The #F1 Bar Exam: 29 May 2014

Welcome to another week of TheJudge13 #F1 Bar Exam.

Last week’s question(s): Can you name the driver and car in the photo. What was the purpose of driving the car and what involvement did this driver have with Formula 1 other than just being a driver?

The answer(s) I was looking for were: The driver in the photo is Aguri Suzuki driving the Ligier JS41during a tyre test for Bridgestone in 1996.

The Japanese manufacturer was preparing a comeback to the sport and enlisted the help of then Formula One racer Suzuki to help develop the tyres. At the time Suzuki stated that the prototype tyres he was testing had “outstanding traction and braking characteristics, but where they fell short of Goodyear tyres was in the feeling of solidity handling lateral G forces.

Suzuki never raced on the tyres he developed as his racing career came to an end in 1995 but, according to Suzuki he took great pride in the fact that he helped develop the tyres and the company had some good results in the very first year they came back with teams such as Prost, Stewart and Arrows.

Bridgestone’s first foray into providing tyres for Formula One was in 1976 at the inaugural Japanese Grand Prix. They were already making slick tyres for the local Japanese touring car championship and within three months they had developed a tyre that was used by Kazuyoshi Hoshino who was driving a second hand Tyrrell. The tyres performed well in the torrential rain and at one stage he was running as high as third but he ended up having to drop out of the race due to not having enough wheels to replace the wet tyres with dry ones. In 1977 Bridgestone provided tyres to two Japanese drivers but it was at this race that a marshal and a photographer died and Japan pulled out of Formula One racing.

Bridgestone then used the compound developed for their Formula One tyre to create a new kart racing tyre. These tyres had the same high grip compound and construction as the Formula One tyres and were immensely popular. They were used by many of the up and coming Formula One racers such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. This meant that years later when Bridgestone again entered Formula One many of the top drivers were already familiar with the brand.

Bridgestone spent the intervening years developing tyres for the Japanese F2 series, later branching out into the European F2 series in 1981. They continued to develop their tyre technology and in 1991 they entered the DTM racing series and then in 1995 they also started providing tyres for the Indycar series.

By 1996 Mugen was encouraging Bridgestone that it was time to enter F1 racing. Trials of Bridgestone tyres on Mugen test cars and ex-F1 machines had first started in 1989. However, if they were to consider entering F1 they wanted a current F1 machine to test on. Tom Walkinshaw had connections with Bridgestone from European F2 and was running the Arrows F1 team. His team was under contract with Goodyear, but Goodyear agreed to let Arrows run tests with Bridgestone tyres as long as they continued to race using Goodyear tyres. Walkinshaw also provided the drivers one of whom was the 1996 F1 World Champion, Damon Hill. Bridgestone then bought a Ligier JS41 with which to do further testing prior to entering Formula One.

During testing they found that their tyres were able to compete favourably with Goodyear and the decision was made to start providing tyres to Formula One for the 1997 season. In the first race of the season Olivier Panis got 5th place using Bridgestone tyres. That year Goodyear announced that the 1998 season would be their last in Formula One, citing rising costs as well as the change to grooved tyres as their reason for pulling out. In 1998 McLaren chose to use Bridgestone tyres and won both the Constructor’s Championship as well as the Driver’s Championship with Mika Hakkinen.

Below is Damon Hill driving the Bridgestone test car.

It appears however that the relationship he built with Bridgestone did help him when he started his own F1 team in 2006. The Super Aguri F1 was launched in 2006 and although between 7 and 8s off the pace in Bahrain, by the end of that year they were getting lap times that “compared favourably with the top teams“. In 2007 they got their first points at the spanish Grand Prix courtesy of Takuma Sato finishing in 8th place. This was followed by a 6th place finish in Canada but that was it. The team folded after 4 races in 2008.

More recently Suzuki has entered the Formula E championship and will again race under the Super Aguri banner.

Well done to Tim, Vik, AV2290, Jim, The13thDuke, Johnny, Cassius42, Milestone11, Adam, Jason, Thomas888, Taflach, Alan and Tony!

This week’s question(s): Can you name the driver, team and car in the photo. Can you also state at which race this photo was taken and a bonus point (+2) if you get the corner.

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Please provide your answers in the field below:

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