TEAM REPRESENTATIVES Ė Cyril
ABITEBOUL (Renault), Monisha KALTENBORN (Sauber), Robert FERNLEY (Force
India), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso), Guenther STEINER (Haas)
Cyril, clearly youíve made a lot of progress with your power unit over the
winter, but it hasnít all been plain sailing. Can you give us an insight
into where it still needs a little bit of work and when you expect to have
some solutions in place?
Cyril ABITEBOUL: Well, I think itís fair to say we had a pretty good 2016
season from a power unit perspective, but weíve made a bit of a brave
decision to actually re-start from scratch again, because frankly in Formula
One if you donít move forward you just die. So we had no choice but to
accept to take some risks by, again, starting with a whole new architecture,
which we had to do from a performance perspective and we saw that a bit of
short-term pain for a longer-term gain. So we are in that period of a bit of
pain because we have some weakness related to the, I would say, the health
of that power unit, but which on the positive sign is really delivering good
promise and good results from a performance perspective. So there is much
more to come but that will only come when the reliability is here and that
will come in the very soon future.
Can you be a bit more specific about when thatís going to come? When can we
expect you to be firing on all cylinders effectively?
CA: We donít want to go too much into the specifics, because when you start
to give planning, everyone is now expecting and in particular we have very
demanding customers and they are right to be demanding customers, but we
want to continue to control our destiny and our programme. What I can say is
that we are making sure reliability is under control and is as transparent
as possible for the customer teams. We will have some fixes in the next few
races and there will be some performance upgrades with the introduction. But
the problem is that with the new regulations, with fewer power units used
during the season, obviously you need to sync up the performance,
reliability upgrades and the introduction of new power units.
There was a recent meeting in Paris to discuss the future engine regulations
in Formula One. What can you tell us about that meeting? How productive was
CA: It was a good meeting. It was a productive meeting, very functional,
chaired by the FIA in Place de la Concorde, but with the attendance of
current engine manufacturers, plus a number of people interested in becoming
engine manufacturers in the future, plus also to get an answer of Ross Ė
Ross Brawn. So it was good, a good meeting which has allowed us to share the
diagnosis of the current engine regulation, what we think it was good, what
we think is less good and what could be done in order to improve, and the
associated process and timing. So I donít think itís my duty to communicate
upon the result of that meeting. But in general, I believe, and thatís good,
that it is a positive sign for where Formula One is going which is in my
opinion is a bit more constructive and forward looking than it has been
Monisha, that was some debut by Antonio Giovinazzi in Melbourne. How
impressed were you?
Monisha KALTENBORN: Well, we were all very impressed, considering how
quickly it happened. When we came to Melbourne with Pascal, there was no
indication at all that weíd end up in this situation, because Pascal, being
a very ambitious driver, really wanted to driver but when he realized he
does have a responsibility to the team and if he is not 100 per cent fit he
really needs to say that. We more or less overnight had to make this call
and then to see Antonio, who drove the first test for us in Barcelona for,
but thatís of course not in any way comparable with the car, what it is now,
he still came in there, did a great session, did a good race, no major
issues or dramas, so weíre very impressed by him.
What can you tell us about Pascalís condition and when will he be back?
MK: Well, from a medical perspective he was declared fine to race, already
at the tests. The rest is a question of his fitness to the extent that he
wants to be able to deliver 100 per cent during the entire race. Weíve heard
also now in between from doctors and all that, it is very challenging for
the drivers. We heard that from the drivers themselves. Heís working flat
out on his fitness. It is very difficult to say, because the body is not
that logical or analytical in its development, on what day itís going to be
there but his target and our target is to have him as soon as possible in
the car, ideally at the next race, but if not, it will the next one. But
clear is that he is our second driver and thatís not going to change.
Weíve just heard from Cyril about the engine meeting that took place in
Paris last week. As a privateer team, in what direction would you like to
see the engine regulations go?
MK: Well, for a private team itís extremely important for the costs to come
down again. We had reached with the earlier engines a point where we were
talking about $8m engines and it was meant to be coming down further and now
we just went the totally opposite way. So we want them to come down to an
affordable level. But more importantly there should be a certain parity
amongst the powertrains. We wouldnít want that the engine should be the main
denominator or differentiator in performance. So whatís very important is
the parity and the costs.
