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United States Grand Prix: Friday press conference - Pt.1

15 November 2013

Press Conference

Q:
Three of the gentlemen here are, of course, in new roles, one within the same team, in Nick's case, but in Paddy and James within different teams, so plenty to talk about. James, can I start with you? How big is the job you've taken on at Ferrari and what's it going to take to get back to winning ways?

James Allison:
I think technical director at any F1 team is a very big job, it certainly doesn't leave room for much else than the job in your life, Ferrari is an extremely prestigious F1 team with a lot of resource and an extremely high level of expectation. There is really no result other than winning that is good enough at Ferrari. So there is a lot of pressure to make sure I play my part in achieving that, but it is a wholly realistic ambition. It's a team with the kit, with the resource, with the people and with the drivers to get the job done, so looking forward to being there when it happens.

Q:
You've been in the post for a few months now, what's your assessment of what you've seen so far? Have you seen where changes need to be made and have you already started making those changes?

James Allison:
I've, first of all, been very fortunate to arrive at Ferrari at a point in their cycle when a lot of the changes necessary to return to the front rank – I mean right at the front rank, i.e. winning championships – a lot of the changes necessary to do that have been put in place by Pat Fry. I think I'm particularly lucky to have arrived and been able to benefit from those investments rather than having to start them from scratch. There is much more to be done but I'm a lucky chap to be picking up where I am.

Q:
Thanks for the moment. Coming to you Nick. Obviously we have to start with Heikki Kovalainen and his performance this afternoon – fifth fastest in the free practice session. Was that as impressive within the team as it looked from the outside?

Nick Chester:
Yes, it was. We feel he's done a brilliant job today, particularly with all the procedures and getting used to driving a new car. We felt it might take a little bit of time. But actually straight away in P1 he was already looking after the car very well and in P2 he was fifth quickest and good long runs, I think he's done a great job today.

Q:
Like James, you've been in your role for a little bit of time now, taking over from James at the Lotus team. What's your route forward? Are you going to continue the path he had set or have you got some changes you want to make in the technical structure?

Nick Chester:
There are a few changes. There are a couple of areas where we felt things could be moved on. Those are going into place now. Most of it's a good baseline. It's a very good team and there are a lot of good guys there. But there are always chances to look at things you could do better and you have to move those things on when you can.

Q:
Thank you for that. Paddy, coming to you. Like these other two gentlemen, you're a few months into your position at Mercedes. What excites you about the role you have and how do you see it evolving over the next period of time?

Paddy Lowe:
It's fantastic to come to a team like Mercedes, they've got a very positive momentum. We've seen the progress made since last year through to this season. So it's just fantastic to come into that team. Had a great welcome from Ross and all the other people there. It's just very exciting to build on that. I really feel I can make a difference, but they're already in a great place, with momentum going the same way.

Q:
Obviously, you're locked in a fight for second place in the Constructors' Championship with James' team and Nick's team. You've got it at the moment. If you were to finish there on Sunday in Sao Paulo – second in the championship – would you consider that a success for Mercedes this year, particularly given the distance behind Red Bull. And also, would it build a sense of expectation within the Mercedes board in terms of 2014?

Paddy Lowe:
Absolutely. F1 is a very tough business and you can't build to championships from nowhere. Our target this year was actually to come third, so if we can get third or exceed third that would be meeting our ambitions. We very much hope we can get second and that would be a fantastic platform from which to mount an attack for the championship next year. But we have tough rivals around us, so we're not underestimating how difficult that would be.

Q:
And expectations from the board if you were to do that [finish second]? Would that be a positive thing or would that put extra pressure on you?

Paddy Lowe:
We get tremendous support from the board. Daimler is a very big company, with a huge, long pedigree of motor racing success. They're full of support for us but they want us to win, clearly, and that what we want to do.

Q:
Coming to you Sam. Obviously we have to start by talking about the decision this week to replace Sergio Perez with Kevin Magnussen. Simple question: why was this the right thing to do?

