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FIA Friday press conference - Abu Dhabi GP, Yas Marina

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Team principals: Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Adam Parr (Williams), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren).
Q: First question to you all. We have had a fantastic World Championship this year with four drivers in contention at the end of the series. What do you think has been a major contribution to the excitement of the championship? Is it the rules, new circuits? Adam, what do you think it is?
Adam Parr: I am very honoured to be here with the championship contenders. I think it is Formula One...

The thing about Formula One unlike most sports is there are so many variables. There’s the car, there’s the drivers and there’s the way the car develops during the year. There is each of the different circuits, the weather and then there is strategy and so forth. You have got so many variables that when you have got very many excellent teams like those sitting around me it is very hard for anybody to really dominate. It is just Formula One at its best. 

Q: One of the variables was taken away with refuelling, so might it have been even better. Stefano, what do you think?
Stefano Domenicali: It is always difficult to say something when you put all these elements on the table. For sure we have an incredible level of drivers, that really makes a big difference. The teams in this new change of regulations I would say have done quite an interesting job in order to try to be closer together. Then of course all the factors that have happened this year have basically involved all the teams and has brought something unique to the championship itself. It seems a real long time that we don’t have many drivers and many teams that are fighting for something, so this is the main thing of the season. It is a really unique championship in that respect even if I have to say, once again, congratulations to Red Bull for winning the Constructors’ title. They totally deserved it, so that is one thing that is already out of the equation unfortunately for Sunday.

Q: Martin, your thoughts?
Martin Whitmarsh: A lot has been said already. I think the teams have done a great job. We have got some great World Champions competing in this year’s championship and it really has been an epic season. I think Red Bull have had a very quick car all year. I think we have had moments of being quick. Ferrari have made, staged, a fantastic recovery from mid-year and I think that has made it move around. The form of the drivers and the teams has changed from circuit to circuit. I think it really has been an epic season, certainly not just for us involved in it. We have had our thrills and disappointments as you normally do but I think as a season for the fans this has been absolutely epic and I am sure we will have a really exciting weekend here.

Q: Christian?
Christian Horner: I think the guys have really summed it up. From a Red Bull point of view we have done our best to keep it interesting. But you have also got to look at the regulations. We have still got relatively newer regulations and the pace of developments has been relentless. With the regulations being reasonably mature the gains the teams have seen have been significant. The pendulum has swung between the three main teams here circuit to circuit, so it has been a fantastic year for Formula One. It has been an exciting one to be involved in and here we are at the 19th race with four drivers who are still competing for this championship.

Q: At this stage after two practice sessions how confident are you of your driver winning the World Championship? Christian, one of your two anyway?
CH: Well, we have come here with two guys in contention. Mark (Webber) is obviously that bit closer than Sebastian (Vettel) but they have both driven fantastically well this year. To get to this point and have two guys still in contention is testimony to the way they have performed and delivered at the previous 18 events. With the way that the points are this year it is a deceptive number, you know 15 points to Seb, eight points to Mark. As we have seen this year things can change pretty rapidly, so it is going to be an exciting race. Looking at the four of them again they are right there in the two sessions today. I expect tomorrow to be tight and I expect Sunday to be very close. I don’t think this championship will be settled. I think it will go down to the last lap. It is a fascinating prospect and what a great venue to finish at.

Q: Martin, after today’s practice with Lewis ending up fastest?
MW: Well, it is easy for Lewis. Lewis has to win on Sunday. We will try our best to do that and then we need a bit of help from my friends around me. But all we can do is focus on trying to win the race and see what happens thereafter. On the face of it we have got a bit of a challenge but we will be fighting to the last lap. We have seen before and we have won World Championships in the last few corners a few times over the years and you have got to be pushing. Again that is going to be tremendously exciting for sure on Sunday.

Q: And confident after today’s sessions?
MW: Well, confident. As you say, I think we are not too bad. I think you should not read too much into it. It is always a nice feeling on a Friday to come away the quickest and certainly Lewis was relatively happy with the balance of the car but we don’t underestimate our friends at Red Bull and Ferrari. I am sure they are going to be quick tomorrow afternoon but there is no reason why we cannot be competitive in the qualifying session and see how we race. Thereafter we need a bit of co-operation from those around me.

