FIA Friday press conference - Malaysia 18 Mar 2005
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Mike Gascoyne (Toyota), Sam Michael (Williams), Pat Symonds (Renault) and Geoffrey Willis (BAR).
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 thats why I think well 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 wont 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 Nicks 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 its been successful in that respect. As to the format of the racing, I think well 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, its very early days. Before the season started, I said to my guys that you shouldnt 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 its 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. Theres a long way to go yet and we shouldnt 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. Its tricky, but the same for everyone. Lets 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?
PS: Well, extreme conditions I guess you mean temperature more than anything. Its not like it was a few years ago when you came to a place like this --and Im 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 doesnt 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.
RB: Well, we have the benefit of last years 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 couldnt have done on one set of tyres whereas Melbourne last year was comfortable on one set. So its the first race were 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 dont 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.
SM: 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 dont 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. Thats 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.
GW: On cooling systems, I dont think its a particularly big challenge here. Yes its 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.
MG: 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 dont 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?
SM: 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, thats 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?
RB: 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 dont 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 didnt change the engine on Michaels car?
RB: Partly, yes. Its because, obviously, if we had changed it, it would have made it more difficult. We wouldnt 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 werent particularly bothered. It could have been an option. So, we didnt 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?
PS: I dont 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?
MG: 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 dont 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. Thats what sport is about. Its 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?
GW: 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 didnt 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.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: ( Stephanie Morin - La Presse) Question for Geoff Willis: Mr Willis, youre 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?
GW: Its a little too early to say what the impact is in terms of results. Weve 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 its an advantage to have it, but as we knew that as we got a good result in the championship last year that it wasnt going to be available to us this year. Were just going to have to, like the other top teams, find a way round it.
Q: (Mark Hughes Autosport) Ross, from your simulations so far, what do they suggest is the margin of the 05 car over the 04B?
RB: Well, with both simulation and track work its between a half and one second. Yeah, thats the number.
Q: (Steve Cooper F1 Racing) To Pat and Geoff, youve both had recent experience working with Jacques Villeneuve. I wonder if you could talk about your experiences of him as a driver and whether youve been surprised by his recent pace in a Sauber?
PS: Yeah, I suppose I get it first as Ive had the most recent experience. I think that when Jacques came to our team I didnt know him terribly well. Id spoken to him a few times but I didnt 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 hes not laid back, he actually works quite hard and he has a lot of interest in the car and whats going on. During the race, hes very good. Hes 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 didnt 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 wasnt through lack of effort.
GW: Its a difficult question to answer. I get the impression that Jacques is not particularly happy in his current position. Im sure he wasnt happy with Melbournes race. Obviously being outside the team, Im not aware of what the issues are. As Pat says, hes a hard-working driver, whos 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 hes very sensitive to what the car does, what the engine does and he gives a lot of feedback, so Im sure he will be having quite a lot of detailed conversations with his engineers at the moment. Hes an extraordinarily competitive character and Im sure he will be trying to get it back.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) Question for Ross: Michael didnt have the best start to his championship campaign in Melbourne. Do you think hes got the fight in him to start from the back foot as it were, for the next 18 races?
RB: Yeah. Im sure he has and its given him a bit of extra incentive and when you know him, you see the signs. He arrived this weekend hes 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. Hes 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 dont think it would be for lack of effort on his side and I think its a good challenge for him that he relishes.
Q: (Mike Doodson) 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. Im 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?
RB: I dont know that were trying to recreate what went on 30 years ago, I dont think thats the motive because I think just to look back and say how wonderful it was then, lets go back is not the best way to approach it. I think there is some very clear evidence that the reason its 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 its 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 youve 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 weve followed this Holy Grail of aerodynamics and its a huge cultural shift for people in Formula One and thats why its quite difficult for us to take a balanced view. Weve all invested a huge amount in wind tunnels, weve 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 its 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 theres a lot of good reason why high tyre grip and low down-force could provide a better racing formula.
