Andrew Shovlin, senior race engineer on Jenson Button's Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, has set his sights on winning. Q: With Jenson regularly on the F1 podium and holding third in the drivers' championship, this season must have already exceeded all...
Andrew Shovlin, senior race engineer on Jenson Button's Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, has set his sights on winning.
Q: With Jenson regularly on the F1 podium and holding third in the drivers' championship, this season must have already exceeded all your original expectations?
Andrew Shovlin: Absolutely, none of us would ever have imagined we'd make such a strong start. But, as you get these results, so your expectations and ambitions are raised - now we're looking for our first win. While we're happy with what's been achieved, we are always looking to make that next step.
Q: So where is this 'next step' going to come from?
AS: We are working very hard to keep improving the car, the drivers are working hard to get the best out of themselves and we're all working very closely with Michelin to improve the tyres. To be honest, we were all a bit disappointed not to be the first Michelin team to win a race this year; we thought we would do that. But hopefully we'll be the next Michelin team to win a race.
Q: Could that be in Canada or America?
AS: The trouble is that Ferrari and Bridgestone are very strong at the moment. However, we are looking at every race as an opportunity and we have got some developments coming for these two races so, hopefully, we can lift ourselves clear from the other Michelin teams and start taking on Ferrari. Without wanting to sound blas?, finishing on the lower steps of the podium is becoming less and less exciting than it was the first time in Malaysia. We are looking for that first win and we'll keep going to every race focused on doing that. If we finish on the podium that's okay but obviously we'll not give up until we're winning races.
Q: How has Jenson changed now he's team leader at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda?
AS: He's settled in really well. I think when Jacques was around he always took a bit of a back seat but he's stepped up to team leader admirably. He's been consistent all year and seems quite relaxed within himself, which is good.
Q: What exactly does your role of 'senior race engineer' involve?
AS: I'm in charge of Jenson's car and therefore responsible for everything on it. From an engineering perspective that means managing the tyres, managing the race strategy, finalising the set-up, analysing the data? basically the race engineer is responsible for working with the driver to get the best result for the team.
Q: As far as the team is concerned, will you be happy to finish third behind Ferrari and Renault among the F1 constructors or is second place a realistic target?
AS: Seasons aren't fun unless you've got something to fight for. Clearly Renault is quite a strong competitor but we can catch them and we can beat them. The car we have is quicker than the Renault, it's really just a case of us getting the reliability together and getting some good results with both of the cars. If we finish third, people will think we've done a reasonable job but I don't think we'll be happy unless we finish second.
Q: Touch wood, so far this season Jenson has enjoyed perfect reliability, you must be pleased with that?
AS: Yes. The fact we've scored points in every race - and good points in some races - is a major factor behind his championship position. However, unluckily Taku has missed out in a few races. You need reliability to do well when you're competing with teams like Renault and Ferrari who have almost faultless reliability. Unless you're matching them, it's not good enough. We are working hard in that area because we recognise that's where our results are going to come from, perhaps more than making the car faster.
Q: What can you do to ensure both cars finish?
AS: We are always putting even more work into testing and proving everything before the races. Honda is working extremely hard in those areas, too. You can never do too much testing and it's always an unusual failure that catches you out - may be running at a different circuit in different operating conditions produces a unique and unpredictable failure. There are always things to catch you out. We have improved but the levels at which the top teams are operating is almost perfection.
If you go back a few years cars were breaking down and blowing up - teams didn't expect to get both drivers to the finish in all races. But that's not the case any more. As I say we've made significant progress but so has the rest of the grid.
Q: How much help do you get from running an extra chassis for Anthony Davidson during Friday's free practice sessions?
AS: We are obviously very fortunate to have that third car. More so as we're new to Michelin tyres this year and have an awful lot of learning to do. So it's been a huge benefit. Anthony has really developed as a test driver; he's done more miles in the car, he is getting quicker and quicker and, technically, he's more in tune with what's going on.
Where we've been strong is that we've got three drivers who work really well together. For instance, we now have to make the tyre choice for a Grand Prix on a Friday; the three of them will sit down together with no egos involved and talk through the options. We need to make the most of Anthony while we can and maximise every advantage we've got.