FIA Friday press conference - USA 01 Jul 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing), Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri), Pat Symonds representing Flavio Briatore (Renault) and Frank Williams (Williams).
Q: A question for you all: a fair amount has been said about the importance of Formula One in the USA and vice versa; how important are they to one another?
Aguri Suzuki: I think Formula One is a worldwide game. Of course the United States is very important in Grand Prix racing. But I want it to continue here, especially as I have a factory near here, and many of my employees are coming here. Last year there were problems in this Grand Prix but I hope we have a good race here this year.
Christian Horner: Its an important event for Red Bull. Its obviously their single biggest market and for us to have a Grand Prix in the US is important for us. Red Bull has invested in the US Driver Search of which Scott Speed is obviously a product. I think its positive for Formula One to have a good young rookie in the sport as well and I hope that we can put on a good show this weekend and go some way towards making up for the embarrassment of last year.
Pat Symonds: As Renault, we dont actually sell cars in North America but nevertheless, its a World Championship and I think that North America is a very important part of the world. Our audience is worldwide, no matter where we are racing, but I think that if we want to call it a true World Championship, North America is a very important part of that world.
Frank Williams: Its the same as everyone has said so far. Its the worlds largest economy by an enormous amount and money is very much required in Formula One. Three of our main sponsors are from the USA and we very much need presence here.
Q: Anyone for two Grands Prix in the USA?
CH: Depends where it is.
FW: I think Bernies the only man who can tell you what will possibly happen or not. Its been pointed out to me by someone much more clever than me that if we are to have any real chance it needs to be in what the Americans call a destination resort area.
Q: Aguri, the new car has been announced as coming to the German Grand Prix. Can you tell us how many cars, how much testing beforehand etc?
AS: When I bring a new car, its basically two cars to the Grand Prix. The normal plan was to bring the cars to the French Grand Prix, the next Grand Prix, but three weeks ago our wind tunnel broke so our schedule was delayed by a week, so our new car will appear in Germany. If we bring the new car, Im sure we will bring two cars.
Q: How much of it is new?
AS: Its very difficult to say; aerodynamics, suspension and everything. A new concept of a car.
Q: And how much testing beforehand?
AS: Everybody knows our team is still a very small team; only 120 people working. It normally takes a year to make a new car, its very difficult but anyway we will test two times before the Grand Prix.
Q: Whats the situation with Franck Montagny?
AS: His basic contract is until this race but Im very happy to use Franck and Franck has given a lot of information and he has a lot of experience. I am quite happy to continue using him.
Q: So well see him at the French Grand Prix
AS: Its very difficult to say now but everybody is happy to use Franck, Im sure.
Q: Christian, next year the product of a top chassis designer, Adrian Newey, a top engine - which one, we dont know and a winning driver?
CH: Obviously both driver contracts are up for renewal at the end of the year. Were pretty relaxed about the situation at the moment. We are in a situation where we can afford to wait a little. Theres a lot of interest in the market to drive a Red Bull car next year. Were obviously looking very closely at the three guys we have competing for us over a Grand Prix weekend and were very relaxed about the situation and arent in any particularly rush.
Q: British journalists are fairly eager to know if David Coulthard will be included in your plans, and how much are your plans linked to those of Scuderia Toro Rosso, being under the same ownership?
CH: First of all, I will deal with the David question. While David remains competitive and motivated, hes one of the top drivers out there on a Sunday afternoon and I think that we have seen that not only last weekend in Montreal where he drove from the back of the grid to take a point, but also in Monte Carlo. Hes still hungry and still motivated. Obviously were taking that fully into consideration.
Regarding Toro Rosso, they are obviously a separate team even if we share the same parent. Theyve got two very good youngsters there but its not absolutely necessary that we look inward. As I say, there are a lot of drivers out there that are keen to drive a Red Bull car next year, so we are in a situation where we can afford to wait.
Q: Pat, from an engineering point of view, with a tyre change due next year probably, how difficult will that be for you as a team?
