Mike Elliott at the 2022 Japanese GP Saturday Press Conference

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Mercedes’ Technical Director Mike Elliott attended the Japanese Grand Prix Saturday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.

Q: Mike, can we start by talking about Suzuka your memories of this place and what sort of technical challenge you feel it provides?

Mike ELLIOTT: Well, like Dave said, memories of the races long ago are probably dim and distant for me. Funnily enough, Japan’s a circuit… I’ve never been to Suzuka before. All the racing I did when I was at McLaren, it used to be that Suzuka was at the end of the year and as an aerodynamicist, your season was pretty much over by then. So this is my first time here which seems a bit strange but it’s an interesting place to come to. I think it’s brilliant to see the fans, the way they dress up, that sort of enthusiasm, I think that’s fantastic. It’s obviously a proper challenging circuit, some proper high speed corners, there’s gravel to go into, I think it’s a proper challenge for the drivers and a bit like some of the other circuits we go to… sort of Barcelona and Silverstone. It’s a circuit where you’ve got to have a good car, you’ve got to have a car with high efficiency and the driver has got to really push the limits.

Q: Now talking of drivers, I’d like to get your thoughts on Nyck de Vries, as well. You’ve worked with him for a number of years and he drove Lewis Hamilton’s car in FP1 back at the French Grand Prix.  What impressed you about Nyck?

ME: I think most of my time is spent where Nyck is actually stood with Toto chatting and so what you get is a really nice guy, but a guy that’s sort of very knowledgeable, who understands the sport, understands engineering in the car. I think for us as a team, it would be a shame to see him go somewhere else but at the same time really pleased for him, really pleased. He’s got this opportunity because it’s nice to see a driver with the talent he’s got getting that opportunity.

Q: And what impressed you when he drove Lewis’s car?

ME: I guess I’m going to have to give similar answers to the ones Dave gave, which is he just gets in the car and he gets on with it. He doesn’t make mistakes. He quickly gets to a point where he’s getting the best out of the car, the feedback he’s giving is good. You know, all the things you’d be looking for from a young driver.

Q: Well, let’s bring it on to you guys and this weekend. Progress looked pretty good in the wet, particularly yesterday afternoon. How positive were the drivers feeling after the second session?

ME: Today is a sort of a game of two halves, I mean yesterday, sorry. FP1, we didn’t look very strong. I don’t think we were on track at the best of times and so we needed to have a good session in FP2. Going into that session, there’s some things we wanted to understand about how we get the best of the car in wet conditions so we ran more soft tyres than others around and I think we have to factor that into the times that we set. Obviously nice to finish P1 and P2 but I think realistically, the sort of advantage that we looked like we might have came down to the running of an extra set of new tyres. I think it’s always at the moment for us what’s really important is the learning.  I think we learned a lot yesterday and that’s what I took away.

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Q: And do you think the car will be quick in the dry here? Is it going to be one of the ones that suits the car? 

ME: I think it’s a circuit… if you sort of go through the year now, I think we’re predicting which circuit is going to be good and the which circuits are not so good for us. I’d put this one in the upper end and I think we’re hopeful we’ll have a decent car in the dry. Now whether we can challenge for pole position and a win, that’s maybe a different matter. But you know, that’s what we’re aiming for.

Q: In terms of lap time, Mike, can you tell us how much you’ve improved the W13. This year? If you brought the car you had in Bahrain to this racetrack this weekend, how much slower do you think it would be?

ME: I think that’s a really difficult question to answer, because I think you can look at the theoretical performance you’ve added to the car but if you look at where we were back at the beginning of the season with the car bouncing around all over the place, it’s very difficult to put a number to that. I think if we were in that position here, we’d be probably off the back of the grid. I think the whole of the grid has moved forward considerably.


Q: (Jamie Klein – Motorsport.com) Mike, just briefly on next year’s Mercedes.  Can you just give us an update on where you are with the development and in terms of how much pace, how much lap time relative to the other top teams you think you’re going to need to recover to get back to title contention for next year? 

ME: Obviously, we’re well into next year’s car at the moment. I think in terms of trying to predict what sort of lap time you need to find it’s quite difficult. I think there are races this year (when) we’ve been very close. In fact, our race performance has been pretty decent at a number of races, and there have been races where we’re somewhere away. And I think what we’ve been trying to do is to understand that and I think we do understand that now. We know what we need to put right. So you’re then looking to say once you put that right, how much performance do you need to find and I’m obviously not going to give you a number because that would be giving a lot away, but I think it’s within the bounds of what’s possible to find so I think we’ve got to work diligently,  work hard over the winter, but hopefully we can get ourselves back into position where we’re fighting right at the front.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Mike again, one of Lewis’s underappreciated contributions I think, during the Mercedes domination was the work ethic and what he did behind the scenes. Can you just talk a little bit about how that has manifested itself this year when he hasn’t been able to just, as some people think, turn up at the race weekend, get in the fastest car and win? 

ME: I think, to be fair, both our drivers have been brilliant this year. We’ve not given them the car that they need to fight and particularly for Lewis, seven times world champion, to not have been in that position, to be winning races every weekend and fighting for championships has been hard. I think Lewis pushes the team. I think he does a really good job of giving us feedback. He works really hard. His work ethic has not changed at all this year. He’s here, late in the evenings, working with us, trying to get the most from the car and I think that’s just an encouragement to everybody else in the team to see the input he’s putting in. Lewis also spoke to the factory probably nearly two weeks ago and stood up and spoke to them and he was brilliant. I guess what you expect from a character like Lewis:  properly leading,  properly bringing energy to the team. I think that’s what we need going into difficult winter.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Mike just touched a little bit on George there as well. One of the things that we’ve heard from George is his earnestness, his drive and he obviously learned a lot from working at Mercedes and from Lewis when he was in the junior categories. What kind of character is George? How much does he drive the team? I think he’s described himself as being quite pushy but hopefully in a good way.

ME: Well, I think you expect racing drivers to be pushy. They have a limited career and they want to win. And I think I wouldn’t describe George as over pushy. I think he’s working really hard with the team. I think what’s been really nice has been to see him grow. You sit down next to a seven time World Champion at the table and bringing your contributions has got to be tough at the beginning but I think George has had a big part to play in the team and I think he’s doing a really good job.

Q: We have a demanding calendar that has been announced for next year: 24 races. How are you guys going to deal with it with your engineers? Are we going to start seeing some rotation? Or is it going to vary from team to team? 

ME: I think what’s important is finding that right balance between having people that are fresh and are able to do their job to the best they can do it but also having the continuity you need across engineers. So I think there will be a level of rotation that needs to be put in place and it’ll be different across different roles and probably trying to match that to the needs of the individuals as well. Because I think that will be important.

Q: How important is it for the drivers to have the same engineer dealing with them in their ear but also in the engineering office?  I mean one port of call if you like?

ME: I guess that’s really a question for the drivers but I think it is important. I think with the technology we’ve got around us, it’s not like the race engineers couldn’t be involved, they’d just be involved from the factory, for instance, and then at least you’re not doing the flights etc and the jet lag you get coming to places like this. So I think there’s a balance you can strike. I suspect most of the drivers –  I’d be interested in what these guys views are –  probably want their own race engineers because they’re used to dealing with them, there’s a relationship that happens between the engineer and the driver, which means that you’re picking up on all the signals that are not spoken, you’re able to pick up on the body language and use that to your advantage. And I think if you’re working with a complete stranger, that’s difficult. And I think it’ll be dependent on the team to work out how they get around that and that’s probably going to mean that whoever the driver’s dealing with is not a new face. It’s somebody they are used to working with.

Source: FIA.com

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