Tyres are essentially just a small patch of rubber connecting the highly developed multi-million pound Formula 1 car to the tarmac of a race track. They may seem trivial, but can have a huge effect on lap times, and are subject to massive amount of research and development.
Bridgestone begin their final season as official tyre supplier to Formula 1 this weekend, in a year which sees yet another change to tyre specifications. Regulations now demand a narrower front tyre, giving more grip balance front to rear.
Now that refuelling had been banned, modifications have also been made to tyre construction and compounds, due to the heavier cars, and to accommodate different strategy options that are now available to the teams.
Once again, Bridgestone will bring two dry compounds to each race, and drivers will be required to use both type during the race, assuming conditions remain dry.
The range of dry tyres will retain the same names as in 2009: hard, medium, soft, and super soft, although the compounds have changed from last season. The idea of using non-consecutive allocations for each race will also continue. For example, in Bahrain, the teams will be given super soft and medium tyres.
The softer tyre at each race will again be designated by green bands on the side walls, highlighting Bridgestone’s support for the FIA’s Make Cars Green Campaign.
Another change in the regulations will be the number of tyres available to each driver for a race weekend. The allocation is reduced from 7 sets of each compound to 6 of the ‘prime’ and 5 of the ‘option’. The wet tyre range remains as last season, with 3 sets of the wets and 4 of the intermediates available for each driver.
Dry tyres will almost definitely be the only ones needed in Bahrain this weekend, and the high temperatures provide a challenge in tyre management for drivers and teams. The Sakhir circuit has also been extended, making it the second longest after Spa. Traction demands of this layout will mean that tyre usage will have to be closely monitored.
Hiroshi Yasukawa, the director of Bridgestone motorsport, is excited about the coming season, and is also pleased from a commercial perspective that the season is starting in Bahrain. “This will be our fourteenth season in Formula One and we are anticipating a fantastic year ahead of exciting racing. We will be welcoming new teams, the return of Michael Schumacher after three seasons away and the introduction of regulation changes, all of which will play a part in making Formula One a fascinating sport to follow this year.
“For Bridgestone, the sport will continue to play a strong role in providing our sales companies with strong promotional and marketing opportunities and the Middle East, being a strategically important market for us, is an excellent place to start the season.”
Hirohide Hamashima, the Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development, outlines the technical challenge ahead of the company in the coming season. “There are both technical and logistical challenges for Bridgestone in 2010. No refuelling means we have modified the tyre construction and have all new compounds of dry tyres. As well as cars which will be approximately 100kgs heavier at the start of the race, we will see different pit stop strategies this season and the top ten cars starting with their qualifying tyres brings many strategy considerations for teams too. In terms of logistics we have new teams and 19 races.
“The Sakhir circuit layout is different this year, with an additional eight turns, and this will have an impact on tyre wear and car set up. We have the super soft tyre, which is from our lower temperature working range, and the medium, which is from our higher temperature working range. All this sets us up for a very exciting opening race to the season, especially with only relatively limited running in pre-season testing.”