FIA Friday press conference - Japan 02 Oct 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team principals: Bob Bell (Renault), Christian Horner (Red Bull), John Howett (Toyota) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).
Q: John, I know you have been asked this question many times. Do you expect to be here next year? Is it rather late for your budget?
John Howett: No, I just cant get my head around that. We plan much further ahead than others. If you run a company you get a budget reduction half-way through the year. We are just professionals and we manage it. We have got alternative scenarios and I expect to be back at Suzuka hopefully without the rain next year.
Q: Do we read into the driver situation that both drivers are free to negotiate their own deals elsewhere if they want to?
JH: I think the market is very fluid. I think we have tried to be fair to the drivers to say that we may not have seats for them and therefore I think it is fair and transparent to do that. We remain in contact with both of them, particularly Timo (Glock). But I do feel there will be movements in the driver market, some movements even that people arent speculating about at the moment and therefore we want to be free to consider the best option for the team for next year. We think we will have a strong car and we want good results.
Q: Is (Robert) Kubica on that list?
JH: Yes, definitely we would be interested. I guess we are probably fighting with our friends here on the right (Renault). But we have to see what happens. Hopefully we can manage but if not then there are alternatives.
Q: Has Timo, after an excellent second place in Singapore, strengthened his case?
JH: I think you have to say yes, but on the other hand we would have liked to have seen that result more consistently. His race pace is outstanding. It always has been and sometimes in qualifying he has struggled and makes life extremely hard for himself. We still have a great affinity for Timo and we are still talking and he may well be in the car next year but it is too early to confirm our situation.
Q: Is he definitely going to be in the car tomorrow?
JH: Well, I hope so. He had a temperature of 39.1 this morning. It has dropped now and I hope he will be in the car tomorrow.
Q: It is not necessarily definite? He is still unwell?
JH: Yeah, we think based on the information we have tonight he should be in the car tomorrow. I dont think he missed that much today to be honest, so I think it was best to keep him out of the wet and in good condition for tomorrow.
Q: Bob, new jobs. Tell us about how life has changed for you and how easy it has been to step into Flavios (Briatore) shoes?
Bob Bell: Well, first of all, no intention to step into his shoes. Housekeeping a few of his responsibilities over the coming months but I am no Flavio Briatore and I have no intention to be. It is extra work but it is not just extra work for me, it is extra work for a lot of people in the team. Some of the responsibilities are filtered down the chain. We are set up to deal with that and we are all getting on with it. It has been a bit of a baptism of fire, back to back races on top of other things, so not much time to think about it.
Q: Are you likely to remain team principal or is that not a job that you want to do on a permanent basis?
BB: Quite honestly, it is not a job I am considering whether I do long term or not at the minute. I think actually Renault are probably in the same position. We need to get through these next four races in good shape and do some restructuring in the team and sort out some major issues in good time for next year. I think once we have done that we will take stock of the situation and decide what is best for the team in the long term.
Q: How crucial has it been to lose (Fernando) Alonso for next year?
BB: Fernando has been such a huge part of our team for many years. It is sad to see him go but we wish him well. People move on at all levels of the sport and we have to deal with it and we will hopefully put together a good driver line-up for next year that will see us not suffer too badly for his departure.
Q: What do you think he is going to be like at Ferrari?
BB: I dont honestly know. There is no doubting his driving abilities. I think he will get on alright there. I think they will accommodate him as an individual and I think he will do a fine job. I think it will work well there for him.
Q: Hiroshi, can I have a comment about the tyre philosophy of compounds? Having compounds one and two removed. How has that gone this year?
Hiroshi Yasukawa: Actually, last year when we were using two specifications, that time between each specification gap everybody said it was too small. This time we have to provide just one specification. Anyhow if we are concerned about teams and ourselves, some teams we know very well and they know us very well. We thought it better to supply two specifications. Then this year we discussed with the FIA, and the FIA also said it is better to provide two different specifications. Then we supplied sometimes too big a gap. I think this is good as if just one team has a big gap and a different team has a small gap, this is a bit unfair. But our philosophy is that we are going to supply fair treatment, so then always even with different characteristics, different specifications, we are going to supply the same tyres for each team.
Q: Is it going to be the same next year and how is it going to work with the fact there is no refuelling, so the cars are going to be much heavier at the start?
