Bridgestone's Monaco challenge 21 May 2007
The weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix will provide an additional logistical test for Formula One tyre suppliers Bridgestone, given the nature of the tiny Principality located along the French Riviera between France and the Mediterranean.
The venue for one of the worlds best known motor races is also the worlds most densely populated country with a population of 32,410 shoehorned into an area of just 1.96 square kilometres. Squeezing a Grand Prix in was always going to be a challenge.
For drivers the track itself presents its own trials and tribulations. Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet is credited with likening the challenge of piloting a Formula One car around the tight and twisty confines of the track as being akin to riding a bicycle around a house, and he wasnt joking.
Set-up is crucial as the drivers need the car to do exactly what they want it to do, otherwise they could so easily become another victim of the Monaco circuit barriers.
You need as much grip as possible and teams will run their cars with a maximum downforce set-up, explains Kees van de Grint, Bridgestones head of track engineering operations. Traction is crucial with acceleration out of so many corners, but you have to be careful as understeer is not desirable with so much Armco about.
The requirements for numbers of tyres are no less than any other Grand Prix and Bridgestone will be bringing 2,200 Bridgestone Potenza Formula One tyres and 650 Bridgestone Potenza GP2 Series tyres to the event.
The weight of the tyres brought for Formula One racing alone amounts to 22,000 kilogrammes, and on top of this there are eight fitting machines and eight balancing machines which are used to fit and balance the tyres to the rims provided by the teams.
Eight trucks are used by Bridgestone to transport the tyres and equipment to the event, with three heading to the event direct from the Paul Ricard test. In addition, Bridgestones motorhome will also be present in the glamorous Formula One paddock.
With space so much at a premium at the venue, Bridgestones home for tyre fitting is outside the paddock, but still in close proximity to the teams. With a dockside outlook, the area occupied is similar to that at more conventional race venues.
The 3.3 kilometre track itself is normally used as the public highway and indeed the weekend sees the normal Friday running of Formula One cars take place on Thursday, as Friday in Monaco sees the streets returned to public usage following morning runs by the GP2 cars.
In times of competition it was very difficult with the timetable the way it is in Monaco, explains van de Grint. You would make your conclusions from running on the track on Thursday, but then the circuit could be very different when you next ran on it on Saturday. This year it is not so difficult, but this is one track which certainly rewards those drivers with experience and good judgement.
Bridgestone can have up to 70 people on a European event and Monte Carlos crowded location means that most of these will be lodging away from the track.
Monaco is not as difficult as it could be in terms of logistics, explains van de Grint. It is a street circuit so of course it is different from operating out of a purpose built facility but we have a good position and everything seems to work well. Of course there is a greater distance between the motorhome and the fitting area than in other places, but the sacrifice of a longer walk is worth it when you are in a destination as fabulous as Monaco.