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European GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

25 June 2011

Press conference

Q:
Mike, can I start with you. Principally about General Electric. What sort of effect are they going to have on the team?

Mike Gascoyne:
Well twofold. It is great to have one of the world's biggest corporations coming on board in what is a very major sponsorship deal for the team and I think it really makes the future look very good for us, both financially and also as a technical partner. I was lucky enough to visit their research facilities when we went to New York to make the announcement and (they have) some fantastic technology and facilities. It was actually, for me as an engineer, very inspiring to go around their labs just and see the level of technology and enthusiasm and the freedom to think. I think in Formula One we are very good at what we do in getting to races every two weeks and turning things around very quickly but sometimes as engineers we lose that capacity to think and be innovative and give people the freedom to have time to do some fundamental research. So it was very inspiring for me, as an engineer, to go around there, and I am sure some of the technologies they have got in battery technologies and electric motors for electric vehicles will be very relevant to where Formula One is going in the future. All in all, on all fronts, a fantastic announcement for the team.

Q:
When do they start getting involved?

Mike Gascoyne:
Well, I think you will see at the next race the unveiling of the car with all the signage on and from a technical point of view we are already in discussions with them.

Q:
Geoff, 13th place in Canada, most people would say not fantastic but it was a step forward for yourselves, so what are the aims now for the rest of the season?

Geoff Willis:
Certainly, it was a good result for us, if 13th place is ever a good result. It was important for us in the championship fight we are having. Again those sorts of races are races where you have to finish and you have to finish as far up as you can. Those are the times when a backmarker team can get lucky but you have to make your luck. We are still developing the car this year. We will carry on as long as we can through the season. We were going to have a development here that actually will come to Silverstone and we are trying to get something on the car pretty much every race I would say for the next four or five races. We have got a new wind tunnel programme starting very shortly, which we will do some 2011 car work on, so I am hoping we will get something from that test immediately on the car.

Q:
Are you just duelling, as it were, with Marussia Virgin or are you aiming at Lotus as well?

Geoff Willis:
I think you always have to aim high and being realistic there is quite a big gap to cross. It would be nice to be able to cross some of the gap this year and continue to cross it next year.

Q:
James, slightly contrasting messages coming out of your team. You said that you slightly need to improve on qualifying, you feel that you need to. Then, yesterday, Kamui Kobayashi basically said that qualifying wasn't that important. Interesting contrast.

James Key:
Well I guess Kamui is a bit individual in that respect isn't he, as he is such a good racer and he again proved in Canada I think that he can go from one position and quickly make places up. But I think as a team in general our race performance is much better than qualifying. I think it has got something with the way we are using the tyres. But if we need to look at our race weekend and improve one part of it, I think for us it is qualifying. We tend to build up to it and I think in Canada it was a bit of a disappointment. In Monaco it was better up to a point, obviously, but I think that's our focus at the moment – to try and make the car quicker over the weekend.

Q:
Just talk a little bit about Kamui. How pleased are you with his performance and how far can he go do you think?

James Key:
Well, we are very pleased, as he has continued from where he left off last year. The good thing with him is that he does challenge in races. He has got a very good racing head on him. Even in Canada I think he made up three or four places until we had the red flag and that's the wet conditions. But he keeps it clean. You know he is not knocking his front wing off every five seconds, so I think we are extremely pleased to have him in the team again this year and he is continuing to prove to be a great racer. Kind of going off from last year, we continue to have a lot of faith that he can make a strategy work which with these tyres et cetera is quite important I think.

Q:
Ross, we are seeing you it seems inching up the hierarchy. Is that the case at the moment? We saw Michael (Schumacher), for example, fourth this afternoon and he was very nearly on the podium in Canada.

Ross Brawn:
I think they are little snapshots rather than the complete movie. We can, in certain circumstances, make an impact but not consistently enough. You have to say at the moment the only team who is consistently performing is Red Bull. We have those little short periods when things can look good but we cannot put the whole thing together yet. That's what we have to do. We have to improve the car to put the whole thing together.

