Interview with Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber Petronas Q: Sauber Petronas made great strides at Imola. Had you expected this yourself? Willy Rampf: Yes, I certainly had. Our wind tunnel measurements had given us reason to expect that...
Interview with Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber Petronas
Q: Sauber Petronas made great strides at Imola. Had you expected this yourself?
Willy Rampf: Yes, I certainly had. Our wind tunnel measurements had given us reason to expect that we'd be making clear progress, yet the effective gain turned out to be bigger than we'd thought.
Q: Was this strictly about aerodynamics?
WR: Yes, by and large it was. We had made a number of aerodynamic modifications, but the crucial one, no doubt, was the slimmer, lowered rear bodywork. This has improved the car's aerodynamics significantly. We're measuring clearly more downforce with merely a slight increase of drag, and braking stability has benefited from these changes as well.
Q: Can we now expect Sauber Petronas to be at this level at all the forthcoming races?
WR: I'd be careful about making such predictions. It's true that we've made considerable strides, but Imola is a special circuit. What's more, we were one of the few teams that tested at Imola prior to the season and therefore had a good basic set-up. That certainly helped. I think we'll have a clearer picture after the race at Barcelona. But in any event, the hierarchy in Formula 1 seems to be "returning to normal" again, after it had gotten mixed up quite a bit in the first races.
Q: How do you explain your difficult start to the season?
WR: If the rules remain the same from one year to the other, you can continue to work in the direction you already know. For the 2005 season, however, there were major changes in the area of aerodynamics forcing us to investigate things at a basic level. We wanted to build a car with a basic design offering optimum prerequisites.
A visible result of this work is the significantly undercut sidepods of the Sauber Petronas C24. But that took time. Because we normally use our wind tunnel only in a one-shift operation, we were somewhat behind the top teams which are all running three shifts. But now we're at a stage where we can concentrate on detailed improvements, and we're making pretty good progress with these.
Q: Can further steps like those at Imola be anticipated now?
WR: That would certainly be great, but probably not quite realistic. The step we took at Imola roughly equates to the one we had taken at Silverstone last year. We're going to continue pursuing our current approach and try to use new aerodynamic components at each forthcoming race. I'm convinced that the C24 has a lot of potential that we can now continuously exploit step by step.
Q: How is the cooperation with Michelin coming along?
WR: The cooperation with Michelin is extremely productive. Michelin not only make competitive tyres but also practise a very open style of communication from which we profit a great deal. Consequently, it's usually easy for us to make the right choice between the two tyre specifications at a race weekend.
Nevertheless, we still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to making optimum use of the tyres in certain conditions, such as in extreme heat. But that's primarily a question of experience in handling the tyres, and we keep learning at each test and each race.
Q: And the C24, after all, had not been developed for Michelin tyres.
WR: That's right. The Michelin decision was taken at a time when the development of the C24 had already progressed quite far. As a matter of fact, the Michelin tyres require different specifications regarding the suspension geometry or weight distribution. At the moment, we have to live with a compromise situation in this area. Yet I wouldn't want to overrate the whole thing either. However, with regard to the C25, there is room for improvement.