Cosworth are ready to shake off their image as F1’s “underdog” engine manufacturer and win races again.
F1 business manager Mark Gallagher told F1 Fanatic: “Cosworth would win Grands Prix if it was in the back of a car that’s capable of winning”.
And he said the engine manufacturer were aiming for a top-four finish in the 2011 constructors’ championship with Williams. Read on for the first part of the interview.
F1 Fanatic: Would you agree it was a successful return to F1 for Cosworth in 2010 after three years away?
Mark Gallagher: It was a successful year for us. We had a number of operational objectives for this year which we’ve achieved. It was a very demanding reintroduction into Formula 1 as an engine supplier.
We hadn’t been away from F1 as a company because in Cosworth Electronics we’d continued to supply wind tunnel monitoring systems and of course vehicle electronics to teams in F1 all the way through the 2007-9 seasons.
But we had been out of engine supply. Coming back in, first of all we were going to come in supporting only the new teams under a different set of technical rules proposed as part of the cost-capping proposals the FIA had been working on in the early part of 2009.
Obviously that changed, after we had already signed up to supplying the teams, so we had to re-configure the engine to work to an entirely different set of rules. Namely, that the engine would have to have a much longer life; that it couldn’t produce peak power at 20,000 rpm it would have to do so at 18,000, or just under; and that fuel consumption was now critical because there was no refuelling.
We have a very strong engineering team under our technical director Bruce Wood. We have a guy who runs engine design, James Allen, and we have engine development under a guy called Dave Gudd and that triumvirate headed up the huge amount of work that needed to be done.
So I think the reintroduction of Cosworth as an engine supplier has gone well. We didn’t suffer a single failure in a race this year. In pre-season testing we expected we would have to do further work to optimise the engine because it had never run in a car. And so many of our new customers didn’t test – HRT did no testing, Virgin did limited testing, Lotus did some testing and pretty much all of it was in wet weather.
Only Williams did all of the testing and they were busy getting their car up to speed. It was only at the beginning of the season we began to learn where we were and optimise our performance.
But we made big strides and we look back on the year with a lot of satisfaction. It’s certainly been a very good foundation for us to build on in the next few years.
F1F: What did the process of optimising and developing involve, given how tight the rules are?
MG: Obviously development is a closed area. But what you can do is work with the teams on, for example, the ‘aardvark’ – the air intake configuration you use to get air into the airbox. The airbox itself is a homologated item.
You can also play with exhaust systems and calibrate an engine to, for example, use a blown diffuser which we did with Williams very successfully.
The calibration of the engine – how it performs from circuit to circuit, how it responds to power demand from the driver, is an important area.
Again, with Williams we learned a lot because of the experience of Rubens Barrichello and that, allied to their resources and high expectations, meant that we learned a lot working with them. Obviously the new teams were on a very steep learning curve.
The only thing you can do in terms of optimising performance is if you spot a potential reliability problem, you can fix it – that’s allowed. If you see something that is going to compromise you, cost the teams a lot of money, or ultimately cause a failure, you can apply to the FIA. And it could be something as simple as a washer that isn’t doing the job that’s intended.
There’s a slight opportunity to exploit or explore the limits of what you’re permitted to do. The FIA keep a very tight rein on it. All the manufacturers can be sent the request that you have sent to the FIA so Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes will be sent a request from Cosworth and we will be sent a request from any of them. So it’s very tightly policed.
I think it’s actually one of the great successes of Formula 1 in recent years that gets overlooked. There’s a lot of talk about concerns over engine parity. The reality is the world championship is fought between three different engine suppliers: Red Bull-Renault, McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari. Three competitors in the battle and towards the end of the season we were qualifying Rubens sixth, seventh, eighth – Cosworth were there, we were in the top ten, getting into Q3.
In my view the regulations have worked terribly well. There’s not a lot to choose between the engines. While others have said “Oh, we don’t have the same power as the others, we should be allowed to re-tune”, though you may have less power, if you also have less fuel consumption, good drive-ability, good weight and an optimised package and – in Renault’s case – you go and win the world championships, then to be honest I think the situation as it stands is very acceptable.
F1F: Based on those measures you’ve described – performance, fuel consumption and so on – what do you think your engine’s strengths are?
MG: We have good power – obviously I’m not going to put a figure on it but we’re satisfied with where we are in the power stakes – we have good fuel economy and good fuel-saving modes, and we have extremely good reliability.
