FIA Friday press conference - Italy 12 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Technical directors: Luca Marmorini (Toyota), Sam Michael (Williams), Adrian Newey (Red Bull), Pat Symonds (Renault).
Q: How much have you developed for this circuit, how much have you changed the car for Monza and what do you change back if it's wet?
Adrian Newey: I think it's the same for everybody: lowest drag level by a long way now that Hockenheim has gone in its old format, which is basically front and rear wings, detuning some of the appendages, the T-wings, that sort of thing. And that's really about it. Because it's only one race, it's not worth putting a huge amount of work into, so you could argue that the car is not as optimised as it could be for this one race, but it is one race, and you have to look at how you balance your resources.
Q: If it's wet, what happens?
AN: We put a bit of wing level back on but obviously, with parc ferme regulations now, whatever you qualify with you've got to race with, so you've got to try and take a balanced view of what gives you the best results at the end of the race.
Q: Patrick Head said to me it's a fairly expensive operation developing for this one race; what's the Williams situation, Sam?
Sam Michael: Well, it's pretty similar to what Adrian just said: it's a front and rear wing and then maybe some trims of things that come off the rear bodywork rather than go on, just to get you in the right lift-over-drag area for the track. A few years ago at least you had Hockenheim as well, so you got two races out of one very low drag package. The other extreme is somewhere like Monaco. At least at Monaco now there are probably places like Hungary and Singapore that you get two or three races out of them (high downforce parts). Now Monza is really all by itself in terms of top speed and drag levels. The front and rear wings are the main manufacturing loading because they are completely different to anywhere else. And then in terms of wet, it's exactly the same as what Adrian just said. The other thing you've got as well is that you've got to fix the gear ratios for tonight, so it's pretty unlikely that you would take the risk that your weather forecast is that accurate that you would tie yourself into one drag level at this stage.
Q: So is it to some extent guesswork, Pat?
Pat Symonds: I would like to think it's not guesswork. We do a similar thing. Actually, in response to a similar question earlier this week I did have a look at when our programme started and we started work on our Monza aero package on March 30th, which gives you an idea of how far back these things go, and there are something like 60 days of manufacturing for the wings. We've brought two alternative low downforce rear wings here, plus front wing. It's a lot of work but we need to do it, we need to try and be competitive at every circuit. It's a very expensive process these days. It's now amortised just on this one race rather than two. Yeah, maybe there's some room for some cost-savings there.
Q: Luca, where is Toyota on KERS at the moment, when are you likely to test is first?
Luca Marmorini: We are working flat out on KERS, but if I should tell you that if today we are ready to run the car, I would say not yet. But we have put in place a programme and we are confident that we will have a good solution to put in the car and our schedule at the moment is to run for the first time in the new car in the first month of next year, in January.
Q: Another one for all of you: how far advanced are you on next year's regulations, big aero package, and do you believe those regulations will produce better racing?
AN: Well, I guess in common with most teams the big components, the long lead items - chassis, gearbox casing - are finalised and then we'll work through the rest. It is a huge change. It's the biggest regulation change we've had for a very long time. It's been known for a long time, it's been known pretty much since last November and that has meant that to some extent it's been a resource battle. Obviously in an ideal world you would have a second or third or fourth wind tunnel. You would have two aero teams and you would separate them out and off you would go. We're certainly not in that position, so we've had quite a difficult juggling act between developing this year's car and starting to research next year's. Will it achieve its objectives? I'm sure there will be more overtaking - a little bit more, I don't think it's going to be hugely different, frankly. I think it's been shown this year that the most important difference for overtaking is circuit layout and weather conditions. I still think that if overtaking is too easy, it actually could be quite dull because the quicker cars which are stuck behind (now) are just going to go straight past and then you've got wide open tarmac whereas some of the best television has been Imola, for instance, when Alonso was stuck behind Schumacher or vice versa, I can't remember now, but I remember it was good television. For me, the jury is out. We will see.
