FIA Friday press conference - Australia 04 Mar 2005
Team principals: Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin), Nick Fry (BAR), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Colin Kolles (Jordan) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).
Q: In the end, I believe, you all signed the document supporting Minardi. The Stewards have made their own decision. What is your feeling?
Christian HORNER: I am happy to state that I am delighted that the Stewards have taken it on. As far as I am concerned, the FIA are the regulators of Formula One and I dont see why the teams should be involved in saying whether someone should break the rules or not. The rules are the rules at the end of the day it is ultimately down to the regulators to police that.
Nick FRY: I think it is good that the teams eventually all stuck together and tried to be supportive of Paul, but at the end of the day the referee is the referee and the sport does need to have an independent referee and I think they made a brave decision and good on them.
Colin KOLLES: Basically, I have the same opinion. We didnt sign the paper today. We just said we wont protest against Minardi because we think that rules are rules. I think that Jordan was in a worse situation than Minardi in December and January. We managed to bring the cars confirming to the 2005 regulations and so I think it should be possible for Minardi.
Q: Colin, for you, it is quite a jump to go from your own Formula 3 team to Formula One, and much the same for Christian. What are your feelings and how are you getting on with the job?
CK: I dont have any problems until now. We will see in the future. For the moment, it is quite okay.
Q: Is the team going to change in the future?
CK: The biggest change is that we have some motivation in the team now. It was low in December and that is the biggest change. In respect of personnel there is no major change.
Q: You have lost Mark Smith, however Are you looking for a new technical director?
CK: I think we have a good choice for this.
Q: How do you think the drivers got on today?
CK: Yes, it is a transitional year for us and we are not looking only at this year, but also at the future. We have to improve on today. We are not happy with our positions. We will do some improvements in times and I think they did a good job.
Q: Nick, new to the job as it were How much have things changed for you?
NF: New to the job but not new to the team and worked with David (Richards) the last four years, the last three as MD. A lot of it is much the same with additional responsibility of doing things like this. Having Honda on board as 45 per cent owners has made life much easier and a lot of barriers have come down and communication is much easier and we can draw on their resources and I am having a blast.
Q: But you were second last year so
NF: Yes, different objectives. Obviously last three years weve gone from eighth to fifth to second and it has been a great improvement but we didnt win a race and we were a country mile behind Ferrari. So, we shouldnt pat ourselves too much on the back. Our objective this year is to win a race even if we have to compromise our championship position somewhat, we will make the trade-off. It is good fun. We have a highly-motivated team and two hugely-motivated drivers and a great team spirit. We will go for it.
Q: You and Christian have a marketing strategy for a fun factor for Formula One. Is that going to carry on and develop?
NF: From our side, we have to recognise that we are competing against each other, which is clearly key to this, but we are competing as a sport with a whole bunch of other sporting activities like watching Desperate Housewives or American Idol, or whatever it happens to be. And I think there is an increasing realization that while Formula One is very popular our school reports tend to say could do better. And thats what we have to do. Adding more entertainment and listening to the fans, I am glad we have experts like Red Bull, a marketing company, really involved. We can learn a lot from them.
Q: Is that your strategy?
CH: What to have some fun? Yes, well Red Bull has a very clear objective. They want to appeal to the man in the grandstand and that is what this activity is all about. And coupled with that we have a clear objective of what we want to achieve on the circuit and one has to work hand in hand with the other. Red Bull obviously is a marketing driven company and has interesting plans for this year.
Q: And for yourself? Its a big step up from Formula 3000
CH: Yes, thats why Ive got names on the shirts so I can recognise who all the people are to be honest. The philosophy remains the same. It is a people sport at the end of the day and if you surround yourself with good people that are motivated, focused and share a common objective, that is what it is all about. It is how you react to problems and deal with them. I will use the methods that I utilized at Arden here at Red Bull.
Q: And today, was it a surprise for you?
CH: It was a positive start. I got used to seeing Vitantonios times at the top of the sheet last year but there were some impressive names beneath him today. Obviously the drivers were working to different programmes. We are happy with the progress we made and we think we are in reasonable shape.
Q: Hiroshi-san, you have done less testing than your rivals. Is that a problem for you?
Hiroshi YASUKAWA: I dont think so. Of course, they can do a lot of mileage. We can do just a small one. But our engineers and team work very well. I believe our quality from our testing is very good. And I believe we can achieve well this year with the new regulations.
Q: Would you like another team, as you had with Sauber last year?
HY: Of course, if I was concerned about the balance of this field, it is better to take some other team. But our company always respects contracts.
Q: This time last year we came here after a test at Imola that showed Ferrari were in the ballpark. Have you had a similar indication prior to this year?
HY: No, not dramatically, but I believe our engineers are producing a very strong tyre and always we are concerned about the safety issues and this year durability is very important. Until last year, the maximum was around 100 kilometres, but this year with two qualifying sessions and 300 kilometres race distance I think the philosophy must be changed. But this is a good challenge for us.
Q: Pierre, you have the other problem with so many teams. Is it complicated with so many?
Pierre DUPASQUIER: First I apologise for being late. I didnt see the time running. I was going too fast, I guess! In fact, yes it is a problem. But we like that and we have a lot of data and results and we get a lot of opportunity to see what is going on which, with a single team, you cannot understand. That is what we believe. You only know what the package gives you, but you dont know where it comes from. Good or bad!
Q: But Ferrari dont seem to have that problem.
PD: We can all have our own view on that. We believe that, and you can remember two years ago when Ferrari had that narrow tyre and they pushed our friends from Bridgestone to make a tyre that was ridiculous, so at the end of the day they understood that and after seeing some examples they decided to ask for a wider tyre, for example.
Q: So what is the tyre challenge in these new regulations?
PD: The challenge we will see more on Sunday, but to go from Spain in the winter in cold temperatures, Jerez, for example, to Melbourne or Sepang, with high temperatures, we have done a lot of simulations for the approach to that kind of move from virtual to reality. Only facts on Sunday night will tell us the right and the wrong.
Q: Will Sepang be one of the most severe?
PD: It is demanding circuit, it is true, and the temperature is another factor, where degrading is seen to be better on Sunday than on Friday as usual. Yes it is a challenge but we know how to make tyres that last for 300,000 miles so we should do it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speedsport News) Colin, tell us about the new team owner, Alex Shnaider? How much is he involved in the day-to-day running of the team, and also the larger decisions of the team?
CK: Well, on the day-to-day running he is not involved because we are involved in this, but we are reporting to him. I think that we have quite a good relation between us and we discuss matters together and we decide together. He is involved in major decisions and I have a daily contact with Alex Shnaider.
Q: (Dominique Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) To the three team principals. Two of you Nick and Christian said that the fun factory has to be brought out, that youre working for the man in the stands but with the new rules today we saw very little traffic, ten, 12, 15 laps in practice. The people in the grandstand didnt get to see many Formula One cars, and with no pole on Saturday. How do you think the public will react to those changes.
NF: I think that were really looking towards the future rather than whats going on at the moment and I think it could be improved. From my personal point of view its not optimal and it would be rather confusing if I were a customer of Formula One. The work that Christian and I trying to do with some of the other teams is redefine where we go from here after the end of the Concorde Agreement. Weve got to look forwards and weve got to look outwards, towards with competing with other disciplines, other sports and other activities and we all want to be successful and certainly Honda are in this for the long run. This is not just a short term activity and what we want to do is built the popularity to reach everyones objectives, so our objectives are rather longer term than just commenting on what we should do tomorrow, but I think theres a commonly held belief that we probably havent found the optimal solution yet.
CH: I would agree with that latter statement that the optimal situation isnt there yet regarding the racing. It will be very interesting to see how Sunday unfolds and to see with new regulations with the single tyre rule and then also in Malaysia in two weeks time, to see whos around at the end of that race. So I think we need to reserve judgement until weve seen it in action and just keep an open mind really.
