British GP: Friday press conference (part 1)

British Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director) Mike Gascoyne (Toyota technical director chassis) Sam Michael (Williams technical director) Adrian Newey (McLaren technical director) Pat ...

British Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with

Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director)
Mike Gascoyne (Toyota technical director chassis)
Sam Michael (Williams technical director)
Adrian Newey (McLaren technical director)
Pat Symonds (Renault executive director of engineering)

Q: Pat, Alonso said the car wasn't suited to this circuit. Is it not possible for a car to suit all the circuits? Is it always a compromise?

Pat Symonds: I am sure it is possible. You know, when you talk about whether a car is competitive or not it is a relative thing. Of course, you are striving for perfection but you are striving to beat the other guys. I suppose each car has its individuality and characteristics which tend to be the DNA of the car, the designers' thoughts and so on, they do tend to carry through from year to year. I have to say Silverstone is a circuit that troubles us a little bit more than most.

Q: Giancarlo was sitting up here yesterday saying he has had a lot of bad luck. Is that the case?

Pat Symonds: Yeah, it is. I don't really believe in bad luck but there certainly have been some unfortunate circumstances that have occurred to him this year, they are not things that we can say right we will fix this or fix that, they are things that have happened that have been beyond our control and I suppose if that is bad luck then, yes, he has had it.

Q: So you are willing to believe it?

Pat Symonds: Almost!

Q: Mike, that was your best Friday performance, you told me earlier.

Mike Gascoyne: We have to wait and see. Yes it was a good morning for us, but it is always relative depending on what programme other people are running, so I think you have to be very cautious on a Friday at any racetrack. But in general we had a very trouble free session, a very easy session, most things went right, the things we did went in the right direction and the car seemed reasonably competitive, so from that point of view it was a good session. But I think I would hold on a bit before laying any great claims that it is going to be a good weekend for us, but certainly it should be a very solid weekend for us.

Q: You have had some podiums this year but it has, on occasions, gone backwards. Do you know why that is?

Mike Gascoyne: I think sometimes we have had some good qualifying and the race pace has not been so good. When that has happened it is because generally we have got something wrong on the car on the balance for race day. The car has been pretty consistent on all tracks. I think just the last few races we have thrown away some good positions. In Canada we had the brake problem with Jarno when he was third and would have finished on the podium, so I don't think we have particularly dropped off, I think we just have not taken all the things that are available to us. I think we can still race for podiums at most of the circuits for the rest of the year.

Q: In a way it is still a learning curve.

Mike Gascoyne: Yeah, this is the first time up the sharp end for the whole team and they are a young team and the guys there are learning that when you are at the sharp end you have got to get everything right. We have made a couple of mistakes on the pit wall and throughout the weekend in the last few races and that is probably natural with such a young team. But if we want to be racing at the sharp end we have got to get it all right.

Q: We have seen today that the two third cars have been particularly quick. Adrian, can you quantify the benefit from having that third car?

Adrian Newey: It is circuit dependant. Here, to be perfectly honest, it hasn't been particularly useful but there are other circuits where it has been very useful. It depends on whether it is a hard decision to make on tyres, or a balance problem becomes evident early in the session, because we are able to go out early in the session whereas our race cars would wait to limit the mileage. We had a good test here a few weeks ago and so far the balance of the car has been fairly similar to how it was at that test, so today it wasn't particularly useful having a third car, but it varies.

Q: Everyone has been saying the McLaren is superior to the Renault here, at this particular circuit, can you say how or why?

Adrian Newey: I hope we will be still saying that on Sunday evening! People take their positions, maybe here we will be, I don't know, I don't like to say. Obviously, Renault have proved very competitive this year and sometimes they are ahead, sometimes we are ahead. Hopefully this will be one of the ones where we are ahead. As Pat said earlier, this is almost DNA, I think that was a good expression. In some circuits McLaren has been quite strong and Silverstone has been one of those, so hopefully that will carry through this weekend. It is not always clear why that is, you can theorise about the nature of the circuit, but in my opinion it is not as clear cut as some people would have you believe.

Q: Sam, today seems a bit the same as last weekend so far, can you see improvement in sight?

Sam Michael: What we basically did is for Magny-Cours we had quite a big upgrade to the car, which basically is the whole package, and obviously with the limited testing there is now it is a very risky strategy. We did two days testing at Jerez, before Magny-Cours, and saw a couple of problems but I think we underestimated how big those problems were before we took it to France. And in the meantime we have had quite an extensive programme in the wind tunnel this week. We have done a couple of things this afternoon which have started to give us some pretty good direction on where the problem is, whether we get to the bottom of it before the end of this weekend we don't know yet, but we definitely started to make some improvements this afternoon. A lot of our strategy this year, because we started off behind, was to throw a lot of bits at the car and a lot of it is untested, and I would say out of the majority of the time, 90 percent of the time, it works. This time it has bitten us. But we will pick it all up and make sure we sort it as soon as we can.

Q: There is a bit of a question mark over your engine supplier for next year, when is the engineering deadline to know that?

Sam Michael: That is always about a month ago. It is something you need to know as soon as possible to work with engine installation in the car and fuel tank and bodywork layout and all those things, and gearbox. There is no strict deadline but we need to know as soon as we can. What we can say is that we are quite confident that in the future Williams F1 will have a competitive engine supply and one that we can challenge for wins, which is the target of our company.

Q: Ross, people still ask why Ferrari are not more competitive this year. Can you give us another explanation?

Ross Brawn: Because the other cars are faster. That's it!

Q: So, there is no handicap?

