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FIA press conference - Thursday 17 Apr 2003

Max Mosley (GBR) FIA President .
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 17 April 2003


Printed with the permission of the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.

IMOLA, APRIL 17, 2003

Max Mosley: I would like, if I may, to give you a brief overview of what's been agreed today about 2003 and then to invite any questions because I am conscious of not having been present at the first three races and so the time, I think, has come to answer any questions as far as I can, on any topic relating to Formula One this year and the future.

Now, as far as the 2003 season is concerned, there is now complete agreement with all the competing teams, to continue with the procedures that we have adopted at the beginning of this season, and of course, to continue with the rules which were adopted at the end of last season, back in October.

The only very minor changes which we've agreed are that, as far as the spare is concerned, that they can use two cars in the various sessions but that the two cars they use for the qualifying on Saturday have to be the two cars they race, otherwise they start from the pit lane.

We also agreed that, if there's engine change from now on, the relevant car will start from the back of the grid because that avoids the controversy that could be about whether you should or should not have changed the engine, whether it was necessary. But, as I say, these are just minor details, tidying up.

Now most of the teams don't like the parc fermé and we fully understand why they don't like it and the way that's been left is that the present procedures will continue, unless and until the teams can come up with a proposal for solving the problem which the parc fermé solves in a better way, if this is possible, and the problem is to ensure that the car that starts the race is identical to the car that qualified and vice versa - both as to the amount of fuel in it and as to the specification and the set-up of the car. So if they can find a better way of doing this than the current procedure, parc fermé, supervision and so forth, we're going to be happy with that, but at the moment nobody has been able to come up with a better method.

So that really is that, as far as 2003 is concerned. What it all comes down to is: the disputes as far as there were any have been resolved and the season will continue as it has begun. I hope that the racing will be as good for the rest of the season as it has for the first part but of course that is something over which we have no control. We can only set the pitch, as it were, and then let the play go on.

Now as far as the future is concerned, there are still various items open for discussion. The teams want to talk about the exact implementation of the single engine rule. They would like to keep one directional telemetry from the car to the pit. The teams, or most of them, are quite keen to hang onto traction control and launch control. We are equally keen not to do that. The main issue is one of cheating and enforcement and certainty, and we've agreed that we're going to have a major meeting about that in the very near future to try to reach agreement but the FIA position is very clear that we would not be happy with the idea that drivers should continue to use traction control, launch control, fully automatic gearboxes and so forth after the beginning of 2004.

Apart from that, there is a degree on standard components, on the various bits and pieces to do with the chassis regulations and also we've agreed to look very carefully at this whole thing of the standard rear wing, to make one, to investigate, to try it. So really, on the whole, a good measure of agreement, a lot of progress has been made and I think probably we will have full agreement on all points, I hope so at least. I hope that they will come to agree with us about traction control, launch control and so forth within the next few weeks. But as far as 2003 is concerned, no more problems, no more arguments.

So that is a very brief, very simple summary and I expect that there are various other topics which people would like to raise and if you do wish to put questions on what I've just said, I would be absolutely delighted to hear.

Q: Can we please talk about the last race. I have two specific questions, the first one is: who is responsible for the time-keeping and scoring in Formula One, and can you please explain how the confusion that arose did arise?

MM: In a nutshell, the procedures were not followed. There is a very clear procedure in the code which says that the timekeeper will produce a sheet with the result on it, will sign it according to his own responsibility and that's been in the code since before I started racing.

Unfortunately with modern systems in the electronics, that's been allowed to slip and there was not, in Brazil, a sheet of paper with the result signed by the chief timekeeper and in the absence of that, confusion reigned. From now on, the procedure set out in the code will be followed, there will be a sheet of paper which the chief timekeeper will sign on his responsibility and that then is the result unless somebody puts in a protest which the stewards hear and which they allow. But the way it arose was relying on the electronics on the screen rather than having a proper written sheet of paper signed by the responsible official.

Q: And who is responsible for time-keeping and scoring in Formula One?

MM: Who is responsible for time-keeping and scoring in Formula One? This is actually physically done by Formula One Management and we are using instruments and various technologies supplied by TAG-Heuer. But there's nothing wrong with the technology, there was nothing wrong with the instruments; what was missing was a proper following of the procedures laid down in the international sporting code.

Q: If all the teams are in agreement, have McLaren and Williams indicated to you that they will stop their arbitration?

MM: I think that that will follow fairly naturally if we reach agreement on the things about 2004 and '05. To be fair to Williams and McLaren, I don't think they are out to cause difficulties but they are made a little bit uneasy by sudden and radical changes to procedures and wanted that clarified, but that having been said, now I think there is a great measure of agreement - well, total measure of agreement on 2003 - I suspect we'll reach agreement on 2004 and then I would expect that to follow as a matter of course.

Q: Apart from the engine changes that you mentioned before, the list of authorised changes and replacements in Brazil in the so-called par fermé was quite impressive. Is the FIA comfortable with a rule which enforces the parc fermé, but still allows a number of changes to be made?

MM: Yes, there's a very clear list of things which everyone can do, and then if somebody is given permission for specific reasons to do something additional to the list, then everyone is informed about that, and the interesting thing that emerged from Brazil was that there was an engine change in Brazil, and after further discussion it was felt that rather than get into 'was that justified or not, was it right?' it's best to say that if somebody changes the engine they start at the back of the grid. Obviously some of the leading teams really didn't like that and they said we're in Formula One, our sponsors, we've got to look after them, to which of course the response is that from the Formula One point of view overall, if one of the top drivers does occasionally start at the back of the grid, it is by no means detrimental to the spectacle.

Q: Could you make some comments on the GPWC situation and how it impacts on the next year or two?

MM: Yes, we saw the press release that came out from the GPWC and in a nutshell I think the situation is this: it's beginning to look as though my prediction which I've made repeatedly in these sort of press conferences that they'd all reach agreement, it's beginning to look as though I was wrong and they are not going to reach agreement. Well, if they don't reach agreement, that's to say GPWC, Bernie, the banks, all the different people, the teams, everybody involved, what will happen is this: under the Concorde Agreement, we have to announce the regulations for 2008 no later than the 31st of December, 2005. Now once the Concorde Agreement expires, that's to say 2008, we are then fully in control of the regulations in Formula One just like we are in every other branch of motor sport, so some time between now and the end of 2005, we will announce the regulations for the FIA Formula One World Championship for the year 2008 and thereafter. If the teams, the manufacturers or a combination of them, the existing teams, wish to run a private series, they are absolutely free to do so. We would give them every possible help and they would then be expected to produce their regulations and their technical regulations and sporting regulations and at some point before the middle of 2007 they would submit them to the FIA unless there was something which affected safety or something completely outrageous to do with fairness, we would approve them and they would then run their series in 2008 and thereafter. You would then have the FIA Formula One World Championship to whatever the regulations we announce in 2005, you would have the GPWC series, whatever they chose to call it, with the regulations made available no later than the middle of 2007 and then competition would reign and I don't doubt that the teams would then be going backwards and forward between the two to see which one was the most attractive and probably the organisers and the television companies and so on would be in a similar situation. It all looks to me, being completely neutral in the matter, not perhaps the most efficient way of running a World Championship and eventually it would settle down in one way or another but that's, as things look at the moment, that's what would happen. The fundamental thing as far as the Formula One World Championship is concerned is that we must announce those regs no later than the end of 2005.

Q: As protectors of the sport, surely dividing it into two championships isn't the best way of protecting it. Surely you should rule that there is one and only one championship?

MM: Well, in one sense there would only be one FIA Formula One World Championship and that would be the one that started in 1950 and was won by Fangio etc, etc. But there is absolutely nothing to stop someone starting a rival series and it would be wrong to prevent them doing that. Now who will actually be in which series when push comes to shove is going to be quite interesting because it's one thing to participate in producing regulations and generally involved, it's another to actually take the decision 'I'm going to enter this championship or that championship.' An awful lot of things will happen in the next five years before that decision finally gets taken.