CK: Try to have some more fun for sure, but I think that they are more professional in this sector. Red Bull is a marketing machine. For sure we want to increase the show and bring in more spectators at a race track and to have more people on TV and to improve the sport. And we have to try all the best to achieve this. This is for sure our aim because this is the future of the sport.
NF: Is the hat part of the team gear, Colin?
CK: Yes, everyone gets one. You want one? I will save you one.
Q: (Dominique Fugere Le Journal de Montreal) All three of you seem to agree that the optimal situation is not here. Do you have any ideas to bring about that optimal solution?
NF: I think the answer is no, not the ones that I would be prepared to throw out. I think that frankly this is part of the problem, is that some of the solutions and some of the changes that are made really dont have the level of analysis that they should do, and I that that knee jerk reactions are exactly the wrong thing to do. This is a big sport, lots of money involved, lots of people involved, lots of livelihoods and I think we should maybe a bit more considered in judgments rather than just chucking out stuff. I dont think were short of ideas but its a matter of developing stuff which is properly researched and properly thought through rather than just coming up with stuff on the hoof which sometimes doesnt have the required outcome and ends up costing even more money which is completely counterproductive.
Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Question to Colin. Colin, you said earlier on that you made the correct decision in terms of your technical department. You could expand on that please? Who heads it, how it works? Whos in what positions?
CK: We will announce at the right time, please understand this, because the situation with Mark Smith is not clear at all. From our side at least. This is what I can tell you. There are some announcements made, maybe he signed some other contract. We still have a contract with Mark Smith, that is the fact.
Q: (Dom Taylor F1 Racing) Speaking to people at BAR, you get the impression that over the winter the Honda takeover is happening quicker than many people expected it to happen, or certainly the influence of Honda is growing quite quickly. When are we likely to see a team called Honda in Formula One and is this process perhaps being accelerated by the July 31st tobacco sponsorship deadline?
NF: Ok, a variety of questions. Im a bit surprised at what you say in terms of accelerating Honda involvement because theres really not been that much change. Mr Tanaka who was previously based at Bracknell where the engines are built in the UK is now alongside me in the office next door and there are a couple of other extra people but apart from that, frankly theres been that much change and I think the commonly held view is that the changes have been for the good because people on site, we can make decisions that much quicker than we could before. I think all that has been positive. There isnt any intention at the moment to change the name of the team or for Honda to own all of the team. British American Tobacco are passionate about supporting the sport and at the moment, our assumption is that we are not going to do anything different after July. We dont think the British government ever intended for the so-called extra territoriality to have the effect that some people predict. Weve consistently asked for clarification and no clarification has been given, so where sit at the moment we are just going to continue, or planning to continue as we are. As far as BAT involvement, it will make no difference whatsoever. Our funding is now semi-independent of that and BAT is committed to the team. I think we are probably in a lucky and unique position that weve got two completely blue chip partners as 55 and 45 per cent shareholders so our future is secure and for us the objective is to win World Championships, simple as that.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Question for Christian Horner. Dr Kolles has confirmed to us that he had signed the paper. Can you tell us whether you have signed, or that the signature still belongs to Tony Purnell?
CH: Obviously I was not party to the discussions that took place in Shanghai I believe - last year where Jaguar Racing undertook a commitment to Minardi. I stood by that commitment that had been made, although, as I say, not being party to those discussions, I cant comment on what happened there. I was just a little surprised that technical regulations being handed to the teams to deal with when it should, in my view, its clearly the role of the regulator and the FIA.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) Could you clarify the remark about Mark Smith, because you put out a statement last week saying that he was now your new deputy technical director?
CH: As far as I am concerned he will be joining the company imminently but Colins comments today are obviously the first I have heard of anything to the contrary.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson Autosport) I just wonder if Colin Kolles could perhaps clarify from your side?
CK: Well, we will clarify that situation, maybe not in front of the journalists. He has a very clear contract. Im not supervising somebody if hes signing two or three or four or five contracts. Everybody has to decide for himself. If he works professionally or unprofessionally. What kind of statements they make or dont make. So its a question for me of dealing in a proper way, in a professional way.
Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken The Citizen) Christian, you are obviously aware of the fact that at this stage, even before the July 31st cut-off, wherever tobacco marketing is banned, the tobacco-sponsored teams will run an alternative livery of some kind. The way that I understand it, your product is banned in certain countries, one of which does run a Grand Prix. What will you be doing then?
CH: I dont believe there is any advertising ban in that country. Certainly Red Bull logos run in France and Magny Cours which I guess youre referring to, in previous years. Im not aware of that being any different in 2005.
Q: (Fritz-Dieter Rencken The Citizen) So theres a product ban in the country, but you can market it there, is that it?
CH: Thats how I understand the legislation to be.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Pierre, there is one familiar face missing in your squad Pascal Vasselon. What is the current status of him and is it true that some teams are interested in his services?
PD: You know in a big company like Michelin people are moving all the time and every week we see a sheet of paper that says that a person has been moved to another place and it is permanent. I personally dont think it is right because it goes too far sometimes and they dont adjust to the job and we have to change. But that is the way it goes in big companies. As to the other parts of the question, we dont know yet what Pascal will do. He has been assigned a job in the United States and he is preparing for that. I know he loves Formula One and the sport as well. It is up to him. I have no idea what will happen.
Q: Are you satisfied with the regulations in terms of advertising of products?
HY: Regulations are regulations. We are not decision-makers for them. We are very happy to stay in Formula One and we are not worried about these regulations.
PD: I do not understand the question too well. Is it about the relationship between the regulations and the advertising?
Q: Maybe without the tyre-changes at the pit-stops
PD: Our job is to develop the tyre, it is not to keep stopping in the pits and hoping that something will happen, that a mechanic will be hurt by the car or some rubbish like that. We can only follow the regulations. If they ask us to do one or two Grands Prix fine, we can do it. Or we quit. If we dont like it.
Q: (Doodson): Are you satisfied that the new regulations can reduce the danger of sudden tyre deflations and are this years tyres more durable than last years?
PD: Experience will tell. Yes is the answer to the questions in both parts. The regulations are going the right way.
HY: Whatever the regulations we have to comply to them and to the safety issues. It is very important. This time we have to produce long-distance tyres. This case, we are concerned about them in construction and compound in relation to the safety issues. I think we shall do our best for the safety issues.
PD: The tyres now are really safety parts and when you introduce a tyre to the track it is up to you and your testing to prove that the tyre will do two or three times a job. Not a tyre that may do the distance, but may explode. Thats a total joke. So when you get an accident, you try to find out where it came from. Like last year at Spa, we found out by the way. Who can imagine that we would bring a tyre that would just go the distance? No way.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson): Flavio Briatore suggested only this week a more sensible way to run Grand Prix weekends would be to have testing on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday. It seems a very sensible idea. What are your reactions?
CK: I think he is right.
NF: I think anything that moves towards less testing and focus on racing I think we often hear complaints about doing 19 races, but there are Nascars doing I think 38. And frankly doing things in front of fans and customers seems to be a better way to conduct the sport so generally that would be a positive mood.
CH: Its perfectly rational at the end of the day. Its all about giving value to the spectator and it is still a spectator sport at the end of the day and condensing running in that manner could be very attractive.
Q: If that is the case why is it so difficult to make it happen?
NF: Youve got three of us here and you need ten to agree. I think its a good idea and Flavio has a lot of ideas in that respect because he is focused on the marketing and the good competition side of it. If it is exactly the right solution, I dont know. I think we need to take a bit of time as we are at the moment, certainly among the nine teams, to determine exactly that format.
Q: (Mike Doodson) : On the basis of what you have seen today, who will the race on Sunday?
CH: It wont be Vitantonio Liuzzi.
CK: And it wont be Robert Doornbos.
NF: We will be disappointed if we are not on the podium. We expected the McLarens to be strong and they are so if it is one of the McLarens we wont be surprised.
CH: I think Nick is right. McLaren look strong today. Ferrari are there. Renaults performance in the winter has been impressive so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.