Hungary GP: Friday Press Conference
Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari),
Norbert HAUG (Mercedes),
Christian HORNER (Red Bull),
Franz TOST (Toro Rosso)
Q: Christian, winner of the last two races. How has it affected the team and how has it affected Mark Webber? Do you feel a load is off his shoulders?
Christian HORNER: Yeah, I mean Germany was a fantastic weekend for Mark Webber. It was his first pole position and his first race win after 130 attempts. It was a big milestone in his career and he was very, very quick throughout the weekend. It was thoroughly deserved the result that he achieved. I think hopefully it will be a weight off his shoulders now. There is a big difference between thinking you can win and knowing you can win and he has crossed that line now, so I am sure we will see hopefully more victories for Mark in the near future.
Q: Is there a different atmosphere in the factory now?
CH: Everybody in the factory was extremely motivated coming into this season. We knew we had a good car. The effort that has gone into the development of this car is nothing short of astounding. The commitment that has been shown by so many unsung heroes back in the factory, in the garage here and at every grand prix so far this year has been quite staggering. I think the challenge we have had this year, combined with new regulations, has also been the lack of testing, so I am sure we, like other teams, are rushing though components at breakneck speed to get them to the car. Even components that were on the drawing board 10 days ago are finding themselves getting onto a car at a grand prix weekend which is unprecedented. The whole development pace is fanatical at the moment but the guys at Milton Keynes have risen to the challenge. The design team led by Adrian (Newey) and his guys have responded brilliantly well and that’s resulted in the kind of performances that we have seen in the last couple of races.
Q: You talk about the design team and the pace of development. I am a little surprised that perhaps you haven’t got a little update here. I know you had one a couple of races ago but with the beak coming up and then a double header surely it was important to have an update here?
CH: We have got a few little bits here. We are targeting to get something onto the car every single weekend. It is a challenge and the next challenge is obviously the summer break when we are not allowed to do anything, so we have got a week to produce whatever we are going to do for the next race in Valencia. But we have a few bits and pieces here. This weekend is obviously a big weekend. Theoretically this is Brawn territory and we are going to do our best to take the fight to them but there are a few other cars that also will go pretty quick this weekend.
Q: How do you feel about the balance between Brawn and yourselves over the last couple of races? Is it because they weren’t suited to the conditions but you had made a step forward?
CH: I was very happy with the balance at the last two races. I think that yes, for sure, we have made a step. I think they have a great car and they started the year and came out of the blocks very quickly. I think over the last few races we have made steps. We have understood the double diffuser more and more and I think more than anything that has added performance to the car. We saw the first iteration of that in Monte Carlo, the second in Silverstone, so as we understand more of that philosophy it is just opening up more and more development avenues. I think that will continue throughout the rest of the season.
Q: Franz, first of all I think one of the things you have got to do is building up your own technical department. How is that coming along?
Franz TOST: It is coming along very well I must say. We have currently around 220 employees. We have started to run the wind tunnel in Bicester and in about two or three weeks we will have the CFD installed in Faenza and so far everything is to the time scale.
Q: The modifications here. Did they come from that group of people?
FT: No, the modifications here are coming from Milton Keynes, from Red Bull Technology. We are still getting the drawings from them because this is for this year’s car. Regarding the designer group which is working in Faenza they are doing the job for next year’s car.
Q: And how have those modifications worked out today?
FT: They worked out well and I think we made a step forward. We were out with some fuel in the car today and I expect that tomorrow at least we will be in the second qualifying.
Q: You have a new driver here with Jaime Alguersuari. He is the youngest driver ever to be in Formula One and he has not had a lot of experience in a Formula One seat. What was the thinking behind hiring him and also starting his season at this stage?
FT: The thinking behind is that first we were not happy with another driver which we exchanged. Then, as you know, Red Bull, respectively Dietrich Mateschitz, bought the second team to give young drivers a chance to come into Formula One. As you know Red Bull is running a very successful young driver program and from these drivers Jaime is currently the most experienced, the fastest and the most mature driver. He is currently the youngest driver in a Formula One field but it does not mean he is inexperienced. He has so far done 118 races, he won 17 races. He had 36 finishes on the podium and he won last year the English Formula Three Championship and also this year in the World Series he has so far done a good job. In Le Mans last Sunday he finished in third position and therefore I don’t think he is as inexperienced as other drivers think he is. Today he did 82 laps without any mistake and I think the times he did were quite impressive and I am quite convinced that Red Bull has chosen the correct driver and I am convinced that we will have a good future with him. The reason why he started here in Hungary is that five weeks ago he drove a race here for the Renault World Series and he finished in sixth position if I remember right. That means he was familiar with the track and it would have been a much greater risk to start with him in Valencia or even later than in Spa. Therefore he should enjoy being here in Hungary. He should enjoy sitting in the car and I am convinced he will do a good race.
