Tire management will be key in 2009 This season is significant for the many changes it brings with it, with a notable return of slick racing tires for the first time in twelve years. Grooves were introduced in tires for the 1998 season as a method of slowing cars down on safety grounds, but the return of slicks is accompanied by the many aerodynamic changes in 2009 which will keep safety the priority. The move to slicks is significant, although we have a lot of experience with these tires from many different race series so we are confident that we can produce good racing slicks," explained Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima; the Japanese manufacturer has been the sole tire supplied in Formula 1 since the withdrawal of Michelin at the end of the 2006 season. "We are making these tires to the same sizes as we had with grooved tires, but this means there is a new front/rear grip balance," the company's Director of Motorsport Tire Development continued. "The teams will therefore have to work hard to get a good setup, particularly with the varying surface of Albert Park, and we will be working closely with everyone to achieve this."
Rules remain the same with regards to having to run two compounds during a race, although the difference between to the two will be significantly greater this year as the softer of the two compounds will be two levels down from the harder option, as opposed to using consecutive compounds from the selection in 2008. "I think it has the potential to be a big challenge," Hamashima continued. "We received many requests last season to make the difference between the two compounds greater, so we have attempted to do this by not only having a different compound stiffness, but also varying the temperature working range of the tires. We have sought to allocate one tire which has a lower working range and one which has a higher working range. This means that, even more than before, competitors will have to think long and hard about how they use their tires, and there will be good rewards for those who make the best choices."
This could very likely result in drivers adapting different styles for the duration of a Grand Prix as tires are carefully thought about, and could equally bring the kind of action we saw in 2005 with much overtaking towards the end of a race, especially as the softer of the two compounds passes its prime window of ability.
Identification for which of the two compounds a driver is using has changed this year, as clearly no lines can be pained on the main body of a tire lacking grooves. Instead, Bridgestone will simply paint a line around the sidewall of the softest tire, with their color of choice being green in order to continue support of the FIA's 'Make Cars Greener' campaign.
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