Q:
Do you think Michael has got back into his rhythm now? We saw it in Canada and we are seeing it here.

Ross Brawn:
Well, I thought he was always in his rhythm. As I say in Canada we gave him an opportunity to demonstrate it to a bigger audience. But if you watch his racing, particularly at the beginning of the race, we are always highly entertained by the in-car coverage we see of Michael, it is great. I think he has got one of the best records this year for people gaining positions in the first few laps. An opportunity developed for him to show what he has been doing all the time and what we have been seeing all the time and I think for both drivers [is] if we can give them the right car they will both succeed.

Q:
Franz, first of all can we have a little update on what happened this afternoon.

Franz Tost:
We started the engine on Jaime Alguersuari's car for the second free practice. We recognised a strange noise, a mechanical noise, and then we removed the gearbox and started once more, but it seems that we had a mechanical failure and therefore, unfortunately, he couldn't go out. The engineers are just investigating the reason for this. I don't know currently what happened.

Q:
How much do you think that is going to hurt him in terms of overall time?

Franz Tost:
Especially on such a track here in Valencia it is important to do as many laps as possible and therefore it is not a good preparation for him for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can sort out all the problems so he can do a good third practice session and be prepared then for qualifying.

Q:
We see Scuderia Toro Ross very much as the Red Bull junior team, which is very much what it was set up to be initially. One driver is in his third season. The other driver, it is his second season. Admittedly you are trying Daniel Ricciardo but there is also Jean-Eric Vergne in the wings as well. What is the policy now for the team these days?

Franz Tost:
The policy for the team is that it is the Red Bull rookie team. When Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull bought Minardi the reason for this was to give young drivers from the Red Bull driver pool the chance to come into Formula One. To be educated in Formula One and then to be transferred to Red Bull Racing if they show good performance. Sebastian Buemi is doing his third season and so far he is performing well. Jaime is in his second season and he had a little bit of troubles at the beginning of the season but in Canada he showed a good performance. We will see how he will do in the next races. Ricciardo is the driver on Friday. We prepare Ricciardo for the future and so far he is doing a good job and then we will see.

Q:
There are technical matters. The the map changing, which obviously is being stopped here, off-throttle blown diffusers, exhaust, the future engine. Pick one of those subjects that most concern you. Mike, would you like to start.

Mike Gascoyne:
I think with the changes for here and Silverstone, I don't think the changes here will radically affect anyone. Yes, people were running sort of more extreme maps in qualifying but I don't think the effect will be very great for any team. I think, on the change for Silverstone with the blown diffuser, I think it is frustrating when there is a change in the middle of the season. We have all spent a lot of money developing something. I think from a pure point of view, as an engineer, Charlie [Whiting's] interpretation within the rules, I think you can argue that it is probably correct in some respects. We, as engineers, are always pushing to get an advantage and will obviously implement it if it is within the rules. If Charlie thinks it has gone too far or if something shouldn't be happening then he is right to act. It is just frustrating it is done in the middle of the season without consultation. I think that is the main sticking point for everyone really. But we have all got to get on with it. Is it going to change anything? Probably not. For sure the teams at the front have probably got more developed blown diffusers and will take a bigger hit. For those of us at the back that have only started with that technology this year, probably the effect we are getting will be slightly less but actually will it change the pecking order? Probably not. It will just compact it a little bit.

Q:
Geoff, what's your chosen subject?

