2015 British Grand Prix – Friday Press Conference
Transcript of the Friday Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2015 British Grand Prix
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Matthew CARTER (Lotus), Vijay MALLYA (Force India), John BOOTH (Manor), Monisha KALTENBORN (Sauber), Eric BOULLIER (McLaren), Claire WILLIAMS (Williams)
If I could start with a question to all of you about the findings from the F1 Strategy Group meeting that took place on Wednesday and which were announced yesterday, particularly the restriction on driver aids, things like the manual clutch, from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. So some thoughts on that and other perhaps more long-term items that were discussed; what are the key talking points for you and maybe we can start with Eric?
Eric BOULLIER: Well, on this topic of driver aids I think there is more and more communication between the team and the drivers, a lot of electronics these days in the technology of driving the car, if I may say this. More and more the drivers are relying on the analysis of the telemetry to use the car, so I guess there is clearly a push for limiting, let me say, instructions to the drivers, how to run and handle car and to leave the drivers alone to drive the car.
Vijay, your thoughts on the wind of change blowing through – what are the key areas for the future?
Vijay MALLYA: If it make the sport more attractive, the racing more competitive, then I’m all for it. I’ve always, of course, held the opinion that there are several more fundamental issues that the strategy group should be focusing on. Having said that every small step that can make the sport more attractive is a welcome step. Let he drivers drive the cars. Maybe there will be more competitive racing and that would be good for all of us.
Claire WILLIAMS: I agree with everything that’s been said so far. I think the Strategy Group meeting on Wednesday was a really constructive one. We discussed a lot of items. The meeting was a long one, but I think the general consensus was that there is a real appetite to make changes to the sport in order to influence the show for our fans. Talking about the driver aids, the communications from pit wall to cockpit was a small part of the conversation we were having and I think that if that makes the racing more exciting that would be really interesting for everybody to see. I think they’re going to roll that one out really, really quickly and then the ones that we have to do a bit more work around we’ll have to wait and see when those come to the fore.
Matthew CARTER: Yeah, I agree. I think that any emphasis that we can place on the drivers has got to be better; it’s got to be better for the sport in general. I hope it’s a step in the right direction and it’s a small step towards some bigger changes being made. Having sat on the Strategy Group last year, I hope that some of the changes do come through. A lot of things get talked about and sometimes not a lot of things happen. I’m hoping it’s a step in the right direction and that there are bigger things to come.
Monisha KALTENBORN: Since we were not part of the discussion it’s difficult for me to go into the specifics of it but from reading what the Strategy Group decided it looks like it’s going in the right direction because to us equally it is important that the competition is interesting again – that’s what the fans want out there, the partners and it seems to be going into the right direction.
John BOOTH: I think we can all agree that anything that makes Formula One more exciting is a positive thing. But I can’t really comment on the Strategy Group views; all I’ve read is a press release that was released yesterday and without knowing any detail or rationale behind it it’s impossible to comment.
Thank you for that. Now we’ll get down to some individual questions and Eric, we’ll start with you. Only one of your cars has seen the chequered flag in the last couple of races – it’s been a particularly difficult phase of the season for you. Is there any particular reason why that’s going on?
EB: I guess that’s reliability. So far we have been struggling a little bit with transmission and power unit reliability, so it’s been, it’s true, particularly difficult in the last races on track layout which our not suiting our car very well as well, at least at the moment. We have a lot of potential unlock, we always say this, and I think so far we have been unsuccessful to unlock, every time we try we face same unreliability issues.
Thank you for that. Vijay, big weekend for you and the Force India car, with an updated car. Tell us about the effort behind the scenes that’s gone into that and also your hopes for the remainder of the season: you’ve got Red Bull not far ahead but you’ve got Lotus breathing down your neck just behind you, so what’s your focus?
VM: Well, all of us have been eagerly awaiting the British Grand Prix and the launch of our new B-spec car. I have mentioned before that the car that we have been racing so far in the season is basically last year’s car modified to suit the 2015 regulations but the B-Spec car is the VJM08 challenger. I was very impressed when I first saw it myself last night. There is a lot of aerodynamic innovation in it and it looks lean and mean. Today was the first outing, in FP1. I think we still have to optimise the package that we have. There will be the inevitable upgrades that will come in future races, so we are hopeful to have a strong second half of the season, gradually improving race by race. So, yeah, Red Bull are about 23 or 24 points ahead, Lotus are breathing down our necks, we’re used to that, but I wouldn’t be overly optimistic if I said we are targeting fourth in the championship this year.
Good luck with that. Claire, coming to you, you’ve pushed Ferrari off the podium in the last two grands prix. This race, again, at Silverstone should be a good one for you and the team. Is there a belief within the team that you can actually challenge them for second in the championship?
CW: Yes, I think after the past two races, where we’ve secured podiums in each grand prix, there was a slight feeling of that; when we finished Austria that potentially we could be challenging Ferrari in the remaining races coming up. I don’t think any of us probably thought that when we started this year, it was obviously… I’m loath to say the word disappointing because off the back of where we were a couple of years ago to still be third in the championship now is a great effort by everybody in our team. But I think that there definitely now is that feeling that we could potentially take the fight to Ferrari in the remaining rounds and I think that would be an amazing achievement if we could do that. Even just to challenger after thinking about where we were a couple of years ago would be great.
