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FIA Friday press conference - Japan 08 Oct 2004

From back row (L to R): David Richards (GBR) BAR Team Principal; Tsutomu Tomita (JPN) Chairman of Toyota Racing and Toyota Team Principal; Paul Stoddart (AUS) Minardi Team Owner; Peter Sauber (SUI) Sauber Team Owner in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Team Principals: David Richards (BAR), Peter Sauber (Sauber), Paul Stoddart (Minardi) and Tsutomu Tomita (Toyota).

NOTE: Continuing the policy of a guest questioner, we have, this time, Steve Cooper of F1 Racing

Q: Just a general question to all of you, it is a topic at the moment. The typhoon has been up rated to a super typhoon. What preparations are you making for tomorrow and possibly for Sunday? How it will affect qualifying? How you would like to see qualifying re-scheduled if tomorrow is cancelled and how prepared you are to deal with an extreme weather situation as we are facing at the moment?
David RICHARDS:
I think the first thing is, I notice everyone is stocking up with sandwiches and Alpen bars and booking the Log Cabin for lunch tomorrow! Clearly it is an unfortunate situation, more thinking of the fans actually out there, the poor people that have actually sat in the grandstands today and didn’t see much action, and of course I suspect that if things carry on the way they are, probably tomorrow will be completely cancelled so it’s a bit concerning. It leads on to qualifying of course and what we do for qualifying is the next issue. It’s all very well coming up with random ideas but it’s got to be fair for everybody and it is a fairly decisive point in the championship for many teams, so we can’t have anything that is unfairly biased towards anyone. I suspect there are three solutions. I think the first solution is to cram both qualifying sessions into Sunday morning, which hopefully the organisers can accommodate. If they can’t then clearly one qualifying session would have to be based on perhaps the last result but in reverse order, as if it were the second session, so you would start with the race result and the winner of the last race would go last. Alternatively a grid position based on the finishing position of the last race might be the final solution to that, but I would suspect one of those would be fairest.
Paul STODDART: I think firstly again, for the fans, they are the biggest losers out of this. The teams will survive I’m sure. We will batten down the hatches and make the most of tomorrow if we are running and if we’re not running, then, as David said, Sunday will become a bit of a lottery. I am sure we will squabble over what the final outcome is going to be as to whether or not we go for reverse grid, we go for championship order, we go for last race or, indeed, we take Bernie’s idea and draw lots out of a hat, but one way or another we will come up for a grid for Sunday’s race and lets hope the aftermath of the typhoon doesn’t interfere with Sunday’s race because I think it’s bad enough if we don’t have qualifying tomorrow but if we also have to have a very poor or indeed an aborted race, I think that would be even worse for the fans.
Peter SAUBER: There are a lot of possibilities. I think if we started to think about it immediately then two weeks later we would have a solution. (Laughter)
PSt: Two years, Peter!

Q: Tomita-san, perhaps you have more experience of these conditions in Japan. Will a typhoon last for several days or will it be over by Sunday? Will it be safe to drive on Sunday?
Tsutomu TOMITA:
My opinion is quite similar to David’s – I do hope that we will cancel tomorrow and on Sunday morning we will have qualifying and then after two thirty or three thirty or four o’ clock we will start racing. This climate is quite abnormal in Japan because currently October is our finest month! (Laughter) And therefore I want to apologise to you. (Laughter) But nobody can control the climate. (Laughter)

Q: Peter, perhaps employing Jacques Villeneuve for next season after Shanghai doesn’t seem to be such a good idea. Are you worried or do you have any regrets about signing him up for two years now?
PSa:
After Shanghai? It is nothing to do with Shanghai. I think it was the right decision to drive with him, for him and for us too.

Q: There was a test scheduled with Vitantonio Liuzzi which was arranged before you signed Jacques but took place after you’d signed him. It seemed quite confusing that you were arranging a test with Liuzzi for possibly a race drive. What was the logic there?
PSa:
We promised him that he could do a test after a successful Formula 3000 season and I think it was okay to do it. It was nice for him to drive for one day in a Formula One car. On the other hand it was very difficult to show his talent for only one day testing. But I think overall the test was very good.

