Press conference

Q:
Hiroshi, can you tell us about the 'Make Cars Green' initiative?

Hiroshi Yasukawa:
Actually, for us, the environment and ecology is very important and fortunately we at Bridgestone are working with the FIA, not only in motorsport but also the road safety campaigns, and now we are going to start this campaign. We are very happy working together and everybody has to have concerns about ecology and the environment and the car manufacturers are always producing very good technologies which sometimes transfer to motorsport as well. Anything we can do, we are very happy.

Q:
For the team principals: how important is environmentally relevant technology to the future of motorsport?

Nick Fry:
In our view, it is absolutely critical. Formula One should run side-by-side with road car developments. The technologies which we are developing in Formula One should have some linkage to the basic business and in the case of Honda clearly the hybrid technology which is very similar to the KERS system that we are putting on Formula One cars next year is very dear to our hearts. It is featured on the current Honda Civic. We have got a new low cost hybrid being brought out in very large volumes next year and having Formula One and the road car side use relevant technologies is critical. What we hope for the future is that there will be further evolution of environmentally friendly technologies on the Formula One car. It really does work in synchronisation with what we are doing on the other side of the business, so we are very, very supportive. We are very pleased with our green tyres as they match the rest of our car very nicely. So thank you, Bridgestone.

John Howett:
Probably a slightly different view. The main issue is that the carbon footprint of motorsport is extremely small, so the main thrust from Toyota is addressing the real issue which is the fact that we supply 10 million vehicles a year. Our thrust really is to make a real contribution to the core issue. Also to an extent the KERS system next year has the components and, if you like, concept similar to hybrid but because a Formula One car is running wide open throttle over 90 per cent of the time and in a road car hybrid you are using this technology really in city conditions in contributing to, shall we say, reduction in fuel economy, the application is completely different. Whether or not we wish to use Formula One shall we say to convey using its power, ecology and ecological behaviour to consumers is a different issue from the core aspect from our perspective of racing.

Mario Theissen:
A slightly different position again. We are excited about the KERS system and the new regulations. Different from what John says I am pretty sure this will really speed up the development of future road car hybrid power trains. KERS only makes sense to us in Formula One if we are able to increase power density and the power to weight ratio of the KERS components by a factor of four to five compared to current road car solutions. This will immediately spur the development of future road car components as well. It perfectly fits with our approach at BMW to use the Formula One project not just as a marketing tool but as a technology pioneer. We have been able to raise synergies over the years on the power train and this will be taken to an entirely new level with the KERS system and what might follow. We really support the green campaign, although as an engineer I am more interested in the substance than the colour and if it was just about painting something green the true pioneers on the ecological side would have been the old English racing cars which used to be all green. But I think it is an exciting opportunity for motorsport and for Formula One and you know we have been supporting, or have been one of the strongest supporters of KERS from the very first moment.

Q:
Hiroshi, tell us how the tyres are behaving this weekend, the initial performance that you have seen so far.

HY:
We have the medium and soft compound and I think this circuit, for the first time in dry conditions, is very challenging and interesting but anyhow we are going to support all teams and it should be no problem.

Q:
It looks as if the front left tyre is coming in for a lot of hard work.

HY:
Yes, this is true. After this session out engineers and the teams' engineers are going to discuss how to maintain the tyres.

Q:
To the three team principals: you have been invited to a meeting with the President of the FIA. What specific areas are there where you can see that savings can be made in Formula One?

NF:
I think the first thing to say from our side and I think with all the other teams we do feel there is a need to reduce costs. The important thing from our point of view is to reduce costs which frankly are wasted expenditure and I think there are several of those areas. Whether they are enough to meet the targets that we need is another matter. In terms of specifics I think the one that is frequently cited is the area around the brakes and the brake ducts, the so-called keg tins, which surround the discs and duct the air. It is an area where probably the number of physical moulds that are required to make those parts have doubled or even tripled over the past couple of years because the parts are so intricate. We now all have very similar systems and it is very expensive. A lot of the aerodynamic testing goes into that area. It is probably not an area of performance differentiation and that is probably an area where we could do something which reduces costs. I think there is general agreement that the gearbox is an area where we have all now migrated to so-called quick shift gearboxes. I suspect we have all got slightly different mechanisms inside but again it is not a performance differentiator. Another idea that is being worked on is the centre of gravity of the car. Weight reduction or specifying a weight target is one thing but when we spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to move weight from slightly higher up to slightly lower down and then add tungsten on the bottom of the car, again is somewhat wasteful and again the general opinion among the technical directors and from Ross (Brawn) who is running that group is that a lot can be done in that area. The power train, the engine, is an area where I know there is more controversy. I think we all do feel that we could migrate to a lower cost power train. The V8 19,000rpm engine we have at the moment is hugely expensive, up to about 300,000 EUR per unit. They are immensely expensive and going to a different type of engine, maybe a four cylinder engine, would be cheaper with all the environmental technologies hung onto that. I think certainly from the Honda side and I suspect from some of the other manufacturers' sides we would like to preserve the ability to design and make that engine as it is part of our brand identity but making the specification a lot more prescriptive, making it a lot cheaper, is something I think that many of us would support.

