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British GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

7 July 2012

Team representatives: Bob Fearnley (Force India), Rob White (Renault Sport), Mark Gillan (Williams), Pat Fry (Ferrari), Adrian Newey (Red Bull Racing) and James Allison (Lotus).


Press conference.


Q:
A question for you all first. Tell us about what sort of upgrades you've brought here? Have you been able to test them? Have you had anything conclusive from them? Are you going to carrying on using them for the rest of the weekend or have you not been able to evaluate them? Bob, if you'd like to start.

Bob Fearnley:
Ours are just mainly small aero changes, nothing significant. We haven't been able to fully track evaluate them but we will continue to run with them.

Q:
Rob, does this apply to you or not?

Rob White:
We're not in upgrade mode at the moment. We're more in short-term countermeasures, following the incidents we had in Valencia, so it doesn't really apply to us.

Q:
Mark?

Mark Gillan:
Similar to Bob. Basically, with the weather conditions we've not been able to look at the updates but we will do tomorrow, weather permitting.

Q:
I was told that they weren't on Bruno's car today.

Mark Gillan:
No, they weren't.

Q:
How very wise. Presumably just because of the conditions?

Mark Gillan:
Yes, purely because of the heavy wet conditions we thought it prudent to leave them off.

Q:
Pat?

Pat Fry:
I think we, like most people, have a few little updates all over the car but with these conditions it's impossible to do any sensible evaluation of it. We need to see what we can do tomorrow, if anything, and then try to make the right choice for qualifying and the race.

Q:
Adrian, more for you after Valencia?

Adrian Newey:
Yes, a big upgrade in Valencia, here very small stuff, but as everybody else says impossible to evaluate them in these conditions.

Q:
James?

James Allison:
We've got two or three things that are all fitted. We didn't back-to-back them but they don't seem to be misbehaving. The only bit we were able to test sensibly was some changes to our pit stop equipment and they seemed to go OK.

Q:
Rob, we know it was an alternator problem in Valencia, can you say what the problem was? Have you managed to cure it?

Rob White:
A bit of background if you will. The first thing to say was that there wasn't any change underway that went pear-shaped. The spec was something that has been stable for quite a long time – some years – apart from little details in the piece that actually broke. Both Sebastian's car and Romain's car stopped on the track following the alternator failure. Clearly the alternator generates all the electricity on the car. Without electric power the car stops very quickly. Some small differences in the exact sequence of events after the failure and before the cars stopped were incidental. The failure was due to overheating. Overheating from within the piece, not from outside the piece. I guess we didn't at the time know all of that. We wanted to find out if we were outside our experience. It turned out that we weren't. We wanted to find out whether there was anything unusual relative to our recommended operating conditions. The truth of the matter is that both of the teams were completely within the recommendations we had previously made. We had to look deeper. We had to challenge ourselves on whether the recommendations we made were the right ones. We were able to find places where, with hindsight, we were at risk. We found some conditions where we felt we might have pushed the piece beyond its comfort zone and that's where we've had to focus our attention for this week. A very small amount of time to react. Without any great surprise, we don't have a magic wand to wave that will make all the trouble go away, so we've had to deal with it in a fairly classic way. We tried to make the conditions less severe for the piece, so we've tried to reduce the electrical load on the car, settings on the car, on the engine. We've tried to improve the electrical generation in the most marginal conditions, which are typically at low engine speed and then we've tried to select within the population of existing pieces the ones that will give us the best chance of succeeding. Thos selection criteria are based on electrical behaviour and then for the avoidance of doubt, classic quality [control] type criteria to eliminate the batch numbers we had a problem with. All of that goes in the right direction. It would be unjust to say that I'm 100 per cent confident we have done enough. We've had great support from Red Bull and Lotus who suffered the failures and from Williams and Caterham who didn't but have identical pieces on the car. Also from all the suppliers in the supply chain. We've got what is obviously a short-term plan for this weekend and in parallel we've got a longer-term look to see if we can do a more robust job for the future.

Q:
Continuing on with that, what have the two teams been able to do to help Renault with the cooling? James?

James Allison:
We just work with Renault Sport. Most of the action is happening in Viry. But we try to provide help and support with the tests that happen in Viry. There were certain bits of our car kit that were necessary to go to Viry to form part of that testing chain. So we all just muck in together and try to get it fixed.

