FIA Friday press conference - Brazil 31 Oct 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Flavio Briatore (Renault), Ron Dennis (McLaren), Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Mario Theissen (BMW Sauber).
Q: A question to all four of you. Can you give us a summary of your season and for the two championship contenders, an emphasis on this weekend.
Mario Theissen: I can say I am very happy about the season, about the results, the performance. We had two targets for this year. Number one to join, or to transfer the battle of two into a battle of three and that, if I look at the points standings, has been achieved. Number two was to win our first race and that has been achieved as well with the one-two in Canada. We have been on the podium 11 times so far, as opposed to twice in the past season, so the team has done a very good job. I am proud of the guys and I think together with the superb reliability we have had so far, a good race strategy, a good pit work, this is a very good foundation for the next year.
Flavio Briatore: We are happy for the last part of the season. We had the victories and the podium but it was very disappointing in the first part of the season. The car was not ready in the beginning and we worked very hard to improve the car. Fernando gave a lot of motivation to everybody. It would be nice if the season started now but unfortunately this is the last race. For me it is mixed feelings. It is better to finish strong in the end and this I hope is good for next season. It looked like we found a way to improve the car. We dont have the crisis like we had in 2006. We are happy as we finished the season very well and I hope we start the season in the same way.
Ron Dennis: We have had a reasonably competitive season. Obviously there have been some ups and downs but generally our results speak for themselves. We are still in contention for both championships. Obviously a stronger position with the Drivers championship and we are being, right now, very focused, very disciplined, not taking any risks and just concentrating on what we have to do to win the Drivers world championship. We have made no secret of the fact that as a consequence of doing that, if we are less focused on the Constructors, thats the way it will be but generally we are very happy. It is a very highly motivated team this year and we have every reason to believe that we will be very competitive again next year as well.
Stefano Domenicali: I think I can cut and paste almost 90 per cent of what Ron has said. The only thing, for sure, is that we are very focused on the Constructors championship and we will try to do whatever we can to do the maximum for Felipe, fighting with Lewis after a great season. I think that this season shows what we have always said at the beginning, that is the competitiveness of the teams that are around this table that was predicted at the beginning of the season. I think that the result that we had you could always say we could be better, we could be worse. But as a general point I would say that we are here once again to fight for the championship in the last race. This is an incredible result if you look back at the history of F1. We have almost always been here, so this is a very positive point.
Q: Another question for you all. A lot has been talked about cost cutting. How are the teams approaching this and how vital is cost cutting?
MT: Well, as you know this is a top priority for FOTA. We are working quite hard and very constructive on preparing a proposal which will be supported by all the teams from the biggest to the smallest. We are addressing all the needs and I am really very confident that we will have a proposal on all the issues, technical regulations and sporting regulations, very soon.
Q: Flavio, you have been quoted as saying you would like to see a reduction in testing?
FB: I am in the same position as Mario. Everybody wants a reduction in costs but we are working together. All the teams are maybe unanimous to decide the technical side and the sporting side what we need to do to cut costs but surely it is a priority. The financial situation worldwide, we are part of this game and we are working very hard together to achieve as soon as possible a solution. Already the position of FOTA is unanimous and we have the next meeting on November 4th in London and I believe everybody is concerned about that and are working hard to achieve as soon as possible a proposal to put to the FIA.
Q: Ron, your feelings?
RD: First of all I think the word we will all use is unity. We are very unified in our objectives. We take our position as teams very seriously and the economics of grand prix racing. Cost saving is of course directly to the benefit of the teams. All of the teams have to work together and we have seen unprecedented levels of co-operation between the teams. We are focused on 2009 which is something that requires absolute unanimous agreement to implement any changes in 2009 and we are focused on that and have tabled very significant cost cutting for all of the teams, especially the smaller teams. We are now focused on having a unanimous position on future years which address everything from engines to chassis. As Flavio and Mario pointed out our objective is to put forward constructive and concrete proposals that are supported by everybody.
SD: For sure I think that in the sporting and technical commission that we have created to discuss all the points, I think the approach is the right one. Of course it is the right place where you can discuss and have different opinions but at the end of the day it is a constructive discussion and so far it is the way we want to keep doing. That is the right place where we can confront our position but I would say once again, and to stress the fact, that we are in a position where really historically speaking we are working together considering that we have different situations a small team, big constructor, medium constructor and everyone is sharing the same view. At the end of the day we want to keep the fundamentals of Formula One in this new context and this is one of the objectives that all the teams want to achieve together.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rodrigo Franca VIP Magazine) Stefano, you have been quoted as saying that Massa getting the title would be unlikely. Do you see it different now after first practice?
SD: I mean I am a pragmatic guy. What I can say is that for sure we will do everything we can to support Felipe in his fight for the championship against Lewis. But we know that on that respect we are not holding our full destiny as if Lewis will be in the first position then of course this is not enough. But for sure the approach will not change up until the last metres of the race. Our objective today was really to try and prepare the car in the best way but also tomorrow to have a good qualifying as you never know. But for sure what we want to do is fight against Lewis to the end in a very sporting way but we will try to do our best.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) The FIA is calling for engines to be available for five million Euros per year. Is that economically feasible for your organisations?
RD: First of all I think the figure came from the teams, not the FIA. This was a figure that we have targeted as being part of our objective. It is part of the proposal and in due course these things, and the other issues we have touched on, will become public knowledge. What we can say at the moment is that the figure is definitely one that came out of the teams objectives.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) It seems that Mr Mosley does not completely agree with your position and wants to go his own way. How is your feeling on that?
MT: How can we know as we havent put our proposal forward so far. We are working on it and it will be put forward to the FIA and then we will see.
RD: I would just add that the question seems to indicate that there is some hostility between the FIA and the teams. That is not the case. We are working to the same objective which is cost reduction. We think the teams are best equipped to put forward proposals because we have to implement proposals. Our objectives are completely aligned.
Q: (Richard Williams The Guardian) A question to all four of you. You have all had a little time to think about the KERS system. Do you seriously think that this system is going to have any benefit for road car technology?
MT: Apparently the teams and the manufacturers have different views on that which just comes from the different objectives. For BMW I can say that we are not only convinced, we are sure that this will speed up road car hybrid technology in a big way. Of course we cannot take over the individual components of the KERS system for road cars but the power to weight ratio of what we will have next year has to be four to five times better than what you will see in road cars. This will require technology which goes beyond the state of the art and obviously once it has been made available for Formula One it will be more than welcome on the road car side and we are preparing already projects which will benefit from KERS.
FB: We are fortunately taking a unanimous view and sometimes we take a step back but this is what we do. I believe that we need to look at the long term planning, not the short term planning and sometimes something is useful for somebody and sometimes it is not for somebody else. But what is important is that we keep our focus together and we stay together. I mean, happy or unhappy, makes no difference. If FOTA decide we will go ahead with KERS, then we will go ahead with KERS.
SD: For sure the system for road car relevance is very, very important. We need to bear in mind that previously the FIA have set out some points for the future of Formula One. One of these was the relevance for the things that we are doing in Formula One. For sure the system is very relevant. Now for us it is a matter which is the best way to apply it for the future of Formula One as this is something that as a process has already started. It is a matter of a discussion to see what is the best way to have the system with a sensible cost for a team and for a constructor. I would say this is one of the key points of our discussion.
RD: It is too early to say. Obviously there is the technology and the fundamental principles that we are looking to pursue. But I can remember when carbon brakes were first introduced onto racing cars and no-one in their right mind would have thought they would have been developed to a point where performance vehicles now carry them as a commonplace technology. People thought that composites would never be seen on production cars, they are commonplace on production cars now. Certainly some of the electronic systems, data bussing etc. are very common on production cars. It is technology in its rawest form and it is difficult to imagine if it will lead to something that will be directly applicable to production cars but there again thats what we thought with all of these other technologies. It is phenomenally challenging to our engineers. It is obviously an expensive technology but it is a technology that everybody is trying to master but at the same time its introduction and its cost control are very much a matter for concern within the FOTA membership and therefore as Flavio has pointed out whatever we do and how we go about it, it is important that we do it under an unanimous agreement that allows us then to try and control some of the cost implications.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz Radio Globo) Still on KERS; when do you think your teams will be ready to use it and why?
RD: I think Ferrari have already got it on, actually! I think everybodys targeting to have it on for the first Grand Prix. Thats the objective, thats the nature of Formula One. Its technically challenging but Im sure its everybodys objective. I would be very surprised if people arent testing it, lots of people are testing it already. Its a challenging programme but I dont think anyone would sit in Formula One thinking that they werent going to have it on the cars. There is one team that does not intend to have it on its cars, but I dont think, at this stage, that its in doubt that everybody (else) will have it.
