Merc’s Ross Brawn, Lotus’ Mike Gascoyne, James Key of Sauber, Geoff Willis of HRT, and Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost faced the media in Valencia.
Q: Mike, can I start with you. Principally about General Electric. What sort of effect are they going to have on the team?
Mike Gascoyne: Well twofold. It is great to have one of the world’s biggest corporations coming on board in what is a very major sponsorship deal for the team and I think it really makes the future look very good for us, both financially and also as a technical partner. I was lucky enough to visit their research facilities when we went to New York to make the announcement and (they have) some fantastic technology and facilities. It was actually, for me as an engineer, very inspiring to go around their labs just and see the level of technology and enthusiasm and the freedom to think. I think in Formula One we are very good at what we do in getting to races every two weeks and turning things around very quickly but sometimes as engineers we lose that capacity to think and be innovative and give people the freedom to have time to do some fundamental research. So it was very inspiring for me, as an engineer, to go around there, and I am sure some of the technologies they have got in battery technologies and electric motors for electric vehicles will be very relevant to where Formula One is going in the future. All in all, on all fronts, a fantastic announcement for the team.
Q: When do they start getting involved?
MG: Well, I think you will see at the next race the unveiling of the car with all the signage on and from a technical point of view we are already in discussions with them.
Q: Geoff, 13th place in Canada, most people would say not fantastic but it was a step forward for yourselves, so what are the aims now for the rest of the season?
Geoff Willis: Certainly, it was a good result for us, if 13th place is ever a good result. It was important for us in the championship fight we are having. Again those sorts of races are races where you have to finish and you have to finish as far up as you can. Those are the times when a backmarker team can get lucky but you have to make your luck. We are still developing the car this year. We will carry on as long as we can through the season. We were going to have a development here that actually will come to Silverstone and we are trying to get something on the car pretty much every race I would say for the next four or five races. We have got a new wind tunnel programme starting very shortly, which we will do some 2011 car work on, so I am hoping we will get something from that test immediately on the car.
Q: Are you just duelling, as it were, with Marussia Virgin or are you aiming at Lotus as well?
GW: I think you always have to aim high and being realistic there is quite a big gap to cross. It would be nice to be able to cross some of the gap this year and continue to cross it next year.
Q: James, slightly contrasting messages coming out of your team. You said that you slightly need to improve on qualifying, you feel that you need to. Then, yesterday, Kamui Kobayashi basically said that qualifying wasn’t that important. Interesting contrast.
James Key: Well I guess Kamui is a bit individual in that respect isn’t he, as he is such a good racer and he again proved in Canada I think that he can go from one position and quickly make places up. But I think as a team in general our race performance is much better than qualifying. I think it has got something with the way we are using the tyres. But if we need to look at our race weekend and improve one part of it, I think for us it is qualifying. We tend to build up to it and I think in Canada it was a bit of a disappointment. In Monaco it was better up to a point, obviously, but I think that’s our focus at the moment – to try and make the car quicker over the weekend.
Q: Just talk a little bit about Kamui. How pleased are you with his performance and how far can he go do you think?
JK: Well, we are very pleased, as he has continued from where he left off last year. The good thing with him is that he does challenge in races. He has got a very good racing head on him. Even in Canada I think he made up three or four places until we had the red flag and that’s the wet conditions. But he keeps it clean. You know he is not knocking his front wing off every five seconds, so I think we are extremely pleased to have him in the team again this year and he is continuing to prove to be a great racer. Kind of going off from last year, we continue to have a lot of faith that he can make a strategy work which with these tyres et cetera is quite important I think.
Q: Ross, we are seeing you it seems inching up the hierarchy. Is that the case at the moment? We saw Michael (Schumacher), for example, fourth this afternoon and he was very nearly on the podium in Canada.
Ross Brawn: I think they are little snapshots rather than the complete movie. We can, in certain circumstances, make an impact but not consistently enough. You have to say at the moment the only team who is consistently performing is Red Bull. We have those little short periods when things can look good but we cannot put the whole thing together yet. That’s what we have to do. We have to improve the car to put the whole thing together.
Q: Do you think Michael has got back into his rhythm now? We saw it in Canada and we are seeing it here.
RB: Well, I thought he was always in his rhythm. As I say in Canada we gave him an opportunity to demonstrate it to a bigger audience. But if you watch his racing, particularly at the beginning of the race, we are always highly entertained by the in-car coverage we see of Michael, it is great. I think he has got one of the best records this year for people gaining positions in the first few laps. An opportunity developed for him to show what he has been doing all the time and what we have been seeing all the time and I think for both drivers (is) if we can give them the right car they will both succeed.
Q: Franz, first of all can we have a little update on what happened this afternoon.
