Representatives from Renault, Force India, Red Bull and Williams take questions from the press ahead of the German Grand Prix.
Q: Bob, can we start with you please. Hot off the back of FP1 here at Hockenheim. New front wing, one of the things you have been trying out. How different is it and is it performing as you were expecting?
Bob BELL: Yeah, it’s a reasonably different concept for the front wing. We successfully tested it OK this morning and thankfully we did it on Nico’s car, because Carlos lost track time. We still have to go through the data on it to understand what exactly it is doing. Driver feeling is positive, but we need to go to through the data to be absolutely sure it’s doing what we expected it to do, everywhere.
Q: And did it survive the trip through the gravel as well?
BB: Yes, it did, thankfully.
Q: Just on the subject of FP1, I think there was a coolant seal issue on Carlos’ car. Are you confident he is going to be out for FP2 later.
BB: yeah, to be honest we could probably could just have got him out for that bash at the end of the session, but it wasn’t worth it. It was a very minor leak but buried deep inside the car so it wasn’t quick to fix, but yeah he’ll be fine for this afternoon.
Q: Now, Bob, you’ve said in the past that it takes a team five years to get to the top from coming into Formula 1. This is now year three for you guys. Can you give us a progress report as to how things are going and what the target is for both the end of this season and for 2019?
BB: My quotation of five years was based in on historic evidence with what happened when Red Bull took over Jaguar, Mercedes took over Brawn, when Renault came in after taking over Benetton, and of course those were in different eras. Formula 1 is significantly more complex, the teams involved are significantly bigger now than back then, so I would say now that five years is a minimum. In terms of being of progress, we’re reasonably on track. We had very much hoped to secure fourth place in the championship this year. We’re in the fight for that. It’s going to be close, but we’re still confident that we can get the job done. So that’s good. We’re on target in terms of where we hoped to be on track, we’re on target in terms of where we hoped to be with development of the organisation – that’s rejuvenation of facilities, recruitment of staff, methodology, process, all those good things. And looking slightly further ahead, then I think next year again, realistically, if we can secure fourth place, close down the gap to the top three teams, then I think we will be in reasonably good shape.
Q: Thank you. Andrew, if I could come on to you now, because Bob has just said he wants P4 this year. I guess that’s definitely a position you guys are going for. Cehco told us yesterday in the FIA press conference that he thinks it’s still achievable. Just how much harder is it for you guys to get that P4 this year?
Andrew GREEN: It’s quite obviously a bit trickier than last year, we secured fourth with a few races to go. That probably won’t be the case this year. But no, we still believe we’re in the hunt. We’re still pushing hard. It is very close. There are a few teams in that portion of the grid who seem to be just swapping places and alternating the scoring of points. It could take one extraordinary race to push someone out of reach or another team into contention. It’s that sort of level of competition at the moment. But we are still there and for as long as it’s mathematically possible to do it, we’re still going to be pushing.
Q: Has your development rate this had to be faster than previous seasons, just to stay where you are?
AG: Yeah, the development rate is at least as great as it was last year, that’s for sure. There is performance coming out of the current set of regulations at at least the same rate as we have had for the last 24 months. It’s still an arms race. If you bring new bits to the car and your make it go quicker you move forward. If you don’t bring new bits to the car you go backwards, because everybody is. Bob is an example; they’ve just brought a new front wing. We haven’t. So it’s going to be a tough race for us.
Q: On the subject of wings, can we just throw it forward to 2019 with the new regulations that are coming in. Can you just give us an update on where Force India is with progress on those new regulations?
AG: Yeah, I think those regulations were officially defined a few weeks. We have been working on the basis of those regulations for a couple of months, mainly in the virtual world, in CFD. We’ve made some progress. We’ll be testing some parts in the week after Hungary, to confirm the direction that we are going in and the changes to the car that these regulations make. The front wing is key to everything that gets set up further down the car, so changing that is a big step, so we want to make sure we are developing in the right direction, so we are bringing parts after Hungary just to confirm that. It’s an interesting set of regulations that’s for sure. I’m not sure that it’s a pretty set of regulations, but it is interesting.
Q: Can you give us any numbers as to how much less downforce they will provide?
AG: It is a significant chunk, yeah. We hope to battle our way out of it by the time we get to the beginning of next season, but yeah, it is a significant change.
