Monaco GP - Thursday - Press Conference
26 MAY 2011
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES - Graeme LOWDON (Marussia Virgin), Vijay MALLYA (Force India), Adrian NEWEY (Red Bull), Peter SAUBER (Sauber F1 Team), Martin WHITMARSH (McLaren)
Q: Graeme, what do you feel about this race. Is this going to be your best chance for points here?
Graeme LOWDON: Monaco always has the potential for an unpredictable race and with the best will in the world that is our best chance at the moment until we can move the car further forward. We had a good run here last year until we had some car problems and I think now we are on top of the reliability problems that we had as a new team last year so we are looking forward to the race.
Q: You talked about bringing the car forward which is basically upgrades. Is there now going to be a regular flow or has there been a regular flow?
Lowdon: There has been although we kind of went on hold a little bit in Barcelona. We were developing a blown exhaust system on the car and then following the directive from the FIA we decided that we would have to hold until the meeting next month when there is going to be a clarification of what direction to go in. We won't, in terms of pace... I don't think we will be moving much forward in this race but certainly we plan to keep moving forward as you have to of course. We will see what this clarification looks like and then determine then the direction we are going.
Q: Is there any technical contribution coming from Marussia?
Lowdon: Marussia were sponsors of our team last year and then moved into an investment ownership element towards the end of last year so they are now gainfully integrated with the team and certainly in the future I think we will see information going in both directions. They have some really exciting road car plans for the long-term future and we are looking forward to playing our part in that as well.
Q: Vijay, in some ways again perhaps your best chance here. We saw (that) a couple of years ago when you really were looking on course for points until Kimi Raikkonen ended your chances. Is this race a good chance for points as well?
Vijay MALLYA: Yeah, absolutely. Since the beginning of the season we knew that at least for the first few fly-away races we would still be in the development mode. We were hoping to launch a serious aero package in Barcelona. We haven't got everything together quite yet but certainly there are improvements that are already showing during free practice here in Monaco. This is a fantastic race, my favourite, I would love to score points here.
Q: We always tend to see you as a representative of your nation. How is the Indian Grand Prix coming along?
Mallya: Coming along really well actually. The track is almost ready and will be ready well in time. The recent press reports apparently quoting Bernie (Ecclestone) saying that if Bahrain is re-instated then the Indian Grand Prix may actually be pushed back to December obviously raised a lot of questions at home. But whether it is October 30th, as scheduled, or later in the year we are ready and quite happy with the progress the promoters have made.
Q: What's the reaction at home especially now that Narain Karthikeyan is back in a race seat?
Mallya: Well when Narain and Karun (Chandhok) were both on the grid there was a lot of joy and celebration in India. But as you may know Force India have launched the "One In A Billion" hunt. It is going very well. We have had a few rounds already and we hope to identify some talented Indian kids in the not too distant future.
Q: Is there going a lot of interest in that?
Mallya: Huge amount of interest, absolutely. In fact, people contact me directly saying 'my son or daughter is one month less than the prescribed age of 14 of a few days older than the limit of 17 and can we please get them in'. There is a huge amount of interest.
Q: Peter, tell us about the contribution James Key has made to your team?
Peter SAUBER: The C30 is James Key's car and the car is a clear step forward. He is doing a good job and thanks to him we were able to move forward.
Q: Tell us about the modifications and the programme of development. How great is that? And, modifications for this race?
Sauber: Small modification to the front wing, rear wing, brake ducts and we have a modification on the front suspension.
Q: And then in terms of general developments. Are you expecting something every race?
Sauber: General development is on the aerodynamic side. I think that is the same for all the teams. We tried very hard on the exhaust side but it doesn't work.
Q: When you are looking ahead at your next team to overtake as it were, which team is that? Which is your target team?
Sauber: The target is to go forward and to keep the gap to the team in front of us and especially to keep the gap to the teams behind us.
Q: You don't want to catch and overtake Renault, for example?
Sauber: If it's possible, why not?
Q: Adrian, just tell us what the problem was with Mark's car this morning?
Adrian NEWEY: It was a cut wiring loom, a gearbox wiring loom, which meant he lost one of the potentiometers on the gearbox barrel.
Q: Is that a major setback for him to lose the whole session?
Newey: I am sure it's a pain. The question is whether that will have any affect on his qualifying, come, hopefully, Q3.
Q: Interesting the situation with the pit-stop procedure change. What has accelerated that?
Newey: Sorry, I am lost here.
Q: We understand that Christian (Horner) mentioned after Spain that because of the way Ferrari were stopping and were mirroring your stops, you were changing your procedure.
