Sticky business - Bridgestones Formula One weekend 19 Dec 2007
Bridgestone Motorsports head of track engineering operations, Kees van de Grint, is a busy man over a Grand Prix weekend. Van de Grint is one of the most recognisable faces in Bridgestones Formula One programme as he is the Bridgestone spokesperson used most frequently for media interviews at the track.
The Dutchman has a long association with Bridgestone, having joined the Japanese company in 1985 and worked on karting, Formula Three, DTM and Le Mans projects. In 2001, Van de Grint joined the Formula One programme as its senior tyre engineer, most notably working with multiple Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher.
For 2007, Van de Grints role changed to head of track engineering operations, a role which means he oversees all of Bridgestones on-track tyre engineers. Here he talks through a typical race weekend:
The whole process for a race weekend starts for me well in advance of a Grand Prix when a small group of engineers discuss the pros and cons of our compounds to decide which ones we are going to bring to the race.
Then before the week of the race a preview report is sent to the teams which covers things like basic suspension settings, tyre pressures, predictions of wear rates. This is compiled using information from testing, other races and our predictions and it is my responsibility to oversee this report.
On the Monday and Tuesday in the week of the race I work through emails from the teams requesting information and so forth. These will be things like requests for data from the teams or internal requests from within Bridgestone. I consider any advice from the latest reports from the Bridgestone engineers and reply to any requests.
Generally on the Wednesday I travel to the race venue, although this will depend on the location of the race. Im at the circuit from early on a Thursday morning when we have a meeting with all the engineers and fitting staff to see if there are any issues. I then visit the teams who have requested meetings.
Arrival at the track usually means public relations and media commitments too, and in addition to one-on-one interviews there is a regular tyre talk session at 4.30pm open to all media, with certain members of the press asking very exact technical questions.
On Friday, the action starts with the two practice sessions. Any last-minute instructions are given to our staff. As we now supply every team on the grid, its important that everyone gets together in these meetings.
During the sessions I monitor the tyres in all of the garages, dividing my time between the eleven teams. All of the Bridgestone engineers are in radio contact with each other so I can be called to any garage if needed, and give advice during the session.
In the evening I start to make a general report discussing all the findings from the day. This information is sent to Japan and each engineer will report on a particular subject as well as collating the reports from their teams. These reports include factors such as wear rates, degradation, circuit surface and so on.
All reports are submitted by 7pm and I check and discuss the contents before the engineers go to their teams with the conclusions from the day. From 9pm onwards I will attend more meetings with any particular team or engineering enquiries.
Attending meetings is a big part of the day, and it will not be until 10-10.30pm that I leave track, although there are occasions when the engineers will return from their meetings with requests for further data which could take another couple of hours to deliver.
Saturday is a very similar day to Friday. There is the third practice session and then there are requests for advice on how to approach the qualifying session. As there is not as much running on Saturday there is not as much data generated to be processed so the finish time on Saturday is more like 8pm. Another tyre talk session takes place on Saturday and there are more media requests ahead of the race too.
Sunday morning is used to investigate areas of improvement and to discuss any issues encountered over the weekend. A big internal meeting takes place to review anything involving working procedures and how to approach the post race work.
During the race itself I move through the pits and try to see as many tyres as possible and move to any garage where I have been requested to be. It is the best opportunity to see the greatest amount of tyres and note their condition through the race, which I can do after the first pit stop.
During the race I also make a record of what is happening, but this is not so easy with 22 cars racing at high speed, but I do my best! I also note any questions I want to ask once the race has ended.
After the race, we check tyres, make reports and have debriefs with the teams. We analyse all available data from the race and by that time its 10-11pm.
On the Monday after the race I head to my next destination, whether back to the office or to a test. The job involves a lot of work. It is certainly not a 9-5 job, as you can understand. Fortunately, working for a Japanese company we can make good use of the time differences to discover that there are actually 25 hours in a day!