BAHRAIN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 10 MARCH 2006
TEAM PRINCIPALS: Gerhard BERGER (TORO ROSSO), Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT), Ron DENNIS (MCLAREN), Aguri SUZUKI (SUPER AGURI), Jean TODT (FERRARI)
Q: Gerhard, first of all, how does it feel to be back?
Gerhard BERGER: It's great to be back, honestly. It was great to be at home a bit, to relax for the last year and a half but I was missing motorsport, no question about it, so now I had a good opportunity, and I'm happy to be here again.
Q: Are you going to be a good spectator, given that you have an interest in the team or will you be more hands-on?
Berger: Well, it was a fantastic opportunity, it was great to get 50 percent of the team and of course that makes it a little bit different. Let's see now. I hope we can develop the team in a good way and we can create something for the future.
Q: What will be your role within the team?
Berger: Well, we have Franz Tost as team principal who everybody knows. I've known him very well since the Formula Ford time and then when I was in BMW he joined us there. I worked with him for five years there and now he's our team principal and he's going to stay and I'm just going to be close to him and whenever there's a need and whenever I can give some input I will try to do my best.
Q: Your V10 engine is governed by an equivalency formula; are you worried about that being changed, if you're getting the car into the top six like today?
Berger: It's a good question because first, we've been testing here, as one of the few teams, so we came here with a set-up already. Then, of course we put on a fresh set of tyres, we did a good lap time but a lot of the teams still kept very quiet because they are trying to save miles on the engine, so we could have a full day running. We ran a lot so there was a certain advantage on our side today. And then, if you talk about the engine, I hear a lot of discussions going on already. First, for me, we took over the engine contract from Minardi and that's what we have and we try to do our best. We've built up a team, we've made it stronger, we have quite a good car and we have this engine which we are very happy with. And as I understood, the goal of the FIA was to regulate this engine in a way that is competitive. I'm 100 percent sure that we don't have the best engine. There are some V8s that are stronger than ours but I'm also sure that we don't have the worst engine. And I don't think it was the goal to put the V10 as the worst engine. I think it should have a fair chance and I think that's what we have. So I think all this discussion is not right and we're going to see where the engine is over the next days, but if you look at the speeds, I think it's fair as it is at the moment.
Q: Jean, tell us about the atmosphere within the team after last year. Do you see a different atmosphere within the team in comparison to last year?
Jean TODT: Not really. It's good because we start from scratch again, so we have all our chances to try to do the best result as possible. Everybody is very motivated and of course we are just expecting to see the way things are going to develop because it's far too early to know where we are. So there's always some tension, some expectation to see how the situation is, and that's why the first race will be quite interesting.
Q: Do you think Bridgestone has gained from having other teams, Williams and Toyota?
Todt: It definitely allows Bridgestone to have some other input so they don't have to just listen to us to develop the tyres. They did a very good job over the winter. Again, at the moment, the only thing we can say is that it seems encouraging but no more.
Q: There's talk of an agreement in terms of testing. Is that the case and can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Todt: Yes, I got the document which was signed by the 11 team principals so we can say that an agreement has been made regarding testing for '06.
Q: How many days?
Todt: I think 36 days during the season. I think. I'm not sure.
Q: Aguri-san; welcome, good to see you and well done for getting here. Give us some sort of idea what sort of effort has been required, because let's face it, at the last Grand Prix we didn't even know the name of the team and here you are with two cars out there.
Suzuki: It's been very difficult for me to come back into Formula One. I started this project last September, only 150 days build-up to Formula One, so it's very very difficult. I found and negotiated some budget and set up a factory with some staff but I'm very happy to come back here. Anyway, my two cars are here and I'm here but I'm very happy but it's been very difficult.
Q: What sort of future developments will we see? People have talked about a new monocoque; when do we expect to see that?
Suzuki: Now our team is using an Arrows monocoque and it has some modified aerodynamics and things like that. But just now, everybody in the factory is starting the new monocoque and the new car and development.
Q: When will we see the new car?
Suzuki: It's very difficult to say now, because my team is very small, only 100 people. Now, starting the season, it's very difficult to get the new car developed. But now it's been started.
Q: How much help have you had from Honda?
Suzuki: Honda have helped a lot: engine support and some electronic control systems and also engineers are helping my team.
Q: Flavio, obviously you had the success of last season. Do you see a different atmosphere within the team to last season? Has it been difficult to get the team motivated this year?
Flavio BRIATORE: Not really. I don't see any difference. Last year we had 19 races. This is like the 20th race of 2005, the same.
Q: Talking of different races, we are starting the season for the first time here in Bahrain. How do you see this as a location for the start of the season in comparison to Australia?
Briatore: We need to start from somewhere, you know? The weather is good, it makes no difference. We are going to Australia in three or four weeks. I don't believe it makes any difference. Every time we start the race and you see what happens later.
Q: What about Fernando? This time last year he was just starting the season; how has he changed since this time last year?
Briatore: He's changed because last year we were starting in Australia, you know, and now we're starting in Bahrain, but after that nothing has changed. I have seen him today, he looks like the same. We are all one year older, but after that I don't see any change.
Q: How do you feel about today's result?
Briatore: The result is Sunday, not today. Today is only Friday. Let's see what happens on Sunday.
Q: Ron, the times show you as 12th and 13th today; where do you think you should be?
