Thursday November 15th, 2001
Q. How would you summarise Bridgestone's overall performance in 2001?
Hirohide Hamashima. Overall, I'd say it was good, I was pleased with our performance generally. We saw lap times come down by an average of 2.5 seconds due to improvements in cars, engines and tyres - I believe about 33 per cent each - and we were significantly quicker at some of the 'technical' tracks. In addition, Michael Schumacher's pole position lap in Suzuka was exceptional, quicker than even I thought was possible. This was purely due to Michael's driving and the team's hard work - with nothing extra added.
Q. Is the ratio of 13 wins out of 17 what you expected this year?
HH. No, it is not what I anticipated. I expected cars on our tyres to win more races and have more podium places. However, the Williams-BMW package improved as the season progressed and they took some victories from our teams.
Q. One of Bridgestone's strengths in 2001 was consistency. How has that been achieved and is it something engineers have worked on specifically?
HH. In fact, it goes back as far as the early 1980s when we suffered problems with tyre degradation in F2. After that we came up with a new policy to focus our development on grip and consistency. Since then, our technology has got better and better. It has taken many years of hard work but our standards of consistency have improved significantly and Formula 1 has benefited directly from that in that we can now offer tyres that boast excellent consistency.
Q. Have you enjoyed having competition this year?
HH. Yes, I have. Being sole tyre supplier, as we were in 1999 and 2000, was a lonely business! We enjoy competition and beating a rival.
Q. How will you address any areas where you were not as strong in 2001 in your development of tyres for 2002?
HH. We are reviewing our results from 2001 in great detail at the moment. This analysis is crucial to identifying which direction we should go in terms of development for 2002. We get continuous feedback from our teams at races and tests. In addition, our engineers will meet with the teams a number of times during the winter months to discuss our 2001 performance and to keep them up to date with the direction in which we are going for next season.
Q. At the Bridgestone press conference in Tokyo last month, Michael Schumacher said his one request for next year would be for Bridgestone to produce more than the 120 specifications developed this season. Will that happen?
HH. The number is not really important so long as the quality and competitiveness remain strong. If we produce a small number of specifications that are race winners then that is more important. However, it may be that we will produce more test tyres for next year.
Q. Ferrari dominated this year. How do you balance their desire to stay at the top against the needs of your other teams?
HH. The focus is on producing tyres that are better overall, better for everyone. Of course, we want to help all our teams to be competitive and that is why we listen to them all during testing.
Q. On occasions this season we saw Bridgestone's more competitive teams making different tyre choices. In what ways do different cars/drivers use their cars differently, and what can you do to make sure everyone is competitive?
HH. The rules dictate that we can offer only two specifications of tyre. The teams choose which one to race with depending on driver preference and team strategy. To that extent, everyone has the chance to be competitive if they make the right choice for themselves at any given track.
Q. We did not see Bridgestone runners using scrubbed tyres as much as your competitor's teams this year. Does Bridgestone always design its tyres to be run new?
HH. Tyres have been a popular subject for discussion this season and we have been delighted by the fresh interest in our technology. The debate over whether or not performance is enhanced by grooves bring worn down and pre-race scrubbing of tyres has been an interesting issue. There is no current FIA regulation about the use of used tyres in a race, nor on the depth of the grooves at the end of a race. When grooved tyres were first introduced, we discussed the subject with the FIA to understand its intention and the spirit behind the rules that were in place. We design our tyres to be run new because that is when they are most competitive. We respect the FIA regulations and will continue to work within them.
Q. How is development progressing for 2002? Is the first prototype tyre ready yet?
HH. Development is going well and running to our timetable. Our new construction is ready but we still have some work to do on the compound. However, the first prototype will be finalised very soon. It will be laboratory-tested later this month and during December. At the same time, we will develop a second prototype that will used when track testing resumes in January.
Q. Assuming Bridgestone will supply fewer teams next season, will this make any difference to development?
HH. Of course, having fewer teams means we won't have as much mileage to work with. However, I'm sure all our teams will cooperate well with us during testing, sharing with us as much information as they can, so I don't expect us to be at a disadvantage. Some of our teams have offered us a tyre testing team, in addition to their car test team, so that will increase our development capacity even further.
Q. Do you expect the competition to be tougher next season?
HH. Yes, I think so. Our rival has data and experience of every track now and we expect them to be more competitive in 2002. However, we will, of course, be working even harder to maintain our advantage over them. I am sure we will both be monitoring each other's performance when testing begins in January and that will give us some idea immediately of where we are relative to our competitor.
Q.Finally, what are your primary objectives for 2002?
HH. Helping our teams to score as many points as possible at each race so that a team on Bridgestone tyres wins the 2002 world championship.
Published at 17:00:49 GMT