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Japanese GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

7 October 2011


Team representatives: Giorgio Ascanelli (Toro Rosso), Pat Fry (Ferrari), James Key (Sauber), Paddy Lowe (McLaren), Adrian Newey (Red Bull) and Naoki Tokunaga (Renault).


Press conference


Q:
Naoki, do you regard this as a home race?

Naoki Tokunaga:
Yes of course. Coming back to Suzuka is always quite a good feeling. Not only because the circuit is very challenging both for the driver and the engineer but also it is my home grand prix. Also the fans, they are fantastic. They are always respectful with us and very happy and they know how to enjoy their race weekend. This year I came here with a little bit extra emotion obviously after the tragedy, so I am quite happy that the fans and the teams all got together again here in Suzuka for this great sporting event.

Q:
When Honda and Toyota were involved there were a lot of Japanese people in F1, but not so many these days. What is your background and how did you get into F1?

NT:
I studied in Japan and since then I have always wanted to work in motorsport and in particular F1. My career started in an automotive company in Japan, but I always wanted to seek an opportunity in England to get a job and luckily I think it was in 2000 I got the job as a vehicle dynamics engineer at Enstone. It is how my career started and I enjoy the life there. It looks like it is a bit stuck in England but, nonetheless, it is not at all a bad country and I am quite happy being there.

Q:
This weekend so far, are you happy to be back on this circuit rather than the slower corners of Singapore.

NT:
Yes, this circuit is quite hard on tyres because the tyre energy as a biproduct of the tyre forces are quite high. Especially the front tyres. It is one of the highest circuits of all grand prix tracks. Coupled with this is the abrasive surface of the tarmac. Those combined can make the tyre degradation quite high so I think it is important you set the car balance right to avoid understeer in the high speed corner. We focussed today on getting a good balance and we worked on ride height and spring rates to get an easy to drive car. In P1 the balance is a little bit loose on the rear and poor traction. The good thing is the front of the car was quite strong in mid-corner so we try to keep it and we worked on the rear to get it a little bit better. Also we try a little bit new differential mapping to help traction so in P2 the drivers were generally much happier so I think it was good sessions.

Q:
Giorgio, we heard basically the expansion plans of the team at the Italian Grand Prix. Tell us how those are going and in comparison to the RRA, the Resource Restriction Agreement.

Giorgio Ascanelli:
Well, we have developed a plan. We will increase our capacity in aerodynamics, of course, and then in more or less every other part of the company. The accent is on aerodynamics and simulation. As per the RRA they are not a consideration yet. I don't think we are going to hit the limits anyway. A good selection of people is ongoing and we will have to try to make the best of it.

Q:
Looking forward, when it comes to next year the rules are pretty much the same. But with the exhaust, how big a change is that?

GA:
It is a very large change. I think this morning our car was quite better than this afternoon just because we had an evolution of the exhaust which unfortunately broke on us. I don't quite see this happening next year.

Q:
Which, you don't see such breakages happening next year?

GA:
I think there is going to be more limited space for development.

Q:
So there is more work than perhaps would appear to be apparent?

GA:
Yes.

Q:
James, you have brought a lot of stuff this race. It's an important race for one of your drivers. How has the testing gone during the session?

James Key:
It has been okay. We had a lot of new bits. It wasn't just pure aero parts, there were mechanical parts involved in the bits we brought so we were pretty methodical this morning going through everything to check the affects of what we brought to make sure there were no hidden issues. That seemed to be okay. This afternoon we have been working more with the package that we have. The balance of the car needs improving at the moment, but the numbers we are seeing, the data all stacks up to what we expected, which is the most important thing. So I think so far so good but there is certainly some work to do this evening to get more out of it at the moment.

Q:
Was that an effect from Force India pushing you or was it already planned?

JK:
It was always planned to have an update for Suzuka. We have pushed it fairly hard recently because of Force India's good form of late but this time last year we set out when the major packages we wanted to introduce would be targeted for and Suzuka was the last major package of the year so we always had a plan to come here with some new parts.

Q:
Paddy, interesting that both your drivers spoke about better straight-line speed now and also a better rear wing for qualifying. How has that happened?