Q: Stefano, confident after today’s sessions?
SD: Well, it is not a matter of confidence. It is to check what is going on. As expected we have Red Bull and McLaren very, very fast and then we know today you need to know exactly what was the programme that we run in comparison to the programmes Christian and Martin ran with their cars. I think it would be exciting but I am expecting tomorrow, as Martin said, a very interesting qualifying. At the end of the day it will be a matter of a lot of factors during the race. You need to be lucky, you need to be reliable, you need to be head on the shoulder up until the last moment. As we have seen in the past if you react emotionally at the wrong moment, in the wrong way during the race if something happens that is not really going to the right directions, then if you do mistakes it is finished. We need to be very, very concentrated to the end, so confident we will see.

Q: Looking at your drivers, do you see them slightly changed for this race and how can you handle those drivers? Is there anything you can do to control or manage them as they go towards this vital race? Is there anything you see with Fernando in particular, Stefano?
SD: I think on our side we need to do the normal things that we normally do in a racing weekend. We do not have to make calculations or think of too many strategies otherwise you get lost. We need to be focused on the best performance that we can and that’s it. Really focus on ourselves as always.

Q: Do you see any change in Fernando?
SD: Well, at the moment not really. Everyone of us is trying to control the emotions that he has inside. This is part of the role of every person but so far everything is okay.

Q: Martin?
MW: I think for Lewis it is a bit simpler than the other guys. Lewis really just has to focus on winning the race and thereafter if he wins the championship it is in the hands of others. When you are coming to try and defend a position and make sure you control the points you get or a competitor gets I think it can become more complicated. I think for Lewis, in answer to your question do I see something different? I think he is relaxed but focused. He wants to try and win it and it’s simpler for him. That is what he is going to try and do. Whether we can we will start to understand tomorrow afternoon.

Q: Christian, quite a task for you in many ways with both drivers in contention?
CH: Yes, it is a different situation for us as we have got two guys competing against each other for the biggest prize in motorsport, but I don’t see any difference in them this weekend. They are both focused on the job in hand. They both know to beat Fernando they have got to finish and have got to finish ahead of him. The rules are pretty clear. It is pretty straightforward what they have got to achieve. They are just going about the weekend as they have the previous 18 and they are very focused on getting the most out of themselves, the most out of the car and we will see how things pan out in the race.

Q: Is there anything you can do with either driver?
CH: I think that my role, not just with the drivers, but with the engineers, the guys in the garage and throughout the team is just to keep everyone focused and calm. Obviously we had an unbelievable weekend last weekend which was a huge thing for the whole team. That’s quite nice to have got that out of the way, so there is not the distraction of thinking about the permutations of a Constructors’ Championship. It is pure focus on giving both drivers the best possible support we can going into Sunday’s race.

Q: Adam, last weekend a great pole position for Nico H?lkenberg. How do you see his season in this his rookie year?
AP: Well, it was a great and a very exciting moment for the whole team. We don’t sadly get those very often, but the taste of it has got everyone rather excited about what is possible in the future. I think it is enormously difficult for a driver coming into Formula One now with almost no testing, even someone with a track record like his before Formula One. It has clearly been challenging at times, but what we have seen is him make great progress through the year in terms of consistency and performances. His race pace is excellent and he is bringing the cars home in spite of punctures and many other challengers. We are very proud of what he achieved this year and he gave us a great moment last weekend.

Q: The team is allegedly losing a number of sponsors this year and finance is important for a team. The rumour is you are going to cover that finance elsewhere with another driver. How difficult is it to balance having a driver like Nico perhaps against somebody who is bringing a lot of money?
AP: Well, we haven’t made any decisions about the driver line-up for next year. I have missed the last two races as I have been making sure we have the finances we need for next year and we do. We have replaced all the sponsorship we have lost and we are in great shape for next year. I actually feel more positive about the future now than I have done for the a long time even though, funnily enough, we actually turned a profit as a company every year for the last three years and we will this year and we will next year. Financially I think we are in very good shape. It is not something we like to talk about very often but sometimes you do have to say something positive about the future even though Frank (Williams) and Patrick (Head) thoroughly disapprove of that approach to life. We are very positive about the future. We haven’t made a decision about our driver line-up next year and that is partly because we need to see the whole season in its context. When we make those decisions we will announce them.


Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Stefano, you have been around winning Drivers’ Championships with Ferrari before. Christian has not. Does that give any type of advantage for you in this moment?
SD: To me. I don’t think so.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) To Ferrari.
SD: Well, you are very kind but I don’t think so. I think in this moment you really get out from yourself all the qualities that you have and try to keep the problems or the bad things under a certain level of control. But the advice that I can give to Christian is he has already won a championship this year, so he has already covered that, so he is bullet-proof on that.

