Team members: Tom Walkinshaw Mike Coughlan Andy King John Davis Huw Morgan Drivers: Jos Verstappen Pedro de la Rosa Q: First, I would like to introduce everyone who is joining us here today. We'll start on the left, technical director is...
Pedro de la Rosa
Q: First, I would like to introduce everyone who is joining us here today. We'll start on the left, technical director is Mike Coughlan. Next to him is Andy King, Andy is the head of sponsorship and strategic development. Next to him, of course, is Jos Verstappen, one of the drivers for this team. Next to him, Tom Walkinshaw, the team principal. Pedro de la Rosa sits next to Tom Walkinshaw, of course, the other driver for this team. Huw Morgan, the commercial director for Orange Arrows. And John Davis, head of research and development. Tom, if we could start with you very quickly. The team obviously has proven to be one of the most improved from year to year with excellent development, I should say, showing this season. Could you talk a little about the catalyst behind the improvement of the team?
Tom Walkinshaw: I think it was being so bad last year. The worse you are, the more scope you have to improve. But I think that we took decisions last year to give the season away and to concentrate and doing a new car, and Mike and his team put a little effort into that. I think that's what we're bearing the fruits of.
Q: Can I get a very quick reaction from you on your first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as team principal for a team that will compete here in a Formula One event?
TW: It's fantastic, isn't it? It's a wonderful facility. Everyone is making us very welcome. So I just hope the weather stays fair so we can have a good race and the crowds can see Formula One in its true colors.
Q: Let's move now, if we can, to Mike Coughlan, who is technical director, as we introduced. The car this season is the Arrows A21. It appears to have very good performance and speed out of the box this season, and is often the fastest car through the traps on the circuit. How do you feel the team has achieved such a good car this year and can we have similar expectations for next years Orange Arrows A22?
Mike Coughlan: I think Tom summed it up. It's relatively easy to make a car when you take a year off. The difficulty will come when we have to do a second car. We set some goals and I gave Tom the figure, the goal that we set ourselves at the beginning of the development, and we worked through to achieve that figure. And when we made it, we were pretty confident we would have a reasonable car. And we set ourselves a similar goal for next year, which we at the moment look like we will achieve. We decided early on in the development of the car that we would concentrate on efficiency as opposed to sheer level of downforce. And looking into the nature of the circuit, the addition of Indy, and the fact that you were really looking at only two circuits where a large amount of downforce is required, we elected to go for a car that was capable of racing. That was good on the brakes, that ran efficient downforce, that meant running reasonably low. I think it's borne fruit really.
Q: A21 is performing in its first two practice sessions here how, in your opinion?
MC: It's difficult to say. Jos spun off and Pedro struggled with some balance. But our season has developed such that we're reasonably confident in our own performance; therefore, we looked at -- we weren't under pressure like Jaguar to come up with some good lap times today. We looked to the weather. We realize that tomorrow is probably going to be wet. And Sunday could be wet or dry. So we decided that we would concentrate on race set-up today. And that's what we did, and I think we came away reasonably happy.
Q: Andy, it doesn't matter if it's Formula One, CART, Indy Racing League, sponsorship drives racing. You, yourself, are in an interesting situation and a challenging one, always developing sponsorship situations. What has attracted sponsors to this team?
Andy King: I think really, as Mike has done on the technical side, last year was effectively a year off. We had to regenerate or reinvent the team, reinvent Arrows. It's really the first year, I guess, for the new Arrows, that Mike Coughlan, the technical team has been together. That's really part of the sponsorship proposition to potential sponsors through the winter, was the reinvention of the team, the hopes that we had for year 2000. And people like Orange, Chello, Lost Boys, all these companies are brand new to Formula One, as well. We did a combination of reinventing ourselves and also surfing on the back of this incredible popularity that Formula One's got globally now. It's the biggest sport globally. And it's not been easy to attract other sponsors, but it's been a very worthwhile experience because they've grown incredibly quickly with us as they developed the sponsorship. So it's partly reinvention, the popularity of F1, and being there: right people, right time.
Q: Excuse my ignorance of this situation if, in fact, it's already been announced, but where do you stand for next season with sponsorship?
AK: That's the other good thing. These sponsors -- all high-tech sponsors, all new to Formula One -- they are all under long-term contracts. Although a lot of these sponsorships came into the team very late through the Christmas period, that's really, in racing terms, relatively late. So through Christmas to the new season in March was quite a busy time for us to get everything positioned in the right way. We developed the Orange Arrows brand and the sponsorship portfolio through this season, to develop a working entity effectively. So for next year all we're doing now is building on the existing relationships we've got. These sponsors will be integrating the team as part of their business and marketing strategies for next year. That's another interesting part of our job, to actually integrate ourselves with these big companies as to what they want to do globally. And that is a question of picking up the smaller sponsor that would like to be associated with us. There are a lot of people on the phone, and we seem to be a bit of a happening team at the moment. So it's quite nice. In my position it's quite good.
Q: Pedro, today was your first time back in the car since a pretty good hit at Monza a couple of weeks ago. First off, how are you feeling?
Pedro de la Rosa: Thank you. I'm feeling perfectly well. Thanks to the chassis and Formula One safety I'm here. And I truly didn't have any headache or any problems the day after, which I was expecting. The accident was quite spectacular, but I don't think it was very violent on me or myself. So really happy to be here really.
Q: I had an opportunity to hear you during the FIA press conference, a couple of your comments.But your reaction, for those that were unable to hear you, to this new circuit?
PD: It's an interesting circuit because first of all we introduced banking corners in Formula One, which we are not used to. It's been my first time. It has an extremely long straight. We're more than 20 seconds flat, which is a lot. And then we have a very slow infield, which is okay for me. It's just two corners a little bit too slow. Track surface quite slippery, so it makes grip levels low. I think overall it's a very interesting track, especially with a long straight where you have opportunities to overtake during the race, and this will be good for the spectacle on Sunday.
Q: Let's move, if we can, to John Davis, who is head of research and development for the team. John, obviously there is a incredible amount of preparation for this event and any Grand Prix event. If you could talk a little bit about the resources that are needed to prepare a team for a Grand Prix event, and especially from the technical point of view.
John Davis: First of all, with a new track to everyone, we had to try and understand what sort of level of downforce and how we had to set up the car. As Pedro said, this is a unique track, having a mixture of the oval status of the Indy Cars, and sort of twisting Formula One road surface. What we had to try to do is prepare an understanding of what the car would be needed for qualifying and for the race. As Mike said, we have today gone through our own program of determining exactly those set-ups. We tried a few things. We had predetermined configurations, and we've run that today. And one of the big resources we used to our advantage, and we are learning better how to do it, is back at the factory we have a number of people working, which is now through the night. We have a car sitting on a rig, which is going round and round the track, will do probably 120, 130 laps through the night, and those resources, a bunch of guys there who are changing the car, learning from the set-up, feeding information back. We have people resimulating the track to work out under the expected conditions of dry track tomorrow. We expect the track to improve if it's dry. If it's wet, we have to learn what to do for that. So we've got information from the car which was immediately sent back to base in the session and we got a feedback between the sessions to confirm our calculations. Formula One, you see, I don't know, what, we bring 60, 70 people, but there's a lot more people involved. And the good thing with ours, we've got a lot of good determined people who want to succeed. They work through the night. They won't be in front of the cameras, won't be seen by the press, but be working equally as hard as the guys changing the tires on Sunday.
Q: Has the banking been a difficult technical hurdle to clear, or is it, in fact, no more difficult than preparing for any other circuit?
JD: It's different. We had to take it into account. We've used information from Indy cars, NASCAR, from satellite navigation to determine how our car performed around it. And because we go around the infield road course, we are set up to be able to have enough grip for those circuits. So when we come to 300 plus kilometers around the corners, we have enough downforce to get around -- I hate to say easy flat. The guys drop to go around there. I tell them it's easy. They come back and say, "You try doing it." It's an interesting corner and it adds a bit of interest technically. The car, we had to make sure it was safe. The tires, obviously concerned about Formula One cars going around the banking with the currency of F1 cars. An extra addition, technically, to try and work out.
Q: Let's move to Jos Verstappen. Jos, let me say for those of us here in the United States who have been told by many that there is no possibility of seeing side-by-side racing, in Formula One you certainly proved people wrong at Monza with a great move. You were 4th there and certainly had a good race. Fast circuits seem to suit you obviously. You have, as Pedro alluded to, an area on this track where you're flat for nearly -- excuse me, John referred to for nearly 25, 30 seconds. How does that suit you in terms of your style?
