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Monaco GP - Thursday press conference - Pt.1

26 May 2011

Team personnel: Graeme Lowdon (Virgin), Vijay Mallya (Force India), Adrian Newey (Red Bull), Peter Sauber (Sauber) and Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren).


Press conference


Q:
Graeme, what do you feel about this race. Is this going to be your best chance for points here?

Graeme Lowdon:
Monaco always has the potential for an unpredictable race and with the best will in the world that is our best chance at the moment until we can move the car further forward. We had a good run here last year until we had some car problems and I think now we are on top of the reliability problems that we had as a new team last year so we are looking forward to the race.

Q:
You talked about bringing the car forward which is basically upgrades. Is there now going to be a regular flow or has there been a regular flow?

GL:
There has been although we kind of went on hold a little bit in Barcelona. We were developing a blown exhaust system on the car and then following the directive from the FIA we decided that we would have to hold until the meeting next month when there is going to be a clarification of what direction to go in. We won't, in terms of pace... I don't think we will be moving much forward in this race but certainly we plan to keep moving forward as you have to of course. We will see what this clarification looks like and then determine then the direction we are going.

Q:
Is there any technical contribution coming from Marussia?

GL:
Marussia were sponsors of our team last year and then moved into an investment ownership element towards the end of last year so they are now gainfully integrated with the team and certainly in the future I think we will see information going in both directions. They have some really exciting road car plans for the long-term future and we are looking forward to playing our part in that as well.

Q:
Vijay, in some ways again perhaps your best chance here. We saw (that) a couple of years ago when you really were looking on course for points until Kimi Raikkonen ended your chances. Is this race a good chance for points as well?

Vijay Mallya:
Yeah, absolutely. Since the beginning of the season we knew that at least for the first few flyaway races we would still be in the development mode. We were hoping to launch a serious aero package in Barcelona. We haven't got everything together quite yet but certainly there are improvements that are already showing during free practice here in Monaco. This is a fantastic race, my favourite, I would love to score points here.

Q:
We always tend to see you as a representative of your nation. How is the Indian Grand Prix coming along?

VM:
Coming along really well actually. The track is almost ready and will be ready well in time. The recent press reports apparently quoting Bernie (Ecclestone) saying that if Bahrain is re-instated then the Indian Grand Prix may actually be pushed back to December obviously raised a lot of questions at home. But whether it is October 30th, as scheduled, or later in the year we are ready and quite happy with the progress the promoters have made.

Q:
What's the reaction at home especially now that Narain Karthikeyan is back in a race seat?

VM:
Well when Narain and Karun (Chandhok) were both on the grid there was a lot of joy and celebration in India. But as you may know Force India have launched the “One In A Billion” hunt. It is going very well. We have had a few rounds already and we hope to identify some talented Indian kids in the not too distant future.

Q:
Is there going a lot of interest in that?

VM:
Huge amount of interest, absolutely. In fact, people contact me directly saying 'my son or daughter is one month less than the prescribed age of 14 of a few days older than the limit of 17 and can we please get them in'. There is a huge amount of interest.

Q:
Peter, tell us about the contribution James Key has made to your team?

Peter Sauber:
The C30 is James Key's car and the car is a clear step forward. He is doing a good job and thanks to him we were able to move forward.

Q:
Tell us about the modifications and the programme of development. How great is that? And, modifications for this race?

PS:
Small modification to the front wing, rear wing, brake ducts and we have a modification on the front suspension.

Q:
And then in terms of general developments. Are you expecting something every race?

PS:
General development is on the aerodynamic side. I think that is the same for all the teams. We tried very hard on the exhaust side but it doesn't work.

Q:
When you are looking ahead at your next team to overtake as it were, which team is that? Which is your target team?

PS:
The target is to go forward and to keep the gap to the team in front of us and especially to keep the gap to the teams behind us.

Q:
You don't want to catch and overtake Renault, for example?

PS:
If it's possible, why not?

Q:
Adrian, just tell us what the problem was with Mark's car this morning?

Adrian Newey:
It was a cut wiring loom, a gearbox wiring loom, which meant he lost one of the potentiometers on the gearbox barrel.

Q:
Is that a major setback for him to lose the whole session?

AN:
I am sure it's a pain. The question is whether that will have any effect on his qualifying, come, hopefully, Q3.