Q: Paul, you have asked for dispensation to run your PS04B again next year, because as a small team the rules aren’t settled and it’s a financial burden to do that. I just wondered if you could you explain the sequence you would need to get permission to do that, whether it would be from the FIA, from the team bosses and whether you are confident it will happen?
PSt:
Well, first of all, it has to come from the team bosses. And let’s just clear up what it is I’m actually asking for. It’s not a dispensation against the cost. The cost does have some issue here but if you look at it from our position, we have no technical regulations as we speak now. We had thought, like all other teams, that the technical regulations would most likely be what Max has put forward, what the FIA’s put forward, but we don’t actually know that, as we sit here today. So we, like most other teams, if not all other teams, have taken a gamble on designing a car around an engine that we had a signed contract for next year. Suddenly with the news of Cosworth and Jaguar, everything was thrown into turmoil and as we sit here now, we have to face the reality that there is just a chance there may not be an engine available for independent teams next year, or certainly not the engine that we thought we would have. That is actually a case of Force Majeure. It is not an issue of money, it’s an issue of unavailability, so we’ve made all we can do, contingent plans to make sure that Minardi is on the grid next year. We are a little but lucky in that we are able to do our own engine if we are forced to do so. It will be slower, there’s no doubt about that. Because it’s going to be slower, we’ve asked the teams to allow us to run to the 2004 regulations for one year only and, let’s face it, all of these regulations and lack of clear regulations came about because the FIA want to slow the cars by – and I quote - three seconds. Anybody that’s looked at Minardi realises that we are already slower by three seconds so there is no safety issue involved here. It is just a common sense approach to try and keep some independent teams in Formula One. We are a dying species. You all heard recently, in fact one race ago, certain quotes were made that Jordan and Minardi wouldn’t be there in Melbourne. And that kind of behaviour, I can only speak for myself, put me under enormous pressure from both potential sponsors, drivers and so on asking the question ‘will Minardi will be in Melbourne in 2005?’ Well Minardi will be in Melbourne in 2005 and we are asking for, in the first instance, the teams to support us running to the 2004 regs and I have to say that we have had a lot of support there, more than half of the teams have said yes. I am not going to name and shame but there’s an incredible temptation to do so. There are a few teams who don’t seem to be interested in letting it happen. I’m sure it will come out in due course. But if we do get the teams behind it, we then need to ask the FIA for the dispensation. So it’s not guaranteed and the worse possible case is that we would be in Melbourne next year with a car that complies to the 2005 regs with an engine that’s cobbled up into it because we have to do it that way, and we will be slow.

Q: Can I ask the other three guys whether they would allow Paul to run a 2004 car in 2005?
DR:
Our position at BAR is that this is an FIA situation. They have introduced new regulations on the basis that they claim it is a safety issue. If they accept Paul’s car is safe to run in those conditions then we wouldn’t object.
TT: Toyota is supporting the FIA proposals because they are saying two things. The first thing is the safety, the second thing is the cost reduction. Now we completely agree with this because we know Formula One is in severe crisis now and we therefore should make a solution for the future.
PSa: It is a political question, it’s not easy for me to give you a good answer. On one side I would like to help him because I absolutely understand the situation. On the other hand we have to be careful when we go in this direction because there are other teams, maybe between Minardi and Ferrari, Sauber for example, and what would be our compensation to go closer to Ferrari? That’s an example.

Q: When you mentioned that come hell or high water you would be on the grid in Melbourne next year, I wonder whether you could perhaps clarify what’s going on with the engine, with the car, with the team? Will there be new ownership? Will you be running a Cosworth engine? Will it be a customer engine, your own engine? How will you be paving the way to be in Australia next March?
PSt:
First of all, if we had to, and I stress we do not want to go down this road because it’s not right for Formula One and it’s not right for Minardi, but we’re very lucky that we ran our own engine programme in 2001 and that both that car and that engine are still compliant to today’s regulations and we keep updating it every year. But sometimes people have asked me why I bother because it’s clearly not competitive, but for one reason or another we have kept the 2001 car homologated to 2003/2004 and we will homologate it to 2005. I do not want to be in Melbourne with that car, let me be very, very clear about this. But equally I will not be pushed out of this sport by politics.

