Friday's Press Conference - Hungary

Participating: Sam Michael (Williams BMW), Willy Rampf (Sauber Petronas), Guenther Steiner (Red Bull Racing), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren Mercedes), Geoff Willis (BAR Honda)

Friday's Press Conference - Hungary

Q. Could you give us some sort of idea of progress with V8 engines and/or V8-engined chassis? How are things going ­ just some sort of indication.

Willi Rampf: We don't have any experience with the V8s, because we haven't done any testing with a V8 in our current chassis.

Q. When do you expect to be able to have a V8?

WR: The target is that for the winter testing we prepare one car, an interim car with the V8 engine.

Q. And when can you have that? Early December?

WR: Yes, exactly.

Q. When do expect to get a mock-up V8?

WR: I think we will get a mock-up V8 fairly soon, because we need it to prepare the installation in our current chassis.

Q. What about you Guenther? A bit the same, really?

Guenther Steiner: Maybe a little bit different situation because as we get the Ferrari engine next year, they are doing a lot of the work on the engine. We start with the chassis, we get information data to make the car for it, but the main testing of the engine will be done by Ferrari, and I think they will be running soon with the V8 in a car, and we will get the information.

Q. When will you get your own engine?

GS: We are not sure. We will get our own engine in October, November for our car, but our car will not be ready until the end of the year so we may run at the end of the year or the beginning of next year and that is what we're working towards.

Geoff Willis: Well, we've been working on the V8 for some eight months now, and Honda are very advanced on that programme. As you probably know, we had the V8 in a test chassis in Mugello earlier this year. That was the first prototype; we have a number of steps of prototypes evolving towards the final race spec. They are already on the dyno, several stages and like many people we will be testing the V8 again on the track at the beginning of the winter testing in an intermediate chassis. On the chassis side, there are a number of changes to the overall layout of the car with a much shorter engine, but that said, (it is a) normal chassis design schedule and we are quite a long way through that already.

Martin Whitmarsh: Our V8 is running on the steady state dyno and is moving on to the transient dynos, so it's early days but I think we are very comfortable as to where that programme is. We are building an interim car which probably in seven or eight weeks' time will start to run and test. The definitive car will be available during the winter. I think the programme is an interesting one, obviously. I think all the concerns about the sound of them will be unfounded, they sound great, they sound just as exciting as the engines we have today. So I think the V8 engine is, as Geoff said... some of the designers say there are quite a lot of interesting opportunities in the chassis and I am sure in all the teams now the designers are going through all the various situations to find out how they can exploit that extra ninety millimetres.

Sam Michael: We ran the V8 for the first time the last time we were in Jerez a couple of weeks ago. We did a limited programme just over a course of two days. We obviously collected first sets of data and any problems that could occur with that engine.

Q. Which V8?

SM: That was a BMW V8 that we ran two weeks ago.

Q. So you are already testing that engine, even though you may not be running it.

SM: That's right, yeah. That's not really finalised yet. All we can say is that we've got some good options for Williams's future and we're not really in a position where we can talk because we haven't finished negotiations on that. But in terms of back to your original question which was 'have we run V8s?' the answer is 'yes we have.'

Q. Another slightly controversial subject, that of Jenson Button; what's your take on that?

SM: From our point of view we have a contract with Jenson for 2006 onwards. We have contracts with quite a lot of drivers for next year in terms of our options, so we are comfortable with what we will end up with and that is all we can say on that at the moment.

Q. And what kind of progress are you making on the current chassis?

SM: On the FW27, we've spent a lot of time in the wind tunnels and in the Jerez test again, but particularly the wind tunnels over the last three or four weeks. We have made some good progress, we have got some more parts here again this weekend and we've got two or three things coming over the next couple of races. But so far it's going good, obviously you can't return to the front overnight as everyone realises but we have got our heads down and we are pushing as hard as we can to get back up there.

