F1 News: Q&A with Otmar Szafnauer Chief Operating Officer

Sahara LogoQ&A with Otmar Szafnauer
Chief Operating Officer

Otmar, a new season is almost upon us. How would you sum up the team’s preparations for 2015?
The off-season in Formula One is relatively short these days and the last couple of months have been extremely busy. The major stages in the production process have gone smoothly and we are all extremely excited about 2015. The approach has been fairly straightforward as we have simply adapted to some minor regulation changes and tried to fix the shortcomings of last year’s car to make the VJM08 stronger in all areas.

Do you enjoy a large amount of stability in the regulations?
From an operational point of view it certainly makes things simpler to have stability in the regulations. The main changes for 2015 relate to the nose and we began working on those designs in the second quarter of last year. On the other hand, big regulation changes often shake up the established order and can offer teams of our size an opportunity to make a big step. Even so, I’m confident the VJM08 will allow us to be competitive again.

How different has the preparation been compared to last year?
There are far less unknowns and we’ve been able to adopt an evolutionary approach for almost every area of the car. That’s been beneficial because a lot of the development work we carried out in the second half of 2014 has fed into the VJM08. The biggest challenge last year was the installation of the new powertrain and trying to second-guess the cooling requirements. From that perspective, this year’s work has been a lot more straightforward. For this reason and to maximise the development time in the Toyota wind tunnel, we have delayed the track testing of the VJM08 until Barcelona.

2015 will be the team’s seventh season with Mercedes power – how is the relationship developing?
It’s very positive and I have to say Mercedes always do a fantastic job for us. We’ve built a very solid working relationship over the last seven years and they have played an important role in our competitiveness. I’ve heard very encouraging things about the developments Mercedes have made to the engine over the winter and I expect them to deliver another reliable and efficient product.

What more can you tell us about the team’s decision to use Toyota’s wind tunnel?
In light of the FIA’s restrictions on wind tunnel time and the fact that we can only nominate one tunnel, we decided that the Toyota facility in Cologne offered the best way forward for the short and medium term. It represents a major step up for us because we can improve our approach to testing with the use of a 60% [rather than 50%] model, which will provide better correlation results. The other major change is the use of a steel belt rolling road, which will better simulate the impact of tyre compression on aero performance. I expect we will start to feel the benefits of the new tunnel by the middle of the 2015 season.

What other investments have there been over the winter?
We have increased our CFD capability so that we are now at the maximum capacity permitted by the regulations. That came on-stream late in 2014 so the benefits will only become apparent towards the middle part of next season – in line with the new wind tunnel programme. The other area of constant development is our simulator, which will play a bigger role in our preparatory work ahead of each Grand Prix.
What about the team’s driver line-up?
It’s certainly one of our strengths and keeping both Nico and Sergio for a second year is advantageous because it delivers consistency for the engineering teams. Both drivers are settled and comfortable in this environment and that means they can simply concentrate on the driving. Both are capable of great things and we feel they collaborate well together in a very competitive environment.

What can we expect from 2015?
I would expect another very competitive grid – perhaps even more so than in 2014. That will be especially true in the midfield and we will need to deliver in every area if we are to remain at the front of the midfield tussle and take the fight to the big teams.

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