Q: Norbert, you have KERS here. The difference in speed was very interesting at the last race, particularly of Lewis (Hamilton) across the start-finish line in comparison to everybody else which I guess was KERS assisted. Would you expect the same sort of thing here?
Norbert HAUG: Yes, so far I am not quite sure whether the timing is right but I hope it is. Then we have a big advantage in the first sector. The times were a little bit all over the place and I am not quite sure if the split times are the correct ones. But it is quite obvious that we have very good top speed at the start-finish line. Looking back at the Nürburgring I think Lewis really would have made it. Mark, certainly not by purpose, hit him and Lewis got a deflated tire. He definitely would have made it around the corner and I am sure as Heikki (Kovalainen) showed that at least for the first 15 laps or whatever he could have been in the lead and then it would have been a different story, so that was bad luck, it was not on purpose. It could have been the other way around. You can lose or damage your front wing or whatever. It was very tight, Lewis coming from fifth but to overtake four guys ahead of him and such guys in the cars. That means quite something. It is not the longest straight at the Nürburgring, so I think that was a great achievement. And of course I hope for very much the same here. It would be better to be further up the grid but I doubt it. But maybe we can catch some guys in front of us at the start and then we will see how the race develops. I think we need reasonable lap times but definitely we are not in a position to go for race wins but I think since Silverstone, where we have been nowhere basically, we have improved a lot. You could see that at the Nürburgring where hopefully we were going in the right direction. Coming back to the basis of your question, our KERS is a big, big help, not only here but on various race tracks. Even in Monaco that was the case, I think we did competitive lap times. For obvious reasons we could not get the result there but we have been competitive there. We have been absolutely not competitive at the quick ones like Turkey and Silverstone. The Nürburgring is not the quickest either but we did a reasonable job there and hopefully we can continue that direction here.
Q: You stated that it would be nice to have a German driver in the team. What is the situation with the current two?
NH: Well, I am stating that for 15 years to be honest and it is still the truth. Just to put it very clear. There is a lot of speculation going around and the newest one is that Lewis is afraid of a German driver in the team but I can honestly tell you that if you have had Fernando Alonso in your first year in the team and you were evenly matched with Fernando Alonso, then I don’t think you should be afraid of any team-mate. We need to see how things are developing. I think Heikki did a great job. If you look at qualifying times and qualifying positions this is quite evenly matched between both of them and I think Lewis is a match for basically everybody. I think if you are not 9-0 after nine races, then this is positive and I think in Heikki’s case it is quite balanced between both of them. I think we should keep that in mind, so there are no decisions taken. But, of course, I think all of us are looking at the market. This is our job and we are looking to develop opportunities. We helped young drivers a lot. I have to say I am absolutely pleased with the successes of Sebastian Vettel and also the other German guys. They are great guys, good friends. If they are better and quicker than us, then they beat us and that is fine. We just need to do a better job and I think that is the right atmosphere, when you appreciate that somebody else is doing a good job as well. But don’t worry we are going to come back and we will be strong again sooner rather than later.
Q: Since the German Grand Prix there have been doubts about German Grand Prix next year. We haven’t got a French Grand Prix this year. The British Grand Prix has some doubts around it. There is no American Grand Prix. It has been stated that some of the teams are worried about the grands prix in the future in their major markets, the ones that I have just mentioned. What can you do about reinstating those grands prix? What are the hopes of Constructors’ such as yourselves?
NH: First of all I think the British Grand Prix in my view, as being an observer, as being a racer, gave the perfect answer on race day. I was surprised to hear lots of noise and lots of hoorays when I saw on television that Lewis was fighting with Fernando for whatever, 17th position. I think everybody stood up and clapped. These are the real enthusiasts and if Silverstone was not a fantastic race, it was not the most interesting one, we should have done a better job and we should have had more fights. But the people genuinely enjoyed it and not having a race there is, I think, not the right thing to do. Well, they can swap with Donington, it is not my business, but Silverstone proved they are absolutely capable of having a sensational grand prix. It is an historic race track. I like the race track very much. Even if we could not perform there we have won a couple of races there already. But I think races like these should be on the calendar and if they swap one year to the other with Donington, that is fine with me. The same applies to Germany. I think there is still a very good chance for Hockenheim. The Nürburgring was a good race as well, so I think the prospects are not bad to keep these traditional race tracks on the calendar. We, certainly in FOTA, whatever influence we will have, I think, it is our thinking that we would like to have races like these on the calendar.
