BAR chief executive Nick Fry discusses the team's season and looks ahead to next year Q: After finishing second among the Formula One constructors in 2004, B.A.R Honda experienced what is often described as a 'character-building' year in 2005.
BAR chief executive Nick Fry discusses the team's season and looks ahead to next year
Q: After finishing second among the Formula One constructors in 2004, B.A.R Honda experienced what is often described as a 'character-building' year in 2005. What were the on-track highs and lows during the past season?
Nick Fry: To be honest there weren't any highs as we didn't win anything. Clearly we had some exciting qualification sessions as well as some good starting positions, and podiums are always welcome. But this team is now at a state in its development when a second row grid position is expected and whilst being on the front row and podium positions are appreciated, what we really want to do is to win.
The 'low' was Indianapolis -- I think that was a low for many of the teams and a sad day for Formula One not being able to race in front of that many people. It was letting fans down and that's something we hate to do.
Q: You touched upon it already but at the start of this year your stated ambition was to win races. How close did you come to achieving this objective?
Nick Fry: Not any where near close enough. Ironically, I think our car's performance at Indianapolis would have been good, so it was doubly disappointing to miss that race and the car also went on to perform well at tracks like Istanbul. But equally, at many tracks the car didn't work anywhere near as well as we would have liked. Clearly, we were nowhere near as close to winning a race as we had been the previous year.
Q: Despite that, morale within the team seems to be as strong as ever...
Nick Fry: Yes, and that's extremely pleasing. At no time during the year did people's heads drop and the motivation of everyone -- and that includes the drivers -- has been superb. This shows the true character of the team and I'm sure it will stand us in good stead in the future.
This is the pinnacle of the sport and there's no escaping the fact we've had a tough year but that's going to happen at this level even if you've got a well performing car like McLaren had this year -- they, after all, didn't win either of the two Championships. Whether or not you've got the best car, you are going to have to withstand a lot of emotional highs and lows -- it comes with the territory.
Q: What difference has the arrival of Gil de Ferran as Sporting Director made to the team?
Nick Fry: The big benefit of Gil is firstly, as we hoped, he understands on-track strategies because that's an integral part of IndyCar racing. He's been able to bring some fresh perspective, which is great. He has also, as a past driver, helped in the translation of driver wants and needs to our engineers. In effect, this year was his training year but he's made an excellent start and I'm sure he can make an even greater impression in 2006.
Q: Looking ahead, on the driver front you've secured the long-term services of Jenson Button and signed Rubens Barrichello from Ferrari -- what difference will this make in 2006 and beyond?
Nick Fry: The first thing is it brings stability. For the last couple of years we've had the problem of not knowing whether our number one driver is going to be with us the following year, which is always going to be disruptive. Now we know Rubens and Jenson will be with us for several years to come which is very positive. Secondly, while Takuma Sato is a very fast driver, he has not been able to consistently challenge for podiums.
As everyone knows the biggest competition tends to come from your own team-mate and I'm sure Jenson and Rubens will live up to their equal number one status and push each other very hard and thus on to greater heights. Rubens also brings with him the experience of not only being a nine times race winner but also of six years with the championship winning team."
Q: When will Rubens officially join the team and when will he make his on track testing debut?
Nick Fry: At the moment he joins us on 1 January next year and his first test will come in January. Ideally we'd liked him to have started before Christmas, but sadly that hasn't been possible.
Q: Even more significantly for the future, Honda has announced that it's buying 100 per cent of the equity in the team. How will this change of ownership affect the team's long-term prospects and, from the fans' perspective, will the cars look different in 2006?
Nick Fry: To answer the latter question first: not appreciably. Lucky Strike and British American Tobacco will remain our principal sponsors and most of our other sponsors will remain the same in 2006. Consequently, the look of the car and the team won't change that much. Obviously there'll be a more significant change in 2007 when tobacco sponsorship comes to an end.
Returning to the first half of the question, Honda's acquisition will improve the team's long-term prospects enormously. To have a company of its size owning all the equity will be a huge benefit to everyone involved, both in terms of technology and the other resources that Honda can put behind the team.
Having a manufacturer just as an engine supplier means, if they wish to, they can walk away at the end of the contract period; having a motor manufacturer as the owner of the team indicates they are in it for the longer term. That really gives everyone a feeling of solidity as well as a feeling that we are really a fully fledged part of the Honda family.
Q: In recent weeks there's been much talk about a second Honda team racing in 2006 perhaps even sharing a chassis with you -- what's the latest news on this exciting project?
