Toto: "We will have tense moments, but this is when a team shows its true colours"
What are your feelings now that the dust has settled from the race in Hungary?
To be honest, feelings are still very mixed. When the chequered flag fell, we were numb to have finished third and fourth at a race where we had started with one car on pole and one in the pit-lane. Honestly, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
With Nico, it was a case of “what might have been.” What might have been if he hadn’t been caught behind the first Safety Car? What if the brakes hadn’t overheated during those laps, which then led to a temporary brake by wire failure which cost him positions when racing resumed? And what if he had been able to pass Lewis before the end of his third stint? He clearly had the pace in the car but things did not go his way.
And what about Lewis?
Putting aside his spin on the first lap, he put in one of the drives of the season – he came from dead last and, at one point, it looked like he could even win the race. He undoubtedly pulled off the overtake of the day, when he monstered round Vergne into Turn Four; it was a killer instinct move. And that is what the fans want to see.
All in all, a busy race for everybody on the pit-wall…
It was nerve-wracking. With each car, there was a point when we didn’t think they could finish. For Nico, it was behind the first Safety Car when it looked like the brake system had failed. With Lewis, it happened when he started losing fuel pressure – and power – as he was running behind Fernando, with Nico closing in. At that point of the race, we were hoping he could make it to the finish – but we certainly expected the problem would be terminal.
Why did the team make the call to Lewis to let Nico pass?
When the Safety Car came out, we chose to split the strategies, and offset ourselves to the cars ahead, in order to create opportunities to win, or worst case finish on the podium. When we did so, Nico was running two positions in front of Lewis. We put Nico onto an aggressive three-stopper and Lewis onto a two-stop, with a long final stint on the prime tyre. That meant they would find each other on track at some point – and we would have a situation to manage. Lewis was asked to let Nico pass because we believed they both still had a chance to win the race as the strategies played out. But Nico never got close enough to Lewis to make the move – and we were ultimately comfortable with the decision Lewis made to hold position.
The team has said very publicly that the drivers are free to race – but on Sunday instructions came from the pit-wall to let each other pass. Why?
As a racing team, our mission is to win championships and to win races. We thought both of our drivers had a chance to fight for the race win – not just for a podium finish – so we acted accordingly. When it comes to drivers in the same team running alternative strategies, it is usual for them not to make life hard for each other when it comes to overtaking. But we must appreciate that we are not in a usual situation any more.
Does that mean no more team orders?
At the start of the season, Paddy and I agreed a clear policy with the drivers that they are free to race for the win – as long as they are fighting for it. Equally, we have been clear that our priority as a team is always to give ourselves the best chance of winning the race – no matter which driver is fighting for it. The calls Paddy and the team on the pit wall made on Sunday were completely in line with our policy. And so, our drivers will continue to be free to race for the remainder of the 2014 championship; and they will be racing to win. However, we should also be clear-sighted about the situation: this debate about team orders is obscuring our real problem at the moment, which is reliability. If we give the drivers the opportunity to use the full potential of the car on every lap, then we have the performance to race at the front of the field – and they will be free to race for the win without external factors playing a role. We haven’t done that recently and that has given us some headaches. But those problems can be avoided if we do a better job.
Have you identified the cause of the fuel leak for Lewis on Saturday?
The car suffered significant fire damage on Saturday and the components had to be sent back to the UK for thorough analysis. The leak has now been traced to a localised fatigue failure in a high-pressure fuel hose, although the precise causes of this fatigue are still being determined. Extensive checks and appropriate countermeasures are now being conducted to ensure there can be no repeat.
Are you worried that the team spirit was damaged in Budapest?
No. This is an intense title fight and we will have tense moments that we need to work through. But this is also when a team shows its true colours. Look at last weekend: one of our cars came back to the garage as a charred wreck after qualifying. Ten hours later, we had a complete race car for Lewis – because every mechanic from both car crews had worked to get it ready and make sure the team could perform to its maximum on Sunday afternoon. From time to time, we have to take a step back and see what we have achieved this year. Nine wins in 11 races, and ten pole positions, is an incredible record – and we have set the target of performing even better after the summer break because this championship is far from over. But when we look at what has been accomplished so far in 2014, every member of the team can go into the summer break walking a little bit taller than we did back in March. They have done a sensational job.