Belgian GP: Friday press conference

Belgian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director) John Howett (Toyota Motorsport GmbH president) Sam Michael (Williams tecnical director) Geoff Willis (BAR technical director) Hiroshi...

Belgian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with

Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin motorsport director)
John Howett (Toyota Motorsport GmbH president)
Sam Michael (Williams tecnical director)
Geoff Willis (BAR technical director)
Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone motorsport director)

Q: Firstly, a question to the two tyre manufacturers: what do you think of the tyre regulations proposed for next year?

Pierre Dupasquier: I don't think we have feelings about tyre regulations. We had a feeling on the fact that when the FIA said that they wanted to go to a unique manufacturer we believed that it was probably not the best idea. Firstly, I think Formula One, like NASCAR, like Formula 3000 with one tyre manufacturer, you begin to cut competition in different aspects in the car racing. It begins to be different. It works: good spectacle, good show, good driving, good races, but it's not the same thing. There is a flavour for Formula One which comes from, we believe, all those competitions at every level. Secondly, we don't like too much to produce 20,000 tyres in the winter time and send them by FedEx to the Grands Prix. It doesn't make sense. It is just supplying tyres, fine, but it's not development, it's not having a headache on Friday night because we don't know what to choose from and so on so we try to find a proposal that achieved the goals of Max (Mosley, FIA President) because we feel it's good, it makes sense. But at the same time, it makes competition, so we make the offer that if you ask us, you force us to offer a tyre that lasts longer, the need for the number of tyres will be less and performance will be slower, definitely. So, now it is not up to us to say one set, two sets, three sets, four sets or whatever. The regulation has to be written down by them but the idea has to be written down by them, but the idea was to gain alternatives, opportunities to have competition between tyres and at the same time having a constraint in the product itself even in the competition environment, which makes it slower. The construction of tyres comes mainly from testing, but since nobody wants to touch testing, so there's not a great hope about it, but that's what it is.

Hiroshi Yasukawa: We are very appreciative about these regulations. First of all, as we mentioned, because both of our companies can stay in Formula One. This is one of the most important things, I believe. And also three sets is a very new challenge for our companies but if we are concerned cost-wise and laptime-wise, I think we have to accept this situation. Of course we have to produce very long-life tyres which means around 350 kms which is a new challenge. This is also very interesting.

Q: Pierre, I believe you came up with a new idea which you put before the FIA which they turned down. Can you just explain what it was, about possibly changing manufacturers?

Pierre Dupasquier: It was just a way to express our attitude, our position in racing. We want to do the best we can, to compare what we are doing to our competitors. The teams are not competitors for us, but the other tyre manufacturer is a competition so the true competition is between tyre manufacturers for us. And any opportunity we can have to see where we are, see if we are doing a good job or a bad job, and to understand more, we welcome it. And this could go as far as, for example, having like for brakes, for example: a tyre that could be made available to everybody. NASCAR did it during the war between Goodyear and Hoosier. The guys had all the tyres available, they selected and then Leo Mehl from Goodyear told me it was the most expensive thing in his life because he had to produce tyres for everybody, for each race and if didn't work then he had to drop the tyres. But it can be done physically. Obviously in Formula One we get the contract together, we get the link between companies and tyre manufacturers which is important. So it may not be realistic but technically we would like it very much.

Q: So that was the idea Pierre Dupasquier put forward; what did you think of that Hiroshi?

Hiroshi Yasukawa: I think one of them is a compromise. We have to accept these situations. Then I think this idea is not so bad and we are going to challenge and produce good tyres.

Q: What do you think of the idea of the teams swapping manufacturers?

Hiroshi Yasukawa: No, no, no, no... We have to respect what is in our contract.

Q: Sam, first of all what is the Pizzonia situation and what have you thought of his performance recently?

Sam Michael: He's done a very good job actually. At the last race, he qualified very well. The only problem was he had a poor start at the beginning which cost him a lot of places. If he hadn't had that poor start, I'm quite sure he would have been pushing and fighting with Juan Pablo for the whole race, so he didn't do himself anyway favours not coming off the line. But he has been working hard on that as he did before Hungary as well and he's improved again since Hungary so we are hoping that if he can get off the line again here, he can have a very strong race. But his race pace has been good. At his very first Grand Prix back at Hockenheim, his qualifying was poor but he improved that at Budapest and every time he runs new tyres now he's there all the time, so I think it was just the fact that he spent 12 months out of qualifying so far he's done a fantastic job.

