FIA Friday press conference - Brazil 20 Oct 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team members: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Patrick Head (Williams), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Pat Symonds (Renault).
Q: Christian, Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of Red Bull, says hes only going to stay on for another three years; does that threaten the future of the two teams?
Christian Horner: Certainly Dietrich is a very young 62-year old, hes a very active guy and obviously heavily involved in the Red Bull business and across its global marketing platform. Formula One is a key part of that strategy. His commitment to Formula One is for at least the next five years, which is the length of the new Concorde or FOM agreement, so I think in the short term, it certainly wont have any affect on our plans or aspirations and Formula One is something thats key to the marketing goals and ambitions and targets and we have a medium and a longer term strategy which is the foreseeable future, so I dont see it having any direct impact and three years is a long way away.
Q: What do you think youve achieved this year with Red Bull Racing?
CH: I think that this year has really been about consolidation. We changed the technical group and a lot of factors within the company during the last 12 months and really this year has been a settling down period with that group coming together, working cohesively and its obviously been a slightly frustrating year on circuit. Weve had issues that took a little bit of time to get on top of and ultimately some time ago, we made the decision to really focus all our attentions behind Adrian (Newey) and what will be his first Red Bull car next year. There are a lot of good things in the pipeline and I think that this year weve really consolidated where we are and that group is now working together as a cohesive unit and I think we should start to see the results of that, hopefully in Adrians first car for us next year.
Q: Looking ahead to next year, there are a lot of possible changes in the pipeline in Formula One in other teams, so would you expect to capitalise on that?
CH: Formula One is an extremely competitive business and we were up against some formidable opponents, but I think we have a strong technical group, we have good assets within our facilities now. We have a good driver line-up for next year, all the core ingredients are there. That doesnt obviously guarantee an instant strike rate or instant success but Im certainly a believer that this is a people industry and you put the right people in place, give them the right support and hopefully results will follow on from that.
Q: Patrick, busy day for you, a new sponsor announced for next year.
Patrick Head: Its obviously good in terms of partnering with a big company like that; its obviously good financial assistance for the team and we obviously both in terms of a very variable and generally rather poor performance and then added to that, very poor reliability on average this year, its quite tough persuading people that they should invest in your future and so its encouraging that that should happen in that environment.
Q: Then Alex Wurz set fastest time this afternoon; theres a rumour that youve got a 20,000-rpm engine this weekend; did he have one of those engines?
PH: No, the Cosworth engine - as has been the case since the beginning of the year, although there was a period that we were held back a little bit when they had a small bearing problem - but its always been capable of revving to 20,000 rpm and obviously when Alex ran at the end of the session, he was running fairly low on fuel and new tyres and running the engine in its highest mode, but we will see times a lot faster than that tomorrow.
Q: And a reported technical department re-organisation within the team; can you tell us about that?
PH: Obviously it goes on in all teams but its obvious that we were very disappointed with the results weve had this year and quite clearly, sometimes when youre in a pit without much light at the top and everybodys working like hell and youre not making progress, youve nearly always got to bring in a bit of new blood and so weve had a few changes, both affecting our mechanical design side and our systems support, and our aerodynamic programme, but you can hardly expect a team, having the sort of results that weve achieved this year, to sit there and change nothing.
Q: Ross and Pat, questions really for both of you: its a vital weekend for you both, can you tell us how you approach this weekend, if anythings different at all or is it all the same?
Ross Brawn: No, just the same as previous weekends, theres nothing different. We know what weve got to do and theres a certain part of the equation which is out of our control but that part of the equation will only become relevant if we do our job as well, so to have any chance, Michaels got to win the race, and then weve got see what Renault and Alonso can do. But its not changing our approach to the weekend.
Pat Symonds: Its exactly the same for us. Our whole philosophy for this weekend was to come here and try and do the job that weve done all year, really, and we believe that that or we certainly hope that that will be enough. I think that in some ways Ross has got a slightly easier way of getting to the target. Theres one way of achieving what Ross wants to achieve and we have multiple ways of achieving it so weve got a little bit more to manage, during the race particularly. In terms of approach, its business as usual, I think.
Q: Michael Schumacher is leaving Formula One this weekend; youve both had an affect on his career, hes perhaps affected your careers as well. Give us just some insight as to how youve seen him develop over the years.
PS: I guess I can really only talk from the inside up to a point of 10 or 11 years ago, and in those early days, yes, we saw him develop, but he started from such a high level as well. Ross knows a lot more about how hes developed over the last 10 years but I think that from the outside, what I see is just this incredible dedication that he has and no loss of enthusiasm. Its not just another job that hes been in for years. I think thats pretty fantastic.