Q: Thank you. Paddy, let’s talk front wings. It seems to be what we do! You brought something new here. Has it done what you were expecting?
Paddy LOWE: Yeah, very similar to Bob, although we were testing it on both cars. So we have got two new front wings and we are able to run them effectively in anti-phase across the garage. So we had a perfectly executed programme to learn what we needed to learn, gathered a lot of data. You saw we had a lot of rakes. I think we managed to cover the entire car in flo-vis at the end. So yeah, a lot of analyse, but the feedback so far is pretty good, so an encouraging start.
Q: Now you said recently that what you are going through at Williams now is the toughest challenge of your career. I just wanted to ask you about that. Why is it tougher than what’s come before?
PL: Well, in the end you are solving problems, not only problems about a car but about an organisation and trying to understand how to effectively tune it up to be more competitive and to get back to the front of the grid and those are very, very difficult problems to solve and that is very taxing on me and my colleagues. As you know, Formula 1 is a very impatient sport and very visible, so when things are not going well it’s very clear for all to see, it’s on TV. You see, for example, what happened in Silverstone, we had two cars starting from the pit lane, which is certainly a new experience for me and probably everyone else in the team. That came as a result, ironically, of trying to push the boundaries from where we are. We need to keep learning and learning very fast. We do a lot development days on Fridays, that’s a test day. We had a test that we ran and frankly it wasn’t ready to race. We had committed to it too far in advance. These sort of things happen when you are trying to push yourself really hard. But you do that and it’s a very public problem, at your home grand prix. That certainly makes it tough.
Q: Can you put a timescale on when you expect Williams to be back where they belong? In terms of sorting out the issues with the current car, is it 2018 or are you already looking at 2019 now?
PL: I was somewhat comforted by Bob’s perspective of ‘this is a minimum five-year programme’. He’s very right. Formula One is a very, very competitive sport these days. All the teams, incredibly professional, operating at an extremely high level, so I can tell you that, even though we are at the back, in an absolute sense, we are not doing a bad job. It is very, very difficult to produce even a car that is coming last. Takes a huge amount of effort and commitment from everyone concerned and a high level of technology. So, it’s not easy. We would like to recover ourselves off the back, very definitely. If we can do something within this season, that would be great. Clearly with the rule change for next year, that’s a fresh challenge – but also an opportunity. So, we see that as a good chance to make a bigger step that we might do across a normal winter, so a lot of focus on that.
Q: Would a more experienced driver line-up have helped you this season?
PL: Well, the better driver, the better. Everybody would love to have a championship-winning driver in their car but that’s not possible. You have to work your way up to that on merit. The merit that they would want to drive for you and the merit that you can afford to pay their salaries, so, we can’t all have championship-winning drivers. We have a driver line-up, we’re very happy with the two young guys, they’re very talented and yes, their feedback doesn’t come from such a great level of experience as championship winners would provide but I don’t think they’re the problem we have at the moment. The car isn’t quick enough; there’s a lot of things to do to get a much better platform to work with, and that’s what we’re doing.
Q: Pierre, you’re technical director. The structure at Red Bull, Adrian Newey has been chief technical officer for a long time – but there was not technical director prior to your arrival. Just why the need for one now?
Pierre WACHÉ: As you know, Adrian is still involved in the Formula One project. This year’s car and next year’s car – hopefully – with his talent. But, as you know also, he is splitting his time with a supercar in the Red Bull Advanced Technology programme. Then, the team requested a technical leadership in a different organisation to compensate his split time, and a reorganisation to put a technical director in place. That’s the main reason, I would say.
Q: Confirmation came through this morning that Daniel Ricciardo has engine penalties this weekend. Is that a tactical move? A strategic move by the team to leave you in the best possible shape for the Hungaroring next weekend?
PW: Yes. We were not forced to take the engine penalty. Even if we don’t take a full engine penalty; we are mainly MGU-K and Controller and Battery penalty here. We don’t want to take this penalty in Budapest for sure. We have to take it at one point before shutdown to go through the race weekends. Then yeah, it’s part of the tactical aspect.
Q: Exciting times for the team. Of course, Honda coming on board next year. Can you just shed some light on how you’re ramping-up to their arrival? For example, have you got some Red Bull Racing engineers down with Toro Rosso in Italy? Or have you got some guys over in Sakura in japan? How’s the integration with Honda going?
