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Australian Grand Prix – Friday Press Conference report

Five head-figures fronted the media at the Australian Grand Prix upon completion of Free Practice 2.
Friday, March 15, 2013

Melbourne, March 15th, 201 (F1plus/J. Polychronis).- The Friday press conference of the Australian Grand Prix involved Eric Boullier (Lotus), Paul Hembery (Pirelli), Jean-Michel Jalinier (Renault Sport F1), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), Toto Wolff (Mercedes).

It is a tough year for engine manufacturers considering the imminent changes in regulations for 2014. Formula One will re-new its affair with the turbo next year, as teams will operate with 1.6 L turbocharged V6 engines. To provide effective service to teams this year whilst developing an entirely separate engine for the future is a taxing task for manufacturers. Jaliner, representing Renault Sport F1, spoke on the matter in Friday’s press conference:

“Well, it’s correct that there is a challenge because we have to provide the right level of service and performance with the current engine and at the same time develop the new engine. And during the current year the staff of Renault Sport F1 are going to be allocated from V8 to the new engine progressively.”

Paul Hembrey, of Pirelli F1, was liable to questions regarding tyre performance at the press conference. After testing in the bitter cold winter of Europe, it was always going to be intriguing seeing how the tyres would perform on track temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius. Pirelli’s designated tyres to be supplied to teams for the Australian Grand Prix are the supersofts, and medium tyres. Hembrey was pleased with how proceedings unfolded on the Friday:

“I’m really pleased, to be honest. After the winter testing, which was obviously not particularly good from a tyre perspective. To finally get running in the normal running conditions, we are pleased.”

Hembrey went on to discuss the likely duration of each compound during the weekend.

“We found that the medium tyre is lasting 22-24 laps which is what we needed. And the supersoft – very much a qualifying tyre here. You’ve got to your time in and probably do a short stint at the start and then you’ll be looking at a two, possibly three-stop strategy. From our point of view that’s in line.”

Toto Wolff, executive director of Mercedes GP, was obviously subject to questioning regarding the dramatic termination of both Lewis Hamilton’s and Nico Rosberg’s FP2. To which, Wolff explained:

“We got some good mileage on the car today but at the end we had some minor issues. We had a gearbox issue and a problem with the bib. So it’s not a big drama.”

Furthermore, much speculation has surrounded Ross Brawn and his involvement at Mercedes GP since Wolff’s arrival in January. Despite Wolff’s appointment as executive director, supposedly Brawn’s role has no change to last year.

“He’s (Brawn) not beneath me, it’s a different position and he’s team principal, he stays the team principal and he’s responsible for the racing. It didn’t change to last year.”

Eric Boullier, team principle of Lotus, expressed his pleasure with a successful day of practice. Nonetheless, he is wary that wet conditions could mean another challenge during the first weekend of the season.

“I’m pleased because obviously we had to fulfill our testing schedule for today, so no issue and we could go through everything we wanted to test and obviouslyunderstand. Performance is not so bad, I have to say, so happy and pleased with where we are. Obviously there’s still a lot to learn from tyres and obviously the rest of the weekend, maybe the wet forecast is obviously another challenge coming.”

Lastly was McLaren team principle, MartinWhitmarsh. asked Whitmarsh during the press conference, if times at McLaren were easier managerially now that they no longer have two world champions. Whitmarsh responded:

“Well I think any team wants the strongest driver line up. - It wasn’t managerially a real challenge. Occasionally you’d have a situation when drivers are near the front and they’re competing with one another. If you’re in the middle of the pit wall you know if it goes wrong the heat comes on you. You have some uncomfortable moments but overall it’s not a bad place to be.”    

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