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FIA Friday press conference - Spain 07 May 2010

Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Technical Director in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Nick Wirth (GBR) Virgin Racing Technical Director in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Aldo Costa (ITA) Ferrari Technical Director in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes GP Team Principal in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Technical directors: Ross Brawn (Mercedes), Aldo Costa (Ferrari), Sam Michael (Williams), Nick Wirth (Virgin).

Q: A question to you all. You have all brought new modifications to the cars. How are they performing so far looking at today’s performance? Would you like to start, Sam.
Sam Michael:
We had some of our parts on the car today. Just on Rubens’s (Barrichello) car actually. They are all working fine and we have some more parts coming tomorrow.

Q: Can you give us some indication what they are?
SM:
We are running a diffuser today, a new sidepod and back part of the engine cover and then some mechanical parts which you can’t really see. And tomorrow we will have a new front wing.

Q: Nick, you are obviously limited to the amount of bits you have brought.
Nick Wirth:
Yeah, we were planning to run our two updated monocoques which unfortunately got affected a little bit by the delay in freight coming back which meant we were only able to bring one of them today which Timo (Glock) is running. It has a completely new fuel system on it and various other bits and pieces, some of which are coming out tomorrow as well, so it is just early days for that. So far, so good.

Q: He didn’t seem to be very quick today. In fact, slower than Lucas di Grassi.
NW:
Yes, we were running different fuel levels as we are sorting out the fuel system and bits and pieces, so we will see tomorrow.

Q: Aldo?
Aldo Costa:
We had a pretty intense programme today. We had several aerodynamic components to test, so we had modifications on the front wing, brake duct, diffuser and then we had our version of rear stalling wing.

Q: How did that go? It was interesting you were very quick in a straight line this morning but not so quick this afternoon.
AC:
Yeah, we were doing a different test on a different wing setting, with a different system, standard versus the new system, so we have to put altogether the picture this afternoon, understand the data and then decide for tomorrow.

Q: Ross, you had quite a lot, I think. Longer wheelbases, different chassis, all sorts of things.
Ross Brawn:
Well, the bodywork change looks fairly dramatic. It is an improvement of course. It is not a huge improvement. Most of the big improvements come from the wings and the underside of the car. But it is how we conceived the car at the beginning and we had a bit of work we still wanted to do before we introduced the car as you see it now, so we went conventional for the first four races. Now we have got the system we always planned. Like everyone there are modifications to the other key bits, wings, diffuser, brake ducts and we have changed the wheelbase in order to give us more range, more weight distribution, although this is a circuit where I don’t think rearward weight distribution is so attractive but it will be something we will want to use in some of the future races.

Q: Another question to you all. It has been talked about that KERS might be introduced next year or might be introduced with the new engine regulations in 2013. Can you just discuss that and whether you would like KERS next year, whether KERS is very important for Formula One, whether it is an integral part of the 2013 engine regulations, if you feel that. Sam, you obviously have got a vested interest in the team.
SM:
I mean to answer your first question we generally at Williams have always been supportive of KERS and we see it as part of Formula One in the future. The exact timing of when it is introduced is something that is still being debated within FOTA and I think the idea was to have the final decision this weekend as everyone has got to get on and design their cars for 2011. But there are obviously different technologies out there and, as you said, we do have vested interests. We have battery technology and fly-wheel and I think that is a secondary or even third order of decision. The main thing is we just want to see a plan whether it is next year or later when it is going to be introduced. That is still going around for discussion at the moment for a final decision but we are fully supportive of it.
NW: Well, for us it represents quite a challenge. Obviously, we have not had the experience of packaging that and neither has our engine supplier. In principal, we absolutely support the principal of it and the principal of introducing hybrid technology to Formula One. But we entered Formula One under a different set of regulations which have actually come to pass this year and I think everyone has to bear in mind that we are supplying and building Formula One cars to Virgin Racing which are cheaper than a Bugatti Veyron, so for us to introduce that with this kind of cost limitation that we have is quite a challenge. We think all round it is probably the most appropriate to look at that for the 2013 technology when we can choose the appropriate storage medium and integrate that in the new engine regulations.
AC: As Williams and Renault we are supporting the introduction of KERS next year. On top of that ourselves and Renault in the last few months were also pushing for developing the KERS system furthermore to allow the system to have more performance as at the moment we think the system as it has been written in the rules is not performing a great deal. With the same system we think with a more revised system we can achieve from it much more and the application can be used also during a weekend or during a race for other purposes and for better integration of the KERS in the vehicle to reach the proper status of hybrid vehicle. At the moment it isn’t as it is written, so we are proposing that but, unfortunately, there is not a lot of consensus at the moment. Another possibility is to use KERS for the sport to have a better show, so to write a sporting rule that allows the use of KERS for overtaking again is another good aspect, I think, for Formula One. We are keen to use it, we are keen to develop it, we are keen to give to KERS more and more importance in the next few years.
RB: I think KERS is definitely the future. I think the concept of the new engine in 2013 is very much around a core internal combustion engine of some sort but then a lot of technologies around it and the philosophy will be that those technologies are the areas that will be the focus of attention for development. We are very supportive of that. I think we have to recognise that KERS is in the regulations at the moment, so anyone within the regulations can use KERS next year. There was an agreement within FOTA in order not to escalate the costs that teams could use KERS if they could meet some target figures in terms of costs and if they could make their system available to customers for those costs, so I think as long as people meet those requirements, then KERS could be seen next year. We welcome any of those technologies. Whether we will do it or not we will have to look at all the numbers. But we are certainly not against KERS. We think it is a good technology. The issue that Aldo touched on is that some of the teams want to have more freedom with KERS and that will require a consensus from the teams and there are a lot of teams that have difficulty with that. That’s the issue at the moment. But KERS is in the regulations next year, so anyone can use KERS next year as long as they meet the criteria.

