Formula 1 News - March 2005
18 March: Malaysian Grand Prix - FIA Friday Press Conference
First of all, what have you learned from today and in Australia about the new rules?
Ross Brawn: I think it is too early to judge. Melbourne is not a typical race and is not the hardest circuit on tyres and we obviously had Ďthe weatherí in qualifying. I think the rules have been successful in slowing the cars down, despite some scepticism from some of your colleagues. They have genuinely slowed them down so they have been successful in that and, remember, without the changes, they would be one or two seconds faster than last year. So, they have slowed down the progress of the tyre companies and on the car and I think it was necessary so itís been successful in that respect. As to the format of the racing, I think weíll have to see how it goes for a while. It is tough, the two-race engine, and not everyone is doing the mileage they might have done. But, I think, as the season goes on, the mileage will build up and there will be more mileage on Friday and Saturday than we are seeing at the moment.
Pat Symonds: Well, yes, itís very early days. Before the season started, I said to my guys that you shouldnít even think that you will understand the tyre thing until Sunday night in Malaysia at best. Melbourne is not a typical circuit and very often has a strange format, as again it had this year, and itís not that hard on tyres and, as Sam said, certainly, we were conservative. I think here we are being slightly conservative, but it is conservatism from ignorance rather than clever conservatism. Thereís a long way to go yet and we shouldnít make snap judgements and it is very difficult for us, the teams, particularly in terms of tyre choice -- and part of your question is about what we learned today and the answer is Ďvery little indeed!í With just two sets of tyres to run on, it is really impossible to do any scientific evaluation of them. Itís tricky, but the same for everyone. Letís see how it develops over the next few races.
Mike Gascoyne: I agree with the comments everyone else has made. We have to wait and see how it pans out. As everyone said Melbourne was not a normal situation and it is difficult to do all the work in winter testing, when the track temperatures are five degrees, and try to plan for when it is 40 or 50 degrees. But that was inevitable at the start of the year. In terms of the grid, it seems to have closed things up and that is only good for Formula One. As to how all the rules have panned out, we have to wait and see.
Geoffrey Willis: In terms of performance, it is too early to say what we have learned about who is stronger and weaker. In terms of the operation of a car over the weekend, I think we showed last year that we are all pretty good at responding to the changes and learning to work with only two tyres today and try to make some sort of scientific evaluation Ė and I am sure Pat is actually making a scientific evaluation and not a non-scientific evaluation Ė but the tricky thing for us is how little we are running and maybe that is something, as Ross says, that as we get more confident through the season, we will get more running because it is fairly quiet first session. I think very much like last year, we will get better at it. We will understand it and we will find it was not so much of a change as we thought.
What have you done here to cope with the extreme conditions and is it the ultimate test for the rest of the year?
RB: Well, we have the benefit of last yearís car so in terms of cooling and all that side it is all pretty well taken care of, so we have no surprises there. I think it is the first race where tyre wear can become an issue and so we have been conscious of that. This race last year, we couldnít have done on one set of tyres whereas Melbourne last year was comfortable on one set. So itís the first race weíre facing under new rules where we have got to manage that situation and I suspect it could be on Sunday an issue at the end of the race. I am not sure how conservative everyone will be, but it is so difficult to predict on a Friday or a Saturday what wear rates you are going to get on a Sunday. That will depend on lots of variables that you cannot predict or donít have under control. So I think it is going to be an interesting weekend from that aspect and the whole scenario this year of trying to evaluate tyre wear is going to be a big factor for us.
SM: On the engine side, you basically shift from one extreme, in Melbourne, to the other here, in terms of minimum and maximum ambient temperatures for the year. There is only really this place, and sometimes Hungary, and we donít know about Turkey yet, that run up about 36 to 39 degrees. So, it obviously presents a (need for) set of coolings and exits for the bodywork that are not normally run at other tracks. Thatís something we evaluate in the wind tunnel and at other tracks. On the tyre front, the same thing; this place, because of the high-speed corners and the surface abrasiveness, is very different to Melbourne.
