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FIA Friday press conference - France 01 Jul 2005

(L to R): Jean Todt (FRA) Ferrari General Manager, Hiroshi Yasukawa (JPN) Bridgestone Director of Motorsport, Colin Kolles (GER) Jordan Managing Director and Pierre Dupasquier (FRA) Michelin Competitions Director in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, 1 July 2005

Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA

Team principals: Colin Kolles (Jordan), Jean Todt (Ferrari). Tyre manufacturers: Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin), Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).

Q: Colin, regarding two weeks ago, is it true that you didn’t want to race and then you decided you were going to race? Could you clarify that?
Colin Kolles:
That’s not true, for sure. It was always the question: how to race? It was never the question not to race. If we race with a chicane? Without chicane? Or the other teams are racing through the pit lane or whatever, but it was always that we race, including Minardi.

Q: Was that something that you consulted with Trevor Carlin who is retained as a consultant?
CK:
No. There is also some time difference and there was so much around.

Q: Yesterday we heard that the programme with the new car is to be the third car for this race and the British Grand Prix; how did it perform today?
CK:
To be honest with you, I was a little bit late because I missed my plane so I didn’t have the chance to meet with all the engineers and all the people. Robert (Doornbos, third driver) was quite happy with it. Both drivers were happy after Barcelona. We had some overheating problems and they are trying to sort them out. It was running for more laps here and I’ve heard it’s getting better.

Q: Is there a chance that you might race it in England?
CK:
We would like to race it in England but we want to have more mileage on the car and we will have a Paul Ricard test after Silverstone, two days, so, as I always have said, we want to be reliable and to get some points if we are lucky. It’s still the same direction.

Q: What difference does it make now that you have got the points from the US Grand Prix?
CK:
For the moment, no difference.
Q: But what about the cash from…?
CK:
Yes maybe, but I don’t know how much cash at the moment.

Q: Jean, can I just ask you to clarify your position regarding the potential chicane at Indianapolis because I still hear from people, and you told me on the Sunday night, that you never spoke about a chicane? Can you just clarify that position please?
Jean Todt:
No, I didn’t say that to you on Sunday but maybe it was jet lag for you and you misunderstood. I simply said that Bernie (Ecclestone) came and while we were having a meeting… the pre-race meeting with the drivers and with a few technical people including Ross Brawn, and he came into the room which incidentally was close to his office and he asked us ‘what about a chicane?’ And I said, it was not our decision to speak about a chicane or not. During the press conference, I was asked ‘but if you would have been told about the chicane, what was your position?’ and I said ‘we would have been against it.’

Q: And after the US Grand Prix, you were told that Rubens had said he was unhappy about the situation during the race. Can you clarify whether you have spoken to him, whether you’ve sorted that out?
JT:
You know, a racing driver always wants to win, whatever the circumstances, but in all fairness, I don’t think that you can talk about the race at Indianapolis. Saying that, our drivers drove a strong race, you could see that, it was obvious, you could see the lap times during the race, and the aim was to win the race. He did not win the race and of course he was frustrated and then, you know, it was like a temperature which has since calmed down and it was over.
Q: So you’ve managed to calm the situation…
JT:
I did not manage it, it came on its own, so I did not have to do anything.

Q: Jean, this year, to what extent do you feel that Bridgestone has compromised performance for safety during the first part of this year?
JT:
You know I try to avoid getting in to any kind of controversy, so Bridgestone and I have been saying that since years, mainly since the beginning of the season… because if you win then tyres don’t interest anybody. We have been winning so much in the last years, and every time we have said how important (they are) because without Bridgestone we would not have won as much as we did. This year, we did not win, and immediately we tried to find a reason. We tried to find a reason, and of course, it was a lot about the tyres. It is true to say that the biggest difference between last year and this year is the tyre regulations, and together with Bridgestone, we probably didn’t do a good enough job to be as competitive as we wanted. We are working very hard. I think we have improved the situation over the last races and I hope we will improve for the next race. Saying that again, Bridgestone, together with Ferrari at some time decided to compromise performance for safety, which we did. It also happened this year that we had to stop because we simply could not finish the race. You say Rubens in Bahrain, you say Michael in Barcelona. So we learned from that and the tyres we took in Nürburgring, for example, were definitely a compromise. They were not the quickest tyres, but we knew we could finish the race.