Q: Bob, coming on to you, the team was fourth last year, first of the
privateer teams, if you like. Can you give us some insight into how
difficult it has been to prepare for these new rules in 2017?
Robert FERNLEY: Well itís not actually been hugely different than normal. We
obviously look at the following yearís car very early on anyway. We had a
very clear development programme for the í16 car which the technical team
delivered perfectly and, obviously, resulted with the fourth place Ė but we
were also well ahead for the í17 car. So I think, obviously there is a
significant cost involved, simply because there is no carryover in the new
regulations but like everything itís an interesting challenge. Weíre
starting with a clean sheet of paper and youíd like to think that your
technical team can build a car that can do exactly the same again.
Q: Youíve already raced this yearís car once. Thereís quite a large gap from
you to the front, how to you assess the pecking order at the minute?
RF: I donít think thereís any question or doubt about that. Youíve got the
three top teams that are spending significantly more than the rest of the
field and I think thatís the difference.
Q: Is fourth in the Constructorsí Championship a realistic goal for you guys
RF: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think weíll be fighting, it will be very tough
because thereís some very good competition around but thatís probably going
to be one of the most exciting positions thatís going to be fought over for
the whole season.
Q: Guenther. Melbourne. Positives and negatives for the team. How do you
reflect on that race?
Guenther STEINER: The positives, for sure you try to think on the positives
but then the negatives always come up. I think qualifying with Romain
qualifying sixth on good speed, no luck or nothing, that was good. Kevin
wasnít so good because he struggled in all the practice sessions with one
problem or another and he just wasnít delivered but after qualifying we were
pretty happy and pretty positive and then in the race we had the failure,
the water leak and the turbo failure consequentially, and you go home
empty-handed. You go away knowing that the car is there. We just need now
always to get always the potential fulfilled and the potential out of the
car in each race track. So, I think in the end itís positive, even with a
little bit of a sour taste.
Q: Itís a very tight midfield this year. Do you think the team has the
development capacity to keep at the front of it?
GS: I donít know. I donít know what the other people are planning to do.
Itís always trying to shoot a moving target here. So, I think I know what we
are going to do. We are going to introduce developments. We have a good plan
in place but I donít know if the others have a better plan or if their
updates are better. That I donít know. Looking back in the past, I think our
quantity and what we want to do is equal to the other midfield teams. For
sure itís nothing compared with the big three but letís hope the quality we
bring to the race track in development and updates is to be in the race with
Q: Franz, great start for the team in Melbourne. How much of a surprise was
it to get both cars in the points given your lack of reliability during
Franz TOST: Winter testing we were suffering a little bit in the first test
with reliability issues but fortunately we could sort out most of the topics
for the second test already. Therefore I was not so surprised by our
performance Ė but of course it was good to have two cars in Q3 and then at
the finish with both cars in the points. This is always a good start.
Q: Youíve got the most experienced driver line-up in the teamís history,
youíve got a stable technical team. What do you think you can achieve this
FT: The target is the fifth place in the Constructorsí Championship Ė but as
my friends here around, they have nearly the same target and we will see. I
think that we have a very competitive package, we have a very good car, we
have to experienced drivers and the team is also making progress, we have
also some development steps during the year and it will became a hard fight
between Renault, Force India, Haas and ourselves.
Q: Do you think you can challenge Red Bull Racing?
FT: No. Red Bull Racing is not our target. Red Bull Racing is in another
league. I am happy if we challenge successfully the teams which I just
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jia Hui Huang Ė Guangdong Television & Radio sports channel) To all of
you. Someone says listening to F1 drivers is wrong, itís bad for F1 racing.
As weíve seen in the first race the drivers are happy because they can push
harder Ė but the fans are not. They are not satisfied. Itís boring. No
overtaking. Standard one stop. What do you think? F1 should listen to who?
GS: I donít fully agree with the comments, that the new cars are boring and
everything negative. Iíd rather see the glass half-full than half-empty. I
think the race in Melbourne was by no means boring, in my opinion. We had a
different winner than last year. I think that the fight between Ferrari and
Mercedes and Red Bull will be very close. We have got an interesting
midfield, there will be fights, the overtaking was not very good but I would
not jump to a conclusion yet that this will be the whole year. Like this, it
looks like itís difficult but other elements will come in to overtake, so I
wouldnít say that all the fans are negative about it. Thereís a lot of
enthusiastic people out there that think the new cars are good Ė so Iím
prettyÖ I donít see it like this.
