Australian GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2
16 March 2012
Team representatives: Luis Perez-Sala (HRT), Paul Hembery (Pirelli), Eric Boullier (Lotus), Ross Brawn (Mercedes), Adam Parr (Williams).
Questions from the floor.
Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint).
May I ask all of you your feelings about racing in Bahrain in four weeks' time?
We want to go there. It's been a great place to race in the past. It has its troubles, we hope those troubles are largely behind them and if racing can help bring things together then we should try and do it. We need to monitor the situation, try and make a judgement. People who've been there are telling us the situation's much, much better than it was 12 months ago. So, as I say, if Formula One can help to improve the situation then that would be a great thing for us to do. But it's certainly clearly a lot calmer situation than it was 12 months ago.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen).
I believe that a letter was addressed and sent to the Federation regarding the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA) being enshrined in the regulations. If so, which teams signed, which teams didn't sign and also, what do you hope to achieve and how, please?
I answered the last one.
I think you should do this one as well.
We have many correspondences with the FIA on many, many subjects and yes, one of the subjects was the RRA and trying to find a way to maybe make the FIA involved in the process of reinforcing the RRA through an idea like sporting regs. So we just contacted the FIA and Jean Todt to try to set up a group together to discuss the matter.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen).
My question was also who signed and who didn't sign the letter. Was it unanimous?
Yes, it was unanimous. Most of the teams have signed it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen).
Most. Who not?
I thoroughly agree with what Eric just said, with everything he said.
Q: (Kate Walker - GirlRacer).
Eric, we saw that Kimi didn't get very many laps in either session today. Was that just comfort or were there problems with his steering column and you changed it?
Second session was just planned. Because of the rain, we didn't want to run in the wet conditions so we just waited for a dry situation.
Q: (Mike Doodson - Honorary).
I was interested by Ross's comments about the excitement of the technical challenge of Formula One, which is obviously an ongoing thing. But it still costs all of you millions. Some of you have more than a hundred people in your aero department. I wonder if there are any savings that could be made which would be acceptable to the technician in you, for example, a standard under-car aerodynamic profile?
I'm a little bit reluctant to have standard parts on the car. I'm a great supporter of the concept of the Resource Restriction Agreement, that we have a certain amount of money, a certain number of people we can use and we try and get the cleverest people to do the best job and we win because those people are doing a better job than other people in other teams, not because we've spent twice as much as somebody else. Certainly Mercedes' principle is not to steamroller Formula One with unlimited resource and win on the power of what we've spent. We're very prudent, we want Formula One to be a good example and we believe that the Resource Restriction and some sensible technical regulations and sporting regulations is the best way. There is an argument that perhaps we need to make sure that as we tighten the resource restriction that we don't end up moving all the activity into the aerodynamic field because that's perhaps the area of greatest return for investment, and we do need regulations to make sure that we keep a spread. So I think there can be quite strong constraints to make sure that we don't have cars which are just purely focused on aerodynamics but I'm not a great fan of standardising parts but perhaps in keeping parts within a closer constraint.
I agree with Ross. The prime area of means of controlling costs should be controlling expenditure and that's what the Resource Restriction Agreement… in part the Singapore agreement which was signed by all teams 18 months or so ago. That's the primary way of controlling costs because in the past, attempts to cure them purely by technical rules just squeezed the balloon into another shape. However, I think there is also a desire to look at areas of the car that have become ludicrously over-complicated. An example is used of the corners of the car. I think we have over 130 moulds for one brake duct now. And I'm not sure that that does genuinely add to the show. What does add to the show is when people come up with clever ideas, and you can only really have that if you control overall spending, because otherwise it is the more money you've got, the more clever ideas you should be able to come up with. So I think it's a combination of both, as Ross said, and I also feel… I read just a few days ago that Mr Ecclestone was commenting that we should introduce budget cuts into Formula One, so I think you could say that there's quite a consensus now about doing something further.
I do share the same visions as my colleagues. Using the restriction on the resources and expenditure is one of the best ways, obviously, and we need to adjust a little bit the technical and maybe the sporting regulations to cut some costs and that's going to be much better. We need to keep the Formula One philosophy.
For us, we are maybe the team that has the lowest budget on the grid. It's not going to be easy for us to reduce the budget, no? Even we are trying to reduce our budget more and it's not easy. I'm not sure what we can afford. Maybe we say regulations dictate the budget cut. I don't know.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport).
Ross, before, you were talking of the magic of Formula One. In the last few days, Flavio Briatore has said that for him, this is a Formula One where only cars are now counting. Drivers are not making the difference as they did in the past. They don't have that big a personality. Do you agree with that?
