Team representatives: Jean Francois Caubet (Renault F1 Sport), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber), Vijay Mallya (Force India), Adam Parr (Williams), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso)
Q: A question to you all about your initial thoughts about India and the circuit...
Franz, first of all?
Franz Tost: India, so far, I don’t know very well, as I just arrived yesterday and my first impression is quite positive regarding here, the race track. I must say that the team around Sameer Gaur has done a fantastic job as the track itself is very interesting. Long straights, slow corners, fast corners, our drivers are really excited about the track. There are a couple of possibilities for overtaking. In general it is very important for Formula One that we are racing in India, that we go to these new markets that are interesting and important for the future, like India, like China, Russia, the Arabian area, South America. These are the markets for the future and this is important for our sponsors, to bring in more sponsors as Formula One is racing every second weekend. For Formula One itself this is very, very important and thanks also to Bernie [Ecclestone] for doing this, as in the end he is negotiating and coming up with this these new tracks.
Adam Parr: I would agree with everything that Franz has said. I would just add that India is a spectacular country and very colourful, very vibrant, and always has been. Being here is very exciting for us as a team and as a sport and being able to ‘play’ here is important if we are to be a global sport, so we are thrilled. I would just like to say thank you very much to the promoters here for putting on such a fantastic event and for publicising it so well in the country and making Formula One feel so welcome.
Jean Francois Caubet: For Renault, India is a strategic market for the future. We have three strategic markets in the future, India, Russia and Brazil so to race here is very important. We are building a huge factory in the south, in Chennai, and it is a pleasure to race here and I hope that the engine will be, probably, winning.
Q: Monisha, you must be very excited to be here?
Monisha Kaltenborn: I am very excited, and to start, I fully agree with what Franz and Adam said about the place here, about the track. We received a very warm welcome here. What I am very surprised about, pleasantly surprised, is the way the Indian media have been covering the whole event so far. I mean the amount of in-depth information they give about the sport, the rules, what is important, technical aspects, it is very unique. I have never seen that before in this depth and from a personal point of view, of course, I am very excited to have this link now between the job and the country where I come from, so it is a very special race.
Q: Vijay, also you must be very excited and very proud of what you have seen today?
Vijay Mallya: Well, my views are very, very partial. I have a huge vested interest. Over 30 years ago I drove my Ensign Formula One car here in India and I never thought I would ever see a Formula One car race around India in the future. As the chairman of the ASN responsible for motorsport here, we have been trying to promote motorsport in this country for over three decades and this is like a dream come true. When I acquired the then Spyker team, I re-named it Force India and there was a lot of strategy and meaning behind it, as it was meant to put India on the Formula One map. We have had an Indian team since 2008 on the Formula One grid and now a grand prix here in Delhi. This is unbelievably fantastic.
Q: A technical question for you all about engines. It is getting to the sharp end of the championship when the eight engines are perhaps getting a bit tired, when you are perhaps running out. We saw a couple of engine failures today. What is your engine situation in your particular team. Franz?
FT: So far I must say that Ferrari has done a fantastically good job. We have not had an engine failure. I hope this stays like it is until the end of the season. Also with KERS.
Q: Adam, you had an engine failure today. What’s the situation with the AT&T Williams team?
AP: Well we have, I think, two fresh engines left for the remainder of the season, so we are on track in that sense. We have had some reliability issues actually in the last three weekends, which our partner is working very hard to fix as soon as possible and, obviously, that’s critically important for us.
Q: Jean Francois, perhaps you can summarise three teams.
JFC: I think we have one engine free for all the teams and I think in terms of reliability I think we will be quite good this year. I don’t think there will be a problem.
MK: Well compared to last year, we definitely have had a better year this year on engines. I hope it goes on like this and we don’t suffer any problems.
Q: So you shouldn’t have any problems for the end of the season?
MK: I hope so, no.
VM: Well Sahara Force India is committed to putting its best foot forward here on home soil, so we have saved two fresh engines for the race.
Q: And for the other two races?
VM: We are alright, we are alright.
