Bridgestone to keep nonsensical ‘step allocation’ for 2010

Bridestone’s technical manager Tetsuro Kobayashi was highlighted in a press release on the Bridgestone website complete with a Q&A. In that Q&A, Kobayashi announced that the company would be continuing their “step allocation” program for 2009:

“Like 2009, Bridgestone intends to take two dry compounds which are a step allocation apart to most races: Hard and Soft or Medium and Super Soft for example. This will not be possible at some races however, such as Monaco, where it is important to have consecutive soft compounds to ensure maximum grip on the street circuit. The compound allocation will again be determined by Bridgestone, based on our experience of previous years and the data received from the teams.”

“The number of sets of dry tyres to be made available in 2010 for each driver per race weekend has been reduced from 14 sets to 11 sets. These will consist of six sets of the “prime” tyre and five sets of the “option” tyre. Furthermore, we will provide four sets of intermediate tyre and three sets of wet tyre. This is welcome news from Bridgestone’s perspective as we will have additional teams to supply and provide tyre fitting services to this year and we thank the FIA and teams for their co-operation in this regard.”

“We will mark the softer of the two compounds available at each race weekend with green bands on the outer edges of the sidewalls. We tested many different alternatives and this location gave the best visibility, from the side and also a head-on view. We have used the colour green as it shows our support of the FIA’s Make Cars Green campaign.”

While there are many fans of the stepped allocation process, I actually loathe the notion. It seems a weak attempt to create competition in my eyes but I may be wrong. Maybe its grand fun and adds to the tactics and strategy of F1 allowing teams to gain positions because others are on the compound that doesn’t work as well.

Tires

Whatever the reason, I seem to like it when the teams show up on grand prix weekend and fit the best rubber, wing configuration and fuel load and go for the win. Let the cars run! Don’t hobble them with a compound that is inferior for the track. I am reticent to agree with the notion that “well, all the teams have to use the not-so-good compound too” theory as not all cars use tires equally. Some will suffer a little on the less-than-optimum compound while other teams will suffer a lot on the same compound. Perhaps I am old fashioned but why not let the team pick the compound that works best for their car that gives them the best advantage to be competitive? Why mandate or create a false notion of competition wiht the stepped allocation?

The other worry is the increased fuel load weight and just how the tires will perform under those conditions. Kobayashi said:

“Certainly, with the cars being potentially 100kgs heavier this year at the start of the races than last year, the longer stint lengths with greater amounts of fuel will place additional loads on the tyres but our 2010 casing should be much more durable in comparison to the 2009 casing: the strengthened rear construction in particular; will help the cars accommodate this new rule. We will also keep monitoring and analysing the data very carefully at the coming winter tests and races because the downforce created by the 2010 cars will keep improving throughout the season. We have already noted that much higher downforces are being produced in comparison to last season.”

Many folks would agree that tire technology is a massive performance element in F1. The tires can make or break your cars ability to corner through slow and medium speed corners as well as power out on to straights and braking. The Michelin/Bridgestone war was clear evidence that the tire can win a championship for the right team. With that large of an impact and that much at stake, I find it odd they would play around with the tire compounds just so we can hobble the teams and potentially cost them a victory because they were out of sequence on when to use the not-so-good compound during a race.

This year also sees a reduction in the front tire width which has me somewhat perpplexed as last year the Overtaking Working Group said to remove the grooved tires and increase the front wing for better traction in the slipstream of another car. To offset the gain, they reduced the rear wing size and added a push-not-to-be-passed button. Now it seems the front tires have too much grip and Bridgestone has reduced the size of the front tires by 20mm. Would that reduce the front end grip and be antithetical to the OWG’s attempt to make the car more sure-footed when behind another car’s dirty air? Perhaps an engineering reader can enlighten us on that concept. Kobayashi says:

“The decision to change from grooved to slick tyres ahead of the 2009 season meant that the front tyres gained proportionately more contact surface area in comparison to the rear tyres. This in turn gave the fronts more grip than was ideally required. However, at the request of the teams, who had already designed their 2009 cars based on the previous sized fronts, we delayed the introduction of the narrow front until 2010.”

“It is actually 20mm more narrow (including wheel width) than the 2009 specification (2010 front tyre size: 245/55 R13) and it enables the cars to be better balanced from front to rear. From the teams’ perspectives, they should have taken these new fronts into consideration when designing their 2010 cars and they were asked in particular to consider designing the cars with more rear carrying load in order to get the best out of the tyres.”

“Of course, being a new sized front, the front construction has been slightly modified but the other main change this year has been a change to the rear tyre construction in order to increase its durability. There has also been some modification of the tyre compounds in order to manage the expected longer stint lengths and to provide quicker warm up times in comparison to our 2009 compound range.”

“There is a great deal of effort required when designing and introducing new tyre specifications. Firstly, it is vital that the tyres are safe and of a high quality. They must also be capable of doing the job they have been designed for. Our tyre designers and engineers at our Technical Centre in Kodaira City, Tokyo, Japan, were extremely busy last year working on the prototypes and ensuring that the final specifications met the stringent quality and performance tests at our indoor testing facility. Only when tyres pass these tests on the rigs are they allowed to be run on the cars. It has to be said that the teams have also played an important part in this process as their simulation data is vital in ensuring that we are placing the tyres under the right amounts and types of loading. It is very much a collaborative process and we now look forward to seeing the tyres in action on the race tracks.”

Color me old fashioned folks but I say, put the best tire for the car on a particular track on and let them run! Intentionally hobbling a car/teams performance is creating artificial competition and at this point they might as well start throwing “competition cautions” like NASCAR. It makes little sense to me but alas, it wouldn’t be the first time I have missed the plot on something really fun and exciting like this.

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