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FIA Friday Press Conference - Britain 09 Jul 2004

The FIA Press Conference (L to R): Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Toyota Technical Director; Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director; Geoff Willis (GBR) BAR Chief Designer; Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director.
Formula One World Championship, British Grand Prix, Rd 11, Practice, Silverstone, England, 9 July 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Team personnel: Mike Gascoyne (Toyota), Sam Michael (Williams), Pat Symonds (Renault) and Geoffrey Willis (BAR).

Q: Mike, you have a new or revised car coming out, what are you expecting from it, how many places is it going to gain you?
Mike GASCOYNE:
We’re expecting it to go quicker otherwise we wouldn’t have made it. We’ve been doing a lot of work. We thing it’s a good step forward. We’ve finalised the configuration. It’s been very tight to produce it on time because it’s new monocoques which needed re-homologation, plus a total new aero package, so a lot of hard work. And hopefully it will be a reasonable step forward. I think the important thing is that from where we are you are not going to move all the way to the front in one step. But this is the start of the process. We have put a lot of things right at the factory, done a lot of hard work that you don’t see on the racetrack. We’ve been doing all that. It’s taken a long time and now we are starting to see the results of all that work but it’s just the first step of what will be a long process but one that we’re trying to do as quickly as we can.

Q: It’s got more downforce, I believe, that’s the main point of it.
MG:
It is lighter, it’s got more downforce. There are a lot of things that aren’t in the package that have all come together at one time. We’ve also hopefully got a step on the engine, so overall it should be a good step forward but we have to wait and see. Everyone is making progress and so it’s impossible to say exactly where it will put you. But we’re confident it’s a good step forward.

Q: Geoff, I believe you had a new aero package on cars today. Tell us about it?
Geoff WILLIS:
We have a number of developments which we tested last week at Jerez and we will be testing again next week at the Jerez test. It’s quite difficult at this time of the year because we are just about to come to the big testing ban, so we are trying to get as many pieces on the car right at the moment. But we need to be really careful. It’s often the case that if you rush new components onto a car that aren’t properly tested then you tend to go backwards rather than make an improvement. So we will be a bit cautious. Today, it’s not been a particularly good day for us and I think we may well just keep a bit more logical and save the parts for the test at Jerez when we’ve got proper time to evaluate them.

Q: What about Jenson Button today, what do you feel about his performance?
GW:
Generally we were reasonably happy with the car but we’re not as happy as we were at the test here a short while ago. We’ve got some more work to do, I think.

Q: Pat, tell us about Trulli at Magny-Cours; are you think about installing an alarm clock in his car?
Pat SYMONDS:
Yeah, probably a Mickey Mouse one! It was one of those things. You know, everyone does make mistakes in life and I guess I do have a little bit of sympathy for drivers in that their mistakes are extremely public. Having said that, we are not very tolerant of mistakes. It was a very basic mistake that he made, a mistake that drivers make early in their career and learn from them. But in fairness to Jarno, he fully admits he made the mistake, he admits that he was not cautious, he wasn’t really thinking the thing through and half the battle with stopping yourself making mistakes is to admit you made them so there’s a positive note there.


Q: Pat, you’ve made fantastic starts in the team. Are you surprised others haven’t caught up and are doing similar starts. ?
PS:
I think that when we had automatic launch control I was surprised that people didn’t catch up. We were quite late introducing ours; in fact it was at the British Grand Prix that year that we first used our launch control because we spent a long while developing it. I was pleasantly surprised that we maintained our advantage until the end of the year, but I was absolutely amazed that we had that advantage through the following year. The start systems now are nowhere near as sophisticated as they used to be. There are elements of control that we can do and we can still do. I think that we have learned an awful lot from the automatic systems as to what we needed to do for the so-called manual systems and I think that has helped us.

Q: Sam, recent aerodynamic update and changes to the car, have they improved performances as you had hoped? Did you expect further?
Sam MICHAEL:
We made quite a big change to the side pod and the floor and it was really just a change of direction in comparison to what we had before. The initial step wasn’t… it was still more downforce but it wasn’t a step that we ever believed would put us up to Ferrari straightaway. But now we’ve added two or three more parts to that this weekend and we’ve got quite an aggressive development programme over the next three or four races to bring parts to that package.

