FIA Friday press conference - Japan 08 Oct 2010
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Team representatives: Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Robert Fernley (Force India), Adam Parr (Williams), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).
Q: First of all a question to all the Team Principals about your engine deals for next year and also your engine usage this year. Are there any concerns about the eight engines coming up as we are near the end of the season. Franz?
Franz Tost: Toro Rosso will continue the co-operation with Ferrari. We will run next year the engine as well as the KERS system from Ferrari. Regarding the usage of this year we are absolutely on plan. We will run tomorrow a new engine here in Suzuka. With this engine we will do Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi and in Korea we will run with the Monza engine. We are absolutely on plan.
Q: That is with both drivers?
FT: Both drivers the same, yes.
Robert Fernley: Yes, we are also fine with engines. We are linked again to Mercedes I am pleased to say for the next couple of years and we have no issues at all with our engines for 2010.
Norbert Haug: The same for us, knock on wood. We are on plan like we have planned it. So far everything is fine. Regrettably we had a problem with Tonio Liuzzis car in Force India which was not according to plan, so sorry for that but other than that everything was fine and like we have planned before.
Q: Does that mean he is out of schedule?
NH: No, no, everything is fine.
Adam Parr: We are with Cosworth next year and we are fine with engines this year.
Q: There was something published today that Rubens Barrichello had an engine problem this afternoon?
AP: Yes, I dont know whether that was one that is going to affect the number of engines he has got. But he has two in hand anyway. He was going to have a fresh one for this weekend and then a fresh one for Brazil.
Q: So you have almost got more than you need?
AP: We have got stacks.
Q: Another question to you all about the young driver test at Abu Dhabi. What drivers are you going to run there and are you evaluating them potentially for inclusion in the team?
FT: We will test in Abu Dhabi Jean-Eric Vergnes. He is a French driver, 20-years-old. He won this year the English Formula Three Championship and was also good in Silverstone when he raced in the Renault World Series. He won the first race and in the second race he finished second and I am very much looking forward to testing him in Abu Dhabi. But next year our driver line-up will be with Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.
Q: So Vergnes will get both days in Abu Dhabi?
FT: Yes, he will test both days for us.
RF: We are not planning at this time to run the young driver programme. We have no plans to test anybody else. We are comfortable with the drivers we have.
Q: For next year as well?
NH: No final decision is taken for the young guy but hopefully it can be one of the guys who are in the Mercedes scheme. No final decision is taken.
Q: And for next year that is all taken care of?
NH: All set, like we are.
AP: We have one day reserved for the winner of the Formula Two Championship, Dean Stoneman, and we havent decided on the other day yet. We havent confirmed our driver line-up for next year either.
Q: Franz, this year you have designed, developed and built your own car. That was something you hadnt done previously. How has that come together and how is it looking for next year?
FT: We are still building up the infrastructure at Toro Rosso. That means we are still bringing in new employees. We started in the aerodynamic department from September 1st this year onwards working in a two shift and as well as production we extended the working hours to two shifts. So far we are within schedule. Last week, on Wednesday, the (inaudible word) of next years monocoque was machined. They are just making the moulds now and so far everything is running quite well. We are not as large as other teams but the number of employees will also increase in the next few months and I am so far quite confident that we are on the correct path.
Q: Hiroshi-san, obviously this is an emotional time for you. Your last Japanese Grand Prix for Bridgestone. Just tell us first of all, looking back at the past, how it all started.
