Present: Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director) Hirohide Hamashima (Bridgestone technical director) John Howett (Toyota motorsport president) David Pitchforth (Jaguar managing director) Q: John, how have you felt about the season...
Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director)
Hirohide Hamashima (Bridgestone technical director)
John Howett (Toyota motorsport president)
David Pitchforth (Jaguar managing director)
Q: John, how have you felt about the season so far?
John Howett: I think basically we expected to be better as we came into the season. We brought Mike (Gascoyne) in at the end of last year and our performance since Australia is progressing race after race, so we're still challenging to catch the top teams and we're fairly confident that before the end of this season we will deliver more performance.
Q: Ricardo Zonta seems to be doing a fantastic job as a third driver and sometimes we see him going quicker than the two regular drivers. Is that a slightly false illusion?
JH: I think you have to say we run the engine harder on Friday in the third car. Sometimes he has more option with a newer tyre. He's doing a great job for us as a test driver and we're very happy with him, but I think you have to look at facts to be able to really evaluate the relative performance and we're still very happy with both race drivers.
Q: Now what about this revised car that you're introducing? Is that the case, and how revised will it be?
JH: Like every team, I suppose, we're constantly trying to improve. We want to improve the monocoque weight during the middle of the season, so we're scheduling around Hockenheim. And at every race we're trying to improve the aerodynamics on the car.
Q: New engine regulations were announced on Tuesday. How do you feel about those regulations and how much action have you taken since then? Have they been discussed? Have any decisions been made?
JH: Yes, I think in principal we can accept a change in engine regulations. The basic discussion was for 2008 and then a discussion whether that could be advanced. From our point of view, if the regulation is clearly defined by June we could in fact produce a modified engine for the 2006 season. I think the key point for Toyota is we are also here for technical challenge, so I think it's the real detail of the engine regulation that is quite important to us.
Q: Have you actually said you're happy with that 2.4 V8?
JH: A 2.4 litre V8, I think, is no problem. It makes sense. It enables us to reduce costs, it enables us to transfer current technology towards the smaller engine and I think together with other revisions, and possibly a reduction in testing, it's possible to achieve a 50 percent cost reduction on engines as targeted by the FIA. But still, Toyota's position is that we want quite a lot of freedom on the technology -- or not necessarily the technology but freedom of engineering capability for the engine design itself.
Q: And the standard ECU? You're not worried about that?
JH: This is a discussion point. I think at the meeting that was probably postponed from 2006 and this was something the FIA said clearly would come in from 2008. If it were to be advanced, there would be further discussion.
Q: Dave, roughly speaking the same questions. What were your feelings about the engine regulations?
Dave Pitchforth: Yeah, we were reasonably relaxed about the engine regulations. I think a bit of perturbation is needed in the sport anyway and we need to do a new engine, as long as we know when the regulation and what the regulation is, but there needs to be a lot of clarity. At the moment 2.4 ballpark, that's not a problem, but the ECU thing needs a lot of discussion and a lot of clarity because it's software, at the end of the day, and it's not clear whether the team would still provide the software. If they did, then we get back into the chestnut of software regulation and validation, which is very difficult to do.
Q: But you're basically happy with that configuration, that architecture?
DP: Yeah. I think everybody can do the mathematics, can't they? It's a V10 with two cylinders removed, three litres going down to 2.4, so it's not really an issue for us.
Q: What about the season so far, how do you feel about that?
DP: Yeah, obviously we've failed to capitalise on some good performances at the beginning of the season which was frustrating but we took what was, I suppose, quite a risk-prone approach to having an update of the car after the launch. We launched R5 and then updated it fully before the Australian race, so a lot of our development was done before the fly-aways. Now we're bringing the development in as we go through the season, on an ongoing continuous improvement basis. And performance so far - we're reasonably happy.
Q: It does seem to be a little up and down - for instance, you got on the front row of the grid in Malaysia but since then it hasn't really happened.
DP: Yeah, we suffer somewhat from having the testing. We don't test as much as some of the other teams and that leads to surprises, but as long as we're learning, it's alright. As we move forward we put those experiences into our corporate history, if you like, and we don't make the same mistake again. And we're doing a good job of that. We're not having recurring faults but we are on a learning curve because inevitably we're going to bear more of our mistakes at race weekends because we're not doing the testing between the events.
Q: Is that why somebody has mentioned that you haven't done as much development as expected?
DP: We front-loaded the development to be before Australia - for Australia, if you like, after the launch. The development since then, well, we've broken the cycle of going for big update kits, simply because, to do that, you leave performance in the garage, if you like, or back at the factory, because you're waiting for the whole kit to assemble. We're not doing that, we're bringing the performance to the car - if it's tested and if we understand it - every weekend. So last weekend there was a small update, this weekend small updates and it will go on through the season.
Q: And it will happen even with the six races coming in eight weeks?
DP: Yeah, we have different parts for Monaco, and we have different parts here this weekend.