HY: We are going to discuss with the FIA. The front tyre is going to be narrower and the wet tyre, the intermediate, is also going to have narrower front tyres.
Q: Coming back to this grand prix. How much homework have you had to do with the resurfacing here, given that people have already lost one practice day?
HY: Yeah, actually very interesting. But of course we cannot do any test. Fortunately we supply our tyres for Formula Nippon and GT cars and our engineer has quite a big experience especially here in Suzuka. We are going to transfer this knowledge to .... (becomes inaudible).
Q: Do you think it is going to be different? Are they quite different characteristics the two types of circuits?
HY: I dont think so. We can manage.
Q: You have been official tyre supplier for quite some time. This is the second year of your current three-year agreement. How important is Formula One to Bridgestone?
HY: For us it is very, very important. You remember, before, we were not in Formula One. In this case now many people realise our company name. The Formula One impact is very strong. Each grand prix I understand, 188 countries broadcast the race. This impact is very strong and fortunately we have the rights for signage. This is great. Hopefully we can keep going.
Q: Christian, engine situation inevitably. We saw Sebastian (Vettel) doing quite a few laps today. But obviously it is not so tough on the engine. How many races has this current engine got to do?
Christian Horner: The race engines are in reasonable shape. The race engine we will use this weekend had its first race in Monza. The race engine we used last weekend had its first race in Spa. We will alternate those engines in the remaining races. The test engines we have been a little bit more limited on, as obviously Sebastian is in to all eight of his engines. But with the help of Renault we have exceeded their target kilometres, especially in Singapore, by some margin to ensure that he is getting the mileage. Hopefully, it will continue as we have and the lack of mileage today because of the weather only helps us for Brazil, so hopefully without any issues we should be able to get through to the end of the year without a penalty.
Q: What is the situation about your engines in the future? When are you going to make a decision on that?
CH: Well, inevitably the design team are fairly enthusiastic to know what they are supposed to be designing their gearbox and chassis around. Adrian (Newey) does not have a habit of releasing chassis early. But, inevitably, we are getting to a point where we do need to make a decision, so in the next few weeks we will have to hone in on a final position.
Q: It is a few weeks, not days?
CH: It depends who you speak to. But Ross Brawn did it in December which demonstrates where there is a will there is a way. But it is not ideal, so ideally we would like to come up with a final solution in the near future.
Q: What as team principal are your views of the World Championship at the moment? Has it completely gone as far as Red Bull is concerned? Mathematically it is still possible.
CH: I mean we have got a mountain to climb and the odds are stacked against us being able to win either the Constructors or the Drivers but we are in both championships. Sebastian is still in contention for the drivers and the constructors is still doable. We need a fair bit of good fortune to achieve that but to be honest we are not focussed on the championships. We are thinking about the individual races. We will do our best at each of the remaining three races, try and win all three of them, and the championships will take care of themselves. Kimi (Räikkönen) a couple of years ago came from quite a way behind.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) John, regarding your comments about Kubica. How are you able to know how much you can spend on a driver until you get a final okay from Toyota regarding your budget for next season?
JH: It is fairly easy. To me the budget is going to be roughly this size and you can reduce other areas. It is fairly simple. If you buy a cheaper driver, you can deploy that in other areas. I think a very simple equation for us.
Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) You have a rough idea then? It is not something that is going to vary wildly from what it is this year?
JH: No, I mean I guess less than this year but still a very significant and substantial budget.
Q: (Will Buxton - Australasian Motor Sport News) Question for Bob and John. It seems at the moment that Robert Kubica is either going to go to Renault or Toyota if the rumours are correct. Between the two of you who do you think has got the best chance of signing him?
BB: I think I will say we have and John will say he has, so I think we will let history determine that one.
JH: I mean we wait and see. I think we have an even chance.
Q: (Ralf Bach - R & B) Two questions for Mr Howett. First I read that you are also in touch with Kimi Raikkonen?
JH: Not with Kimi, but with his management, yes.
Q: (Ralf Bach - R & B) Second question. What is the illness of Timo? Is it Kobayashi fever?
JH: I just wont answer. It is a stupid question and it doesnt deserve an answer.
Q: Hiroshi, Saturday and Sunday will be different weather from Friday. What is important about the tyre strategy for Saturday and Sunday?