Q: Hiroshi, we quite often hear that the specifications of tyres are very very close. Now the FIA say that you should have a primary and the option is the safety net. Is that always the situation?
Hiroshi Yasukawa:
Actually this year’s regulations have had a very strong impact, how to make the tyres. But our company is always concerned about safety issues first. Then afterwards, we discuss with the teams, and we chose different compounds or construction or whatever. But whatever, the first issue is always the safety issue.

Q: Now your teams raced at Indianapolis; how did you find the tyres had worn after the race?
HY:
Actually, our engineers went to check on the banking and the course itself and the many forces on the tyres, lateral or vertical or tyre wear. It was exactly the same as it had been for the past five years.

Q: Could both you and Pierre give us some indication how you check your tyres over a race weekend?
HY:
Basically we check the tyre temperatures and also tyre wear and also tyre pressures and also the tread surface. We have long experience and we check many aspects. On Friday nights, especially, our engineers are very very busy.
Q: Do they actually cut open the tyres or anything like that?
HY:
I think our people do what is needed. In this case, we cut up the tyres.

Q: Pierre, how do you check the tyres during a race weekend?
Pierre Dupasquier:
Carefully… (laughter). No, there are a lot of things that, when we are on the premises of a race, with the A and B prime options, that is it. We have no other options unfortunately and that is what happened two weeks ago anyway. We check to make sure that first of all, as Hiroshi said, that wear, compared to the prime and the option, we know where we stand. We have to select the prime option and what kind of advice we can give our partners and at the same time to make sure that we don’t perceive any beginning of any failure of any part of the tyre in those conditions. If anything has happened, then we are in trouble since we can’t (react). You are referring only to the prime and option and it is amazing that somebody can make a difference between a safe prime and an unsafe option. For us, it doesn’t make any sense. As Hiroshi said, and Jean has said the same thing, it cannot be in the mind of any engineer in Formula One, or any manager, to say ‘ come on, that may work, let’s give it a try and see if the driver can get it back to the pits’ – it doesn’t make any sense. No-one can even think about it. When you present a device in the hands of a driver it is absolutely 100 % as far as our knowledge is involved is absolutely safe and when we bring a construction somewhere it is a construction that we trust. All indications we have in the manufacturing control afterwards even destroying the tyre on machines and so on, that is safe. There is no doubt about it. If there is one doubt, we don’t do it. That is very simple. Very clear. None of that ‘hmm, let’s give it a try’ … No way, no way. Not in racing. It doesn’t happen.

Q: But how did you take a tyre that would only last 10 laps to a race that was 73-laps long?
PD:
Because we screwed up in evaluating the constraint that the tyre walls were with in particularly Indianapolis. We just misunderstood the problem. It is a very combined situation – not only one factor is involved. A lot of different factors, like longitudinal force, you have third gear, you push very hard on the tyre including the ‘diffs’ and the traction control and everything, then you have an overload on the left side of the car particularly the rear depending on the set up of the car and then you have the banking with cars which are bouncing more or less for aerodynamic purposes and then we just mis-evaluated that particular assembly of factors that at the end of the day was too hard for the new construction that we designed for safe reason for doing the whole race since last year.

