Bridgestone this week denied rumours that it would pull out of F1 in 2004 and on Thursday, Rubens Barrichello set the pace in a test session at Barcelona with new specification tyres from the Japanese tyre manufacturer fitted to his Ferrari.

Bridgestone this week denied rumours that it would pull out of F1 in 2004 and on Thursday, Rubens Barrichello set the pace in a test session at Barcelona with new specification tyres from the Japanese tyre manufacturer fitted to his Ferrari.


Most F1 observers are of the opinion that Michelin produced more effective tyres than Bridgestone over the past few months and that could explain why Williams-BMW had the edge in the Monaco-, European- French- and arguably the Canadian Grands Prix. The French manufacturer’s advantage is not necessarily because of superior rubber compounds, but a new tyre dimension introduced since the Monaco Grand Prix.


The Williams-BMW FW25 had been plagued by chronic understeer since its racing debut and Michelin worked closely with the team to find a solution to improve the balance of the car. Michelin introduced a wider front tyre: 35,56 cm (14 inches) against 33 cm (13 inches) for the Bridgestone front tyres used on the Ferrari F2003-GA. This wider front tyre is an aerodynamic drawback but in exchange, the balance of the car is greatly improved.


Bridgestone responded by also producing a 14-inch tyre for its client teams – Ferrari, Sauber-Petronas, Jordan-Ford and BAR-Honda. Barrichello spent Thursday evaluating Bridgestone’s new tyres and outpaced Williams-BMW test driver Marc Gene to set the fastest time of the day.


In scorching 34 degree heat, the Brazilian set a best lap of 1:17,830s in his F2003-GA, going 0,198s faster than Spaniard Gene could in his Williams-BMW machine.


Ralf Schumacher was third quickest, as he worked on fine-tuning the FW25's set-up for Silverstone. His namesake Ralph Firman was an impressive fourth quickest for Jordan, despite only completing 61 laps because of front suspension trouble.


Olivier Panis was fifth quickest for Toyota. Having completed tyre and set-up work in the morning, the Frenchman ran a revised aerodynamic package on the TF103 in the afternoon. The package featured a new front and rear wing, revised bodywork and diffuser.


The McLaren-Mercedes team cars ran mid-field. Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest in an MP4-17D, although he lost an hour of running when his Mercedes engine expired. David Coulthard and test driver Alex Wurz continued to struggle in the MP4-18 as the two slowest runners of the day. Coulthard completed only 45 laps and Wurz seven on the day.