2009 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE August 28, 2009
Christian HORNER (Red Bull),
John HOWETT (Toyota),
Adam PARR (Williams),
Simon ROBERTS (Force India)
Q: Question to all of you. We see vastly varying performances from your cars from weekend to weekend. Or it seems that way. Are you happy with the consistency of your car and, if not, what is the problem? Where is the inconsistency? Adam, would you start? For example, your two cars were virtually at the bottom of the time sheets today.
Adam PARR: Well, actually this year I think we have been very pleased with our performances. It has been much more consistent than in previous years. Today has been a bit of a set back and we obviously need to do some serious work to put on a more competitive performance tomorrow afternoon. But so far this season has been much more consistent.
Q: Is there any idea what was happening?
AP: Today? Well, I hope someone has got an idea. But we are in the debrief right now, so hopefully we will know a lot more later on.
Q: Simon, what about you?
Simon ROBERTS: Well, I think that this year everything is a lot closer, so as teams move from race to race we are finding it really difficult to guess where we are going to be. That s happened to us this afternoon. Like Adam we are in the debrief now looking at the data. I think with the tyres we thought that the softs would be the tyre to be on. We could get it to work early on but later on in the session we were not so sure. I think it is good in a way. Everyone changes a bit race to race and even small increments in performance improvement can make quite a big difference and I think that is all you are seeing really.
Q: John, Toyota seem to have been up and down a bit even in these last eight days.
John HOWETT: I think all teams have been varying. I think our biggest problem in the last two or three races appear to have been pretty strong race pace if you look at fuel corrected pace but, actually, a problem with one lap pace. We started very strongly. We seem, relatively, to have dropped back but the biggest issue we feel in the last two or three races has been the one lap pace.
Q: Christian, your consistency seems to be not bad.
CH: No, we have been reasonably consistent. Obviously, Valencia was a blip but I think on a day like today we treat it very much like a test day. It is impossible to predict what everyone else is doing with fuel loads, with revs, with engines, with set up, so we work through our own programme and we are reasonably happy with the day s work we have done today.
Q: Adam, the form since Silverstone seems to have been really good. You seem to have taken a step up. What is the plan for the future?
AP: I think what s happened since Silverstone, well, probably since Monaco, is actually we have been finishing the job. I think we have had a reasonably competitive car all season up until today but it took us a few races to really start bringing home the points. But I think it has been consistent since then. We have had fourth and fifth position through pretty much every race, so the main thing is just getting the job finished and we have been doing that much better recently.
Q: Is that going to be enough to hold onto Nico Rosberg?
AP: That s a very good question. I think you will probably have to ask him whether we are doing a good enough job to hold onto him or not but we are certainly doing the best we can in terms of giving him a good car, good strategy and trying to finish it for him.
Q: What about Kazuki (Nakajima)? He seems to be having a lot of bad luck.
AP: Well, it is just absolutely awful to put a driver out there and then have a reliability issue or a pit stop issue and I think we all feel that we would like to see him doing the whole job himself and us doing our bit. It is difficult to blame a driver when you are not doing the full job yourself, so we need to look at our own performance particularly, for example, in Valencia.
Q: What is the engine situation likely to be for next year?
AP: The engine situation is still a work in progress but I think we are relatively clear on which direction we want to go in but obviously it is not finalised yet.
Q: Simon, can you tell us what your function is at Force India.
SR: I joined the team as part of the collaboration and the contract between Force India and McLaren Mercedes. It gave the team the opportunity to review its management structure which was done before I got there. I am there to run the team for Force India and that is what I do. Fundamentally because I know how all three organisations work I am pretty well placed to do that. That enabled us to take a very late decision and design and build a car around a new engine and a new gearbox and get out to do at least a couple of week s winter testing which the team did a fantastic job doing. Really since then my focus has just been more on the internal running of the team, improving things every weekend, and helping the guys down the tunnel and the design team to bring upgrades to the track just like any other team.
Q: And the performance curve seems to be improving all the time.
SR: Yes, we are quite pleased. We are a small team and we have to be careful how we spend our money, so we had a strategy which we have been able to deploy. We took up significant upgrades to Silverstone and Valencia. Both those worked and we are still on the back of one of those here. We still have some stuff to come for later on in the season. That s how we are doing.
Q: Presumably the target is World Championship points?