Q: Are you any closer to finalising what will happen with the engine for next year?
PSt:
Not at all. To put it simply, I asked a very direct question to…and I have to be very careful here because the people we deal with in Cosworth, as you probably understand, we have tremendously good relationships with, but at this moment in time, in their crisis, they are not able to actually have any executive decision-making power, so I have to look at the worst, worst, worst case. What could I do if there was no engines and no assistance and no will for anyone else to support us? I will get to Melbourne on my own, with my own engine which nobody can take away. However, we will be incredibly uncompetitive. Minardi has prided itself, in all these years, that when cars come round to lap us it’s never an issue, we get out of the way, we make sure we get out of the way. Well, I don’t think it’s very wise to have a Minardi lapped six or eight times in a race. It’s crazy.

Q: Tomita-san, with the talk of the loss of Cosworth engines for next year there has been talk that Toyota has been involved in perhaps providing customer engines to teams next year. Can you perhaps clarify the situation and whether you are going to supply a customer engine to a buyer for Jaguar for next year? What’s the situation?
TT:
It is possible, but talking about next year, 2005, it is much too late, to have the preparation, for both that team as well as ourselves.

Q: So you are reluctant to get involved then?
TT:
No mind to get involved, for next year, but in the future it would be possible to supply an engine to a second team.

Q: So you are saying too late for 2005 now? For any buyer, at any price?
TT:
Too late. It is too late. It is October and every team should be preparing the car for 2005, for the end of this year. It is only two months away, it’s impossible.
PSt: Just picking up on what Tomita-san just said there, he’s absolutely correct. It’s too late for people to start thinking about engine supplies and that is why I’m saying it is a case of Force Majeure. We are going to be forced down a route we don’t want to go, not because people aren’t willing to supply, but in October, we haven’t got any technical regs and we haven’t got any engines. Not a very good position.

Q: Do you see a future for Cosworth, perhaps in a different guise, down the road?
PSt:
I do, I do. But whether or not the owners of Cosworth, whoever they may be… I mean Cosworth is a bit like Minardi, it’s had more lives than a cat and more owners than we’ve had. It will survive, I’m sure of that, but will the owners, whoever they may be, want to subsidise a commercially affordable Formula One engine for 2005? We don’t know the answer to that question and it would be irresponsible to just continue on the basis that it will be alright on the night, because many times in Formula One it’s not right on the night. It needs sorting out now.

Q: Another question to Tomita-san. This is the first race for Jarno Trulli for Toyota. When he tested at Silverstone he seemed quite reluctant to get in the car this year. What has changed to make him drive in the last two races this season?
TT:
It is also surprising for us because we had no plan to use Jarno Trulli for the last two races but fortunately we had some opportunity to get him and therefore we decided to use Olivier and Jarno at Suzuka and then Jarno and Ricardo in Brazil.

Q: Wouldn’t it have been easier to put the faster driver in for the last two races rather than just chop and change or was it a marketing decision to put Ricardo in for Brazil?
TT:
It isn’t marketing, it is very good for him, I think.

Q: David, this is an important race for you and for Honda, you have a major step here on the engine, you’ve got an improved gearbox here, it seems like you are going very aggressively towards the end of the season, to maintain the second place in the championship. Is that right?
DR:
I think that’s a good observation. We haven’t let up, we’ve been testing quite a lot recently and we were testing back in Jerez last week again and we will test again next week. We have further modifications as you so rightly said. Honda always come up with another step in their engine development here for their home event. They have not let us down on this occasion. Geoff has come up with some further design tweaks on the car so we will carry on hopefully the progress for here and for Brazil.

Q: A question about finance. Earlier this year you said that sponsors were almost falling over themselves to get involved with the team…
DR:
I don’t think I quite used those terms, Steve, but I wish I had though.

