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Turkish GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

7 May 2011


Team personnel: Robert Fernley (Force India), Mike Gascoyne (Lotus), Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Martin Whitmarsh (Mercedes)

Press conference

Q:
Robert, Paul di Resta seems to be doing a particularly good job with the team, I think you will agree. Tell us how you came to get him and how he is in the team. Of course, he came from a slightly strange background in DTM.

Norbert Haug:
Strange?

Q:
Well, shall we say 'less normal' background.

Robert Fernley:
In 2009 we were talking between Norbert, Martin and myself and we all believed that Paul had been overlooked in the programme for Formula One. Together in 2009 we put a programme for him for 2010 where we all shared a little bit of responsibility to help him though and evaluate him. So, effectively Norbert was committed to help him – not to help him – but committed to him in DTM. We wanted him to keep race sharp there. McLaren very kindly helped with a little more simulator time and obviously having done DTM for a year or two he needed to be weaned off sportscars and, of course, we provided the FP1 time to evaluate him, which is something that hadn't been done before. We sort of broke ground there. There has been one of those stories about links to monies provided by Mercedes and things like that in order to help him come through and that is absolute nonsense. Paul is there entirely on merit. I think it is credit, to a degree, to Force India for finding and identifying him and a great help from our partners in bringing him through.

Q:
Franz, in China we saw good performance from the drivers particularly in qualifying. Was that a slightly artificial result in comparison to what happened in the race as unfortunately they weren't in the points in the race.

Franz Tost:
They did a good qualifying. We started from positions seven and nine but then the start was not so good. After the first lap they came back in positions 10 and 13.
Unfortunately Sébastien Buemi damaged his front wing. He got a part against the flap of the front wing and the front wing was damaged. We had to change the front wing, which meant we lost a lot of time and the race afterwards was quite good. He did good lap times. Jaime Alguersuari was quite competitive until the pit-stop. Unfortunately we made a mistake. He lost a right rear tyre and he had to stop so he could not finish the race.

Q:
Was it slightly artificial or do you feel they could have been well within the points?

Franz Tost:
Let me say maybe position nine or ten would have been possible, but not better.

Q:
Is that trend continuing do you feel? Can that trend continue?

Franz Tost:
It looks like we are close to the points, at least today during the free practice we showed a good performance and I am convinced that we can finish the qualifying tomorrow close to the tenth position, maybe we are in Q3, we will see. But both drivers as well as the team are showing a good performance and therefore I think we can be once more within the points.

Q:
Mike, great news for Lotus in that they have taken over Caterham. I realise from a political point of view it probably means more than from an engineering or technical point of view but will things change for you?

Mike Gascoyne:
Not really for the Formula One team although it is great news for Team Lotus as a group. It was always the plan for the team to diversify and look at the automotive field. I think there will be further expansion in that area coming but it is just good news and it puts the whole group on a firmer financial footing.

Q:
Norbert, I was going to ask about China where you led. Was that a true performance or slightly artificial but we have seen today that it was almost certainly a true performance. Are you feeling pretty satisfied here?

Norbert Haug:
Yeah, I think China was certainly much, much better than the first two races. They have been very bad indeed, but China was better. Having said that if you look at the two-stop strategy in Sebastian Vettel's case, for example, of course the cars have been a little bit slower as they had longer stints, so it was probably not quite a true picture. But as the race went we would have been in a very good position with the right amount of fuel. But just to clarify that as well, it is very easy if you go so much faster than you anticipated, if you are in free air, then it is about three or four kilos. Everybody needs to save fuel during the course of the race because you are not volunteering and carrying three, four, five kilos more fuel than you basically need as that is lap time as well. In our case it was not a huge amount, but certainly enough after the braking manoeuvre of Nico [Rosberg] and not being in a position to push hard at the end. So it was fifth instead of probably a podium finish, whatever podium finish it would have been, that is speculation. But, yes, a better performance than the races before for both Nico and Michael [Schumacher].

Q:
Martin, we don't know where you are in comparison to Red Bull at the moment but pretty close, very close, maybe ahead, maybe behind. But how much do you fear the comeback of Mercedes and even the comeback of Ferrari. Nicolas Tombazis has said earlier on this week that McLaren have actually shown that you can come back in quite a big way and it is almost as though you have had the template of how to come back and now everybody else is going to follow it.

Martin Whitmarsh:
No I think we have said from the outset that Adrian [Newey] and Red Bull were doing a great job and they are tough competition. Everyone will start to say it was up to McLaren to beat Red Bull but we were very clear all along that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault were all capable of raising their game and are a serious threat. They are good
teams. They have got good resources, good people, good drivers so we don't take anything for granted. We have to keep pushing to improve. Red Bull will and so will all of our other colleagues. That's the great thing about Formula One. It is a race every fortnight but it is a race between each race to develop the car and whichever of the teams that are here or even those that aren't here that develop the car the most this year they will win the championship. It is as simple as that. Christian knows that, but at Red Bull they are doing a great job but they are not standing still and waiting for us.

Q:
Christian, it has been suggested that KERS was the great concentration between the last race and this race. To get it right, to get it working properly. Is that the case? How much concentration has there been?

Christian Horner:
Obviously there has been quite a bit of focus on KERS but that only involves a select group of people. As Martin says development continues on all areas of the car and in this business you cannot afford to stand still. We have been looking to try and enhance the performance of the car, bringing a few smallish upgrades here but in the
meantime also trying to get on top of the niggles that we have had with the KERS system. As our understanding has grown we have made more and more headway with the system in a pretty short space of time.

Q:
Bob, we have talked about this development race. Can Force India be the equal if not more than those around it? How difficult is it for Force India to maintain a development race?

