With Ross Brawn, Technical Director of Ferrari, and Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Tyre Development for Bridgestone Motorsport.
Q: Its been a fantastic start to the season for Ferrari it couldnt be better. How has the winter testing translated into these results?
HH: We planned the winter testing after the summer time last year. We developed the construction and shape and also compounds from testing. Then, just two weeks before the
Australian GP, we put it all together, and we introduced the final one [tyre]. The Australian specification was working well, and also the other two races. So far we are very happy with results.
Q: There have been a few particular developments. First of all new compounds for hot weather can you tell us about those and also about the new shaped front tyre?
HH: Last year we struggled with compounds under very hot conditions, so we developed the heat durability of the compounds. And also our weak point was braking, so we introduced the new shape. However, it came with Ferraris collaboration, because the current F1 car is very sensitive for the aerodynamics.
Q: Just going back to the hot weather tyres. Do you feel those compounds have been tested in the first three races so far?
HH: At some of the circuits we were lucky, but in the laboratory the data shows us that heat durability is much, much better than last year.
Q: A lot of people say that other teams dont get the same specification tyres as Ferrari. Can you tell us about that?
HH: Of course. As you know an F1 car is built by each team, so the car performance is a little bit different between these teams. So the teams can choose from a variety of specifications.
Q: So you would say that they have all the specs that Ferrari have available to them?
HH: Yes of course.
RB: I think theres a timing issue, quite honestly. Quite often we will choose a tyre at the last minute. The present regulations allow the teams to have different tyres, so often we will choose a tyre at the last minute. So then at the next race that tyre is available to all the teams. I think thats normal.
Q: What part do those other teams- Sauber & Jordan for example play in tyre development?
HH: In the winter they gave us a lot of mileage. Ferrari also did tremendous mileage, but Sauber and Jordan also helped us durability wise.
Q: Ross, tell us about the development programme with Bridgestone during the winter.
RB: I think during last year we identified the areas that we wanted to improve the properties of the tyres and the tyre/car interface. The issue of tyre durability with heat is also an issue of the car, not just the tyres. We could see with the new car that wed got much lower tyre temperatures. We achieved an improvement in terms of the stress being put into the tyres. Hammy and his people have been able to give us a more durable tyre, but weve also been able to make some progress with the car as well. So its been a partnership in solving our problems. During the year we identified the key areas we wanted to improve, and over the winter there were three programmes running a construction programme, a shape programme and a compound programme. Those three programmes were often running separately, and occasionally wed bring them together to see how they were interacting. It probably wasnt until just before the first race that we had a tyre that combined all the different elements. I think thats why sometimes there was a critique of Bridgestone over the winter, because people werent seeing the proper picture. Luckily Bridgestone and Ferrari had strength to carry on what they thought was the right approach. You have to be careful, because things are very interrelated, but also its very difficult with so many permutations to be trying them all the time as combinations. I think thats where our partnership is strong because we share all that information. We have a very open and trusting relationship. We know exactly what Bridgestone are trying to do with the tyres, and they know exactly what were trying to do with the car.
Q: How has that actually furthered since last year how has that co-operation developed?
RB: I think during the year we saw that we had to make it even stronger. Already it was a strong partnership, but during 2003 with the pressure we were under we were having to try even harder. You think youre doing the best job you can, and you realise that youve got to do even better. I think through the year we saw the areas that we needed to improve. Ferrari made some changes to the way they work, and Bridgestone made some changes to the way they work. Together we are a lot stronger.
Q: When you actually come to choose a tyre, how much guesswork is it? Particularly as the weather weve seen so far has not been as expected
RB: It is a little bit of guesswork. We normally pick the tyres about 10 days before the race. Well have done our testing, and we look at the weather forecast just to see whats likely to happen. The weather forecast doesnt make a big change. Say youve got three compounds lets call them hard, medium and soft, although its not that simple. If very high temperatures are forecast, you may go to hard/medium. If the forecast is for low temperatures, you may go to medium/soft. You just look at all those parameters together. We have a review together, Bridgestone and Ferrari, and we make the choice on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week prior to the week of the race. Its not an exact science, and you can get it wrong occasionally and thats when the other teams and the other tyre company will have a stronger race weekend, particularly at tracks where you dont get to test. We were here at Imola testing in 3C. You have to make some educated guess, because the conditions are different.
