British Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director) Adrian Newey (Red Bull chief technical officer) Sam Michael (Williams technical director) Pat Symonds (Renault executive director of ...
British Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with
Q: Adrian, how much influence are you having on the current car at Red Bull Racing?
Adrian Newey: Really, I'm just lending my experience from previous incarnations. Obviously the car was designed before I joined. I got involved a little bit in the cooling problems that the car had at the start of the season, and a bit in the set-up and so forth, but my main concentration is on next year's car and generally putting systems into place for the future.
Q: Is the pace of development with the current car quick enough to make up positions?
Adrian Newey: It's the usual thing. It's difficult to know because you don't know exactly how quickly everybody else is developing. Formula One -- it's the old cliché - it doesn't stand still. We're making progress but so is everybody else.
Q: Do you feel you can move forward?
Adrian Newey: I don't think we'll be winning races by the end of the year, I'm afraid.
Q: Would you regard this year as a bit of a holding year, then?
Adrian Newey: Red Bull is obviously a team that is arguably either in its second year or quite an established team, depending on whether you look at it as Red Bull or Jaguar. It has a lot of new people. I think that as is often the case, there is a settling down period. Last year's car was, I think it's fair to say, a slightly inherited car from the Jaguar days. There are some very good people there, and I think we have the basis of an extremely good team but it's going to take time for everybody to develop the relationships and embed into their new positions.
Q: Certainly David Coulthard was saying yesterday that's why he would like to stay with Red Bull because now's the time it's all beginning to come together.
Adrian Newey: Well that's good, isn't it.
Q: Sam, the team seemed to have slipped a little bit since the start of the season, although having said that, you had a good race in Monaco. Are there aerodynamic fixes in the pipeline and developments?
Sam Michael: I wouldn't have said we have slipped in terms of performance. We've had a lot of reliability issues which have come about through various changes in the place. But performance-wise, we've been within the top four teams on all lap times throughout practice and races since the start of the year. We obviously had a very competitive car in Monaco as well so I don't think you can say that was slipping in performance.
The main thing at the moment is to make sure we get on top of our reliability problems. There's two or three different areas that have been affected and we're in the middle of hopefully stamping those out. Unreliability is never a good thing but it does give you a very clear area to tackle and solve. It's quite difference to performance when you're dealing with five or six different parameters. It's always very difficult to gauge what you're good at and what you're not compared to the other teams. So that's the main area that we're focusing on at the moment.
Q: It has been suggested, as I mentioned to Mark yesterday, that the Toyota deal is done and dusted. Is that something that you're looking forward to, moving on with a factory engine?
Sam Michael: I can't really comment on that. Williams haven't decided what engine we're using in 2007 and it's not something that any decision has been made on and I can't comment on any deals with other manufacturers.
Q: Could you put into perspective the job that Cosworth is doing at the moment?
Sam Michael: Cosworth is doing a fantastic job. Because of the change from V10 to V8, it basically reset the base line for everybody. Although they had two or three problems during the year in the races that we've done so far, I think everybody's had their fair share with new engines. So far I would say that they've really done a good job. They're a fantastic group of people to work with, really good bunch of engineers, and I think that the latest rules have probably enabled them to get on terms with some big manufacturers, so yeah, they've done well.
Q: Ross, Bridgestone seem to have made a step forward in the last test at Barcelona. Is that something you envisage being carried forward to the future races?
Ross Brawn: It's not a specific step. They've been making good progress all year. I think last year we saw that we weren't competitive enough. A big effort was put into a redesign of the tyres and that was helped when Williams and Toyota came along because they were able to contribute to that, so really the big step was over the winter and now we have a better foundation and there are much more productive incremental steps going on all the time. At Barcelona there was a new compound which we are running here. The construction is still the same. But Bridgestone are making very good progress and I think it has been helped with the addition of Toyota and Williams to the input.
We are now able to go testing and be reasonably comfortable with Williams carrying out one programme and we carry out another programme and Toyota carry out a third programme and then we can put the information together. So the test programme is much more broadly based and I think it gives Bridgestone more confidence when they are getting information from two or three clients.
Q: Michael had a pretty torrid time in Monaco for whatever reasons; have you seen a change in his mood since then?
