MAY 7, 2004
SPANISH GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
Friday Press Conference
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 7 MAY 2004
TEAM PERSONNEL: John HOWETT (TOYOTA) and David PITCHFORTH (JAGUAR)
TYRE MANUFACTURERS: Pierre DUPASQUIER (MICHELIN) and Hirohide HAMASHIMA (BRIDGESTONE)
Q: John, how have you felt about the season so far?
John HOWETT: I think basically we expected to be better as we came into the season. We brought Mike (Gascoyne) in at the end of last year and our performance since Australia is progressing race after race, so we're still challenging to catch the top teams and we're fairly confident that before the end of this season we will deliver more performance.
Q: Ricardo Zonta seems to be doing a fantastic job as a third driver and sometimes we see him going quicker than the two regular drivers. Is that a slightly false illusion?
Howett: I think you have to say we run the engine harder on Friday in the third car. Sometimes he has more option with a newer tyre. He's doing a great job for us as a test driver and we're very happy with him, but I think you have to look at facts to be able to really evaluate the relative performance and we're still very happy with both race drivers.
Q: Now what about this revised car that you're introducing? Is that the case, and how revised will it be?
Howett: Like every team, I suppose, we're constantly trying to improve. We want to improve the monocoque weight during the middle of the season, so we're scheduling around Hockenheim. And at every race we're trying to improve the aerodynamics on the car.
Q: New engine regulations were announced on Tuesday. How do you feel about those regulations and how much action have you taken since then? Have they been discussed? Have any decisions been made?
Howett: Yes, I think in principal we can accept a change in engine regulations. The basic discussion was for 2008 and then a discussion whether that could be advanced. From our point of view, if the regulation is clearly defined by June we could in fact produce a modified engine for the 2006 season. I think the key point for Toyota is we are also here for technical challenge, so I think it's the real detail of the engine regulation that is quite important to us.
Q: Have you actually said you're happy with that 2.4 V8?
Howett: A 2.4 litre V8, I think, is no problem. It makes sense. It enables us to reduce costs, it enables us to transfer current technology towards the smaller engine and I think together with other revisions, and possibly a reduction in testing, it's possible to achieve a 50 percent cost reduction on engines as targeted by the FIA. But still, Toyota's position is that we want quite a lot of freedom on the technology - or not necessarily the technology but freedom of engineering capability for the engine design itself.
Q: And the standard ECU? You're not worried about that?
Howett: This is a discussion point. I think at the meeting that was probably postponed from 2006 and this was something the FIA said clearly would come in from 2008. If it were to be advanced, there would be further discussion.
Q: Dave, roughly speaking the same questions. What were your feelings about the engine regulations?
Dave PITCHFORTH: Yeah, we were reasonably relaxed about the engine regulations. I think a bit of perturbation is needed in the sport anyway and we need to do a new engine, as long as we know when the regulation and what the regulation is, but there needs to be a lot of clarity. At the moment 2.4 ballpark, that's not a problem, but the ECU thing needs a lot of discussion and a lot of clarity because it's software, at the end of the day, and it's not clear whether the team would still provide the software. If they did, then we get back into the chestnut of software regulation and validation, which is very difficult to do.
Q: But you're basically happy with that configuration, that architecture?
Pitchforth: Yeah. I think everybody can do the mathematics, can't they? It's a V10 with two cylinders removed, three litres going down to 2.4, so it's not really an issue for us.
Q: What about the season so far, how do you feel about that?
Pitchforth: Yeah, obviously we've failed to capitalise on some good performances at the beginning of the season which was frustrating but we took what was, I suppose, quite a risk-prone approach to having an update of the car after the launch. We launched R5 and then updated it fully before the Australian race, so a lot of our development was done before the fly-aways. Now we're bringing the development in as we go through the season, on an ongoing continuous improvement basis. And performance so far - we're reasonably happy.
Q: It does seem to be a little up and down - for instance, you got on the front row of the grid in Malaysia but since then it hasn't really happened.
Pitchforth: Yeah, we suffer somewhat from having the testing. We don't test as much as some of the other teams and that leads to surprises, but as long as we're learning, it's alright. As we move forward we put those experiences into our corporate history, if you like, and we don't make the same mistake again. And we're doing a good job of that. We're not having recurring faults but we are on a learning curve because inevitably we're going to bear more of our mistakes at race weekends because we're not doing the testing between the events.
Q: Is that why somebody has mentioned that you haven't done as much development as expected?
Pitchforth: We front-loaded the development to be before Australia - for Australia, if you like, after the launch. The development since then, well, we've broken the cycle of going for big update kits, simply because, to do that, you leave performance in the garage, if you like, or back at the factory, because you're waiting for the whole kit to assemble. We're not doing that, we're bringing the performance to the car - if it's tested and if we understand it - every weekend. So last weekend there was a small update, this weekend small updates and it will go on through the season.
Q: And it will happen even with the six races coming in eight weeks?
Pitchforth: Yeah, we have different parts for Monaco, and we have different parts here this weekend.
Q: Hamashima-san, new tyre rules have been suggested. Tell us about the proposal for the narrow front and wider rear and perhaps losing the grooves as well - what is the thinking that you can see behind that?
Hirohide HAMASHIMA: I think current cars demand high weight distribution to the front because a lighter rear helps the rear tyres so much, so the rear tyres just work for the traction. Front tyres work for braking and cornering, so it makes the car quicker. So, if we use narrower fronts, in that case maybe the car will be slower but we don't know what the cars' design will be after the regulations issued, so it is very important.
Q: What advantages are there to a one-tyre formula? Are there advantages for a tyre company?
Hamashima: Difficult question. Of course, I prefer competition but even if we are sole suppliers, even though we can get the many high technical aspect from the teams, because Formula One teams have many high level techniques, for example simulation and also other things so if we learn so many things then the tyre manufacturer will be better to produce new tyres.
Q: Pierre, we had a release from your company...
Pierre DUPASQUIER: We made a commitment with Hamashima-san, to answer only questions about red wine! Red wine, yes.
Q: ... yes but in between the questions about red wine, your press release says 'we would like to put proposals to reduce costs while maintaining the spirit of competition.' Can you imagine what those proposals would be? How would you manage to do that?
Dupasquier: We're working on it. The idea is that without competition, you don't know what you are doing, you are a tyre supplier, that's fine but it's not what we are in racing for, in motorcycling, in Le Mans or in Formula One. So we really will see competition in order to find out where we are and to try if possible to show our customers, our partners that we are capable of serving a good tyre and they are doing a good job. The tyre companies should be welcome in sport, in Formula One. Then we ask 'what can we do to achieve the president's goal with which we agree 100 percent?' It's responsible and we understand that. Reducing the cost? Fine. Motor racing is not cheap but it's maybe going too far. It's his decision. Fine. And maintaining performance, that's obvious. We have to maintain a balance between the machines and the environment. Karting on a Formula One track is ridiculous and vice versa. So somewhere there is that need for safety as well. He (Mosley) had the same sort of suggestion for rallying and the same objectives and we said 'look, if for example, you ask us to have one tyre per day in rallying in any conditions - I'm talking about tarmac - I don't know if it's possible. But let's try. It will be absolutely ridiculous. The tyre doesn't exist. Not even a production tyre will do it, so we will have to create a tyre that will be titanium or wood or I don't know what, but not rubber any more. So the car will be very slow, it will be very cheap, so that's the kind of idea that can be offered.
Q: Last week, you had seven trucks at Silverstone to provide three teams and when it rained, you didn't have the right tyres. It seemed such an extraordinary cost for a three-day test.
Dupasquier: It is, but a company like our companies, we spend our lives testing anyway, for anything. We test for trucks, we have trucks 24 hours, all day long, just to test tyres. So we must go through tests even though we work very efficiently on simulation. But at the end of the day, you have to see if in real life, if your simulation means something and if you don't screw up on that, and so far we haven't, fortunately or unfortunately I don't know, but we don't have simulation that can answer every question and say 'that's the tyre.' We work on it, but it's not quite there. Yes, it is very expensive, yes we agree 100 percent on the fact that it is too expensive. Reducing the costs is a goal for everybody, every industry, every spectacle. Somebody yesterday told me that Formula One is like a movie - we borrow the money, we invest the money to make the movie, we make a great spectacle but if spectators are not there, it doesn't make any sense. We die. That's fine. It's not only a movie, it's not only spectacle, it's also patience. The people expect some indication from the peak of racing that there is some technology going on, there is improvement, hi-tech, new things. That's why they are so passionate about it. But if we cut that too much, it's a philosophical decision from the FIA. If we cut it too much, the competition between the elements of the machines... It exists already. We have Formula 3000, they are on the track right now. How many spectators are out there? (He indicates zero).
Q: Ferrari say that this championship can be completely turned around by their rival tyre supplier, if he comes up with a different tyre. What chances?
Dupasquier: Well, I would say that if Ferrari come with a non-competitive tyre, the championship will be turned around immediately. I don't see what is behind the question. Do they expect that any of us can find five tenths a lap like that? No way. We had seven trucks at Silverstone to try to find one tenth. So if we screw up, we give the championship to somebody else. But don't expect the tyre company to turn round anything.† What I've found out since the beginning of the season, to get Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari and Ferrari, that's it. So where's the tyre company in that?
Q: Surely it's a partnership?
Dupasquier: Yes, definitely. It is. Absolutely. But if you forget some of the contenders you were just referring to, then you get a different championship.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Dave, a few months ago Richard Parry-Jones was quite vocal on costs in Formula One being reduced. What has been the initial reaction from Ford, your team owner, on all these new rules and proposals?
Pitchforth: Well, I think we are already doing some of the things that are being suggested. We are already doing Formula One on a very controlled budget with strict fiscal controls because we are trying to gain the respect of Ford Motor Company, which we have done. We are also trying to gain the respect of our sponsors to make sure they understand that we are careful and respectful with the funds that they give us. The rules that have been suggested, we are already doing some of that. As for reducing testing, we already reduce testing because it is very expensive, primarily expensive because of engine life. People talk about hotels and flights and stuff like that but that is not the biggest factor, it is really the engines. So reducing the engine mileage at tests will sufficiently reduce the costs. Therefore, you need to do more of the things we have just discussed, which is simulation. In the real world, that is exactly what has happened, so Ford have completely bought into the fact that you need to do less testing. That is what they and the other car companies have been doing for the last 15 years, and if you look back at any car that was developed 15 years ago there may have been 40 prototypes for that vehicle. Now there may be as little as 10 prototypes for the same vehicle and all the rest of it is done in simulation and that is what will happen in Formula One. If there is less testing there has to be more simulation and more rig testing. The testing will still happen, it might be in a computer or it might be on some kind of test rig.
