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Singapore GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

24 September 2011

Press conference

Q:
Bob, first of all, what happened to Paul di Resta today?

Robert Fernley:
We had a problem with the brakes, the machining of the brakes and the hydraulics. Paul has a lot of steel, he'll bounce back tomorrow.

Q:
Obviously the performances are improving and Vijay Mallya has emphasised that. The thing is carrying it through to next year. That is the task isn't it?

Robert Fernley:
Well, I think next year is a completely different programme. What we had to do at the beginning of this year was to take a step backwards in order to understand where we lost our way at the end of 2010 and what you see now is the evolution of all that work coming through. Obviously with the change of regulations with the blown floors next year is a completely different ballpark.

Q:
Have you already started work on next year? When are you finishing development on this year's.

Robert Fernley:
We started work on next year's some time ago. This is probably the last major upgrade that we will do for the 2011 car.

Q:
And the battle with Sauber?

Robert Fernley:
Very hard. They are very competitive. They are not going to give in easily, so we will have to work as hard as we can.

Q:
Is that something you look forward to?

Robert Fernley:
Yes, very much so. They are a good team, working hard. I mean all the teams in all fairness in that midfield area are incredibly competitive and we are going to have to work very, very hard to hold onto sixth place. Sam managed to beat us last year by one point. I don't want to repeat it this year.

Q:
Jean Francois, you are heading for a World Championship victory I am sure. That is almost certain, but what are Renault's feelings about it?

Jean Francois Caubet:
I think if we win the championship this year it will be the 10th time in 20 years. We think we did a good choice to sell engines and stop managing a team and I think the long-term strategy we will have with the Red Bull team is a good thing for future of Formula One and Renault.

Q:
What is Renault Sport's position within the Renault group as it were?

Jean Francois Caubet:
Renault Sport is doing only Formula One. We were 200 people last year. We will be 250 next year. It is a key point and the board is pushing Formula One in Renault now for the long term. I think that is good news.

Q:
Is that expansion because of the new engine?

Jean Francois Caubet:
Yes, I think we have 25 people coming from Renault mainly to develop the electric side of the V6 but we will have 40 next year and one team is 10 people more.

Q:
Riad, a new job as CEO. Tell us about your new job and what it concerns?

Riad Asmat:
Well, I guess we have expanded in actually owning a car company as well as an engineering business and ever since certain developments that is the new role. I look into not just the Formula One side of things but the actual road car and engineering business from this point. A bit more work actually.

Q:
So you are in charge of everything?

Riad Asmat:
Well, technically!

Q:
You are from Malaysia but also Singapore as well. How do you see the Singapore Grand Prix?

Riad Asmat:
I think it is one of the best on the calendar as well. Just having family from Singapore helps. I am assured support in one form or the other. It is just next to Malaysia so we represent Asia to a certain degree and we hope we will be able to push our name, our brand, into the region.

Q:
There are rumours of a name change but also a change of location for the team, whatever it might be called. It has been for so long in Norfolk it is difficult to imagine that Team Lotus will be elsewhere.

Riad Asmat:
I'll take the one question first which is the location. Our home in Norfolk, in Norwich in Hingham, and that is, for sure, never going to change. That will be maintained as one of our parts but as a team that is growing and progressing we need to have a look at how to get more efficiencies out of the team and one of the main areas is to be in the motorsports belt of the UK. It is something we are looking into and when the time is right we will make the necessary announcement. But for sure Hingham is our home.

Q:
Will you keep facilities there?

Riad Asmat:
Yes, we bought the place and it is home for us. We will never go away. On your second point?

Q:
The name change?

Riad Asmat:
Name change. No decision as yet. We are still Team Lotus as you can see but as my shareholders have mentioned we are open to anything and we will see how it progresses from this point.

Q:
Gerard, we hear about new facilities and new investment in the team. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Gerard Lopez:
Yes, we essentially wanted to bring the place we are in right now, Enstone, up to the best standards in Formula One and it was missing a couple of things. One was the wind tunnel, which was still only 50 per cent scale. The second one was the driver simulator and then also a couple of logistical areas so we have decided essentially to expand the factory. Improve the wind tunnel up to 60 per cent, which is the maximum allowed and build the new simulator.

Q:
Is that really state-of-the-art or even better than anybody else's?

Gerard Lopez:
I think everybody else that is a state-of-the-art team has the 60 per cent tunnel so I think that is matching essentially the best. On the simulator, as far as we know, it is probably going to be one of the very best simulators in the business.

Q:
Are there plans for further investment?

Gerard Lopez:
We have to invest every day essentially, just because it is a Formula One team so things become obsolete quite quickly. I think we have maxed out in terms of personnel. When we took over there were about 480 people. There are 520 I believe now, so we increase that number. The investments will continue essentially as much as we need to, to try and be where we want to be, which is a top three team in Formula One.

Q:
Your third driver is the new GP2 champion Romain Grosjean. What are your plans for him?

