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Japanese GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
07/10/2016

Today's press conference with Bob Bell, Luigi Fraboni, Yusuke Hasegawa, Ayao Komatsu, Paddy Lowe and Pat Symonds.

Bob, let's start with you: How have you been getting on rebuilding the staff at Enstone, where do you still lack and what will the effect of all this be on the 2017 car?
Bob Bell: Well, I'm only a small piece of the team that is doing the rebuilding, as you call it, but it's certainly a big challenger. I don't think perhaps from the outside people realise how run down the Enstone squad had become in the last couple of years, so there's a lot to do. As well as the process of rebuilding the team of course we had to build a car for this year and start work on an even better one for next year, which wouldn't be terribly hard. It's been a challenge, it continues to be so, but there's a very strong spirit in Enstone as anybody who knows the place will testify to and we're certainly up to the challenge.

The updates in Malaysia made the car a lot better, with Kevin 14th on the grid and Jolyon taking his first championship point, yet some are saying that Renault has not really been making progress this year. What's happening from your perspective and what's the short-term plan if you like, between here and Abu Dhabi, based on what you've learned in the past week or two?
BB: I think it's probably fair to say that in the last few races our progress forward other than what the Viry guys have been able to do with the power unit, on the chassis side it's been less to do with new bits and more to do with understanding how to get more out of what we've already got and we'll continue that process until the end of the season. I'm sure like most teams we're pretty much totally dedicated now in terms of development capacity to looking ahead to 2017.

OK, thanks very much for that. Coming to Luigi Fraboni, head of power unit operations at Ferrari. Next season will be a token free season, what will that mean in practical terms as far as the preparation pre-season and the competition we're going to see during the year?
Luigi Fraboni: You know, as Ferrari, we are in favour of not having the tokens, this for us is a good thing. Of course next year you will have still the four power units so we need to follow the rule, but not have the tokens will give you more flexibility on making you plan and also on changes during the season. On our side, as you know, we already used the tokens this year so this means that we had quite a strong evolution during the season and so not having this this limit for next season is good and at the moment the development of the power unit for 2017 is proceeding quite well.

Now, earlier in the season we had a discussion in one of these sessions about starting negotiations about the post 2020 engine formula. What's your opinion? Do you see them being hybrid turbos, similar capacity, but what other directions would you like to see?
LF: Honestly, at the moment I'm more focused on 2017, so I honestly don't have any strong opinion on 2020. I would say that the rules for me are very challenging and I really like it.

Would you like to start the discussions soon though about it?
LF: My chairman for sure will start?

OK, perfect. Hasegawa-san, Honda has made several updates to its power units in 2016, was the result as expected and will you be introducing any further updates before the end of the year?
Yusuke Hasegawa: Of course we have to shift our development for next year already, so I don't think we can have some update for the rest of the event. But, last update, which we introduced in Malaysia, and Spa was a big update... I think we made a decent level of step up with this. We are not satisfied but we can feel a little bit happier.

Part of the new FIA agreement regards manufacturers supplying more than one team - Eric Boullier was telling us in this conference in Malaysia it would be a good thing - but the Mercedes teams seem to be locked in to 2020, Renault has commitments with its teams, so are you feeling the need to press teams who are not yet committed?
YH: Not yet committed, but we understand the situation, so we are preparing the organisation and we are preparing resource for that.

To supply a second team?
YH: Yes, that's right.

Komatsu-san, we've heard Romain Grosjean on the radio quite a bit in recent races getting quite annoyed with various aspects of the car. What's the problem been and how are you addressing it?
Ayao Komatsu: Yeah, I think one of the problems is with consistency. We have very small amount of resource and a limited number of people. It's not just getting one specification of the car - each component has to be put together really well and we have to monitor the quality and that area I think we really need to improve. Sometimes you're putting on the same parts but the performance is not exactly the same. Sometimes our diagnostics are not good enough to understand what Romain is feeling straight away, so we really need to improve in every single area but we're really working on that. With Romain, on the radio he's quite an emotional guy but once he comes up in a debrief he's very, very good. He's got a really sense, he really helps us in understanding the car and where we need to go.

It may just be an impression from the outside but your fortunes this season seem to have risen and fallen in parallel with Ferrari's. Is that coincidence or is there more to it and what does that say about 2017?
AK: For us really, trying to understand the fundamental things about the car, aerodynamics, tyres, that's what we are focusing on, but again with our team being new, slightly inexperienced and still with all the analysis processes, data processes in their infancy we just need to start improving in those area. We really got to put our systems and process in place so we don't have the same problems next year, so we can hit the ground running from February.

