TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Gerry HUGHES (Caterham), Rob WHITE (Renault Sport F1), James KEY (Toro Rosso), Pat SYMONDS (Williams), Adrian NEWEY (Red Bull Racing), Jonathan NEALE (McLaren)
Gerry, head of track operations at Caterham, could you fill us in on the details of the changes at Caterham in so far as it affects your department?
Gerry HUGHES: Well, I think it’s fair to say that from a track operations perspective it’s business as usual. The new owners are here for the first time this weekend, to observe the trackside operation. We’ll show then what we do on a race weekend and as I said, it’s business as usual.
So what are the objectives for the team for the rest of 2014 and looking ahead to 2015 in terms of resources and allocating them and that kind of thing?
GH: Well, after a period of uncertainty with the new owners coming in, they’ve given us a direction and a remit and certainly our goal for the remainder of the season is to finish 10th in the championship. The design of the new car is going ahead and is on schedule, so we look forward to 2015, but certainly the remit from the new owners is to finish 10th in the championship.
James, coming to you, obviously some good pace recently from Toro Rosso, but also some reliability concerns – retirements etc. And also of course the issue with Jean-Eric today.
James KEY: If I could you tell you everything James I think we’d have our issues sorted. I think some of it to be honest is a little bit of bad luck we’ve had recently. I think the last three events for us have been problematic, before then it was OK towards the beginning of the season. We’ve had a couple of self-inflicted issues and we’ve had a couple of unexpected issues. Monaco, for example, was entirely unexpected, we traced the issues we had with the exhaust but they’d never happened before then or after. So that was a bit of a one-off and a great disappointment because we were strong there. Since then we’ve had a couple of niggles that have been self-inflicted – a bit of brake blanking which was maybe a bit too high and this sort of thing, little operational things occasionally. A bit of a surprise in Austria with the suspension issue, so it’s been a frustration for sure, because when you have a little bit of pace and can finish in the points you want to make the most of that. But we’re looking at everything very carefully. Clearly we want to make sure we can get through this rather rough patch of reliability and just get on with the rest of the season.
Your drivers seem to be performing well and they’re well matched as well. How are you seeing their development?
JK: I think it’s good actually. I think having both of them so close. Dan’s come in this year and has an old head on young shoulders. His learning curve is extremely steep. His feedback and so on has developed tremendously. He’s been really quite strong right from the outset, which we’ve been quote pleased with. And Jean-Eric is a great driver and he’s more focused this year than we’ve seen him this year. He recognises that there is a hot-shoe across the table, pushing him, so it’s a very healthy situation. They work well together and we’re enjoying the fact that we’ve got two guys who are pushing each other.
Jonathan, there’s no escaping the fact, when you look at the championship table, that you’re the fourth-placed Mercedes-powered team. What’s the plan for turning it around and do you take some encouragement from what’s happened today in free practice?
Jonathan NEALE: I don’t think we take much encouragement from free practice today. Just talking to colleagues here about how the track has been today, it’s been quite unpredictable out there, both this morning and this afternoon. We’ve got a lot of work to do internally to rebuild on the difficulties we have last year. It’s well known that we’re actively strengthening the team at the moment. Eric and I and Ron are working hard to make sure we return ourselves to the performance of where we should be as quickly as possible, but it’s a tough job. There’s no easy way through this. You have to remember that whichever end of the grid you’re at, each of us has 80 runs per week in the wind tunnel by regulation. That’s it; you’ve got to make the most of it. So you have to fight hard and that’s what we’re doing. But there’s a lot of culture change going on, there’s a bit of strengthening of the team, there are some tough things to do, but we’re coming back.
This week Ron Dennis, your boss, gave Jenson Button a little bit of a hurry-up, as we say here in England, ahead of the British Grand Prix. What are your thoughts on that?
JN: I think he did the same thing to Ayrton Senna. I’m pretty sure he did the same thing to Kevin. I think if you listen to my phone on a daily basis he’ll be doing the same thing to me. It’s chip paper.
Thank you. Coming to you Pat. Can you tell us about this morning? It was not a trouble-free morning for the Williams team and also this afternoon, with Valtteri’s engine cover.
Pat SYMONDS: Yeah, it’s been a difficult day. These are the sort of contrasts you get in motorsport. A great weekend in Austria and today we’ve been like a dog running after a rabbit, trying to chase down our problems. Engine problems this morning; power unit problems. We were running and engine right up past the end of its life and it was a risk we decided to take and it didn’t come off. Accident from Felipe, bodywork problems this afternoon. And then on top of that it’s not been an easy day anyway, as Jonathan said. The wind has been gusting, it’s been very difficult to get a read on the car, the tyres have been hard too. It brought us back down to earth today.
It’s been quite a turnaround for the Williams team from last year to this year. At this stage of last year’s championship you had zero and now you have 85 in the Constructors’ Championship. It shows it can be done but what is still missing do you think?