Franz, do you have anything to add?
FT: I agree with Guenther. For me, the race in Melbourne was quite an
interesting race because it was a close race. There were many cars within a
few tenths of a second and the overtaking manoeuvres in Melbourne are always
difficult, it was always in the past the case. We must wait now the first
three races to get a clearer picture Ė but the cars are looking much better,
much more aggressive and I think the direction was OK. The rest we will see
during the season.
Cyril, anything to add?
CA: No, nothing much to add. I believe itís a little bit too early to judge.
We need to give a chance to the product. Itís an interesting formula in many
aspects. I think strategy will play a different role, qualifying will play a
different role. You will have in this new formula to execute everything
perfectly well, so I think it puts the onus on the teams here at track to
make sure you get also to the right setup, so everything is perfectly
executed. Itís a different challenge, an interested challenge, certainly it
is to live from inside. Obviously we also need to care about the fan out
there, so answering your question about who we should listen to. We should
also listen to the fans Ė but thatís one of the things I believe Liberty and
FOM in its new format, which is also to look at surveys, trying to
understand what the fan really wants. Not think for the fan but listen to
the fan for themselves.
RF: From our side, sitting on the pitwall, we had two drivers that did two
incredible overtaking manoeuvres. Certainly it got my attention on both
occasions. I think they were exceptional manoeuvres and, from a strategy
point of view itís actually quite interesting because itís bought a new
dynamic into it. We now have both the undercut and the overcut process and I
think itís going to be one of those things thatís going to prove very
interesting as we move into the year.
Monisha, anything to add?
MK: Well, itís all been said. You have to wait and see. Itís just the first
race, itís a very unique race and thatís always been the case. When these
rules were bought in, we all knew what the negative sides would be and that
the positives side was mainly to have more attractive cars, and I do think
most of the fans actually like that. So weíve achieved one target. And the
other issues are to do overall with the competition. We should just take it
from here and try to find other things, other rules that we can also target
more at the other issues you raise. Itís an ongoing process but I think itís
kicked off very positively.
Q: (Dieter Rencken Ė Racing Lines) To the four independents or privateer
teams and then a separate follow-up to Cyril. Could you see yourselves,
given that thereís no clear guarantee of engine parity going forward
regardless of regulation changes, could you see yourselves clear to
retaining the current engine formula provided the price is dropped? And then
to Cyril, given that the manufacturers have spent most of the money already
on this particular engine formula, does it really make sense to consider
dumping it just when itís on the cusp of being reliable and highly
MK: Well, as a private team, we understand that from the engine
manufacturerís perspective you have to represent certain technologies and
that doesnít go against our businesses or our business models as such. Where
itís gone terribly wrong is on the costs. We certainly want a movement that
is irrespective of the technology which is being used. The other aspect we -
like all other teams, irrespective of if youíre private or not Ė have to
consider is what itís done to the show and thatís where a lot of criticism
is coming from - all the discussions around the sound - and so as a private
team, these are more important issues to us and we have to find a balance
overall that what is necessary for manufacturers to stay in there, what do
they want to showcase in here... but it has to be making the competition a
good one, so that we all actually have certain chances in there; it has to
be affordable and the fans should like it, because at the end of the day
weíre doing this for the fans.
GS: I think, on the cost, sometimes what we were thinking is that the engine
which is developed now itís never finished being developed but itís at a
good level, so I think the cost should come down or you freeze the engine.
Sometimes, keeping something you know - and like it was done with the V8s,
to freeze the engine spec - that would make it cheaper, if we go for the
cheap and a very high technology. So now, jumping to a potentially cheap
version of some kind of engine, but starting development from new, could be
more expensive than keeping this engine with the high technology just to
freeze or to reduce investment, so thatís another idea which needs to be
discussed, between the engine manufacturers, but Iím sure they will come up
with some ideas and that will be one of the things I guess somebody will
come up with, if we keep this. The technology in this engine is amazing for
everybody involved in engines, this is an amazing technology, so now we go
backwards and maybe invest more money to develop something which is actually
not as sophisticated as this. So I think it needs to be evaluated as well,
if maybe from a certain point on. All their engines are the same, we freeze
the engine like we did with the V8s, that would be a possibility. But again,
in the engine group, we as independents have not got a lot of influence so
we can just voice our opinion outside of the group and say maybe thatís an
option. So I hope they weigh up that option as well because I donít know,
just to go to a potentially cheaper engine, if thatís the right way, and
reduce the technology. As Monisha said, there may be an issue with the noise
but it will never be perfect whatever we do so there is some give and take
and maybe we could live with that.
