Patrick Head believes that more clarity is needed regarding next year’s proposed regulations. The William’s Technical Director was speaking infront of a packed Friday afternoon press conference where he outlined a number of concerns regarding the ambiguity of the FIA’s proposals for 2010. Top of the agenda was the possibility of a two-tier championship forming due to the £40 Million Cost Cap.
Head’s concerns were supported by Renault’s Pat Symonds, Brawn GP’s Ross Brawn and Ferrari’s Aldo Costa, who were also present during the conference.
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE May 8, 2009
Ross BRAWN (Brawn GP),
Aldo COSTA (Ferrari),
Patrick HEAD (Williams),
Pat Symonds (Renault)
Q: Ross, would you like to start on the overtaking situation as you and Pat were on the overtaking working group I think.
Ross BRAWN: No, I wasn t. Pat was. Our drivers are reporting that the cars are easier to follow. They have still got an imbalance when they follow other cars. But the cars are easier to follow. At the moment we have got the situation that some cars have KERS and some are without KERS. We have had several occasions where we have managed to get on the back of a car with KERS and we can t overtake it as it uses KERS to pull away, so we have got a little bit of an odd situation at the moment but the general impression from our guys is that the cars are better and because they have got this adjustable front wing it also helps to get the car set up when you are coming up behind someone.
Q: Pat, has it pretty much worked the way you thought it was going to?
Pat SYMONDS: I have to say I am not completely sure. We are on race five now. We have had a couple of wet races, Australia is always a difficult track anyway. I have been quite impressed with the way the Brawns have overtaken us a couple of times, so maybe it has worked or maybe they are just quicker than us. But as Ross says the KERS is clouding things as well and I think it is certainly easier to follow now and that is what we set out to do. But it is not the magic panacea.
Q: Just going back a couple of weeks, your reaction to the diffuser. What sort of effort was required for that?
PS: It was a huge effort. All the guys at the factory, from aerodynamics through design and manufacturing, really pulled the stops out to get that done. You don t just sort of design these things and they work first time. It takes a while to understand how they work and get them to a state where it is worth investing the money and putting them on the cars and they really did a super job to get that diffuser to China.
Q: Same question to you, Aldo. As I understand it has been a massive redesign of the whole of the back end of the car and the diffuser has not been the problem. It is all the rest of it.
Aldo COSTA: Yes, it is not the composite part that is the problem. The problem was a complete redesign of the hydraulic system, electric system and modifications to the rear suspension, so it was as Pat said a very, very big, huge effort to be ready in time for here with such a modified car. It is a learning curve since we had to work on this concept that we thought was illegal. We are learning now but still it is our first attempt and I am sure we have got quite a lot to learn still.
Q: When did you start to react to the diffuser? Did you start before the ruling or did you react to it when the ruling was made?
AC: No, from the technical point of view we had to start the thing earlier because we could not wait for the decision to be made, so we started as soon as we felt that other teams had another rule interpretation.
Q: And tell us about the other modifications here? I understand Kimi has a new chassis as well?
AC: Yes, we are running with KERS. Obviously at the moment the heavier driver, in order to run KERS, has got a disadvantage, so we tried to help Kimi be under the weight limit developing a new chassis. Later on in the season we will introduce it for Felipe as well.
Q: And other modifications?
AC: The car we have got here is a mix between a double deck diffuser concept, our first attempt, and the development that we had already planned for Barcelona, so we have got other modifications on the bodywork and on wings.
Q: Patrick, can I ask you for a summary of the season so far. It seems that it goes very well on Fridays, as it has today, but perhaps you are a little disappointed when it comes to the race performances?