Q: (Gerhard Kuntschik - Salzburger Nachrichten) David, are you disappointed about Christian Klien's performances in Imola and today so far?
Pitchforth: Not here, so far. He has done a good job working through his programme in the first session. In the second session he made a mistake and went into the gravel, which he is very disappointed about, but in the beginning of the season he has done a good job, he has built up his speed, been very careful, finished all the Grands Prix and Imola was a disappointment for him. He severely damaged his chassis and obviously had very little track time before qualifying there and the race car set-up was not good for him, he had very poor race pace as everyone saw and he wasn't very confident with the balance. So that was, again, frustrating for him, but I think he has done a good job as a rookie driver - keep it on the track, building up, he has got the morale up on his side of the garage and he has fitted into the team very well.
Q: (Thibault Larue - Sport Auto) The war between Michelin and Bridgestone is sometimes difficult to follow and understand for the spectators - I have two examples: In Imola we had to explain to our readers that the rain overnight had radically changed the situation in terms of your performance comparison and, when it is raining, we know there will be a lot of different levels of wet conditions in which the difference between your two tyres is radically changed. If a single tyre supplier is not a good idea for the future, then how do you think we can put a break to your war?
Hamashima: Do you think a radical change in Imola? Hmm. I think the two tyre manufacturers are using different materials so I believe performance will be different, for example durability-wise, grip-wise, everything. So then, it seems rain makes a change of the situation. Maybe sometimes other companies will get the advantage during the rain, I believe.
Dupasquier: I don't understand your point because if I see clearly what you mean, you say that you have a hard time explaining about what is going on? Before you had nothing to do! So we should do better, we should probably get more information to you to explain, we can do better, but thanks to the tyre manufacturers you finally have something to say about Formula One.
Q: (James Allen - ITV) Pierre, you are focussed very much on cost in what you have said here today and in your statement. When you talk to Max Mosley, he says there are three reasons to get rid of the two tyre companies, the other two being safety - you can control the lap times - and fairness - to stop it turning into a tyre championship. I can see how you can put an argument for cost, which you have done today, but how are you going to argue against the other two points and, if you are unsuccessful in that are you saying that Michelin will no longer compete in Formula One as a single supplier?
Dupasquier: For the last one, our statement is made and we have plenty of time to think about it. The example I gave for rallying shows that on tyre regulations you may achieve the goal of performances. For example, if we have one tyre for three races, which is obviously ridiculous, then you have a tyre that can do 2000 or 3000km. I tell you, with 900 horsepower it would be a really, really bad tyre and performance would be so bad the car would be stopped everywhere, it would be slower than Formula Three. So, in this aspect, working on the tyre definition by the rule you may achieve also that goal of slowing down the machines, definitely, that is very easy. For example, the president already mentioned one more groove, you know, easily, with little change, you may really drastically change the performance. The cost has been mentioned already, and the third, competition, fairness, that we disagree with. When you compete somehow, somewhere, there is a winner and a loser. The changes at the start, we used to say in French 'donnez a chacun ses chances egales'. Equality doesn't exist. Having the same chance when you compete, when you are a racer, at the start, with rules that you can understand, the same for everyone, then you get competition. One is winning, the other is losing, that is what it is. If you don't want that kind of unfair situation at the end of a race, don't race.
Q: (Gerhard Kuntschik) John, the leading driver for Toyota in the IRL is testing for a competitor of yours in Formula One. Is there no interest from your team in Scott Dixon?
Howett: Well, I think we also have our TDA programme so, as you may know, we are trying to bring young talent into Formula One or into motor racing as well. We have Ryan Briscoe sitting on the sidelines, we have two or three other young drivers coming through the programme. We already brought Cristiano from IRL, or from CART at that time, in the US to Formula One, so I think at the moment, with the basket of opportunity we have, really we have to draw the line somewhere and I think Scott Dixon is respected by Toyota because of his talent but really at this stage we have decided that we don't have room, to be honest, and I don't mean that unkindly, with the portfolio that we are developing. So I don't think there is any chance of Scott coming to Toyota in Formula One.
Q: (Dan Knutson) John, what is the situation for your drivers next year?
Howett: Well, as a management team we are obviously looking at the future, the next two to three years, where we want to get. Clearly we are not satisfied where we are, we want to become a top team and challenge for the championship, and drivers is one of the elements of the equation. We've made no decision on our driver line-up for next year, and when we're ready to, we will advise the press in due course, and I don't foresee that we would do that really before the middle or after the middle of the season.
THURSDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 6 MAY 2004
TEAM MEMBERS: Jenson BUTTON and David RICHARDS (BAR)
Q: Jenson, coming here, everyone's putting pressure on you, they all want you to win, they think you can win. What do you feel about it?