Q: Marc Gene obviously replacing Ralf Schumacher, what has Marc got to do to keep the seat as long Ralf is out of it?
SM:
Well, the main thing is to drive as fast as he can and score as many points as he can and try and do the best job. He’s quite a stable guy in the car. Even in the middle of a session if the team is struggling or looking for a set-up direction, Marc’s quite a good driver from that point of view and it’s probably come from the many thousands of kilometres of testing that he’s done. In terms of him keeping the drive, that’s something that we will evaluate race by race. To be honest we did that to start with because we did not actually know how long Ralf would be out of the car. It was only the day before the Magny-Cours Grand Prix that we realised that he would be out for longer than what we thought so from that point, we always said we would decide race by race.

Q: The question to all of you is after the Technical Working Group meeting earlier this week, what was the outcome, where is it going next, what are the problems, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals? What happens next?
MG:
I think it was a very productive meeting. Certainly the easiest thing for us to discuss is obviously the chassis regulations and the aerodynamic regulations. We came up with a couple of proposals to limit downforce, specifically around the diffuser area. I think they were the right direction and the right changes and certainly very significant changes. Quite a few teams had done quite a bit of work on it and achieved similar results. So I think we were fairly confident that we would achieve a significant reduction in lap times in aerodynamics and also lap time due to that. Also I think the regulations that we get from it will be tuneable, we can tune them each year. It give us an area of the car and some dimensions that will allow us to fine-tune in future years. So I think from that point of view, on the chassis side it was very productive. Tyres and engine are more difficult for us to look at but again, there were some proposals, not unanimously received, that increase engine life and also the engine manufacturers are working on a range of proposals they will put forward in a document for 2008, to see which ones can be pulled forward to 2005. And on the tyres, Bridgestone and Michelin are working together to look at ways of reducing performance, so overall, I think we’re attacking it on all fronts, but certainly from the chassis side, I think there was good agreement and certainly the right direction.
GW: The technical working group was asked to find a way of reducing the performance of the cars and the key thing for me was that we established that our target was to reduce the performance of the cars back to the lap times we had in 2002/2003 so essentially, about a three seconds a lap reduction in performance. And the Technical Working Group looking at specifically the chassis regulations and the aerodynamic regulations have come up with, unanimously, with a set of proposals that we believe will slow the cars down by 1.5s/1.75s per lap, maybe a little bit less if there is some improvement over the winter. The tyre proposals, even though not fully agreed yet, are clearly able to slow the cars down by 1.5s to 2s so I believe that we have done what is required and we can move on quite quickly. And what is most critical is that we get this agreement that we have met the requirements that have come from the World Council to the Technical Working Group and we can just get a set of regulations from which we can carry on designing the cars and that it is fixed in the next few weeks because none of the teams can afford this to be left undone any longer and I believe that we’ve done what’s required.
PS: Yeah, I think I would echo that. We are at a bit of a watershed in Formula One because we have a number of requirements. What we’ve been tackling right now is a safety requirement. We have all agreed… we have not actually agreed that the cars are too fast at the moment, what we have agreed is that if we don’t do something they will become too fast. And we have been talking about this for a long while, probably 18 months or so, and it was very fundamental in our thinking that we needed to reduce engine power. We could no longer just work on the chassis, just work on the tyres. And we have got to a state now, prompted by the FIA, where they said actually it’s going to take a little while to do the engines but we must do other things. Now I think we are going to come to a satisfactory conclusion on that.
When is said we are at a watershed, the trouble is that we have other requirements as well. They shouldn’t necessarily be conflicting requirements but there is a real drive now to reduce the cost of Formula One, and I suppose you can look at it the other way, to increase the income which may make the spectacle better. And what we need to be careful of is that we don’t rush in one direction and ignore the other two. The three can co-exist quite happily but they need a lot of thinking through. We don’t want knee-jerk reactions. We’ve done what I believe is a very professional job on the safety aspect and let’s hope that we can do the same on the monetary aspect and the sporting aspect.
SM: The same thing really. I think it was a very productive meeting and obviously the changes that have been proposed from an aerodynamic point of view are all sensible and should go at least to backing up the aerodynamic contribution. Likewise for the tyres and potentially the engine as well, but we’ll have to wait until next Friday to see what the FIA put back to the TWG. Because basically the TWG meeting was an information gathering exercise which I think will formulate probably 95 per cent of whatever the FIA’s proposal is and the process is they put that back to the TWG for approval. And the easiest thing is, as the other guys have said, is for us to accept that and get on with it straight away because it means that essentially from next Friday we can get on with designing our 2005 cars. Whenever you have something like this put on you quickly, you have to make bigger cuts than what you probably would like to but it’s for the reasons that the FIA have said so all in all, I think we’re fairly happy with it.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Just to follow on from that, in the last race Ferrari had to change pit-stop strategy because they were not sure that Michael could actually overtake Alonso on the track. In the last 17 laps we had three cars heading nose-to-tail and, yes, there was overtaking, but that was more by quirk of circumstances. I am not saying we want Formula One like Basketball with a lead change every three seconds but what can we do on the car side to maybe make overtaking just a little bit more easy?
PS:
Well, you said there was no overtaking at the end of the race – in my view there was one overtaking move too many! I think the serious answer is that we need to consider this as part of one of the elements that I was talking about of improving the spectacle. The trouble is, firstly it is not easy to say what will improve the spectacle. You talk of overtaking and yes, I think it is true that overtaking is important but is overtaking everything? If we get to the point of racing like NASCAR, where there are lead changes all the time, is that necessarily what we want? On the other hand we are starting to see a big increase in television spectators for the World Rally Championship and there, there is no overtaking by definition. What we are seeing is guys really taking the car to the limit in a way that is very obvious and that is not something you see in Formula One. If you watch a WRC car you think ‘yeah, that guy is good, I don’t think I could do that’. Unfortunately Formula One cars are so sophisticated that when you watch them you actually believe you could do it, so we need to look at lots of things. Overtaking is an important aspect but it is also a very difficult aspect to understand. It is too difficult in Formula One at the moment. A number of studies have been done on aspects of overtaking and those are being studied again at the moment and I hope that they are part of a total package that does bring in the new Formula One, if you like.
MG: It is a very difficult thing because if you have a qualifying format that puts the quickest car at the front and the slowest at the back then they are not going to overtake each other. But we are all constructors so we make our cars individually so inevitably some people are doing it better than others so to mix that up and ensure there is enough of a performance advantage to overtake is a very, very difficult thing. Efforts have been made to mix the grids up by different fuel levels and different strategies and one of the things you have to be careful of any changes is that if we take hard tyres and we don’t have tyre changes there may be even less overtaking. So it is a very, very difficult thing to identify and to work out and ultimately you have got ten very professional teams producing very high-tech cars and 20 drivers that aren’t making mistakes, it is a very difficult thing to address, to ensure that you can have overtaking. I think it is something that we need to work very hard at and I think the whole sport realises it is necessary to improve the spectacle but it is not an easy technical solution.
GW: A couple of comments going back directly to the question of overtaking. There are two ways you can improve this. The easiest way, which is actually the most expensive way, is to look at the circuit layout. A lot of the circuit layouts do not lend themselves to overtaking at all. The other issue to consider is how the cars are differentiated. If we all end up with roughly the same engine, roughly the same aerodynamic characteristics and the same engine characteristics there is very little to differentiate the performance of the cars to give advantage to one car on one type of circuit and to another type of car on another type of circuit and therefore, taking Mike’s point, if you line up in performance order after qualifying then why do you expect overtaking? So we are trying to make overtaking and if that is what we think makes the spectacle then we are going to have to tackle both the circuit layout and to think of a set of technical rules that doesn’t end up with a single type of car that is indistinguishable apart from its colour scheme.
SM: I think the circuit thing is significant actually, what Geoff just said. The two examples I always quote is Hockenheim from turn two down to turn three, where you have got a 60 or 70km/h corner onto a 1.1km straight then into another 60km/h corner with a load of tarmac on the outside of it and you always get overtaking because of two reasons - the guy knows that he is going to have a go without ending in the gravel trap and the other is that he has got a slow-speed corner he can accelerate onto and get a tow on the straight. The opposite example of that is Barcelona, where you have got exactly the same length straight – one to 1.1km – but with a 230kmh corner onto it and into a 130km/h corner at the other end. Occasionally there are a few overtaking moves there but it is only because the other guys have made a mistake out of the last one. So I think you can go a long way on the circuit to almost say that any new circuit that is built should have one section like that around the lap. I am not talking about having three or four sections like that because you still need to have fast bits like turn one to turn four at Silverstone and Suzuka, etc, but I think there should be some type of spec that says there must be a section like this somewhere around the circuit where you can perform overtaking. That is quite significant.