Robert Fernley:
I think the key thing, as Martin says, is the race between races effectively. Force India isn't standing still. There is no question that we lost direction in the last quarter of 2010 and we had to take stock of where we were, where the issues were and we had to understand what those problems were. I think we identified them over the winter. We are running an evolved 2010 package at the moment, which is trying to correct some of those areas. Today we ran and evaluated the new front end of our aero package and hopefully in Spain and Monaco we will launch what we believe to be the 2011 package or the evolved one, whichever way you want to look at it. That will come out and hopefully it will keep us in line or slightly ahead of our competitors.

Q:
Franz, we have seen you running Daniel Ricciardo on all the Friday's so far. Is he being groomed for next year? What is the situation for him?

Franz Tost:
The situation is that he is driving for Toro Rosso the first practice on Friday. He should learn the team, all the race tracks, to work together with the engineers, get a little bit of knowledge about the press work, about the marketing and this should be the preparation for him to race for Toro Rosso in 2012.

Q:
No plans for before then?

Franz Tost:
No, currently not.

Q:
You have two drivers?

Franz Tost:
We have two drivers, yes.

Q:
Mike, what chances of you running KERS later this year. Is that part of the programme?

Mike Gascoyne:
I think that probably will be pretty difficult for us as a small team. Obviously, it requires some fairly large updates to the chassis to do that. I think we would have to be very convinced of the benefit that would bring outweighed against putting those resources into other areas such as aerodynamics, so I think it is going to be pretty difficult for us. We have got a lot of catch-up work to do in terms of development. We have made a big step forward relative to a lot of the teams on the grid but we have got to do even more as it hasn't really affected our grid position, even though we are more competitive. But we are bringing a range of updates to the coming races so it is unlikely just for the amount of resource that it takes for the gain that you get. But it is something we are very actively working on for next year.

Q:
Norbert, do you feel you are now potential winners?

Norbert Haug:
Potential winners? Not yet. We are working on it. I think that would be unrealistic. We have been forced last year and I think we have a real strong group of competitors around us. The team won the championship before but we restructured a lot and we have a new environment and we need to resettle things. That takes a while. It takes a while everywhere. But I think there is big potential there. We are learning. It is getting better and better. We certainly underperformed in the first three races. We don't need to repeat that as I think that is well known. Hopefully we can stabilise on China or comparable to China. That would be the plan, to be among third and fourth position and then go forward from there. Every position you want to gain in that region gets tougher and tougher step by step, that's for sure, but the direction is the right one I would say.

Q:
Martin, we see Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button racing week in week out. How do they work together? How has that changed? How is that gelling? Is it continuing to gel or do you think it is pretty much stabilised? They seem to get on very well, they don't seem to be major rivals.

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well I think the good thing is they are major rivals on the track. Certainly neither of them likes being beaten by the other one and that is just as it should be. But they are both very, very open with one another. They share information and they share jokes as well so I think it is a fantastic relationship within the team and it helps us, that harmony. You cannot necessarily quantify it on the stopwatch, but it makes a pleasant environment for the engineers, their exchange of information. I think they are both very comfortable in the team. Inevitably two British drivers in the same team, immensely competitive individuals, there has always been the hope in some corners of the media there would be aggravation – and who knows what will happen in the future? But, so far, it has been very, very good. It looks as though it will continue to be so and they will race each other on the track. We have seen it on the track this year. They are not giving anyone quarter, they really want to beat each other, but I think they have got a tremendous amount of trust and respect and I think that makes it easier to calm my nerves a little bit, occasionally, when you are on the pit-wall wondering if you are going to be the idiot team principal that allowed your drivers to race each other.

Q:
Is it the best pairing you have ever had, do you feel?

Martin Whitmarsh:
From a relationship point of view I think it is. I think it is very, very, good. It does not matter what I say, anyone can see it. You have only got to come into the McLaren
hospitality facility and you see them together. It is very natural, it is not forced. There is general warmth and affection between the two of them.

Q:
Christian, I think there was a meeting of the constructors or the team owners the last couple of days. Can you tell us what happened, what was decided or discussed during that time?

Christian Horner:
A meeting of the constructors?

Q:
Well a meeting of the team owners, a FOTA meeting or whatever you like to call it?

Christian Horner:
I think we got one later this weekend. I wasn't aware of one earlier. Martin is the chairman, ask him.

Martin Whitmarsh:
We will meet at a fairly routine meeting, a number of issues, on Sunday morning.

Q:
Christian, tell us about Sebastian's accident today. The damage?

Christian Horner:
It was a shame. It was just one of those things that we, as a team, were keen to have a look at the inter. As Sebastian went out the rain increased slightly, he got a little bit high on the exit of Turn Eight onto the kerb, just put a wheel on that astroturf that has claimed a few victims today and he was just unlucky. Unfortunately it did quite a lot of damage so rather than rush and cobble together the car for FP2 we decided it was important to rebuild the car carefully in preparation for tomorrow. It was one of those things. It did quite an extensive amount of damage. He must have hit just about every corner on the car so it has given the boys plenty of work to do this evening.

Q:
Quite a rare occurrence really?

Christian Horner:
I cannot think the last time Sebastian went off. It was just one of those things. It just started to rain a little bit heavier at that time. As we saw quite a few other drivers having spins and getting out of shape and unfortunately it just caught him out. It is a quick corner there. There is that bit of astroturf or fake grass and unfortunately there is little to zero grip on there and it just spun him off into the barriers. One of those things. Unfortunately he missed out on running time this afternoon but he saved a few tyres. You never know, he might need them.


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