Q: Stefano, Dietrich Mateschitz was quoted as saying that he would prefer to come second rather than do what Ferrari did in Hockenheim. I think that deserves some reply from you.
SD: Not from me. I congratulate Mr Mateschitz on the title and honestly, I always said that I speak about Ferrari and apart from congratulating Red Bull on their title, there is nothing to add from me.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R&B) We are nearly at the end of the season, so a question to all of you: in the end, how do you rate Michael Schumacher’s comeback so far?
AP: Where’s Norbert (Haug) when you need him? You know I’ve done two press conferences with Norbert and he gets asked this question… how long are you going to stick with him? Everyone has an opinion but I don’t think my opinion means anything. I think it’s completely up to Mercedes and Michael Schumacher to determine how they see his career and how he’s done. Clearly he’s a seven time World Champion, he’s an exceptionally talented brilliant driver without any question at all. And nothing that he’s done this year changes his incredible achievements.
SD: I agree on the last part of Adam’s quote. Michael is a friend, and I have such respect for him that we discussed between us, at the end of last year, because he was in our team and we have discussed these things internally and we keep it between us. But I agree with him: seven times World Champion is an achievement that I don’t think anyone else will do, will achieve at least in the short term.
MW: As a seven time World Champion he will be disappointed. Let’s be frank, he will be disappointed with this season. He’s a winner, he’s won many, many races. But, it’s a driver, a team, a car. We all play a role in our end success and lack of success, so I think anyone who writes Michael off and believes that he can’t be more competitive next year will be foolish. Mercedes have a great heritage, they are still strong partners of us and Mercedes GP were the heroes this time last year. They’ve had a tough year but there’s good people there, it’s a good team and they’ve got two good drivers, one of whom has had a disappointing year. But I think none of us here underestimate what they are capable of doing together next year. He will have been disappointed, of that I’m quite sure. People like Stefano know him much better than I do but there’s no reason why he can’t come back very strongly in the following season.
CH: When you’ve won seven World Championships and over 90 grands prix, it’s a hell of a ballsy thing at 40 years of age to say ‘OK, I’ll come back and take on the current best of the crop.’ You’ve got to admire the guy for taking that decision in coming back. He’s not been in the best car. I’m sure he won’t be satisfied with his season but he’s a determined competitor and I think it’s good to have him back in Formula One. It would be nice to see him in a quicker car, so long as it was just behind us, and I’m pleased he’s around again next year. It makes me feel young.

Q: (Mat Coch – There’s been a couple of stories linking Williams to various different engines this year; can you lay that one to rest? There’s been Volkswagen, Porsche… can you lay that one to rest and confirm you’re staying with Cosworth?
AP: I can assure you that the engine currently behind our car is absolutely a Cosworth.

Q: (Mat Coch – And going forward?
AP: Tomorrow it’s going to be a Cosworth.

Q: (Mat Coch – Next year?
AP: Next year’s it’s going to be a Cosworth.
SD: E vai! (Go for it) You understand!

Q: (Mat Coch – Staying on the engine front. Christian, Renault have announced that they’re going to be supplying Lotus next year; what sort of assurances have Red Bull received that the same quality of service and support that you have received this year will continue?
CH: We’ve had a great relationship with Renault during the last four seasons now. They’ve given us every assurance. It’s a good partnership, it’s one that works. All of our victories have been with Renault engines, they’ve been a key part of our performance this year. It would be nice if we could have a bit more power but we’re working on Martin for that. But no, it’s great that Renault are committed to the sport, that they are here for the longer term. They’ve been around in Formula One for many years, it’s a great group of people and we’re very positive about having extended our relationship with Renault.