Ross Brawn: He's a pretty determined guy always, but I think his drive in Monaco, after all the events was exceptional. What went on affects people in different ways, but for him, it seemed to make him even more determined. That's where he seeks solace within the team and in his own performance. If it's possible for someone like Michael to be even more determined because he's already extremely determined then I think he is more determined to try to do well in the near future.
Q: Pat, I remember at the start of the season, Michael Schumacher said that the season was always going to be about the pace of development. Is that something that we're beginning to see between the two of you at the moment?
Pat Symonds: I think I said that as well. I'm not sure which of us said it first. It's nothing new is it? It's the case year after year. To have a good season, you've obviously got to start with a good car, you've got to get it running well, but thereafter, the pace of development is so high, so intense in Formula One that if you don't keep it up, you soon get overtaken. I think that this year it's very true. It was last year with our race with McLaren. It's the same with our race with Ferrari and McLaren and the others this year. I guess one thing that's slightly different this year is the fact that our main competitors are on a different tyre so it brings in another partner into that development race but it's nothing new, that's for sure.
Q: What about the points-scoring system? This 10-8-6 system means that it's almost impossible for Fernando to be overtaken even if Michael won every race and Fernando came second. Would you be in favour of a change, even if it might be to your disadvantage?
Pat Symonds: In some ways, I would. I always say that there's nothing wrong with any rule as long as we all play to the same rule. We go into a championship knowing what the rules are. The current points-scoring system does put an emphasis on reliability rather than outright speed. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do sometimes think that if there was a much bigger incremental points scoring system for championship positions, not just between first and second, but all the way down the line, it might be one of those things that would encourage a bit more overtaking.
Q: A question to all of you; the president of the FIA was sitting up there an hour or so ago, and he said that if all teams agreed, he would suggest a change in qualifying by reducing the final session to 15 minutes rather than the current fuel-burning exercise. Would you agree with that?
Pat Symonds: Well, Renault have made a couple of suggestions for minor improvements, I believe, minor improvements to the qualifying system. Included in that was a reduction in the final Q3 section, but it was also fundamental that the system of fuel credit was changed, that you went into Q3 with what you needed to complete the qualifying procedure as you wished to play it, plus your first stint.
Ross Brawn: I think there's a few options on the qualifying. First of all, I don't like seeing too many changes. I think things need to settle down, so we can take a proper assessment of what we have. We've been guilty in the past of making too many changes and I think that confuses the public and I think it's bad for Formula One. I hadn't realised, but talking to enthusiasts, they actually quite enjoy the current qualifying because they get to see cars going round. People come here to see cars going round, sometimes in the competition of qualifying but also they get a thrill out of watching cars going round. Somebody told me the other day that they think the current qualifying is fantastic, because at least they see cars going round for 15 laps, which they don't see on Friday morning, which they don't see all the time. So I think we just need to be careful about making changes too quickly before we fully understand what we have to do, and I think we have to come up with a set of changes which don't cause any disadvantage to the teams.
The big issue is that teams have different sized fuel cells and they've made different sized fuel tanks with their view of the regulations. Unfortunately, some of the proposals which were made maybe favoured people with a bigger or smaller fuel tanks and that's why it stalled. It became difficult to find a solution between the teams. So I'm just advocating taking it easy, not making changes too quickly. A change from 20 minutes to 15 minutes is not a big deal for us, it wouldn't make any difference to qualifying; it would be three or four laps less running around. So we mustn't do anything that changes the equilibrium of the size of fuel cell that you chose to have and the advantage and disadvantages of that.
Sam Michael: Similar comments to Ross. I think that what we've got now is so much better than what we've had for the last couple of years that I would probably be a bit nervous about changing anything because I've only heard positive feedback about it as well. I think the fuel burn thing is probably something we're getting a little bit obsessed with just inside the pit lane, but probably on television and outside, people who are watching Formula One don't think about that at all. I hadn't heard Max's proposal to reduce it from 20 to 15 minutes, to knock five minutes off I don't think that is a massive change.
What it would do is potentially pull the first stint slightly shorter because your first stint now is limited by... because you can do around 13 to 14 laps in qualifying, you will never see cars come into the pits under 13 or 14 laps, so if you knocked it down to 15 minutes, maybe that would drop to nine or ten laps so you could potentially shorten the first stint, which might make it more exciting but I haven't thought a great deal about that. My first point, I think, is that we're pretty close with we've got now and we should leave it alone because there are many other sports which try and change their rules and try and stay fixed with them for a time, so everyone understands them but I think that a small change like that is not a big deal.
