FIA Friday press conference - Turkey 25 Aug 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Gerhard Berger (Toro Rosso), Nick Fry (Honda), John Howett (Toyota), Frank Williams (Williams).
Q: Gerhard, can you talk us through how you got the V10 revs, did you ask for 2000rpm and get beaten down to 300rpm?
Gerhard Berger: It was very clear at the beginning of the season in certain circumstances that would be quite competitive, particularly in qualifying. But over the season the development of the V8 progressed a lot. And in qualifying the V8 could put the extra revs on top of the standard and that put us step-by-step backwards. So it was a clear argument if the balance was right at the beginning of the season, its obviously not right now. Especially in qualifying and in some circumstance in the race when the V8 can put more revs on. I was hoping to get a little bit more than 300 revs, but the FIA saw the point, but they said 300 revs was a fair step.
Q: Do you think if you asked earlier, you could have got 200 then and perhaps another 200 now?
GB: No, we are quite happy. Its easy to say is it fair, is it not fair? and at the beginning of the season a lot of people were complaining saying we had a big advantage at the start, but I have not seen that all year. People would say that at certain circuits the V10 would have a big advantage, but we havent seen it. There were a lot of wrong discussions going on. The FIA did a very good job to find a reasonable balance between the V8 and V10. Theyve done a small correction now but 300 revs is not going to put us forward. Our calculation is that maybe we will be one tenth quicker at a circuit like this. So its not going to be a huge step, but its a little bit.
Q: What about next year, it must be close to decision time, what are the options?
GB: Well we are talking with different people and I think there is no big secret that were talking to Cosworth V8, Ferrari, Renault - different companies. But what were going to get in the end, we dont know yet. I think it will take a little bit of time to make a final decision.
Q: Is there a deadline?
GB: Not really. We are not under that much pressure. Of course the engineers would always like to know what they are going to put in, but I still think there is a little bit of a margin.
Q: Mass dampers are now banned, how much of a difference will that make to you?
GB: Well we had it too, but we never really understood it well on our car. We tested it and sometimes we saw an advantage, sometimes we didnt. So we are not in a situation where we got an advantage out of it. I understand if someone has a lot of knowledge and effort with it, that it could be a good step forward. But for us it didnt make a huge difference.
Q: Nick, congratulations on three weeks ago, what sort of effect has it had on the team?
Nick Fry: Obviously there was a huge elation and it was something we doggedly worked towards, I think we always knew we would get there and until youve done it, its not so easy to say. Its great teamwork and it really is the tip of the iceberg. We are trying to work this as a global effort. Weve got two locations in the UK and the R&D centre in Tochigi in Japan. To get quite a large number of people to work together is a big effort, but its working quite well now and we can go from strength to strength. Everyone has been hugely determined and never let their chins drop. Theyve just kept working at it and Honda has been very supportive of allowing us to make mistakes, as long as weve learnt from them and not made the same mistakes too many times. So weve had a lot of encouragement and I think we were the best prepared on the day, the conditions were difficult but we did our homework quite well and the execution was absolutely impeccable. Everyone celebrated but it was quickly back to work and we are still very humble. We have won with this team, one grand prix. 72 for Honda and for us at the moment, just one. There are lots of teams who are better than that, but weve got to keep our heads down and hopefully well be competitive here this weekend and continue to be for the rest of the season.
Q: Jenson was warning against any optimism?
NF: Yes the conditions fell into our lap. Some other competitors dropped out and I think we had the best teamwork and best car of the day. We might not have had the fastest car, but we will continue to develop the car until the end of the year. So we are not counting our chickens and one swallow doesnt make a summer. Were headed in the right direction and today was another indication that just on a plain dry track, all three cars were pretty competitive. So were going to continue to work at it and who knows, we might be able to do it again.
Q: Geoff Willis has now officially left the team, will he be replaced?
NF: No, were not going to replace Geoff in exactly that role, I think like some of the other teams, weve taken the decision to have a much flatter type of organisation and it really is just a global effort and we have a large number of people. Geoff did a sensational job on improving the engineering standards of this team over the last three years, but we see our team and Formula One having moved on into a different era, so we wont have one person. Nakamoto-san (Shuhei Nakamoto) will be the technical director in words, but its more of a co-ordinator role. Hell ensure that our substantial number of people actually work together. Its more of a choreographers role rather than standing at the drawing board, drawing the whole car role. I know other teams have different approaches on this, but that is the route were going down.
Q: Frank, interesting choice to have Toyota engines over Cosworth for next year. What about the respective merits of both companies?
Frank Williams: I dont think Cosworth would be unhappy if I pointed out that Toyota have much more development and resource available to them and it does not proceed at a faster pace as the manufacturers engines further up the grid. So we have tagged on with our friends at Tokyo.
Q: Also Alexander Wurz will replace Mark Webber, interesting that hes only done one race in the last several years?
FW: Formula One is full of risks and we felt he was the best choice available and we are very happy with our decision.
Q: Interesting that Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel are young chaps doing well, you have Nico Rosberg, but you wouldnt consider another young driver?
FW: We feel that having two young drivers in the team would leave us short of experience and it might increase the probability of them fighting between the pair of them and with the seniors on the track.
Q: Interesting advice from Eddie Jordan this week, saying you should sell the team to Toyota?
FW: I havent read it. But I suppose talk is cheap and he said I should sell, but he hasnt made an offer himself. Its easier to say these things if you cant put your money there.
Q: Is there any chance John of an equity share or something similar?
John Howett: I dont believe so. Toyotas position is to win with our own team and we are happy to have been selected by Williams. They are a great team with great heritage and we will deliver a great engine to them. And if we dont well get big pressure from them.
