Team principals: Ross Brawn (Mercedes), Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Adam Parr (Williams), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso).
Q: A question to you all. It has been announced that we are going back to America. What sort of effect is that going to have plus the fact that we are going to another major economy in India next year? Do you see that having a reflection with the sponsorship that you are able to get? Is that going to have a major effect on the finances of Formula One?
Adam Parr: We are very, very excited about it. Two of our sponsors – one of them is based in Texas, AT&T, and Thomson Reuters have a couple of thousands employees there, so it is great for our partners in particular. But, obviously, more generally I think it is fantastic for the sport because not being in America is wrong for a global sport and I think it is brilliant all round. Well done, Bernie. Just when you think the old boy has given up the ghost he comes up with a fantastic deal.
Q: Do you really think he has given up the ghost?
AP: That was off the record by the way.
Franz Tost: Thanks to Bernie as well, as for Red Bull it is very important. It is a major market and we are looking forward. I have always said that at least we would need two grands prix in America, one on the west side and one on the east side. Now we have one and it is very, very important for us to go there as well as for our sponsors.
Stefano Domenicali: Difficult to add to what Adam and Franz have said. As you know the US is the main market for our brand, so really great news. You know that all the teams were pushing to go back since basically when we left the US to go back straight away, so this is great news and really delighted. Texas is another area where we sell cars, so it is important for us.
Ross Brawn: Hats off to Bernie as it is something we all want and need and he has done a great job again in finding an American grand prix. It is very important commercially but also important to continue to spread our fan base as there are a lot of keen enthusiasts in America who have been deprived of a race for a little while. We always found a huge, very specialist enthusiasm in America for Formula One and we are delighted to be going back.
Q: Another question to all of you. There’s been an agreement not to use the double diffuser, an agreement not to use the F-duct next year. Is there anything else that might be rearing its head? Is there anything else that you might be agreeing on? Is there anything else you want to get rid of in terms of the technical side of things?
AP: Well, we have got a whole package of, I think, great proposals for next year. Ross is leading the way as chairman of the Technical Working Group of FOTA, so he might want to say a bit more about it. But I think there are some really exciting and interesting changes on the horizon. We haven’t quite finished the process yet but hopefully Ross will nurse it all through in the next few days.
RB: I think Adam was right. We are not quite there yet. I think it would be presumptuous to say exactly what we are trying to do. But we are mindful of always trying to improve the show, always trying to improve the potential for good racing and also mindful of constantly having to push back the performance of the cars because every year we gain one or two seconds and every year or two we have to push that back again. Some of the changes you mentioned are happening but there is a package of other changes that we are all in discussion trying to find the best way forward. But quite excited about the prospects for next year. I think we have got some good things but I don’t want to say too much until all the teams are comfortable with the proposals.
Q: Is there anything more to add, Franz?
FT: No, nothing special. On the one side Formula One is the big of motorsports and this is the creativity of the engineers that they are coming up with new specifications. Whether it is the double diffuser or the F-duct. I don’t know what’s in the brain of the engineers. Maybe they have five other new special parts on the car which they will not show now but next year. Then we discuss once more to get rid of it. We will see.
SD: No, nothing to add. The same position on my side.
Q: Another question to all of you. A lot has been talked about spare cars. The new tyre supplier, whoever that may be, and also testing. It is suggested that the amount you spend on simulation is almost more than it would be on testing. Is there a case for opening up the testing a little bit, particularly towards the end of this year when you have got a new tyre supplier as well? How difficult is that going to be to balance?
AP: I think we have reached a very delicate balance over the last couple of years. Thanks to a number of the bigger teams, if I may say, as well as others we have got the costs down to a very much lower level than they were and we have a programme over the next two years to reduce them further under the Resource Restriction Agreement, which is a voluntary agreement within FOTA. I am very concerned that we don’t chuck that all out because very few things that one could do are actually going to improve the show very much or at all and they are certainly going to increase costs. I think we are still in a very fragile economy at the moment. If you look at the composition of the Formula One grid for next year in particular I think you will find that the vast majority of teams are not in a position to increase spending at all and many need to reduce spending quite significantly. I think this is not the moment to start changing things that are going to increase costs. Maybe we can come back to that in the future but not for now.
