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Q & A with BAR's Nick Fry

Just before first practice for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix began at Barcelona today, BAR's Nick Fry announced that the team would not be seeking a court injunction against the decision of the FIA Court of Appeal in Paris, banning the team from Barcelona and Monte Carlo.

As the team started to pack up ready to leave, Fry answered media questions.

Tony Dodgins was there for Autosport-Atlas.

Q. Nick, what is your current position?

Fry: We're going home now. The guys packing up understand the situation and I think we are doing the right thing. It's gone as far as it should do now, we have made our points very clear, we have done nothing wrong, we still think the penalty is excessive but the lawyers are telling us that the issue of jurisdiction is a very difficult one and we can't find a court willing to say yes, it's our responsibility. The case seems very sound but the only possibility looked like it would be in France but that can't be done in time. It looked like it would be the middle of next week, which is too late for this meeting.

Q. Have you ruled out competing in Monaco?

Fry: Yes. We have taken the decision that although we could continue to pursue this, it is in nobody's best interests. The sport would suffer badly, we would create a fight that nobody needs. For the sake of one race our judgement is that it's not worth the effort. Our plan is to withdraw from Monaco.

Q. How late was that decision taken?

Fry: We were deliberating until well after midnight last night (Thursday). We were also talking to the lawyers again this morning just to make sure that we had got the decision right.

Q. Were there any more talks with Bernie or the FIA?

Fry: We haven't discussed it with them. This is our decision based on the facts before us.

Q. It must be an enormous disappointment?

Fry: It is. This (race) is one we could have certainly won. The testing with both Jenson and Taku in the last couple of weeks has been phenomenal. And Jenson obviously had a good chance at Monaco last year. But on the other hand it has strengthened our resolve. We know we can win races and everyone is pulling together incredibly well and we are determined to come back and win.

Q. What are the implications for the team and sponsors regarding Monaco, the highlight of the year for many?

Fry: This is going to cost us a huge amount of money. I haven't actually sat down and calculated what it is, but in terms of contractual obligations that we are going to have to meet, I could confidently say that it's going to add up to more than $10 million.

Q. Do you think this is part of a wider political agenda?

Fry: I think we'll defer on that one. At the moment we are looking purely at the merits of this case and the advice we are getting from the lawyers. That advice is that we can't do anything in time and, as I said, we've taken the decision not to go to Monaco because to prolong this battle will be counter productive for everyone.

Q. Do you think other teams had similar arrangements for their fuel tanks?

Fry: Yes, we know that the other teams have got similar systems. The fuel tank supplier is the same as many other teams and have confirmed there is nothing unusual about our system. But, to show everyone we are completely transparent, during the course of this afternoon we will be posting everything - and I mean everything - from the Court of Appeal. So you will have all our witness statements, all the technical data, including a lot of confidential information. From our point of view we've got nothing to hide and even if we are giving away some information to our competitors, it is better that we do that. So we're happy to do it.

Q. Will other teams have to make hasty changes for this race?

Fry: There have been rumours that one or two other people are looking at their cars overall. This is a very Draconian interpretation of the rules and it is making everyone look very closely at what they are doing.

Q. Are you concerned about the effects that it is going to have on Jenson?

Fry: Jenson is in great spirits. We treat him as part of the management of our team, he's been part of the decision, he thinks this is the right thing to do, we are going to come out all guns blazing and this has just reinforced everyone's resolve to do even better at Nurburgring. We'll be out trying to win that one.

Q. Is there a concern about your engine there? Will that be its second race?

Fry: Currently we are having discussions with Charlie Whiting about that situation. It's not entirely clear to us what we can or can't do given these circumstances. Craig Wilson, the chief engineer, is along with Charlie at the moment having that discussion.

Q. Given that Jenson has to be within a certain percentage of the championship leader by a set stage of the season for you to hang onto him, have you now lost him?

Fry: I wouldn't say that. It's far too early. We've got 19 races in total, the car is getting faster and faster, we are now in a position where we can win races and we won't give up on anything until the bitter end.

Q. But you do have a fight on your hands now to keep Jenson?

Fry: We have. We've made things more difficult for ourselves, there's no doubt. But there's lots of races to win. It goes without saying that it's more complicated than we at first envisaged but we have certainly not given up.

Q. It goes without saying you want him for 2006?

Fry: We want Jenson Button for 2006 and beyond.

Q. What has been the reaction from Japan?

Fry: Fully understanding. One of the good things in all of this is the cohesiveness of the whole team. And not just BAR but the major partners, including BAT and Honda. They are completely behind us, they have been part of the decision-making process in every respect and we are completely bound together.

Q. Are you 'alliance partners' (the 'group of nine' and other F1 manufacturers, Ferrari apart) aware of your decision?

Fry: Yes. I've been wandering up and down the pitlane speaking with them and they fully understand and respect our decision. The cohesiveness of the group is probably amplified by this.

Q. With most of the sport seemingly against the governing body, how do you see this situation?

Fry: The teams supported by motor manufacturers have been talking to each other for some time and what we want is the best thing for the future of F1. We want a sport that is open, transparent, fair, and an independent Court of Appeal. Honda will continue to work with the other motor manufacturers to try to make sure that happens. It's as simple as that. I think we need to divide the two issues. This is about the regulations of fuel systems. There is clearly a bigger picture but I don't think that's for discussion today.