Ron DENNIS: Twelfth and 13th, that's what the lap times say. As Flavio said, there is an unusually mixed grid. There are people who are focusing on their correct qualifying strategy from 10th to 22nd which is clearly different from 1st to tenth. Those people can obviously qualify with low fuel, not having to worry about race fuel set-ups, because they can add fuel afterwards. There are a lot of people who have been testing here. There are people such as us. We ran our tyre comparison this morning, so it was a pretty dirty circuit, but our underlying performance is quite good. I think at the moment we have no concerns. It was a bit frustrating that we had an electronic box failure on Kimi's car which is the first in years. It's been several years, literally, since we've had that sort of failure so I'm not too concerned about that. I think tomorrow, hopefully everyone will see, it will be a very different picture.
Q: I was going to ask about reliability. Presumably you hoped you'd beaten those problems that you had in testing?
Dennis: We've actually had a lot of reliability over the last two weeks so it's a bit frustrating to suffer the embarrassment of a failure today but no one's perfect and it's very frustrating for us but it's not too serious.
Q: What about the drivers, how have they changed over the year?
Dennis: Juan Pablo's really been working very hard through the winter trying to raise his game and time will tell if he's been successful in that. Kimi's had three months off which is, I think, something which he enjoyed a great deal. Different things suit different people and getting away from it is Kimi's way of recharging his batteries. Other drivers like to train hard and hit the ground running, but at the end of the day, it's about qualifying and racing, it's not really about what takes place in winter.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ralf Bach - R&B) Mr Dennis, will you be talking about changing the engine on Montoya's car?
Dennis: No, the engines are absolutely fine. There's no difference between the engines and there is a difference between gearing. When you run at lower revs in order to protect the engine, you end up with less than optimised mapping and that does make the engine a little uncomfortable to drive. When you move into the area of preparing for racing and qualifying, it's a different area where we have to look at the engines, but they're exactly the same.
Q: (Ralf Bach - R&B) Are there any concerns at all for Bahrain?
Dennis: No. The engines are fine.
Q: (Patrick Briggs - Bahrain Tribune) We had a lot of third drivers out there and a number of them did pretty well. What do you think was going on?
Dennis: I'm sure perhaps if people don't come to all the Grands Prix, and I think you fall into that category, it can be very confusing and for some even more confusing because the teams are doing different things for different reasons. Certainly third drivers, I suppose, one part of their payment for contributing to the team's performance is to get the chance to run with low fuel and new tyres in today sessions which will help them to jump to the top of the timesheets. Those teams who have been testing here have confidence in their car's set-up, and it reflects very much on first day. It allows them to get some good running in before they make their tyre evaluation in the second session. The first day of testing is the day that benefits those who have been testing here the most. Whether that benefit flows through to the race remains to be seen but maybe it must be very confusing for people such as you, but you shouldn't read too much into it.
Q: (Giorgio Tardozzi - RAI) We have heard Gerhard talk about his point of view on Toro Rosso. But the real deal is that Toro Rosso cannot have points because it is not a V10 engine and do we discuss this every time or not?
Todt: When it was decided to allow some private teams to have access to V10 with a restrictor we informed the FIA that we could object depending on the outcome of the championship with the car, so I am confident it is going to happen. Of course we cannot avoid having agreements like this one, but I am confident that the FIA can do the right thing.
Briatore: Of course, the main reason to allow this with engines is that private teams have no finance for engines so that is the reason they still have them (V10s).
Dennis: I think there's maybe two points to supplement what's been said. First of all, all teams who had committed to running V8s very much appreciated that there was going to be an advantage from running V10s and going down an equivalency route. We undertook with each other, signed a document that undertook to each other that we would run V8s, in other words, permitting, in writing, to run V8s. The team that was given the concession to run V10s was Minardi, and it was given the concession for financial reasons, not for performance reasons, and there are several parameters of the engine that must be addressed when achieving an equivalency. Horsepower is one, and it is something that absolutely you can achieve, but a V10 engine will always give more torque and you cannot tweak the engine due to all the air restrictors and that sort of thing. It might or it might not form an equivalency, but it's important to remember that the reason for the engine issue in the first place was for cost reasons, not a formula by which people had a choice. That formula has been contracted out deliberately by people who wanted V8 engines. That is a clean, clear, analytical statement of fact.
Briatore: It's the same situation we have with the third cars, we applied to get third cars for the economical effect to help small teams. It was not for Ferrari, McLaren, Honda to use. That is why we are all talking about the third car.
Berger: I have to say, we took over a team from Minardi. We had a contract with the team and with the engine. ... Should we be penalised for using the engine or should the FIA try to put it into a fair position. I agree with Ron, it is very difficult to charge it correctly, but there are some other areas where it's not just about the engine and we are improving elsewhere.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Flavio, you're one of the manufacturers who hasn't yet signed a deal with Bernie Ecclestone. Can you fill us in on how long it will take?
Briatore: I think we are very close to finalising with Bernie. Maybe it can happen in the next weeks. We are very much agreed.
Dennis: I think everybody has agreed that they are of the view that it's all about money. Money's all that's talked about in Grand Prix racing. Here, it is very important to understand that this is the future of Grand Prix Racing until at least 2012 and maybe beyond. The document which is a memorandum of understanding that is being worked on, at the moment really deals with many issues. I think the discussions that have taken place in the last month really are those that will determine where we push in manner of the long-term interest of F1. The buyout by the CVC has been most positively felt because they want stability and also in terms of how we participate in that growth. Now, it's much more of a common interest in terms of how that document is sustained in the long term, so now we are, I will say, more than a day less than a month away, but it will happen in that period of time.