HY: Always the track conditions are changing. When you are coming to the race track this race track surface is normally very rough, but when cars are running and always put on some rubber the conditions get better. Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday it always improves and each time set-up is going to change and you should find a good set-up for good performance for the tyres.
Q: (Will Buxton - Australasian Motor Sport News) Christian, the GP3 teams were announced last night and youre going to go into business with Mark (Webber) in a GP3 team. Can you just tell us how thats going to work out? And also, since you moved over to Red Bull Racing from Arden, the team has never won a championship. Are you going to do anything more with Arden in GP2 and GP3 to ensure an improved level of success?
CH: Ardens been very successful since I left on a fulltime basis five years ago. Theyve won races every year, they have the capacity to take on more activities, GP3 being an obvious one, supporting grands prix at ten events, unfortunately on a Pirelli tyre I dont know what happened there! Mark has been looking at other bits and pieces and he was keen to get involved in something. Arden have the capacity to do it and therefore it made sense. He was keen to put something back into the sport to support young drivers, to set an example, work with them, young Australian drivers in particular. I think its a good initiative that hes got involved in, to be putting something back into the sport, trying to help youngsters come through. Theres a good management structure at Arden, my time is fully focussed on Red Bull Racing but Ive got no doubt that theyll do very well.
Q: (Jerome Bourret - LEquipe) To all of you, may I ask your opinion on Ross Brawns success as team principal? Is it a surprise for you and do you think hes the man who made the former Honda team into a winning one?
CH: I think its thoroughly depressing, the success that hes had this year! It would have been far better if they had never made the first race! But no, in all seriousness, they have obviously done a very good job, theyve turned up with a good car, theyve inherited a good engine and their drivers have done a very good job. Its been a great season for them and were going to make it as difficult as possible for them in the remaining three races.
HY: They are doing a fantastic job, its great, but racing is very difficult. It requires much know-how and many things happen. I respect their results.
BB: Theyve done an incredible job considering where they were a year ago all credit to them. I think its a great thing for the sport as well, that surprises like that still occur. I think thats great for everybody.
JH: I think the results speak for themselves, its indisputable and full credit to them.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - AFP) To all of you: we all want Formula One to gain an audience but when its raining drivers dont run. Its quite strange, it doesnt happen in other sports. Are you quite ashamed of what happened today? They paid 200 Euros for their seats and they didnt see any cars.
JH: Wimbledon gets rained off quite frequently.
CH: I think one of the things it would be nice to address for next year and maybe Hiroshi can help us on this is that we are a bit limited on wet tyres, so were saving them up for the rest of the weekend, because theres a good chance that theres a bit of rain tomorrow. If Hiroshis a bit more generous with his tyres then you might see a bit more of us on the track on a wet Friday.
HY: Its a big problem. Our budget is also limited, so we have to strike a balance. Anyhow, our responsibility is that we have to supply equal treatment for everybody. And also, our position is very, very tough. Actually, our main business is selling our tyres for cars but if the car business is very bad, in this case we are not selling which means that we cannot make any profit. Nowadays our board members are very tough on me. I have been doing this business a very long time, so I understand the balance required, so at some stage we need to find a good compromise.
JH: I think on a serious note, its a very valid point. Its something that all the teams are acutely aware of, that we have to increase the value which we deliver to the public at races and all stakeholders. So given more time, through FOTA we can try to address some of these issues and ensure that we deliver solid value and good value particularly to the fans and public.
BB: I agree with John. If we can run and put on a show for the spectators and we can do it safely then we should do and quite rightly so. Im sure Hiroshi would love to see us running as well, but hes got real budget issues too. Equally, Im sure a compromise can be found that will deal with this issue in the future but it does need to be dealt with.
Q: (Ken Kawakita - La Vie Creative) John, can we have a little more detailed update about Timos condition? Is it possible he has flu A which is spreading widely through Japan?
JH: At the moment the doctor doesnt think thats the case, so hes obviously had quite heavy anti-biotic treatment today and he seems to be responding well. At the moment his fevers dropping and we feel confident he can probably drive tomorrow. I think the doctor has to wait and see. Obviously hes had some worry about that. Jarno (Trulli) was actually quite sick on Monday, after the race. He wasnt too good during the race weekend and I think some of the teams technicians have got various colds and fevers. I think quite a few people have suffered throughout the teams. Timos definitely rough.
Q: (Ken Kawakita - La Vie Creative) So that means there is still a slim chance for Kamui (Kobayashi) to continue driving for the whole weekend?
