FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - SEPTEMBER 12, 2003
TEAM MEMBERS: Ross BRAWN (FERRARI), Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT), Ron DENNIS (McLAREN) and Patrick HEAD (WILLIAMS)
Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.
Q: Four general questions starting off with the calendar, which has been released. I would like to have your comments on it, your thoughts.
Flavio BRIATORE: Well, there is no feeling. I think somebody has accepted this calendar and it is their job, and I don't think for organisers it's so easy to find new circuits and it's not easy for the promoter. Our job is racing. For me, really the calendar is not bothering me too much. I accept it and I'm quite happy. If I'm not happy, nothing would change anyway.
Patrick HEAD: I'm glad to see Spa back in the calendar if only with a provisional situation over it. I might have to slightly re-adjust my personal arrangements because Brazil is at the end of the year as opposed to in March and usually I go down there a little bit beforehand so that's quite a big change for Brazil. I think the temperature is going to be very similar at that time of year in Brazil and probably no more rainy so I don't think it changes much as far as the actual race goes. It's fine. As Flavio says, we don't decide the calendar. Bernie and other people decide that, and it's for us to go out and race.
Ron DENNIS: Well, Formula One is a pretty intensive business and to be honest, expressing an opinion is normally only worthwhile if it has some influence on something and as the calendar is not decided by the teams and as we aren't asked to put forward an opinion there's pretty much no point in putting forward one now. It's the normal situation, fait accompli and we get on with it.
Ross BRAWN: I think from an engineering point of view Bahrain is going to be interesting. It's going to be very hot and we'll have two quite severe contrasts because we're going from Bahrain which is possibly going to be one of the hottest races straight to Nürburbring which is possibly going to be one of the coldest races, so that will be an interesting conflict. But from an engineering point of view the new circuits are always interesting so Bahrain, China. It's going to be good to get stuck into these new circuits. It gives an opportunity for a team to perhaps gain an advantage when you get to a new circuit. If you can model it a little better or get some more background to it. Most of the circuits we race on we know so well that there's not much variation, so from an engineer's point of view, it's always nice to see new circuits.
Q: Three of you have teams that are very much in contention for the World Championship; the fourth could be a spoiler for the championship in many ways. What are your feelings, how do you approach the final races of the year? Is it any different to normal? Are you looking at your rivals all the time?
RB: It gets more tense. It's inevitable because you have got the big prize up ahead of you so inevitably tension creeps into everyone in the team. You have to try and control it and not let it become a problem, but everyone gets a little bit edgy, you double check things. We're pretty fastidious in this business anyway, but everything gets double-checked, everything gets looked at again and we go through things very carefully. We probably stay an extra hour in the evening just to make sure. That's what happens, things become more and more important. Every race is important but it does start to influence your way of working when you get this close to a championship.
RD: Well, for us, we've worked hard in the last two months to bring a new aero package and other improvements both on the engine and the rest of the car. I think most of the improvements will probably create a bigger step in the remaining two races - this being a high-speed circuit we don't get as much benefit as the latter two races so we should be reasonably strong for the balance of the season. It is clear mathematically that this is a race that is not going to decide the world championship but it's certainly going to probably tip it in favour of two of the three. Obviously we hope to be one of those two, but it's going to be a good fight for the balance of the season. We relish it and as Ross says, you just try to raise your game that little bit more, everyone's that little more careful. We'll have to see what Sunday brings.
PH: Well, I should think Bernie's plan has probably got Kimi winning here, Montoya second and Michael third - that actually then keeps it going, in the same closeness right to the end. I'm sure that's not what Ross wants but anyway, obviously it is a very competitive position. I think in a way we're surprised to be where we are but very pleased to be where we are. We've got a team with a large number of people who have competed in championships previously, so they're all pretty good at conducting themselves properly in those circumstances and looking forward to a good battle.
Q: Flavio, are you somehow written into Bernie's plan?
FB: Not really but I think that for Formula One it's fantastic anyway. We have three drivers, three different teams in one point with three races to go and I believe that for our business, for the television, for everybody it's magic. It's important to have the final like this and hope that we arrive the same in the last race.
Q: Third question is the potentially grey area of team orders or team tactics? What's your interpretation of it, particularly as they could come into play during the final three races of the year? Is it a grey area or is it clear-cut?
