British Grand Prix 2012: Friday Press Conference

15 Mins read

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Bob FEARNLEY (Force India), Rob WHITE (Renault Sport), Mark GILLAN (Williams), Pat FRY (Ferrari), Adrian NEWEY (Red Bull Racing), James ALLISON (Lotus).

Q. A question for you all first. Tell us about what sort of upgrades you’ve brought here? Have you been able to test them? Have you had anything conclusive from them? Are you going to carrying on using them for the rest of the weekend or have you not been able to evaluate them? Bob, if you’d like to start.

Bob FEARNLEY: Ours are just mainly small aero changes, nothing significant. We haven’t been able to fully track evaluate them but we will continue to run with them.

Q. Rob, does this apply to you or not?

Rob WHITE: We’re not in upgrade mode at the moment. We’re more in short-term countermeasures, following the incidents we had in Valencia, so it doesn’t really apply to us.

Q. Mark?

Mark GILLAN: Similar to Bob. Basically, with the weather conditions we’ve not been able to look at the updates but we will do tomorrow, weather permitting.

Q. I was told that they weren’t on Bruno’s car today.

MG: No, they weren’t.

Q. How very wise. Presumably just because of the conditions?

MG: Yes, purely because of the heavy wet conditions we thought it prudent to leave them off.

Q. Pat?

Pat FRY: I think we, like most people, have a few little updates all over the car but with these conditions it’s impossible to do any sensible evaluation of it. We need to see what we can do tomorrow, if anything, and then try to make the right choice for qualifying and the race.

Q. Adrian, more for you after Valencia?

Adrian NEWEY: Yes, a big upgrade in Valencia, here very small stuff, but as everybody else says impossible to evaluate them in these conditions.

Q. James?

James ALLISON: We’ve got two or three things that are all fitted. We didn’t back-to-back them but they don’t seem to be misbehaving. The only bit we were able to test sensibly was some changes to our pit stop equipment and they seemed to go OK.

Q. Rob, we know it was an alternator problem in Valencia, can you say what the problem was? Have you managed to cure it?

RW: A bit of background if you will. The first thing to say was that there wasn’t any change underway that went pear-shaped. The spec was something that has been stable for quite a long time – some years – apart from little details in the piece that actually broke. Both Sebastian’s car and Romain’s car stopped on the track following the alternator failure. Clearly the alternator generates all the electricity on the car. Without electric power the car stops very quickly. Some small differences in the exact sequence of events after the failure and before the cars stopped were incidental. The failure was due to overheating. Overheating from within the piece, not from outside the piece. I guess we didn’t at the time know all of that. We wanted to find out if we were outside our experience. It turned out that we weren’t. We wanted to find out whether there was anything unusual relative to our recommended operating conditions. The truth of the matter is that both of the teams were completely within the recommendations we had previously made. We had to look deeper. We had to challenge ourselves on whether the recommendations we made were the right ones. We were able to find places where, with hindsight, we were at risk. We found some conditions where we felt we might have pushed the piece beyond its comfort zone and that’s where we’ve had to focus our attention for this week. A very small amount of time to react. Without any great surprise, we don’t have a magic wand to wave that will make all the trouble go away, so we’ve had to deal with it in a fairly classic way. We tried to make the conditions less severe for the piece, so we’ve tried to reduce the electrical load on the car, settings on the car, on the engine. We’ve tried to improve the electrical generation in the most marginal conditions, which are typically at low engine speed and then we’ve tried to select within the population of existing pieces the ones that will give us the best chance of succeeding. Thos selection criteria are based on electrical behaviour and then for the avoidance of doubt, classic quality [control] type criteria to eliminate the batch numbers we had a problem with. All of that goes in the right direction. It would be unjust to say that I’m 100 per cent confident we have done enough. We’ve had great support from Red Bull and Lotus who suffered the failures and from Williams and Caterham who didn’t but have identical pieces on the car. Also from all the suppliers in the supply chain. We’ve got what is obviously a short-term plan for this weekend and in parallel we’ve got a longer-term look to see if we can do a more robust job for the future.

Q. Continuing on with that, what have the two teams been able to do to help Renault with the cooling? James?

JA: We just work with Renault Sport. Most of the action is happening in Viry. But we try to provide help and support with the tests that happen in Viry. There were certain bits of our car kit that were necessary to go to Viry to form part of that testing chain. So we all just muck in together and try to get it fixed.

