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Friday press conference - European GP - Pt.2

Team principals: Ross Brawn (Brawn GP), Flavio Briatore (Renault), Mario Theissen (BMW-Sauber) and Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren-Mercedes)

Questions from the floor

(Rodrigo Franca – VIP Magazine) Question to Mario: in Brazil they said that Nelson Piquet, the father, would buy the BMW Sauber team. I know you can't say much with everything going on but did anyone have any kind of conversation between you guys and Nelson?

Mario Theissen:
I only know that from the press. That's it.

(Andrew Benson – BBC) For Martin and Ross: you brought up the Technical Working Group meeting. I understand that there was at least one area where there wasn't agreement which was KERS and that the vote to remove KERS from the technical regulations next year wasn't unanimous. Could you tell me what your reaction to that is, please, and what it means for whether KERS will still be in Formula One next year?

Ross Brawn:
I think that one of the important points of the new Concorde Agreement is that there's governance and there's procedures and the procedures in the Technical Working Group now are that majority decisions in the Technical Working Group go forward to the F1 Commission, and the F1 Commission votes on whether they want the recommendations or proposals from the Technical Working Group to become regulations. So it's just part of the process. The majority in the Technical Working Group felt we should have same clarity on KERS because the FOTA teams have agreed not to use it but you're left with this awkward situation where it's still in the regulations but people have agreed not to use it and not everybody is in FOTA. But it was a majority decision, it will go to the F1 Commission and it will go through the normal process now and we will see where it goes.

Martin Whitmarsh:
There's been a lot of discussion about KERS and it was a good initiative at the outset but it perhaps came at the wrong time. The way in which it's been implemented meant that it's been very expensive for a lot of teams. McLaren supports the concept of KERS and Mercedes Benz has put a lot of effort into developing a KERS system but I think you've got to be a responsible member of the Formula One society and if it is clear that the financial situation in Formula One is such that it's in the best interests of the sport to volunteer not to use it, then that's the right thing to do, and that's what happened within FOTA. For our engineers who have worked pretty hard on that system, it's pretty frustrating for them for me to tell them that we've undertaken not to run it. Inevitably, within Formula One, there's a range of politics and machinations, a lot of them hopefully will become of lower amplitude now that Concorde is signed and that we at least have a platform where I hope that the teams, the FIA, CVC, FOM, can work together to develop the sport, but we have a few outliers and we've got to sort some of those issues out. I don't think Formula One should turn its back on KERS but I think at the moment it's very clear that we've got to be prudent, there are other priorities. In any business you've got a range of priorities. I think the concept of KERS is good, perhaps in the coming years we can find a lower cost way of having KERS in Formula One but at the moment, certainly for the small teams that aren't manufacturer teams, it's not a particularly attractive option to develop KERS.

(Dan Knutson – National Speed Sport News) Question for all of you. One of FOTA's mission statements is to improve the show. In recent years, with different fuel loads in qualifying and the race, it has had the effect of constantly jumbling the race order throughout the race. Next year, basically all we are going to see is the fastest cars at the front disappear and the only factor will be tyre wear. Surely it is a mistake to not have refuelling next year?

