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Belgian GP - Friday press conference - Pt.1

5 September 2008


Press conference

Q:
A question for all of you. How far advanced are you with the 2009 regulations and do you think they will provide better racing?

John Howett:
We think we are doing a good job but until we get to Melbourne and see the relative performance I guess we don't know. That's our sincere position. Racing, I think it should make it perhaps easier to overtake but still there is a degree of scepticism and we have to evaluate it but I don't know. We believe in the work of the overtaking working group but until it is actually proven there is still a question mark.

Ross Brawn:
Pretty much what John said. We are happy with the way things are progressing but until we hit the track we don't know where the reference points are. But we have put everything we can into next year's car and I don't think there is much else we could have done. In terms of racing I do think the overtaking working group did a good job, it is really a question of whether the cars we end up with are the ones they envisaged we'd end up with. If they don't, then maybe we will have to look at some tuning of the regulations in the future.

Martin Whitmarsh:
We are never happy where we are of course. I think probably, like Stefano alongside, we are working still a little bit on this year's car. We'd like to be further advanced with next year's car but that doesn't mean we are in a bad shape. I think as Ross and John have said until you are out there with the others you can't really know. You have got new benchmarks that are going to be set. Ordinarily you know how much progress you have made against your existing car. At the moment none of us know that. The fear is where the cars are so radically different that you miss something. I imagine that when the cars are launched there will be greater variety than there normally is and then there will be, I suspect, very quick action on the part of some teams to make their cars conform to those they perceive to be quicker. But in regards to the overtaking working group I think it was a very positive initiative. I think a number of the teams working very openly together was the first appliance of science in the generation of regulations and it remains to be seen how successful that has been but we should applaud the process. At the moment it is the best shot we have had at it and it was the first time that we have really seriously approached the subject.

Stefano Domenicali:
The only thing I can add on that is really that we need to see from the overtaking point of view group, that was the principal of having better racing, how our engineers are working. Normally the experience is that the development of the car during the year is very, very fast, so we will see. For sure what was done was done in the right direction. We need to see how good our engineers will be able to catch the performance of the car within this new framework. As Martin said, we are still very focussed on this year as the championship is very open and we are trying to dedicate the relevant job that is needed as the project is completely new. If you miss the first race with a good car, then it will be tough to have another one in the short term. That will be the focus for the second half of the season.

Q:
Another question to you all. I understand there is still a search for cost-cutting measures amongst the teams. Where would you like to see cost cutting taking place?

JH:
I think honestly the daily job is cost cutting. It is part of what we do. I have to say that although a lot of the changes that have been introduced have been done sincerely with the effect of reducing costs, the effect normally drives costs upwards. One of the first things we need to establish is a fairly stable regulation with sensible evolution. The biggest issue we face at the moment is really securing the future, and a sustainable future, for the smaller teams. We have to compromise from a pure engineering point of view to find how we can form a competitive platform on the cars which enables these smaller teams to survive. I think that is one of the purposes of FOTA, to meet and discuss how to respond to Max Mosley's proposal with that sole objective.

RB: I think all the teams work in an efficient way. I don't think the teams waste money but some of the activities we pursue are very expensive. We have to see if there are areas of the car where we are pursuing competitive advantage which is particularly expensive. At the moment aerodynamics are still the cheapest form of performance but we have to pursue all the other areas because we are all doing it. If you take transmissions, for example, at the moment we have all got quick shift transmissions. They are all fairly expensive pieces of kit and they are not really a strong performance differentiator, so there are areas where we could either standardise or commonise the technology and remove them from the equation. I think teams are looking seriously at those sorts of initiatives. As John mentioned we are all concerned about the survival of the independent teams. If we lose the two or three independent teams involved in Formula One, we are going to look quite sad. I think we have to, for the good of the sport and for the good of Formula One and for us to be involved in Formula One and it has to be a healthy formula, then we need to see if we can introduce initiatives which help the independent teams.

MW:
I think as Ross and John said, we can commoditise areas of the car where there is not a significant performance differentiation. I think that would be a sensible thing to do. We have got to be mindful of the small teams. I think what we have to make sure is that we put in place a disciplined process. I think too often in Formula One we tackle theses issues of cost saving in a very shoot from the hip style and often we get it wrong. I think because of that we are learning now that you have got to spend some time and patience on getting the process right and making sure all the teams understand what the collective goal is and what the process is by which we are likely to achieve it. I think that is something FOTA will be putting a lot of effort into, making sure that we can perhaps have a more cohesive group of teams that we probably have ever had before.

SD:
I totally agree with what has been said. For sure the main objective is to make sure that what we do for the future is something that will not have any effects which we did not consider. This is exactly the biggest problem we have faced in Formula One in the last couple of years and I totally agree with what has been said.

Q:
John, your thoughts on Timo Glock's future with Toyota.

JH:
We have a multi-year contract with him and we are very happy. He is progressing well, he is quick and getting more and more consistent. There is absolutely no hesitation that he will be with us next year and hopefully he will progress further and stay with us for more years. At the moment he has a very secure and bright future with us.

Q:
Ross, the Alonso situation with Honda?

RB:
Nothing to report.

Q:
No further progress?

RB:
No.

Q:
When would you expect progress?

RB:
I think when Fernando decides where he wants to go.

Q:
So it is down to him now?

RB:
Yes.

Q:
Martin, there was quite a lot of work taking place on Lewis's car this afternoon. Can you tell us what was going on?

MW:
Yes, over the break we had changed the brake materials and evidently we had gone the wrong way. Given the fact that the circuit was slippery at that time we felt we had time to change the brake materials at the front which is what we did.

Q:
Stefano, two issues from the last race - the engine and pit stops procedure. Can you tell us what was the problem with the engine, we understand it was the same as Felipe's from the last race?

SD:
It was the same problem, it was the same con rod I would say because it was the same batch with the sequence of the serial number. Hopefully we have isolated this problem. For sure it has cost a lot of points on our side. Apart from that the problem shows how important the quality control process is, not only inside the company but also with the supplier and the sub-supplier. This is really a key area of joint work and we cannot underestimate the importance of it, so we need to be stronger and stronger in that area. With regards to your second question about the pit stop, was this in respect to Kimi's situation with the mechanic?

Q:
In some ways that, though that was Kimi's problem. But also the release of Felipe. Is there anything you are going to change?

SD:
I don't think so. To be honest, as I said after the race, in our view we respect the FIA decision but it was not an unsafe release of the car because there was plenty of space. It was a very small entry. You can see in the past much, much worse situations but this is part of the racing. With regards to Kimi's situation, unfortunately these things happen and this is a key point. Any time there is a pit stop it shows how easy both mechanics and drivers can make mistakes because the tension is very high and you are fighting. This is really a very tense moment for everyone.


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