There have been a number of complaints this year about the Bridgestone control tires, with the company's conservative choice causing problems with tires cooling in cold conditions. The problem - especially with the softer side of the asymmetric tires cooling down in cold air temperatures - has been blamed for a number of crashes this year, including Ben Spies morning warmup crash at Le Mans, Valentino Rossi's huge off at Mugello, that snapped his tibia and put him out for four races, and Hiroshi Aoyama's vicious highside that cracked the Interwetten Honda rider's vertebra and left him sidelined until further notice. A few riders have made made muted complaints about the tires, but these have been largely ignored.
Casey Stoner has been far more vociferous in his criticism of Bridgestone, raising the issue of safety of the tires. In the pre-race debrief with the press at Laguna Seca, he raised the problem again, issuing a stinging criticism of Bridgestone's hard tires, and asking for a softer tire than the ones being supplied. Here's what Stoner said to the press on the issue:
Q: Are you looking forward to having Bridgestone's asymmetric tires here?
Casey Stoner: We've had the asymmetric tires at almost every race this season, and they've been terrible, to be honest. I can't lie, they've been terrible, and I think every other rider can complain with me in the same way.
Already last year we had some difficulties, but they said last year we had the same compound side to side. But with Bridgestone, it's a different situation, I've been with them for quite a few years now, and I understood many times that if we had the same compound on both sides, sometimes a very hard compound, a lot of the time the other side would warm up a lot better than an asymmetric tire.
So when we come here and we have asymmetric compounds, I've found many times in the past that I didn't like the feeling of it, it never really wanted to warm up. I don't know whether it's because of the connection, that it doesn't really work the same with the tire, but we can never get the side of the tire that we don't spend so much time on to really warm up. So no matter how soft it is, it's difficult to get it working. Coming to a track like this, with cold weather like this could be interesting.
Q: On the asymmetric the harder part, only the harder part is different for the other?
CS: Both sets are different. Normally, the softer side will be the same, and on the left side, it will be a different compound. But it's not just a separate compound, it's a different family of tire. It's a different way it's constructed, it's a different type of rubber. What doesn't make sense is that, say in these last races, the softer tires have actually been constructed in the past to withstand more heat, to withstand higher temperatures. So we have a harder compound for higher temperatures, but yet the softer compound is better for withstanding temperatures, so there's no real sense to what they're doing...
Q: So you're saying that with two different compounds, it's not transferring the heat in the softer, so it's better to have one compound with the actual tires, because it transfers the heat better?
CS: Not always. But many times in the past.
Q: It's even worse, because you do not know how it will go...
CS: Exactly. So we use one tire which is probably the soft one this year - it's not soft, it was very hard - and now every soft tire at every track, we can do the race, no problem. No matter how hot the race is, we can run with the soft tire. And for me this is ridiculous, because as soon as we have low temperatures, it becomes dangerous.
So in these last four races, I'm running the softer option, something I've never done in my career with Bridgestone. Because to be honest, we just can't get the harder one to work, it's impossible, it's a stone. It doesn't want to work at all. So everyone is running with the softer option, because they're able to get this one working. And to be honest, it's durable enough for the heat, for the temperatures. So there's no real sense to have the harder one, this should be the hard one and they should make one softer or vice versa.
Q: Have you had this problem for a long time?
CS: It's because they have control. It's a control tire, they have control of everything.
Q: And they've already built the tire in the past.
CS: That's what they're saying, we can't make new tires, it takes a lot of development, all this kind of thing...
Q: They have these hardest tires in some place, and they have to finish them.
CS: This is an economic crisis situation and they're not going to change for this reason. They have their defence, that they're trying to save money like everyone else is, and it's going to cost a lot extra, so …
Q: It's arguably a safety issue, so that seems like it would take precedence.
CS: Yes, we've already had meetings in the safety commission though. They said there that they are trying things, but like the same thing they've already told us, they already have stock that they have to now get rid of, they can't just make a new tire, and what happens with the old ones? We've told them that the softer ones should be unable to finish races in the very hot conditions. We've had a few very hot races this year, and the softer ones should be unable to finish it. You know, simple fact, the last ten laps should be sliding a lot or really really difficult to finish. Unfortunately they don't see it this way.
I heard a few times, a couple of people said that we get new, fresh rubber consistently all the time, and it was only until two or three races ago that supposedly we're still using tires that were from the tests at the beginning of the year. So you know they're also not fresh rubber, it's not consistently fresh, and definitely in the race at Sachsenring, the first part of the race, I was really struggling with the grip on the left side, so we went with an old tire from the day before, immediately we had a better feeling. I had a lot more grip on the edge, which I was struggling with the first part, and I was able to go, you could see my lap times, last lap of the race, I was able to do a 1'22.1, whereas in the first part of the race, I was on the limit and I did a 1'22.4 or 1'22.5, that was maxed out. So, just simple things like that.