Ross Brawn: No. Obviously, rules change and I think the change of rules, we didn't interpret in that direction as quickly as other teams clearly have. We ended last season in a competitive position and we started this season in a less competitive position, so over the winter other teams made more progress than we did. So, that is the situation we have today.

Q: It is a reflection of the reputation you made for yourselves?

Ross Brawn: Yes.

Q: With the rhythm of the races at the moment, can you still envisage yourself coming back to the front in the next few races?

Ross Brawn: We are still trying very hard. We were a bit disappointed with Magny-Cours because we had a very good test before that race and we definitely made progress with the car and thought we had made progress with the tyres and when we got into the race there we were very disappointed with the performance we had. We lost a lot of grip between Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we still don't fully understand why that is. It was on both cars, and a consistent loss of grip on both cars, obviously the conditions on Sunday afternoon were quite different to those on Friday and Saturday, so it is something we have to understand, but of course we have quite a lot to catch up, so we are pushing quite hard, a lot of new things, new tyres, new aero packages, and when we are pushing our hardest sometimes we can trip over. We have to stop and understand what is happening and re-group. So often, it is two steps forward and one back, it is a bit like Sam just described. We are reasonably happy here. From what we saw today it doesn't show so much in the times but the programme we have here. We have two new tyres here which haven't raced before and we wanted to give both tyres a long run, which meant we didn't have a new tyre in the second session, but the consistency on the runs we did with Michael was quite encouraging, so if we can carry that through into Sunday then perhaps we can be reasonably competitive.

Q: In the FIA survey, which has recently been completed, 70 percent of the fans have said they prefer qualifying to be decided by the best time over a specified number of laps. What do you think of that idea?

Ross Brawn: Could you explain that?

Sam Michael: I took that to mean a return to the 12-lap system, with low fuel, 12 laps, one timed or two timed or whatever you want to do.

Ross Brawn: I think we have been through a few experiments with qualifying and I think on reflection if we look back, and we must not look back with rose tinted spectacles, but we all prefer the old system, because that used to be the system where you saw the driver put in a banzai lap. He would put in a banker, get a lap time, then he would really go for it. Now we don't see that, because they are all very conservative, they run cleanly, and it is not as exciting as it used to be in my view. The difficulty, and this is the curse of Formula One, is that whenever we want to make changes there are advantages and disadvantages for various teams when you try to make those changes in the short term. Somebody will be advantaged and somebody will be disadvantaged by any change in qualifying for next year, and trying to get all the teams to agree is not going to be easy. And that is the tragedy of Formula One that we make these short-term changes. Everyone here will have started designing their car, they will have been designing it for one or two months assuming they have fuel for qualifying next year. So here we are in July having proposals put on the table for next year and then we say 'hang on, we're already designing our cars, you are being unreasonable. Think about the future of Formula One. But why couldn't we have thought about the interests of Formula One a few weeks ago, before everyone started designing their cars. And this is the frustration we all have and that is the why it is so difficult to get consensus amongst the teams. These things come along too often. We all want the best qualifying we can have, we all have an opinion what that should be, and then we get asked in July, after all the cars are started, can we change the fuel capacity?

Sam Michael: I think Ross' point is correct, and one of the things that I said to our team principal was that even having a decision by Indy would have been two or three weeks too late. I think we should go back to 2002-style qualifying, with 12 laps, perhaps two sets of tyres but on low fuel and then put fuel in for the race, but whether we get agreement on that is a question, and Ross is right, it definitely changes what fuel tank size you need for next year, but that is my opinion, which I think is in line with the original question about the survey.

Adrian Newey: Well, not a lot to add to that. I agree with Sam, I think the old qualifying format used to provide exciting sessions and the main difference was you had the right to reply. You used to get into these great qualifying battles, particularly between Mika (Hakkinen) and Michael (Schumacher), they used keep swapping between the session, and they used to be tremendously exciting sessions. The current system is a little bit more processional. And there would be a range of issues there. The reason we went to one-lap qualifying was so that everyone was guaranteed television coverage. If we went back to the way we were, some teams would not get proper television coverage and you would have to have some artificial solution. These things need to be thought through, and the most important factor is that if you make the change, in the reality is it is already a month too late, if it carries on we just can't do it in time. I quite enjoy the challenge of a late change, but if it drags on more than a week or two it gets too late. We can't do it in the time available.

Mike Gascoyne: I echo the comments of the other guys from the design side, obviously we have been designing the car and it is very difficult to change it at this time. My personal point of view in terms of qualifying is that we should go back to the old system and address the faults that were wrong with that. We chose a totally different route and we have gone down the wrong route, I think. Yes, there were problems with the running in the first 20 minutes and we should come up with a format that doesn't allow that to happen, but we keep the essence of that flat-out qualifying session building to a crescendo. As you said, we had guys really duelling with each other, watching what they were doing and building and building and pushing to the absolute limit, and that is what the public want to see so we should go back to that and address the faults we had with it. But we could have all said that six months ago. It just seems these things always come along too late.

Pat Symonds: A lot of people in Formula One have short memories and I think there is a very salient feature of the whole operation that people forget. Yes, it is true, the old style of qualifying was more exiting, but do we really want to spoil the main attraction for the sake of the sideshow? Unfortunately the things that are being talked about now will naturally put the fastest cars at the front and I am not convinced that is a good thing. I think one of the biggest gains we have had in the last few years have been that small element of chaos that has come into it, the guy who makes a mistake and is not in his rightful position, and that can lead to much better racing, and to me qualifying is a means to an end, and that end is racing. That is where we should put our concentration. What do we need to get good racing? And one of the things we don't need is to put the fastest cars in the front and watch them drive around behind each other for an hour and a half.

Continued in Part 2

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Ross Brawn , Mike Gascoyne , Adrian Newey
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams