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FIA Friday press conference - Hungary 13 Aug 2004

The FIA Press Conference (From Back Row (L to R)): Paul Stoddart (AUS) Minardi Team Owner; Willi Rampf (SUI) Sauber Technical Director; Eddie Jordan (IRE) Jordan Team Owner; Tony Purnell (GBR) Team Boss Jaguar Racing; Ross Brawn (GBR) Ferrari Technical Director; Pat Symonds (GBR) Renault Executive Director of Engineering.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary, 13 August 2004

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Team Principals: Eddie Jordan (Jordan), Paul Stoddart (Minardi) and Tony Purnell (Jaguar)
Technical Directors: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Willy Rampf (Sauber) and Pat Symonds (Renault)

Q:First of all, I would like to start off with what is a talking point as far as the press is concerned, and that is the Jenson Button affair, over whether he should or shouldn’t be joining Williams. David Richards has asked for the team owners’ support. Can you give him that support? What are your feelings about the affair itself? Eddie, can I start with you?
Eddie JORDAN:
Oh, thank you! You’ve done me a favour have you? Well, it is none of our business, really. By giving one member support over another it implies you know the facts and I think on this issue the facts have yet to emerge properly. It seems hard to understand. For those lay people looking at us as a sport, it seems hard to understand how you would in the middle of just having your best race ever of your life, by what you have said, at Hockenheim, to announce a couple of days later that you are going to another team that may not be quite competitive as the one you are in. To do that, something needs to either have been brewing, or something happening, or the guy has lost his marbles, and I very much doubt Jenson has lost his marbles, but I do not wish or don’t want to be quoted on or comment. It is one of these things that has happened, in a way. The CRB, as you rightly say, it happened because of Michael Schumacher, and as you rightly say, I was one of the parties in that, so I am sure the CRB will sort this out. I think it is a matter for them. We don’t have the privilege of the information to make a judgement to side with one or other and I think it is not our place to do that.

Q:Willy, any comment?
Willy RAMPF:
No, I cannot really comment. I don’t have enough background information about the contract situation of Jenson Button.

Q:Paul, have you been asked to support David Richards?
Paul STODDART:
I haven’t, actually, but that is probably because I have been away in South Africa and this all broke when we were over there. We pay money each year to keep something called the Contract Recognition Board going and this clearly is a case for them. It should be almost as simple as a few lawyers opening a sealed envelope, reading the contract, determining the contract and making a decision. Thereafter, like any process, people have the right of appeal, the right to arbitration, but if the contract is clear cut – and most of them are – then there will be a very clear winner and whoever that is, whether it is BAR or whether it is Williams, it should be a relatively quickly dealt with issue.
Tony PURNELL: I think it is a little bit cheesy, the whole thing, and it is a bit of bad news for Formula One. You know, we would like a cleaner image. But the details we will never know and I suppose it is a very unfortunate way to change teams. We are sad to see Webber go but I think he has handled it beautifully. We have known the situation with Mark for many months. So, you can do it quite sweetly and ethically if you like. I don’t think the messages from the Jenson Button affair are quite what Formula One wants.
Ross BRAWN: I think it is a little unfortunate but it gave you something to talk about in a fairly dull period, that’s for sure. But we don’t have the facts. There are always two sides to every story and we are tending to hear a lot about one side and very little about the other, so I think until the facts become apparent or people can judge them or obtain the facts it is very difficult to judge.
Pat SYMONDS: Well, again, we don’t know the facts. I think the only thing I can say is if an employee doesn’t want to work for you, whether they be a driver, a mechanic, the guy who sweeps the floor, there is really no point in keeping them there. You want a happy - you want people who want to work for you, and if they don’t want to work for you then you should be questioning yourself as to why they don’t. And I think that is the only comment I can make on it.

