Bridgestone on 2004 development strategy 21 Oct 2003
After a challenging season, in which they were often accused of blunting Ferrari's performance, Formula One tyre suppliers Bridgestone eventually emerged victorious, lifting both the drivers' and the constructors' championship at their home round and season finale in Japan.
Talking to the company's press department, Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development, spoke openly about their 2003 campaign, revealing where they went wrong, what they did right and what has to change ahead of next season:
"Honestly speaking it has been difficult. Last year was too good perhaps. At times it has been 50-50 this year and at some points we had lost more races than we had won. We also lost some races which we could have won. The Australian Grand Prix, for example, was tight but the weather gave us a different result than expected.
"Next was Malaysia, which is where we recognized the new regulations, that they produced something different from last year. And we recognized that we needed to be on the front row or take pole position because if we were in the middle of the grid, it was a high risk to try to overtake the cars in front of us. If you were able to take a good [grid] position, then after the first laps you were able to lead the race and win. In Malaysia we had a new team strategy so that we could lead in the first laps. And also, more focus on grip was emphasized.
"The number of pit stops had also increased so the tyres changed because of that too. The number of tyres used increased and in one stint, the number of laps decreased. [Before], it was possible to pass our competitors when they were in the pit. But we were not able to do that any more. So we had to always try to lead in a race. And that should have been our strategy from the start.
"That was the impact of the [new] regulations. Our strategy had to be different from last year's [with regards to] the development of tyres for F1. Of course our tyres were developed in last year's winter testing when our target was for high grip over one timed lap but there was not enough performance.
"However, we did win in Imola and at the Spanish and Austrian grands prix and at that time things were quite good. But from Monaco to Hungary, we faced a more difficult situation. One of the reasons was that our tyre specification predictions, from the test circuits to the actual circuits, was not so accurate. We evaluated the specs we wanted to use at the test but they didn't perform as expected at the races. Our predictions were not good enough.
"After that, we changed many things. We sat up late into the night and had to listen to the voices of our teams. And the teams were generous enough to say to us that next time we could do better. They wanted to maintain that sense of a team, or partnership. We then tried new specifications at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Although the result was not good, we did learn something from that race which was very valuable.
"Following Hungary, we went on to make a big test prior to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. There we tried many new things as well as developing the current specifications. Ferrari's victory in Monza was a great result for us. But we were very happy with the race in the US too. We won that race because making tyres for those wet conditions is one of our big strengths. Sauber, BAR, as well as Ferrari, all did well. And Sauber was also on the podium. So it came to a very good result. Ultimately it turned out to be a very good race.
"As for the result of the Japanese race, our tyre performance showed we had much higher grip and that our consistency was quite good too. So we are very pleased with our tyre performance at the last round. These were the results of all the hard work and cooperation of our teams. And we are very appreciative of what they have done because not only did they test the current development specifications but also new concept specifications.
"Our fundamental philosophy has remained the same however. Keeping performance degradation to a minimum from start to finish is the basic fundamental concept of our tyres. But we do need more grip and although our priority in the past has been for both grip and consistency, there is now a small change which emphasizes grip more.
"Furthermore, we are against competitors in races, so we have to be flexible to cope with their strategies. We will be looking at that in developing our own strategies for next season."
See also: Bridgestone and Michelin both 2003 winners