Q&A with Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima

The interview was conducted and provided by Bridgestone's press office

Q&A with Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima

The interview was conducted and provided by Bridgestone's press office

Q: Mr Hamashima, you have completed two days of a full programme of tyre testing with all five of Bridgestone's teams. What tyres have you brought and how are things going so far?

Hirohide Hamashima:

"We have brought a number of new compounds and constructions including a future construction concept. This future construction will not appear this season but we hope to introduce it next year. In total we have approximately 20 specifications, over half of which are new, and in the region of 2000 tyres. A proportion of these tyres have come directly from Bridgestone's production line in Tokyo, Japan. Generally, testing has been reasonably productive with just the usual occasional disruption. We've had dry running mostly but it also rained yesterday morning which enabled us to conduct some good wet weather tyre testing, checking the durability and grip levels of our wet weather tyres."

Q: With the championship so tight and only three races left, how is Bridgestone going to fight back?

Hamashima:

"We have to make the best tyres we can! We have been working extremely hard over the past few weeks and have come here to Monza for a big testing effort which we hope will benefit all our teams."

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 Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro 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?

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?

Hamashima:

"Yes, of course the FIA are welcome to inspect our tyres. 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?

Hamashima:

"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?

Hamashima:

"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?

Hamashima:

"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?

Hamashima:

"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."

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