PS: I think its 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 thats been done and say you should go to ten percent of the down-force we have now is a dangerous extrapolation. I dont know whether its a linear effect, I dont 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 dont 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 its a very good thing that people are looking now at whats required, but at these very early stages of looking at it, we should be careful about talking about numbers and things like that.
SM: I think that looking at the rules, to the future, seeing what you can improve and whether its 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 youre into a level of touring cars then. Im 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. Its one of the biggest parts of Formula One since Ive 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 thats too far.
GW: There are a number of points here. The first is supporting whats been said: its very easy to jump in and say were going to make a rule change, this is going to help overtaking. As weve seen already this year something we didnt anticipate it looks as though its much harder to follow cars closely with the new aerodynamic regulations and possibly harder as well to overtake, and thats (following) a relatively small loss in down-force which has certainly not helped. So therefore, if were 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 whats going to happen if we change the balance between aerodynamic and mechanical grip. I think, overall, what weve 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 thats our objective, its 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, didnt 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. Its 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.
MG: I think Formula One at the moment is still the pinnacle of motor sport and thats whats made it very, very successful. For sure, we mustnt 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 weve 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:(Anne Giuntini LEquipe) 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?
SM: I think it would naturally come from anybody who has not got a third car to say that they dont think you should have one any more, so its a bit of a loaded question, because the people outside the top four will clearly want one, and especially this year, because its 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. Its obviously not being used for that intention now, but if it helps level up the grid, then thats another debate. But our opinion would be not to have a third car on Friday.
RB: I think its 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 dont agree with it. Particularly with the regulations we have now, its a huge benefit. I dont know how many laps McLaren did today, but they can run round with an engine thats not going to be used, they can run a reasonable number of sets of tyres and it doesnt make any sense. I cant see the logic in it, so its something, which to me is just a piece of nonsense.
PS: 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. Theres certainly been talk of moving towards a two-day Grand Prix event, and I think what were seeing in the early part of this year is probably evidence that reinforces that argument, and I think its 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 dont think.
GW: Yes, I think Pats got a point that Friday, for those teams that dont 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 dont really need Friday in order to get a set-up for the race weekend, and it has become an anachronism and its 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: (Mike Doodson) 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?
RB: Ive had a bellyful of Formula One by Sunday night. (Laughter) If its 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. Thats why we didnt 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.
MG: 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 dont think we could do it.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) Ross, just a technical question for you: obviously this year the 2005 car will be the first car that hasnt 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 its making any difference to the way the team is working?
RB: Its not a huge difference. Its been a pretty gradual process, Aldo Costas involvement. Aldos always had a strong involvement with all the Ferraris since Ive been there. Rorys a fantastic concept and he used to let Aldo take care of the detail. So Aldos been pretty involved with all the Ferraris. For the last couple of years Aldos 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 didnt trip over and he doesnt seem to have. Hes done a very good job with this new car and Rory, I guess, is going off into a general retirement. I dont think hell ever quite leave Ferrari. I think his heart will be at Ferrari for a very long time and wed love him to stay involved in some capacity or other but its been a gradual process. The two of them get on very well. They share philosophies and were very lucky in that they both have an excellent relationship, so its been an easy process and I dont think youll notice the join, quite honestly.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) 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?
RB: Well, its a big topic, Dan, as you can imagine. We wanted to find a solution. We dont want to be at odds with our fellow teams, but we had a difficult situation, the only sensible team on Bridgestones and a team that has invested, over the past few years, in testing facilites. We have two of our own test tracks, which weve invested a lot of money in. Nobody else has those facilities, so we were in a fairly unique position and we simply couldnt find a compromise. We tried to offer some compromises, but they werent acceptable to the other teams and their compromises were not acceptable to us. Its 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 weve done 20 per cent of the test mileage of the Michelin teams, and its a very steep learning curve on the tyres at the moment, and thats 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, were having to do a lot of mileage to evaluate them, because youre 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 couldnt 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 dont think its an advantage, but perhaps my colleagues will disagree, because we have to do all the Bridgestone running and theres no one else doing it for us.
