Today's press conference with Remi Taffin, Mattia Binotto, Andy Cowell and Toyoharu Tanabe.
Gentlemen, before we deal with the here and now, can we kick things off by throwing things forward to 2021 and the new engine regulations. There are various elements to this and Mattia, if I could start with you, the new power unit has to hit the track in about 30 months' time. How tight is the timescale? Is it enough time?
Mattia Binotto: Is it enough time? It will depending much on how different will be the new power unit compared to the one of today. So, no changes to the regulations, plenty of time. As much as you change it, obviously the more time you need. At the moment, so far, for what we may understand, because we are still discussing - FIA, FOM - what will be the format. We had several meetings in the last days. We have some more in the next days, let's see where it will go. But 30 months is plenty enough but it would be good to try to reach and agreement on what will be the format in really the next two to three months.
Andy, coming to you, there have been various presentations already, as Mattia has just referred to. Is everyone aligned as to what those regulations are going to be in '21?
Andy Cowell: As Mattia says there have been several meetings, starting last summer. Discussions are never 100% aligned. There's always difference of opinion, but you end up coming up with a compromise and setting off on a direction, hopefully with enough time to do a decent job before the first race.
And have we found that direction now?
AC: I think those discussions are ongoing. None of us can read a published set of regulations, so the discussions, the debate, the compromises are a work in progress.
Remi, can we just get Renault's take on the new engine regulations and where you would like to see them go?
Remi Taffin: I think we wish to go forwards. We are still interested in developing the engine. We think the engine is a big part of Formula 1. As my colleagues have said, we are all discussing this, we want to get this forward. We know we have some work to do. We know we will have some changes compared to today and we have to deal with them. But the most important thing for Renault is that we all work together with the FIA and F1, to get this right and yes, to make sure that the engines keep a good part in Formula 1.
Tanabe-san, what's Honda's position on the new rules and specifically the MGU-H?
Toyoharu Tanabe: Yes, we will miss the MGU-H. I think we haven't decided everything yet for 2021. But the direction from the FIA we respect, we respect the other manufacturers' direction, but we think we will miss the MGU-H, such a high pinnacle of technology for the future and relevant to the production car as well.
Just to clarify: Honda would like the MGU-H to stay?
TT: Yes, we would like to keep that technology.
Remi, if I could back to you now and deal with the present. Can you just talk about the progress you've made with the power unit in Viry, where have you made the biggest gains this year?
RT: I think the gains that we have for a few months and a few years now is through the ICE, the internal combustion engine that we have lifted the efficiency with and that's where we are focusing our efforts.
OK. Renault, a while back, gave Red Bull Racing a deadline of May to fix a 2019 partnership. How are those talks going and might that deadline be extended?
RT: I think from my perspective, obviously I do not deal with contract, I leave it to my boss Cyril, and he has been speaking about that. But if we come back to the technical aspect of that, obviously there are some deadlines, which is simply based on the fact that we have to order parts. So, as a starting point, we know that by the end of this months we would have to start buying some parts to supply as many teams as we would have to for next year. So that is one of our technical deadlines. Then the rest, as I said, is all about having a contract or not with them, which is obviously on their side.
Tanabe-san, coming back to you, we've just been talking about Red Bull Racing's future engine partner, what can you tell us about the talks between Red Bull Racin and Honda?
TT: As my role, as Technical Director, I am not involved much with contract matters, but as Honda we have studied, discussed and then we had a preliminary conversation in Baku, but it is still under discussion.
Do you have a deadline in mind when Honda needs to know if it's supplying Red Bull Racing as well as Toro Rosso?
TT: We will follow the FIA regulation, but at the moment I cannot tell you exactly.
Let's talk about the performance of the power unit now. You obviously had a great weekend in Bahrain. Where is the power unit improved from 2017?
TT: Of course we work for the reliability, but not only reliability but performance as well - maybe the same as others. But we focused on the reliability from last year. We learned a lot from the previous years and we applied that type of knowledge or learning point to this year's power unit.
Thank you. Andy, returning to you, congratulations on that win in Baku last time out. If we've learned one thing about Formula 1 on 2018 it's that it's very tight at the top and the first question to you is whether we have seen evidence that the power advantage in recent seasons has been eroded?
AC: The last race was very pleasing, the three races before not so. With regard to the power advantage, I think at the moment, in qualifying, then the gentleman to the right of me has a small advantage - well done! - but in racing I suspect we've got a small advantage. I think Renault and Honda are very close behind. As we discussed a couple of years ago that if you have regulation stability you do see technical solutions converge and that's what we're enjoying at the moment and we've all got the pleasure of working hard in the factories and trying to catch each other up and I think it's going to be a tight battle all the way through this year and next year, and the year after.
