Questions from the floor
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport)
Ross, did the package meet your expectations? Did it meet what the wind tunnel predicted? And, secondly, Michael was significantly faster today than Nico Rosberg. Was it due to different programmes or was it a fair comparison?
No, there were different programmes. Nico tried some different changes to Michael, so I think tonight we will put all the packages together and see how we run the cars tomorrow which is obviously how any sensible team runs. Particularly with no testing. You have got a lot of things you are doing on a Friday to try and gather the information, so at the end of today we will put everything together. But the package was doing pretty much as we expected. Normally you come to Barcelona after a winter test with a driver saying the car is nowhere near as good as it was in the winter. At least our drivers are saying the car is much better than it was here in the winter but it is relative, it is not comparative on the day, so I think we are reasonably happy with it but all the teams have moved forward and it is a moving target. If you do nothing in Formula One you go backwards very, very rapidly, and as Nick Wirth was relating to when you are trying to fight your reliability problems you cannot also progress on performance. If you stand still you go backwards two-tenths, three-tenths a race, so you are fighting hard just to keep up with what is going on and I think we have kept up but we have still got to find more.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe)
Ross, can you explain to us why you have changed the engine cover and you have two holes to cool the engine instead of one?
It's the airbox, the intake for the induction system for the engine. Normally there's just one hole. We've got two because we've got a central structure for the roll hoop. It was done to improve the potential of the rear wing, so the system we have on some circuits where you need the maximum potential of the rear wing then we think it's a better system. That was the reason.
Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint)
It's really to all of you gentlemen. Just in case F1 decides to race the 18-inch rim rule for next year, do you feel that you are prepared to take on the challenge and if so, what would be the main issue?
As chairman of the technical regulations working group we've had a lot of discussion about that, and I think we would like to see a phasing of the 18 inch or a larger wheel. I think we understand that the tyre companies are very keen on a larger wheel because it brings a better efficiency of tyre. We're welcoming that, but it's just a question of phasing it in, and I think that if there was an 18 inch rim, it's very late at the moment and I think it would give a lot of the teams severe challenges and severe problems to get ready in time, because it's not just having a bigger wheel, an 18 inch tyre behaves differently and you would need to develop the suspension systems and the other things you would need for it. I think all the people involved in considering tyre supply for the future understand that and want to phase in a larger diameter wheel and it's unlikely that we will have a larger diameter wheel next year. That's still in discussion but I think that's the likelihood.
If you have 18 inch wheels and you are allowed to use all the space inside the rim for your brake system, for your cooling, for your aerodynamic development of the corner, as Ross mentioned, it would be a very, very big programme. Starting in May or June is very, very late, also for all the companies that make brake components because they have to study new calipers, new discs and for the team with completely new suspensions it would be a big programme. Everyone in the FOTA group would like to have a more phased-in programme. Even if we had to start with the 18 inch rims, at least the inside of the rim in terms of mechanical parts and braking system should be kept similar to this year and then evolve over the next few years.
Q: (Mike Doodson)
I watched the Chinese Grand Prix on TV and I wonder if you guys were as startled as I was to see an innocent young driver come charging down to the braking area of a tight corner, put on the brakes, and both front wheels fell off like chocolate biscuits. This presumably has safety implications for the future and reflects on the lack of testing that you're allowed to do. Do you think therefore that new rules should be introduced that either freeze the specification of the car, so that this sort of thing can't happen in public again, or perhaps there should be some form of allowance for testing of new parts before they're brought to a race?
I don't think there should be a spec freeze, Mike. Obviously Giorgio (Ascanelli, Scuderia Toro Rosso's technical director) is the right person to comment on the details but what he did do was inform the group that it was a process failure that they had had and wasn't related to design and it wasn't something that would generally affect anyone else or his cars after that. He's obviously a member of FOTA and we discuss things like that. Things can always go wrong, but I don't think it's a reason for having a knee jerk reaction and freezing specs, because if it's a process failure it can happen on a set of uprights or suspension that we make for the next race. It's not necessarily because of a design change.
I think the other thing is that testing in itself wouldn't solve the problem because that incident could have occurred at a test and would have had similar consequences. As Sam said, Giorgio's the best one to respond to that question. I don't think there's a need to make any changes to the way we approach things to avoid that happening.