GERMAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE

John Howett (Toyota), German GP 2006

John Howett (Toyota), German GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 28 JULY 2006

TEAM PRINCIPALS: Norbert HAUG (MCLAREN MERCEDES), Christian HORNER (RED BULL), John HOWETT (TOYOTA), Mario THEISSEN (BMW SAUBER)

Q: A question to all of you: the deadline passed on the engine discussions at the French Grand Prix. Can you tell us what the position is at the moment, what you're still looking for and what still has to happen?

Christian HORNER: Obviously there's been a reasonable amount of debate and I'm sure these gentlemen are probably better placed to answer than I. The honest answer at the moment is that there was a position that was discussed at Magny-Cours, an agreement wasn't found, so therefore I'm working on the assumption that the rules as previously suggested will apply, unless these gentlemen perhaps can offer something slightly different.

John HOWETT: I think that among the engine manufacturers the agreement on the content of the so-called Indianapolis Agreement is basically understood and accepted. I think now it's just whether or not further agreement can be reached with some of the smaller teams and the FIA, but I don't think I can give you any more update than that.

Q: So are discussions still taking place then Mario?

Mario THEISSEN: Yes, to my understanding we had the agreement on the technical side, even before Magny-Cours, and so the next question has been the commercial side. There has been an offer on the table in Magny-Cours and during the week after the race discussions circulated about how that could be done, how that could be framed, and this is still ongoing.

Q: Is that your understanding as well, Norbert?

Norbert HAUG: Yes, it is. There's not much to add. I think maybe to explain, we all think it is absolutely essential in Formula One to be in a position to compete. If you have homologated engines - the status of May/June or whatever it was - and you have that frozen for a four-year period, we just don't think that's the right way to go. Currently, if you wanted to, you could do a new engine at each and every second race, starting from scratch, and now, being in a position of not doing anything for a long period like three or four years, I think that is a little bit too strict. I think we should all think carefully about that one. I think we've got it wrong here and there in the past and I think it is the nature of the sport that you can compete. If you have the first, third, second, fourth-best engine, than you will have the fifth, fourth, third, second best engine for a period of three or four years, and you know that even if I knew that we would have the best engine I wouldn't like to have that status for four years. If we had a complete chassis freeze we probably wouldn't have the competition that we see right now. If you thought about a tyre freeze between Michelin and Bridgestone, for example, we wouldn't have the level of competition that we have between Ferrari and Renault. You cannot catch up. And I think the engine is quite an important factor. The engine is the heart of the whole machine and we agreed to changes for 15 to 20 percent once a year and I think that is a reasonable approach. We should try to put that through; it is positive for the independent teams. The agreement that was in place saves a lot of money for the independent teams and that's why I just hope that it goes through, because it makes a lot of sense.

Q: Can I throw that back to the others? Are you in agreement as well, that it's too long a period to have a total freeze?

Theissen: Well, the idea of the Indianapolis Agreement has been exactly that: to have a certain amount of development which allows everybody to push the limits further, but within a frame which makes sure that costs don't sky-rocket but are taken down. I think it would be very much worth following this through.

Howett: I think we are a competitor and we have a view which I think is in the general interest of Formula One, to maintain a degree of technical challenge and at the same time have a reasonable cost base which doesn't make engines prohibitively expensive for smaller teams. But overall, in the end, somebody will decide what the future direction is, and I think the position has been clarified, and we're just waiting for a final decision to be reached.

Q: I guess we can classify you as an independent team, Christian.

Horner: Absolutely. From an independent team's point of view, the most important thing for us is an affordable, competitive engine. If a freeze or a partial freeze offers that and the FIA endorses that, then fine, we'll obviously fall into line with that, but I think the most critical factor from an independent's point of view is hopefully stability and therefore affordable customer engines.

Q: Another question for all of you: we're coming up to the test ban now from this race onwards. What has been your push before the start of this test ban?

Horner: We completed our test in Jerez last week where I think most of the teams were. We've been working on various developments, both short term and longer term. We have been focusing on the gearbox area. We've introduced a seamless gearbox this weekend which was part of our programme. And we had a reasonably encouraging test last week.

