FIA Friday press conference - Italy 11 Sep 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Ross Brawn (Brawn GP), Aldo Costa (Ferrari), Vijay Mallya (Force India) and Franz Tost (Toro Rosso).
Q: The regulations this year seem to have been very difficult to interpret. How much do you understand about the regulations and looking forward to next year as well? Ross?
Ross Brawn: If we knew the answer to that we would not be up and down as we are. I think what happens, particularly with a new set of regulations, is that you focus on one area of performance and that is the best average over the season. You pick a downforce level, you pick a drag level and you develop the car around that target. Sometimes when you move away to circuits like Spa or here where you move into a completely different wing regime, then different factors can become prominent. I think that is whats happening. I think also the tyres, we are still not all understanding the tyres yet. I think that is adding to the challenge. These slick tyres we still dont fully understand and why we get them to work at some tracks and not the other is something certainly we have to fix and we are working on solutions for next year but it may take a year or two before we fully understand how the slick tyres are working. But I do know that some of my colleagues, who have been quick at some races and slow at the others, are just as puzzled by the conundrum, so the one that unlocks it the earliest will be the one who has the advantages.
Q: Aldo, your feelings about that?
Aldo Costa: On top of what Ross said everybody started with a brand new rule from the aerodynamic point of view. The development pace during the season is quite strong for everybody, so the results are also changing because you see cars that in a specific race use an upgraded package and that can make a big difference compared to other cars. This evolution of packages between the cars are making the results a bit more floating than usual.
Q: Vijay, your feelings about this? It has affected you very much in the last couple of races?
Vijay Mallya: When we started the season I was told by my technical team that they were not clear about the diffuser. What I understand is that we designed the car with the possibility of having a diffuser should the rule get clarified, so we were able to introduce very quickly an interim diffuser in Bahrain and then develop upon it. We always planned to have a significant aero upgrade for Valencia which we introduced and then following on from there for Spa and for Monza and that seems to be working well for us. The car is quick and competitive but if we had started off with more clarity at the beginning of the year, maybe we would have done things differently, maybe not. But going forward into 2010 I hope that there will be clarity up front, so that everybody knows what they are doing and there wont be many surprises.
Franz Tost: I think there are two main reasons. The first is the KERS system because teams that decided to run the KERS system had another philosophy how to design the car than teams not running the KERS system and this was a great influence for the aerodynamics. The second reason for me is the diffuser as this changed the design philosophy, especially the rear of the car. Then during the season some teams decided to stop running KERS which means you have to change the design of the car and all the teams decided to run with a double diffuser which means you also have to design completely the rear part of the car. As we cannot do any tests anymore we are coming to the race tracks and it is really difficult to set up the car in the correct way. Apart from this all the teams are very close together. If you make a small mistake setting up the car or if the driver makes a small mistake you can be three, four or five positions behind because in the past in qualifying there are five or six cars between one-tenth-of-a-second. I think this performance has never been as strong in Formula One as now.
Q: Ross, you have two winning drivers. Also a slight lack of performance over the last few races. How confident are you of improving that now?
RB: We did not have a good race in Spa but we won the one before that. They are both free to race. We feel that is what will take the team forward in a stronger way than having any team orders. They are both free to race and both free to try and win the championship. I think Jenson (Button) has had two races where it hasnt worked for him. I think the last race he obviously had the incident and Valencia wasnt great, but the previous races really the car was not working as well as we wanted, so I dont think you can really lay those races at Jensons door. He has had a couple of average races and I think over the season if a guy has a couple of average races as well as all the good ones, he has had a fantastic season. I am pretty optimistic that he is going to have a strong run to the end of the season. The car seems okay here. I think you are quite right in saying that the time gap is quite narrow and I think there are other teams that have perhaps focussed on the race and others who focus more on making sure that they get through qualifying as strong as possible. I think until we get into qualifying we wont really know the situation. We are reasonably happy with our car this weekend. It seems to be working okay and I see every reason why we should have a decent race here.
