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Q&A with Spyker MF1's Colin Kolles 23 Nov 2006

Dr Colin Kolles (GER) Spyker MF1 Racing Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006

After signing an engine deal with Ferrari, confirming Christijan Albers and welcoming ex-Toyota technical chief Mike Gascoyne, Spyker MF1 are looking forward to 2007 with relish. Here, speaking to the team's press office, team boss Colin Kolles discusses their performance in 2006, the takeover by Dutch car manufacturer Spyker, and plans for next season…

Q: Overall this has been quite a busy year for you - building up the team, the sale to Spyker, and a lot of Formula One politics in the background as well. How do you view it?
Colin Kolles:
It was a busy year, but the important thing was to stabilise the team, and I think the team is quite stable at the moment. I think that everybody is getting better, and working closer together. This was my main objective, first of all to clean it up and then stabilise it. The company is financially very strong at the moment. Now we have to work to get some success. The reality is that zero points are zero points! We had some good races, where we were more competitive and could have got a point. But if you are between 16th and 22nd in qualifying, that is not enough.

Q: How much better is the team now compared with 2005?
CK:
Last year we had more points than this year! Ironically this is the situation. But I can tell you that the whole team is much better. We had special circumstances in Indianapolis last year, and we got the points. You don’t have a race like that every year. Unfortunately we also had no Spa race this year. Tiago (Monteiro) was eighth in 2005, and Jordan was always strong in the past.

Q: Of course the problem is that everyone else is always improving, and for example Minardi was upgraded to Toro Rosso.
CK:
These are the facts and you have to live with this. Obviously I was not happy that somebody was inheriting a car, even if the regulations say something different. But even so they only got one point, and they got a point by luck.

Q: How much of a step forward was the M16 over the previous car?
CK:
It was definitely a step. If you are coming from four and a half seconds off the pace and you are then two seconds off the pace, then it’s quite a big step. Maybe people who were not looking into details didn’t see that. But obviously it’s not enough, because the position hasn’t changed. Our problem was definitely not the drivers, it was up to us to give them a better car! I am convinced that the drivers would get the results for us with a better car.

Q: How would you summarise the two drivers?
CK:
I’ve known Christijan (Albers) for a long time, and for me he’s a very quick driver. He can get very good results if you give him a good car. But if you have a weapon without bullets, or a knife that is blunt, it’s not easy! Tiago is a very consistent person and a very consistent driver. If you look at his races, he’s always bringing the car home. If he can do this with a car that’s two seconds quicker, then we’ll be very pleased, because then he’s getting points.

Q: You had several young guys in the third car on Fridays, namely Adrian Sutil, Markus Winkelhock, Giorgio Mondini, Alex Premat and Ernesto Viso. Are you pleased with the way that programme went?
CK:
Yes, this was something I’m personally very pleased about. We had top drivers from GP2, top drivers from F3, top drivers from the Renault World Series. I don’t know which other championship is around which is more competitive! So we had good young drivers in the car. I definitely think that some of them will be in F1 in the future, and not necessarily with us.

Q: The sale to Spyker was the big story of the year. How did that get started?
CK:
It started in Bahrain when I approached the so-called ‘M’ consortium, and asked them if they were interested to be part of the team. Five minutes later I had my first meeting! The major issue over the next few months was to bring both parties to the table, and basically find a solution.

Q: How excited are you about Spyker’s involvement?
CK:
I always said it’s not the biggest car manufacturer in the world, but it’s a very fine car manufacturer, and the cars are very nice. So that for sure is a good thing. It’s very positive. Michiel Mol is an F1 enthusiast, he understands F1, and this is again a very positive thing.

Q: What does Mike Gascoyne bring to the team?
CK:
Experience, successful experience. I think that we are going the right way. We have very good young engineers, with James Key as the technical director. We have made some improvements, but to find the next two seconds is not going to be easy! For this, we have to make the next step. And therefore we need to help of Mike to try to minimise the gap to the frontrunners with his experience.

Q: In a way it’s like a homecoming for him, because he was with Jordan in the past.
CK:
It’s a completely different situation compared to Adrian Newey at Red Bull. Mike has known James for a long time, and it’s like going back to an old family. That’s a big difference, in my opinion.