SR: Yes, we talk about it between every event. What do we need to do. What more can we do to make that a reality and all we can do is keep pushing, keep trying to improve our performance, and try and make some luck. We have been close a few times this year. We were close last year but you just have to be there. We have got ourselves into what we think is a solid Q2 team now and we think if we can run near the front of Q2, then we can score points when the opportunity arises.
Q: John, there have been all sorts of stories about the future of the team. Can you give us your point of view on that?
JH: I mean there is a lot of speculation about a lot of teams. I have no reason at all to question that Toyota will be here for the next three years and no information to the contrary. I think there was some story about budget and fundamentally our budgets are always approved in November and I genuinely was explaining that this year it was a bit more difficult to know what is likely to be approved and we have to accept that there is a very tough economy out there.
Q: How important is it for Toyota to supply another team?
JH: I think we did it really because we wanted to contribute to Formula One. I think at that time Ferrari were supplying and nobody else did. I think we are very willing and open to supply. We basically have an agreement with Williams to supply in 2010 but I think Toyota generally is normally a sensible company and if somebody does not wish to continue trading with you, we will consider favourably that decision. But, as such, as I sit here we do have a binding contract to supply Williams with engines in 2010. But we don t gain a huge amount of material information from it. We are not developing a new engine. Therefore, I am not sure if we gain a material amount from losing supply at this current time.
Q: Jarno Trulli has outqualified Timo Glock eight to three times but they are level pegging in terms of race performances and results. What about Timo as he always seems to improve more places than any other driver this season?
JH: His race performances are always enormously strong. It is really clear that he seems to be happy. He had problems in Valencia where he was hit by (SÃ©bastien) Buemi but when we actually look at the first two or three laps he did in the race, fuel corrected, he had an amazing pace and he continued the stints very strongly. I think really we are working very hard with him to try and improve the qualifying performance and I think if he can get there he has a really strong performance capability.
Q: Is he lacking something in qualifying?
JH: I don t know. Last week I think he was six-tenths up on his previous lap time and would have been quicker than Jenson but had small problem in turn 13. We have got to understand whether it is the car too much on the edge or driver or set up but I think really we believe he has got it and we are working very hard to get him up the grid, so he has a good starting position.
Q: Christian, some interesting challenges for you. First of all, could you just explain to us what the situation is with Sebastian s engines, what he s got left, what he hasn t got?
CH: The situation on engines is quite clear. Each driver is allowed eight race engines; four of those are consigned to shrapnel, unfortunately. But he s got two new race engines and two used engines available to him. We will strategically use the two new engines, so we will be running one here, one possibly in Monza and then with the used engines, we will spread those out over the remaining Fridays. So if we re frugal with the mileage on the Friday and go for quality rather than quantity, then hopefully we can avoid taking a penalty. But if we use any additional engines to those eight, then we will incur a ten-place penalty.
Q: You would never run an engine over a specific mileage that Renault have given you?
CH: Well, Renault obviously have a target mileage and as they gain confidence in those engines perhaps going beyond that mileage then we might extend but they re working with us on that and obviously trying to support us in the best way they can.
Q: In terms of Sebastian (Vettel) and Mark (Webber) and their championship positions, how do you manage that or do you not?
CH: Very simply; we support both drivers equally. We have brought the same upgrades to the cars at every event this year and it s really been down to what they do on the circuit. It would be wrong from a team perspective to be favouring at this point of the championship one driver over the other, so we ve treated both with an equal hand.
Q: We know Sebastian has got a contract until 2012, what s the situation with Mark?
CH: Mark we were delighted to secure his services for a further year, which we announced in Germany, the weekend that he won his first Grand Prix. So we re really happy with the driver line-up we ve got for 2010. I think it s one of the stronger pairings in the field, it s a great blend of youth and experience and there s a very strong working spirit between the drivers, that s professional and very collaborative, so from a team point of view, we re extremely happy with the pairing that we have.
Q: And probably happy to have that issue settled unlike quite a few others.
CH: Yes, absolutely. Obviously we re into the driver merry-go-round at the moment and the fact that we re not part of that is very settling from a team point of view. They know exactly who we re working with for next year.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson) My question is about aerodynamics because last year you guys sent your engineering wizards to lots of long meetings to resolve the problem of overtaking. I think the FIA had some input into that. The result, though, has been that these cars look as though they ve been made out of Lego and there has been absolutely no improvement at all in the overtaking. I m interested in knowing just how important overtaking is to the show as far as you re concerned, and what is the next step?