Newey: We suspected that Ferrari were able to judge when we were going to stop before we went on the radio to the drivers to say stop, so we made a small change based on what we thought they were spotting. Whether that was correct or not who knows?
Q: Is it just being a bit paranoid?
Newey: Depends whether they were doing it or whether it was just one of those co-incidences. I cannot comment really.
Q: KERS seems to have been a recurring problem right from the start of the season. Give us some indication of how difficult it is to get it right as perhaps we just don't understand in the media?
Newey: KERS is a complicated project. It needs a lot of research, lots of development. The packaging route that we have chosen, whilst the system has its roots in the Renault Marelli system that was run a couple of years ago, it has been altered in various ways to suit the package we want for our car. That has caused some problems. It's not proving easy to completely eliminate it. We have hopefully learnt how to change it, but it is challenging for us. It is not really our forte, KERS development. We are an aerodynamics and, sort of, chassis composite engineering group rather than a KERS group.
Q: Have you had to establish an entire new department?
Newey: Yes we have, but the department is quite small. With hindsight probably a little bit too small and there is quite a lot of inertia to these things. It is not easy to react quickly to a problem.
Q: One of the things about this race is using the super soft tyre. Can you give us a little bit of information about how the super soft tyre performed. Did it perform how you expected or better or worse this afternoon?
Newey: It seemed okay this afternoon. Difficult to know exactly what to expect of it. This circuit is one of the lightest, or even the lightest, on tyres that we go to. Hence Pirelli's choice to bring a softer range than we have had to date and it seems to be coping well with that.
Q: They have suggested 10 laps, even less than 10 laps, per stint on the super soft. Is that pretty much confirmed or can you not say until Sunday itself?
Newey: Certainly the indication from today is they should last longer than that. But it is difficult to be concrete and as have seen in the first five races what happens on Friday can change in either direction on Sunday.
Q: Martin, that is the most extraordinary thing about this season. It is just unpredictable except for the fact that Red Bull are going to be fairly close to the front and probably on the front row.
Martin WHITMARSH: Certainly, that is not too unpredictable at the moment. I would like it to be a bit less predictable. I am very happy if you keep asking Adrian questions. I would like to ask him a few myself. We made some progress in Spain. I think our guys were able to race with Adrian's and that was a step forward for us. We were not quite quick enough in qualifying. Had we had a better track position I think it would have been an even greater race but nonetheless it was exciting and encouraging. This circuit is very different from one week ago and from where we are going afterwards. This is a very specialist circuit. I think it is one which the drivers, the competitive drivers, believe they can go out and win so that makes it exciting. I suspect, I hope, it is going to be a bit closer this weekend. I think the strategy here is challenging. We know how difficult it is going to be to overtake here. I am not sure if DRS is going to be that helpful in my opinion but I can understand why people didn't want it going through the tunnel. But clearly the new chicane has been the overtaking place on the circuit so to not use DRS prior to that is a little bit of a shame in my view but we will see. Hopefully we will have a good weekend.
Q: You mentioned in the preview how important your performance through sector three was in Barcelona and it encouraged you for here. Has that been borne out today?
Whitmarsh: I think we have, like Adrian and all the guys here, had Friday as a learning day. During the first session this time we only had one set of tyres, I am sure Adrian had some aero bits to try. We had a few aero bits to try. You are getting that information. You are doing some fuel heavy runs to see how durable the super soft is and also the soft tyre. The super soft tyre looks very consistent on all the cars. We are getting a lot of data and now the strategists and engineers can work hopefully to improve the set-up for tomorrow and also try and make sure we get it right in the race.
Q: We mentioned the pit-stop concerns that Red Bull Racing have. Do Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have similar pit-stop concerns?
Whitmarsh: No, we don't. I don't know anything about that particular issue. I think you call the stops and try and make them as quick as you can. Inevitably, sometimes it is nice to know when others are making them but you judge that by where you see their tyre performance. It is very clear this year that if the driver goes longer than his tyres should have done then he lost lots of time so you can generally see just by looking at lap times when somebody is about to come in.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alberto Antonini - AutoSprint) Coming out in the paddock yesterday, you could see that there was still a lot of action going on. Some of the facilities hadn't been completed, they were still being set up. So, I just wondered whether it's sensible, given the size of the current infrastructures, to have back-to-back races, coming to a place like this? Is it turning into a sort of logistic nightmare?
Whitmarsh: Well, it's incredibly tough. Back-to-back races have always been tough on the crew and the team. Clearly because Monaco starts one day earlier, it's just that little bit tougher. There was a lot of action here, now there's a lot made of a forklift incident with Jenson but I think Jenson's probably done more dangerous things here in his life, both in cars and out of cars in Monaco, so I think it was probably a little bit overstated. It's tough. I'm sure that we're grateful - just as all the teams are here - to the people who build garages, build hospitality units, rebuild the cars to make sure we can be here racing.