Nick Fry: Starting a new Formula One team is a huge undertaking. It requires the hiring of a lot of people, detailed logistics and the purchase of a large amount of equipment some of which has long lead times. What we are doing with the new team at the moment is working through exactly what needs to be done between now and the beginning of next season. It's all still at the detailed planning stage and any announcements will come from the new team rather than us. We are the supporting act here, rather than the leaders.
Q: What will be B.A.R's F1 legacy?
Nick Fry: B.A.R will be remembered as being an exciting young new team that took a fresh approach to many aspects of Formula One and one that made a meteoric rise after quite a difficult start to the company's life. By anyone's standards it's extremely impressive for a team that's been developed from scratch to be finishing second in the Constructors' Championship behind Ferrari and ahead of many far more established competitors after just six years."
Q: On a wider front, are you sad to see the demise of Jordan, Minardi and Sauber?
Nick Fry: Life moves onwards and upwards and I'm the kind of person who tends to look forwards rather than backwards, so I don't see their demise with sadness. In fact, I believe all those teams now have tremendous opportunities for the future. Rather than mourn their departure, we should look back at some of their successes. Peter Sauber has achieved a massive amount during his 34 years in motor sport.
The Minardi name is dear to a large number of people and, most recently, Paul Stoddart has been a tremendous character within the sport as well as someone who's hugely passionate about what he does. And the name of Eddie Jordan will always be associated with a fun team that achieved some fantastic results, again in a very different way.
Q: What difference will the switch from V10 to V8 engines make both from a technical and fans point of view and will you still be running a V10 test programme during the coming months?
Nick Fry: We'll continue to run the V10s with our younger drivers and initially Rubens will drive our V10 car so he gets some sense of the status of the team. After that, though, all the focus will be on the V8. On the technical front there's clearly a huge amount to be done to ensure the new engine is both powerful and reliable -- that's going to take a huge amount of effort between now and the beginning of next season. From a pure car perspective, because the V8 is a bit smaller, it helps the aerodynamics a little bit but, other than that, it's very much business as usual.
From the fans point of view, the V8s do make a slightly different noise but they still sound like proper racing cars! They'll be a little bit slower but, frankly, I don't think anyone will notice a huge difference -- the engines are still going to produce in excess of 700bhp. While the cars may not be quite as brutally fast, hopefully we're going to have some very good racing.
Q: There have been recent announcements by the FIA regarding further revisions to F1 qualifying. What are your thoughts on the latest format and also on the other proposed revisions that are in the pipeline, such as a return of mid-race tyre changes and the possible introduction of a new Centreline Downwash Generating rear wing in 2008?
Nick Fry: We're quite positive about the new qualifying system; we think the knock-out format is going to be great fun and will ensure there's plenty of action throughout the hour on Saturday. It also has the potential to jumble up the grid which is good for the racing. We're not quite as keen on the change in tyre regulations as those of us on Michelin tyres clearly had a big advantage over our Bridgestone rivals on the one race tyre. However, I've got full confidence in Michelin's technical capabilities and I'm sure they will still be fully competitive next year.
On the new CDG wing, I think a lot more work needs to be done to ensure it is the right answer. We're one of the biggest proponents of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) technology but it only gives you a good guide for what you should be doing, it doesn't have the resolution to give you all the answers. I feel more work, more modelling and more wind tunnel tests need to be done to make sure that this new rear wing proposal really is the way to go.
Q: You must be pleased to be able to run a third car at Grands Prix on Fridays again in 2006?
Nick Fry: Yes, the third car is actually a big benefit. We had it in 2004 and lost it this year and it does make quite a big difference on set up and tyre selection on the Friday. We're pleased to have it back and we think it will help us.
Q: What's the schedule for the team over the winter months? Will you be following recent B.A.R Honda tradition and running another 'concept' hybrid car before Christmas and, if so, will this feature the new Honda V8 engine?
Nick Fry: We are entering what's in effect a three phase plan. First is to keep running the V10 during the rest of this year and then we'll phase in the hybrid car -- which will have the V8 engine -- well before Christmas. Then, obviously, we'll introduce new 2006 car.
Q: Is the 2006 car on schedule and when can we expect its launch?
Nick Fry: Yes the car is on target to meet our launch date during January.
Q: Predicting the future is always a dangerous exercise but, at this early stage, what are your expectations for 2006?
Nick Fry: To win races, plural...