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Monaco GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
26/05/2016

Today's press conference with Eric Boullier, Nick Chester, Monisha Kaltenborn, James Key, Paddy Lowe and Paul Monaghan.

Eric, let's kick it off with you: some very bullish words from your boss Ron Dennis recently, that you will be the team to end Mercedes domination of Formula One. What justifies that claim?
Eric Boullier: Well, first of all, you know what the ambition of McLaren is and this is what we are targeting anyway. We had to take some strong decisions in the past, first of all to change the PU supplier to go to works team status, because really this is the only way to go back to the front, and I think this is a statement from Ron... you know Ron has a great career, he is a legend in Formula One and I think it's also an extra motivation for all of us to achieve what we want to do.

Now, going into this weekend, both of your drivers have been saying that they think Q3 and points are possible for both cars. Based on what you've seen today are you feeling that that's on?
EB: Yes, it's possible. Obviously we don't have any flexibility, we are still missing here and there on the performance, also we have to deliver a perfect lap and obviously expect no traffic or nothing wrong on the track, so yes, it's possible today, after P1 and P2.

Thanks for that. Nick, coming to you, obviously an update engine and a new aero package in Spain look to have given you a few tenths of a second. Tell us about this engine upgrade first and the areas where it's improved?
Nick Chester: Well, the new B-Spec engine we have here, it's an improvement on driveability and an improvement on power and it performed faultlessly through the test and through FP1 and FP2.

And on the chassis side: resource-wise are you able to do much more this year than you were able to last year or in fact are you keeping your powder dry looking at the 2017 regulations?
NC: Well, I'm sure you'll come to it a bit later, but it's a difficult split how much you put into 2016 and how much you put into 2017. There's a bit more we can do in '16 but we're also at point in the year when you need your resources to move to '17, so that sort of split is being carefully judged at the moment.

Thank you. Monisha, it's been a while. We've heard a lot about the challenges facing your team in the last few months, what can you tell us?
Monisha Kaltenborn: Well, nothing more than yes, we have certain challenges and we are working very hard to overcome the situation and I'm confident that we'll resolve it shortly.

So do you have the feeling you've got a solution on the pipeline for long-term sustainability?
MK: Yes, we are working on that since a while now and we also know that we need that. If you look at today's Formula One environment to be strong as an independent team you need to have a strong partners. So we have always been open to that and now we are pursuing our chances and we hope to resolve that soon.

Thank you for that. James, engine manufacturers have committed to the teams they will supply next season. How happy are you with the process and the engine that you'll be racing with next year?
James Key: I think the process is OK, to be honest with you, because if you are in a spot of bother with engine supply at least there is a process there to help you out in sensible time. As far as what we have for next year, I think that we're happy. We've suffered a bit over the past three years with not quite being where we'd like to be. Not that there's anything wrong with our current supply but it's not developing, it's a year old unit. Ferrari are doing a great job to support us with it, but it would be nice to be current with PU and have a developing unit.

OK, thank you. You seem to be in demand personally on the engineering marketplace. Do you see your long-term future being at Toro Rosso?
JK: I've got a contract with Toro Rosso for some time to come, and there's a lot of work to do still. So I'm not thinking about anything else at the moment. I want to stick with where I am. It's a great group of people to work with and there's still plenty to do, so for now I'll be a Toro Rosso.

OK. Paddy, turning to you, we have to start of course with the fallout from the collision of your two drivers in Spain. Very unusual to have two front-running team-mates that take each other out and neither of them score any points - very rare in Formula One. How different from the aftermath of the 2014 Spa collision was the discussion that took place internally within the team and were there any learnings from what happened in Spa and the aftermath that you brought into that discussion with the drivers?
Paddy Lowe: I think going back to Spa in 2014, we found what really bad looked like. That was a bad moment in the team, but actually a good one, because we built from there a much, much stronger partnership between the drivers and the rest of the team. So there was an understanding and I think we're in a lot better place now and we saw that pan out with the accident in Spain where it was dealt with very maturely, across between the drivers. We had a good hearing with the stewards. We saw it very much the same way they did: it was a racing accident as a function of two guys really pushing each other to the limits. It was exacerbated by the power difference between the two cars, which really made things happen very, very quickly - so a split second. And they both saw it, in the end, as a racing accident, so we moved on.

One of the notable features of that incident in Spain and the previous times that Hamilton has started on pole this season, with Rosberg alongside, is that he lost the lead to Rosberg on that opening lap. What's causing that problem for Hamilton in his starts and how are you addressing it with him?
PL: Well, in the particular case of Spain, actually Lewis had a better start than Nico, but it's a function of that race that there is a very long drag to the first corner where you can get an advantage in the two, so Lewis' start was better than Nico's. Nico did a great job through Turn One, as we saw, which I think caught Lewis by surprise. It wasn't a feature of that particular event. Race starts are very variable, even more so nowadays because of the regulations, which have restricted the input of the team to the process. So by intent they're more variable. I think we've had three of best starts of the five races so far, but then we've had some very mediocre ones as well. Lewis, for example, had the best start on the grid in China, exactly where he didn't need it, putting him straight into an accident. So, that's the luck that sometimes comes your way. In general, we keep trying to make the starts more consistent, as well as better, but that's a challenge shared with all of our competitors, we're all in that same game. It's very difficult.