Q. Martin, you have had reliability issues recently; is it just fighting fires, are they cropping up all over the place?

MW: Well, I guess motor racing is often about fighting fires. I think it's disappointing. We've got a package which should see us winning quite a lot of races. We've won a few but not as many we should have. I think we have to look within our organisation at how we're performing. I think each incident has been slightly different in its nature, I don't think it's an endemic problem. I think last weekend was particularly disappointing, a very minor fault in our procedures caused the failure. But that's motor racing. I think we've got to keep pushing, find performance but obviously work on reliability at the same time.

Q. What about the performance here, it looks very good?

MW: I think it is early days yet. I think the track is still evolving but I think we feel quite strong. We will see what happens. Obviously Kimi has the disadvantage of going out first in qualifying. We've got to work around that and I think the cars have got better performance and we will see what happens come Sunday.

Q. Geoff, what are your feelings about the Button situation?

GW: Well, it's no great secret that BAR Honda really would like Jenson to drive for us next year. But clearly Jenson has got contractual issues with Williams which is something that he has to sort out himself and there's really nothing much more that BAR Honda or I can say on that at the moment.

Q. Another little story that's come out today is that you could have a special engine in China, not the Suzuka Special, but a special Special as it is a one-off race. What can you tell us about that?

GW: For certain, the Honda Engine Group will be pushing hard all year and it is, again, very much of a tradition to try to end the year in Suzuka on a high and due to the timing of the races we do have the option for another one-race engine at the end of the year. I think some of the figures of a 1000 horsepower bandied around are somewhat fanciful but I'm sure Honda will carry on, as they have done all year, making small but steady steps all the way through the year.

Q. So you're expecting something a bit special for the last race.

GW: Every pair of races we get another bit of engine development, steady development from engine to engine and I am sure we will be quicker at the end of the year than we are now.

Q. Guenther, obviously the first year for the Red Bull team. What is the development programme for the team, particularly from now through to the beginning of next season? In terms of personnel, in terms of expansion.

GS: The biggest changes. We employed Mark Smith, who is leading the design of RB2 now. There were a few other people but lower down the ranks. The next big step is to have a second wind tunnel working from September onwards, so we will have two wind tunnels for next year's car. That means a lot more people in our aerodynamic department. We are on schedule with RB2 and this year's car - we will now stop all our development. The last package is on for this Grand Prix. Then we concentrate fully on RB2.

Q. So are many more people joining?

GS: No, no. It's not many more. We want to stabilise what we have got now. You have to get the group to work. There's no point in bringing in another 50 people and then having them not working together. It's better that, as a group of people, we know our limits, we are not one of the manufacturer teams. We set our limit at mid-300 people and there we want to work and get the best out of them. For us, we don't want to employ many more.

Q. What is the policy regarding Tonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien. I think Liuzzi is due to drive in Turkey and then how many more races does he get?

GS: I cannot answer that one because I still do not know, we don't know what we are doing with Tonio for Turkey or if Christian is driving. We haven't decided yet. There's a lot of rumours around but I think we have two drivers fighting for a cockpit while Williams and BAR have got two cockpits and one driver wanting to be in each of them, so I think we are in a better situation there. But for Turkey we haven't decided yet exactly what is happening and we will also see how Christian gets on here.

Q. Willy, first of all, how are things changing at Sauber with the investment of BMW?

WR: First, we speak more German because we have more contacts with BMW. On the investment side? I think it's more on the organisation side, because we have to know the people in Munich, we are working together in the near future and also to get used to their procedures. I mean how they work, how they make decisions, how we make decisions. I think this is the biggest part. On the investment side, for this year there is no additional investment. We continue with the development of the existing C24, but the main part of the development is to get the C25, the concept of C25, next year's car, going and so we spend most of the wind tunnel time with C25.

Q. Do you see a big expansion in terms of your side of things or do you see it more taking place in Munich, for instance?

WR: I think there will be a noticeable expansion on our side in Hinwil because the target has to be to run the wind tunnel in three shifts, something which we don't do yet, we are far away from this. And that needs more people. It's the same as Guenther said: you cannot just employ people and expect them to work in a good way together. I think it has to grow at quite a moderate rate, that everybody knows what his task is and feels comfortable.

