Chinese GP – Friday press conference – Pt.2
13 April 2012
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson – Honorary)
Following up on the question on the pecking order, from first through twelfth, where do you see yourselves now and when you get the car more sorted, where do you have the potential to be? For the front row?
I think here the grid will look quite similar to that at the last two races. I don't think the pecking order is going to swing around that much. We're going to be somewhere around seventh to eleventh or something. Obviously we need to get a better car so that ultimately we're qualifying on pole. It would be nice to be able to sit and say we're qualifying on pole, take a five place penalty and start sixth. That would be quite a luxury really.
As I said earlier, we're very pleased to have taken the front row in the first two races. Also, as Pat said, the upgrade war which is a relentless one through the season has already begun so we can't rely on maintaining that performance even to this race; we've all brought upgrades this weekend, so we hope to be able to maintain that through tomorrow and take the front row again, but we certainly can't rely on it and certainly can't rely on staying there throughout the rest of the season. It will be long and very tough.
I think our best car was third in Australia, sixth in Sepang so I guess that puts us P four and a half. I've got no idea where we will come in this race. I think, like the other two, that the pecking order is likely to be largely unchanged. We're all pushing similarly hard developing our cars and I see no reason why there should be any substantial change to the running order. What will make the difference is very small errors during qualifying because the grid positions are separated by less than a tenth of a second.
Q: (Ted Kravitz – Sky Sports)
This is for everybody except for James: did you agree with Lotus in their assertion that the Mercedes system was against article 3.15?
I don't think it's really for us to comment on the argument that James has had. We've got our views on it but it's not really for us to discuss that.
I think we have the same point of view. We understand both parties and we accept what the FIA has said.
Exactly the same. I think it's a matter for the FIA and the other two parties involved.
For us it was a point of quite tricky interpretation so what we mainly wanted was clarity, so we have a clear decision from the stewards and I think that's better than the uncertainty that we've had in the last few weeks.
I think there's always different ways to interpret the rules, we've seen that going on for years. At least now there's a clear decision; we obviously respect that decision. People are always trying to stretch the limit of the rules. We had a wing that was legal in Barcelona on a Friday, Friday night it wasn't. Again, we respected that decision and took it off the car.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Honorary)
Pat Fry has talked about 'no golden bullet to fix the Ferrari'; McLaren is very quick so this is for the other four guys: what one area of the car do you really need to work on to make it even better?
I don't think there's one particular area to be honest with you. I think we continue looking at every part in the car, both aero-wise, mechanical set-up-wise and also the way we go about our race weekend in qualifying and in the race, so I don't think there's one single item that we specifically concentrate on, it's just an overall group effort on the whole car.
In our case I think it's very clear. From the teams that we are close to in qualifying, especially in our case, the difference is aero. Ninety percent of our lap time gap to the front row is aero. Of course there is a difference in aero programmes and budgets, so we just need to get more with less money, so it is possible.
The same for us really: aero is the key at the minute and that's what we're working hard on, but in lots of areas though, not just finding parts that we think have got more downforce but correlation and understanding flow structures and all that kind of stuff. We're on a steep learning curve and that's where we're heading, basically.
I'm with Matt, you fight the thing on all fronts and try to pick, across the whole gamut of bits you could put on the car to improve it, the ones that will bring the most improvement the fastest, but there isn't a family of parts that you pick from. It just depends on what ideas you've come up with in the factory, what the team has come up with in the factory.
Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
For Pat Fry and Paddy Lowe in particular: are you going to develop a solution similar to Mercedes for your car in the next few races – I mean the F-duct?
We've been looking at it for a while. I think it's just a case of weighing up what the performance is on our car. It's bound to vary differently from car to car and particularly if you've had that system in mind and developed your car to work around it, you're further up the development curve so it's not just a case of applying it to our current aerodynamic characteristic, it's then trying to exploit it further after that, so I expect there will be a two-fold thing: we will know instantly – or we know instantly – what it's worth in terms of lap time and we can weigh that up in the cost performance and the effort needed. And then we also need to look at what's the ultimate potential of that device. We've been looking at it for a month or two. Now it's clear we can at least start working for sure, weighing up everything properly.
In these days of really very limited capacity – whether that's people or time in wind tunnels – to develop aerodynamics, you do have to carefully select where you put your effort to make the most profit in performance, so this will fall into that camp. We have to decide how much we can get from it, how it ranks compared to other areas we may work on. It does have the immediate downside that it really is only a qualifying benefit as far as we can see, so immediately it has to earn quite a lot to make that worthwhile.
Q: (Cheng Liang Zong - China News Service)
Antonio, we know that the Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua joined HRT recently. How do you describe his future at HRT and what do you think he should do to ensure that he becomes a real Formula One driver? And secondly, after nine years of Formula One coming to China, Chinese people are still concerned that there is not a native Formula One driver or team so do you think it's just a question of a lack of money or lack of some kind of culture or is it just about timing?
We still don't know – the driver hasn't jumped into the car yet, so we still need to know his capabilities and as soon as we have an opportunity, he will drive in the young drivers' test so we have hopes of him and of course he's a part of our young development programme. We don't know how much we can expect from him but of course there are big hopes.
Regarding China, I think there are many countries, including India and China, that are far from Europe where the centre of gravity of Formula One has been in the past. They are just becoming important and we can see that China is an important country for the future. There are many countries that were not important in F1 and now they are becoming important in the last two years, so why not China in two years?
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport)
Pat, could you explain why you think the car is so far off the pace at the moment, notwithstanding the exhaust problem which presumably can't account for all of it? And why the team decided to take such a different design approach when, if you look at Silverstone last year when the blown diffusers were taken off, you were actually quite competitive?
I don't think you can use Silverstone as a benchmark for the car performance this year. Obviously the exhaust effect is reduced a huge amount from what we had last year. As I said, the exhaust is one of the more obvious changes that we've made, but that's quite a small part of the problem that we've got. I don't really want to go into where all the problems are – it's not just a case of us trying to build a quicker car, we need to fundamentally be changing the methodologies that we use to select, design and manufacture so that we are competitive long term. There's work on all fronts, not just work going into what we're taking to Barcelona, there's also a huge amount of work in just trying to change the fundamentals of what we do so we can actually take a step forward and be competing with everyone else.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport)
As a follow-up, can you just mention briefly what areas you think specifically the team is lacking in as opposed to the specific design features of the car?
The biggest performance differentiator – as people have mentioned earlier – is aerodynamics. We've got some issues there that we're trying to resolve. The areas you need to be working on is everything from the way you run the wind tunnel, the accuracy of your wind tunnel, the simulation that you use to decide what components to take forward, so we're not leaving any stone unturned. We're actually trying to review and revise our methodologies through the whole process and that carries on into the design office for trying to get weight out of various parts, make other bits more durable, so there's work going on absolutely everywhere within the company, on the basic fundamental methodology as well as just trying to upgrade the car.