“We have two unknown circuits next year''
The Brazilian Grand Prix will be the last race of the season and its conclusion will see an eighth Formula One drivers’ championship won on Bridgestone Potenza tyres.
This season has been played out with all teams and
drivers supplied with exactly the same Bridgestone tyres, and this has helped to contribute to the drivers’ championship battle going down the wire to the season finale, with three drivers being in with a shout of taking the crown.
Heading to Brazil, McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads the standings with 107 points after featuring on the podium twelve times, winning four Grand Prix. Next up is his team-mate Fernando Alonso
on 103 points after appearing on the podium ten times, winning four Grand Prix. The third and final driver in with a chance of taking the crown is Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen
, on 100 points after eleven podium appearances, five of which were on the top step.
That all the cars and drivers have been on Bridgestone Potenza tyres this season has been a big difference for teams after the six previous seasons in a competitive tyre environment. As well as changing the way that they approach their sport, it has helped bring the competition closer together.
“For Bridgestone, this season has gone very well and to see three drivers with the chance of becoming world champion in Brazil makes it very exciting,” says Bridgestone Motorsport Head of Track Engineering Operations, Kees van de Grint.
“Lap times over the season have been closer than they have been for many years and Bridgestone has played a large contribution to this. To the contrary of a competitive tyre situation, the tyres were not the deciding factor in the races. Instead, they have been won by the skill of the drivers, constructors and team strategists.”
The last time that the drivers’ championship went down to the final race of the season with three drivers having the potential to win was in 1986, eleven years before Bridgestone’s full time participation in Formula One began.
The constructors’ championship, meanwhile, has already been decided, with Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro registering their seventh title on Bridgestone Potenza tyres.
After the withdrawal of Michelin, Bridgestone had to increase its capacity and supply of race tyres to be able to service all of the teams.
Instead of the previous situation of producing different tyres for each of its supplied teams, and different tyres for each circuit, this season every team received the same tyres throughout the year, meaning a change of focus for Bridgestone.
“This year has not been one of constant tyre development, which is what you would see in a competitive environment, but rather of consistency in our tyres,” says van de Grint. “We produced four compounds which could cover the whole season and these tyres remained the same through the year so that teams could develop their cars to make the best use of them.
“Of course, we had a change to the rules for this year so that drivers had to use two different compounds during the course of a race, and this added another element to the races too.”
This year, Bridgestone produced more than 50,000 Formula One tyres. “We bring 2,200 tyres to every race and on top of that there are tyres for testing and demonstration purposes,” explains van de Grint. “This is a big logistical operation and Bridgestone spends considerable resources every year on its Formula One programme, encompassing everything from logistics to tyre production, track signage, hospitality, marketing and so forth.”
With eleven teams and more than 22 drivers during the course of the season all using the same tyres, keeping everyone happy all of the time was always going to be a tough task.
“In this respect we have done a good job, but it will always be difficult to keep all of the teams and all of the drivers satisfied all of the time,” says van de Grint. “There has been satisfaction with our tyres and our technical support, if not always satisfaction from everyone about our tyre choice for particular circuits.
“Of course there are areas where we can improve, and our objective is always to be the best at what we do. At the end of the season we will review the year and look at where we should make changes. For example, at the majority of circuits we were happy with our tyre choice, but at maybe one or two we will make changes for next season.”
2008 will be the first year of Bridgestone supplying tyres to Formula One under the terms of the single tyre tender agreement until the 2010 season and there will be two new circuits for Bridgestone, drivers and teams to come to terms with.
These will be two new street courses, with Valencia and Singapore joining the calendar. Traction control will be a thing of the past, with a standardised ECU for engines meaning that driver input becomes more critical for tyre management.
“We have two unknown circuits next year and we will have to rely on our simulations for tyre choice for Valencia and Singapore,” says van de Grint. “There is every chance that next season will be just as exciting as 2007.”
In terms of statistics, the end of the current season will have seen 121 Formula One race wins on Bridgestone tyres, achieved in eleven years of participation. The tally of pole positions achieved on Potenza tyres will have reached 113 and there will have been 116 fastest laps and also 320 podium places.
However, it is this season’s final race which will soon be the focus of race fans the world over and whoever does take the honours will be joining Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher
in the record books by winning the Formula One World Championship in Brazil by using Bridgestone Potenza tyres.
“Both Michael and Mika were great champions,” says van de Grint. “And I’m sure we will see another great champion crowned in Brazil.”