European GP: Friday press conference

Present: Ove Anderson (Toyota vice chairman and team principal) Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director) Peter Sauber (Sauber team principal) Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director) Otmar Szafnauer (Honda Racing vice president) Q: The first...

Ove Anderson (Toyota vice chairman and team principal)
Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director)
Peter Sauber (Sauber team principal)
Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director)
Otmar Szafnauer (Honda Racing vice president)

Q: The first question I'd like to ask is to the engine manufacturers, regarding their situation with customer engines.

Otmar Szafnauer: Honda have supplied customer engines in the past as you know, just the recent past, as well as in many of our other formulas as well - 'bikes, IRL, CART - so we're not against or afraid to supply customer engines. However, our focus in Formula One, having said that, is to stay with one team in the short term. We want to help Formula One and we think the best way we can help Formula One is to have the one team we're with become more competitive. So in the short-term, we're looking at staying with one team and making that team as competitive as we can to help Formula One as a whole.

Q: So you won't be able to supply customer engines, say, for next year?

OS: We have no plan at this time to supply customer engines for next year.

Ove Andersson: Well, we have said that if it will help Formula One we will study to supply engines from 2005 so, clearly, if someone wants to have our engines from that time and it will be positive for helping Formula One we will do it.

Q: Do you think you can do that for what is a commercial price?

OA: Yeah. We can do it for a commercial price but you cannot set this price until you understand what kind of package you have to supply for a team. I mean there are many, many different kinds of service and that needs to be decided first, I think, and then the price can be decided afterwards.

Q: Norbert, you seem to be on everyone's shopping list?

Norbert Haug: Yeah, I think so. We stick with the plan and it is certainly not easy for us, but we think we have to set a sign and we think we should be a good example and that's why we will do it. This is the plan. No decision has been taken who the team will be but we certainly continue developing ourselves in that direction.

Q: When you say 'the' team, does that mean you would only supply one team?

NH: We only can. We need to put all the effort behind it, to supply an additional team, and that is the maximum. Everything else would compromise our own efforts and we cannot afford that.

Q: Would you say there's more than one team asking you at the moment?

NH: Well, we were approached by more than one team but we did not go into the details so far. This will happen within, I would say, the next six weeks.

Q: And that would be for next year?

NH: Yup. It will not be a Mercedes Benz engine, to point that out very clearly. It will have a different name. This is certain. We are only going to have one team called West McLaren Mercedes in Formula One. This (the customer engine) would be a sponsor's name or an artificial name or whatever.

Mario Theissen: Well, we are not in a position to supply a second team in 2004. You could take two approaches. If you supply the same engine that team number one uses, you mainly have to gear up production capacity. If you provide a different engine you have also to increase design and development capacity and both are currently not under way at BMW.

Q: Peter, are you pretty much in the market for an engine?

Peter Sauber: Generally we are happy with the situation we have now with Ferrari. We have worked together now for seven years but of course we have to look for other possibilities but at the moment there is only one: Mercedes.

Q: When it comes to Ferrari, you've had quite a few problems over the last few races. You've had a few blow-ups, what's been happening? It's been a very reliable engine in the past, why not now?

PS: I don't know. It's necessary to look very carefully at the situation we have now, but when we see it for the last five or six years, I think we are in a very comfortable situation with the Ferrari engines. Overall, the engine has been very, very reliable.

Q: What sort of explanation has Ferrari given you?

PS: At the moment, it's really not clear what the problem is.

Q: So it's not really to your satisfaction because you haven't actually tied it up?

PS: No.

Q: What about from a general chassis point of view? I understand you may be using another wind tunnel. Do you want to speed up development?

PS: Our biggest problem at the moment is the aerodynamics, of course, and we're working very, very hard on this problem. We have an old wind tunnel, it's for sure not a bad one, but it's not a state-of-the-art wind tunnel and our own wind tunnel is ready for use at the end of this year, that's late. Maybe we will use another wind tunnel in England for a short period to look for a comparison between the wind tunnel in Emmen and an English one.

Q: Otmar, I think you've just had one major step forward in terms of engine development. Are you planning more?

OS: Yes we are. The last one, as you say, was at the Canadian Grand Prix and the next one will be at Silverstone, so for this race and the French Grand Prix we will be using the step that we had in Canada and the next big step will be at Silverstone.

Q: Are those steps coming every two or three races, that soon?

OS: Every two or three races. At the beginning of the year, they came a bit quicker as well, some races back to back.

