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FIA Thursday Press Conference - Part Two 06 May 2004

(L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Preparations, Barcelona, Spain, 6 May 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

With Fernando Alonso and Flavio Briatore of Renault.

Q: Fernando, how happy with the season have you been so far?
Fernando ALONSO:
I am happy. Obviously, the last three races were a little bit difficult for me, especially Malaysia and Bahrain because I started from the back of the grid, and then Imola I started in the normal position but the race was difficult, always in the traffic, not a very good start and I had to push a lot and fight a lot to get the fourth position. So at the end of the day I think the first four races were good for us, especially for the team. Both drivers have scored points in all the races, we are second in the constructors’ championship and we are quite pleased with the season.

Q: Reliability has obviously been very good but it is obviously a very fine line. Do you think the team needs to be a little bit more brave rather than cautious?
FA:
At the moment I don’t think so, considering we had a completely new engine starting from nothing six or seven months ago. The important thing for us is to get points and finish the races and to get experience with this new engine and that is what we are doing at the moment. Maybe the last half of the season is the time to push a little bit more, but now I hope to keep this level up and to finish all the races – that is the only way to score points and to go up in the championship.

Q: At the start of the season Ferrari said the one team they really feared was Renault and yet you haven’t really taken the fight to Ferrari.
FA:
No, it has been too difficult for us. Only in Australia we were a little bit competitive compared with them but not even there. Then the last three races we were not even the second team on the grid, so we have to push a little bit more to catch and to close that gap and try to be in front of BAR and Williams, which is not easy at all, and, you know, we have a long season to go and we have good room to improve because, as I said before, the engine is completely new and we have many things to improve and we are in a good position I think.

Q: How do you feel about the car itself, because Jarno has expressed some reservations about the actual handling and the feeling of the car.
FA:
Well, at the start of the season the drivers normally feel a little bit uncomfortable and difficult with the new cars but we felt the same with the R22, the R23 and now the R24. It is time to get used to the car, to get to know the car perfectly, to work with the engineers to set up the car properly for the races. I am quite confident we have a good potential, a good package, much better than last year, the chassis and the engine. I think we are quite competitive and I think it is time to can get more points, finish the races and maybe to be on the podium a little bit more often for Jarno and me.

Q: So is that coming, that feeling with the car? Because you are about to go into six races in eight weeks.
FA:
Yes, I hope so. Now, as you said, there are many races in two months and we have to push a lot now if we want to go with the front group in the championship or maybe we will go down and not catch them anymore so we need to be careful of this and, as I said before, to finish the races because that is the only way to take points.

Q: So, Flavio, do you feel that is what is going to happen, you are going to take a step up?
Flavio BRIATORE:
Well, for the moment we are second in the championship. A step up would be first. I don’t know what you guys want, basically! Renault is three years in Formula One, we have done something quite major for that time, especially with Fernando and with Jarno. I think someone else is complaining about the results, not Renault, honestly. We never pretended to be world champions this year, we were always talking about 2005 and if I see behind us are a lot of big teams. I mean, I think we have done a good job. Maybe someone else does not.

Q: What are your feelings about the rule changes? You were pushing for major, major cuts. You wanted 50 percent cost cutting. How do you feel about the meeting on Tuesday?
FB:
It depends on the budget you have. You are cutting 50 percent, if someone is already cutting 50 percent it is not possible to cut another 50 percent. I believe we need to do something and the meeting was very good and, really, it is one of the first few meetings good in Formula One in the last 14 years. I believe that together we need to do something because we need to take care of our public, our customers, the people watching television. We need to give them a better race. I don’t think that people care if, in Fernando’s car, there is a 2.4 litre engine, a three litre, 1.9, people don’t really have an interest in that. What they are interested in is if Fernando and Michael are fighting together. They want to watch a race. And our product is so expensive and we never take into consideration our customer. I mean, it is a very engineering exercise, our business, and we forget there are millions and millions of people watching us, we forget the marketing issue, we forget the commercial issue. Ten years I have been talking about that and everyone thinks that I don’t have the motorsport in my stomach or this shit. Now everybody has motorsport in the stomach and everyone has run out of money and it is very good!

Q: You said you have been putting the message across for 14 years…
FB:
No, for 10, because the first year I had no idea…if you take my interview ten years ago with Benetton we discussed already that it would be possible to do the same with 50 percent of the money, it’s as simple as that.

Q: So how much did you have to push this view before the meeting?
FB:
I don’t think I had to push so much now because it is the closed market. When you finish the money you stop spending.

Q: But David Richards was saying just now that the self interest will begin to kick in in the subsequent meetings.
FB:
You know, we do so many meetings. I think we are doing some action now and we expect Bernie to prepare the new Concorde agreement and if somebody wants to sign then they sign, if they don’t want to sign, don’t sign. I believe we are in the business to be democratic than to be everybody together, you know, because, with this 100 percent agreement you achieve nothing. This has happened in the last 10 years in Formula One, where we have always needed a majority 100 percent. It is difficult managing a condominium if you need 100 percent of the votes of the people who live in the condominium. We need a majority – 51 percent decide and 49 percent not. Majority, minority, this is what you call it in a democracy.

