Cosworth is making its return to F1 as an engine supplier at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, after a three year sabbatical, when it will supply powerplants to one-third of the grid.

AT&T Williams will be leading the Cosworth challenge, while newcomers HRT F1, Lotus Racing and Virgin Racing will be out to make a positive first impression. Cosworth had also intended to supply the troubled USF1 team.

Here Mark Gallagher, general manager of Cosworth's F1 Business Unit, talks about the company's grand prix return and the season ahead...

Q:
Mark, just how much has Cosworth changed since 2006 when it last supplied engines in F1?

Mark Gallagher:
"It has changed significantly. In 2005 and 2006 the company had just entered private hands following its sale by Ford at the end of 2004, and much of Cosworth remained focussed on motorsport and particularly Formula One. In the last three years the company has changed dramatically, refocusing on its core competency as a specialist engineering business working in sectors as apparently diverse as Aerospace and Defence, Marine, Electronics, Automotive and the Performance Aftermarket."

Q:
Are there any similarities across these industries where the technology is concerned?

Mark Gallagher:
"Each of these industries has one thing in common; the need for high performance technologies. So whether it is designing a small diesel engine for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or re-engineering the engines for a naval frigate, Cosworth is a rather different business today from the one which might be familiar to the Formula One fraternity."

Q:
What are Cosworth's objectives in returning to Formula One as an engine supplier?

Mark Gallagher:
"Cosworth is a successful engineering business and the opportunity to return to Formula One was pursued purely because we believe this can be a successful, which means profitable, activity. Our objective is therefore to develop the Formula One business by supplying competitive, reliable engines to our customers and providing as a level of service such that we will be viewed as the engine supplier of choice by a wide range of teams in the years ahead."

Q:
How much of a role did Cosworth's F1 heritage play in the decision to return?

Mark Gallagher:
"Of course, Formula One also appeals to us because Formula One is in our DNA, although we are no longer blinded by it. We want to play an integral role in the F1 paddock by working with our customers and the FIA to ensure that we continue to contribute to cost reductions in Formula One so that teams can develop a profitable, sustainable business plan."

Q:
How does Formula One fit within the new Cosworth structure?

Mark Gallagher:
"Cosworth went through a number of major changes following its sale by Ford in 2004 and the ending of its involvement in Formula One in 2006. The company has been restructured so that each area of the business operates as a separate unit, so the return to Formula One has seen the creation a dedicated Formula One Business Unit which takes overall responsibility for the delivery of this project."

Q:
Has Cosworth found it a challenge to recruit staff for the revived F1 activities?

Mark Gallagher:
"We are very fortunate to have a great many highly skilled engineers and technicians within Cosworth's existing businesses, and of course we recruited experienced staff from across the industry, many of whom were returning to Cosworth after some years away. Design and development of the Cosworth CA2010 F1 engine came under Engineering, Bruce Wood's team having the challenge of delivering the performance and reliability targets, while across my Business Unit we have around 60 full time staff providing the necessary build and test, engineering and track support roles required."

Q:
What challenges have the team faced in preparing for 2010?

Mark Gallagher:
"Clearly this project was challenging, given the relative lack of time and the fact that we have not been a fully fledged F1 engine supplier since 2006. However by quickly developing a plan implemented by a core of highly experienced personnel we made good progress. Manufacturing the engines for [four] teams has been less of an issue than many people expect, due to the 8-engines per driver limit, but managing the individual requirements of [four] teams has required careful management since we want to provide each with strong support tailored to their needs."

Q:
Do you think the new teams can be successful?

Mark Gallagher:
"We are delighted to be supplying engines to the new teams and, having worked with them for several months, we are confident that each of them understands the challenges of competing in Formula One and has worked extremely hard to ensure their projects are successful. In terms of our expectation of their success, all I can say is that our objective is to ensure that Cosworth provides an important pillar to support their F1 programme."

Q:
Has Cosworth's role been limited to a straight-forward engine supply?

Mark Gallagher:
"Cosworth's role is to provide reliable engines which are as competitive as possible within the confines of a fixed price, cost-conscious agreement. We have enormous experience of competing in Formula One so one of our aims has been to assist our customers in whatever way possible to flatten their learning curve and assist in achieving their objectives. This goes beyond merely supplying engines to helping the teams with engineering support including gearbox testing, the provision of electronics and other areas where we feel we can add value."

Q:
How was Cosworth able to secure an agreement with AT&T Williams?

Mark Gallagher:
"AT&T Williams started talking with Cosworth towards the end of last year, and we concluded an agreement soon after we opened our discussions. The basis of this agreement is that, in a new era of Formula One, the opportunity for two independent companies such as Williams and Cosworth to work together makes complete sense."

Q:
What does the Williams relationship mean to Cosworth?

Mark Gallagher:
"Williams is a highly successful team which has won the Formula One Constructors' title nine times, the first two of which came with Cosworth engines. They are a benchmark organisation, one of the original so-called Big Four teams which won every Constructors' Championship between 1979 and 2008, and they are not only fiercely competitive but proud of their independence and engineering excellence. At Cosworth we are similarly independent, and proud of our engineering ability, so the relationship with Williams is very good."

Q:
What will the impact be of the Williams partnership on Cosworth's other teams?

Mark Gallagher:
"Our technical collaboration with Williams is also enormously beneficial to our other customers, for as new teams they realise that Williams will push us hard and also enable the Cosworth engine's potential to be realised in one of the major teams."

Q:
How do you think Cosworth will fair against the other engine suppliers; Renault, Mercedes Benz and Ferrari?

Mark Gallagher:
"We have enormous respect for these companies and do not underestimate the challenge ahead. To return to Formula One after a three year absence, and compete head to head with major automotive companies is no easy task. Especially when one considers that they have had the benefit of uninterrupted competition in Formula One with the inherent benefits to performance and reliability that brings. However, Cosworth is second only to Ferrari in terms of the number of Grand Prix victories and while we know we face huge challenges we also have confidence in our ability to compete."

Q:
What does Cosworth's comparative success hinge on?

Mark Gallagher:
"A lot will depend on how much our rivals have learned in our absence, and in our ability to catch up within the context of the strict limits on engine development. Ultimately opinion of our progress will rest significantly on the overall package of chassis and engine our customers produce; success in Formula One is never about one element, but how the ingredients work together."