Dr Mark Gillan, head of vehicle performance at Jaguar Racing, is charged with getting the most out of the team's latest Formula One creation but, as he explains, his role is wider-ranging that just that of an engineer...

Q:
You're the head of vehicle performance. How does that fit in with the design and vehicle science departments?

Dr Mark Gillan:
Our role is quite clear - it is to extract the maximum performance possible from the car, as well as from the drivers and the engineers who are working with it. We are responsible for both race and test engineering and also the race strategy over the weekend, which means that, during a grand prix, all the different departments at the track - aerodynamics, IT, systems - report to us. It works very well because everybody knows where they stand and who to report to.

Q:
As the team's strategist, how do you think the new rules for 2004 covering engines and qualifying will affect your approach to a race?

MG:
In 2003, you never actually knew what other teams' strategies were because fuel loads, for example, were kept secret after qualifying had ended. But the way things have developed for 2004 means it will be even harder to assess where other teams stand. You are now only allowed to use one engine for an entire weekend, and that means some teams may choose to do less running on the Friday and Saturday before qualifying to ensure they don't suffer an engine failure. If you have to change your engine you are now penalised ten places on the starting grid.

The trouble is that you need to do some running before qualifying on Saturday because you have to declare what tyres you are going to use all weekend after the Friday morning test sessions. Without doing some laps, you can't make that decision properly. So the strategy of how you use the engine is going to be key. If you opt to use an engine with a shorter lifespan, but more power, that will dictate that you do less running over the weekend. We are all going to have to find a compromise between preserving engine life and finding a decent set-up.

Q:
Part of your responsibility is to make sure the drivers are performing to their maximum. How do you help a rookie driver like Christian Klien adapt to the complex world of F1?

MG:
As soon as Christian had joined [the team], and before he ever went near the car on the track, we put him in our race simulator at the factory. In there, we can take a new driver through all the control settings on the steering wheel and ask him to carry out certain tasks [such as what happens if the car stalls] so that, by the time he drives for real, he is familiar with the way the car operates and the layout of the cockpit.

Then, when we took him testing for the first time, we made sure that we came up with a schedule that didn't demand too much of him too early. With a new driver, it is vital that you build him up slowly with short runs and make sure he talks through everything before you send him out again. Even the language of F1 testing is different to anything he had come across before so getting up to speed on all the shorthand and code words that we use can take some time.

What we expect in return from Christian is honesty. Early on, he stopped testing for a while because he was beginning to feel tired, and we appreciate that. We'd much rather a driver tells us when he needs a break than carries on and makes a mistake.

Q:
How have your expectations changed for this season?

MG:
Last year, we had to ensure that people respected Jaguar again, and I think we did that. The performance of the car was significantly better and we must build on that. It's going to be difficult. Other teams have switched over to Michelin tyres like us, and there are plenty of well-funded outfits out there. If we come out with sixth place in the championship and the knowledge that we have done our best, I'd be delighted.

 

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