Jenson BUTTON: Hopefully I am going to win - it's just how long (it takes) really. I think our Imola result was very good. We weren't jumping with joy, as you might have noticed. I was very happy with the result, but standing up on the second step of the podium is great but looking up at Michael, you know, that's where we want to be and hopefully it's not going to take too long for us to get there. Here we're looking strong. We've done a lot of testing here over the winter and our pace has been good, over one lap and over a long run. But you know, it's a different story when you get to the race, but hopefully we've made some good ground compared to Ferrari over the last two weeks.
Q: David, what are your feelings coming here?
David RICHARDS: As Jenson said, we've had very good testing times. I remember some of you being somewhat sceptical during the winter period when you looked at the times and at our press launch. I feel reasonably confident here. But the good thing is - you talk about pressure - I always think that you experience pressure when you believe it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I personally believe that Jenson and BAR will have many opportunities like this in front of it over the coming years, so I think we just have to take it as another step in the right direction. And certainly I think the team is not unduly under any great pressure. I think it's feeling more self-confident than it's ever felt before but hopefully it's got its feet firmly planted on the ground and realises that there's still an awful lot of work to do if we're to do this on a consistent basis.
Q: Jenson, going back to the tests, how much was being changed during those tests? Obviously testing here has been encouraging and also at Mugello last week.
Button: "Taku" went very well in testing in Mugello. We found it a little bit more difficult finding a set-up there but it went very well. We did some tyre testing, which was positive, and also the car in the wet seemed to work very well compared to the Ferrari, so that's very positive. So if it's wet or dry here I think we're confident we have made a step forward.
Q: Has the car advantages here that it didn't necessarily have at Imola?
Button: I think a good car should work in every area, at every circuit. On the slow speed circuits it's proved that it's fast at Imola and I think here it's proved that it's quick and reliable on a high-speed circuit. There's no reason why we can't perform like we did at Imola and we'll probably be a step forward because of what we've done in testing. We've had a few new parts on the car.
Q: Do you think that the fact you test here probably more than Ferrari is going to be a great advantage for you?
Button: You know, they're obviously a very experienced team and they've done quite a few miles here in testing. I think they know where they stand, so it's nice to hear Michael and other people from Ferrari saying that they're slightly worried coming to this race, or looking at us knowing that we're going to have a good result here. It's nice to hear that.
Q: One or two people have said they feel that you've changed this year in comparison to last. Would you say that even more so now?
Button: I've gained a lot more experience and I'm pushing a lot harder for results. I'm working a lot better with the team and pushing them very hard so, yeah, I have changed in my approach, but a lot of it is through experience, it really is. You know I've changed three or four times in career, supposedly, in Formula One, but not all of them are true. But I definitely have gained a lot of experience over the last year, 16 months, and I'm very confident in my ability and also that of the team.
Q: David was talking about pressure. Do you feel a lot of pressure on you and on the team? How do you react to it?
Button: It's difficult. I don't feel under pressure to perform, from outside. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and I seem to work OK under pressure, under personal pressure anyway. I think I did an OK job in Imola, so outside pressure is not a problem, it's personal pressure that is the tough one.
Q: What about the new haircut, can we have a look at that? An official unveiling?
Button: No I can't. I've got to keep this (cap) on. Yeah, I thought I'd go for a trim, a nice spring trim.
Q: Yes, a bit more round the chops too, a bit more streamlined...
Button: Yup, a bit less weight, gotta help!
Q: David, you mentioned briefly the team atmosphere, but is it hugely optimistic or is it cautious? What is the team atmosphere?
Richards: I think it's just growing in self-confidence. The team's very realistic, they've been around for five years, just taking the odd crumb off the table, and here we are, each weekend coming to race circuits expecting, hoping and anticipating to be on the podium, and that's the sort of change of attitude, a significant change of attitude which is not just prevalent in the race team here, it actually goes throughout the whole factory. It was surprising, at the start of the season, when we set the goals, when we set our agenda for the year in private back at Brackley, we all sat down and talked about it, we shared it with the management, we shared it with the entire team, we set the goals together - and I was suspicious that people hadn't really bought into it. We did a survey, though, of all the staff, shortly afterwards and in the survey 90 percent of the staff agreed that our goals for the season were fully achievable and it's turning out that way.
Q: You haven't achieved them yet, then?
Richards: No, but we're slightly ahead of the targets that we set ourselves, and they were fairly tough targets compared to where we've been in the past.
Q: So what's the step forward here in comparison to Imola?
Richards: It's all small detail. Honda have done another change and they're relentlessly moving forward. I think the major step you'll see in this year's engine will not be until Canada. Aero work, there are obviously some improvements in that area, and we work more closely with Michelin these days - we've been getting better and better in our understanding of the tyres. Earlier in the year, we didn't take full advantage of the opportunities in qualifying in Bahrain. We learned our lesson from that. If you look at our last race at Imola there were some issues about our pit stops. We understand those now and we've addressed that problem for here. It is all about identifying the problems and working together to solve them for the next race.
Q: Do you think Michael genuinely has a case when he says you can win here over him, or is it just politicking?
Richards: Ah, Michael's incredibly strong. There isn't a circuit in the world that he can't go to with total confidence that he's the man to beat. You can let this flattery go to your head and you can slow down your pace and be caught off guard. We're working as hard as we ever have done and we will not let up from now to the last race of the season in Brazil.
