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Monaco GP - Thursday press conference - Pt.1

24 May 2012


Team representatives: Vijay Mallya (Force India), Jean-Francois Caubet (Renault Sport F1), Frank Williams (Williams), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber) and Ross Brawn (Mercedes).


Press conference.



Q:
Vijay, first of all welcome, I think this is your first grand prix of the year and you love Monaco. But how do you keep in touch when you're a long way away?

Vijay Mallya:
Well you know, particularly at the start of the season there are too many conflicting obligations that I have. Parliament, for one, is in session in March and April and that makes it very difficult for me to leave India. I otherwise would have enjoyed going to flyaway races. But the budget, the union budget, was presented only in the middle of March this year as opposed to the end of February so I was obliged to stay back and attend parliament. Then, of course, in early April starts the IPL (India Premier League) cricket and you know we Indians are pretty passionate about the game of cricket. In fact, I remember I was telling Monisha, that three years ago my team reached the finals of the IPL and I actually had to regretfully abandon the Monaco Grand Prix and fly back on the Saturday night to make the Sunday final. But now it's all over, done and dusted and now I can enjoy Formula One particularly in the summer in Europe and in North America.

Q:
How do you think Sahara Force India is doing at the moment? How do you see the performance so far this year?

Vijay Mallya:
We've got 18 points from five races – it's the best start we've ever had. But if you look at our immediate competition, they're way ahead of us. Compliments to them, they've done exceedingly well. I think Sauber has had a second, the podium, and Williams have won the race, so congratulations to both of them. But if I study or try to analyse the various races and the performance of various cares there's a huge sense of unpredictability that has crept in this year. Just as an example: in Barcelona, Nico came tenth, scored one point but kept Webber behind him for more than 30 laps. Up until last year I would never have dreamt of keeping a Red Bull behind me. In Barcelona once again, Lewis actually got pole position before he was given the penalty but Jenson didn't even make Q3. So there's something going on there and the only thing we can put a finger on is the tyres and the performance of the tyres and we're obviously doing all we can to try and understand tyre management better. But I think we can look forward to our moment in the sun as well.

Q:
If it's that unpredictable then everyone has got a chance.

Vijay Mallya:
Absolutely. The results speak for themselves. There is a definite sense of unpredictability. The usual front-runners aren't front-runners anymore. The midfield teams have in fact outperformed the traditional front-runners. So there is something going on there which I think everybody is trying to understand better.

Q:
Jean-Francois, can we first of all clear up the Caterham problem this morning? I believe it was quite an old engine.

Jean-Francois Caubet:
Yes, we blew up an engine this morning, with Heikki. There was a problem of reliability but it was quite an old engine. It was engine of more than 2,200km. It was an engine raced in the two first grands prix on the Friday. It was at the limit but sometime before the limit it is difficult to measure, so we know that we have a good engine today but some problem of reliability.

Q:
I'm intrigued to learn that you do more work here than for any other grand prix, can you just explain where that's centred?

Jean-Francois Caubet:
Yes, I think even if Monaco is a long grand it is a tough grand prix on the engine side you we must have the maximum job between 15-17,000rpm instead of 17-18,000, so the map is completely different and you need great feedback from the driver to set up the car.

Q:
Is there more preparation involved than that?

Jean-Francois Caubet:
Not. I think each grand prix is specific but Monaco is one that is no especially specific against the other.

Q:
And now there is the possibility of more teams winning for you as we saw with Williams two weeks ago.

Jean-Francois Caubet:
Yes, congratulations to Frank (Williams) because it was quite emotional in Renault to have this win in Barcelona. I think we found the same spirit with Frank and we're quite happy as we pushed a lot to have a good relationship and a good spirit with all the teams and with Frank we've found the same spirit as we had 20 years ago. It was quite funny because Frank visited us last week and he told us in French… I will try to translate: Une hirondelle ne fait pas printemps, I think it's one swallow doesn't make a summer in English or something like this. But I don't think it's right. I think the car is good and I think they'll probably have some more wins with Frank.

Q:
Well, let's ask Frank. How much of a surprise was the performance in Barcelona, or does nothing surprise you any longer?

Frank Williams:
That's partly right, but I was surprised. I've been racing long enough to know that you should approach any race with a considerable amount of pessimism and you get better after that. All grand prix teams are immensely professional and very few of them make any mistakes worth talking about during a season so it's hard to prise winners away from winning all the time. But whatever we did right, and I don't really know what that was, worked very fine and I'm just delighted to walk away with all those points and another number one on the scoreboard.

Q:
What has it meant to you personally having that win, after so many years?

Frank Williams:
Yeah, well I thought it was eight years actually but if it was seven that that sounds a little bit better but it's an embarrassing amount of time for a man with a big ego.

Q:
Pastor told us there's been quite a bit of reorganisation within the team. How important has that been and how difficult was that reorganisation?

