After 17,000kms of tyre testing with its four teams, tyre supplier Bridgestone is ready to start the 2004 Formula One season. It will start its campaign with no less than 1400 new Potenza F1 tyres. Winter testing has seen Bridgestone and the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, Sauber Petronas, Jordan Ford and Minardi Cosworth teams travel to circuits across Europe in Italy, Spain and the UK - and the waiting is nearly over.
Bridgestone Motorsport will be flying eight new dry weather tyre specifications, one wet-weather and one extreme-weather specification to the Melbourne Grand Prix. The number of tyres being flown directly to Australia from its F1 tyre production facility in Tokyo is approximately 1,400.
Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit, on which the Australian GP has run since 1996, has undergone several changes in preparation for this year’s race including work on straightening the pitlane. Combined with an increase in permitted pitlane speeds, this will undoubtedly affect race strategies. The track surface, however, remains characteristically smooth. It is a relatively fast circuit in terms of top speeds but there are several 90 degree turns which will require good stop-go performance from the cars and tyres. Consequently, braking and acceleration will be important.
Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport
“The Australian Grand Prix is a great race to start the season with and our team of forty engineers, fitters and supporting personnel are raring to get out there. Bridgestone Motorsport finished last season on a real high with Ferrari and Michael Schumacher becoming the sixth consecutive team and driver to take their respective championships on Bridgestone Potenza tyres. We expect the competition to be just as hard fought this year but we are very determined to start this season as we finished the last.”
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager
“Bridgestone’s engineers have worked hard all winter in preparation for this race and we are looking forward to seeing our latest development tyres in action. Whilst tyre performance is always relative to that of your rivals, the progress of Bridgestone’s development over the past few months has been significant – and there will be more to come during the season. In the meantime I can say that we have eight new specifications for our teams. We have worked not only on compound development which is important for grip but also on improving both front and rear construction performance. All in all, I was very satisfied with our winter test programme and am confident we’ll be competitive in Melbourne – but the true test of course will start on Friday.”
“From a track surface point of view, the Melbourne race circuit is quite smooth and requires a soft-medium range compound to facilitate grip levels. Front tyre graining can be an issue resulting in understeer. However, teams will want to work on the prevention of understeer for the best chance of a good one-lap qualifying performance. They will also need to work on getting a good balance of front and rear tyres, which provides consistency over a race distance. In addition to this, the pitlane changes and the increase of pitlane speeds will most likely result in an extra pitstop and therefore shorter race stints, so tyre wear will not be as much of a factor .”