Jos Verstappen: I think it suits our car very much. We always look quite good on fast circuits, so as well here, especially in the morning we were by miles the quickest on the straight line. After that, we changed the car over and over, and we went a little bit slower on the straight line, but regained lap time in the infield. But I think with the laps we did, we did pretty well. We ended up 13th, as well, I spun off where we lost some time on setup. But I think the car felt reasonably well, and I think we can do a good job tomorrow.
Q: As you said, you were 13th. Do you leave the track today optimistic? Are you happy with that? Were you expecting more? Where does the mental state stand right now?
JV: Optimistic because I know how much fuel we had in the car, and I know how much makes the difference if you take it out. So I feel comfortable. The car runs quite well so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: Thank you, Jos. Let's go to Huw Morgan, who is the commercial director. This is something. There appears to be a certain atmosphere, I guess we should say. I guess the word elitism would be proper in some respects. Not necessarily warranted, I guess, all the time but certainly Formula One is an elite series. Orange Arrows seem to be open and friendly and welcoming. It's a team that doesn't necessarily fit into the elitist type of persona. Is that by design?
Huw Morgan: I think we like to consider ourselves being on the right side of elitist. One of a very special group of teams within this sport and industry of ours. If you're looking at Orange Arrows in particular, it's a good program of events that is very inclusive-orientated. We have a special 2-seater program, a very good community project. There's a brand-new website that has a number of new activities on it. A brand-new membership scheme is in the process of being launched.We're not looking to reinvent the wheel, we're looking to do it in a way that's new and fresh and a little bit better than most, I would say.
Q: What do fans tell you about this team? I mean, what is the interaction level like with this team and its fans?
HM: I think it's very good and it's very close. I think just by coming along to the question-and-answer session that we have tomorrow afternoon with Pedro and Jos at the Media Center I think people will be very surprised to see the level of activity over there. And we have a very close contact with our fans and our supporters and long may that continue. And I think they appreciate the fact we do interact with them very closely.
Q: Is there a misconception coming into new venues, such as Indianapolis, that Formula One teams are hands-off, non-fan-friendly? Is that a misconception that is trying to be changed by this team and others?
HM: I don't think it's a misconception. I think everybody is very excited about it. It's a new venture for all concerned. All everybody is concerned about is to make it very successful and to leave this weekend being as positive and as popular and successful as possible. It's a great new adventure.
Q: What can we expect for the line-up for next year?
TW: We're still negotiating with them.
Q: Any idea when that might be?
TW: Well, the drivers are smart, but some of their managers are a little bit slow in negotiating. So the process tends to drag out a little bit. But it gives them an excuse to come to all the races. So there’s another three to go. By the end of the season it will be fixed.
Q: Tom, you've been really successful in your career with touring cars, sports cars, including starting from the ground up. Yet the transition to Formula One has been a little rocky. Can you describe what the problem is from coming into F1 away from having built your previous organization?
TW: I think everything else we had we owned 100 percent ourselves. So you can decide the best way to do it. Right or wrong, it was your own way. And then delivering. When they came into Arrows, we had a sort of 50/50 arrangement with other shareholders, and it was not possible originally to persuade them to make the investment necessarily in the team to build it up to the level to be competitive. They were comfortable just to be in F1 and trailing at the back. So last year we took them out and at that point we sat down and said, “Right now, what do we need to do to make the team a front-running team?” And, you know, everybody in the company in the management level was in that process, and they would have done that. No one would really drive it forward. Hopefully for the next couple of seasons we can haul this thing to the front. It's not easy, everybody is trying to do the same. I think that was the difference, we tried to do it with other people and Formula One isn't a consensus management philosophy, it tends to be driven by one or two people deciding what's necessary and driving it on through.
Q: Have you delegated more responsibility to others then? With regard to other TWR projects are you taking more of a step back and concentrating on the Arrows?
TW: TWR is not a huge company so people can manage their rights in their own division and fortunately, that allows more time to be freed up. But also having a group CEO starting in another six weeks, that should free up even more of my time. A Formula One team is just like a big huge company, with divisions all over the place, and you really need dedicated people in each one of those specialist areas to try to get the best out of it.