You talk about convergence: this is year five of these regulations, so how close are we getting to the limit of what you can get out of these regulations?
AC: I think that comes down to your belief and understanding of whether there is a limit. I personally don't believe there is a limit. I think you can always find gains. Every week I have the pleasure to sit in our performance and innovation meeting and listen to bright engineers come up with ways of getting a little bit more efficiency out of the various systems and then enjoying the competition in the factory to turn those ideas in proven experiments, and then prove that they are reliable enough to come racing and compete in this wonderful environment. So, for all four us, we will continue to develop and there is no such thing as a limit.
Mattia, we are talking about limits, would you agree with Andy that there are no limits?
MB: I would agree with Andy, no doubt. When you put engineers together, there will be always innovations, creativity. And for an engineer there are never limits. I think we have seen in the last years, in the last season, how much we improved, year after year and I don't think we have shown so far that we have reached the limit of the product.
Can we ask you about those gains that Ferrari have made, particularly over the winter coming into this season. How do you quantify those gains: how much is chassis, how much is engine?
MB: I think we have improved in most of the areas and our spirit is really to try to improve first, what were the weaknesses of last year, try to focus, we knew that maybe on top speed we were not our best, in terms of overall efficiency we could have improved, especially on what were the fast circuits. So I think all our engineering focus was to improve the car in all the areas. I don't think we can say there is a specific area that improved the most and I'm quite pleased to see that in all the areas we made progress.
Questions From The Floor
(Dan Knutson - Auto Action and Speedsport) Mattia, what is Ferrari's position on these recent changes for '19, especially the less complex front wing?
MB: OK, I think that as a team we have a duty and a task to improve the show, to improve the Formula 1. I think that certainly the regulations may be a good step in that respect. It is a big change, a drastic change to the rules, to the aero. I think each team will be focused on develop what are the new regulations, it's quite a game changer, but overall I think from an egoistic point of view we could have stuck with what we had at the moment but I think that looking at the show and the good for the sport, it was the right choice.
(Sam Collins - Racecar Engineering) With the growing move to electrification in the Automotive industry, how relevant is the current battery technology in Formula One to production cars and, going forward to 2021, how much freedom would you like in terms of battery technology.
RT: I think we still like, as engineers, to develop batteries but I guess at the beginning we all have different interests in batteries, whether we wish to develop a chemistry ourselves or not, for sale, for example, so it's really depending on the intent. As far as Renault is concerned, the Group is liking us to develop so I think we eventually wish to have some development in that area. And then, what we've got now is not a bad solution. We can do our work, we can make some progress, we can make some differentiation and at the end of the day we wish to keep that freedom. Whether we need to have that complete freedom as we have now, whether we have to proscribe some element of that, it's another territory that obviously we are discussing these days.
MB: So, how much our battery technology are relevant for our cars, automotive, certainly they are. If we look at LaFerrari GT cars, the technology of the batteries is coming from F1 directly, so certainly it is relevant. Looking at 2021 again, I think as Ferrari it's important we maintain freedom in developing the key technologies. So we are certainly against any standardisation or big proscriptions on key technologies. Certainly whatever is related to the power unit , which, for Ferrari, is a key element.
AC: I think all the batteries that we've got are high-performance road relevant in terms of their power density. I think we're lagging in terms of the energy density. I think it would be good if the regulations encouraged us to develop higher energy densities - because that is something that's particularly relevant to mobility. If you think about 2021, then there's a lot of electric-only cars that are going to be on the market there - but we're in this. We're torn. You're talking to a group of engineers who like to develop new technology, that like to be pushed to drive to the pinnacle of technology. The regulations for 2021 are heading in a downwards step with regards to technology, with the removal of the electrical energy that we get from the MGU-H. Sixty per cent of the electrical energy comes from the MGU-H, we will be going to just a KERS system and therefore the demands on the battery are perhaps a little bit less. I personally, as an engineer, would like to see more on the electrical hybrid side and more of a challenge on the energy density of the battery because I think that would draw more blue-chip companies into this industry. It's one of the most amazing development platforms on this planet and we'd all like to look after the planet.
TT: I think our hardware itself, it's not a direct move to the production car area. I think to keep developing the energy management itself and we can learn a lot. And then we can move that technology. Energy management also controls systems. We can improve and that helps our production car areas as well. We can cooperate with production car area. Then keep working on that area is a high technology challenge for us. I'd say it's important for us as well.
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