Q: On the subject of the meeting at Monaco on Tuesday, it seems extraordinary that everyone went there with such a positive attitude. How much politicking, how much preparation was done amongst the team owners before you even got there?
Richards: Well, we obviously discussed the situation. I had a dinner with some of my colleagues the night before to talk it through, but the fact that you have to accept is that, with the Concorde Agreement coming to an end in 2007, it is the FIA's entitlement - it's their F1 championship - to write a set of regulations going forward which are in their opinion in the best interests of Formula One. That's what Max has put forward and he makes no bones about it. Many issues are contentious, many issues you don't necessary agree with, but nonetheless, he's put that on the table now and we've got to work from that position. I don't think there's a team out there... certainly BAR is totally behind an improvement in the show for Formula One. We all want the same thing, we just probably have different ways of going about it. As you say, the meeting was very cordial, there weren't any major confrontations or issues there, and I think there's a general desire from everybody now to move forward in a positive direction, as quickly as practice. I think some of the issues that have been put on the table, the timescales for them, there are some complexities which haven't been thought through totally as yet.
Q: What are the contentious issues for you, even just timescale?
Richards: I don't know. The problem is if you go into any detail of any particular aspect and it has a knock-on effect to another aspect of it. I think as a total package, I think the great thing about what we're doing now is we're looking at the whole of Formula One in a total way. We're not picking up little bits and saying 'it doesn't work here, let's change the qualifying rules,' or 'it doesn't work for this reason, let's put another groove in the tyres.' We're saying 'let's look at the whole package again and see if we can make it all work together' and that's quite clearly the right approach to take. It has my full support, even if some of the detail doesn't.
Q: So there's a still a lot to be decided, although the basic policy of doing what you have to do is agreed upon?
Richards: There's not a lot to be decided about what will happen in 2008, it's how we bring it forward from that date that's the critical thing and clearly that's the great desire of the audience out there and I'm sure it is in this media room as well. And that, naturally, gets embroiled in vested interests and the politics of the sport, and hopefully people will look at the bigger picture and take a view on things that maybe the good health of Formula One should be put ahead of their own personal interests.
Q: But the vested interests didn't necessarily rear their heads at Monaco on Tuesday?
Richards: It probably wasn't the opportune forum for that.
Q: But they will?
Richards: I dare say over the coming few weeks you will see those issues come out to the fore. One of the fundamental ones for me is Max's desire to bring the engine regulation forward to 2006. In the cold light of day, most of the engine manufacturers could develop a new engine in 18 months' time. It's a hard task, but it isn't impractical. However, if those engine manufacturers are frantically designing a new engine over the next 18 months and developing it through 2006, where do you think the teams who don't have engine manufacturers, or, for that matter, any new teams coming into Formula One, are going to get their engine from? So maybe the timescale for that is maybe a little optimistic.
Q: You mentioned qualifying a moment ago. Have you got your own personal ideas as to how that could be improved?
Richards: I'm quite happy to give Bernie my full mandate to come up with whatever scheme he thinks is appropriate for the TV audience and spectators alike, and as long as it's the same for everybody, we'll support it 100 percent.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson - Mike Doodson Associates) David, when you finished your first stint as a manager in Formula One, you said you would only come back as an owner. When you moved in at BAR, it was probably as cheap as chips. Due to your own good efforts, peculiarly, the team is now probably very expensive to buy. I'm assuming that you've got some sort of a deal going with BAT who've said that they want to be out of Formula One by a given date? Can you tell us what your plans are to become a fully fledged team owner in accordance with your own stated plans?
Richards: I'll give you the same answer I gave you last time Mike, when you asked the very same question probably in this very same room a year ago. The very nature of these arrangements are confidential but you're quite right in many of your assumptions about my relationship with BAT and the future of the team.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sports News) David, you talk about this whole change of atmosphere and attitude in the team. How much is Jacques Villeneuve being there or not being there having any difference? Was it a case of maybe the Villeneuve era had run its course and now the team is going off in a different direction?
Richards: I don't think you can necessarily pinpoint a change in attitude to one individual. Things have changed over a period of time, and that's what happens in organisation and they just quietly adopt a new style, a new attitude, a new culture, and that's just an observation I would make and I certainly wouldn't pin that down to Jacques or anyone else for that matter. It's just how things have evolved over the last couple of years, and certainly I sense the change. I know Jenson has seen a change, but how that comes about? I don't know. It's better for other people to judge rather than myself.
Q: (Stephanie Morin - La Presse) Can we put the same thing to Jenson then? What do you feel is the main difference this season in comparison to last season?
Button: I think it's before that. You can't make a leap forward from where we were at the start of last year to where we are now. It takes time. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of hard work. I think that's where it comes from. It's probably even before the start of 2003.
Richards: I think there's a tendency for people to look for simplistic answers in these questions and in an organisation that encompasses the best part of 400 people and a very complex technological challenge in a Formula One racing car, the answers aren't simple. They span a wide spectrum from the drivers at the most obvious end of it to the people back at the factory who are already designing next year's car and all the work that goes on in between. A team and its culture is built up about a whole raft of issues that all need addressing and given equal priority. If you fail to give the priority to one individual area that, sure, is going to be area that's going to let you down at the end of the day. I always describe it a little bit like the circus act where the man goes along spinning the plates and there are 20 plates spinning away and he's only worried about the one that's about to wobble and fall off, because that's where you're going to come unstuck.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Could I ask you to clarify something that came up in the meeting on Tuesday. There's no spare car from 2005 and it may not affect you next year or thereafter but is the Friday third driver going to vanish at the end of this season? What's the plan there?
