ITALIAN GP - FRIDAY - PRESS CONFERENCE
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE - 8 SEPTEMBER 2006
TEAM PRINCIPALS: Ron Dennis (McLaren Mercedes), Norbert Haug (McLaren Mercedes), Christian Horner ( Red Bull), Adrian Newey (Red Bull)
Q: Adrian, in terms of next year, when do you need to know the engine choice? As far as the press is concerned, they're not awfully sure which engine you're going to be running next year. When do you need to know?
Adrian NEWEY: Luckily with the current V8 engines now, the installation of engines is fairly similar so we've been able to wait this long. We can wait for a little bit longer but we will need to know soon on the final decision.
Q: So Christian, when are you going to tell him?
Christian HORNER: Obviously a lot's been said and discussed about engines and we at present have a contract with Ferrari for 2007 that we entered into in May of last year. Obviously there's another team that Red Bull has an interest in now, an Italian team, and obviously it would make sense for that team, with an Italian driver and an Italian engine, that there's a natural synergy there, but that requires consensus with all parties involved and we will no doubt reach a conclusion on that in the very near future.
Q: That suggests that you have an alternative for Red Bull Racing.
Horner: Basically, as I say, we entered into a two year agreement with Ferrari. If that agreement has the possibility of being assigned, then it's something that obviously we will investigate that would potentially pave the way to put a different engine in the back of a Red Bull Racing car next year.
Q: Christian, in terms of drivers, it's interesting that you've opted for more experienced drivers whereas a company like Red Bull might have gone for youth. And we've seen some remarkable younger drivers coming through - being very quick - as we saw today with Sebastian Vettel. What was the policy behind that?
Horner: Well, basically the Red Bull Junior programme is working well, it's producing good drivers: Scott Speed, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Sebastian Vettel are all products of that. We looked at this scenario very closely and when a driver of Mark's experience and calibre... a window of opportunity presented itself, it made sense for us to work with experience in 2007 and it wasn't a difficult choice to make in the end. The youngsters are gathering experience and we felt that there wasn't anybody on the scheme to make that step at this point in time and the choice with Mark was a very easy and very natural one to make in the end.
Q: Adrian, I know you've been working on the design of next year's car for some time. Has it been difficult with these occasional regulation changes slightly moving the goal posts, or has it been quite simple?
Newey: There aren't many changes to the regulations for next year. There's a change to the rear crash structure which has been known for some time. The one that's had a bit of greyness to it has been the anti-intrusion panel that has to go on the side of the chassis but it's really not been a difficult year as far as regulation changes go and as I say, as far as the engine goes, I think the specification of the V8 engines by regulation now means that the installation of any given V8 engine isn't that different to another one.
Q: And has the development of the current car pretty much finished or are you still developing the current car?
Newey: No, we took the policy decision a little while ago to freeze development on the current car so that we can channel all our efforts into next year's car.
Q: Norbert, has the engine freezing - I know you don't like the expression - has it been pretty much resolved now for next year and the future?
Norbert HAUG: I think there are still discussions in place and probably over the course of the weekend, but it's difficult to go into details. You know what was published by the FIA, that is the status currently, but obviously we have some other views.
Q: So it could be decided this weekend?
Haug: No, that's not what I'm saying, I've said there are discussions, there will be discussions in place and I just hope that we can find a solution for the next couple of years. We worked hard for it.
Q: Talking of development this season, presumably it's still continuing on the engine front, as inevitably it would?
Haug: Absolutely, yes. It does. We are doing it step by step and everybody is working flat out and Ron will describe in more detail but certainly on the chassis as well.
Q: In terms of ownership of the team, it has been suggested that Mercedes is interested in taking more share-holding in McLaren. What are the advantages for Mercedes in doing that?