Q: So you are pretty happy with the way it went, anyway?
FB:
I believe it is something finally that people realise we are not doing only development in Formula One, not only doing an engineering exercise, we are doing an event. You know, Formula One is a big television event, it is not a big engineering exercise. We have all this technology that people are talking about, they never understand. Really, it is a lot of rubbish!

Q: So have you still got some reservations about the new rules as they stand at the moment?
FB:
No. I believe on one side you need to decrease the cost on the other side you need to increase the income. For sure, what you need to increase is the spectacle, the show. Everyone is complaining and we need to do something. I believe we need to sit together and maybe we will change the qualifying not only this year but, if everyone is agreed, maybe in the middle of the season, why not? And at one point we need to put a cap on the expenses and on another we need to bring more income into the business.

Q: What are your ideas for qualifying?
FB:
I no tell you!

Q: Why not?
FB:
Because we need to put it together and we are still working on that and we need to make sure we don’t make another mistake.

Q: In no other sport in the world do participants actually make up the rules. Do you think it is right that the participants in the sport make that sort of decision?
FB:
Formula One is not about participants. Each team is 1000 people. I don’t think it is a sport, Formula One, because you are not running two cars with 1000 people in sport, if you want racing you go by yourself with two friends and you go racing. I think Formula One is a business first, because when you talk about 1000 people in one team, 1000 people means 2000 family, you know, we are not talking about sport, we are taking about business first and after that is the main television event and then after that, sure, is the sport, because the sport is about the fight between drivers, the risks the drivers take. Formula One is a big event with everything in it, you have the danger, you have the lifestyle, you have the drivers, you have the rich, whatever. But, I mean, I think it is business first and everything else is coming second.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Flavio, with these cuts that are planned, how does that translate to job losses in Formula One and at Renault? How many people are going to lose their jobs?
FB:
It depends on how many people keep the job if you lose somebody. I mean, we are in the economic environment. Sure, the mentality for engineering in our business is not firing people and not hiring people, because we always miss somebody in the company. I started Formula One with 120 people, now we have 400. I think the races was much better when we had 120 people. It was much more fun and the races were much tighter. Sure, the money is not proportional to what you are doing in the race because there is not some team that would be seven seconds quicker than someone else.

Q: Flavio, could you describe your feelings about becoming a father this week?
FB:
I don’t think we discuss these things. We are talking about Formula One.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speed Sports News) Flavio, you talked about getting more income. We have now sort of agreed on sporting and technical regulations but how confident are you that the commercial issues will be solved and there will be a better distribution of the income?
FB:
I believe we have a proposal on the table and the Bernie’ proposal at the time was accepted by all the manufacturers at the table. I mean, the income in Formula One is enormous money and I think what we need to do is split 50 percent for the team and 50 percent for the organiser. That is all the income, we are talking about, not only one part of the income. For this, I believe the team is quite happy. For the long-term, the income from the television rights, from the public, for advertising, would be representing 50 percent of our business, because this is what we are producing. You see, our job is entertaining people and we need more income from this side, absolutely. Really there is 50 percent from this side and 50 percent from sponsorship.

Q: (Carlos Miguel Gomes – Diario AS) Two questions for Flavio. One, are you still having fun in Formula One, and two, when does your contract with Renault end?
FB:
Ha, ha, ha. I have a lot of fun. But it is not a question of fun, it is a question of motivation. I am in Formula One to win and I put Renault together to be on the top. It was not easy, it is not easy, because competition is very strong. Renault was the last team to arrive in the picture but if you want to call this fun, this is fun. Building up the team is fun, when you see Fernando the first time on the podium, this is fun, when you see Fernando the first time winning a race, it is fun, because this really is the result of your job, what you risk, or whatever, to give to the driver the right car to win a race. This is the motivation, why you are still in Formula One. My contract with Renault is expiring 2005, this is what is in my contract with Renault.

Q: (Bob Constanduros) Just a quick question for Fernando, you had a fantastic race here this time last year and obviously your compatriots were very excited about that. What chances of the same again this weekend?
FA:
It is unpredictable, I think, to make a prediction for the race. But I have good memories from last year, it was a good race, the car was fantastic here, and I really hope to have the same car, competitive here all the weekend, and I will have a chance. From my side I will do 200 percent for this race because are a lot of people have come to support me, I like the track, I like to race here, it is my home Grand Prix and, for sure, to do something like last year is for me a dream now on Thursday.

Q: (Bob Constanduros) Is there more pressure because it is your home race?
FA:
No. No, because, in Formula One, I have honestly not felt the pressure. Never, from 2001.