Q:Next question, the rules. I would like to ask, first of all, the front row, if you feel happy that you have agreed on the rules and the back row, the fact that it is so late, how it affects you guys, as independents, presumably with smaller budgets than those in the front row. Can I ask you guys in the front row how you feel the rules meetings are going?
PSy:
I will try not to state the obvious but we have got three areas we are talking about here. We are talking about the chassis, which is predominantly the aerodynamics, the engine and we are talking about the tyres. On the chassis side of things I don’t think we have any problems. I think this will apply to all teams, it has been under discussion at the TWG for a while and from it the principles were well established and the detail really didn’t cause much discussion. So I don’t think there are any problems there.
With the engine we have got a very difficult situation because we are really looking at an interim step. It is well accepted and again well documented by the TWG that really the only way we were going to get the performance that we felt we required was to come down on capacity and we have been talking about that for 18 months. It can’t be done for 2005 so we have to take this interim step. We need to be careful that we don’t confuse money-saving ideas with safety ideas but nevertheless our team are happy with the idea of running an engine for two races, we don’t believe it is a very significant step in terms of safety, in terms of what we are trying to achieve, but nevertheless it is one that is worthwhile.
Tyres, I think, are the most difficult part of the whole equation and I would say as a team we are supporting the proposals that are put forward by the FIA at the moment but on a personal level I think really I do have to give a word of caution. I think that one of the very important things these days is the spectacle. We are talking about saving money but I am a great believer in generating income rather than saving money and I am very worried that if we do go to the single tyre rule that we will, I won’t say destroy, that’s an overreaction, we will certainly produce a show that I don’t think will be as good as the show we have now and I think that is something we need to be very careful of. People say they want to see overtaking, they want to see a change in the order of the races and it may not happen so much with a single tyre. Now, the interesting thing is that we say yes, we are agreeing with the rules and we can get on and design our cars and this is why we need to get a move on. But unfortunately these days it is not just the technical rules, it’s the sporting rules and depending on what happens with the qualifying procedure will determine how we go racing and hence what our cars are like. And if the qualifying procedure goes in a particular way I can tell you – because we have already done the simulations, we have already looked at it - even at a race like here in Hungary, you would be looking at a one-stop race and, in fact, I don’t think I am giving away too much by saying that our simulations say that you go to lap 49 here, which is like then leaving 21 left, and if you can’t overtake on this track and you have only one pitstop that’s two thirds of the way through the race I don’t think it is very exciting and I think we have to be very careful of that.
RB: I think the chassis regulations, almost by default, we have arrived at the solution. The FIA made a proposal, which was the proposal they intend to make in October, and I think everyone looked at it and it was very close to what a lot of us were prepared to accept, so I think on the chassis it has gone through, or will be going through. I think there is enough people in agreement to make it difficult for any alternatives to happen and, of course, everyone wants to get on with their cars. So, I think there is a reasonably substantial reduction in downforce that will reduce cornering speeds and certainly move in a direction of slowing the cars down.
Tyres, we have a solution that was proposed by the tyre companies, which is what the sporting regulations asked for. Michelin and Bridgestone got together and made the proposal so presumably that is settled now for next year.
I think on the engine we are in broad support of the two main proposals, which are the two-race engines and the 2.4-litre V8. It is just the timescale makes it quite expensive to do it. Obviously over a longer timescale it would have been a little bit more economic but I think the 2.4 V8 is necessary to reduce the speeds of the cars and I think the two-race engine ultimately will make it more economic for the teams with smaller budgets to operate so we need to support it. So I think it is pretty clear what is going to happen and on Sunday morning we have a Technical Working Group meeting to just go through some details, I believe they are going through some details, and I think most people now are building their cars for next year.
TP: My view is that there are many aspects of the sport that need reform and I guess Max is trying very hard to reform the sport over the next four years quite aggressively and I support some of the things he is doing. However, to be at this time of the year when you are not quite sure what the rules are to build the cars, I think very heavily favours the well-financed teams and is a severe handicap if you can’t have parallel teams and you can’t chop and change and haemorrhage money to cope with a change. In fact, the rules that have already been proposed have already caused us a bit of a problem where we have had to change next year’s chassis design. We wanted to be ahead of the game. So, I think, for the future, avoiding this lack of clarity is absolutely essential. Hopefully the Technical Working Group will settle things this weekend and we can go forwards. I share some of Pat’s worries about the entertainment value that we will get out of this package, but as an engineer, you know, we need clarity and to handle the finances we need clarity.

Q:Paul, what’s the independents’ solution? What do you feel?
PSt:
Well the first thing is that we are not preparing and getting ready to build a new car and there is a simple fact for that: We cannot afford to make a wrong choice. Here we are at the Hungaroring, traditionally a bit of a watershed race where people announce drivers, engines and are well advanced on their design and build programmes for the following year and we haven’t got a clue what the regulations are. I take on board what the guys in front in the Technical Working Group were saying but in the team principals meetings it is completely different. We are nowhere near agreeing on any of this. We are not agreed on an engine for next year for two races, we have got one team principal saying he is not going to turn up if that’s the case. We have got another manufacturer saying they are going to pull out if that’s the case. We are nowhere near agreeing on the aerodynamics package unless, and as Ross said there is a meeting on Sunday morning, unless it’s phase one because phase two is completely unacceptable.
On tyres, there have been suggestions made but there is no agreement at the moment on tyres, and this could all get forced through on January 15, which is the final implementation date of Max’s proposals. But to a small team, or anyone who has not got the budget to run two or three parallel development programmes at the same time or the wind tunnel testing that is required to get back those aerodynamic losses – because we did one quick session, the guys in front are far better qualified to talk than I am but we lost 30 percent with the aero package as we believe it has been put forward – the bigger teams have the resources to gain that back and the actual drop you would see in the times next year would be not insignificant but it wouldn’t be massive. The ones it would be massive for is the ones who haven’t got the money to run programme after programme after programme chasing these rule changes. Any change costs money and no matter what it is it costs money. It might have a long-term benefit but it has a short-term killer effect (unclear). The simple answer is I think it’s devastating for the small teams and if it does go to the wire, so to speak, where we don’t have any clarity before, perhaps, October 30, when we have to get the sporting regulations right - I think you will probably find the whole lot will come as a package around that time, I would like to think it is going to be agreed before then but I am a bit pessimistic on seeing agreement between the team principals – I would like to think there would be some kind of alleviation perhaps along the lines of Max’s suggestion that with the engines, the 2.4 V8s for 2006, the small teams that haven’t got one, can’t afford one or aren’t in a position to provide one can continue to run their V10s and there will be safeguards in place so that you don’t have too big an advantage. I would like to think that if we are going to be so late coming up with agreement on what it is we are building cars to next year, that some consideration is given to small teams to give us a fighting chance where we can run this year’s cars for a determined period of time until we can build the new cars once somebody tells us what on Earth we are building these cars to. In short, not happy!

Q:Never have guessed! Do you feel similarly, Willy?
WR:
On the engine side I think we are in a good situation because we have discussed the situation and we are quite confident that next year’s engine is reliable and quite powerful so this is not an issue really and a point of concern for us. On the tyre side, we don’t exactly know what the tyre regulation will look like but if the tyre regulation does change the strategy for next year- say one and two stops instead of three stops – this would obsolete the different chassis concepts and when we are in the design phase, I mean, fuel cell volume is something you cannot change during a season so we have to make a best guess what is the fuel cell volume for next year. On the technical regulations changes, we support them because we think it is a good chance for us, as a smaller team, now with our new wind tunnel as a good and reliable tool, we could benefit. The problem is, if the decision is very late then it is very costly for us because we don’t have a parallel team developing the new car, we have one team of aerodynamicists and the later we decide about these things and the technical regulation is defined, the more difficult it is for us because we have already started with next year’s car concept in the wind tunnel and whatever we have done up to now I think we can throw into the bin because it is not valid any more if the new regulations come in. So the regulation change is fine for us, but the later the final definition the more we are against it because it’s costly, that’s the main reason, and I hope the final decision is fairly soon.

Q:Eddie, what about your thoughts?
EJ:
They are more or less along the lines of everybody here. I am trying to find how the normal person would see this because we have got a sport and we have got to entertain and we have got an obligation to make sure it’s the best we can do. After the last meeting we had in Hockenheim, where again the team principals failed to come up with a decision to try to agree, I was really frustrated so I wrote to everyone, which it is not a usual thing that I do, but my main message in that was that above all we do not need rules imposed on us. It would be far more prudent and sensible for the team principals to agree on this occasion, where a time factor is of the essence. We need, as Tony called it clarity – that was a word I used in the letter – but I also used the word certainty. We need certainty, not in October, yesterday. We need it immediately. And I would urge the guys here in front who are members of the TWG to bring forward the meeting of Sunday to tomorrow, which might, therefore, enable us doddery old team bosses to get together on Sunday morning to ratify that and to sign it off so that there is not another race gone by before we do it. If that was possible, guys, you would be doing us a big favour because I think the TWG has some obligations, we have some obligations, but one thing that is of absolutely paramount importance is this business will haemorrhage itself quickly because we know the big teams will always be strong and the little teams will always be weak. Now, anyone who is not naive will understand that has always been the way it has been in this business and it’s never going to change. But what it must do is give us all a fighting chance. It is just preposterous to think that a set of rules and regulations for next year’s championship are not clear and defined at this moment in time and I would urge all parties including myself to come together as soon as possible and if the guys can meet tomorrow and get us team principals together on Sunday let’s sign something and get it done, then it seems as if we have agreed it rather than somebody else sticking it down our neck.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q:(Mike Doodson - Mike Doodson Associates)
EJ:
Unemployed! (Laughter) Have you got a job? (Laughter)
Q:It seems that the three guys on the front row know what the rules are and the three guys in the back row don’t know what the rules are. I may be wrong here but I wonder if you can be more explicit. Can the guys on the front row tell us what has been agreed in the TWG, what are the changes we’re likely to see next year, and I have a supplementary question which is that I understand Max Mosley placed a deadline – I think it was September 6, I may be wrong – and is that still in force?
RB:
I think the aerodynamic regulations are virtually agreed. We’re crossing the Ts and dotting the Is, so I’m surprised that Eddie thinks we don’t have a set of regulations, because my understanding is we do and by a process, I’m pretty certain they’re the regulations which will go through, because I believe five or six teams have now written to the FIA saying that those are the regulations they want and therefore there is no other process in place for an alternative set of regulations. I think the tyre regulations are in place because Michelin and Bridgestone have written to the FIA and jointly asked for a solution which the FIA accepted. I think the only debate as far as I am concerned is the engine regulations where two teams in particular are objecting to the proposals. But in terms of building a car and knowing how the tyres are going to be run next year, we think it’s clear.

