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Belgian GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

31 August 2012

Press conference

Q:
Paul, are these ideal conditions and temperatures for you at Spa? Seriously, looking at temperatures though, this combination of dry tyres is the same as we had in Malaysia and Monza, which you can imagine would be similar temperatures to each other and this here is pretty cold.

Paul Hembery:
I think you have a situation here where the temperature can change very rapidly here. We can easily have 25-30 degrees and you can obviously have what we have today 11 degrees and full rain. We do have a limitation on the choices, we have four compounds to choose for the season and sometimes you're maybe a little bit more compromised than you'd like to be. Having said that, the harder tyre will work reasonably well in cooler conditions. If it gets near 15 degrees that will be right at the lower end of the area we'd like to working at. Here the challenge is normally for integrity reasons – the loadings on the tyre, which are our real challenge.

Q:
What about the rest of the season? People have talked a great deal about how unpredictable the championship has been. Has there been a policy change? Are you going to stay very much with the way the choice has been so far this year?

Paul Hembery:
Yeah, pretty much so. We're certainly not making any changes to the tyres. Last year we did make a few changes during the season. This year, because it's so close with 10ths of a second between the teams, it would be wrong for us to have changed anything because if one team had started then maybe performing better we would have been accused of favouritism. So we've had to leave it. The choices probably going through to the end of the season are pretty logical now and I'm sure the teams will guess what's used.

Q:
Have you been happy with the way things have gone so far?

Paul Hembery:
Yes, absolutely. It's been an exciting season. I'm sure the headaches for the technical guys here have been quite big. But the racing's been fun – very interesting. I think we're seeing a pattern emerging now in terms of results.

Q:
Dave, have you been happy with your season so far, from the Marussia point of view?

David Greenwood:
Yeah I mean, obviously from the start of the season we knew we had a long way to improve. That's mainly what we've working on with recent upgrades. I think it's easy sometimes to look at the classification sheet and see the gaps and the positions at the end of the race and not think that there are improvements being made but that's not the case. But if you look at the underlying pace that's getting a lot better. We started the season around 4.5% off the leaders in the race and it's somewhere around 2–2.5% now, so that's a good improvement and going forward that will look even better when we have these upgrades and at the end of the year the gaps will be significantly less.

Q:
Now, you've already announced Cosworth continuing for next, plus you'll have KERS next year as well. Are you feeling that's heading in the right direction?

David Greenwood:
Yeah, I mean one thing this year, obviously we haven't had the KERS. Conscious decision to concentrate on aerodynamics. That's all happening now and we're much happier with progress on aero and correlation to the windtunnel etc. So logical step with 2014 in mind and the new powertrain that's coming along is to take KERS for 2013, get operational and sort of start the next stage of our journey.

Q:
Mattia, quick question about Felipe this morning: what was the problem there?

Mattia Binotto: Obviously the engine failed. We'll need to analyse it. I don't think we have a clear answer at the moment. The engine was quite close to the end of its life, so it's something that can normally happen on a Friday even if you never expect to have such a problem during a Friday practice session. We have been lucky due to the weather conditions so we have not compromised the programme of Felipe. The engine will be back in Maranello, we expect, next week.

Q:
Now, Ferrari are very much developing the V6 already. How difficult is it to work with the current race engines and the new engine?

Mattia Binotto:
That is I think the real challenge of the new power unit. Designing it, developing it is quite difficult but having two types of project in parallel, overlapping is quite difficult. From the facilities point of view, at some stage to put the V6 engine means using that dyno for V6 and no more for the V8. It means that all the dynos need at some stage to be transformed from V8 to V6 and you need in terms of scheduling to choose the right moment to do it. We are running the V6, that's correct and in some ways that means we have one less dyno for the V8s, and that will be more and more. So it's really difficult. Moving on the facilities is a real job, in terms of investment, in terms of timing, in terms of schedule. To shorten up that timing is very challenging and very important because each day you gain in that respect will be one more day you can spend on the development of the V6. You need to push on the current season, on the next you can obviously not slow down on your development of the V8 but at some time you have to move to the V6.

Q:
And you're also having to manage the use of eight engines in 20 races. How does that work as well?

Mattia Binotto:
You need already to create your pool at the start of the season and then you need in some way to decide when to fit a brand new engine in the car and at which race. Normally you make your choice based on what is the power effect, circuit by circuit. So the circuits where the power is more important in terms of lap time you'll fit a new engine. It is normally the case for Belgium and Monza. I'm expecting all the manufacturers will do as we do in some way. Looking at the current situation we have so far used four engines, five for our competitors, which we believe can in some way be an advantage at the end of the season. Fitting new engines in Belgium and Monza means that everybody else will be at seven engine already used and then you need in some way to manage the end of the season. Having a brand new engine compared to an engine having already done one race, it's some horsepower, not a lot, but looking at the power effect it can up to one tenth per lap in qualifying. Knowing that the grid is very short, everything is quite important at the moment.

Q:
Nico (Rosberg) was quite interesting recently in saying that both he and the team have learned from the barren patch that you've gone through. Tell us what was learned during that time?

Ross Brawn:
I think our season has in many ways improved over previous years. We've won our first race this year. Michael was fastest in qualifying in Monaco. So, we've had some highlights but we've not been consistent enough. And I think the consistency has been amplified by the closeness of the cars. There's been a few tenths between cars and often a few tenths have been extremely significant. So, I think we're working towards better consistency, both of the car and how we use the tyres. Tyres have been a very interesting challenge this year: the same challenge for all the teams. But getting the most out of the tyres is where we want to improve. I think we still want to… as everyone does, we're fighting hard to make progress with the team. So we strengthened the team considerably last year and the first half of this year and I think we're going to see the benefits of those changes start to feed through into a stronger, competitive position for the future.

Q:
Does that translate into a specific aim for the second half of the season?

Ross Brawn:
Well we're still very hard on this year's car, given the rules haven't changed very much for next season. Anything you do this year will be relevant for next year. We have started next year's car, as I think most teams have, but we're not so concerned about continuing the push this year because we know things we run this year can be carried over into next year's car. There's still a strong push this year and there probably will be until the end of the season.

Q:
Paddy, I can ask you pretty much the same sort of thing: how do you manage next season and you're still in contention for the championship as well? How much of a juggling act is that?

Paddy Lowe:
t's very difficult actually, although in this particular season, as Ross said, it's less difficult than it can be. If you have a big rule change then you're faced with a dilemma as to how much resource you put into the current season relative to the following year. But as Ross says, in this season the rules are very similar in 2013, so most of what you develop now will carry across, so it is easier. We have quite a few teams who would still believe they're in the running for a championship and I think we will see a lot of development carrying on right through for the next two or three months and that will make it tough, because inevitably you do have to put significant effort into next year's car at some point, if only to get it out the door in March.

Q:
And yet at the same time we've got four double-headers, just one standalone race, so everything has to be timed presumably for those double-headers and then you get, as you pointed out, three Fridays that have been complete washouts…

Paddy Lowe:
Yeah, I mean that doesn't make life easy at all because now, with no in-season testing, what we've grown used to is using Fridays as effectively our tests for all the new parts – very difficult when they're rained off. But it's the same for everybody I guess.

Q:
And what are the drivers saying now about the car? What are they looking for mainly?

Paddy Lowe:
I think it's the same story we always have: they need balance through the corner and between the high and low speed – and to keep that consistent, that's a matter of getting the best out of the tyres through the various stages of the race. It's the same formula it's always been but I think particularly with the tyres this year, that has proved to be very difficult.


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