Malaysian GP - Friday - Press Conference

Martin Whitmarsh, Australian GP 2009

Martin Whitmarsh, Australian GP 2009 

 © The Cahier Archive

3 APRIL 2009

TEAM PRINCIPALS: Ross Brawn (Brawn GP), John Howett (Toyota), Adam Parr (Williams), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren Mercedes)

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: A question to you all. Could you give us an update on how you feel your teams have done so far looking at Australia and today. Adam?

Adam PARR: Well, if you got points for practice we would be doing very well but obviously we need to do better than we did in Australia, that's for sure.

Q: How has it gone today? Parr: It has gone okay but it does not really count for anything, does it?

Q: Ross, your feelings so far?

Ross BRAWN: Well, obviously Australia was, as has been said many times, a fairytale. Thinking about what the team has gone through for the past few months then to have the result we had in Melbourne was unconceivable and unbelievable. I have been through many things in Formula One. I have been lucky enough to have some very special experiences and that certainly ranks as one of the best, if not the best of my career. It was achieved with a lot of things from within the company but there are a lot of people outside the company who helped us survive. Martin was one of them and Ron did his elder statesman part and did a very good job and I must say FOTA rallied around. We would not have survived without the help of those people. Whilst it was a wonderful it shows that even though we are going through a little bit of a difficult period with protests and things at the moment there is another side of our business which is very united and very together in trying to solve and improve Formula One.

Q: Martin?

Martin WHITMARSH: I think we are already on record as saying that our car is not quick enough and I think that was evident last weekend and it is evident again this weekend. I think after the two massive championship seasons, frankly, fighting through to the end of the year we put a lot of resource into that. It was a decision we felt was right in Brazil but as we stand today we know we have got a lot of catching up to do. On a positive note I think in week 11, Barcelona test, I think we were very slow by comparison to every car. I think the team has made a spirited fight-back to try and drag itself into the pack but the truth is we have got a lot of work to do and we have got a lot of development necessary to get ourselves into a position we would expect to be in.

Q: John?

John HOWETT: I think it is too early to say really. We had a fairly challenging weekend in Australia. In qualifying if you look at fuel corrected pace, definitely Timo (Glock) had a very strong lap and in race pace when we were running in relatively free air the car was competitive. We need to wait at least another couple of races, different type of circuits, to really judge the relative performance of all the teams.

Q: John and Martin, you both had certain events during last weekend. Any further comment on what was happening last weekend and what continues to happen now?

Howett: I don't think so. I mean we have issued press statements on it, so we will have to wait and see in terms of the diffuser what happens on April 14. I think as a team we are very confident that we have interpreted the rules correctly and we have had verification that our interpretation would appear to be correct and we just need to wait to see.

Whitmarsh: Well, okay obviously I have got to comment on what for our team is a very sad day today. We have suspended a long standing Sporting Director, Dave Ryan. I think many people in this room will know Dave and will know of Dave. He has been with the team for 35 years. I have personally known him for 20 years and I think anyone who knows him, knows that he is a very straight forward, dedicated, hard working individual. However, it has become clear from discussions with Dave last night and through into this morning that during the stewards' meeting he was not entirely full and truthful in answers that he gave the stewards and consequently we had no alternative today other than to suspend him. As you can imagine I think it is a very sad day for the team. We have got to deal with this weekend and we have got to look in a bit more detail at all of the events that surrounded that. From my perspective obviously it is a point of deep, deep regret. It is not how I wanted this year in particular to start and it is something for which the team and myself are not only deeply embarrassed but deeply regretful. I think for Dave is has been a shattering day for him.

Q: Another question for both of you in the front row. Relating to KERS, how do you feel KERS went and how you have used it so far?

Whitmarsh: I think at the moment it is still early days and frankly we had some difficulties with KERS today and Lewis's runs in the afternoon were without KERS. It was an incredibly challenging range of technologies to package KERS on a Formula One car. I think Mercedes Benz have done a fantastic job and it was a really successful use of it in Australia. Here it has been a bit challenging but again it is early days. I am confident that we will find our way through those difficulties. It's a technology that is important to Formula One and there has been just a huge effort to make it work. I can appreciate that some teams have decided wisely not to bowl in there with KERS. I think Mercedes Benz and ourselves rolled our shirt-sleeves up and got stuck into it. It has been a massively expensive and challenging programme. But we are going to stick at it. When it is working there is some advantage and we will, I am sure, have benefit of it as the season progresses.