Q:(Bob Constanduros - Bob Costanduros & Associates) Mike Doodson asked what are the rules?
RB:
The diffuser is changed to produce less downforce, the front wing is lifted up, the rear wing is moved forward and there’s one set of tyres for the whole race.
PSt: Now wait. It has not been agreed. Ross is saying five or six teams. It requires eight votes in the technical working group to get it through and that’s the problem we have time and time again.
RB: I think you’re wrong. If you look at how it’s been handled, Paul – I’m not saying I agree with the way it’s been handled, but the FIA have said this is a proposal we are prepared to accept because we think it’s a good proposal, and unless you can come up with an alternative proposal, which requires eighty percent, then this is the one by default that we are going to apply. So six teams have written to the FIA and said we are going to go along with your proposals. So by definition there can no longer be a majority for an alternative proposal. So as far as we’re concerned, it’s done.
EJ: But to be fair, we have not been notified. I haven’t been notified that six people have written to the FIA. And the other thing is that with the greatest of respect and they do a hugely important job, the TWG, the working group do not make the rules. They need to be ratified and I think Paul’s argument is valid. I am inclined to support what Ross is saying, that if you were a punter and you were having a bet, you would have a bet that what’s on the paper by Max is what’s going to be accepted. That is sure but it is not certain. It’s like what’s the point of having an engagement with a girl? You are not sure you are going to marry her are you? She’s said yes to being engaged but she hasn’t agreed to do all the rest of the stuff. (Laughter)
PSt: The trouble with all of this is that you get situations where you think things are agreed and then it’s just turned over time and time and time again, and that is the uncertainty that the small teams are suffering. We do not know what is going to happen in terms of, as I mentioned before, Mark One or Mark Two version of these groups. The original was that the diffuser was going to be radically modified and the floor was going to be radically modified, but then the next proposal was the front and the rear wing which I believe, Tony, was what your people were dead against because it trashed your chassis for next year. And that’s the kind of thing that goes on all the time. You get to a situation where one or two people make suggestions and a few more people jump on the bandwagon and say ‘that’s a great idea,’ and then you get the other side and someone says ‘well I’ve been going in a completely different direction and I’ve just wasted six months R&D.’ It just doesn’t work. This is August, guys, the middle of August. We need to know what we’re doing next year, not still be talking about it.
TP: Ross’s summary, I think, was very pragmatic and probably the way it is going to go. But having sat in some of the team principal meetings, the Byzantine nature of Formula One politics means that surprising things can happen. However, I think Ross is the probable clairvoyant here.
PSt: But that’s the whole point. We need a clairvoyant? We don’t need a clairvoyant - we need a regulation that makes rules.
TP: If the sport’s going to reform, this sort of thing needs to be tackled and in the future it just shouldn’t come up because the regulations and the methods are clear, pragmatic and sensible.

