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FIA Friday press conference - Austria, part 3 16 May 2003

(L to R): Mario Thiessen (GER) BMW Motorsport Technical Director, Norbert Haug (GER) Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Austrian Grand Prix, A1-Ring, Austria, 16 May 2003

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - MAY 16, 2003
ENGINE MANUFACTURERS: Norbert HAUG (MERCEDES) and Mario THEISSEN (BMW)
TYRE MANUFACTURERS: Pierre DUPASQUIER (MICHELIN) and Hiroshi YASUKAWA (BRIDGESTONE)

Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: Max Mosley said in an interview that he expects two manufacturers to drop out of Formula One. Given that the GPWC depends on manufacturers, will your companies stay in Formula One for the long term?

Mario THEISSEN: For BMW I can say we haven't decided in which way to go ahead but there is a decision that BMW will stay in Formula One beyond 2004.

NH: We will stay in Formula One for a very long time I would say. We are committed, we are not starting negotiations with GPWC to stop it tomorrow. We have a long-term commitment and if the FIA president chooses to speculate he had better speak to me before he does that and he didn't. I read the interview as well, I am as surprised as Mario is and I cannot understand these speculations. We are committed for the long term. Mr Hubbert is actually leading the GPWC, it will change next year or towards the end of the year, but I think it is very logical that if we do that we do not plan to stop in the short term. I do not know where this story comes from - I would say pure speculation. We are happy in Formula One, it gave us back a lot, we promoted our brand in a very good way, we have a great partnership with McLaren, our tyres are getting better and better, our engine is getting stronger and stronger, so we are on the right path and I have a good friend with Mario so we keep on going.

Q: We have seen some kind of a deadline has been issued for whatever is going to happen with Formula One but it seems to me that we all accept that any kind of split in Formula One could be complete madness because we have seen what happened in the United States and other forms of sport. It seems to me that one of the most important factors in this whole thing is the role of the banks that made ludicrously big loans that they are still carrying on their books. Can you let us know if Norbert or Mario can tell us the manufacturers' attitude towards the banks - are the manufacturers prepared to buy our or pay any money to those banks?

Norbert HAUG: Well, I have to ask your understanding that I cannot go into the detail because it is a GPWC issue, it is behind closed doors, the negotiations are taking place and I think it would not be right to go into detail. For sure, we are informed what is going on and I can tell you that splitting is not what the manufacturers want, it is not what the GPWC wants, we want a constructive way forward, we want to have a Formula One that is absolutely secure in the future and has a solid base and I think it is fair enough for us to try to stabilise Formula One in the middle and the long term, that is what we are working on. It is not about the manufacturers making rules or steering the sport, that is not the idea behind it, it is stabilising Formula One and it will help the teams. The teams will be better off and it is not about us. I think Mario can confirm that as well - it is not our job to do rules and to be the governing body and maybe there is a misunderstanding but I think we have very constructive discussions and the plans we have for Formula One are very positive, that is for sure.

MT: Well, same position basically. I agree that a split of the series would certainly be negative and you can be sure that everybody involved is very much aware of this. I can only speak for BMW, not for the banks.

Q: Mario, how good do you think the BMW engine is compared to Mercedes and Ferrari?

MT: That is what I ask myself every day and night.

Q: You must have some technical performance details...

MT: Certainly I don't have any exact data and certainly the engines are not that far apart that you could judge on this just by looking at the engines. What I can say is that so far in this season we are very satisfied with our engine. We haven't had any single reliability problems so far and we have made a step forward in terms of power last year. We are currently using the same engine spec in qualifying and in the race so I am really satisfied with the situation and the position that we are in at the moment.

Q: Do you think the engine is better than where the car is currently performing on the track?

MT: If the engine is better than the car that is a difficult question and you need both certainly to do a lap and there is no point in pointing at weaknesses and strengths. We have to improve every day, we are developing the engine every day no matter where we are and this is the only approach to get to the top.

Q: Gerhard seems to be pointing fingers at the moment...

MT: He has got his hands in his pockets already again.