CH: I m not an aerodynamicist, so my answer won t be particularly qualified but I will give you my observation. Obviously a lot of work was done through the Overtaking Working Group. It s not rocket science to see that the lap times at several circuits this year are quicker than last year. Unfortunately, the double diffuser has played a part in that, I think, with the wake that the cars are now developing and the drivers do find it very difficult to follow each other closely. But I think the amount of development that has gone into these cars with the aero package that is there is just as critical as it has been in previous years. I think you also have to look at some of the circuit layouts. There are some circuits where you see more overtaking than others. I think you will see more this weekend at a circuit like this than you will at Singapore, for example. Unless you go back to really taking pretty much all the downforce off the car and going back to 600hp almost Formula Fords you re not going to see a big difference in the overtaking at the current circuits that we race at. Is it important for Formula One? Well, I ve been watching Formula One since the 1980s and I don t think there s ever been a huge amount of overtaking. Obviously the show is important, it s important that drivers are able to race closely with each other and I think we actually have had some very exciting racing this year but it s obviously something that can be worked on in the future and hopefully improved.
JH: I honestly don t think I ve got much to add to Christian s point. I ve been watching Formula One for a long time and there are those great overtaking moves but I m not sure that in the last twenty years at least that there has been a huge amount. I think certainly FOTA now wants to look at how it can contribute generally to improving Formula One value to all the stakeholders and clearly overtaking is an issue that will need to be discussed and raised, but immediately, now, we have a formula that we ve moved to, it hasn t really achieved the objectives but we have had some fairly good races, the performance between the cars looks very, very close. If you look in qualifying this year there have been some circuits where it s enormously close: nine cars in less than one second or more, so it s something to be studied for the future but no need for panic.
SR: Yeah, I think I support everything the guys have just said. There is overtaking, certainly for our drivers in the early laps of some of the races, sometimes a little bit too exciting for us watching on the pit wall but I think it s circuit dependent as well. As Christian said, I think here we re expecting overtaking, I think probably the same at Monza but on the street circuits it s very, very difficult.
AP: I think hopefully next year with the lack of refuelling and perhaps the impact that has on the tyres etc. there could be a bit more fun, but I think fundamentally, if you have ten or twelve very competent teams and double that number of very competent drivers and you line them up in order of speed it s improbable they are going to overtake. And of course the closer they are in performance to each other, the less likely anyone is to pass anyone else. I was slightly surprised when Frank (Williams) said on Monday this week we ve got to do something about this and he said let s just split the race into two have a morning race and an afternoon one on a Sunday and if that doesn t work, let s have a reverse grid in the second one. I think, personally, Valencia was quite exciting if you were in a team in the garage but quite frankly, if we carry on putting on races like that I think we will only have ourselves to blame if nobody carries on watching.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Christian, the Brawns are down in 17th and 18th today; does that give you cause for optimism or is there a little bit sandbagging going on from them? Is there more to come, do you think?
CH: It s a lot of sandbagging if they are sandbagging. As I said earlier, I think that everybody goes about their own business on a Friday. They ve obviously been looking at different wing sweeps and so on as I think all teams have been up and down the pit lane. You can t read too much into today, they tend to obviously run quite a bit of fuel and so it will be interesting to see where the performance is tomorrow and on Sunday. We re quite happy with the preparation that we ve had today and there are a few other cars in the mix as well this weekend. Lewis (Hamilton), if you look through the session, looks quick again, Heikki (Kovalainen) looks quick, Kimi (RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen) looks quick, so it s going to be an interesting weekend.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) If I could ask Christian about his team s engine supply and how soon you re going to make your mind up and where you re tending towards?
CH: Well, it will definitely be a V8! We re obviously in a position where, as an independent team, we have a choice of engine. We ve been very, very happy with the supply that we ve had from Renault for the last three years. Any decision that will be made, will be made not on the outcome of a single weekend but based on what we believe offers us the best opportunity of performance and relationship for the future. We haven t made any firm decisions yet but we re obviously nearing a time when we need to make a commitment for next year.
Q: (MC) Is there a deadline?
CH: Well, Ross (Brawn) only chose his engine in January, so it shows it can be done pretty late. We obviously don t want to wait that long but I would think that within the next couple of weeks we ll hone in on a decision.