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Bridgestone press conference

April 23, 2005


Ferrari technical director, Ross Brawn joined Hisao Suganuma Ė Technical Manager Ė Bridgestone Motorsport in a press conference at the Imola circuit on Friday where they discussed the Imola weekend, the improvement in the Bridgestone compound and the controversial testing situation that sees the Scuderia test whenever they feel the need.

The following is a transcript from the sessionÖÖ

Ross and Hisao, what have you learned about one anotherís products, or your own products, in the first three races of the year?
HS: We did a lot of testing in the winter time. Then in the first round the tire performance wasnít too bad, because Rubens started in 11th place, and finished second. So it was not too bad. Suddenly in Malaysia and Bahrain, the tire didnít perform well. We understand that we have room to improve, so we are doing our best efforts to cover that area.
RB: I think the rule change has not been in our favor. I donít think they ever are in our favor, despite what people think. But anyway in this particular case weíve had some difficulty with the one- race tire. Letís say our concept of car and concept of tire had not been correct for the one-race tire, and weíve been caught out, and in Malaysia and Bahrain we suffered. Weíre beginning to change the concept of the car, the concept of the tire, to move much more to what we now understand we need as a one-race tire. And that will take a little time. I think you have to have the stomach for a tire war. Itís a tough battle. Sometimes you look like heroes, and sometimes you donít. And thatís the way it is, you have to live with that. Weíre not looking like heroes at the moment, but weíll come out of it. Iíve got every faith in our partners at Bridgestone and theyíve got faith in us. Itís just a tough time at the moment. Itís very interesting for Formula 1.

What can you do to help the one-race tire? Obviously Ferrari can do a certain amount and Bridgestone can change certain things. Give us an idea of what you can change.
RB: The way you use the tire, itís unrealistic to expect Bridgestone to turn a magic switch and solve the problem. Weíve got to find solutions for the car as well. For sure if we have more power and more downforce the car handles better and it uses the tires better. As I say itís unrealistic to expect these guys [Bridgestone] to turn the switch, and the problemís solved. Weíve got to have a better car. Weíve got to improve the handling, weíve got to have more power, weíve got to have more downforce. All the things that make a good racing car, the more we can go in that direction, the less weíll test the tire. And also the drivers can then manage the situation, because they have some, letís say, spare capacity to handle the situation. Thatís what we need to create. At the same time Hisao and his colleagues need to make the same progress with the tires. But it wonít be an overnight change, itíll be step-by-step, and itíll be a hard slog.

Hisao, what can Bridgestone do?
HS: Of course the first thing we have to learn from the previous two races is what was wrong with the tires. And from this make some points to improve, and then try to concentrate to improve that area. Actually the thing is there are two aspects to improve those points, letís say less tire wear and keep the performance, or even wear and keep the performance. Those are the two approaches. Then we think about which is best. I canít tell really, weíll adapt to each way and do our best. I think this weekend youíll see some answers.

This weekend youíve got a new rear construction, havenít you?
HS: Yes, I hope that works well.

Is that part of the plan?
HS: Yes, we learned from the previous races, and this weekís tire is one of the answers from us.

How has it gone so far?
HS: If I look at the lap time that Michael did at the end of the second session, it was quite encouraging, he could make a good pace and a quite competitive lap time. And he could continue with the same level of lap time. So I feel quite good.

Do you feel the same way, Ross?
RB: I think the consistency was very good. As weíve seen in the past the track can change over the days, and how you look on Friday does not always translate to what you find on Sunday in the race. I think today was very encouraging. Naturally we have two compounds of tire, and one of them is quicker on the first lap and a little less consistent. The other one is the opposite. Obviously what we want is the consistency of the hard tire and the one lap of the soft tire, and life would look much better! Which of course is what weíre trying to achieve with Bridgestone, weíre trying to achieve the optimum of both. In this case for qualifying you need a tire which is able to put in one lap, and when itís done that it then has to remain consistent and perform for the race. Itís finding that balance between the two. I donít think weíre very far off. In this business itís all about tiny percentages. It looks OK, and if it translates into Sunday, weíre in good shape.

