These are very busy times for Kevin Taylor. In his role as Chief Designer at B.A.R Honda, he has overall responsibility for the creation of next year's Formula One race car.
Q: What is your technical background and how would you describe your roles and responsibilities as Chief Designer?
Kevin Taylor: I've now been in the industry for around 17 years and worked at several other teams including Benetton, Ferrari, Arrows and Lotus before joining B.A.R in 2002 as Chief Composite Designer. I was then promoted to Chief Designer in June of this year. I now report directly to Geoff Willis (Technical Director) and currently have a team of 32 designers working with me on the design of the car.
These are all working on CAD stations and they split down into what are basically four areas: the composite group, the transmission group, the hydraulic group and the mechanical group. Although we have specialists, we try to have some mobility in the design team to keep new ideas flowing and to keep individual's motivation high.
My responsibility is to plan, direct and supervise the design of the complete car, but the role of a chief designer is now very different to what it was say 15 years ago. Back then the chief designer would have been involved in absolutely every decision that was made on every component. The process is much more complicated today and I have to delegate much of this to key people. My role is defining the design ethos for my department and then ensuring everyone is communicating and working together.
In day-to-day practice this means getting the input from a number of specialist areas such as aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics, electronic engineers and production engineers who all contribute to the overall design process. Although everyone considers an F1 car to be a thoroughbred, there are several compromises that have to be made. It's my duty to collate the information so we can make those decisions.
Q: How is the design and build of the new 2006 car progressing?
KT: Reasonably well, though the process hasn't been helped by the FIA throwing in some late curve balls which obviously have a direct impact on the car. We started to look at the basic lay-out and packaging of next year's car in January soon after the V8 regulations were confirmed. Most of the early work tends to focus on long-lead areas such as the transmission and main-case.
The rear end of the car - engine, transmission, hydraulics - tends to be around three months ahead of the rest of the chassis. These are the reliability critical areas and we need to have them ready for track testing in the interim Concept car when winter testing starts at the end of November.
By doing this we give the aerodynamicists as much time as possible - the longer they have in the wind-tunnel, the quicker the car will be out of the box and that's doubly important this year as the introduction of a shorter eight cylinder engine opens up significantly different opportunities. The 2006 tub will be finished in the middle of next month and final assembly will start early in the New Year.
Q: So the final assembly of the car is quite a swift process?
KT: The build process of a current Formula One car is completely transformed from what it was many years ago. The car is one hundred per cent designed on CAD and, if you're using those tools correctly, you're pretty much guaranteed that all the components will fit together first time. We also have mock-ups of all areas of the car to help with the on-going process. There may be a couple of minor issues but, as and when all the parts are available, the first car shouldn't be significantly slower to build than any of the subsequent chassis.
Q: You've mentioned 'some late curve balls' from the FIA, how do the revised qualifying and tyre regulations impact on the fundamental design of next year's car?
KT: Quite significantly even at this late stage. It's fair to say that we weren't as good as some of our competitors when it came to tyre performance over a race distance last season. So that was an area that we particularly focussed on with the new car... and then the rules change, and now, with regards to tyre longevity, we're back closer to where we were in 2004 when we were very competitive. As a result we are busy re-evaluating some of the decisions we've made and potentially preparing to make revisions.
Q: You've covered the tyre degradation issue but are there any other lessons you've learned from 2005?
KT: For starters, we learned a harsh lesson that you can't afford to rest on your laurels. We finished 2004 strongly with what was probably the quickest of the Michelin tyred cars. But we set our targets too low when the new aerodynamic regulations were set for 2005. In pre-season testing it quickly became apparent that other teams were running more downforce than we were and we probably didn't react fast enough. There's also one particular area of the car that we struggled with all year. We have identified that issue and we're confident we've resolved it with the new car.
Q: When can we expect to see the 2006 car start testing?
KT: Sometime in January.
Q: What are the major technical differences between designing a V10 and V8 car?
KT: The compact nature of a V8 offers the aerodynamic group several other avenues to explore. For example, as you've only got four primary exhaust pipes on each side of the engine so the blockage in those areas is much less than it was with a V10. A 90-degree V8 is also inherently more imbalanced than a V10 so, at certain points in the rev range, we will experience significant vibrations.
Consequently we are playing particular attention to how we anti-vibration mount all the more delicate items on the car and, to be honest, it wouldn't be a big surprise if we have some minor reliability issues when the V8 car runs for the first time. Additionally, the fact we're going to be operating with considerably less power and torque this will have an affect on the overall balance of how the car uses its tyres. The vehicle dynamists are re-evaluating certain areas to ensure we maximise the new engine's specific characteristics.
With around 200bhp less power, cornering speeds will be similar but, over a lap, there'll be more wide-open throttle situations and, that, in turn, will effect fuel consumption. You would automatically assume fuel consumption for a 2.4-litre V8 would be 20 per cent less than that for a 3.0-litre V10 - however that will not necessarily be the case.
Q: With so much change afoot can we expect to see the same familiar teams at the F1 forefront in 2006?
KT: That's a good question... you'd always expect the big teams with all the resources to respond quickest to a new set of technical regulations. However, the FIA have introduced some restrictive rules that will limit the areas that can be exploited by those with bigger budgets. For instance, there's now an easily achievable minimum weight for the engine. This means that key areas of the engine are fixed for everybody so the R&D content of that problem has disappeared"
Q: Talking about resources, how big a part does Honda currently play in the design and development of the new car? And how can you capitalise further on Honda's resources now the company is sole owner of the team?
KT: We've have been integrating Honda staff for some time within the design team which has proved useful and helped us to bridge the gap between what's a primarily European organisation based in Britain and a Japanese parent company. We also have been running several joint-development projects that have been worked on both in the UK and in Japan. Honda engineers have been instrumental in key parts of the 2005 car and I'm sure this process will keep expanding.
From my point of view, I've now got many more engineers at my disposal and that will allow us to run a lot more projects concurrently which must improve the speed of our development programmes. Honda also, of course, has a massive R and D department, which I'm sure is working on various 'blue sky' technologies. Many of these are probably well outside the current remit of what we'd consider for a Formula One car but that's not say that they won't be relevant at some time in the future. Who's to say in years to come we won't have hybrid fuel cell technology in F1?
Q: Coming from multiple championship winners Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello clearly has an inside line on what it takes to win. How can you benefit from his experience?
KT: The fact that Rubens has been working with the most victorious team in modern history means we'd be fools not to quiz him on what's made Ferrari so successful. It's not just the design of the car, it's going to be on the way we operate. We'll listen to him to see if there are things we don't do that we should be doing. It will probably be the small detail stuff and that could make all the difference.
The other one big asset about having Rubens on board is that we know, given the right equipment, he's capable of winning races. Rubens is an established baseline and so it really puts the onus back on the team to deliver him the right kind of car. We all think Jenson is capable of winning races but that question hasn't been answered yet.
Q: Last week Nick Fry targeted wins - plural - in 2006. How confident are you that next year's car will be capable of meeting these objectives?
KT: I'd say we're pretty confident. We've done a lot of evaluation and set ourselves tough targets designed to put us into a position of being capable of winning races right from the outset. If we hit those targets, I'm sure we'll be right on the button. The key is for us to deliver a quick car from right day one - then we can concentrate on fine-tuning the general level of performance.
I think B.A.R has proved itself capable of out-developing anybody on the grid - consistently during the past three seasons we've progressed from our starting point as quickly as anyone else. So, if we can hit the ground running in 2006, I'm confident we'll be in a position to win races."