Q:(Eddie Jordan – Jordan Grand Prix) I am probably not supposed to ask questions, but I would like to ask Pat and Ross a question, and that is, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could leave here on Sunday knowing, with a recommendation from all of the teams or the vast majority of the teams which would be if you like a legitimate number of people to get the rules accepted. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to do that this weekend or is that not possible?
PSy:
I think that is very possible and we have a meeting on Sunday morning which I think will ratify it. My understanding is exactly the same as Ross’s. It is what we are working on, it’s what we believe is going to happen and it’s what I think the Technical Working Group recommendations will be and Ross is quite right about the voting process. Effectively, at this stage, and I am sorry if the team principals didn’t know it, but six teams have agreed to it and, therefore, the mechanism is in place for it to happen. Unfortunately, it now has to go… the team principals will get involved and of course, then things do become uncertain and erm (laughter) it is a difficult situation. We are too damned democratic for our own good in this sport. It’s a very strange situation where the competitor sets the rules, but that’s the way Formula One is. There are a lot of vested interests and it does get very messy and it’s certainly time for reform. But our problem of today, I believe, is pretty well there. I am quite sure the technical working group will effectively ratify these proposals on Sunday and I’m sure that there will then be further argument, but strictly speaking, once that’s done, those are the rules. Now, I know that perhaps that’s perhaps an idealistic view and that there are certain team principals who have a lot of say, a lot of influence and they can turn things round but we’re doing everything we can to resolve this situation and think we’re behaving responsibly and professionally.
PSt: I just need to correct Pat on one thing there. I don’t know where you are getting this six vote thing from, but this whole process is under the Concorde Agreement and article 7.5 is very, very clear. Under what Max has put forward to the Technical Working Group, it requires 80 percent vote in favour.
RB: I don’t think it does Paul.
PSy: It is not quite like that, Paul, I don’t think.
RB: If no solution is found with the Working Group, then the proposal the FIA makes – they make three proposals which the Working Group then has to accept one of and I’m sure we’ve got one proposal and I’m sure the other proposals are going to be putting the engines in the front and having eight wheeled cars or something or other. So there will be only one sensible proposal which will, by default, become the solution, so that’s how it will work.
EJ: Pat, I’m sorry to take you up on what you said, because it seems like cat and mouse here but the words were ‘we’re pretty well there’, ‘hopefully, blah, blah, blah’ and ‘then there will be further argument because it’s the team principals, etc., etc.’ Some of those words… Honestly, I agree with each of those sentiments because we are not there. We would like to be there, we want to be there. We want it fixed. Please, you guys, and us, we all should get together and we should all be in that meeting on Sunday morning if they can’t make it on Friday, on Saturday. We should all be there and get it finished. It’s simple. It’s not difficult.
RB: I support Eddie’s comments, it is just that I have been to some team principal meetings and if we started that on Sunday morning we wouldn’t have a race on Sunday afternoon. (Laughter)
EJ: Are you excluding your own boss?
PSt: And if we don’t decide something we won’t have a championship next year. We’ll still be making this decision in January.
EJ: No, that’s for sure.
TP: I was thinking of the comment that it is too democratic, but really it’s more like the communists with their committees. You know committees never decide anything and what we really want is a dictator but a benevolent one, that we vote in every three years or something because that is how practical democracies work. Any democracy which works like the team principals’ meetings will be doomed to failure.

Q:(Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) The situation with qualifying seems to be pretty fundamental to the show, and also the tyre situation is over-ridden by an important factor in your designing your cars. But where do you believe we stand on qualifying?
PSy:
Well, you are right, and this was the point I was making earlier that it’s all very well saying let’s get the technical regulations sorted and then we can get on and design our cars but that is not actually the case. The sporting regulations will always have an influence on car design and very specifically, the qualifying regulations will and, being even more specific, whether or not you start the race with the fuel you qualified with. It really has a fundamental bearing on how you approach the strategy of the race and, hence, the simple design parameter of how big you want your fuel tank. So it is quite possible and I don’t want to harp back to this but it is a thing we will agree on Sunday what the technical regulations are, but the sporting regulations, which don’t have a body like the Technical Working Group to arbitrate them, the arguments could go on for many months yet and they can leave a problem with car design.
