FIA Friday press conference - Canada 10 Jun 2011
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Senior team personnel - Eric Boullier (Renault), Pat Fry (Ferrari), Andrew Green (Force India), Paddy Lowe (McLaren), Sam Michael (Williams).
Q: Andrew, Force India have always, supposedly, been good on low downforce circuits. This is a low downforce circuit and it would seem that this is exactly true isnt it? You seem to have been pretty good today?
Andrew Green: It does look as though the track came to us, thats for sure. Low downforce, low drag really is the way you want to look at it. The car seems to respond well to the lower downforce set-ups, thats for sure. It is not something we actively pursue. We would like to make it a bit more of an even car as we definitely seem to struggle as we get to the higher downforce tracks which is where we have just come from. But it is nice to be a little bit more competitive.
Q: You were running three drivers today. Did you think Adrian Sutil really missed out a bit this morning and that perhaps was a contributory factor this afternoon?
AG: I dont think so. Adrian knows the track really well. It was just unfortunate he picked up a little bit of understeer on the exit of Turn Seven and once he got onto the dirty part he just kissed the wall. It was unfortunate he couldnt complete the session. I am sure he would have done as good a job as Paul (di Resta). But I dont think sitting out of the car this morning was any big deal for him.
Q: Paul has done a really good job on a circuit he has never seen before?
AG: Yeah, again. Acclimatizes really quickly. It really only takes him a handful of laps to get up to speed. Quite impressive.
Q: Paddy, how much of a low downforce setting have you got? Have you brought a low downforce package? Is it as much as, for example, in the past?
Paddy Lowe: Nothing particularly special, nothing like we would have done in the past. I think as we have seen the regulations push us into a smaller and smaller box, the difference between a high downforce circuit such as Monaco and a lower downforce circuit such as Canada has become less and less and that is true for us here.
Q: Is that helped also by DRS?
PL: I wouldnt really factor that in too much. If you look at the race you are not factoring in DRS as a routine element, so in terms of race performance DRS is not a factor.
Q: Coming to DRS a bit further. Here, of course, there are two DRS zones. How do you see the drivers using DRS? Is it just going to be in the second zone or is it going to be in the first zone as well?
PL: The first zone is longer than the second and would be the natural overtaking place anyway. I think we will have to see how that pans out on Sunday. If you manage to make the overtake, which ordinarily would be possible in the first section, then DRS will just give you an advantage in the second section to extend the gap from the guy you just overtook - which may not be the required outcome. That may prevent a re-overtake should the guy not get the best speed through the final corner. But if you dont make the overtake stick in the first section but manage to get very close, then the second section should help maybe to make it count. We will have to see. I mean it is the first time we have done it so it will be an interesting experiment.
Q: We have had 11 wins from McLaren, 11 wins Ferrari in the Canadian Grand Prix so from what you have seen today what chances of making it 12 do you reckon?
PL: Well that is what we would like to do obviously. We felt we had a good chance and nearly got the win in Monaco. If we can make one here that would be absolutely fantastic. Just the score we need to take us into sort of the second third of the season and to try and turn it around into a series of McLaren wins rather than the Red Bull wins. But from the performance today it is clear that other teams are looking quick as well. It could be very close so either way we will get an interesting race, but we hope to win it yes.
Q: Sam, things seem to have turned around. You had a rotten start to the season. Would we be right in thinking things seem to have turned around a bit?
Sam Michael: Yeah, I think over the last three or four races we have definitely started to qualify better. We still only have two points on the board but we have definitely turned it around from the first few races. We are getting a lot of parts onto the car that we really should have had on earlier but for various reasons we struggled to get them onto the car and make them work. But we took some good steps over the last race and another really good step today here in Canada in identifying those designs and making sure that they work properly. I am pretty hopeful that we can take another good step tomorrow here. Its good as it gives the wind tunnel direction, it gives you focus inside the factory and the way it is going at the moment its a really nice direction. I think over the next couple of races with the parts we have got coming, which complement the bits that are working now - and I refer mainly to diffusers and front wings which are the primary devices on the car ¬- it is quite encouraging to see that turnaround and really understand and learn a lot about it.