Richards: The Friday third driver wasn't discussed at all and that's obviously something that will be discussed further down the line. The third car situation is in reality what we have today. The third car is not really available to us other than on the Friday for the third driver. It's not available to the other drivers effectively unless there was a first lap incident and the race was stopped. In reality, going forward, we'll have a car in a box at the back. You will carry a chassis and a tub round the back and be able to rebuild it should you have an accident that warrants that. The theory was put forward that in Formula 3000 they have no spare cars and at no time has anybody failed to take the grid as a result of an incident, so the argument was did we really need to carry third cars around the place? You've also got to consider that there's an interesting point here about the whole proposals. To my mind, the primary objective has to be to improve the show, to improve the overall packaging of Formula One. We shouldn't try to masquerade things up in cost-saving exercises, because in point of fact, all we're doing is moving cost into another area. The reality is that I will get a budget for next year, it will be the largest budget I can acquire by whatever means I can and we will allocate a proportion of that to spend on our racing activities and our job then is to spend that as effectively as possible. Now if you turn round and say 'well you've got spend less on whatever it might be, whether it's gearboxes or suspension' then we'll look at the next performance area and we will spend that amount of money in there, so all we will do is effectively shift expense around the car. What we've got to look at more and more is the enormous disparity we have from one end of the sport to the other end of the sport and we've got to find ways of closing that gap and whilst you have one or two teams able to spend vast fortunes to win a world title, and at the other end of the spectrum teams who don't have the funds available to them, nor the engines available to them, you will always have that disparity and it's a very difficult thing to address and so the whole notion of saving of cost is... yes, it will have benefits. But what we should be doing and hopefully will address, is we should minimise the cost to build a competitive car, i.e., if you were drawing a graph, the cheaper it is to have a competitive team, and then the more expensive it is from there on to get those incremental gains, the more level playing field it will become. But it doesn't get away from the fact that if one company just sees it is worth so much money to win this title, over and above everybody else... motor sport tends to favour those with the deepest pockets.
Q: (Heinz Pruller - Kronen Zeitung) David, may I ask you to make a comparison between the budgets of the big rally teams and the big Formula One teams?
Richards: Yeah, you can say that the rally team budgets are probably about 40 percent of the current Formula One team's costs. I would estimate that sort of order. You can take the top rally teams' budgets at... it's always hard to judge but I would say they are around the $100m mark, something of that nature. And then they range down to about $50m, a bit more, $60m. I came along to Ford with £1m sponsor that was Rothmans and that effectively got Ari (Vatanen) and myself into the World Championship. I'd like to find £1m sponsor now if anyone knows of any...
Q: David, if you look at the rally situation with those two extremes of budgets, how much more of a level playing field is rallying than Formula One and what lessons are there to be learned?
Richards: Well, I think it's a very different discipline, very distinctly, and I think that what you've got there is the driver influence playing a far bigger part and I would suggest that the top drivers, if they moved around cars, it would have little influence, it would be the top drivers that would still win, and I do have to say that some of the proposals that Max is putting forward should achieve that in Formula One, because I think that if you tend to look back over the recent past, it's been a truism that it's been the teams, and you look at the rankings and it's been much as to how good the car has been, and yes, you still need superb drivers to drive Formula One cars but the priority has tended to be on the technical side and hopefully we can move that backwards now to where the driver becomes more of a dominant force.
Q: (Alastair Moffitt - PA News) Jenson, leading from pole position at Imola, how important is that psychologically as you look for your first win?
Button: Not really. It's good that I've experienced that but I don't really think it changes anything. I suppose you've got a bit of experience starting from the front row of the grid with no cars in front of you, but that's the easiest place to be at the start of a race, it really is. To me it feels like less pressure and you've just got yourself and the lights instead of having to worry about other cars around you. So no, I don't think it psychologically helps in any way.
Q: (Dan Knutson) Jenson, this year, in battles, we've seen cars almost knocking each other off, pushing one another off on the grass. Where do you draw the line? What's fair or not fair when it comes to passing and fighting?
Button: Well, the regulations aren't down to me, and I haven't been in that position yet this season. But I think that if you're at high speed, you've just got to use common sense. You can't drive somebody onto the grass, even if you're holding your line, even if you're coming out of a right hand corner, ending up on the left hand side of the circuit, I don't really think you can push somebody off onto the grass which I saw in DTM the other week when I was watching it. But I think on a slow speed corner, you can exit and take your line, as long as it's safe.
Q: (Joe Saward - F1 Grand Prix Special) David, there's been a lot of talk this year about you and Honda and the relationship; can you tell us where exactly you stand on that at the moment?
Richards: I can't give you the detail of it all but I can assure you that we will be with Honda for some years to come.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Jenson, there was only two laps difference between you and Michael (making your first stops) at Imola. I realise that you've got to balance things out between qualifying and the first stint, but you did get murdered in the first pit stop. Looking back on it now, do you think that you could still have been in front and had pole position if you'd had those extra two laps of fuel in the car?
