Q. What is the situation with Geoff Willis?
Nick Fry: Geoff is currently on so-called gardening leave, which means he is a contracted employee of the team. He is spending a few days, I was going to say gardening, but it is more like mountain bike leave, whilst we are out here. During that time he is having a think about what he would like to do in the future and we are out here racing, so we will be getting back together with Geoff on our return to decide what will happen then.
Q. Do you want him to stay?
NF: That is really for us to discuss with Geoff. Obviously there has been a fairly large change in structure at the team. Geoff has got huge skills that will be useful to any F1 team. It is something that is going to be decided mutually, with the structure that we are now putting in place, whether he will want to stay or whether it is appropriate for him to do so.
Q. So he has the option to stay?
NF: Yes. Absolutely.
Q. This can be read two ways. One way, that he has been edged out constructively or that he has decided he doesn't like the new structure and is walking away from it...
NF: There are two alternatives open at the moment. One is that we find a position for him if he chooses, or secondly that he chooses to go and do something else. That is a discussion that we will be having with Geoff. We started that discussion but obviously this week is difficult because we are all out in the States, but when we get back we will finish that discussion.
Q. Was it his decision to go on gardening leave, or the team's?
NF: Mutual. Usually with these things, the change we are making is quite big. I don't know if it has been explained quite well, it is more than just Geoff. The way we were structured was that Geoff was in charge of all the technical operations including manufacturing. So really anything that was technical reported to Geoff, and what we have done is split it in half. (Shuhei) Nakamoto is coming in as the senior technical person and he will report to me.
Gary Savage, who was deputy technical director, will separately report to me looking after all the operation side of things. So we have really split the job down the middle. And there are also changes on the Japanese management side as well. Those are not so visible to us in England, but this is really more of an overall change in the way we want to run the team, as opposed to just being about Geoff.
Q. Geoff led the design of this year's car, he had started work on next year's car and was key man to exploit the new wind tunnel. Is it not a body blow to the team that he has gone?
NF: Geoff will clearly be missed. He is a great guy with huge skills but I think a number of Formula One teams in the last year have done similar things. Formula One has changed a lot in that it was one or two people doing a lot of the penning of a car, and now we have got over 500 people and a very flat structure with a lot of people doing it. We just appointed Mariano Alperin-Bruvera a couple of months ago as chief aero person, and he has got 60 people working on this side.
And the chief engineers are very capable. The whole idea here is to make best use of not only the resources in the UK but also the resources in Japan. Nakamoto is clearly in a good position to do that, because he has worked for our team in England for six years and obviously he did nearly 20 years in Japan before that, so in terms of accessing those resources and getting it to work together he is in a unique position.
Q. When Geoff was told that he would not be coming to these races so he could concentrate on the car at the wind tunnel, did he at that point know about the appointment of Nakamoto?
Q. So he is obviously angry about that?
NF: I wouldn't say so. It was a prelude to changing things. Geoff had a lot of his plate.
Q. But someone knew about Nakamoto's impending arrival?
NF: Nakamoto has been with us for six years as the senior engineering person. We all felt that we needed to change something, but you might say one of them was a prelude to the second, but the two were not directly connected.
Q. Is it fair to say Honda are trying to persuade Geoff to stay?
NF: I think that is going to be a mutual discussion between the two or us. It will not be a matter of persuading one way or the other. Geoff is a really smart, balanced individual and we will come to the best decision between the two of us.
Q. So it is possible he could be at the next race working for Honda?
NF: The door is open either way, and when we get back from Indianapolis we will have that discussion.
Q. Has he been scapegoated?
NF: As I said earlier, obviously Geoff is the focus because he is British like the rest of us. But we have had a number of changes at the same time, the one I alluded to earlier about splitting Geoff's job in half between the engineering and operational side, and secondly changes on the engine side with Japanese team members as well.
It is part of a slightly bigger restructuring so I think it would be wrong to consider Geoff in any way as a scapegoat. He has been doing a very strong job and the way we want to operate has changed.
Q. At Silverstone Geoff seemed very happy with the forthcoming arrangement about missing half the races so he could stay at the factory...
NF: That decision to make Geoff more home based wasn't something that suddenly came about. Geoff and I discussed that since the end of last year that if things were going well then he would cut back his attendance at races. Obviously things went well initially and not so well in Monaco, but in Monaco Geoff and I made the definite decision that he would not be coming. And that was a decision between Geoff and I, mutually made. He has a big role and spending less time at the circuit was pre-planned.
Q. I guess he feels compromised because of the appointment of a new technical director?
NF: I think you would have to talk to Geoff about whether he feels compromised. Geoff is a very realistic person and the nature of F1 teams is a flatter structure and that is something Toyota have done and McLaren have done as well.
Q. Was it Geoff's decision to leave his post?
NF: That was mutual. He hasn't left his post in that he is still employed by the team, but having a week off to think about life while we are out here was something that we agreed between us.
Q. And what has been the reaction among the boys in the garage?
NF: Obviously initially on Monday across the company people were surprised, because change always surprises people. People recognised that we had to change something, but when it actually happens then it is a surprise. One thing I was really pleased about is that by Tuesday morning how positive people were and the chief engineers are very strong indeed and rising to the challenge.
