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Japanese GP 2012

OCTOBER 5, 2012

Friday Press Conference

Fernando Alonso, Japanese GP 2012
© The Cahier Archive

5 OCTOBER 2012

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES - John BOOTH (Marussia), Monisha KALTENBORN (Sauber), Kim SPEARMAN (Cosworth), Martin WHITMARSH (McLaren), Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari), Ross BRAWN (Mercedes)


Q: John, the excellent result from Singapore means the team is currently 10th in the Constructors Championship? What does that mean to a team, its people and what does in mean in terms of finance as well?

John BOOTH: As far as the finance is concerned its a little unclear at the moment as the Concorde expires at the end of the year so we dont really know where we are with that at the moment. But certainly it was a great lift for the whole team. There are only 12 places there and 10th place takes some earning. These Formula One cars just dont break down anymore. You have to earn every position. We had a small celebration afterwards, as you do, but we do realise that we still have a mountain to climb. Its a small step. Its the right direction but it's not where we want to be; we want to be a bit further.

Q: Youve recently announced Max Chilton as your third or reserve driver. What are your plans for him and what are your plans for Charles Pic, who has done a good job for the team this year?

Booth: Were in discussions with Charles. Hes done an outstanding job, as you say. Hes had a wonderful rookie year. Were in talks with his management and wed love to keep him for 2013. Hes done a great job, particularly in getting quite close to Timo in race situations; I think hes done a really good job there. Max is part of our young driver programme and has been for a couple of years. Hes part of the natural progression and maybe well give him a Friday morning before the end of the year.

Q: Monisha, first of all, youve lost Sergio but is Esteban Gutierrez almost an instant replacement for him?

Monisha KALTENBORN: Well, as weve been saying before, we will announce our driver line-up for next year in due course and were not in a hurry in doing that.

Stefano DOMENICALI: We will do the same!

Kaltenborn: We still have to sort things out. Regarding Esteban, hes been with the team a long time, and this goes back to Formula BMW times, and whatever we do with him, and hes been our reserve and test driver for the past two years, is something totally independent from Sergios leaving and we dont really want to mix them together. Well announce whatever we have to in due course.

Q: In terms of performances over the last few races, theyve been a bit up and down but there have been some very promising performances as well. Is there a certain frustration within the team that those performances havent led to the results they should have?

Kaltenborn: Of course there is, because we have been seeing that the car is a very competitive car and when you dont get the results you expect because of situations which you have no chance to change, youre just in there without any fault of your own, it is a bit frustrating but more important is that we still continue to believe in this car, which is also the basis for next years car. So we just take it race by race and we hope it will turn out better next time.

Q: Kim, can you tell us where Cosworth is at the moment, in terms of 2012 and 2013?

Kim SPEARMAN: For 2012, obviously we turn our attention to the next six races and helping out teams to do the best they can. Trying to consolidate Johns teams situation in 10th place in the Constructors (Championship). As youve probably read theyve re-signed and partnered with us for 2013 when theyll use a KERS-enabled package, which we hope will bring yet another step up in pace for them. Were very excited about that. And were still in negotiation with HRT.

Q: And in terms of 2014, new engine; what are the plans?

Spearman: Love to do it. If we can find a commercially sustainable way to provide a competitive platform for some potential customers, wed like to do that. We are in useful negotiations with customers and hopefully well find a way to be in. Weve been in business for 54 years, much of it in Formula One. Weve got passionate people back at Cosworth who want to stay in Formula One and wed like to get there.

Q: Has anything started on paper?

Spearman: Oh yes. Weve been working on the engine for 18 months.

Q: Martin, very interesting, your driver line-up for next year; they're two drivers who are known to be very easy on tyres. What effect will that have on the team and the car?

Martin WHITMARSH: I dont think it will have a distinct effect. I just think we will be working hard to make the car as quick as we can and of course as kind to the tyres as we can. Its not easy but obviously if you have a well-balanced car with plenty of downforce then typically theyre kinder on the tyres but I dont think the drive line-up will influence that, well be doing the best job we can in that regard.

Q: Drivers always say theyre always learning. Where is Sergio Perez on that learning curve, in comparison with Lewis Hamilton?

Whitmarsh: In fact, Sergios about the same age now as Lewis was when he started in Formula One, so hes some way further down the learning curve, which of course makes it intriguing and exciting to see what we can do and how he can develop. So I think its going to be a very interesting spring as we work together, and of course the goal is to have him in a condition where he can go into that first race with the potential to win it.

Q: Do you think it weakens the team at all in comparison with the current situation?

Whitmarsh: Well, I think the current driver line-up is a very strong driver line-up and well see next year just how strong Sergio can be and well whether its weakened us or not. But I think whatever happens, weve got a super experienced guy in Jenson and weve got an exciting, fresh young talent in Sergio so were looking forward to it.