Ross, can you explain how it works on a Friday - can you give us some idea of how you set-up the two sessions, and how you approach them?
RB: Weíve been a little bit constrained Ė and this is again why the solution is not a Bridgestone problem and the solution is not a Ferrari problem Ė weíve been a little bit constrained on mileage for the engines so far this year, and weíre just about to make a good step forward on that, and so in the forthcoming Grand Prix weíll have more capacity. What youíll see here in fact is because we didnít use the engines in Bahrain we have unlimited mileage today [Friday] and tomorrow. So weíve been able to run the car as we chose, and thatís meant we had a much more comprehensive program. What you predominantly do is do a performance comparison to get an idea of the lap time, and then you tend to stay on the soft tire to get as many laps on that tire as you can, to measure it in the evening to see whether itís got a chance of making the race. We generally donít do exactly the same on both tires, we try and get a feel for the performance of the two tires, and then if itís clear that the soft tire is quick, then we try and get as many laps on that tire as we can, so by the end of Friday weíve got a reasonable picture of whether that tire will last the race.

Hisao, you didnít get to the end of the race in Bahrain without your tires deteriorating somewhat. Would it have been possible to have anticipated that if youíd done more winter testing, if youíd had more teams to help you with the testing, or was it just a function of the very high temperatures in Bahrain?
HS: Yes, the high temperature is as you said one of the functions of the problem. In those conditions the tires didnít last, and we understand that is a point to improve. The other question is if we had more teams, could we solve the problem or not? That to be honest is difficult to say. We may adapt to the same result or we can make some different results. I think the point of the question is we only have Ferrari to do our main test program, and is that enough or not? I must say of course we have less teams compared to our rival, and we may have less amount of data. But Ferrari provides as much data as they can, and so we are happy with our test program. Of course with more teams we may have better data, but I believe that so far we did the best that we could do in the winter time.

Ross, Ferrari is standing outside the testing restrictions agreement. This week you are pushing the envelope by running at Monza in a proper test while we are here racing this weekend at Imola. Is there any part of you that feels uncomfortable about the fact that you are doing that, given that thereís such a long history of Formula 1 teams not running in the week of a Grand Prix?
RB: Not particularly, no. Iíve got no qualms about that. I think we face a particular situation, letís say politically, and from a technical point of view we are alone in developing a Bridgestone tire, and we have to do that the best we can. It is a difficult topic, an emotive topic, and obviously I would prefer it if there wasnít the friction between the teams on this particular aspect. But we tried to find a solution at the end of the year, and they stopped inviting us to their meetings, because they didnít like our solution. So really it collapsed from there. It would be good to find a solution in the future. We donít like the conflict, we donít like the animosity thatís surrounding it. We were happy to stay with the agreement that existed last year, and I think that would have been a far better solution to the one that we have today. But that was unacceptable to the other teams. But I think theyíre finding it difficult to restrain themselves to the 30 days testing that theyíve nominally agreed to. I understand that thereís a dispute between them as to whether a V8 test is actually in that 30 days or not. Several of them say itís not. Some of them say it is. So I think theyíll find it very difficult to respect it anyway regardless Ė and theyíll accuse us of being the reason why they canít respect it. As I say I understand that some teams feel that the V8 is not part of that program, because thatís for next year, so therefore they can test the V8 whenever they want. The original 45 days or whatever it was we were happy to stay with, but that wasnít acceptable to them, and therefore the whole situation collapsed. With the predicament we face ourselves we will do whatever we can to be competitive as quickly as we can.

Ross, I thought you were limiting yourself to 15,000kms to testing during the season. Are you keeping to that?
RB: The proposal we made was 15,000kms per team and 15,000 per tire manufacturer. Now undoubtedly we would have done the majority of tire testing, which would therefore be around 30,000km. We will do more than that this year, for sure. But I think then our competitors will, because they are averaging about 1,000kms a day. They are having such intense programs that I think both Renault and BAR for instance have averaged about 1,000kms a day in the eight days of testing theyíve done, the last time I looked. Itís done by having a very intense group of people, night shifts spare parts prepared exactly like a race. We would have preferred to see a mileage limit, because then you can organize yourself in the most efficient way. But thereís pros and cons. Really now we see there are no constraints, and weíll test as necessary.

Ross, do you guys at Ferrari feel victimized?
RB: Well, this is a competition. And to win a competition you have to do a good job yourself and weaken your opposition. Thatís how you win competitions. Itís quite valid for our competitors to try and weaken Ferrariís position. Iím a Ferrari person; Iím going to come at this argument from a Ferrari direction. They have their own corner to fight, and theyíll do whatever they can. We have two test tracks, and thatís where Ferrari has chosen to invest in the past. We donít have two wind tunnels, we donít have a £280m technical facility, so thatís entirely up to those teams to spend their money how they wish. Weíve chosen to spend our money on test tracks and things which we feel directly benefit the team, and we donít see why we should have rules imposed which specifically damage the facilities that Ferrari have invested in over the last few years.

