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Bridgestone makes sure its tires look good
Formula One heads to the Mecca of the rich and famous, Monte Carlo, for the Monaco Grand Prix, where a lot of money is spent by people on their appearance.  Looking good is also something that Bridgestone plays particular attention to, especially in the case of its Formula One tires. Tire appearance is a valuable resource in Bridgestone’s toolbox of analytical devices which are used for Bridgestone’s engineers to impart their advice and wisdom to the teams and drivers.

You may think that all tires look alike, and whilst this can be said to be the case for tires of the same type in their unused state, once tires have been used on track they can look very different indeed.

In fact, tire appearance is a very important tool for Bridgestone’s tire engineers when they analyze how a tire has been working with the car.

“A tire which has been put through its paces by a Formula One car is subject to a lot of different forces and how the tire, and in particular the rubber of the tread, looks plays a very important part in our tire analysis,” explains Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tire Development.  So what do engineers look for in a tire?

“At a basic level something like pickup of rubber from the track can indicate if a car is understeering or if it is oversteering,” explains Hamashima. “A car with a lot of pickup on the rear tires but little on the fronts could indicate that understeering is occurring, whereas a car that has a lot of pickup on the front tires, but little on the rear, would seem to be oversteering.

“Then there is graining, and this is very easily seen on the tread of a tire. When our engineers see graining, they then measure and check the graining distance from the edge of the groove and this figure is added to our data.

“Also, if we see graining on just the front tires it means the car has been understeering and the driver has been using high slip angles. If the graining is just on the rear tires then the setup is for a pointy car.

“The color and the overall appearance of the rubber on the tread is also important. It is difficult to describe how a tire should look when the compound is working well, and this is something that comes from experience.

“When the tread looks greasy and is almost oil like, with a beautiful sheen, it shows that the tire is working well. There is no graining as there is a smooth finish, and it is as if the tire is melting. It looks like a lake on a calm day, shimmering like a mirror, and it also looks ‘tacky’ – as it is giving good grip.”

In this respect the appearance of the tires becomes a valuable tool to add to the telemetry and driver feedback as competitors strive for the goal of a perfect car setup.

“It is very difficult to make a correlation between the appearance of the tire, the lap times it enables and be able to quantify it,” explains Hamashima. “However, if the tire appearance is good in that case, usually, tire grip is good.”

Whilst evaluating the tire, appearance can show when the tire is working well. It can also highlight when the tire is not working at its best, or when there are a number of phenomenon at play.

“If the tread rubber is grey and dusty the tire is not operating in the correct temperature range,” explains Hamashima. “Equally, we check for external blistering and chunking by looking at the tires, and when we find these we photograph them and also take samples for analysis.”

Bridgestone’s engineers take numerous photographs of the tires after they have been used during the course of a race weekend, and these are used in the reports which are compiled. The information in these reports is shared between the engineers and is also sent to Bridgestone’s technical centre in Japan.

For many people in Monaco, looking good and being seen is highly important. But for a tire, whilst having a perfect appearance is often desirable, it’s not necessarily the be all or end all.

“Aspects like blistering and chunking may look bad on a tire but as long as they are not affecting the tire performance or compromising safety, this is not so much of a problem,” explains Hamashima. “The tire does not need to look beautiful, it just needs to be quick and safe.”  Bridgestone PR

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