» BACK TO CRASH.NET

Crash.Net F1 News

F1 Bahrain 2013: Friday press conference - Pt.1

19 April 2013

Team representatives: Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), Paul Hembery (Pirelli) and Eric Boullier (Lotus).


Press conference


Q:
Stefano, I have no previous experience but I'm sure the role of team principal at Ferrari is not the easiest job in the world, but it has seemed – apart from the front wing on Fernando's car in Malaysia – a fairly straightforward and happy start to the season for you all at Maranello.

Stefano Domenicali:
Well of course, above all in China it was a great weekend for us. It was a reward for the team and also for Fernando after the difficult race we had in Malaysia. But we have done only three races, so we have done nothing. Our experience and my personal experience tell me that every Sunday could be something different, so we need to keep the feet on the ground and work hard, knowing that things can change significantly, quickly. Therefore, it's important to try to keep this momentum also here in Bahrain; try to maximise the situation of the performance of the car we have now; improve because we are not really at the level we should be, but at least it's important to see that we are starting from a relatively good base to try to keep the development of the car as quick as possible because I'm sure that not only the teams that are represented here but also the others will do a big push already from the first race in Europe. So happy, but very focused.

Q:
Where do you think that the progress has been made with the competitiveness of your car? Where has the strength has come from? What have you put right over the winter that wasn't necessarily going so right this time last year?

Stefano Domenicali:
Difficult to say for sure. We have done some modifications to our methodology. We have chosen to go towards the Eurozone in one wind tunnel. Without doing a lot of comparison then sometimes in these conditions you may get lost. So I believe that is the main thing. For sure, the speed of the change that you do during the season you cannot see immediately, so it takes time and I'm pleased to see that the improvement is there but, as I said not, enough as I'd like to see.

Q:
Well, we'll see what happens over the rest of the weekend. Monisha, good afternoon and welcome to the first team principals' press conference you've been involved in this season. Two new drivers, an all-new driver line-up at Sauber. How would you gauge the progress of the rookie and of the experienced driver you have this year?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
Well, I think they've really integrated well into the team. With Nico it's less of an issue because he does have more experience now. Of course he has been changing a couple of teams in the last few years, so it's tough for him as well. But as far as I can see he's well integrated. People are happy, he's happy and we're going in the right direction. We can see that with the last steps we introduced in China – because we know we have issues on performance – and we're getting very good from him. On Esteban's side, we have been very convinced, and still are, of his talent, so it's for us now to make sure that he has the surrounding that he can develop that, because clearly neither he nor we can be happy so far with the results that he's shown.

Q:
It's part of your job, almost, reassuring Esteban that you believe in the talent he has.

Monisha Kaltenborn:
Oh, I don't think I really need to reassure him that much because he's quite confident and he also knows why these mistakes have happened but it's important that you talk a lot to him and you try to support him in getting used to the situation in Formula One and the pressure, because actually drivers like him, rookie drivers, it's quite a dilemma, because they hardly have any opportunity to drive the car, especially in Esteban's case, because he never go any Friday sessions from us. At the same time when he comes in as a race driver the expectations are so high, from the team's side and from his side as well, and there are so few opportunities to actually make points, so it's a difficult situation to handle.

Q:
And the situation you have in terms of the budget this year: Nico Hulkenberg has been urging the team on to push, you need to develop the car. You have excellent facilities at Hinwil, but do you have the resources you need to use those facilities to their optimum?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
Well, clearly if we had more resources we could do more. We still have room to move on top, but on the other hand we are of course fighting for a resource restriction but the gap actually just gets smaller. No, our situation is pretty clear there: we still have room to move to the top but with whatever we have we're trying to do our best.

Q:
Martin, no doubt about it, a very difficult opening three races of the season. What progress do you feel the team has made since winter testing, and Australia. Is it enough or are you really pinning your hopes on a major breakthrough when we get to Spain?

Martin Whitmarsh:
It's never enough, wherever you are in your level of competitiveness, but this year, as you say, we had a very difficult start. We didn't have the performance in the car that we wanted and Australia was a very hard weekend. I think since then… clearly, there's no testing, it's quite difficult to make some progress and these first four races comes quickly, one after the other. I think we've been, again today, every time the car leaves the garage it's another experiment. We've been gathering data and we've been trying things. I think we've made a little bit of progress – never as much as I'd like or as the drivers or the team would want. I think we're gaining a little bit of performance, we're gaining a little bit of understanding but clearly there's a big push for an upgrade package for Spain and it's important for all of us that we make good progress. But in the meanwhile, we're racers, so those of us in the field we'll take the car and do the best job we can with it, try to maximise the points we can get out of these first four races.

