Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team personnel: Bernard Ferguson (Cosworth), Paolo Martinelli (Ferrari), Otmar Szafnauer (Honda), Rob White (Renault).
Q: Bernard, you have quite a workload this year with V10s and V8s, how is that working out?
Bernard Ferguson: It seems to be working OK so far. Its not such a huge problem with the V10, because we werent allowed to change anything and the specification is pretty restricted so not much of a workload there. A little bit more of a workload on the V8 as you can imagine: an awful lot to do, very difficult introducing a new engine and taking it to two race weekends. I think all the engine manufacturers have found that so far.
Q: How much are you asking Williams to do in terms of simulation, that sort of thing?
BF: Basically, most of the work we do on the specification of the engine and testing the engine has to be done on the dyno now because obviously theres a restriction on the amount of testing that one wants to do, but they have been very accommodating in so far as theyve done all the tests weve needed to do, all of the different modes of running, theyve been very accommodating. The drivers have been really good with us and working together brilliantly as a team.
Q: Whats the reliability situation as we come to this race?
BF: Weve lost one engine in three races; thats a long way above what were used to but were pretty confident were going to have a good race weekend this weekend.
Q: Otmar, Jensons retirement from Melbourne. How did that come about, especially pulling off before the chequered flag?
Otmar Szafnauer: Well, as you saw, it was a spectacular retirement on the last lap of Melbourne. We had no inkling of the fact that the engine was going to let go until about halfway through the last lap and then noticed some idiosyncrasies on the telemetry. We didnt know whether Jenson was going to make it or not. However, we had a feeling that something was happening. And then on the straight, when the engineers saw what happened, we just considered Jensons safety and the safety of everyone else - I think we were half a kilometre away from the finish line when that happened - and we just told him the best thing to do was to pull over as quickly as he could and thats what he did.
Q: Which would Honda have preferred?
OS: Well, thats hypothetical. You always prefer points because thats what were here to do. However, you cant say that points is what you want to do over somebodys safety so the right thing to do and the thing we prefer is to have a safe conclusion to something like that.
Q: This year, Honda has said they would support the Super Aguri team who have had phenomenal reliability, but how much is 100 percent support, which it was quoted as being.
OS: Well, it is 100 percent support from an engine perspective, so Super Aguri receive the same engines as Honda Racing F1 from Japan. Were also supporting them with some gearbox technology and we have some people from our R&D in Japan supporting them with general racing technologies and the know-how that we have. But they are definitely separate and split from Honda Racing F1 as they have different objectives and our predominant support is in engines and partly gearboxes.
Q: Paolo, what have your feelings been about the development of the V8 so far in comparison to the V10?
Paolo Martinelli: Well, of course the V8 has been a completely new engine development, a new type of engine so it was quite tough and we have to work hard, for sure, during the season, being this is one of the first racing seasons with a V8, so we are gaining experience. I think each of us is working hard, trying to develop as fast as possible, as usual in Formula One, with a brand new engine.
Q: Is the development pace a lot faster than it has been in the past?
PM: You can say that we have a different learning curve than we had with ten years experience with a V10. Most of the job, or the majority of the very important or predominant factors were well known. Here, sometimes we find some new items, some new areas where you can find performance and then you have to push hard for development.
Q: You didnt really have a great heritage in V8s, did you?
PM: Well, we used the V8 in the very far past, about 50 years ago, so basically we didnt get much experience from that in the Formula One world.
Q: So have you been happy with the way its gone so far?
PM: Well, in terms of development, everything is going properly. Of course, we had a reliability issue which we paid for in a severe way. In Malaysia we had a component failure. We hope to have fixed it. We have something different here in Imola and from that point, we hope to continue with our necessary search for reliability.
Q: Rob, your engine came out relatively late in comparison to some others. Was that part of the policy and has that had an influence on the reliability since then?
Rob White: Its certainly true that I think we were the last onto the track which came about from our explicit choice not to do a hybrid car in which we put an early version of the engine into a converted car of a previous generation. This was a thing we looked at, honestly very very briefly, and figured that for us it would not be best use of our resource. We tried to set out our stall in order to make best use of the resources in the team. We looked at how to construct the project planning from the moment we knew what the rules would be until the date of the first race. We tried to build in the experiences from previous engine projects. Frankly, we did what we thought was right for our team in our context and we were, I think, reassured that it played out well for us.
Q: So youre quite happy with the way its gone.
