We hope to restore similar form to the beginning of the year
James, how much has it meant upgrading the wind tunnel from 50 to 60 per cent?
JA: Well it is a lot of work, that’s for sure. People call wind-tunnel models ‘models’ but they are not really models at all. They are things that cost almost as much as making a real car and almost as complicated. Just changing the model from 50 per cent to 60 per cent is already a large engineering exercise but in our case as well the wind tunnel working sections wasn’t really quite big enough to support a 60 per cent model so we needed to strip that back to its bare skeleton and replace it with something that was man enough for a 60 per cent model, so all told it was a project that started around about a year ago and culminated just recently.
How much time do you think you lost and is it now back on track totally?
JA: Well very little actual wind tunnel time, as one of the most precious things to all teams is to keep that tunnel running and to keep the aero development going so we made sure we could do the swap-over with the minimum amount of disruption to the actual tunnel testing. We had the tunnel down for 12 days.
You are now FOTA’s technical mastermind. What sort of responsibility is that?
JA: Well it is a significant responsibility. I think everyone would agree that FOTA is a group that has acted strongly in the interests of the sport and very constructively and the technical regulation working group is one part of what FOTA does. It’s a part which tries to look constructively in the medium and long term to contribute to making the rules of the sport work well, working hand in hand with the FIA to do that, and hopefully I can pick up where some of my predecessors have left off in looking after those meetings in an efficient way.
You said before this race you would let the cars do the talking when it came to the modifications you have got on the cars. What did they say today?
JA: Well we have had a reasonable day today. What I meant by letting the cars do the talking is that we have got a number of improvements to bring over the next several races that we hope will restore us to something closer to where we were at the start of the year than we have been in the last two or three races. It is very easy to talk about ‘you’ve got this and you’ve got that’ but it will be much nicer when we have actually put it on the track and everyone can see it so hopefully that’s what will happen.
There is an FIA idea to close cars for safety reasons; I would like to know your opinion on this. I think all the aerodynamics would change if this was the case.
JA: This is something that’s been under discussion for a few Technical Working Group meetings now. We’re looking to try to look after the driver’s head, both from large scale things like tyres and also small scale things like the very unfortunate incident that Felipe suffered. There are a few suggestions around: one of them was looking into a fully enclosed canopy. Another one was looking into a visor-type where it’s still open above the driver’s head but he has a visor in front of him.
And then there is a third type of proposal as well, where there isn’t a see-through windscreen at all but there is like a roll (bar) structure in front of the driver that would anyway deflect any big objects. All those things are still in fairly early discussion and you would have seen from what the FIA proposed, published recently, that they are showing some of the very early research that’s being done into the feasibility and practicality of this type of solution, but there are a lot of questions to answer before we can bring it to a practical solution.
The closed canopy would have an aerodynamic effect – not a bad one, it would be easier to manage the airflow around a closed canopy than an open one – but there are all sorts of other things to discuss, like egress in the event of an accident, keeping the canopy clean, for example when it might get covered in oil and the like, so each of the proposed solutions has advantages and disadvantages and we need to do the basic research to find out what is the best way forward.
I would like to ask your opinion about the fact that the international Federation has decided that from 2014 only electrical power units can be used in the pit lane. Do you agree and do you believe that this thing could match the opposition of the World Motor Sport Council?
JA: Stefano’s summed it up fairly neatly. There are technical hurdles to be cleared in order to make it happen but nothing that’s impossible, just things that make the configuration of the car change relative to what we’ve got today. It is a complication from a design point of view, but it’s not an impossibility. From what I understand, the idea has been trailed in various groups and it largely receives a positive reaction as a useful initiative, but there are pros and cons with it from an operational point of view that we’re still discussing.
By: Lotus Renault