Q: It was interesting in Spa, particularly in qualifying, that Jenson seemed to be unhappy with the softer tyre whereas Rubens (Barrichello) seemed to be happy on the softer tyre?
RB: A little bit, yes. I dont think Jenson found the balance as nice on that tyre. But when the tyres are so close as these tyres are only one step apart I think you often find that one driver will prefer one to the other. Today I would struggle to tell you which tyre we are going to race because the tyres seem pretty similar, so it may well be that one driver will prefer one tyre to another. But that is not unusual for one driver to prefer another tyre and probably on reflection we should have stuck with the prime tyre with Jenson throughout qualifying but we didnt and he wasnt comfortable.
Q: Aldo, how did Giancarlo (Fisichella) get on today?
AC: He had to learn quite a lot. Even if the formula is the same and the tyre is the same, two cars may have different behaviour. Two teams definitely have got different procedures, different systems on the car, so it was for him a very good learning day and we are quite pleased about what he did and we are looking forward to tomorrow to see the result.
Q: We heard recently that you have stopped development on the car. How much have you had new developments specifically for here?
AC: Yes, we are concentrating mainly on next years car. Obviously, you need a specific development for Monza and I have to say that there are other parts of the car which were already in the pipeline and landed already here in Monza for the first time. But from now on there will not be a lot of development on the car.
Q: Vijay, can I ask you about how things developed regarding the transfer of Giancarlo to Ferrari?
VM: Well, its pretty simple. Giancarlo came to me and said that it was the dream of every Italian to drive for Ferrari and he had this unique opportunity which would fulfil a lifelong ambition at the end of his career. I said alright, if thats what you want, and thats what makes you happy, go, because I really honestly feel that if I stood in his way and waved a contract at him and said no, I insist that you stay with us he might have been completely demotivated. So I had Tonio Liuzzi as our contracted reserve driver and hes hungry, hes motivated, wants to do the job, so I said lets give him a chance.
Q: So what does Tonio have to do to stay in the team? Is he OK for the next five races
VM: Absolutely, hes OK for the next five races and maybe even beyond. He knows that he needs to perform as well. Weve done all we can to produce a car thats now getting competitive and as the driver, he also has to deliver his part of it and he knows that. This game is unpredictable in more ways than one and there arent any guarantees attached to either a car or a driver. But I think I would say that Im quite happy and quite optimistic that the cars will go well and both drivers will do well.
Q: Franz, one thing that youre having to do at the moment, I suspect, is build up your technical team and facilities because obviously you have to design and build the car next year. How is that going, what does it involve?
FT: Its going quite well, I must say. We are building up the engineering team around our technical director Giorgio Ascanelli. We have a chief designer, Ben Butler, and so far they have already started on next years car. We are running the wind tunnel in England, at Bicester, and also our CFD department is increasing and so far are we are within our planned schedule.
Q: And in terms of drivers, are you thinking that you will keep those two for next year?
FT: In the end its the decision of Red Bull but it wouldnt have made sense to bring both young drivers into the team if you didnt continue with them for next year, because I must say that they have both improved their performances from race weekend to race weekend and Im convinced that Red Bull and Toro Rosso can reap the fruits from the middle of next year onwards and especially in 2011 and we are happy with the drivers.
Q: One final question to you all: its been interesting that there have been some changes to the first and second chicanes. We saw one team still going over the kerbs; has there been a decision within your teams to kerb or not to kerb, for example in those first two chicanes, and what are your feelings about them?
RB: We werent aware of the kerb change until we got here. Wed actually done quite a lot of work on configuring the car on the basis of last years kerbs, so it was a little surprise when we heard about the kerbs being changed. Were not using them to any great degree; the first corrugated bit is easily useable, the mound, the hump, is more difficult to use and our drivers find it unsettles the car too much. A race track is a race track and once you get into having to develop your cars to leap over concrete mounds to get the best lap time, its not much fun. Id rather the cars stayed predominantly on the tarmac and we worked on that basis.