Lowdon: We've probably got the smallest motorhome of anybody here but dare I say, one of the friendliest. We tend to have to wait until all the large structures are put together before we can put ours together but I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Formula One and the finances of Formula One are very complicated nowadays and these structures do actually play an important part in servicing the requirements of sponsors and guests. So it is an important part of the whole show, and the people who put them together do a tremendously professional job under very tight circumstances. I take my hat off to them.
Mallya: Well, we sometimes pay the price for our own enthusiasm. We wanted to create a sort of Taj Mahal out of our motorhome. In the process we created a pretty heavy and complex structure that requires a lot more time to erect and disassemble but that's life, we're used to it. We know that they're going to be back-to-back races and the guys coped pretty well.
Sauber: Yes, it's tough but we have done it in the past many times.
Q: (Pierre Van Vliet - F1i Magazine) Martin, what is FOTA's position regarding the 2013 engine rules following the Barcelona meeting last week?
Whitmarsh: I think FOTA's view is that this really is a decision for the engine manufacturers, not for the teams themselves. I think teams want to have affordable engines and they've made those points to the engine manufacturers and to the FIA and I have to say that those views appear to be respected. I think that with any rules changes, it would have been great if we could have introduced more engine manufacturers into Formula One but unfortunately, we're perhaps coming out of a recession, we were a little bit too early with these changes, but at the same time, we have to move forwards in Formula One, we have to be seen with developing technologies that are relevant to the needs of society, so there will always be an emotional pull to the past. Lots of us speak about 'wasn't it great when we had V12s', 'wasn't it good when we had V10s', isn't it great that we've got V8s?' And I think we must be careful that we don't get emotional about those things. What we need is Formula One to be the pinnacle of motor sport, to have the most advanced powertrain and they've got to be affordable for all of the teams. I think also, we need as many engine manufacturers in Formula One, we need independent manufacturers like Cosworth. We need to make sure we don't lose any of the engine manufacturers we've got now. We're very fortunate as a sport to have Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault with us. We'd like to make sure that we've still got them in 2013 and beyond and I hope, in time, find ways in which other automotive companies find this sport attractive to invest in it.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) Vijay, could I ask you on what basis you took the decision to allow Adrian to continue racing after his incident in Shanghai. And secondly, you've just launched your own driver development programme, I think for 14- to 16-year olds; is he still a good role model for the team?
Mallya: As far as my position is concerned, there has been a press release issued which describes an incident. We have not heard of any formal complaint being registered in any country for any sort of misconduct by Adrian. So it would be highly inappropriate for us to presume that he did something. It would be equally presumptuous that he would guilty of wrong-doing and take action against him. So my position is very clear: if at all we receive a formal complaint or there is some form of formal legal enquiry in any country, we'll take appropriate action at that time but we can't be presumptive.
Q: (Edd Straw - Autosport) Adrian, there was a lot of talk in Spain about the legality of the exhaust-blown diffuser operating while the driver is off the throttle. What's your interpretation of the legality of that, specifically relating to article 3.15 and could you explain your reasoning behind the position you take on this technology?
Newey: Well, I think the key to 3.15 is that it talks about 'driver over-run then the throttle should be closed' then in brackets 'idle speed' so it seems to be implying that the throttle should be closed at idle, which it clearly is. What the throttle does on over-run at other times is not clear in the regulations, not as expected. Certainly, in the case of Renault, then they open the throttle to full open on the over-run for exhaust valve cooling, and that's part of the reliability of the engine. It has been signed off through the years for dyno testing and for them to change that would be quite a big issue, because the engine's not proven that it would be reliable if the throttle remained closed in that situation. Obviously if other people are going further and perhaps firing the engine on the over-run then clearly exhaust valve cooling is not part of that and that would be something that presumably they would need to explain to keep Charlie (Whiting, technical delegate) happy.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Vijay, you mentioned the Indian Grand Prix and Bernie's comments about it but I was wondering if you've spoken to Bernie or talked to him about it and what is your personal position on any possible re-scheduling of that race?
Mallya: There are no issues on whether the track will be completed or not. That track will be ready well in time. There's a huge amount of interest. I can tell you that people are already clamouring for tickets and it's a major step forward in Indian motor sport and sport in general in our country, so everybody is looking forward to it. Whether it's October 30th or December 4th - I believe that's what the media report said - really doesn't matter to us. In fact, in December the weather is cooler in India and Delhi in particular so it shouldn't impact the race in any way.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Can I just ask the other team bosses whether it would impact on them at all, to be racing in December?
