Q&A with Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa
February 23, 2005

West McLaren Mercedes drivers Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa recently discussed their build-up to the 2005 Formula One season on the test track in a press conference at the West Media Day. Here is some of what was said:

How has the winter testing season gone for you?
Pedro de la Rosa (PDLR): As usual it has been a very busy time lately, as February is probably the busiest month for test drivers in Formula One. I've had the pleasure to drive the new car, the MP4-20, one day in Valencia and then last week two days in Jerez with very good results. I have been quite surprised as to how easy the car is to drive, as this is not always the case with new cars.

I have been concentrating on long runs for reliability, which is my main work at the moment, and also concentrating on the Michelin tires because of the new extended use requirements. We have had good results and we will have one more week to go after the end of this test in Barcelona in week 7, before we go to Australia. We are going to work hard and take advantage of these two session, particularly here as this is the last test with MP4-20 before it leaves for Australia.

Alex Wurz (AW): The testing has also been really extremely busy for me. I think I have covered over 40% of our winter testing, which has mostly been tire testing for Michelin with the MP4-19B, our interim car, concentrating on race distances. If you look at the results you will see that nearly every day we covered over 100 - 140 laps which sees us do two race distances every day for three or fours days in a row, which is pretty tough work. I feel we have improved quite a lot already, but as always we won't know where we are until after the race in Australia.

Do you expect big changes in driving style as a result of the new rules?
PDLR: I don't think the new regulations will change the racing much, the only factor from a drivers point of view is that you have to take a little bit more care of the tires, particularly for the first ten laps of a race. Also, for the duration of the race you will have to make sure you don't over-heat the tires, damage them under braking if you are trying to brake late, which can lead to flat spotting a tire, that kind of thing. If you have flat spotted a tire, for example, you would really need to change it as you start to lose grip. So I think that will be the only difference, it could make it interesting, but I think it will be very similar. We will have to wait and see what happens in Australia. Due to the new regulations we will be a little bit slower, but probably not as much as we expected four months ago. To me this shows how important it is to have a good aerodynamic department.

AW: I think with the new regulations from the tires down to the race weekend format, it all comes down to the intelligence of the individual driver, so they know they have to save the tires at the beginning for example. It is at the end of the race when you need your equipment to be right to ensure you can stay in front of the competition. You can't give up lap time but you have to remain always on the edge without sliding too much, braking too late as Pedro mentioned because then you could damage the tires.

I very much enjoyed the Michelin tires last year that were constructed for 15 or 20 laps and they had a very high first lap performance. This meant that the tires were instantly really quick and then they would go down into performance. Now it's the other way round, we need two or three laps for the tires to get up to the perfect temperature to do a quick lap time. I think the qualifying might be slower but over a race distance will could see similar lap time to last year, as the tires are very consistent.

Is it easier or more complicated to understand this new car, to adapt yourself to it in comparison with last years car?
AW: With a new car you will always have to adapt a little bit, but it isn't really something you can compare. As a driver you just have to use your skills to adapt to it.

PDLR: I think there is a difference in driving style between the MP4- 20 and the 2004 car, but it is not a big difference. One example is as a result of the 2005 regulations the front wing is higher up it makes the car a bit more sensitive to understeer, but we are aware of that so adapt accordingly. But basically there is no difference at all.

You have both discussed how you need to take care of the tires. You have started testing with the 2005 engines, which have to last for a race weekend, do you have a way to drive to take care of these new engines?
PDLR: From a driving point of view, what I would always try to do when racing is to never use maximum revs on the engine unless you absolutely need them. Because if you rev the engine higher than it needs to be you will always get less mileage from it. So you just have to try not to overuse the engine unnecessarily. You just have to conserve it for when you really need it which is the race, and not free practice for example.

AW: To continue what Pedro is saying, it will still be as competitive in Formula One however. You will still see flat out qualifying and racing, as this is why we are here, it is our target and Formula One will still remain competitive and exciting.

We understand there have been some problems with the new surface here in Barcelona, has this affected your testing here?
PDLR: The new surface is definitely more slippery, and this is affecting especially the wear ratio of the tire. Previously Barcelona has been a hard surface on tire wear and now it isn't. The grip level is still high but we have been experiencing some problems with the low track temperatures in the last few tests here, as the weather has been very cold. But it will get better as more rubber is laid, but because the wear ratio is low, the amount of rubber that is being laid on the track is low also, so we are slowly getting quicker and quicker, but it will take time. It's not a big problem though.

Source West McLaren Mercedes

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