Malaysian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference with Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director) Mike Gascoyne (Toyota technical director) Sam Michael (Williams technical director) Pat Symonds (Renault executive director of engineering) Geoff...
Malaysian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference with
Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director)
Mike Gascoyne (Toyota technical director)
Sam Michael (Williams technical director)
Pat Symonds (Renault executive director of engineering)
Geoff Willis (BAR technical director)
Q: First of all, what have you learned from today and in Australia about the new rules?
Sam Michael: Obviously, they are different, but not as bad as we thought they were going to be in terms of management. I think on the 'aero' side, obviously, the down-force levels have changed, but everyone is working very hard to get them back to where they were last year and that's why I think we'll see a lot of developments in the first three or four races. On the tyre front, I think both tyre companies were quite conservative in Melbourne so the wear rates were pretty low compared to what we may see later on in the year and that is understandable given all the concern pre-season and it won't take long for them to get to the wear rates they intend to reach -- and, on the engines, we are only half-way through, so, in Williams case, obviously we split our choice because we changed the engine on Nick's car after Melbourne. So we have to wait until after this race to see how this pans out.
Ross Brawn: I think it is too early to judge. Melbourne is not a typical race and is not the hardest circuit on tyres and we obviously had 'the weather' in qualifying. I think the rules have been successful in slowing the cars down, despite some scepticism from some of your colleagues. They have genuinely slowed them down so they have been successful in that and, remember, without the changes, they would be one or two seconds faster than last year. So, they have slowed down the progress of the tyre companies and on the car and I think it was necessary so it's been successful in that respect. As to the format of the racing, I think we'll have to see how it goes for a while. It is tough, the two-race engine, and not everyone is doing the mileage they might have done. But, I think, as the season goes on, the mileage will build up and there will be more mileage on Friday and Saturday than we are seeing at the moment.
Pat Symonds: Well, yes, it's very early days. Before the season started, I said to my guys that you shouldn't even think that you will understand the tyre thing until Sunday night in Malaysia at best. Melbourne is not a typical circuit and very often has a strange format, as again it had this year, and it's not that hard on tyres and, as Sam said, certainly, we were conservative. I think here we are being slightly conservative, but it is conservatism from ignorance rather than clever conservatism. There's a long way to go yet and we shouldn't make snap judgements and it is very difficult for us, the teams, particularly in terms of tyre choice -- and part of your question is about what we learned today and the answer is 'very little indeed!' With just two sets of tyres to run on, it is really impossible to do any scientific evaluation of them. It's tricky, but the same for everyone. Let's see how it develops over the next few races.
Mike Gascoyne: I agree with the comments everyone else has made. We have to wait and see how it pans out. As everyone said Melbourne was not a normal situation and it is difficult to do all the work in winter testing, when the track temperatures are five degrees, and try to plan for when it is 40 or 50 degrees. But that was inevitable at the start of the year. In terms of the grid, it seems to have closed things up and that is only good for Formula One. As to how all the rules have panned out, we have to wait and see.
Geoffrey Willis: In terms of performance, it is too early to say what we have learned about who is stronger and weaker. In terms of the operation of a car over the weekend, I think we showed last year that we are all pretty good at responding to the changes and learning to work with only two tyres today and try to make some sort of scientific evaluation -- and I am sure Pat is actually making a scientific evaluation and not a non-scientific evaluation -- but the tricky thing for us is how little we are running and maybe that is something, as Ross says, that as we get more confident through the season, we will get more running because it is fairly quiet first session. I think very much like last year, we will get better at it. We will understand it and we will find it was not so much of a change as we thought.
Q: What have you done here to cope with the extreme conditions and is it the ultimate test for the rest of the year?
Pat Symonds: Well, extreme conditions... I guess you mean temperature more than anything. It's not like it was a few years ago when you came to a place like this --and I'm not talking that many years ago -- and there was an element of estimation about cooling and things like that because, again, you had gone through the European winter testing and (it was) very difficult to even do measurements on the system, because of oil pouring and things like this. But it is different now and we have a great deal of confidence in measurements we make on dynamometers in wind tunnels and things and it really doesn't lead us to any great surprises on engine cooling. We tend actually to concentrate on cooling things like electronic boxes and things like that but it is not big surprise. It is all pretty well planned for these days.