PH: Clearly, it is within a statement of the regulations that we're not allowed to apply team orders in a way that influences the outcome of the race, but a team order? I suppose that would come from Frank or somebody but we don't have anything in either contract of our drivers, it is just a general understanding that if one driver is in a position to win a championship and the other driver isn't that that driver will help them, but if the drivers chose to make that decision, that's up to the drivers, it won't be imposed by the team - as clearly, we're not allowed to.
RB: I think it is potentially a very difficult area. It's interesting what Patrick said because a driver is still a member of a team so he chooses to apply an order himself. I do think the team can step back and say 'it was nothing to do with us because he made that decision' because firstly you'd never be able to prove it, that he was the only one that made that decision. I hope that we don't get embroiled in all of that but it is very difficult area and I think that everyone here said at the time when the statement was made 'no team orders' we need a... we would like a better definition of what is no team orders. I think Michael mentioned David and Kimi's situation at a previous race. Now clearly that's OK, that's acceptable if you've got drivers on two different strategies and you don't want one of them to have their race spoiled because he's on one strategy which requires him to go faster, so we've had a precedent set that that's an acceptable action, and I can understand that. But it would be nice to know where the limits are. I guess we're seen as the cause of this introduction of the regulation but even so, I think everyone would like to know where the boundaries are. It's always been at different levels, for centuries. If you've got two drivers in the last race and one can win the world championship, you don't want the other guy getting in the way. I think that's legitimate. If the other guy then tries to take an action which improves his team-mate's position beyond staying out of the way then I think that's possibly going over the mark but it's not clear.
FB: I agree with Ross. We are in a grey area and interpretation is difficult because it's not black and white. It's very difficult sometimes. You're in the situation where one driver has a problem maybe where the car is not set up well and a little bit slower and the other driver is quicker. For the team surely, it is better to have as much speed as possible, especially for Ross and Ron and Patrick. They have only one driver who has the possibility to win the championship and what we need is some interpretation because when the rule is not clear, it's not black and white, it's pink and every time we have the possibility to have different interpretation and we know every time it's not exactly what the people are expecting. Like I said before, this championship is fantastic for Formula One and I hope that together we don't try to destroy everything in the last three races. Everybody is professional, everybody knows how much money they are putting in the team and everybody knows that if you have one driver with the possibility to win a race I think it's a shame if you have a problem with your partner. I think it's a very grey area. The rule is not clear really, as Ross said, but I'm sure that if you have a driver in front who is a second slower maybe you tell him to move a little bit because maybe the car has a problem, whatever. It's very difficult. Maybe the federation can clarify what it really means, because if not, you have a thousand different interpretations of that.
RD: Well, virtually everybody has said something that is either completely true or by and large true. There are numerous conflicts within our sporting regulations. Perhaps here is a good example. We talk about solely and exclusively and unaided in one particular regulation is respect of how a driver can and can't drive his car and yet it is a pretty much an accepted practice here that it is acceptable for one driver to tow another when we're all qualifying together. So you could argue, in those situations, is one driver helping the other driver? But the key is the word team. In team play the definition is, no question, that you are working for a common objective, and it's how you facilitate that common objective which needs to be consistently interpreted. If we were to witness a race in which two team cars were lying first and second and the second placed car could only win the world championship if he came first, I just cannot believe that anyone would comprehend that it is wrong that his team-mate allows his partner not to take the lead and win the world championship. We have to be balanced and undoubtedly and dangerously, each and every set of circumstances requires an interpretation and rule interpretation is somewhat of a controversial issue at the moment. But it's not new to Formula One and I actually think that the vast majority if not all of the participants in Grand Prix racing would just like absolute black and white rules, so there was no ambiguity and there was no ability for or necessity for people to bring interpretation to bear. That's what we strive for, but it's what we constantly fail to achieve.
Q: Final question, there have obviously been a lot of stories about tyres over the last few weeks. What's your feeling about the situation?