Button: The thing is, if Michael didn't make his mistake there was a good chance of us having a very similar lap time and if we'd put two laps more fuel in the car, we might not have been on pole position and we would have been behind already and I think Michael would have just driven away. They were so much quicker than us throughout the race. I think there was an average of about 0.8s quicker per lap, so there was no way to beat Ferrari as long as they did their strategy as they should have done, so it was an impossible thing to do for us, sorry to say.
Q: And you can be confident of actually catching that up here, that 0.8s?
Button: Eight tenths? No, that's a big margin, but I think we can be closer and they might make a mistake or they might not qualify as maybe they thought they would. There's a lot of things that could go wrong, but if they do a perfect race, which they seem to do at every race so far this year, it's going to be very difficult to beat them here also.
TEAM MEMBERS: Fernando ALONSO and Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT)
Q: Fernando, how happy with the season have you been so far?
Fernando ALONSO: I am happy. Obviously, the last three races were a little bit difficult for me, especially Malaysia and Bahrain because I started from the back of the grid, and then Imola I started in the normal position but the race was difficult, always in the traffic, not a very good start and I had to push a lot and fight a lot to get the fourth position. So at the end of the day I think the first four races were good for us, especially for the team. Both drivers have scored points in all the races, we are second in the constructors' championship and we are quite pleased with the season.
Q: Reliability has obviously been very good but it is obviously a very fine line. Do you think the team needs to be a little bit more brave rather than cautious?
Alonso: At the moment I don't think so, considering we had a completely new engine starting from nothing six or seven months ago. The important thing for us is to get points and finish the races and to get experience with this new engine and that is what we are doing at the moment. Maybe the last half of the season is the time to push a little bit more, but now I hope to keep this level up and to finish all the races - that is the only way to score points and to go up in the championship.
Q: At the start of the season Ferrari said the one team they really feared was Renault and yet you haven't really taken the fight to Ferrari.
Alonso: No, it has been too difficult for us. Only in Australia we were a little bit competitive compared with them but not even there. Then the last three races we were not even the second team on the grid, so we have to push a little bit more to catch and to close that gap and try to be in front of BAR and Williams, which is not easy at all, and, you know, we have a long season to go and we have good room to improve because, as I said before, the engine is completely new and we have many things to improve and we are in a good position I think.
Q: How do you feel about the car itself, because Jarno has expressed some reservations about the actual handling and the feeling of the car.
Alonso: Well, at the start of the season the drivers normally feel a little bit uncomfortable and difficult with the new cars but we felt the same with the R22, the R23 and now the R24. It is time to get used to the car, to get to know the car perfectly, to work with the engineers to set up the car properly for the races. I am quite confident we have a good potential, a good package, much better than last year, the chassis and the engine. I think we are quite competitive and I think it is time to can get more points, finish the races and maybe to be on the podium a little bit more often for Jarno and me.
Q: So is that coming, that feeling with the car? Because you are about to go into six races in eight weeks.
Alonso: Yes, I hope so. Now, as you said, there are many races in two months and we have to push a lot now if we want to go with the front group in the championship or maybe we will go down and not catch them anymore so we need to be careful of this and, as I said before, to finish the races because that is the only way to take points.
Q: So, Flavio, do you feel that is what is going to happen, you are going to take a step up?
Flavio BRIATORE: Well, for the moment we are second in the championship. A step up would be first. I don't know what you guys want, basically! Renault is three years in Formula One, we have done something quite major for that time, especially with Fernando and with Jarno. I think someone else is complaining about the results, not Renault, honestly. We never pretended to be world champions this year, we were always talking about 2005 and if I see behind us are a lot of big teams. I mean, I think we have done a good job. Maybe someone else does not.
Q: What are your feelings about the rule changes? You were pushing for major, major cuts. You wanted 50 percent cost cutting. How do you feel about the meeting on Tuesday?
Briatore: It depends on the budget you have. You are cutting 50 percent, if someone is already cutting 50 percent it is not possible to cut another 50 percent. I believe we need to do something and the meeting was very good and, really, it is one of the first few meetings good in Formula One in the last 14 years. I believe that together we need to do something because we need to take care of our public, our customers, the people watching television. We need to give them a better race. I don't think that people care if, in Fernando's car, there is a 2.4 litre engine, a three litre, 1.9, people don't really have an interest in that. What they are interested in is if Fernando and Michael are fighting together. They want to watch a race. And our product is so expensive and we never take into consideration our customer. I mean, it is a very engineering exercise, our business, and we forget there are millions and millions of people watching us, we forget the marketing issue, we forget the commercial issue. Ten years I have been talking about that and everyone thinks that I don't have the motorsport in my stomach or this shit. Now everybody has motorsport in the stomach and everyone has run out of money and it is very good!
Q: You said you have been putting the message across for 14 years...
Briatore: No, for 10, because the first year I had no idea... if you take my interview ten years ago with Benetton we discussed already that it would be possible to do the same with 50 percent of the money, it's as simple as that.
Q: So how much did you have to push this view before the meeting?
Briatore: I don't think I had to push so much now because it is the closed market. When you finish the money you stop spending.