Q: Franz, performance in the last few races has been really good. It must be very useful for next year, and is it a bit of an indication for next year?
FT: I hope so. Currently, I must say, the car performs quite well. The team has made a step forward. We brought some new modifications to Suzuka and as it looked today I think we can be close to qualifying three. That means both cars should be close to the 10th position and this should enable us to score some points in the race. So far, we are within our schedule and regarding for next year, of course, there is some development work which is going on. The main parts for next year we are testing at the young driver tests days in Abu Dhabi.
Q: Adam, you have put in place a new technical team. Can you just outline it and tell us how it’s going.
AP: Well the new technical team consists of Mike Coughlan, who we have just confirmed as our new Technical Director. Mike joined us in June. The Head of Aerodynamics joined us in the middle of August, Jason Somerville, and thirdly, Mark Gillan, who is our chief operations engineer looking after the race team. In terms how they are going I think it has been a very positive step for us in a number of respects. First of all, they are all very experienced people. They have a strong aerodynamic interest, particularly amongst Jason and Mark, who worked together as head and deputy head of aero at Toyota, so there is a good understanding between the track and the tunnel. I think they have already had quite an impact on the team at the factory in the sense of people seeing some good direction forward and a good way of working, so that’s all positive. They essentially view our existing facilities and resources as being good enough to do a much better job than we are doing today. There are some areas where we need to invest a little bit and we are doing that as fast as we can to really try and take a big step forward for next year.
Q: Jean Francois, we saw today a couple of engine failures, not yours I hasten to add. Tell us the challenges of this circuit, as it was interesting to have those engine failures. Is it the circuit?
JFC: No I don’t think it is particularly the circuit. It is not too hard for the engine. I think it is a problem of the end of the season. People try on the engine side to be innovative next year and probably they are more looking to next year and 2014 at the end of this season.
Q: Is there a major or specific challenge at this circuit particularly?
JFC: No, I don’t think we will have a specific challenge here. I think Spa and Monza are worse than here.
Q: Monisha, you have obviously got a major Indian sponsor for this race. How easy or difficult was it. How much did you target and look for a sponsor for this grand prix?
MK: Well, I think like everyone else we wanted to also attract Indian companies and it is surprising that there are not many, as yet, in Formula One, although from the financial potential they are very much capable of doing it. We did try hard and we succeeded in getting one of India’s most known, prestigious owned brands with Amul. I think we will continue with that now. An event like this is the best platform, that’s where we can present ourselves and show the companies here what Formula One is about.
Q: Vijay, a lot has been happening with the team. If you can outline some of the things that has been going on?
VM: Well we have been focusing on our performance, of course, and the big news is the fact that we have a new partner in the Sahara group. The Sahara group is one of the largest groups in India and a huge patron and sponsor of sport, sponsor of India’s national cricket team amongst other sports in India. We started discussions and they came on board and are investing $100million into the team. They will hold 42.5 per cent equity stake. There is no change of control involved. The team will be Sahara Force India. The chassis name remains. I will continue to run the team but with these additional financial resources our research and development strengths get a significant shot in the arm. But what is more, I think this one big move by a major Indian group will encourage many more.
Q: Also, you announced the results of your search for ‘One in a Billion’.
VM: The Indian press has constantly been asking me about an Indian driver in our car and I have said “fine, we will find one”. A couple of years ago I said that amongst 1.2 billion people there must be a Lewis Hamilton somewhere, so we launched this nationwide hunt. We had karting events across the country and finally we chose 10 kids. We took them to Silverstone and to Milton Keynes in the UK and we announced the names of the three winners, well the winner, runner-up and second runner-up yesterday. We are going to send all three to Europe, pay for their education, their advanced driver training and everything. They are under 14-years-old and hopefully in five to six years we will produce an Indian Formula One driver.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Adam, there are five million of us Finns in Finland anxious to know if there is nay chance to see Kimi Raikkonen racing with Williams next year?