Hiroshi Yasukawa: Actually our brief for motorsports started in 1976, and in 1976 and 1977 we supplied our tyres twice to Formula One in Fuji and at that time our dream was that one day we would come into Formula One. But very far away and also at that time our company was so tiny. Co-incidentally in 1980 Honda re-started in Formula Two. Then in 1981 we started with Formula Two and our competitor was Pirelli. Then maybe the second year Pirelli stopped and Michelin was coming and we lost a lot. That was a very tough year. In 1983 we did Formula 3000 and the company said Hiroshi, you have to come back to Japan. After that we did Le Mans and different races, categories, and I think in 1991 Mercedes Benz asked us to start in DTM. Also at that time against Michelin. ... (becomes inaudible). We dominated DTM and also we were doing IndyCar and that time Norbert Haug introduced to us a very strong Penske team. We made good results but always I had a dream that one day I wanted to join Formula One. Then in 1997 we started and in 1998 we got the World Champion with Mercedes Benz McLaren and at that time we had very good competitors. But always we are losing and now just by ourselves and very unfortunately we are going to stop at the end of this season.
Q: What do you think motorsport has done for Bridgestone as a company?
HY: Actually first we were going to develop the radial tyres. When we started at that time cross-ply tyres were the majority of the construction. But Michelin already started the radial tyres. We wanted to produce radial tyres. We achieved that and after that our brand awareness in Japan became very popular. But, unfortunately, we did not do anything outside Japan and only some people realised that Bridgestone is a tyre company. But when we started Formula One very quickly we increased our brand awareness. This is one of the biggest profits for our company.
Q: Tell us about the history of Bridgestone and here at Suzuka as it is quite fitting that this is one of your last Grands Prix.
HY: This racing course started 1962. I was a boy. I came and I watched the race. Not car races but motor cycles. In 1964 Bridgestone supplied some tyres but just normal tyres. After 1976 we were pushing very hard and we have very good memories and we met many very famous drivers but all of them were very young.
Q: Robert, it may seem a little unfair to ask you about the Indian Grand Prix. It should perhaps be the Team Principal, Vijay Mallya, but I believe you do a lot of business in India yourself. Perhaps you can tell us a little bit about how the Indian Grand Prix is coming along, particularly when we have the background of the Commonwealth Games which are not going so well.
RF: I think just to correct you on one thing I dont get involved in the business side with Vijay in India. Vijay and I have been pals for over 30 years and one of the things that means a great deal to him... he was actually the first person or he and I both took the first Formula One car to India many, many years ago and it is going to be quite a thrill to take the Force India racing team there. So as far as the track is concerned as far as I know it is moving along very, very well. It is a private enterprise programme. Slightly different than the Commonwealth Games, so I dont expect any difficulties there. I expect it to be a great event.
Q: And the interest in India and Formula One?
RF: I think the interest will be very, very high. We are also going to be complementing that. We will launch a driver academy in 2011 for Force India which will be longer term and hopefully that will give it the grass roots process as well.
Q: Norbert, quite recently you were quoted a saying Paul di Resta deserves to be in Formula One. Have you got plans to place him? It looks like he is going to win the DTM Championship this year.
NH: Well, that is still open. Three races to go and I think four guys can still win the championship. But Paul is certainly a remarkable driver, no doubt. But it is not in our hands. Of course we have discussions with Force India. We have a good relationship but it is not our decision at the end of the day. We cannot influence it. But it would be nice for Paul, nice for our junior scheme, nice for DTM to bring another driver up and hopefully he has a good chance.
Q: Adam, is Nico Hulkenberg still looked on favourably?
Q: Has he a chance of staying? What is holding up the driver process?
AP: I cannot go into that. We havent announced it yet and I dont think this is the moment to do that.
Q: Can we expect an announcement soon?
AP: I dont know.
Q: All cards are in the air?
AP: I am afraid they are at the moment.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Plus) Gentlemen, team principals; Bob Bell, recently technical director of Renault, is on the market. Anybody want him?
AP: Hes certainly a very capable guy. I hope he will get a job very soon.
NH: Certainly, first of all Im not the team principal, so maybe I cannot talk about that. Its Rosss job but he has enough today, and it really is. I think this is not a good opportunity today to talk about these issues. As Adam said, Bob did a good job and Ive no idea what will happen.
AP: Is he paying you for this, Joe?