Paddy Lowe:
Well we have a new rear wing which is better for qualifying! The principal difference between qualifying and the race is the DRS so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that that is the reason. We have a wing and we have made a step on the difference between DRS on and off. That was the wing, actually, that we had in Singapore. Originally intended for this race but we managed to bring it early to Singapore.

Q:
In terms of the rules talking about DRS, what changes for 2012? How have you been able to develop for 2012?

PL:
This was the first year using it obviously so for all the teams it was a big learning curve. A big area, a big opportunity to make a difference against your competitors. The rules next year are exactly the same with the DRS so we will see the technology will mature more. Probably we will see less differences between the teams in terms of DRS effect. But we will still find more bit by bit.

Q:
Just going back to DRS it was slightly more complicated than just opening and closing the flap?

PL:
Do you mean in terms of how it works through the race and though the event?

Q:
Yes.

PL:
I think it has been a fascinating area for this year not just for the actually race and the entertainment it has given with easier overtaking which I think has transformed the nature of races. Technically it has been fascinating. It has added a whole new dimension to the process of selecting the best wing for an event. It used to be quite a one dimensional task, run a wing, have a little look at what your competitors were doing as well iterate through the weekend to the right wing level. Now you have an extra dimension which is what is your qualifying pace, what's your race pace with the DRS, without it, and even with the complication that if it is raining in qualifying then you cannot use the DRS. You might have to factor that in if it's a weekend with potential rain. Lots of complicated sums for the guys to do in the office with the computers to work out what's the best plan.

Q:
Adrian, Kamui Kobayashi said yesterday that one of the great strengths of Sebastian Vettel's was his ability to communicate to the engineers. Tell us about that and his other strengths.

Adrian Newey:
He is a very bright young lad who thinks a lot about what he does. Takes a lot of time to try and understand the car, understand his own performance. Like most good drivers he has a good feeling for the car. He is very strong in some areas. He has a very good feeling for the tyres, what can I say.

Q:
Is that communication though something that stands out as you have worked with many drivers over the years?

AN:
I think Sebastian is very gifted naturally but he works hard at it and that is always the hallmark of a great driver.

Q:
Some of the drivers you've worked with, have they worked as hard or can you just see an extra dimension from him?

AN:
Pass.

Q:
In terms of today, how are your feelings about today? It is interesting three manufacturers in the first three places.

AN:
It's Friday, what can I say. It's the usual thing on a Friday. We don't know exactly what fuel loads people are running and everybody is trying to understand what suits their car on the day. I think Friday, get on and do your own job and then Saturday and Sunday you start to find out where you are.

Q:
A lot of teams say this circuit suits their car better. They weren't so happy with the slower circuits such as the slower corners of Singapore, but your car seems to work everywhere. is that the case?

AN:
I will be able to tell you on Sunday evening.

Q:
But you're happy with the performance so far?

AN:
So far, yeah.

Q:
Pat, the tyres this year were obviously very new. What sort of changes do you see for next year?

Pat Fry:
Well the rear construction is changing. Compounds are changing so exactly what that is, I don't think it is going to be a big step or as big a step in terms of how the degradation of the tyres is affected. I don't think we will actually know until we actually run them.

Q:
That is something you have had a problem with in terms of temperature. Is that something you can see a little bit the goalpost moving and is that going to be a problem aiming at those goalposts next year?

PF:
I don't think so. I think the goalposts are going to be in a similar position. We have just got to move our car so we are working closer to the right area and that's what we are working on now and over the winter.

Q:
At what point is the car at the moment? We have heard talk about how it is going to be a much more aggressive, revolutionary car next year.

PF:
Things are progressing as you would expect this time of year really. It's the same bunch of guys. They are motivated and doing a great job. We will never know if it is good enough really until the first race.

Q:
Is it more revolutionary?

PF:
It's different. It looks a little bit different but I think there are exhaust rules changing. There are lots of little bits that will end up with the cars looking slightly different but I wouldn't class it as a revolution as such.

Q:
Are there such things as revolutions in F1 now?

PF:
Not really, no. It is just hard work isn't it?


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