SM: I think it is a massive rule change for next year aerodynamically, and I think everybody, no matter where you are on the grid, is struggling to get the balance of resource for this year, especially over the last three or four months because some of the teams are fighting for a championship, like McLaren and Ferrari and BMW, so they're having to put resource in but there's also a battle all the way from fourth down to eighth place, so it's been a very difficult juggling act but that's what we're here for. Whether it makes the changes or not in terms of overtaking we will wait to see. I tend to think there's not going to be a huge change but maybe a step in the right direction.
PS: It is hard to say. The aerodynamic changes came about as a result of some wind tunnel testing to look at these aspects of racing. It was decided, when those tests were done, that we'd look at downforce levels that were substantially less than - even half of current levels and of course as soon as development starts, they escalate up - I won't say they are going to get to current levels, they won't but they're probably going to be 15 percent off or something rather than 50 percent off. Now, if in doing that, the wake structure hasn't substantially changed, then yes, I think we will get slightly better racing and better overtaking. But in addition to that, we've got the KERS system which gives the drivers the opportunity to throw in an extra sixty kilowatts of eighty horsepower from time to time. If everyone uses it with exactly the same strategy it makes no difference at all, but if there's some variation in that, then that's another factor which can lead to more overtaking. I think I agree with Adrian that getting the balance right in overtaking is quite difficult. I do agree and I think most spectators agree that there's not enough at the moment but certainly there are some types of racing where I believe there is too much and it no longer becomes the pinnacle that we are looking for, so getting that balance right is a very difficult thing to do and I think we will only see next year just how successful we've been.
Q: Luca, where do you feel the Toyota engine is in comparison to the other engines around you?
LM: I cannot make this kind of comparison. I think we are happy with the performance of the engine, and I think that we are most concentrating to control that the engine can keep its reliability and this means that there is some activity on the engine side, to keep the engine as reliable as possible. On top of this, we have races like this one where we have one engine that already did Spa, so Spa and Monza together represent quite a big challenge for the engine. In terms of ranking, I think unfortunately it's difficult to make a ranking of the engine on its own. We should put all the engines on the same dyno, driven by the same people, with the same experience and probably you could do some sort of ranking. We have mostly to judge the package, so this is why, for me, it's very difficult to do. I think, at the moment, with the current regulations the engines are quite close to each other.
Q: When the frozen engine regulation came in, you said it was very difficult to keep your team together and motivated. Has that been the case?
LM: It has been difficult to keep motivating the people, especially if you think about the designers, that from a job which was definitely very creative to doing more maintenance work than before, but we had to work a lot to understand which were the limits of the existing engines. At the moment we are running much, much closer than before to these limits. I would say that if this kind of regulation is going on for more years, it will always be more difficult to keep engine people motivated. At least there is the KERS activity on the power train that we can re-deploy people working on, and I think it will be interesting anyway.
Q: Question for all of you: what sort of special preparations are you making for Singapore?
LM: From the engine point of view unfortunately there is not a lot to be done. Basically we are working and preparing in the best way possible, with all the simulation and so on. We don't have any experience of running during the night and possible rainy conditions makes the situation a little bit more difficult. So we are preparing ourselves for all the unpredictable things that might happen.
PS: I think from a technical point of view, not a great deal. All the normal preparation we have to do for a new circuit, which really revolves around trying to understand that circuit, looking at the sensitivities of the various tuneable aspects of the car to that circuit, things like that. We've just been through that with Valencia, we are just going through it again with Singapore. I don't think the fact that the racing is later in the evening in the dark is going to be a particularly big deal. We sent people out there when they did the lighting tests and as you say, it was certainly a lot lighter than it was this morning here in Monza! I think that a lot of the burden in this particular case has fallen on our team manager, Steve Nielsen. He's had to look at a lot of different aspects of the logistics and the human performance aspects of things. How do you keep people working through the night? What sort of time zone is their body going to be in? We know what it's like to go to Japan and move eight hours but this is a different situation again, and it's one where, possibly at the beginning of the week, we've got people working during the day and sleeping at night and then transitioning to sleeping during the day and working at night, and some of those aspects are really quite tricky. I think there's a lot more burden on those guys than the technical guys this time.