Q: (Christophe Schulz – Premiere TV) To all of you, what is the point of view concerning the engines? Is there an opposition against the 2.4 V8? Would you all rather have the V10?
SM:
Certainly from BMW’s point of view, who I speak for, they have not supported a 2.4 V8. I know a lot of other people have, but from their point of view they think the power reductions can be made within a V10 as well. I realise that they are probably singled out for their position but I think that needs quite a bit more consideration as well.
PS: I think that logically, because of the rate of development and the technology involved, the only sure-fire way of getting the power down is to reduce the capacity. We identified in the Technical Working Group some while ago that 700hp was the sort of target we needed to aim for to maintain safety. A 2.4-litre engine is going to give around that sort of power, it makes sense to make it a V8, it gives the same basic cylinder size as a current V10. These are going to be high-tech V8s, they are not going to be like the big lumbering American V8s, these are little engines that are going to run at 19,000 or 20,000rpm, they are going to be sophisticated, they are going to be exciting. And is the guy in the grandstand going to really know it is a 2.4 V8 rather than a 3-litre V10? I suspect not.
GW: I can think of two points here. I think speaking on Honda’s behalf I think they are very happy to take the technical challenge with any set of technical regulations and therefore, for them, what they would like to have is a clear definition of what the target is and their engineers will compete to reach that target. We need to be a little bit careful, there are quite clear reasons why we need to get the engine power down and this is one way of doing it. But we have to be a bit careful at how we introduce it, whether the 2.4 V8 is the right thing to do for 2006, what it is going to do for second teams for engine suppliers, it is not trivial and there is quite a lot of cost implication in it. It is not a trivial thing. I think from a purely engineering point of view it is an interesting thing and Honda will happily compete.
MG: I think we clearly identified in the Technical Working Group, as Pat said, the need to reduce engine power as a part of a package to reduce performance and it has been discussed for a long time. At that stage it was a unanimous agreement from all the teams which has subsequently changed. Toyota’s position is very clear -we support the introduction of a 2.4-litre V8 in 2006. We want a technical challenge, Toyota are in Formula One for the technical challenge so we don’t want limitations in terms of the technology that we can use, but we are very aware of the need to ensure that teams have customer engines and Toyota are committed in 2006 to supplying a customer engine because we feel that Formula One needs that. So, as I say, we are very keen to go that direction, we think it is necessary for Formula One and, again, we are very committed that we want the technology in the sport.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson Associates) Mike, you signed Ralf Schumacher and Toyota appears to be paying him a huge amount of money. A lot of us are concerned that this means Ralf will take a de-facto number one driver slot on the team which, of course, we don’t like, because we have seen what has happened at Ferrari where Michael Schumacher is, okay, he is the better driver in the team, but when there is a question of deciding strategy he always gets the better strategy and the other guy has to put up with the less likely strategy. Can we have an undertaking from you that there will be no preference inside Toyota when Ralf Schumacher joins the team?
MG:
Well, from my point of view, I run the team at the circuit and in any team I have done that for the last 10 years. I have never had a number one driver or a number two driver, despite many claims to the contrary both drivers have always received exactly the same equipment and that will continue to be the case at Toyota. We only have two drivers out there and we want the best from them at all times, so from our point of view, no matter who the second driver is, there will not be a number one and a number two driver, they will be treated exactly the same.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Geoff, BAR have made a huge improvement this year. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight but can you just talk us through what has happened to the team to take if from where it was to being a regular podium contender?
GW:
Yes, we have made quite big changes everywhere. If we start in the team itself, the people, the way it is organised, back in 2002 we identified we needed to make some quite big operational changes, quite clear personnel changes, organisational changes and put in a much more sort of structured approach to the whole business of Formula One. We weren’t the team with the highest resources, we weren’t the team with the most money, but felt that with what we had we could do a lot better. On top of that we have also built a new technical team, design and manufacturing group, and we have tackled the very fundamental issues of racing car design – making it very light, making the aerodynamics work effectively. Honda have looked at their own engine programme, reorganised their programme, their engineers, made clear lines of responsibility and clear plans and BAR and Honda together have developed their relationship so there is much more understanding and trust and confidence between the two companies and essentially become much more professional Formula One partners. And I guess if you look at the difference of why the car performs very well this year, it is fundamentally that we have got the basics right – we have got a very lightweight chassis, we have got, we believe, a good understanding of what makes a car good aerodynamically, what sort of things we are looking for in the wind tunnel. Honda came to 2004 with a completely new engine, much smaller, much lighter, we have new technology, or existing technology that we have introduced in terms of our carbon composite gear case and our new gearbox internals, which are developed with Honda and BAR together, and we have just looked at every single area. And on top of that it is just our organisation. Our drivers work together, our race team works, our factory works, there is not a single thing that we need to improve, we have just looked at absolutely everything. The challenge for us now is to repeat that level performance again next year and we have to improve by an amount relative to the improvements that the rest of the teams are making, so it is quite a challenge.

Q: (Jonathan Gill – Auto Express) There is talk of more races and less testing in the future. What would you find acceptable as a minimum amount of testing that you would be allowed to do if there was a further reduction in testing?
SM:
From Williams’ point of view, we do a lot of testing at the moment - obviously we can run up to three cars at one time. We would like to see a reduction in testing but one of the hardest things when you are in the middle of a tyre competition is the amount of tyre development. Over 50 percent of our testing mileage is testing tyres, whether it is compounds or casings, so it is very difficult to see how we can have a reduction before we see some sort of scale back between the two tyre manufacturers. But we would definitely be happy with a reduction down to about 50 percent during the year of what we have now. It is quite a complicated issue, primarily being the tyres but then other people have obviously invested in test teams in certain areas and want to see a return on that. So it’s an issue that the team principals need to spend a bit of time on and I am quite sure they can see some type of reduction, maybe not as much as 50 percent but at least towards that direction, once these rules are fixed for 2005. I think you are probably not going to make much progress talking about it now until we know exactly what these 2005 rules are, which are imminent, and then I think it should be tackled again by the team principals.
PS: Basically I agree with Sam, I would like to see a reduction in in-season testing, going to approximately 50 percent, going to 24 days in-season would be sensible. On top of that, I would really like to see testing to be single-venue testing. By that I don’t mean that every team has to go to the same place on any given week but a given team cannot go to more than one place, which means you only have to have one test team. I don’t think that we should limit testing before the start of the season and by that I mean the sort of January and February testing because that is the time that we need to do our development work, which includes making sure the cars are safe and all this sort of thing. So I would like to see January and February unregulated, I would like to see 24 days in the middle of the season and probably at the end of the season something similar to what we have at the moment, maybe a little bit less, but you do need some time in December to look at young drivers and things like this. I say that on the assumption that we are following a format similar to the one we have now. But we should also apply a bit of lateral thinking. I don’t think the format we have at the moment is necessarily best, we have just been running around on Friday for a couple of hours, we are talking a lot about what we do to make qualifying better and I do think that if you put all that in a pot and you mix it up it might well be the best solution is to come to the circuit you are going to race at, test on the Friday and then start your race meeting on the Saturday. It makes a lot of sense to me but we do seem to be steeped in tradition in Formula One and maybe it is time to have some fresh ideas.
GW: If I answer this from a sort of narrow technical perspective, the issue is a significant amount of our performance improvement this year has come from much, much more testing and, as Sam says, it is significant - probably in our case over 50 percent, maybe nearly 60 percent, of our testing is tyres but also a significant amount of reliability testing. So it is really important to us and my concern is that as, rightly, we wish to cut down on a lot of the costs which we would do by reducing testing, the only other solution would be to go to factory-based rigs, which in the end would be considerably more expensive and I am sure that the very well-funded teams, or the most well-funded teams, are already making those sorts of investments. So it would actually put us at a disadvantage. In order to save money, we would either have to spend more money or be at a disadvantage. Probably the only way we can reduce our demand on the testing is by reducing our demands on tyre testing. If that was the case then during the season I think we can afford a reasonably reduced amount of testing as long as we maintain unregulated testing earlier in the season for the cars for safety’s sake.
MG: I really echo Pat’s comments - and perhaps it is significant that both of us were at Renault together when we did have reduced testing and the extra testing on a Friday and I think we saw the benefits from that and also how much more efficient we got during the days we did go testing. I think the argument that you are going to spend more money by producing expensive rigs, I mean, or whatever, factory based, well the simple fact is if that was more effective in terms of improving the car then you would do that now and people don’t because testing is the most effective thing. And if you want to help those teams with a smaller budget who can’t do as much testing then a test team reduction makes a lot of sense for them. Ultimately we do hundreds of days of testing with no-one watching, it doesn’t add to the spectacle and it doesn’t generate income. Any team can reduce their testing - they might not want to because they don’t want to give away the improvements - but it is the same for everyone. And again, if we think of improving the spectacle and everyone sits here and says we need to improve the spectacle, well, for me, making sure we spend less money on testing – and those that want to test other things or have rigs and spend the money, if they have got the money they will do, you can’t stop that. What we have to do if we want to level the playing field is to make sure they get smaller improvements for that investment and reducing testing is one way to do that and I think it is important that Formula One goes in that direction.