Q: But do you not have the responsibility to protect the sport and not let two happen?
MM: I don't think we do have the responsibility. We are the regulator, we are the governing body and our responsibility is to encourage motor sport in all forms and if two groups of people want to run two rival championships of similar sorts of cars it will be wrong for us to prefer one over the other because in the end we would have to be in a position where we had to take a decision as to which was the right one and that must be wrong. It must be against all basic rules of commerce. You've got to let people make their own mistakes if you want. It's not up to us to do that. We just have to make sure that motor sport is safe, fair and orderly. That's our task and if people want to run several series they can.

If you take a category like sports cars or GT cars or rally cars, any of those categories, people must be free to set up what they see as a new and better championship and then the competitors have to decide which one they enter and of course then nature takes its course: one of them succeeds, one of them fails. In the end, you end up with just one championship but it's just a question of how long... I still suspect that sometime between now and 2008 this will be resolved without ever actually coming to two championships but at the moment it's set fair for two championships.

Q: I have two questions for you; recently I met with Mr Montezemolo he was very angry after he saw a yellow tractor on the track in Brazil. It was doing some job and Michael risked hitting it. He said that I will ask the FIA for an answer concerning this. What are you doing to stop something like this? And the other question is about the wet tyres; I know that some teams want to re-introduce two wet tyres per Grand Prix.
MM: On the first question, when Michael Schumacher went off - at the time there was a crane moving a car - there were double waved yellow flags and double waved yellow flags means, slow right down, be prepared to stop. Now it is inconceivable, under normal circumstances, that a driver would go off under double waved yellow flags because the purpose of that is to slow them down to the point where there is not the slightest risk that they will go off, entirely because you have got men and machines working in that area and if somebody goes off, there's a serious risk, apart from doing damage to him, that he will kill a marshal so the responsibility is on the driver to slow right down to the point where they can absolutely safely negotiate that corner. I don't know why Michael Schumacher went off and I don't doubt that this will be a question that Charlie Whiting will put to him in the drivers' briefing tomorrow but the whole principal of double waved yellow flags is to slow the car to the point where there is not the slightest risk of going off because it is only in those circumstances that you can have men and machines working on the side of the track.

On the question of the tyres, we have a rule which says that each team is allowed one wet tyre. That rule was brought in at the request of the teams. It was proposed by a team principal, it was voted by the teams. One or two of our brethren among the journalists have suggested it's an FIA rule and perhaps not a very wise FIA rule. It is not, it was entirely proposed by the teams and the object is to reduce costs and it reduces costs in two ways. It reduces the number of wheels, tyres, tyre blankets, freight and so on that the teams have to carry. It also greatly reduces the amount of testing they have to do for wet weather tyres, so it's a big economy for the teams and the tyre companies. Now implicit in that is that you will turn up, not with an intermediate tyre, but with a wet tyre. Now some of the teams, arguably, in Brazil, were not equipped with proper wet weather tyres but had intermediate tyres. Anyone who has been to Brazil more than once knows that when it rains there it really rains and you could argue that to turn up with intermediate tyres in those circumstances was very irresponsible. One of the team principals wrote to me saying... blaming us and saying that this is like asking a football team to play on a wet pitch in tennis shoes. And I wrote back saying absolutely, but it is the team that chose the shoes, not UEFA or FIFA. We didn't tell them what tyres, they chose the tyres, they took the tyres. They were tyres agreed between the tyre company and the team. And I think it's extraordinary that people who say they are concerned with safety that they didn't chose tyres that were more appropriate to the conditions that we could expect to have in Brazil.

Q: Two questions: bearing in mind a few years ago when Jacques Villeneuve was disqualified in Suzuka for ignoring waved yellow flags, we saw Alonso do it twice in Brazil. Is he going to face any sanction for that? And secondly, in your discussions today did you discuss whether or not teams are allowed to switch to wet settings between the overnight parc fermé - as they were in Brazil, which appears to have angered Ferrari?

MM: In the answer to the first question, I think but I am not privy to their discussions, I think the stewards would have wanted to talk to Alonso about that incident but he was in hospital and of course they couldn't impose any sanction more severe than a fine, without hearing him under our rules and the rules of natural justice. There is, I gather, a report from the FIA observer with the FIA and further consideration will have to be given to that incident because quite clearly something went wrong and I wouldn't want to pre-judge that by suggesting what it was.