SM: Yeah, the same as what Pat just said. A lot of the team managers have been putting a lot of work into that, and most of the engineers come in just a day before, so they can deal with just immediately changing their patterns, but if you just offset the meeting schedules and things, it means that we will be finishing at five o' clock in the morning on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so it is quite a big change. You could look at it and say 'well, everyone's in Europe normally, so they should be on that time zone,' but it's quite difficult to go back to the hotel and sleep during the day, especially when you've got people walking around tidying it up. So one of the other things they've done is to make sure that they can have one floor in the hotel that's only got team members on it and not have people knocking on your door at nine o' clock in the morning saying 'shall I come and clean the room up?' So those are some of the basic things of living in that environment. I think from the technical side there's not much, to be honest. There are a few little things like the brightness of the display on the steering wheel and things like that but they are quite straightforward and easy to sort out. The weather itself we just got our long range forecast this morning actually which is just two weeks in front and it's predicting fifty to sixty percent chance of rain at that time of night. Because it's such a humid environment, I think there's quite a reasonable chance of rain on one of the nights.
AN: Pretty much as Pat and Sam have just said. Normal preparations technically, so a maximum downforce circuit as Sam mentioned earlier, so I don't think there's anything particularly unusual technically. The night thing is different; I guess Kimi should be on form, he's used to performing when it's dark, but other than that, I don't know.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Tatsuya Otani - Car Graphic) What is your situation with the KERS system for next year, and how big a performance advantage do you expect from that? How important is it?
SM: I think everyone's at a very early stage in their programme. For the first couple of years, it's probably quite right that the FIA has seized the power and energy spec to the system, so it's going to be worth about two or three tenths. I think next year, especially in the first six months, there's going to be a massive disparity in aerodynamics because I would be surprised if everyone got it right straightaway. You will probably have a couple of teams that get it really right and they are the ones that are going to be winning but then you're going to have the average and then probably a couple of teams that get it really wrong, just because they haven't had time or they haven't balanced this year's resources. So because of that, I think the effect of that difference in aero is going to swamp KERS for the first part of the year, if not the whole year, to be honest. But I think that's quite sensible because it's such new technology, there are lots of safety issues and performance issues and reliability things to sort out with it, that I think it should, for the first couple of years, be something that will give you a benefit but it's not going to lose you a championship if you don't have it. I think the FIA's intention, which is quite right, is that in three or four years, you will need it to be performing but by then everybody will have got their basic systems running and it will just be a matter of developing them. The big step is right now and trying to get the systems up and running and I think everyone's at various levels of their programme at the moment.
AN: With the current KERS regulations everybody's come down on either using a battery storage system or a flywheel. I don't think it's any secret that we are on battery. I think of the flywheels, as far as I know, everyone's mechanically-driven rather than using an electrical motor as the transfer mechanism. I guess, as Sam says, the obvious thing is for the KERS capacity to be increased in future years and indeed the longevity of the systems to be increased as well. At the moment, there's no minimum usage and so you can - and it may indeed be that some teams will - use a new battery for every race which becomes extremely expensive and is also ecologically slightly questionable but that's taking a short term view. I'm sure that as the technology develops and refines there will be a requirement for multi-race usage. Those sorts of things, perhaps combined with the amount of energy that you are allowed to store, that could change the balance between the various technologies, be it battery, super capacitor or flywheel. Until we know how the rules evolve, it's difficult to comment on that.
Q: Could you just give us an idea of how much these batteries are?
AN: As a financial thing, they are extremely expensive, there's no doubt about it. For the small teams KERS is a big overhead. Flywheel is potentially cheaper because you haven't got the cost of the battery but you've got all the mechanical development. The batteries are very expensive.