FB: I'm sure Michelin give all the information to the federation. I think our team, like everybody else on Michelin, we feel it was not illegal at all, because if somebody was illegal they would be disqualified and nobody, for the moment, was disqualified in any race. We had this kind of tyre from Imola 2001 and really, for us, the rule, we are talking again about interpretation, but 95 per cent of the people reading the rule was quite clear that you measured the tyre when it was new. If not, the rule would say that you measure the tyre at the end of the race. Nobody has asked me to measure the tyre at the end of the race in the last two years, and I don't understand why they started measuring the tyres at the last race. Anyway, after this, I don't know everybody's situation, but we won the race in Budapest and according to Charlie Whiting, our tyres were perfect. I think it was an issue that wasn't clear, interpretation again, but after two years it's very difficult to change the rule three races before we finish the championship. This is my idea. I don't want one manufacturer on Michelin to be accused of being illegal. When you have people like the second biggest manufacturer in the world, who is in Formula One, spending a lot of money, I don't think they deserve that. I think that today we have qualified, tomorrow again, and then racing and for me the best thing is winning. I don't think the tyres only make a team win or lose and I think that it's a great win for Formula One, as I said before. I hope we don't have any controversial situations in this championship. We need a good championship and for me the best thing is winning and everybody will be happy because in the end you have a fantastic championship.
PH: I don't think there's much difference to me from what Flavio said. We, Michelin in their display of their tyres to the FIA over a period of two and a half years, open disclosure of the profile to the FIA, any such use of words such as illegal or cheating or something is completely inappropriate but the FIA after Hungary send us all a fax changing their declared intention on the wet tyres and stating that they would be measuring the tread width after the race and to Michelin that was a new situation. They looked at it on the nose. There is a very small modification to the tyre mould in response to that change of interpretation of the rule and the FIA have inspected tyres that we ran at the Monza test with that very small modification and they've said that as far as they're concerned they're fine and they've said in their release that the matter is closed.
RD: Well I think this is one of the very rare occasions in motor sport where all the facts and the timing of what took place and when are well known to everybody. I think there is every opportunity for the media to effect its own judgement and I think they're effecting it on factual information. I think the media response was appropriate. I feel that the position ultimately adopted by the FIA following the various discussions that took place between them and some of the teams and Michelin was the appropriate action but I do find it uncomfortable to come into this environment, which is effectively a forum that is supported by the governing body, to enter back into what has obviously been a pretty controversial issue. Being the somewhat openly spoken individual I am, there's inevitably a desire to retaliate to the insinuations and accusations but I'm going to say nothing. I hope that where we have arrived is really genuinely the end of it, because I think we've got a great world championship that is most definitely going to stay so until the end of the season if there is no more controversy brought to bear. I think we all get up in the morning and most of us look in the mirror and we know how we feel ourselves - you feel whether you have integrity and whether you run either your company or your team or your own life in a manner that you're comfortable with and I never have a problem with what's looking back at me. Perhaps other people do, but I don't.
RB: I think we touched on earlier that we would all like black and white regulations and depending at which direction you come at a regulation from, you can take a certain interpretation. Obviously our interpretation was not that the tread was constrained by only being measured when new. With the construction of the regulation I can understand how someone may wish to interpret that way but the construction of the regulation was not when... it would have said, furthermore, when new, the tread would be no more than 270. It doesn't say that. So we had an interpretation which was obviously different to the Michelin teams. We have a regulatory body...
PH: Why did you wait for 38 races before raising this point, if you had this view all the time? It seemed an odd time to raise it Ross.
RB: That tyre, as I understand it Patrick, you had at Monaco.
PH: It's exactly the same mould, comes out of exactly the same mould that appeared in 2001 at Imola.
RB: Renault used different tyres to you Patrick. There's a range of Michelins being used in Formula One. We weren't aware of the problem so any suggestion that we had timed it is inaccurate. Bridgestone is an extremely ethical company and they were aware of this problem for some time and didn't raise it to our attention. They were troubled with how to deal with it, and they came to us after the race in Hungary and said how can we deal with this problem, because in our view... (Distracting laughing in the audience) Do you have to keep laughing? Thank you. In our view, they brought the photographs of the tyre in Hungary and said to us can you explain this to us and we asked Charlie for an explanation. He said to us he wanted to investigate it because he didn't understand it. He didn't understand what he could see on the tyres and went away, and the consequence was the letter that came out on the Wednesday after Hungary.
PH: I thought the consequence was a meeting at Maranello on the Tuesday, of the president of the FIA and the race director.
