FRENCH GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 14 JULY 2006
TEAM PRINCIPALS: Flavio BRIATORE (Renault), Ron DENNIS (McLaren Mercedes), Colin KOLLES (Midland), Jean TODT (Ferrari)
Q: A question to all of you: we understand that this weekend is going to be a crucial one regarding the early implementation of the 2008 engine rules; what are your thoughts about this? Will it happen?
Jean TODT: As everybody knows, we had a Formula One Commission meeting and over the meeting, it was agreed that the decision concerning the future engine rules would be taken at the end of the weekend here in Magny-Cours. Whether I'm optimistic about that, I honestly don't know. I know it's very difficult to make everybody take the same line. We have seen that, that's why very often it's up to the FIA to make the final decision. The options are simple: either we find an agreement - what we have been calling the Indianapolis agreement for the engine, which would be implemented from January '07 - or we don't find an agreement and in this case we will follow the '08 technical rules, from '08, and unless other things happen, it will be the status quo for the rules until the end of next year, and the implementation of the rules from January '08 with the new Concorde Agreement and the new technical rules.
Flavio BRIATORE: I pretty much agree with Jean Todt. We had a meeting at Indianapolis and at the time everybody was in agreement. I'm very disappointed that there have been movements because for us it was very good to have the frozen engine, it was really really perfect. The cost of the Indianapolis agreement was quite important, we're talking about 14 or 15 million more. I don't understand why we need to spend this kind of money because, sure, we won't see this on the track. But to have an agreement from everybody, to have everybody together, and Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW and Renault, everything, we made the effort to agree at Indianapolis and after that, we had the Formula One Commission again and a deadline was made for this Sunday and let's see what happens. Now it's only Friday. If something happens, it happens. As Jean said, we have an agreement for 2008, for 2007 it looks like everybody will spend an enormous amount of money to come back in 2008 at square one. That's completely stupid. But anyway, we have three more days and we will probably find a solution.
Colin KOLLES: Well, my feelings are basically as Flavio said, it's complete nonsense to spend huge amounts of money in 2007, and I think the proposals which have been made, especially from the independent teams are more than fair. We are not asking for a free engine supply. We are just asking for an engine supply at reasonable prices, to secure the future of Formula One. It's very simple.
Q: Are you confident an agreement will come this weekend?
Kolles: To be honest, it doesn't matter for us. We are happy in any case. If they are not coming to agreement, we will run V10 engines next year so we are happy with this. And if they find an agreement, we will have a good V8 engine, so we are happy, whichever way it goes. I think that the four other manufacturers won't be so happy so they had better make their minds up.
Ron DENNIS: First of all, everything that Jean and Flavio said is correct. There is a common desire for all the people who manufacture engines to be aligned. Their alignment is so close that it's an easily resolved issue, which can comfortably be resolved over the weekend. I'm not at all concerned about coming to a common position on engine regulations. Of course there is a desire of the FIA to then have affordable engines and again, I think there is a solution to that. But I'm not convinced that in my own mind, that even if those two solutions are found, that other people won't take the opportunity of a unanimous vote to try and seek other commercial objectives, so I'm a little bit cynical about whether we can actually find a final resolution or not on a unanimous agreement, but I do think we can find an agreement on engine technical regulations and price. I don't want to differ with Colin here, but the dispensation for V10 engines was for one team and it was very carefully documented, it's not automatic that everyone else can use them, but that's maybe a question that's relatively immaterial because, as he said, the objective is for everybody to be on the same pace. It's more than possible, as Flavio said, for us to resolve this by the end of the weekend, and the consequence of not resolving it is more cost for everybody. There's no one for whom it is not going to cost more money.
Q: Ron, how did the Montoya thing happen? How come he stood down? Can you just go through what happened?
Dennis: I'm not going to give you phenomenal detail but the first thing I should correct is that Juan Pablo is fully contracted through to the end of the year, and if we so choose, he will test and race again, so that is at our option, nobody else's. There is plenty in the press that differs with that fact. The way that it unfolded: clearly Juan Pablo has struggled at times and I feel that the team has always been totally supportive of him and continues to be supportive of Juan Pablo. You might find that difficult to believe in the circumstances but we are. A few races ago, we had a conversation that was based on his desire to continue with McLaren, his desire to stay in Formula One and we came to the clear understanding that it was immaterial whether his objective was to stay in Formula One and whether the team would keep him, or whether he would go to another team. The objective, the best way to achieve that was to have the best results over the latter part of the season and that's the way we move forward and I felt that if he was focused on having the best end of season, then a) to use my exact words, it would be easier for me to take a decision in the team, or b) that it would be easier and better for him... he would get better offer, so the common objective was 'let's get the best out of the balance of the season.' Obviously, that objective was somewhat changed when he decided that in 2007 he would race in NASCAR, so then our objectives became different, I think. The appropriate course of action for the team was to let the whole thing cool off and let him sit and think about the circumstances that surrounded his involvement in the team until we had a very common objective for the remaining races.
Q: How long is Pedro likely to race for? Could Lewis Hamilton or Gary Paffett drive?
Dennis: Highly unlikely. Their programmes are well mapped and their programmes didn't include racing a Grand Prix car this season, so highly unlikely. It's more likely that Pedro will continue in the car but we are a team who decides how the drivers are utilised and those drivers are all contracted to us and we chose to go down the path we've gone down.
Q: Obviously you weren't expecting to replace Juan Pablo, so it's still a case of never say never, presumably.
Dennis: Well, they are the highest paid employees of all of our racing teams but they are just that.