Q. Are you able to provide more cooling to that part, to that area?

JA: Yeah, you can blow air on it.

Q. Adrian?

AN: Same really. It’s a component failure that we’ll work together to get on top of.

Q. Bob, we’ve seen quite a change for you from Canada to Valencia. What in fact has changed for the team?

BF: Nothing has really changed. We just made a mistake in Canada really with our settings and went the wrong way, so it was an error from our side, on the engineering side. We corrected that for Valencia. We should have had the same result in Canada as we did in Valencia really.

Q. Are you quite confident for this weekend then, in the right conditions?

BF: This is a different test. We have moved to more of an aero circuit. Hopefully, the answer is yes but until we get a bit of dry running we won’t know.

Q. Mark, you’ve got a good car and we’re seeing it in the points quite frequently. At what stage do you stop developing it and move on to next year’s car? Is there a tipping point at some stage?

MG: I think the competition this year is so fierce and everything is extremely tight, as we saw in Valencia, as a team we need to continue to push. There is a point, as you say, where you have to balance next year’s car’s development and obviously with an eye even further into the future with the 2014 car, which is a big departure. But we are really keen to maximise the performance of this year’s car and make the most of this opportunity.

Q. And actually you’re already looking at the 2014 car?

MG: Yeah, it’s a big departure and working alongside partners in terms of development of the car and obviously that’s something that sits quite aside from next year’s car which is really a continuation of the theme from this year.

Q. Pat, yesterday we mentioned to Fernando Alonso, how he won here last year, how he won in Valencia. Two very different circuits. Is that how you see it from an engineering point of view?

PF: I think they are completely different circuits. Here there are more high-speed corners, more aero I guess. It will be interesting if it’s dry to see how the performance is. I think we’re fairly realistic. We still have a lot of work to do to catch up. We’re trying to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can, exactly the same as any other team.

Q. We’ve seen Felipe bounce back in the last few races. What have you done to help him, what more can you do?

PF: Certainly from Monaco onwards he’s done a great job. We changed the car a little bit and we found something that suits him slightly better and that’s brought the best out of him. Today he was looking pretty reasonable until the red flag.

Q. Adrian, we saw what seemed to be a phenomenal effort with the upgrade in Valencia. Interesting that you brought it there rather than here as everybody else has. Give us some idea of the thinking behind such a big upgrade all at once and what sort of effort it took from the factory to bring that upgrade?

AN: Well, the upgrade was a new sidepod and exhaust, so I think it’s been a bit exaggerated how big the change really is. It’s a fairly big visual change but a less big engineering change. I would regard it as part of the routine development. In terms of the performance it brings, well because it’s a big cosmetic change everybody focuses on it. You could perhaps make a small change to a diffuser or a front wing endplate that might be just as big a performance difference but nobody will spot it. Well, the teams will spot it but the press won’t so much let’s say. The problem is this season it’s difficult to see much form, as much as we had a similar benefit or advantage in Bahrain as we had in Bahrain but then that can swing to the other way round at other circuits. It’s a very difficult season to read so far.

Q. Because the pace in Valencia was phenomenal. You were certainly going to win that race.

AN: Yes, we would have wont he race for sure, but that’s the ifs and buts of motor racing.

Q. James, just going back to the alternator. How was it you had a problem with one car and not the other?

JA: I think it’s probably just that the alternator was very near to the limit of what it could do. There’s always a scattering components and one fell just the wrong side of the line. Rob’s probably got more of an insight into that than I have but we weren’t operating any differently.

Q. Looking at Romain Grosjean how has his performance changed so far. You’ve had nine races now with him so far, we’re almost at mid-season. Have you seen him mature over the year?

JA: I think he’s gathered confidence as the season has gone on but if you go right back to the first running in pre-season he was quite quick right from the off. He probably took a couple of long runs in pre-season to get a handle on how to look after the tyres over a stint, but he’s been pretty useful right from the outset. He’s just had a bit of misfortune at the starts in a few races. But that seems to be going more his way now. He’s very pleased with how his season is going and we’re pleased for him and with him.


Q. (Sam Collins – RaceCar Engineering) I’ve mentioned this to one of you guys before this weekend already; at the moment the weight distribution of the cars is fixed in quite a small window. Is that something you’d like to see changed, going forward in 2013 into 2014 as well?