Q: But to paraphrase it, there doesn’t seem much evidence that that’s actually happening. I do wonder if it’s the uncertainty over the future of Jenson with the team that’s maybe making people lose confidence. If Jenson does move to Williams next year, do you have a financial back-up plan to replace the sponsors that may be lost by his absence?
DR:
On the sponsorship side, what I would have said is that interest in the team has grown substantially over this year as obviously performance comes in. It is no rocket science to suggest that sponsors follow performance and natural budget cycles go in 12 month cycles, so I wasn’t anticipating any significant increase or coverage until next year, despite the fact that we have, as you can see on the car, we have Epson here now, we introduced Ray-Ban not so long ago, there’s another one that may possibly appear before the season’s end as well, so we’re actually looking for next year in the main and so the situation is very much as I described it earlier in the year.

Q: Are any of those major deals contingent on Jenson being in the team for next year?
DR:
No, I wouldn’t do a contract based on an individual driver at all. That’s not the way we do things.

Q: David, I want to ask you about tobacco sponsorship. There are obviously people talking about the July 31st deadline for next year. Could you explain what will happen after that, will you run without Lucky Strike branding for the rest of the season, will you run with it, who will become culpable because it’s against the law in Britain, will someone be going to prison because of this, I mean, what will actually happen, it sounds naïve but…
DR:
Let me explain this just very simply again. The law in England, well, basically the European Union put forward proposals on the tobacco legislation, tobacco advertising law, a couple of years ago. Each member state then has to put its own legislation in place. Great Britain, being very careful about these things and fairly pedantic, has rather gold plated some of the regulations and has, as a result, created a certain ambiguity in the legislation because the basic legislation was only intended to cover what went on in EU states, i.e. what we did within the European Union. It was never intended, and the government has recognised this, it was never intended to cover what we did outside the EU, for instance here in Japan or China or Brazil for that matter. And yet the way it is drafted at the moment could be interpreted to have that effect. So at the moment we are seeking clarification on that. I hope that clarification will come shortly and that will mean we can run outside Europe with our sponsors and advertising legitimately to the end of 2006, when the tobacco industry themselves have volunteered to remove their advertising. If that legislation doesn’t get clarified then potentially we do have to remove the advertising after July next year at all races worldwide and the consequences of not doing that, for UK-based companies, registered in the UK, both the sponsor and the team, are a potential criminal offence.

Q: A question to the other three just to wrap up on that, even though we are saying tobacco is ending at the end of 2006 the GPWC and Marlboro have both said they will stay beyond that date. Do you think that the long-term involvement of tobacco sponsorship in Formula One is damaging the sport?
PSt:
It is an interesting situation because I think we need to watch very carefully what happens post July 31st next year. I am quite sure that if we see Bernie or Jean Todt going to jail then you can rapidly see the demise of tobacco in Formula One. Having said that, I think now Philip Morris are perhaps in a different situation. The red and white is synonymous around the globe with their brand, they are probably the one company that could actually run unbranded but still get the benefit of the advertising, so I think they are in a slightly different situation and I would like to hear what the others have got to say post next year.

Q: Is it hurting Formula One, tobacco sponsorship, Peter?
PSa:
I don’t understand the question.

Q: Does having tobacco sponsors staying in Formula One affect new sponsors coming into the sport? Does it affect the teams who don’t run with tobacco sponsorship?
PSa:
No, I don’t think so. You have a lot of people without tobacco advertising and people smoke more than the others: China, Denmark, for example, there are a lot of examples I think. It won’t be a problem for Formula One
TT: We can understand the gradual movement to ban tobacco sponsors, but it is a fact that they are big sponsors supporting Formula One currently, so we don’t like to stop the tobacco. But talking about Toyota, Toyota decided not to use tobacco sponsors.

