Quotes from the Friday press conference (Monza):
Q: Now you're involved in what I believe is called the overtaking working group. Can you tell us how that's coming along? What it's doing? Give a general update?
Symonds: Yeah, it's coming along well, I think, in that the four wind tunnel sessions have now finished and yesterday we sat down to discuss the final results and to really pull out the parts that are needed to be the framework of the regulations. The next steps are to write some of those regulations and to test the results on a simulator, which is happening, I believe, next Wednesday. We're meeting - as the technical working group - at a special meeting for a report from the overtaking working group on October 12, I believe, and at that meeting, we will present the results of the work that has been going on over the summer and decide how we progress it through with a view to writing regulations in 2009 that will produce an aerodynamic solution or a car solution, let's say, that will improve the possibility of cars overtaking. It's not going to lead to saloon car racing or NASCAR racing or anything like that, but it's certainly going to take away, I believe, some of the difficulties that the drivers are experiencing at the moment.
Q: And it really could happen, because we've heard about it for several years...
Symonds: Well, the overtaking working group was actually only formed in January, our first meeting was in January. It's been an exemplary bit of work I think, in that all the teams except one have contributed to it. The FIA has contributed to it, it's been a very co-operative effort but guided by quite a small group, and I think it's a little bit of a model for how we might do some other things. I think it's good that the stake-holders of Formula One actually put their money in to doing the research that's needed to do these very complicated jobs - what I'd like to say is - properly. I hope that we do more things like this.
Q: A question now to you all: you've all done a fantastic job in your various teams to make the cars incredibly reliable, as we saw here a couple of years ago: 22 cars finished; as we saw two weeks ago when 21 cars finished. But it does mean that, as Pat is very fond of saying, you spend two days trying to put the fastest car on the front of the grid, it's very difficult for anyone to overtake and if you start 14th, you're not likely to get any World Championship points. Is there any engineering challenge, is there a balance somewhere where perhaps engineering is more challenged to make better racing, to make more interesting racing, to give everybody a chance of winning points? Is there an engineering challenge to perhaps shake up the order during the race itself?
Symonds: Well, it's interesting that you say 'is it an engineering challenge?' because the link between the sporting and the engineering challenge is often a very interesting one. The engineering challenge can be simplified to producing the car that's going to win races. It's a very simple thing to say but actually if you look at it in a little bit more depth it's perhaps not quite as apparent as it may seem. At the moment, if you consider, for example, the aerodynamics of the car, we all spend a great deal of time in our wind tunnels and with our computational fluid dynamics to make a car that has the best possible aerodynamic efficiency because we know that that will give us the best lap time and at the moment, winning races is all about having the best lap time from your car. Now if you imagine a situation where you had sporting regulations such as they have in GP2 where, if in your first race you produced a car that was fast, you won the race and that meant then that you were placed further down on the grid (for the second race), then the sporting challenge, and the sporting regulations would lead you to develop your engineering in a slightly different way. In other words, you wouldn't spend all your time in the wind tunnel, just trying to get the best possible efficiency and making the car achieve a minimum lap time. You would actually spend some time looking at overtaking because you would know that no matter how successful you were at making your car fast, you were at some point in the weekend going to have to do some overtaking, and therefore you had better study it, you had better find out how to make it happen. So I think part of the answer to your question is that the sporting regulations will perhaps determine how the engineers approach their problem, and maybe that's the way to think of these things.
Willis: Well, to answer your question directly: do I think that the very high levels of reliability - and I wish our team shared those high levels of reliability - but does higher reliability lead to bad racing? I think the simple answer is no, it doesn't. I think it's disappointing to people watching a race if half the cars don't finish the race. For example, Moto GP is very successful with very high levels of reliability. I think the problem is - and I'm making an additional point to Pat's point - I think the problem is that the cars are too easy to drive in that the drivers are able to drive at pretty much 95-99 percent of their one lap potential and they do that for two or three stints throughout the race, so there are very few mistakes being made and that is one of the reasons why we are seeing such processional races. If we could make the cars harder to race so that you often found yourself in a position of running wide, going off the track, having to come back, having to pass the person in front, then, as Pat said, we would be starting to think about designing our cars to do more than just race against the clock. So there is something in the way that we... I think it's a regulation thing. If we can think of making the cars fundamentally harder to drive, mistakes happen more, drivers simply can't drive at 100 percent because it's too risky for them, then we can see more mixed up and probably better racing.
Almondo: I have to say firstly that I share what my colleagues said because starting from the sporting rules, I have to say that the sporting rules gives you the boundaries of your technical problems. Then, once these rules are clear enough, you have to develop and do your engineering in order to achieve the fastest car. So this is the first thing. I think the second step then is that you have to do your best job in terms of technical effort, investing your money in the direction that is defined in the sporting rules. Secondly, probably it's better to say that once you have your clear direction, everything is related not only to the reliability, because having reliable cars is just giving you in reality the possibility to see a race where all the cars are reliable and finishing the race. The point is that also in this case probably the sporting rules have to be more difficult in order to give the possibility to everyone to be reliable. If you, for example, impose a rule that is all the weekend long with a car that can be, in a certain way, changed or parts changed, I'm sure that the reliability, as aside from the engineering point of view, is more difficult and then the reliability will have another level, so it's something that is always a two-way problem.
Rampf: I think it's correct that this year most of the overtaking is done with the pit strategy, basically, when you're coming in for your pit stop, and the reliability of the cars is very high. But I don't think that it's correct just to make some rule changes to make a penalty for a quick car and he has to move back or some artificial penalty, just to mix up the grid. When we look forward to next year, there will be no traction control, so for sure it's more difficult to drive the cars and the year after the car concepts will be quite different and I think then racing will be quite different as well because of a completely different car concept with much less downforce. Teams will take different approaches to the development of the car and I think there will automatically be more overtaking with the rule changes.
Q: (Panos Diamantis - Car and Driver) A question for Mr Symonds and for Mr Almondo: We saw your teams have problems with wind tunnels this year. Do you think that aerodynamics has gone over the limit in Formula One? And, secondly, would you like a second wind tunnel?
Symonds: I don't think that Formula One should be about limits in that respect. The problems we had with our car this year are largely aerodynamic and I don't think one should read much further than that. Would we like a second wind tunnel? I said earlier that it is reasonably easy to assess where to spend your money and what you will get back from it and aerodynamics is the way to make cars go faster, so I guess the answer is yes we would, but equally computational fluid dynamics is moving on at a pace where it is challenging wind tunnels and maybe in the future it will be the primary tool rather than secondary and therefore at Renault we have invested in that rather than a second wind tunnel.
Almondo: A wind tunnel is like several other industrial plants all over the world - something that can be used 24 hours a day and seven days a week - so I don't think we have reached the limits and sometimes we have problems and these we just have to accept. The second matter I think is a balance of how much you want to spend and what is the benefit. From a general point of view, I have to say that it is more sensible to imagine a Formula One with a limit on spending money and this of course has to be helped from the general point of view, from the rules, because otherwise you have just the budget limited. So a support from the rules is beneficial in this respect because it gives you a picture that is more used in a better way - a plant that can be used by all the teams instead of having bigger and bigger plants that is bringing you costs but not investing in quality, just in quantity.