Jean-Francois Kobe: Engines will never be the same

Jean-Francois Kobe: Engines will never be the same

From the Managing Director of Renault Sport F1, we met on Sunday, three hours before the start of the race, on the second floor of the guest house Buddh International Circuit, number 5, which Renault Sport during Indian weekend shared with Bernie Ecclestone's FOM.

Kobe forced himself to wait five minutes - exactly as the head of negotiating left Toro Rosso principal Franz Tost. Kobe went out after him, held out his hand and introduced himself, "Jean-Francois." We went into a room with huge windows Showcase, Renault Sport boss sat in the chair, and the next half hour paid ...

Jean-Francois said with a chic French accent. Surely, making meaningful pause. Renault Sport boss clearly knows when to look thoughtfully at the window, when to sit back when slightly adjusted his glasses and when to laugh. Kobe laughs loudly. Why not let the joke about a successful program of Toyota in Formula 1? Jean-Francois indulging in pleasure.

Formula 1 live in anticipation of the entry into force of new technical regulations. Regulations made largely through the efforts of Renault and Kobe himself. Less than a year and a half the F1 teams will begin tests of cars with new engines, turbocharged V6 hybrid plants, 1.6 liter.

Grand Prix race will be different, and Kobe is not afraid to admit that they will change, perhaps not for the better. "Yes," - said Jean-Francois, recognizing the potential problems, and even more of their prophesying. Then he paused, as if thinking, he now sit back in the chair, or just look out the window, and continues ...

Question: Monsieur Kobe, you like Formula 1 this year?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Yes. This is an interesting show. This year, there is no pilot, who'd won all the races in a row, as last year it was with Sebastian [Vettel]. Regulation stable teams is difficult to achieve significant progress compared to last season, especially when we're talking about leaders. Melbourne to Silverstone all fought on almost equal terms. Yes, the last two or three races Red Bull worked better. We see the result. But anyway - the struggle continues.

Q: In any event, the teams are close enough to each other - hard to argue with that. Do you think the situation will change in six years?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Yes. The next year, everything will remain as it is now - the rules will be the same, but in 2014 we are waiting for a big change. The motors will be the determining factor. Now the result depends primarily on the chassis, then the pilot and only after that - from the motor. In 2014, the sequence will be different: the engine, the chassis, the pilot. Or the pilot, and then the chassis - as you like. The main thing is that the engine will be the first priority. So, yes - we are waiting for a change.

Question: Could it be that the peloton will be divided into several groups, only because of the difference in the engines?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Once again - yes. In terms of aerodynamics, I do not think the difference between the teams will be too high. The engineer is becoming less freedom in this area. I think we will get close in performance chassis. But it will be a huge difference in engine performance. In the first race, even in the first few races, coming off will be large.

Q: What do you think of this as a fan, as a man fascinated by Formula 1? Now everyone is excited about the show. At least from what happened at the beginning of the season ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: I would say so. These engines, I'm talking about the V8 ... They are 25 years old. They are obsolete. We need new rules. And it's not just engines. Now, to get an advantage, it is necessary to spend a lot of money on aerodynamic research. If you have a big budget - you will be in front, you can develop the car faster.

Which team is the biggest budgets? (Starts to bend his fingers) Red Bull. Ferrari. McLaren. Look at Lotus. They have six or seven tenths of a second behind, while the beginning of the championship were nearby. If you have the money - you fight for victory. And so it went. With Ferrari, with McLaren ...

No, wait, that was an exception. Remember the Toyota? A lot of money, but there are no results (laughs). This is a bad example. Basically everything is different. To avoid this, to keep Formula 1, we need new rules.

Forget about a budget. It makes no sense. Necessary measures which have the possibility of limited command capabilities of engineers. But not the budget. Yes, we're doing a show. But this show provide money, not rules. We can and must do cost less, but keep fighting the best engineers, the best pilots.

Q: Why is the new engine formula in the Formula 1 is so important for the producers, for Renault, in particular?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Why do we need new motors? To stay in Formula 1. If the FIA did not adopt the new regulations, if Formula 1 has not given up V8, we would have left. Except Cosworth, Ferrari and perhaps, though I highly doubt this, Mercedes-Benz, no one would have been interested.

Not interesting V8. Why spend $ 100 million on it to produce a V8, which at this point has no connection to the modern automobile industry?

Now manufacturers are interesting economic engines of small, hybrid technology, electric motors. In our case ... I'll explain. The main reason for which we, Renault, sold his team - a new project, a new engine formula. For us, this is a strategic move. We are interested in the new Formula 1. I think this is the answer you get from the Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and other manufacturers.

Q: Do you expect that in the coming years will come from other vendors?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Without a doubt. But we have to wait another two years, until 2015, before we hear about such plans.

Q: How many years it will take a new manufacturer to launch its own program? Of the decision prior to the actual start of the Grand Prix?
Jean-Francois Kobe: We started the program in September 2009, to be on the grid with a new engine in 2014. I think it will take three years. Minimum. For several reasons: they have no people, no engineers, they need to build a base, stands. Need a structure. This is a strategic decision, it must be balanced, because the cost will be large.

Much depends on the future development of the economic situation in Europe. Today I can not imagine that the board of directors has approved the program of any brand in Formula 1. It's impossible. I do not think BMW or Honda can now afford it. Perhaps this will be resolved Hyundai, but I'm not sure. In any case, we first need to look at how the situation will develop. If markets are to grow, manufacturers will come.

