We have to start with the fallout from the collision of your two drivers in Spain. Very unusual to have two front-running team-mates that take each other out and neither of them score any points – very rare in Formula One. How different from the aftermath of the 2014 Spa collision was the discussion that took place internally within the team and were there any learnings from what happened in Spa and the aftermath that you brought into that discussion with the drivers?
PL: I think going back to Spa in 2014, we found what really bad looked like. That was a bad moment in the team, but actually a good one, because we built from there a much, much stronger partnership between the drivers and the rest of the team. So there was an understanding and I think we’re in a much better place now and we saw that pan out with the accident in Spain where it was dealt with very maturely between the drivers. We had a good hearing with the stewards. We saw it very much the same way they did: it was a racing accident as a function of two guys really pushing each other to the limits. It was exacerbated by the power difference between the two cars, which really made things happen very, very quickly – in a split second. And they both saw it, in the end, as a racing accident, so we moved on.
One of the notable features of that incident in Spain and the previous times that Hamilton has started on pole this season, with Rosberg alongside, is that he lost the lead to Rosberg on that opening lap. What’s causing that problem for Hamilton in his starts and how are you addressing it with him?
PL: Well, in the particular case of Spain, actually Lewis had a better start than Nico. But it’s a function of that race that there is a very long drag to the first corner where you can get an advantage. Nico did a great job through Turn One, as we saw, which I think caught Lewis by surprise. It wasn’t a feature of that particular event. Race starts are very variable – even more so nowadays because of the regulations, which have restricted the input of the team to the process. So, by intent they're more variable. I think we’ve had three of the best starts from the five races so far – but then we’ve had some very mediocre ones as well. Lewis, for example, had the best start on the grid in China – exactly where he didn’t need it, putting him straight into an accident. So, that’s the luck that sometimes comes your way. In general, we keep trying to make the starts more consistent, as well as better, but that’s a challenge shared with all of our competitors and we’re all in that same game. It’s very difficult.
Can you tell us about how much work you’re doing on the 2016 cars now and how much of your effort is already going into 2017? You weren’t too keen on the new regulations, were you?
PL: Well, the rules are set, so we’re on it. It’s always a gradual migration – but with such a big rule change, we’re inevitably migrating earlier than normal. Having said that, in the early phase of a project you can’t put hundreds of people on a programme where you haven’t fixed the major parameters – so it’s inevitably a gradual process.
Today we are again seeing some spectacular lap times. I think we are 1.1s away from the lap record or something. I find it quite surprising that, even if you take into consideration that this year we are using softer tyres than last year at most circuits, the cars seem to have taken a bigger step forwards technically than between 2014 – 2015, even though this is the third year of the same regulations. Could you please explain why that is?
PL: I’m not sure it’s such a clear picture. I think the tyres are certainly causing that impression – but I think in general the teams have made the same amount of progress between the two years.
From this race onwards, the drivers need to keep their tear-off visors inside the car somehow. I know it looks like a trivial question – but what have you done to accommodate this stipulation?
PL: Well, for this race, we’ve been permitted two tear-offs during the race itself, so I think that will be sufficient. There’s a constant dialogue with the FIA to find a practical way forward with this.
How do you mean, that you’ve been permitted to two during the race?
PL: The drivers are allowed to use two tear-offs during the race – but none in practice.
There are a lot of discussions going on at this race meeting about cockpit protection systems. Can you update us on where you are and what you’re testing in the wind tunnel and CFD at the moment and what you expect to see in 2017, if anything at all?
PL: It’s a good example as to how the teams are constantly working together, very constructively. We all do a lot of the R&D for new regulations and this is a great example. The work is not yet done. There will be a big discussion tomorrow to decide on what are the next steps.
We like to talk a lot about the technology transfer between Formula One and road cars and the amazing thermal efficiency of these Power Units. There’s been a lot of stories lately about almost all engine manufacturers using pre-chamber ignition technology. I think it is now quite common knowledge that the manufacturers know much more about each other’s engines than we do. Why do you still keep it secret if the technology basically is in use or not in Formula One? It could be a good story, it would be good to communicate it and I don’t think you could risk giving out any secrets to your rivals?
PL: Well. We are always using new technologies in Formula One. It’s one of the great attractions of the sport. But, at the end of the day, you’re also trying to be a competition, so I think you’ve always got to find that balance between what you say, what you talk about and what you keep to yourself. Inevitably these things do migrate around the paddock because, apart from anything else, people move teams or move manufacturers, so information does spread around and so at some point people will talk openly about things they believe to be no longer a differentiator.