Geoff Willis:
Well, I think I will stick with the technical directive changes and the changes for Silverstone, as it is a complex issue. We can debate whether or not the technical directives are a regulation change or not, but for a small team these changes are significant in a sense that we have to make decisions on our cost performance criteria whether we do something or not. And in our particular case, we started to play catch-up by modifying exhausts to get some performance benefit. [We] stopped that when TD15 came out. [We] realised when TD16 came out we could carry on, missed a race from it and then introduced it for Montreal, where it was probably a significant help getting that P13, which is pretty important for the team. Now, we will lose a little bit of performance from it in its Silverstone guise and that probably might be the wrong side of the performance-cost criteria for a small team like ourselves and we may well have spent that budget elsewhere. Or certainly [spent] that time and effort elsewhere. But the bigger picture here is that, as Mike has hinted at, we probably shouldn't be making these changes mid-season. We can argue, for example, why, with the F-Duct, we waited until the end of the season and why some other things historically have been changed mid-season and other ones at the end of the season. Really the Technical Working Group is the group that should be making recommendations about technical regulations and clearly if there is something, whether or not if it is a regulation change strictly or whether it is an interpretation change, if we do that mid-season it is clearly going to be very difficult in the TWG to get agreement or even to have an open – and I hope all discussions are rational – but an open and unbiased discussion, as clearly some teams will take a benefit from a change and some teams won't. We really should be moving these sorts of discussions into next year's regulations or even further away, such that we can have an appropriate and what I would say is a complete disinterested conversation about it. But, for example, if there was an issue that came up midseason that was a safety critical thing then without doubt we would discuss it and if we had to we would change rules mid-weekend if we had to if it was that important. But that's what I think at the moment. We do need to have a proper process where we discuss things in the TWG and it goes through the hierarchy of TWG, F1 Commission, Council or whatever.

Q:
James?

James Key:
Well, I think on a similar note from our side it has been good to have some clarity from the FIA as it is, as Geoff says, a pretty complicated area. You are always going to have exhaust gas exiting the car somewhere, so you will always have some form of aero influence. So, in that respect, I think what has been done for next year with some proscribed position for the exhaust is very sensible, as it removes all the ambiguity and also removes a fairly expensive development direction which, as people have seen from this year, is pretty expensive and complicated. I think the moves for next year are sensible. The change in the middle of the season is always going to be tricky because it does alter things. Having said that, I think there is a distinction between the exhausts and things like the F-Duct and the diffusers that we had recently as they were deemed legal and they were pure aerodynamic devices. I think the difference here is that engines shouldn't be aerodynamic devices and they weren't deemed legal and I think that is the distinction for a mid-season change rather than an end of season.

Q:
Ross?

Ross Brawn:
I think James probably touched on it very well there in terms of it not being a change of regulation; it's a realisation. The things we were doing, that type of interpretation is not legal. I think the difficulty the FIA had is that the protagonists behind raising this issue were threatening to protest the cars and that was the difficulty they had. They couldn't ignore that and once they were made aware of the technology I think they started to sympathise with the view that the people who were upset about it had, because the FIA didn't discover this by themselves, they were alerted about it by a team. And once that ball started to roll, they probably had little choice but to decree what should happen. If they hadn't have taken action, then it sounds like some teams were going to protest the situation to get clarity through the stewards and that wouldn't be very good for Formula One. We want to avoid that at all costs because I know from experience that the stewards would find such a technical argument quite difficult to resolve and it would probably end up in the appeal courts again and that's no good. I think it's probably being dealt with in the best possible way but what we need now is absolute clarity on where we're going with this and I think having the exhaust moved next year is very important because we don't want this to end up as another argument of the type we had about traction control: what was traction control, what wasn't traction control, what you could do, what you couldn't do? We want clarity because, as you know, the traction control issue has not been discussed for several years, and we don't want to have the exhaust blown issue being discussed and being a major distraction to what we're doing. So we will cope – I think we will all cope this year. It will make a difference to the cars. We've got a new floor coming at Silverstone which is designed around that technology. We've got to decide what we're going to do now but I think having the exhaust moved next year should bring clarity to this area. But there will be something else round the corner, as always in Formula One.

Franz Tost:
Yeah, we have invested a lot of money in development and research on this special exhaust system. Okay, the important thing is, as Ross just mentioned, the clarity in the regulations, and regarding the mapping, we rely on Ferrari, because they provide us with the engines. It's difficult to estimate the performance loss we will see in Silverstone.


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