Q: Colin, there may be no third drivers next year. Will that save you money or cost you money if Friday becomes more of a test day?
Kolles: We agreed on this. I think it is a good agreement because I think we can still use test drivers on the Friday testing date. At the end of the day it will be a saving of money for us.
Q: And regarding the future of the team, is it possible the team will be sold? What is the situation? You have a big event in Holland in August, don't you?
Kolles: Wait and see. The big event we have in Holland in August has nothing to do with what will happen with the team. It is very important that the team moves forward and that the decision that has to be made is related to the future of the team.
Q: Flavio, we saw Ferrari were very competitive in the last race. How worried are you about that?
Briatore: I don't worry about our competitors Ferrari. It is quite clear now to the end of the season and we will see the developments. Sure, Indianapolis wasn't fantastic for us, but we still have some points in front and Michelin was very conservative there. They have done a fantastic job for us up to now and for one race we had some problems. Now we have a fight with Ferrari and let's see what happens to the end of the season. It is important for us to be on the podium and to take points at every race - and, you know, it was not a complete disaster because we took points as well (in Indianapolis) I mean if it is a disaster when you take points then I think it is quite a normal disaster. We are still some points in front in the constructors with a big advance and Fernando I think still has 19 points in front of Michael. So, for the moment, it is Ferrari who need to push against us and we can defend our position. We are used to that. We did it with McLaren. Let's see what happens.
Q: What are your feelings about the Friday 'test day'?
Briatore: I feel good. It is the right way to go and now we need to decide to be much more severe about the testing during the season because we don't want Friday testing on top of everything we have already. This is really for the team managers to sit together - and the fact that next year we have only one tyre-supplier makes it much easier for everybody. We need to think about being more efficient and have a very severe reduction of tests and that is the right way to go.
Todt: You know next year we will see exactly what are the consequences. It is a very important change. Sometimes you decide for some changes and by the time you realise you don't get what you wanted. In my opinion, it will not go in the direction of saving money, but will increase the costs. Think - you will have three hours' testing with two cars in other countries outside Europe like Australia, China, Japan and it will make a lot of extra cost. It changes the philosophy for the engine because the first idea was to use one engine for about 1,400 kms and now even if it is true to say that we reached an agreement to use one engine for 1,200 kms minimum the whole running will become different . In '08 we were talking about technical and sporting regulations and it is already inside rules that it will be a maximum of 30,000 kms of testing so probably those kilometres will be taken away from the 30,000 and so we shall have to see how we organise ourselves and I think you need to make a rational calculation to see exactly what will be the final issue but in my opinion so far it will go in direction of spending more money, but true that it will give more to see for the spectators on Friday. You could see this morning most of the cars except the third cars which will not be allowed in future they were not out for the first hour, second hour was less, so it will be more spectacular Friday for the organisers and for the public.
Q: How accurate is a newspaper report that says Ferrari have put an extra 20 million into development for this year?
Todt: It's bullshit
Briatore: It's too low!
Todt: Don't make me answer to third-rate speculations. It is absolutely not true.
Q: Has the rate of development increased?
Todt: I wish it would. That would mean every time I would find a few more tenths. We try, but everyone is trying. It is a tough championship with strong competitors and we know as much as we can within our allocated budget. But you know, sometimes, to sell you need to invent things, so I hope this has increased sales. I am talking about those who issue the news.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Can Colin clarify his decision about taking a V10 for next season if there is no agreement and Mr Todt, I didn't understand if you will use a free engine for Friday and the engine for the Grand Prix you will use just for Saturday and Sunday?
Kolles: Well, obviously we don't want to use a V10 engine, but the four manufacturers obviously want to have a change of regulations which would impose for us higher costs and we are all talking of recucing costs and not spending money so these four prefer to spend one billion in 2007 and then go back to the 2006 homologated engine and this is nonsense for me instead of helping and giving benefit to independent teams of maybe 75 million. We don't want to use v10 engines. We just want an agreement and we have been asked for an agreement. We are not seeking to get or to negotiate or get free engines or cheap engines. We just want stability and security for the future so it is very simple actually. It is the other manufacturers, especially four of them, who want to change and who want to spend money.
Q: And which engine?
Kolles: Obviously there is a Cosworth V10 engine.
Todt: At the moment, a race weekend is Friday, Saturday and Sunday and you need to use the engine for two race weekends. If the race weekend is becoming for one engine for two Grands Prix for Saturday and Sunday, its obvious it will be less mileage for this engine because for the three hours on Friday you will put a different engine. What has been decided on and voted by the Formula One Commission is that if there is evidence that the engine has not been used for 1,200 kms during the two race weekends then it will have to be used for the following Friday to finish the mileage.
Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) Ron, while Juan is on his leave of absence, is he permitted to race in Nascar?
Dennis: No. He is a contracted McLaren driver and it will stay that way until the end of his contract unless there is some other commercial arrangement between ourselves and the Nascar team or Juan himself.
Q: (Salvatore Zanca - Associated Press) Ron, do you envisage Juan coming back to Formula One?
Dennis: More than possible.
Q: With what team.
Dennis: With our team.
Q: Are we talking about this year?
Dennis: It is possible.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazetta dello Sport) Don't you allow him to do any tests?
Dennis: No. There is a conflict of sponsors, advertising campaigns and a whole raft or reasons why that is not a practical proposition.
Q: (Heinz Prueller - ORF) Ron is the contract to the end of the season or year?
Dennis: Why on earth would I want to tell you that? It is a contractual detail and all our terms are completely confidential. Obviously it exceeds the racing season.