AP: I am afraid there is only one answer to that question, which is that our race drivers are Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello and if, and when, that changes we will make an appropriate announcement
Q: (Ubald Parkar - F1 Pulse.com) Jean Francois, you mentioned that India is a strategic market. Can you elaborate as to how Renault intends to tap this market, as Red Bull is badged with Infiniti, Lotus Renault is known more for the Lotus name and the other Lotus doesn’t earn any points.
JFC: We are an engine provider and the name of the team is Red Bull Renault, Lotus Renault, Team Lotus Renault, so we are pushing the name of Renault and we share an affinity with the name in Red Bull. We are pushing on two grounds. We have a technical communication on the Renault side and more a marketing communication on the Infiniti side.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) To the four team representatives. Recently there has been an allegation that certain teams aren’t respecting the terms and conditions of the Resource Restriction Agreement and there are suggestions that the entire agreement could fall apart. As you are middle-ranking teams, if I can term it that, what would be the affect be on your teams if the RRA did fall apart?
FT: First of all, we at Toro Rosso are far away from the figures in the RRA regarding employees as well as external expenditures and, therefore, it doesn’t directly belong to us. But, generally, we should find a way in Formula One to save costs. We should come down with the costs and I think that the RRA was quite a good start for doing this and the big teams in the past years have reduced their costs and where we end up in the future, I don’t know yet. We from Toro Rosso respect the Resource Restriction Agreement.
AP: First of all, I don’t think there is any evidence that anybody is not respecting the RRA and I think that is very important. There may be rumours, but there is no evidence of that so I think from a team perspective we must trust our colleagues. The second point is that everybody that you talk to in Formula One wants cost controls. I met with Christian (Horner) yesterday, I met with Stefano (Domenicali), they are adamant that they want those controls. Now, the question is what is the best way to achieve that and I think that a number of teams would agree, whatever their perspective is, that we can do better than we are doing now in having a good process. Which is not very surprising because it is relatively new and it is relatively difficult and I think, therefore, what is essential now is to get the teams together, which we will do in Abu Dhabi, to work out how to strengthen and move things forward. But there is no disagreement about the need to do this or the desire to do it.
MK: I fully agree with what has been said so far. We also have never seen any evidence indicating that anybody has not stuck to the agreement. And, as mentioned, the RRA is a very important but fair step. We all knew at the time this has to go down this road and it will take a while until we do the next step. It is now time to go into that direction and if you have so many competing teams like in FOTA you have different opinions, you have a different starting point in discussions, so it is fairly normal that we have these discussions but I am quite confident that we will resolve it all.
VM: I think Adam has summed it up very well. I will go along with what he says. There’s no evidence that anybody is busting the agreement and there’s certainly no signs of cracks within FOTA that would leave the entire Resource Restriction plan to blow up. I think everyone - even from the biggest team owner down to the smallest team owner - everybody wants to spend money wisely and not waste money, so if there is any way in which all the teams participating in Formula One can be efficient, can reduce their costs and yet have fun competing and be competitive, I think that’s the way forward. As far as we’re concerned, Force India is fully in compliance.
Q: (Shridhar Potdar -Sakaal Media House) Dr Mallya, when you bought the Spyker team, you said that you didn’t think of becoming the best of the rest. As you know, in Formula One there are two teams who vie for number one and there are other teams whose ranking starts from number three. Now, with the first season, if we look at the stats, this was the first year and it was a learning experience for you. Since then your team has gone places. Do you think the passion and the love for racing is the biggest asset and the biggest weapon of Force India?
VM: When I took over the team at the end of 2007 and our first season was 2008, we just waited and watched because the Spyker team, even though re-named Force India, sort of continued the way it was. And then we made several changes in the team and set out a three year road map from 2009 onwards and I think we’re well on track. I think I owe it to all my colleagues in the team who’ve put their best foot forward and I’m glad we’ve been able to achieve what we set out to achieve.
Q: (Panagiotis Seitanidis - Alpha TV) Dr Mallya, you said that it was a dream come true for Formula One to come to India. How did you feel when not only you had this wonderful circuit but you received all the good comments from the drivers and the other teams?
