PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Q. A question to you all. Can you tell us how the engine situation is in your team? It is getting to that critical time of the year, just four races to go, and everybody is wondering how many engines everybody has got.
Sam MICHAEL: From our point of view it is quite okay. We have not had any failures so far this year, so we are managing our pool of eight between each driver and so far we are on schedule not to use any new engines. That can always change in the next few practice or race sessions, but at this stage it has worked out well. It is a manageable thing. You can handle probably one failure but once you get more than one, it becomes very tricky. You either have to reduce practice mileage or fit a new engine, but we are fine.
Mario THEISSEN: We are borderline after the two unexpected engine failures - fresh engine failures – we had recently. We have one fresh engine for each car for the final four races and apparently we have never done four races with one engine on the track. On the dyno it would work, but we have to see now where we are. Apparently we have some mileage left on used engines to cover the Fridays.
Q. So it is a little bit of management?
MT: Yes, but it will be tight. We are not sure if we get to Abu Dhabi with this engine, so we will see. Maybe we will have to pull a ninth engine.
Q. Norbert, you have got about six cars to deal with.
Norbert HAUG: We are fine so far. I hope it stays like that but as my colleagues already pointed out this can happen very quickly and if you have one small problem it will happen. I think it is absolutely important not to get complacent and have respect in front of the work you have to do. So far so good and I would say thank you to the guys in Brixsworth and Stuttgart. They did a fantastic job so far but again it is still quite a way to go and I hope we can continue this trend.
Stefano DOMENICALI: We have two engines for the next four races for each driver but I can really cut and paste what Norbert and Sam said. You cannot be complacent but this is the situation now and we need to see how the situation will evolve, but two for each driver.
Q. Another question to all of you. Can you give us a little feedback on how the session went and how the drivers have reacted to the changes to the circuit?
SM: It was quite OK. It was very dusty to start with. They spent a lot of time cleaning the track last year and they didn't do that this year. That first session was ramping up quite a bit. I think in terms of lap time there have been three corners that have changed on the track. Out of those three corners we think it is possibly going to slow the lap time down by about two seconds. P1 last year we were in mid 46's straight away and qualifying was 44.0, so this year it is about four seconds slower in the first session and maybe two-and-a-half seconds slower in P2 now, so it is definitely a slower track because of the lay-out changes. In terms of our program everything went OK. We had some new aero parts on the car. A new front wing and rear wing and some diffuser modifications. All that checked out okay and we just did our homework for the race.
MT: Well, we have a big aero upgrade here and in order to bring that to the track we also had to do a new gearbox, a lower gearbox, which helps us to lower the engine cover at the rear end of the car. We had some problems today, both gearbox related. Both new parts but apparently with the new arrangement – and it can even happen with known parts – so Nick (Heidfeld) didn't lose too much time in the morning. Robert (Kubica) lost 25 minutes in the afternoon. Apart from that it was OK. Performance, not happy yet, but it looks like the car is certainly better than before and I hope we can improve tomorrow.
NH: I would say it looked reasonable. We went through the planned program. I think it is difficult to judge on the first day here like it was explained before with the dusty track the track really changes and it depends on the fuel load you are carrying, the tires you are using and at which stage of the session. But all in all I think it looked quite okay. You can probably get an impression from the long runs and then kind of guess what people are doing normally during Fridays and then see where you are and I think that was not too bad. But having said that it will be incredibly tight again. From (Jenson) Button in fifth to Lewis (Hamilton) in ninth position, it is less than half-a-tenth and I think that says it all. I think if you have a situation like that in qualifying, if you lose less than half-a-tenth and this can happen at every corner or every curb, then that costs you probably five places even if you have the same fuel load. I think it is very important. It is a driver's track at the end of the day. It is probably not the most interesting in the calendar but during qualifying it will be all about commitment and to get the last half-tenth out of the car. I expect it to be incredibly tight and as Sam has pointed out, the track has changed quite a lot. I think in turn 10 the chicane is quite a tricky one. If you really misjudge it and get it wrong you definitely can ruin the chassis there. I think that is different to last year but all in all it is slower but not less challenging. I think the atmosphere is great and I think everybody will agree that it is probably the best pictures you can produce over a Formula 1 season.