Q: Franz, you would presumably like to increase the experience your drivers have on the circuit?
FT: Yeah, but as Adam said, everything is a balance. It is a question of money, simple as that. To increase the testing means simply to recruit a test team, to build up once more the infrastructure for a test team and this costs money and normally I say every second you are not on the race track is a loss for your life and therefore I would like to go testing. But it is simply how to finance everything and currently within FOTA and within Formula One we have worked out a good solution. We test on Friday for the races and I think this is quite a good balance. Regarding your other question, the third car, there is always an incident where you say ‘oh, if we now had a third car it would be better.’ The next step would be a fourth car as we had in Monaco a couple of years ago. Once more we have to find the balance of the expenses and of the income and I think we are now on the correct way. Don’t forget that to this year and especially next year the Resource Restriction Agreement will also come into play and to bring everything under one cover is not so easy.
SD: Well, on one side I give you the principle that Adam and Franz said. But on the other side we need to be careful not to lose the focus also on the show and the supporters. I am speaking about, for example, what happened to us in Monte Carlo. We did that for a good reason, no doubt about it. If you look what was the position of all the tifosi that were there and were waiting to see him getting out but it was not possible as it was not possible to change the chassis. Also on that side we need to be a bit more balance maybe. I think that it is an item that maybe in a way to keep the limitation that we have, has in my view to be discussed to be more balanced. With regards to testing I think next year with in any case a change of tyres it will be crucial not to arrive at the last minute without any proper testing, otherwise maybe we will have big problems during the race weekend which is what we don’t want. Maybe, and this is another point that we are thinking, to see without changing and going back to test team recruitment as this is not correct and is totally wrong, but to see if we can select a different weekend format or extended day for testing in order to make sure we can do a little bit more. This is my position.
Q: Presumably you would have to ask the tyre company to produce more testing as well as, for example this year, you have actually reduced the number of tyres?
SD: Yes, this is our point on the agenda that we have to discuss with the tyre manufacturer as soon as we have decided and we know who will be the supplier for next year. But I would not underestimate the fact that in a new scenario with the actual limitation of testing it would be a point of attention.
RB: I think as Adam said the economy is very delicate at the moment and we need to be careful to take a view for all the teams in Formula One. I think Formula One is heading to a stage where the costs involved have been controlled and have been significantly reduced and will be further reduced in the future. Mercedes GP or Mercedes came in Formula One with their own team because of their belief that those costs would be controlled in the future and this wouldn’t be a spending competition. It would be responsible and we don’t want to be involved in that sort of form of Formula One. We want to be involved in Formula One which is still the pinnacle of motor racing but which rewards the challenge, rewards the innovation of engineers and takes a slightly different direction than perhaps the direction it has been in, in the last few years. I think on the separate points it was unfortunate that Fernando could not continue and I think we can look at that in detail and see if we can find a better set of regulations to cover issues like that as we don’t want to lose cars from qualifying. Clearly we need to have some specific testing to make sure the tyres are sorted properly. We need to manage that. I think on the subject of testing overall we mustn’t go back to having separate test teams. If there is any testing introduced it has to be integrated in a way that we don’t need extra personnel to do it. That is a big challenge as we have got a lot of races coming up now. I think there are 20 races next year and all of us are having to look at how we manage our people and how they can cope with 20 races. Fantastic that we have got 20 races and I am not complaining. But there is a pressure now on how we can manage that with our people and maybe we have to start rotating a few of them and along with that we certainly don’t need to have a separate test team. I think things have gone in a very good direction and I think we should massage it a little bit more, not change direction fundamentally.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Two questions for Ross: the first is on the F-duct. Are you happy with it today, and will you use it in the race? And the second is about Nico Rosberg. He suffered in Barcelona with the new pieces on the car. Did you find why he was suffering and what did you do to make him more comfortable?