Rival teams have said in the past that you spend more money than almost any other team, with the exception perhaps of Toyota. Is that wrong?
RB: I think itís very difficult to compare budgets. Iíve experienced budgets in other teams. Itís difficult to compare for instance how much McLaren and Mercedes spend together, how much BMW and Williams spend together. Itís quite difficult to total those amounts. I think we have a good budget. I donít think itís in excess of several teams. Weíre certainly not the top, and I think weíre probably upper levels, but probably not exceptional. Weíre fortunate in a way to have very good partners. We have partners like Bridgestone, we have partners like Shell, very good technical partners who have made the commitment as well. The budget of an F1 team is not just the money that comes in from letís say, commercial partners, but comes in from their technical partners, comes in from their engine suppliers, comes in from all sorts of areas. Iím happy with the budget weíre provided with. Itís not a reason why weíre doing poorly at the beginning of the season, itís an adequate budget. People are entitled to go out there and find whatever money they can. Itís a big competition. If McLaren or Williams can find more money than Ferrari and do a better job, good luck to them. Thatís all part of the battle we fight.

Back to this Grand Prix, how is it between a two-stop and three-stop strategy?
RB: Itís quite close here, because itís a very short pit lane. It could perhaps be the closest itís been this year in choosing between a two and a three. The difficulty is overtaking. Itís almost impossible now, and if youíre on a three, and you get stuck in the wrong place, youíve got problems. I think you might see a few threes come in this race. Certainly in the numbers itís the first race where a three is a possibility.

Ross, there are pro and con feelings towards a single tire manufacturer as the future of Formula 1. What is the current feeling among the technical directors? And Hisao, if there was a single tire, would Bridgestone want to tender for it and be enthusiastic about being part of it?
RB: I think from my side itís interesting that weíre not in the strongest position, and weíre happy with the tire war. Itís quite surprising how our competitors, who letís say are in a stronger position, want a single tire. The tire companies have just as much commitment to Formula 1 as the engine companies, and we donít say letís have a single engine. In fact Bridgestone and Michelin probably put as much money into F1 as Mercedes or BMW do. We have to treat them with respect. They are very committed partners to Formula 1. We canít just change our opinions about whether they should or shouldnít be in Formula 1. It does create technical demands on the teams, but are they any different to any other technical demands? Iím not sure. It gives a fascinating aspect to the performance. If you have one strong, dominant team and a control tire, then there will be less opportunity for the others to catch up. I quite like it. As I say youíve got to have the stomach for it.
HS: From our point of view, I like competition very much. What I understand is that Bridgestone also likes a competitive situation. If we have a rival, of course we need to have some tough times like now, but if we can achieve success, itís more enjoyable. Also itís clear that with our tire technology, we can show it worldwide. That is our aim. Even with the single tires we want to continue to be involved in Formula 1, and we want to do our best job.
RB: I think thereís this old maxim about competition improves the breed. And itís absolutely true. The things which weíre learning and the things which Bridgestone are learning to get ourselves out of the situation we have now, itís enormously valuable to those guys to study their approach, study their technology, and look at where theyíre weak and where theyíre strong. Itís only really when youíre failing that you look at those things intensely, and try and improve them. Companies like Bridgestone, Shell, any of those companies, the competition and rate of change in Formula 1 is so intense that you learn far more in a very short space of time than you ever would in a normal industry. And you can take those lessons back into industry and then apply them. These guys are working at a rate that you wouldnít believe, which they donít necessarily do in a normal industry, but theyíll take that experience back into industry with them. Their [Bridgestoneís] president is not happy about the situation, but heís delighted that theyíre having to fight to recover the situation, because he knows that theyíll come out the other side a lot more experienced, a lot more competent.

Michael has won this race five times in the last six years, and three of those from pole. What are the chances of that being repeated on Sunday?
RB: Weíre obviously coming from a less favorable position to achieve that, but I was quite pleased with the performance today. Itís a slightly measured judgment, because we donít know how the thing is going to develop tomorrow, or Sunday morning. Itís slightly qualified. But I think weíll be competitive. Iím letís say, quietly confident. But anything can happen between now and Sunday. Qualifying will be very important, because as I say, itís difficult to overtake, and there may be the option of a two or three stop. But you can only do a three stop if youíre near the front. But it will be very welcome, I can tell you that.
HS: Today we saw quite good performance with Michaelís lap time, and also with Rubens. I can feel that we will be competitive this weekend.

Source: Bridgestone

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