Midland F1 team principal Colin Kolles may only have been involved in the sport for a season, but he has made a pretty big impact in that time. Just weeks into his new job, he caught the eye of rival bosses by turning up to a team principal's meeting in jeans, and he has never shaken off the 'Chavski' image attached to him after wearing that Burberry cap in Australia last year.
At the launch of the new Midland M16 at Silverstone on Friday, Kolles may have looked a bit different in a brand new suit, but his uncompromising attitude to the sport and his determination to make his team a success remained unaltered.
Q: Was your first year in Formula One harder than you imagined?
Colin Kolles: "I am not the type of guy who has this kind of thought. You have to take it as it as it is, and to make it better. If I go home and I think, 'Oh it is such a hard job and I am having such a hard time' then I am in the wrong place. So it was clear that it was a tough job so I don't complain about this."
Q: Was it the right way for Midland to come into F1 to take over another team, rather than do what Super Aguri have done and start from scratch?
Kolles: "Yes I think so. I definitely think so. Now I definitely think so, when we took over I was unsure to be honest but now after one year, yes."
Q: How much improved will the team be this season - both organisationally and on the track?
Kolles: "We try to work more efficiently with the engineers, we try to work more efficiently in the management and we try to have a more efficient car. That is what we want to achieve and to get better results at the end of the day."
Q: Can an independent team like Midland realistically compete against the manufacturers who seem to be spending more and more on F1?
Kolles: "Well, I don't think it is only pumping more and more money in. Toyota it is known they have quite a big budget and I think it is a matter of efficiency and reaction time, and of young, motivated people. This is what we are at the moment. We are fighters and sometimes this counts more."
Q: How concerned are you about Super Aguri, especially considering television money in F1 only goes to the top 10 teams?
Kolles: "Ask me after 19 races, and then I can answer this question..."
Q: Did you not want them in originally?
Kolles: "No that is not true. If we say we are looking into it and obviously we have a team owner, with Mr. Shnaider, and we have the Midland Group who are also shareholders and obviously they invested a lot of money into this F1 team to make certain decisions. I don't think any decision from our side was delayed. It has to be just to sit on the table and make the right decision and because it was obviously a fundamental decision."
Q: Were there any direct discussions with Super Aguri?
Kolles: "No. I have never met Mr. Suzuki and I have never spoken to him. I know Daniele Audetto, I know him from before, but I don't know Mr. Suzuki and I am looking forward to meeting him."
Q: But wasn't Bernie Ecclestone involved in the discussions to get the support of the 10 teams?
Kolles: "No really, to be honest. Obviously we are talking on a regular basis with Mr. Ecclestone, which is a normal thing for everybody, every team involved and every team principal. So there was not only this topic basically, although obviously we spoke about this situation. We spoke about other things."
Q: How strong is Midland's financial situation?
Kolles: "Stronger than some people are thinking."
Q: So you can compete against a strong independent team like Williams?
Kolles: "It is not all about money. You have to have money, but you also have to know how to use the money. We are quite confident that we know how we use our money, and that we don't necessarily throw it out."
Q: Your technical director James Key mentioned on stage that the target is to beat Red Bull Racing and BMW. Is that realistic?
Kolles: "Well obviously we know that we have made a big step forward. A big step forward. I don't know what kind of steps the others are doing but usually you don't make those kind of big steps.
"We obviously had a car that was two years old, we developed it a little bit during the year and had a B-version, and this is a completely new car and it has big potential. We are not finished with the car and it will be developed during the season and we will see what level we are in Bahrain."
Q: Bridgestone appear to have made a step forward this winter, plus they have help from more teams. Is that something that will particularly help Midland?
Kolles: "Obviously there is some improvement because in Jerez where we know what fuel levels we were driving, the time differences were not that big anymore like they were during the season. So definitely this tyre rule change is a plus for us."
Q: Tiago Monteiro announced to the Portuguese press several weeks ago that he had agreed a deal with you, but it was only announced last night. Why was that?
Kolles: "No. We agreed a deal with Tiago one year ago, you know. But it is not a matter to disclose contracts and if you have a deal with options inside which are automatic then you don't necessarily need to make an announcement."
Q: How do you rate your two drivers in terms of the job they can do?
Kolles: "I am a very strong believer in these two drivers. I have known them for a long time and they have big potential. I am very pleased with my drivers; I would not like to have other drivers at the moment. That is my real feeling at the moment."
Q: Do you think Monteiro can finish all 19 races this year?
Kolles: "Yes, I hope so. And 19 in the points. That would be even better."
Q: What is your third driver situation?
Kolles: "It will be a rotating system. Mondini, Winkelhock and Sutil will all have a chance at a certain stage. It is the engineers who will decide. We are looking to have young drivers, all of them have proven in the past that they are able to bring results and we will see how it develops.
"We cannot afford to pay millions for drivers like Jenson Button. It is not my strategy. I think we have very good drivers and I think we have drivers who won more races than other drivers who are in F1. This is our strategy. We don't need superstars, we hope to make them."