VM: There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of people were sceptical as well, and I think we proved them all wrong, which is very, very nice. I drove around the track a couple of times yesterday, I spoke to several drivers. They simply love the track. It’s complete, it’s finished. As a member of the World Motor Sport Council I read Charlie Whiting’s report - the FIA track inspection report - and I was amazed to see how complimentary he was on the technical facilities here at the Buddh International circuit, and of course, as we look around, it’s all there, finished on time. The race is happening, it’s real, it’s a dream come true. Can’t complain.
Q: (Matt Youson - Matt Youson & Assoc) Vijay, in addition to the race, we have an FIA General Assembly and the FIA end-of-season gala and prize-giving in India now. What do those add to Indian motor sport potential?
VM: There are two mega-events happening within a few months of each other. At the World Motor Sports Council meeting, I suggested that the FIA General Assembly be held in India and that the annual prize-giving also be held in India, and the World Motor Sport Council accepted it and so this is going to be a huge event as well, high profile. Our Indian Government’s Ministry of Tourism has kindly got involved, giving us full support and so following this Indian Grand Prix and then having and hosting the FIA General Assembly and the annual prize-giving, where we will present the World Championship awards, including to Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, it’s an event that will obviously serve to boost motor sport even to a far greater extent in this country, and I think this is all great because this country has the potential. India is a modern, vibrant nation, we have a huge number of young people here and as you can see all around - Adam mentioned about the promotion through the media as other platforms promoting this race, this event - all this is great stuff and I think it puts India firmly on the Formula One map and helps build a huge fan base.
Q: (Kartikay Mehrota - Bloomberg News) Dr Mallya, do you expect the government to increase their involvement, perhaps financially down the line, to help cover the cost of bringing F1 to India, as you mentioned that the Ministry of Tourism is interested now?
VM: The Ministry of Tourism is supporting the FIA General Assembly and annual prize-giving in non-cash ways. In a country like India, with the profile of our people, with the number of under-privileged people we also have, it would be too much of an ask if we went to government and said ‘subsidise motor sport.’ So this initiative here at the Buddh International Circuit is a private initiative by the Jaypee Group - God bless them, they’ve done a wonderful job and invested a lot of money and they haven’t depended on any sort of government grants.
Q: (Francois Tremblay - Pole Position, Canada) A lot of Formula One fans across the world complain that it’s always the same teams fighting for the win, frustrating for a few of you guys also. Is there anything that has been proposed to help the poorer teams to get more competitive, like having some private testing - the lower you finish, the more private testing you get, something to help you guys to fight for the win?
FT: I don’t think that if the teams which are running a little bit more behind or in the midfield get the possibility for more tests that it would increase their performance or put them in front of the current best teams. It’s always a combination. If you look at Red Bull, they have a fantastic team with Adrian Newey who is a fantastically good designer, they have one of the best drivers in their car, and the team itself is also doing a very, very good job. That means that this combination has grown up in the last two years and it’s not that you say now, for example, to any other team which is behind, ‘OK, we give you more tests and then you will beat them.’ It’s that all the factors have to work together to build up a competitive team, and the reason why there are two or three teams in front, fighting for the championships, it’s because they have got everything together and this takes time and there will always be some teams in front with another infrastructure, with better people, with better drivers and this is simply also in the history of the sport. If you remember before, there were the years when Ferrari was dominating, there was the Williams era, McLaren and that’s always the case. I think that this year, especially this year, we have had fantastically good races with many position changes and although Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have won the championship so early, the races themselves were very, very interesting and I think this is what the people want to see, with all the overtaking. Money was at the end.
AP: Just two thoughts: first of all we don’t expect any favours on the track, and I think it would be inappropriate to ask or suggest that. Where I do think the sport needs to work together is off the track and that includes the economics, so while I don’t think we should get any advantage, I think that as a sport, as we discussed earlier, having a sensible control over the total spending is logical, I think.