Ross Brawn: Well, we have the benefit of last year's car so in terms of cooling and all that side it is all pretty well taken care of, so we have no surprises there. I think it is the first race where tyre wear can become an issue and so we have been conscious of that. This race last year, we couldn't have done on one set of tyres whereas Melbourne last year was comfortable on one set. So it's the first race we're facing under new rules where we have got to manage that situation and I suspect it could be on Sunday an issue at the end of the race. I am not sure how conservative everyone will be, but it is so difficult to predict on a Friday or a Saturday what wear rates you are going to get on a Sunday. That will depend on lots of variables that you cannot predict or don't have under control. So I think it is going to be an interesting weekend from that aspect and the whole scenario this year of trying to evaluate tyre wear is going to be a big factor for us.
Sam Michael: On the engine side, you basically shift from one extreme, in Melbourne, to the other here, in terms of minimum and maximum ambient temperatures for the year. There is only really this place, and sometimes Hungary, and we don't know about Turkey yet, that run up about 36 to 39 degrees. So, it obviously presents a (need for) set of coolings and exits for the bodywork that are not normally run at other tracks. That's something we evaluate in the wind tunnel and at other tracks. On the tyre front, the same thing; this place, because of the high-speed corners and the surface abrasiveness, is very different to Melbourne.
Geoffrey Willis: On cooling systems, I don't think it's a particularly big challenge here. Yes it's extreme temperatures, but now we are all experienced and we can predict from one circuit to another and from one year to another. So it is relatively straightforward to get the cooling of the engine and the electronics, as Pat says, which in these conditions can get very close. In fact, we made some small changes at the last test for this race. The real issue is going to be tyre-wear in this race and it is something we will need to think about carefully and it may have an effect on the outcome, but I suspect both tyre companies are being conservative so (I am) not expecting any big surprises. There may be a mix-up towards the end.
Mike Gascoyne: Certainly, with both tyres and the cooling and the heat, things are on the limit. I agree with what Pat said, for us with the cooling its on the limit but its meant to be because it is the hottest place of the year. We do our work in the wind tunnel and our simulations and we have a vast wealth of experience now and we don't tend to get it wrong. But you have to take care because it is obviously very hot.
Q: Sam, everyone predicted you would not be very good in Melbourne but it turned out better than you expected. Was that a surprise?
Sam Michael: Well, fifth is still not very good in our books in terms of position and 'dnf' on the other car, but I think from where we started with the FW27, at the start of February, it was definitely down on performance compared to what we had in Melbourne. If you said that we would come away from there with four points, a week before the Grand Prix, I think we would have said 'okay, that's relatively good'. But after the race, we felt we could have done better. But I think you have got to be careful about Melbourne because of what happened in qualifying even though the cars did their lap-times at the right time and were reasonable in the race, the qualifying put, I think, four or five cars outside the top 14 or 15 that would not normally be there, so there were cars lapping similarly to us behind us -- and if they had started the race in front of us, it would have been a hard task to overtake them. So, at the same time, it was a good few points in the bag but nothing to get excited about.
Q: Ross, The new car is scheduled for Spain. Is that still happening?
Ross Brawn: We have an option to bring it to Bahrain. A lot will depend on this weekend and a lot on next week, which is the first week the racing drivers will get to drive the car because Luca Badoer has been driving it in testing so we don't have an opinion. He is very positive about the car, but I would like to hear what Michael and Rubens say about the car before we make a decision. So, we are testing next week. We could if we wanted to stretch it, take it to Bahrain and it will depend on our competitiveness this weekend whether we feel the new car could have made a difference to whatever results we get this weekend and what the drivers say about the car next week. Around the middle of next week, we will have to make a decision because the car will have to leave for Bahrain next weekend. So, there could be a scenario this weekend where we are not competitive, but the car would not have made much difference because, obviously, tyres are so significant and if we are a long way off on the tyres this weekend, I am not sure the car would make a difference. If we lose the race, and feel the difference could have been made up by the car, then it could accelerate the introduction of the car so we will see what happens this week and then see what the drivers think of the new car and then make a decision.
Q: Did that have a bearing on why you didn't change the engine on Michael's car?