Q: Will you persevere with it this weekend?

Whitmarsh: Yes, we will. I think we had one glitch which caused us for safety and practical reasons to turn it off. I think we had a small cooling pump failure which meant we couldn't run with it on Lewis's car. We will obviously look into that and see whether it is anything particular to these conditions or whether it's the fact it is a very new technology and we are working hard to develop it and solve those problems.

Q: John, when will we see KERS on the Toyota?

Howett: We are still monitoring the situation. We are still continuing development in Cologne. I think we have always said that when we start to see the advantage in terms of lap time or a competitive advantage we will try to install KERS on the car. Here you have fairly long straights and a reasonably long run into the first corner, so we need to evaluate what advantage KERS will give in those situations.

Q: Adam, can you say when your slightly different system of KERS will be used?

Parr: Very similar to John. We are just working on it flat out and we are also waiting to see whether it will generate faster lap time. But I think one thing was quite clear in Melbourne which is that regardless of lap time there may be tactical advantages in having it on the car, so we are more determined than ever to have it on as soon as we can.

Q: Both of you in the back row are independent teams. You have both tasted a certain amount of success in various ways. How important is that from a commercial point of view? Ross, obviously, has got the Virgin sticker on the car and that's about it. How important is success for you from a commercial point of view? Adam, perhaps you could start?

Parr: It is why we are here. We were very fortunate in the last few months of last year that I think 10 of our partners renewed their sponsorship with us and I think including four upgrades for this year, so they showed a lot of faith in the team at a time that, as you will appreciate, was extremely difficult to make a decision like that. We are very grateful to them and the only way we can reward them on the track is by performing, so it is absolutely crucial to us to perform.

Q: Ross, has the phone been ringing with people wanting to give you money since last weekend?

Brawn: It is not quite that simple but there has been a lot of interest and of course given the result we had last weekend it was perfect to develop the commercial side. If we had been at the back of the grid it would have certainly been a lot more difficult. But it is a tough market out there at the moment and we all know what the economic situation is. But things are developing reasonably well but the key objective for us is to find partners that we can have for the next two, three or more years, not just someone to come along and have a quick splash and disappear. We will take our time to develop the right partners. With Virgin it is starting small but with a lot of potential for the future, so I think we have made as good a start as we could have dreamed of with the results we have and the car we have got. With regards to KERS it is not high on the agenda for us at the moment. We had to make some compromises to change the engine in the car, so the car has got to be heavier now than originally intended and that makes it quite difficult to install KERS. We will have to work hard to get some weight out of the car before we can get to a position where KERS is a possibility. Like the rest of the group we will be monitoring the situation. This, I think, is one of the best tracks for KERS according to our simulations when we did it and I think you may see that KERS-equipped cars will be more to the fore here than they perhaps would be on other circuits.

Q: Someone suggested last weekend that is costs more money to have KERS. Is that right?

Brawn: It certainly costs money.

Q: Is it part of the deal? Is it extra?

Brawn: No, our engine agreement with McLaren Mercedes is purely an engine supply agreement. We have had some tentative discussions about KERS but it is a little bit early for us to engage properly on that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Talking about what happened to Mr Ryan. Does it mean that he was lying then to the stewards?

Whitmarsh: It means he was not truthful and full in his answer which is what I said (becomes inaudible).

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Martin, to follow that up. The impression we are getting from the statement is that Dave Ryan did this on his own. Are you telling us that there was noone else involved in McLaren, senior to him, in this process?

Whitmarsh: Correct, there was no-one else senior. I think anyone who knows Dave will know that he did not set out with any deliberate intention to mislead the stewards. He went to that stewards meeting with Lewis, I am sure, with the intention of being very clear and straightforward but I think during the course of that meeting, as we explored it more with him, over the last 24 hours it became clear that he was not as full and comprehensive as he could have been.

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) Could you explain also what Lewis's precise role was because the stewards made it very clear to us that both Dave Ryan and Lewis specifically said that the team had not told them to allow (Jarno) Trulli to go past. So what did Lewis do? Did he follow Ryan?

Whitmarsh: I think Dave was the senior member of the team there and Dave has to take responsibility for leading that process. I think Lewis is going to talk to the media later and I am sure he will give a full account from his perspective. But this is something that was still unfolding until literally minutes before the first practice session. I had to take an incredibly difficult decision. I have personally known Dave for 20 years. If you go around this paddock and ask any team in any organisation of their experiences of Dave in terms of his dedication and commitment, so he is shattered by what has happened today. We need to take stock of that situation but there were two people in with the stewards but Dave is part of the management, he is the Sporting Director of this team, and as such he had the responsibility to ensure that the stewards received a full and entirely truthful account of what happened.