Patrick HEAD: Yes, as Pat mentioned we have had some fairly sort of unusual races. In Australia we messed up a pit stop for Nico (Rosberg) and then when he was on the option tyre I think his race engineer encouraged him to push very hard as I think they thought he might be able to get Rubens (Barrichello) and the option tyre was very delicate and it fell off a cliff really for us. It was between us and various things. We have not made the best of the grands prix. Then with Malaysia and Shanghai with the wet and the wet dry, which is an opportunity for everybody, and for various reasons we did not make the best of that. In Bahrain, although Nico made a good start, he lost a lot of places going into turn one. He started ninth and finished ninth, nobody broke down. Massa broke down but I think Kimi got him going into the first corner, so it was not a very special race. We are certainly disappointed with the results but there are a few teams in that position and there is no point in kicking the dog or anything like that. You just go back and work that bit harder and try and not make the same mistakes.
Q: What sort of modifications have you got to the cars here?
PH: We had a slightly modified diffuser for Nico in Bahrain which is on both cars now. Not big, just a small modification, and some other bits and pieces for the car all pushing up small amounts in improving the performance.
Q: Do you feel as an independent team that it is going to be hard for you to keep up the pace of development during this season?
PH: I think we have got the resources. We haven t got maybe as big a budget as some teams but I don t think we think we are budget limited in developing the car. It is up to us to keep up really.
Q: Ross, similar question. Do you feel it is going to be difficult for you to stay ahead development-wise?
RB: It is always very difficult to even maintain your position wherever it is in Formula One as it moves forward so quickly. The big challenge we all have is that with no testing you are effectively on a Friday trying to work out what you have got and where you are. It is not such a straightforward process as it used to be. Testing itself was always very difficult anyway but it is extremely difficult now. We have brought a new package here which seems to be working very well with Rubens but we have got a problem with it with Jenson (Button) and we have to understand what is going on. It is quite a difficult year for everybody and it will continue to be difficult with the testing rules that we have. We have a reasonable sized team now and we are not budget limited in what we can do, we are just being careful in how we spend that money. Perhaps we bring three or four sets of parts to a race whereas last year we might have brought six or seven. We make those sorts of judgement calls but we are certainly not holding back on doing any performance improvements that we can. There is a package here, there are some modifications for Monaco and there is another update for the NÃ¼rburgring, so we are working hard.
Q: When you say a package, what does that comprise?
RB: Well, it is a new floor, new engine cover, new bodywork around the rear suspension, so that s what we have brought here.
Q: Pat, I saw a succession of cardboard boxes being carried into the paddock yesterday. What are your modifications here?
PS: Similar things. As we have said earlier we introduced our first double decker diffuser in China but it was very much our first attempt. There is a new attempt here. In addition, with visible parts, we have got new front wheel fairings, we have got a new top rear wing here. We have got modifications on rear suspension, so there is a lot going on.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson) I suppose this is for all of you. As I understand it, you don t know the full technical regulations for next year, especially the tank size. I wondered if since this impinges on costs that if you each think it is realistic for the President of the FIA to be imposing a budget cut before you even know the rules.
PH: I think teams are having to take a fairly strategic view and maybe cover a number of options. I think at the moment everybody is pretty clear that there is no refuelling next year. I think that was something that FOTA supported way back in December last year, so it is not as if there is any conflict at all about that position. I think there has been some talk about races changing in distance. Really I think everybody is working on the assumption that the races will be of the same length next year and they are doing their numbers on that basis. But there are all sorts of factors, if you are able to move your rear wing and lower your drag level going down the straight obviously has a number of interesting effects both on lap time but also on your fuel consumption as well. But I think most people will be having to say well, we will have to work out our fuel consumption on the basis that we won t be able to move our rear wing and if we are able to move our rear wing we will probably have a little bit too much capacity, so there is quite a lot of strategic thinking. It is a difficult one. It is certainly not a comfortable position where rules can be changed without any consultation, without any passing through the technical working group and to me it seems unfortunate that Formula One rules seem to come about through change a lot of the time, through confrontation, rather than through consultation. I think very often Max (Mosley) might say well, I have given them the chance and they haven t come up with what they wanted. But the teams are very open to realistic and practical ways of saving money. It is not as if the teams, and this goes for the manufacturer teams and the smaller teams, as if they are all rushing around wanting to spend more money. They re not. They re wanting to spend less money, so I think the environment is very positive towards a less costly Formula One but I don t think anybody, and this goes for Williams certainly, I don t think anybody thinks that a two-tier championship is a good idea. Even on the basis of being able to adjust the rear wing alone, that is going to be very significant. I mean it depends whether any additional things come in that limit how far you are able to adjust it, but on the basis of a completely adjustable rear wing with a single flap moving you are going to be talking about, I don t know, a second-and-a-half, two seconds a lap. Now, no amount of expenditure on more expensive, more fiddly hydraulic blocks, no amount of expenditure anywhere else will make up for that difference. It is certainly a difficult environment at the moment but I think everybody, Ross, Pat, Aldo, are all having to sit in strategic meetings where you decide what possible option might come through and how you cover it and how, if that doesn t go through, you then don t find yourself significantly embarrassed by having made a wrong decision. It is a bit of a gambling imposition on what should be a logical design process but all part of the fun and the same for everybody.