Ross Brawn: Partly, yes. It's because, obviously, if we had changed it, it would have made it more difficult. We wouldn't have had the option to take the new car for him to Bahrain. But the engine that got a little bit warm when stuck in the gravel... it was nothing too severe... All the engines of all the cars got hot because of the restart so the temperatures in the gravel were no worse than they were at the second start in Melbourne. So, we weren't particularly bothered. It could have been an option. So, we didn't do it, to give us the option to run the new car in Bahrain.
Q: Pat, obviously a fantastic performance in Melbourne... Can you maintain that or was it a flash in the pan?
Pat Symonds: I don't think it was a flash in the pan. Can we maintain it? Certainly, we are trying to... We certainly had some luck in Melbourne and I would be the first to admit that, but still during the race on clear tracks the cars were quick and as good as anything out there. It is one specific circuit, but not that untypical of the requirements needed from the various parts of the car. I am hopeful we can do it and the whole team feels very confident and the drivers love driving the car and they feel very comfortable with it and yes we are going to keep on going and try to do it again.
Q: Mike, Toyota put out a statement about the interpretation of the rules regarding engine changes during the week. What is your interpretation of them?
Mike Gascoyne: Well, for me, there are two things that are very disappointing about what happened... a) I think we could have seen it coming -- we had asked for clarifications from the FIA and they chose not to act and now they have issued something further and I think if they were going to do that they could have done that before the season started and made it all a bit clearer for everything... You know, if you are the manager of a football team and you are losing 3-0 with five minutes to go you don't pull the team off to save them from injury or something do you? There are spectators and fans and sponsors out there and they want to see the cars running. Personally, and from Toyota, we think you should take the flag. That's what sport is about. It's a shame in Formula One that people say it is inevitable because there is a loophole and we are going to exploit it. Life should not necessarily be that sceptical and we ought to start the race and look to compete in it and finish.
Q: So, Geoff, what was your motivation then?
Geoffrey Willis: Formula One is a competition and it was a very clear option available to us and understood by all and I am surprised that nobody else chose to do it. I know for a fact that some did think of doing it, but didn't do so. So, it was the regulation at the time and its now been closed off by clarification so it wont be available in the future.
Q: Question for Geoff Willis: Mr Willis, you're not allowed to use a third driver this year. How does it complicate your job and can you see the impact of that in the results?
Geoffrey Willis: It's a little too early to say what the impact is in terms of results. We've certainly lost an advantage we had last year. The use of a third driver, a very experienced driver in the team, Anthony Davidson, would have been very useful this year for helping with tyre choice, being able to have more tyres and being able to not worry about engine mileage on Friday so certainly it's an advantage to have it, but as we knew that as we got a good result in the championship last year that it wasn't going to be available to us this year. We're just going to have to, like the other top teams, find a way round it.
Q: Ross, from your simulations so far, what do they suggest is the margin of the 05 car over the 04B?
Ross Brawn: Well, with both simulation and track work it's between a half and one second. Yeah, that's the number.
Q: To Pat and Geoff, you've both had recent experience working with Jacques Villeneuve. I wonder if you could talk about your experiences of him as a driver and whether you've been surprised by his recent pace in a Sauber?
Pat Symonds: Yeah, I suppose I get it first as I've had the most recent experience. I think that when Jacques came to our team I didn't know him terribly well. I'd spoken to him a few times but I didn't know him terribly well and a lot of my opinion of him, I think, was formed by what I had read about him and I found a very different character. He certainly has a reputation of being very laid back and he's not laid back, he actually works quite hard and he has a lot of interest in the car and what's going on. During the race, he's very good. He's on the radio all the time, talking through the race, talking to his engineer; a lot of very, very positive points about him as a driver and I can understand how he won the World Championship. He suffered a lot with us, I think, because the rate of progress in Formula One had been so rapid that his short time out made a big difference. We first ran him at Silverstone and, after a day, he was struggling a little bit against the other driver who was there, and I didn't appreciate it until he said it, but he had just done his fastest lap around Silverstone, by quite a considerable margin. And I think he found that difficult. He found the fitness difficult, we were going to three quite hard races at the end of the year and I think he was disappointed in his performance, but it certainly wasn't through lack of effort.