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) There have been some very harsh things said about the team, particularly in the British press, including a suggestion that McLaren is contaminated by a culture of cheating. Is that the case?

Whitmarsh: No.

Q: (Ed Gorman - The Times) What is the case?

Whitmarsh: The case is that Dave made a very serious error of judgement in going into that stewards meeting and he is paying the consequences of that. It is something that he deeply regrets, Lewis and I and the team regret, and it is something that we have got to put right.

Q: (Juha Paatalo - Financial Times Germany) You say that Dave was not entirely truthful in front of the stewards but what about Lewis, was he truthful in front of the stewards?

Whitmarsh: No, I think that Lewis was not entirely truthful but we have spoken to Dave, he was the senior member of the team and they went into a situation together and I think they were trying to deal with the situation but they got it wrong. Dave, as the senior member of the team was responsible for what happened and therefore I took that decision this morning.

Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC) Martin, what is the procedure or the process in terms of deciding what was going to be said? You were on the pit wall and so was Ron Dennis as much as Dave and anyone else. When this process was unfolding and you knew he had to go to the stewards what was done? What happens?

Whitmarsh: In truth the situation was that during this incident we were asking the stewards, well, we were asking race control, for a decision because we realised that Trulli had been let past. We did not think that was right because in fact the original overtake of Trulli was entirely legitimate as Trulli was not on the circuit. We believed that when all of the facts were presented to the stewards that they would recognise and they would restore the positions, so we asked for the race control and the stewards to look into it and Dave and Lewis went to the stewards to give their account.

Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC) But did they talk to you about what should be said?

Whitmarsh: No. They did not because it was not necessary. We knew what had happened and there was a belief that a true and honest account of that would get the result, that the positions would have been reversed.

Q: (Jonathan Legard - BBC) So what got lost in translation? Lewis gave this interview or interviews saying 'I was asked' and then said 'no' in the stewards' inquiry. Why, why did that happen?

Whitmarsh: Well, I think Lewis got out of the car and gave a truthful account of what happened. I believe that whilst they were at the stewards, Dave, who had been party to what had happened in Spa, was highly sensitive and I think in the heat of the moment, his judgment was to not give a true account, and I think Lewis was then led by that.

Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) Martin, I was just wondering what we should believe is the next step, given that Dave Ryan has been suspended as opposed to sacked or resigned. What does that mean, how will that develop?

Whitmarsh: What it leaves now is that this is something that happened literally minutes before the first practice session. Dave has been sent home and we need to, during the course of this weekend, understand exactly what happened and make the decisions about Dave's future.

Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) And finally, from me, I was wondering if you, given all the fall-out from this, have given any consideration to whether you would resign from your role?

Whitmarsh: I think there's a lot of things going through my mind today and it's happening during an event in which we're trying to do the best job we can. I think, as a team, at the moment, we've lost someone who is very much a significant anchor in this organisation and we've got to make sure that we pull together to do the best job that we can this weekend. I think we've got to reflect on everything that's happened over the course of the Australian weekend, after this race has finished.

Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) So you don't rule that in or out?

Whitmarsh: I don't rule anything in or out. I think at the moment, what we are keen and earnest to do today is make sure that we put our hands up and say it was a serious error of judgement during that process and that we make sure that we come clean on that fact. Page 5 of 7

Q: (Ingo Rorsch - Sport Bild) Mr Whitmarsh, have you had the chance to see the precise words which were spoken between the stewards and your two team members?

Whitmarsh: No, I haven't. Ordinarily they aren't minuted and I believe one of the stewards didn't bring his notebook from Australia but we have no access to that. All we can do is ask the driver and the team manager what was said in that meeting.

Q: (Ingo Rorsch - Sport Bild) But shouldn't that be recorded for the future?

Whitmarsh: Well, again, I think at the moment it's not for me to make that judgement. I think what the stewards should rely upon is that when the teams are called before them, they will give a totally true and open account of what happened.

Q: (Dan Knutson - National Speed Sport News) John, relations between FOTA and FOA are a bit strained and tense; do you see that getting better or worse?