Q: Stefano, youve already denied that youre going to tell us who youre drivers are going to be next year, so a very easy question for you: do you know whos going to drive for you next year?

Domenicali: I should.

Q: You should know? Do you?

Domenicali: I think to go ahead with this kind of speculation I dont think its so relevant or interesting. As we said: very soon we will tell you what is the situation and up until the moment I have news on that I will stay quiet. Also because I would start to be very boring in giving the same answer to the same question.

Q: In terms of the wind tunnel, interesting news there. What can be done to the wind tunnel in the short term? Is there a problem with it, do you think? What is the problem with the wind tunnel at the moment?

Domenicali: I think for sure our structure is not the best one in that respect, it is quite old, so as always - and I think its happened to all of us - for sure in different situations, were trying to improve the quality of the tools that we have. And this is something that we are trying to do mainly to improve the correlation issue that we had and this is the plan: that we should be able to do in the next season.

Q: So, when will it be open again?

Domenicali: First of all its still open and were working in our wind tunnel. As you know we are using another facility and in the next couple of weeks we will define what is the problem to be more specific than that, in order to see whats really the time we have to spend by shutting it down and trying to improve the things that are not at the maximum level at the moment.

Q: Ross, obviously new driver, what sort of promises did you make to him? Obviously all drivers want a winning car, what sort of promises did you have to make in terms of your team, the team which will be building next years car?

Ross BRAWN: Im not sure youd describe them as promises but we set out the path that the team is on, what were trying to do, the people we have in place to try and achieve that, the facilities weve built up over the last couple of years and, as you do with any driver, you present that vision and the objectives you have for the next few years and thats what we did.

Q: What sort of pressure are you under from a driver like Lewis, but also from the board as well?

Brawn: I think all of us here are under substantial pressure but a lot of it is pressure you generate yourself because you want to take part in a very competitive sport. I think none of us have handcuffs holding us to this business, we do it because we enjoy it and its our ambition to succeed in this business, so there is pressure at every level. Theres pressure at Johns [Booth] level, hes trying to achieve tenth place, a massive task; were trying to go forward. Most of that pressure for me personally is the pressure from within, not the pressure from a driver or the pressure from a board.


Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta Dello Sport ) Martin, did you feel betrayed by Lewis decision?

Whitmarsh: No.

Q: (Sam Collins - Racecar Engineering) Question for Stefano, you mentioned theres been a correlation issue with your wind tunnel, how has that affect the development of this years car so far?

Domenicali: I think that... well, Im sure that is happening also to other things. Ive seen above all in the second part of the season when we were trying to bring new updates on the car, that not all the updates were working on the track. So, we start to investigate a little bit better and weve found that was this issue, that going into the deep analysis of the reason, we understood, we considered it was coming from the tool that is... not obsolete but not really up to the speed of the new technologies that are available on the market. So, that was the reason why we are thinking to do that, to make sure that at the least the percentage of the things that we bring at the track is higher than what we have now.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Monisha, you have three or four Mexican sponsors, without Sergio can you keep them? Whats the prospect for next season?

Kaltenborn: Well, to start with, the prospect for next season is good. We are very confident we will be around, for hopefully more years. As for the sponsors, we know that Telmex, that is Mr [Carlos] Slim Domit has also publically stated that his project with Sauber, regarding the Escuderia Telmex, is a long-term project, so it will not be affected by Sergios leaving the team.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Are the other sponsors linked to that project, or are they separate with Sergio?

Kaltenborn: Its a natural link there, obviously, because they are from the same country, but it is not just all that simple that because one driver leaves us all these sponsors will leave. It doesnt necessarily have to mean that.

Q: (Thibaut Villemant - Auto Hendo) Question to Monisha, we saw that you wanted to try Robin Frijns for the rookie test - can you confirm the information?

Kaltenborn: We have not as yet announced our drivers for the Young Driver days - we will also do that very shortly.

Q: (Gary Meenaghan - The National) Martin, yesterday when we sat here, Lewis joked to Sergio that he knows exactly whats going on with Sergios car for next year. To what extent is that true, and how much of a concern is it for McLaren?

Whitmarsh: No, I think Lewis has been part of the team for a long time, I think he knows the people and what were trying to do but I dont think theres any great secrets in that, so I dont think its a concern. I think if I was pursuing intellectual property from other teams, Id probably go for engineers not drivers. But I think again, Lewis is respectful of the team and what its doing, and I think he knows were doing to do everything we can in the remaining six races to try and win, and try and win some championships and I think the best way to do that is to work together, be open and carry on as you ordinarily would.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta Dello Sport) Stefano, Fernando has said in the last few races that hes waiting for Ferrari to counter-attack and not always be on the defensive. Looking also at the problem you have with wind tunnel, how can you guarantee that youre going to be able to give him the things he needs to attack and not always defend and wait for what the others are doing? Is there a plan with that? Have you discussed it?

