Kris Nissen Q&A
In 2007, Volkswagen made its Formula 3 comeback. What's the conclusion you have come to as Volkswagen Motorsport Director?
Kris Nissen: A truly positive one. We have realised our goals faster than planned. We finished runner-up in the Formula 3 Euro Series as early as 2008. But far more important was the fact that we succeeded in convincing teams and drivers during the season that the Volkswagen engine has got what it takes to win races. Numerous teams contacted us for the following season and also became our customers, at a later point in time. And we soon were able to also supply engines for the ATS Formula 3 Cup and in Great Britain.
In 2009 we secured many podiums, further race wins and at the end of the day we won the titles in the German Cup and in Great Britain. So, we achieved in our second season what we had planned for the third. In the 2010 season, even more cars in the ATS Formula 3 Cup and the British Formula 3 Championship will rely on the Volkswagen engines. And in the Formula 3 Euro Series, things also are running as scheduled. But the icing on the cake was the one-two in the Formula 3 World Finale at in Macau.
What are the important Volkswagen Motorsport criteria when it comes to deciding which teams you are going to cooperate with?
Kris Nissen: In the beginning we had to gain the teams' trust and now, basically everybody can become our customer. It's not about the name or the team but who contacts us early and seriously. Nonetheless, there were requests we couldn't satisfy as we just lack the necessary capacity. We set ourselves the goal to supply 40 to 60 percent of a grid after three years - and have achieved this goal as early as now. We can't supply 100 percent of three series. And in addition, that wouldn't be the intention of our involvement.
Formula 3 represents one of the few top-series in the young-talent racing area that isn't contested with control chassis, control engine or control drive train. On the one hand, such an approach could reduce the costs slightly but on the other, you have to bear in mind that Formula 3 represents the young drivers' final preparation for Formula 1, DTM or sports car racing. Here, their skills are honed for the highest motor-racing categories. The driver has to learn to cooperate closely with his team and in this area, Formula 3 offers more freedom for him, the team and the vehicle than other series. The best team with the best engineer should be able to achieve a technical advantage - just as it is the case in the top series.
Could you please describe the cooperation of Volkswagen Motorsport and the teams during the season?
Kris Nissen: We attach major importance to the data exchange. So, a Formula 3 team with an experienced driver can support another team that contests the season with a rookie at the wheel of its car. For instance with data of revs, gears, steering angle and so on - all these data represent valuable information for the own analysis. We are aware that it's not really nice for the teams to pass these data on but I think that we have created a good harmony, in the meantime, and represent a kind of a Volkswagen family.
In addition we have got a vehicle in our headquarters we used to test our engine at the beginning of our involvement. Now we use it to test components of our partners - such as the ZF Sachs shock absorbers. And it goes without saying that we pass the knowledge gained during these tests on to our teams.
What do you expect from Daniel Abt who is going to contest his ATS Formula 3 Cup debut season, this year?
Kris Nissen: By winning the 2009 ADAC Formula Masters title, Daniel demonstrated that he is a true talent. He is ready to work hard for his success, prepared very well and also was physically fit. At the end of the day he made it and won the title. Should he continue working this way in Formula 3 it could become another good season, for him. Nonetheless, I don't regard him as a championship contender, this year. In 2011, however, he might be one of the contenders.
He still is very young and many great drivers, such as Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, have demonstrated that it takes two Formula 3 seasons at least. The Formula 3 scene is extremely tough and you mustn't make any mistakes. I expect Daniel to make it to the top five this year and possibly secure a podium finish every now and then.
What is the significance of the ATS Formula 3 Cup in German motor racing?
Kris Nissen: Today, the ATS Formula 3 Cup has reached a really high level. And this also applies to its teams and drivers. And when it comes to the organisation, the German Formula 3 Association does a very good job. At the same time, the makers of the series succeeded in keeping the costs on a reasonable level. That's really important today. Together with the teams, the series has found possibilities to make sure that funds don't necessarily result in on-track advantages.
The step from the ADAC Formula Masters to the Euro Series usually is too big and represents a too big financial effort. But the ATS Formula 3 Cup and the British Championship are two series that offer the chance of progressing step by step. I don't regard Great Britain as the right environment for German drivers - traditionally, the British Formula 3 is better suited to Britons as well as drivers from South and North America. And in Germany, the ATS Formula 3 Cup represents an important step on the way to the Formula 3 Euro Series.
What are the overall goals Volkswagen has set itself for the 2010 Formula 3 season?
Kris Nissen: It would be great if we could repeat the title successes in the German Cup and in Great Britain. But at the end of the day, the performance of the teams and drivers will be the crucial factor. We want to make it more often to the Formula 3 Euro Series podium than in the past - and we would love to replace ART as permanent winner. I have a lot of respect for the squad's performance but it would be good for the series if somebody else would make it to the very top, in the end.