Q:
Interesting the situation with the pit-stop procedure change. What has accelerated that?

AN:
Sorry, I am lost here.

Q:
We understand that Christian (Horner) mentioned after Spain that because of the way Ferrari were stopping and were mirroring your stops, you were changing your procedure.

AN:
We suspected that Ferrari were able to judge when we were going to stop before we went on the radio to the drivers to say stop, so we made a small change based on what we thought they were spotting. Whether that was correct or not who knows?

Q:
Is it just being a bit paranoid?

AN:
Depends whether they were doing it or whether it was just one of those coincidences. I cannot comment really.

Q:
KERS seems to have been a recurring problem right from the start of the season. Give us some indication of how difficult it is to get it right as perhaps we just don't understand in the media?

AN:
KERS is a complicated project. It needs a lot of research, lots of development. The packaging route that we have chosen, whilst the system has its roots in the Renault Marelli system that was run a couple of years ago, it has been altered in various ways to suit the package we want for our car. That has caused some problems. It's not proving easy to completely eliminate it. We have hopefully learnt how to change it, but it is challenging for us. It is not really our forte, KERS development. We are an aerodynamics and, sort of, chassis composite engineering group rather than a KERS group.

Q:
Have you had to establish an entire new department?

AN:
Yes we have, but the department is quite small. With hindsight probably a little bit too small and there is quite a lot of inertia to these things. It is not easy to react quickly to a problem.

Q:
One of the things about this race is using the super soft tyre. Can you give us a little bit of information about how the super soft tyre performed. Did it perform how you expected or better or worse this afternoon?

AN:
It seemed okay this afternoon. Difficult to know exactly what to expect of it. This circuit is one of the lightest, or even the lightest, on tyres that we go to. Hence Pirelli's choice to bring a softer range than we have had to date and it seems to be coping well with that.

Q:
They have suggested ten laps, even less than ten laps, per stint on the super soft. Is that pretty much confirmed or can you not say until Sunday itself?

AN:
Certainly the indication from today is they should last longer than that. But it is difficult to be concrete and as have seen in the first five races what happens on Friday can change in either direction on Sunday.

Q:
Martin, that is the most extraordinary thing about this season. It is just unpredictable except for the fact that Red Bull are going to be fairly close to the front and probably on the front row.

Martin Whitmarsh:
Certainly, that is not too unpredictable at the moment. I would like it to be a bit less predictable. I am very happy if you keep asking Adrian questions. I would like to ask him a few myself. We made some progress in Spain. I think our guys were able to race with Adrian's and that was a step forward for us. We were not quite quick enough in qualifying. Had we had a better track position I think it would have been an even greater race but nonetheless it was exciting and encouraging. This circuit is very different from one week ago and from where we are going afterwards. This is a very specialist circuit. I think it is one which the drivers, the competitive drivers, believe they can go out and win so that makes it exciting. I suspect, I hope, it is going to be a bit closer this weekend. I think the strategy here is challenging. We know how difficult it is going to be to overtake here. I am not sure if DRS is going to be that helpful in my opinion but I can understand why people didn't want it going through the tunnel. But clearly the new chicane has been the overtaking place on the circuit so to not use DRS prior to that is a little bit of a shame in my view but we will see. Hopefully we will have a good weekend.

Q:
You mentioned in the preview how important your performance through sector three was in Barcelona and it encouraged you for here. Has that been borne out today?

MW:
I think we have, like Adrian and all the guys here, had Friday as a learning day. During the first session this time we only had one set of tyres, I am sure Adrian had some aero bits to try. We had a few aero bits to try. You are getting that information. You are doing some fuel heavy runs to see how durable the super soft is and also the soft tyre. The super soft tyre looks very consistent on all the cars. We are getting a lot of data and now the strategists and engineers can work hopefully to improve the set-up for tomorrow and also try and make sure we get it right in the race.

Q:
We mentioned the pit-stop concerns that Red Bull Racing have. Do Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have similar pit-stop concerns?

MW:
No, we don't. I don't know anything about that particular issue. I think you call the stops and try and make them as quick as you can. Inevitably, sometimes it is nice to know when others are making them but you judge that by where you see their tyre performance. It is very clear this year that if the driver goes longer than his tyres should have done then he lost lots of time so you can generally see just by looking at lap times when somebody is about to come in.


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