Like the deceptively fast V8-powered cars brought in for 2006, the season seems to be going by much more quickly than expected. The two North American races have taken us past the half way mark, and there are now just eight races to go. And ...
Like the deceptively fast V8-powered cars brought in for 2006, the season seems to be going by much more quickly than expected. The two North American races have taken us past the half way mark, and there are now just eight races to go.
And although everyone at MF1 Racing is naturally frustrated at letting some good point-scoring opportunities slip away, the good news for the team is that the M16 package is clearly getting better.
For example, even carrying serious bodywork damage after his early contact at the U.S. Grand Prix, Christijan Albers' best lap was only 0.001s slower than that of David Coulthard, who finished seventh. And had he been able to run beyond half distance before the damage stopped him, Christijan might have been even quicker.
With an eye toward the remaining races, the team website asked MF1 Managing Director Colin Kolles for his thoughts on the season so far...
Q: How hard were things at the beginning of the season, especially with the problems getting off the line?
Colin Kolles: "The first few races were difficult, to be honest, but now it seems to be quite stable. Our reliability seems to be fine, so the engineers can concentrate on making the cars quicker."
Q: So are things going better now?
CK: "I think that we are improving a little bit. The gap to the cars in front of us is getting smaller, and it's becoming more and more obvious to everybody. We've proved since Imola that the gap is getting smaller. We're not 4.5 seconds away from the frontrunners anymore; we are maybe 1.8s-2.0s off the pace. And to the mid-field cars that are our direct competitors, it's a matter of a few tenths. In the last few races, we've been quicker than Red Bull, so we are making progress, and that's positive."
Q: Was seeing Tiago get into the top 16 qualifiers for the first time at Silverstone a highlight?
CK: "This is what we expect every weekend, so it was not a highlight for me. It was actually a disappointment, because we could have been in the top 16 with both cars! The problem was that Christian missed getting his lap in by five seconds."
Q: What about getting both cars through at Indy?
CK: "Again, I'm satisfied in that it shows we are closing the gap, but there's still nothing to celebrate. We had some chances to achieve this at previous races, but we were a little bit unlucky with circumstances. I think we should always be able to be in the top 16. We just have to work hard to keep closing the gap and catch up."
Q: At Indy, they both got their timing right and did their laps right at the end of the session...
CK: "It shows that we are learning every day, and that the team is confident. That's important. There are teams out there that are not as confident as we are."
Q: How hard is it to make progress with the budget that you have to spend?
CK: "I think that we have one of the most efficient teams, and I'm very proud of the people working for us and the job they do. Pound for pound, we are extremely effective."
Q: The two cars collided off the line in Monaco, and afterwards you said they could have been in the points. Is that a major regret?
CK: "I never look back, so it's no longer an issue for me, to be honest. At the time, yes, it was annoying, but not to the point where I couldn't sleep! Sure, it was possible to for us to get some points there, so we may have lost some, basically. But for me, as long as we keep moving forward, it's positive."
Q: Isn't the problem that everyone else is continuing to develop and improve their cars as well?
CK: "Yes, it's true, nobody in F1 is standing still, but obviously we are closing the gap quicker than the others are moving forward - at least the ones immediately in front of us. As long as we continue to make gains like this, it's fine. In Canada, Williams was one-and-a-half tenths away, and the rest of the cars were only a few tenths away. We know that we have improvements coming in the wind tunnel, and we'll bring them in race by race."
Q: Indy is a bit of a one-off circuit. What can the team expect to achieve in Magny-Cours?
CK: "Hopefully, a better result. It's definitely a circuit that suits our car. We'll have some new components with us which should help keep us ahead of the teams we overtook last time."
Q: What's the latest news on your engine plans for next year?
CK: "The latest is that we have no problems in this respect. We have enough options, and we have very good options."
Q: Could there be a driver as part of a deal?
CK: "We take a lot of drivers with deals, so we don't exactly need manufacturers to bring us drivers. I think we have enough internal knowledge to find good drivers ourselves."
Q: But you wouldn't rule out taking a driver who came with an engine deal?
CK: "We are not against it as a matter of principle. So, yes, we are open to this, too."
Q: Finally, it's now been a year since Tiago finished on the podium at Indianapolis. How do you feel about that achievement now and what it did for the team?
CK: "We lost money, actually, because we had to pay bonuses to the drivers and the entire factory, so it was quite an expensive exercise and an expensive trophy! But still, it was nice... In fact, we would be very happy to see everyone at MF1 earn more prize bonuses in the future."