Q: Stefano, how have this weekend’s modifications worked out today?
Stefano DOMENICALI: Well, of course today we have done quite a different job on the cars. First of all we also started some work in relation to the new year, 2010, because we need to anticipate some development there because we know that from now to the end of the season we can have a lot of running. Secondly, we had some issues relating mainly to the usage of the tires today. I don’t think Felipe was really happy about the balance of the car in both conditions, even if I have to say that at the end of the day, when he was trying to do a good time on the supersofts, there were always yellow flags at the wrong moment, but that’s part of the game. Kimi (Räikkönen) was not too bad, he felt that the car was reasonably good. I think that the modifications that we brought today gave what we expected, so it’s really a matter of understanding how the situation is within the real framework. We know that in Hungary the situation on the first day is really very difficult to analyze as always in the past on a track that is not really perfect. We saw a lot of drivers having some difficulties, going wide or not being really clean on the track, and of course we need to understand the lap time exactly because the fuel effect is quite high. So we need to be very careful. And above all, this year, with such a different performance situation, day by day, run by run, we need to not draw any conclusions before the checkered flag, I would say. But for sure, we know that… I think Norbert made a good point: I don’t think we are in a position to be ready to win a race from a performance point of view but we need to be ready, just in case something happens. I know that all the competitors are pushing very, very hard to improve their performance and we know that because the gaps are so small, a little step can make the difference. It’s a challenging season. In this condition we need to take that now with a positive approach, when you are performing not at the standard that you wanted to react, so I think that’s the situation today. Let’s see tomorrow.
Q: How much are you working towards next year and how much are you still concentrating on this year?
SD: We are totally concentrating on this year at the track. I think that now, after the August break, we will be fully concentrated on next year’s car.
Q: A lot of people have been talking about Kimi’s performances this year and about his future; what is his future?
SD: I know there is a lot of speculation going around. As we always say, the question is that we don’t ever say something about any driver, if he’s performing well, if he’s performing badly. We are always speaking about the team and that’s our line. You know what the situation is with our two drivers and there’s no change on that. Nothing to add on top of it. Up until 2010 we have an agreement with Kimi and Felipe, and that’s the situation. No more than that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Stefano, it was suggested in Germany that by now the Concorde Agreement would have been signed. Could you explain what the latest situation is, how close are all three parties now?
SD: I think that we are progressing. I think that we are very, very close to reaching a solution. As always with such a complexity, the closer you get to the goal, the more everyone is trying to squeeze or to find different things around it but I am optimistic that before the August break everything will be sorted out.
Q: (Peter Fracas – Auto Motor) Question to Stefano and Norbert: it is being said that we will be down to five engines per driver for next year. How sure are you that it will happen because Cosworth has obviously voiced some concerns about being able to retune their engines and if it will stay at eight engines, will you still be able to offer your engines for five million euros for the independent teams?
SD: What I can say about that is, as I said, that the closer that you get to signatures on a document that also has to incorporate sporting and technical regulations from the baseline, for sure this is not a point that is 100 percent clear. This is the current situation. I think this is one of the most important points that we need to clear up.
Q: (Michael Trawniczek – Rallye and More) Mr. Haug, is it true that you said that a crash similar to that of Henry Surtees is not possible in Formula One and if true, why are you so sure?
NH: I never said that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Stefano, could you explain to us what will happen during the summer break because it’s something new, where you have to close the door?
SD: We are looking forward to it; at least, for us, with one week to go and then, at least in my professional career, I’ve never had two weeks holiday in August, so I’m really looking forward to it. But basically we had to sign an agreement where all the teams would not go ahead with any kind of activity apart from maintenance, things that we need to do in that period to refresh or looking after the maintenance and structure of our buildings, but that there’s no production, no design, no activity. This is something that we decided together in order to follow the rules of saving money for all the teams involved.
