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Bridgestone determined to up first-lap pace 18 May 2004

A rear Bridgestone tyre on the Jordan Ford EJ14 
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19 March 2004

With qualifying and the race start so crucial at Monaco, Formula One tyre suppliers Bridgestone have been working hard to improve the rate at which their rubber comes up to full working temperature.

Despite the Japanese company achieving their best result of the year at the last round in Spain, there were concerns that they were struggling for pace on the first lap on new tyres. This problem could prove particularly costly in Monaco, hence Bridgestone’s efforts to address it.

“We have worked hard to improve our first lap performance as qualifying is of particular importance on a street circuit with limited overtaking opportunities,” said Hisao Suganuma, Bridgestone’s Technical Manager, following tests at Mugello, Fiorano, Silverstone and Paul Ricard last week.

“Very soft compounds are also necessary for grip and one lap performance but this can increase the likelihood of graining. We need to make sure we do not compromise performance following on from that first lap. However, we have been encouraged with our test results so I am looking forward to seeing our tyre performance in Monaco."

Monaco’s unusual nature makes it a hard circuit to prepare for and with first practice beginning a day earlier than usual, track conditions can vary greatly between then and the race. To cope with all eventualities, Bridgestone will bring five dry-weather compounds to Monte Carlo – two more than their Michelin rivals.

Michelin have won the last two Monaco Grands Prix – with David Coulthard and McLaren in 2002 and with Juan Pablo Montoya and Williams last season – and if they can maintain their first lap advantage over Bridgestone, then their chances of a third successive victory appear high.

“This is a race like no other on the F1 schedule – it has a character like no other track and technically it is the complete opposite of the previous race in Barcelona,” said Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director. “In Spain we ran hard tyres to deal with very abrasive conditions; in Monaco we will use much softer compounds. It’s a race that requires a very particular approach but Michelin has demonstrated during the past couple of seasons that it knows how to rise to the challenge. I am looking forward to the weekend and am confident we can complete our hat trick.”

If Michelin do triumph in Monaco this weekend it will be their first victory of 2004 and their first since Fernando Alonso won for Renault in Hungary last August.