Q: Aldo, your thoughts, and when do you need to know this?
AC: I think Patrick has recapped the situation very well. He s speaking for Williams but I think he s speaking for all of us. Certainly, as Ferrari, I would say exactly what Patrick has said.
PS: I think probably the two things that Mike mentioned are two of the few things that we do know. The sporting and technical regulations for 2010 have been published, races are still 305 kms, the refuelling rules have been altered as such that we can t refuel during the race, we can only refuel in the garage, so we haven t gone back to refuelling on the grid as we used to in the old days. I think we know those things but there are lots of other details which are perhaps less clear. I really echo what Patrick and Aldo said. I don t think anyone wants two tier rules. I don t think they ve worked in any series, whether it s saloon cars and sports cars, where they are trying to equalise diesels and spark ignition engines, whether it s Formula One with turbos and normally aspirated engines they just simply haven t worked. I think it s important to say that we are not necessarily all at conflict. I think that we all have the same intentions, as Patrick said. We all want to spend less money. We all need to spend less money, not just want to. I think that where there are some differences of opinion is perhaps monetary scale and time scale. I think there will always be a difference of opinion on monetary scale those that have and those that don t have but I think the time scale is a very important factor in this. I think it s very important to have a glide path down onto a cheaper formula or rather a more cost-effective formula. It s very difficult with the large organisations that we all have with very high capital investment, very high capital write-downs every year, a lot of employees. It s very difficult to move to a new position which is vastly different to the one we have and to do it quickly. Given time, given a few years to do it, of course we can get there, and I think that s an important point to make.
RB: We don t want to see a two tier Formula One. We think that would confuse the public, we think that if there s a big disparity in the regulations there will be no merit for those teams that succeed using the most advantageous regulation, so we don t want a two tier Formula One. It s a fact that stability when the rules are right is the cheapest way of going forward in many ways because you can plan, you can organise yourself but one of the difficulties of Formula One is that we re turning into Swiss watchmakers. We re just refining everything to the nth degree instead of being able to make conceptual changes or innovative changes because the rules are becoming more and more restrictive. In order to try and contain the costs, we re just closing everything down so much that I m not sure that that s what Formula One should be. We, as a team, both in Honda days and now, support the idea of a constraint on resources of some sort, be it financial, be it people, be it some constraint where everything is enclosed and within that enclosure there is more freedom because most of the technical changes we re doing are to save cost, so if we can save cost by saying that s all you re allowed to spend and have more freedom, for me that s a more exciting Formula One, for us, for the public and we ve always supported that concept. What we want to do as a team is find a solution to that with all the other teams. We don t want difficulties in Formula One, we want to work with the FIA, we want to work with all the teams and find a solution that fits with that. But for me, we re going down the Swiss watchmaking route with Formula One and it s not what I believe Formula One should be.
Q: (James Allen Financial Times) We re obviously talking about transition and how you manage it but if it s difficult to negotiate in the next few weeks with Max Mosley on this, is it not possible that you would all run uncost-capped, all the teams, for next year and then try to work it out and negotiate it from that point onwards?
