2011 MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX - FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT - 08.04.2011
TEAM PRINCIPALS - Eric BOULLIER (Renault), Ross BRAWN (Mercedes), Paul HEMBERY (Pirelli), Christian HORNER (Red Bull), Colin KOLLES (HRT), Monisha KALTENBORN (Sauber)
Q: A question to you all. How did things go today. Colin, would you start?
Colin KOLLES: A little bit better than last time.
Q: We saw Narain Karthikeyan stop, we saw Tonio Liuzzi stop. Can you tell us why?
CK: These were really minor issues, otherwise we would not have had the possibility to go out again. There was some electrical issue and the big smoke was just too much oil from Cosworth.
Q: So basically some progress made today?
CK: I think so, yes. This was our first test day basically.
Q: You said you wanted to get miles under the belt.
CK: I think we made some progress and we will make tomorrow some progress. I think it was not too bad, we have no major issues, it is just a matter to find some set-up.
Q: Ross, today for you?
Ross BRAWN: A better day than we experienced in Melbourne, so we made reasonable progress with the car. One or two minor issues but we should be able to resolve them overnight and the car wasn’t too bad. We have got to find a better balance on high fuel. The tyres are pretty critical here, perhaps more akin to what we experienced at Barcelona, and when we got onto high fuel we didn’t have the right balance so we suffered because of that. We have got to focus now on finding a better balance on high fuel.
Q: How did you find the wear rate, particularly on the softs?
RB: I think if you don’t have a good balance it is quite high, but if you get the balance right then it is manageable.
Q: Eric, tell us about your day. A bit dramatic?
Eric BOULLIER: Yes, a bit dramatic. We had a couple of failures this morning on the uprights on the cars. First we thought it was a brakes problem, very difficult to understand and to have a proper diagnostic. It took us a lot of time to investigate properly obviously as it is a safety issue. We found out that the two failures were coming from the same batch, a different one, so we had a back-up plan and we took the decision to run and it went okay.
Q: So basically they are different uprights that you are running at the moment.
EB: No, no no. The same but different materials. We suspect there is a materials issue because it is the same design, everything is the same except it was a new part.
Q: You wouldn’t send out a dangerous car, obviously, but you feel it is perfectly safe now.
Q: Paul, from Pirelli’s point of view how did things go today?
Paul HEMBERY: Well, from our point of view it is almost early days. It is right we got more degradation here and there is quite a big difference between the soft and the hard, probably a second in the absolute times, so the teams are probably working out their strategies now based on that. I am guessing on a three-stop strategy, but we were surprised obviously in Melbourne with a one-stop which we certainly could not have envisaged beforehand. But three would appear from what we have seen so far today to be probably the most likely scenario.
Q: You mentioned the degradation. What about between soft and hard?
PH: The softer grains a lot. I think that was quite clear. Everyone was doing a quick lap and then some people were backing off trying to see if it would come back. They are looking at about eight to nine laps from the data I have seen briefly.
Q: When can you imagine them changing tyres. It looks like one minute, 43 seconds we were seeing at the end which was the fastest time?
PH: I think you have to ask this lot that. That is what they will be are working on tonight and tomorrow to work on their strategy.
Q: Monisha, for Sauber I guess it all starts again really.
Monisha KALTENBORN: Well I hope not.
Q: After what happened in Australia?
MK: Well, of course, the last weekend was a very disappointing one for the team. If you look at the performance I think the team did an excellent job. The drivers did a great performance, especially with Sergio Perez having that one-stop strategy and they just deserved to keep the points. With all that, if you are penalised in such a way, it just feels very, very harsh. But we focused on what we had to do and get it sorted out which wasn’t a big issue as such. All it was, was a minor error. It is an annoying mistake as it cost us 10 points, but there was no great issue we had with that radius. We looked at our entire legality check procedure again to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
Q: And today, how did things go?