Q: Why has Toyota left the GPMA?
JH: Well I dont think you should read too much into it. It was considered that GPMA had completed its primary role which was to establish the new commercial agreement and we were more or less fixed on the future of the engine and I think Toyota feels that the GPMAs role is one of an advisory capacity on the more long-term strategic direction of Formula One rather than on operational issues. So therefore the decision for the time being is to withdraw from GPMA. But it doesnt mean we wont remain in contact if they wish to talk to us and we are very open to contribute to anything GPMA wants to discuss with Toyota.
Q: So what was the point of the statement to say that you were withdrawing?
JH: Because we feel that the initial role is now complete and we want to focus fundamentally on our side on the team activity and to improve on performance.
Q: If I can ask Nick, do you think the GPMA is finished?
NF: No, I think the role of the GPMA will evolve over time and I can see many different facets to it. Hopefully it will end up as a group that isnt so much focused on the day-to-day issues like engines, but will be more a group that supports the development of grand prix racing, because what we all want is a bigger and better sport. So I think it is something that evolves over time and the membership coming and going might be a reflection of that and the expertise that is required in the GPMA.
Q: John, what was the reaction to your compatriots Honda winning in Hungary?
JH: Obviously congratulations to Nick and the team. But our task is to win and we want to be in front of the quickest car on the grid. We are still focused and working, whether it is Ferrari, Honda, Renault or Toro Rosso. That is our task and it makes no difference. We are not there yet and therefore the pressure remains from inside the team and outside the team to win.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Gaia Piccardi Corriera della Sera) I would like to ask you gentlemen on the FIAs decision on mass dampers: if you think that its fair, in a way, to change the rules during the championship and if you think the FIAs decision could manipulate the championship as Briatore told us this morning?
NF: Maybe I will start answering the question in a slightly different way and maybe circle back. Weve not used the mass damper in a race situation. We have, like Gerhard has alluded to, weve tested mass damper devices. If the mass damper had not have been banned theres a very high probability we would have been using a mass damper in this race and beyond because its taken some time to develop. I think mass dampers were developing in a way - and maybe what youve just seen from us this weekend would have fulfilled the worst fears of the FIA in that they were developing in a way that probably wasnt very fruitful so personally I think the FIA decision is a good one, despite the fact that we spent quite a lot of money developing such devices and were on the verge of using it and it probably would have given us a competitive advantage. But Im not quite sure what use a mass damper is elsewhere in the world, as it were, and I think we do need to keep an eye on that type of thing, so I support the decision.
As far as is it fair? I dont subscribe to the theory of manipulating the championship. I think its a matter of making the best decision based on the information available at the time and the mass damper device and what it does to a car is very complicated, which is why Gerhard said sometimes it seemed to work, sometimes it doesnt. We had the same problem and we spent a lot of time evolving it. I think it is a complicated thing and I think the best decision was made, based on the information earlier in the year and that subsequently changed, so I think its just part of how life evolves. I think its similar situation to our situation in 2004 with the so-called FTT, the front torque transfer device, which, actually, when we look back, actually gave us quite a big advantage and because it was towards the end of the season, we voluntarily agreed to drop it but life has to move on and Im sure Renault will have something else which will take its place and be equally good.
GB: Coming back to your question, I always think yes, its going to make a difference for Renault because obviously Renault understood this damper the best and they had the most experience, they were the furthest in development so unfortunately they are going to suffer with it (the decision). I hope that in the end it doesnt make the difference (between) winning or not winning the championship, because that would always be hurting for everybody. But at the same time I have to say that if the FIA find out at this stage that in this way it doesnt fit any more in their understanding of the regulations, then they have to make a decision and I think we all agree that if the FIA comes to a decision, we are going to respect it and we always think its not to manipulate the championship, its just to have a correct interpretation of the regulations. So lets hope that the championship is still going to be on and lets hope that the better one is going to win the championship and not that the damper is going to make the difference.
JH: I think everything has more or less been said. Im sure it has some impact on Renault and one can sympathise with their situation but there is a governance process and as with competitors in every sport, in the end you have to respect the decision of the referee or the governing body and they found that in their view, the mass damper is no longer an appropriate device to be used. We havent used the device, so I suppose, to some extent, we dont feel aggrieved because of the decision but in the end, we have to respect the decision of the governing body.
FW: Ive no quarrel (with) what the FIA chose to do. We never attempted to make a mass damper but I idly ask myself the question - its a strange time, and I dont mean in a way thats detrimental to the reputation of the FIA - its a strange time to discover this technology. I can therefore only presume its just arrived in the Renault, or was it there a season ago? What Im saying in a different way is, just how thoroughly does the FIA investigate all cars at the beginning of the season, every quarter. Its an open question.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Frank, stability is important in Formula One but when your team hasnt won for so long and hasnt even scored points for quite a while, when do you maybe start making changes within the team?
FW: When we think theyre necessary, when weve explored every other route to dig ourselves out of our present hole. Better to stick together rather than start ripping oneself apart is another way of saying it.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Gerhard, what about your driver line-up for next year?
GB: Well, I think we are going to stay with the drivers as we are. Its not finally decided but we are quite happy with both of them. They are both young, they are both inexperienced, Tonio (Vitantonio Liuzzi) a little bit further than Scott (Speed) but still both very green. I think, under these circumstances, they are doing quite a good job, a little bit up and down but normal for young drivers who we think will be a bit more stable next year, they are going to give us back something that they learned this year and I think its worth staying with the drivers as we are.