I think there is a good equilibrium to try and achieve. If the car starts to become a totally prevalent factor then we don't want that. Equally, as I say, we want a situation where if there's a great driver in not such a great car then he will struggle a bit. You've always got two drivers in the same team, so there's a competition going on there as well, so if there is a very good car, then you've still got two drivers within that team. There's very few poor drivers that have won World Championships so I think that tells us that the great drivers win the World Championships. Getting an equilibrium is something that we should be mindful of. But I think that at the other end of the scale is let's have GP1: standard cars, all that sort of stuff – and I think we would be shocked how quickly we would lose interest in Formula One if we did that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen).
I would like to return very briefly to the letter. The four team principles here, did you sign the letter please? It's a very simple question.
Yes, we signed the letter.
Do you think I wouldn't sign a letter to do with cost control?
The teams asked the FIA to continue the process of looking at cost control. It's something which the FIA are very keen to do as well, so it was a letter of support to the FIA to say that we want to continue the process of reducing costs and look at fair ways of introducing the regulations or procedures to keep the costs under control and further reduce the costs. If we had a Formula One where teams like the smaller teams at the back of the grid could be commercially viable - more commercially viable - then I think that's a healthier Formula One, so have to find ways of trying to achieve that.
Q: (Kate Walker – GirlRacer)
It emerged last week that the Lehman Brothers' stake in Delta Topco has to be sold by the middle of 2014. Could you confirm whether or not you are interested either individually or as a group in purchasing that 15.3% stake, per team or by FOTA or however you can guys can get a better slice of the F1 pie?
Individually as in me personally or…? It's certainly not something we've considered.
It's not something that has been considered.
Q: (Wei An Mao – La Vie Creative).
Yesterday, I asked the drivers – now you – that since 1996 Melbourne has been on the calendar, do you think it is important to keep it in F1 and should it be changed to a night race after 2015?
I think this year the schedule is a little bit later than in previous years, and there are still around 300,000 people attending the weekend so I would say why not?
We very much enjoy being here. It's a great race, the huge enthusiasm from the city and from the fans. It's a really enjoyable race, so we have to find a way of moving forward and trying to keep the race and finding solutions. If the solution is a night race, then we have to find a way of achieving that but personally - and I think as a team - we would be very disappointed if we couldn't continue racing in Australia. It's a great place to start the season.
I was in Western Australia over the last few days and interestingly, WA suffered a 20percent decline in tourism in 2011 whereas Victoria's tourism has grown, and I think the state has a tremendous record of attracting great events and there's no doubt that that puts Melbourne on the map around the world. If having a night race meant more excitement, more publicity, a bigger global audience for the race here, then I think it's something that the state should very seriously consider. As Ross said, whatever happens, we really want to come back, because it is a fantastic weekend, really fantastic.
I agree with the comments made. They've put a lot effort into creating an event for the fans. If you walk around the infield, there's a lot of activity going on and if anybody follows motor sport in Australia, that's something that they do very well. There are other events like the Clipsall which is an amazing event, if you ever get the chance to go there over in Adelaide I recommend that you do so. So I think yeah, as long as it's viable for the promoter and they can make it work and it seems that the fans seem to like it then I think everyone's very happy to be here.
I've been driving in Adelaide which was a nice track and now here where I drove in the Lamborghini Trophy in 1999, fantastic track, the fans and everything, for us to come here is a nice place to come.
Q: (Naoise Holohan – ManipeF1).
Adam touched on Bernie's comments on the budget cap a few minutes ago. I'm just wondering how much consensus there is among the teams to bring it in. Is it a viable option at the moment, and what has changed from a couple of years ago when the vast majority of the teams refused to go with the budget cap option?
I think, to be specific, Mr Ecclestone's comments were about budget capping. The teams have agreed a different process: the Resource Restriction Agreement and the Singapore Agreement. I'm not suggesting that we should change the overall structure at this point. I think there is, however, a very high degree of consensus amongst everybody – the FIA, Formula One and the teams – that we should continue to reduce costs.
Q: (Matt Coch – pitpass.com).
Luis, how confident are you that you've got the money to reach the end of the season?
I'm confident to reach the end of the season, I'm confident of the money. It's secure.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Ross, with the FIA saying that your F-duct system is legal, how long do you think it will take the other teams to copy the same solutions and do you think that this could be an advantage that you could carry on for a while as was the case of the Brawn with the double diffuser?
Innovation is the lifeblood of Formula One racing, I've oversold that point already. Obviously I'm not going to go into detail of what people are calling the F-duct. I'm surprised they are calling it that, because I don't quite know what that means. We have an interesting system on the car and it's not complicated at all, so I'm sure other teams are looking at it and they need to decide if it's worthwhile or not. But it's not in the same magnitude as the diffuser concept that we had or even the exhaust concepts the cars ran the last few years. It's obviously helpful, that's why we're doing it but it's not a massive performance gain.
That's a relief to hear, so we can stop developing ours.
I would like you to spend all your money on it, Adam, and then we can get on with other stuff.
It wouldn't take long!