Q. Given that you need to increase your competitiveness, are you going to stick to the testing agreement?

Fry: We're going to have that discussion as to what we are going to do because, obviously, we are going to miss out on a few days running at two grands prix and clearly we will have that debate with the other manufacturers as to how we take that into account. But we will be doing that with the others and not by some independent decision.

Q. Will you have any presence in Monaco, for sponsors and such?

Fry: We are discussing at the moment with the partners and the people using the Paddock Club and the like, and obviously we will put on whatever suits them.

Q. Have you been asked to leave the Barcelona paddock?

Fry: No. But we will leave. What we are going to be doing now is packing up the trucks and the cars, causing minimum disruption. We are going to leave the motorhome here because we've got a lot of guests here, we've got a number of Honda board members, a lot of BAT people and so we are using the catering, but all the trucks and the guys will be shipping out today.

Q. What are you going to be discussing with the other teams?

Fry: In the first instance we want the teams to be supportive of our situation. We know we never ran under 600kgs and the other teams are fully familiar with that as well. I don't think any of our competitors think that we have cheated or done anything wrong. That's the first thing we want from them. And obviously, the rules being interpreted this way, with this level of penalty, has serious implications. Formula 1 and its technical challenge is to get as close to the edge. That's the nature of motorsport. It has made everyone along the pitlane think twice about their own cars given the fact that if you do transgress, or even appear to transgress, the penalties are very significant. I know there are a lot of thought-provoking discussions going on.

Q. Do you really think the others are going to support you?

Fry: The other teams, especially the motor manufacturer teams, are completely glued together, so we will decide collectively what to do as the result of this.

Q. The inference is that you seem to have a much bigger collector tank than strictly necessary. What's your technical justification for that?

Fry: What you will find, and I don't think there's any secrets now, is that our fuel system runs at 50 bar pressure. A road car runs at about two bar. Many of the other teams are running at much lower pressure than us and I know that other teams that have tried to run at the pressures that we run at, have encountered exactly the same problem that we have, which is that you need a large amount of fuel pressurising the system. Our car has to carry 6kgs of fuel in the tank and, without that, the first thing that happens is that the fuel pump starts to get air into it and very shortly thereafter, the engine starts to see air going into it instead of pure fuel and obviously that starts to damage the engine very quickly. In the environment where we have got to last two races, we can't have that happen. It's almost like a home central heating system. We need a header tank of fuel to push pressure against the pump to make sure that the fuel pump and the engine only see fuel, and not air. So we need to carry fuel. That, in our view, is not ballast, it is like oil or water or any of the other fluids in the car. It's necessary. The car would not be able to go into parc ferme or run in the event without that fuel in it. And, in our case, its 6kgs. That's just the fact of our system and I'm absolutely certain that other teams, if they do advance to very high pressure systems, are going to find exactly the same problems. This is a pure engineering issue.

Q. That being the case, how do you design it out of the car?

Fry: We will be doing two things in the next couple of weeks. Number one is that we will either design our system so that we don't need to carry as much fuel to prime the system or, two, we are going to have to carry yet more fuel so that effectively at all times we will be 6kgs over the weight limit. That's something our engineers will have to grapple with over the next two or three weeks.

Q. How has (technical director) Geoff Willis taken this?

Fry: Geoff is under a lot of pressure and we attribute no blame to anyone for this. We are fully supportive of Geoff and the rest of the engineering team and I'm sure when you see the witness statement in the pack that we put before the court, you are going to see that everyone has acted with tremendous integrity. What you will find in the witness statement is not only statements from our team but also a statement from Sir Frank Williams talking about the credibility and integrity of Geoff Willis and Craig Wilson, both of whom came from the Williams team. So it's not just us fully in support of Geoff, it's others along the pitlane that know there is no way in a million years that Geoff would countenance anything other than strict obedience to the rules.

Q. If you were running a bigger collector tank than has been used in the past, did you not seek to clarify it with the FIA beforehand. And if not, why not?

Fry: The system is very straightforward and the manufacturer has confirmed that our system is not unusual in any way. The FIA actually looked at our tank in detail in Malaysia, and again in Bahrain, and nothing was said. It was just accepted as a regular, ordinary fuel system and so I think it has confirmed that there is nothing different about our system.

Q. But that only became relevant at Imola?

Fry: I'm not sure that's the case. It's very easy to see how it works, the FIA didn't ask any questions about us and our car was at all times over the weight limit at Imola. No-one in the FIA court or among our competitors has ever accused us of running under weight. The car always weighs significantly over 600 kilos.

Q. How would you propose the FIA now checks cars to see that they are not running under weight?

Fry: The FIA conclusion was that the rules weren't altogether clear and what I would expect would be a clarification of the rules, which should be fairly easy to do because one of the things we brought out in court was that in other FIA series, and we specifically talked about sportscar racing and touring cars, it's very well defined. It specifically says the car must be effectively dry of fuel and I think that's the simplest way of doing it. The Formula One rules, and we've learned this to our cost, don't say that. We completely maintain we obeyed the rules as written, but we acknowledge, as the FIA do, that the rules are far from clear.

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