Q: How much are you thinking about the longer-term future for Midland? Toyota have been linked with Williams for next season, for example.
Kolles: "Well, you have to ask Toyota about this. I don't have any signs from Toyota that they don't want to continue with us. I am not scared about the engine situation to be honest. I am not concerned at all."
Are you determined to keep Toyota, or are you open in terms of what happens beyond the end of this year?
Kolles: "No, we want to grow with Toyota and we want to keep a close relationship. And the relationship is not decreasing at the moment, it is increasing. So I cannot complain at the moment. We are bound more together than last year, so for me there is no issue at the moment."
Q: You said you want to make superstars, not buy superstars. What happens if you do make superstars - can you keep them?
Kolles: "Well, this is a thing that you have to ask me maybe next year, two years or even three years. Then I can answer you this question. At the moment for sure we want to keep them but F1 is a business.
"So you never know, if Ferrari or McLaren or Toyota are offering lots of money and we cannot offer a driver the same perspective or the same amount of money, then that is life. That is normal. It is in football the same."
With four test drivers, is there not a risk that they will not get enough track time to show what they can do?
Kolles: "Well, we will have a quite big testing schedule and testing programme. We will see, because also BAR (Honda Racing) has four or five young drivers, so we will see. We have to give them a chance to sit in the car. Markus Winkelhock was already driving, Rusinov was driving already, Mondini was driving with Renault.
"We have to see how Adrian Sutil is doing the job and he is obviously under contract with TOM'S Toyota in Japan, so this is his main target to win the Japanese F3 championship. It is a step-by-step development. It is not expected that next year Sutil will sit in an F3 car. You have to see how they develop and then make your decisions."
Q: Is there any chance with your Toyota links that Midland could become a Toyota junior team or bring in Toyota's young drivers?
Kolles: "Time will show. Everything is possible. It depends also on the regulations and depends on a lot of things. At the moment we are independent. We have Toyota as an engine supplier and as a partner. We are very happy with this situation.
"The relationship is improving and getting closer. We have more people from Toyota involved in the team and that is what is happening at the moment. What will happen in the future is just speculation at the moment."
Q: What is your understanding at the moment about where the Toro Rosso V10 engine will be? Tim Routsis from Cosworth suggested last week that it should just be slower than their own V8 engine, while others believe it should be slower than every V8 engine.
Kolles: "Obviously I have a very clear opinion. This engine does not belong in Formula One any more. It is not the regulation. It has been accepted due to a financial reason for Minardi and this is not any more the case. For me it is not understandable - (Red Bull) spending hundreds of millions, having two Formula One teams and bullshitting the world, basically."
Q: You believe it should be pegged back to the slowest car on the grid?
Kolles: "Yes. And zero points, the car is not legal. That is the point. It is very clear."
Q: Are you expecting a problem to come up in Bahrain?
Kolles: "If they are in front of us then they will have a problem because I will not be very happy with this and I am very clear about this."
Q: Are you confident that the FIA will do the right thing?
Kolles: "I trust the FIA. It is in the hands of the FIA. We are looking at it, but we are looking very carefully at it."
Q: You did some back-to-back tests of V8 and V10 engines for the FIA. How much more do you think the V10 needs to be pegged back?
Kolles: "It is not a question of making the engines slower. It is a question that the regulations state a V8 engine, and not a restricted V10 engine. It was an exception for Minardi due to financial reasons.
"For us it is not only a V8/V10 the power, it is also a financial matter. A V8 engine is much more expensive than a V10 engine and if it is restricted you can run much longer and be more reliable. It has more torque. It is not just restricting the engine, it is a completely different world."
Q: At some races, like Monaco, they are expected to be very competitive and up in the midfield...
Kolles: "Yes, they are expecting to be competitive. To be honest, for me it is a shame. But okay, it is the FIA who told us that they will take care and it will not happen. So we trust the FIA that they will control it and that they will be at the back of the grid. That is it."
Q: Will we see the same level of reliability from the V8 engines that we had from V10s last year?
Kolles: "Well, this is our information from Toyota. It looks very good and Toyota is very keen and looking forward to it. They are very positive in that respect."
Q: What about the other manufacturers?
Kolles: "Well obviously some others are having issues, I don't want to say names, but okay, we don't have these problems at the moment and I hope to keep it like this."
Q: If the testing agreement between the teams falls apart, then it is likely that testing days will increase and a lot of running could take place at Grand Prix tracks prior to races. Are Midland capable of running an increased testing programme?
Kolles: "We have the manpower. We have a test team, but that is not the issue. The issue is for us to work efficiently and if it makes sense to test or it makes no sense to test.
"Everyone is talking about cost cutting and Ferrari is one of the first to talk about cost cutting, so it is very simple. Sign an agreement and we don't test, and then you have cost-cutting immediately. Everybody talks about cost cutting, Toyota, Ferrari, Renault, everybody."
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