RB: As we know, paranoia runs rife in Formula One. Ron, quite rightly, said you need to look at yourself in the morning and ask yourself if you've got integrity. That meeting was set up weeks ago and was a meeting to discuss our business in Formula One. Some of that discussion has been discussed recently about the schedule that we should run in Formula One. It's not uncommon for us to have meetings with the FIA to discuss things. To suggest that meeting was only about the tyres... in fact we were asked not to discuss the tyres with Max and Charlie when they came, because they said they were dealing with it. They felt it was inappropriate to discuss the tyres, so I think to suggest that meeting was only held... I don't think Max would break his schedule to come over to Italy on a Tuesday after a race for a matter like that. So as I said, there's a huge amount of paranoia in Formula One. We had an interpretation and we asked the ruling body for a clarification and that was the clarification they gave and I think all the suggestions of Machiavellian plots is just the normal paranoia that runs in Formula One. I do hope the championship is... I think it is a fantastic championship. I don't think this is going to make a huge difference. It was important to us that we felt we were competing on a level playing field. As I say, I don't think it will make a huge difference and I think we've got a great championship ahead of us. And may the best man win.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Ross, a week ago you were quoted in Autosport as follows: "It was an attempt by Michelin to circumnavigate the regulations. It is now clear that a large number of the Michelin teams have been running illegal tyres for a considerable amount of time." For the avoidance of doubt, can you confirm that you did actually make that remark and, if so, do you still stand by it?
RB: I think our opinions about the situation have been expressed. I've given you an explanation here of what happened and we want to try and run the rest of the championship in the best manner and best spirit that we can and I don't want to go back over those comments.
Q: Most of this meeting has been about interpretation and it's clear that things are too grey in many areas. But I know that at least two of you are very meticulous about making your cars in compliance with the regulations at all times.
PH: That's a bit sharp. There's four of us up here.
Q: I'm thinking about people who lost races for little reasons. Perhaps I could ask you and Ron if at any time you had any doubts about these tyres which, to us as outside individuals, clearly have more tread on the track than the other tyre does, and if you did have any doubts about them I wondered if you sought any kind of assurances, either from Michelin or from the FIA, about their compliance with the rules.
PH: I can say we never had any doubts about the tyre and Michelin had presented both the physical tyre and the cross-sectional drawing of the mould to the FIA and the FIA did not... in fact, from what I understand there was a positive statement from the FIA that the tyres were in compliance so it came as a surprise to Michelin... I mean do you really think that a company like Michelin would deliberately create a tyre that was outside a regulation and run it, considering that it would be outside a regulation, without checking very, very thoroughly. What we've got here is a change of interpretation. I don't think there's every any such thing as black and white rules. There is always going to be room for interpretation however hard you work on rules, such is the nature of Formula One and cleverness of the people in it. They will always find a split or a division or a different interpretation. The FIA are the adjudicators and within the limits of interpretation available they are free to interpret and sometimes by their own statement, they have changed an interpretation. The difficulty is, in something like a tyre, to change an interpretation in such a short time that it obviously means it is quite difficult to change the geometry of the tyre to fit a new interpretation. But in this particular case, it only took a change to a mould and a very small change to a mould. It didn't cause a change to a construction. So it wasn't something that had serious safety implications which obviously, as you can imagine, to produce a completely tyre for a circuit like this would really not be something that a company like Michelin would be prepared to do.
RD: I have nothing to add to what Patrick said.
Q: Ron, I know you really don't want to talk about this so perhaps Patrick is the right person to answer it but I'm intrigued by the correlation between accusations that the tyres are illegal and the responsibility that then falls on the team if those tyres are indeed illegal. So what is the actual relationship between Michelin and the team if the tyres are illegal? Does the team take the responsibility?
PH: Well, the responsibility is with the team to present a car that complies with the regulations, but you've got to remember these words of cheating and illegal have not been applied by the FIA. All the FIA did was sending out a fax to inform people how they would be interpreting the rule in the future.
Q: I'm actually referring to the comments that I hadn't heard, attributed to Ross, where he did use the word illegal.