TP: I have got strong opinions on this one because people say that the present qualifying is boring. But I think very strongly we should be entertaining people and I threw out a suggestion some months ago that some people have picked up on. In fact one of the magazines has a ‘Fax Max’ campaign, because Max Mosley said ‘maybe we should start asking the public their suggestions for improving the sport.’ I think that qualifying, given the problems of a wider reform, is a big opportunity, so I have thrown up this idea of having little mini races to entertain people on the Fridays and the Saturdays and to put a little more uncertainty on the Sunday race and very much to make sure that the best racing driver wins at the end of the year. And that will be Michael whatever qualifying is dreamt up, but I would like to see something radical, which is why I have suggested the two mini races that the magazine has written up. I certainly think that because the rules are tending more and more now to processional races, we have to do something to jazz it up.
EJ: I just harp on the same thing I did. This particular year the coverage we receive has been vital. It is not everyone’s best choice. I’m sure there are other options and Tony, I am not sure why F1 Racing (magazine) is so keen on it because they have gone very strong on it editorially, but actually it’s very exciting. It could be a brilliant concept. But leaving that to one side, because it’s a matter of opinion, but I would support some things like that. However, it is vital. We, as the teams not in the firing line to win or to be podium placed teams at the moment, have only one source of coverage and that is the qualifying and I think the big teams know that and they are helping us in that matter. But where you get a compromise between fulfilling that absolute crucial commercial need and offsetting it and creating a good, viable entertaining qualifying, is always going to be difficult.
PSy: I would just like to comment on Tony’s proposal really. Reading the editorial of that magazine, there are a couple of quotes in there that I find interesting. One is ‘overtaking action is guaranteed’. Well, I think that is a very unsubstantiated statement. There is another quote, supposedly from Max Mosley where he says ‘there’s no doubt the first ten laps are always thrilling.’ I don’t think that’s always been the case. I am not against the proposal and I’m certainly not against change. I think a radical shake-up is a good thing. But I think the premise that a ten lap race will lead to overtaking is a mistaken one. I am sure all you journalists read our previews and you’ll know what our views are on overtaking and how difficult it is. And I think that when you look at history of this circuit when Boutsen won many years ago, you think of Coulthard and Bernoldi, was it, at Monaco? There is no guarantee that people will overtake in a ten lap race any more than in a seventy lap race. I think there are a few basic principals of qualifying that we should adhere to. I think that the principal that we introduced at the beginning of last year that you race what you qualify in is a very good one. I think that’s excellent. The idea that we had of qualifying cars, qualifying tyres all these sort of things, were inherently wrong. The other thing is that I think it is very important that we don’t spoil the main attraction for the sake of the sideshow. Yes, qualifying is important, but the race is much more important. So let’s make sure we don’t have a boring race as a result of a poor qualifying procedure. I do like the idea of a little bit of chaos and I think that the single-lap qualifying has brought that in. I use the word chaos advisedly. But I don’t like things to be too contrived. I don’t think that that is what Formula One needs. I think a ballot is too contrived, I think success ballast is too contrived, but a little bit of natural chaos is not a bad thing. Finally, I think the Fax Max campaign is a step in the right direction. I’ve always advocated that if we want to know what to do, we should be asking the public, but it is slightly misguided. We should not be asking race fans who are going to watch qualifying anyway. I think I’ve probably said this in one these meetings before, but what we should do is go out on a Saturday afternoon while qualifying is on and ask the people in the street, in the shopping centres ‘why aren’t you watching qualifying, what is wrong with it? Why aren’t you watching racing?’ Those are the people whose opinion we need. The die-hard enthusiast is going to watch it, whatever. We want to get new people in, not just make it better for those who are watching.