Frank Williams:
It wasn't a major re-organisation, a few new people arrived, there was a bit of shuffling around. One or two people can make quite a difference and given that it's a complicated matter, as all these people here will tell you, to put the right group of people together and get them to fire on all cylinders. It comes together once in a while with the car and the driver and everything working very well. We took our chance and got it.

Q:
We got the impression that methods within the factory had changed, even the means of building the car and that sort of thing. Is that the case?

Frank Williams:
Nothing significant has changed. It's the same approach, the same reliability. If we've gone a bit quicker then it's because the car is quicker and that would have come, more than anything else, from the wind tunnel and from the drivers being particularly tuned in to a particular circuit.

Q:
Monisha, first of all I wanted to ask you about Chelsea Football Club because I think there's quite a few people back here who don't quite understand that tie-up, how it works and how it happened?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
Well, Chelsea approached us last year with this idea. It's very simple really, there's not much mystery to it. Here two teams have got together that belong to the two sports that are probably the most watched sports around the world. So like this we've created a joint platform, an enormous community to which we can reach out and we'll be doing this by doing marketing events together, looking at merchandising areas, so there's a lot of commercial activity that will start and it gives us a very potential to go to potential sponsors. So it's the commercial area that's involved here and if you give us a bit more time you'll what comes out.

Q:
Also, of course, some of the ownership of the team has been transferred to you, which is, I suspect, a fantastic opportunity for you.

Monisha Kaltenborn:
That's a great opportunity for me – and a big honour. It shows to me the amount of trust Peter has put into me, that together with his son we can operate the company in the future according to the values that he as the founder of our company has actually set out. And at the same time it's a very big responsibility as we're talking about a company here that has been in motorsport for the last 40 years, so you have a big responsibility towards the people and towards Peter.

Q:
And, in terms of the future of the team, the team has traditionally started very, very well but seems to have dropped off a bit mid-season. Have you got the budget to keep the development going for the rest of the season?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
We often get the question on our budget and that maybe we cannot develop the way that we want to. Now with the Barcelona package I think we showed everyone that we can develop quickly, efficiently and also bring a good and a big package to the track. So we will continue to do that. And it's valid for many other teams on the grid who are in a similar position, the more funding we have, the more we can develop, and you'll see that on track.

Q:
Ross, we've seen the ups and downs of the Mercedes team this year, we've heard how unpredictable Formula One is. Is that what it's all about? You won obviously in China but since then the performance doesn't seem to have been there.

Ross Brawn:
I think teams… if we take a normal season, there's always some variability between the teams and if you overlay on that the difficulty in getting a good understanding of how to make these tyres work most effectively, then the two together can sometimes bring quite big discrepancies. Take some of our competitors in Barcelona, they were a second quicker than us, and we were a second quicker than them in the previous race. There's big differences sometimes when these tyres are working or not working properly. I think it's a combination of the two, which makes it quite difficult to always understand where you are in the car and what you have to focus on to improve it. But we've done some useful progress with the car I believe, and when we get to those circuits where it would naturally suit the car and we're in the working range of the tyres, then you'll see the performance come back again. But it's true the last couple of races have not been so great after we had such a wonderful weekend in China.

Q:
Is there more strategy decided on the pit wall now than before? Is it becoming harder and harder to think on your feet as the goalposts move?

Ross Brawn:
It's true to say you don't always know what you're going to get in the race, even if you've done the work on a Friday and Saturday, you don't always know what you're going to get in the race and you have to be prepared to react from what you see in the race. Sometimes the tyres don't last as long as you anticipated; sometimes they're more consistent than you anticipated. So you need to have the capacity to evolve your strategy while you're on the pit wall. I think the signs you get are relatively clear in terms of lap times and degradation and so on and so forth. So, it has made strategy, I think, more interesting in many ways, more relevant so, yeah, it does make it more challenging on the pit wall but that's something we enjoy.

Q:
Yesterday we had a question from a journalist which quoted you in a German paper – which meant there were about three translations involved – saying that you had said that the team had let down Michael Schumacher this year, so far. Did you say that? Or could you perhaps clarify what was said?

Ross Brawn:
When I talk about the team, I talk about the drivers as well, the drivers aren't outside the team, so when I say “the team hasn't done a good enough job with Michael”, I mean collectively. We – and that includes Michael – have not done a good enough job collectively in the first five races because Michael's got two points and that's not good enough. So, my view is that we always look at these things collectively; it's not 'the driver's made a mistake', or 'the team's made a mistake' it's 'together we haven't done a good enough job.' And that's the situation with Michael. It's been a bit better with Nico. Certainly the race win was great and I think in the last three races actually Nico's scored the second or third highest points of any driver. So for Nico we're not doing too badly. But I think also the issue of Michael scoring only two points is not just down to Michael. It's down to some of the technical problems we've had with the car.


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