GW: On cooling systems, I donít think itís a particularly big challenge here. Yes itís extreme temperatures, but now we are all experienced and we can predict from one circuit to another and from one year to another. So it is relatively straightforward to get the cooling of the engine and the electronics, as Pat says, which in these conditions can get very close. In fact, we made some small changes at the last test for this race. The real issue is going to be tyre-wear in this race and it is something we will need to think about carefully and it may have an effect on the outcome, but I suspect both tyre companies are being conservative so (I am) not expecting any big surprises. There may be a mix-up towards the end.
MG: Certainly, with both tyres and the cooling and the heat, things are on the limit. I agree with what Pat said, for us with the cooling its on the limit but its meant to be because it is the hottest place of the year. We do our work in the wind tunnel and our simulations and we have a vast wealth of experience now and we donít tend to get it wrong. But you have to take care because it is obviously very hot.
Q: Sam, everyone predicted you
would not be very good in Melbourne but it turned out better than you expected. Was that a surprise?
Q: Ross, The new car is scheduled for Spain. Is that
Q: Did that have a bearing on why you didnít change the engine on Michaelís
Q: Pat, obviously a fantastic performance in MelbourneÖ
Can you maintain that or was it a flash in the pan?
Mike, Toyota put out a statement about the interpretation of the rules regarding engine changes during the week. What is your
interpretation of them?
Q: So, Geoff, what was
your motivation then?
Questions from the floor
Q: ( Stephanie Morin - La Presse) Question for Geoff Willis: Mr Willis, youíre not allowed to use a
third driver this year. How does it complicate your job and can you see the impact of that in the results?
Q: (Mark Hughes Ė Autosport) Ross,
from your simulations so far, what do they suggest is the margin of the 05 car over the 04B?
Q: (Steve Cooper Ė F1 Racing)
To Pat and Geoff, youíve both had recent experience working with Jacques Villeneuve. I wonder if you could talk about your
experiences of him as a driver and whether youíve been surprised by his recent pace in a Sauber?
GW: Itís a difficult question to answer. I get the impression that Jacques is not particularly happy in his current position. Iím sure he wasnít happy with Melbourneís race. Obviously being outside the team, Iím not aware of what the issues are. As Pat says, heís a hard-working driver, whoís got a lot of experience in the car. The cars have changed quite a lot since he was driving for us two years ago. I think heís very sensitive to what the car does, what the engine does and he gives a lot of feedback, so Iím sure he will be having quite a lot of detailed conversations with his engineers at the moment. Heís an extraordinarily competitive character and Iím sure he will be trying to get it back.
(Anthony Rowlinson Ė Autosport) Question for Ross: Michael didnít have the best start to his championship campaign in Melbourne.
Do you think heís got the fight in him to start from the back foot as it were, for the next 18 races?
Q: (Mike Doodson) A question for all of you: the president of the international
federation has been dropping hints or perhaps a little more strongly suggesting that a new Formula One in the future would benefit
from, he suggests, a 90 per cent reduction in down-force and the possibility of a return to big rear tyres. Iím interested to know
from you technical guys whether it really is possible to recreate the cars of 30 years ago or would you guys find the missing 90
percent of downforce in 10 minutes?
PS: I think itís a very difficult thing to talk about when you start putting numbers to it. If you were to say there could be merit in reducing down-force and increasing tyre grip and, particularly, perhaps, putting more emphasis on what the rear tyres are doing, there is evidence to suggest that it could improve overtaking opportunities. To extrapolate the work thatís been done and say you should go to ten percent of the down-force we have now is a dangerous extrapolation. I donít know whether itís a linear effect, I donít know whether anyone knows that because no-one has actually sat down and gone that far and looked at it. I think that there is a good process going on now. Ross is quite right that there are an awful lot of people in Formula One who have an ingrained culture and I find it surprising sometimes that for, such an exciting sport, with so many pretty clever people involved in it, how rarely they will look out of the box and apply a bit of lateral thinking. I donít subscribe to the fact that Formula One is in dire straits. It is still a good formula. It still has a good fan base, but we should not be complacent. We should be looking at improving it, and we have a bit of a watershed coming up which allows us to do that, so I think itís a very good thing that people are looking now at whatís required, but at these very early stages of looking at it, we should be careful about talking about numbers and things like that.