RB: I guess changes are quite gradual so its sometimes difficult to notice them but I think to summarise Michael, the thing that struck me the other day thats quite outstanding is that hes never had a bad period. He might have a bad race - I think every driver has a bad race - but hes never had a period when you think hes not performing terribly well. Hes always performed at top level all the time. Sometimes the races go well for him, sometimes they dont but you get a footballer who goes through a bad spell or you get sportsmen a golfer goes through a bad spell. I cant remember Michael actually ever going through a bad spell. He might have the odd race or very rarely two races that dont work for him, but the fact that hes been so consistent at the top, has featured in virtually every World Championship, challenging for it or being close for the whole of his career is really outstanding and I think thats a measure of Michael Schumacher, and Im sorry to see him go, but Im delighted that hes finishing showing the strength he has this season, and the competitiveness he has this season.
Q: A final question for you both, about engines this weekend; I think all four cars have got new engines this weekend, and of course, theyve only got to last one race, so having said you approach the race as normal, how much are they just one race engines?
RB: Pat can go first this time.
PS: In our case, not at all. Weve actually got two different specs of engines in the car. Giancarlo (Fisichella) has got an E-spec and Fernando (Alonso) a D5-spec. The E-spec is slightly better but its really a very small difference. Our approach is that the performance is there, we will use it if we need to, we wont use it if we dont need to, and this really is our approach every weekend.
Q: And what did he change from and to this morning before practice began?
PS: It was from one D5 to another D5. It was a simple problem that was found on the dyno last night and just as a precaution we changed the engine.
RB: Over the life of two race engines, we have a certain number of higher rev laps you can do and they are generally spread over two races. I think all of us run low revs in practice, run medium revs in a race and then high revs in qualifying, and occasionally higher revs in a race if you need them. Of course, having a one race engine, those higher revs are available over one race instead of two, so if we need to, theres a greater opportunity to run revs, but like Pat said, we wont do it unless we have to and weve always taken that approach you dont use the revs unless you have to but we know theyre there if we need them.
Q: And the Suzuka problem?
RB: The Suzuka problem was a one off, we hope, and it was a failure of the top end of a valve where it connects to the collets around the pneumatic piston; nothing weve seen before, so weve been super-vigilant we always are but super vigilant on the build of these engines to try and make sure that we can avoid the problem occurring again but we dont have a complete explanation for what happened.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Simon Arron Motorsport News) Ross, you had an unusually poor season by Ferrari standards last year. Youve come back very strongly this season. What, as you approach the final race, were the key factors in addressing last years problems and reversing them, and what impact did switching to a V8 have on design philosophy?
RB: I understand Patricks point of view with his team; we had a bad year but weve had good years with the same group of people, so we didnt look towards making radical changes within the team, we just looked at where we felt we hadnt made enough progress and just set higher targets, higher objectives for those areas and gave the people more resource to achieve it. There were some areas where we perhaps didnt feel wed made a big enough step between 2004 and 2005 and we moved resource within the company to those areas to strengthen them. I think the other thing was that its a fact that the one race tyre didnt suit our philosophy, didnt suit the tyre companys philosophy and that didnt help either so the change back to multi-tyre races was a help for us. V8-wise, obviously theres a packaging exercise which is quite different. Tyres generally this year its difficult to compare last year because of the one race tyre, but compared to 2004, we draw the comparisons, were obviously running softer this year than we were able to do in 2004. Its not made a dramatic difference in the approach to the car, but obviously the V8s a bit less fuel consumption, the drivers on the throttle longer so its not as much as you might think, but the rest is really just down to packaging.
Q: (Dan Knudson National Speedsport News) Pat, this year weve seen cars do one or two laps on a Friday morning and maybe 15 or so in the afternoon. Next year, what will we see on average, how many laps will a driver do on a Friday?
PS: Well, I dont think theres much to hold us back on a Friday. Weve got adequate tyres and were obviously not eating into race engine life, so theres no reason why our one and a half hour session shouldnt be pretty full. I think there are a few circuits where circuit conditions are not very good at the start of running, so maybe it will be a little bit quiet at the beginning of P1, but we are certainly going to see a lot more action and a lot more interest on Fridays next year than weve seen for the last few years.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) Ross, Ferrari and Michael have been the dominant forces in Formula One since 2000, pretty much. Could you explain how youve put that together, what team structures youve had to make that work and also how important Michael has been to that success?
