Italian GP: Friday press conference

Present: Patrick Head (Williams technical director) Paolo Martinelli (Ferrari engine director) Pat Symonds (Renault director of engineering) Gabriele Tredozzi (Minardi technical director) Geoff Willis (BAR technical director) Q: Question to all...

Patrick Head (Williams technical director)
Paolo Martinelli (Ferrari engine director)
Pat Symonds (Renault director of engineering)
Gabriele Tredozzi (Minardi technical director)
Geoff Willis (BAR technical director)

Q: Question to all of you: this could be the fastest race in the history of the World Championship. What do you think of that, and when the FIA comes along and ask you how are they going to slow the cars down, what are your ideas?

Gabriele Tredozzi: Yes, this race will be the fastest race in the championship. This is clear but it's not easy to keep the right way to keep the cars slower because every year we improve the cars, and we arrive here where it's easy to go fast, and every year it's fast because in every track the car is faster. Also, I think that this is the only fast track in the championship now after Hockenheim has been changed. I don't think you can change everything for one race. The easy solution is to change the track but I think it's also too much. You must be careful for the safety point of view. I think it's good to have Monza like this.

Geoffrey Willis: I think having fast races in itself is not a problem, it's really just whether the race is appropriate to the circuit and that's the issue, not so much the average speed, it's what is the cornering speed, this is where the dangers are. Personally, I really like Monza. As Gabriele says, it's a shame in some ways that we only have one of this type of race left. Most of the other high speed tracks have gone away over the years. I haven't been asked the question how do you slow cars down. It's quite tricky. We've seen quite a big increase in engine power over the last two years with essentially the same aerodynamic regulations. It's either got to be the aerodynamicists' job to slow the car down or it's got to be a change in engine regulations I suspect.

Paolo Martinelli: Well, I think Monza has a long tradition as a high speed circuit in Formula One. I like Monza personally. In terms of how to lose the speed in Monza, it's difficult to say. On the engine side, of course, we are trying to improve year by year. There is a regulation in 2004 when we are probably compelled to reduce the performance to increase the life of the engine with only one engine per weekend. That's the first answer. And then it's important always to keep in mind what is the safety of the circuit, so the priority is to have fast races but on a safe circuit.

Patrick Head: I think if the object is to reduce the average speed of all the cars then excluding red cars would be a good first move! But to be more serious, as Geoff said, I think that mostly any dangers are associated round the corners - maybe the average speed is high, but and I'm not sure we can be...the question is relative whether the safety of Monza is appropriate relative to the speed of the car in the corners. That's all.

Pat Symonds: You asked two questions really: what does it mean that it's the fastest race and I think that we're all the same, it doesn't really mean anything to us. I like to think we are not traditionalists. And of course it's not actually the fastest race, next year's will be. I don't think that's a relevant thing at all. And you said what would we say when the FIA ask us to slow the cars down. Well, firstly they haven't necessarily and secondly it's not an average speed, it's the safety that is the factor, so really I echo my colleagues views on that.

Q: Pat, is it true that Renault are basically changing the architecture of the engine for next year? Has it proved to be a problem this year?

PS: It depends how you define architecture. The thing that people seize on with our engine is the V-angle. We're not changing the V-angle next year. Yes, the architecture is changing if you like to use that word but we don't see the V-angle as such as being a fundamental problem and therefore that's not an area that we are attacking.

Q: That was what was being quoted as being the problem.

PS: Yes, it was being quoted but not by anyone from Renault.

Q: For 2004 perhaps?

PS: Well 2004 is a different ballgame really because we are looking at engines that are going to have to last 800 kilometres. Now again, I don't think the V-angle is fundamental in making an engine last 800 kilometres but there certainly are what you have termed architectural features that will have to change. Yes.

Q: Patrick, next year's car, how advanced is it, are you concentrating on anything in particular, such as transmission?

PH: Well, we are certainly doing a new transmission for next year but I don't know very much about Ferrari's transmission, but obviously we're not happy with the results we have achieved this year. We've obviously spent a lot of time analysing why and initially wrote out a specification for the new car and that's steadily being developed and we're working towards that and only next year we'll see whether we've made a good step forward.

Q: Was there anything you were concentrating on in particular, that you didn't like from this year's car, for example?

PH: Lack of speed. Nothing else that I'm going to talk about.

Q: Paolo, next year's engine, how much does it change, how advanced is it if you can tell us something about it?

PM Well, I think next year's engine will be an evolution of the current one and as usual, normally, we start the first tests in September and normally use October and November to make developments and our target is to work on reliability with long runs simulation etc on the dyno and later on the track between December this year and January 2003.

