Q&A with Super Aguris Mark Preston 14 Mar 2007
Speaking at the launch of Super Aguris new challenger, the SA07, in Melbourne on Wednesday, chief technical director Mark Preston is confident the Japanese team will score their first world championship point this year. Here, he explains why
Q: What can you tell us about the new SA07 car?
Mark Preston: May I say what an incredible first year! The end of the season finished on such a high for us. The hardest part is still to come because we have to take what we created in 2006 and try to keep pushing to achieve even a small part of that. The focus for the SA07 has not changed from our strategy last year, with the team concentrating on aero development and the new Bridgestone Potenza tyres. 2006 allowed us to validate our development strategy and the SA07 is a continuation of that process. We have now put into place small, but efficient and highly motivated, groups of designers, aerodynamicists and engineers that will continue to punch above their weight when it comes to adding performance to the car throughout the season.
We have been working on this project for the past eight months with Honda Japan and other suppliers here in the UK. The car features a new monocoque developed in conjunction with Honda which gives us a large step forward in centre of gravity and more flexibility for the aerodynamicists. Last year we focused on bringing the SA06s downforce to a similar level to other competitors in F1 and have now focused on bringing a similar level of efficiency to the package. Obviously we are one of the teams who partnered with Bridgestone in 2006 and this knowledge has allowed us to develop our understanding of the new tyres quickly over the winter testing period.
As in 2006, we will continue to use Honda power-train technology with more integration and with its associated increase in reliability. This will be a key factor in delivering our goal for the season - to win our first world championship point. Our focus for the first three races will be to deliver a solid performance and pick up any points that are available due to other teams new cars potential teething issues.
Q: What is your technical objective for the 2007 season?
MP: As a small team we take a number of design concepts that have started to solidify in F1. New crash testing rules have dictated large changes in the nosebox, rear impact designs, as have the side impact requirements. An F1 car is constantly evolving and the car at the start of the season often changes by the end; expect the SA07 to follow this trend in 2007 as it will be a very competitive season, and constant change is needed because our competitors certainly will not cease their developments.
Q: And how is this car different to the interim car that you ran during winter testing?
MP: The power-train will be exactly the same as it is a continuation of what we used in 2006. Aerodynamically the car will be sporting different wings and other aerodynamic devices. Most other areas have stayed fairly similar, with radiator packaging and electronics not varying much from last year.
Q: What has been the impact of the change to the new control Bridgestone Potenza tyres?
MP: The new tyres present a number of challenges due to the fact that they are control tyres and we have left the highly competitive situation between the two suppliers that was going on in 2006.
Q: The team fought with Spyker and Toro Rosso in the latter half of the 2006 season. How do you expect the competitive situation to evolve during 2007?
MP: If Brazil could be taken as the starting point and we look at some of the pre-season testing, I predict that we will be ahead in Melbourne. However, Toro Rosso will benefit from the constant aerodynamic development that their main team will provide and that is one of the challenges of the season. Spyker has publicly stated that they will put all of their resource into aerodynamics and deliver a substantially better package in the mid-season. Sutil will be an asset to the team as he was very competitive in Friday testing in 2006.
Q: Does the SA07 feature any major new developments?
MP: The SA07 is a big step forward for the Super Aguri team with our continued and increasing collaboration with Honda in Japan. We shall have more downforce, increased efficiency, the carbon gearbox and integration of a reliable power-train from Honda.
Q: So what are your expectations for the coming year?
MP: Our main aim for 2007 is to cement our membership in F1, continue to deliver results that belie our size and experience as the youngest team in F1 and to earn our first championship points. Part of this will come from our increased performance, a very good second driver in Anthony (Davidson) to work alongside Takuma (Sato), and a large increase in reliability after a very successful winter testing programme.