PS: I think KERS is a very interesting technical exercise. The development of it has been fascinating, and it's a chance for us to move into new areas which I think all engineers enjoy. The majority of our engineers are mechanical engineers or they're aerodynamicists or they're electronics guys but here we are dealing with high power electrical systems and things like that, so a lot of new stuff to learn. A difficult project, time-consuming and like Luca, it's our intention not to run it in a car until January. It's very, very expensive to build interim cars to look at these sorts of projects and we prefer not to do that, particularly with the sophistication of dynamometers these days, so all our practice work is being done on dynamometers and then we will build it into our car for next year and see how it performs on the track when hopefully we have de-bugged it from both mechanical reliability and very specifically from a safety point of view before we take it to the circuit.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Adrian, from running at the front edge of that mid-pack, Red Bull Racing seems to have slipped back, or perhaps other teams have caught up. What's happened in recent races here?
AN: Certainly we slipped in the races immediately following Silverstone which is Hockenheim, Hungary and Valencia. I'm not exactly sure why, to be honest. Some of that is the nature of the circuit. Our sister team, Toro Rosso, has not slipped during those races, and the cars are, apart from the engine, identical in just about every way. The set-ups are extremely similar, so it's difficult to understand why Red Bull Racing has slipped in those races and Toro Rosso didn't. I think Red Bull Racing was competitive at Spa. The result was disappointing. I think we were on for a good result but obviously the tangle between Mark and Kovalainen cost us. We will see here.
Q: (Tetsuo Tsugawa - Tetsuo Enterprises) Can you, as engineers, tell us about Hamilton's Spa manoeuvre, without politics, without penalty?
PS: I don't think engineers should have opinions about things like this. I had an opinion but it really wasn't about that at all, it wasn't about that specific manoeuvre. I was merely making a point that I hope that we allow racing to be exciting and nothing more than that. There was no implied criticism of Lewis or anything like that.
LM: First of all, we respected the decision of the FIA, but being an engineer, to express an assessment, I would like to see the telemetry data to understand it a little bit. At the end, we have to accept what the stewards and the FIA decided.
AN: Well, I am going to have to fess up and admit that I didn't see it because I didn't stay for the whole weekend at Spa, so I watched the race on television and once Heikki hit Mark I walked off in disgust and didn't watch the rest of it, so I can't comment.
SM: I think it's just one of those difficult things but it's really down to the FIA and the stewards to decide what that is. They have their drivers' meetings with the team managers and that's where all those things get decided. It's always a difficult job that Charlie (Whiting, FIA race director) and the stewards have got to do but there's going to be a hearing now, so we will wait for the outcome and see what they say there.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Question for all of you: from what we hear, the future of customer cars is maybe not finalised or it's in a state of flux. Where do your teams personally stand on the future of customer cars?
SM: I think that's a team principal's question really, so you can ask Frank that. I would rather not say but I think that was sorted out about six months ago, wasn't it?
AN: I'm not aware of any changes to the decision that was made six months ago, so I can't really comment, I'm afraid.
Q: (James Allen - ITV) Luca, you said a few minutes ago that despite the freeze on engines, the teams are running closer and closer to the limit with the engines. Could you explain what you mean by that? What can you actually do that takes things closer to the limit, is it fuel and lubricants? You can't change parts, can you?
LM: We cannot change mechanical parts on the engine and any changes have to pass through quite a tricky procedure and all the other manufacturers have to be involved, so if someone wants to change a part of the combustion chamber, you can be sure that none of the other manufacturers will accept it unless there is evident proof that you have genuine reliability problems. But in the past, normally we had the chance to modify, to improve, develop components, so the limit of the engine and the way you use it were working together. Now, unfortunately, the engine is completely frozen and we have to check, for example, at what temperature the engine can survive without failing. These things mean that we have to improve a little bit the way we use the engine but unfortunately not being able to move the reliability of the engine itself.
Q: (Gaetan Vigneron - RTBF) Pat, how many changes do you to have to make to Renault to keep Fernando for next year, and do you have the impression that you've done everything possible to keep him?
PS: I think everyone at Renault would love Fernando to be part of our future, both next year and even further than that. We are all competitive people, we all want the best and I think that we regard Fernando as being the best, therefore we want him and he, I think, wants the best car, so we have to marry those two together, we have to provide him with the best car and let's see what would happen then.