Q. In a way you have a bit of a problem, because Switzerland is a bit of a motor racing desert, you have to import people.

WR: It's not really like this. We still have a lot of mountains so you should visit us once! So I don't think that it is a real problem. We have quite a good amount of people from England, experts from... especially on the aerodynamics side, this is mainly driven by the English people. Overall we have 22 nations in our company so we are used to treating everybody fair and well.

Questions From The Floor

Q. (Joe Saward ­ F1 Grand Prix Special) You guys are all setting out to design cars for next year but we don't know what the qualifying regulations are yet. Can you explain how you are going to do that?

GW: Good question, because it does actually make a difference, it's surprising how inter-related the sporting and technical regulations are and specifically the change in qualifying... well, the discussions about the possible low fuel qualifying will tend to change the normal strategies the teams will want to use. Even a proposal to lower the pit lane speed limit during the races will have an effect on strategies and at the moment, most teams will be having to commit to their chassis geometry, if not already, certainly within the next month or so and so it does make it difficult with the sporting regulations unknown and people will have to take their own stab at what's the right thing, a trade-off between not having enough fuel capacity to take the sort of strategies that you will want to do next year or, if the regulations don't change in that direction, the penalty of having a slightly heavier chassis and a slightly longer chassis or wider chassis than you might want so it is difficult. It's always a problem to try and change the sporting regulations independently of the technical regulations.

Q. So in short, you need a decision when? In the next month?

GW: Last month would have been fine.

MW: I think what's happening here now is that we have quite a lot of good ideas about 2008 and people have, as you know, put quite a lot of work into the whole format of Formula One, looking at entertainment, looking at the technical regulations and I think naturally, as some of those ideas evolve then there's a temptation to try and snatch them and use them next year. I think we have got to guard against taking part of the package and not getting it right. I think too many times, Formula One has knee-jerked into changes in qualifying format and I think there are some very attractive and interesting ideas for 2008, it's been a very fruitful and creative process. But I think we just need to be a little bit careful now that we don't take some of those elements but not realising that as a package it doesn't quite work.

SM: I think Geoff is right in saying that a month ago would have been a good time to know but from all the people that you speak to there is definitely an incentive to go back to low fuel qualifying and I think that most teams will be working on that basis, I would have thought. I guess we will know in the next month or so, with a bit of luck, but there are not many people now who still support heavy fuel, from what I hear.

WR: Yes, I can only agree with the comments. You have to take the best guess currently because the decision is already quite late and everyone is working on the concept of the chassis.

GS: I think the judgement, everyone has taken it, because everyone has started the new chassis and if someone has tried to do something they think will happen and get it wrong they will have to pay the penalty. But I think everyone will be included in the discussion on the changes of the qualifying format and the race format and have to voice his opinion. I think we have to wait and see what comes out and if someone has taken some risk then maybe he loses out, but it is again judgement.

Q. (Heinz Prueller - ORF) Martin, have you already decided who will drive the third car in Turkey?

MW: No we haven't, there hasn't been a discussion, but ordinarily we are alternating and I think both Alex and Pedro are doing a fantastic job for the team and we are keen to be as fair as we can possibly be. Until now, typically, we would have linked the choice of who would be in by the test that had been done prior to that forthcoming race. It is a bit different for Turkey. We will probably put Pedro in on the basis that we alternate, but we haven't had that discussion yet.

Q. (Heinz Prueller - ORF) And Geoff, can I ask about your world speed record attempt with a special engine, chassis and aerodynamics. Can you give any details?

GW: Not very much right now. There will be some announcement a little bit later, but it is a project we are looking at slightly outside normal Formula One work, but we will be able to give more details later.

Q. (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) There was an announcement that the new group would be seeing Max Mosley next week. I wonder if you can indicate when you will be meeting Max?

MW: The meeting has happened this morning. Max met with Professor Goeschel, as chairman of that group with Ron representing the teams, Mr Tomita and John Howett from Toyota. It was a very good meeting, I think both sides were able to establish they were much closer to one another than had perhaps been supposed, but I am sure in due course we will see some fruits from it.

