Malaysian GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2
22 March 2013
Team representatives: Bob Bell (Mercedes), Cyril Abiteboul (Caterham), Robert Fearnley (Force India), Sam Michael (McLaren), James Allison (Lotus) and Pat Fry (Ferrari).
Questions from the floor.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
To the two engineers plus anyone else if you'd like to contribute: last week we had qualifying delayed and then run on Sunday. We've had races red-flagged here and postponed - it's been happening more and more recently. Is there any way the sport can put together regulations where we can minimise the number of either red flags or postponements to give the fans what they really come here to see and pay for?
I think that with the conditions you sometimes get here, there's so much rain, it would just be impossible to run so I think we can try and make the cars safer to run and I think we have but purely down to the... is there a tyre good enough for the conditions... there was a downpour in 2009, wasn't it... you're never going to make something that can survive that kind of situation.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Sorry, I'm talking generally, not just about here, because we've had it in Canada and all over the place. So I'm saying should we not be looking at a committee to investigate some way of overcoming this, not necessarily just here in Malaysia?
I just think that for me, personally, I just think it's a very difficult thing to overcome. With that much water, it's not safe to run. Whether the FIA want to get a committee together to try and understand and see if it is possible to run in that, that's entirely up to them.
I haven't got a lot to add. You know, you've seen it. The spray becomes impenetrable very quickly and the cars start to aquaplane. You could do something about the aquaplaning to an extent, with a different set of tyres, but the spray would still be an issue and there would still come a point where the aquaplaning would dominate, especially at places like this so I don't think technically there is much of a solution. We just have to wait for when there are conditions that a car can run.
Not unless anybody's got a quick connection to the man upstairs, no.
No, I don't think I can add anything to that. I think the teams are genuinely busy enough trying to design the car to meet the existing regulations. I'm sure the FIA have it within their power to investigate these things and see whether something could be done but as far as the teams are concerned, we've just got to get on and do the best job we can within the regulations as they currently stand.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer).
Mr Fearnley, over the last few races – last season, we saw it last week as well – you guys seem to have made a deliberate decision on the pit wall to split your strategies and do almost opposite things with your two drivers. Is this a lack of confidence in your strategic decisions, or is it something more deliberate?
I don't think it's a lack of confidence. I think I would have thought that Melbourne was obvious, that you've got one driver that's qualified on a supersoft and then you'd be the first of the contenders running on the medium. I didn't think there was anything risky in that at all.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer).
It just seems that with that kind of approach, it's not just in Melbourne, we did see it in 2012 as well, that it will give one driver the opportunity to finish really well and the other less so. Not that you're favouring one over the other, it was an even split. I was just wondering what the thinking behind that approach was?
Well, I think in 2012 you've got a slightly different process there because obviously we were defending – not defending, actually we were attacking and trying to get our position back from Sauber, so what you're trying to do is maximising the opportunities for optimum points and that would be the reason for the main split of the strategies. But where possible, you're always going to go for an optimum strategy for both drivers and we would do that. I think in Melbourne that was an optimum strategy for both drivers.
Speaking of two different drivers, James, what's the situation with Romain Grosjean? He's not been quite on Kimi's pace in the first Grand Prix and obviously again today he seems to be a bit behind; what's your analysis?
Romain showed us over and over again last year that he is a driver with a lot of pace. That's the one really valuable commodity that a race driver has and he's got that. He's not had an easy weekend either here or there, because we haven't been able to provide two cars in exactly the same configuration on either occasions so in Melbourne on Friday he was running a step behind Kimi in terms of his aero package, and then he had the upgrade for Saturday morning but then Saturday was disturbed by the weather as we all know. Here, once again, we only have one set of kit and we've chosen to run that with Kimi and Romain is disadvantaged for that. It's a feature of not having in-season testing that you try to upgrade the cars as fast as you can and generally speaking, that means that you're always going to have one set of kit ahead of the second set and that almost inevitably means that one driver gets to try it before there is a second one available. We will always try to get two sets available but not always possible. So he's had a difficult set of circumstances and he's also up against a teammate who is really firing on all cylinders so those are the two things.
Q: (Alex Popov – RTR).
Cyril, can you clarify the story of a possible merger with Marussia?
Yeah. I think we provided a comment – both Marussia and ourselves – regarding the fact that there have been some discussions over the Christmas period but clearly I think we all know that business, we all know Formula One, we know that it's quite a fluid and versatile environment. To be honest, I'm not that old and since I've been in F1 I think I've maybe heard ten times about mergers, including four big names, so there is nothing very big in that. We looked at that, we looked at whether it was making any sense, it didn't make any sense, it didn't happen. End of story.
Q: (Luigi Perna - La Gazzetta dello Sport).
Pat, are you confident you can have the same pace as Lotus or even better in this race compared to Melbourne?
I think our race pace should be OK here, similar to Melbourne. In terms of tyre degradation I'm not sure yet. We need to go and look at the numbers. Obviously today's running was a little bit mixed up. When everyone was doing their long runs this afternoon, there was rain in turns six and seven, so we need to see. Hopefully we will be able to get the degradation under control as well.
Is it likely to be another race where doing one less stop than your rivals is one of the keys to success, do you think?
I'm not sure how close we are to a three to four changeover or a two to three changeover. We need to have a look through the data and see really. I'd like to see James try and two stop here on Sunday.
James, do you fancy it?
Generally speaking this track is one stop more than Melbourne, so I think that might be a bit brave.