2019 for Graham

2019 for Graham

February 9, 2019

Graham Watson (Team Manager): "We're all competitive people, that's why we're in this business."



Q: A new season means a new car, but does it also mean a new team?
GW: This is our second year with Honda, so things should be a little clearer and more stable than year one of the relationship. We've had quite a few changes in terms of our own race team. We have two new Number One mechanics and a couple of new garage technicians, so there's a little bit of a rebuilding process that has taken place over the winter and will continue through testing. The new Number Ones have been with us for several years and deserve their promotion, so I hope they will thrive in their new positions. The change in personnel means we have had to re-align the pit stop crew for 2019 as well. But honestly, between now and the start of the season we should be able to get that under control.

Q: F1 drivers are getting younger and so it seems are the mechanics...
GW: That's very true. When I came to Formula 1 many years ago, you had to literally queue up to get into the race team because you had to graduate through the test team and there were fewer races with more people wanting to do the job. Now we operate similar to Formula 1 drivers, as many of our mechanics come from the F2 series. They may be younger, but the good thing is the passion for motorsport remains and they're committed to their jobs.

Q: Toro Rosso has a history of bringing on new driving talent and this year, we have a complete F1 rookie lining up alongside a returnee. As Team Manager much of your job involves showing the youngsters the ropes. An interesting job?
GW: Even in my previous team, we were generally working with young guys, so that carried on when I came into this team. It is something I enjoy a lot. Sometimes, if I see a photo taken in the paddock when we are walking to the official Drivers' Meeting, I think, "gosh, it looks like a father and his sons!" It's a great satisfaction to pass your experience on to young people who are so willing to learn and very often this creates very nice personal relationships, which again help pushing each other.

Q: Last year we had a 21-race season with several back-to-back races and even a triple–header. How close are we to having to consider a rotation system for team members, so that not everyone does every race?
GW: Honestly, I think we're almost there. We've already started a little bit of a rotation with most of the departments now to help sustain it. However, when it comes to the race mechanics, it's a little bit trickier. Next year, 2020, we're scheduled to have a new race in Vietnam. If that pushes the race total to 22, then I think we will seriously have to reconsider how we operate in terms of personnel at the track.

Q: At the start of the year in Barcelona for testing, everyone's keen to start, the adrenaline's flowing and in Australia the sun is shining. But by the time we get around to Abu Dhabi at the end of year, as Team Manager, it's your role to make sure that everybody has still got enough motivation to get things done and that the personnel are in good shape physically and mentally. It's a tough workload.
GW: Definitely. At the beginning of a new season the motivation is high because everyone is excited to get back racing, as well as seeing the hard work from the winter being put on track for the first time. Obviously, if the season starts well it's easier to keep the motivation high, but it becomes difficult to maintain the same kind of motivation when the season doesn't go your way. It's a choice we make when we sign on to work in Formula 1, you have to set your private life aside as you're away from home so much and focus on your work which, very often, brings a lot of stress. We're all competitive people, that's why we're in this business. At the end of the day, it is a sport and I think we've found a reasonable formula but for sure it will be a lot easier this year if we can have a good season. Part of my job is to keep motivation high, I try to give the guys as much time off as possible, but as the calendar is so busy it's not an easy task.

Q: This year, Honda is also supplying Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. How will that affect Toro Rosso operationally?
GW: Honda has been perfectly fair. Basically, we keep 50% of the Honda personnel who worked with us in 2018 and Red Bull gets the other 50%. So both teams get half the 2018 guys and half new Honda personnel. I think that's the best and fairest approach. Given we have new people on board, we need to do our best to integrate them within the team and find the best practices to work efficiently with each other. If the past has taught us anything, this should be a simple process and by the end of the first test everyone will be familiar with one another.

Q: Toro Rosso has consistently been amongst the fastest when it comes to race pit stops. It's the most obvious area where the work of the mechanics can affect the result. How are we looking on this front for 2019?
GW: Last year, we were more consistent and faster than we have been in the previous four years. Over this winter, firstly, we've carefully studied videos of our 2018 pit stops and worked a little bit on refinement of positioning. Secondly, we're going to inherit quite a lot of the wheel nut axle and wheel rim design from Red Bull, we believe that a combination of this and the work on positioning will allow us to improve further. I'm pretty confident we'll make another step in the right direction.

Q: Sum up the season ahead.
GW: We'll roll the dice and go again!