Q: You cannot avoid hearing talk about the British Grand Prix and its future and the ongoing political games. Can we get from each of you your own take on what is happening to the race at Silverstone, with Bernie, with everything that is happening, like, with Nigel Mansell? What do you think is happening to the British Grand Prix? Will there be a race at Silverstone next year?
PSt:
Yes. As I said, there will be a race. Anyone who wants to put their money on that is a pretty safe bet. Why is it all happening? One word: Politics.
PSa: There are two sides. On one hand, I think 16 or 17 Grands Prix are enough, on the other hand Great Britain is the homeland of motorsport and I think it is important to have a British Grand Prix. Personally I like the track at Silverstone.
TT: I am sorry, I don’t have much information about Silverstone, but everyone knows Silverstone is very famous and we would hope to keep it.
DR: I am very confident there will be a solution found and we will be racing at Silverstone next year.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: To take that on a bit, are you expecting to be paid for the extra Grand Prix?
DR:
I think you should firstly understand the finances and how little we actually see, as teams, of the money that goes towards staging Grands Prix. I think, in round terms, Paul is probably better at the numbers than I am on this particular point, but if I remember correctly we get 30 million dollars shared between all the teams for 16 events, am I right Paul?
PSt: It’s a little bit more than that, but it’s probably simpler to put it in terms that we, the teams, share 23 percent of the Formula One cake and we then divide that disproportionately amongst ourselves, so when people talk about an 18th or 19th race there is a cost to the teams. It does vary enormously, but very few of us can go to a race for less than two million dollars, and in fact that is probably on the lower side. We do need to be compensated. But please don’t anyone think of the teams being greedy. I think with 23 percent of the overall cake the teams are anything but greedy.

Q: Anything further to add?
PSt:
There will be a Silverstone race.

Q: (Joe Saward – F1 Grand Prix special) Paul and David, do you think it is a fair price that is being asked to hold a race at Silverstone, given the fact that the price goes up 10 percent every year?
DR:
Well, number one, I am not party to the actual negotiations or know the precise price, but clearly the price has got to be what is affordable, or what is the market rate, if you like. And to that extent, these events elsewhere in the world can afford whatever they pay, and logic dictates that there are a finite number of races that can be run then that is the market forces that determine the situation.
PSt: I think if you are wondering why David and I and perhaps these other gentlemen seem a little bit evasive on the question, the answer is we don’t know how much each of the races contribute. We have a fair idea, but we don’t see that information, so it is very hard for us to comment on something that we don’t have exact information on.

Q: (Joe Saward) To just follow up, do you think that tradition is important in the sport or is market forces all that matter these days?
DR:
I think tradition is a very important aspect of Formula One but it is a balance at the end of the day. Everything moves on, everything evolves in life, whether it is a sporting event like Formula One or anything else, so it’s finding that balance and I don’t think anyone here would argue that the addition of Shanghai and that wonderful circuit there has benefited Formula One, but so does keeping some of the older circuits and keeping them going.
PSt: If I can add to that, keeping the teams going as well. I mean, you all think I would say that but to be absolutely honest I do actually fear for Formula One the day we have only half a dozen manufacturer teams, because I really just don’t think that is keeping in the tradition of Formula One. Certainly the circuits, again, there are some very historical circuits. Sometimes facilities are used as an argument, I don’t think that washes with most people because I think all of you sitting in front of me know the circuits that have good facilities and know the circuits that have bad facilities and most certainly Silverstone does not feature at either end of that scale, it’s somewhere in the middle, so that’s not much of an argument.
TT: Of course, we don’t like to lose such a traditional Grand Prix event and, sorry to Bernie, but 10 percent increase every year is a little bit too big.
PSa: Again, I like Silverstone and I think all the tradition is important for Formula One. But when you speak about Silverstone you speak about money and I think it is not only the money, it is also the time and I believe that 19 Grands Prix are too much.

Q: (Marc Surer – Premiere TV) We understand that if there is a cancellation of tomorrow, the organisers and the stewards can change the time schedule, for example they can change qualifying for Sunday morning, but they cannot change, as I understand, the way the qualifying happens, because if they change that they change the sporting regulations and that means all of you, all 10 teams, have to sign. So my question is, would you sign to change for qualifying?
PSt:
I am probably the most experienced at trying to get all 10 teams to sign something and all I would say is good luck, because we have never managed to agree on anything else!