SM: I think that looking at the rules, to the future, seeing what you can improve and whether itís safety or reducing costs are fine, but it does need a lot of analysis. I think when I first saw the number of reducing down-force by 90 per cent, I was surprised at such a large number because youíre into a level of touring cars then. Iím probably one of the more engrained people if you like, as Pat says, because I very much see Formula One as, from a team point of view, as an aerodynamic challenge. Itís one of the biggest parts of Formula One since Iíve been in it and becoming more so. If you look outside a full-blown manufacturer team that does their own engine, the three main variables are tyres, engines and aerodynamics. I guess it is a cultural shift to something else, but whether you have to do it all in one step is something that needs a lot of looking into, but my first and initial reaction to it was definitely thatís too far.
GW: There are a number of points here. The first is supporting whatís been said: itís very easy to jump in and say Ďweíre going to make a rule change, this is going to help overtaking.í As weíve seen already this year Ė something we didnít anticipate Ė it looks as though itís much harder to follow cars closely with the new aerodynamic regulations and possibly harder as well to overtake, and thatís (following) a relatively small loss in down-force which has certainly not helped. So therefore, if weíre going to set ourselves this target, we need to study it pretty carefully and probably need to get some fairly realistic aerodynamic studies done and studies of whatís going to happen if we change the balance between aerodynamic and mechanical grip. I think, overall, what weíve got to make sure of is not just that we have close racing, overtaking, but we have to keep Formula One as a technical pinnacle. It has to be the fastest motor sport out there and one of the worries that I have is that if we have reduce the down-force to ten percent, if thatís our objective, itís going to be quite difficult to keep it at the level of being the fastest, the most impressive, the most visually stunning form of motor sport. I think we do need to see racing where cars are closer to each other, not necessarily lots of overtaking, but probably close proximity. If we cast our minds back over the last 15 or 20 years, a lot of what we remember as good races, didnít have many overtaking manoeuvres, but they had many almost overtaking manoeuvres. I think as long as we find, technically, some solution, which comes up with that, then the numbers will come out of that rather just setting ourselves a target. So I would be a little bit wary. And the other point is that Mike said Ďgoing back to cars of 30 years agoí. Itís not going to happen really because the cars now are so much better engineered, they are phenomenally reliable, they can be driven right to 99 percent of their performance throughout the race. These are all things that have changed and are unlikely to go back and they have changed the nature of racing.
MG: I think Formula One at the moment is still the pinnacle of motor sport and thatís whatís made it very, very successful. For sure, we mustnít be complacent and improve the show for all the people that watch it. I just think that whatever we do, it needs to be really, really well thought-out rather than firing from the hip. I think there is general agreement amongst the experts that changing the ratio between aerodynamic grip and mechanical grip could be beneficial for the sport, but we have to make sure we do it properly, commission the correct studies from experts in the field, and unfortunately Formula One is so advanced in terms of motor sport the experts in the field are within the teams, not outside. So weíve got to make sure that, as a group, we get the correct regulations to really improve the sport, not just change it. We need to improve it.
(Anne Giuntini Ė LíEquipe) To the four of you who have not a third car on Fridays: what is now the use of Fridays and in which
way should it be changed in the future?
RB: I think itís a gross anomaly in that, as Sam said, it was intended to give some commercial benefit to the less well-off teams to enable them to sell a third car for a Friday. And to have a team of the calibre of McLaren or last year BAR having the benefit of a third car on a Friday is a nonsense. I donít agree with it. Particularly with the regulations we have now, itís a huge benefit. I donít know how many laps McLaren did today, but they can run round with an engine thatís not going to be used, they can run a reasonable number of sets of tyres and it doesnít make any sense. I canít see the logic in it, so itís something, which to me is just a piece of nonsense.
PS: I think I would go a little bit further than that. I think the question was probably a bit more general about what we really think about Fridays. I think they are a bit of an anachronism now. Thereís certainly been talk of moving towards a two-day Grand Prix event, and I think what weíre seeing in the early part of this year is probably evidence that reinforces that argument, and I think itís probably a pretty good argument. There are lots of other things that could be combined with it: whether we have a test session on the Friday or whatever, but certainly the current Friday is not a terribly exciting event, I donít think.