PS: Its not easy. I think weve enjoyed the level of support weve had from Michelin over the last few years. But its a lot easier than it used to be. We have a lot more knowledge of tyres these days, we can model tyres these days, and I think because were not talking about changing to a different tyre company and going into a tyre war, where the pace of development can be such that its hard to keep standing on your feet, I dont think it will be as difficult as it may have been. Im not under-estimating it, but I expect therell be a relatively simplistic approach to the tyres next year. I really hope that if we start testing with them in December and start to learn a little bit about the characteristics, the sort of things you cant model, the sort of things you can only find from experience, I hope that our learning curve is largely completed by the time we go to the first race.
Q: At the beginning of the season, you talked about pace of development. Youve obviously done a fantastic job, because youre ahead of the opposition, but have you upped the pace of development or done it to a programme?
PS: Its reasonably to programme. You set targets in some areas, for example in the windtunnel we set ourselves some targets, realistic targets, and pretty well weve achieved them. We had a little hiccup earlier in the season, like Aguri, we changed something with our windtunnel, which took a little longer than expected. Were well back up on course now, having caught up on that. Chassis, tyre stuff its not quite so programmed. You cant schedule invention, you can only schedule trial, so its perhaps incorrect to say we have targets in the same way we do with aerodynamics, but if we look at the overall performance and improvements weve made with engine, chassis and aerodynamics, were certainly well on schedule with last year and last year I think it was quite reasonable. We might have had a little bit of a dip in the middle of the summer but weve pulled out of that and I think were on those sorts of targets again.
Q: Frank, this year, I think we can call you a paying partner or paying customer of Cosworth. What would be youre ideal engine situation?
FW: A free one in a partnership with a manufacturer. Thats clear.
Q: Is that likely in the future?
FW: I couldnt tell you.
Q: Does that mean it hasnt been decided?
FW: I cant say any more.
Q: Overall though, are you happy with the way F1 is going at the moment?
FW: I think Max is absolutely right to try to force a number of cost-cutting measures through. The present costs are fairly certainly close to being unsustainable. One or two of his ideas might work out more expensive than he thinks, but I support him quite strongly. The engine homologation issue is a major issue with a capital I and well keep talking about that between the manufacturers and ourselves.
Q: In terms of reliability, youve had one or two problems. Is it just fighting fires?
FW: I think youve been very charitable there. Weve had lots of problems, not just one or two, more than that. Weve chosen to introduce rather late in the day a fairly advanced form of transmission. Weve paid a little bit of a price for doing so poor delivery if you like but its worth it. Were learning as we go and for next year well certainly be more reliable and faster.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Fogarty Auto Action Magazine) Frank, have you decided about your driver line-up for next year? Are you keeping Mark Webber?
FW: We have an option on Mark until the end of July and well make our decision before that time.
Q: You havent made up your mind yet?
FW: If I had, I couldnt possibly tell you.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Pat, youve obviously had a chance to look at the tyres. Any concerns at all?
PS: No, not really. A chance to look at the tyres? Weve obviously had a chance to look at them externally; they do look in good shape. On our cars weve had no problems whatsoever with the laps weve done on them this afternoon. The guys whove been running third cars will have had their tyres cut up today, as we do at every weekend, but Im not expecting trouble. We had a big lesson last year and unfortunately and after the event we fully understood the problems last year. We introduced an awful lot of changes, changes to the tyre construction, additional analysis to the car data, new forms of understanding, test rigs, all sorts of things, so were really not anticipating a problem this year.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Christian, how do you balance looking at drivers for next year, one, in your Red Bull driver search programme and within Red Bulls teams, and two, the ones from outside? How do you balance that? In and outside of Red Bull programmes?
CH: Its quite simple. Ultimately we want the best drivers in our car. If the junior programme can provide that, then thats excellent. Its still quite a young programme and obviously Christian, Tonio and Scott Speed are the first products of that, but, you know, it is not written in stone that we only have to look at drivers from that programme. With the way the driver market is at the moment, were in a reasonable position that we can really sit back and see what happens over the next four weeks and make our decisions accordingly.