Q: Do you think Bridgestone has a wider temperature operating range than the rival company?
RB: I dont think its wider. Its very difficult to build a tyre that works over a wide range of conditions. We struggle a little bit when were on a dry tyre on a damp track. In Malaysia on the first two or three laps we struggled. So we have a window where our tyre is not so effective, and thats an area we want to try and improve. I dont know if you can say we operate over a wider range. I think when the track is properly wet and were able to get on to wet tyres the indications are that we still have a good advantage. So were very happy if its wet, very happy if its dry, we just dont want it in-between!
Q: Hamashima-san how do you make a tyre for that bit?
HH: Of course we recognise our weak point. We just have to work very hard to improve those points.
Q: Is that something in a compound?
HH: Of course the compound is the most important item. However, sometimes construction helps.
Q: Is the specification of tyres in many ways pretty well fixed at the moment, or are you still coming through with different constructions and different compounds to use?
HH: Yes. We are of course developing another generation of construction from the winter time. But we wont introduce it at the moment.
RB: Its like a car you cant stop! We made some good progress over the winter, but in doing that we also saw some things that we could concentrate on that perhaps were even better. We have a couple of constructions now which are very good, and were trying to improve those two constructions. Theyre good in different ways, and we really want a tyre that is a sample of both those constructions. We want a construction which takes both those strong points and puts them together. Its just constant, it never stops. Its a very intense programme.
Q: Do you think you can win all 18 races this season?
RB: Thats our ambition, but I think it should be our ambition we should try and win all 18 races! I think it would be brave to say that we will. We dont want to have a weak area anywhere. You saw the races that we were weak at last year, and of course thats the thing that weve tried to strengthen. Whether weve achieved it, well have to see. There are tracks where we dont get to test and we dont know whether weve achieved it until we get there and see how the package works. We werent particularly strong at Hockenheim last year, we werent particularly strong in Hungary. Those are tracks where we know weve got to try and improve, but we dont get to test at those tracks, so we wont know until we go back. I think some of the reasons for the weakness weve understood, car and tyres. I think weve addressed those, so we should be in better shape. Its our ambition to win every race if we can, and Bridgestones ambition to provide a tyre that can work in every circumstance. Of course you reach a level where you think youve achieved that and you opposition goes a bit better, and you realise that the standards have been re-set.
Q: A question for Ross how did you prepare for this race? For the first three races the cars just jumped from Melbourne to Malaysia to Bahrain, so this is the first Grand Prix where you can put a new spec on the cars. Also, what do you think about Max Mosleys proposal for the tyres, the firth groove? And the same question I want to ask Mr Hamashima.
RB: In terms of preparation, we came here in February, and we had an ambient temperature of 3C, so we were able to get a good idea of the chassis set-up, but not a complete picture on the tyres. Since February the car has moved on. We improved the set-up, we improved some technical details of the car, and the tyres have moved on. Weve had to look at the data from the test and look at what weve done in between and weve come here this weekend with a combination of the two. We were very happy with the car at the test, but weve done some things since then. So well start off [on Friday] with a combination of things we saw at the test and things weve done in the mean time that we think are better. Theres been a three-week gap between the last race and here, and thats enabled us to introduce a new aerodynamic package for here. We have new bodywork which is much more efficient, and is quite a good step in testing. There are one or two other things were working on which we thought we might have here, but which havent been finished yet. We havent got them to where we want to, so theyll come in the next couple of races. But the three week gap enabled us to introduce this new bodywork. It also brings everyone back to base. It will be a very intense season there are a lot of back to back races this year so its good to have that little breather. Regarding the proposals from Max, I think there are a number of proposals which are still being debated. Hammy can probably give you a more professional opinion on whether a fifth groove is the way. The only thing I hope is that if we have to find changes in the future that theyre in balance, that the chassis, the engine and the tyres, which are the three main performance parameter stay in balance with each other. You have situations where the other tyre company can win a race, or Bridgestone can win a race Renault can win a race with what is clearly not the best engine in F1. So if were not careful well distort it so that only the strongest engines win, or the strongest tyres, or perhaps only the strongest chassis. I think at the moment theres still the potential for someone with a very good car and maybe not such a good engine to win a race. We need to make sure that we dont distort it so that only one of those performance parameters becomes the most important. I think any changes made in the future should be a change in all three areas, not just one. With regards to whether a fifth groove is a good solution, perhaps Hammy can comment
HH: I think for safety we have to find the best way in many things. Not only the fifth groove, but also many other things we have to discuss more.
