Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:27
Page 1 of 2FIA Formula One press conference from the Shanghai International Circuit.
Matt MORRIS (Sauber F1), Antonio CUQUERELLA (HRT F1), Dave GREENWOOD (Marussia F1), James ALLISON (Lotus F1), Paddy LOWE (McLaren), Pat FRY (Ferrari)
A question to you all. If you’d like to give a swift appraisal of where you feel you are in the pecking order after two Grands Prix, and what you think the potential is, where you think you can be?
Matt MORRIS: I think it’s very difficult to tell. I think there are five or six teams that are all very close, and I think we’re one of those teams, but exactly where we stand, we probably need another couple of races.
What about potential?
MM: Yeah, I think we’ve clearly shown that we’ve got a competitive car, but we also need to keep our feet on the ground, remember who we are and who we’re competing against. But, for sure, we feel we can be scoring points on a regular basis.
Toni, a very difficult start to the season for you.
Antonio CUQUERELLA: Yes, it was indeed. For us we came later, we started later than the others and it’s a race to catch up for us. We are just trying to bring the car to the performance it was supposed to have in the first race, so that’s where we are. It’s quite clear, everyone can see that, we are at the back, we are the last ones. So we are just trying to get closer to the rest.
And the others?
Dave GREENWOOD: A similar situation to Toni for us, a late start to the year, which is not what we wanted. Again, we’re towards the back end, which is fairly obvious, and we’re just working hard to catch up to the guys in front. I think there’s a fairly big gap between us and the front, there’s no disputing that, but our main job is to close that gap and we’ve already seen from last race to this we’ve closed that slightly and we’ve just got to keep going like that.
James ALLISON: I think the first couple of races would suggest we’re Q3 material. I would hope that we’re towards the front of Q3 but, as everyone will say, it’s very tight this year, the gaps in the grid are very small and the tiniest error makes a lot of grid places at the moment.
Paddy LOWE: We’re obviously over the moon to have had the qualifying results we’ve had in the first two races, front row in both races. That’s what you dream of really, with all the work you do on a new car that starts early the year before. It’s a great result for the whole team. A bit less satisfied with what we’ve delivered from the races but in terms of overall performance, very pleased.
Pat FRY: I think our performance here is likely to mirror the first two races. We’ve got a few small upgrades here that should improve it a fair amount but then I think this track suits us less favourably than the last one really, so I expect the gaps are going to be similar. We have a lot of work to do to catch the others, particularly in qualifying.
Matt, a more specific question to you. Now you’re very close in that midfield and one of the teams that perhaps can improve by using a Mercedes type device, they call it a DDRS (double DRS), have you got the time, have you got the money and the budget to do that?
MM: We’re looking into the system to try and assess it fully, to work out the lap time, or qualifying lap time gain, versus costs. I think at the moment for us it doesn't balance out. We’re probably better off spending our money on more conventional lap time.
A question related to last year, when perhaps you’re exhaust blown diffuser didn’t work. Was there any advantage in that this year?
MM: It’s not really been an advantage, I think we’ve just lost less than some of the other teams maybe, because, by our own admission, we didn’t have the best exhaust blown diffuser last year, so for sure we had more to lose.
Has that had something to do with the performance do you think?
MM: I think it’s brought us closer to some of the other teams, yes.
Toni, it’s an uphill struggle for you. Just give us some indication of the sort of facilities you have at the moment, the staff you have etc?
AC: It’s clear that we are changing. From last year to this year there has been a big changing hands in the management of the team and we are even relocating to a different country in Europe. Our car has been designed by different clusters around Europe, with not everybody in the same room. Now we are trying to centralise everything and work as a team, which has not been the case in the last two years. The main goal then, we still need to get organised and that will bring performance and the development we want on the car.
That sounds like the sort of think that will take an awful long time to do, like a whole year almost, a whole season.
AC: Of course we are making some appointments and we are trying to hire more people to reinforce ourselves but it is not going to be something we expect to be working in two or three months. It going be, as you say, probably more thinking of next year but some results need to show this year, in the second half of the season.
Dave Greenwood, to some extent you’ve been doing the same thing because the whole factory has relocated as well. Where are you in that process?
