Toto: “Our rivals have strong partnerships, but I wouldn’t want to change ours”
The first test at Jerez seemed successful for the team?
It looked like it could be difficult after the first day, but from that point onwards the car ran very reliably. In terms of mileage I would say we are ahead of schedule, while in terms of the bits and pieces we have struggled with and the challenges ahead of the first race, I think we are about where we expected to be. We can’t really judge performance yet, of course, but that is normal after the first test and hopefully this will become clearer after the first week in Bahrain.
How satisfied are you with progress so far?
I would say cautiously satisfied. The Power Unit and all the associated systems are very new, so making sure they function properly and are reliable has been the focus. We are some way from what we expect to be our full potential, and there are a few things not quite functioning as we would like, however we are proud of the integrated concept produced by the teams at Brackley and Brixworth.
This ‘integrated approach’ has been highlighted before; do you think there is a clear advantage to the manufacturer teams this season?
I think there is an advantage in the early stages of development – and don’t forget that’s very much where we are right now – but in the long term I believe this will even out.
How useful has it been to have customer teams running the new Mercedes-Benz Power Unit?
It certainly helps in terms of the data we can exchange. Of course, at the end of the day we are all competitors on track so naturally there is a certain amount of information that is not shared, but the more miles the Power Unit completes, the better our knowledge will be in terms of identifying issues and improving reliability. The team at Brixworth have a lot of data to analyse already and this can only help our development.
What do you make of the 2014 regulations?
When the decision was made a couple of years ago that this new format should be introduced, I thought it was an extremely bold decision, and it has not been easy to get to where we are today. However, when you look at what has been produced, these cars really are a mind-blowing display of innovation. Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and the pinnacle of automotive development, with teams constantly pushing each other and pushing the sport further. Much of this is translated into road cars, so the technology is not only sophisticated, but relevant. I think it’s a great concept.
Can this new breed of car match the speed of its predecessors?
Over time, yes. What you have to bear in mind is that this is a completely new formula, while the V8 was a concept that had been developed over a number of years. Even during the course of testing in 2013, lap times were coming down considerably each day, so by the end of this season I fully expect the cars to be as quick as before.
Having been closer to the action than most, what do you make of the sound?
When I stand on the pit wall, the sound reminds me of Formula One in the 80’s. It’s still loud; not quite so much as before, but you can hear the engineering at work with the whistling of the turbo and so on. Personally I like the sound, and I think in a few months’ time nobody will think of it as anything different. It was the same when the sport switched from a V12 to V10, then V10 to V8 engine; it’s all part of the modern era.
Should this new era suit the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS drivers?
In Formula One we have not just the fastest race cars in the world, but easily the most complex. This means that you need the most talented drivers not only in terms of speed, but also intelligence. Driving these cars is not like jumping in any other racing machine; you need to know how to use all of their potential. There’s no doubt that our rivals have strong partnerships but I wouldn’t want to change ours.
Many are touting the Silver Arrows as favourites for 2014; what are your thoughts?
If you look back through past seasons, the favourites after the first few days of testing are not always in the same position at the first race. I think we have to have a certain degree of caution, especially at this early stage. A few different teams have looked strong so far in different ways, but we won’t know the full story for a while yet; not even after the first couple of races I wouldn’t say.
Next stop Bahrain; what is the main challenge there?
Cooling will be a key consideration. This will be one of the biggest challenges of the season, and from that perspective the test in Bahrain will be very interesting for everyone.