Technical directors: Mario Almondo (Ferrari), Willy Rampf (BMW Sauber), Pat Symonds (Renault), Geoff Willis (Red Bull)

Q:
Geoff, welcome back. What are your first impressions of Red Bull Racing?

Geoff Willis:,/B>
Well, first of all, I am very glad to be back in F1 and very happy to be at Red Bull. They have certainly got quite a different flavour from some of the other teams I have worked for. There are a lot of good things about the team and also a lot of things to do in the team to improve it. But certainly over the first few weeks that I have been there I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have found and hope and feel confident that we can make quite a big improvement next year.

Q:
What is your main function there?

GW:
My role is technical director and I think that role is quite varied among the teams. Essentially it is split between myself and Adrian and it is very much that Adrian's looking after the direction of performance development, and my job is the execution of all the rest of the engineering to support that so it's the design function, manufacturer operations. But of course, you can't do one in the absence of the other, so there has to be quite a lot of overlap between myself and Adrian and it's obviously a great benefit that I've worked with him for quite a number of years many years ago at Williams. I'm certainly enjoying it, yes.

Q:
Pat, is there any development still taking place on the Renault now, or is it purely concentrated on 2008?

Pat Symonds:
We're very much on 2008 at the moment. At this time of the year most teams are focused on the following year and how you're approaching the following year depends, in turn, on how much you can then translate into the current year. If you have a very evolutionary development to the following year, there are chances you can be trying things in the wind tunnel and you can say this will work on the current car, so you bring it in. We've got a reasonable few differences in the layout of our 2008 cars, so we believe that there won't be much translation back into the 27, so we're not going to see a great deal of development on the car between now and the end of the season, as we really put our concentration into 2008.

Q:
Now you're involved in what I believe is called the overtaking working group. Can you tell us how that's coming along? What it's doing? Give a general update?

PS:
Yeah, it's coming along well, I think, in that the four wind tunnel sessions have now finished and yesterday we sat down to discuss the final results and to really pull out the parts that are needed to be the framework of the regulations. The next steps are to write some of those regulations and to test the results on a simulator, which is happening, I believe, next Wednesday. We're meeting - as the technical working group - at a special meeting for a report from the overtaking working group on 12 October, I believe, and at that meeting, we will present the results of the work that has been going on over the summer and decide how we progress it through with a view to writing regulations in 2009 that will produce an aerodynamic solution or a car solution, let's say, that will improve the possibility of cars overtaking. It's not going to lead to saloon car racing or NASCAR racing or anything like that, but it's certainly going to take away, I believe, some of the difficulties that the drivers are experiencing at the moment.

Q:
And it really could happen, because we've heard about it for several years...

PS:
Well, the overtaking working group was actually only formed in January, our first meeting was in January. It's been an exemplary bit of work I think, in that all the teams except one have contributed to it. The FIA has contributed to it, it's been a very co-operative effort but guided by quite a small group, and I think it's a little bit of a model for how we might do some other things. I think it's good that the stake-holders of Formula One actually put their money in to doing the research that's needed to do these very complicated jobs - what I'd like to say is - properly. I hope that we do more things like this.

Q:
Willy, obviously BMW have had a fantastic season this year. Presumably in 2008 you're aiming to catch the two teams ahead of you.

Willy Rampf:
Yes, the target for next year is to be position three or better. For sure, we're aiming to get one of the two teams in front of us but that will be overall quite difficult because there's still a noticeable time gap but anyway, this is our target.

Q:
Are you studying specific items throughout your performance to make sure you make that gain, is that how you do it?

WR:
I think currently we have quite a good, quite a competitive car, quite a solid car with a high level of reliability. As the regulations are not changing for next year, next year's car will be to a certain degree an evolution of this year's car and currently we are concentrating to improve all the areas, not only the aerodynamic but also the mechanical side because we see that it's quite important to use the maximum performance of the tyres.

Q:
Mario, looking at this year's championship, are you confident that the future circuits are going to be better suited than say Hungary, Monaco - the tighter tracks?

Mario Almondo:
Of course, I believe that we are making a lot of effort in the right direction. Since the beginning of the season, we knew we would have some circuits which are more difficult than others, and up to now what we probably saw is almost exactly what we were forecasting. By the end of the year, I think that we will have a good possibility of winning races and the development that we are still pushing is something that gives us a bit of extra boost in order to be really competitive and winning because what we have to do is just that.

Q:
Pole position seems to be vital - qualifying is vital to be on the front row, preferably on pole. How much can you concentrate on that, how much are you concentrating on that, in comparison to the race effort itself?

