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Friday, March 17, 2006

Sepang Friday press conference – Part II

Following the first day of practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Patrick Head (Williams), John Howett (Toyota), Mario Theissen (BMW Sauber), and Geoff Willis are the guests at the FIA Friday press conference. Q: (Anne Giuntini – L’Equipe) I would like from all of you to know what is your opinion about the new qualifying format? MT: I think it is exciting, I love it, I think the spectators will love it. It is one hour full of action, three runs, and I think it is the best way we ever had. You can always talk about refining it, question of going with or without fuel, how to deal with that, but altogether I really like it. PH: I think Mario is right. It is certainly exciting and quite tense in the garage and of course with Kimi’s accident and the big rush then going out it was certainly quite tricky and I think it particularly did not work out in Ralf’s favour. Basically you got one lap and if you happen to have a slow car in front of you when you go out, your are in big trouble. The only bit that is a bit dubious and I think the crowd will find rather difficult to understand is this business of having fuel in for the last practice and then while the cars are going round seemingly not doing quick laps and obviously the influence of the weight of the fuel is huge. When this qualifying format was first proposed it was on the basis of not carrying fuel in any of the three qualifying sessions and that probably would have caused a problem at the time had the tyre situation stayed the same.
But with us being able to change tyres at the pit stop as I understand it being proposed at the same time, personally I would be happy to have all three sessions on low fuel, but as Mario says there is room to trim as the basic format is pretty good but I think the FIA are not really willing to trim race to race. If they are going to make a change it will be at least mid season, I think, and obviously after some discussions with the teams. GW: Well I think it was great fun, something we had studied in a lot of details and rehearsed a lot and made the specific preparations for handling the cars, particularly in the last session, trying to get the cars with their tyres changed simultaneously. Having said that, having practiced everything and rehearsed everything, I think the first session showed that you could revert on the edge of getting it wrong badly, so there is a lot of learning during the first weekend. It will be interesting to see what the qualifying brings up this weekend. I am sure everybody will learn again for a couple of more races and it will settle down. But it is very busy and there is no room for error and that certainly is a challenge, a challenge we will enjoy.

JH: I think the qualifying we have to look at it from a consumer’s point of view, the public. From inside the team it is a pretty exciting format. It is very busy but we have all the times so we can see. I think the key point really is to see what television viewers also think about the format and whether they can really follow it. And I think there seems to be some mixed reactions. So for the end consumer we have perhaps to wait a bit longer but from within the teams and probably for track action it is a very positive move. Q: (James Roberts – Motorsport News) Patrick, what did you think when you saw Villeneuve’s BMW retire in Bahrain? PH: A loaded question. That was quite interesting really, because I was called up on Wednesday to be asked whether I’d come here and I said to Silvia, who rang me up, Mario Theissen being asked as well? I’m not sure if I got a reply there, but I thought ‘this is a set-up’. You’re so busy during a race that you’re not really looking too often at what’s going on on other cars but I don’t think tears welled up in my eyes. Q: (Tetsuo Tsugawa - Tetsu Enterprise) After last Bahrain race, what did you think about Scuderia Toro Rosso’s V10 engine? Do you think we need more restrictions or to change the rules, or just keep going? PH: Mario’s really the one to talk about it, but I think from what I’ve seen of power curves, run at its maximum, it’s certainly below the V8 from Cosworth. The thing about it is that it’s so under-stressed, in effect, that it can be run at its maximum every lap of the race, every lap of qualifying, every lap of practice. That gives a certain advantage. The other thing is that it would have been a much bigger problem, I think, if one of the manufacturer teams had decided to go that route because the Cosworth V10 engine never had variable trumpets and as I understand it, it has not been optimum-tuned for the lower revs, for the restricted intake, and I’m sure that for any of the manufacturers - because you are allowed to run with those engines in exactly 2005 specification, so with variable trumpets, if you’d re-done the camshafts and the ports and all the rest of it, to optimise it for those rules - I’m sure there would be a few people howling like hell now. Providing it’s only the Cosworth V10 and it doesn’t get developed to be optimised for that, then it brings another team out there which wouldn’t otherwise be out there but I’m not sure that Colin Kolles from Midland feels the same way, but I don’t have a problem with it. But Mario’s opinion, I think, is probably more significant. MT: I see three advantages of a restricted V10. One is peak power, even if you apply the restrictions in a very rude way by putting in a plate into the air trumpet, I would expect it to have a higher peak power – maybe not too much. Second one is higher torque, which should put you in a position at the start to overtake maybe one or two cars, and at the exit of a corner, to accelerate much quicker. That’s what we saw in Bahrain. And the third advantage is, as Patrick said, that this engine is good for several thousand kilometres and you can basically go at qualifying pace throughout the race. Those are the major differences from a technical perspective. JH: I think that the only thing you have to recognise is that the FIA have indicated that they will change the restriction or the peak power of the engine if they determine it is necessary, and therefore it would be very difficult for any of the main manufacturer teams or main teams to really consider that, because you don’t really know what could happen between one race and the other, and I think that should be considered as another element.

Q: (Niki Takeda - Formula PA) The third car facility has been questioned recently; would you like to see that reviewed? PH: I would have to say that we are very happy with the third car facility and I think last year I’m sure Ron Dennis was very happy with the third car facility. It was actually proposed, I think, for some of the teams nearer the back of the grid to be able to have paying drivers on a Friday and it certainly isn’t being used in that way. But on the other hand, it is a bit of an advantage to the lower teams and therefore, as a corollary disadvantage for the upper teams. I would have to say that they are probably happy about it this year and I hope to be in a position where we are unhappy about it next year. MT: Similar view. It certainly is an advantage especially now, in the early phase of the season because, as we discussed before, everybody is concerned about reliability and keeps engine or car mileage low. We are happy to benefit from that. Maybe we can change it after every team benefited from it for one year – don’t know if that works out. On the other hand, you have to see what would happen without the third cars on Friday. Certainly the teams who have a third car, their race drivers would maybe do a few laps more but not too many, and now at least, we have some cars going around on a full programme. Robert Kubica did 49 laps today and together with the third drivers that was quite interesting to watch. JH: Clearly it’s an advantage, but as we don’t have it, it sounds sour grapes to say you can’t. I think you just have to live with the rules as they are, but clearly we did gain advantage from it from the last two years with Ricardo driving on the Friday, no question. GW: Yes, I agree with everything that’s been said. It’s clearly an advantage for us but maybe it’s just a way of helping to mix up the grid to try and give a little bit of a penalty to the top four teams and a little bit of a bonus to the following teams to maybe avoid teams just running away. It keeps you having to work hard.


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