Thanks for that. Paul, coming to you, Max Verstappen, he comes to the team, qualifies on row two, wins the race in a car he doesn't know. You're an experienced engineer, you've worked with a lot of top drivers, can you put that into some kind of context for us?
Paul Monaghan: It was impressive was it not? I think Max displayed a great level of maturity, he was very calm in the car, nothing fazed him, he settled in very quickly. I think we're blessed with a very good chassis this year, which makes it easier, I think, to learn than perhaps a more difficult one and Max did a very assureds job. So, it was fantastic.

Let's talk about the Renault engine. Remi Taffin is quoted as saying he believes it's worth half a second a lap. What are your impressions and where do you expect this new engine to put you relative to Mercedes and Ferrari when we move on to the power circuits in, for example, Canada and Austria coming up?
PM: I'll take your question in stages: Remi is correct - at the more sensitive circuits it should be up there. Onto the next part of your question, where will it put us, we're only ever measured relative to our opposition, so if they all stand still there's a chance we'll be very close if not ahead of Ferrari. Given that they won't stand still, it's hard to say that we can be ahead of them, but I think it's fair to say we'll be more competitive, we'll be challenging them and if the opportunity comes we'll challenge the Mercedes as well. What's within our control is to maximise the performance of our car and if we do that then the resulting position is just a consequence of our relative pace to our opposition.

Just for clarity, when you say 'the more sensitive circuits' what do you mean? Can you give us some examples?
PM: Some circuits are more sensitive to engine performance than others. My view of Remi's statement is that it's correct at circuits that are more sensitive to engine power - Canada, Spa, Monza - and less so at circuits which are less sensitive to engine performance, which would be here.

Questions From The Floor

(Agris Lauzinieks - Kapitals) Question to all panel. Given significant exposure to Britain at Formula One business and expected referendum on European Union on 23rd June, do you think in case of Brexit there might be impact on teams and sponsorship money, which is already affected by low oil prices and do you think Britain should stay in European Union?
PL: We have actually analyzed it. One of our directors has looked at the issue because some of our staff members asked which way they should vote. He concluded that it didn't really make a lot of difference, either to the company or to Formula One in general in terms of how we run the business. So we've left it to our employees to vote how they wish personally.

Eric, have you done a similar process?
EB: Similar position. We don't believe there will be a significant impact on the Formula One business. As a team and the industry is mainly based in the UK but we have managed always to use some suppliers abroad and I don't think it's going to change much.

Anybody else? Monisha?
MK: Well, as you know we're in Switzerland so in the first instance haven't taken the step into the EU - may be good or bad. I think Switzerland is doing quite well, so it's not for me to tell somebody to get out or not.

And of the people who are going to vote, are you prepared to share what you're thinking? Paddy?
PL: I haven't decided yet. Honestly.

Nick?
NC: No, I haven't decided yet.

Paul?
PM: I join the club of undecided.

James?
JK: I agree with these guys, I haven't decided either.

(Joe Saward - Auto X) A question about the 2017 cars. Can you tell us about how much work you're doing on the 2016 cars now and how much of your effort is already going into 2017?
JK: I think, to be honest, the birth of the '17 regs, if you like, was always a little bit long-winded and so we had a pretty good idea what the chassis direction was likely to be from a tyre and suspension viewpoint, at least dimensionally but we took a little while to try to define the aero regs and the bodywork regs. So, in that respect, everyone's had a start-point, which is maybe a little later than you'd want for a very fresh set of regulations. But there was still plenty you could do on the principals of a '17 car beforehand, so we've been working on it for several months, as I'm sure everyone else here has. The split's difficult to define at the moment because it depends of which department... engineering disciple, let's say, you look at. But certainly on the aero side there's a pretty massive impact from all of this, so there's a big emphasis from us on the aero side. The same with simulation. The design office is yet to really pick up the big bits but certainly by after the August break they'll be pretty much 100 per cent on next year's car.

Eric, McLaren were heavily involved, obviously, in the 2017 plans...
EB: Well obviously we had to wait for the final decision of the regulations so there was obviously a push-back. When you switch your resources. So today I could say we are 50/50 looking at and still working on the current car.

Monisha?
MK: Like it's been said. Work has been ongoing on it. So you're working in parallel basically on both cars. We'll all be very soon in the window where you then decide you totally switch over to the new one.

Paul?
PM: It was a small group that initially looked at it when the rules were still in gestation. I think as James said, the aero group is now starting to get its teeth into it - yet we're not dismissing our 2016 car. So it's a difficult split and I think it's one that will become clearer as we go through the 2016 season. You move towards '17. Design office is looking more and more at it, and as the concept evolves then I think they'll pick up more and more of it and on we go...

And Paddy, you weren't too keen on the development, were you?
PL: Well, the rules are set, we're on it. It's always a gradual migration but with such a big rule change, we're inevitably migrating earlier than normal. But having said that, in the early phase of a project you can't put hundreds of people on a programme where you haven't fixed the major parameters, so its inevitably a gradual process.

Check out our Thursday gallery, here.

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