Q: But David Richards was saying just now that the self interest will begin to kick in in the subsequent meetings.
Briatore: You know, we do so many meetings. I think we are doing some action now and we expect Bernie to prepare the new Concorde agreement and if somebody wants to sign then they sign, if they don't want to sign, don't sign. I believe we are in the business to be democratic than to be everybody together, you know, because, with this 100 percent agreement you achieve nothing. This has happened in the last 10 years in Formula One, where we have always needed a majority 100 percent. It is difficult managing a condominium if you need 100 percent of the votes of the people who live in the condominium. We need a majority - 51 percent decide and 49 percent not. Majority, minority, this is what you call it in a democracy.
Q: So you are pretty happy with the way it went, anyway?
Briatore: I believe it is something finally that people realise we are not doing only development in Formula One, not only doing an engineering exercise, we are doing an event. You know, Formula One is a big television event, it is not a big engineering exercise. We have all this technology that people are talking about, they never understand. Really, it is a lot of rubbish!
Q: So have you still got some reservations about the new rules as they stand at the moment?
Briatore: No. I believe on one side you need to decrease the cost on the other side you need to increase the income. For sure, what you need to increase is the spectacle, the show. Everyone is complaining and we need to do something. I believe we need to sit together and maybe we will change the qualifying not only this year but, if everyone is agreed, maybe in the middle of the season, why not? And at one point we need to put a cap on the expenses and on another we need to bring more income into the business.
Q: What are your ideas for qualifying?
Briatore: I no tell you!
Q: Why not?
Briatore: Because we need to put it together and we are still working on that and we need to make sure we don't make another mistake.
Q: In no other sport in the world do participants actually make up the rules. Do you think it is right that the participants in the sport make that sort of† decision?
Briatore: Formula One is not about participants. Each team is 1000 people. I don't think it is a sport, Formula One, because you are not running two cars with 1000 people in sport, if you want racing you go by yourself with two friends and you go racing. I think Formula One is a business first, because when you talk about 1000 people in one team, 1000 people means 2000 family, you know, we are not talking about sport, we are taking about business first and after that is the main television event and then after that, sure, is the sport, because the sport is about the fight between drivers, the risks the drivers take. Formula One is a big event with everything in it, you have the danger, you have the lifestyle, you have the drivers, you have the rich, whatever. But, I mean, I think it is business first and everything else is coming second.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Flavio, with these cuts that are planned, how does that translate to job losses in Formula One and at Renault? How many people are going to lose their jobs?
Briatore: It depends on how many people keep the job if you lose somebody. I mean, we are in the economic environment. Sure, the mentality for engineering in our business is not firing people and not hiring people, because we always miss somebody in the company. I started Formula One with 120 people, now we have 400. I think the races was much better when we had 120 people. It was much more fun and the races were much tighter. Sure, the money is not proportional to what you are doing in the race because there is not some team that would be seven seconds quicker than someone else.
Q: Flavio, could you describe your feelings about becoming a father this week?
Briatore: I don't think we discuss these things. We are talking about Formula One.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sports News) Flavio, you talked about getting more income. We have now sort of agreed on sporting and technical regulations but how confident are you that the commercial issues will be solved and there will be a better distribution of the income?
Briatore: I believe we have a proposal on the table and the Bernie' proposal at the time was accepted by all the manufacturers at the table. I mean, the income in Formula One is enormous money and I think what we need to do is split 50 percent for the team and 50 percent for the organiser. That is all the income, we are talking about, not only one part of the income. For this, I believe the team is quite happy. For the long-term, the income from the television rights, from the public, for advertising, would be representing 50 percent of our business, because this is what we are producing. You see, our job is entertaining people and we need more income from this side, absolutely. Really there is 50 percent from this side and 50 percent from sponsorship.
Q: (Carlos Miguel Gomes - Diario AS) Two questions for Flavio. One, are you still having fun in Formula One, and two, when does your contract with Renault end?
Briatore: Ha, ha, ha. I have a lot of fun. But it is not a question of fun, it is a question of motivation. I am in Formula One to win and I put Renault together to be on the top. It was not easy, it is not easy, because competition is very strong. Renault was the last team to arrive in the picture but if you want to call this fun, this is fun. Building up the team is fun, when you see Fernando the first time on the podium, this is fun, when you see Fernando the first time winning a race, it is fun, because this really is the result of your job, what you risk, or whatever, to give to the driver the right car to win a race. This is the motivation, why you are still in Formula One. My contract with Renault is expiring 2005, this is what is in my contract with Renault.
Q: (Bob Constanduros) Just a quick question for Fernando, you had a fantastic race here this time last year and obviously your compatriots were very excited about that. What chances of the same again this weekend?
Alonso: It is unpredictable, I think, to make a prediction for the race. But I have good memories from last year, it was a good race, the car was fantastic here, and I really hope to have the same car, competitive here all the weekend, and I will have a chance. From my side I will do 200 percent for this race because are a lot of people have come to support me, I like the track, I like to race here, it is my home Grand Prix and, for sure, to do something like last year is for me a dream now on Thursday.
Q: (Bob Constanduros) Is there more pressure because it is your home race?
Alonso: No. No, because, in Formula One, I have honestly not felt the pressure. Never, from 2001.