Adrian Newey: It's one of those changes that doesn't really change how you go about a weekend, so it's up to the viewers, whether they would rather have a five minute shorter show and find that a bit dull, then fine, but if they don't, then leave it. If you want to see shorter fuel-burning and a bit more action, then possibly what you could do is change the tyre allocation so that the people in Q3 could use two sets and that way, OK, on the first runs they would have a bit more fuel on board but they couldn't be slow, they would have to have a go because they wouldn't know if they were going to be blocked on the second run. So you would see people doing two decent runs, rather than one fuel burning and one quick one.
Q: On the subject of the new qualifying format, it has been suggested by some of the drivers that even in Q3, the parc ferme rule be extended in a way that you have to bring the car back to the pits in order to have to have your times validated, which would save the embarrassment we had in Monaco, so I would like a comment from you all.
Sam Michael: Well, the first issue is if you have a mechanical failure on your way into the pits, it could be something simple like a wiring loom, or something that's very easily fixed for the race but then that means you're starting tenth because you have that time scrubbed, and maybe you were on pole position and that's probably quite unfair. I think the system that we've got now is fine.
Q: A question for Ross, first of all: Ross, we've got two high speed circuits coming up very shortly. Do you really need to be taking 20 points away from those races in order to get your championship back on track.
Ross Brawn: It wasn't so clear at the beginning of the season but we've been strong at all circuits. At the beginning of the year we had an engine problem at the second and third races. We chose the wrong tyre at the third or fourth race, I can't remember. So we didn't do a very good job but the car has been good at all circuits, so I fully expect it to be good in Canada, Indianapolis.
Regarding the points; you can argue the points system both ways, depending on what situation you're in. I'm sure Pat's very pleased with the points system the way it stands at the moment and wouldn't be so happy if he was where we stand, but that's natural. That's the system we want to work with and that's the system that exists. We've had years when we managed to build a good lead. What would be ideal for us is obviously a DNF for Fernando, not wishing it on him too strongly but it would be nice if he didn't finish one race because that would just reset the championship enormously. If both drivers finish, then it's going to be a very hard slog for us for the rest of the year. We've really given Renault too good a head start and we're going to have to work very hard to get that back. It's never over until it's mathematically impossible and I think there's still a very strong championship ahead of all of us.
Q: And for the rest of you, the Ferrari seems to be one of the more aerodynamically efficient cars on the grid. Would you expect them to be strong on the two circuits?
Ross Brawn: We have a good engine, and I think we have a very efficient car, and when we looked at where we were last year... what tends to happen is that the teams pick a drag level to try and optimise their car around and I think last year we got it slightly wrong, the drag level which we optimised our car around. We've optimised our car this year around a different drag level, knowing what the V8 output would be, and our whole group focused on efficiency around that drag level. Now I know you can say everybody's doing that, but it was a slight change for us, because last year, we were just looking for downforce regardless of efficiency, and at the end of the day, it probably wasn't the right approach. There were times when we suffered because of it and partway through last year we changed our philosophy and this is the car that we have, so it is a very efficient car with a good engine.
Pat Symonds: Yes, the Ferrari is an efficient car with a good engine and so is the Renault. At circuits like Barcelona and indeed here, where you can see that there's more of a trade-off in other places and I think we are both equally competitive, and I don't think there's anything much to chose between the cars.
Adrian Newey: No, not particularly. I imagine that we're just going to be watching with interest from slightly further back and seeing how it develops.
Q: Ross, you just mentioned the problem you had with the engine in races two and three. What if you had been in 2008 already and you had your engine design frozen under the Max Mosley proposed regulation applicable then?
Ross Brawn: It's a very strong move but it's got good motives behind it, I think, to freeze the engines, or as they prefer, homologate the engines as they stand now. It is a very brave move but there's a lot of sense behind it in terms of trying to contain the costs. I think there was some discussion -- I know there was some discussion about trying to just free it up a little bit in a cost-effective way to allow some areas for the engineers to work in which were economic, perhaps where areas which were not proportional to the amount of money you spend but areas where you could see genuine innovation and the application of clever engineering. That started with the so-called Maranello discussions which involved Renault, Cosworth and Ferrari, and I think that was fairly sensible but then, as that got expanded out into other teams it just kept going on and on and on and the scope or the freedom that was requested from the engine suppliers just got to a level where nothing was being achieved again so I think the FIA have said no, stop, we're going back to square one again, and this is what you're going to have.