AN: First of all, it puts an emphasis on light drivers, which is, as long as we’re in a situation where we don’t have ballasted seats… for instance, with Mark Webber, we have a driver who’s on the heavier end, compared to Sebastian. That means he has less freedom on weight distribution. The obvious solution to that would be that drivers have to carry ballast on the side of their seat but that’s something that has been discussed and it hasn’t happened so far. It really means that if you make the wrong move, you’re locked into it for a while, so I don’t have a firm opinion on this. It’s one less variable in a way but on the same for everybody type basis, I’m not too worried about it, one way or the other.

JA: I think the rules are the way they are because we, the teams, keep voting them that way, so we can’t do much other than say ‘well, that’s what we asked for’. We’ve voted for this several years running now and each time we’ve done it, I think it’s more or less been on the basis that Adrian just alluded to, that it’s one fewer thing to worry about. You know if the weight’s all in one little window that you’re not going to get completely screwed by someone getting it right just by good fortune or by good judgement. So we keep voting for it, I guess, because it’s a safer thing for an individual team to have.

PF: It’s just one less variable, isn’t it? I don’t mind if we’ve got it or not. It’s just one thing less to worry about.

MG: It’s obviously a relatively small window compared to historically what we’ve been able to do but as James said, we all voted for it and we continue to vote for it so everybody’s got the same limitations.

Q. (Naoise Holohan – ManipeF1) There was a big effort in this year’s regulations to eliminate exhaust-blown diffusers, but I think it’s pretty widely known that that technology has returned this year already. How big a development area is it compared to last year and are we heading for the same uncertainty as we had last year in terms of its legality or not?

AN: I don’t think so. I think that the fact is that the cars have to have exhausts and they will always have an aerodynamic influence so what we are really talking about is is that a small aerodynamic influence or is it a very large one? Compared to last year, we have a fraction of the effect that we had so I think it’s not an area of zero development, they still make a difference, but in terms of the gains we’re able to make compared to what we had last year then it’s a fraction, so I think it’s a fairly sensible place to be perfectly honest.

Q. (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) To Bob Fernley, as team principal, today you did very little running this morning in particular, certainly nothing in anger. I would assume that’s because of the limitation of wet weather tyres for the weekend; you don’t know how much running you’ll do. If one looks at the cost that spectators have paid plus some of them spent five hours in traffic trying to get here, is it really fair on them and is there any solution that you can think of to improve the spectacle under such circumstances?

BF: Not really, Dieter. As a team, we obviously feel very very guilty that we’re not out there running for the spectators but on the other hand, we don’t gain anything from it. With all due respect, even if we’d had the tyres we wouldn’t have run, because the risk to reward is the wrong ratio for us, and it was more of a precautious programme than it is by taking unnecessary risks.

Q. (Kate Walker – Girl Racer) On the subject of the limited running that we saw today, do you guys have any messages of sympathy and support for the fans, some of whom weren’t actually able to get to the circuit before the last F1 car left it?

BF: The answer’s yes, we have terrible guilt for the fans in not running, but what happened in terms of them being able to get into the circuit, obviously I’m not aware of, because I didn’t even know there was a problem to be honest with you. We’ve just been working ourselves. If they have had problems, obviously we sympathise with them and I’m sure that’s something to do with traffic management of the circuit or something like that that needs to be resolved. It’s not something from the teams, the teams can only try and put the cars out on the circuit and give the spectacle and I regret today that we couldn’t do that. As I say, it’s more to do with our side of it in terms of the risk and the benefit and are we going to learn anything? Until the last half an hour of today, there wasn’t any benefit in running.

JA: I think it’s a shame that the fans don’t see as much as they hoped to come and see but that’s British weather for you. I was actually (thinking that) considering how crap the weather was today, there was actually a reasonable amount of running on the track, more than maybe we might have anticipated looking at the forecast this morning, but it would have been nicer if there had been more had the weather been better, but it wasn’t.

Q. (Edd Straw – Autosport) Adrian, looking at the way that Red Bull Racing has developed over the years from a midfield-towards-the-back team to a front-running team, since the initial recruitment drive when you brought in a lot of people, how important has the continuity and the stability of the team in all areas been in both achieving the level of success and sustaining race-winning performances over the last few years and presumably, you’d hope, over the coming years?