Geoffrey Willis: It's a difficult question to answer. I get the impression that Jacques is not particularly happy in his current position. I'm sure he wasn't happy with Melbourne's race. Obviously being outside the team, I'm not aware of what the issues are. As Pat says, he's a hard-working driver, who's got a lot of experience in the car. The cars have changed quite a lot since he was driving for us two years ago. I think he's very sensitive to what the car does, what the engine does and he gives a lot of feedback, so I'm sure he will be having quite a lot of detailed conversations with his engineers at the moment. He's an extraordinarily competitive character and I'm sure he will be trying to get it back.
Q: Question for Ross: Michael didn't have the best start to his championship campaign in Melbourne. Do you think he's got the fight in him to start from the back foot as it were, for the next 18 races?
Ross Brawn: Yeah. I'm sure he has and it's given him a bit of extra incentive and when you know him, you see the signs. He arrived this weekend... he's been on the 'phone during the testing of the new car. One day I had a call from him and I was trying to work out where he was because it was a strange time of day and it was 2am in Thailand or wherever he was. He was very keen to know about the new car. He's been pretty punchy this weekend and determined to get back on the points trail. I just see the normal commitment and determination that Michael always has so no doubt about it. Circumstances may be outside of his control, and it would be disappointing to leave this weekend without some points for him, but I don't think it would be for lack of effort on his side and I think it's a good challenge for him that he relishes.
Q: A question for all of you: the president of the international federation has been dropping hints or perhaps a little more strongly suggesting that a new Formula One in the future would benefit from, he suggests, a 90 per cent reduction in down-force and the possibility of a return to big rear tyres. I'm interested to know from you technical guys whether it really is possible to recreate the cars of 30 years ago or would you guys find the missing 90 percent of downforce in 10 minutes?
Ross Brawn: I don't know that we're trying to recreate what went on 30 years ago, I don't think that's the motive because I think just to look back and say 'how wonderful it was then, let's go back' is not the best way to approach it. I think there is some very clear evidence that the reason it's difficult to overtake in Formula One is because for a car following the car in front, the aerodynamics are spoilt by following the car in front, so when a large percentage of the grip of the car is provided by aerodynamics then by very definition it's very difficult for two cars to follow each other. That makes overtaking more difficult. So there have been discussions about trying to cut the down-force down to a level that would minimize that, or reduce it. It would still keep the cars fast by increasing tyre grip. That has some possibly beneficial side effects because if you spin the car when you normally lose the aerodynamic performance you've still got the tyre grip so cars would slow down more quickly. The difficulty for all of us is that for as long as I can remember being in Formula One we've followed this Holy Grail of aerodynamics and it's a huge cultural shift for people in Formula One and that's why it's quite difficult for us to take a balanced view. We've all invested a huge amount in wind tunnels, we've all got major aerodynamic programmes running and the prospect of reducing them, or reducing the importance of them is not very palatable, but I think if it's far enough in the future, Formula One owes it to itself and its followers and supporters to have a proper look and see what sort of cars we should have in three or four years time and try and put to one side for a moment our cultural difficulties. I think there's a lot of good reason why high tyre grip and low down-force could provide a better racing formula.
Pat Symonds: I think it's a very difficult thing to talk about when you start putting numbers to it. If you were to say there could be merit in reducing down-force and increasing tyre grip and, particularly, perhaps, putting more emphasis on what the rear tyres are doing, there is evidence to suggest that it could improve overtaking opportunities. To extrapolate the work that's been done and say you should go to ten percent of the down-force we have now is a dangerous extrapolation. I don't know whether it's a linear effect, I don't know whether anyone knows that because no-one has actually sat down and gone that far and looked at it. I think that there is a good process going on now. Ross is quite right that there are an awful lot of people in Formula One who have an ingrained culture and I find it surprising sometimes that for, such an exciting sport, with so many pretty clever people involved in it, how rarely they will look out of the box and apply a bit of lateral thinking. I don't subscribe to the fact that Formula One is in dire straits. It is still a good formula. It still has a good fan base, but we should not be complacent. We should be looking at improving it, and we have a bit of a watershed coming up which allows us to do that, so I think it's a very good thing that people are looking now at what's required, but at these very early stages of looking at it, we should be careful about talking about numbers and things like that.