FT: Hes a high-rated engineer but we have Giorgio Ascanelli in this position and we are very happy with him.
RF: Yes, I think Bobs done an incredible job for Renault and all we can do is wish him well. I dont think theres anything Force India will be able to do but he deserves a place in Formula One.
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Plus) Can I come back to you, Robert, on the subject of the technical goings-on in your team? It seems that one driver always goes well and the other driver doesnt. Is that because one drivers slower than the other or is there a problem with the cars and is Tonio Liuzzi just unlucky?
RF: There is an element of those factors, Joe. Tonio has had a problem with the mechanical and aero packages in the car throughout the season, and we work hard to try and correct them for him. There are times when it all clicks together and other times hes still struggling a little bit with it, but it is fundamentally something we have to keep working with on him.
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Plus) Lotus have signed a deal with Renault and theyre getting to buy Red Bull transmissions. That makes them a fairly competitive force for next year perhaps. Why didnt Williams get a Renault engine and go down that route, Adam?
AP: Because we have the view that the Cosworth engine is very decent; we dont want someone elses gearbox we make our own and were very proud of the technology that we put into it. To change engines, I think, would have been a massive disruption again, and any possible benefit that it could have brought would have been more than outweighed by the disruption and waste of time in changing everything again. So were very happy. Weve got a nice steady programme going into next year for once and were really enjoying that.
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Plus) Despite not having any drivers who are going to necessarily
AP: You dont need any drivers, do you?
Q: (Bob McKenzie - The Daily Express) Could I ask everyone what they think about racing at a circuit that has not yet been signed off and is still drying off and there is apparently not much of an infra-structure, that being Korea, and particularly from Bridgestones point of view about racing on a track that is still curing?
FT: As far as I know, Charlie Whiting will go there next week, will have a look, will have an inspection and then they will make a decision and so far as I know we will go there and we will race there. Maybe theres a little bit of an advantage (to that for us), we will see. Just lets go and see whats going on, because I havent yet seen the track, therefore its difficult to estimate the conditions but Im convinced that the FIA and FOM will find the correct decision.
HY: Always when a new race track is coming, this time Hermann Tilke, the producer, they give us some idea of the surface. I think weve already made the tyres, so we have to try. Our tyres are equal for everybody. At this stage, wait and see.
RF: I think, like Franz, were very comfortable as a team to put our faith in the FIA. Theyre not going to sign off on something that theyre uncomfortable with. If there are a few things missing, were all in it together and its the same for everybody. Were quite comfortable.
NH: Well, absolutely the same. We supported the decision to go there. Im sure the right decision will be taken by the FIA and I want to underline that if we had stayed where we used to be, years and years ago, Formula One wouldnt be what Formula One is right now. Of course, everybody would have wished that this track is ready a little bit earlier but Im sure there are good reasons for the delay. But if you look back, there was a lot of criticism sometimes of new tracks which are really good right now. I think Formula One developed in a very good way and of course Bernie (Ecclestone) was very much pushing in that direction, not the easiest way to go motor racing for the teams but if you are not growing, its just wrong and I think its the right approach, really.
AP: I totally agree with what Norbert said.
Q: Norbert and Hiroshi, whats been the interest from Korea from your commercial points of view, selling cars and tyres there?
NH: Yeah, its a fast growing market. If you look back to China years ago, there was basically nothing, or not a lot. This August, we sold 2500 S-classes in one month in China, which was a record there, so the fast-growing markets are important for us. Of course, its important that you go there for a couple of years - you cannot expect the big breakthrough in the first year, but as I pointed out, this is the right direction. I think its very, very positive if the automobile industry is growing, is selling cars and this is what is happening right now with our company. We never produced more cars than in September, so this is a record in the history of Mercedes Benz which is quite amazing if you look back at the last year, how the situation was. So Formula One contributes, and Im sure that when we get the right results on the race track, then Formula One will contribute even more.