The guys out here, and chatting to them this morning, they are looking forward. There is no point in debating the wrongs and the rights, or whether another alternative would have been a better way of organising things. We are moving forward, we have changed a few things and let's get on with it.
Q. Jenson Button would be right to think about this that in terms of 2007, the guy making technical decisions has never designed a Formula One car. We are not talking about this season anymore, aren't we talking about next season already?
NF: When Jenson made his decision to stay with this team in the middle of last year, that was if you remember principally based on the fact that Honda own the team. It was a real expression of confidence in Honda and its determination to win in Formula One. I think Jenson is wedded to Honda as a company and as someone who can give him what he wants in F1. He is not wedded to Geoff Willis or anyone else in the team. Teams are bigger than any one individual.
Q. Why has there been a reluctance to talk about this issue?
NF: Only because I have been spending my time working at the factory and could not get out here until last night. It is as simple as that. The fact that myself and Wada were central to this means it was better that it came from us, rather than maybe conflicting messages coming from other people.
So I don't think you would be right to say there had been any reluctance, it is just more that it is better to come from the horse's mouth rather than second hand from other people. There has been a lot going on at the factory this week and for me to come out last night was a lot more sensible than 24 hours earlier. Don't read anything into that. There has not been any reluctance, it is just a matter of priorities.
Q. Jenson said yesterday that he has not got the best out of the car in the last few races. Has he lost a bit of motivation do you think?
NF: If he said 'he', he was wrong, because it is we. At the Nurburgring, Monaco and Silverstone I think we collectively, and I would include Rubens' side of the garage, haven't got the best out of the car. In the other races I think we did. I think it may not have been the best car but we got everything that we could have expected out of it.
I think in those three races we did not get the best out of the car in terms of the set-up and that is something we are planning to put right this weekend. The way we are approaching this weekend in terms of how the engineers set-up the car is somewhat different and we have also got some other changes to the car. You will notice that the rear wing is dramatically different to the one we have previously been running and that has been well proven at Honda last week.
Q. Do you think Jenson is 100 percent focused, committed and motivated?
NF: People, whether they be the drivers or whether they be team members, tend to be a little bit pragmatic. We have not performed to a level we had hoped so far this year and only a madman continues to do the same thing time and time again. So we have changed something. And people seem to have looked on that very positively as we are changing something, we are trying to do things a bit differently and let's see how it goes. Whether it be the drivers of the mechanics, there is a definite positive disposition - let's give it a go and see how we go.
Q. Can you see other changes in the pipeline. People have speculated about whether someone like Mike Gascoyne will come in?
NF: I will say one thing, definitively. We are not planning to bring in another high-profile technical director. That is not the plan. As I said the whole nature of this change is spreading the load across more people and not bottlenecking it into a highly paid technical director.
So there are no plans to make a change in that respect. The one thing we have got to do is below Nakamoto, there is some detail that still needs to be sorted out. We have not got to it yet because we are working here.
Q. Geoff has got to decide whether he will accept the reduced role and responsibility?
NF: That is what we are discussing with Geoff. I don't want to jump to any conclusions.
Q. But it's a sign that something needed to be done?
NF: Exactly. You cannot just keep doing the same old thing. We have tried a lot of detail changes this year and it is not working as well as we would have liked, so then you have to say - well, you can carry on doing the same thing but it is highly likely that you end up with the same result.
Q. One of the things that came out of the Ferrari years, and how Jean Todt achieved so much, as that he was able to put a glass ceiling between the team and Fiat. You are not going to be able to do that?
NF: It is a very, very different situation. Honda race in a lot of different series and the Honda Racing involvement goes right to the very top of the company. Traditionally the guys who make it to the very top have had some involvement in racing, so it is not the same as a major corporate like FIAT or Ford. Honda is different in that the whole culture of the company is racing, right to the top, so for those people to get involved I take as positive thing because they do know about racing.
Q. It's been a difficult year, hasn't it?
NF: This year has clearly been one of ups and downs. Pre-season was very positive, the first three races looked pretty good and then we have taken a bit of a dip, which we have got to put right.
Q. Are they applying pressure back in Japan?
NF: The pressure is strong. There is no doubt about it, some of that is from outside and some of it is from the inside. There was an expectation which was not us trying to spin it - quite the opposite, we were trying to play it down. But in many ways, unfortunately, the car went very quickly, so that expectation was there quite naturally both internally and externally that it does show the car fundamentally is quite a good one, we have just got to get back to where we were.
Q. What about over a race weekend? Is there a recognition that things have to improve over a race weekend?
NF: Jacky Eeckelaert, taking over what Geoff was going to do, being the lead engineering person over a race weekend is part of the change. Jacky has clearly got huge experience from several teams in the past over race weekends, so you will see his influence growing. It is all part of the bigger picture.
Q. Was it just a recognition that something had to be done?
Q. What kind of response do you expect now, in terms of the difference the changes will make?
NF: What I would like to see us do, is firstly consolidate our fourth position in the championship and secondly see if we can get a bit closer to third place. It is as simple as that, and as a measurable we certainly want to stay where we are. If we can close the gap on third place then that will be a good measure of how successful we are. >