Domenicali: The plan is to try to push as much as we can, bring new developments every race but it isnt easy. So the guarantee is the effect on the effort on the team to work very hard. More than that is just pure words, and that doesnt help the situation. So, for sure, I think the situation in the championship is very clear: if you are not able to improve the car then it is more difficult to fight for the championship because we cannot rely on the problem of the others. Thats the fact but it doesnt mean that we will not push as hard as possible. But is a consideration that we cannot rely only on being third, fourth, whatever it is, we need to make sure that at least we win a race and then we will see what will be the situation with the others.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Martin, among Lewis's other comments was the possibility of him going back to McLaren in the future. I don't know when the last McLaren driver was who came back to McLaren after leaving but is that possible? Would you say that's a possibility in the future?

Whitmarsh: Yes, certainly, yes, I think it is. But I think he's joining a strong team in Mercedes, I don't think he'll be coming back any time soon. I'm sure they've got a good contract and they will want to work with him. I don't think Lewis's intention is to hop from team to team on an annual basis. I'm sure that's not Ross's intention either but never say never, as they say, and we'll see what happens in the future. Again, people want to talk about it a lot, obviously, and we're trying to focus on doing the job that we're here to do, but I think the relationship between the team and Lewis is a good one, I think it's a respectful relationship between Mercedes and McLaren as well. We're out there competing and we don't have a problem with anything that's happened, with Lewis's decision or anything else. In the future, I don't think it will be in the very near term but who knows?

Q: (Sam Collins - Racecar Engineering) Question to the engine suppliers: you have, from the sound of it, V6 engine designs, on the test bench or on the CAD system. Are you looking at full energy recovery systems or are you outsourcing those?

Domenicali: Yes, as we are doing this now in the current situation, so developing our system together with our suppliers and this is part of the challenge of the 2014 powertrain project, to confirm the fact that we are already on full boost in our department, to make sure that we are ready in proper time for this new huge challenge, because for us, it means that we had to start and to update all the infrastructure, to make sure that these new engines and this new system are ready to run, first in the facility and then we need to be ready with a new engine, trying to find the customers for the future and trying to make sure that we are competitive, because one of the things for 2014 is the fact that for all of us, both from the chassis point of view, due to the regulations and also for the engine and powertrain regulations point of view, we are starting from target references that are purely - how can I say? - self-made without having any kind of information or relation with the other competitors. So it will be an incredible task, at least for us which is a small team in terms of dimension to make sure that we are able, both, as I said, from the chassis project but also from the engine, to match strong teams like Mercedes, like Renault and all the other teams that are working very hard already on this new 2014 project.

Brawn: This past couple of seasons we've done our own energy recovery system in-house. We felt we wanted to take that under our control and so the battery technology is bought in but most of the other technology is developed within Mercedes and we will plan to continue to do so for 2014.

Spearman: Yeah, we'll be developing a bespoke Cosworth system with an outsource supplier and by necessity, different chassis will need variants of that, so we will be doing our own with somebody else, if you like.

Q: (Gaetan Vigneron - RTBF) Ross, were you surprised by the announcement of the retirement of Michael Schumacher yesterday, or was it something that you suspected for a few weeks or months? And for all of you, would you give your opinion about his retirement, which is a big loss for F1?

Brawn: We've had a lot of discussions with Michael over the past months, six weeks or so and whilst Michael hadn't made his decision in those early discussions, he came to that conclusion in the past few days. In many ways, it's a sad moment, when someone of the calibre and achievements of Michael stops racing but he's happy with that decision, he's at peace with that decision, and I think that's the important thing. He's happy with the decision that he's made and I think we've all got to have huge respect for him making that decision. I think Formula One will be losing someone very important, especially as this second time that Michael came back he had a slightly different approach and I think I saw many fans who were perhaps not quite so enthusiastic during Michael's first era coming back and really supporting him. When he got a podium in Valencia, it was nice to see how much support he had from the paddock. But he's done a very very good job for us and we've repeated many times that if we'd provided him with a better car then he would have won races. There are some races where he was certainly quick enough to win - this year alone, Monaco - so it's the passing of an era and one which is hard to imagine anyone repeating the achievements that he's managed in his driving career.

Domenicali: What I can add to what Ross has just said is that I think Michael has showed that he is still a very very fast driver He's a seven time World Champion but he's still one of the top drivers in the field and as a friend of his, I'm very happy for the decision that he takes because I think that in his experience he's come to this conclusion because I think that considering the situation it's the best for him. We all wish - not only from my personal side, but from all the Ferrari family - the best for his future. He's still young, so he will do a lot of things for sure.