Maybe, there is still some room for negotiation but I think that we were so far away from what was trying to be achieved, it wasn't achieving very much and I can see why Max has said no, this is enough. We're going to go back to rules that we already have because we only considered changing the rules if there was a better proposal. I tend to agree with him that it was heading off in a direction that was no longer logical because there were things that were frozen and things that were free and we really weren't saving very much money over what we're spending now.
Q: Question for Adrian, Adrian your reputation preceded you at Red Bull; do you think we can see any major step forwards for the team?
Adrian Newey: In the near future no. Over the course of the current seasons, I would hope yes, otherwise I wouldn't be here. Funnily enough, the frozen engine regulations which we've just spoken about helps a privateer team significantly because under the current engine regulations, for a privateer team it's potentially very expensive to go off and purchase an engine from another supplier. Plus there's always a danger it will end up one or two specifications behind. It takes that out, so certainly from our perspective I think that what's happened there has been very good and helpful. A privateer team hasn't been successful in Formula One for some time but I don't see any fundamental stumbling blocks why it shouldn't be in the future and that's what we're out to try and do.
Q: Pat and Sam, do you share the sentiment of what Ross has said about what Max is trying to implement with engine homologation?
Pat Symonds: Yes I do. The homologated engine is quite a complex subject and certainly an emotive subject. It's not the way we've gone racing before, it is very different, but when teams are spending 120 million Euros a year to develop engines, it's very, very significant and its becoming more and more difficult to find the money to pay for that and indeed to justify it even if we have got the money. The long-term homologated engines can halve that budget with no problems at all, and while, as an engineer, I like the idea of the Maranello agreement, or something close to the Maranello agreement, it is still going to cost about 15, maybe even 20 million Euros more than the total homologated engine -- and that is a significant amount of money. It's not just an amount of money that you can just ignore. I think what we need to do is we need to look ahead a long way because we cannot have a homologation that lasts for 20 years, 30 years.
Somewhere along the line, we break out of this agreement or this rule and we need to be careful that we handle that well, so I think the right thing to do at the moment is to put a full homologation on the engines for two, three, four years, whatever, but we need to think very carefully about what we do at the end of that. If we then allow a totally new engine with, say, a five year homologation period, we could find that as we came to design the engine, we've actually got no-one there to design it. We need to think about things like that. That was one of the intentions of the Maranello discussions and as I say, that costs a lot of money and we need to think about that in other ways. Now is the time to look and in my mind the only thing we can do is go for a reasonable period of fixed homologation.
Sam Michael: I think I agree with what Pat said. There is a middle ground. I think total homologation at this stage, hopefully there will be some discussion over that. I think Max has laid down the law to allow some freedom in certain areas; I do take the point of the engineers, because if you do have total homologation, they will go and do different things because otherwise there wouldn't be any work for them to do, so it does have to be a finite time period, which was where a 12 month homologation was interesting. But, you do have the other side where you have to make a decision at some point. If you look at the chassis, there's lots of things that...if you look at our technical rules, they run 50 to 55 pages long and for years there's only been three or four pages on engines, gearboxes and everything else,, so, coming from a team, we're quite used to that kind of restriction on all different parts of the chassis.
I think that it will be probably quite difficult for the engine guys to deal with it because it's not something they've had to deal with before. For years, it was literally a capacity thing, and for the last seven or eight years the cylinders too. It was relatively free compared to the rest of the car, so that's probably why there's been such a fuss kicked up now, but I'm quite sure that in a year's time, we'll look back and it won't be the same sort of issue as it is now. I gather this morning Max raised the issue of some of the other areas that manufacturers could invest in, and I can imagine that's obviously geared towards appeasing some of those manufacturers.
Q: Ross, you said you have an efficient engine. Do you think you have the upper hand over Renault in this particular area and do you think it will allow you to run more downforce at this race?