Q: Maybe it is a good chance to get the regulations for next year?
PSt:
Yeah, it’s possible, isn’t it. Good idea mate! I’ve had all day to canvass it, haven’t I?
PSa: Why don’t you start immediately, you need a minimum of two weeks!
PSt: Two years?
TT: We should always think about the customers, who are the fans who are coming to the circuit.
PSt: Good point.
DR: I would just wait and see what is proposed tomorrow. Let’s see what comes out of this, but hopefully they can put the qualifying on Sunday morning in the standard format that we have had all year.

Q: (James Allen - ITV) Paul, I don’t know if you are aware of this guy Alex Shnaider, who is looking at coming into Formula One in 2006 (with Midland F1) and put a statement out today. One of the reasons he says he wants to come into Formula One is because he says he believes the franchises will be worth a lot of money in the future. I remember doing an interview with you about three or four years ago and you said the same thing to me. Your franchise isn’t worth any more now than it was then. Have you given up hope that it will be worth more in the future or do you share your optimism that post-2007 there will be a gold rush of teams coming into Formula One, a cheaper Formula One?
PSt:
There are two points there. I think I hold the track record for number of due diligences done – I am up to 23, including a 10 million Euro bounced cheque that sits on my office wall for one of the fly-by-nighters that didn’t have the money to go through with it. So, no, I don’t believe the franchises have a value. I think when we lost Prost and Arrows and now perhaps if we have lost Jaguar we have fallen below the minimum number. I think it is a battle for the rest of us to survive to the end of this Concorde agreement. We have all had so many false starts, you know, you guys saw the MOU (Memo of Understanding) signed last Christmas, before that it was the GPWC that was going to come in and save everyone. I suppose I have almost given up on anything happening before the end of 2007 and, as such, someone coming into Formula One saying that they value the franchise, um, it’s good to hear but I have been down that road and it is not such an easy road to go down. I wish them good luck.

Q: (Byron Young – Speed Sport) David, you said earlier with a large degree of certainty that the British Grand Prix will be held next year. Is that based on more information you have had over the last 24 hours or just a gut feeling?
DR:
No, just my own personal feeling and my personal wish that it should happen next year. I think it’s, you know, going back to the point before about traditional events and, you know, for us as a team and I am sure for many of the other British-based teams, the commercial impact of not having the event and the affect on all our staff as well is, to me, not acceptable. We need to find a solution.

Q: (Byron Young) Have you had any contact with Kim Cockburn and the Nigel Mansell consortium?
DR:
No, not a clue. Never heard of them.

Q: (Steve Cooper) At the last race Bernie said he would be happy to see all the independent teams out of the way and the manufacturers running three-car teams for the whole season. Could you clarify how that would work? What point do the grids have to get to before you have to run a third car? Who will pay for it? How would it be run? Is it paid for by Bernie or do you pay for it? Will you receive more money for it? How will it work? Has it been decided yet?
PSt:
It is something to be clear on: it is not really for Bernie to say. Bernie does not run my business, I don’t run Bernie’s business. That was a personal opinion and I think enough has been said about it. Were the teams to fall below 20 cars, and we all assume that is 10 two-car entries, there is a mechanism in the existing Concorde agreement at which point there is a way of putting a third or two third cars up and running. Currently in the Concorde agreement, which obviously needs unanimity to change, which is something we can rarely achieve, it says those cars can’t score points, that there is no money paid for them and that they can take no part in any formalities, so one would assume that in that event that we fell below 20 cars that we would get together and decide a way to go forward with the third cars. Now, I think also just to pick up on the point there, Bernie did not chastise all of the independent teams he made it very specifically directed towards Jordan and Minardi and he did not in any way, shape or form say anything about Peter, and nor should he because Peter has done probably the best job of any of us, let’s just be clear on that. But I just think it would be a very sad day for Formula One if you do lose the independents, including Jaguar for that matter. If we fall below 20 cars it is not that team that has failed formula One, it is Formula One that has failed that team, and that is a very, very important point.