FIA Friday press conference - Hungary 27 Jul 2012
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team representatives - Andrew Green (Force India), Remi Taffin (Renault Sport), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), Toto Wolff (Williams), Luiz Perez-Sala (HRT).
Q: Andrew, if I can start with you. First of all, who does Force India see as its rivals and where do you hope to be at the end of the season? What position? What are you targets?
Andrew Green: Ultimately, everybody on the track is our rival. At the moment we would be targeting sixth position, that would be a realistic target for us. Its going to be difficult. The cars in front of us are all very, very competitive. So its going to be a big ask and well have to dig deep, as we always do, and well be pushing like crazy right until the end. Thatll be the plan and well see where we finishing. So far were in a position where were better than we were last year with respect to points and were reasonably happy with that. If ever we score more and more points then ultimately were going to go up, so happy with that. But there are just some teams in front of us who have scored some big results and got on the podium and thats put us behind them. Its just a matter of chipping away at them and hopefully by the time we get to the end well be just in front. Thatll be the plan.
Q: What about developments? What sort of developments can you envisage coming through?
AG: Its a tricky time. We brought our last big development to Silverstone. We didnt really get a chance to evaluate it in the wet conditions. Beyond that its about optimising what we have and getting to know what we have and getting it to run at its peak. Development now really is turning to next year. For a team of our size we cant afford to develop a car much beyond this point in the season. Its really a case of trying to optimise what we have.
Q: That was going to be the next question, when does development shift to next year?
AG: It started a while ago.
Q: So most thoughts from the design team are on that?
AG: From about this time, yes, it has switched over.
Q: Remi, first of all tell us about your role within Renault F1?
Remi Taffin: Basically, Im just working on the track as Head of Operations, so whatever we deal with on engines on track Im responsible for. Basically we have four teams we supply engines to, as you know, and I will make sure through a race weekend that weve got lets say a crossover in between these teams to make sure the Renault engines are well used in any car but trying to keep the confidentiality that we must have.
Q: Obviously the great subject here is all about mapping. Can you explain to us what that means and when you change that how big a change is that? And how it is done?
RT: Were not talking about big changes. Were talking about an ongoing process, which is obviously race after race you try to optimise your package and engine maps are part of that and thats what weve been trying to do since the beginning of the year. When you talk about engine maps its something that is done by everyone in the pit lane. So thats not something unusual.
Q: When we talking about it, we're talking about software someone has referred to it as a gizmo. Can we explain that?
RT: Lets take the example of the engine map weve been talking about. Its basically what the engine is able to produce as torque during the weekend, for example here. And thats where is the bulk of the part to play with in Renault engines. Thats what shape what we have got as torque in the car.
Q: And when it comes to Red Bull - how much of a change in performance would that have been, that was caused by that change.
RT: Its very difficult to quantify, but lets have, say, a scale: were talking about hundredths and not at all about seconds or tenths. We all know that every bit on the car were going to be working [on it] to get the hundredth out, so thats part of the job.
Q: Martin, obviously youve had an update recently but how much has that been affected by the weather. Weve had a wet Silverstone, a wet Hockenheim and now we have we weather here. How much has development been affected?
Martin Whitmarsh: Well, its certainly difficult now that we dont test. If you bring a whole package of upgrades to the car, on Friday morning P1 typically we have our only test session and if its wet then it rather handicaps that test. Its been difficult. I think weve made some progress and we will continue to do so. We had a reasonably big package of upgrades in Germany and we have a few bits and pieces here as well. Youll do what you can. Weve had a remarkable run of run of rain in the practice sessions so far this year. It would be nice to get some steady, dry conditions where the engineers can work more easily. But its the same for everyone. Everyone, to varying degrees, is trying to develop and improve the car and thats part of the challenge. Sometimes youve got a great data set and you can go forward with confidence and other times you have to make a decision on a limited data set and in some ways thats more interesting. The engineers dont like it but its more interesting when you have to take a bit of a flyer.