Sam Michael: I think that looking at the rules, to the future, seeing what you can improve and whether it's safety or reducing costs are fine, but it does need a lot of analysis. I think when I first saw the number of reducing down-force by 90 per cent, I was surprised at such a large number because you're into a level of touring cars then. I'm probably one of the more engrained people if you like, as Pat says, because I very much see Formula One as, from a team point of view, as an aerodynamic challenge. It's one of the biggest parts of Formula One since I've been in it and becoming more so. If you look outside a full-blown manufacturer team that does their own engine, the three main variables are tyres, engines and aerodynamics. I guess it is a cultural shift to something else, but whether you have to do it all in one step is something that needs a lot of looking into, but my first and initial reaction to it was definitely that's too far.
Geoffrey Willis: There are a number of points here. The first is supporting what's been said: it's very easy to jump in and say 'we're going to make a rule change, this is going to help overtaking.' As we've seen already this year -- something we didn't anticipate -- it looks as though it's much harder to follow cars closely with the new aerodynamic regulations and possibly harder as well to overtake, and that's (following) a relatively small loss in down-force which has certainly not helped. So therefore, if we're going to set ourselves this target, we need to study it pretty carefully and probably need to get some fairly realistic aerodynamic studies done and studies of what's going to happen if we change the balance between aerodynamic and mechanical grip. I think, overall, what we've got to make sure of is not just that we have close racing, overtaking, but we have to keep Formula One as a technical pinnacle. It has to be the fastest motor sport out there and one of the worries that I have is that if we have reduce the down-force to ten percent, if that's our objective, it's going to be quite difficult to keep it at the level of being the fastest, the most impressive, the most visually stunning form of motor sport. I think we do need to see racing where cars are closer to each other, not necessarily lots of overtaking, but probably close proximity. If we cast our minds back over the last 15 or 20 years, a lot of what we remember as good races, didn't have many overtaking manoeuvres, but they had many almost overtaking manoeuvres. I think as long as we find, technically, some solution, which comes up with that, then the numbers will come out of that rather just setting ourselves a target. So I would be a little bit wary.
And the other point is that Mike said 'going back to cars of 30 years ago'. It's not going to happen really because the cars now are so much better engineered, they are phenomenally reliable, they can be driven right to 99 percent of their performance throughout the race. These are all things that have changed and are unlikely to go back and they have changed the nature of racing.
Mike Gascoyne: I think Formula One at the moment is still the pinnacle of motor sport and that's what's made it very, very successful. For sure, we mustn't be complacent and improve the show for all the people that watch it. I just think that whatever we do, it needs to be really, really well thought-out rather than firing from the hip. I think there is general agreement amongst the experts that changing the ratio between aerodynamic grip and mechanical grip could be beneficial for the sport, but we have to make sure we do it properly, commission the correct studies from experts in the field, and unfortunately Formula One is so advanced in terms of motor sport the experts in the field are within the teams, not outside. So we've got to make sure that, as a group, we get the correct regulations to really improve the sport, not just change it. We need to improve it.
Q: To the four of you who have not a third car on Fridays: what is now the use of Fridays and in which way should it be changed in the future?
Sam Michael: I think it would naturally come from anybody who has not got a third car to say that they don't think you should have one any more, so it's a bit of a loaded question, because the people outside the top four will clearly want one, and especially this year, because it's very beneficial, particularly with the new engine regulations. But I think if you go back to the reason why that rule was originally put there, it was agreed so that specifically the two small teams, Jordan and Minardi at the time were running pay drivers and they wanted to have a third car on Fridays so that they could do that. It's obviously not being used for that intention now, but if it helps level up the grid, then that's another debate. But our opinion would be not to have a third car on Friday.
Ross Brawn: I think it's a gross anomaly in that, as Sam said, it was intended to give some commercial benefit to the less well-off teams to enable them to sell a third car for a Friday. And to have a team of the calibre of McLaren or last year BAR having the benefit of a third car on a Friday is a nonsense. I don't agree with it. Particularly with the regulations we have now, it's a huge benefit. I don't know how many laps McLaren did today, but they can run round with an engine that's not going to be used, they can run a reasonable number of sets of tyres and it doesn't make any sense. I can't see the logic in it, so it's something, which to me is just a piece of nonsense.
