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GP Week : Issue 21
5 Minutes with ... Hirohide Hamashima The Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development spoke toWILL BUXTON GPWEEK: How happy have you been with the performance of the F1 tyres thus far in 2008? HIROHIDE HAMASHIMA: Of course, there are always areas where we can improve, and finding these areas for improvement is part of the reason why we are in motorsport – but overall I am happy with our tyre performance in 2008. Have you had any moments that have surprised you? (Hamilton in Turkey perhaps, or Piquet running half a race on each set in Germany?) Of course, we learnt from the situation with Hamilton in Turkey, but Piquet in Germany was not such a surprise as we have seen one stops before in more difficult conditions, like in Canada in 2007, when Alex Wurz made only one stop when we were using the soft and super soft compounds. There has been talk that you will make the difference between the compounds much greater in 2009. Is this true, and if so, how much of a difference are you hoping to create? Making a bigger gap between the two compounds is something we are considering, but there are many factors to consider. The difference in lap time and characteristics for the two compounds varies between cars and drivers so any change will affect some teams more than others. Also, two compounds could be quite close together in characteristics and lap time over a single lap, but further apart at the end of a race stint. This season we have seen the difference between the two compounds has been less than last year, not because of changes to the tyres, but because the teams understand how to use the tyres better. Next year we will have slick tyres, and this is a big change for Formula One. The tyres are new to the teams so it is unlikely that the tyres will be so close in performance when the teams are still learning how best to use them. Of course, it is difficult to predict the exact difference 18 between two compounds before a race, but very easy to ask for something different with the benefit of hindsight. When there has been a big gap in lap time between the two compounds the tyre strategy to use has been obvious. When there has not been such a big gap, and other factors like driver preference and car characteristics come into play, there have been some interesting strategies and good racing, just like we saw recently in Hockenheim. As you say, we move over to slick tyres next season. How is the development work going on the slick tyres? We have been testing this week in Jerez and have gained valuable data and feedback. In terms of the tyres themselves we are happy with progress. The teams are still at an early stage in learning how best to utilise these tyres and it will be very interesting when the tyres are tested with 2009 specification cars. The feedback was good, and most drivers recognise the potential of these tyres, but realise that it is still early days in the development of the new cars. Much has been made of the issue of tyre warmers. The FIA has now said they will be allowed next year. Do you think this will make a big difference? Of course there is a difference with the presence of tyre warmers relative to there being no tyre warmers. Formula One has had tyre warmers for many years so it would have been a significant change, but once it had happened the drivers would have soon adapted. In GP2 there are slick Bridgestone tyres and no tyre warmers, so drivers have to defend position when leaving the pits. It causes some great racing. Do you think the same would have happened in F1? Of course, a Formula One car is different from a GP2 car, and even in Formula One with tyre warmers we see drivers defending position when leaving the pits. This would certainly be more difficult when exiting the pits on tyres which are not fully heated to their operating temperature. Finally, this year’s MotoGP is also proving to be very exciting. Bridgestone now seems to be the tyre of choice. How happy are you with the manner in which your participation in the championship is going? Our participation in MotoGP is very valuable and we are learning a lot. Lessons we learn in MotoGP are translated to our road motorcycle tyres so this is a fascinating time for us as anyone can see how good our progress has been in this field. However, the competition is tough and we are keen to keep improving and striving for good results.