Franz Tost: We started the engine on Jaime Alguersuari’s car for the second free practice. We recognised a strange noise, a mechanical noise, and then we removed the gearbox and started once more, but it seems that we had a mechanical failure and therefore, unfortunately, he couldn’t go out. The engineers are just investigating the reason for this. I don’t know currently what happened.
Q: How much do you think that is going to hurt him in terms of overall time?
FT: Especially on such a track here in Valencia it is important to do as many laps as possible and therefore it is not a good preparation for him for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can sort out all the problems so he can do a good third practice session and be prepared then for qualifying.
Q: We see Scuderia Toro Ross very much as the Red Bull junior team, which is very much what it was set up to be initially. One driver is in his third season. The other driver, it is his second season. Admittedly you are trying Daniel Ricciardo but there is also Jean-Eric Vergne in the wings as well. What is the policy now for the team these days?
FT: The policy for the team is that it is the Red Bull rookie team. When Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull bought Minardi the reason for this was to give young drivers from the Red Bull driver pool the chance to come into Formula One. To be educated in Formula One and then to be transferred to Red Bull Racing if they show good performance. Sebastian Buemi is doing his third season and so far he is performing well. Jaime is in his second season and he had a little bit of troubles at the beginning of the season but in Canada he showed a good performance. We will see how he will do in the next races. Ricciardo is the driver on Friday. We prepare Ricciardo for the future and so far he is doing a good job and then we will see.
Q: There are technical matters. The the map changing, which obviously is being stopped here, off-throttle blown diffusers, exhaust, the future engine. Pick one of those subjects that most concern you. Mike, would you like to start.
MG: I think with the changes for here and Silverstone, I don’t think the changes here will radically affect anyone. Yes, people were running sort of more extreme maps in qualifying but I don’t think the effect will be very great for any team. I think, on the change for Silverstone with the blown diffuser, I think it is frustrating when there is a change in the middle of the season. We have all spent a lot of money developing something. I think from a pure point of view, as an engineer, Charlie (Whiting’s) interpretation within the rules, I think you can argue that it is probably correct in some respects. We, as engineers, are always pushing to get an advantage and will obviously implement it if it is within the rules. If Charlie thinks it has gone too far or if something shouldn’t be happening then he is right to act. It is just frustrating it is done in the middle of the season without consultation. I think that is the main sticking point for everyone really. But we have all got to get on with it. Is it going to change anything? Probably not. For sure the teams at the front have probably got more developed blown diffusers and will take a bigger hit. For those of us at the back that have only started with that technology this year, probably the effect we are getting will be slightly less but actually will it change the pecking order? Probably not. It will just compact it a little bit.Q: Geoff, what’s your chosen subject?
GW: Well, I think I will stick with the technical directive changes and the changes for Silverstone, as it is a complex issue. We can debate whether or not the technical directives are a regulation change or not, but for a small team these changes are significant in a sense that we have to make decisions on our cost performance criteria whether we do something or not. And in our particular case, we started to play catch-up by modifying exhausts to get some performance benefit. (We) stopped that when TD15 came out. (We) realised when TD16 came out we could carry on, missed a race from it and then introduced it for Montreal, where it was probably a significant help getting that P13, which is pretty important for the team. Now, we will lose a little bit of performance from it in its Silverstone guise and that probably might be the wrong side of the performance-cost criteria for a small team like ourselves and we may well have spent that budget elsewhere. Or certainly (spent) that time and effort elsewhere. But the bigger picture here is that, as Mike has hinted at, we probably shouldn’t be making these changes mid-season. We can argue, for example, why, with the F-Duct, we waited until the end of the season and why some other things historically have been changed mid-season and other ones at the end of the season. Really the Technical Working Group is the group that should be making recommendations about technical regulations and clearly if there is something, whether or not if it is a regulation change strictly or whether it is an interpretation change, if we do that mid-season it is clearly going to be very difficult in the TWG to get agreement or even to have an open – and I hope all discussions are rational – but an open and unbiased discussion, as clearly some teams will take a benefit from a change and some teams won’t. We really should be moving these sorts of discussions into next year’s regulations or even further away, such that we can have an appropriate and what I would say is a complete disinterested conversation about it. But, for example, if there was an issue that came up mid-season that was a safety critical thing then without doubt we would discuss it and if we had to we would change rules mid-weekend if we had to if it was that important. But that’s what I think at the moment. We do need to have a proper process where we discuss things in the TWG and it goes through the hierarchy of TWG, F1 Commission, Council or whatever.