PW: First of all, it’s a very short-term relationship we are trying to build now. It’s not a long time ago that the announcement was done. Then Toro Rosso are experiencing some relationship with them. Us, we’re just starting. We don’t have yet some people in Toro Rosso to learn how it works. We create this relationship. As you know, with now 12 years we are in a relationship with one manufacturer, Renault, creating some great links. Then we have to rebuild that. It takes a very long time. On top of that, as other people mentioned, the new regs are coming and the integration of the engine is on top of the new regs development. It’s a massive challenge for the team. I hope the Honda and Red Bull relationship will be a success.
Q: Are Renault being less forthcoming with information now they know the relationship ends at the end of the season?
PW: For sure the information for next year’s engine they will not share with us but on the current engine and how we operate on the track and try to extract the performance, we don’t have any doubt that Renault would like to win races with us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Gentlemen, overnight the FIA published the tender for the 2020-2023 inclusive period. 2020 will use the existing tyres but 2021-2023 will be 18-inch tyres, a narrower front tyre by 35mm and no blankets. What are the implications on this from a technical perspective?
BB: I wasn’t aware of that. That’s new. I think the biggest challenge will be, perhaps for the tyre manufacturer, if it’s a change of tyre manufacturer, in doing two different types of tyre over the space of a year. I think that’ll be the biggest challenge for them.
Andrew, anything to add?
AG: No. I knew nothing about it either. Dieter’s well ahead of the game here. Yeah, like Bob said, that is a big challenge for any new tyre manufacturer to come in and do one set of tyres for one season, and then a second set of tyres for the remainder of the contract. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.
Paddy, the ramifications for the teams will be huge as well.
PL: Yeah, we weren’t aware of that either. I know the idea of 18-inch wheels has been debated many, many times over the last ten or more years. So, it’s an interesting thing to make a commitment to that because it’s not absolutely clear that’s a great way forward – and I think we need to analyse the implications technically by going that direction. Certainly, it makes a very different tyre. A much heavier package as well and quite challenging to design and manufacture tyres that will take that duty at that profile.
PW: I think it will come also with some chassis regulation change that it will affect the car behaviour and, for sure, this kind of tyre size will change the car balance and the way you operate, even more if, as you mentioned, we will not have any blankets. I’m pretty sure the challenge will be how we can be consistent, create some lap-time during quali and be consistent during the race without any massive issue in terms of build-up the laps, degradation, and warming up. Depending on how the regulations will be proposed in terms of chassis will influence this aspect.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – Autohebdo) Questions to Paddy and Andrew. There have been reports that Lance Stroll and his financial backing might switch from Williams to Force India. How much of a worry would it be for Williams and how much of a boost would it be for Force India?
PL: I’m not worrying about it. It’s that type of time in the season when there are lots of stories around the media about drivers doing this or that. As far as I’m concerned we’re working very much in the present with Lance. It’s true he hasn’t committed for next year. We haven’t committed to him either, so that is an open point. Where it lands, who knows. We would love to stay with Lance and that’s our assumption at the moment.
AG: It’s not really an area I get involved in, to be honest. We get told what drivers get put in the car and we make sure they fit. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) To pick up on the new tyre rules, specifically the tyre blankets, apparently banned for 2021, this is something that’s been talked about a few times over the past ten years. It’s going to come in and then it’s been dropped, for pretty valid reasons so just wanted to get everyone’s thoughts on that, specifically safety concerns, the practicalities of actually dealing with things like tyre pressure limits etc that are caused by this, so I guess we could start with Andrew and work our way across in terms of whether this is a good idea and could it have serious unintended consequences?
AG: I’m guessing, given it was only published yesterday, that there hasn’t been a lot of discussions on it and it will need a lot of discussion. There are a lot of issues that will need to be solved and going forward, especially alluded to a few of them with the changes to the rim diameter, the way we operate the tyres, how we operate them without blankets. There’s just so much to talk about and agree on that’s it difficult to say, right here and now, what we’re going to do because we need to start the discussions.
RB: I’m sure that a set of tyre requirements from the supplier can be agreed upon that will deliver tyres that will be capable of being operated safely, without blankets. Plenty of other racing series do it so I don’t see any reason why we can’t in Formula One. If those specifications for the tyre allow us to get around some of the limitations that we face in operating the tyres at the minute, pressures, cambers, all those things, and make that task less onerous on the teams and produce more consistent performance throughout the life of the tyres, then I think that’s all to the good, and I’m sure that is possible to do. But it takes time to be sure what those requirements should be and to give the tyre manufacturer, whoever it is, time to develop the tyres. That’s not the work of five minutes.
