12 April 2013
Friday press conference - Chinese GP - Pt.1
Pat's only been coming back to the circuit this year, made a couple of appearances and very welcome too – but I rather hope he stays at home more and makes the car go quicker that attending circuits. He's a massive influence in our drawing office: brings a lot of discipline, a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience, particularly with the wind tunnel programme that we've been pushing on with for the last 18 months. It's made a massive difference to us.
Franz, a new technical structure headed by James Key, tell us about the changes.
There were a lot of changes from the technical side, from the personnel side. James reshuffled the team, he bought in much more people in the aerodynamic department – in the wind tunnel as well as in CFD. He also brought in some more people in the design office and the way, the method of working has changed as well. I'm quite positive and convinced we are on a correct way and I also expect a successful season because James has built up quite a strong team around him and as you can imagine it takes a little bit of time. But I think from the middle of the season onwards all the positions should be fixed and people will work concentrated and so far I must say the performance increases and I think we are on a correct way.
And that goes hand-in-hand with the physical expansion at the factory as well?
Yes. We built up the new composite building, which is finished now. That means we've bought in much more people in the composite department. We are producing now in-house the monocoque, the front wing, rear wing, nose, bodywork, the engine cover as well as the brake ducts as well as the floor and diffuser. That means we are much more flexible. The reaction times are much shorter and from this point of view, the team has really increased.
Ross, your imposition of what might be seen to be a team order has also been perceived to be establishing a hierarchy within the team. What do you have to say about that?
There is no hierarchy in the team. Both drivers have exactly the same status. Inevitably in a hard racing season on driver may start to get the upper hand and that may become a factor to take into account towards the end of the season. We would expect a driver who perhaps didn't have a great chance to win the Drivers' Championship towards the end to help one who perhaps does. I think that's our expectation of the drivers. Certainly we don't have any different status between the two drivers. In terms of our situation in Malaysia, I think there are some similarities with Christian's situation. We had… certainly Lewis was very tight on fuel and Nico was low as well. Not as bad as Lewis but still not in great shape. So it seemed that it could lead to a problem where we had both drivers racing each other, because one gets past and then you can slipstream and use the DRS and start saving fuel when you get past and I could foresee a situation where it could get very delicate at the end and for me there wasn't a great deal to gain, because we were third and fourth and no threat and no real opportunity to catch the cars in front. Fortuitously our driver, because it mainly affected Nico, respected the request and did what he was asked to do. But it's a very emotional situation when you tell a driver he has to back off. He has the bit between his teeth, he's charging and he feels he has an opportunity, that's what they're there for. As I think I said afterwards I would have been disappointed if he hadn't been upset, because they're very, very competitive individuals and that's what we pay them for. But it's a very delicate situation and I've been there several times. I think what we mustn't do is push it underground. I think if we have clandestine team orders then that makes us look far worse than accepting the situation we have, which is that it's both a team sport and an individual drivers' sport and the teams will try to find the balance between those two objectives. And they don't always marry easily. We want our drivers to race. The rule is don't hit each other and that's all we ask of them and we want them to race. We have demonstrated many times that we're happy to let our two drivers race. But there will be occasional circumstances where the risk is very high and for the good of team we'll make a team decision about what we need to do.
One more question. There is a new management structure at Mercedes, how is it working?
OK. I think we all know Niki, he's quite a colourful character and I'm not talking about his hat. He has a lot of input, often a lateral view on different things, which is worth listening to. He doesn't have an active day-to-day role. Toto is now based in Brackley, taking over a lot of what Nick Fry did, thus getting more involved in the sport and politics as Nick did in the latter few years. I think we have our areas to look after and on that basis I'm happy.
Transcript courtesy FIA
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