Pat Symonds: I think I would go a little bit further than that. I think the question was probably a bit more general about what we really think about Fridays. I think they are a bit of an anachronism now. There's certainly been talk of moving towards a two-day Grand Prix event, and I think what we're seeing in the early part of this year is probably evidence that reinforces that argument, and I think it's probably a pretty good argument. There are lots of other things that could be combined with it: whether we have a test session on the Friday or whatever, but certainly the current Friday is not a terribly exciting event, I don't think.
Geoffrey Willis: Yes, I think Pat's got a point that Friday, for those teams that don't have a third car, with the new engine regulations, is a day we do very little running. We do the minimum we can to get a good read on the two tyre choices, and what it shows is that we don't really need Friday in order to get a set-up for the race weekend, and it has become an anachronism and it's probably time that we changed the format of the race weekend to do something positive with Fridays to give much more value for the people that watch either at the circuit or on the TV.
Q: As a follow-up to that question, Mr Ecclestone has suggested that we all stay here on Monday and use that as a test session, and then cut down on other testing. What do you think of that idea?
Ross Brawn: I've had a bellyful of Formula One by Sunday night. (Laughter) If it's cut down, it can be cut down without Monday testing. No seriously, the drivers are hopeless on a Monday. The days when we used to have a Monday testing after a race, the race drivers were a waste of time. That's why we didn't do it in the end. Monday was the first day to be cut out of the test schedule when we agreed limits on testing a few years ago.
Mike Gascoyne: From my side, 19 races this year is a very difficult thing for the teams. People are away from home a long time and a race weekend is a pretty intensive period so, to add a couple of days on it, is totally unfeasible. I think that idea is not very close to reality. I just don't think we could do it.
Q: Ross, just a technical question for you: obviously this year the 2005 car will be the first car that hasn't been specifically designed by Rory Byrne. I wonder if you would just give us some background on how that technical transition is being managed and if it's making any difference to the way the team is working?
Ross Brawn: It's not a huge difference. It's been a pretty gradual process, Aldo Costa's involvement. Aldo's always had a strong involvement with all the Ferraris since I've been there. Rory's a fantastic concept and he used to let Aldo take care of the detail. So Aldo's been pretty involved with all the Ferraris. For the last couple of years Aldo's had a major input or a bigger input into the concept of the car and this year Rory stepped back and provided a safety net to make sure Aldo didn't trip over and he doesn't seem to have. He's done a very good job with this new car and Rory, I guess, is going off into a general retirement. I don't think he'll ever quite leave Ferrari. I think his heart will be at Ferrari for a very long time and we'd love him to stay involved in some capacity or other but it's been a gradual process. The two of them get on very well. They share philosophies and we're very lucky in that they both have an excellent relationship, so it's been an easy process and I don't think you'll notice the join, quite honestly.
Q: Now that the season has started, and nine of the teams have self-imposed testing limits, a question to all five of you: how much of an advantage is it to Ferrari to be able to basically test as much as they want?
Ross Brawn: Well, it's a big topic, Dan, as you can imagine. We wanted to find a solution. We don't want to be at odds with our fellow teams, but we had a difficult situation, the only sensible team on Bridgestone's and a team that has invested, over the past few years, in testing facilites. We have two of our own test tracks, which we've invested a lot of money in. Nobody else has those facilities, so we were in a fairly unique position and we simply couldn't find a compromise. We tried to offer some compromises, but they weren't acceptable to the other teams and their compromises were not acceptable to us. It's an unfortunate situation because we would have very much liked to have found a solution. I saw some data the other day, which Bridgestone had generated, where we've done 20 per cent of the test mileage of the Michelin teams, and it's a very steep learning curve on the tyres at the moment, and that's pretty significant. I think as the tyres level off, as the learning curve levels off on the tyres, then maybe it will be less significant. But with these tyres, we're having to do a lot of mileage to evaluate them, because you're into studying the wear patterns, studying the wear projections, and if you look at testing now, a lot of it is pounding round doing mileage. We couldn't allow ourselves to be disadvantaged by being the only runner on Bridgestone tyres, because we get no help from -- with all due respect -- we get no help from Jordan or Minardi, so it was impossible to find a compromise between the teams. So I don't think it's an advantage, but perhaps my colleagues will disagree, because we have to do all the Bridgestone running and there's no one else doing it for us.