GW: Yes, I think Patís got a point that Friday, for those teams that donít have a third car, with the new engine regulations, is a day we do very little running. We do the minimum we can to get a good read on the two tyre choices, and what it shows is that we donít really need Friday in order to get a set-up for the race weekend, and it has become an anachronism and itís probably time that we changed the format of the race weekend to do something positive with Fridays to give much more value for the people that watch either at the circuit or on the TV.
Q: (Mike Doodson) As a follow-up to that question, Mr Ecclestone has suggested that we
all stay here on Monday and use that as a test session, and then cut down on other testing. What do you think of that idea?
MG: From my side, 19 races this year is a very difficult thing for the teams. People are away from home a long time and a race weekend is a pretty intensive period so, to add a couple of days on it, is totally unfeasible. I think that idea is not very close to reality. I just donít think we could do it.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Ė
Autosport) Ross, just a technical question for you: obviously this year the 2005 car will be the first car that hasnít been
specifically designed by Rory Byrne. I wonder if you would just give us some background on how that technical transition is being
managed and if itís making any difference to the way the team is working?
(Dan Knutson Ė National Speed Sport News) Now that the season has started, and nine of the teams have self-imposed testing limits,
a question to all five of you: how much of an advantage is it to Ferrari to be able to basically test as much as they want?
GW: I think certainly for BAR-Honda itís a disadvantage to have agreed to limit our testing, thatís quite clear, but we made that agreement because we think itís a positive thing to get some control of the amount of testing we do, and there is a significant cost associated with testing in terms of shipping the cars, the wear and tear, the use of components that are Ďlifedí. It is a significant part of the expenditure of a team. However, we still feel that we needed to have as much testing Ė more testing Ė than weíve agreed to, but, despite that, we think itís in the long-term interest that we do end up with a certain amount of control and thatís why we happily signed up to this agreement. I think itís a good sign that at least nine teams, at the moment, have agreed to it. All the individual teams have to do quite a lot of running for the reliability, particularly for engines with the new regulations. It will be, with the change of regulations, a season where we see quite a lot of developments as Sam said earlier, so for sure, it will be more difficult, towards the end of the year and weíll have to be very disciplined in controlling it, but thatís what weíve all agreed to do, and Iím very confident that we will all continue to agree.
MG: I think if you look at the cost issue, the easiest way to save money in Formula One is not to run a Formula One car. The single most expensive item is the engine and physically we donít have to build one to run in a test car. So I think that from the nine teams, it was good that there was a clear agreement to reduce testing and I think thereís feeling among the technical people that we could probably go even further, and I think that would be something thatís very positive for Formula One. I think the situation that exists with one team testing all the time, is not a comfortable one. The comments about Bridgestone versus Michelin and the number of teams Ė that isnít a situation thatís happened overnight. Everyone should be playing on a level playing field and at the moment itís not and thatís unfortunate for Formula One.
PS: Iíve often been quoted as saying that I donít really mind what the rules are because they are the same for everyone. Now, this isnít a rule, of course, itís an agreement, but it is the first time in my knowledge that we have had one rule for one and another rule for others and therefore you might expect that I would feel pretty bad about it, but funnily enough thatís not the case. Renault are not a rich team and last year the testing agreement was that you could test 48 days; I think, it was. There were no restrictions on how many places you went testing. Most of our competitors took full advantage of that. They ran 48 days; they were very often running in multiple venues. Our budget didnít stretch to that. We could only afford to do 36 days testing in the season last year and we could only test at one venue, so, strangely enough, while, yes, Ferrari might be getting some advantage from it, although, yes, Ross has a point, but in my mind thatís a fact of life rather than an excuse (sic)Ö On the other hand, we as a team have probably gained from it, because weíve pulled other teams back to our level, so itís an unusual situation, but strangely enough, a compromise that Iím not too uncomfortable with.