RB: I think all the teams within FOTA don t want to have a two tier system and I think there will be discussions over the next week or so. It s very unfortunate what has happened with Max, a terrible thing, so we ve got to be sympathetic in that respect but as soon as it s possible, we would like to meet with Max and try and find if there s another way forward, where all the teams can be united and consistent in the solution. For us, there has to be some constraint on resources, not a constraint on the technical regulations.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Aldo, how did you judge the performance of the modifications today?
AC: Normally Friday is quite difficult to judge. We can judge it based on our numbers and based on what our drivers tell us, so at the moment we are happy about what we see but we have to see it compared to other teams that have, as we said before, brought here other developments, where we are in comparison with them and this we will know at the end of qualifying, of course and at the end of the race, not from today.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Question for all of you: the weight limit has been raised for next year but it s a general overall increase, so the taller heavier drivers are penalised. Would you support a system where you weigh the drivers, seat and helmet together, so that it s a level playing field no matter what size your driver is?
RB: I don t think you will get total equality. A big driver should be stronger, he should have more stamina, he should be able to drive the car over a longer period more consistently, so I don t think you will ever get total equality. Possibly the weight limit now, particularly with the introduction of KERS, is making it quite difficult for teams who want to run KERS to find the weight distribution they want and accommodate the heavier drivers. I think there are two important things next year: one is the weight and the other is the smaller front tyre size which is going to push the weight distribution, let s say, to a more natural position in the car. The ratio size of tyres at the moment is forcing everybody to run very forward weight distributions and that s where people with KERS and bigger drivers also run into problems, so I think it s a sensible change. I think with those changes, I don t believe bigger drivers are penalised. Bigger drivers are stronger and they take those advantages.
PH: I rather agree with Ross. I m quite happy with it as it is. We have, in the past, had quite heavy drivers. I don t think it s a problem particularly as it is. The problem at the moment is that the tyre regulation and the change to slicks is forcing I wouldn t say an unnatural weight distribution but a weight distribution which within the layout that s forced on us by the fuel location and various other things is quite difficult to achieve but with the tyre for next year, which we understand is 25mm narrower on the tread contact patch, that will be less of a problem, I think.
AC: It was an open point for sure. It has been discussed a few times during the FOTA meetings and during the Technical Working Group. As a team we were supporting the idea of increasing the weight limit. It just came out as a surprise in the new rules for next year, as Patrick said, without consultation. So for us it s a good move anyway.
PS: I think the only thing that I would add to what s been said is that it s probably worth remembering that next year s cars will be heavier per se, the bigger fuel tanks mean more monocoque to put that fuel tank in. The fuel tank material is quite heavy. If the FOTA material restrictions are adopted and of course they can be because material restrictions abide in the appendix to the technical regulations, so they can be changed in quite short order, if the recommendations which the FOTA technical regulation working group have come up with on material restrictions are applied, then again that will increase the weight of the cars, so I think that the increased weight limit, while not entirely neutralised, will be largely neutralised just by changes in regulations.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) Ross, I wondered if you could perhaps give us a review of Rubens s performances this season, because while Jenson has won three of the four races, Rubens has been on the podium once and that was somewhat fortuitous. Is he doing something different to Jenson or is Jenson just performing exceptionally?
RB: I think Rubens has had a little bit of bad luck. I know luck shouldn t come into it but I think in China he was looking very strong, in fact probably for a dry race he was in better shape than Jenson but then in the wet he had a problem with the brakes, one of the brakes glazed over on the rear which made life very interesting for him. In the last race, in Bahrain, the front wing adjustor failed during his qualifying lap and the front wing flap dropped down as he was in the middle of his qualifying lap. We d gone for a pretty aggressive strategy and that meant being at the front and he didn t achieve it because we had a problem with the car. I m pleased with Rubens s performance this year. He s contributed an awful lot to the team, helping sort the car out. He gives very valuable technical information and I think it just hasn t quite fallen for him this season. Jenson s doing a superb job, so that s the reference but I m very happy with Rubens s performance and I m sure that if we get a smooth weekend he ll be up there.