Q: Have many of those parts been to do with low downforce here or not?
SM: None of them actually. We did bring a lower drag rear wing but we are not sure if we will race that yet. I think we are in a similar state as everyone else in that you tend to race a much higher level of downforce in Montreal than what you are used to. I think from our point of view DRS does have an effect as what we used to do in the past was race a level of drag that was maybe seven or eight kilometres quicker than your optimum lap time to make sure you could overtake and not be overtaken. You would lose lap time off your optimum. We tend not to do that now and that is whats really pushed us towards one set of wings and it looks like Montreal is not going to be an exception to that but we havent made our final decision.
Q: How are your own personal plans coming along?
SM: Fine. I mean my short-term focus right now is on Williams to be honest and it has been for the last few months. And thats that.
Q: So it is looking good on the CV anyway?
SM: As I said, my focus is Williams right now.
Q: Eric, would you recap what happened with FOTAs involvement with the Bahrain business. How exactly have you seen that? How pleased are you with the outcome?
Eric Boullier: I think we have followed what happened in the World Council, the decision which was taken there unanimously. I think the teams have expressed their views in the recent weeks and their concerns, mainly about what we had already agreed, India and the safety issue. I mean the usual one. We decided to write a letter -which was a private one but it became rather public - to the FIA and to Bahrain. You know the rest of the story because it was all public so at the end I think a decision was made and we are happy to be back in Bahrain in due time.
Q: Are you a little unhappy at the confusion. Could it have been resolved a bit simpler?
EB: I think reading on the forums and spending some time with the fans you can understand the reaction and you cannot be happy when such mess has been raised and it is not good for the image of Formula One definitely.
Q: Talking of fans. Last night you had the fans forum. How did that go?
EB: Very well. Very, very well. This kind of opportunity is very good, not only showing off to the fans but to have dialogue with them and we had a very good communication. We let them speak and ask the questions and also discuss their concerns about F1, the actual current F1 and the future F1 and it is good to have a good contact with them and understand better.
Q: Renaults performance today?
EB: Bit down, lets say. No fast enough. I think we are understanding, as I said recently since a couple of weeks now, where we are wrong and why we went a little bit down in the performance compared with our competitors. But we are in the process now to fix it and we should be back on form.
Q: Youve already been in your new job for quite some time, but youve just had more responsibility. How have things changed for you having been appointed director of chassis?
Pat Fry: Theres a reasonable amount of work to do. I would say mainly weve been concentrating on organising the factory a little differently and making things work better. I think theres a very good group of engineers there. We just need to get focused on what we think is important and obviously to do the most important things first. So theres been reasonable progress.
Q: Obviously youve come from McLaren. Are things very very different at Ferrari?
PF: Yes, it is quite interesting on lots of fronts really. I suppose Ive been in the fortunate position of seeing how McLaren worked, how they set a car up and the basis behind how that worked and then to come to what was one of my biggest rivals and now working for them, to then see the different philosophies, so its been a very interesting experience for me over the last ten, eleven months. Hopefully we can learn from both; theres good bits everywhere.
Q: Weve seen two very different Ferraris over the last couple of races: one that performed fantastically at the beginning of the Spanish Grand Prix but not so well later, and then one that was right there at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix. What Ferrari will we see here?
PF: Well hopefully one near the Monaco performance! In Barcelona we had a few particular issues that we were struggling with which sort of exaggerated some of the problems that we were having. I think we reasonably understand that now, having worked in the simulator and simulations to try and understand it. Monaco was a bit better and we didnt have the issues there. Here we still need to analyse and understand but I think were looking in reasonable shape.
Q: And in terms of development, how long does the development continue absolutely flat out before you start moving over to next years car for example?
PF: Were learning all the time, so I think that while we continue in the development of this years car it actually helps us for next years. Its not like theres a big radical rule change or something and you need to stop and re-think so youve just got to keep on working at understanding what the issues are. While putting performance on this years car, effectively were making next years quicker as well. There will be, at some point but not now, the dilemma of when you swap your wind tunnel over to being fully on next years project rather than this years, but that decision will be in a couple of months time, before we start finalising a plan.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Thomas Richter - TV Nova) We basically have all the engine manufacturers represented here and the discussion regarding the new engine generation post-2012 is becoming a little confusing for us, so please can you independently from each other, clarify your respective positions regarding the future engines in Formula One and what are your preparations?
EB: Its maybe starting to be confusing for us as well! In the case of Renault, Renault clearly wants to go and push for a new engine format and new engine architecture and is clearly in favour of the four-cylinder. I think there are some concerns from some other engine manufacturers who would maybe like to see a different architecture, or push a bit further or postpone directly the arrival of the new engine, so this is basically why there are discussions.
PF: For me, from the technical side, I think it is a very interesting technical challenge, a huge project. At some point some clarity will be good, when we need to start working on it, really, but as for the political situation behind it, I dont think I really want to comment.
Q: (Matt Youson - Matt Youson and Associates) As a follow-up to that question: youve decided to steer clear of shaped undersides for 2013 onwards. Is there a plan in place for an alternative or will we see slower cars when the smaller engines eventually arrive?
PL: Shaped undersides, for the bodywork regulations. I dont know if youve followed that but the aerodynamic package thats been agreed for 2013 is an evolution of what we have today rather than what was called ground effect concept. So the ground effect concept, which the FIA had worked on, has been held for the moment. I think they did some interesting work and thats not necessarily dispensed with forever but the concept thats been agreed for 2013 is an evolution from where we are but in a way which generates some changes which cause the cars to be more efficient, which is all part of the package, which together with the power unit, which is the engine and the hybrid system, will generate total fuel savings of perhaps thirty percent. The teams made a case to the FIA that this evolutionary approach would achieve the same objectives in a more robust manner with more certainty, because it was based on the current position, so evolving from that, gave more certainty to reach the target, and frankly, at less cost for everyone, because it was a small set of changes.
Q: (Peter Windsor - Clarcksport) Fan response and perhaps controversy; there was a lot of discussion after the restart at Monaco, particularly about new tyres going on the cars and repairs being made and effectively free changes being made to the cars. I would be interested in everybodys view about that, what took place there and whether you think thats going to happen for ever more or whether its up for review, whether or not perhaps tyre changes should be allowed, or indeed, modifications to rear wings or whatever?
PF: I suppose the tyre situation in that sort of situation you dont know if anyones run over some debris or damaged a tyre in any way, I suppose you could say like Lewis today, for example. So I think to change tyres is actually sensible and its a safety issue, really, so I think its essential that people can. As for how badly damaged your car is, I think thats going to be debated, isnt it? Its been that way for as long as I can remember, which is quite a long time! Again, it does stop you having to take risks. Would you send your car to the pit lane to fix it or do you think that whatever is slightly damaged might last for the five laps left or whatever? Safety-wise, it is best to allow both to happen, I would think.
SM: Peter, I think I can see what youre saying from the fans point of view, because that part of the race is effectively destroyed, if you like. Very difficult to race. There were three or four different things happening towards the end of that race and they were all knocked on the head. Its not something that happens very often, which is probably why it probably needs a debate and its probably going to be a long time before it happens again. I agree with the safety factor of being able to change tyres because of punctures, but there were three or four different strategies going on there, with some cars that had taken a hit on their race time such as Hamilton, Maldonado and Ferrari and others that hadnt, such as Kobayashi and Vettel, so clearly those guys were playing the long game, and they were all very exposed at the end of the race and that helped them out, straight away. It can go both ways, with teams, its more really what does it do to the show? Im not sure, it might be a long time before you see it again. In terms of car damage, obviously you take a free repair, because youre allowed to work on your car as soon as the race starts, you can do whatever you want to your car: you can stop and change the set-up if you want to, so its pretty hard to have a rule that says that just because youre on the grid you cant repair it. And once again, you could pull in the safety arguments, so sometimes you lose from it, sometimes you gain, but maybe its something that needs a chat about again, but it would be very difficult to get a rule that covers all those situations.
Q: (Peter Windsor - Clarcksport) On that basis, given that level of confusion, is there an argument - again, its a collective question - for not re-starting the race and going back to where we were at 75 per cent? That is the race result, because a lot of fans are saying that as well.
SM: Yeah, I mean that might possibly be a solution.
PL: The trouble with both of those solutions is that they deny the race result that everybody was looking forward to. As Sam said, its a very old rule and very rarely deployed, but that doesnt mean we shouldnt discuss refining it for next time. I think that there probably are ways round the problems that these guys have given. For instance, you could change a tyre if you could show that it was damaged, for instance, or something like that. I think really that the more you could make a restart preserve the state of the race before it was stopped, thats got to be better for the race that the spectators are looking for.
Q: (Sean Gordon - The Globe and Mail) Im wondering what today taught you about the tyres and how theyre dealing with the track here, and what, if anything, the prospect of wet conditions in either qualifying or the race or both will do to change your approach going into tomorrow?
AG: I suppose we found the new medium very consistent, it was a very good tyre. We were surprised at the track conditions and the grip level at the beginning of FP1. Moving on to the prime and the option, there was obviously a clear difference. I havent had a look at all the data yet to see exactly the changes between the two tyres but that they seem reasonably well suited to the track. Weve always got one eye on the weather. Our set-up will evolve overnight as we get more up-to-date information. Its going to be an interesting weekend, I think, if all the forecasts pan out.
PL: I agree with Andrew that we need to see how the forecast firms up over the next 24 hours or less. Certainly if its wet on Sunday that will be pretty interesting. We havent yet had a wet race with the Pirelli tyres, so that will be a new experience for everybody, whether theyre taking part or watching, so we will have to see. In terms of what we learned on the dry tyres today, for us it was disrupted somewhat by the double red flags which really meant we didnt get a time on the option tyre and then particularly Lewis punctured his option during that process so he actually had no running on the option, effectively.
SM: I think the tyres improved significantly for us from P1 to P2 - we saw quite a large drop in wear rates, so I think by the time we get to Sunday, if it stays dry the tyres will be fine. The weather looks like its going to be a fifty or sixty per cent chance of rain; that was ninety percent a couple of days ago, so it is coming down, but I think it looks pretty likely, and the temperatures dropping as well, with today being the hottest day. So all those things are going to make Sundays race pretty interesting, I think.
EB: I dont have much to say, they just said everything and they are the technical experts. Its true that the forecast will obviously be watched carefully for whats going on.
PF: I think it will be an interesting Sunday if its wet. There hasnt been a wet race, as Paddy said and were all going to be learning: where are the crossover points between each of the tyres? If its a monsoon or very, very wet conditions at the start, can you actually get from the full wet do you have to use the intermediate before you put the super soft on? It will be interesting, we will be learning as we go along. Today, the track evolved quite a lot. It was very dusty to start with but I think the grip improved with the track. With the supersoft, very, very few people actually got a decent lap on the supersoft, so its a little hard to say where the difference between the two tyres is. I think most people were had over twice by the two red lights, so yeah, people were running their tyres with six out- and in-laps or something. Im not sure of the exact pace difference between the tyres. In terms of degradation and that, it didnt seem that bad today. If its dry, Im sure the track will be improving, so again, it should be a relatively easy race.
Q: (Edd Straw - Autosport) Pat, Stefano Domenicali has said that one of the areas that Ferrari has been weak is in terms of innovation and new ideas technically. He has said that this is one of the areas that the recent changes are aiming to address. Do you agree that thats been a weakness of Ferrari? If so, why is that and whats being done to address the situation?
PF: Its interesting, as I mentioned earlier, seeing how two main Formula One teams work. Ferrari is quite different, particularly in the aerodynamic side of things. In April we changed the way we were organising that department, to try and give people more time to think. We put Nicolas Tombazis more in control, more hands on in managing that group of engineers, which I think has paid off. There are a lot of clever people at Ferrari. Weve just got to try and join them all up, so they are all working together in the same direction.