HY: For us its also the same. Korea is a very, very important market and nowadays their economy is growing sharply. This is very interesting for us, and also many products are now coming from South Korea to Japan, and also we can export. This is very interesting. Now many Korean cars are also exported which means that we have lots of opportunities to sell tyres. I can say its a very important market for us.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Norbert, I gather that theres a story from Bild saying that Mercedes have given Michael Schumacher an ultimatum to shape up or get out at the end of next season. Can you just give a comment on that, or a reaction?
NH: Well, this is an interpretation of what was said, but of course there was no ultimatum. I think Michael again showed today his class, his full commitment. We are currently a little bit handicapped with our car but I have no complaints and no regrets that were going to achieve our target. We need to work hard. As I said before in a similar conference, we are sticking together and Michael is, for me, as good as he ever was and probably even better. Hes relaxed, concentrated. He doesnt need anybody to defend him, certainly not me but we are very happy with the job hes doing and we need to give Nico (Rosberg) and him a better car. I think its absolutely obvious that Nico has so far extracted what was possible from the car. Only on a very few occasions was this not the case. I think he learned a lot with Williams and if you would name one of the top guys that are currently young and experienced in Formula One you would certainly mention Nico. So Nico is a very good benchmark for probably everybody in the field. You would never know that, because youre only driving one car for one team but its not easy for anybody to compete against such a guy and Michael does that quite well, not always in qualifying but if you look throughout the season, if you take into consideration that he was not in Formula One for three years, we are heading in the right direction and there is certainly not an ultimatum.
Q: (Michael Stauble - SRG / DRS) I would like to know your opinion about the new safety car rule that says the pit lane will be closed as soon as the safety car is deployed, as in Indycar.
AP: Im very embarrassed to say that I wasnt aware of this new rule.
Q: (Michael Stauble - SRG / DRS) Its in discussion right now.
AP: Oh, I see. Better tell somebody before the race starts. You know what? We seem to change the safety car rule about once a week, usually because a team, one or other team, has had a bad experience. The problem is whether you close the pit lane immediately or you close it at a certain point or you dont close it at all. Every time there is a safety car, somebody is going to win and someones going to lose. So Im afraid I kind of get slightly bored with the idea that we should keep changing the rule all the time.
FT: I personally am against closing the pit lane because I remember back in Canada, I think, for me its stupid if the red light is on and cars crash into each other in a Formula One race. We are not on the street where there are traffic lights. It should be open and then its up to the teams whether they get an advantage or not.
NH: Well, as Adam pointed out, there have been some changes in the past and I think that a couple of years ago the rule wasnt too bad. Maybe one should have a look at what we have had but you need to be mindful with changes. There are pluses and minuses whatever you do and of course if you want to have a surprise result, the safety car is deployed, the guy in twelfth position can still enter the pits and get a big benefit, or if it rains or whatever, then the whole field is in a different shape than before. If you look for a decision like everybody has got the same chance, then you probably can discuss closing the pit lane. There are pluses and minuses for both solutions.
RF: Yes, Im also against artificially controlling the races. I think it adds to the excitement, adds to the show. As Adam says, you win some, you lose some and I think it all benefits the Formula One programme.
Q: (Joe Saward - GP Plus) Norbert, just to go back to the Michael question again: if you build a faster car next year, if Michael goes faster in that car, surely you will be criticised for helping him, or if he doesnt go faster, youre going to get the same questions about should he retire or not. It sounds to me youre in a kind of no-win situation.
NH: Well, Im happy to take the criticism when we are first and second. It will take a while but were working on it and no worries, it will take a while but I think were heading in the right direction and again, Michael needs nobody to defend him. I think sometimes one should reflect what this guy has achieved, how he handles the criticism, how good he is for Formula One and again, this is not defending, this is just explaining. Im happy and I think the Formula One community should be very happy to have Michael.
AP: I dont think one should dismiss immediately the idea of building a slower car next year to help!
NH: Well, we can discuss that afterwards!
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