Q & A with Bridgestone's Hisao Suganuma
|By Jonathan Noble||Tuesday, December 5th 2006, 11:28 GMT|
Bridgestone had headed into last week's first winter test as uncertain as teams and drivers about just how their new 2007 tyres would fair. But after four days of running the initial verdict was a big thumbs up for the new rubber.
Autosport.com caught up with Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma to find out how the test had gone, what the plan was the rest of winter and just what we can expect next season.
Q. What was the plan for the first test?
Hisao Suganuma: We just tried to understand how our tyres worked on various cars, and we wanted teams to know how to use our tyres - particularly for those teams who had come from 'the other side'.
Q. Was it difficult to adapt to a new brand of tyres?
HS: As you saw from the running, the teams adjusted to using our tyres. They seem not to need to change too much with their cars. Of course there is an optimum setting, so they have to find out their own optimum. But looking at the running, the tyres started to work immediately.
The lap times are not too bad and not fantastic from our point of view, so our tyres have worked quite well. We spoke with the drivers and so far there is no big issue with the tyres. They are working in a good way, I would say.
Q. The reaction was not too severe from those teams from 'the other side', was it?
HS: No, to me they look happy. Of course there are small issues but it is not disastrous. We are satisfied with the performance.
Q. How about the Bridgestone teams. Did they have to make big adjustments too?
HS: From the set-up point of view not much. This week's tyre construction and compounds are the ones we are going to use in 2007, so to compare to the 2006 construction is impossible. They are totally different and the compound is harder. So the teams need to adjust a bit to reach an optimum.
Interestingly, the cars were in 2006 specification when they started running and we could see the same tendency in all of them. There was not a big difference between the ex-Michelin and the ex-Bridgestone teams, although they approached things in a different way.
Q. What were the typical characteristics of the tyres at Barcelona?
HS: They were harder, so there was not much grip – although the cars were not exactly drifting. It is not too bad, but if the cars slide too much we can see immediately that the tyre temperature goes up. But we did not see such an extreme rise in temperature. So I would say they are working.
Some drivers have commented that it had taken some time to warm up, but that seemed to be within one lap, so the warm up performance is not too bad. Also the track temperature was about 11C, so in that condition the tyres worked straight away.
Q. According to the tyre regulations, you will have to select two compounds for each race. Will the difference between them be big or not?
HS: We already have a plan about what we will use, but we are finding out now if our expectations are correct or not. Through December, and then in January and February, we are going to evaluate the compounds. If the tyres perform as expected the difference between the two will be more or less like the ones in 2006.
Q. Will you be marking the different tyres? Will there be something like the 'red tyre rule' from Champ Car?
HS: Everybody asks me this, but we have not decided yet. We are going to speak with the FIA. For example if the FIA decided to mark different colours, we will consider as we are happy to cooperate.
Q. What is your personal opinion about it?
HS: To me it is a big matter for us if it makes F1 more interesting. Taking account of the production of such tyres, we need to think. For example, in Champ Car, softer tyres have the red mark on the sidewall. Maybe we would have some difficulty because the softer tyre on a circuit may be the harder tyre on another circuit, which means we need to have all the different specifications in double colours – one with a standard sidewall and the other with a coloured sidewall.
That makes it more difficult. If we need to do that we should think about the best way to do it. Personally in theory we can do it, but it is the discussion between the FIA and the Bridgestone teams. If F1 requires us to consider it we will cooperate.
Q. What is the feeling about tyres in race configuration?
HS: That is what we want to know from testing. From our expectations there should be a significant difference between the soft and hard tyres. Barcelona was a tough track for tyres, therefore we brought the harder tyres. Next, in Jerez, we can go softer.
We have four compounds in total and we will decide which to use in due course. From the simulation, all the four compounds should cope with all the circuits on the calendar. The softest tyres will be used in Monaco and Hungary.