QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Fulvio Solms - Corriere dello Sport)
Christian, Red Bull won one title - or is it better to say one-and-three-quarter - and your drivers used at the moment six engines of the available eight. Are they going to close the year with seven?
Well Renault don't give us a refund so we are planning to use all of the engines between now and the end of the year. It is testimony to the reliability, touching wood, that we have had throughout the season that we are in that situation so I think there will be a plan to utilise, probably, one of those engines here and the remaining engine at possibly Abu Dhabi. That's for the engineers to decide. It's at their disposal and we will see. Renault have done a great job this year and it is very different to the situation we were in 12 months ago.
Q: (Dieter Renken – The Citizen)
Martin, as chairman of FOTA you have been fairly upbeat about the RRA. That it is working, that it's not broken, and the teams are adhering to it. Yet there continue to be allegations that certain teams, more particularly Red Bull and Mercedes have been pushing the bounds of the RRA. I wonder whether each of the four team principals could give us your views of the RRA, whether it is working and how to go forward on this thorny subject.
I think, firstly, we have achieved quite a lot with RRA. We are pretty good at focussing on issues and concerns but I think RRA has in the way we've restricted testing, the way we have restricted the number of operational personnel we have at the circuit, wind tunnel time, CFD time... I know that within our business the spirit and nature of conversations between engineers now, talking about efficiency, the need to do things with a finite level of discourse, I think that is a very healthy level of discussion, very healthy debate, and undeniably RRA has saved money and had been to the benefit of Formula One. Is it perfect? Will it ever be without contention, challenge, suspicion and paranoia? Almost certainly no. Just as technical regulations, sporting regulations, particularly if a team is doing very well or doing a good job it is always a more comfortable assumption to assume they have got a dodgy wing or they have got something else. I think that is the nature and spirit of Formula One. I think we have got to continue to work hard together as teams to see that we can make, improve and refine the RRA. I think it would be a shame for the teams to say this is so difficult, we'll walk away from it and we'll turn to a spend-what-you-like culture or spend-what-you-canlay- your-hands-on culture within Formula One. It is not perfect, there are concerns. What I can say is that I have been reasonably involved with the process, there has been no evidence other than, if you like, the normal paddock gossip or accusation, but there has been no evidence of a breach of the RRA. Each of the teams and team principals continue to assure FOTA that they are abiding by the limitations that are contained within the Resource Restriction Agreement. Bear in mind that although, clearly, there is a lot of media interest we are doing this for one reason. We are doing it for ourselves. We are doing it for the sustainability of Formula One. It is not intended to be part of the show or the spectacle of Formula One. It is an internal process, but I understand people are interested in it and like to speculate if there is some controversy behind it, but certainly my view is it isn't perfect, there will always be challenge. I think we have got to improve it, I think we have got to work together to enhance trust and mutual respect in the process. Will we ever reach a stage where everyone is very comfortable, has no concern, no accusation? I doubt [that], just as there isn't with technical regulations in my experience. But I think it has been the right thing for the sport and I think we have got to continue to persevere with it.
I think Martin sums it up very well, in reality. I think that RRA has been a positive thing for Formula One, or a positive thing for our business. It's saved genuine cost, taking out testing cost, reducing engine costs to affordable levels, to all of the independent teams. Restrictions on personnel coming to the circuit, the ratio between CFD and wind tunnel time have all been hugely beneficial to driving costs down within the sport. Certainly for Red Bull to compete with teams such as Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, RRA is important with that. Now, inevitably there has probably been more speculation about our team than others, inevitably with performance does come paranoia. Red Bull does favour the RRA being around, but in a way that's clear, tangible, policeable and encompasses all of what Formula One is rather than cherry-picking elements of it. I think that all of the teams would agree that the RRA, which came out of the back of the financial crisis at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009, has been the responsible thing to do for the sport and I think that the stage now is that, as the first agreement draws to a close next year, we focus on a new more workable, more transparent agreement for a longer duration potentially, that is clear for all to understand and that doesn't involve commenting or politicking. That's the most fundamental thing for us and hopefully in the latter months of this year, the teams will be able to achieve that.
I think for us, we're respecting the RRA but I think it's at a crossroads, I think it's at a crossroads because it's now starting to bite to those three or four teams who have to control their resource to comply. I think there's seven or eight teams for whom RRA means nothing because they're always going to be below the limit. Now we're at a stage where the targets that were set are starting to bite into the three or four teams and this is where it starts to get contentious and we haven't structured it well enough yet to have the controls and checks and reassurances in place that gives everybody comfort and [that] leads to the innuendo and accusations that get thrown around. We're total supporters of the idea of RRA, but for us, it has to be much more robust in how it's controlled, how it's monitored, how it's policed, because it is a performance differentiator. You can't deny that a team spending five million more each year will have an advantage over a team that doesn't do that, and therefore it has to be very well controlled, very strongly audited and it has to be done by a reference which is the same for all teams, otherwise we have no guarantee of parity, and I think for us, RRA is at a crossroads. We support it totally, but the teams have to come together to find a solution to make sure that we're all comfortable with the way we go forward or else we will have a continuation of the problems that we're having at the moment, all the comments, the rumour, the innuendo, the distrust that we have. Christian commented, quite rightly, that the agreement's coming to an end. Well, we're working on an agreement that we thought we already had, which doesn't end for several years, and that's the problem that we have at the moment. We don't have complete unity on RRA and we have to have it, because Mercedes are total supporters of the concept of RRA but it has to be a fair and proper, correctly policed, correctly monitored, correctly audited system which is the same for everybody.
The RRA is very, very important to us. Remember we gave up a lot, together with the other new teams, we gave up a lot in the entry to the sport. We gave up the option B and we gave up the price cap and bought into the RRA wholeheartedly and it's very, very important to us that it continues and we work towards the agreement. I think a spending formula where three or maybe four teams could thrive is not what people want and we must work very hard to avoid that.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters)
I just wondered if Christian, Ross and Martin could talk about the pit lane exit; we saw Nico going into Alguersuari this afternoon. Obviously it's not a problem that can be resolved in the space of a weekend but does something need to be fixed on the track, is it safe at the moment?
Well, we're obviously the ones that got involved in that – I don't know what's happened, but our driver and our team manager are up with the stewards at the moment, presumably having to explain the circumstances behind it. I have to say that it's a little frustrating that we have that problem on a brand new circuit like this, because if you look at the number of cars that went off at turn one during practice and of course, when we have wet conditions, difficult conditions, I think 20 or 30 cars went off. It was neither driver's fault, neither Alguersuari nor Rosberg's fault, but that is the consequence of that pit lane exit. That's what we will live with. Obviously, we will try and help the drivers, particularly during the race. It's a little more difficult during practice because cars stop and do practice starts from the end of the pit lane. You can't always anticipate where they are going to be, but we will try and help the drivers during the race but it's not ideal.