Howett: Between FOTA and FOA? Well, I think at the moment we have progressed significantly. There was, as you know, some tension over historic payments. They haven't, I think, in the teams' opinion, all been settled but a significant proportion have been settled and whilst we've been in Australia I believe our lawyers together with FOA's lawyers have made significant progress, so I think in terms of the actual agreement, we all believe, we are extremely close to actually reaching a final conclusion.

Q: (Anne Giuntini - L'Equipe) To all of those who are using KERS: how much of an advantage can it be at the start? Is it quantifiable? Is it possible to know?

Whitmarsh: Yes, it's quantifiable. There are a number of factors but clearly if you can discharge going down to the first corner, then you do get a quantifiable advantage that varies from circuit to circuit depending on whether you're grip limited and the length to that corner. It also, frankly, relies upon you being able to deploy that much additional energy. If you are frankly languishing further back on the grid as we were at the last Grand Prix, then it's very rare that you can go to the first corner braking point at full power, even with or without KERS, so its benefit is greater, clearly, if you've got a clear run at the first corner.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Ross, how do you see the situation here compared to Australia one week ago?

Brawn: It's still a little bit too early to say. We're struggling a little bit with the balance of the car today, it's not quite as nice as Australia. Despite what the perceptions are of the car it has actually very good low speed grip, it's very good on traction. It's not a track that perhaps rewards those elements quite as much and neither driver was particularly happy with the balance of the car today, so we've got to do a good job tonight to improve that, but I think we'll be near the front and fighting at the front. Whenever anyone said a car or a team were going to be dominant, don't believe it because this business is too competitive for anyone to be dominant. We're going to have to fight very, very hard to get points this weekend and hopefully get podiums.

Q: This is for Ross Brawn, can you explain for us the development plan for your car this year? Do you have enough resources to develop the car while other teams develop their cars, of course?

Brawn: Yes, we've been through a pretty traumatic winter and unfortunately that still continued this week because we had a lot of restructuring of the team to do. We're not a team with a budget that Honda had, so this week there has been some unfortunate restructuring. We hope we're going into next week with our new team and we can then look forward and the restructuring has been very focused on performance. It would be no good having a team with fantastic production facilities and no ideas, so the team has been structured very strongly around maintaining a good development programme, so we've tried not to impact the technical areas too much and yes, the development is on-going. We're planning an upgrade for Barcelona or just after Barcelona. We obviously have this appeal hearing next week or the week after next and we need to see what comes out of that because that may change direction. I'm reasonably confident but you can't be one hundred percent confident. So yeah, we've got to move forward. I think these new rules, by definition, being a new set of rules, the rate of progress will be very rapid as Martin touched on. At one stage in winter testing they were quite a long way behind and now they're getting into the pack and making rapid progress, so it is an era of very rapid progress and we've got to progress as well as our competitors if we want to have a hope of winning another race this year. Page 6 of 7

Q: (Benny Casadei - Il Giornale) Ross, which is the most important thing you learned at Ferrari that you are applying leading your new team?

Brawn: Non mollare mai - you never give up and there were times over the winter when it was easy to think this was actually not worth it. It was very, very difficult at times. The great thing, I must say, is that the team stuck together. I've said before, I had some black days over the winter. Luckily they didn't coincide with Nick's black days or some of the other management team's black days. As I said at the beginning, the support from McLaren and Mercedes was exceptional. They didn't know whether we were going to make it or not but they just gave us 110 percent all the time. There was no doubt from their side that they were going to give us everything we wanted. So if I took something from Ferrari and from Luca (di Montezemolo) and Jean Todt and Michael (Schumacher), it was just never give up.

Q: (Chris Lines - Associated Press) I want to ask all four guys what they think of the speed and method of Formula One's decision-making with penalties with the Hamilton-Trulli situation, with the diffuser situation. Is there any way these can be sped up? Fans attend the race or they watch on TV thinking they've seen one result; they get home and it's completely changed. Is there anything you can think of to improve that process?

Howett: I suppose fundamentally FIA is the Federation, it's their championship and it's their right to determine how they manage it. It could be something that FOTA, if the members so desired, could try to discuss openly with the Federation, but I think one has to respect the fact that as in football, the stewards are there and appointed and have the right to decide, and I think it's something that could be expressed as a future opportunity to improve but I don't believe it's something that we have the right to really interfere with directly.