Q: So what's the situation now with Ralf Schumacher?

Sam Michael: Ralf is due for another medical next week before the Monza test and if he passes that medical test then he will test in Monza for three days and if he's OK during that test then he has to re-sit a medical with Sid Watkins and if the FIA are happy he can race in the Monza Grand Prix. That's what will happen.

Q: And Antonio Pizzonia's future with you guys?

Sam Michael: He has got a testing contract with us which we will be happy to continue with him. There's no question mark over that. But obviously he's expressed his interest to try and get a race seat as well so we'll just have to play that one out over the next three or four months.

Q: John Howett, can you first of all tell us what happened to Ryan Briscoe today?

John Howett: As far as we understand, he picked up a puncture and just had some deflation coming through the corner and lost the car. Thankfully he's OK, he's gone to the hospital just to check up on his arm, some bruising, but thankfully no problem at all.

Q: Recently the team has let go a number of people: Ange Pasquali, for example, Norbert Kreyer, even Cristiano da Matta to some extent. One always talks about stabilising a team and the former two, in particular, were people who had been a part of the team for a long time. Isn't that de-stabilising the team a little bit?

John Howett: I think for us it was very tough decisions, honestly, particularly because Norbert did a fantastic job for Toyota in the rally period, Le Mans and also Formula One and similarly Ange. I think the reason we are doing it is to actually shorten the lines of communication, to really lean down the organisation and to become much more agile, particularly at the track to react to the decisions we need to make.

Q: What about Olivier Panis; he's a guy who has been around for a long time and held with a certain amount of affection within the press. What chances has he got of staying because one always hears that Jarno Trulli is coming to the team?

John Howett: One of the reasons, I think, that we gave the opportunity to Ricardo was also to study, seriously, who we should sit next to Ralf next year. We haven't really reached a final decision. It's clear we are talking to Olivier, we are talking to some other drivers in the paddock and we are also talking to Oliver about staying with Toyota in other capacities as well as race driving. But he's still, I think, as demonstrated today, pretty quick with the equipment that we are currently able to provide.

Q: Geoff, first of all, Enrique Bernoldi seems to be a rather strange choice to some people as a test driver. Can you tell us the thinking behind it?

Geoff Willis: We had a specific requirement for a second test driver towards the end of the season, particularly between the fly-away races: Shanghai, Suzuka. The split is not when we want to bring the race drivers back to Europe. We have a very busy test programme 'til the end of the season and we were looking for an experienced driver to work through some very specific programmes for us and Enrique fits the bill of what we need. He's actually been running today in a small shakedown test and will be running next week and at the Jerez test later on in the year.

Q: Now secondly the driver selection process: how much does that affect you? How much do you have an interest in that, influence in that?

Geoff Willis: That's a three-part question, quite complicated. Certainly the driver selection is important, and yes I do have an involvement and yes I do have influence in it, although right at the moment it's not the primary task. We have a big set of rule changes for next year and fundamentally my task is to make sure we design and operate a quick car and do so as efficiently as possible so I wouldn't say it's a secondary issue but it's not my primary task.

Q: Just coming to this circuit, what sort of loads are there through Eau Rouge?

Geoff Willis: It is still a fairly intimidating corner. For the driver, there's not much room if anything goes wrong. It's much more consistently taken flat now. The grip levels are just going up and up and the load levels on the cars are going up as the tyres get better and as the aerodynamics on the cars get better. Certainly it's still a pretty challenging circuit and we see, in some places on this circuit, some very high loads, some of the highest loads during the year.

Q: With the rule changes for next year, would Eau Rouge become more of a challenging corner again?

Geoff Willis: I think it is always a challenge. It's probably psychological as much as physically. Certainly the regulation changes for next year will slow the cars down. We don't know yet quite how much. We know what the target is and clearly we will all be working very hard to try and recover some of that loss in performance. Spa is towards the end of next year, if it's next year. I think the cars will be a little bit slower but not substantially.

Q: Will they have less grip I suppose is the question?

Geoff Willis: Certainly they will have less grip. There is a big margin of grip at the moment, so I'm not sure at the moment whether they will drop outside that.

Q: A question for Pierre Dupasquier. Because of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher's wins, many people don't believe in Michelin's opportunities - it is not easy for you. If you could, which way would you ask (unclear) for tomorrow?