At the beginning of the year we were not satisfied with power degradation – the loss of power over time as the engine ages.
We also had a potential reliability problem and we had to nip that in the bud. A lot of work was done around the first four races to resolve what was a potentially serious issue for us. I’m pleased to say we reacted quickly, it didn’t compromise our teams, and that was good.
I would say that the issues we would have probably, on balance, had more discussion about internally were to do with initial drive-ability when the engine came out. We had to work on the mapping – obviously we can’t change the mechanical structure of the engine, it is as it is.
Drive-ability was one thing that Rubens, Jarno [Trulli] and Timo [Glock] – the more experienced drivers – gave us feedback on. We had to work on that with our teams.
Basically, our engine performs in a certain way so we have to work closely with the teams in order to know what gears they’re running, how the car’s performing, and optimise that.
It’s almost an unending task of trying to get the best out of it. You never hear a driver or a team say the engine’s perfect. Actually, you’ll never hear us say an engine’s perfect – there’s no such thing. Internal combustion engines are not that efficient so there’s always a bit more to come.
Can you produce more power? Of course you can. Does it use more fuel? Yes. Everybody wants more power with less fuel being used. It’s a constant battle.
But there’s good satisfaction here about where we’re at. I think there were a number of battles this year which were quite interesting in terms of our engine performance and power: Nico Rosberg got stuck behind Nico Hulkenberg in Barcelona and it was very evident that the Mercedes-Benz couldn’t get past the Williams-Cosworth on the straights.
Here at Cosworth we really picked up on that, there were some radio conversations between Rosberg and his engineer who was telling him: “You won’t get past him on the straights”. Given that the Mercedes-Benz is a pretty good engine it was nice for us to have that measure early on in the year.
The pole position in Brazil was very satisfying but it was down to the conditions. Nico obviously got heat into the tyres at the right time, it was a great strategy decision by Williams and it gave us a lift but no-one here and no-one at Williams believed it was anything other than a point in time where, in those conditions, that driver with tyres at the right temperature was able to get a lot more performance. It was really down to the strategy Williams employed and Nico’s very strong driving.
F1F: You described the benefits of working with an experienced partner in the shape of Williams and Barrichello, was that something you began looking for after you signed up with the three new teams?
MG: It evolved, really. When I came to Cosworth in August 2009 the contract as that we had were with USF1, Campos and Virgin. A month later, in September, Lotus received their entry and suddenly we found ourselves with four teams.
Then in November Williams came along. Obviously things had changed with Toyota who were pulling out of Formula 1. They were looking at their options and could have gone in a number of different directions.
Sam Michael said at our staff event last week that Williams felt they had “unfinished business” with Cosworth. They knew that the 2006 engine had been a good one and although they hadn’t had the results that year that they wanted they realised that it was a combination of factors and not down to Cosworth doing a bad job with the engine.
Williams came back to the table saying “look, we feel we’ve got unfinished business, how about working together” And, obviously, from a Cosworth point of view, the opportunity to run with a benchmark team that wants to win again was very attractive. So we signed up with them.
So for a short period of time, from November until February, we were actually signed up with five teams. Then USF1 raised a white flag and we ended up with four. That was still more than the three we’d planned for.
Working with Williams was a great opportunity. They’re a terrifically competitive bunch of people. I’m lucky that I know Sam Michael, we worked together at Jordan in the late nineties. And Adam Parr, Patrick Head and Frank Williams have great determination to get back up to the front.
We’ve learned a lot from that and while finishing sixth in the constructors’ championship is not satisfactory for Williams-Cosworth, at least it is the top half of the championship, and our sights for next season are to be challenging for the top four again.
F1F: There was a clear upward trajectory through the season, the car was getting better, obviously they took sixth off Force India very late in the day.
MG: I think at the beginning of the year the overall package had been compromised: the package had changed from Toyota to Cosworth and there was very little pre-season testing. Rubens had just arrived and I think in the early races if you look back Williams-Cosworth was in among Sauber and Toro Rosso.
By Valencia we had made great strides and the package was getting quicker race by race. If you look at how close we were to the pole position time it came down and down.
In the races the performance was not quite where we wanted it to be. From Cosworth’s point of view the bit that we can influence is our engine. We have done and will continue to do everything that we can to optimise that and make sure the engine is installed in the chassis as efficiently as possible, answer questions from Sam ad the technical team and hopefully the Williams-Cosworth FW33 will be another step forward.