Q: (Thibault Larue – Sport Auto) Mike, concerning the choice of the second driver, as a technical director are you strictly in favour of technical continuity, so keeping Cristiano Da Matta, Olivier Panis or Ricardo Zonta, or do you think is it not such a key factor.
MG:
Well, first and foremost, as a technical director, my main concern is designing a car that is quick enough whoever drives it because ultimately with most of the drivers out there today, if you give them a car that is quick enough they will win races in it. So that is my main priority and concern. As we stand at the moment no decision has been made on the second driver, we are obviously considering a whole range of options and I don’t think we will make any decision until the end of the year.

Q: (Mike Doodson – Mike Doodson and Associates) Geoff, after the French Grand Prix David Richards said that even he didn’t believe that there was no difference between the driving style of his two drivers which could affect the reliability of their engines and I think Sato actually wracked up number six this year. Have you had any further thoughts on that? Is there something in his driving that affects the reliability of his engine compared to Jenson?
GW:
The issue is that in testing, the amount of extensive testing and driving that Takuma has done, he has had very much the same level of engine-related problems that the other two drivers have had. So intrinsically, in his driving style there doesn’t seem to be any reason why you could assume there was any connection between Takuma’s driving and the engine problems. And generally on a race weekend we have had virtually no engine-related problems on Friday and Saturday so if there is a connection it is between Takuma and race day and certainly this hasn’t escaped us. We are looking at all the things we do on a race day to see if there is anything that is different between the cars that might not so much contribute to the engine problem but make it more likely for the first engine problem to happen with Takuma rather than Jenson. The faults are not all the same, some of them have been similar, but there have been a number of different faults and it is surprising that we have generally had really quite high reliability, particularly in testing, but we have got this run of problems with Takuma and it is very high priority for both BAR and Honda to try to find what is driving these problems and find a solution to them. The failure from France, the engines have had their tear-down in Japan, we are still not happy that we understand…we understand physically which part’s failed but we don’t have an understanding why it failed. We have made some very careful selections of batched components for this weekend and we have also made some changes in operating procedures between the two racecars to try and make sure we take out any other possible things that we are doing which are somehow making these problems occur earlier on in Takuma’s car.