SD: Yeah, I think that the target is to have it ready and reliable for the first race. The process to arrive there is really to do whatever we can at home on the dynos and then try to use, as best as we can, the tests that we have at the beginning of the year. For sure, it is a big and tough challenge, at least for us, but that is the nature of Formula One and we will try to be ready at the end of March.
FB: Were in the same position because its a performance issue. Im sure everybody says (that they need) to be ready for the first race. Hopefully we will resolve the few problems that we still have, especially safety as well, because this is a problem that we still have but after that, anything that is a performance issue for Formula One, everybody needs to be ready for the first race. Theres no chance not to be ready.
MT: Nothing to add really, same situation.
Q: (Stéphane Barbé LEquipe) Stefano, among the things that went wrong this season with the team or with Felipes car, which is the one that you most regret, the one that youre thinking you should have avoided?
SD: Normally, you try to address the points that are not going well at the right moment with the right people and above all, the summary you do at the end, so lets wait. For sure we know what we have to improve.
Q: (Julien Febreau Radio Monte Carlo) Question for Mr Domenicali: is Ferrari really prepared to leave Formula One in case of the introduction of a standard engine in Formula One?
SD: The point that we want to reflect is that we are here in order to find a solution for the benefit of this world and thats the only thing I can say. We will really do whatever is needed to try to find, all together, the right solution for Formula One. Thats the only thing I can say about that.
Q: (Alan Baldwin Reuters) On the engine subject, a lot of focus has been on saving costs and reducing costs but this is also a question of the spirit of Formula One. To what extent do all of you feel that that spirit is at threat with what is being proposed and how great a danger is there that the spirit of Formula One will disappear?
RD: Well, of course its part of the discussions within FOTA but I think it would be inappropriate, certainly, as far Im concerned, to make any direct answer to that question. I think its just clear that something thats important to Formula One is the values of Formula One, the spirit of Formula One but at the same time we have a deep and very considered responsibility to Formula One and that means we have to really get costs in control at a time when the whole world is in a very difficult economic position. So yes, we will not be blind to the fact that these things have to be taken into consideration, they are part of the discussions but as with virtually everything else, we intend to be unified in our position in order that we can show a strong sense of responsibility to everybody that is clearly watching what we do and why we do it. Certainly thats one of the considerations.
SD: In my view, I just want to add one point to what Ron has said, to which I agree, which is the fact that we need to take everything as a package. We are speaking of a sport, of a business, of a sport related to technology, a sport related to the show and within all this framework we need to take the right action at this moment, considering what is going on around us in terms of the economic situation.
FB: I think we are in a very difficult position economically, what is going on around the globe and its a panic at the moment. Formula One is not immune from this panic. I believe our chairman and everybody is very sensitive as to what happens in Formula One as well. Regarding the question of the engines, sure we need to cut the costs but for me, all this discussion about Formula One engines, already today, with frozen engines, theoretically there is no development. I dont understand all the time how its surprising when people are talking about engine development etc. Already today we have no performance (gains) from the engine. If everybody follows the rules, the engine is frozen and nobody is allowed to touch the engine. Whatever proposal we put together, we need to take into consideration this as well. We in FOTA are working very hard to put a proposal together to take into consideration already today that the engine is frozen. Thats already part of the rules. Basically its no longer a performance issue.
MT: Well, I think its important, even if cost-cutting is the most urgent thing, to keep the entire picture in mind. We want to be in Formula One, in a Formula One which represents the pinnacle of motor sport in future as well. That means obviously innovative technology and we are really keen, ourselves, to create links between Formula One technology and future road car technology, and this is reflected by the discussions within FOTA when we shape a proposal for a future engine. What Stefano said before I can only agree with: we are preparing a package. We have dealt with the most urgent actions first which means the engine for 2009. Now we are thinking about the next step, next generation engine and Im very sure there will be a proposal on the table which satisfies all the needs and Im really looking forward to having this.
Q: (Jérome Bourret LEquipe) Ron, after all the dramas of last year, how pleasant has this season been compared to the last one? Is it a relief for you personally to have a successful season with no controversies and a good atmosphere in the team?