Haug: I think that is a very theoretical issue at the end of the day. Whatever we do in the future is to strengthen the team. I think we work together in a very good way and I have to say we make big steps again, between engine and chassis. I find it very very positive, how the co-operation goes on, and whatever we should do, and I stress should, has just that background. Can we be even stronger? I think we were not quite luck this year. We have had some chances to win, but we did not use them but we know what we're talking about and I think we know how to raise our game further. The potential is there and we certainly will use it. Whatever we do, whatever the decisions are, and there is no imminent decision, will be taken with the background to strengthen the team even further.
Q: Ron, you're obviously one of the personal shareholders, is your share for sale? Would it strengthen the team, do you believe?
Ron DENNIS: Well, first of all, I am one of the shareholders but I represent two, and those two shareholders have a controlling interest in our company, and both of us - both Mansour and I - have had a consistent approach as to how we go motor racing and how we grow our group of companies and that is that we always take decisions on the basis of what's best for the group. Neither of us are particularly poor, certainly not Mansour, and I'm reasonably comfortable so money is immaterial as regards those sorts of decisions. This is very much a 'how do we make the future of the McLaren Group better?' and there are inevitably opportunities that present themselves relatively frequently, as you would expect. You hear lots of talk about the smaller teams being bought and sold and inevitably there's always going to be dialogue between the shareholders about 'how do you make it better? How do we become a more dominant force as a group?', and I stress as a group, because this is not just about Formula One, it's about everything we do.
Q: In terms of your own particular future, the big six-oh looms next year. Can you give some indication of your own future?
Dennis: I am an individual and I'm either 100 percent involved or not involved at all. I'm considered to be, by my wife, sick! She thinks that I'm an obsessive compulsive. I would prefer to consider it as a focussed attention to detail. I just don't know anything other than that. I'm either fully involved or not and so inevitably somewhere in the future, there will be a point at which I think it's hard to give the 100 percent and I would like to have other interests in my life, but there isn't a date, there's no significance about the sixty, there's obviously a tremendous amount of speculation...
Newey: Big party, isn't there?
Dennis: Yeah, big party. I have them every five years. But, the reality is that I'm happy, my family is happy, I'd like to be winning more races, because that's why we're involved in Formula One, but I wouldn't hesitate to take a decision if it were in the interests of the company. But I have no pressures, whatsoever, from any quarter. Martin is doing a fantastic job, could easily do my job in many ways and does a great deal of it already, so it would be an easy transition but it's not a transition that is on the agenda at the moment. You will see me for quite a few more years so perhaps that puts the finishing touches to the speculation. I'm very committed, but wouldn't hesitate to take a decision if I thought it was in the interests of the group.
Q: Is the chassis of the current car still being developed?
Dennis: We develop right through the season. Every single race and the last race is no exception and it is the same for the engine. There is a point at which it becomes mathematically impossible to win a world championship but there is not a point at which it becomes impossible to win a Grand Prix and we will be fighting for the last Grand Prix as hard as the first and very often the last Grands Prix become easier to win because everyone stops their development and whilst clearly there are obvious and logical reasons for Red Bull's decision, if you are in the fortunate position to be snapping at the heels of the most competitive teams then you are not going to back off because you can have a result coming out of the extra effort you are prepared to put in at the end of the season.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dan Knutson - Speed Sport News) Lewis Hamilton will probably become an ex-GP2 driver on Sunday. What next for him?
Dennis: We are clearly aware of where we are as regards our driver line up and we are very fortunate that we have Fernando driving for us next year, which gives us the option of choice as it were. We have the option of a dominant and competitive driver and we are no illusion about how things will unfold with Kimi so clearly he is an option, but just that, an option, and I along with Norbert and Martin have avoided all dialogue about what role he will play in our future until after this weekend because he has got a job to do and that is to win the GP2 championship and that is his job now and when that is finished one way or the other then we will look to his future and what part McLaren Mercedes will play in it. But certainly there is no decision taken.
