Are you satisfied with progress made during the winter programme?
We’re happy with our progress so far, but testing can always be better. There were a few gaps here and there and we had some really tough days. A good example of this was the final session in Bahrain, where we discovered a gearbox problem at around 04:00 and eventually joined the action just before lunch; highlighting just how complicated these new cars are. The drivers have both been happy with the car so far, but it’s a relative level of performance that you need. No matter how strong the car looks, what ultimately matters is how it performs relative to the competition. What we’ve seen during the winter looks encouraging but we’ve also seen plenty of other strong contenders out there and the picture could easily change before we get to Melbourne. There are a lot of good teams on this grid who can response well to challenges. We could well see a few surprises, so we’ve got to keep working hard on every front to ensure we are competitive.
What have been the key elements to the team’s encouraging pre-season form?
I have to give great credit to the engineers at both Brackley and Brixworth who have done a fantastic job with the F1 W05. This is by far the most complicated car we’ve ever built and the level of detail is incredible; it has been very well engineered on both the Power Unit and chassis side. Our preparation for the season was also strong, with plenty of lab work and a filming day at Silverstone before the first test. While it was a far less positive story in terms of reliability on that day, it allowed us to overcome some of the initial hazards with the new package, which was certainly useful in terms of hitting the ground running in Jerez.
Typically, what are your emotions at this crucial stage of the year?
This is always a nervewracking time of year. It’s very interesting and exciting to see what everyone else has come up with but you’re equally terrified of potentially seeing something you didn’t think of - either through a clever innovation or a different interpretation of the rules. We’re only in the very early stages of the year, so people will be bringing upgrades which you’ll certainly want to keep an eye on. Anything you see sticking out into the air flow around a Formula One car is going to affect aerodynamics - and usually in a positive way…
Weight seems to be a popular topic of conversation?
Weight has emerged as one of the big challenges in constructing the 2014 cars. We’ve all taken that on as a challenge; including the drivers who have ensured they are at their optimum in terms of both weight and fitness. It’s undoubtedly an area of keen focus to ensure the best possible level of performance is reached.
And then of course there’s fuel…
The management of fuel is very different to last year, where it was more about preparation and calculation; something engineers have become very good at over time. I don’t think we’ll see cars running out of fuel but at times there may be a need for more aggressive fuel saving strategies than we’ve seen in the past. We’ll have to fuel the car in the garage to go to the grid, complete the formation lap and later the in-lap; all of which is over and above the 100 kg limit that runs from lights to flag. Another interesting rule which is currently going through the ratification process states that each driver must complete the in-lap in order to be classified in the race result. In recent times we’ve seen cars run very marginal on fuel and often pulling off the track just after the finish line. That won’t be possible anymore so there’s a bit of management to do there to ensure you remain within the 100 kg limit but also have enough on board to complete the additional distance at either end of the race.
Many fear this may detract from the spectacle of the sport; do you share their concerns?
We’ve seen the necessity for fuel saving given more attention in recent years but, along with tyre management, it has been an element of the sport throughout its many years of existence. In the most recent era with the V8 engine, for example, teams were not filling the car to the maximum to run flat out every lap, as this was not the quickest way to get to the end of the race. The quickest way was to short-fill the car relative to the full potential of the engine, thereby reducing starting weight. Fuel saving will be an important factor once again in 2014 and certainly of greater significance than in previous years, but hopefully not to the extent that it detracts from the spectacle.