Conducted and provided by Bridgestone's press office.
Q. What were the key factors for Bridgestone in 2009?
Hirohide Hamashima - Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development: We re-introduced slick tyres and this was a significant change in philosophy in the Formula 1 regulations away from the grooved tyres of the previous eleven seasons. The aerodynamic regulation changes meant that teams had to work hard to develop and refine their cars though the season, and this was made harder with there being no testing. We worked very closely with all of the teams to help them to achieve their goals in this intense competition.
This season we also responded to requests to make a bigger difference between the two different compounds that the regulations stipulate we bring to races. We achieved this with the concept of different temperature working ranges for our tyre allocations and this added another element of challenge for competitors at races.
Q. Which were the most significant factors for the sport this season?
HH: I think that the changes in regulations combined with no testing provided the biggest challenge. Previously there would be test days all through the season and teams would be able to develop their cars and test parts with the luxury of time and mileage. This year's change meant that we saw a variety of competitors at the front of the field, and some incredible developments to the cars over the season despite these limiting factors.
Q. Bridgestone used slick tyres in its first season of Formula 1 - how much tyre development has there been in the intervening eleven years?
HH: We have learnt a lot from our participation in Formula 1. The eleven seasons with grooved tyres were very good for our development. A grooved tyre is not a natural racing tyre so making it perform like one was a big challenge. The return to slicks meant we could apply the technology and lessons learnt to the ultimate racing tyre that is a slick.
Q. Next season there will be a smaller front tyre, tell us about this.
HH: For 2010 we will have a narrower front tyre. This will help to bring a better grip balance between the front and the rear grip of the cars. When we changed back to slick tyres the grooved tyre size was retained, meaning that the front gained proportionally more grip than the rear. This is addressed by making the front tyre narrower.
Q. Also next year, there will be no refuelling - how much of an impact does this have for Bridgestone?
HH: The cars will be around 100kg heavier at the start of a race so the tyre needs to be stronger. However, when you consider that the downforce acting on a car can be as much as 2000kg an extra 100kg is not so much of a change for us in terms of our tyre compounds and construction.
For competitors the omission of refuelling will add another challenge and I expect we will see an evolution of race strategies through the season as everyone begins to understand what works best. Drivers will have to use their tyre management skills at the beginning of the race, especially at the start, when the cars are heaviest and the tyres at their coolest.
Q. There is the new destination of Korea on the provisional calendar for next year - are you looking forward to racing at another new location?
HH: We have welcomed many new circuits to Formula 1 over the past few seasons and it is always interesting to embrace new challenges. Korea will be a new circuit on the calendar and we are also due to return to Montreal which can provide its very own challenges. Nineteen races will mean that we are very busy through the year!