Q+A with Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

on

Today, the Force India F1 Team presented their 2010 contender, the VJM03, to the public. Otmar Szafnauer joined Force India as Chief Operating Officer in October. He gave his thoughts on the team and its prospects for 2010.

You've been with the team for nearly four months now. What impressions have you gained? "I like the atmosphere in the team. With half the people of a big team we design a good car and the wind tunnel guys do a very good job in getting the numbers that are required. You just don't have the time or resources available to waste, so you just get on with the job."

When you joined the team was in a very stable situation, and was enjoying some success on the track. Has that helped to make things very straightforward for you? "I think stability does produce results. That's not to say you shouldn't change and improve as clearly you should, but huge upheavals never help. If you can have stability with the right people pulling in the same direction, you're much better off. Fortunately we have that here."

What improvements are already underway? "There are two big improvements from 2009. One has been the increase in our CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics] resource, thanks to a new partnership with CRL in India, which has increased our capacity by five-fold. The other principal area has been the utilisation of the wind tunnel to a greater extent, almost 24 -7. Coupled together this has allowed us to take great steps forward. Last year Simon Roberts also instilled some very good processes and procedures that have also helped to refine our procedures, communications within the company and ultimately the decision making process. Simon did a great job in doing that, and I'm going to carry that forward."

Like Red Bull you missed the Valencia test, and instead you are shaking down the new car at Silverstone. What was the thinking behind that? "It was a strategic decision. By missing the first test, we can gain a little bit more development time - a little bit longer in the tunnel, a little bit longer thinking about what's important on the car. It was just a trade-off decision. We completed a shakedown day, before the testing started that regains a little bit of what we've lost."

This year there is a Resource Restriction Agreement taking shape - how does that affect Force India? "There's a step down in personnel allowed at races this year, as well as on external expenditure, but neither affect us at all. If we change nothing this year, we'll be below both of the levels set whereas some other teams will have to come down. It is very much to our advantage as we are not having to learn any new skills or working operations procedures."

What are the big challenges that the team faces over the next year or two? "Our biggest challenge is to get the wind tunnel up to 24-7, and becoming efficient with our CFD capacity. For you to maximise your performance there are a thousand little things that you need to get right. This year the racing is going to be a bit different, with no refuelling, and it's always good to have more money so you can do more development throughout the year!"

You mentioned the changes in race strategy this year. Do you think that the team could gain from being quick on its feet and making the right calls? "Yes, especially early on in the year when people haven't quite settled down yet. I think in F1 we're all quick to learn, and quick to learn from each other. If we can make some good calls early on, that will help us."

You have kept the same drivers. What do they bring to the team? "Adrian is a great asset. He's very talented, and he's fast and fearless, and he'll gain from the experience he now has. If Tonio can learn from last year, and his confidence is up knowing that he's got a regular seat now, he has great potential."

Finally you have signed Paul di Resta as third driver. How do you see his role? "He's a young driver with a lot of potential, and we're going to work with him to maximise that potential. And that should be to the benefit of this team. He can help us in simulator testing, and he should be doing some Friday testing just to get familiar with the car and hone his skills. And then we'll see about the future."

Source Force India