Q: You must have been really pleased with the way those worked in Germany for Button particularly in the race but obviously Lewis a little bit as well and Lewis fastest in both sessions today?
MW: Yeah, youre not pleased until you're scoring maximum points. I think weve made some progress. But this year has been a very difficult to predict championship, its been tyre dominated. Those who work the tyres you can work very hard on your car but if you cant turn the tyres on then youre in trouble. Weve seen that a few times on our car - too often - and weve seen it on a few other cars. Thats a great challenge for everyone. I think its going to be a very exciting championship. Youve got to say Fernando and Ferrari have done a great job to be where they are, but there are still 430 on the board, to be taken, and Im sure ourselves, Red Bull, all these teams here will be trying our best to pull back that advantage.
Q: Jensons had a bit of a difficult time recently - you must have been really pleased with the way he bounced back in Germany?
MW: Yes, of course. If you are a racing driver and a racing driver in a team like McLaren or Ferrari, youre going to come under quite a lot of scrutiny. Its very different, you can turn up as a rookie in some other teams and theres pressure because youre in Formula One but I think if youre in McLaren, whoever you are, same if youre in Ferrari, year in, year out, if youre not qualifying on the front two rows of the grid then theres quite a large enquiry afterwards and all sorts of pressure ensues. I think Jenson hasnt lost his skills, hes had one great win this year, hes very, very fit and very, very committed and I was delighted for him that hes back on form and Im sure hell be strong this weekend.
Q: Toto, first of all, you have a new position within the Williams team, what does that involve?
Toto Wolff: Formally, I have a new title. Actually the position is not quite new, I have been doing the same job for a couple of months already after Adams departure. It involves basically helping Frank in the daily job running the team.
Q: Youre an investor in the team as well as holding this new position. Where do you see the team in five years time? Whats your plan to take it forward?
TW: My approach, kind of changed. I was an investor before, which is the easier part - you can criticise and stick your nose in everywhere. Now formally Im an official employee of the company - at least I work for the company - so I have to deliver as well, Im part of the team. Where do I see the team? When I joined in 2009 I gave myself a five year period to progress. Now this is a random period, it just sounded OK for me. We have won a race this year, which came quite early, maybe earlier than expected, but I think the team is on-track technically and on-track setting all the other commercial departments as well.
Q: And to have this commitment, you must have a vision for the sport as a whole as well. How do you see the sport progressing?
TW: The sport, Formula One, is still the biggest or largest global sports platform in the world and its growing, it growing healthy and successfully. Obviously you can always try to change and optimise things but its a fantastic platform worldwide and this was the basic concept behind getting involved in a Formula One team.
Q: Luis, the team seems to have made some improvements - how do you see that progress?
Luis Perez-Sala: We are quite happy, I am quite pleased because the start of the season was very, very difficult; to have the car ready was almost a goal. And then, from the first race where we did not qualify, we have been improving the team. We have new headquarters since April 1st in Madrid. The race team is already working on, I will say, getting used to the races and we still need to grow the team on the design and the aero side.
Q: How is that expansion coming on from the team point of view? And also, from an economic point of view how easy is it to expand the team in that area?
LPS: The problem is when you are short in economic no, in the budget - we have maybe the lowest budget of any Formula One team - you need more time to grow because you cannot do whatever you want. You have to be careful - but I think we have enough to make a good team and to stay. Thats why we are here. We try to improve but we have to be realistic. And it is going to take time for us.
Q: Is recruitment fairly easy for you? Are you looking worldwide for recruitment, for engineers, for design people? How easy is it to get people to come to work in Madrid?
LPS: Its not difficult, its one of the advantages of the crisis I would say: you have more people on the market and we can find them. The problem is that its not easy to find the good people to work for HRT. Sometimes its not easy to find who are just the key persons. But we are there, we are having a lot of interviews and slowly, slowly we are growing. We are hiring people. And even if we want to keep it as a small team, I think if we optimise our research, we can improve our performance and be closer to the front rows.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heinz Pruller - Honorary) Toto, we know you were a great racing driver yourself. Is there any plan for you to drive the Formula One Williams for fun, off-season or sometime?
TW: As you know, I was more ambitious than talented and there is no ambition to drive a Formula One car because it would just look ridiculous, I think.
Q: (Heinz Pruller - Honorary) Because Walter Wolf, who once bought the Williams team, he tried himself and it was a kind of a disaster.
Q: (Heinz Pruller - Honorary) Martin, we know you wanted to become an aeronautist once, a while ago. Now we have an Austrian guy, Felix Baumgartner who wants to break the (extreme sky diving) world record. Have you heard about him?
MW: Yes. Firstly, it was a long time ago that I was involved in aeronautics. I think they've moved on since the bi-plane! I think any challenge that you set yourself in sports, in technology, I think are always exciting. I think anyone who is brave enough to try and do these things are often considered nutty by many but I think that that's the sort of thing that drives humans on, that feeling of endeavour and that passion to try and do something that's not been done before.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Luis, in the previous press conference in Hockenheim, Norbert Haug and John Booth admitted that their teams hadn't yet signed any form of Concorde or commercial agreement for 2013 onwards. Where does your team stand in that regard at the moment?
LPS: We have not already signed anything.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Remi, as you said earlier on, you supply four teams with engines, yet only one was called in by the stewards last Sunday. This sort of implies that the other three were left out of the gizmo, if I can call it that. What is your customer policy regarding these sort of devices or technical developments?
RT: I think we can make this simple. We've got our engine with this map in a certain way. We've got an area in which to play which we call the ballpark and each of our four teams is able to chose between these things so they are free to play with our engine as they wish, let's say, and that's the way they do and they did, so maybe that's why we got one team that has gone to that in Hockenheim and there could have been another one one race after.
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Special) You're all movers and shakers to a certain extent in Formula One, but all of you have to answer to bosses. Can you explain how frustrating that is sometimes when you're there running racing teams and you have to answer to people who perhaps don't have as good a grasp as you do?
MW: Well, certainly my chairman has a phenomenal grasp of this sport. He's been around in it for a while. I have to report to the board from time to time but I don't find it frustrating. I think it's good. If your owners don't have any interest, initially that's fun but it becomes a bit disheartening if they don't have a passion to speak their mind and express an opinion. We don't always agree with them but that's part of the fun.
TW: Are you sure you would like me to comment? My only boss is my wife! My partner is Frank (Williams) so I can live with that situation.
LPS: For me that's very easy: I ask and they don't give! No, we are close, we are quite close. We know that it's a long term commitment and we know that we need time and they understand that, even if we sometimes only take one place - like in Hockenheim, we overtook one car. For us it makes all the team happy. Sometimes it's very easy, it's even better than for some other teams to get third position or fourth position.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - Motorsport - Total.com) Martin and Toto, in recent years it has become more and more difficult to predict driver performance on a long term basis because of tyres, because of regulation changes and so on, yet there is a trend that driver contracts are signed more and more long term. Isn't there a contradiction in that?
MW: I think that if you don't sign long term contracts with drivers it becomes a big point of discussion and distraction for most of the season. I think the driver is still an important component fortunately in this sport and I think people like to have some stability there. I don't think there's a contradiction. I think that the drivers have to manage tyres, probably much more so than they have done for a long period of time. They've got to work in the team, they've got to work with the drivers, they've got to motivate those people around them. They make a big contribution. We don't always tell them that when we're negotiating with them but that happens to be the case.
TW: The driver is an essential part, I think, today, probably you can't really see the performance of the car because of the driver. If you look at junior formulae on equal formats there's big differences and the development we have seen in Formula One, with economics playing a larger role, we are probably having a similar situation, so it's all about developing your own drivers and trying to keep the ones who are good in your car, so it's as challenging as building a good car and getting a good engine to keep a good driver in the car, and build the best ones for the future.
Q: (Matt Coch - pitpass.com) Martin, there's been this Tooned cartoon happening. Has there been a measurable difference; are you deliberately going after the younger demographic with that one? I know it's Ron's baby.
MW: Again, I think McLaren has changed a little bit over the last few years and I'm sure some things are not so good and hopefully we do some other things... I think Formula One is, as Toto said... there are two great world sports: soccer and Formula One. We are investing in the future. We see that it's important to try and bring younger demographics, as you put it; I think also for McLaren to demonstrate that we're not taking ourselves so seriously. We're still very serious about motor racing, we still want to win and we do everything we can, but I think you also have to show a slightly lighter side. We've shown two episodes, as you may know, there's going to be an episode accompanying every Grand Prix this year and hopefully people enjoy it, it's a little bit of a light-hearted moment for three minutes before each Grand Prix and I think we've had a tremendously positive response to it. I think the followers, after only two episodes have exceeded our expectations. I think it's not just good for McLaren, it's good for the sport. I think it just lightens it up, makes it something that... We've got to buy more people into the sport. This sport is fundamentally a great, great sport. The more you understand, the more you get involved in it, the greater it is. We've got to now try and sell that proposition to as broad an audience as we can and Tooned, the McLaren animation, is part of that process.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) According to the sporting regulations, the closing date for entries to the 2013 championship was the 30th of June. Did your teams all enter? And what happened to those entries?
MW: I believe all teams entered but the FIA has re-defined the entry time at the moment, so I presume all of the teams will re-enter within the new time frame.
LPS: The same.
TW: We entered.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz - ESPN Radio) Toto, as soon as your position was confirmed or you got your new title at Williams, speculation started about the driver line-up because of your work with Valtteri Bottas. How do you see his situation at the moment - also because we are approaching August, so do you understand that he's ready to occupy a seat at Williams or is it not yet time. And also, do you see a conflict of interest because of your new title and the fact that you work with him as a manager?
TW: Very interesting question. It's definitely a conflict of interest; this is why, at the beginning of the year - actually last year already - I have refrained from interfering in any kind of negotiations or discussions between the team and Valtteri's management group, so my role is a pure financial investor behind Valtteri. He's managed by Didier Coton who is doing the day-to-day job and we're having - to use banking language - Chinese walls. Emotionally, of course, I saw Valtteri for the first time in Formula Renault 2000 here at the Hungaroring in 2008 so he's a boy I have followed for quite a long time and he's a friend, as is Pastor, and as is Bruno. Luckily I'm a shareholder in the team and I have a five percent commission on Valtteri's contract so I think that shows how the balance would go if it was only about the economics. So the point is that it's very clear that the team is going to take decisions on the best package of driver and hopefully it's all going in a direction that we can have the quickest in the car.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - Motorsport - Total.com) Following up on Dieter's question regarding the deadline, does that mean that the entries were rejected or what's been the formal answer from the FIA?
MW: The FIA has asked us to re-submit our entries at a later date
Q: (Joe Saward - Grand Prix Special) Toto, in your new position, obviously there's more responsibility on a day-to-day basis. Does that mean we're going to see you moving to England and going into the office every day and taking over Adam (Parr's) chair?
TW: Yeah, that has been quite an issue actually, to discuss that. We have been negotiating on how many days per week I have to spend in England, but it's very easy. I like England a lot, staying in Oxford which keeps me young, it's a student city. I must be careful now about putting myself in shit! Obviously my wife is Scottish so she enjoys being there as well. The answer is yes, I'm going to spend more days at the factory and I enjoy it, it's what I want to do now.
Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto, Motor und Sport) Toto, as Remy Taffin was explaining, there are many mapping possibilities in the Renault shop which you could take. Why didn't you take the one which Red Bull has chosen in Germany, because it looks like it's a quite interesting one?
TW: First of all, flattening out torque curves is something that every team looks at, obviously, and the reason why we have not been taking up that solution is because we didn't make it work as Red Bull have. We have no coanda exhaust and this is why it's not as beneficial for us as maybe for others.
For tickets and travel to 2012 Formula One races, click here.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.