FIA Thursday press conference - Monaco 25 May 2006
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Gerhard Berger (Toro Rosso), Flavio Briatore (Renault), Christian Horner (Red Bull) and Jean Todt (Ferrari).
Q: A question to all of you: now that everyone is pulling in the same direction, what is your vision of the future of Formula One?
Christian Horner: I think that first of all its great that all the manufacturers and teams have signed up for the future and that hopefully now theres peace and we can really focus on improving the show. I think the key thing is taking Formula One to the people, getting the public more involved. I think a lot of what Red Bull stands for is doing exactly that. I would personally like to see it go more and more in that direction.
Gerhard Berger: I agree with Christian. I think the other important part now is to get the technical regulations right. There are also a lot of discussions about that. I think everybody is clear that we need to find a way to reduce costs. Everybody has different proposals but I think the FIA is taking a strong line, which is very good for all of us, especially for a team like Toro Rosso, to have a safe future, because it has to be in relation to what you can get in the market in terms of sponsors and money, with what you have to spend to have some success. I think thats going to be the main job in the near future, and I have the feeling that on this side, not just on the commercial side but also on this side, I think Formula One is heading in the right direction.
Flavio Briatore: I agree with both of those weve heard already. It has taken six years to negotiate a commercial deal, and finally, after six years, everyone has signed which is good. Now we hope it wont take so long to have the technical result as well. But I believe that everybody is now saying that they want a much more efficient Formula One, because this is what we need for the future, in order to keep the private teams and to keep the manufacturers in this business. What is missing is efficiency and if we can get everyone together, we can hope to achieve this result. This is what is the Formula One of the future for me. We need to take care of our public, our customers. We need overtaking; we dont want to just see overtaking in the pit lane. Racing means racing. We dont see a lot of racing any more on some circuits. Nobody seems to care about that. I believe we should really be doing something more impressive for the public, for the people watching us. At the moment, its good for the sponsors, for everybody. And we need to cut the costs. Really, it makes no sense. Everybody knows the costs go up. Its good that our show goes better but what we need to do is trying to manage a team, not in an emotional way or an engineering way only the technical side but as a business, because at the moment, nobody cares about business and nobody cares about our customers. This is what we need to do: we need to think about our customers, the millions of people who pay for the TV rights to see us and to give a good show. Sure we need to keep the technology but sometimes we have to match it to the driver and really make sure the driver does the job, and make it spectacular. This is what we need to do: take care of our customers.
Jean Todt: The framework for the future of Formula One is clear. We have the rules and we cannot expect that there will be a lot of changes from those rules. Now we just have to make sure that the rules will answer to the needs of Formula One and the need, as it was summarised before, is to reduce costs, its to reduce driver aids, because we know that more driver aids means less of a show, so we improve the show and hopefully improve overtaking. If you manage to get that through the new framework of Formula One, I think it will be a great achievement.
Q: Again, the next question is for all of you: how do you reconcile the need for a technological challenge with cost-cutting?
JT: I would say that Formula One, in my opinion, does not need, as its first priority, technical challenge. It needs show. It needs people fighting on the track and very often, with the more technology you have, the less opportunity you give to the drivers to fight on the track. So you just need to try to find the right combination of the two. I realise that we are part of the teams, there are big manufacturers involved and they want to participate in a discipline that is the pinnacle of racing, of technology, but saying that, you dont need to spend a huge amount of money to achieve what needs to be achieved in Formula One. So I really feel that its in this direction that Formula One is going, that we have to decrease technology. On the engines, we will have one aim which will be achieved, on electronics, with a standard ECU. So it goes in this direction but, as I said, you need to see a substantial cost reduction in order to have twelve teams.
In the business, we know that getting sponsors is more and more difficult. A top team can do it, but its very difficult for the smaller teams. So the only way is to be able to reduce the number of people in Formula One. Theres no meaning to have 900 people in a Formula One team for 19 races and theres no need to spend so much money so we definitely need to take a step down. I dont want to promote GP2 I will leave that to Flavio but you can see that with two million Euros you can have a good show with two cars for a year, so is it normal to have such a big difference with Formula One? I dont think so.