RD: I think theres been some controversies this year but I just feel that as a team weve risen above them. We took a decision to be very calm about each and every race, go there very focused and do the very best we can and so, of course, we really strongly wish to win the championship and thats where our focus is at the moment. As Im sure we arent the exception Ive felt for Stefano here a couple of times this year when things havent gone as smoothly for them. I know you would expect an initial tendency to smile but the fact is that Formula One is extremely difficult, extremely difficult to be competitive in Formula One and all you can do is strive to do the best you can and come away from a Grand Prix feeling that and then if there are issues that come along, you have to rise above them because taking a negative approach is just energy-wasting. You might as well just get on with having a positive approach to it and thats what we do, thats what weve done all season. Im sure we look pretty straight-faced at the moment but we really are focused on not making any mistakes.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) To all four of you: you may or may not be aware that a rather venomous website has been drawn up in Spain targeting Lewis ahead of this race. There are a number of racist comments, running into the hundreds, not just a handful, on this website. Bearing in mind you all signed up to the anti-racism campaign earlier this year, could I just get your comments on this please, starting with you, Ron, as Lewiss boss?
RD: Of course I am aware of the sites existence. I havent looked at any of the material. To be honest, one of the few things that gives you some sort of an advantage of age which is unfortunately what I have, age is that you experience throughout your lifetime all sorts of pressure groups throughout the world who, through freedom of speech, are allowed to express their views. Again, you just have to rise above it. If it is, in any shape or form, designed to distract the team or Lewis, it certainly is not going to do so. Really its not for us to take action against these people; in some instances its government and in some instances its organisations that are designed specifically to address these issues in this world but its certainly not a Grand Prix team, its certainly not McLaren and we refuse to be drawn into something which is widespread through this world in different ways. As I said, it is not going to distract us from our objectives and its certainly not going to distract Lewis.
SD: I dont want to give too much publicity to these guys. The more we speak and the more we give them the chance to speak so I think its common sense alone because theres no need to say anything. Its not a problem for Lewis, its a problem for the world, to be respectful of everyone.
FB: The same position, the same position as Stefano and Ron. Its disgraceful. Were in a sport and its possible fighting Sunday together but its completely disgraceful.
MT: No further comment.
Q: (Joe Saward Grand Prix Special) We all agree that these are hard times for Formula Ones image; wouldnt it be better with the negotiations going on for the technical side of things to keep it all out of the public eye? Is that not possible?
MT: Because you guys are around!
RD: Well, we do try. Were not publishing any documentation. We are trying to find common ground between all the stakeholders. From our perspective, there is no need to share anything with anybody other than the people who need to be involved and thats what we try to do.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motorsport News) Question to all four of you: lets take a worst case scenario and the FIA pushes forward with standardized engine plans. I think that the general consensus this week has been that standardized engines is not the way that Formula One or you as engine manufacturers want to go. If that is the way that Formula One goes, would you consider racing elsewhere or would you consider, perhaps as has been mooted over the last decade, setting up a rival championship and racing in that, where it does extol the virtues of the Formula One that you want to race in?
SD: Its a very controversial question which I doubt you seriously expect me to answer. Weve made it very clear that the teams have a very clear objective which is to act in a unified manner and a measured way for the benefit of Formula One and we will do that and were very, very aware of everybodys wishes, and were trying to address those wishes and work with everybody thats involved in the process. So to ask such a controversial question and expect to receive anything other than the answer Ive given is, I dont think, realistic. There is no contentiousness in what were trying to achieve. Were trying to achieve meaningful cost-cutting and trying to do it in a way that still holds the values of Formula One and still presents to all the teams the right level of challenge that Formula One should represent.
FB: I think that what Ron says is correct. On top of everything, I want to say that we are working with the Federation. Were not against anybody because it looks like the teams are against the FIA, against Bernie (Ecclestone). I believe the FIA, Bernie and the teams are working together for the best of Formula One. Its not a controversial position between us and Max (Mosley) or we are working together, we need a strong president at this moment, working together for the future of Formula One. Like Ron says, its a difficult moment but its not only the engine because all the time, guys, you are talking only engines. When we are talking about cutting costs, its a little bit of a package, its not only the engine. We are talking about chassis, we are talking about everything else. Its not only the engine. Because, again, all the focus is on the engine. I believe the engine is one part of the process that we go through in FOTA but its only part of the package, the engine is not everything because it looks like the engine is the (greatest) cost of Formula One. Its not only the engine, its the chassis, its everything, its a package. We are working together to try and find the best situation for the future. The future is already 2009, already we have a big step and now we are working for 2010, 2011, 2012.