PH: Well he's not saying whether he did or whether he didn't but the FIA who are the adjudicators of the rules have not declared the tyres illegal. What they have said is as from the Monza race we will be measuring tyres when they are used and not when they are new. Quite clearly, this article, 77c, covers a large number of dimensions which defines that there will be four grooves. You can probably look at that on a used tyre, but one might be missing, that seems to happen fairly often, but the grooves are defined on a new tyre and the article starts off, I think after the first two words, it says 'when new' and then carries on. Is this bit, which says at the end 'furthermore, the tread width will be no more than 270mm'... But you can get into an enormous long-winded argument and I actually don't want to spend my time involved in it, whether the 'when new' actually applies to the last statement that says 'furthermore' or not, but quite clearly where the grooves are defined as 14mm wide at the top, 10mm wide at the bottom and no less than 2.5mm deep - I mean how can you measure that on a used tyre? You can't. So there are a lot of dimensions that govern a tyre that can only be measured when a tyre is new. The FIA have not applied any words suggesting that any tyres that have been run have been illegal. They have just clarified how they are going to measure, or how they are going to interpret, article 77c from this Grand Prix onwards.
Q: Ross, according to your comments it looks like wider tyres can provide quite an advantage so can you explain why Ferrari and Bridgestone did not take this option of having a bit wider tyres?
RB: You optimise your car, obviously, around the package you have. You optimise it around the tyres and all the other factors. Bridgestone had what they felt was a limit on where they were prepared to go with the wide front tyre from their interpretation of the regulation. And the difference between where they were prepared to go to and what we have is very small, it is not a big difference. So their interpretation of the regulation left not much scope for anything much different to what we have now. So for us it was no advantage. We did try some tyres with slightly different shaped shoulders but as I say Bridgestone felt there was a limit they wanted to keep to and the difference was very small.
RD: I think that is somewhat misleading. The simple fact is I am well qualified, having been on Bridgestone tyres for several years, to know that Bridgestone always optimise the performance of their tyres and there is a constant and consistent trend to their belief in front tyre geometry and how it is constructed and what is the optimum width. And, of course, a narrow tyre always gives you a better aerodynamic profile as well. So I think it is misleading of Ross to say it was a regulatory influence that determined the width of the tyre...
RB: I didn't actually say that...
RD: ...it was extremely misleading. It was not regulatory driven, it was performance driven. He knows that very well.
RB: I didn't say that. What I said is that when they tried a tyre that they felt was at the limit it was very little different to what we have now. They do have a tyre that is wider than we have now, but it is not as wide as the Michelin because they didn't interpret the regulations that way. So the difference between the tyre they were able to go to and the tyre we have now offered no benefit.
RD: There is a complete track record, one that goes back well beyond tyres, on teams who managed to obtain a completely correct and legal advantage only to find that advantage is removed. Beryllium is one of the examples, I won't go into all the details of the Beryllium story but I can tell you that to actually process pistons in such an exotic material is very technically challenging, it requires very careful control of the machining process because it is a calcogenic material (sic carcinogenic) but once actually manufactured it has no danger whatsoever to anybody that is handling it or processing it or using it in a Grand Prix engine. And when we were using Beryllium very successfully there was no reason why we should not have been able to continue using what was a very good technical advantage coming out of months and months of research and a great amount of funding. This is normal in Formula One that if a team has an advantage it is looked at by several interested parties. It has happened on the gearbox design that we put millions into and, following repeated assurances of its legality it was deemed not to be legal. It is the way Formula One is. It has always been that way, it will always be that way, it is what you have to live with, it is a difficult task to regulate Formula One, it is not easy. I think that Ross' view that there is paranoia in teams is a little bit severe. There is clearly a difficult path for anybody that is in a judgemental role to take, be it a single individual in the governing body or the governing body as a whole, and I don't think anyone appreciates how difficult it is and there is always the concern that decisions favour one team over the other. But the important thing is to strive for clarity, unambiguous regulations and clear-cut interpretations and when we stray into one of these areas there is undoubtedly an environment of finger pointing. It is what people say and it is their actions that only heighten that perception. I am, for one, far more focussed on putting water on this particular fire because I do not think it is good for Formula One, I don't think it is good for the reputations of the teams or in this instance a company that does not take financial gain from being involved in Grand Prix racing. It is seen as a technical challenge to be in Formula One for a tyre company and it goes without saying I don't think there is a person in this room, not a team - and I think that includes all the teams - that could possibly put forward the view that Michelin, who have had such an outstanding involvement in motorsport through a whole range of disciplines, could even remotely consider producing a tyre that was not compliant to a regulation.
Q: Patrick, of all the people in this room you have the longest experience in a senior technical position in a Grand Prix team and from your memory have you ever known the FIA to clarify or interpret a regulation not in favour of Ferrari. And does that lead to a broader problem in the government of the sport?