FB: Honestly, everybody talks about technology and fighting for technology but its the people who have never won a race, or its a team that won a race eight or nine years ago. If somebody needs to talk about technology, then its Renault and Ferrari, because I hear a lot of people saying Formula One is all about technology. We are there because we want to spend money on technology, but these people have never won a race. In seven years, zero races, maybe two or three podiums. And each podium has cost a fortune. I dont know what these people are talking about. I believe, like Jean says, that we need real racing. And what we need is overtaking, we need people enthusiastic to watch Formula One. And for the future, as I said, if we are increasing the show and decreasing the cost, its no miracle because its possible Im sure its possible to race with three hundred people. Were talking about a thousand people now. If we dont stop it, maybe it will be two thousand people in two years and maybe everybody will be out of business in three years. Like Jean says, the Federation has already established the rules for 2008. Renault is very happy about these rules. I dont know whats happening to everybody else but we are happy. But if everybody together comes back to me with a better deal, Im very happy to accept anything, you know. I know how much racing to the 2008 rules will cost and anything that can improve it, I am very happy to follow a new proposal. But as Jean said, we have the rules, we dont need to negotiate any more because already we have seen how long it takes to negotiate a commercial deal. Three years ago we had a better deal. Now we have signed a worse deal. It has taken six years to put this together. I am very happy with the technical rules for 2008. If everybody comes back to me and demonstrates to me that its possible to do much better than what the Federation has said - Im sure ask Ferrari and everybody but for the moment I am very happy with the 2008 rules because it really cuts the cost, were talking about the engine, by about fifty percent. Its not cost cutting, its efficiency.
GB: OK, lets talk about efficiency. Thats exactly what were looking for. Have a look at all these big teams with a thousand people, eight hundred people, with two, three, four hundred million budgets. How can somebody new come into Formula One and can achieve something or can even survive. Its impossible. I think it should be something where if you do a good job, if you have a certain budget, you also have a chance to have success. At the moment, we have such an unbalanced situation that its very difficult to do anything. I think, even if these guys are already discussing that it has to be more efficient, you can understand how important it is for a team like us. So we are extremely happy that we are also very happy that the FIA takes a very strong line on it, and as Flavio and Jean say, basically the rules are on the table and I think its time to accept them and say lets get on with it. The quicker we can get into it, the better it is.
CH: I fully endorse what the others have said. The FIA has come up with a good set of regulations for 2008 that do find a balance between technical challenge and cost efficiency and for an independent team such as Red Bull Racing, with that type of regulations, it does mean that we can compete and hopefully compete against manufacturer-backed teams. I think that, as Gerhard says, the FIA has taken a hard line with these regulations but theyve focused them in the right areas and for a team like ourselves, we should see a benefit where we can actually compete against manufacturers on a level playing field.
Q: Christian, developments in the team Are we expecting the team to move forward in the next few races?
CH: As a team, we have gone through a lot of changes in the last six or eight months. We changed engine supplier and we changed electronic supplier. We changed a lot of personnel in the team and we had a difficult winter and I think we have been playing a little bit of catch-up from that with the cooling issues that we had. Now that group is working collectively better and better with each week that passes by and we have developments going on the car for Silverstone, for Canada, between now and the end of the season and we are very focussed on improving the current performance of the RB2 and hopefully will start to see some of those forward steps in the forthcoming races.
Q: Gerhard, you have been involved now for five or six races, what are your feelings about Scuderia Toro Rosso? How can you take them forward?
GB: Well, I think we are very happy. We are on course. Obviously, it is not very easy from where we started to move forward, to bring people in and to change things that we see in some results, but I think, for the first step, we have done quite well and I am happy with the people in the team and the two young drivers and everything, as I said, is on course. Now, we are starting to think about next year and what can be the next step for us because it is the nature of us that if you set a goal immediately you race again after a short time and we have to be careful because you cannot do two steps at once. I think that all that we did to now has worked out quite well and we achieved what we tried to achieve.
Q: After the Spanish Grand Prix, Flavio, two more successes in Spain, I think; in Sevilla, first of all, and then in Barcelona, at the Laureus Awards? Can you tell us more about them?
FB: Sevilla was great because we did the road show and always you put the car next to the people and give them the possibility and in Sevilla there were about 280,000 people watching the exhibition of Renault, with Fernando, with all drivers, with Renault with old cars, and this is one way to put Formula One closer to the public because you know a lot of people dont have the possibility to pay the 200 or 300 Euros you need to go see the race at a circuit. This was free for everybody and the city of Sevilla sponsored the event and it was great. And Barcelona? We won the Oscar for the best team from last year and it was good because it recognised not just the driver, but the team, because so many times in Formula One, it is only about the driver, the driver, the driver -- and everyone forgets about the people working behind the driver who give him the possibility and the right car and the strategy for winning. It is not just about one man, but about everybody together pushing in the same direction, everybody working together for the success or losing. And I think it was great to see the people recognise in Formula One that teamwork is not only the drivers work.
Q: Jean, yesterday, I heard news that Valentino Rossi was not going to further his Formula One career. Can you tell us a little more about this? And what he has told you if that is the case?
JT: You had better speak to Valentino! People have a tendency to forget from where it started so two years ago I think we said that if Valentino wanted to drive our Formula One car, our Ferrari, then we would be happy to give him that possibility and we did it. Then, of course, speculation began that he may drive in Formula One and then his answer came yesterday from Valentino that he is intending to remain in bike racing. In saying that, we are happy that we gave him fantastic experience. He is a great motor-bike rider and a great champion. He did very well. He impressed every body by driving the Formula One and I mean thats it. Life goes on.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) For Gerhard, after one third of the season, can you assess how your drivers have progressed?
GB: Well, as I said before, I think they are both very talented and they are doing a great job and I mean if you look at Scott he came to us very inexperienced and with very little test mileage -- and I think he has been sitting in the car in all the races till now and in all the testing and he has had just one spin. He was one time off the track and he was quite competitive on lap times. Obviously, you see some ups and downs because they are young and inexperienced, but I think Scott is doing very well. And Tonio -- you can even see the results. He is more consistent, he has a little more experience, but I think both have a good natural speed and both are very committed and I think both should have a good future.
Q: (Alastair Moffitt, Press Association) A question for Christian. In terms of your 2007 drivers line up are we any closer to knowing who may be behind the wheel and what are David Coulthards chances of being one of those guys?
CH: Well, we have completed only six races this year and to be talking about next years drivers line up is still very early and basically we wont be making any decisions on drivers until later on in the summer.
Q: (David Croft, BBC Radio 5) A question for Jean in the light of what he said about Valentino Rossi, was he never then part of your plans for 2007?
JT: Considering what Valentino announced yesterday, I think the question is not up to date anyway About our plans for our drivers, we have announced already a few weeks ago that we will make it official during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on the 10th of September.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) A Renault press release said you have five drivers listed for next year if possible, but are they the only drivers on your list?
FB: Well, it may be six now for the moment, I have not decided. Now with Valentino Rossi maybe we put him in the list as well. We decide the drivers later. At this moment we are happy to fight for the championship This is only the sixth race and when we are ready and I made my decision I am sure there will be another press release but no longer with five, but only two.
Q: (Marc Surer, Premiere Television) A question for Gerhard. Normally on Friday afternoon or today Thursday the third driver goes out on new tyres and low fuel I never see that with Neel Jani, or I may have missed it, but he ends up doing laps and laps on full tanks but he doesnt get the chance to prove himself.
GB: Thats not really true. I think he has some laps that (give him) that chance, but does he need to prove himself to the journalists or to us. I think he needs to fulfil his job for us, testing what we need to know for the race weekend. Thats the goal. And I think what we are giving in putting a programme together doing tyre testing, doing for the race and trying certain things for the race and using the third car really as one part of the testing for the weekend so yes if you want just to see a quick lap from the third driver then yes we could do better with him, but that is not in our interests because that would lose time for us. Sometimes he has the conditions where we can do it but not always because I think the priority is clearly to get some answers from him for the race weekend.