As Vice President of Honda Racing Development, Otmar Szafnauer has a major role in the mapping out of Honda's future in Formula One. He spoke to the team website to answer a wide range of pertinent questions covering his integral role within the...
As Vice President of Honda Racing Development, Otmar Szafnauer has a major role in the mapping out of Honda's future in Formula One. He spoke to the team website to answer a wide range of pertinent questions covering his integral role within the company, Honda's F1 aspirations and the Honda Racing F1 Team's current test programme.
Q: What is your role as Vice President, Honda Racing Development?
Otmar Szafnauer: In essence I fulfil three different and very distinct functions for HRD. Firstly, I'm the Honda representative to the FIA in Formula 1, which means going to the Engine Working Group meetings for example. Secondly, I am the Honda spokesman at all the official FIA press conferences as well as representing Honda to all the non-Japanese media.
Thirdly, my role and function within the organisation is as a management board member of Honda Racing F1 Team. As a management board member we make the big picture decisions that help shape the future direction of the team. I also act as a personal advisor to Mr Wada, President of HRD.
Q: From the fans' perspective, what will be the main differences to the team now Honda has acquired full ownership?
OS: The main difference will be in terms of the team's financial stability and the availability of greater resources from Honda so we can become even more competitive. The new state-art-of-the wind tunnel is just one example; this will be ready by the middle of next year. With that, as well as all of the other Honda resources now at our disposal, the fans will see a more a competitive team in the future capable of race wins and challenging for world championship titles."
Q: HRD is based in Bracknell, 60 miles away from the Honda Racing F1 Team's headquarters in Brackley. Now that Honda fully owns the team are there any plans to incorporate the engine facility into the main site?
OS: We've investigated that option but, at this time, there are no plans to transfer HRD to Brackley. It will stay in Bracknell, which after all is not that far away. Besides, when we start supplying engines to more than one team in the future, it could make more sense for HRD to remain separated from the Honda Racing F1 Team factory at Brackley. In the short term at least, we have no plans of relocating HRD.
Q: Honda's recent investment clearly underlines the company's long-term commitment to Formula One?
OS: Honda is committed to motor racing at the highest levels be that in Formula 1 or in MotoGP and, that's because racing at the international pinnacle of our sport is part of our DNA. Mr Honda, the founder of the company, was once asked: 'why go racing on the Isle of Man rather than focussing first on winning in Japan'.
His answer was that if Honda wins on the Isle of Man, the most prestigious motorcycle racing of that era, by definition Honda will be the best in Japan. His vision was always to compete at the very highest levels and win there and that ethos is still very much part of Honda today.
Q: As you've said, Honda is clearly very proud of its past and present international motor sport pedigree. Why is competition such an important part of the company's DNA?
OS: In addition to what I've already said above, it's important to remember that our founder Soichiro Honda was a racer first and only thereafter a motor cycle and car producer. It's amazing to me how that original corporate culture has lasted all these years and continues to do so today. It comes from the importance you place on racing and the type of people the company hires; it has always attracted people who enjoy the spirit of competition.
Q: In a recent interview on this site Yasuhiro Wada suggested that the new engine regulations would favour restricted V10s rather than the new generation of V8s; do you share his feelings and what can be done between now and Bahrain to rectify the problem?
OS: The FIA has reserved the right to change and reset the maximum crankshaft rotational speed of the V10 at any time and they've said the V10 would never have an advantage over the V8. However, as it stands today with the initial rev limit and air restrictor, there's no question that the V10 is superior to the V8 in terms of performance.
The FIA, though, does reserve the right to make changes without notice and, as it has been advocating V8 for both safety and cost reasons, I am confident the current imbalance will be sorted out before the start of next season.
Q: We've mentioned the V8 powered Concept car already. Are you pleased with its performance to date?
OS: The good news is we are already out there testing, not so much for performance but for powertrain reliability; we can do that by fusing next year's engine and gearbox onto the front half of last year's race car. If you look at it from that perspective, both gearbox and engine have been reliable, which is what you hope for.
Obviously you go testing so that if you can find problems and then go through the design cycle again... although you're hoping that's not the situation. We believe the Concept car gives us the best of both worlds: it lets us test the engine early so we can fix any issues before we go racing and this approach also allows the aero department to bring the new car out as late as possible.
There's no sense in the engine and gearbox, which are the two most technically complex parts of the package, waiting for the rest of the car to be ready and the designers need as much time as possible to find the best solutions. The hybrid car lets us achieve both these objectives.
Q: Finally, and perhaps most crucially, when does Honda expect to start winning in Formula One?
OS: Our aim is to start winning races in 2006 and a championship in 2007 -- that's our goal. The new wind-tunnel comes on stream during next season which should help us with development during the latter stages of 2006 as well as with the design of the 2007 car. Our objectives are somewhat based around those timings.