With the first Ferrari engine delivered to Spyker HQ in the new year, the launch of the new car in early February and now a rigorous programme of testing, Spyker Formula One Team's technical director James Key has been kept very busy. The team website caught up with James in one of his short breaks to talk about the start of the year so far...
Q: We're now two thirds of the way through the team's test programme. How do you feel the new car is working thus far?
James Key: We realised the task we had ahead of us, but we have made a lot of progress in a very short space of time. The car has demonstrated excellent reliability, we haven't experienced any fundamental issues in any areas so far, when we set the car up in various ways it responds as expected so in general there have been no big surprises to date. The aero platform seems stable and the engine is performing well. We naturally have a few areas to work on, but as a basis, the new car seems to be proving itself well.
Q: The team is now back in Barcelona for a second test from 27 February to 1 March. Do you think you'll see a visible improvement over the last test you conducted there?
JK: This time in Barcelona we hope to work purely on performance and development and try out some new parts and ideas including aerodynamic tweaks, a few chassis refinements and the control systems. I think we're on target with the goals we set ourselves, but we'll have to see how the findings from Valencia transfer to a different track. However with the work we did last week we're in much better shape than we were a few weeks ago.
Q: What have been the principal findings from Valencia?
JK: We conducted race simulations with both drivers and found we were very stable over the longer runs. A couple of issues still remained over shorter distances but we spent a lot of time looking at data, analysing track conditions and developed a programme that we systematically worked through. We've come a long way in a short time and with that amount of work we can go to Barcelona with a better idea of where we are relative to other teams.
Q: How have the drivers helped with the programme?
JK: Christijan and Adrian have given good, consistent feedback and have responded in similar ways to some of the changes we've made on the car. From a technical point of view this gives good consistency as there's no different directions of development. Despite both having different driving styles - Adrian is very smooth with the car whereas Christijan is more aggressive -- from a combination of the two but with consistent feedback you can learn a lot.
Q: We forget that Adrian Sutil is actually very new to the team and, until the beginning of this year, had only sat in an F1 car a handful of times. What are your initial impressions of him now that he's had 1,000km of testing under his belt?Considering he is new, he's stepped in to it and has started off how we hoped he would. The pressures of being a race driver as opposed to a test driver are very different but he's come through very well and his feedback has been very good, very accurate, particularly towards the end of the Valencia test.
JK: The three of the four new test drivers have also had a turn in the car in Valencia. How has each adapted to the new challenge?Fairuz, Adrian and Giedo conducted lots of useful testing and did a good job. All went out in less than ideal conditions, but they all kept it on the track and put in the laps they needed to do. All of them did reasonable times and came back with some constructive comments.
Q: It's now scarily close to when the cars need to leave for Australia. What are the plans for the next two weeks?
JK: We have to focus now on performance and development so Barcelona will be running through our programme, there is still a lot more work to do on our performance levels at present. Christijan and Adrian will drive on all three days in Barcelona, with Giedo van der Garde and Fairuz Fauzy taking over for an afternoon's programme when conditions allow. We have some reliability related parts that we have to test before Melbourne, and have a shakedown next week of a third chassis that Markus Winkelhock will conduct. We know we have some work to do before the cars leave!