Sam Michael:
I think it doesn't overshadow the fact that we haven't had a good enough car this year, I think that's been pretty well documented, so it's one of those decisions that every team takes every year. You look and assess where your capabilities are where you think you can improve and the view internally is that we could improve by going with Magnussen. As I said, Checo's doing a fantastic job at the moment considering the pressure that he's under. He's keeping his head level and being very professional about it. So, very commendable his approach over the recent races, and as recently as this one. It's obviously a discussion that's been going on for quiet some time. It's always going to be difficult when you make a call like that. But I think we're in a very fortunate position at the moment with our young driver programme, in that it's very rich with talent and Kevin's just the first of the guys in that pool. I've come across lots of drivers in my time in F1 and when you see drivers like that come along, it's very important that you react and make the most of those opportunities. So really, it's always a twofold thing. It's what you currently have and what you can do to improve yourself. To be honest, it's not that much different with engineers and designers and all your people. You're always looking to add and improve the team. Clearly, the driver is much more in the public eye, because there's only two of them and they're in the race cars at any one time. Anyway, it's a decision the team has taken and we're looking forward from here.

Q:
Jenson Button was saying yesterday that there's a lot of work to do with the new technology for 2014 with these cars and obviously it's an extra challenge having a rookie driving one of the two cars. To what extent have you factored that into your plans and is there an element of risk there?

Sam Michael:
I think we've factored all of those sort of things into what we're doing, including the testing he's done for us already, all the simulator work, his performance in the lower categories and any sort of work that we can do between now and the start of next season. I think with the rule change – and it is a huge rule change, on the powertrain and aerodynamics – the way you drive the cars is going to be quite different. We've already done quite a lot of work in the simulator on that at this point and, if anything, it probably lends itself some good opportunities for change. To be honest you can argue that either way: you can argue and say experience is going to count; you can also argue the benchmark is being reset. But ultimately it's four tyres on the ground that you drive as quick as you can around a circuit. We've got a good balance of Jenson, who's a world champion, plenty of experience, and if you're going to have the risk that you take of putting a young guy in – because there inevitably is – then it's a good time to do it.

Q:
Adrian, obviously the standout story of this season is the way that you have developed this Red Bull car and also, Sebastian's way of driving it. Now that the title is decided and obviously the technology is obsolete for next year, can you tell us how you did it?

Adrian Newey:
There's no magic bullet, it's the usual development story I think. This year's car was a very close cousin of last year's. Relatively small evolutions over the winter with essentially stable regulations. So really started this year where we left off last year from a car point of view and it was just about developing it, understanding it. I think the change in tyres back to the 2012 tyres was also obviously something that had an effect on the car and possibly suited us – it's difficult to know exactly. So general development, no magic.

Q:
Obviously continuity is an important part of your success, as it was with Ferrari's ten years ago. You're losing one of your closest lieutenants in Peter Prodromou who's moving on at some point in the next couple of years. What's your feeling on that? How disappointed are you in that and how difficult is it to keep a winning group together?

Adrian Newey:
Movement is the nature of F1 – and you only have to look at the people sitting at this table. I think it's healthy in many ways that there is a bit of movement otherwise it would all go stale. I am sad that Peter's leaving because I've worked with him for many years but I guess he has his reasons for wanting to move on. I think we've got good strength in depth in Red Bull so we will carry on as well.

Q:
Rob, as Adrian was saying, there has been a fair bit of movement between teams of engineers and obviously the same thing's been going on to some extent within engine builders as well. As a result of that do you feel you have a better understanding now of where you stand relative to Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of 2014 technology – and where do you think that is?

Rob White:
I think the first thing to say is that traditionally – and it's still the case – there's perhaps a less volatile environment amongst the engine people and that remains the case and there hasn't been substantial movement around. Answering the question about does that give us incite into where we stand relative to the other guys in 2014, we have very little way of knowing where we shall be in 2014 relative to the others. At the moment, it's absolutely about getting the best out of our own programme, making the best of the resources that we have. I feel that we have everything that we need to do a good job but we're now in a phase where actually delivering is absolutely the top of everybody's job list.

Q:
And how much will driving styles have to change next year, do you think and how much slower or how much faster will the cars be do you believe than they are this year?

Rob White:
I think driving style… I'm not sure I can give a good answer to that but one of the things that I think will be important and perhaps a differentiating factor is just the capacity to get the most out of these new and complex power units and the way in which they'll be operated over the course of the race weekend. Clearly we've had some idea of what this would entail for some long time but we're getting up close and personal now with the necessary tools and procedures necessary to do that. Some of the underlying engineering work is still under way. Some of the code-writing in order to execute the necessary control systems on the cars is still under way and the tools that the engineers and technicians in the garage will use to look after it all is still work in progress. I think the drivers adapting to the new environment will be something that will be interesting to watch.

Transcript Courtesy FIA


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