Q. Martin, obviously the teams are not an official part of the GPMA but what is the exact relationship between the teams and GPMA?

MW: GPMA is an association of manufacturers. The teams relate to it because they have common interests. I think the manufacturers are taking a very responsible role in trying to help guide the future of Grand Prix motor racing. At the moment nine of the teams, including Red Bull and Jordan, are participating in those meetings and that process. Clearly, in time, we hope all the teams will participate together and take Formula One forward in an appropriate manner, but there is no formal relationship, it stems really from the fact that we have a vested interest in improving the sport and finding a positive way forward in 2008.

Q. (Marc Surer ­ Premier TV) Geoff, what do you do with the extra space at the back with the V8 engine? Will we see shorter wheelbase, will we see space, will we have a longer fuel tank, what is the direction?

GW: You have certainly correctly identified a number of the options for it. It is an interesting one because the one other big change with the new engine rules is that there is a limitation on the minimum engine weight and also a limitation on the minimum centre of gravity height, which means we are not suddenly going to see a big step in chassis-side performance from the very much smaller V8 engine. There are a number of different options. The aerodynamic regulations are only changing very slightly for next year, so you will see a lot of the concepts being refined from this year to next year and I am sure a lot of the teams are right at this moment making those decisions, or probably have made those decisions, on what they are going to do with the 90mm or so that they are now going to have free. Some may have shorter rear ends, some may have slightly longer gearboxes. It will depend on their design philosophy and what they feel they need to focus on for their car's performance improvement.

Q. Martin, can you tell us where the meeting was this morning?

MW: It was in Cannes.

Q. Martin, can you tell me what procedures you have put in place to make sure the problem that stopped Kimi in Hockenheim doesn't happen again.

MW: Clearly if you have a specific issue like that you can check and you can double check, but probably your question is a more general one which is not only how can we stop that particular issue but how can we do it in general? Well, there are no secrets there, we just have to be careful, meticulous, everyone in the company has to do their job, has to do it well and has to do it thoroughly. Human error is a painful thing to happen. Within our team we take the view that all of us from time to time are guilty of human error and therefore we are not after a big witch-hunt, but we just have to make sure that we can double check and put in the process and procedure to stop those things happening.

Q. Geoff, how are you dealing with Taku and the difficult season he is having?

GW: It is very important for the team's aspirations that we have two drivers capable of getting in the points at every race, getting on the podium at every race, and I think this year has been a bit difficult for Takuma to be able to show that. The first half has not been the easiest season and so what we need to do is to make sure we give the right tools to Takuma for the second half of the season. Fundamentally we are not going to change what we do but as Martin said we need to make sure we are completely reliable all the time, not just in the race but during the sessions. It is just a matter of being professional and trying to give both our drivers the best possible car they can get.

Q. The car specification you had in Hockenheim, now we come here it is much hotter, did you make any modification to cool the driver down?

SM: On our side yes, beside the normal cooling exits we have for the engine cooling, we also add a small scoop to the top of the damper hatch so that he takes air from outside. Some teams run them all the time, but it is quite important in this heat for the driver.

MW: It is incredibly hot for all the drivers. I think it is incredibly hot for them in any Grand Prix, it will be very warm in the cockpit, there are some cooling ducts into the chassis but we haven't done anything special for this event.

GW: Nothing specific for this event. We have had a very hot race earlier in the season in Bahrain and last week we were in Jerez in similar very hot conditions and we have been working on driver comfort to make sure that they can operate, particularly in tests on very long days of 700-plus kilometres. It is a tough environment, the drivers are now quite well acclimatised to it, we are probably looking at the next race being even hotter and we may have to do something a little bit different there.

GS: We are doing nothing special for the drivers here because our drivers are young and fit and there is no problem. As Geoff said, Bahrain was hot and the drivers just prepare themselves with liquids and we are not doing anything specific for the driver.

WR: We have an inlet duct on top of the chassis to let some air into the cockpit.

Q. (Tony Jardine ­ ITV) Geoff and Martin in particular, I was slightly concerned to hear you talking about aerodynamics pretty much staying as they are for next year and Martin you talked about entertainment. We saw your driver Kimi Raikkonen the front of his car washing away going through Stowe trying to follow Michael Schumacher and drivers have talked about the problems. Hockenheim is a circuit that normally has fantastic overtaking, and so does Silverstone, but it was tough for all of them. Now, you get a lot of aerodynamics back by going higher and all the protrusions. The drivers are telling us that gives even more turbulence when they are following, so surely you are going to have to make dramatic changes to aero for next year, not just so you can overtake but so you can entertain people.

GW: Well, if any technical regulation changes were to be made at this stage of the year they would have to be made with the unanimous agreement of all the teams, I understand. It is quite late to make a big change. It is true that when we discussed the ways of controlling the performance of the cars and we chose the raised front wing, we didn't expect to make the ability of one car to follow the other noticeably worse. Perhaps that shows that it would have been wiser to have done some more tests before we went in that direction. I think all the teams have learned a lot about the effect of this regulation change. As you can see some teams did a better job early on than others and all the teams are improving, so I am sure that next year the cars will naturally be better at following the other cars because some of the problems associated with following other cars are also problems that the cars suffer in free air, so it will get a bit better, but it would be wrong to suddenly try to make a change at this stage without having done the work to work out what is the right way to go.

MW: I think there is an implied criticism, which is probably fair, that Formula One teams haven't co-operated and concentrated enough on the issues of how we make closer racing, having aerodynamic studies to look at cars running closely together. There is now some measures being put in place that we do some work, which can hopefully be funded by the manufacturers, and there is always a desire to get an instant result and get that on the cars for next year. I think the sophistication of aerodynamics on Formula One cars, and these guys will know better than I, mean that you can easily get it wrong and knee-jerk into something, while we accept that Formula One has an obligation to seek to improve the show on a continuous basis and I think arguably we haven't done that in the past. I think that we must make sure we do good homework now, good technical work in the wind tunnel looking at a car running in the wake of another and draw some proper conclusions and use those for the basis of the future. It will be difficult to achieve that by next year, so inevitably people will criticise our priorities. The nature of Formula One teams is that we concentrate on our performance. We are given a set of arbitrary regulations and we try to optimise the performance of the car. We don't often get to spend time and resource on how we are going to make the show better. We are trying to some of that now and I hope in the future we can make a good step forward. But as Geoff said, I don't think people fully anticipated some of the effects of this year's rules and there are some extraordinary clever people in aerodynamics that might have been able to foresee it. The fact that they couldn't leaves me to suppose that it is pretty complex, and therefore to guess a solution would be wrong, we have got to do the work and get proper solutions for the future.

Q. Martin, you just said to improve the show. If next year you qualify with low fuel then the fastest car will be at the front and the slowest behind. A lot of the good show we have had this year has been when slow cars at the back were coming through. So how will you improve the show by having low fuel in qualifying and the quickest car at the front?

MW: I think if you recall I was actually trying to sound a note of caution about changing parts of our sporting regulations next year. There are some proposals for 2008 that have different tyre regulations, a completely different format of cars, and there is an attraction for the purity of having qualifying on low fuel, but I think there are quite a lot of arguments at the moment to not change the format much for next season and that was a point I was trying to make. So, you move one goalpost and you may get it wrong. We need to put together a package of regulations that make sure we do actually improve the show and that we don't inadvertently, as we perhaps have done in the past, make it worse.

Toyota Chief: Breakaway Series Less Likely
Previous article

Toyota Chief: Breakaway Series Less Likely

Next article

Grapevine: Button Key in Driver Merry-Go-Round

Grapevine: Button Key in Driver Merry-Go-Round
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Plus

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats Plus

How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats

The 2022 Formula 1 season will be remembered as a record book rewriting Max Verstappen masterclass, a completely different challenge to his maiden world championship last year, and a clear sign he is still raising his own level. But where does it stack up against the all-time great F1 campaigns?

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2022 Formula 1 season came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit, where the battle for second in the standings was decided, the wins in a season record extended and a retiring four-time world champion bowed out on a high. Here's how we rated the drivers

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022