Ross Brawn: We have an engine that's competitive, I don't know if it's better or worse than Renault. As well as just horsepower there are all sorts of other factors that are relevant in assessing engines: fuel efficiency, driveability, low-down torque which is very important for the starts, and it's not easy to compare engines directly. We've just got to be looking at different cars. We're running more downforce than in previous races and looking at Renault they are using less downforce than in previous races, so it's interesting that they've sought a different compromise. They have the benefit of having more testing here, but today they're running...all the teams do a simulation and from that they produce a curve to find an optimum, and because we hadn't tested here before, we expected the track to be a little bit more slippery so we thought the high-downforce set-up was more optimum, and perhaps we'll come back a little stronger tomorrow. Around the downforce, we do simulations to tell us what's the most efficient in terms of the engine and the aerodynamic package we have, and it ends up where it ends up. We're running a little bit more downforce than we've perhaps run at previous tracks.
Q: To all of you, as technical directors, how do you entertain the idea of a single tyre in the near future? Does it take some fun away?
Pat Symonds: Does it take the fun away? I hope not. It does take some of the interest away. To us, it's an absolutely fascinating thing, certainly working with a tyre manufacturer as professional and as good as Michelin has been very exciting. We've learned a lot and we've worked together a lot. It's been fun and I have enjoyed it. I do like the spirit of competition that it engenders. Having said that, it's it is a very, very, very expensive thing to do. In entails us doing an awful lot of testing and you know testing itself costs a lot of money, so there's something to be said for getting rid of that. Of course, it may possible make closer racing because it takes out one of the variables between cars. I think in our fight with Ferrari this year, one of the interesting things is the Bridgestone-Michelin battle, but maybe it would be a better battle if we were both on the same tyre. So there are pluses and minuses. From a personal point of view, I'm very sorry that we're going to a single tyre because I really enjoy working with the tyre manufacturers, but overall for the sport, it's probably not a bad thing.
Adrian Newey: I think it's certainly true to say the tyre war has been phenomenally expensive, not just for tyre manufacturers, but for the teams themselves. As Pat said, the amount of testing that's required to properly contribute to a tyre programme is enormous. For the top teams, 50 per cent of all the testing they do is tyre testing, and so I think in that sense it's a bonus, but in some respects that has to be a reason. Testing could have been restricted in some way and tyre testing in particular. I think that pitfall could have been avoided. If you have a situation where one tyre manufacturer is entirely dominant over a season, it can be quite dull, and certainly the Ferrari-Bridgestone combination a couple or three years ago was particularly dominant. I don't know if it was the tyre, but the car and tyre combination was so good that nobody else got close that year.
This year, it has been one of the fascinating things, especially as Pat was saying, it can see-saw every race, dependant on whether Bridgestone or Michelin has the upper hand at a particular race, and that adds a fascination to the championship. I suppose the other thing really is just to make sure that all the teams can have -- those who are a bit disadvantaged won't be by a single manufacturer - in many ways it would be nice next year if we could go back to slicks, because then we'd be starting from a fresh setting, which has happened before of course, when Goodyear pulled out and Bridgestone supplied the whole grid for a couple of years, so it's not a big deal.
Sam Michael: I think, as an engineer, as Pat said, it's very interesting to work with tyre manufacturers. It's not that we won't be working with the tyre manufacturers any more, because you'll still try to get the best out of your tyres, you just won't have the intense battle in searching for that extra couple of tenths or testing 15 compounds at a test day to try to search for that extra couple of tenths. There's no question that for Formula One this is the right thing because purely this is based on costs and now it's such good mileage, the teams do 50,000 plus kilometres a year, and before the tyre war you could get away with 20,000 each year, and you'd all turn up at a race with the same tyres as each other. If you go back to '98 or'99, there were teams like Jordan and Sauber who could win races because they didn't have to do the same intense development as the big teams, but they still turned up at the racetrack with the same compounds available to them as everyone else. I don't think you can under-estimate that.