RB: Can I interrupt, sorry, but what about all the changes that were made over the winter? Perhaps he (the journalist) can enlighten us on the changes that were made over the winter, how they were in favour of Ferrari...
PH: I probably have survived as long as I have in Formula One in that I don't keep a catalogue of everything that has happened in my mind beforehand. But I really just only look at this single case and really the business of the tyres and as my understanding... I mean, obviously I hope our cars finish high in the points on Sunday and obviously the FIA are free to inspect the tyres after the race. But they have inspected a new version of the tyre that is being run here, which as I have said has had a small mould change, they have inspected a 26-lap-old tyre of that tyre from the test and they have said that the tyre complies to Article 77c in its used form and its new form and as I said they have put out a press release and they have said as far as they are concerned the matter is closed.
Q: Patrick, we heard this rumour...
PH: You obviously all think that I am the easiest one to trip up! (Laughter)
Q: We heard this rumour in the paddock that this summer some Michelin teams tested cars in Clermont Ferrand. Is it true or not?
PH: I heard this from a team managers' meeting that took place here either yesterday or the day before I think. We have tested at Ladoux, Michelin's test track. It is an FIA approved test facility. When we test there it is for wet tyres only and we have tested there only within the limitations that are an agreement between the teams called the Suzuka agreement. I am not aware of any other tests taking place at Ladoux at other times. We have obviously raised the matter with Michelin after it was raised in this meeting and they say nobody has run at Ladoux outside the limitations of the Suzuka agreement.
Q: In terms of the image of Formula One, Ron was saying that we have had all the facts on which to judge things. That is not quite true because we haven't had the facts on what the actual widths were on the Michelin tyres at the end of races and what they were doing and how the Michelin tyre was working, that is one element of the picture that we haven't had to base our judgements on. But given what has been said over the last ten days, if Montoya wins the championship the platform for it was built on the 56 points he scored between Monaco and Hungary and if he wins the championship is it inevitable that we can only judge that it was a tainted championship?
RD: I don't think so. The reality is that the observations are always based on photographic evidence and the photographic evidence was always of contaminated tyres. One of the issues you have with racing tyres is the fact that they pick up rubber, inevitably on a slowing down lap when the cars tend to drive off line. And when those tyres - both the tyres we are using here and the tyres that were used previously - were cleaned of that pick-up then it is our belief that even the tyres that were used previously were compliant. So it is a question of actually putting a tyre in the condition in which it could be properly measured. I am sure most of you, if not all of you, appreciate that pick-up has no capability of producing grip on the circuit and it is a contaminant and even, I am repeating myself, even the tyres we used previously properly cleaned and measured were compliant. So I don't think it has any derogatory factor on any of the results of the Michelin runners leading up to this race.
RB: I think that, as Ron said, let's put water on the fire. I don't believe for a minute that Michelin were trying to bypass the regulations. They obviously had an interpretation of what they felt was acceptable for the tyre and they are not a company that are going to do something that they knowingly know to be in breach of the regulations and that is down to interpretation. So I do accept that Michelin would not have done that knowingly but we have lots of instances in the past where people have found to have a problem with their car, or whatever it is, not knowingly. It is still a problem even though there is no intent. I think there is an important difference there. I don't think that Michelin intentionally tried to bypass the regulations but if faced with a situation where there is a problem it is still a problem even whether there is intent or not. It is a very technical sport and occasionally you do find things that you didn't expect to happen. I mean, cars have problems and often not intentionally. We have had problems with our cars, Ron had a front wing that was a bit low a few years ago. He didn't do it intentionally, but it happens. So I think there is an important distinction there, something I would like to...
RD: Similar to your bargeboards actually.
RB: Yes. It is an interesting thing, the bargeboards, in that Ferrari as a company admitted that they asked the FIA for a clarification. I don't think to this day McLaren have ever admitted that McLaren were the ones who told the FIA about our bargeboards.
Q: Any further comment up there?
Q: This is for Patrick and Ron because you are in the world championship, how much disruption...
PH: Well, Ross is there as well...
Q: Er, no, on Michelin tyres. How much disruption has the tyre issue caused in the last few weeks and how much has that affected your development and your competitiveness?