Q: How much contact have you had with AMT and (rest of question inaudible).
MC: When the deal was announced it was constant. It's been weekly meetings. Maybe not quite the formal level yet, but the engine in terms of performance figures is very similar, but it's a new generation, it's not the whole step but the first step. It's shorter, it's lighter. And also with our dealings with Supertec, one of the advantages you have is you see another way of doing things and the engine has its big pluses and you can say this is a big advantage to the vehicle. So you install that and ask them to work on various things that you believe will make your car go faster. And also, they're a very professional set of people. They are dedicated and hard-working. I have no reason to believe that it won't be at least as good a package next year.
Q: I would like to ask the drivers, if I could, Pedro and Jos, is there time for considering the history that will be made here Sunday with you being 2 of the 22 drivers that will run the first Formula One event at this track, or is there simply time to think about the task at hand, the race?
JV: I don't know. I mean, you go to a race, you work as hard as you can and go as quick as you can and prepare yourself as good as you can to be a successful as you can. So, yeah, I don't know the history here but you have to look forward and that's what you do.
PD: Well, that's something we will start thinking on Monday, really. Because now for us it's one more race. It sounds cold, but it's like that and we have to get a good race out, really. That's our main concern at the moment. Then after the race is over, it's good to be part of it and it will feel good to be one of the 22 drivers that have raced here since ten years and on the first race here in Indianapolis. But not at the moment. I'm so sorry, but it's like that.
Q: How will your role this year going into next year be affected with Eghbal [Hamidy, aerodynamicist] leaving?
MC: Maybe Tom should answer that. Eghbal has a contract until the end of next year at the moment. Eghbal is an honest person. I fully expect Eghbal to finish his contract. He is contracted until the end of next year. So he should effectively stay for the new car and for the gestation of the car after. Now, whether that should happen, I don't know. The other thing is I see my role very much as developing the technical side of Arrows, and that means having strength and depth. And I don't believe any one person will seriously affect the outcome of Arrows. I think Tom talked about management structure. There is a management structure in place at Arrows that is really quite tough. And there are people at Arrows who believe themselves to be smarter than Eghbal. Maybe they're not, but that's the way they feel, they're sportsmen. Every man who competes at a high level, who wants to really compete, has to believe he's the best. These drivers think if they were with McLaren they would win and they should do. We have tremendous strength in depth and I think people underestimate us. I really do. And so when Eghbal does finally leave, there is a period of time where we will just be able to recover. I don't see it as a big hiccup at all, I see that as part of my role.
Q: You said an interesting thing about being underestimated. Would you rather be underestimated or overly hyped like Jaguar?
MC: Underestimated. Very much so. I think people look at our season and say it's been fantastic. We're disappointed. Technically we're disappointed. We've thrown away some good results. The drivers would admit that in Brazil we gave away some points. We certainly let Pedro down in Austria. Pedro made a small mistake in Hockenheim. We believe -- when I say "we", technically, the technical team believes we probably -- with a little bit of luck, we could have been 5th-best team. We should have maybe 15 points, 17 points. And I think overall, though, we are pleased with our performance, in terms of results we're disappointed. We feel we let ourselves down a little bit. And it just makes it tough for next year. Makes you realize things you must put into place. Drivers must be -- will have to be fitter. And also it's not just that. We went into Brazil with a very hard circuit with a car where we elected not to have power steering and this and that. So we made it very tough for our drivers too. That's another side of it. I think with next year's tires, these are areas we'll have to take care of for them.
Q: I know it's been a long day for you Tom. To you, to your drivers, to your entire team, good luck. And certainly as a racing broadcaster, for myself, and as a racing fan, it is difficult to let you all know how excited we are about having Formula One not just back in the United States, but here at this Speedway. And I must admit today when the cars rolled onto the track for the first time, it was a moment I'll remember for a long time.
TW: We'll awfully glad to be here. I think we fully appreciate the significance of being in Indy for Formula One. And we'll all be working hard to put on a good show for all the fans for the weekend and I know everybody is looking forward to it. Like I said, I hope the weather stays fair so everyone can see Formula One in a true light.