Q: So the pace of development is pretty rapid?

OS: Yes, we're not satisfied where we are and we'd like to do better so we're pushing on development as well as reducing the weight of the engine and improving driveability, so those three areas we're focusing on.

Q: BAR have said that they are not going to introduce their 2004 car until at least after the first four races. What's Honda's reaction to that?

OS: Well, that was planned with us in mind. Our engine will run early in the interim car. I think the entire back end will be new so the introduction of the new car will happen, I think, after the fly-aways and we think it's a good plan. Strategically we will be better off for it.

Q: Are you planning a brand new engine for next year then?

OS: Yes, especially with the new rules, the engine will be brand new. It will run for the first time in November and I think it's bench testing sometime in August.

Q: Ove, to what extent is this a home race? Obviously, you haven't had to get into an aeroplane to get here.

OA: Yeah, I live only half an hour away from here so that's very good. Obviously, this is our home race. Our workforce is 75 percent German. We are near the area and it really is our home race.

Q: Will they all be coming to the race?

OA: Yeah. We have the whole team coming, not everybody on the same day but over the weekend we have everybody from the company here.

Q: What your feelings about the team's performance in the first half of the season?

OA: I am asked this question very often. I would say I'm a little disappointed with the first few races because our winter testing was going reasonably well and then we came to Australia and Malaysia and we had these problems that we never saw during the testing because of the temperatures. I think that really pushed us back a bit, but then as the season came to Europe I think we have dropped behind the other teams in terms of development speed and I hope we can catch up again until the end of the year.

Q: What about Cristiano's performance, given that he's new to Grand Prix racing?

OA: I think he's doing very well, in my opinion. He's very strong mentally. He has the speed, he only needs to get used...I mean more or less every circuit is completely new to him. So we are very pleased and think he's doing a very good job.

Q: Norbert, there have been problems with the McLaren chassis and obviously it's not going to be introduced as early as was hoped. What's Mercedes' reaction to that?

NH: It was a basic plan that we introduced the car later in the season. This is a big step forward and I think we really are... our current car is still competitive, but we want to do another big step so this needs a lot of research and development work and then if you start testing and you lose two cars within two tests then that certainly doesn't help. But a strong team is in a position to collect the pieces together, to come back on the race track, to come back on the test track and I still hope that we will have a good test in Barcelona, that we will pass the next FIA crash test. I speak very openly about that because there were rumours but it was as late as last Friday that we failed, not before. So we are going to push, we are going to continue. I think we showed today that we have a good package still and if the new car comes and it is a step forward then we are in a good position. And this, as I have pointed out at various occasions, this is not an excuse, it is certainly a late car for this year, but believe me, it is a very early one for next year. And if everything works according to plan, then maybe, at the end of the season, everybody will say this was a good approach. Now we are criticised, I can live with that. We need to do our work, we need to get focused, get concentrated and we are a team that can deliver and can achieve that.

Q: Have you been happy with the new engine in the new chassis?

NH: Well, we're never happy. We still want more, that is for sure, but I think you can see in our current engine that we did big steps in the right direction. I think even Mario (Theissen) will admit that. So we are heading in the right direction and this is positive. And the new engine will be another step and I'm not worried that we're going to achieve our goals. I would like to be one month earlier but ask the question to every team who does not want to be earlier, but I think our first half of the season was quite a positive one. We have had two bad races in Barcelona and in Canada, but we still scored some points in Canada, but basically our package, our car was all the time in a position to be first or second. We have had four second places, two wins and a third place, so this is not too bad and we are still in the hunt. I want to have a second half of the season that sees us as competitive as in the first one, then it's good for the sport, it's good for us, it's good for everybody and it's not like last year where Ferrari were dominant so this is the plan. I think a lot of other teams will join. We saw good performances this morning from both Toyota and Jaguar. We saw good performances from BMW and Williams and so it's a much better World Championship than we used to have in the past. This is what counts.

Q: Do you think, between the two of you, you've got Ferrari a little bit rattled?

NH: That's certainly the plan.

MT: We're just starting.

Q: Mario, there is a press release just come out from BMW-Williams about extending the partnership to 2009 and it talks a great deal about integration. How do you expect to achieve that integration?

MT: We have discussed this with Williams for half a year now. You know that has always been the main topic of our discussions. We are just aiming at what is the usual way to go in the industry today, in the auto industry; every company has to deal with separate locations, different locations. The key to success is an integrated project management, programme management, and we have spent a lot of time together with Williams to exchange our ideas and to try and find a common idea how to proceed. That was achieved in the past weeks so we were able to close the deal.