Whitmarsh: Firstly, I'm not as qualified as the two gentlemen on my left (Domenicali and Brawn) who know him much better than I do, but his achievements are difficult to imagine, certainly in our lifetime, being improved on so inevitably it's a loss. He's a name, a brand within the sport, his achievements have been great whatever he does. I personally think this year has been his strongest since he returned and as Ross said, with a bit more luck he could have won some races this year, but clearly it's his decision and it's a loss to the sport but I guess any great athlete has to decide when it's time to go.

Spearman: He's obviously one of the greats and I'm sure he will be a fantastic ambassador both for Mercedes and the sport going forwards. I think we'll still see him around a lot.

Kaltenborn: Michael Schumacher is by far the most successful driver in Formula One's history, and when he returned to the sport, it was undoubtedly good for Formula One and his leaving now will for sure be a loss for the sport.

Booth: I've only been fortunate enough to experience Michael's last few years in Formula One but I think he's been a wonderful ambassador. Obviously his performances speak for themselves. The way he handles himself in the paddock, particularly in adversity, he is the absolute professional and a real example to young drivers.

Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Martin, Lewis told us in Tokyo that there was nothing you could have put on the table that would have kept him at McLaren at the end of the day, although maybe a £100m cheque would have done it. But he seems to have been lured him by the attraction of what Mercedes can offer him in 2014 when engine changes are made. Is it frustrating for you that you couldn't hang on to him with something concrete, and do you feel that you will be at a disadvantage in 2014?

Whitmarsh: Not just 2013. Lewis is a great driver and Mercedes, I'm sure, are very happy to have him and therefore losing a driver like that is something that, as a team principal, you don't set out to do. But if you tell me that there's nothing we could have put on the table which would have kept him then it makes me feel a whole lot better. Lewis made a decision, I respect that and believe me, we're working very closely and very hard together to see if we can win these remaining races and that's what we're focused on. Looking forward to 2013/2014, then we've got a fantastic partnership with Mercedes Benz and we're going to be heading into both of those seasons trying to win.

Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Ross, do you feel that you will have an advantage?

Brawn: Well, our agreement with McLaren is to supply engines to the same specification. None of us really know how it's going to be in 2014 in terms of engine performance, engine reliability. There won't be huge differences. We have a one team policy, a one team principle. Our staff at Brixworth and Brackley work together as one entity and that does bring them closer than can be achieved with a customer, but McLaren are an extremely professional customer. Our ambition is to have the best engine in 2014 as is Stefano's and McLaren will have that engine as well.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Stefano, you have to try to win at least a race in these last six races Today, Ferrari seems to be struggling a little bit compared to McLaren and Red Bull. How do you see things this weekend?

Domenicali: As always on Fridays it's very difficult to have a clear picture because you never know what the others are doing. For sure we know what we've done. It's a little bit too premature to see, after today, that we will struggle this weekend. For sure what we have seen is that as normal we have competitors that are very strong but this is nothing new. This is the picture just one hour after the end of free practice two, so we need to analyse, try to understand what the others were doing. So I don't want to say anything that will be different tomorrow so I'm a little bit cautious.

Q: (Vanessa Ruiz - ESPN Radio) Stefano, one of the possible views on the McLaren/Perez deal is that Ferrari lost a talented young driver since Perez was from the academy, so what does the team have to say about it, what's your view on that?

Domenicali: Nothing. I mean he had this opportunity, and I think that what we wish to him is the best for his future. I think that he received this offer or he discussed this offer with a very important team and I think that first of all we didn't have any right to block him or to say something in that respect, because he was a driver who is working for the Sauber team. As I said, I think that Ferrari gave him a bit of experience by helping him in understanding something and that's the way it is. We need to accept that and we will see. We are working with other young drivers that we hope we will be able to bring in our team as they will be considered ready, so that's what I can say.

Q: (Bryon Young - The Daily Mirror) Could I just ask Monisha whether any talks were held with Michael Schumacher about him potentially driving for you in the future?

Kaltenborn: We were never in negotiations with him.

Q: (Andrew Gwilym - Press Association) Ross, Michael mentioned yesterday that he has plenty of options what to do with his future. Is one of those options for him to be retained within your team in a different role?

Brawn: We've not discussed that. It's not something that we've explored yet. Michael's got huge experience and everyone's got massive respect for him. It's not possible to say. I think Michael's going to spend a few months just reflecting on - let's say - this new opportunity he has and I'm sure he will think very seriously about whatever he'll do, he will do extremely professionally and effectively, but at the moment, no idea what that will be.