MK: It wasn’t a bad day for us. We had set out our programme which we could pretty much fulfill. We also had a balance issue, trying to understand the tyres better, so we have enough to do.
Q: Christian, today?
Christian HORNER: Yes it was a good day for us. We worked through a programme with both of the drivers looking at the soft and the hard tyre and some other bits and pieces. It has been a productive and good day. We have covered plenty of laps trying to understand the characteristics of the tyres, so it adds an extra dimension this year with the strategy. It is going to be fascinating to see how it pans out but on top of that we have also got the weather to keep an eye on as well so it is going to be an interesting weekend.
Q: It was a fairly astonishing margin this morning wasn’t it?
CH: Yeah, but again you cannot read too much into that. Different people are running to different programmes. There was even a margin between our two cars. As we saw in the afternoon certainly the McLarens look competitive and Mercedes not too far away. I don’t think Ferrari have shown their full hand yet, so very difficult to draw too many conclusions, but in terms of our own performance it has been a productive Friday.
Q: Colin, I think it was a fairly tough winter for you. Just what sort of effort has it required to keep the team going?
CK: Some effort I would say.
Q: How much? Give us an indication. You have run teams in the past.
CK: I am not a person who is making a big issue out of this. We are here. We worked hard in December and in January and February and we have to improve, that’s the point. If I look backwards and I go into a corner and start to cry, nobody will help me. It is past and we have to move forward.
Q: You can tell me whether this is true or not, but I believe you have failed a couple of crash tests. How much has that set things back?
CK: Well, I don’t think we are the only ones who are failing a crash test, but due to the fact that we were quite tight, obviously we had some issues in Australia. We failed a crash test with 0.07G, for one millisecond we were above 20G so we could not run the front wing, we could not the front nose, so this is how it is.
Q: Was it this Wednesday that you passed it?
Q: So it was all a bit tight?
CK: It was tight, as obviously you need an FIA observer, so you have to make appointments and bring the people together. We were confident that we would pass it so everything was set up that it would be passed and we passed it so we can run the new noses.
Q: Ross, how frustrating was Australia? Does the season really start here now?
RB: I think it does for us. It was frustrating, but really, problems of our own making. We just had too many issues with various things in Australia. You can normally deal with one or two things but we had quite a flood of problems and it was just difficult to keep the car running consistently and work out what we needed to do. Then, of course, that was capped by a couple of issues in the race so It wasn’t a great weekend for us. Frustrating, as the car is not where we want it to be yet, but it was a lot better than it looked in Australia and I hope this weekend we can demonstrate that.
Q: Looking at the margins that we have seen today, is it Red Bull Racing versus McLaren or can Mercedes be in there as well?
RB: I think we have got a little while to go before we can certainly trouble RBR. We have got lots happening. There are some things we still need to understand and obviously running the car consistently as we did today means we can get a better understanding. I think the warmer weather, the different conditions with the tyres, is presenting some new problems that we have got to get our heads around compared to what we saw in Barcelona so we need to make some progress but it looks a lot better than what we had in Melbourne.
Q: Eric, how much has changed since Australia? Why did we not see the problems you had this morning in Australia?
EB: First, because as I told you, we suspect, I mean very strongly, that we have heat treatment or a material issue. That’s it, so it is a new part from a new batch. That’s it. Shit can happen unfortunately. Since Australia, we have brought some new parts here so obviously the lack of track time is not helping us to understand car balance. I agree with Ross, it will be crucial to run at least some decent degradation so we still have a lot to think about tonight and to work tomorrow morning.
Q: After the third place in Australia, what was the atmosphere within the team?
EB: It was clearly a big relief for many reasons. First, it was a reward for the tough winter we had with everything which happened. It was also a relief to see Vitaly (Petrov) deliver properly a full weekend so for the whole team I think it was a big reward.
Q: Paul, you have brought some harder tyres here as well, a new generation of hard tyres if I can call it that, so how did those shape up today?
PH: Well, we only had a limited running this morning with them. I think there was a comment they were "slower and warmer, less degradation". They are a generation of product that goes towards, I guess, something that won’t degrade at a different level. We are trying to find our feet, knowing what the right point is, so that we don’t over-stretch or exaggerate but equally, if we are too conservative we will be back to square one. It was all part of our learning. It was an opportunity to see in a real track condition how the product performs as we do have limitation on testing. We do have the Toyota that we ran last weekend in Istanbul Park but it rained for a couple of days so it wasn’t as successful as we wanted. But it is a way we can get close to the teams in a real-life situation and have real data.
Q: Might you bring those again?
PH: Well it depends on the race. We will see how the race goes. The track evolution is something that we are also having to learn as you can’t do that when you are running on your own, you need to see all 24 cars on the circuit. Support races have a big impact as well. I think we saw that in Melbourne. That was one of the major factors in the changes in strategy, the reduction in pit-stops from what we thought maybe on the Saturday. That may happen again here. We will make a decision on that direction on Sunday night.
Q: It was generally judged to be a success in Melbourne. What would be a success here?
PH: Well, I think everyone else has to be a judge of that. It is a long season for us. It is new. This track in particular, from a tyre-maker's point of view, is very interesting. The surface, in particular, is the sort of surface that we saw in American racing. It is hard to distinguish it between almost a concrete surface. You are almost lacking grip. You come here thinking certainly after Melbourne, higher speed, higher temperature, more abrasive but in reality you are almost missing grip so it is interesting. If you were in a competitive environment you’d have a compound just for this circuit.
Q: Monisha, just to go back to the rear wing. What was required? Did you just make new rear wings to come here?
MK: Yes, that was just it. We were by a few millimetres not in conformity with the technical regulation concerned so we just had to make sure that the radius fitted into this template, R100, the FIA template. So it wasn’t really much to do. More important was to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, as this small mistake cost us 10 points which is quite a lot for us. We evaluated the whole process again. We reinforced it. We added a few measures. We do, as such, have a procedure which worked and proved to be right but, of course, with people mistakes can happen and it should have been caught up.
Q: Tell us about Sergio during the Australian Grand Prix. A lot of people are looking and saying ‘why couldn’t we do a one-stop strategy as well’. Has he got a particularly light touch?
MK: Well, we also were very surprised by his driving to be honest. But it is too early to say how his driving style is and this is just the first race and we still have the entire season to go. He definitely can handle tyres in such a condition, we could see that, but it is just too early to make a final call on that.
Q: Christian, would you explain why the front part of your car seems to be lower?
CH: There’s been so much said about the front wing that I probably don’t need to add to it in this forum. I think that, at the end of the day, our car conforms with the regulations. We’re very happy with that. We run the car, set-up-wise, slightly differently. We run a bit more rake in the car when, inevitably, you run the rear a bit higher, the front a bit lower and you end up, potentially with a visual difference. That’s the way it is. The car complies with the regs. The FIA is happy with that and we’re obviously very comfortable with that.
Q: And after the performance in Melbourne, what was the atmosphere within the team?
CH: It was excellent. The winter had been very, very busy, because the challenge of winning the championship last year, with it going all the way down to the wire, obviously consumed a huge amount of energy and focus and attention, and then not to be totally distracted by that in the meantime, in the background, to be designing a car to different regulations, different challenges with KERS re-introduced, with the rear wing and a different tyre manufacturer, obviously posed its own challenges.
I think the team just worked phenomenally hard, collectively, as a group, to produce the car in time for the first test – effectively in a shorter period than they’ve had to design and build the car previously. Then, we enjoyed a good pre-season, probably one of our best ever pre-seasons, where we were, ironically, disappointed that the first race in Bahrain was cancelled, for understandable reasons. We felt that we were ready, at that point in time. We turned up in Melbourne, not knowing the true extent of how competitive we were in respect of our rivals. Obviously, Sebastian’s performance throughout the weekend was a truly dominant performance.