JK: Well, I think on a similar note from our side it has been good to have some clarity from the FIA as it is, as Geoff says, a pretty complicated area. You are always going to have exhaust gas exiting the car somewhere, so you will always have some form of aero influence. So, in that respect, I think what has been done for next year with some proscribed position for the exhaust is very sensible, as it removes all the ambiguity and also removes a fairly expensive development direction which, as people have seen from this year, is pretty expensive and complicated. I think the moves for next year are sensible. The change in the middle of the season is always going to be tricky because it does alter things. Having said that, I think there is a distinction between the exhausts and things like the F-Duct and the diffusers that we had recently as they were deemed legal and they were pure aerodynamic devices. I think the difference here is that engines shouldn’t be aerodynamic devices and they weren’t deemed legal and I think that is the distinction for a mid-season change rather than an end of season.
RB: I think James probably touched on it very well there in terms of it not being a change of regulation; it’s a realisation. The things we were doing, that type of interpretation is not legal. I think the difficulty the FIA had is that the protagonists behind raising this issue were threatening to protest the cars and that was the difficulty they had. They couldn’t ignore that and once they were made aware of the technology I think they started to sympathise with the view that the people who were upset about it had, because the FIA didn’t discover this by themselves, they were alerted about it by a team. And once that ball started to roll, they probably had little choice but to decree what should happen. If they hadn’t have taken action, then it sounds like some teams were going to protest the situation to get clarity through the stewards and that wouldn’t be very good for Formula One. We want to avoid that at all costs because I know from experience that the stewards would find such a technical argument quite difficult to resolve and it would probably end up in the appeal courts again and that’s no good. I think it’s probably being dealt with in the best possible way but what we need now is absolute clarity on where we’re going with this and I think having the exhaust moved next year is very important because we don’t want this to end up as another argument of the type we had about traction control: what was traction control, what wasn’t traction control, what you could do, what you couldn’t do? We want clarity because, as you know, the traction control issue has not been discussed for several years, and we don’t want to have the exhaust blown issue being discussed and being a major distraction to what we’re doing. So we will cope – I think we will all cope this year. It will make a difference to the cars. We’ve got a new floor coming at Silverstone which is designed around that technology. We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do now but I think having the exhaust moved next year should bring clarity to this area. But there will be something else round the corner, as always in Formula One.
FT: Yeah, we have invested a lot of money in development and research on this special exhaust system. OK, the important thing is, as Ross just mentioned, the clarity in the regulations, and regarding the mapping, we rely on Ferrari, because they provide us with the engines. It’s difficult to estimate the performance loss we will see in Silverstone.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) On a question about regulations, we have a situation where, in December, there was a regulation decided for 2013 and apparently that’s now changed completely and will be coming in 2014. Can you give us some idea whether we can actually trust that as a final result, or will you all agree on something else at a later date? Ross would be a good person here.
RB: I’m pretty confident that’s the final result. I think the initial proposal didn’t seem to have a complete consensus, complete support from all the manufacturers. All the manufacturers who are currently supplying engines in Formula One have signed an agreement that this is the engine we’re going to support in the future. That’s as good as it can be.
Q: (Ann Giuntini – L’Equipe) And about this engine, to all of you, if it is a V6, as it looks like being, what are the advantages of a V6 over an in-line four cylinder, and will there be a problem with cost? It could cost more.
RB: I think there are many considerations we have to make when we are changing the powerplant in Formula One and obviously the technology in the automotive field is changing and the big question is how relevant do we need to be and how relevant do we want to be. I think there is a justification for relevance in the type of engines we have in the future. We don’t want to end up as a dinosaur in five or ten years and the technology I see that we’re working on with these new engines is the technology that is going to become commonplace in road car engines in the future: small capacity, turbocharged engine, direct injection, special KERS systems. They’re all going to be the technology we’re going to be using in the future and when you do that, you can generate a lot more interest with a manufacturer, and we want to try and get some manufacturers back into Formula One and we won’t get that if we continue with a V8 normally aspirated engine. So I think the engine has much more relevance. The cost is a very good question. I think the concept of the resource restriction we have with the chassis is now being put in place for the engine, to make sure that there is a framework that you have to work within, to design, build and develop this engine and the FIA are working with the manufacturers to create that framework and I think that’s a very important initiative to encourage manufacturers to come in, because they will know that they can enter Formula One for a cost and they won’t get outspent. They will need to be cleverer than their competitors for the same amount of money.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Can I ask all of you, with the exception of Franz; you’re engineers, getting to play with advanced systems, how much more gripping is it for you, as a task, as opposed to what you’re doing now, because it’s so restricted, what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do? Is it more fun when you’ve got things that are unrestricted?
MG: I think Formula One shows that as the regulations involve and stop things, then engineers come up with new avenues and we’ve seen, with things like F-ducts and blown diffusers, engineers will always be inventive, whatever the restrictions placed upon them. I’ve been in this game too long – 23-odd years – and I don’t think it’s really changed for me, as an engineer. You’re still looking for innovation, you’re still pushing, you’re still developing in every area, so as the old saying goes, as one door closes and another one opens. I don’t think the restrictions we’ve had have really limited what we can do from an engineering point of view. The gains might be smaller, but they are still gains, which are significant and move you up and down the grid, so for me there’s still the challenge that there always has been.
