Questions from the floor.
(Mike Doodson) This is apropos of what Ross just said, actually, because I've got a philosophical question about the future of Formula One. We already have an engine freeze and now we seem to be getting into a pattern of clever engineers introducing technology which they are only allowed to exploit for one year until it gets banned at the end of the year. For example, McLaren gave us the F-duct and I'm absolutely sure your engineers are working hard on the G-spot for next year, but does this mean that Formula One is developing into a stage where technology will be restricted and we're going to have a spec formula?
Well, I think over the last – Ross has been involved longer than I have – but over the last twenty-odd years that I have been involved there's always been that fear. If you think about it… going back a long way we had active ride, we had power braking, ABS braking, we had a whole range of different technologies which have been prohibited and that's the nature of our sport. It's a little bit about cost-control, it's a little bit about trying to give a level playing field and it's deeply frustrating when you're an engineer involved in a particular development because you get passionate about it and certainly Ross has seen me get passionate over the years, fighting for some of those things. I think now I just accept that that is the nature of our sport and I think that what's fantastic is that there are creative engineers who come up with ideas like double diffusers and F-ducts. There will be something next year, I suspect, on a car and we'll all be talking to our engineers about why they didn't think of it and talking about how they can catch up very quickly. There's tremendous creativity, driven by the competitiveness of the sport. There are restrictions, I think they are probably in the long term in the interests of the sport. We have a duty to put a show on, we have a duty to make it affordable, to make sure that we can get new teams into the sport and that hopefully they can establish themselves, build and thrive, because we need that in the sport. When they happen to you it's deeply frustrating but you've got to really say 'OK, we had a run, now let's invent the next thing that's going to cause controversy in future years.'
I think as Martin kindly said I've been in it a long time and you do get frustrated when a concept or idea that you've introduced gets stopped but that is the game, the competition is within this envelope of the regulations: what ideas, how do you do the best job? The thing I constantly tell my engineers is that they're working under the same restrictions as the other eleven teams and the competition is to do a better job within that envelope. I've been fortunate to have been involved in cars with active suspension, with active aerodynamics, with all sorts of things which were fantastic things to play with and really exciting but goodness knows where the cars would be now if we didn't stop it. And we've got to keep it as a sport, we've got to have it as a balance of the driver's skills as against the engineers' skills, that's the fascination of Formula One that it's not just drivers and it's not just engineers. It's that combination which is pretty rare in motor sport, so I don't believe for a moment that it's a spec formula and we just accept the challenge of the new regulations and the regulation changes because it is part of the DNA of our sport.
One of the things you've always got to bear in mind is… OK, if you ban something like the F-duct, its advantage has gone away over a few months anyway because everyone's copied it and implemented it themselves. I think history just shows, over the years, that people are still coming up with those ideas. The rule book now for the technical regulations is probably four or five times as thick as it was when I started in Formula One, but it hasn't stopped people coming up with these ideas. Twin chassis cars being banned before they ever raced and all that sort of thing, it's always been this and it just means that you have to think in different areas but you've got to do that anyway to maintain a competitive advantage because people will always be implementing any idea you've put on, so you've got to keep ahead of the game.
I think Colin Chapman probably led the way with innovation and it's been part of Formula One ever since and that's the way it should be.
Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint).
Ross, you appear to be the one who started the discussion about flexi-wings and as a follow-up, we're now talking about flexi-skid blocks and possibly dipping noses. Can you just clarify what in your mind is going to happen in the future, and what the consequences may be for some teams?
I'm not sure I was the one who started it, but certainly I gave my opinions and there was a clear obvious effect on the track between certain cars that was not explainable and we sought some clarifications on how the rules were to be applied. When we talk about the process that's gone on through the years, that is the process that we all do, that is the nature of Formula One. I know that some of the teams involved were not very happy with comments I made, or McLaren made, but then I was not happy about comments they made about the double diffuser last year. It is the nature of Formula One. That's the way we are and that's the way we work, and if we see something we don't like on another car, we will challenge it with the FIA, and if the FIA eventually say 'no, that's the way it's going to be' we join the club. It's just that process that happens all the time. I don't know the status with… today we've had a very mixed day, so it's been impossible to judge.
Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special).
Can we talk about engines for next year? There have been some rumours in the last couple of days about Red Bull getting Mercedes engines next year. We have two Mercedes teams sitting in front of us here; can we have your views on what you think of that idea, given their performance with the Renault engines?
Well, I've heard the rumours but that's it. I think we can continue doing the best job we can with a great engine that we have from Mercedes Benz. I don't know of any plans, I haven't been consulted or asked and nor do I necessarily need to be. I'm sure Ross is much closer to this than I am – he is a troublemaker by the way! – but I'll let him account for himself.