Features - Interview

NOVEMBER 9, 2010

Patrick Head

Patrick Head, Malaysian GP 2008
© The Cahier Archive

Co-owner Patrick Head talks about how Williams took the team's first pole for 100 races and Cosworth's first since Magny Cours 1999.

Co-owner Patrick Head talks about how Williams took the team's first pole for 100 races and Cosworth's first since Magny Cours 1999. Nico Hulkenberg's eventual eighth place moved the team ahead of Force India into six place in the constructors championship as Head gave his thoughts on F1 matter of the moment:

Q: What was the secret of Nico's Interlagos pole?

Quite clearly it was very well driven and well run from the pit wall. When you look at the dynamic of the way it worked, as you might expect it was Rubens who said as he was doing a lap on scrubbed intermediates, "the track's ready for dries, I'm coming in." Tom McCulloch, Nico's engineer asked if the track was ready for dries, Nico said it was too wet and Tom said, "well, Rubens is in the pits putting on dries." After which Nico nipped straight in and put on dries.

If you look at the sector times you see that Nico had a hard out lap and was able to do three consecutive hard laps. I don't think he would claim, yet, that the combination of himself and the Williams is faster than Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull in the dry. What he was able to do was get his tyres in the best temperature window better than anyone else. That was partly his toughness and determination and partly because he was able to do a hard out lap. Rubens, meanwhile, went out on his dries and was behind Lewis Hamilton. He couldn't really understand why Lewis was droning around on dries but going incredibly slowly while the temperatures just went down and down. Rubens wasn't able to find a way by and his tyres got very cold.

Q: Did you speak to Frank back in England?

Yes, he was on the pipe about five seconds afterwards! He said well done once, then was all talking about how we were going to do in the race.

Q: So he didn't say, "we'd better keep hold of that boy!..."


Q: Nico said after getting pole that he wanted a good race but realised the championship battle with Force India was important and hence the points. What is a ballpark figure for the financial difference between 6th and 7th?

I've not been told as a number but I'd think it would be something between $3-4m. Substantial. It would pay my wages anyway!

Q: You haven't announced your drivers for 2011. How tough will it be after such a rerace to tell one of them that for whatever reason you have to take another choice?

a) We're not making any statement on that until after the season, and b) if we've got nasty things to tell people, I'll let Adam Parr do it!

Q: Williams seems to be good at generating tyre temperature on a green track this year. Why is that?

Bridgestone, after the race, give all teams a specific report on tyres - the wear and condition - and tell us where we are in the graduation. They don't name the teams that are at the best and worst ends but they tell us where we are. When we get the car well set we are towards the good end and when we don't we are towards the bad end, but I don't think it's necessarily a characteristic all the time.

Q: What was your Sector 3 pace like, from the last corner to Turn 1 in the dry?

Not as quick as the Red Bulls! We were more competitive on the straight than we have been in recent running at Interlagos.

Q: How was Nico's engine situation?

It was actually a pretty young engine and Rubens had a new one, his last new engine of the season. Nico's engine had done FP3 and about 200 metres at Suzuka!

Q: With Lotus hailing its Renault deal, how big a shot in the arm for Cosworth was that pole position on a power track?

Nothing against the Renault engine because in their car and the Red Bull it's very good, but personally I'm not quite sure why Lotus have done it. I'm sure it's part of some sort of strategic plan for the future but in terms of whether it will make them any faster on the track, I rather doubt it.

Q: You mentioned the reports you get from Bridgestone. FOTA and Pirelli have agreed to data sharing next year. How do you feel about that as an engineer?

From our point of view we'd much prefer that and think it's a good thing. The problem is, if manufacturer teams are fitting £1000 per corner Pirellis onto their road cars and will inevitably have a better commercial relationship with Pirelli than Williams, if they are getting all of the mathematical models of the tyre to use in their simulators and special treatment, albeit that we might have exactly the same tyres, it puts us artificially behind. So we're happy that element exists.

Q: Which parts of Nico's race craft have most impressed you and which are the areas he still needs to improve?

I think he's progressed a lot and the implications of that is that he was bad at the beginning, whereas in fact he was at a good level when he started. Inevitably F1 throws up significantly bigger challenges, both in the complexity of the car and the environment and standard of competition. He's now very much more in control in the cockpit in terms of knowing when to be quick, when it's not necessary, when to leave a margin. An example, in FP3 in Brazil he went out on a set of intermediates, did one run , said the car was great and between himself and Tom, just agreed to leave it and keep that set of inters for qualifying. He only did about nine laps where others were doing 20. It was a mature approach. I don't think he was frightened of throwing the car off the track or anything, he just didn't see any benefit in running longer.

Q: Looking at the championship, have you any personal preferences or feelings about what you'd like to see happen?

Having worked with Mark Webber for a couple of years and, okay, he could go on for two or three, four, five years, but that would be nice. Sebastian Vettel is mighty good and mighty quick but he's got plenty of time although I'm sure he doesn't think that way and will be fighting like hell. Fernando Alonso will be fighting like hell too but he's won two world championships already. So I suppose I'd be happiest if Mark won it.

Q: Even in Williams heyday you didn't have four drivers from three different team all battling to the end. What has changed?

If you go back 10-15-20 years there was seldom more than two good teams at any one time and in the really old days Ferrari used to happily trip over themselves and get over-excited if they had a good race. Then the Jean Todt/Ross Brawn/Rory Byrne era came along, which we rather regretted because they were much more colourful when they used to have wine and spaghetti for lunch! In a way it's a bit surprising that Mercedes has been away from the front and not making it even closer. I'll be disappointed if there aren't four or five teams competing closely at the front next year and if Williams isn't one of them. We just need to persuade Adrian Newey to take more holiday...