Q: (Dan Knutson - Speed Sport News) This is the same question as we asked the drivers yesterday - Michael will make his announcement on Sunday afternoon, but for you personally, would you like to see him continue racing next year?
Dennis: I think I'd like to see him continue racing if that is what he feels he wants to do. But I think it is 100 per cent his decision. We all have choice in our lives and it's his decision to make. I am sure of one thing and that is that if he continues he will give 100 per cent and this is a business that doesn't react to anything less. As I said during the last Grand Prix it is a hole in his life and he knows that and that is the bit he has to rationalise with... He is clearly a single-minded focussed individual and he is going to bring all of that approach to his decision. It is nothing to do with any of us other than him and it is for him to decide as and when he chooses to make it. Clearly the world championship has an influence on it. It would if I was in his shoes and perhaps that's the thing that is making him agonise and hesitate, but it is his decision to take and I hope he makes the right one.
Horner: I agree with a lot of what Ron said. When Michael came into Formula One I was still at school and so...
Dennis: You still are!
Horner: ... he has ..
Dennis: Terrible tyre choice! (laughter)
Horner: He obviously has played a significant part in Formula One history and he still seems to enjoy what he is doing and he is a formidable competitor and there is only one person that really knows what he wants to do and that's Michael himself and I am sure that when he is ready he will make the relevant decision.
Newey: Well, I think I was once privileged to race-engineer Mario Andretti when he was at that point, aged 47, and a lot of people said he should have retired, but the fact is that he loved driving racing cars and if people are still prepared to provide cars for that driver then why shouldn't they continue? I think it is rather sad that some people became judgemental when DC didn't retire at the end of 2004, but instead came to drive for Red Bull and as Ron and Christian said I think it is very much a personal decision and in Michael's case he clearly loves his racing and enjoys it and he is also a supreme competitor and I think he is questioning - I would imagine, and it is not for me to second-guess - but I imagine he is questioning on the one hand that he desperately wants to stay competitive as long as he is racing, but on the other hand he loves doing it and would love to continue for as long as possible.
Haug: Well, I certainly wish he will continue, but I am sure that will not influence him very much. So it's his decision and whatever that decision is I think he has had a remarkable career. Everyone knows that. You only have to look at the statistics and he has contributed a lot to the sport. I remember very well where it all started and he was a German Formula Three driver and he came to junior team and that is just 15 years ago and its not too long since he started and so they are absolutely great memories. But I think we speak about it after the decision is taken and I hope he will surprise some people on Sunday.
Dennis: I do think we should all try to get Adrian to retire from being a racing driver.
Q: (Heinz Pruller - ORF) Gentlemen, I would like to ask each one of you for a personal good memory of Michael - of a moment together, whether it is racing, or at a party or a remarkable dialogue - something nice and personal.
Dennis: I think private reminiscences are those... and that is what they are. They are private. I have had some great moments with him and they are probably off-circuit and I think you spoil it if you share it. And I don't offend you, but I immediately remembered a particular moment that was very good fun, but I don't think he'd particularly want me to share it with you.
Haug: I have lots of them, obviously, and I would prefer to tell you after his decision. But one thing I can tell you from my memories and I can tell you when I came to Mercedes-Benz and he was already a group C driver and he was getting out of the pits and he was quicker than Jochen Mass in his fastest race lap and I thought 'that is something' and it was.
Q: (Ted Kravitz - ITV) Adrian, designers work in annual cycles, so by the same token that you are not responsible for this year's Red Bull, you are responsible for this year's McLaren. Can I have your view on why it has not been as competitive as McLaren would like?
Newey: It was obviously the finishing touches!
Dennis: Don't answer the question, Adrian. It's a good question, but don't....
Newey: Seriously, I think it's a very good car and it is a shame that it hasn't won any races this year. There were times when it could have done if the cards had fallen its way a little more, but in terms of specifics it is difficult for me to answer because unfortunately McLaren have not been very forthcoming with details of how they run the car this year.