F1F: How do you see the package now compared to how it was at the start of testing?
MG: I think the package had gone from having some issues to having a lot of those addressed and really beginning to show a sufficient turn of speed to take on and beat Force India.
They have a good package, particularly the McLaren-Mercedes back end on the car, and Adrian Sutil is no slouch.
We’ve made headway and Williams have made headway and it’s fair to say that if you spend any time with the Williams team you see that’s there’s an enormous determination to get back up there. Frank and Patrick are pretty amazing characters to be around and obviously it’s been a while since they’ve won and they want to win again and obviously we want to win.
If we don’t win, we know that over time the impression will continue that Cosworth is somehow uncompetitive and the reality is that we’re not uncompetitive. We don’t have an uncompetitive product, we just need to have it in a car that performance as an overall package. Our contribution to that needs to be as good as possible.
F1F: In Cosworth’s recent history in Formula 1, since the sixties and seventies, you have often been seen as the under-rated underdog that occasionally pulls off surprise performances.
MG: Yeah, I think a lot of people are still surprised to recall that Michael Schumacher won his first world championship with a Ford-Cosworth engine at Benetton. I think Ford probably managed to underwhelmingly promote that. Everybody seems to think that Michael won two world championships with Benetton-Renault!
If I look back to my first season at Jordan in 1991, we came in and finished fifth in the world championship out of 17 teams at its first attempt. Using Cosworth customer engines we very nearly won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with Andrea de Cesaris.
Cosworth has been producing competitive engines for a long time. If you look at Ayrton Senna’s season with the Cosworth engine in the McLaren, everyone remembers his win at Donington, which was with one of our engines.
You don’t have to go back that far to see Cosworth producing competitive engines and from what I’ve seen in my 16 months here, we still produce competitive engines. The difficulty is, our engines are not often in the back of competitive cars.
The fact is that, at the turn of the last decade, the world of Formula 1 fell in love with car manufacturers who would write very large cheques and sponsor teams. That left no room for Cosworth, Cosworth was owned by Ford who, having invested in Stewart and morphed that into Jaguar, didn’t have a team in Milton Keynes who were producing a car that was capable of winning Grands Prix.
The Ford-Cosworth element of its involvement in Formula 1 was compromised and if you look at what Adrian Newey and Christian Horner have achieved at that team since Red Bull took it over it just goes to show that with better management, better technical direction, better investment in the areas that matter, that team turned around.
So, if you want a blunt statement, Cosworth would win Grands Prix if it was in the back of a car that’s capable of winning, and I’m confident about that.
Is that a criticism of the teams we’re working with? Absolutely not. It’s just a recognition that the overall package has to deliver. I’m not arrogant about it, we know that our engine can always be optimised, but I think Cosworth’s image in the last 20 years, as you said, often has been seen as the underdog manufacturer.
I think that’s unfair. When I read some of the postings on the internet of what fans have to say it’s irritating because people just aren’t looking at the fact. There are some media who just don’t actually come and find out the facts. I can take a journalist to our dyno and show them the power our engine is producing and be absolutely confident that what we’re doing as a company is a good job.
But Formula 1 is a very competitive arena and you need to have the whole package delivering. But in a season where I think Ferrari lost six engines and we’ve lost none, we’re pretty sure we’re doing a good job.
F1F: Obviously you’re losing one team next year with Lotus moving to Renault power. Does that create a vacancy for you to ally with a team that’s closer to the front?
MG: Not in 2011 and 2012, for the balance of the current engines. I don’t think anyone will change engines going into the last season with the V8s.
We always planned that this return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier would involve three teams. That’s what the optimum plan was.
Having three teams for next year and 2012 is where we expected to be at. I always took the view that 2010 was slightly an anomaly because we were supplying a third of the grid.
And again, I think the fact we were supplying so many – none of the car manufacturers were – gave us a massive job to do. If we’d got it wrong, and there’d been pistons and cranks all over the track at the start of the season, it would have affected a third of the grid, not one or two teams, so we had a huge obligation not only to our teams but also to Formula 1 to get it right. From that point of view we did a good job.
For 2011 and 2012 with Williams, Virgin and HRT our intention is to get as much as we can out of the product and give those teams the best support we can.
In the second part of this interview, which will be on F1 Fanatic tomorrow, Mark talks about the radical new engine regulations for 2013.
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