FIA Friday press conference - Singapore 26 Sep 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team officials: Gerhard Berger (Toro Rosso), Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Adam Parr (Williams).
Q: Gentlemen, first of all give us your impressions of the circuit and Singapore as a whole.
Gerhard Berger: I think it was a great experience today. Different things came together and I think the lighting is very spectacular and going between the houses makes a really fantastic show for the people. The other positive thing is we have seen a lot of people today at the circuit. The grandstands were already quite full and it seems that Formula One can become very popular here. So overall I think it is a great place to be and it is going to be a great place.
Q: And from a technical point of view, Christian?
Christian Horner: First of all I would like to echo what Gerhard has said. The guys here have done an absolutely unbelievable job. The effort that has gone into this circuit in the last 12 months is nothing short of phenomenal. I think the spectacle of a night race, but not only have we got a night race, we have also got a great circuit, a really challenging circuit. We have already test driven the barriers today and we can see that it is pretty unforgiving out there. I think it is going to be a real challenge of a race and I think it is going to be a fantastic weekend. Hats off to everybody involved. I think they have just raised the bar considerably for a new circuit and the spectacle of racing at night in a big city such as Singapore is really exciting.
Q: Adam, your feelings? Perhaps from a commercial point of view?
Adam Parr: Well, like Christian and Gerhard I think what has been achieved here is absolutely amazing. I was here between Australia and Malaysia and there was the beginnings of a circuit and the building of the pit lane but what has been done in six months is incredible. From a commercial perspective and from a sporting perspective I think it is just an extraordinary experience and spectacle and that is fantastic for Formula One, so it is very exciting.
Norbert Haug: Basically the same. First of all thank you to everybody who was involved to make this happen. I think it is a big, big step forward for Formula One. The pictures, the atmosphere is really one of a kind and this gives a completely new experience to all the viewers worldwide but also to the spectators. As Gerhard pointed out, an impressive amount of spectators here today for free practice. That is very positive and the whole scenery I think is unreal. It is like in a movie and I think it is a big, big step. I think Bernie (Ecclestone, FOM President) pushed very hard, so thanks to him and FOM. It is really a good step forward and I am sure that Singapore will be watched throughout the world over the weekend. The track is very challenging in addition, so it is not going to be an easy one but so far I think we have really gathered the best impressions so far.
Q: Gerhard, how has the win affected the team since Monza?
GB: They are still all drunk. No, I mean it was an unbelievable experience to have the first win with Toro Rosso. I think it was a big push for the team and gave us even a bit more confidence. It was a great day for Red Bull. I think to win in Monza with Toro Rosso was just unbelievable. I think it shows we are going step by step in the right direction. It shows our car is a good car. It is quick and reliable and now we have a very good experience. We have seen an unbelievably big step from last year to this year. I still believe that in the last four races we can do something good. I know if you go and win people expect it to go on like this. It is very clear our goal is to put one car, and if everything runs fantastic, both cars into the first 10 in qualifying and then collect the big points. But I think we are going to remember for a long time our win from last week.
Q: Christian, perhaps you looked on that win with mixed feelings. But what has it meant for Red Bull Racing?
CH: I think for Red Bull, as Gerhard says, it was a fantastic result. Toro Rosso, the whole weekend, did an excellent job. They did a better job than anybody else. Everybody in Red Bull is very proud of the result that they achieved. We have got 600 people back in Milton Keynes that form part of Red Bull Technology that are supplying both teams. Under Adrians (Newey Chief Technical Officer) leadership they have done a good job this year and as I say, Toro Rosso did a superb job. Sebastian drove the race of his life and demonstrated that he is a real star of the future. It was a bit of a fairytale. For Gerhard, I remember watching as a kid his win 20 years ago at Monza and I dont think on the podium he looked so much different to what he did 20 years ago.
GB: Thank you, Christian. But I also want to say (something) about Red Bull. Our car comes from Red Bull Technology and thanks to them and, as Christian said, thanks to Adrian we have got the base to do something, so it is a great thing to have this car.
Q: Adam, how did the independents feel? What was the atmosphere within Williams and the fact that Williams can win a grand prix?
AP: Well, as an independent constructor we looked on with great feelings. You cannot take away from them what they achieved over the weekend and congratulations to them. I think what it means for us is simply that we have to do the things that we do better. Not a great take away from that weekend but we have got to do better.
Q: Norbert, do you feel the World Championship is a two horse race now?
NH: No, I dont think so. As long as the mathematical chances are existing, they are existing. I think everybody learned their lesson last year, not least us. There are more involved than two guys which is good for the sport, We should have some more points but it is what it is. I think it is a thrilling season. We have had great races so far, very, very exceptional with rain and now a new track in Valencia and this particular track, a night race. I think it is going to be remembered as a remarkable season, whatever happens. It is close and the championship starts right here because it is very close together between the top guys.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (John OBrian Reuters) Do you think that the global credit crunch will have an effect on teams in the future?
