Hisao Suganuma’s tenure as Bridgestone Motorsport’s Formula One technical manager finishes at the end of this year. Bridgestone Motorsport catches up with him before he returns to Japan to focus on other areas of the company’s racing portfolio.
What have been the high points?
“The years 2002 and 2004, when Ferrari dominated, were very special for me. In 2002 we won the Championship at Hungary; in 2004 we won it at Magny Cours. This dominance might not have been good for the spectators, but from our point of view we demonstrated great tyre performance, and it made me very proud.”
Were there any low points?
“Obviously 2005 was difficult for us, but so was 2003. We struggled in 2003, despite winning the World Championship, and that prompted us to really analyse our tyre performance over the winter, and that led to our domination in 2004.”
How frustrating was it not to win the Championship in 2006?
“Of course it was disappointing, but in a way 2006 was one of our best seasons. We did a lot of pre-season testing to improve our performance, and we tried a lot of new constructions and compounds. We made a major change with regards to the construction, and that gave us a big step forward.
We still struggled a bit at the start of this season because the new tyre had a slightly narrower working range and the teams needed to adjust their cars to the tyre characteristics. But once they’d done that we made good progress and got some good results.”
What are Bridgestone’s strengths?
“We always try to keep momentum throughout the year. We never stop working!”
What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt in F1?
“To use all of the resources available. To meet the demands of the teams, we haven’t been able to develop the tyres using only the motorsport department in Japan; we’ve had to involve other departments within Bridgestone, such as the R&D department and the testing department. When you start using resources like that, it’s possible to have a very high level of development.”
What will you miss most about F1?
“The challenge. This is a high pressure job, but very satisfying when it goes well. When we had competition, the requirement was simple: to provide the best performing and safe tyre, and we lived by our results. I enjoyed that very much. With the one-make situation that starts in 2007, the emphasis will change a bit. We will have to provide the best service to all of the teams and we will seek customer satisfaction.”
Most of Bridgestone’s successes since you joined the F1 programme have been with Ferrari. Describe your relationship with the team.
“The relationship has always been very good – as it was with McLaren, when we were with them. Being an Italian team, Ferrari is a very easy team to get to know. Everyone was always very open, which made it easy to feel part of the team, and that was very important.”
What’s next for you?
“As a result of the company’s human resource rotation, I will move back to Japan. I will remain involved with motorsport with Bridgestone.”