The answer is it may be a mistake and I think we have to accept that. I think Formula One can be viewed from many different perspectives. I think for the aficionado, for the likes of many of us here, who take an interest in issues such as fuel load and its impact on performance, I think it's a very interesting dimension of Formula One racing, but I think for quite a lot of the more occasional viewers of Formula One, the fact that the cars appear to be jumbled, they're not in a natural order. They don't understand that at the end of qualifying some people who haven't qualified quickest potentially have the quickest package and I think all those things confuse, so there are pros and cons and we will see during the course of next year, I think fuel stops will look different. There are those who feel that it's more complex with refuelling, obviously it's more dangerous. Without them then fuel stops will be a lot shorter, they could be more dramatic, there's much more emphasis on the changing of the tyres. At the moment, there are many times when there are problems during refuelling stops which aren't seen because the pacing item is the refuelling as opposed to the changing of the tyres. I think again, Formula One has to try and control costs. We've got to balance what we're doing technically, for instance, with KERS, the cost of refuelling and the like, we're got to work harder now. I think FOTA has achieved a lot to reduce the cost of being competitive in Formula One. We haven't frankly achieved everything we want to achieve in terms of the show and the spectacle. I think we've been distracted by things that weren't predicted at the outset of FOTA. I think the environment pre-Concorde was problematic because I'm sure there were those that saw FOTA in some adversarial role which was never intended. And I think now we are hopefully smoothing out the bumps and bruises post-Concorde. We've got to get all the teams involved, plus the FIA, plus the commercial rights holders and we've got to improve the spectacle and that's a balance. If you want the pure spectacle, no one does it better than NASCAR, NASCAR is a fantastic show, it doesn't do it for me, but it does for lots of people. I don't think we're trying to turn Formula One into NASCAR, so we've got to be creative but I think there's a clear recognition within FOTA that we've got to be bold, we've got to be creative and now that perhaps we've got some stability, perhaps we've got the processes in place, the governance that Ross has spoken about, we've got a more measured way in which we can work together and make some change to improve the spectacle.

Like Martin, I agree there's pros and cons. There's criticisms aimed at refuelling because drivers don't have to overtake on the track, they can wait until their strategy kicks in, so there's been criticisms. I don't think any system is perfect. I think we can try it and see what happens. I think there will be quite a lot in the way that the tyres are used, getting the car to the end, and I think that will be quite interesting. Tyres will be more stressed, we've got a smaller front tyre next year. So there's going to be some interesting aspects next year and again, certainly at the beginning of the year, we will see some teams have got it right and others need to catch up. In terms of improving the show, I very much hope and think that now we've got stability, we've got stability for at least the next three years, we can all build together something that is stronger but it needs doing in a measured way. We need to study it carefully and make sure the moves we make have got… there's clear evidence that they're an improvement. Because if we keep chopping and changing, then all we will do is confuse the public. I think there are a lot of things we can do that will improve our show and FOTA and the other teams and the FIA and the commercial rights holder are now going to work very hard to improve it.

Flavio Briatore:
I believe the stopping of refuelling is not negative for the show. I believe it's positive as well because it's more pleasure for the team to change tyres. Changing tyres is between three and four seconds, now it's always seven or eight seconds because of the amount of fuel you put in the car takes that time. I also believe that in the last few months, few years, we have been working for stability but we never cared about the public because in the end, we never ever had a serious discussion to improve the race and I think now is the time to sit together in FOTA to try and improve the race. We need more energy, we need more fun, we need to change a lot. If you look at the last month, the only positive news has been Schumacher coming back into Formula One. Everybody was talking about Schumacher, it was very positive, because for the first time, in the last six or eight months, we have been talking about sport. In the meantime, what we should have been doing is talking more sport and more races and more results and not like it was before in the last period of Formula One. But now FOTA is together, it's a reality. When we're working together, we're working together with television, with the media, with everybody to improve their event. Again, when somebody has a new event, you think about the Cirque du Soleil arriving in any town and performing twice, three times a day. We arrive in one place, we perform once in five days and the rest of the time we are talking about politics in the paddock. We need to be more orientated around the race not around politics. Now it's possible because FOTA is together and I hope all the teams will join FOTA for the future of Formula One. The relationship with CVC is great, with Bernie (Ecclestone) and Max (Mosley) as well, so I believe that at the moment we have a strong base to think about the future of our business. Sure the future of any business is coming through the consumer, our consumer is the public, the television, it's the fans. We have fifty percent of the tickets sold here because there is no energy at the moment. We need to establish energy and the appeal of Formula One, the image of Formula One, but I'm pretty confident because this is something which is only possible if we do it together and everybody understands that, going in the same direction but I'm confident, I'm very optimistic for the future of Formula One, for the future of the sponsors who want to join Formula One and the partners who want to be part of Formula One.


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal, Australian F1 Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, 27-29th, March, 2009
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