RW: As Paolo said, its a new experience working on this family of V8 engines. Theyre not the same as V10 engines but they clearly have some very important family similarities. Theres a lot of the genes of the previous V10 engines certainly built into our V8 engine. I think thats part of the way in which we approached the design of the engine. We tried to set ourselves aggressive performance targets. We tried to set ourselves clear reliability objectives that we thought would be worthy of a World Championship campaign. The difficulty of developing the V8 is of course due to the phenomena that are particular to V8s. There are some, but behind all of that, the physics is the same, the engineering is the same and were pretty confident that the people, the skills, the techniques that we have are portable between V10 and V8 engines.
Q: Youve got a new spec engine here, but only for Giancarlo, not for Fernando. How much of a disadvantage is that going to be for Fernando?
RW: Were in a position where our two drivers are out of sync so what we have been able to do is advance the arrival of a planned engine upgrade for Giancarlo. We had an upgrade, which was scheduled for race five, and due to being out of sync; we were able to make one of those upgrades available to Giancarlo. Clearly the way that was handled is that we had to go right down to the last minute with all the validation processes, the performance on the dyno, the validation of all the pieces for reliablilty and confirmation through track testing. There was a decision on whether or not to use the engine on a race weekend, but following good results on the bed and in testing, thats what we decided we could do. Giancarlo gets the new spec a little bit earlier than Fernando and Fernando gets his on the normal planning.
Q: So how much advantage or disadvantage will it be?
RW: As always, I wont tell you the exact differences, but we have a lap time improvement which is pleasing.
Q: But is it a disadvantage therefore, for Fernando?
RW: Its certainly an advantage for Giancarlo.
Q: (To all) You were all at the Maranello meeting that was held where the 2008 regulations were discussed. Can we have your reactions and thoughts on those regulations working up to the homologation?
PM: It was an important meeting in Maranello, but it is not the only meeting we are going to have. The aim is quite clear, and the aim is to limit economic resources to put on the engines continuous development. We are not fixing the engines for five years we are saying that each year we can make a step forward in development. We have frozen something, which is the starting page and the details have to be examined together for next month before we get to what the rules will be finally. We want to have an area in which we can continue development. This is an important part of supporting Formula One. We just want to establish what the constraints will be each year. It would be very difficult if each year you had to start with one piece of paper and you had to make a completely new engine. We need to have a freedom there to keep high technology in Formula One and continue.
Q: But its something you are in favour of?
PM: Of course, yes. I am in favour of anything that supports the sport.
RW: It was a good meeting in Maranello. Clearly, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the engine part of 2008 rules. A list of the 2008 rules has already been published and exists and between now and the end of June we will have to discuss it more. It was a good, constructive discussion between interested parties, during which we Identified some ways in which the rules can be freed up a little bit. We also want to identify some areas in which it will be useful for our engine to be developed. The process will, of course, continue in to be discussed. Im sure there will be some more discussions for the entire 2008 rules. Its not just the engine part of it that needs to be finalised
Q: But you see advantages?
RW: The reasons for the restrictions being published are clear for all to see to achieve a substantial cost reduction in Formula One. Everybody understands, accepts and supports that cause and any discussions on it are a clear step in the right direction.
BF: Its rather difficult to imagine how you could freeze the engine for three years and still have the engineers around to develop the next one. I dont know how well achieve that, so I think this is a very logical step the Maranello meeting. I think it needs fleshing out a little bit and it needs to specify in a little bit more detail, but its a good starting point. What Im altogether unsure about is what the mechanism is now for discussing and modifying the 2008 regulations. Whilst they are a draft proposal, they are not a modification in the 2008 regulations. Im sure that in the future, Charlie Whiting will be calling together a meeting of the technical working group to discuss and introduce any changes to the regulations ahead of the June 30 deadline.
Q: Thats the problem as far as youre concerned? Are you still supportive?
BF: In principle, its absolutely right, the mechanisms Im not sure of, but from my point of view, that doesnt really matter. The answer to the question you asked is yes, we are very supportive of it certainly.
OS: We didnt attend the meeting so we only know what was written in the press. We understand the reasons for proposing an engine freeze meaning cost reduction and we do support cost reduction in Formula One. However, I think we have to spend the next two months in proposing ways of alternative cost-cuts, alternative to an engine freeze, because we believe an artificial engine freeze would not be beneficial to Formula One and to racing in general. We can appreciate the engine freeze and cost reductions, but how we do it though, we think there are ways alternative to an engine freeze.
Q: How would you do that?
OS: Like Bernard says, the process is a bit unclear. As I understand it, we could do it through the technical working group until June 30, which is when the 2008 regulations will be published. When TWG meeting is called, I think the engine manufacturers should be prepared with some alternative engine solutions to suggest, because we differentiate from each other through engine technology. That would be our preferred method.