Gerard Lopez:
It's a question that I need to take from a different angle, also of a management company that manages his career. I think the plans for a GP 2 winner, especially one that wins it in such a convincing manner, is to be in Formula One. We are going to try and help him sit in a Formula One car next year.

Q:
Actually you were in a difficult position until quite recently of having five drivers for two cars potentially.

Gerard Lopez:
And more. There's people that are interested just in case. But right now we have a commitment to Robert (Kubica). He has done amazing things for the team. We know what he is capable of and I think any team would take him if he is capable of delivering the same thing. Our commitment is to try and see if he can come back and we will wonder about anything else afterwards.

Q:
Sam, a sad moment for you isn't it, leaving Williams?

Sam Michael:
It's been a great 11 seasons with them. I think they were such a prestigious name and it has been an honour to work with Frank [Williams] and Patrick [Head]. This weekend is the last race and the main thing for me is that we finish everything off properly which we are doing. I leave Williams with a very good relationship with the company. I have nothing but good memories of the place but it is time for a change after so many seasons.

Q:
When exactly do you join McLaren?

Sam Michael:
That's not decided yet. That is something being discussed privately so it's not really appropriate to go into that here.

Q:
But you've got a bit of gardening leave have you?

Sam Michael:
Well, as I said, I better not discuss that here.

Q:
Tell us about the technical challenges of this circuit?

Sam Michael:
Well it's a street circuit, so it has very low grip. There is always a lot of oil on the circuit so you always get a lot of progression of lap time during the weekend as the Formula One tyres pick up a lot of the debris and contaminants on the surface. It is similar to Monte Carlo, which is like that as well. The most important thing is slow-speed corners, getting rid of understeer, making sure traction is good. There are no real high-speed corners compared to a normal closed circuit. It's a maximum downforce track and quite a few kerbs as well around this place. You can do a lot of damage there. Normally quite difficult to overtake around a track like this but with DRS and the tyre situation there should be plenty of overtaking on Sunday.

Q:
Is it a little less bumpy than before?

Sam Michael:
The track itself is. The actual tarmac, but the kerbs are just as big. They are hitting the kerbs even harder now.

Q:
We have seen quite a lot of bits and pieces coming off most cars.

Sam Michael:
That's right. A lot of that is because they are trying to take more and more kerb as there is lap time in it.

Q:
Is that something we have seen today or are we going to see that for the rest of the weekend?

Sam Michael:
Well I think today you will see a lot more of it as the drivers are trying to find out how far they can go and how much damage they can get away with. Then tonight you will repair your car and tell them where you can and can't drive.

Q:
Norbert, Michael Schumacher's performances over the past couple of grands prix. Two fifth places.

Norbert Haug:
Well I think he was excellent in the last two races. He was very good in some of the other ones, probably not at the right position. Our current car is not capable of doing a much better job and I think especially in the races, especially after the starts, nobody overtook more cars than Michael did in the first lap. He is an excellent starter, still a fantastic racer and the more we improve our technical package the more he will deliver. I think we know from Nico (Rosberg) what he is capable of doing so we have a very strong driver combination. I think a lot of people got excited in Monza. It was fantastic to watch and the guys like us who like racing enjoyed it very much. I can understand Martin (Whitmarsh). I had a word with him afterwards. I can understand Lewis (Hamilton) but if they had been in our position they would not have acted differently and I guess 99 per cent of the television viewers enjoyed it. Probably more than that.

Q:
Do you expect those sort of performances to continue for the final six races or was that just the two ow downforce circuits?

Norbert Haug:
Well it certainly fitted much better to the current package we are having. This race here in Singapore, first of all it is a fantastic event I have to say and hopefully it stays forever on the calendar. It is producing the most spectacular television pictures. It is so unique and we all have to thank the organisers and Bernie (Ecclestone) for making this event happen. But it is a challenging track. It probably looks not such a typical street course but you could see what happened today. The walls are very close. The drivers push to the limits. We discussed that right now so I think there will be a lot of surprises here. For us, it will be challenging. We made a good step between first practice and second practice. We're heading in the right direction. Hopefully there is a little bit more to come but we honestly cannot expect a Monza or a Spa like performance under normal circumstances. But, having said that, this race will have safety cars probably. You need to be there. There is a chance of rain, whatever, so that can be quite a mix up in the field and we need to be prepared. Michael will deliver. There is no doubt he is as committed as ever. I think we have to see that he was outside of Formula One for three years. The formula changed a lot. There is no testing and so on and so on. He gets more mileage and he gets better and better and I think not a lot of drivers could have done a better job than he did in the last two races. His race speed, if you compare it to Nico, looks very balanced and Nico is – and I think Sam can describe that as well – certainly one of the most talented, most experienced ones. One of the definitely top five drivers and if you can compare yourself after a comeback, after a break of three years, with one of the young superstars, then you are heading in the right direction. For me it is a little strange to say Michael will create surprises because he won everything, he won more than anybody else, but believe me the better our car goes the more he will deliver and he is fully committed. He is an asset to the team, doing a fantastic job, keeping the together, motivating everybody and we are 100 per cent pleased to have him with us.


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