GW: I think the task of engineering is really resource management and dealing with restrictions, whether they are financial, time, resource, material properties, whatever, so in that sense, it doesn’t really matter what set of even arbitrary constraints we’ve got, we still have a very interesting engineering challenge. In that sense, I completely agree with what Mike’s saying. Probably the thing that concerns me is when we put all that constructive effort into something that is in itself not a particularly beneficial step forward in technology, so I think we have to… for the interest from the engineers’ point of view, it’s always there because we are solving problems, we’re all competitive. But it would be good to make sure that we do keep a certain amount of relevance, whether as Ross has said earlier, whether it’s of direct relevance to the business of major car manufacturers behind the Formula One teams, or whether it’s of relevance to the sorts of technologies in aerospace and related industries that support a lot of the other parts we do on the chassis.
JK: Personally, I think that the constraints or restrictions, if you like, actually breed a bit of innovation because you level out pretty quickly, and I think that when the 2009 aero regulations first came in, it looked pretty basic to begin with but soon there were all sorts of tricks we could play. Looking at the last three years, with double diffusers, F-ducts, the exhaust recently, we wouldn’t have thought of such things maybe five years ago when the regulations had been around in a certain state for a long time. So, personally, I think that knocking some of these things out as Ross suggested, there will be something else round the corner and as an engineering challenge it’s great because there’s always a bit of fresh thinking needed. So I’m not massively concerned about it, I think it’s a good thing, in a way.
RB: It’s a position we’re all in, so whatever the constraints of that competition, we’ve got to be innovative and try and find the best solutions. Personally, from an engineering perspective, I think it’s a little bit of a shame that we’re so biased towards aerodynamics and not more towards systems or suspension because all these systems and things that we’d like to do have had to be stopped because we go too fast and we get too fast because we optimise the usage of the aerodynamics and it would be nice to find a way of pulling back the aerodynamics and allowing a bit more freedom in these particular areas, but that’s just a personal view of finding a balance. So, I think we will never be able to ignore the aerodynamic performance of a Formula One car and that’s one of the things that make it so special. I think it would be interesting to just change that equilibrium a bit and perhaps give some more freedom. We had to stop active suspension because of the aerodynamics, not because active suspension itself was a problem. It would be nice to get a different equilibrium in the equation, one day.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) As a follow up to that, is there more enjoyment or more sense of achievement if there’s a relevance to it?
RB: I think you’ve got more opportunity to find more partners in the business if there’s some relevance to it. Mike touched on General Electric. It’s a fantastic partnership but there will be a limitation to what they can get involved in because, at least in my experience, there’s not many people outside of Formula One who can really contribute very much towards the aerodynamics. They might help with some of the methodology but they can’t contribute very much towards the aerodynamics. It is so specialised, or seems to be so specialised. It would be good if we could have those hooks that we get people involved in Formula One in lots of different areas, so manufacturers can justify even more their involvement in Formula One because they’re getting not only branding but direct technical benefit or gains from what they’re working on in Formula One, so the cost of that technology gets spread into their organisation. What we learn in aerodynamics doesn’t get passed back to a road car. Our KERS system, interestingly, has got passed to our road car side and the SLS Electric has got a Formula One KERS system in it.
Q: (Laurentzi Garmendia – Berria) Ross, if there wasn’t a team telling the FIA about these hot blown diffusers, how long and how far do you think you could go; what would have been the benefit you get from this?
RB: I think it was opening up a lot and I think each time you do a car, you can look at the concept again, you learn a lot from the application. Each time you do a new car you can look at the layout of the car, where the suspension goes, where the gearbox goes, the layout of all the major pieces to try and optimise that technology, so I think it had a long way to go. It was actually proving quite an interesting area. We feel we’re quite low on the slope of getting the most out of it, so I think there was a lot of potential in the system, which will be stopped next year with the mandatory exhaust outlets.
Q: (Matt Youson – Matt Youson and Associates) Ross, have you got the same economy targets that were placed for the four cylinder engines or do you need to reduce the ambitions?
RB: No, we’re keeping the same efficiency objectives that we had with the straight four, (it’s) probably be a little bit more challenging with a six but we want to keep the same efficiency objective, and one of the objectives is to increase the targets in terms of lowering them in future years, so that can be the target for the engineers to try and achieve increasing performance or keep maintaining the performance with less and less fuel, which I think is a really interesting challenge. What we don’t want is a situation where we have an amount of fuel you race with and you might run out on the last lap. We don’t want that. We want measured fuel efficiency, maximum fuel flow rates and try and control it in a way that still encourages interesting and exiting racing.