On the question of the wet settings, that was discussed today and thank-you for reminding me and the decision was that if you want to change the settings of your car, you start from the pit lane, because I think the feeling, allegedly in Brazil, one particular car had wet settings in anticipation of a wet race, then of course, for safety reasons, everyone was allowed to do it, was perhaps not very fair on the person who had taken the risk and then it didn't pay off. So they all agreed: change the settings, go in the pit lane.

Q: Is the Canadian Grand Prix somehow in danger because of the spreading of the SARS disease?

MM: I hope not. I believe a journalist had it, so we all need to be a bit careful here. I'm not sure it turned out to be the real thing, I don't think it did. No, I gather it didn't. So, no, I think that at the moment, one has to be realistic about these things, I think you're talking about a few hundred people, mainly in the Far East, and a few dozens of deaths which is unfortunate, but compared to the world population it's not significant and at the moment there's no suggestion of any restrictions on travel to almost any part of the world, still less to our Grands Prix.

Q: You have said on quite a few occasions that if the EU doesn't change its implementation date on the tobacco ban from July 2005, we will lose several European races. Some of the non-tobacco-backed teams have some concerns that they will lose their sponsors because the sport is going outside Europe where their sponsors are from. Who do you feel are more important: the five teams will tobacco sponsorship or those without it?

MM: Well, the people who would be put in breach of contract would be the tobacco-sponsored teams but, just by the way, we are bringing legal proceedings against the commissions to get that date changed and everything sorted out. But in the end, I think this is more apparent than real, the problem. The audience at the race is a tenth of one percent - less than a tenth of one percent - of the total audience, 99.9 comma something per cent is all on the television and whether the television comes from inside the EU or outside the EU doesn't make much difference, in fact arguably some of these more exotic places are better and some of the time zones are better. So I don't think there will be an issue with the sponsors in that sense at all. Whatever happens there will always be a certain number of races in the EU. We've always had currently two but traditionally three races without tobacco since time immemorial so we are going to have a very minimum of three. That will keep most of the sponsors happy. Any sponsor who goes to more than three races is short of a job.

Q. Two questions. Did any of the teams ask to go back to a light fuel qualification? And does the meeting today mean there will be no change until the end of the season?

MM: To answer the second part first, there will be no more changes between now and the end of the season. In the end and very interestingly, none of the teams want to go back to qualifying with light fuel. What they actually said was...there were differing views.... They had a meeting this morning before the meeting with us and I think probably some of them would prefer that but the balance was that they all agreed in the end to qualify with the fuel. In the end they liked what we've got and what has interested everybody is that it has reduced the gap between cars significantly. Last year in Brazil we had eight cars within one second, this year we had 16 cars within one second. They are trying to get as far up the grid as they can but still have enough fuel to make a decent start to the race. It is actually a better start to the race, because you are genuinely qualifying the car you are going to race. Two or three of us could sit here all evening and still not reach the same conclusion. It has got a very positive atmosphere for the rest of the season.

Q. The question has been raised to help the television commentators and us that we should actually know the weight of the car in qualifying. Have you put that to the teams?

MM: We haven't put it to the teams and we are not allowed to do it under the regulations. My personal point of view is that it is one of the most interesting parts because you never knew the relative performance of the cars before, because although you knew what they had done in qualifying, you never knew what sort of fuel level they had put in. You know a little bit more now than you knew last year because you have the Friday times which are a reasonable guide to the performance potential of the car. If you think about it you probably know more this year than you did in previous years.

Q. In the championship we have McLaren first, Renault second and Ferrari only third. Nobody expected those results. In your opinion what is the difference of the results?

MM: The feeling is that everyone in this room has an opinion. What interests me now is that it is unpredictable, but having said that I would say I think we will see Ferrari finish first and second in a race in the near future. They have all the potential to do that. Equally McLaren are strong and Williams and certainly Jaguar looked stronger than perhaps people realise in Brazil and also Renault, spectacular. That is what is good, because you could go out to dinner and three or four people and talk about it all evening and maybe still not agree. What makes it interesting is what we call in England the 'down the pub' factor. Going down the pub and talking about it. It is that unpredictability.

Q. Would the FIA change the tyre rule on a safety issue? Bring a spec tyre with a specific tread depth and say that is the end of it?