GB: For us it doesnt make any difference, as we dont get anything. I think it is going to affect all of us. I think it is going to be difficult times, no question, and if you look at new sponsors coming into Formula One, it is very seldom, especially the big ones. As I see it, it is not going to be easy the next two years.
CH: I agree with Gerhard. The global economy at the moment isnt in great shape and it affects all areas of the pit lane. It is down to the teams to work collectively with the governing body to make sure that we are responsible in what we do to control our costs. But, on the other hand, venues and races such as this one are so powerful and strong for Formula One and demonstrate Formula One in such a strong and fantastic light, excuse the pun, I think there are other very positive aspects as well and I think this race, certainly this weekend, will be a big boost for the series in general.
AP: I think that it would be foolish to think that the external environment doesnt affect our business but I think what is important, as with any business, is to prepare and we are trying to do that, some perhaps harder than others. I think that we need within FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) to get on and identify ways to reduce our costs. I think we need to work with the Commercial Rights Holder, with Bernie, to continue to grow the sport and I think this weekend is a testament to what FOM has achieved in terms of creating something absolutely phenomenal. Our partners and our sponsors are absolutely riveted by this event and they are here in force. I think that in spite of the global environment we are in rude good health but we will only stay in rude good health if we prepare for the future because the world is changing right now, very, very fast, faster than anybody could have imagined even a month ago. I think it is time to get down and change a few things.
NH: Pretty much the same. If we concentrate on this venue, I think this is a great chance. Of course, in whole financial world, all the surroundings are really challenging, probably more so than ever, but if you look at what was invested here, and what will be the outcome, what will be the exposure worldwide Singapore is known for being a metropole for financial business for example, and I think that sends out really positive signals. I think this is an enormous chance, and the more you are under pressure, the more you are under pressure to sell your products, the more you need advertising, but very specified and very special examples, and I think Formula One can deliver that. I think that, remarkably, in the middle of a period where it is really difficult everywhere, to have a race like this is remarkable. Again, I think we should be mindful that (the reason why) this is happening here currently is that so many people put so much effort behind it. It is not just another normal race, its a huge step and a really good chance for Formula One, for the sponsor partners, for everybody involved, for the media, for worldwide television viewers. I think its special and that needs to be addressed on this occasion.
Q: (James Allen ITV) Could you tell us something specific that you learned about the track today, the way the grip levels changed or something unusual that you hadnt perhaps foreseen, perhaps Christian or Gerhard?
CH: We learned that crashing on your third lap isnt the best preparation for the weekend, and there is very little margin for error here. I think you saw quite a few incidents today. You can see that the drivers are right on edge and there is a very, very small margin for error which is the trait of a street circuit. Its bumpy, its quick in areas, its a challenge set-up-wise. Obviously were running the soft tyres here as well which presents a challenge in itself. Weve worked through our programme, which was compromised in some respects on one side of the garage, but weve learned a great deal from today.
GB: Well, we have found the set-up direction very quickly at the last few circuits on Friday but to be honest today weve been struggling a bit. We were especially struggling with riding over the kerbs and not enough grip, so overall we did not find our way today. Hopefully the engineers and the drivers will find it overnight but its a bit more difficult than in the last three races.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motorsport News) Adam, the FIA has announced that the Formula Two tender has gone to Palmer and that Williams will be helping out with that. Could you just let us know exactly what Williamss involvement will be and how you see the category developing into the future?
AP: We are designing the car for Jonathan Palmer. We have no involvement in the F2 series beyond that, but it may well be that what we will do with Jonathan later on is to introduce a sub-series using the same chassis and the same format around the world as feeder series. Thats broadly our involvement. In terms of the way the series is going to develop, its a very exciting new challenge because it is a difficult format to operate successfully but Jonathans been doing it for eleven years with his Formula Palmer Audi and our collective goal and ambition is to create a series which is really accessible. Youve seen the pricing of it, really fair, but also a fast exciting car and thats our responsibility, so were hoping it will create an opportunity for people who couldnt afford some of the more expensive series to have a go.
Q: (Joe Saward Grand Prix Special) The result in Monza was a fairy-tale for Formula One and it did a lot of good among viewers around the world, but in the Formula One world, a customer car winning is costing constructors money. What are the attitudes of the four teams that we have here about customer cars, and do you think it will cause more opposition now that a customer car has actually won a race?