Q: I've mentioned the V-angle and architecture, would you expect that to change?

PM Probably not but I think we have some interesting evolutions while maintaining the same V-angle.

Q: Geoffrey, you've been in the job now for about six months, what changes have you made there?

GW: We've had to look at every part of the way the team is working, obviously with me particularly in the design side and the engineering side of the car. Really, we've rebuilt the whole design team. The car was not good enough in any area and it took a while to make that clear to the people in the team. We decided to have a substantial re-organisation in the team. During that time we reduced the size of the team and as part of that re-organisation have now rebuilt the entire design group just in time to get them together for next year's car and we have a lot of work to do because, as I made clear to the entire team, really everybody was responsible for the poor performance of the car. It was not a competitive car in any area so everybody has to look equally towards improving their game.

Q: Have you built up the team again?

GW: Yes, we have, we've recruited a few senior people from other teams. We've benefited from some people's misfortunes in that and I feel that we now have a very strong team. We just need a little bit of time to build the whole team together. If I can get 75 per cent of from where I'm going to where I want to get, I hope I can do about 75 per cent of that with next year's car and then work on after that. I think we can make quite a substantial improvement. My feeling is that it's going to be harder work going between 2003 and 2004.

Q: Gabriele, one always has a certain amount of sympathy with you, because your design team was in single figures last time I asked.

GT: It's a very small team. The total number is around 100 people, 110, still the same from many years ago, and it's been a good job to remain at this level, because sometimes it was very hard. The team worked well, the drawing office is not a lot of people but we work well together, make a good job with good experience and this is one of the keys of the team. The level of the performance is very high in Formula One and you cannot gain the performance in one year. You need to move forward step by step in every area and it's not easy for a small team because you must also be conservative because you can't take any risk in the beginning and don't make a big mistake, because the power of the team is not very high and you cannot come back in those conditions.

Q: Paul Stoddart has said he wants to accommodate a taller driver next year, but he hasn't said what engine you're going to have. There must be one or two things up in the air at the moment.

GT: I don't think we tell the little drivers. Also we can put in drivers who are a little bit taller in comparison to Mark. The engine, we don't know the future so far but it's always the same for us and we work in the same way. We have the wind tunnel model but I think it's close to the time when we need to know.

Q: Will the car be an evolution of this year's car?

GT: Yeah, sure, the car will be an evolution because the stable rules for us is very good, because when you have a big change in the rules for the little teams it is more difficult. So there will be evolution in every area because you cannot gain the performance in one place in the car. Everywhere, weight, aerodynamic efficiency, stiffness of the car, everywhere. We must improve everywhere. Sure, we need more wind tunnel time, this is sure, because the only wind tunnel time available is not a lot, it's a few days, one week per month, five days only and this is all.

Q: You do an amazing job with very little resources.

GT: The team is good. This is my opinion also, this year's was very good job because also many people, good people, left the team and last year at this time, it was in very bad condition. We work hard, everybody worked very hard, and I'm very happy for the people in the team.

Q: Patrick, I was very intrigued to hear Gerhard had offered to help design the car next year. Being realistic, what are the things that BMW can help you with that they are not doing already?

PH: There is some collaboration on the transmission side, but we are looking at some other areas and have been looking at some other areas. BMW have obviously got big resources but are not specialists in Formula One racing cars, but they have certainly got a lot of very capable people.

Q: To all of you, with the drivers getting younger and younger every year do you find sort of a generation gap or do you just treat them like a great grandfather?

PH: Are you looking at me? I am not sure of thinking of Juan Pablo as my great grandchild, but, er...Their direct point of contact is closer to them in age now, in terms of the drivers have got their race engineers who are obviously older than them and Sam Michael and that, but I have a good relationship with both of our drivers - but they don't give me the respect I am due!

PS: Yes they are getting younger, more to the point we are getting older, but I think if you live a life like we do in Formula One I don't think you ever get very old, so I don't think it is a big problem.

PM It is not a matter of drivers getting younger but we are getting older.

GW: I am not sure I have much to add. In my limited experience, it has not been a real issue, I think.

GT: We work all the time with young drivers and so for many years the driver we have had is their first experience in Formula One and a good driver also. And we work well but the problem for our team is that we don't have any opportunity to have a driver with experience. That would be good for the team, but life's like this.

Q: For all five, in Monaco the FIA banned screens and covers on all the cars. How much of a difference has this really made? Have you noticed ideas of other designers showing up on cars quicker than it used to be?