Parr: Yeah, I think one has to distinguish between the sporting regulations and the technical regulations. I think the sporting regulations, you have to try and sort it out as quickly as possible and the only reason to come back at any distance from the race is if there's new evidence that is very significant. On the technical side, I think it's extremely difficult because obviously over the winter or before that, we're developing cars, we're seeking clarifications from the FIA as to how to interpret rules or confirming that we've correctly understood them and it's not necessarily until we come up to the new season that people get a sense of what other people are doing. And then the process demands that you protest after an event or during an event or after scrutineering. If you look at the process we're going through now, we were protested on the Thursday which was the first opportunity that anybody had to do it. It was well signalled by the teams that they would do that, very transparently, and we've now got a hearing which is exactly 16 days after that process. You need eight days for the submissions from the appellants and eight days to respond, and I think anything less than that would be very difficult. It may look like a very long drawn-out process but I think it's dictated by the nature of the sport.

Brawn: I think it is always a bit unfortunate when fans go away and there's still debate going on about decisions and I wish it were possible to walk away from a race that was black and white but it's a very complicated sport, particularly when you start to move into the technical side. I think the process that we're going through is fair and proper. I've been on the wrong side of protests and appeals, I've been on the right side of protests and appeals and it is a very, very complicated sport, and particularly with new regulations coming in, three teams took an interpretation which they're very comfortable with and several other teams aren't happy with that interpretation. It has to be resolved, so I think the process is as good as it can be. On the sporting side, even if you make a final decision and it's the wrong decision that's probably worse than it being a good decision that takes a little bit longer.

Whitmarsh: I'm afraid, no particular ideas, but I think inevitably that we have to try and get everyone to work together, the teams and the Federation, to ensure that we find ways to shorten that process because clearly we recognise that it's not the best thing for the sport but I think the teams are as much a part of that as the Federation. We've perhaps got to be more transparent, more clear in our dealings with the sporting body, so I think we shouldn't be looking to any one party, we're all part of this sport and we've got to look at how we can contribute to improving it.

Q: (Jon McEvoy - The Daily Mail) Where do Lewis and his manager stand with the team at the moment, how are relations between them and you and whether their reaction to what's gone on was the factor in Dave Ryan going and whether it's still a factor in how you're evaluating your next step as well?

Whitmarsh: No, it's not a factor. Lewis is not only a very committed member of the team, he's a longstanding friend of many of us in the team who have known him since he was a lad. Anthony is similarly well-regarded. They are solid supporters of the team, consider themselves to be part of it. They weren't involved in the sad decision with Dave Ryan, they learned after the event, Lewis didn't know until after P1 this morning. So they had no bearing on it, they weren't involved in it. We have to manage the business, they know and understand that and I would say the relationship - at the moment, it's a very difficult time for the team. We've got to make sure that we come out of it understanding and learning and hopefully with even stronger relationships than we started with.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Ross, I wonder whether you could clarify some points please. After your restructure, will the team be a small big team or a big small team? Secondly, for what reason was the team accepted as a new team and not a continuation of the Honda team? And then finally, with regard to the commercial Concorde Agreement, where the team stands in that regard at this point?

Brawn: Well, I hope it's both. I hope it's a big small team and a small big team. In terms of the structuring, we looked very carefully at where we felt performance came from, reliability. We will be pretty lean in terms of the number of spares we carry. I think we've got 55 people here whereas last year we would have had 90 at a race. So it's a different era for us but one which is quite exciting and quite challenging. There will be times when we will be very frustrated, because we can't do something that we would have liked to do and that was a luxury and a nice thing, and I don't mean travelling at the sharp end of the plane, I mean the engineering things that we were able to do with the number of people and the budgets that we had before. With regard to the entry, the FIA determined that we were a new entry. I understand the reasons why they made that decision and we respect that. On the commercial side, it's not something I feel I want to comment on but something I would say that FOTA has been very supportive of, and FOM in finding a solution, to give the team the best chance of a way forward in the future.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri - La Gazzetta dello Sport) There's one thing that I don't understand very much, Mr Whitmarsh. Does it mean that you only learned this morning from Mr Ryan that he was not entirely truthful, because yesterday when you talked to us, it was something completely different, and it was after you read what the stewards sent out as a press release that you saw there was some inconsistency from what you said and what you knew?

Whitmarsh: I think in these situations people strive to convince themselves that they have been entirely true and honest in all of their answers and of course you can technically answer something and convince yourself that it is truth. Dave was clear that he had not lied and we believed that. As we dealt with the unfolding situation of yesterday, the more that we discussed it, the more that we believed that the answers that were given were not full and honest in the way that we would expect them to be.


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