Q: Now you allegedly said that Bridgestone had prior warning of the surface, but Bridgestone said it was no different to the previous year. What kind of prior warning were you thinking of?
PD:
Yes there was part of the thing that was new, but not different, and we evaluated it in April. We knew the new surface was new, yes, that’s right, and it is true that Firestone had the opportunity had the opportunity to evaluate it, to act on it, for the 500 miles, nothing to do with the Formula One Grand Prix since its not the same car, the same speed, not same down-force, its all different. All the factors are somehow part of it.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dominic Fugère – Le Journal de Montreal) Question for Hiroshi-san, what was the input of Firestone, who knew very well the Indianapolis track, as they have been there for almost 100 years and they are one of your companies. How much if an input did they have into the construction of the tyres for Indy?
HY:
Actually, now, Pierre mentioned that Indycars and Formula One cars are two totally different cars. And also tyres – one on the one side is a totally slick tyre, one side is grooved tyres. Angles for one side are 30 inches in diameter and on the other 15 inches. Then angles, for down force, are also totally different. It is very difficult to transfer to them our technologies. When we go to Firestone producing our Indycar tyre, their concerned just about the Indy 500 or just oval course race tyres, but Formula One technical people are just concerned about Formula One tyres. But of course sometimes we discuss it, but basically not.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Pierre, you have talked about all the factors that combined to cause the problem, but was their one specific thing that caused the tyre to fail?
PD:
We did not know this before -- we have never seen this kind of situation before. We simulated the conditions. We know what is going to happen and we are still modifying machines that don’t exist in the market place to try to actually reproduce what happened there. If we take just one factor, that if the cars slow down a bit we could race, if we take off one factor then it’s safe, it's no problem – but when something happens it is really the whole thing that is at stake

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Pierre, hidden in all the controversy at Indianapolis, there was a statement by your company that they are re-branding rally tyres to BF Goodridge. Given the reputation image of Michelin now, will you still be continuing with this re-branding exercise?
PD:
I don’t see any relationship between the things you are talking about… I don’t see any reason why not because we have good reasons and a long tradition of off-road success and in the United States in particular and it is part of the BF Goodridge image and nothing to do with Michelin – Michelin conquered the world championship for rallying for years and years and were fine, but it seems to be appropriate that the work done by Goodridge, the way we did it in Paris-Dakar for example, for us it makes sense.

Q: (Stefan Bomhard - Kicker) To Mr Kolles, could you give us an update of what happened to your hotel – you booked it, but you never checked in?
CK:
It was, or the information I have is that they found a Legionnaire bacteria in the hotel at a very high rate so the government – there are some regulations that say they have to repeat the test which takes about 48 hours, so we decided to move hotels because it is too dangerous.
Q: May I ask which hotel it was?
CK:
I cannot give you the address, but it is the Kyriad Hotel.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Pierre, Michelin has said it is going to refund the ticket prices. Can you give us more details?
PD:
We are, in France, in particular, not in a position to go in detail about that. The only thing that Michelin has said is yes, we are at the origin of the mess, since nobody was doing anything, we feel polite just to say ‘oh, guys, we understand that you have been spoilt from something and we are very sorry about that, please accept our apologies and as a gesture we refund you for your tickets and now it is in the hands of our people in the United States. We have 30,000 employees in the United States, a very strong operation and they are handling the situation over there and it is cultural to know how to behave and they are taking care of it.

Q: (Dan Knutson – National Speedsport News) Jean, from your point of view was there any way a compromise could have been reached so that 20 cars raced at Indy?
JT:
You know there has been too much about that. I think the problem has been clear. We were facing an unprepared situation. I mean some competitors were facing an unprepared situation and no solutions unfortunately could be found. There was so much about the chicane but there could have been some counter point about the chicane. I mean definitely for me the only way… Well I heard that it was not only turn 13 that was difficult for the competitors, but also I heard about turn five as well, as some of you may have overheard, or that in this situation you should have taken different tyres or you should have gone through the pit lane, that for me were the two solutions but definitely the race was compromised due to the situation and I mean a chicane would have raised many other problems that were uncovered.

Q: (Alain Pernot – L’Auto Journal) Question to Jean Todt, there are four Grands Prix in five weeks in July. How difficult is it for teams to deal with such a situation?
JT:
It is tough, not just for the team but for all the partners, not only the tyres, but everybody. It is tough already to have back to back races in two weeks, but can you imagine in five weekends to have four Grands Prix? It will definitely give the advantage to the teams that have the best cars at the moment because there is very little time to react to improve the situation in this kind of condition?