Matthew, three points-scoring finishes in the last couple of races. What’s been making the difference for you and your thoughts on the championship battle with Force India that Vijay has just alluded to?
MC: We’re definitely targeting fourth, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out. I think the key for us as a team is to get both of our cars to the end of the race and once we start to do that we can start to accumulate the points we believe we deserve and that we believe we’ve missed out on to this point. As long as we can work on our reliability, I think we know the pace is there, we know the downforce is there, as long as we can work on the reliability and we can get both cars to the end of the race then we are certainly looking for fourth and we’re certainly looking to get up the championship table.
Monisha, obviously Mark Smith has just joined the team, just been announced this week. What does he bring that you have been lacking?
MK: Well, he’s been in motor sport for a very long time, particularly in Formula One. He has a lot of experience, which we will benefit from. He’s also worked with private teams, so he is very well aware of the challenges that private teams have. He fits in well into our structure and I’m sure that with him coming in taking up particularly jobs that are, like, overarching ones and are across all the areas of our technical committee, the people in the technical committee can have more capacity to concentrate on their specific areas.
Thank you. John, some updates here this weekend on your car; Will was telling us about them yesterday in the press conference. What’s your plan, though, in terms of the long-term: the overview of where you go from here, how you build the team, the engine partnerships – the direction for the team?
JB: Well, after a very difficult, well-publicised start to the season, we are at last entering a positive phase. Last couple of races we have brought on board a couple of multi-national companies that are new to Formula One. We are back in the windtunnel on a regular basis, started last week, and we brought the updates to the race this weekend. But on first year looking very positive and we want to continue in that vein and keep pushing forward.
And more long-term, the whole structure of the team?
JB: We’re building, we’re building. We started in Australia with really a skeleton crew back here in Silverstone at the office, the full operating crew at the circuit. But over the months we’ve been gradually building the staff base back at the office and we hope by the end of the season we will be back up to full strength.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Bob Bull – BBC Three Counties Radio) We talk about the Strategy Group and all the changes that have been mentioned, if you were being entirely selfish as a team manager, what one change would any of you make to the rules – would you introduce a rule or take one away – what one, single thing would you do, being selfish, to help your team?
VM: Well, we are on the Strategy Group and the most important thing that we have been focusing on, as Force India, is to ensure the sustainability of all teams in Formula One. If that is addressed as it should be addressed, even the small independent teams can be very competitive. If Williams beat Ferrari I think racing will be very exciting. If Sauber can beat a Williams it will be even more exciting and if Force India can beat a Mercedes that will be the cherry on the cake! But what I’m trying to say, basically, is that if all teams are strong enough to be sustainable and can focus on producing a competitive car rather than worrying about how to survive that will be the best thing going forward.
Monisha, you’re nodding.
MK: I absolutely agree with that. I don’t think we can really put one measure out there and say this is the one because that would be a miracle and in Formula One at least miracle don’t happen. So, I think what we have to target is what we want to achieve at the end of the day and that’s to have an exciting, thrilling competition and so many topics are linked to that. It is making teams sustainable, having independent teams, making the competition, from a technical perspective, exciting but not over-complicated… We have to reach out to the people again and have that connectivity that we don’t have. So, it’s just a very big picture and we have to see what measures really make us get there.
Matthew, what one thing would you pick on?
MC: I think it’s a similar answer. I think at the moment one of things that frustrates certainly us at Lotus, it would appear that in order to win or even get near the podium in a Formula One race it’s pretty much related to how much money you spend. If that can be addressed in one way, shape or form, if the technical rules and regulations can be loosened and can allow for some smaller teams to come up with some innovative ideas, I think that goes back to the ethos of what Formula One is all about and if a small team can come up with something that isn’t immediately overruled or isn’t immediately copied by the bigger teams then hopefully it will open up and it will mean that you don’t just have to spend the most money to get the top of the grid.
JB: I totally agree with Vijay’s view. A fairer distribution of the income would help close up the grid and make the racing a little more exciting. The model’s out there in other sports throughout the world and it would be very easy to adopt for our sport.
What about the two big teams here – Claire?
CW: I think it’s a combination of what everyone has said so far; I don’t think I could add anything to it. But I don’t think it’s all just about changing one small thing. I think it’s a conglomerate; it’s about pulling everything together. I don’t think we should forget that this is an amazing sport. It’s one of the most-watched sports in the world. I remember watching it years ago thinking ‘these cars are amazing, these drivers are fantastic, they’re the heroes of our sport and these cars are rocket ships and they are the pinnacle of technical innovation’ and they still are and we still have to remember that. For me, personally, at the moment I would like to see more people talking more positively about our sport and the great things about our sport, not just the negatives, that we are trying to deal with as the Strategy Group at the moment.
And the manufacturer-based team point of view? Eric?
EB: Being selfish or not selfish?
EB: Being selfish… I am amazed, because you