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Bridgestone comment on tyre issue 04 Sep 2003

A Ferrari mechanic checks tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Austrian Grand Prix, Preparations, A1-Ring, Austria, 15 May 2003

With their teams hard at work testing, Bridgestone made their first official comment on Thursday regarding this week's hot topic of conversation at Monza - the rules concerning front tyre tread width.

In an interview issued by the Japanese company's press office, Bridgestone Motorsport's Head of Tyre Development, Hirohide Hamashima, talked about Ferrari, their rivals and the FIA. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

Q: The FIA has recently issued a fax regarding the front tread width size of Formula One tyres. Ross Brawn, Technical Director at the Bridgestone equipped Ferrari team has said that Ferrari brought this matter to the FIA's attention as a result of information given to him by Bridgestone. Could you clarify how and when this information about the contact patch size of your rival's front tyres came to your attention?
Hirohide Hamashima:
"Yes, we have had our suspicions about this matter for some time now but it was not until this information came to our notice by way of photographic evidence at the Hungarian GP, that we could take this matter any further. I know there are some sceptics about the timing. We showed these images to Ferrari and discussed the matter at length with them and I know they took very seriously the decision whether or not to contact the FIA. "

Q: What is Bridgestone's opinion about this matter? Are you happy for your tyres to be inspected after a race? Yes, of course the FIA are welcome to inspect our tyres.
HH:
"Bridgestone has always tried to comply fully with the regulations and consequently the tread width of our tyres does not exceed 270mm either at a standstill or when running. However, it seems our rivals have a different interpretation of the regulations and we therefore welcome the FIA's clarification on the matter."

Q: Was this an attempt to balance out the championship in a season which has seen a strengthened opposition?
HH:
"No, merely a case of trying to do what is right. Information of this importance could not be ignored."

Q: Why did Bridgestone not make a formal complaint to the FIA themselves?
HH:
"We believe that it is important to remember that it is the teams who are competing and we are only an official supplier. Yes, we have an important role to play but we should not be bigger than the teams themselves. The people who are affected most by matters of this nature are the teams and drivers. Ultimately, it is a team decision whether to contact the FIA or not."

Q: What performance advantage would be gained by increasing the contact patch of the tyres?
HH:
"An increased contact patch gives increased grip because there is more rubber in contact with the track surface. This can be of assistance both during braking and in particular during cornering. A larger contact patch can enable a driver to brake later in the corner, be quicker and better balanced through it and then consequently better positioned for a fast exit. So, at circuits such as Magny-Cours, Hockenheim and Monaco, for example, which are slow-mid speed cornering circuits, having an increased contact patch size could be an advantage. Perhaps we should also look at the history behind this issue and remember that originally Formula One used slick tyres. As speeds increased, however, the FIA decided to try to slow the cars down and consequently introduced grooved dry tyres in 1998. But even then the tyres only had three grooves on the front and, as is often the case in a competitive environment, lap times were coming down again. A fourth groove was subsequently introduced on front tyres in order to reduce the shoulder rib width and that is where we find ourselves now. With the FIA's concern about controlling speed and taking into account the measures it has taken to do so, it would therefore be surprising if the FIA meant for the regulations to be interpreted in such a way that would allow contact patches and speeds to be increased."

Q: How do you see this affecting the championship?
HH:
"Well that depends if anyone now feels the need to use a different design of tyre and if that in turn affects their performance. It won't affect Bridgestone or our teams as we will continue unhindered and focussed on our current preparations for the final three races of the season. Above all, we are here to compete and are just looking forward to a positive finish to our season. Michael Schumacher is still in the lead of the Drivers' Championship - and has been since the Canadian Grand Prix - and we intend to do our best to make sure he and Ferrari retain their championship titles. We would also like to see a strong finish to the season for our other four teams."

See also: Michelin preparing for any eventuality
See also: Michelin issue statement on tyre changes
For more on the 2003 tyre regulations, click here