GW: Well actually, for me it has been quite useful because I have been able to make it quite clear to my designers what I expect a contemporary Formula One car should look like. In truth, I think most people there is not much value in sort of industrial espionage in the sort of level you can see from seeing the cars from the outside. It is quite nice to occasionally see a solution that is very neat and tidy and interesting things to see. I think everybody is operating at quite a high level and I would be surprised if just by looking at the external parts of the car you were able to learn an awful lot that you shouldn't already know.

GT: For me it is good to see the car also. Honestly, in my opinion good to close the pits every time and everything. It was the right decision for the sport but you also see the negative side for the teams. You get to see the car much better, but for every team it is the same.

PS: Firstly I think it is an excellent thing that it has been opened up, not for our own sakes, but for the sake of the public, who pay a lot of money to come along and some of them have an interest in the technical side of it. So I am very pleased to see that. In terms of what we may have gained from it, I don't think that when you look at someone else's car you look so much at fundamental concepts, they are complex, there is a lot of interaction between various parts of the car and you have to understand the whole. I do find in interesting to see little details of design and yes, there are times when you have a specific problem on your car, often as much as a reliability problem, that sort of thing, and yes you will look at other peoples' cars and how they have tackled that particular aspect of the design and it is interesting to see and we are all interested in cars and it is nice to see other peoples' solutions. I don't think it has fundamentally affected the level of competitiveness throughout the grid or anything like that. Overall, it is a good thing.

PH: I agree with a combination of what Frank and Geoff has said.

PM I think, the most important point of an engine is hidden inside. But generally I think it is mainly important for the public, I agree on that.

Q: Next year the Sauber team is going to get the Ferrari engine and some help from Ferrari. Don't you think it is going to be a very serious contender for each race and even for your position in the championship?

PS: There is obviously an assumption there that the performance of a car is all about engines. I think some of us would agree with that and some may not. Yes, of course, it is an excellent engine, but it is probably not necessarily the best engine out there. There are many factors that make a car competitive and the excellence of Ferrari at the moment cannot be put down to any one factor it is the fact that they have got all the combination right and that is what we all strive to do. It doesn't worry me any more than really any other team worries me.

PH: Sauber had a strong season last year, slightly less strong this year, but our challenge is to try and be in a position to compete with Ferrari and I have to assume that if we manage to achieve that at some point in the future I am assuming that Sauber won't be ahead of Ferrari.

GW: I think in the short term it makes our job a little harder, but we do have a full works engine supplier who have huge resources and are renewing their efforts with extra vigour, and we have to build ourselves up to a point where we are fighting at some point in the future to win a championship. So you always have to look at who is at the top of the championship and that is your target, not really your immediate competitors. If, however, in the short term one of your competitors does get a bit better, yet that makes your life a little bit harder.

GT: I think it is good for Sauber to maintain the same engine because you can improve the car with the same engine supplier would be good. You have the stability of the engine for the complete package. This is the problem for us because every year we change the engine and we know the problem when it changes, but the performance does not only come from the engine, everything must work together and in case one thing is good and one is bad then you don't find a good car, and that is the problem ultimately.

Q: Patrick, can you confirm what your drivers said yesterday that Monza is the biggest opportunity this season to beat Ferrari?

PH: That was an opinion expressed by Juan Pablo, was it? The higher speed circuits have been circuits that have suited us quite well in the past and different types of layout of car can sometimes optimise their performance towards one end of the downforce scale or the other. Obviously at the moment one tends to try and optimise things towards the higher downforce end because that is where the predominance of the circuits are but over the last few years we have generally been more competitive at Hockenheim and Monza than we have at other tracks, I am sure that is probably why Juan Pablo might have said that. But where as last year I think the Ferrari had very definite weaknesses, they have done a very good job of attending to those weaknesses, so I don't think the Ferrari has types of circuit at which it is weak anymore. I think we might be closer than previously, but the gap technically between the Ferrari this year and our package is big and I don't see any reason why it should suddenly be reversed.

Q: The HANS device has been discussed for quite a long time and I know that you designers have been fairly cautious about it. Why is that and is next year the right time to introduce it as a compulsory fitting on all the cars?

PH: I think it has certainly been very proven experimentally, in terms of the level of articulation of dummies in an accident and I think there now building up in the States and NASCAR and high-speed circuits, there is building up some feedback experience in real accidents. Certainly an enormous improvement has been made in safety of the cars, particularly neck injuries which you probably remember with Jean Alesi, JJ Lehto and various other people.