Q: How important is the Ferrari engine deal?
CK:
Obviously it brings credibility. Since Midland first purchased Jordan, we did a credible job. The problem is how people look at it. We didn’t spend hundreds of millions - we chose to do it in a step-by-step plan, and I think that the company is very healthy now. At the end of the day this is the basis for success.

Q: Is it a good feeling to have one of the engines that was challenging for the world championship?
CK:
I don’t think that you win world championships just with an engine, especially next year when the rev limitation will be there. I think the engines will not be far away from each other. Obviously this year without a limit there were some differences; there were definitely some teams that had better packages. But that’s how it was. I think that we need an efficient car, and then we will be more successful.

Q: You mentioned the rev limit. How much will the other rule changes, like the testing limit, help the smaller teams?
CK:
It will help indirectly. The bigger teams have to accommodate the testing restrictions, and we were restricted before anyway, because of our budget. So for us, it’s not a big change. We are basically doing the same as previously, and the question is how well and how quickly the bigger teams can adapt? Therefore a lot of teams are looking for partnerships, like Honda and Super Aguri and so on.

Q: Does the end of the tyre war help you, even if Bridgestone sometimes had an advantage in the past?
CK:
For us it’s better if there is a one make tyre. The last two years tyres have been the biggest difference, and I think the time gaps will be much closer next year.

Q: Does it help you now that the rules put all the emphasis onto chassis and aerodynamics?
CK:
And drivers! It doesn’t help in the short term, but in the mid-term. I think that in the beginning of the season we have to be realistic. We’ll see what will happen in the second half of the season. We will definitely make progress, but it’s not about half a second. We need progress of at least two seconds.

Q: You’ve confirmed that Christijan Albers is staying. Are you pleased to have that continuity?
CK:
We actually signed Christijan in Turkey, so this was a decision that was made very early, before the acquisition. I think it’s the right decision, and it had nothing to do with the Spyker deal. We belong to a Dutch car manufacturer that is selling cars all over the world. The team is based in Silverstone, and it’s international. Nationalities are not a primary thing for me.

Q: When will we hear about the second driver?
CK:
As I’ve always said, we have several options. We will have a decision soon, I think.

Q: What sort of changes are we likely to see - are you hiring more people?
CK:
We are definitely looking for some more people, but we have a very selective way of doing it. We just have to concentrate on working efficiently as possible. I think we are very efficient anyway, but we have to continue this and even improve it. There won’t be a big increase. I prefer to have better quality than quantity, but I know that others think in a different way. As far as I remember when Williams won their last World Championship in 1997 there were around 300 people, and now there are more than 500. This is not necessarily the right way.

Q: What else are you planning to upgrade over the winter?
CK:
The car! And we are upgrading the wind tunnel. It is going up to 50 percent, we’ve rented another wind tunnel, and we’re looking into another wind tunnel too. Definitely our main emphasis is on aerodynamic development.

Q: What is the testing schedule up to Christmas?
CK:
Before Christmas we have no testing plans, we are developing our car in the factory. We could have an engine, that’s not the main problem, but it makes no sense for us to have an interim car. We prefer to put all our resources into aero development. And we are quite familiar with the Bridgestone tyre family. We would prefer to have an upgrade during the season than have an interim car now.

Q: What’s the new car going to be called? It’s obviously not going to be an M17, and the Spyker road cars have a ‘D’ designation.
CK:
It’s not decided yet, but when we present it, you will know for sure. But it could be in the direction you mentioned! That’s not my main problem at the moment, to be honest. My main problem is to have a quicker car. Everybody will be more competitive, that’s very clear. But we have to stay calm. My main objective is to help the engineers as much as I can to help improve the car.

Q: It sounds like you are flat out. Are you going to get any time off for Christmas?
CK:
I didn’t plan anything for the moment, to be honest. It makes no sense for me to go on holiday if my homework isn’t done. You sit there somewhere in the sun, or in the snow, and your head is in a completely different location. So you spend money for nothing…

Q: What do your family have to say about that?
CK:
That’s another matter. Therefore I’m trying to do my homework on time!