Howett: I think mainly aero, tyre selection, mechanical parts for the suspension and engine.

Theissen: In our case it's been mainly about aero development. Engine development is mainly done on the dynos, so that will go on throughout the summer. It was especially aero.

Haug: Yes, of course you try to get everything in place before the test ban because that's quite a period of time, quite a break and I think we have had an intensive test and a very good one, with good mileage. We learned a lot of things, it was very very hot down there and I would say we were successful and we achieved what we wanted to achieve.

Q: A question for the two German motor manufacturers: what would be your feelings about having a single German Grand Prix, alternating to the two circuits in the future?

Theissen: Well, we certainly love having two German Grands Prix, as a German manufacturer, from our perspective as well as from the fans' perspective. But we've always been aware that this is sort of a luxury and certainly, if you have the chance to open up to a new field like China with 1.3 billion people, that is certainly a different dimension from having just another race - two or three or even more races - with an environment of 250 kilometres. And so we have to be realistic and accept that and if even the organisers think an alternating event would be the right solution, we certainly support that as a reasonable and commercially viable solution.

Haug: It's the organisers' decision at the end of the day and they seem to have problems, but having said that, I think it needs to be carefully thought through. Whilst the organisers probably prefer not to have a Grand Prix here in the future, I think the whole region very much would like to have one, and if you see the bigger picture, it is an issue for the whole district, it is an issue for the government and my view is that other solutions could have been found. Of course I see it the same as Mario. It is fine and nice and good to have two Grands Prix, but once you've got them, maybe you need to fight for them, but it starts with the organisers. I learned they have had some problems, otherwise I think it was really impressive that within five or six weeks in the past, between Nurburgring and Hockenheim, 150,000, 160,000, 170,000 tickets were sold and you know what the average price is, so there is a lot of money involved and a lot of enthusiasm. I think about the fans here and this circuit has tradition and I just struggle to believe that in two years' time or three years' time there might not be a Grand Prix here. Of course, I'm quite close to here, I'm from Stuttgart, I know the history of Hockenheim, but I think about all the guys coming here. I think that the first time there isn't a Grand Prix lots of people will realise what they've had in the past. So for me, I'm a little bit sad about it, because I think there could have been other solutions, but on the other hand I understand the organiser decides and maybe another decision could have been found.

Q: Christian, what's the situation regarding your engine supply for next year?

Horner: Really at the moment there's nothing much to say. Obviously Red Bull Racing has an existing relationship with Ferrari. When we entered into that agreement, Toro Rosso didn't even exist or wasn't even thought of. At the moment, obviously we have a contract and we will honour that contract unless a solution could be found that satisfies all parties.

Q: John, regarding your second engine supply, we heard that you're going to supply Williams next year. Is there a possibility or a capability of supplying two teams next year as well as yourselves?

Howett: No. I think our decision was to supply one team two years ago. Williams obviously will probably be a more demanding team, in terms of the volume of engines and the amount of support services that they expect. For us, that will be enough of a burden because we also intend to improve our own performance as a team. So, we will support one team and that's all.

Questions from the floor

Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary Pass Holder) John, assuming you are allowed to do engine developments over the next few years, you will supply four cars. If you have a development which gives you a bit more power, would it be possible to develop just two of them for your team and keep Williams one step behind, or are you committed to supplying identical engines?

Howett: The spirit of the agreement is that we will supply and make our absolute best endeavours to give them the same equipment that we have, so that's the spirit and the intent of the agreement that we have.

Q: (Martin Derler - Oberosterreichische Nachrichten) Christian, can you give a short comment about the self-made rumour in the Red Bulletin about Christian Klien's future?

Horner: First of all, the Red Bulletin comes up with lots of rumours and one must remember that it's not a publication on behalf of the team and therefore as an independent paper, they come up with some of their own articles, some of their own theories. Our situation as regards drivers is that, and with Christian in particular, that no decision has been made yet and once it is, it will be announced through the team and not via the Red Bulletin.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) Christian, speaking on drivers, can you give us an approximate figure on how many approaches you have had from drivers and or their managers for next year?