Geoffrey Willis: I think certainly for BAR-Honda it's a disadvantage to have agreed to limit our testing, that's quite clear, but we made that agreement because we think it's a positive thing to get some control of the amount of testing we do, and there is a significant cost associated with testing in terms of shipping the cars, the wear and tear, the use of components that are 'lifed'. It is a significant part of the expenditure of a team. However, we still feel that we needed to have as much testing -- more testing -- than we've agreed to, but, despite that, we think it's in the long-term interest that we do end up with a certain amount of control and that's why we happily signed up to this agreement. I think it's a good sign that at least nine teams, at the moment, have agreed to it. All the individual teams have to do quite a lot of running for the reliability, particularly for engines with the new regulations. It will be, with the change of regulations, a season where we see quite a lot of developments as Sam said earlier, so for sure, it will be more difficult, towards the end of the year and we'll have to be very disciplined in controlling it, but that's what we've all agreed to do, and I'm very confident that we will all continue to agree.
Mike Gascoyne: I think if you look at the cost issue, the easiest way to save money in Formula One is not to run a Formula One car. The single most expensive item is the engine and physically we don't have to build one to run in a test car. So I think that from the nine teams, it was good that there was a clear agreement to reduce testing and I think there's feeling among the technical people that we could probably go even further, and I think that would be something that's very positive for Formula One. I think the situation that exists with one team testing all the time, is not a comfortable one. The comments about Bridgestone versus Michelin and the number of teams -- that isn't a situation that's happened overnight. Everyone should be playing on a level playing field and at the moment it's not and that's unfortunate for Formula One.
Pat Symonds: I've often been quoted as saying that I don't really mind what the rules are because they are the same for everyone. Now, this isn't a rule, of course, it's an agreement, but it is the first time in my knowledge that we have had one rule for one and another rule for others and therefore you might expect that I would feel pretty bad about it, but funnily enough that's not the case. Renault are not a rich team and last year the testing agreement was that you could test 48 days; I think, it was. There were no restrictions on how many places you went testing. Most of our competitors took full advantage of that. They ran 48 days; they were very often running in multiple venues. Our budget didn't stretch to that. We could only afford to do 36 days testing in the season last year and we could only test at one venue, so, strangely enough, while, yes, Ferrari might be getting some advantage from it, although, yes, Ross has a point, but in my mind that's a fact of life rather than an excuse (sic)... On the other hand, we as a team have probably gained from it, because we've pulled other teams back to our level, so it's an unusual situation, but strangely enough, a compromise that I'm not too uncomfortable with.
Sam Michael: I think that the level of testing that we do now, probably 50 percent of our testing is on tyres, doing tyre testing, and it is a valid point, as Ross has said, and if I try and put myself in their shoes, I would probably be fighting the same corner. But the thing that the testing reduction has probably done has made us look very closely at efficiency which is something that I think Renault went through in 2003 I think it was when we had that Friday morning testing option. It's made us certainly look a lot harder at ourselves and if I look at the actual loss of information and data gathering compared to last year it's not a great deal. It's definitely not in line with the percentage of cost-saving, so the cost saving that we've made is massive compared to the information that we've lost. It is definitely helped by having seven teams on Michelin tyres because it gives Michelin a big pool of data to work from but in terms of the singular effect on the team, it's been good.
Q: Could I ask Sam whether Patrick (Head) a few weeks ago was talking about the problems you had calibrating the two wind tunnels? Are you on top of that problem now? Could you give us some insight as to what it was all about?
Sam Michael: I think that whenever you are looking at the correlation between track and wind tunnels, it's not a perfect world and I think that problem exists all the time. What Patrick was referring was that we've just commissioned a new wind tunnel and the figures in that are... even if you compare between two different wind tunnels are always going to be different, so what he was referring to was the difference between our old wind tunnel and our new wind tunnel. Those figures were different and then different again to the car on the track, so it was just a matter of making sure all your calibration factors and correction numbers are correct. It doesn't affect the performance of the car on the track as such. It's just something that needs to be... it's an ongoing thing that, ever since I've been in Formula One, you're always looking for better correlation from track to tunnel and it's not something that's currently affecting us.