MA:
I have to say that it is always difficult to answer in the proper way to this question because every race is a balance between being on the first row and having the right possibility of having a good strategy. Monza is a good example. It's very important to be on the first row but it's also important to make the right decision in terms of fuel, so this is what we are thinking about very deeply for tomorrow. We have several possibilities to explore. We are going to do that. Of course, we had some indication from the qualifying, from the tests of today, and we will see what the best option is and will decide tomorrow.

Q:
A question now to you all: you've all done a fantastic job in your various teams to make the cars incredibly reliable, as we saw here a couple of years ago: 22 cars finished; as we saw two weeks ago when 21 cars finished. But it does mean that, as Pat is very fond of saying, you spend two days trying to put the fastest car on the front of the grid, it's very difficult for anyone to overtake and if you start 14th, you're not likely to get any World Championship points. Is there any engineering challenge, is there a balance somewhere where perhaps engineering is more challenged to make better racing, to make more interesting racing, to give everybody a chance of winning points? Is there an engineering challenge to perhaps shake up the order during the race itself?

PS:
Well, it's interesting that you say 'is it an engineering challenge?' because the link between the sporting and the engineering challenge is often a very interesting one. The engineering challenge can be simplified to producing the car that's going to win races. It's a very simple thing to say but actually if you look at it in a little bit more depth it's perhaps not quite as apparent as it may seem. At the moment, if you consider, for example, the aerodynamics of the car, we all spend a great deal of time in our wind tunnels and with our computational fluid dynamics to make a car that has the best possible aerodynamic efficiency because we know that that will give us the best lap time and at the moment, winning races is all about having the best lap time from your car. Now if you imagine a situation where you had sporting regulations such as they have in GP2 where, if in your first race you produced a car that was fast, you won the race and that meant then that you were placed further down on the grid (for the second race), then the sporting challenge, and the sporting regulations would lead you to develop your engineering in a slightly different way. In other words, you wouldn't spend all your time in the wind tunnel, just trying to get the best possible efficiency and making the car achieve a minimum lap time. You would actually spend some time looking at overtaking because you would know that no matter how successful you were at making your car fast, you were at some point in the weekend going to have to do some overtaking, and therefore you had better study it, you had better find out how to make it happen. So I think part of the answer to your question is that the sporting regulations will perhaps determine how the engineers approach their problem, and maybe that's the way to think of these things.

GW:
Well, to answer your question directly: do I think that the very high levels of reliability - and I wish our team shared those high levels of reliability - but does higher reliability lead to bad racing? I think the simple answer is no, it doesn't. I think it's disappointing to people watching a race if half the cars don't finish the race. For example, Moto GP is very successful with very high levels of reliability. I think the problem is - and I'm making an additional point to Pat's point - I think the problem is that the cars are too easy to drive in that the drivers are able to drive at pretty much 95-99 per cent of their one lap potential and they do that for two or three stints throughout the race, so there are very few mistakes being made and that is one of the reasons why we are seeing such processional races. If we could make the cars harder to race so that you often found yourself in a position of running wide, going off the track, having to come back, having to pass the person in front, then, as Pat said, we would be starting to think about designing our cars to do more than just race against the clock. So there is something in the way that we... I think it's a regulation thing. If we can think of making the cars fundamentally harder to drive, mistakes happen more, drivers simply can't drive at 100 per cent because it's too risky for them, then we can see more mixed up and probably better racing.

MA:
I have to say firstly that I share what my colleagues said because starting from the sporting rules, I have to say that the sporting rules gives you the boundaries of your technical problems. Then, once these rules are clear enough, you have to develop and do your engineering in order to achieve the fastest car. So this is the first thing. I think the second step then is that you have to do your best job in terms of technical effort, investing your money in the direction that is defined in the sporting rules. Secondly, probably it's better to say that once you have your clear direction, everything is related not only to the reliability, because having reliable cars is just giving you in reality the possibility to see a race where all the cars are reliable and finishing the race. The point is that also in this case probably the sporting rules have to be more difficult in order to give the possibility to everyone to be reliable. If you, for example, impose a rule that is all the weekend long with a car that can be, in a certain way, changed or parts changed, I'm sure that the reliability, as aside from the engineering point of view, is more difficult and then the reliability will have another level, so it's something that is always a two-way problem.

WR:
I think it's correct that this year most of the overtaking is done with the pit strategy, basically, when you're coming in for your pit stop, and the reliability of the cars is very high. But I don't think that it's correct just to make some rule changes to make a penalty for a quick car and he has to move back or some artificial penalty, just to mix up the grid. When we look forward to next year, there will be no traction control, so for sure it's more difficult to drive the cars and the year after the car concepts will be quite different and I think then racing will be quite different as well because of a completely different car concept with much less downforce. Teams will take different approaches to the development of the car and I think there will automatically be more overtaking with the rule changes.

 

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