SD: For us as you already know the situation is that we do not have any more upgrades by choice. We have to manage what we have. This is the situation that we have to face. Today for sure I cannot really add anything to the fact that in terms of the situation of the tire degradation tomorrow the situation may be different as I think the track will be much better, no doubt. We had a couple of problems today, so we did not run as smoothly as we wanted but this is part of the game and let's hope that we can fix everything for tomorrow.
Q. Sam, obviously engine plans are still up in the air. How close are you? When do you need to know which engine you are going to be running?
SM: From a technical point of view it is always best to know a long time in front. But we are still in the middle of that decision. That is all I can say as I don't have any more information on that. As soon as I know, then I will start designing next year's car around it.
Q. You would like to start already presumably?
SM: As I said with an engine decision you want to know as early as possible. I guess you could say that Brawn proved this year how late you can go, but I am sure they don't want to plan to do that. It just shows what is possible if you have to.
SD: It is a decision that has to be taken very carefully, so just wait.
Q. Mario, you seem to have an engine but not necessarily an entry. What is the timescale? What has to happen for the Sauber team now?
MT: Well, apparently it is important now to get a solid entry, either number 13 or number 14. We are in the hands of the FIA more or less and we are working on that behind the scenes, but I do not have any confirmation today.
Q. When do you need to know by?
MT: The earlier the better, but for the time being we work towards next season in the same way as if the entry was there already.
Q. Norbert, a lot of people have been talking about your engines. They all seem to want them. What exactly is the capacity? How many teams can you handle?
NH: I think it depends on the final FIA decision to start with. It is still in the rules, it still says one customer team, but there is an exception already made. I think the final decision will be made sooner rather than later. Capacity-wise, due to the new regulations, due to the freeze, we are doing – including core builds, rebuilds – half of the number of engines we did for our own team two years ago. That is certainly going in the right direction. Capacity-wise it would be possible to supply three customer teams. But it is not certain that we are in a position to so, but capacity would not be a problem.
Q. Stefano, it has already been mentioned that one of your drivers, shall we say, is between a Spaniard and a Finn. What is the situation within the team?
SD: I think what I can say is repeat what our president said. In the last couple of days the situation has changed, so we will keep you updated as soon as we can say something. At the moment nothing to add on that.
Q. The Spaniard element of it seems to be the key to everybody else's drivers.
SD: I have to focus on our problems, to be honest. I do not know what the others will do when we have taken the decision.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Joris Fioriti � AFP) Mario, can you confirm right now that Ferrari will be the engine supplier next year?
MT: We have been talking to Ferrari and we have got a very positive response from Ferrari but apparently the first thing that we need is a place on the grid.
Q. (Joris Fioriti � AFP) If you have a place then you will have a Ferrari engine?
MT: That would be our favorite option.
Q. (Joris Fioriti � AFP) Question to all: Brawn GP were the fastest in the first session and then Red Bull were fastest in the second. Does it mean that it is going to be a Red Bull-Brawn GP fight like at the beginning of the season?
MT: No idea, let's see tomorrow.
SD: We will see on Sunday. In my view we need to be pragmatic. I think that not only Red Bull and Brawn have done a step. I think McLaren have done a step. We must not forget that Force India did a big step in the last races. Williams has done a step. As Mario said everyone has done a step, so I think this race we need to be very careful but for sure it will be a tough race between the first teams.
NH: Well, we are certainly working on it that it is not a Brawn and Red Bull race here. We try to interfere but I am not sure if we can do it. I am quite convinced that not everybody in the top five was using the same amount of fuel, so things may change tomorrow. But of course they are strong and as Stefano pointed out other people have made steps as well and if you get your act together there may even be some surprises. I think there are probably five teams in a position, depending on the strategy, to fight for pole position which is very possible for Formula 1.