MM: Unfortunately we can't actually change anything on safety ground. The only thing we can do, and even then we need the Formula One Commission, change the matters of passive safety, so that is a degree of safety for the driver in the car. But we have said to the teams that we believe that they should be at a race with equipment which will enable to race in all conditions, because that is Formula One. If they are not we will be having to look at applying something from the sporting code because it is not correct to turn up knowing you can't race. At the moment they say that none of them are in that situation and I must say that Charlie made it clear that the procedure we following with the safety car in Brazil was the procedure we would have followed for any tyre. We have suggested to them that there ought to be what used to be a monsoon tyre because it would be absolutely unacceptable not to start a race because you have got sensible tyres. When a single wet tyre was agreed it, it was agreed that we would have a single wet tyre not an intermediate. It is there in black and white. But the rule doesn't say that, and anyway it is difficult in the definition of what is an intermediate tyre. We are conscious of the problem and I suspect with the tyre companies we will be able to sort it out.

Q. At Monza we have had since 1999 a special asphalt. What can you do...

MM: The non-spray tarmac?

Q. Yes.

MM: The answer to that is that we are trying to encourage that because the great danger in the wet is the visibility. Anyone who has driven on a motorway behind lorries on the new non-spray tarmac...it is a huge difference. The trouble is it is not very strong in the corners, so there is a tendency to use it on the straights where you need a lack of spray for overtaking and then in the corners the spray doesn't matter so much because of the curve you can see the car. We are doing everything to encourage it but we don't want to say to the circuits you have to do it because there are still technical problems with it and it is not 100 per cent certain that it does work and stands up to the stresses. We are encouraging it as much as we can but we are reluctant to legislate at this stage.

Q. You seem to indicate today the likelihood of a manufacturer championship happening is something that you will intercept. You've said in the past that you don't believe there should be a manufacturer championship. Can you clarify exactly what you do mean?

MM: I would have thought that was fairly clear. I don't think there should be two championship, I would have thought that was a view we would all share. On the other hand that is not the same thing as saying that the FIA would seek to prevent two championships taking place.

Q. The point is about the manufacturers' involvement. You've said in the past that you don't think manufacturers' should run a championship because of their tendency to disappear.

MM: Yes, sorry misunderstood. If they want to run their own championship that is a matter for them. We would not want them running the FIA Formula One World Championship because their record indicates that that might not be the best way to ensure its success in the future. Shall we put it like that.

Q. Max you said there is a stewards report still to be read on Alonso's incident. Is it possible it will be a retrospective problem for Alonso? Also Schumacher's situation, if it is inconceivable that he should have gone off there, will anything be done there?

MM: The answer is that it is not a stewards report it is the FIA observer, but it cuts to the same thing in a sense. The answer is that it would not be retrospective, it is a report and the report will be examined and if necessary action will be taken. But it is still going through the processes. But it is not inconceivable that action could be taken

Q. What about his (Alonso's) third place?

MM: The question was would it affect his place. That is not for me to say, but I would have thought it unlikely. It is much more likely that anything that would happen would be in the future.

Q. And Schumacher...

MM: The same thing.

Q. Max, a lot of unfinished business with you with the new rules, the tobacco issues and so on. Will you run for another term?

MM: Too early to say. I think the thing is if you have one of these positions in sport, and of course sport is only one part of the FIA, the great danger is staying too long. One has seen one or two examples of that in sporting bodies when people get into the position and stay too long. I would be conscious of the danger of staying too long and I certainly wouldn't go on unless I got an indication of an overwhelming high proportion of people wanting me to stay and not just out of politeness. It is a bit too early for that because there is another two and a half years to run. I don't rule it out, but also I've always felt if one is old enough to be the father of the people driving that is acceptable, when you get old enough to be the grandfather you have got to start thinking about it and that is not such a long way off.

Q. Max I was wondering what reason the teams are giving you today for not wanting banning traction control. Is it a policing thing or do they like the technology?