RF: I think there is a little bit of work which could perhaps be done to
address some of the issues, particularly the noise and simplify the base
technology, but I think I agree with everybody else. I think that the
principle of the current engine shouldnít just be abandoned, a lot of work
has gone into it but I think it could be simplified a little bit. I think a
lot of the things that weíre doing perhaps go beyond what even the most
sophisticated of fans is understanding, so we could come back a little bit,
get the cost right, obviously get the power and the noise right and move
forward but you donít have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
FT: I nearly agree with whatís been said so far. For me the pillar for the
new engine is the parity Ė there must be a chance that there is parity
between the different manufacturers because without it they canít contribute
anything to the show and they do something. It cannot be that some cars are
far ahead. We will see now whatís going on during the rest of the season.
The second pillar is the costs. The current engine is simply far too
expensive. From the technology side, itís a fantastic engine, itís
extraordinary technology but itís therefore also very, very expensive. And
the third point is the noise; we need to bring in some music and these are
the criterias and I think, regarding the parity and the costs, this is now
in the hands of the people who make the regulations and if the development
is restricted from the beginning onwards with very strong regulations then I
think we will achieve the goals with the parity and the costs and the sound,
it should be able to find a solution that the fans are happy with, the music
of this new engine.
Q: So letís get the view of a manufacturer now? Cyril?
CA: I feel a bit under the spotlight. I think one thing is that we cannot be
stubborn, or we cannot be deaf to what obviously weíve been constantly
hearing since we introduced those new engine regulations. I think
fundamentally there were very good things introduced with that new engine
formula. With the previous V8s, we believe that clearly Formula One had lost
contact with the direction that automotive was taking so something had to be
done. Maybe weíve been a step too far, weíve been a bit moving from
something that was a bit too old-fashioned to something that is maybe too
modern, too complex, too sophisticated, too expensive. We need to be a bit
careful about solutions that seem to be easy like freezing current engines
because if we freeze the current engine we will freeze something that is
extremely expensive and costs will not go down. Development costs for
manufacturers may go down but supply costs to the teams will not go down
simply because the bill for material of the engine is extremely expensive
because of its sophistication. So I think that again that it seems there is
a common view about the diagnosis of the current regulations and what we
would need in order to build from there, without starting again from
scratch, over and over again, but I think the devil will be in the detail
and itís not going to be that easy to find a solution that satisfies
everyone and achieves everything, so I think it will be about prioritising
and thatís where I hope that the new process in partnership between the FIA
and FOM with Ross Brawn Ė who has a fantastic understanding of all the
complexity involved Ė will provide a good leadership for the discussion. I
think everyone agrees that there should be some element of electrification.
We donít necessarily see some road relevance or contribution to the show to
an element like MGU-H, so that this orientation for the future, I think the
whole debate would be on the architecture of the internal combustion engine
which will be an interesting debate and some things that I guess will keep
us busy for the next few months.
Q: What would you like to see, how many cylinders?
CA: There is what I like and there is what we need. I donít think that
Formula One can afford to turn its back on some things that are relevant to
the manufacturer, given the current business model of Formula One. Formula
One could completely change to a different business model and go for
something that is really different and not road-relevant but that would be a
brave manoeuvre. As far as Iím concerned, I started with the sound of the
V10 and thatís something that I will never forget obviously, but thatís just
me. The new generation, the generation that we need to attract - because
itís not just about the current fans of Formula One, we also need to think
about the fans that we do not have Ė those fans have never heard the sound
of a V10 and maybe for those fans, getting back to a V10 or V8, is not so
relevant. So itís a complex debate and an interesting debate and I hope itís
going to be done in a constructive and also documented manner and again
thatís where I believe all the surveys that are going on, all that will also
go on in the course of this year will be instructive for the direction that
we need to take.