B.A.R boss David Richards answers questions on how the team is progressing Q: You promised Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda would start challenging for a place within F1's premier league during 2004 - even so, you must be thrilled with the team's...
B.A.R boss David Richards answers questions on how the team is progressing
Q: You promised Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda would start challenging for a place within F1's premier league during 2004 - even so, you must be thrilled with the team's progress both in terms of its speed and stamina.
David Richards: "We always have to remember that this is the third year of a five-year plan. It's a long process sorting out the complexities of a Formula 1 team, nonetheless we are well on plan for what we expected this year and there's no denying the first few races have been very good for us. We now have to keep up the momentum."
Q: Holding third place in both championships, is the team currently ahead of your target or has the relative decline of some rivals slightly flattered B.A.R's current competitiveness?
DR: "That's probably a good reflection of the situation; I think we are on target but some of our competitors have under-performed therefore allowing us to be ahead of where we perhaps anticipated we'd be in terms of results at this stage of our development."
Q: What have been the secrets behind the team's increasing successes?
DR: "Everyone tends to look at Formula 1 very simplistically - on the face of it all you only need a driver and a car. However, the reality is that there are a multitude of different components that all contribute towards the overall performance. While our current results suggest most of the changes have taken place since the end of last season, that's not the situation. This is a process which was started two and a half years ago and that's been slowly coming to fruition during that period of time."
"I always liken it to the construction of a building: the first year is the planning stage; in the second you lay the foundations. If you then look over the walls at the end of that part of the programme, you'd think not a lot had been achieved. However, the reality is that without this kind of solid foundation to the organisation, you're never going to have a sustainable team capable of producing a decent set of results. Much of what we've been doing over the past couple of years has been addressing the many, many internal issues in order to provide long term stability for the team."
Q: You must be particularly pleased that this building process has been achieved by those within B.A.R and without the type of massive recruitment programme employed by several of your equally ambitious rivals?
DR: "In point of fact one of the first things I did was to reduce the number of people working for the team by around 25 per cent and the head count hasn't grown by more than a handful of people during the following two years. One of our major objectives is to become the most efficient team in Formula 1 and by 'efficient' I mean offering value for money for our partners."
Q: The bookies have the team odds-on to win a race in 2004 - are they correct?
DR: "One thing's for sure, no one is going to gift us a race. Moreover, the form we are seeing from Ferrari at the moment would suggest that in a straight fight we certainly still can not beat Michael (Schumacher). But, nonetheless, over an 18-race championship, there have to be occasions when even he makes a mistake and fortune favours us. So, over the course of the season, there's a strong likelihood we might gain that first victory for B.A.R."
Q: What would that milestone mean for the team?
DR: "We must be careful here because we've got to make sure these achievements are perceived as milestones towards an end result, not as the end result itself. Winning our first Grand Prix will be a great accolade and a well-deserved pat on the back for everybody here at B.A.R but, aside from a confidence booster, it should only be taken as yet another clear sign that we are heading in the right direction and on track to become a strong championship challenger in the next couple of years."
Q: The relationship with Honda is clearly working better and better - is the partnership's future secured?
DR: "Clearly the relationship with Honda is extremely strong and, personally, I'd like to see it continue for a long period of time. However, extending contracts of this complexity are never going to be a straightforward business and while all the meetings we've had to date have been very positive and everyone involved clearly has every intention of going forward, we are not yet in a position to confirm any specific details at this stage."
Q: How much has Jenson Button matured this season, both as a driver and as a team leader?
DR: "He's now in a team where he feels comfortable and he's certainly risen to the challenge in terms of accepting his role and responsibilities outside of the car as much as inside the car. That's a fairly demanding 'ask' for a young driver to understand. He clearly finds the environment we have here very supportive and I believe it's very conducive to getting the best out of him. I think he's producing the best performances of his F1 career."
Q: Is Takuma Sato under any pressure to start matching Jenson's performances?
DR: "That would be totally unreasonable and unrealistic of us. Takuma is only in his second F1 season and he needs all the support we can offer him. We've told him very clearly not to measure himself against someone such as Jenson who has five years in Formula 1 and is incredible form at the moment."
Q: Reserve driver Anthony Davidson has clearly has been a massive asset to the team, notably during Free Practice on the Friday's before a Grand Prix.
DR: "Anthony has been a very key member of the team for some time only perhaps his testing role wasn't quite as visible when he wasn't running on Fridays. It's also worth remembering he often doesn't get either the new tyres or a chance to go for a lap time on low fuel which further disguises the huge contribution he's making."
Q: Finally, we are now going into back-to-back rounds with Monaco and the Nurburgring on consecutive weekends, what are team's objectives for these two very different races?
DR: "They'll be no different from any other race this year. We go into each and every qualifying session with a target of getting both cars into the top six. We believe from there we'll be in with a very good chance of reaching the podium and, should fortune favour us, that could translate into a victory."