Neck injuries were very common and with the relatively low cockpit heights the possibility for very high lateral accelerations and very high levels of articulation of the neck were present and there were some very serious damages as a result. With the headrest now behind the driver, i.e. in a rearward impact, or laterally we have now got deformable areas and certainly they have been a very major step forward, but apart from the valuable steering column tests, which have to have some sort of compliance in them under certain impacts or under certain loads, not an awful lot has been done to help the situation in terms of head on very rapid longitudinal decelerations and it is a very difficult problem because the driver, anybody that has been involved in nose crash tests can see, is that the standard, whatever it is, 75kg dummy, with the normal seat belts and things, his head is literally touching the steering wheel or touching the front of the cockpit during that deceleration, and obviously one has got to look at accidents beyond the sort of accidents that we put the car test through.

People come up with some stupid ideas about tying the driver's head to the chassis. You can't do that, so you have got to use a restraint which is related to the torso of the driver. It is certainly a very big problem and I think it is some way down the road before all the problems are going to get solved. We did run at the last Monza test with a HANS device on each driver. It wasn't actually strapped to the helmet because we weren't ready for that stage, but Ralf was pretty happy with it and a single seater race car, particularly a Formula One car, is much more difficult to an Indycar or a NASCAR because you have got to deal with Monaco, with the driver literally looking sideways at Station Hairpin and that is not what happens on a high speed oval.

In the case of Ralf he said he was happy with it, didn't have any problems, and that was I think the fourth or fifth iteration of HANS device that we had produced for him. In the case of Juan Pablo, it was completely impossible for him because firstly he has got a very short neck and secondly, when he drives, where as Ralf articulates from the shoulder, when Juan Pablo turns the wheel the shoulder comes up hard against the helmet, so we have got to find a structure that is strong enough to take a very high longitudinal load in which we have no cross sectional area, so it is going to be a serious problem to work out how to produce a HANS device that will work for Juan Pablo whereas we have certainly achieved that for Ralf.

PS: We are in a similar position, we ran at the last test with an untethered HANS device with Jarno. It has been hard work, it is a much more complex issue than I think, perhaps, has been addressed in the States, and I think the fact that there are some pretty clever designers working on it now means that we have looked at it in a lot more detail. The test procedures for the device are very severe and really haven't been available for very long, so apart from the problems that Patrick has mentioned, of fitting it and actually getting it comfortable, the test procedures have been difficult to achieve, to pass the tests. I don't think the teams themselves have been that reluctant to do it, yes it is time consuming, it does consume resources.

I have found that in general since the project started, since we started to consider it, we have been involved with a few drivers and I am a little bit surprised at their lack of commitment and enthusiasm for the device and I think that has not helped when we have tried to run tests at the circuit. The drivers have not been as co-operative as I would have liked to have seen but it is moving ahead. Like everything in motor racing we do it just in time. It will be ready for next year, but it will be just in time.

GW: I think that Patrick and Pat have covered most of the points very well. Yes it is something we are looking at with some urgency at the moment, we are probably a little bit behind where we should be, but as Pat says, if we have to have it next year we will have it next year.

GT: The problem is every part will be different for each driver and it will not be an easy solution, but we will see in the future.

Q: To all of you, when are the first tests of the new cars planned?

GT: Good question, big question. Normally our car is ready in the beginning of February, but it is not easy to say now when we will be testing next year's car. What we can do is we will try the best to have our car ready as early as we can but you cannot have it ready too early to make a bad car. You must wait the maximum you can to use all the possibilities you have. It must be ready two weeks before the first race to make a proper test but this is very the limit and for us we will be very close to this.

GW: I shouldn't say exactly the date we are planning to do. For us it is possibly slightly different because we do have so much work to do in getting a properly designed car out. We are fortunate that the regulations are pretty stable so quite a lot of things that one would work on really early. We have a totally new engine from our engine partner for next year so I am certainly trying to set us up to have a substantial amount of testing time available in the first two months of next year.

PM We have no exact schedule at the moment. Of course, we are targeting to be ready early February, that is the normal target, but we have no precise date at the moment.

PH: We are testing with developments of the current car, we will run a current car with the new engine in it fairly soon, which will have a modified version of the current gearbox on the back of it and then later this year we will be running another version of the current car with next year's engine in it with the basis of next year's transmission in it as well, and then it is all a planned stage, but we certainly have a date for the first running of the new car and it is certainly in 2003, as a complete unit.

PS: Well, like Patrick we are doing it in stages. The R23 transmission ran on the dyno for the first time two weeks ago, it has now done about two Grand Prix distances. The RS23, the engine, should be running on the dyno in about three weeks. Our aim is to run the R23 as a complete car, believe it or not, in week 49 of this year. But that will have the R202 bodywork on it, so I am not sure whether it answers your question. The car that you will see in Australia, we will try to shake down just before we go I guess.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jean Alesi , Paul Stoddart , Patrick Head , Geoff Willis , Paolo Martinelli , JJ Lehto
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams , Minardi