Did Bridgestone compromise McLaren?

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

A mistake by Bridgestone, Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier, created additional problems for McLaren this weekend. Even before the race got underway the Japanese manufacturer was openly admitting it had brought the wrong choice of compounds.

It chose the same combination of medium and hard tyres it brought last year, despite the race being much earlier in the calendar this year and therefore held in cooler conditions. Hirohide Hamashima, the director of Bridgestone motorsport tyre development, said yesterday:

I think for next season maybe we have to shift the [compound] one position softer. It is about 10-15 degrees [C] lower than we expected, so especially the medium compound has some graining until about 10 laps, then it vanishes gradually.

Hamashima denied this had caused any problems for the teams:

We have checked the car data from every team, and so far we have seen no problems. Last year we found the small problem on the Friday, but now we are very happy and we don’t face any trouble.

But according to McLaren that was not the case. Ron Dennis said after the race:

There was some internal delamination which Bridgestone were very good at picking up. We didn’t want to have any tyre failure. It was possibly okay to run two stops, but it was a bit more severe on Lewis’ and we put drivers’ safety first.

Lewis Hamilton added:

The reason we went with the three stopper was that Bridgestone were concerned. They thought the tyre was going to fail like it did last year and they made us do a three-stop as it was the safest route to go. Unfortunately that put us in not such a strong position to win the race.

Were the two problems related? If they aren’t then why did Hamashina claim they hadn’t had any problems? (If Dennis is feeling particularly paranoid, he may point out that it is not his cars that appear in Bridgestone’s television adverts, but those of a certain leading rival.)

It’s not easy to say how far was this Bridgestone’s fault and how far was it McLaren’s, although Bridgestone clearly made a mistake in the first place by failing to appreciate how different the conditions would be in Istanbul in May instead of September.

The difference in driving styles between the two McLaren drivers further complicates the picture. Hamilton is much harder on his tyres than most drivers including team mate Heikki Kovalainen. At the same circuit last year he suffered a tyre de-lamination during the race.

According to Dennis and Hamilton, they opted for a three-stop strategy out of concerns over safety at Bridgestone’s insistence. Under similar circumstances at Interlagos last year McLaren stuck to a short-stint strategy out of concerns that the tyres would not last, and Hamilton potentially lost the world championship because of that decision.

McLaren still haven’t gotten to grips with the rubber supplied by Bridgestone, but the tyre supplier’s mistake this weekend didn’t help.

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51 comments on Did Bridgestone compromise McLaren?

  1. This feels like a problem with Hamilton’s driving style more than anything. If Kovalainen’s (fairly standard) style works in the same car and the drivers get equal equipment, then McLaren is not to blame. The fact that no other team had problems (not even Alonso at Renault) implies that it wasn’t a systematic tyre issue either. The 1-second-per-lap reinforces this, since it implies that Lewis was harder on his tyres at precisely the point where he was 1-second-per-lap faster and therefore wearing them out quicker.

    The spec tyre should suit as many styles as possible, but then it is up to the teams to make sure their cars are compatible and then it is down to the drivers to make sure their driving styles are compatible with their car/tyre combinations.

  2. Sri said on 12th May 2008, 3:57

    Thank you Alianora!

  3. Sri said on 12th May 2008, 6:20

    Hi there Alianora, Keith. Am a newbie and have been following this page since last year only. Now, would you mind giving some background info on yourself mate(Could you mail me Keith about yourself Keith?)? In case you chose to mail me, my id is: garagetinkerer@gmail.com. People damn sure as hell swear by what you guys have to say(mighty impressive, if i could tell you).

  4. KB said on 12th May 2008, 9:23

    Its a level playing field now. there should be no complaints…….someone give mclaren a tissue!

  5. Sri said on 12th May 2008, 9:48

    Ron and Lewis should learn from Ferrari. During 2005, Schumacher and Ferrari lapped up the only victory in Indianapolis. They were not exactly bad mouthing the tyre supplier(Bridgestone), though we know that was the only problem, in all likeliness. You wonder why Macca doesn’t have a good relationship with suppliers? They have on record mouthed off against engine suppliers Mercedes more than once in the past. Also, add Bridgestone to that list. There definitely will be more(which we know or don’t know of). Merely calling them partners(suppliers and sponsors) does not make your issues/problems go away. It is about PR. They need to get some assistance on that front.

  6. “Bridgestone compromised Mclaren”

    On the other hand, Bridgestone helped Mclaren. by giving Lewis a quicker 3 stop strategy.
    Lewis has always done well on a 3-stopper.(Brazil 2007, he went from 18th to 7th inspite of pitting one extra time). In France 2007, He managed 3rd on a day Ferrari were light years ahead, inspite of a 3-stopper. Lewis enjoyes pushing his tryes harder.

    Also, he was helped by the fact that Ferrari made a wrong tyre choice. Felip himself said Hard was much betetr than softs

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 12th May 2008, 10:53

    Sumedh, the three stopper definitely didn’t help Hamilton in Interlagos. Analysis after the race showed he would probably have finished fifth on a two-stopper, again assuming his tyres would have lasted,.

  8. I think that the question should be Bridgestone favours Ferrari?.

    It is clear that when all the teams changed to one team supplier they struggled with it (Could you imagine if the tyres supplier was Michelin?), well everyone except McLaren (anything to be with the more 700 pages dossier?. Remember Briatore asking loudly how they manage to adapt that quickly) and of course Ferrari. Still the teams are trying to adapt to the tyres, although most of them are getting in it.
    What it is clear to me is that the WCC in 05 and 06 fell to nowhere after changing tyres, and that such dramatic change did not help them but Ferrari and his subsidiary team in 07.

  9. Sri said on 12th May 2008, 11:48

    Santiago, Ferrari suffered last year, believe it or not and the one who inflicted on them was Bridgestone. Much after their new car was designed, Bridgestone at the beginning of the year came up with new compounds. Ferrari also tested them along with the rest of the teams(Remember now there’s a testing cap). I think i’d call that reasonably fair to all teams.

    Though i’d not deny that Ferrari have a large pool of data from earlier Bridgestone days. However, let me assure you that with new compounds not much useful. That will not have had given them any competitive edge, with information on tyre-wear etc. of new compounds, which were yet to be tested at the beginning of ’07. F1 is a very competitive sport. You rest for a minute and suddenly your opponents are 2 tenths a lap faster than you. Such is life.

    You’re right about Briatore. He did question Mclaren’s sudden spurt in speed. Half a second per lap in 2 weeks is indeed a big deal(i think it was sometime after Malaysian Grand Prix that he aired his views).

  10. Sush said on 12th May 2008, 12:22

    Sri, this years compounds are “apparently” identical to the 2003 spec bridgestone.

    its one of the Massa haters reason’s for berating him, thats when he tested continuously for them.

  11. Sri said on 12th May 2008, 12:28

    Sush, this bit has eluded me, so i would appreciate source/more info on the same.

  12. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 12th May 2008, 13:19

    @sri saying about jv doing better, i wouldnt go that far, he was 9 points behind hill going into the last race and he was only 3rd i think when his tyre flew off so he had no chance of winning anyway. also the 96′ williams was miles quicker than any other car that year giving him an advantage compared to other drivers. also note he made a few mistakes during his rookie year, hamilton made a handful all year. also id say jv’s contention for the tittle was more down to hill throwing away races he should have won rather than jv beating him outright unlike hamilton on alonso last year. coming on to your point that jv then won the tittle the next year, again the williams was the fastest car by a mile (2 seconds quicker in qualifying for the 97 oz gp) he should have walked that years tittle, yet mistakes by him led to schumacher nearly beating him! in my opinion jv was over rated he made too many mistakes. hamilton doesnt seem to make many and i thought he was great yesterday.

    back to the original post about macca and bridgestone, im a hamilton fan but id agree that bridgestone cant change the compounds of tyre just because 1 driver isnt happy. hamilton has to find his own way around the problem, maybe running with more wing so he doesnt have to get so much of his grip out of the tyres. 2 be honest if he had done better in qualifying p2 or pole he would have probably won the race and none of us would have had this discussion.

    also looking ahead to monaco, i for 1 expected, likke last year that mclaren would be the quickest there, but looking at the last sector yesterday (the tight, twisty complex of corners at the end of the lap) hamilton was losing time on massa, could that be a sign of things to come in monaco??

    i think if hamilton is goign to challenge for the tittle this year hes going to have to try more adventurous strategies because ferrari has the adavantage.

  13. Oliver said on 12th May 2008, 17:00

    Most of you guys are missing the point, its not tyre wear thats the problem, but rather, internal wear within the tyre walls thats the problem. What happens is that the tyre begins to break up from inside, like happened with Michelin tyres at Indy after just a few laps.

  14. the limit said on 14th May 2008, 4:01

    Its a problem that is well documented, and an advantage that Ferrari were always going to have when the majority of their rivals switched from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres.
    However, as always, some teams fair better than others, as do drivers. There is no doubt in my mind, as others of you have written, that Hamilton’s driving style is hard on his tyres.
    Also factor in, that he had to really dig deep in Turkey to keep pace with both the Ferrari’s. The Ferrari is the strongest car out there, and the team perfectly understand their tyres and get the best usage out of them.
    Bearing in mind Raikkonen had a first lap mishap, Hamilton only just pipped him at a pitstop despite Lewis putting in a number of real hot laps before stopping.
    Also, the tyre situation is the perfect foil for Ron Dennis and his team. It is easier to blame the tyres, than the failure of Hamilton’s race strategy and the overall car not being as competitive as the Ferrari.

  15. Sri said on 14th May 2008, 8:33


    This somewhat confirms(if you could call it that), that it was all BS from Ron and his folks in the PR team.

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