RB: The F-duct for us is an on-going project. Having just said that we shouldn’t test, we’re crying out for some testing to get the F-duct sorted out because undoubtedly McLaren were very smart in getting their system working over the winter and for everyone who is trying to get their systems to work it’s a massive challenge. So we’re not where we want to be with the F-duct but at each race we make a little step forward.
I don’t truly have an answer for what happened with Nico in Barcelona, why we didn’t find the time. He’s driving the car here, which is the long wheelbase car and he’s reasonably happy with it. You do get races where it doesn’t quite come together and so no, there isn’t a black and white answer for Barcelona but he’s reasonably happy with the car here.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Given what you’ve just been saying about the economy and the need to be careful, you’re talking about going to twenty races and there’s even talk of going beyond that to maybe 24. How do these elements combine? More races don’t cost you more money?
FT: Normally you earn money doing the races. Tests cost money, because you don’t get anything.
RB: There’s an agreement with Bernie that the more races we do the more money the teams get, so we’ve got to make sure that the money we get is more than the money we spend, which is not easy with Bernie.
AP: The costs of an F1 team are largely fixed as well. All the design and most of the manufacturing is fixed. I don’t think drivers get more money per race and in fact they generally complain about how little driving they do. If the races are in the right places at the right times on the right terms, then it should improve our income.
RB: To be clear, we’re all delighted that they’re increasing the number of races. We just need to manage the situation properly because especially the races which are coming up, they’re great for Formula One, so we will support them 100 percent. There are consumables involved: we use more engines, we use more brakes, we use things like that. We’ve got flights, we’ve got hotels but as Adam said, a lot of the core costs are spent before you even go to the first race.
SD: I hope it’s not 24 to be honest because I always thought about twenty. But that’s my personal view. I like other things. Anyway, I don’t know if we’ve discussed 24 but if there’s more money, as we said, it’s good. For me, twenty is a good number.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Is anybody interested in going over twenty?
AP: I think we’ve talked about it in the context of floating the idea of changing the weekend format, if that were possible. Just to go to 24 races with the long weekend like we have now would be very difficult logistically. Maybe in the context of a different structure for the weekend I think it might be interesting.
RB: I think there’s a step change, Joe, where you get to a certain number and you have to start taking on duplicate crews like they do in NASCAR. That first step change is quite expensive, so it can be done but we need to make sure it’s managed properly.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Ross, do you think you will keep the same pair of drivers for next year?
RB: I hope so. Do you know something I don’t? Yes, I hope so. There’s no reason not to. We’re pleased with the drivers, they’re both enjoying themselves, so yes.
Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC) Ross, what were your and Michael’s feelings on the move on Fernando being against Ferrari, and Stefano, what was your feeling on the fact that Fernando was overtaken by, of all people, Michael on the last lap in Monaco?
RB: I think clearly that what’s come out of it was that there was some ambiguity in the regulation. We read it one way and Charlie (Whiting) and the stewards read it another way and you can see, quite frankly, both cases. We told Michael to race, I know Stefano told Fernando not to race, so it was a bit unfair. Fernando was being told not to do anything and we were telling our guy to go for it if he had a chance. It was unfortunate and I think that’s why we wouldn’t have felt great about going to appeal because I know that Fernando was told that he didn’t have to race, but I think the penalty we received was something which certainly could have been looked at because it destroyed Michael’s race for an ambiguity. So I think the penalty system needs looking at in those circumstances because I think that was unfair. So we’re now in discussions with the FIA to try and find a better system.
SD: Nothing to add. Ross explained exactly the situation.
Q: (Danny Vear – Le Journal de Montreal) I’m interested in your views on the new US Grand Prix. A very specific question: would you prefer to have a back-to-back race with Montreal in terms of costs or organisation or any scenario would do?
SD: In my view it’s just a matter of logistics and to try to find the best solution for that. Texas and Montreal, I don’t know how many hours of flight – five hours? – so I would say that would be possible because we had a bigger challenge – from Spain to Monaco by truck is longer, so it would be a possibility. For sure one thing we should work out, the best way – the more races we have – is really to find out the best logistics for the teams because this is affecting the preparation and the cost of it.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) Can we go back to the question of tyre supply? Can you tell us exactly who it is that makes the decisions because everyone seems to be making a decision and nobody appears to be? Who is it who makes the decision?