Q: Hamashima-san, new tyre rules have been suggested. Tell us about the proposal for the narrow front and wider rear and perhaps losing the grooves as well -- what is the thinking that you can see behind that?
Hirohide Hamashima: I think current cars demand high weight distribution to the front because a lighter rear helps the rear tyres so much, so the rear tyres just work for the traction. Front tyres work for braking and cornering, so it makes the car quicker. So, if we use narrower fronts, in that case maybe the car will be slower but we don't know what the cars' design will be after the regulations issued, so it is very important.
Q: What advantages are there to a one-tyre formula? Are there advantages for a tyre company?
HH: Difficult question. Of course, I prefer competition but even if we are sole suppliers, even though we can get the many high technical aspect from the teams, because Formula One teams have many high level techniques, for example simulation and also other things so if we learn so many things then the tyre manufacturer will be better to produce new tyres.
Q: Pierre, we had a release from your company...
Pierre Dupasquier: We made a commitment with Hamashima-san, to answer only questions about red wine! Red wine, yes.
Q: ...yes but in between the questions about red wine, your press release says 'we would like to put proposals to reduce costs while maintaining the spirit of competition.' Can you imagine what those proposals would be? How would you manage to do that?
PD: We're working on it. The idea is that without competition, you don't know what you are doing, you are a tyre supplier, that's fine but it's not what we are in racing for, in motorcycling, in Le Mans or in Formula One. So we really will see competition in order to find out where we are and to try if possible to show our customers, our partners that we are capable of serving a good tyre and they are doing a good job. The tyre companies should be welcome in sport, in Formula One. Then we ask 'what can we do to achieve the president's goal with which we agree 100 percent?' It's responsible and we understand that. Reducing the cost? Fine. Motor racing is not cheap but it's maybe going too far. It's his decision. Fine. And maintaining performance, that's obvious. We have to maintain a balance between the machines and the environment. Karting on a Formula One track is ridiculous and vice versa. So somewhere there is that need for safety as well.
He (Mosley) had the same sort of suggestion for rallying and the same objectives and we said 'look, if for example, you ask us to have one tyre per day in rallying in any conditions -- I'm talking about tarmac -- I don't know if it's possible. But let's try. It will be absolutely ridiculous. The tyre doesn't exist. Not even a production tyre will do it, so we will have to create a tyre that will be titanium or wood or I don't know what, but not rubber any more. So the car will be very slow, it will be very cheap, so that's the kind of idea that can be offered.
Q: Last week, you had seven trucks at Silverstone to provide three teams and when it rained, you didn't have the right tyres. It seemed such an extraordinary cost for a three-day test.
PD: It is, but a company like our companies, we spend our lives testing anyway, for anything. We test for trucks, we have trucks 24 hours, all day long, just to test tyres. So we must go through tests even though we work very efficiently on simulation. But at the end of the day, you have to see if in real life, if your simulation means something and if you don't screw up on that, and so far we haven't, fortunately or unfortunately I don't know, but we don't have simulation that can answer every question and say 'that's the tyre.' We work on it, but it's not quite there. Yes, it is very expensive, yes we agree 100 percent on the fact that it is too expensive. Reducing the costs is a goal for everybody, every industry, every spectacle.
Somebody yesterday told me that Formula One is like a movie -- we borrow the money, we invest the money to make the movie, we make a great spectacle but if spectators are not there, it doesn't make any sense. We die. That's fine. It's not only a movie, it's not only spectacle, it's also patience. The people expect some indication from the peak of racing that there is some technology going on, there is improvement, hi-tech, new things. That's why they are so passionate about it. But if we cut that too much, it's a philosophical decision from the FIA. If we cut it too much, the competition between the elements of the machines... It exists already. We have Formula 3000, they are on the track right now. How many spectators are out there? (He indicates zero).
Q: Ferrari say that this championship can be completely turned around by their rival tyre supplier, if he comes up with a different tyre. What chances?
PD: Well, I would say that if Ferrari come with a non-competitive tyre, the championship will be turned around immediately. I don't see what is behind the question. Do they expect that any of us can find five tenths a lap like that? No way. We had seven trucks at Silverstone to try to find one tenth. So if we screw up, we give the championship to somebody else. But don't expect the tyre company to turn round anything. What I've found out since the beginning of the season, to get Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari and Ferrari, that's it. So where's the tyre company in that?
Q: Surely it's a partnership?
PD: Yes, definitely. It is. Absolutely. But if you forget some of the contenders you were just referring to, then you get a different championship.
Q: Dave, a few months ago Richard Parry-Jones was quite vocal on costs in Formula One being reduced. What has been the initial reaction from Ford, your team owner, on all these new rules and proposals?
DP: Well, I think we are already doing some of the things that are being suggested. We are already doing Formula One on a very controlled budget with strict fiscal controls because we are trying to gain the respect of Ford Motor Company, which we have done. We are also trying to gain the respect of our sponsors to make sure they understand that we are careful and respectful with the funds that they give us. The rules that have been suggested, we are already doing some of that. As for reducing testing, we already reduce testing because it is very expensive, primarily expensive because of engine life. People talk about hotels and flights and stuff like that but that is not the biggest factor, it is really the engines.