He drove an immaculate weekend really. Obviously, the challenges of the new format of racing, with the strategy playing a key role, it was important to get that right. So, it was a great satisfaction to win the opening race in Australia, a race where we have historically had indifferent results, our best previous result being a fourth place there. The only thing that was missing for us from that result was not to have the other car up there as well, But, to have book-ended 2010 and 2011 with race wins was a fantastic team performance.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) We have a regulation for engines for 2013 and yet you lot are having meetings all the time about engines for the future. Can you tell us what’s going on on that count?
RB: Well, we’re designing an engine for 2013. There’s a set of regulations and we’re designing an engine to them. As always there’s a lot of debate going on but that’s the regulations the FIA have issued, so unless the FIA change their position, that’s what we will be racing in 2013.
CK: We will see.
EB: Yes, we are working on designing a new engine following the regulations that have been released for 2013. That’s it.
CK: We are no engine manufacturers.
CH: Renault are focused on the 2013 regulations as they currently stand.
MK: Same for us here. We know Ferrari is working on it. For us, it’s important that whatever engine we have, we have to make sure that financially independent teams can afford it, so that’s the biggest issue for us, and of course we also have to make sure that we have innovative technologies coming in, so we have to make sure a balance is created.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) Monisha, you were talking about ten points; what are those ten points worth?
MK: That I will tell you at the end of the season.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) It’s an awful lot of money, isn’t it?
MK: It could be, but we are still confident that we can manage to make that up again.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) Ross and Colin, can you just have a little chat about your wind tunnel deal that you have between you?
CK: This is a commercial Mercedes issue.
RB: We have two wind tunnels. Because of the FOTA constraint regulations we only use one of them for our own Formula One programme so the other one is let out to customers and Colin, along with a number of other activities, is renting some time in the tunnel. It’s really as simple as that. We have a tunnel which we don’t use, (that) we used to use before the constraints came in – it’s the original tunnel that was built at Brackley - and we rent it out to whoever wants to buy time in it. It’s really as simple as that. I didn’t know it was Colin until my commercial manager told us he was buying some time in it, which is great, if we can help, but it’s just rent on normal commercial terms.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) Christian, can you talk about KERS a little bit. In Australia you didn’t appear to have it on the cars, are you running it here? What was the problem in Australia?
CH: In Australia we ran the system on the Friday. We felt that there was a potential reliability risk and the benefit of KERS in Australia is arguably less than (at) other venues, so we decided not to take that risk and remove the system from both cars on Friday evening, with a view to running the system here again, which we’ve done today. The system has run well and obviously reliably, so a decision will be made on it no doubt later this evening.
Q: Could you just clarify: is it your own KERS system or is it a Renault KERS system?
CH: It’s a system that has commonality with Renault. It’s been designed in conjunction with them. Obviously, the installation of the system tends to be more personalised to each team, but there’s a great deal of commonality, certainly between the two Renault-powered teams that are running KERS.
Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) For the team bosses: it doesn’t make much sense that the drivers can use the movable rear wing any time they want during Friday and Saturday and then only once a lap during the race. Should the rule be changed, how soon should it be changed, what you can you do to change the rule?
CH: I think we probably need a few more samples. In Melbourne, the wing obviously wasn’t that powerful. Arguably, it put a few cars in a position to make an overtaking manoeuvre but it is one of the shortest straights. We will have a much better view on the impact that the DRS has here this weekend with the length of the straights. Certainly the FIA seems open-minded as to the activation points. We probably just need to gather a few more samples before becoming able to judge it effectively. It’s an interesting question. I think, in many respects, it might be easier to have consistency of use but it’s a little bit of a voyage of discovery that we’re learning about as we go.
