F1 China 2013 - Friday press conference - Pt.1
12 April 2013
Team representatives: John Booth (Marussia), Ross Brawn (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Claire Williams (Williams).
Claire, how have your duties changed within the team?
First, thank you very much for having me here today, I feel privileged to be sitting among such amazing company. They haven't changed hugely. My primary focus has always been the commercial side of the team – to get the budget in, to keep us going racing. That won't change, that will remain my primary concern. Obviously with the Deputy Team Principal title comes some responsibility for the technical side of what we do, so I'm going to be working with our technical director Mike Coughlan to ensure we have the resources we need to get us back up to the top. And then inevitably there's the governance side of the role as well, so working with FIA/FOM issues.
So how does the team structure work now?
It hasn't changed hugely, as I said. We have a board at Williams made up of an executive committee that runs the team and the wider business on a day-to-day basis. That doesn't change but personally I suppose I will be going to every grand prix, so that's a slight change. I used to before. Frank is still our main leader and that doesn't change.
Christian, you might have hoped that Malaysia was dead and buried and we could moved on but your driver has reignited the subject by saying that he doesn't apologise for winning and that he would do the same again. Where does management stand on this?
You don't want to talk about Malaysia the race, or the pitstops or anything like that? In F1 you're always going to have a conflict between a drivers' interest and a drivers' championship and a constructors' world championship and I think unlike other sports you don't have those two elements going on at any point in time. Of course from a driver's perspective, the drivers' championship is everything to them. Sebastian made clear his position yesterday, some of the rationale behind that. As we've always known, the position between our two drivers, there's never been too much love lost between the two of them and it's a situation that's been clear for probably the last four to five years. It's something that we've managed and during that time we've still go on to score over 2000 points, 35 grand prix victories, six world championships. So within the team it's nothing new. Obviously it's a bit more public, it's a bit more interest for you guys in terms of what's going on but as far as we're concerned it's business as usual. I think, as far as team orders goes, what's happened, happened. Sebastian's explained himself, he's explained himself to me. He's apologised to myself and every individual in the factory and the issues been dealt with. We move on and focus on the challenges of this weekend.
Has he basically been given the green light by the fact the team owner and his advisor have said that there are no team orders?
Well just to be clear, I sat down with Dietrich (Mateschitz) after the race and discussed at length with him what happened in Malaysia and Dietrich is a purist, he's a fan of the sport, he's a… through Red Bull I think, y'know, Red Bull is clear in its intent that it wants to support competition and Red Bull athletes across all different categories of sport. Of course in Red Bull Racing we also have a team. So there exists that conflict of what the drivers want and what the team wants. The purist obviously wants to see the drivers race and race wheel to wheel and in fact as the drivers have done on many, many occasions. Sometimes you get instances that you have to deal with. Our primary concern in Malaysia wasn't the two drivers racing each other, it was the fact we were concerned about tyre degradation from all the information that we'd seen prior… during that weekend in terms of managing the race to the end of the race with the least risk possible. Of course the call that we made at that point in time didn't suit what Sebastian's intent was and therefore you end up in this conflict between driver desire and the team's position and it's something we've discussed, it's something we're clear on going forward where of course we will trust the drivers. We will allow them to continue to race each other, they will have the information, they will know what they need to do with that information.
John, you seem to have a decent car and a decent driver pairing. How much does that contribute to your security in F1, the team's security in F1?
It does play a part. Our shareholders want to see us going forward and we have to show that progression. We're very pleased with what we've produced this year. We're 170 people in total in Marussia and we're very proud of what we've produced – but we have to keep working and keep pushing forward. Our shareholders expect us to go forward.
Tell us about Pat Symonds' contribution to this year's car and also his influence at the circuits?
Pat's only been coming back to the circuit this year, made a couple of appearances and very welcome too – but I rather hope he stays at home more and makes the car go quicker that attending circuits. He's a massive influence in our drawing office: brings a lot of discipline, a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience, particularly with the wind tunnel programme that we've been pushing on with for the last 18 months. It's made a massive difference to us.
Franz, a new technical structure headed by James Key, tell us about the changes.
There were a lot of changes from the technical side, from the personnel side. James reshuffled the team, he bought in much more people in the aerodynamic department – in the wind tunnel as well as in CFD. He also brought in some more people in the design office and the way, the method of working has changed as well. I'm quite positive and convinced we are on a correct way and I also expect a successful season because James has built up quite a strong team around him and as you can imagine it takes a little bit of time. But I think from the middle of the season onwards all the positions should be fixed and people will work concentrated and so far I must say the performance increases and I think we are on a correct way.
And that goes hand-in-hand with the physical expansion at the factory as well?
Yes. We built up the new composite building, which is finished now. That means we've bought in much more people in the composite department. We are producing now in-house the monocoque, the front wing, rear wing, nose, bodywork, the engine cover as well as the brake ducts as well as the floor and diffuser. That means we are much more flexible. The reaction times are much shorter and from this point of view, the team has really increased.
Ross, your imposition of what might be seen to be a team order has also been perceived to be establishing a hierarchy within the team. What do you have to say about that?
There is no hierarchy in the team. Both drivers have exactly the same status. Inevitably in a hard racing season on driver may start to get the upper hand and that may become a factor to take into account towards the end of the season. We would expect a driver who perhaps didn't have a great chance to win the Drivers' Championship towards the end to help one who perhaps does. I think that's our expectation of the drivers. Certainly we don't have any different status between the two drivers. In terms of our situation in Malaysia, I think there are some similarities with Christian's situation. We had… certainly Lewis was very tight on fuel and Nico was low as well. Not as bad as Lewis but still not in great shape. So it seemed that it could lead to a problem where we had both drivers racing each other, because one gets past and then you can slipstream and use the DRS and start saving fuel when you get past and I could foresee a situation where it could get very delicate at the end and for me there wasn't a great deal to gain, because we were third and fourth and no threat and no real opportunity to catch the cars in front. Fortuitously our driver, because it mainly affected Nico, respected the request and did what he was asked to do. But it's a very emotional situation when you tell a driver he has to back off. He has the bit between his teeth, he's charging and he feels he has an opportunity, that's what they're there for. As I think I said afterwards I would have been disappointed if he hadn't been upset, because they're very, very competitive individuals and that's what we pay them for. But it's a very delicate situation and I've been there several times. I think what we mustn't do is push it underground. I think if we have clandestine team orders then that makes us look far worse than accepting the situation we have, which is that it's both a team sport and an individual drivers' sport and the teams will try to find the balance between those two objectives. And they don't always marry easily. We want our drivers to race. The rule is don't hit each other and that's all we ask of them and we want them to race. We have demonstrated many times that we're happy to let our two drivers race. But there will be occasional circumstances where the risk is very high and for the good of team we'll make a team decision about what we need to do.
One more question. There is a new management structure at Mercedes, how is it working?
OK. I think we all know Niki, he's quite a colourful character and I'm not talking about his hat. He has a lot of input, often a lateral view on different things, which is worth listening to. He doesn't have an active day-to-day role. Toto is now based in Brackley, taking over a lot of what Nick Fry did, thus getting more involved in the sport and politics as Nick did in the latter few years. I think we have our areas to look after and on that basis I'm happy.
Transcript courtesy FIA