MM: The reason they are giving is number one policing, mutual suspicion and all of that, number two we've got it, we've bought it and we have it so why make us get rid of it. Number three trying to implement changes to the engines....doing the best possible technology on the engine to make the ease of driving the car as high as possible without using electronics in this way is very difficult. I think probably the reason that none of them said is the real number one, is that each of the major teams thinks that if you have got the item of launch control and traction control it is going to be an advantage and they don't want to give it up and I fully understand that. But the other side of the coin is that I do believe in the perception of the public and everybody who follows the start, the idea that you can press a button at the start in Monaco and if you've got better software than the man next to you who let's say is on pole and you are second, you are going to be first into Sainte Devote. That is not what you expect from the best drivers in the world.

Q. Do you think they would admit it?

MM: They struggle not to admit it. What I think is going to happen...I've said to them it is not a question of what you want or what we want, it's what the public want because in the end they pay for it. Certainly judging from the response I've had, the overwhelming number of the public are against traction control and launch control and interestingly when we put back the date from Silverstone to the start of 2004 there was a lot of reaction from emails saying 'you've given up, you shouldn't have done that'. Most of us observers from the outside take a lot of convincing.

Q. Why all of a sudden are you pessimistic about GPWC and are you concerned that all teams signed the memorandum?

MM: The reason I think that the GPWC will go ahead is because all of the teams went to the meeting and all the teams signed and all five GPWC principals were there. It looks as though they are serious about there series on point one and on point two I know they've made offers to Bernie, I say Bernie but the banks and everybody concerned, which have been rejected and he and his associates have made offers to them which have been rejected. They have been negotiating now for many months which suggests they are not going to reach an agreement. But on the other hand it is a fairly long time in the future.

Q. Do you foresee the possibility when the Concorde Agreement expires of having a championship which is commercially run by the GPWC and in a way politically assisted by the FIA?

MM: I think that is what it will come down to. You see, if someone wants to run a private series, if you say the Renault Clio Cup or the Porsche Cup, these are all private series which are run by the manufacturer concerned with their own rules and we are only concerned that it is safe, they obey basic rules, that is the only concern we have. So that is what would happen with GPWC, they would get on with it under the sporting code and have certain restrictions. If they could make it a great success, it would be a great success. Sometimes series come to us at a certain point and say we would like to be an FIA championship, for example the GT Championship. At one time that was a private championship. That could happen in the future, but that is a separate thing from the FIA Formula One World Championship for which the commercial rights have been sold and is owned by SLEC, Bernie and the banks. I think in the end the whole thing will sort itself out but there is no reason why it couldn't have two championships. What would happen would be the teams, the race promoters and the media would play one up against the other and this dream of more money would turn into significantly less money. That is the reality of life and when that dawns everybody would perhaps talk more. It is a long way ahead you see, most of the teams are more concerned about the next three races than they are about 2008.

Q. Assuming the GPWC championship does go ahead and you still have the FIA Formula One World Championship, could you actually produce anything that the man in the pub would actually watch?

MM: It depends who enters and it depends who enters there's. It is by no means certain that all of those teams who signed the memorandum of understanding would enter he GPWC championship. It is by no means certain that all those teams will be in business in 2008, or that the GPWC manufacturers will still be involved in Formula One. There are no guarantees in place. In the end the person with the commercial rights to Formula One will be trying to attract the best possible entry and so would the people with the rights to the other championship. It would be a bit like 30 years ago when we had sports cars actually bigger and more prosperous than Formula One and then gradually things moved across. There is no guarantee that things would go on the way as they are. It would depend on who would make the biggest investment.

Q. Going back to Brazil, Ralf Schumacher overtook Jos Verstappen before the end of a safety car lap and it wasn't punished at all, and there were a number of yellow flag incidents which were not published. I certainly can't remember over a 10-year period that happening, these things being missed, and what can be done to ensure they are not missed again?

MM: The answer the to the first question is I don't know how they came to be missed and as far as stopping them happening again people can only see what they can see. It is a little bit like a football match, sometimes you will see something on the television that the referee didn't see. The marshals, the television everyone involved should see these things and it is unfortunate if they don't. It is quite possible if Ralf Schumacher was sitting here he would vehemently deny the allegation you have just made. That said, there will always be mistakes, human activity is like that, and we will do the best in our sport. All I can say is we will try harder in the future.