JFC: I think on the engine side - because you have a frozen engine and blowing is forbidden next year, reliability is not so bad, it’s nearly the same for all the teams now - I think you must wait until 2014 because in ’14 you will have new regulations, new chassis, new engine, probably a lot of creativity and things will be completely different in ’14. I think it will be something like a new Formula One and the gap will be very big in comparison to now.
MK: I think any such measures would basically distort the championship and the sport, so looking at our team itself, we know our strengths and we can be more flexible than bigger teams can, so we have to focus on them, seeing where the resources restriction is going, these kind of measures. We need to wait for our chance and we need to be there then.
VM: I remember the time Toro Rosso won the race at Monza, beating everybody. We thought that Toro Rosso was one of us. It obviously proved itself quite differently so anything can happen in this sport, as you know, but I think I would agree with Franz in what he was saying, that we need to put everything together: the technical direction, the engineering, the research and development, the team, the drivers - everything’s got to come together. It’s not just a question of money. I don’t believe that money alone can just buy performance. It’s a lot more than that. If you look at the history of the various teams, where they started, where they are today, it shows you that there is an inbuilt, unpredictability here. As far as Sahara Force India is concerned, we’re slowly moving up the ladder and we intend to continue to do that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Vijay, in the last fortnight or so the team ownership has changed; 42.5% the Sahara Group, 42.5% yourself and 15% the Dutch interest. You’ve just referred to the team as Sahara Force India. This last week we’ve received an e-mail from your PR department requesting us to refer to it as Sahara Force India. Have you requested an official name change, because there’s a Formula One Commission meeting coming up, or what is Sahara’s status in the team title please?
VM: The name hasn’t changed. The chassis name remains the same. It’s like Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. So there’s no change of control, there’s no change in the chassis name, so I don’t require any permissions. Out of courtesy, we informed the FOM and the FOM have acknowledged our communication in the affirmative.
Q: (Atul Pateriya - Dainik Jagran) Dr Mallya, the British newspaper The Independent quoted on the eve of the Indian Grand Prix, said in one sense India is a strange venue for a Formula One race. Around thirty percent of the Indian population live on less than one pound a day; what would you like to say about that?
VM: In every country there are the privileged and the under-privileged. We have under-privileged people in our country, but that doesn’t mean that the country must be bogged down or weighed down. India is a progressive country, we have a strongly growing economy, a large economy. The government is doing all it can to address the needs of the poor or the under-privileged people but India must move on. Back in 1990, we consciously made a decision to integrate ourselves into the world economy, to open up from an era of total government control and so the country must move forward. The Commonwealth Games were held here in India, now it’s Formula One. I’m sure there will be several more global events in our country, because this is a world class country in many ways. Sure we have our problems but those are being addressed.
AP: It’s often suggested and maybe The Independent newspaper of England is perhaps guilty of this as well, of treating Formula One as if it was an elite sport. Obviously all international sport is elite in that athletes and teams have to perform at an extraordinarily high level of performance, but that is the only sense in which Formula One is an elite sport. If you look at the people who participate in the sport, drivers and the rest of us, everyone is from normal backgrounds, work hard and I think actually, if you compare us with - dare I say it, Vijay? - if you compare the amounts that people earn in our sport compared with an IPL (Indian Premier League cricket) or English Premier League (football), it’s a much more democratic and much more spread out kind of sport. So I think it’s very important, on the eve of our Indian Grand Prix, it’s very important to make the point: this is not an elite sport, it’s a sport for the whole world. Six hundred million people enjoy it and many, many thousands of people participate in it.
Q: (S. S. ShreeKuma - The New Indian Express, Bangalore) Dr Mallya, what are your expectations from this race?
VM: As far as I’m concerned, we want to put on as best a showing as we can at our home grand prix, and that’s going to be our 100 per cent or 110 per cent effort.
Q: (S. S. ShreeKuma - The New Indian Express, Bangalore) With more Formula One races being added to the Formula One season, what do you think is the ideal number to have in a year?
AP: Franz will just say one a day.
FT: No, as we have 52 weeks, 26 races, every second weekend! No, I think 20 races are OK and that this is the number we should stick to.