Q:(Luc Domenjoz – Le Matin) Ross, I noticed something bizarre during the last German Grand Prix. We all know that the Ferrari mechanics are very efficient and that the Ferrari engine is probably very good on fuel consumption but adding up the pit stop times of Michael I did notice that he was slower than virtually every other driver on three stop strategies and especially, he was 6.4 seconds slower than Button and 6.2 seconds slower than Alonso, stopping three times at approximately at the same time. It is an enormous amount of time. How would you explain this?
RB:
I think you need to study how the times have been generated. Because the FIA time is the time from when the car enters the pit lane to the time it leaves. And I think on two occasions we had to hold the car because of traffic in the pit lane, so the car was stuck there with cars coming down the pit lane and we couldn’t release the car into the pit lane because there was traffic. So it doesn’t actually reflect the time of the proper pit stop. I think that if you look at the televised coverage and use a stopwatch from the time we started the pit stop to the time we actually finished the pit stop you will see that the time is much more sensible. We do an analysis ourselves after each race and a large part of that was because of Michael twice getting held up in the pit lane because of traffic.

Q:(Matt Bishop – F1 Racing) I was interested in the opinions of Tony, Pat and Eddie on the Fax Max campaign and Tony’s qualifying proposal. I would just like to have the views of Ross and Willy and Paul if possible?
RB:
I think that what’s interesting about the whole qualifying situation is that there’s lots of really exciting ideas. Tony’s is an exciting idea, several people have come to me with an interesting idea. One is to start with all the cars, and after 15 minutes, the slowest five get taken out, and after another 15 minutes the next slowest five get taken out and it keeps going until five are left and you have then got one hour of cars running around trying to qualify. There are lots of really good ideas. I think that what is seriously lacking in our sport is a proper mechanism to assess those ideas on a proper basis to decide what is viable. Because we all have different opinions and as Tony mentioned earlier, the system we have of unanimous agreement or less than 80 per cent majority doesn’t help to develop new ideas because we all have vested interests in what we want to see. And it would seem to be that the best approach would be to try and set up a mechanism, a working group – a couple of people from the media, a couple of engineers, a couple of team principals – and everybody unanimously accept that the conclusions of the working group are what we are going to have for qualifying. And then maybe even have one race a year where we can try all the new systems to see whether it works, because the problem is we commit, and like Pat said, we commit, we have to design the cars, we get frustrated because the car we designed doesn’t suit the qualifying system, so we won’t agree with it. Maybe one race a year could be a race which is set to one side to try these experiment approaches. The Race of Champions used to be ideal – it was a non-points scoring Formula One race where it would have been an ideal environment to experiment new approaches and see if they work. I don’t really want to support or condone Tony’s proposal. I think it’s very interesting, but all we should really have is a proper mechanism to go out there and find out whether it is better than what we have now.
WR: I think overall it is quite good to think on quite a radical solution or a radical change to the qualifying, so overall I think it’s quite good that somebody brought it up and said, OK, let’s think about a completely different qualifying format. The problem I see with this proposal is it will be more costly because it will lead to qualifying cars and qualifying components again if we have short races. And I don’t know how the public would react if we have a spectacular short race on Friday and one on Saturday. I don’t know if they are still interested to watch a long race on Sunday. Maybe the interest would go down. I think that if we change the qualifying format then it has to be well thought out so that we don’t have to correct it or change it during the season, because I think that this could be even more confusing for the problem and for the spectators.
PSt: We’ve had three different qualifying formats in the last three years, we’ve almost had four. Undoubtedly, whatever happens, we owe it to the people that actually are watching this sport and not just the ones that come to the tracks but the 300-odd million that watch us across the course of a weekend, to actually get it right. One of the things that Ross said is absolutely right – while unanimity exists, we will not agree on what to do. And all we’re doing is chopping and changing. Tony’s proposal is incredibly exciting and he has my total support but it would get knocked down by somebody else. And until we get out of this existing Concorde Agreement, get out of unanimity on everything, or all but… everything that matters and get into majority or super majority voting, we’re going to have this situation prevail, however sad it is. From my own viewpoint, I thought last year’s qualifying was quite good. We didn’t have all the complaints, we didn’t have all the arguments, we had something for Fridays, it meant something. It produced a couple of interesting results. I benefited from one of them in France. But we had some interesting grids. We still saw the greatest driver in the greatest car win the championship. Nothing’s going to change that. Do you want to have a little bit of fun and go with the Tony/F1 Racing proposal? Yeah, it would be good, but you have put in the safeguards. Qualifying cars would find their way back in, for sure. As soon as we invent rules the teams with money find ways to break the rule… not break the rules, comply with the rules in a more beneficial way.
TP: I think that Ross is absolutely right, that in an ideal system, we would have working groups and a nicely constructed system. Unfortunately, pragmatically, we don’t have any of that. There is no real promoter element in the rules – make it more exciting, make it more entertaining – so I guess this going through the media and appealing to the public is a pragmatic way of just trying to improve the entertainment. I would strongly argue that if you ask people in the shopping centres or in the banks on Fridays or Saturdays which they would prefer, a mini race or a single lap qualifying or an hour running around, it would be overwhelming. I suppose, when you can’t see how to do things or things aren’t happening through the system you break out of the system to try to get something done. So I would appeal to people who would like to see the sport change a bit to Fax Max and make their opinion heard.
RB: I think the big danger is do they understand what they’re getting and do we understand what we’re going to get, because Pat’s explained that maybe there is no overtaking, maybe it is a ten-lap procession. If you said to me there is two ten lap races that we our qualifying position depends on, I would try and build a car like theirs (Renault’s) with fantastic start performance because the start would be everything and then everyone would follow every other car around. He (Symonds) is the one who should be saying that that would be a really great system because he’ll gain. We would all have to build cars like he’s built to get the start performance because the starts will become far more crucial. It’s OK saying ‘let’s get the public to vote.’ I don’t think the public are always the best judges of how this will eventually evolve into a system. I’ve heard it said, ‘let’s get rid of traction control, it will be far more interesting, the racing will be far more interesting, we’ll get more overtaking.’ Well, it is completely foundless. If we get rid of traction control, hardly anything will change. We got rid of launch control because everyone said we wanted more exciting starts. It hasn’t changed a thing. So I respect the public’s opinion but they need to understand what they’re actually voting for. It seems very simple – let’s have two ten lap races – but Formula One would evolve into a different form which would then perhaps negate the excitement of a ten lap race, so we really need to understand what step two, step three, step four is going to be.
TP: I certainly agree with Pat that the Parc Fermé has improved life for people in Formula One and we shouldn’t lose the benefits that have evolved and of course, the detail has to be worked out by the experts.