Q:
Are you able to provide more cooling to that part, to that area?

James Allison:
Yeah, you can blow air on it.

Q:
Adrian?

Adrian Newey:
Same really. It's a component failure that we'll work together to get on top of.

Q:
Bob, we've seen quite a change for you from Canada to Valencia. What in fact has changed for the team?

Bob Fearnley:
Nothing has really changed. We just made a mistake in Canada really with our settings and went the wrong way, so it was an error from our side, on the engineering side. We corrected that for Valencia. We should have had the same result in Canada as we did in Valencia really.

Q:
Are you quite confident for this weekend then, in the right conditions?

Bob Fearnley:
This is a different test. We have moved to more of an aero circuit. Hopefully, the answer is yes but until we get a bit of dry running we won't know.

Q:
Mark, you've got a good car and we're seeing it in the points quite frequently. At what stage do you stop developing it and move on to next year's car? Is there a tipping point at some stage?

Mark Gillan:
I think the competition this year is so fierce and everything is extremely tight, as we saw in Valencia, as a team we need to continue to push. There is a point, as you say, where you have to balance next year's car's development and obviously with an eye even further into the future with the 2014 car, which is a big departure. But we are really keen to maximise the performance of this year's car and make the most of this opportunity.

Q:
And actually you're already looking at the 2014 car?

Mark Gillan:
Yeah, it's a big departure and working alongside partners in terms of development of the car and obviously that's something that sits quite aside from next year's car which is really a continuation of the theme from this year.

Q:
Pat, yesterday we mentioned to Fernando Alonso, how he won here last year, how he won in Valencia. Two very different circuits. Is that how you see it from an engineering point of view?

Pat Fry:
I think they are completely different circuits. Here there are more high-speed corners, more aero I guess. It will be interesting if it's dry to see how the performance is. I think we're fairly realistic. We still have a lot of work to do to catch up. We're trying to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can, exactly the same as any other team.

Q:
We've seen Felipe bounce back in the last few races. What have you done to help him, what more can you do?

Pat Fry:
Certainly from Monaco onwards he's done a great job. We changed the car a little bit and we found something that suits him slightly better and that's brought the best out of him. Today he was looking pretty reasonable until the red flag.

Q:
Adrian, we saw what seemed to be a phenomenal effort with the upgrade in Valencia. Interesting that you brought it there rather than here as everybody else has. Give us some idea of the thinking behind such a big upgrade all at once and what sort of effort it took from the factory to bring that upgrade?

Adrian Newey:
Well, the upgrade was a new sidepod and exhaust, so I think it's been a bit exaggerated how big the change really is. It's a fairly big visual change but a less big engineering change. I would regard it as part of the routine development. In terms of the performance it brings, well because it's a big cosmetic change everybody focuses on it. You could perhaps make a small change to a diffuser or a front wing endplate that might be just as big a performance difference but nobody will spot it. Well, the teams will spot it but the press won't so much let's say. The problem is this season it's difficult to see much form, as much as we had a similar benefit or advantage in Bahrain as we had in Bahrain but then that can swing to the other way round at other circuits. It's a very difficult season to read so far.

Q:
Because the pace in Valencia was phenomenal. You were certainly going to win that race.

Adrian Newey:
Yes, we would have wont he race for sure, but that's the ifs and buts of motor racing.

Q:
James, just going back to the alternator. How was it you had a problem with one car and not the other?

James Allison:
I think it's probably just that the alternator was very near to the limit of what it could do. There's always a scattering components and one fell just the wrong side of the line. Rob's probably got more of an insight into that than I have but we weren't operating any differently.

Q:
Looking at Romain Grosjean: how has his performance changed so far. You've had nine races now with him so far, we're almost at mid-season. Have you seen him mature over the year?

James Allison:
I think he's gathered confidence as the season has gone on but if you go right back to the first running in pre-season he was quite quick right from the off. He probably took a couple of long runs in pre-season to get a handle on how to look after the tyres over a stint, but he's been pretty useful right from the outset. He's just had a bit of misfortune at the starts in a few races. But that seems to be going more his way now. He's very pleased with how his season is going and we're pleased for him and with him.


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