AC: We have seen what happened during the testing today, there are cars which are much more aggressive on these kerbs. I have to say that the cars this year are a bit more vulnerable in some areas like the front wings, for example, so you need to be quite careful jumping in such a big way. Yeah, we are thinking what to do, respecting, of course, what they tell us to do. Personally, I agree with Ross. I dont like motor racing going over barriers. I like cars staying on the track, but if there is a lap time, we have to do our best for the interpretation of this kerbing.
VM: Well, I remember last year when we were basically racing the Spyker B chassis that the car used to struggle immensely over the kerbs and get completely unsettled, so I know, for a fact, that the 2009 car was designed with kerbs in mind, but I dont believe that either of our drivers used the kerbs successfully today.
FT: Buemi used the kerbs a couple of times, but he said the car was very unstable and he had the feeling that he lost time. Therefore we will analyse the data and see what we do tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Ross, quite a few respected people Felipe Massa, Nigel Mansell, Stirling Moss have remarked on Jensons mental state over the past couple of weeks, that perhaps hes a man now under pressure given the position hes in in the championship. Im just wondering whether youve noticed any particular difference in him, in his character, his mentality, in particular since the start of the season when everything was easier and he was winning races?
RB: Well, I think theres naturally been a change, because hes now leading the World Championship which I dont think hes done before, and thats a new experience for him. Undoubtedly that does influence your everyday thinking. When youre a driver who turns up to every race and if you can do well its great but if you dont, so what: thats different to building a championship year and Ive seen it in every driver Ive worked with that if youre in a year when you dont have a chance to win the championship, the drivers try as hard, theyre just as committed but it has a different flavour, a difficult character to when youre having to build points, even in different situations. So I do see a change in Jenson, but I see it as a positive change, I see it as something where hes diligently thinking about how he puts together a championship year, and how he works on trying to maintain his position. But I dont see anything negative in his approach or his attitude, and just to repeat, Ive been fortunate enough to experience this many times and even with Michael (Schumacher), who did it seven times, the seventh time was just as tense as the first time. Yeah, sometimes being out in front in a championship is the most difficult position, because the cars behind have a lot to lose. The guy in the front is the one who has everything to lose and its the same with a motor race: when youre leading the motor race, its more difficult than the guy whos behind, whos trying to have a go and can maybe be a bit more adventurous in his strategy or his driving. Thats the way it is. Its ten years since Jenson fought for a championship or more, so hes having to re-engage his thoughts on fighting for a World Championship and what I see is perfectly normal and I dont see anything negative about it for sure.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) Ross, there have been a lot of reports out of Germany in the last week about Mercedes buying a stake in the team. Could you comment on that?
RB: Weve got our plans in place for next year and were happy with where the teams going. Im not going to comment on our specific plans, theyll all be announced in due course: drivers, sponsors, so were very comfortable with where were going to be next year. Thats as much as I would like to say.
Q: (Eliahu Ayldiz Sports Channel, Israel) About half an hour ago, Kimi (Räikkönen) said that even though hes quite happy with the car, he said that the Ferrari has had the same problem for the last few years here. Could you be more specific about why the car is not quick enough at Monza?
AC: To be honest, I didnt listen to his comments. Yeah, there are cars that perform better or worse on a whole range of circuits, depending on the basic choices that you have made in designing your car. Normally, when we design the car, we try to design the car for the circuits which are more frequent during the championship, so sometimes on the extremely different circuits we would suffer in terms of performance. This is our philosophy really, which has gone very well in the last few years. This year, for some specific problems, maybe the double diffuser at the beginning, its not so evident. I think that if you invest a lot of time, a lot of money in designing a car for a specific circuit - all of us work with a fixed amount of money and a fixed amount of resources you will not reach the optimum results that you can reach, on the contrary, being more focussed on the races which are more frequent during the championship. I know the driver may be pointing out this element but its part of the philosophy of the team.