PH: Well, we have tried to keep our main focus on what is going to be going on on Sunday and what is going to be going on on Sunday two weeks from then and two weeks from then. I would imagine that for Michelin, having to change moulds and make new tyres starting presumably on the Wednesday morning after Hungary and have them ready to run a week later or less than a week later at the Monza test, I imagine that must have caused a certain amount of disruption to them. But it certainly took a percentage of our focus at the Monza test, but a small percentage, not major.
RD: I think perhaps a somewhat amusing way to answer the question, from my youth I remember seeing a film, Ben Hur, and in that there is one sequence where the slaves are basically being flogged to row at what was called 'ramming speed.' Of course, that is the maximum pace at which to get the boat propelled to maximum speed in order that when it actually hits its rival it actually inflicts the most damage. And ramming speed is what a Grand Prix team achieves, or attempts to achieve, at the point at which a world championship becomes as critical and as finely balanced as it is now. Ross alluded to it using different phrases and anything that influences the rhythm and pace that you bring to trying to win in such a critical situation is disruptive. We most definitely - and I am surprised and I think Patrick will correct himself when I say this - we most definitely had to devote a significant amount of the Monza test to the evaluation of this tyre. And all other tyres on which we had the ability to run were irrelevant to optimising the car for this event because there was only a limited number of the new tyres - in fact each team had two sets - and therefore all the balance steps, all the things that we did on the other tyres became immaterial when it was decided that we should run this slightly modified front tyre. So it was very disruptive and it also took away capacity within Michelin to give us two more slightly racier options in their range and so it was disruptive. Did it have an influence on the world championship? Negative influence, how much of a negative influence, is very difficult to measure, but most definitely a negative influence and I think that was part of the strategy and that is motor racing.
Q: There seems to be some undercurrent animosity towards Ferrari particularly about the timing. If the shoe was on the other foot wouldn't you have done the same - and, in fact, didn't you do the same? If you suspect they are running something illegal, even in the last round of the world championship, you wouldn't go to the FIA?
RD: No doubt, the level of resentment in a similar situation if reciprocated would be as great.
PH: Well, Ron has said that it was more damaging than I said it was. I just didn't want to make heavy of it, but obviously there was a level of interruption. But we have got used to competing in championships closely in the end, unfortunately not so much recently, and historically it tends to get contentious towards the end. In fact, as Ross pointed out earlier, the points you get at Melbourne are just as important as the points you get here but of course the ones you get here you have only got three opportunities now to go and score more points. But when a championship is close it is always a bit tense, so it didn't come out of the sun, so to speak, to us, this business of there being contention, the fact that the focus was on the tyres was contentious...it is just part of competing, that's all.
Q: Two questions to Ross. There are rumours around the pitlane that Ferrari might exercise Article 179b of the Sporting Code, the right of review, retrospective judgement of a result based on new information that has come to hand. Can you confirm for the good of the championship that that is not going to happen and secondly can you explain to us exactly what happened on Friday in Austria when Michael's car was found to be under the weight limit?
RB: There are these rumours. I don't think Ferrari has made its position clear and I think that decision is above me to make. I guess Ferrari will make its position clear in the future so that is not something I can clarify for you here. (On the second question) We weren't found underweight because if we had been underweight we would have been excluded from qualifying and we weren't excluded so by definition we were not underweight.
Q: What were you when Michael was first weighed?
RB: I can't recall, but the car was put to one side along with another car I believe and it was checked and then they were happy.
Q: Well, Charlie Whiting said that it was under the weight limit at that point and then re-checked about 20 minutes later.
RB: Well, obviously they had a reason for believing it was okay the second time.
Q: Ross, we understand you didn't really like the old spec Michelin front tyres, what is your interpretation of the new spec?
RB: I don't know. To me the tread is definable and I know we are going to disagree on this but to me you can define what the tread is. And if you make a statement to the FIA that this is your tread then you need to respect the fact that you have made a statement that that is your tread. For those of you who care to take the trouble, the Michelin website on tyres tells you what a tread is, it is the part of the tyre that is in contact with the ground. They stipulate what the tread is. So I think it is quite clear what you can and can't do. Of course, we choose to disagree on that, but I think understanding the clarification or looking at the press release the FIA put out it is quite clear what they are expecting in the future so I am sure Michelin and their teams are going to respect that enforcement of the regulation.
Q: Does the FIA have the equipment to check the width after the race?