EB: I think it’s common sense as well to run it even if it’s – let say – when we want, so when the driver wants, during the free session and qualifying, at least for reliability issues and to get the driver used to the top speed, rather than the inverse.
RB: I think we have to run it in practice, for sure, to get the thing set up, it’s all about ratios, getting the drivers into using it. Qualifying is an open point. In the race, the reason it’s used is to enhance overtaking so there are particular parts of the track where you want to make it available to one car and not the car they’re trying to overtake, so that’s why it’s triggered by proximity systems. I think this will be a race where we will see the true value of it. It’s a system which is very easy to turn off or increase the usage of and we want to see how it develops and see if it’s really a benefit to the show of Formula One.
(Julien Febreau – L’Equipe) Question to all of you, except Mr Horner and Mr Hembery: what is your opinion of the Red Bull front wing and are you working on or do you plan to work on a similar system?
MK: We, of course, we had another issue we had to sort out regarding wings, so we focused on that and not Red Bull’s front wing. Red Bull’s car has been checked, and if the FIA think it is legal, it is alright. We will keep on looking at it, of course, Red Bull knows that, but I think we should focus more on our own car than looking at other cars that much.
CK: I think I have little bit different issues than the Red Bull’s front wing at the moment. I’m focusing more on my issues. I think Ross can maybe say more.
RB: There’s a regulation which says that the bodywork should be rigid. We all know that’s impossible because everything moves. It’s a question of degrees, so the FIA has a series of tests to measure the degree to which bodywork moves and as long as you pass those tests then your car is to all intents and purposes legal. Those tests can change, in fact they changed over the winter because, as they do in a lot of areas, the FIA try and improve those tests. There’s a new test this year.
Red Bull obviously pass it so that’s all there is to say about it. They’ve got a philosophy of their car and approach and teams have got to decide if that’s the reason – or one of the reasons - for their level of performance. If it is, then you need to consider going that route yourself, or make sure it’s not an excuse for the fact they’re winning everything at the moment. It’s a philosophy. It ties in a lot with the whole car concept. It’s fair to say that probably, over the winter, a lot of teams assumed with the new test that the situation was going to change and it hasn’t so we’re faced with what we have and we have to make sure we produce as competitive a car as we can and comply to the FIA tests.
EB: I’m not going to repeat what Ross said but obviously I agree with what he said. There is a regulation in place, there are some tests done by the FIA, especially regarding the flexibility of the bodywork parts and if Red Bull is complying with the rule then there is nothing much to say. Back to the question: again it’s a philosophy. As Christian said, they are running a different set-up with more rake and we also went a different way, with a different philosophy, so we keep an eye on them, obviously, because you also look at the fastest cars on the track, especially when it’s constantly fastest. But we don’t know if we will go this way or not.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) Paul, have you had any nasty surprises this season or has it all gone pretty much according to plan?
PH: No nasty surprises, no. Surprises, yes, but no nasty ones. I guess it’s very different for us to be on the track with 24 cars as I mentioned earlier. The lack of testing facilities or ability for us is tough and would be tough for anyone coming into the sport. That’s been interesting. We’re going to keep learning. I’m quite sure that it’s going to be a season of learning for us, as each track is different, has a different challenge. I think at the end of the season we will then have enough data for everything we need to do.
Q: (Joe Saward – GP Plus) When the teams are doing all their simulation work back in their factories, can you tell us about Pirelli’s simulation? How does that work and can you learn an awful lot from that?
PH: Well, going forward, with the lack of testing, ultimately we will want to have our own simulator or means of simulating vehicle and tyre inter-reactions and that’s something we will work on going forward. At the moment, of course, we’re just supplying data to allow the teams to run their own work, but going forward we want to use simulation, and we do it for road cars in reality, simulations to allow us to make our product development without going testing, or at least do a screening to get to a point where you can arrive at a solution without having to go on the track. But a lot of our performance is obviously related to the surface and weather and there are still a lot of unknowns in our business in that area.