CH: As an Italian you should know that the whole of Italy closes for a month anyway and we thought that it was only fair that the rest of the racing community does the same, at least for two weeks. So it’s a very strange thing to have an enforced holiday, telling people that they can’t work, they can’t come into the factory. It’s a compulsory, it’s been agreed by FOTA, it’s documented what we can and can’t do. Yes, it’s a lot of people who are forced to take a break for two weeks.
Q: (MC) Norbert, does that apply to the racing engine departments at Brixworth and Stuttgart as well?
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Your objective is to save money and reduce the costs of Formula One but the teams bring new updates and new steps forward at every single race. So to what level can we say that you are saving money because it seems that development has never been so fast?
FT: OK, but within the new regulations development will be restricted. For example, with homologations next year: front wings, rear wings. They are homologated. You can bring out three new modifications, the floor as well, the monocoque, also only one crash structure. That means that FOTA has worked out quite a good program where we are convinced that we can reduce costs.
CH: I think that we’ve already seen significant savings this year. I think that the testing ban has saved significant money. I think that the work that was done on the engines and if you look at the decrease in price in engines over the last three years, predominantly through the work of FOTA - the FIA has obviously signed it off - is significant. So I think teams have already reduced budgets this year by between fifteen and thirty percent and I think that there will be further significant savings through the resource restrictions that are planned to be implemented. We’ll even be restricted on the number of people that we potentially plan to take to a race circuit next year. I think Formula One has reacted responsibly. It has moved to get its costs under control. It’s positive to see three new teams entered for next year which would have been impossible, I think, without the resource restrictions that will be introduced.
NH: I think the engine is a very special issue. If you look back two years, an engine lease was four times as much money as it will be next year, and I think that’s quite remarkable. FOTA worked on that. I stress, this is a FOTA idea and of course you need to be in a position to produce these engines, so I think that’s a really perfect fix and something that is a very special price. I don’t think that three years ago anybody could have imagined that this would have happened. In our case, we will spend thirty percent less money as Mercedes Benz than we did last year and this is just the beginning. I’m sure we can improve much more and these resource restrictions are really the way to go and we are very restrictive. These guys put a lot of work into that, much, much more than I did. Martin Whitmarsh, for example, worked flat out and there was a great atmosphere and I think this is the new style of Formula One. You are competitors on the race track but you work together next to the race track and this is really happening, and I think this is a very, very positive development. I think FOTA will improve further and be open, help the media to get the job done and so on and so on and this is not singing a song, this is what we want to do, step by step, what we want to develop, because some things can just be improved and we need to make sure that the spectators like our sport even more, so more interesting races, and so on and so on and there are quite a few ideas and a very constructive co-operation between the teams.
SD: I think that Norbert is totally correct. We don’t have to underestimate that this year it is due to FOTA that we are able to save money, above all in the area of the engine. Now, hopefully we will get all the Concorde (Agreement), all the other things done and now FOTA should concentrate on the main things that we have outlined at the beginning, to try to put ahead ideas on improving the show, put ahead ideas on keeping the restrictions that we have discussed. Now is the time to revert to the main objectives of FOTA, as we said, working together with the FIA in proposing something new and giving back the positiveness of Formula One because otherwise we will loop around something that is not beneficial to anyone. We need to make sure that people or sponsors that were on hold now, because of the situation, once again will give the green light, they will find that Formula One is attractive. This is the job that we have to do because otherwise we will miss our objective and this is what we want to start on. Unfortunately we have delayed with our previous planning but now we have to focus on this.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Christian has just mentioned the testing ban, so what is the future of the in-season testing ban because I’ve heard some drivers and even team bosses saying that it’s just too much not to have any kind of testing, just some straight-line testing during the season? Is there an intention to change that next year maybe?
CH: I think that the testing for next year is being worked on at the moment within the sporting working group and it will be 15 days of common testing between the teams prior to the season and obviously we then have the three young driver days. I guess this is something that will be debated, as to when you run your young driver days, in order to not prevent youngsters coming in to Formula One. I think it’s finding that balance (that is difficult) but I think that can be done quite easily.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Cutting costs also means cutting jobs; could you give us some figures about teams next season, how many less people in the aerodynamic department, engine department, chassis department, etc?
SD: All that I can say is that we are working on a situation in order to reduce the number of people at races. All the other things are related to something that we will exploit internally because everyone has their own organization, so we cannot say that everyone is doing the same thing as the others. But for sure what we are aiming at now is to look at the number of people that attend races.
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article