Newey: Makes for an awfully long season, doesn't it? It is for the people involved.
Whitmarsh: I think it's tough on the team, simple as that. I think the teams will go to the races that are on the calendar, that's for sure, but I think it makes it a very long season. The guys started working very hard in mid-January, building cars to go testing and it will make it a very, very long season for them.
Sauber: I think first we have to wait for the decision about Bahrain.
Lowdon: I agree with Martin. I think it does make it quite tough on the teams. I think one of our guys is getting married on December 4th as well, so we might have a problem.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca - VIP Magazine) Question for all of you: what kind of advice would you give for a teenager who is beginning to study and one day wants to work in Formula One? What piece of advice would you five guys give?
Newey: I guess the first question is where he or she wants to work, so is it technical, is it in marketing and so on and so forth? In my own area, on the technical side, I think by and large, academic studies help, so going to a good university, if that's possible, is clearly useful. At that point the person probably needs to decide which area they are going to specialise in, is it mechanical, aerodynamics, electronics, maths etc? Try and get some experience as well, even if it's working with a very small team, then anything that helps to build your CV and show that you are a committed, dedicated to motor racing and have both an academic flair and a real enthusiasm is mainly what we're looking for.
Whitmarsh: I don't have much to add to what Adrian said. I think you have to be realistic. Those of us who are working in Formula One or in motor sport, are very, very lucky. It's a great career but it's massively competitive, it's still a relatively small industry so I think if anyone sets their sights on a career within motor sport they should also have a Plan B because however good you are, you might not be fortunate enough to get in.
Mallya: A lot of Indian technology companies are already supporting established Formula One teams but I represent a country that is full of aspiration, with 500 million youngsters under the age of 18, aspiration levels run really, really high and everybody wants to be part of Formula One because of the image that Formula One has. But I'm not just very, very pleased with the level of response in our one-in-a-billion hunt for a driver, the number of CVs and applications coming through from people who want to be involved in engineering and design is quite incredible. There's a lot of talent out there. In the technology industry per se, India has been in the forefront for many decades and there is talent out there and we can use that talent as well, as we go forward. We have some internships already running for young Indian engineers so yes, there's a huge amount of opportunity.
Lowdon: I agree with Adrian, it's a mixture of experience but also knowledge. There's a remarkable number of people who look to get into a racing team who haven't prepared themselves with either and it constantly amazes me. I'm sure like all the other teams, we operate internships as well, with SMT University - I'm sure the other guys work with various universities and have close links with them, with education, which is important and there is no secret, it's hard work and application, and if you're prepared to put in the hard work and apply yourself, then anybody can get into the sport. But as Martin says, whether they stay in is a different matter.
Q: (Ian Parkes - Press Association) As you know, the state of emergency is due to be lifted in Bahrain on June 1, two days ahead of a decision being made about the Grand Prix, but I was wondering if any of you have made representations to either Bernie or the FIA that it is arguably morally and ethically wrong to still be going to Bahrain after what has happened there this year and is still going on?
Sauber: I think it's important that we be safe and the other point is that if we have three back-to-back races; that's really crazy.
Mallya: Well, I understand that there's a team principals meeting at 5pm to discuss this and after that I'm sure it will be debated at the World Motor Sport Council of which I'm a member, and I think it would be rather inappropriate for me to pre-judge the issue here, so let's wait for all the team principals to meet and to discuss it at the FIA level and see where we go.
Lowdon: I think you asked 'have we made any representations?' Certainly I haven't and John (Booth) hasn't but that's more because the situation so far is not clear in terms of what the recommendations would be from the FIA and from FOM etc and so we just have to wait and see what develops. As a company, we want to play an important role in this sort of decision as well, but I don't think we necessarily have all the information.
Whitmarsh: No representations, but I think, as Vijay said, I think it's probably something that's best discussed with the FIA and amongst the teams rather than via a press conference in any case.
Q: (Byron Young - The Daily Mirror) Could I ask Doctor Mallya: are you in the situation with Adrian Sutil that regardless of what he has or has not done, you're obligated to put him in the car for the year? If he's got a contract, he's got a contract.
Mallya: You know, contracts do not supercede misconduct so unless I'm convinced that there is misconduct the contract shall prevail. And I'm not willing to jump to any conclusions, based on a press release that has been given out by a potentially or supposedly aggrieved party. I don't know what happened there, none of my people know what happened at that particular incident so there's a due process of law. So if Adrian is to be charged with misconduct, let him be charged. If and when he's charged, I will assess the situation.