Pierre Dupasquier: I think a request for the analyst is a very close look on the facts to see what is going on. I was mentioning this morning, talking about the rain tyres for example, with a normal rain test, because it was raining in Mugello some time ago...we had Button, Barrichello and Zonta and those three guys were running at the same time on the same lap and between our two cars there were four seconds per lap difference with the same tyre in the same lap. The differences could be huge with the same tyre according to circumstances, to the car, to the lap. It is very difficult so we just do our job the best we can and we don't care about the racing results unfortunately. We have to do it this way.

Q: I have a question for John Howett. Can you maybe specify the current situation with Cristiano Da Matta? Is he still involved as a driver especially for Ricardo and Ryan or is he more in the background and staying more or less quiet at the moment?

John Howett: Cristiano has a contract until the end of the year. He may be called back to do more work testing or racing. At the moment we would like to give Ryan some opportunity, he has come through the Toyota Drivers' Academy, and we want to give Ricardo three or four races to really see how he can get back into the groove and deliver. But certainly Cristiano is still contracted to us and should we require it we would consider asking him to come back and do some work for us.

Q: There was a meeting in Hungary of the Technical Working Group to almost finalise the rules for next year. We've got a deadline of September 6 to put a package together. Are you confident that what you have got now is what will be forwarded to the FIA or will there be more changes and more tweaks? Are you now designing your cars to the regulations that you have in your mind?

Geoff Willis: As I understand the situation, one of the purposes of the Technical Working Group meeting on the 6th was to see whether there was another proposal that would get 80 percent minimum agreement from the teams to go to the FIA for consideration for next year, and no there wasn't in the sense that the majority of teams want to keep with the set of rules that have been proposed. There are however a couple of areas where there was some discussion about possible changes. I think the general consensus is that we need a set of rules to be fixed now, in fact we needed them fixed four months ago. So even though they are not all that comfortable for us, we would much prefer just to know what rules we are designing next year's cars to and stick to them. There is a possibility of a clarification, two further small changes, but fundamentally the regulations that were issued on the 16th of July, with a few corrections, will be the regulations we build the cars to next year.

Sam Michael: It's the same as Geoff's.

Q: John, do you consider for next year to supply engines to a second team?

John Howett: It's the thousand-dollar question. I think our position remains fairly consistent that if there is a real need to supply, in other words a true crisis in Formula One of engine supply, and if we are given the capacity to do it, so the two-race engine is defined, then we will definitely consider doing it. I think we also have to consider the possible future change in 2006 and I think we are comfortable that we can build either a V10 or a V8. The fundamental concern for Toyota is retention of technology. If some of the regulations that are proposed go into place we have to find some substitute materials and some substitute technology which will cost us money and resource. But I think we remain consistent that given the right circumstances and the necessity and provided we have the capacity then we would consider supplying. But we have to wait and see until everything is finalised.

Q: As you may know, last month F1 Racing ran a news story in the news section basically a new qualifying proposal from Tony Purnell involving sprint races and a draw and all that sort of stuff. Could I just ask what each of you think of that proposal?

Sam Michael: I'm not that keen on it to be honest. I'm quite happy with the practice and qualifying we have now. I think it is a good idea to keep that stable for some time. It doesn't really fit with the tyre regulations for next year so it means we have to revisit all the single tyres for the race situation because there is not enough tyres to go round for the weekend. To go and do a 10-lap race, if you are talking about a race that starts with a standing start, you are probably only carrying 25-30 kilos of fuel at some tracks. So you are unlikely to see any overtaking, you've got three times the risk or damaging parts so you are much more likely to have cars wrecked by Friday or Saturday because the risks in the race are much higher than they are on Friday and Saturday so that is my opinion on it.

John Howett: I think the key point is we need to satisfy the public. From my product background in car production, if you ask a customer would you like this as a product very often they can't give you a straight and correct answer. So what we need to understand is clearly what are the key points that the public want to see? Do they want to see flat out qualifying with light fuel? Do they want to see overtaking from the back with the fastest driver coming through the rear? What are the key ingredients that they wish to see? Then I think shall we say regular FIA authority and some of the teams should decide the format that will deliver those key points. I think we can all come up with suggestions which aren't constructive or helpful. I think Toyota's position is we will compete in whatever series or format that is defined and I think what we need to do is somebody needs to clarify what are the key drivers to success and then people can define the qualifying format. I think the suggestion sometimes of a fixed solution isn't constructive or making a focused final conclusion.

