Bridgestone Motorsport has admitted that it is entering as much of an unknown arena as the ten team it supplied with tyres in Formula One as the schedule resumes with the first European Grand Prix to be held on the streets of Valencia this weekend.
The company, which celebrates its 200th grand prix involvement in round twelve of the 2008 season, has already confirmed that it will be sending the two softest tyres in its range to the all-new venue, but admits that it expects to discover more about the circuit - which winds its way around Valencia's Americas Cup port - as the weekend unfolds.
The street course in Spain's third-largest city has only recently been completed and only one previous race event has been held there, featuring nothing more powerful than the national F3 and GT classes. Formula One is set to visit Valencia for the next seven years, and will undoubtedly come better prepared in future, but, for now, Bridgestone is relying on data from various teams' simulation programmes and visits to the track to investigate the asphalt surface.
“The Valencia street course is new to Formula One, so this will present many challenges for the teams," Hirohide Hamashima, director of tyre development, said, "This is a course with many corners, although we expect quite high speeds to be attained over the course of a lap.
"As with any street course, we expect the grip levels from the circuit to improve over the course of the weekend. In Valencia in August, we should see quite high temperatures, so teams will have to be vigilant with their tyre management. We have evaluated the track layout and surface and we will bring the softest tyres in our compound range, the 'soft' and 'super soft', [but], as we have not raced here previously, this should be a learning process for everyone involved, and strategy decisions over the race weekend will be interesting.”
Hamashima admitted that it was somehow fitting that Bridgestone's 200th outing in Formula One should take place at the 25-turn course, where cars are expected to reach speeds approaching 300kph at no fewer than five points on the lap.
“When we entered Formula One in 1997, all of the circuits were new to us with F1 cars, so it is fitting that we should celebrate our 200th race with a new track," he commented, "Valencia is a city we spend a lot of time in when we are testing at the permanent race circuit, so to be able to race along the streets of the port will be
particularly special for us.”