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Exclusive interview with Honda’s Nick Fry 07 Apr 2007

Nick Fry (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 7 April 2007

Honda’s team principal Nick Fry is one of the sport's most outspoken team managers. He also knows that on-track action will always reveal the truth in the end. With the revelation that the Japanese team will only begin their fight for top positions at the Spanish Grand Prix, has he already written off the Malaysia and Bahrain races as extended test sessions?

Q: Melbourne was a thorny start for the RA107. Rubens Barrichello dropped out of the second qualifying session and finished 11th in the race, while Jenson Button went out of the first qualifying session and finished in 15th…
Nick Fry:
It was very disappointing for us, but not a complete surprise. In testing for example, we have been not as strong as we had been last year at the same time. The problem with the car is a braking instability, which is principally an aerodynamic issue. And Melbourne, as we have anticipated, has brought out the worst in the car. At the moment we are working very hard to fix these problems.

Q: Can you pin the troubles on one specific problem or is it the whole package that needs to be revamped?
NF:
It is 90 percent aerodynamics. Of course there are some mechanical components to it, as usual with an F1 car it is the inter-relationships that are important rather than one specific area. We are now concentrating on the aerodynamics and have made some changes to the car here in Malaysia which will help the situation, and we will probably do better than in Melbourne. We also know that there is no magic solution, and we will make also changes in Barcelona and some more in Canada and in France. It is something that is going to evolve step-by-step, not one quick easy fix.

Q: New parts were introduced at last week’s test in Kuala Lumpur - but can those parts really make a difference to the two remaining fly-away races?
NF:
Yes, I think they can, as this track is very different in character as it has high-speed corners, where we are very good and also medium-speed corner, where we are reasonably good, whereas in the slow-speed corners we faced most of our problems. The course of Malaysia suits us better, and I would expect an improved performance here. We are under no illusions that this is not going to be from the second half of the grid to the front of the grid.

Q: You have already indicated that we will not see Honda’s get involved in the fight for positions until the Spanish Grand Prix. By then almost a quarter of the season will have already passed. Does that mean that you will have to revise your goals for the season?
NF:
Not really. The principle goal for us is to win more races, and obviously last year we won our first race in Hungary and the objective for this year is to win more than one race. In terms of the championship, the objective is to score some points at this point of the season. Even though our car isn’t as good as we had hoped, it is in the position where we can score some points. In Melbourne Rubens was able to move from way back on the grid to come close to scoring some points. We are still hopeful we can sneak some points at this stage of the season. We have to consider this a 17-race war, not a one-race battle.

Q: How have your drivers coped with the situation? Both had been quite optimistic that this would be their season? What is needed to provide a motivational boost?
NF:
The drivers are both old enough to have a very balanced view on life in general. Both of them are working very hard with the team. Of course both of them were very disappointed, as the car wasn’t as good as they hoped for at the start of the season. But they are far from being down-hearted. There is no motivation issue with both of them.

Q: And how nervous are the team about losing the momentum from last year’s win of the Hungarian Grand Prix?
NF:
There is no nervousness whatsoever. The team is now entering the end of its first decade. We've taken a few ups and downs since the team has started. That’s why it is called Formula One, because it is the best of the best. The reality is that only four teams have won the championship in the last 30 years, and they will defend their position with all their might. We are under no illusions how tough this is, but we have the backing of the best car company. Honda aren’t beginners in this either and they realize that this is very hard work.

Q: When you analyse the situation with Honda, will it be a search for culprits, solutions - or both?
NF:
It has never ever been a search for culprits. We are one team that searches for solutions and for understanding of how we got into this situation. We got into it as a team, and we will get out of it as a team. We don’t have anything in the way of a blame culture. We have the backing of Honda, and we have got the resources.

Q: You are now operating a new wind tunnel. Will that help you to improve the car more quickly?
NF:
Yes it will. But it is also a matter of learning. Although we started using it in the middle of last year, we are the last of the big teams to operate a big wind tunnel and it does take some learning. The experience so far has been very positive. Both of our wind tunnels, also the scale model one, are operating to find the areas where we are weakest.