SM: I think that the level of testing that we do now, probably 50 percent of our testing is on tyres, doing tyre testing, and it is a valid point, as Ross has said, and if I try and put myself in their shoes, I would probably be fighting the same corner. But the thing that the testing reduction has probably done has made us look very closely at efficiency which is something that I think Renault went through in 2003 I think it was when we had that Friday morning testing option. Itís made us certainly look a lot harder at ourselves and if I look at the actual loss of information and data gathering compared to last year itís not a great deal. Itís definitely not in line with the percentage of cost-saving, so the cost saving that weíve made is massive compared to the information that weíve lost. It is definitely helped by having seven teams on Michelin tyres because it gives Michelin a big pool of data to work from but in terms of the singular effect on the team, itís been good.
Q: (Alan Henry Ė The Guardian) Could I ask Sam whether Patrick (Head) a few weeks
ago was talking about the problems you had calibrating the two wind tunnels? Are you on top of that problem now? Could you give us
some insight as to what it was all about?
Q: (Alan Henry Ė The
Guardian) Are you on top of it?
Q: (Heinz Pruller Ė ORF) Thereís a new team in Formula One, itís an
Austrian team, Red Bull. I would like your own personal view of the team, what you like, what you dislike, the pluses and the
minuses, and how far this new outfit can go?
RB: I think itís a good thing for Formula One. Eddie was struggling a bit, and itís never nice to see somebody struggling. Sorry, Jaguar were struggling, but the same thing applies. Itís never nice to see teams struggling, and to see teams with a fresh impetus like Red Bull have got is a good thing. I think in this whole scenario of cost saving, itís very difficult to control what the top teams spend. I think itís impossible because we spend what we can get. I think that whatís important is that we make Formula One viable for teams like Red Bull and teams like Jordan was or is going to become and Minardi, make sure that Formula One is viable for those teams and that they can put up a respectable performance and make a good impression in Formula One, and certainly Red Bull seem to be doing that. I think itís a very positive sign and the nature of Red Bull probably means they are going to bring a little bit of a different character to Formula One, I certainly hope so, because it would benefit from that. Seeing David Coulthard openly interviewed is certainly more entertaining than it used to be. I think itís a very positive thing.
PS: I think technically over the winter, they looked like they were doing a good job, and that was shown in Melbourne. Itís one race out of 19 but I think thereís every sign that theyíre going to have a very successful season and itís good to see that. Letís not forget that the groundwork that was done for that car, was done by the Jaguar team, but nevertheless, good for them, and they do look they are going about things the right way technically. In other ways, I very much echo what Ross has said. Theyíve said they are going to bring the fun back. Well, letís have more of them.
MG: I think that technically theyíve obviously done a very good job. I was at Tyrrell when it was sold to BAR and the uncertainty that that gives you and the disruption in a team is enormous. They had a long period of uncertainty which Red Bull stepped in and ended but to keep their focus, and do the job theyíve done Ė which is obviously a very, very creditable job Ė is a great effort under very difficult circumstances so I would really pay tribute to their engineers who did an excellent job.
GW: You certainly get the impression itís a re-vitalised team. As Mike said, itís a difficult transition at the end of the Jaguar era, and I think itís good to have more financial commitment into Formula One, good to have another team which is full of confidence and weíll looking forward to seeing what happens in this first year.
Q: ( Jose Carron Ė La Tribune de Geneve) Question for Geoff
Willis: what are the chances of BAR releasing Davidson, if heís required by another team?
Q: (Anne Giuntini Ė LíEquipe) To all of you: given the huge amount of work on Sundays, did you find
difficulties in organisation in Melbourne?
RB: I think because it was new to us, though weíd had the forced qualification in Suzuka, it was a little bit tricky but weíll cope. So itís not a big deal and not that different to when we used to have warm-ups on a Sunday.
SM: Yeah, same for us: thereís no real problem. You go in sequence now anyway; probably the only thing that itís done is that youíre in later here on Saturday night doing strategy whereas last year strategy was fixed after first qualifying.
GW: I think that weíve all learned, over the last few years, as the format of the race weekend has changed, that we can be flexible and we can quickly learn how to operate to a new timetable.
MG: Yeah, I think that last year it was strange to be sitting around all Sunday morning, or over the last few years, with nothing to do. Youíre there, from that point of view it presents difficulties but weíre all here, we might as well be doing something and entertaining the crowds.