Paddy, coming to you, can you give us a bit more detail on what failed on Hamilton's engine in Malaysia? Was it related to having to push so hard in the middle of the race, as Red Bull would have us believe, and what have you done to mitigate against a repeat?
Paddy Lowe: So, Lewis had a failure one of his big end bearings, at a very low mileage actually, a little over 600km, because he had three new engines from Belgium, when he took all the penalties. This was the second of those, first race Malaysia, to be used properly. It was a very young failure for that bearing and not at all typical of the model. And we were operating it within completely normal bounds. There were no parameters out of their normal range. No, he wasn't pushing particularly hard, he was running in a normal race state at that part of the race, so totally unexpected for that reason. We are trying analyse why the bearing failed. We don't understand it precisely. It's very difficult on these occasions, you don't often see it - the box of bits your get back from an engine blow-up. Very difficult to analyse that forensically and arrive at a root cause. But we've taken a number of precautionary changes across all eight power units that are on the grid to try to reduce the stress on that bearing.

Now Nico Rosberg looks a different driver this year, I don't know if you feel the same way. What changes do you see in his approach and his mentality and likewise how do you see the evolution of Hamilton?
PL: I think Nico is an incredibly strong driver and I think we have seen over the last three years that he can qualify extremely well. I think, for me, the step that he has made this year is that he has improved his race craft considerably. He's proving himself much better able to fight for the positions. He's come across a few points along the way, with a few incidents that didn't quite come off how he wanted, but overall that's where he has made the step.

And Lewis?
PL: Lewis, I think he gets better every year. Very , very difficult guy to beat for Nico, so in one way that's unfortunate for Nico to have such a strong team-mate but the two together are an incredible force for the team - they push each other. That's what is fantastic. When you have two very strong team-mates is that they actually elevate the total performance of the team, and we see that. We have races such as Monza where Lewis was incredibly string and then Singapore where Nico was incredibly strong and that's what you need, for each driver to push each other to new limits.

Pat, Williams are locked in this battle with Force India, just three points in it, with five races to go. At the moment, though, they are consistently outscoring you - Monza was the only time since June that you've outpointed them in a grand prix. What can you point to that gives you confidence you can end this season ahead of them and launch yourselves into 2017 on the front foot?
Pat Symonds: Well I think it's going to be a close fight. They have done a great job with their upgrades this year and we appreciate that it's not going to be an easy job. I think what we must do is ensure that we have perfect reliability and in the last race in Malaysia I thin Felipe could have been in there, in the mix - of course Valtteri beat both the Force Indias in Malaysia - but Felipe wasn't able to join the party because of an electronics problem on the starting grid. So that sort of thing is really the sort of thing that can determine these championship fights. It's unfortunate but I think our focus is on getting the reliability and our focus is on utilisation, because we're not bringing big upgrades to the car - we have a small change on the front wing here. It's really now about making sure that what we've got we use well, we use out tyres well, we get our strategy and our tactics right, and we take the fight right to the end.

We've some quite a lot of evolution in the senior technical staff at Williams over the last couple of years, will we see more changes in technical management going forward?
PS: We're always looking. We are still relatively speaking a small team and we need to increase our knowledge and our capability in every way, so yes, we are looking a long way ahead now at where we might pick up people, We know we are weak in some areas, we know we have to improve in those areas, so yes, we are always on the lookout for good people.

Questions From The Floor

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Last Sunday a driver hinted that his car had been technically sabotaged. Is it possible in this day and age - with all the telemetry, all the data, with the long life engines and components - for a team to sabotage a driver? A question to all of you but Paddy if you don't mind starting, I think you know why.
PL: Yeah, I can't agree with you that the driver hinted there was sabotage. Lewis has been very clear, certainly with us, that that's completely out of the question. I think anybody with an ounce of intelligence analysing the situation would realize that the prospect of us designing a system that would cause a big end to fail at that precise point in the race... if we were that good we would win everything and control everything at every point. We've had other failures in the year that are very unfortunate and if we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn't have any failures. It's a very tough business Formula One. The engineering is operating right at the boundary of performance and things do go wrong. The complexity is incredible and trying to engineer something to happen on purpose on a car... it's similar to when people say to us 'you favour one driver over another' and the idea that we might give better equipment to one driver or another. If we've invented something that makes our car quicker of course we want it on both cars, because we want to win the race. We never hold back or would ever even contemplate it, even if we could engineer it, which we couldn't. Anyone intelligent could work that out.

Anyone have anything to add? Hasegawa-san?
YH: I didn't get the question. I didn't understand.

I think the question was based on comments Hamilton made after he retired in the last, regarding whether or not someone or something wanted him not to win.
PL: And interpretations of those comments.

(Abhishek Takle - Mid-Day) Question to Pat. Pat, there's been some speculation about your future recently, including that you may be considering retiring. I wonder if you could shed some light on that for us please.
PS: Yeah, I read that myself! I was quite surprised actually. It reminded me of Mark Twain. You will all know that Mark Twain was once taken ill while he was in London and a newspaper in New York picked up the story and actually published his obituary. He sent a very famous telegram to them, saying 'rumours of my demise are greatly exaggerated'. I think I'd probably take the same view on my retirement.

Check out our Friday gallery from Suzuka, here.

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1. Posted by nonickname, 07/10/2016 15:14

"I give up... the same crap dished up week after week.No truth,no honesty All politic speak by corp orates.
I am not a Hamilton fan but he really got it right with his app. F1 is going nowhere fast,helped by the idiots in this interview. "

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