RB: I think it is a rule. It is not a particularly complex piece of equipment. They have callipers, I know, that they can check it with, so I don't think it is a problem.
Q: Ross, under what circumstances would you protest the earlier results?
RB: It is not really for me to get into that discussion, I am afraid. It is for the board of Ferrari to decide whether they want to do that.
Q: Ron and Patrick and maybe Flavio, are you worried that the FIA would revise the results? Do you think it is realistic that it could destroy Formula One?
PH: Article 77c is not clear and quite clearly Bridgestone and Ross have applied an interpretation and quite clearly Michelin have applied an interpretation to it. What has happened is that the FIA have circulated since Hungary how they intend to interpret the regulation beyond Hungary. I really think it would be an extremely sad thing for Formula One to be arguing about whether an interpretation that was clarified after Hungary should be applied retrospectively when these tyres have been plain and visible, fully declared, fully approved and raced, I am told, for 38 races. I certainly notice these days how little is in the national press about Formula One other than reports of Grands Prix weekends where as there used to be a certain amount talked about Formula One between races. Now it is completely missing from the sports pages on the Sunday inbetween. I think the patience of the general viewing public about Formula One would be totally exhausted if Formula One went through a casino of retrospective interpretation. I think it would be extremely sad, but anyway it won't be for me to judge. I think the biggest thing we have got to do is to get the public to be interested in Formula One and I don't mean interested because it is a casino and a charade, I mean interested because it is a great competitive event, not just between drivers but between teams, between tyre designers, between team managers. It is a great competitive event and we have got to work to get the public interested in it.
RD: Well, as I pointed out earlier, I think that the supposition that our tyres were not compliant was based on photographs that carried with them the contamination, the pick-up I referred to. I still feel strongly that the tyres were compliant when properly cleaned and measured. Of course, I don't think any of the tyres on which we competed other than maybe one or two from Hungary at Michelin probably even exist now, so it would be a very severe ruling if you were not able to prove that cars were or weren't compliant on races that have taken place months ago. But I do feel we should all try and look to the bigger picture of Grand Prix racing. The commercial instability that has come as a result of the demise of Kirch is still holding Grand Prix racing back. Three quarters of our business is held by non-interested parties, save for the fiscal aspect of that involvement, and that in itself is a very negative ingredient in pushing Formula One forward and addressing some of the issues that Patrick alluded to. Unfortunately 75 percent in virtually all businesses - and certainly ours is not an exception - constitutes control. There seems to be a complete naivety in all three banks in so much that anybody purchasing shares in that particular time is faced with at least 50 percent loss, purely as a result of the world economy and the dot com bubble burst. And yet they fail even to be able to grasp that very simple economic fact, which makes finding a way forward very difficult when they are just so reluctant to crystallise their loss and turn to the future of Formula One and a more practical way to generate an income from their investment. They have a non-realistic approach to the future and it is that fundamental point that we should lift our sights to and try and rise above these inevitable almost, I don't want to say side issues, but lesser issues. There is, I think...Let's try to remember that this is a great sport and it is a sport that is controlled, in respect to its commercial growth, by disinterested parties that are not prepared to sit down and talk about the things that we need to do to address some of the issues in the sport. They are prepared to talk about something that has relevance to them recapturing their lost money, and that is a feeling that is felt by many people both within the governance of our sport and the other commercial partners and the teams as a whole. I hope that nothing more manifests itself during the course of this year, be it post this race or any other race, that whoever wins the world championship that they feel that they have really won it. The most important thing is to sort out the much bigger issue and that is why I tend to be far more quiet and focussed on that part of it than I am on these issues which, of course, are frustrating and distracting but are of less importance.
FB: If it was so important, this interpretation, after two years, why did the FIA never measure the tyre after the race? Everybody knows that when we finish the race the FIA measures everything, weight, height, whatever. Everyone knows the tyre is fundamental in the race, so why, in two years, have the FIA only started measuring the tyre when Ferrari talked to them? In two years, not one person from the FIA has measured the tyre. If the interpretation was using 270mm after the race, I think the FIA would measure the tyre after the race. Why in two years have we never had this measure? This is my question, and please can an official guy answer?
Q: I think we are going to leave it there. There is no-one to answer to that.
FIA Friday press conference - Italy 12 Sep 2003
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - SEPTEMBER 12, 2003