Q:
John, any specifics?

JH:
I don't really want to go into specifics. I think they are unique to each team. I think the meeting which we have been invited to was really following the meeting between Luca di Montezemolo and Max Mosley. I think that the teams have a lot of ideas to actually save money but at the same time not destroy the core DNA or value of Formula One. I think that given a constructive discussion and hopefully shall we say using the current environment of 'financial crisis', people could take a political advantage and try to apply unnecessary pressure and hopefully for once we can put politics behind these discussions and really focus on the facts, the real issues and then we will find, I am sure, good solutions.

Q:
Nick has come up with certain specific areas. Is it not possible for you to do so?

JH:
Yeah, of course. I mean fundamentally, I am sure teams can say without changing anything, which is what we do regularly by good value added engineering, actually reducing production processes by standardizing tooling, you can make massive savings. That is one issue which absolutely has no impact whatsoever on even the current regulation. If you look at it, this coming year, ironically, we are faced with a totally new aerodynamics package which means the concept of the car changes completely and we integrate KERS, so we are facing, if you like, an environment where cost saving is relevant but all the regulatory changes are technically forcing cost upwards. My position would be, there are a lot of concrete ideas but we need to have a cohesive, focussed unpolitical discussion using facts and we will find a simple solution.

Q:
Mario?

MT:
Not much to add really. In my view the ongoing discussions under the umbrella of FOTA are very constructive, the most constructive I have seen in Formula One because it is clear to all of the teams that we have to do something, we have to achieve something and it only works if we come to a joint proposal. There are several technical working groups, one for the car and another one on the power train or the engine itself and the commercial and sporting working group, lots of good ideas. I am sure within a few weeks or months we will be able to come up with proposals which will really make a difference to what we see today in terms of costs, in terms of improving the spectacle and the commercial viability of Formula One.

Q:
Any specific areas?

MT:
We could talk for hours about specific areas. As I said the engine working group in my view is making very good progress which wasn't possible in the past. They have framed the concept of a future engine, the next generation engine, they are thinking through how we could get there and in what time, could we take any intermediate steps on the current engine like extending its life to three race weekends in order to help the independent teams. Things like this. On the car side there are lots of ideas as well. Personally I was a bit surprised that the idea of a budget cap was buried so early this year. I think there would be potential. And on the commercial and sporting side there are ideas as well.

Q:
Hiroshi, what sort of progress is being made on the slick tyres? How are you going to let us know which is the softer tyre and which is going to be the harder tyre?

HY:
The regulations are going to change, I believe, to slick tyres. But fortunately we have much experience with slick tyres in Indy Cars and Formula 3000, the many categories we are supporting. Our engineers have lots of experience. If you compare the same tyre - groove tyre and slick tyre - slick tyre life is longer than groove tyres which means you can put on a little bit more softer rubber.

Q:
And have you decided how you are going to tell us which will be the soft ones as the white lines will disappear?

HY:
This is still under development.

Q:
Nick, I understand that you have got a new pit signalling system here. How does it work and how are you going to make it work where perhaps for others it hasn't?

NF:
It is something we have been working on actually for quite a long time and we are not proposing to use it at the moment in races, probably until next year. But we are going to use the Fridays and maybe Saturdays over the next few races to practice. I think the answer to your question and I am not going to go into the technical detail because I am not equipped to do so, but I understand that the philosophy of design is maybe fundamentally different to some of the others. The first emphasis is on safety and the second emphasis is obviously on performance and I understand our system is designed in such a way that if the fuel hose is not disconnected the car physically won't be able to move. That is the primary feature. The secondary feature are features which hopefully will improve the speed of the pit stop but from what we understand of other people' systems it might be designed from a slightly different point of view. We don't have a safety concern given the philosophy but we do want to use it extensively before we use it in anger.

Q:
John, you are in a tussle with Renault for the Constructors' Championship. Any specific moves here for your home race?

JH:
No, we are working as hard as possible to have a good result. But we have to see where we are, probably tomorrow in qualifying in Q2 and our relative pace, but obviously we are fighting hard and trying to get the best results we can in the last three races.

Q:
Was it a bit of a surprise that Renault came back with that win in Singapore?

JH:
I think between ourselves, Red Bull or Toro Rosso or Renault it has been very, very close, so we are not surprised. I think it will change race by race.

Q:
Mario, you've announced you're going to keep the same two drivers, how difficult was that decision and when was the decision taken?

MT:
The decision was not easy as I had hoped for initially. Initially we expected to take the decision in the summer break but then Nick had quite a difficult season, especially in qualifying. He wasn't able to get the perfect lap time together and so we decided to postpone the decision. At the same time, I gave him every support to overcome this weakness and so when we saw a significant improvement in the last two or three races, we could be confident that he was back on form. He was back to his latest performance and that led us to the decision right after Singapore.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment