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Interview with Sauber's Willy Rampf 14 Jul 2004

Willi Rampf (GER) Sauber Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, Germany, Practice, 28 May 2004

A new rear bodywork design and some excellent race strategy helped Sauber to a sixth place finish at last Sunday’s British Grand Prix. The Swiss squad’s technical director, Willy Rampf, looks back at their Silverstone weekend and the progress made by the team.

Q: How are you feeling after Silverstone?
Willy Rampf:
I must admit that this race has given me a certain feeling of satisfaction. For three days, almost everything had been going against us, and at the end of the day, we managed to score three Championship points anyhow - and in a race that saw only one of the top drivers retiring.

Q: After his engine problem, Giancarlo Fisichella chose not to participate in qualifying, then clinching sixth place having started from position 20 – your strategy worked out yet again!
WR:
Indeed it did! Just like at the Nurburgring, we jointly decided that Giancarlo would start from the very rear with lots of fuel and new tyres. And I must say that he drove a fantastic race. Prior to his first pit stop, he was the quickest driver of the whole field, and that's really saying something! His race nearly went the way we'd expected it to. Without the loss of air pressure in the engine, he would have even crossed the finish line ahead of Montoya. However, one thing must be clearly said, though: Lack of speed can never be compensated for by strategy. The basis, without exception, is a fast car, and that's what Giancarlo had on Sunday.

Q: And how are you rating Felipe Massa's performance?
WR:
Felipe had a highly frustrating race. From the start, he was caught behind Webber. It was obvious that he could have driven faster, but overtaking is very difficult at Silverstone. Another frustrating experience, of course, was the fact that Felipe lost position nine on the grid to Webber due to the inattentiveness of another driver during qualifying. Felipe did a very good job as well last weekend that, unfortunately, was not rewarded.

Q: The performance of the C23 appears to have improved clearly. What's the reason?
WR:
Since Imola, we've continuously been using new aerodynamic components from our wind tunnel and consistently improved our performance. The biggest step forward we've taken so far was in preparation for Silverstone. We've developed a completely new, extremely slim rear bodywork that has clearly improved downforce as well as the aerodynamic efficiency.

Q: Sauber have developed a large number of new components in a very short time. Are you - like the top teams - working three shifts in the wind tunnel?
WR:
No, under normal circumstances, we operate with one shift. Thanks to the accuracy of our measurements and the capabilities of our engineers, though, we've been able to achieve high levels of efficiency and the respective output. Of course, over the long run, it's our goal to continuously expand our capacities in order to achieve even further improvements.

Q: In the past, your team frequently had problems keeping up with the development pace of your competitors during the season. What are your expectations regarding the upcoming races?
WR:
Our major deficit had always been in the area of aerodynamics. We didn't have a modern wind tunnel of our own, and that meant that we were lacking the most important piece of the puzzle. Since our own wind tunnel went into operation, we've been able to continuously develop new parts that deliver what we expect of them on the race track. In the past, this hadn't always been the case - and that's why I'm confident that we'll be able to keep up with the incredible development pace of all the top teams in future as well.

Q: When may we anticipate the next new components on the car?
WR:
Our goal is to have the car fitted with new aerodynamic components at each race. These parts may not always be as conspicuous as the new rear bodywork, but they'll certainly be effective. To name an example, we've invested a lot of work in developing the brake ducts, which is hardly visible by the naked eye, but which definitely has an effect on lap times.

Q: Talking about tyres: how satisfied are you with Bridgestone's development?
WR:
Since the beginning of the season, Bridgestone have made great strides with regard to consistency during the race. At Silverstone, this was one of the deciding factors of our excellent race performance. Qualifying, though, where driving one fast lap is crucial, continues to be our main problem. In this respect, the teams of the other tyre manufacturer have an advantage. Bridgestone know our requirements, and I'm confident that we'll be seeing progress.