Q:(Anne Giuntini – L’Equipe) Ross, last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix was a tough one for Ferrari and since then Ferrari won everything, almost, except Monaco. So, to what extent was that race a booster for Ferrari?
RB:
I think, like everyone in Formula One, we are very competitive so any loss or any poor performance is an incentive to do better and I think you see it consistently, certainly amongst the teams that have the resources, that when they doing badly they work even harder and they put even more effort into trying to resolve their situation. You’ve seen it with McLaren this year and for sure we were very disappointed with our performance in Hungary last year. I remember when I had to radio Michael and say ‘pull over because Alonso’s lapping you’. He said ‘you’re kidding aren’t you?’ It was a rare event for him! The whole year was a big incentive for us because of the nature of the people involved and Hungary was certainly a big disappointment. When you have those disappointing races they stick with you and we’ve been doing a lot of work this year with a view to making sure Hungary is more competitive this year. I think we will be more competitive. I think we have got a much better car and we’ve got much better tyres. We’ve got a new specification of tyre here which seems to be working very well. Hungary is difficult because the track evolves a lot over the weekend so even what we’re seeing today may not be a good barometer of what we’re going to see on Sunday. But I know on Friday last year we were already in trouble so at least we’re not at that stage, so it’s a bit more encouraging.

Q:(Joe Saward – F1 Grand Prix Special) Looking at the viewing figures that we have for this year, they’re actually not that bad at all. They’re actually on the same level as in previous years. Is all this talk about changing absolutely necessary or is it all about battling egos among the people who are making decisions?
PSy:
I think the viewing figures are quite interesting, because I think they are up about five percent overall. What is particularly interesting is that they are up a hell of a lot in Italy and Germany – now there’s a surprise - and they are down in Finland and they are down in Holland – also what a surprise. Maybe that tells us more than what we’re talking about.
RB: I think safety is an issue, genuinely. I think we do have a safety issue and harping on again about the mechanism we have, the working group has known in reality that we would have to do something for a couple of years now and we’ve simply not been able to find a solution amongst ourselves. Most of the time we can, but on this particular issue it had become very difficult to find an ideal solution and really, this year, we had to knuckle down and find a solution and most of what’s been proposed to slow the cars down has come from the Working Group. Maybe we should have done that a little bit sooner but I think safety is a concern. The cars will still be very, very quick but I think all the track safety standards, we just reached a limit of them over a period of time and we have to reset the point, go back and start again.
TP: I don’t think the qualifying figures are so good. I think they are dramatically worse, so that’s a side that does need a change. And the other thing is the general health of the sport needs strong teams throughout. We have seen nothing in the way of new teams come in and we’ve seen the divide between the rich and the poor grow ever bigger, so that it’s almost become like an aristocratic sport where Ferrari are the emperors, the next level down are the ministers of McLaren and BMW, and then…
PSt: Some of the beggars.
EJ: Steady Tony, be careful.
TP: I will say no more!
EJ: If I could just move slightly away from that subject and answer it in the same way, I cannot believe that if we’ve seen the provisional races for next year, 19, I think we need to look at it altogether because if we are going to do 19 races we soon have to think about a two day race weekend and maybe the Friday is a testing day or something separately, and maybe combine it one. But we will all kill ourselves because the next year it will be 20 and 21, so we have to find a solution. It’s just finding it difficult. On your question more specifically, I don’t care - it is a little bit unfair. Look, actually, the person who suffers most is Michael because everybody on the street, your taxi drivers to your painters, whoever, they are inclined to think our sport is boring at the moment and the problem is people don’t realise what a great, great sportsman, the greatest driver of our time, and he has made everyone else relatively stupid because he has just been so good. That’s not anyone’s problem, it’s just the fact is that the perception is that our business is boring and hence we have to change, change, change. And I partly agree with you. The problem is that if you were to take Michael away you have got 10 absolutely cracking drivers who could get on and have a great race. It’s not Michael’s fault and I don’t think we should be knee-jerking just to find excuses to try to make something that will continue to be like it is, because Ferrari aren’t going to drop the ball, are they? They’re going to go on and get better. We had just better sit down and pray that Michael retires sooner rather than later!
WR: I think overall it’s the right decision to make some changes specifically to improve the safety of the cars because the cars are getting quicker and quicker in top speed and in lap time. And I think it’s also the right time to make changes to the technical regulations. And as I mentioned before, we are in favour of changes to technical regulations if they come early enough, because we see a good opportunity for us and I think it’s up to us, the Technical Working Group, to come up with a proposal, or to define a proposal that the cars and the races are still interesting.
PSt: Your question centred around that the egos and attitudes of people that stop this change or rather cause this if I’ve got it right. I think the Technical Working Group are perfectly competent and left to their own devices would have come up with a decision a long time ago to sort this out. Where it all falls apart is when it goes to the next level. There are too many different agendas, too many differences of opinions and the more you have unanimity in the team principals’ position, you are not letting the Technical Working Group do their job. They are more than capable of putting this out. It could have been done months ago.