PS: It depends what your ultimate targets are and the ultimate target is to win the Constructors’ Championship, so there is still a long way to go there. The improvements that have been made in the team are quite dramatic and they continue to show improvements all the way through. I think we need a good, solid, ambitious, long-term plan and just keep improving from here.
Adrian, it’s the first time we’ve had the chance to talk to you in an official session since it was announced that you are staying at Red Bull but in a revised role. Can you tell us how hands on you will be in Formula One cars in the future.
Adrian NEWEY: Much less so than I am at the moment, obviously. I think I will really be stepping back to become an advisor and mentor for the team, the engineers that we have there. Some involvement, of course, in the design. But that’s really towards the end of the year. For the moment I’m still fully involved.
Obviously there have been some changes at Renault. Can you give us your thoughts on that, in terms of the management changes?
AN: I think it can only be a good thing. Cyril joining; he’s a very strong person. I think it will bolster Rob in terms of Rob then being able to concentrate on all the technical aspects without having to also be involved in other areas. It plays to his strengths without a doubt and hopefully we’ll see the fruits of that in the future.
Rob, let’s throw that to you: what does it mean for you and your team of engineers?
Rob WHITE: I think it’s good that Cyril comes back to us; has a change of colour of shirt. I’m looking forward to sharing with Cyril the way forwards. As we said previously, it’s important that we step up to deliver the improvements that we completely understand are required. I think we have some very clear messages from Red Bull that have been expressed all over the place. It’s not hard to see what’s required. We know, we understand, and my job and of the team at Viry is to deliver.
So how close to the maximum performance from this power unit, in the current specification, are you?
RW: I guess that’s a kind of moving target type question. At any point in time you’re always extremely close to the maximum performance of the specification on the day. But the maximum performance of the specification can move on. I think we’ve seen already during the course of this season that we’ve made significant headway without a substantial change to the thing that you probably want to call the specification of the hardware and there’s still scope to progress during the rest of this season and then during the winter period then the way the regulations are, the way the engineering programmes are structured, then there’s more scope.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Marc Surer – Sky Germany) I have a question for James Key. When you watch the top speeds, your car is always right at the top compared to the other Red Bull team – Adrian always builds the slowest Red Bull car on the straight. Was it your intention to always make the car so fast on the straight? And if so what was the plan behind that?
JK: I think a lot of it is a car philosophy thing. For us, somehow, STR cars have always had a certain amount of efficiency about them: it was like it before these regulations as well. We tended to have cars that were relatively quick in a straight line. So, I think some of it is just natural from where we are. As a team, to be brutally honest, until recently we haven’t been able to extract more rear wing performance until now, so we probably just been a little bit low on rear wing capacity which has helped that. Equally I think that we did look at the competition in winter testing and recognise the only thing we could do to try to address some of the straight line speed capabilities of some of the cars, particularly the Mercedes cars, was to look at drag as well and, from a chassis perspective, try and tackle it that way. But I think it’s a track-by-track thing. Here we’re mid-table, so it’s not always the case.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question for Jonathan. Jonathan, James said that currently you’re fourth of the Mercedes teams, however next year you’ll be first of the Honda teams. Obviously you’ve only got sixth months to go before the change. At what stage are you with this Honda development programme, who is responsible for what and how are the current testing regulations working against such a project?
JN: There’s several questions in that Dieter. There’s a lot of work going on in Tochigi and Sakura at the moment with Honda on the power unit. They are responsible for the power unit including the ERS in its entirety. We are responsible for the chassis and the systems integration piece. Hardware is running, the clock is running and time is short and I think there is a lot of work to do before we’re ready for January of next year.
In terms of how the regulations help or hinder, then I don’t think the current lack of track testing is an impediment because I don’t think we’re at that stage. We not ready for that at the moment to be quite honest with you. So, even if we could get out and run a car that’s not something we would consider right now. We’ve got our hands full with our current issues right now because regardless of what power unit is in the car, we don’t have the best chassis that’s out there and obviously given the performance of last year and this year our immediate focus is what’s going on inside McLaren. So, to some extent, we are doing what we’re responsible for and sorting that out. Of course, with an eye on the horizon. But yeah, we’ve got a lot to do. It’s exciting that the regulations have allowed, or attracted, another engine manufacturer in. I don’t think any of us are under any illusion as to how challenging that is going to be, to go through another iteration of the repackaging, and go through a winter of all of the heat-rejection stuff that we’ve done, the packaging, the ERS etc. We’ve been through it once, we’ll do it again.
Q: (Keith Weir – Reuters) Question for Gerry. Can I just be clear, you say the new owners are here this weekend. Do you mean the new management or the people who put the money up – the investors about whom there is a little bit of uncertainly about who exactly they are? And have you been given any guarantees as to the level of funding, staffing, that kind of thing for next season, if you’re talking about 2015?
GH: If I answer the first part of your question first, I suppose you probably know as much about the overall management structure and the investor as I do. Obviously clearly Christijan