JH: I think its unlikely, to be honest, because I think Timos really determined to drive tomorrow but there is a risk if hes not in good enough condition then theres a possibility that Kamui will be in the car but I expect Timo to be here tomorrow and driving the car.
Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) Bob, in the past couple of weeks youve lost Flavio, Pat (Symonds) and now Fernando. You mentioned earlier that there have to be some major decisions at the end of the season. Should we have any worries about the future of Renault in Formula One, as a team and as an engine supplier?
BB: Well, Im not worried, if you can read anything into that. I think that for me the most important thing is that Renault are still here, despite the crisis weve just been through. Its been an extremely deep and difficult crisis, not just for the team but for the parent organisation and the fact that Renault have stood by us throughout all of this I think speaks volumes for their commitment, both to the team and to Formula One because their commitments to motor sport, even beyond Formula One, are very broad and long-standing, so its not a matter that they take lightly, but they have stood by us and I think that answers the question for you.
Q: (James Allen - Financial Times) To all of you: are we likely to see some testing re-introduced next year?
CH: I think its something thats obviously being discussed within FOTA. Weve got this young driver test at the end of this year and theoretically when the race drivers step out of the car in Abu Dhabi, the next time they will be in a car is at the beginning of February. I think they get approximately seven days each before the first race. Thats all the testing for the year. The most important thing is that the restrictions in budget and reductions in budget that we achieved this year were significant through reducing testing and I think that what we have to look at responsibly is that if we were to introduce any testing, that it doesnt necessitate teams needing to build up the resource of re-employing test teams. At the moment, we manage to do the mileage that we do with our race team on a rotational basis but its something that for sure will be discussed and debated.
JH: I think were in exactly the same position as Christian. I think wed like to do it but there are some challenges. I think its being studied very hard and also the issue of trying to bring young drivers is another challenge associated with the reduction of testing and both those two are major issues which we think need to be resolved, but there are challenges, particularly next year.
BB: I think one of the biggest problems is the young driver problem. I think thats very real. I think that if we can find a way of introducing some testing that doesnt involve us spending significantly more money, that it can be done at marginal cost with the existing resources, then its something we should consider. But it does have to be under those conditions.
HY: We have to be concerned about our budget as well. If we are spending too much money and if we have more testing then we have to prepare extra tyres and also manpower and logistics as well. We have to be concerned about these issues.
Q: To the three team personnel: the current engine regulations are eight engines per driver, and penalties if you use more. Do you think this rule should be tightened or do you think the teams should press for eight? Should the engine builders try for longer life engines?
JH: I think the proposal from the FOTA teams was to supply five engines per driver per race season, to achieve a lower price to support the smaller teams. But the current regulation is eight engines and honestly, because you do get a reduction in performance from the engine over mileage or kilometres, I think most people will probably be forced to go the route of supplying eight. I think its a challenge for teams and the engine engineers. We are competing and if thats the regulation, our job is to deliver the best possible engine within the parameters that were allowed to work in. There is a cost for the smaller teams to actually have a very reliable cheap powertrain.
BB: Any initiative that attempts to sensibly take money out of the sport is worthwhile but it has to be introduced and managed correctly. Given enough notice we can do most of these things, we can make engines live that long or even longer. Lets just do it in sensible time frames.
CH: All I would say is that when I entered into Formula One five years ago the engine bill was your biggest overhead. Now, its well down the list, the reduction in cost of engines over the last few years, the commitment that the manufacturers have committed to and in combination with the regulations has really quite dramatically reduced the engine costs for an independent team. I think thats extremely commendable and its made the engines available at an affordable rate with parity to your supply team.
Q: (Will Buxton - Australasian Motorsport News) For Bob, John and Christian: Nelson Piquet, as a racing driver, is saying that he obviously wants to find a way back into Formula One at some point in the future. Now regardless of who made what decision and how it all came about, would any of you give him a seat, given whats happened, and could you see anybody giving him a seat in the future?
JH: Thats a question for Bob, I guess.
BB: Im not sure Ill be giving him a seat and thats really all I can say.
JH: I think on his performance, to be honest, disregarding the issue, I probably would not give him a drive and I would probably be further influenced in that decision by what took place.
CH: I think John has summed it up. I dont think we would have any interest at Red Bull Racing.