Q: (Chuck Culpepper – The National) Christian, you must have pictured in past years what it would have been like to win a Constructors’ championship, so has it been odd to win it and then spend the aftermath talking about this other thing; it seems submerged in that?
CH: It’s an interesting one because the Constructors’ probably within most teams is internally the championship that probably means the most. It’s the championship where, department for department, they are measuring themselves against their peers and it’s down to the performance of the car, the team, the production side, the drivers as a combination and it’s just a tremendous result for Red Bull to have come into the sport and within a very short space of time, delivered what is for us a prized and very, very valuable goal. Just over six years ago Dietrich Mateschitz had a vision that I think perhaps a few people scoffed at at the time but we stuck at it, we’ve assembled a fantastic group of people, we’ve got two great drivers and with the support of all our suppliers and all the backroom staff and commitment we’ve achieved what is for us, in many respects, the ultimate goal which is the Constructors’ World Championship. Obviously the prestige is with the Drivers’ and we’ve still got two drivers who are still very much in contention here but the delight and buzz that came out of Milton Keynes following the result on Sunday was just absolutely tremendous. And when you’re competing against teams such as McLaren and Ferrari with such tremendous heritage, then it’s a great honour for us to be able to take them on and ultimately this year emerge on top, so not only was every member of the team very proud of what we achieved on Sunday evening but every member of the Red Bull Group around the world, and the reception that we’ve had has been fantastic. Irrelevant of whatever result we achieve here, which hopefully would be the icing on the cake, we plan to really celebrate this success once we get back to the UK via Austria on Monday, UK on Tuesday next week.

Q: (MC) Christian, now that Red Bull Racing has achieved Mr Mateschitz’s vision, and you’ve achieve that goal, where does Red Bull go from here? You’ve reached what you set out to do, you’re not in the business of selling cars, the parent company is in the business of selling drinks – it’s difficult for you to answer because in a way it’s a Mr Mateschitz question – but what happens next?
CH: I think that it’s a remarkable thing that an energy drink company can come into the sport… it’s testimony to the current regulations that an independent team can win. Red Bull have made that commitment, they’ve come into the sport, they’ve proved themselves, they’ve established themselves. I think we’ve injected a fun and perhaps a slightly different passion to the sport. We go about things slightly differently but now that we’ve achieved one target, obviously the next target, which is even harder, is to stay there, because these guys aren’t going to stand still. They’re formidable teams with formidable resources and they will be fighting back. So the next challenge for us is to stay there. Red Bull is totally committed to Formula One and it’s obviously very close to our chairman’s heart. Without his vision, his commitment, we wouldn’t be here. While he has the passion, while he feels that Formula One is the sport that it is, then we will continue to enter. Hopefully we can build on what hopefully is the first success of many.

Q: (Richard Williams – The Guardian) Stefano, this is the climax of the season, your team has a big relationship with Abu Dhabi, you have a lot of guests here, you have a lot of eyes on you, a lot of expectations, does that make it harder to treat this as – as you must – just another weekend in which you must go about the business of trying to do what you always try and do?
SD: As you can imagine, here we have other business on top of Formula One, but the driving of all these things is for sure to have a good racing weekend. We know that, we don’t underestimate that but you know there are parallel businesses that are going ahead and I have to be very thankful to the government of Abu Dhabi for what we are doing together because it’s something unique, spectacular and this is something that is related to our heritage and the way that Abu Dhabi has a look with this vision in order to work together as a partner is something that is very important and remarkable. Of course, from ourselves, we try to be focused on our main objective. We feel this pressure but it’s part of the game. We have had this kind of thing in the past already several times. For sure it’s an added value if things are going well. If things would not go in the right direction, I think that at the end of the day we need to be realistic. I think that the team should be happy about the way that we recovered the situation, because not a lot of people were thinking that we were able to be here, fighting for a title, in the summertime, so it’s a big reward for the people who were focused on trying to do the best without following the people who said that we were a bunch idiots wandering around the world. So that was really a big reward to all the team, to our drivers. We will see how this season will finish.
CH: But have you been on your rollercoaster yet?
SD: I will go with you later on.
CH: I tell you what, I went on it last night and I have never been so scared in all my life! If Fernando has a start like that on Sunday, we’re all in trouble.

Q: (Mat Coch – Martin, Jenson’s mentioned that he feels very comfortable within McLaren and he settled in quite quickly, perhaps more quickly than he expected. How’s that positive culture within the team worked and how’s that benefited this season?
MW: I think that Jenson’s been a great team player. He obviously won the World Championship last year. I think he’s grown and matured, I think he’s a very intelligent driver. I think that it’s great that he won some races at the beginning of the year and I think he did so by clearly and obviously making his own personal contribution to what happened during that race, using his head very effectively. I think he’s contributed to building the relationship and the trust with Lewis and I think there’s been good harmony in the team. We’ve enjoyed some wins, we’ve not enjoyed all the races as much as we’d like to, but I think within the team there’s a good spirit and a good desire to win, to try and win this year obviously but whatever happens, make sure that we come back next year fighting the guys around us to see if we can do a better job next year than we’ve done this year, but I think Jenson has really very quickly learned to appreciate how we work. I think he’s contributed and improved us and hopefully we can work to improve him.


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