Geoff Willis: There are several points here. Sam has outlined most of the criticisms that the teams would have of it, some specific issues about running the cars and the tyres etc. The other thing we should consider is that big changes to qualifying don't change the sporting regulation, but it does have quite a big technical knock-on into the design of the car and the fuel capacity of the car. But we shouldn't get around the fact that qualifying is part of the whole race weekend and apart from the two-leg qualifying being a little too long for a TV slot, the big issue is the nature of racing and overtaking. We've seen quite clearly with Hockenheim followed by Hungary that the qualifying doesn't control the racing, the circuit does. The technical regulations don't control the racing, the circuit does. Simply we just need the right sort of circuit design so we know how to demonstrate the same cars, the tyres, drivers at two different races. If we focus back on qualifying as a spectacle, certainly I'm keen, and I'm sure all the other engineers in the pit-lane are, to have a showcase comparing how fast the cars are. I think we now understand the race fuel in car qualifying format and I'm sure we can come up with a way of having one of those based on the reverse of the previous race results. Two rounds of it is probably not sufficiently interesting enough to keep people's focus for the whole of a two-hour period, but one round of it is what most of the teams would like to continue with. To follow what John said, clearly we will race in whatever set of challenges we are given.

Pierre Dupasquier: If the spec of the qualifying may change, need for tyres would be different. When we are talking about one, two or three sets per weekend, if we need three sets for qualifying it would be different. Otherwise I would say as has been said. The event of the weekend is the race, qualifying is supposed to either set up the pace of the cars or to build up race conditions to give the public a real race.

Q: Jacques Villeneuve has been quoted as saying he wants to come back to BAR next year, that he can patch up the differences with the team and slot right back in. How do you feel about that?

Geoff Willis: Well you are completely correct that Jacques spoke to me, phoned me several times, has spoken to David Richards and other people at BAT. He is certainly very keen and enthusiastic for getting back into a car. But really that is probably the end of any comments I will make. Clearly our driver line-up for next year is not something that should be discussed and debated in public. It is something for the team to work out and we will see what comes next year.

Q: Geoff, after Hockenheim the front suspension you were running on the cars was banned and the appeal was lost. Are you planning to run that in any other kind of shape or form or will it come back next year?

Geoff Willis: If you will excuse me for being fairly short on that one but I think it is a simple no comment on it at the moment is all I can offer.

Q: John you talk about streamlining the lines of communication. In Canada when you have the brake duct disqualification you guys were going to file a protest I believe but didn't get it in time. Did you have to go back to Japan when discussing that, whether to file a protest and so on?

John Howett: There seems to be a misconception that we are totally controlled from Japan and definitely that is not the case. I think we make a lot of the decisions in Germany. We get approval for certain action, major actions, capital investment or probably future driver line-up, but the decision is normally made in Germany. Toyota really believes that the people building the cars know better how to build a better car, because they do it every day, than the plant director. So the policy is to delegate responsibility through the chain and that is why we streamlined because I think we have capable people doing jobs who don't need a hierarchy of upper management and certainly we have a lot of autonomy and we are accountable and responsible with that autonomy. In Canada that was nothing to do with it. That was a team issue and we didn't do it quickly enough and that is our fault, no discussion.

Q: John, how is the B-spec car going after the first few races?

John Howett: I think we are pleased that the work we have done changing the wind tunnel really from Mike's arrival has actually delivered the predicted results on track. What we saw in the wind tunnel we actually got on the track. Obviously in terms of our passion and aspiration to become a challenger towards to top or podium position we've got a lot more work to do. But we are pleased that we see the efficiency and effectiveness of the wind tunnel. The speed at which our engineers produced that B-spec car is quite position. So if you look behind the façade of the track performance at the moment we see a lot of improvement within the organisational team and use of the wind tunnel as an effective tool. I think we would have liked more, I wouldn't like to avoid that, but I think when we look at the results we saw in the wind tunnel probably with the results we are getting on the track are probably in line with that.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Ralf Schumacher , Antonio Pizzonia , Enrique Bernoldi , Michael Schumacher , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Ryan Briscoe , Geoff Willis , David Richards , Hiroshi Yasukawa , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Ferrari , Williams