DG. I think we’re basically in the process where we now have a solid design team and an aerodynamic group that’s expanded rapidly over the last six months. We’re in a process now where we’re using a wind tunnel on a regular basis, matching that in with the CFD, so if you like we’re further along that process. We’re still very much at the start of it but I think it’s bringing improvements to the car much better than we’ve seen before in the previous two years of how we worked. So all in all a positive.
And the development is on course? Is there a programme for that?
DG: Like every team you have a development programme and ours has been perhaps a little bit delayed in how it started from winter testing but we’ve hit the ground running now we’re racing and we’ve brought developments to the last two races and today we ran new developments as well and we’re happy with how they’re progressing.
James, yesterday you took a protest to the stewards. How disappointed were you with the outcome of that?
JA: It’s been no secret that our team has had some disagreements with what we saw Mercedes to be running. We thought there were strong arguments against such a thing. That’s been rumbling along gently in the background, as everyone knows. We made what we hoped were strong arguments both to Mercedes and to the FIA but didn’t prevail and so with some regret we decided it was worth bringing it before the stewards to settle the matter one way or the other.
I have to say we got a very fair hearing yesterday. The stewards took a lot of time to listen to our arguments and what I hoped were very strong arguments didn’t prevail, but that’s the process and it’s fair enough, just get on with it and accept that we were wrong in our earlier view.
What is the reaction to that? What do you do now? Are you doing to do the same thing?
JA: Just die like a man! Get on with looking at what possibilities are open, having accepted that this is a perfectly OK system to put on the car.
Is it something that you think every technical director will now be looking at?
JA: Well they’ll certainly need to decide whether or not the cost and expense, well it’s not so much expense, the opportunity cost of doing that system is higher than developing the things they had in mind otherwise. And that’s exactly the same choice we’ll face in our team.
Paddy, a question about Lewis’ gearbox. How come it was only discovered yesterday?
PL: Well it’s a bit of a disappointment. We were able to notice a problem as a result of analysing some oil samples that showed a problem that’s developing in the rear of the gearbox. It could still work but the risk of a failure during the race itself is too great and a much greater penalty from that than would come from a five grid place penalty. So very disappointing for everyone, particularly Lewis, to start a race weekend in that way on the back foot. But, y’know, we’ll do the best with what we have. Try to get pole position so that at worst he’ll be in sixth.
On a completely different subject, we have a Mugello test coming up, we haven’t had an in-season test for several years now, to what extent has simulation etc overtaken that? Or is it still invaluable?
PL: It’s still very, very valuable. Simulation has grown a great deal in the last few years and we do depend a lot more on in. In fact it pushes the testing in a slightly different direction, in the same way you saw this morning we were running on Lewis’ car a big sampling array for aerodynamic pressures. We’re using these tools in order to validate our simulations. So we increasingly use testing in order to calibrate the simulations we’re doing in the office. So, it’s very, very important still.
I think what’s happened is that we’ve moved the testing bias towards Fridays rather than the tests that used to occur between each race. We get the job done, we just do it probably more efficiently really by using the race practice. Mugello will allow a few other things. It’s a redistribution of where we put the effort.
We used to have that test in the pre-season period. That’s been moved to April. It allows us to do a few different things mid-season that we wouldn’t have been able to do. It’s a lot more work actually, that we haven’t been used to but it helps us make a step mid-season.
Pat, obviously the problems with the car. How fundamental are those problems?
PF: I think we have a reasonable understanding of them and the areas we need to be working on. It’s like all these things, there’s never a golden bullet, it’s not a light switch you can turn on. You might have the idea of, ‘OK, that’s the problem’ but it’s hard work to try and fix it. And you’re not going to change it around in a week. Everyone is working very hard to fix all those issues and then get back on a sensible development curve.
And really you discovered those problems some time ago. Is it a surprise not to have seen more bits on the car since the last race?
PF: I think there’s a number of different issues that we’ve had, the most obvious one from the early testing was the exhaust system where we were struggling with what that was doing to the rear tyres. I think we now understand that and are on top of that, though we haven’t run that style exhaust system since the first Barcelona test.
The other areas have come to light where we knew we had the problems [but] we didn’t know where and we were really learning that through the last Barcelona test. And then to fix problems it’s not the work of a minute. Here there are quite a few new parts on the car. There will be another set of updates, bigger updates, coming through for Barcelona. It’s a race of upgrading. We’ve got a lot of upgrades coming through but so does everyone else around this table.