Horner: That would be incorrect of me to say, to disclose who and when and why. You know, Red Bull is a team that is hopefully going places and that people recognise has a positive future and the future looks bright. Therefore it is an attractive team for drivers. We also have our junior programme and some very good juniors on that programme, so we're certainly not short of choice.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) John, next year there's a good possibility of your customer team beating the works team. What is your feeling about that? Also, were Toyota Cologne and Toyota Japan in agreement here or was there a difference of opinion on the Williams issue?

Howett: The decision was made in complete unison. Some people have very creative minds, I believe, because Toyota, as a company, thrives on what we call co-opertition, and we've had joint ventures like the Munich plant or the PSA development, and from our perspective, it will, competition is healthy and therefore we welcome it. As a team, it's our job to build a better car and we've got our own engine, so we've just got to do a better job or we'll have nobody else to blame but ourselves. I'm very confident we have a team that can push them to the limit. We've just looked forward to the competition with Williams and I have to say, we are in complete unison with Toyota Japan on this and I don't know where these rumours have come from.

Q: Do you think that mass dampers are aerodynamic devices?

Horner: Are they aerodynamic devices? Obviously they affect aerodynamic behaviour of the car, however it's, by description, a mass damper, it's obviously a moving part. Located wherever teams have chosen to put it. Obviously, there has been some activity with mass dampers this weekend and we'll wait to see where it finishes up.

Howett: We don't use one. I think in the end, the teams have to push the regulations to the limit and the regulator, in the end, needs to define the limits to what we can operate. Whether we have a view or not is immaterial, somebody has to define whether or not mass dampers are in fact against the regulations or not and then it's up to the teams to decide whether that will enhance the performance of their car or not.

Theissen: Same here. And that applies not only to mass dampers but also all other, for instance, aerodynamic devices. I would like to add that it's certainly not helpful that the interpretations or the definition of the rules are changing on a daily basis, because certainly you prepare for something and, having got the interpretation once, you should be able to rely on this.

Q: Quickly, did that apply to you, what were nicknamed, the 'twin towers?'

Theissen: Yes.

Haug: I think everything is said. I'm in line with what the gentlemen said and we have had our own experiences of this, as you know. It would be nice to have a clear definition. I understand that it is not always possible at the beginning, but I think we should clarify this particular situation, and then we know where we are, because, at the moment, nobody really knows where they are.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speedsport News) I want to ask you about the rumoured approach for Michael Schumacher next year.

Theissen: I read about 80 million Euros or something. I can tell you that we don't have 80 million and we don't have Michael Schumacher.

Q: Was an approach made?

Theissen: No.

Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary Pass Holder) To what extent will you go to defend your right to develop your engines? Would you consider taking legal action to defend that right?

Howett: I think it's unlikely. When you say 'defend our right' I think we have to look at what's in the general interest of Formula One, so we have to see that each of the competitor's point of view should be considered. We also have to look at the fans and, to some extend journalists, what's right for the sport. Personally, I think Toyota's view is to try to find a balance. We need to have evolution and it's not always costly, and we need to ensure a supply of affordable customer engines to, let's say, independent teams. That's one reason why we supplied Jordan, continued with Midland, and now will supply Midland from 2007 and onwards. Supply Williams, I mean. Sorry.

Theissen: We certainly want to avoid any kind of confrontation, which is not in the interest of the sport, and that is why we are so intensively discussing things like the Indianapolis proposal, which served a purpose of cutting costs and at the same time allowed the manufacturers to keep their profile in the sport. I hope that there will not be any new direction.

Haug: Well, what has been said makes a lot of sense, and as has been pointed out, I'm confident of finding a solution. It might take some time, that takes a thinking process and still some time available, at least concerning the Indianapolis proposal. We should be able to sort it out sooner rather than later but I think we are on a good path and I am confident of finding a solution.