Q: Many criticize FIA for the way will be a transition. For last year's change of rules in-line four to V6. Are you happy with the way it was done?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Yes. (Pause) Because, before making changes to the regulations, they spent a huge amount of research. They appealed to the producers, not just those that were already represented in Formula 1: GM, Toyota, BMW, Honda, Porsche, Audi, to us. They asked what would be the engines of road vehicles in the year 2020? We debated, discussed ideal formula engine and came to a decision. This is not an initiative FIA. This time requirement.

Question: Are you more comfortable with the original project? Four cylinders in line?
Jean-Francois Kobe: Yes. For us, this would be an ideal option, but it did not suit the Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. I can not understand them, they're still produce V12 (laughs). They have no in-line fours and Ferrari simply refused to start working on such a project. There was a debate between Carlos Ghosn, Luca di Montezemolo, Bernie, Jean Todt. As a result, the plan was changed. For us, it turned into additional expenses, but more important is the fact that now the rules are satisfied by all manufacturers.

Question: What do you see the first seasons after changing the rules? If in 2014 we will realize that we have three completely different engine and some cars are much faster than others just because of motors, as again to give fans a show?
Jean-Francois Kobe: We - Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault - had many discussions with the FIA on homologation. Decision is made. In the first year the rules are "open." It will be possible to avoid that some machines were for three to five seconds faster than the others. Not immediately, but eventually detachments reduced.

We have the same problem as that of the FIA. We need interesting Formula 1, we are part of the show. So in the first year of each of the manufacturers will have the chance to improve the engine. Follow, step by step, the rules will become stricter.

We have two options. The first - to return to the past, when the engines were changed after each qualification and each race. Back to the race budgets. Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota always want to win. But earlier, to win, we had to spend a lot of money. The problem was that they were spending so much - individually - that the return on investment could only win the championship. If they become the third or fourth, they left.

Max Mosley's proposal to freeze the rules - great. When we built the current engines, Mercedes-Benz was ahead. A difference of about 50 horsepower. But close the gap as possible. As a result, we now have a great show. This is the second option. The one we chose. 2014 will be an "open", and then begin a gradual "freezing" rules.

Q: But is not there a contradiction here? Now the three producers spend a lot of money, hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new engines and still beat the competition. By 2014, one will be better, will benefit. But only to lose it after a year and a half ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: Motors will never be the same. You can close the gap, for example, from 50 to 10 horsepower. Difference in power will not be as noticeable. But power - is not everything.

A simple example: if your engine has turned out worse than the other, this is something very difficult to do. You can try to gain an advantage in other areas: battery, injector, but to make it as easy as your opponent will not be possible. The difference will be reduced, detachments will be not so great. But the one who builds the best engine from the start, will remain the best. Such an option will suit us (laughs). But we also need to show.

Q: There is another problem. We now face in the doorway with Franz Tost. As recently as six weeks ago, he said that the question "Will the new engine is more expensive?" - Not worth it. In his view, the only question is how much more expensive they will be, and whether they afford a small team ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: We need to come to an agreement between manufacturers, teams and the FIA on the maximum amount of the contract for the season. We are currently negotiating.

You have to understand that there is no such thing as a standard price. No two teams on the grid, which would pay for the same amount of motors. Even if the engines of the same manufacturer. Someone gets a discount, we act as a sponsor, there are different options for technical cooperation. Now first of all we have to determine the maximum. After that we will begin negotiations with the teams contracts. All will become clear to January-February 2013.

Q: Many people are concerned the reliability of motors. Not only will this new engine. According to the regulations limit will be reduced from eight to five motors on the machine for the season. A pre-season the teams will have 12 test days ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: It's simple. In the first race some cars do not reach the finish line (laughs). But it is Formula 1. It always has been. Today, when there is a failure of the engine, it is a sensation. Second refusal - scandal. But in the past, such gatherings were a huge number.

In 2014, at the beginning of the season, gatherings will be many, I'm sure. Not necessarily, directly due to breakdowns of engines. Formula 1 car - a complex design. All elements must work perfect match. But, yes, we will see the smoking engines.

Q: What can I do to prevent this? Or at least minimize the number of failures? What plans are in this regard specifically at Renault? Someone said that you can build a prototype for the "24 Hours of Le Mans," break in the engine on a completely different chassis ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: I can tell you what will happen. We did not get down to the road test, at least until December 2013 - January 2014. Ferrari have similar plans.

Q: The team would like to get two additional days may fall to just deal with the engines ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: They ... (Pause) Look, if we're going to have such tests in the autumn, they will have to make a car for 2014 in mid-2013. Can you imagine what is needed for this budget? We, in turn, will need to provide them with a prototype engine.

The main problem - the price. FIA, the three producers agreed that the test will not be until December. Mercedes-Benz would like to begin trials next year in July. How they were going to do it? With a new engine and a new chassis? With the transition chassis? It should be built only for testing. This will blow budgets. And the team of such tests will only get worse.

Q: When you build a list of customers? The teams will need technical information about motors to start working on cars ...
Jean-Francois Kobe: We have a clear understanding of who we want to work. We want stability. Want to keep four teams, but, if necessary, ready to serve and five. Much will depend on how many teams will do. I'm not sure they will be 12 or, say, 11. Three producers can supply engines to all teams. We have four customers, but there is an opportunity to serve five. More - hardly.

Text: Oleg Karpov