Focus - Bridgestone eager to resume testing 26 Aug 2003
With the summer testing ban rapidly drawing to a close, attention shifts this week to the forthcoming Monza test and the Italian Grand Prix on September 12-14.
For tyre suppliers Bridgestone, the resumption of testing cannot come soon enough. Their key team Ferrari has scored only three points in the last two races and Michael Schumacher has seen his championship lead dwindle to just a single point.
However, with an intensive testing schedule planned next week with all five of their contracted teams, Bridgestone's ability to reverse their recent form ahead of Ferrari's home race should not be underestimated.
"We are still in need of that extra performance from our tyres but I am looking forward positively now towards the Monza test programme," said Technical Manager Hisao Suganuma.
"We've been working hard over the recent few races and the test ban period, looking at fresh ideas, and it will be good to get back to the test track to put them into practice. I expect to be able to mount a strong challenge for the final three races of the season."
And while French rivals Michelin may look odds-on favourites to take their first Formula One title since returning to the sport in 2001, Bridgestone know that even a marginal performance gain could put them back on top of the podium at Monza.
"I think Michelin's performance in 2002 was overshadowed by our successful season," said development engineer Kees van de Grint. "For example, we were lucky to win at Magny-Cours last year - Michelin should have won. But because we won, and celebrated Michael's fifth title that day too, it looked fantastic. Sometimes the gap looks very wide, but often just small details decide whether you are hero or zero."
Michelin, meanwhile, are understandably confident, having come away from the Hungaroring with the race's top seven placings. And after winning four of the last five grands prix, they see no reason why their winning ways should not continue in Italy.
"We have an excellent record at Monza: we won there in 2001 and set a new record average lap speed during qualifying for last year's race," said Motorsport Director, Pierre Dupasquier. "I have every confidence that with our partners we will have competitive packages again this time."
Dupasquier was also quick to dispel any illusions Bridgestone might have that Michelin will be resting on their development laurels come the Italian race. "We have already brought in a number of successful innovations this season and we are poised to evaluate a few more," he added.