Ferrari team chief shares thoughts on 2006 and beyond
He achieved something no man had done before - kept a team at the very pinnacle of Formula One racing for half a decade, making Michael Schumacher world champion five years in succession from 2000 to 2004. However, according to the bell curve principle, what goes up must come down, and last year team and driver dropped to third in the standings. But on the eve of the new season, Jean Todt is as motivated as ever and confident that when the final counting is done Ferrari will be contenders for the 2006 crown.
Q: New season, new regulations, one new driver - what's going to propel Ferrari back to the front of the grid? Whats going to be the magic formula?
Jean Todt: There are no magic formulas in Formula One, just as in the rest of everyday life. The results are the fruits of the quality of work undertaken and the care lavished on a daily basis: the stopwatch is the final judge, we have no tricks up our sleeve. Our team has always been distinguished by a strong will to win because the search for success is part of our DNA. It is obvious that for the first time since 1999, we are starting the season without having won at least one of the world championship titles, thus giving us a further impetus to do our utmost to return Ferrari to its rightful position, that is to say, the top.
Q: From the tobacco sponsors in the paddock only Ferraris, Philip Morris, will continue after 2006, staying under conditions which other manufacturers found unattractive. Is the marketing option that Ferrari offers so irresistible that it outweighs the tobacco advertising ban?
JT: The relation with Philip Morris has been and continues to be very positive for both firms. The partnership was started over 30 years ago and has recently been renewed until 2011. Marlboro and Ferrari are two extraordinary, successful brands and, together, they have significantly contributed to the growth of Formula One. The partnership is realised not only through the support provided during the season but also in programmes such as visits to our factory, days out on the track in the three-seater - a modified version of the F2002, and the inside experience of a Grand Prix.
Q: Ferrari was one of the first teams to sign up for a new Concorde Agreement for 2008 and beyond. Can you give an insiders view on that decision?
JT: If it is true that racing is in Ferraris DNA, it is also true that the investments necessary to compete in Formula One cannot destabilize our reality, which is that of a small car manufacturer which does not have all the economic resources of a large automotive group behind it - FIAT is our majority shareholder, but makes no contribution to the businesss finances. In recent years, the President, Luca di Montezemolo, pushed strongly for a more equal division of the proceeds originating from Formula One. The intense negotiations between the parties resulted in a preliminary agreement with FOM in December 2003 which, for various reasons, was not then formalized. At that point, we informed the other manufacturers of our desire to try to reach an agreement anyway because it remained a priority for us to ensure a long period of economic stability for our Formula One commitments. A compromise was reached, so that on 19 January 2005 it was possible to announce our support for a new version of the Concorde Agreement, valid until the end of 2012.
Q: After all the noise they have made, do you believe the manufacturers are going to join the new agreement, now that a more equitable distribution of Formula One income is reportedly on the table?
JT: I am not accustomed to making judgement on the choices of others but I believe that this is most the logical solution.
Q: There will be no Belgian Grand Prix for 2006, although it may well return next year. What are your feelings on the potential loss of such historic European venues?
JT: Formula One has grown considerably in recent years, spreading to new countries such as Malaysia, China, Turkey and Bahrain, becoming increasingly more global. The advent of the new circuits has also resulted in a raising of the standards of facilities and this has also made it necessary to update some of the European circuits, particularly the older ones. It is evident that renewal requires major investment which may not always have an immediate return but, seen from a global perspective, the situation is positive. That said, it is a shame that in 2006 it is not possible to use the fascinating track Spa-Francorchamps, but is it well worth the sacrifice of this year if the result is a more modern infrastructure from next season onwards.
Q: Being Ferraris team principal is more of a life concept than a job. Does it still have the intense attraction for you after all these years?
JT: Certainly. Otherwise, I would not be able to spend so much time sitting at my desk in Maranello. There is no lacking in motivation or shortage of new challenges: after years when our aim was to extend our winning streak, now there is a strong will to pick up from where it was interrupted in 2005. And then, there is another challenge, ensuring the Scuderias long term future, from both an organisational and economic point of view. We - and here I am referring to those who have been and are still with me in this extraordinary group - are one chapter in the history of this business: others will follow in the years to come.