Q: On that same subject, its been suggested that if its not grooves, to have a harder compound one way to do that would be to stop tyre changing during the race, therefore automatically tyre compounds will become harder. Is that a viable alternative?
HH: Of course its one of the ways to reduce speed.
RB: I think there needs to be a study done on that. In at least one race this year, that wouldnt have made any difference. The other two races, it would have made a small difference. If we go to a circuit like Barcelona, it would make quite a big difference. You get a circuit like here, we havent seen the wear rates yet, but it wouldnt make any difference. You saw last year there were races where the other tyre company didnt change tyres. I dont think its enough to change cornering speeds that much. We get to the unfortunate situation where cars are running around with no tyres on, which of course you can always say is all part of the responsibility of the car or the tyre, but I dont think its very nice to have a car running round at the end of the race on its treads because its run out of rubber. So Im not sure thats the best solution.
Q: One of the problems is the image being created for the public, and thats probably what the FIA is concerned about, is that the greatest increase in performance so far this season has come from the tyres, which is because of the tyre war. Is there any way round that? Should there be a control tyre perhaps?
RB: I dont know how you can have a control tyre when there are two tyre companies involved. I think like the car, like the engine, we need to look at how we can control the tyre performance in the future. So I dont think actually making it longlife is necessarily the way. Weve seen this year that weve got one race engines, and weve got more power than we had last year.
Q: Could I ask you how much of a part driver input plays in developing a tyre, or is it all just down the lap times? Is there anything about Michaels style or Rubens style of their input which has been useful in developing the tyres?
RB: The drivers input is still pretty important. One of the top parameters of the tyre is stability, its one that we are always discussing the stability of a tyre when we turn into a corner. Its something that you struggle to see on paper, but its something which is quite an important factor for the driver. There are certain elements of the tyre performance that we can quantify. We have ways of measuring the amount of grip in a corner and we certainly have ways of measuring the traction, the braking, that kind of thing. An important bit of information on the stability of a tyre is from the feedback we get from the driver. You can have a tyre that has more grip, more traction, more braking, but is not stable going into a corner, then the driver will have difficulty feeling confident in that tyre. So the driver input is actually crucial. Theres a lot more data analysis programmes inside the car. A few years ago it was just down to whether the driver liked it, and the stopwatch was further proof. Its a little bit more sophisticated now because you can see where the tyre is good and where its bad. The stability of a tyre might affect Michael more than it affects Rubens. Of course we have to find a tyre solution which is compatible with both drivers. When we are looking at the performance characteristics of the tyres we have to work with both drivers to get their opinions. Perhaps if were just looking at a compound, the benefit of a new compound flows with both drivers, regardless of driving style or driving approach.
Q: Youve talked about this tyre that were going to see in the summer which is a new shape. When are we going to see it, bearing in mind the testing ban?
RB: I dont think its a specific tyre. We have an ongoing programme all the time. Were working on some programmes for the future, which is what generally happens. We have what we call our long term programme, our conceptual programme, running all the time, and then theres the short and medium term programmes. Maybe something happens in our conceptual programme which we can introduce short term. Theres quite a lot of knowledge which has gone into conceptual work which gives feedback to our engineers and Bridgestone engineers. Often they are not changes that would be useful to us in races, but we want new materials, new techniques and new manufacturing processes. So theres a conceptual programme going on, and then theres a detailed programme, a bit like the car really. There is a new concept of tyre we are working on, whether that will ever prove to be better than the tyres we have now, we dont know.
Bridgestone press conference at Imola 23 Apr 2004
With Ross Brawn, Technical Director of Ferrari, and Hirohide Hamashima, Head of Tyre Development for Bridgestone Motorsport.