AN: Yeah, continuity is hugely important. Really, Red Bull Racing is a team that first raced in 2005 and in truth that was a Jaguar painted blue. Then it had a steep learning curve of developing the culture; as you say, quite a lot of new people joining, some people from the Jaguar days choosing to leave, so it was a period of quite rapid change and that took time to settle down, if you like, and to develop a way of working, a culture, an ethos, to develop some of the bigger tools, be it developing the wind tunnel, developing simulation… things that you can’t just go to Argos and buy. It takes some time to develop those from scratch which is what we were doing and to learn how to use them, how to work with them. Once you got to that stage, as you say, continuity becomes very important. People have learned to work with each other and it’s then making that an ever tighter-knit group and trying to maintain that, as the team continues to grow – it’s been flat for the last couple of years in numbers, as a result of the RRA which I think is a very good thing. But it’s an evolutionary thing which, I think, took us three or four years to settle down into and really the big regulation change in 2009 was good timing for us, because that coincided with the point where we had started to gel together.

Q. (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) To the technical directors: I believe that there are still a lot of elements open on the 2014 regulations, particular those that appertain to the chassis. At which stage would you need to have a firm set of regulations for your 2014 cars?

PF: I think that for 2014 we need to start deciding the exact engine operating conditions or power unit or braking conditions. There’s a lot of work involved there, and some of the chassis rules will have a big bearing on that. We need to have that firmed up fairly soon, really, for the engine side of things. The chassis can follow later.

Q. (Naoise Holohan – ManipeF1) Rob, what’s the stage of the Renault development for 2014? How far along are you in terms of dyno testing or have you put it on the dyno yet?

RW: Clearly, the 2014 power unit is important to Renault and the project planning is well under way. The project plan was initially constructed for a 2013 arrival date, and so the kick-off point was formally way back in September 2010, with a fairly classic approach… you’re trying to work out how to make the best use of available time in order to do all of the learning necessary before committing to a design and then setting about making some pieces, developing testing, so on and so forth. We had a big, obviously significant re-set when we switched to a 2014 arrival and a V6 architecture. That arrived during the course of last summer so in practical terms that meant that we had to re-set the programme planning. So what does that programme planning look like for us, and then of course we’re aiming to arrive as competitively as we can possibly be, in time for the first race and the first season of racing in 2014. We have now been running development engines of various types since the latter part of last year. First of all we had single cylinder engines running. There are some extremely significant bits of learning needed in order to be ready. We also had a multi-cylinder engine for the previous architecture that was running and has run more recently. We have now run a V6 and the programme is more or less in line with our planning.

It’s an immensely complex power unit – it’s important to understand that it’s a big big change for all of us with some fundamental drivers that are very very different to powerful ones for the way in which the races will shake out is of course the fuel allowance for the race and the fuel flow limit and the various tunes that can be played in order to make use of all of that, subject to a great deal of fairly fundamental thinking, fairly new to us R&D-type work. We’ve got new learning to do: everything to do with direct injection, everything to do with turbocharging in these new conditions, a substantially bigger energy recovery system design and development challenge, bigger – because the system is more complicated with two sources of energy recovery, bigger in terms of the contribution to the car performance, bigger in terms of the parts count and all that makes it a more substantial work load hence the programmes which are designed now to, hopefully, converge on a solution. Our intention is to have a race intent power unit on the bed as late as we possibly can, while still having the time to validate it in time for the first race, so our intent is to be race intent in the course of 2013 and everything that we do between when we started, over a year ago now, and now and into the future, when we have a race intent piece on the test bed, is proof of concept, development testing in order to gather the experience needed.

Q. (Naoise Holohan – ManipeF1) I’m just wondering, with the totally new engine formula, how do you set a target in terms of engine power? Do you extrapolate from the V8 that we have at the moment, or how do you pick a figure out of the air?

RW: There are obviously some elements of finger-in-the-wind but there are clearly performance objectives in order to achieve the car performance that we’re aiming for, and we have to be ambitious yet realistic with the fuel flow limit that we’re talking about. The answer to your question comes down to goal-setting in terms of thermal efficiency and I guess each of the engine constructors will have his own idea of where the competitive answer will be but as in any competitive arena, then the task is to get as far ahead as we can in the time we have with the resources that we have. But you’re right, it’s a real challenge to know where to set the internal goals in order to be competitive at the arrival.

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Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Checkered Flag who grew up visiting race circuits around the UK also a freelance motorsport PR officer. Outside of motorsport a lover of music, photography, NBA and NFL.
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