GW: I think certainly for BAR-Honda its a disadvantage to have agreed to limit our testing, thats quite clear, but we made that agreement because we think its 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 weve agreed to, but, despite that, we think its in the long-term interest that we do end up with a certain amount of control and thats why we happily signed up to this agreement. I think its 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 well have to be very disciplined in controlling it, but thats what weve all agreed to do, and Im very confident that we will all continue to agree.
MG: 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 dont 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 theres feeling among the technical people that we could probably go even further, and I think that would be something thats 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 isnt a situation thats happened overnight. Everyone should be playing on a level playing field and at the moment its not and thats unfortunate for Formula One.
PS: Ive often been quoted as saying that I dont really mind what the rules are because they are the same for everyone. Now, this isnt a rule, of course, its 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 thats 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 didnt 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 thats a fact of life rather than an excuse (sic) On the other hand, we as a team have probably gained from it, because weve pulled other teams back to our level, so its an unusual situation, but strangely enough, a compromise that Im not too uncomfortable with.
SM: 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. Its 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 its not a great deal. Its definitely not in line with the percentage of cost-saving, so the cost saving that weve made is massive compared to the information that weve 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, its been good.
Q: (Alan Henry The Guardian) 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?
SM: I think that whenever you are looking at the correlation between track and wind tunnels, its not a perfect world and I think that problem exists all the time. What Patrick was referring was that weve 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 doesnt affect the performance of the car on the track as such. Its just something that needs to be its an ongoing thing that, ever since Ive been in Formula One, youre always looking for better correlation from track to tunnel and its not something thats currently affecting us.
Q: (Alan Henry The Guardian) Are you on top of it?
Q: (Heinz Pruller ORF) Theres a new team in Formula One, its 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?
SM: I think that from what I saw in Melbourne theyve obviously done a pretty good job of their car over the winter. Theyve improved, relative to others, which means theyve obviously made a good handle of the rule changes. And if I also look at the areas theyre investing in, youve only got to look at the job adverts in Autosport, theyve got a full-page for about ten aerodynamicists. They clearly know where they need to spend their money so and thats a big change from where theyve been in the past. But well have to see how they keep up with the development rate during the year.
RB: I think its a good thing for Formula One. Eddie was struggling a bit, and its never nice to see somebody struggling. Sorry, Jaguar were struggling, but the same thing applies. Its 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, its very difficult to control what the top teams spend. I think its impossible because we spend what we can get. I think that whats 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 its 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 its a very positive thing.
PS: I think technically over the winter, they looked like they were doing a good job, and that was shown in Melbourne. Its one race out of 19 but I think theres every sign that theyre going to have a very successful season and its good to see that. Lets 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. Theyve said they are going to bring the fun back. Well, lets have more of them.
MG: I think that technically theyve 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 theyve 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.
GW: You certainly get the impression its a re-vitalised team. As Mike said, its a difficult transition at the end of the Jaguar era, and I think its good to have more financial commitment into Formula One, good to have another team which is full of confidence and well looking forward to seeing what happens in this first year.
Q: ( Jose Carron La Tribune de Geneve) Question for Geoff Willis: what are the chances of BAR releasing Davidson, if hes required by another team?
GW: 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 dont 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 thats our position. But I would say that we have had no contact whatsoever, so you are probably better informed than we are.
Q: (Anne Giuntini LEquipe) To all of you: given the huge amount of work on Sundays, did you find difficulties in organisation in Melbourne?
PS: Small answer, its difficult and yes.
RB: I think because it was new to us, though wed had the forced qualification in Suzuka, it was a little bit tricky but well cope. So its not a big deal and not that different to when we used to have warm-ups on a Sunday.
SM: Yeah, same for us: theres no real problem. You go in sequence now anyway; probably the only thing that its done is that youre in later here on Saturday night doing strategy whereas last year strategy was fixed after first qualifying.
GW: I think that weve 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.
MG: 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. Youre there, from that point of view it presents difficulties but were all here, we might as well be doing something and entertaining the crowds.