RB: Well, I dont think anyone puts a team together with the objective of dominating it. It would be presumptuous to say that. You put a team together to try and win a race and then when you win a race, you try and win another race and then you win enough races you win a championship and it goes from there. I think in our case, weve got a great group of people who have been exceptional in all their areas: the design group, the aero group, the chassis group and weve been fortunate to put all the right people together at the right time. Michaels been a key element, because hes been such a great example to people of the commitment and team spirit, team player that he is. So hes not a guy who comes to the factory and says you must do this or you must do that. He will come to the factory and thank people for what theyve done. He will come to the factory and try and explain what the cars doing, and he will demonstrate his commitment and expect people to do the same. Hes been an inspirational figure, I would say, much more than someone who has an active role in the functioning of the team, but for him to come to the factory and talk to the designers and people like that means a huge amount to them and hes been very good in that respect. He loves being part of the team, which I think is important as well. Hes enjoyed and probably continues to enjoy his time with Ferrari. But Ive seen drivers come and go and most of them are looking after Number One. I think Michaels unusual in that hes just as concerned about the team and how it works and the wellbeing of the team as anyone, so I think thats one of his strengths, for sure, over the years.
Q: (Mark Hughes Autosport) Ross, from around mid-season you seemed to make a big jump in performance could you talk us through the significant development steps responsible for that?
RB: These are very long answers! (laughs) I dont think there was such a dramatic change. I said at the start of the season that I thought we had a good car, but that we didnt make good use of it. We had a bit of a tardy pit stop in Bahrain and lost the race to Fernando by a very small margin, we made a bad tyre choice in Australia, but when they did actually start to work Michael was very quick, so I think we had a very good car in the early part of the year and we just put everything together from mid-season onwards. I must complement the guys at Ferrari on the progress made this year, as well. I think the rate of progress during the year has been the highest Ive seen whilst Ive been there and the failings in 2005 certainly wounded their pride and I think the effort made this year was quite exceptional. But it has been a very good car all year and I think it is just that we started to put all the bits together from mid-season.
Q: (Adam Hay-Nichols, Two Paws) Ross what will you take home as your best memory of working with Michael?
RB: I think his composure his exceptional. He never loses control with the team, with the people he works with; he never loses his temper. He is quite a firm character as he has to be, but he has always got composure both in and out of the car that is I think quite exceptional and, on top of that, I think his sheer speed. I mean all of the attributes that he has mean nothing if you dont have the sheer speed that he has so thats two things!
Q: (Adam Hay-Nichols Two Paw) Is there one event in particular that you will treasure?
RB: Not really; with Michael there have been many. It is very difficult to pick out individual events because there has been such an accumulation of them. I cant pick out anything specifically, no.
Q: (Simon Arron Motorsport News) Ross, obviously Michael would be in a better situation this weekend, but for a couple of own goals in Monaco and Hungary. Do you think that with the benefit of hindsight that Michael could have won in Monaco from row two or three and given the chance to do Hungary again would you have called the strategy differently in the last few laps?
RB: Well I do think hindsight is perfect vision and I think you look at the season overall you look at where you can improve for the future and the decisions that you make and undoubtedly in Hungary I wish I had told him to back off and take it easy in those last three laps so it is easy to look back and say should have done this or that. All you can do is take a balanced view over the whole season and look at the times when you made the right decisions and got things right and if thats a reasonably decent percentage over the times you got it wrong, you can be satisfied. I dont believe anyone gets it right all the time and we are in the fortunate position at the front and under close scrutiny all the time so perhaps our howlers show up a bit more, but I am pretty happy with the season and the fact that we are in this situation now being ten points behind is not just a reflection on Suzuka but on other things we didnt quite get right during the year. We didnt make a strong enough start and thats why we are in this position now because I think for a large part of the season we had the upper hand and the championship is in the balance and favouring Renault because we didnt have such a strong start to the season, but I dont speculate on what ifs? because racing is not like that. It is just so difficult that you can find lots of instances where you wish had done that or might have done this and you just have to take a view over a period of time.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Patrick and Christian, a question each Patrick has it crossed your mind that you missed an opportunity once to sign Michael Schumacher and run him? And Christian has it crossed your mind to persuade him out of retirement?