SD: Formally speaking, the decision on the tyres is related to the regulations, so you have the answer from that, but it is a little more complicated, because, as you know, the situation is under discussion, a lot of things are going on that we should really clarify all these things this weekend hopefully, because the more we go ahead – and it’s already late – and we cannot really waste more time on it.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) With regard to the cars of the future, is there any possibility of ground effect coming back to make the racing better?
FT: Why, do you feel the racing is boring?
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special) I didn’t say the racing was poor, I’m saying that people always want it better. I’m saying, have you discussed this?
FT: We haven’t discussed it but I think that especially this year so far we have seen really very interesting races. I don’t think that we would have more interesting races with a ground effect car.
AP: If I may add one thing is that one of the things that I have learned in Formula One is that if you want to change something, you have to do it in the most direct way possible, so if you want more overtaking you have to ask yourself why can’t cars overtake. A reasonable premise is because a following car has a major disadvantage. So if you want to change that, you need to change that specifically. I think F1 engineers are so clever that just by putting in an indirect rule like more ground effect, they will just work out a way that stuffs up overtaking in a whole new way that you hadn’t imagined. I think therefore that if we’re trying to do that - which I think we are – we need to be as direct as possible.
RB: Well, there’s some very useful work being done with the FIA, with FOTA on the contributory factors to enable overtaking to take place. Circuit design is very important and if you look at the range of circuits we race on, some of them have much more overtaking than others and that’s because of the circuit design. Format of racing is another important factor because we spend two days making sure the fastest car is at the front and we’ve now removed the variable of fuel weight for qualifying, so we’ve really made sure the fastest car is at the front. I think the technical side can’t be ignored, and we need to do what we can to make the cars as benign as possible in terms of their ability to follow other cars, but we’ve also got to attack the other areas. I think we’ve got to be careful not to go too far. Formula One has a spirit, has a character, has a DNA that we don’t want to spoil. I find basketball a little bit difficult to follow when they’re scoring 90 points and football with one or two goals is exciting – for me. I think motor racing, with one or two great overtaking manoeuvres per race, is what we want. There’s a lot of work being done, a lot of sensible work. People can be a little bit resistant to change when it comes too soon, but I think most people are happy to accept change when it’s over a reasonable period of time.
SD: Going back to your question about ground effect, I think realistically speaking, I don’t see that happening in the very short term but maybe in the new package, the new powertrain in 2013 that we need to rethink F1 completely to be a consideration to put on the table. I really cannot add anything more than that.
Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Ross, going back to what you were saying about the Overtaking Working Group improving the show next year; given that we’ve got a situation where we’ve got a tyre supplier for next year which is going to have a less-than-ideal lead time for developing its tyres, does that not mean there’s a danger of engineering in a tremendous amount of conservatism on things like compounds to make sure the tyres last and work which will therefore nullify any chance of the tyres creating the desired variables?
RB: I think obviously it would have been ideal if we’d had the tyre supplier nominated much earlier than this, but I think the point we touched on earlier in the discussion about the economic climate, people are getting a little bit more confidence now, so we are where we are today. Fortunately, within Formula One, the exodus of engineers from the tyre companies when they withdrew from Formula One, a lot of them came back into Formula One with the teams. We’ve got an ex-Michelin tyre engineer, McLaren have got an ex-Bridgestone tyre engineer. I know other teams have got other engineers from different teams and different tyre suppliers and we’re all willing to work together with the new tyre supplier to make sure that we have the best chance of success. But it may take a few iterations to get where we want to be and undoubtedly there will be a degree of conservatism at the beginning because we can’t afford to have any problems with compounds. We want an aggressive compound, but if it’s too aggressive and it doesn’t last very long, then it will be difficult. But we’re all there to help the new tyre supplier and I think we’ve got a good chance of success.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Stefano, did you already decide to keep the F-duct on the car for the race?
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Why?
SD: Because it seems it’s faster. I hope. From the data, it seems so, yes.
RB: Stefano sounds like me, we’re not completely sure.
SD: I said ‘it seems’.