PL: Yeah, it’s very difficult to know and again, it’s been debated many times. I quite like the spectacle of a grid with all the equipment, including tyre blankets. I think that’s part of the impression that Formula One gives of being a very technical sport, the pinnacle of motor racing, so I would miss it from that point of view. But on the other hand, if you’re reflecting on what Bob says, if it drives us towards tyres that have a much wider window to operate in, that could be a good thing. I know at the same time they are talking about moving qualifying perhaps to formats where there are less laps, more criticality around doing single laps and again, if that’s around tyres that aren’t prepared with blankets that would drive us towards tyres with a wider window which I think would be a good thing for the sport.
PW: I think, on the technical side for the manufacturer it will be quite difficult, even more when you see the evolution of pressure you have without blankets, starting at 13 degrees, finishing at more than 100 degrees. With the energy we are putting in the tyre in Formula One is higher than other categories, then for sure it will be a big challenge for the tyre manufacturer. As an engineer, when it’s challenging, it’s quite interesting. I’m pretty sure we can find tricks and some possibilities on the car to use and to operate the tyre in the best way but it will be a big challenge for the manufacturer.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Paddy, Mercedes in Austria, after James Vowles made a mistake, made much of their philosophy of being able to put your hand up and own up to a mistake because you learn from your mistakes. You’re obviously familiar with that from your time there. I was wondering if Williams have a similar philosophy and whether you’ve put your hand up and admitted to mistakes since you joined and are others doing the same?
PL: Yeah, I’m always prepared to stick my hand up. I don’t necessarily do it in… that was quite a public demonstration I thought, to actually announce it over the radio in a race. I don’t think that happens very often but I would be the first to admit where things have gone wrong. Even if I look at what I’ve contributed in the last year at Williams, there are certainly things I would do much differently if I had my time again, that’s part of a process of development and understanding an experience. The main point is that you proceed together as a team, the team becomes stronger, I think, if people are honest and work in that way so I’m very much a supporter of that.
Q: (Sam Collins – Racecar Engineering) Sorry to bring it back to the tyres; talking in general terms, because I know we’ve tested on the low profile tyre before, could you tell me what the implications for the inboard suspension are, particularly at the front where the packaging volumes are quite restricted?
PW: I think, just by reducing the profile of the tyre, you reduce the deflection of it, that, as for sure, if you have the same front, the influence of the inboard suspension will be higher in terms of deflection. For sure, the spring will take more. I think there is more control for the chassis people of the ride height of the car. Then on this aspect it’s not so bad and also the influence of the tyre deflection on the aero side will be reduced. Without saying that, as Paddy mentioned before, all the packaging of the brake ducts, the weight of the car from the spring mass will affect the performance of the car. That we have to take into account. Normally the packaging should be OK, it’s more the deflection of it and possibility that it will be higher.
PL: Yeah, I don’t think we can really add to what Pierre said. I think it’s a different space to work in. Mostly you have more volume actually, so a lot of things that you might want to do are easier because there’s more space.
RB: No, not a lot to add. I think what will make a huge difference to the packaging inboard of the front of the car will be mainly what we do with uprights, brake drums and all the outboard kit, understanding what the tyres need, in terms of suspension kinematics, all of that, I think will be a bigger problem and a packaging exercise at the front.
AG: I suppose we have to wait and see what the regulations are that define that area as well because we’re assuming… or everyone’s assuming we can use all that volume inside the bigger rim but maybe the regulations won’t allow us to do that, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) If we take the bigger rim, could one actually go to a bigger brake, in other words a non-carbon-type brake, maybe a composite or steel brakes?
AG: Anything’s possible, Dieter. Let’s see what the regulations are. But yes, you could.
Q: Bob, would you welcome a different material?
RB: I’d welcome bigger brakes. I think for that new formula we will need them. We’re getting close to the practical limits with the current brakes, without spending a lot of money, which would be good to avoid, so yeah, I think it does represent an opportunity to redress some capacity in the braking system.
PL: I can’t add to that.
PW: Nothing to add.