Q: Are you on top of it?
Sam Michael: Yes.
Q: There's a new team in Formula One, it's an Austrian team, Red Bull. I would like your own personal view of the team, what you like, what you dislike, the pluses and the minuses, and how far this new outfit can go?
Sam Michael: I think that from what I saw in Melbourne they've obviously done a pretty good job of their car over the winter. They've improved, relative to others, which means they've obviously made a good handle of the rule changes. And if I also look at the areas they're investing in, you've only got to look at the job adverts in Autosport, they've got a full-page for about ten aerodynamicists. They clearly know where they need to spend their money so... and that's a big change from where they've been in the past. But we'll have to see how they keep up with the development rate during the year.
Ross Brawn: I think it's a good thing for Formula One. Eddie was struggling a bit, and it's never nice to see somebody struggling. Sorry, Jaguar were struggling, but the same thing applies. It's never nice to see teams struggling, and to see teams with a fresh impetus like Red Bull have got is a good thing. I think in this whole scenario of cost saving, it's very difficult to control what the top teams spend. I think it's impossible because we spend what we can get. I think that what's important is that we make Formula One viable for teams like Red Bull and teams like Jordan was or is going to become and Minardi, make sure that Formula One is viable for those teams and that they can put up a respectable performance and make a good impression in Formula One, and certainly Red Bull seem to be doing that. I think it's a very positive sign and the nature of Red Bull probably means they are going to bring a little bit of a different character to Formula One, I certainly hope so, because it would benefit from that. Seeing David Coulthard openly interviewed is certainly more entertaining than it used to be. I think it's a very positive thing.
Pat Symonds: I think technically over the winter, they looked like they were doing a good job, and that was shown in Melbourne. It's one race out of 19 but I think there's every sign that they're going to have a very successful season and it's good to see that. Let's not forget that the groundwork that was done for that car, was done by the Jaguar team, but nevertheless, good for them, and they do look they are going about things the right way technically. In other ways, I very much echo what Ross has said. They've said they are going to bring the fun back. Well, let's have more of them.
Mike Gascoyne: I think that technically they've obviously done a very good job. I was at Tyrrell when it was sold to BAR and the uncertainty that that gives you and the disruption in a team is enormous. They had a long period of uncertainty which Red Bull stepped in and ended but to keep their focus, and do the job they've done -- which is obviously a very, very creditable job -- is a great effort under very difficult circumstances so I would really pay tribute to their engineers who did an excellent job.
Geoffrey Willis: You certainly get the impression it's a re-vitalised team. As Mike said, it's a difficult transition at the end of the Jaguar era, and I think it's good to have more financial commitment into Formula One, good to have another team which is full of confidence and we'll looking forward to seeing what happens in this first year.
Q: Question for Geoff Willis: what are the chances of BAR releasing Davidson, if he's required by another team?
Geoffrey Willis: Yes, this story.... Very much the same as have been the discussions we had last year with the possibility of Anthony driving for one or two teams. It is that Anthony is a BAR driver at the moment. We don't have our driver decisions made for 2006 and therefore if we had any discussion with Anthony driving for another team this year, it would only be on the grounds that it would be for a single year and I think that that's our position. But I would say that we have had no contact whatsoever, so you are probably better informed than we are.
Q: To all of you: given the huge amount of work on Sundays, did you find difficulties in organisation in Melbourne?
Pat Symonds: Small answer, it's difficult and yes.
Ross Brawn: I think because it was new to us, though we'd had the forced qualification in Suzuka, it was a little bit tricky but we'll cope. So it's not a big deal and not that different to when we used to have warm-ups on a Sunday.
Sam Michael: Yeah, same for us: there's no real problem. You go in sequence now anyway; probably the only thing that it's done is that you're in later here on Saturday night doing strategy whereas last year strategy was fixed after first qualifying.
Geoffrey Willis: I think that we've all learned, over the last few years, as the format of the race weekend has changed, that we can be flexible and we can quickly learn how to operate to a new timetable.
Mike Gascoyne: Yeah, I think that last year it was strange to be sitting around all Sunday morning, or over the last few years, with nothing to do. You're there, from that point of view it presents difficulties but we're all here, we might as well be doing something and entertaining the crowds.