Q:
It's likely that you'll be even further behind in the Constructors' Championship when we get to Spain. I know that will only be round five and it's very early, but realistically, are you still racing for a Constructors' Championship or is it now just wins?

Martin Whitmarsh:
I think after three races or even after four races you don't give up in these championships. I think Ferrari did an excellent job last year of showing all of us how you can turn it round and be there right at the end, capable of winning both championships. So, there are always big hills to climb and mountains of challenge but that's why we come motor racing. At the moment we're concentrating on understanding and improving the car. As soon as we make progress we'll be trying to win races and as soon as we win races we'll be thinking about championships. But at the moment clearly we're focused on the here and now and what's the best we can do this weekend. It's a tough circuit for us. This is clearly a rear-limited circuit. It's a circuit where traction is important and that's been a deficiency in our car so far. We came here knowing it was going to be a tough weekend but we'll fight as hard as we can to get what are possible.

Q:
Paul Hembery, Pirelli made the decision to change the tyre compounds from soft and hard to medium and hard, can you explain why that was?

Paul Hembery:
Yeah, it was done on the Sunday night after the Malaysian race. Malaysia obviously being similar in some respects, from a tyre point of view, to here in some respects: very hot, very abrasive. We felt that both had worked well there and that was the right thing to do coming here.

Q:
Pirelli were tasked with spicing up the racing. Given the level of opinion on the tyres and the racing this year, do you think the introduction of softer compounds has been an aggressive step just a little bit too far?

Paul Hembery:
It depends what you're looking at. If you look at it with three different winners in three races, three world champions, then it's been pretty good. Melbourne was probably one of the more exciting Melbournes than we've seen for many a year. We almost have this conversation every year: we've had it the first two years we've been here, and then as we get through the season, the teams – obviously there are very talented engineers in all the teams – and they master the challenges given to them and going beyond certainly mid-season then you'll find these sorts of discussions die away.

Q:
If you're looking at it from the Saturday afternoon and a lack of action in the early part of the qualifying sessions and then on the Sunday with drivers having to pit after two, three or four laps. Is that what you would have wanted as a tyre supplier?

Paul Hembery:
Well, pitting two or three laps in is no different than pitting two or three laps from the end, we've seen that as well many, many times as well in the past, so it's just doing it the other way around. It really doesn't change that much. As long as you've got a core product that will give a racing tyre and gives what we were asked to achieve, which is two to three pitstops. I think there was only one time in the past where we felt it went too far, was Turkey I guess in 2011 when we were at four stops. That was too many. I think you'll find the average over this season will be just over two pitstops average so from that point of view, we're happy. In terms of qualifying, last year was probably a good year for qualifying because the cars were very close together in performance. We often saw 16 cars within a second in Q2 – that's maybe pushed out a little bit this year, there's been some strong development from the cars at the front and we're starting to see a little bit of strategy coming into play for Q3 that we saw in 2011. It's early days, one event like that, let's see what happens going through the season. But if it's only on the odd occasion then it's probably not an issue. There are different points of view: some people will say that adds a strategy element to the Q3, and people are generally really interested in who's got pole position and maybe the first three places. Obviously last race we had three ex-world champions in the first three with less than a few tenths between then, so that was good from that point of view. And you could probably say as well a couple of cars starting on a different choice gave us quite an interesting finish with Sebastian coming flying through at the end. And probably if he hadn't had the traffic he might well have even got a better result. So it's a game of opinions. Ultimately we'll do what the sport asks us to do, of course, and if we do feel together that the qualifying's not work I'm sure we'll all find a solution together.

Q:
Eric, Romain Grosjean has a new chassis for this weekend and for the next few races. What was the thinking behind that? Was there a problem with the old chassis? Was it trying to help his confidence rebuild?

Eric Boullier:
It's a whole thing package. We try to find out. He's not as his best, let's say, where we think he should be. There's nothing to blame, actually to finger-point anything, it's just the addition of different things. So, we decided to go though in details and deep enough to even take into consideration to change the chassis.

Q:
We have a debate in F1, as F1 fans, what's more important: good car or a good driver. At the moment you've got a good car and in Kimi Raikkonen a very good driver – how important is Kimi Raikkonen to the long-term success of the Lotus team?

Eric Boullier:
I think he's part of the success, or sort of success, that we've had since a couple of years, or let's say at least last year. It's true that Kimi does help the team stepping up but behind Kimi there are a lot of people – and good people – working hard and actually working well. I think as usual it's to get the full package really working all together. Then you can see some results.

Q:
And you're confident that once again you have the budget to cope with a title battle and a development race off the track as well as on it as well.

Eric Boullier:
Yes, we do.


» BACK TO CRASH.NET