At the moment, the tyre testing we do comes to about 60 percent of all our testing. You have to do that because there's so much lap time in it, but it doesn't mean that you'll necessarily have a linear reduction in tyre testing onto the amount of tyre testing you have at the moment, but it means you'll have extra things that you test. Instead of testing a new compound, which is three or four tenths quicker, you'll test a different set-up with an electronic settings or on the diffs or the traction control, so there are things that are definitely second order behind tyre grip, so I think that it will make quite a big difference next year just in terms of competitiveness of the teams. If you look back to 1998 or 1999 and the racing was still good. It was good, good tyre period as well which led to good racing, actually, I think it was '99-2000. Yeah it was.
Ross Brawn: I think as an engineer it's been a fantastic competition. It can be very frustrating but it can also be very rewarding, but it is a huge commitment to provide tyres. The cost involved and the time involved, for us, it was very difficult to come to a test agreement because of the huge commitment from Bridgestone to try and test and develop the tyres, but I think it just changes the priority because currently if we have a certain imbalance with the car and certain issues we want to try to address to try and develop the tyres to try and solve those problems. It can be a little more technical because if you want to then fix an imbalance you have to fix the car instead of the tyres and then it just changes things. You can argue about the domination both ways a bit more because if somebody become dominant with their car on a control tyre, then that's very difficult to catch up than if a team that's dominant because they have the best tyres. It does save money for the teams but it also means there's less money coming into Formula One because there's less money coming in from Bridgestone and Michelin and so the whole situation changes.
In terms of advantage/disadvantage, I think we are a team who had to adapt to Bridgestone tyres when Goodyear pulled out and I think now there's teams who will have to adapt to Bridgestones next year because of Michelin's decision to withdraw, not the FIA's not Ferrari's and not any of the Bridgestone teams. We will be more familiar with the tyres next year. If we don't do a good job then it won't matter too much, but if we don't do a good job, it will show because other teams will have to gain that experience Bridgestone are gonna step back two or three stages because our current tyres are very expensive to produce and I don't think they want to spend that sort of money unnecessarily, and from 2008, we'll have the issue of the control tyre and I think that for 2008 it will re-set the reference again. We'll have slick tyres, different size tyres, everyone will be starting again, but I have to say I think Ferrari and Toyota and Williams will all have a benefit because of the relationship they have with Bridgestone next year.
Q: Adrian, do you think, if you do change to Bridgestones, three will be a significant advantage to the Bridgestone runners?
Adrian Newey: Assuming that does happen, then first of all it depends how closely related the tyre is to the current one. Certainly, when Goodyear pulled out at the end of 1999 I think, Bridgestone stepped back significantly in their construction. Certainly with us at McLaren, it threw us out more at the time than the teams that were coming in cold because the rear construction that Bridgetsone produced was much weaker and that was contrary to the tyre that we'd designed. That wrong-footed us for a short period. If Bridgestone give all the current Michelin teams some good tyre data, in terms of how we should be using the tyre, then that will obviously reduce the benefit. For every circuit there'll be a data bank that the current Bridgestone teams have that should, on balance, help them in the current. In terms of the moving over, I have absolutely no idea.
Pat Symonds: As Ross said Bridgestone will step back a little bit in terms of construction and I think also there'd be a limited range of compounds. I think the current Bridgestone teams will have some advantage. Maybe not as much as one might think. There's no doubt that drivers have to get used to the different characteristics of the new tyres and we've had drivers come to us who have had to get used to Bridgestones and to driving on a different tyre. As teams, our knowledge of tyres and the tools we are using to try to analyse and understand tyres has moved on an awful lot from when we last had a tyre change in our team and I think that can only help us, but, as Adrian said, a lot will depend on the amount of information available from Bridgetsone. We certainly do a lot of really quite fundamental research with Michelin. It's possible, in fact it's likely that that level of co-operation will no longer be there because it won't be quite so necessary. But I really do think that after a short while, that's the testing period at the start of the season -- it may be a bit longer than that -- but certainly after a short while I think we can get on a pretty even footing again.
Q: For Adrian, can we expect Red Bull to make a big step forward soon and also, do you want to keep David Coulthard in the team next year?
Adrian Newey: Taking those in order, I don't know, but that will be the answer of whatever team I was in I think, because it's very difficult to forecast these things obviously. Working very hard, and we just have to do a better job to the best of our ability and resources and we'll see where we end up. As far as DC goes, David is a tremendous chap and it would be great to have him on the team and we've got to talk about drivers at some point in the near future but at the moment we're concentrating on our long-term plans and we'll get down to drivers in the near future.