Q: You talk also about starting off on the drive train and gearbox. We have seen the gearbox being very important at Ferrari, we know McLaren-Mercedes are bringing out two different types of gearbox. Is that the same sort of thing that you are talking about as well?

MT: Well, as I said before the project management is the backbone of all the operations. Besides that, we want to offer our resources, which of course have been put in place for road car development, and to adapt them for Formula One needs in order to speed up our development slope and to include all the best knowledge a big automobile company has and to come to common solutions. We will start with the power train. We have been supplying the engine for four years now and now we are, as our first focus, we are looking at the gearbox and parts connected to this. I wouldn't say we are out to do gearboxes in competition with Williams. I would rather say we will integrate our resources, our knowledge, our test facilities, simulation facilities, and the aim is to have an integrated powertrain programme with people from Williams and people from BMW working at the same project.

Q: You said it took a long time to get the negotiations settled. Was it the negotiating or the fine detail that was taking the time?

MT: I would say it was a very fruitful learning process. We have approached each other from different positions, both parts of the team have learned about the experience of the other side and so we got together and that in the end was the key to come to a deal.

Q: To all five gentlemen, after what we have seen in this afternoon's qualifying, what sort of changes would you like to see next year?

PS: I believe the qualifying is okay, the Friday qualifying and also the Saturday qualifying.

OS: Well, if it mixes it up for the fans and it is good for the fans then it is good for all of us. We have Friday to show our ultimate potential speed and Saturday is a bit strategic now.

OA: As long as it is good for the spectators and mixes the grid up and mixes the races up a little bit. I think this is the first year for a long time that we have had so many different winners in the first half of the year and I think it can only be good. Maybe what needs to be considered is the total programme of the weekend because the Sunday mornings are becoming a bit more boring now, otherwise I think it is okay.

NH: Well, I think as long as we have the same conditions in the qualifying sessions it is okay but if you think about the fact that maybe two or three guys are fighting for the world championship at the last race and one gets on a dry track and one on a wet track then I think this will be heavily criticised because nobody wants to have the outcome of a world championship influenced like that. That is probably the occasion to think carefully about it. I have to say in general the qualifying works very well, the qualifying with fuel in the car works better than expected. It not only mixes up the grid but it creates surprises and after Saturday you sometimes don't know where you are, you have to look at the race on Sunday. I think that is what we all want, so that works, but the problems are all the different weather conditions. Maybe one idea would be what we are doing in DTM, which is nine laps with three sets of tyres and then a top-ten qualifying. But maybe, I am saying. We have good experiences with that and if you put that on today's qualifying then everybody would have been in the rain at the end and the window is just tighter than it is if the one-by-one single lap qualifying happens, and maybe one can think about that. This is not a short-term solution, but I think we have to discuss the fact that weather is influencing the outcome of a race or even worse the outcome of a world championship.

MT: I agree with what Norbert says about the weather influence. Generally speaking I like it that there is only one car out at a time because every car, every driver gets the same attention. I think that what we could think about is a second shot, maybe like in skiing the top ten or 50 percent gets a second try because in qualifying in the past years the most exciting thing has been the counter-attacks - if there is one at the top then the other guy has a second chance to top this. I think this would be interesting. I think that, aside from qualifying, we should try to get back to a common testing scheme -- I am not so much in favour of having two different schemes with some teams testing at the racetrack and not between the races and others doing the opposite. I think it would be good for the show to do more testing at the race weekend and there could be a chance to make the races more attractive for the spectators and the organisers. I think the regulation to qualify with race fuel is better than expected. Originally I was quite critical about it because it certainly is interesting for us but it is hard to understand for the spectator but meanwhile I see there is a growing understanding of what is going on and I feel that the teams are not so far apart from each other in terms of race strategy so I think it can work.

Q: How do you rate Nick Heidfeld's performance so far and what about his future in the team?

PS: About Nick? It is too early to speak about drivers. I am happy with both drivers; they have done a good job. It is not easy for the drivers at the moment because the performance of the car is not good enough.

Q: Otmar, I know you have some Honda people at BAR. Are there plans to bring more people there and integrate the two sides?

OS: Yes, we are continuing to do that. Next year's effort will see more Honda chassis people come to BAR and help in some areas where we haven't been helping before. So the answer is yes.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nick Heidfeld , Norbert Haug , Peter Sauber , Mario Theissen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams