars and drivers greater than we’ve seen this season, but we will have to see how teams and drivers adapt to this new situation. In terms of the differences this will make to the tires, the difference will not be that great.
How closely have Bridgestone worked with all of the teams in 2007?
As we have not been developing new tires through the season our engineers have actually spent more time talking with the teams, and talking more frequently than before. This is because the teams have to get the maximum out of the tires and understand how they are working, to get the maximum from their cars. This is different from previous seasons when we would change and develop the tire to suit the cars and it has meant that our engineers have been busier than last year.
Are you happy with the interaction between the teams and Bridgestone?
In terms of our technical communications, I am happy with the relationships we have made with all of the teams. Our engineers are learning a great deal from their work and I am confident that they are giving the teams good service. Working so closely with all of the teams means we learn a lot more about vehicle dynamics and other aspects of tire analysis and this helps us to fundamentally increase our development potential for the future.
Now there is no tire competition in Formula One, how do Bridgestone ensure they stay at the forefront of tire technology and development?
Although we have not faced competition this year we still keep busy in terms of competition tire research and development. Bridgestone has two groups in the Bridgestone Japan Technical Centre, one of which looks after all aspects of being sole supplier and a second which concentrates on looking at future developments and the evolution of our racing tires. We have confidence in this approach and should we face competition in the future we should see good results.
Are there benefits from being the sole tire supplier?
There are many benefits from being the sole supplier to Formula One. As we have used the same compounds and constructions through this season, we have been better placed to evaluate the characteristics of the circuits we visit. This is particularly true in terms of evaluating tire wear and tire temperature as we have a constant with the tires. The data we have gained this year is very valuable for future development and competition.
How have you enjoyed the 2007 season?
The 2007 Formula One season has been extremely exciting and for so many reasons. I would like to thank all of the teams this year and say that we want to give them an even better service in 2008. Bridgestone is looking forward to working with everyone again next year.