Q: I can throw that back to Sam. Is that a possibility, might you just go out on your own and use it anyway?
SM:
There is definitely a strong possibility that we will run KERS in 2011, but we won’t be alone. That’s why I said at the beginning that it is under discussion at FOTA at the moment, so we can try and come to some consensus as to what we do. But everything Ross said is correct, it is in the regulations. It is in this year’s as well. It is only because of the agreement that no-one ran it this year.

Q: Nick, have you got on top of your initial problems or are they still there? Obviously, hydraulics are something that seems to bug you in particular.
NW:
Yeah, I don’t think we are alone in that with the other new teams. For sure the first testing and the first four races simply haven’t met the expectations or standards of the team and also Wirth Research and our suppliers and as a group we continue to work tirelessly night and day to try and get on top of these problems. We are working right now in facilities all across Europe to try and get on top of this, literally as we speak, doing race distances on components across the whole transmission and hydraulic area. It has been a great challenge and I think we understand what the problems are as a group and hopefully we will apply a fix to it for this weekend but it really has definitely put us on the back foot for the first part of the year and made the focus of our efforts not on improving performance, just simply reliability.

Q: Aldo, have Ferrari got on top of their engine problems? It is difficult to say as, presumably, they were different for Sauber than for yourselves?
AC:
Yeah, we had a few bad experiences at the beginning in the first few races. Now this question is becoming a bit more normal and we hope to be on top of it. Of course eight engines for 19 races are not much, so we need to be very, very careful in the use of the engines for the following part of the season. But we hope to be on top of that.

Q: So it is only hope to be on top of it?
AC:
No, no, as I said the situation is more normal than for the first few races.

Q: Ross, what was the reaction of Michael (Schumacher) to the different chassis? Did you expect a reaction to it?
RB:
Well, I think we don’t have a complete understanding of the reason for the lack of performance in Shanghai. As I have said before Michael was making good progress. Any driver even of the calibre of Michael who comes back to Formula One after three years with just a few days testing is going to find it quite a challenge. It, for sure, has been. But what I saw was very good and steady progress through the first three races, so Shanghai was an anomaly, a blip, and there were areas of performance which we couldn’t understand and you couldn’t put down to driver ability or driver technique, so we changed the chassis as a precaution. That chassis had been damaged on the underside going over kerbs. We thought we had repaired it adequately but we didn’t, so that car has been properly repaired back at the factory and Michael is using the chassis that we used in testing. He is relatively happy with the car and I’d say today things are back to normal as an extension of what we saw after Malaysia with Shanghai being a blip. It is very early in the weekend but we saw no areas of concern today which we did have in Shanghai.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Ross, did the package meet your expectations? Did it meet what the wind tunnel predicted? And, secondly, Michael was significantly faster today than Nico Rosberg. Was it due to different programmes or was it a fair comparison?
RB:
No, there were different programmes. Nico tried some different changes to Michael, so I think tonight we will put all the packages together and see how we run the cars tomorrow which is obviously how any sensible team runs. Particularly with no testing. You have got a lot of things you are doing on a Friday to try and gather the information, so at the end of today we will put everything together. But the package was doing pretty much as we expected. Normally you come to Barcelona after a winter test with a driver saying the car is nowhere near as good as it was in the winter. At least our drivers are saying the car is much better than it was here in the winter but it is relative, it is not comparative on the day, so I think we are reasonably happy with it but all the teams have moved forward and it is a moving target. If you do nothing in Formula One you go backwards very, very rapidly, and as Nick Wirth was relating to when you are trying to fight your reliability problems you cannot also progress on performance. If you stand still you go backwards two-tenths, three-tenths a race, so you are fighting hard just to keep up with what is going on and I think we have kept up but we have still got to find more.

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Ross, can you explain to us why you have changed the engine cover and you have two holes to cool the engine instead of one?
RB:
It’s the airbox, the intake for the induction system for the engine. Normally there’s just one hole. We’ve got two because we’ve got a central structure for the roll hoop. It was done to improve the potential of the rear wing, so the system we have on some circuits where you need the maximum potential of the rear wing then we think it’s a better system. That was the reason.

Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint) It’s really to all of you gentlemen. Just in case F1 decides to race the 18inch rim rule for next year, do you feel that you are prepared to take on the challenge and if so, what would be the main issue?
RB:
As chairman of the technical regulations working group we’ve had a lot of discussion about that, and I think we would like to see a phasing of the 18 inch or a larger wheel. I think we understand that the tyre companies are very keen on a larger wheel because it brings a better efficiency of tyre. We’re welcoming that, but it’s just a question of phasing it in, and I think that if there was an 18 inch rim, it’s very late at the moment and I think it would give a lot of the teams severe challenges and severe problems to get ready in time, because it’s not just having a bigger wheel, an 18 inch tyre behaves differently and you would need to develop the suspension systems and the other things you would need for it. I think all the people involved in considering tyre supply for the future understand that and want to phase in a larger diameter wheel and it’s unlikely that we will have a larger diameter wheel next year. That’s still in discussion but I think that’s the likelihood.
AC: If you have 18 inch wheels and you are allowed to use all the space inside the rim for your brake system, for your cooling, for your aerodynamic development of the corner, as Ross mentioned, it would be a very, very big programme. Starting in May or June is very, very late, also for all the companies that make brake components because they have to study new calipers, new discs and for the team with completely new suspensions it would be a big programme. Everyone in the FOTA group would like to have a more phased-in programme. Even if we had to start with the 18 inch rims, at least the inside of the rim in terms of mechanical parts and braking system should be kept similar to this year and then evolve over the next few years.

Q: (Mike Doodson) I watched the Chinese Grand Prix on TV and I wonder if you guys were as startled as I was to see an innocent young driver come charging down to the braking area of a tight corner, put on the brakes, and both front wheels fell off like chocolate biscuits. This presumably has safety implications for the future and reflects on the lack of testing that you’re allowed to do. Do you think therefore that new rules should be introduced that either freeze the specification of the car, so that this sort of thing can’t happen in public again, or perhaps there should be some form of allowance for testing of new parts before they’re brought to a race?
SM:
I don’t think there should be a spec freeze, Mike. Obviously Giorgio (Ascanelli, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s technical director) is the right person to comment on the details but what he did do was inform the group that it was a process failure that they had had and wasn’t related to design and it wasn’t something that would generally affect anyone else or his cars after that. He’s obviously a member of FOTA and we discuss things like that. Things can always go wrong, but I don’t think it’s a reason for having a knee jerk reaction and freezing specs, because if it’s a process failure it can happen on a set of uprights or suspension that we make for the next race. It’s not necessarily because of a design change.
RB: I think the other thing is that testing in itself wouldn’t solve the problem because that incident could have occurred at a test and would have had similar consequences. As Sam said, Giorgio’s the best one to respond to that question. I don’t think there’s a need to make any changes to the way we approach things to avoid that happening.

Q: Mr Brawn, it’s about 22 years that F1 has had air scoops on top of the helmets. Are you using your new intakes to blow air flow onto the rear diffuser as well or is only for the engine and to make a clearer flow to the rear wing?
RB:
This reply is very short: it’s actually as described, it’s just for the rear wing, it’s just to give a cleaner flow to the rear wing. That’s all it is, there’s no connection to the diffuser.

Q: The new F-duct of Ferrari has changed the rear diffuser; are you using another duct to blow some air to the rear diffuser, and how is it working for the drivers to use their left arm to block or increase the airflow to the new F-duct?
AC:
In our case, the modifications are on the bodywork, linked to the rear wing, so there is a direct link with the behaviour of the diffuser itself. It’s a system that has been studied to improve the performance of the rear wing in some conditions. In terms of driver practice; drivers, as you know, are trained to use several systems in the car. They normally use the front flap adjuster, they normally use brake balance. Last year they used the KERS system, so they can also use the F-duct with no big issues.

Q: (Detlev Hacke – Der Spiegel) Two questions to Nick: you’re producing and developing your car in a much more software-based way without using a wind tunnel. What’s your resume after four races and several months doing this? And secondly, could you describe a little bit the procedure from the beginning until the point where you really decide to produce a part?
NW:
Well, the resume from the first few months is that we haven’t used it enough, because we’ve been using most of our resources to try and get the car to cross the chequered flag. So again, we had much more ambitious plans early on for the specification of the car at this race, including wings and various other parts and we’ve had to focus our attention in other areas because of our limited resources. And so far, the parts that we have put on have pretty much matched predictions that we’d had from this technology, so, so far, so good on that side and we’re a bit frustrated about not being able to put a lot more areas of performance on the car that we know that we can generate.
In terms of the process, we have a sort of digital development process which starts for a car or in terms of development, with a pretty conventional reasonably sophisticated mechanical packaging finite element, crash simulation-type of work which goes on in design and simultaneously that information is linked with our work in cfd which basically takes surface information. A conventional approach would be to take surfaces and ideas from aerodynamicists, convert them into either rapid prototype parts or scale models of the sort of parts that you see on the race cars, and then put on a very large scale wind tunnel model and test them in a wind tunnel. In our case, our system involves taking those shapes and instead of making model parts we actually essentially mesh them and create an extremely sophisticated computer simulation, consisting of hundreds of billions of cells in a cfd model and essentially flowing digital wind, if you like, over this model in a variety of different simulations in a variety of different conditions. All that information is brought together, mechanical information, aerodynamic information from what we call cfd, is brought together and tested on real time simulators. We have two of them and the simulators… we develop our own tyre models, so these are digital representations of the tyres which have thermal characteristics and other things that we’ve developed over the years, so essentially the cycle is synthetic mechanical design, synthetic aerodynamic design and testing them together on a real simulator and then taking those results, feeding them back in the loop and we go around this loop until we are happy with the development or a car and then we take it out with quite a sophisticated R&D process to reality and that can be a car or a development or an update. And frankly, our issues this year of reliability has fundamentally been a breakdown in the R&D process and it’s fair to say that from my side, my responsibility in this process has been a failure to recognise the benefits of the partnership we had with Honda in our sports car programme in America and the work that they were doing in the background on proving our transmission reliability and hydraulic reliability. We don’t have that type of relationship as a customer team with our engine supplier. It’s quite interesting to step back and see the wood from the trees and see where it’s gone wrong. We’re working very hard to fix that area but the rest of it, that kind of describes our process.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Ross, you’ve explained Michael’s performance in Shanghai, but he did come in for a considerable amount of criticism following that race. Do you think that criticism has been unjustified?
RB:
I think that if you criticise the lap times he did that was fair enough. I think you have to understand the reasons for that before you can criticise any further. That’s really my only comment. I can understand why people would criticise because he wasn’t going very quickly. There’s lots of instances during a Formula One season where a driver isn’t… or a car is not producing lap times and people don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s the driver. So I think we need to let the season pan out a bit more before people form opinions about Michael’s performance.

Q: (Mike Doodson) It’s actually a comeback, Ross, because you rather lightly dismissed the suggestion that new parts be tested and said it didn’t make any difference. Well, it was very fortunate that that race took place at a circuit that nobody actually bothers to go to. If that wheel had come off and ended up in a public area here or at a couple of other races we could think of, the consequences would have been very severe. Would that change your mind about the necessity of testing new parts before they get put on a car?
RB:
I think every team in Formula One tests their parts at the factory. Certainly we have a facility which has huge investment and is staffed by ten to 15 people and every component that goes on the car is thoroughly tested in that department. I don’t know the details of Giorgio’s problem and he would have to explain it to you. You may argue about the consequences of an accident whether they happen in testing, whether they happen in racing, but if there’s someone stood in the wrong place in testing and a wheel hits them, they’re not going to care whether it’s testing or racing, so I don’t see how introducing testing solves that problem. The problem is fundamentally an engineering problem and I’m sure Giorgio understands it and is dealing with it in a very responsible way. I think he was deeply shocked by what happened and F1 as a group is looking at the details of that accident to see how we can improve things, because obviously we’re not happy with what happened, but I just don’t see that going testing solves that problem.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) I just wanted to know if I can have some updated information about the potential split of the Q1 qualifying in Monaco?
RB:
I didn’t know about that until I read about it.
SM: It was on the sporting working group, but there hasn’t been any decision. I think Charlie (Whiting) raised it.