So reducing the engine mileage at tests will sufficiently reduce the costs. Therefore, you need to do more of the things we have just discussed, which is simulation. In the real world, that is exactly what has happened, so Ford have completely bought into the fact that you need to do less testing. That is what they and the other car companies have been doing for the last 15 years, and if you look back at any car that was developed 15 years ago there may have been 40 prototypes for that vehicle. Now there may be as little as 10 prototypes for the same vehicle and all the rest of it is done in simulation and that is what will happen in Formula One. If there is less testing there has to be more simulation and more rig testing. The testing will still happen, it might be in a computer or it might be on some kind of test rig.
Q: David, are you disappointed about Christian Klien's performances in Imola and today so far?
DP: Not here, so far. He has done a good job working through his programme in the first session. In the second session he made a mistake and went into the gravel, which he is very disappointed about, but in the beginning of the season he has done a good job, he has built up his speed, been very careful, finished all the Grands Prix and Imola was a disappointment for him. He severely damaged his chassis and obviously had very little track time before qualifying there and the race car set-up was not good for him, he had very poor race pace as everyone saw and he wasn't very confident with the balance. So that was, again, frustrating for him, but I think he has done a good job as a rookie driver -- keep it on the track, building up, he has got the morale up on his side of the garage and he has fitted into the team very well.
Q: The war between Michelin and Bridgestone is sometimes difficult to follow and understand for the spectators -- I have two examples: In Imola we had to explain to our readers that the rain overnight had radically changed the situation in terms of your performance comparison and, when it is raining, we know there will be a lot of different levels of wet conditions in which the difference between your two tyres is radically changed. If a single tyre supplier is not a good idea for the future, then how do you think we can put a break to your war?
HH: Do you think a radical change in Imola? Hmm. I think the two tyre manufacturers are using different materials so I believe performance will be different, for example durability-wise, grip-wise, everything. So then, it seems rain makes a change of the situation. Maybe sometimes other companies will get the advantage during the rain, I believe.
PD: I don't understand your point because if I see clearly what you mean, you say that you have a hard time explaining about what is going on? Before you had nothing to do! So we should do better, we should probably get more information to you to explain, we can do better, but thanks to the tyre manufacturers you finally have something to say about Formula One.
Q: Pierre, you are focussed very much on cost in what you have said here today and in your statement. When you talk to Max Mosley, he says there are three reasons to get rid of the two tyre companies, the other two being safety -- you can control the lap times -- and fairness -- to stop it turning into a tyre championship. I can see how you can put an argument for cost, which you have done today, but how are you going to argue against the other two points and, if you are unsuccessful in that are you saying that Michelin will no longer compete in Formula One as a single supplier?
PD: For the last one, our statement is made and we have plenty of time to think about it. The example I gave for rallying shows that on tyre regulations you may achieve the goal of performances. For example, if we have one tyre for three races, which is obviously ridiculous, then you have a tyre that can do 2000 or 3000km. I tell you, with 900 horsepower it would be a really, really bad tyre and performance would be so bad the car would be stopped everywhere, it would be slower than Formula Three. So, in this aspect, working on the tyre definition by the rule you may achieve also that goal of slowing down the machines, definitely, that is very easy.
For example, the president already mentioned one more groove, you know, easily, with little change, you may really drastically change the performance. The cost has been mentioned already, and the third, competition, fairness, that we disagree with. When you compete somehow, somewhere, there is a winner and a loser. The changes at the start, we used to say in French 'donnez a chacun ses chances egales'. Equality doesn't exist. Having the same chance when you compete, when you are a racer, at the start, with rules that you can understand, the same for everyone, then you get competition. One is winning, the other is losing, that is what it is. If you don't want that kind of unfair situation at the end of a race, don't race.
Q: John, the leading driver for Toyota in the IRL is testing for a competitor of yours in Formula One. Is there no interest from your team in Scott Dixon?
JH: Well, I think we also have our TDA programme so, as you may know, we are trying to bring young talent into Formula One or into motor racing as well. We have Ryan Briscoe sitting on the sidelines, we have two or three other young drivers coming through the programme. We already brought Cristiano from IRL, or from CART at that time, in the US to Formula One, so I think at the moment, with the basket of opportunity we have, really we have to draw the line somewhere and I think Scott Dixon is respected by Toyota because of his talent but really at this stage we have decided that we don't have room, to be honest, and I don't mean that unkindly, with the portfolio that we are developing. So I don't think there is any chance of Scott coming to Toyota in Formula One.
Q: John, what is the situation for your drivers next year?
JH: Well, as a management team we are obviously looking at the future, the next two to three years, where we want to get. Clearly we are not satisfied where we are, we want to become a top team and challenge for the championship, and drivers is one of the elements of the equation. We've made no decision on our driver line-up for next year, and when we're ready to, we will advise the press in due course, and I don't foresee that we would do that really before the middle or after the middle of the season.