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GP Week : Issue 44
Vijay, you came so close to getting your first points in China. How gutting was it to miss out? We’ve been down that track before, last year in Monaco when we were running fourth. Yeah, you know this is Formula 1 and at the end of the day anything can happen. They were very difficult conditions in Shanghai and despite Adrian [Sutil] doing very well sitting sixth, even if we had conceded that position to Lewis Hamilton and he’d come seventh we were still in the points which would have been a huge boost to the team, but the car just completely aquaplaned off. There was flooding on the track and under those conditions what can you say? In Bahrain not one car went off, it was as smooth as silk and everything went off well, but in those very difficult race conditions you just have to cope. Big changes over the winter, particularly Mike Gascoyne going, Collin Kolles going… how different is the team this year compared to last year? At the end of the day we were embarking upon a direction that Mike Gascoyne didn’t necessarily agree with. Mike obviously wants to do things his own way and we as owners and management decided we wanted to go in another way – for instance I said I wanted to do a deal with McLaren and get the McLaren gearbox and hydraulics, get the Mercedes engine, and he didn’t necessarily agree with that. He said he believed we could build our own gearbox in-house. We tried it last year and had reliability problems, so if you have a situation in senior management where the vision is not aligned, and there’s poor performance as well, then inevitably hard decisions have to be taken. Mike Gascoyne had attended several board meetings, made presentations to the 30 board at Force India and since Monaco of 2008 promised performance parameters and accepted performance targets, none of which were ever met. So going forward into 2009 the board had to decide which direction they wanted to go in: either continue with Mike Gascoyne and his way of doing things, which clearly had not worked in terms of the key deliverables that he promised, or do what was our second option, which was to partner McLaren Mercedes, and we chose to partner McLaren Mercedes. So we needed to look at the top management of the team and made whatever changes were required. Today we have a good, tight, professional outfit that is motivated, keen and eager. We have Simon Roberts, seconded from McLaren Applied Technologies as Chief Operating Officer and there is a perceivable change back at Silverstone in the way the factory runs, the energy, the discipline levels, the accountability… so we just completely professionalised the whole operation. You had some updates in Bahrain and the car made a step forward. You’ve been very quick to react to recent changes, but do you think you can keep up with the pace of development in modern Formula 1? I think the fact that we put in the interim diffuser here in Bahrain… And before many others! I’m not commenting about others because I think in this game you’d better just mind your own business [laughs]. We didn’t go for the protest, we didn’t do anything, we just minded our own business and focussed on what we had to do. But yes, let’s start with when I signed with McLaren Mercedes. We designed and built this car in 120 days flat. We actually signed in the first week of November and obviously a new gearbox and everything else required a completely new design of the car. Incidentally, it is KERS enabled as well because part of my deal with McLaren was that this is a deal for KERS supply as well. So our original planning showed that we would have absolutely no testing time at all, just one shakedown at Silverstone and then the race in Australia. So it arrived ahead of schedule? Actually, my engineers built this car a good four or six weeks ahead of schedule, and so we managed to get in some testing in Barcelona which I think is a remarkable job. And we knew that because we couldn’t test as other teams have done, and of course with this in season testing ban, we had no choice but to say that the first four fly away races are really going to be tests for us. And then we needed to establish the reliability of the new car, and I’m delighted with the reliability that we have shown. So that’s one big concern out of the way, but now the engineers really have to understand the car before they can really tweak it to perfection in terms of set-up. We’re getting there slowly and we need to give them time, and as I said April 14 was the famous International Court of Appeal hearing on the diffuser and the minute the word was out… well, here we are sitting here on the 26 of April and we have an interim diffuser on the car, so we have moved pretty rapidly. We’re delighted with the result, there’s a lot more to come with the diffuser of ours because it is not even half way developed, but anyway it has made a difference and it showed. We have some more work to do, clearly, which we are doing, but with the limited resources we have we are pushing everything and everybody to the limit. I don’t have the kind of resources that other people have. Somebody told me today that Brawn is an independent team. Well I know that now it is independent, but I respectfully disagree with those who suggest that we should be compared because I know that Ross spent all of 2008 developing what we see on the grid as a Brawn now, and with a huge amount of money and facilities from Honda, so it’s not a fair comparison.