PH: Well, we would have been delighted to run him at any time, but I cant remember at any time that we were in any discussion with him about that and I think when he moved from Benetton to Ferrari he was well settled there, but as Ross says he has been a remarkable driver and, for us, a remarkable opponent and obviously we brushed shoulders with him in a way in 1994 and 1997. We came off worst in 1994 and best in 1997 and in 2003 we were sort of challenging we fell away at the end of the year, but he has been an opponent of the Williams team over a long period and obviously in recent time he has been dominant über alles, you could say. He has had an admirable career. I was very impressed I have to say when I was in England I watched the race in Japan at six oclock in the morning and when the race finished, whenever it was, at a quarter to eight, I was so impressed him go round all of the Ferrari team in the garage and walk across to the pit wall and I think to myself we have had many drivers who have been world champions, but I cant think of one of them who would have done that. And I think that aspect of Michael is the aspect that makes him a team builder or a team creator. As Ross says, when he comes to the factory, he doesnt decide how the car should be designed, but he is quite clearly an inspiration to those around him.
CH: I think that Michael is the ultimate professional for all the reasons that these gentlemen have already covered. He set the standard for so long and the sign of a true sportsman champion is to do it over a sustained period of time and he has done exactly that and even when you look closely at his performances, even today, his first flying lap, top of the time-sheets, he is still operating at a level that (proves) he is still one of the best in the world and it has been a privilege in action over the last couple of years and the sport is now moving into a new era. There are some exciting youngsters coming through, but I think it is going to be a long time before the sport sees a driver of that calibre over such a sustained period as Michael has achieved.
PH: I think one thing that makes me smile is that although I dont think the occasion occurred I think Frank might have looked as if he was sucking on a lemon if hed been negotiating Michaels salary with him, if that had ever occurred, but I dont think the situation ever arose. Or if it did Frank didnt tell me about it!
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Ross, in what role will Michael be useful to you next season?
RB: I think Michael should take a little bit of time away from the business to reflect on what his ambitions are for the next part of his life. He has had a very clear programme with racing. We all have to be self-motivated, but we know we have to go to the next race and we have to be ready for it and your programme is mapped out for you pretty clearly each season and I think Michael now has to reflect on what his ambitions are for the next period of his life and how that can fit into Ferrari. I think he has a huge amount to give to Ferrari still, but Im not sure personally that it will be in any kind of driving role. I think these cars are difficult to drive and to be able to drive them you have to be very fit and capable physically to drive them and even with the fitness regimes they have the drivers start the season with the first test and their necks are aching and their heads are falling off, they are finding it a struggle. So it is not a sort of situation where a driver can just pop in and have a go in a car and give you a diagnosis and then go again. I dont think that is very practical. So I dont think there will be any role of that sort with Michael. But he works so well with the engineers and he understands the way things work there could be a technical benefit in that area and obviously commercially there is huge potential for Michael and Ferrari both on the racing and on the road car side, so I think the best thing is that he needs now to reflect on the end of his career and see what he wants to do next. I dont think it is clear to him and he needs some time away to arrive at that conclusion.
Q: (Ian Parkes Press Association) Pat, you worked with Michael in the early part of his career and Fernando in his do you think that Fernando has what it takes to emulate if not break the records set by Michael?
PS: I think to answer has he got what it takes? yes, he has. I think there are many similarities between Michael and Fernando. Those similarities are as Ross said beyond just being able to drive a car fast. I think both are very good at reading a race. They know when to go quickly and when to look after things so he has the capability of doing it. But one of the interesting things about any competitive sport is that performance is relative and, not taking anything away from the achievements of Ferrari or Michael, but I think the rest of us were really asleep for a few years and if that were to happen again then, yes, maybe Fernando can do it, but I think the level of competitiveness in Formula One now is such that its unlikely to happen. Cars are more reliable you dont get the lucky breaks that sometimes you used to get. I think it will be a long long while before we see the many records that Michael has set being approached, let alone broken.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Pat, given that youve had a very close championship battle this year with Ferrari and something very similar last year with McLaren, could you characterise how those two campaigns have been fought and if there are any similarities or were they very different?
PS: They are subtly different. I think that last year, in many ways, it was a much easier fight for us. Our opponent had certain characteristics that we knew how to handle and in the latter part of the year, probably not right at the end, but certainly through most of late summer, they had a much quicker car than us, but not a terribly reliable one. It meant that we could take quite a conservative approach, we could take our wins when they came, we could take second places when the wins werent there and it was really a little bit easier, I think, than this year because Ferrari and Michael have been pushing us hard right through the year. As Ross said, I think their start to the year wasnt quite so good; I think we were up and running as a team right from race one. I dont think our car was any better, and of course race one was a very very close race and I think that shows the performance was very similar. Ferrari have once again had very good reliability, so we have not been looking to pick up points in that direction, so weve been pushed a lot harder, weve had to be a lot more aggressive this year. Its been good fun though, Ive enjoyed it.