Talking tyres - the role of a Bridgestone engineer 13 Aug 2007
In Bridgestone Motorsport's Formula One programme the tyre engineer provides a vital link between the teams and the tyre supplier. The tyre engineers role is one which encompasses advising the teams on tyre choice, collating and processing data from all the sessions, and working with the drivers both at tests and races.
Preparation for a race weekend starts well in advance with a programme which is prepared for presentation to the teams. This outlines the technical limits for the forthcoming Grand Prix. All safety considerations are outlined, such as the tyre pressure range and camber angles the teams have to adhere to, as well as observations of the two tyre compounds in use for that weekend.
Our tyre engineers are the link between the teams and Bridgestone, so they fulfil a very important role, explains Bridgestone Motorsport head of track engineering operations, Kees van de Grint. The programme put together before the race weekend contains vital information for the teams both regarding safety and also to help them to get the best performance from the two compounds of Bridgestone Potenza we will bring to the race.
The engineers will generally arrive at the track on the Thursday prior to the Grand Prix. This day is termed as set-up day, and the engineers will check the tyres that have been allocated by the FIA to the particular team they are working with. As the tyres are fitted by the technicians, so the engineers provide an extra mechanism to ensure the tyres have been applied to the rims correctly.
The sets will also be checked with regards to their balance weights and all are recorded. On this day, the engineers will usually have a meeting with their team, although their schedule varies along the pit lane as everyone has their own way of setting about trying to win a Grand Prix.
In this first meeting of the weekend anything that has emerged since the last race or test will be discussed. The reports from the previous round of the season will be outlined as well as the programme for the weekend ahead. This meeting is one of two-way interaction between the team and Bridgestone to ensure both understand the Grand Prix ahead from a tyre perspective.
An outline weather report is also given to the teams by Bridgestone, but as a reference only, since the teams usually have their own in-depth weather forecasting.
Although there is no running of the cars on Thursday there is still a lot to be accomplished at the track and the engineers have a busy day, explains van de Grint. This is the only day at the track to prepare for the sessions, so the work done at this time is very important.
On Friday the first running of the Grand Prix takes place and the two 90-minute practice sessions give the tyre engineers their first data of the weekend to be worked on. Through the sessions they monitor the tyre pressures, temperatures and performance to ensure they are maintained within the Bridgestone guidelines, as well as monitoring and recording anything that affects tyre performance.
The appearance of the tyres is, of course, checked and recorded. The tyre engineers liaise with the drivers to ensure they are happy, understand the tyre performance and are maximising their use of them, making any recommendations where necessary.
It is very important for our engineers to be able to work with the drivers and interpret their feedback both when they are out of the car in meeting and when they are in the car giving their comments over the radio, says van de Grint. The driver's feel and feedback from behind the wheel is still very important and it's part of the engineer's role to understand this feedback.
After the running on track the engineers still have plenty of work to do, compiling their electronic reports which are put on a database. The engineers can now look for trends across all the data and from this they are able to provide a general guide to all teams based on the information they have, without disclosing details specific to one particular team.
Saturday is very much a repeat of Friday's activities, but paying particular attention to see if there have been any track improvements. After the practice session and qualifying the data is analysed and then suggestions are made for tyre choice in the race. All relevant data is updated and given back to the teams.
On race day morning an updated weather forecast is given, along with an overview of tyre performance and trends over the weekend. Advice on what temperature the tyre blankets should be set at for the race, as well as the recommended tyre pressures within the pressure guidelines, is given.
Preparations for the race are made to ensure everything flows smoothly in the team garage during the race. During the race itself its back to checking tyre appearance, monitoring pressures and temperatures, but with the added demands of being under race conditions.
Despite the intensity of the race the engineer still has specific tasks to be done and these have to be achieved without affecting the teams work, explains van de Grint. The pits are a very busy place during a race and also a critical place too with the importance of time so the engineer always should be vigilant, even if it's a race like we saw at the Nurburgring when the pits were a very busy place to be.
A lap chart is also made by the engineer and any driver comments during the course of the race are noted. This is combined with the other data recorded and all the information is then processed after the race. Whilst the rest of the paddock is being dismantled, the engineers are still hard at work completing their reports and analysing the race data. Some teams even have meetings to discuss this on the evening after the race.
It is certainly a full weekend for our engineers and the work starts well before and continues long after the race has finished, confirms van de Grint.