NH: Well, Im very open. I can understand a traditional constructor like Williams. They have contributed a lot in the past and I think we just need to find a way together. But concentrating on what is allowed currently, whether this is a customer team or not, I think the guys deserve all credit. I already pointed this out in Monza, and it is really what concerns me. It comes from my heart, its not just a sing-song, it is really great what they achieved and it just shows how closely-fought Formula One is these days and it doesnt come from nothing. Of course they have a good technical package, but there are good guys involved, there are good racers involved in Gerhard, like Franz Tost, Ascanelli. They know what theyre talking about and I think it is pleasing. They shouldnt do it each and every race if possible but they deserve their victory and their victory was a positive message and it was a positive message for Formula One. We could have done a better job, that happens sometimes but all credit to them. I have to say I was pleased but at the same time, I fully understand a traditional team like Williams for they have contributed a lot to Formula One and where Formula One is right now is partly due to Williams as well. So I think you just need to get the right balance and I think thats internal stuff which we need to discuss and that is currently happening and Im sure a solution will be in place in the future.
AP: I think actually Norbert has put it very nicely... We take our hats off to Gerhard and his team for what they did over that weekend and we had an opportunity to beat them, lets face it, and we didnt and so thats our problem. In the longer term, we believe that customer cars have no place in Formula One. Its ultimately a design and engineering challenge as well as a racing challenge, and we believe that is the reason for example why this event is going to be so incredible. There is no other motor sport series in the world that could do what were going to do here this weekend, and thats been built on the back of not just teams like Williams but many teams. There are 53 teams since 1970 that have tried to design a chassis and compete in Formula One and have failed, which is nine out of every ten teams that have tried. I think that what we are doing here this weekend is built on a lot of history and we passionately believe that that is the way forward for Formula One. Because of our respect for Gerhard and Red Bull and what they put into the sport weve agreed an arrangement for this period which is temporary but in the longer term we must go back to being a sport of constructors, thats our view.
CH: I think you have to look at a bigger picture. I think that today we have ten teams, there are twelve potential entrants and there are only ten teams here and I dont see other teams knocking on the door to come into Formula One because to come in as a constructor is hugely prohibitive to have any chance to compete. With the global financial situation, and with the way that Formula One is, with the amount of manufacturers we also have in Formula One, whilst respecting Adams and Williamss position, Im afraid I disagree and feel that its in the interests of Formula One to have a mix. It is good for a team such as Toro Rosso or Red Bull to win races. Im sure Gerhard will answer the question for you but for Toro Rosso to become a constructor is a massive, massive undertaking and is it represented in the television audiences. Are the people in the grandstands and watching television really interested in how many wind tunnels we run, how many people we have working in R&D or CfD or stress finite element analysis or all these areas? I think that Formula One, at the end of the day, is a sport and secondly its a show, and I think we need to address those issues and then concern ourselves about constructors and non-constructors. That would be my take on it.
GB: Well, Christian, I think, spelt it out quite well. I have to say that first, what is a customer car? The definition is still very wide, but anyway, I fully respect the position of Williams, but I have to say that times are changing; time is also changing in the normal automobile industry where today there is co-operation between companies trying to use synergies, because otherwise they have no chance to survive in the market. Here in Formula One, we have ten teams, nobody is waiting to come in. I think we have a bigger chance to lose two teams than to get in another two teams. If we are sitting here and say, well, we cannot think about synergies, getting costs down because Williams have invested into some areas some years ago, I think its the wrong way. I think Formula One has to go on, to do what is right for Formula One and where Formula One has the best chance to end up with 24 competitive cars again, not cars that are running two laps behind just to fill the field, and making a good show, because just as Christian says, nobody out in the grandstands is proud that we have 600 people. They want to see a race, thats what they want to see.
Q: (Ralf Bach R & B) Christian, could you explain to ordinary people outside Formula One, who are interested in Formula One but are not real insiders, how it is possible that one team can win in Monza, and the other team is in the middle of nowhere with the same car?
CH: Its quite simple. Red Bull Technology provide the same car for two teams and Toro Rosso did an excellent job during the weekend in running the car and the driver also did an outstanding job. Obviously we have a difference in our package of engine and driver and its always easy to point fingers but it would be wrong for me to sit here and talk about those differences. The key is that for Red Bull it was a fantastic result. Its probably harder for you to understand because I think many of you see Toro Rosso as the old Minardi, and its something very different from that. Its a well-run team now, its well supported technically by Red Bull through Red Bull Technology and I think that the achievements in Monza two weekends ago were not only positive for the sport but I think that for the investment that Red Bull have put into Formula One were significant. Obviously we want to see both teams up there and Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing are now only a point apart in the Constructors and will race hard on a Sunday afternoon, but on a Monday the two teams belong to the same family.
GB: I would also like to say something. You have to see it over the year. There have been a lot of races where we have not been able to get the set-up in the way that Webber got it or Red Bull Racing got it. This time we got it right and we also got the weather conditions right on the right day at the right moment. We got everything right, and so we had great success, fantastic, but if you look at it over the year and if you look at the points we are at a similar level, so I think its up to the daily performance.