Monaco GP - Thursday press conference - Pt.2
24 May 2012
Team representatives: Vijay Mallya (Force India), Jean-Francois Caubet (Renault Sport F1), Frank Williams (Williams), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber) and Ross Brawn (Mercedes).
Questions from the floor.
Q: (Sam Collins – Racecar Engineer).
Question for Jean-Francois, can you update us on the progress of your new engine, and also with the ACO changing the Le Mans prototype regulations to allow complete Formula One powertrains from 2014, is that a new area you can use for testing, with the testing ban in Formula One?
I think today for the new engine, for '14 we are now on schedule. We need to respect also the budget from Renault. We will be on time. Is it very high technology so it is quite tough development. We have big help from Renault, I think more than 45 people coming from Renault to help us on the electrics side, the electronics and turbo side. I think we will be ready, in the same philosophy that we have for the future, around November or December next year, so we are not asking for testing before.
Q: (Sam Collins – Racecar Engineer) And for Le Mans? The ACO has announced they are going to accept a full Formula One powertrain, including gearbox, engine, everything from 2014 onwards for Le Mans prototypes – so is that another market you could move into and is it something you are looking to do?
I don't think so.
Q: (Ignacio Naya – DPA).
A question for Monisha Kaltenborn, one year ago Sergio Pérez had here a very serious accident. I would like to know which memories do you have from this moment and how the team faced this situation and how Sergio Pérez is handling this situation, coming back to Monaco?
Well the memories are, of course, very much there because it is just a year ago and it was a very bad accident. It's thanks to the safety rules in Formula One and, I guess, also luck, that the driver remained in the situation, so he wasn't really injured. You don't forget these kind of things but at the same time you have to get on and concentrate on the future and I think Sergio has done a great job there. He took it very well, we can see how mature he handled the situation, even at the next race when he himself said he was not really there 100 per cent to take part in the race. But it's not an issue anymore, we've ticked that off, and he's actually taken it quite well.
Q: (Ian Parkes – PA).
Vijay, you talked about your passion for cricket earlier. Do you still retain the same passion as you once did for your Formula One team? And, in particular, given the financial difficulties we read about regarding Kingfisher, do you still have the same financial commitment to Force India? Will Force India continue for this season and beyond?
I don't quite understand the correlation between sporting interests, which are personal in nature, and my business interests. I have several large public companies, most of which, with the exception of the airline, are doing very well. The airline is a victim of extraordinarily high oil prices and excessive taxation. Now, what you read and what you gather from what you read, is something that I don't care to comment on. I have sporting interests and I am passionately involved in all these sporting interests, I think I said it earlier. Sahara Force India is independent, fully funded. It's a joint venture between the Sahara Group and myself, there has been a significant capital infusion at the end of 2011, another significant capital infusion from the Sahara Group is due in 2012 and going beyond to 2013. So, Sahara Force India is extremely well taken care of and set. My other sporting interests, well, I was at every IPL cricket game, as any passionate Indian would be, and the team performed well. A little disappointing at the end because we've been semi-finalists for four years running, we were fifth this time and got knocked off the last game before the playoffs, but such things happen in sport. That's going fine. So, life carries on and passions carry on too.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters).
Vijay, on the same subject, if you had to make a choice between your airline and your Formula One team, which one would you chose?
How can you even start to make such a comparison? One is a large, public utility per se. How would you call Formula One? A public utility or a public spectacle? An airline is not intended to be a spectacle and a Formula One team is not intended to be a public utility either. So where's the comparison?
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters).
I was asking purely because of the amount of money that needs to be invested in both, and if you had the money to invest in one only.
Well, you know, Sahara Force India is private team. Kingfisher Airlines is a listed entity. The banks own 23 percent of the equity of the airline. It's a public company, limited by liability as all limited companies are, so it's a plc. So the two are incomparable.
Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B).
Dr Mallya, in spite of this, you explain to us, everywhere in the world, especially in your home country about your problems with your airline and there are rumours as well that maybe you have problems with your team financially, that people are waiting for their salary for weeks, just rumours. But do you think it's a good idea in respect of all this, just to have a luxury party on this luxury boat this evening? How can you justify it?
Justify what and to whom? As I said, I have twenty different businesses. I have six large publically listed companies, each one is completely independent with different shareholders. One does not cross-subsidise the other because that would violate all principles of corporate governance. If one business, for whatever reason, is not doing well, it doesn't mean that every other business has to shut down. Every business has to be continued within its own values, within its own corporate objectives and the party that I host in Monaco each year is a promotion for United Spirits Ltd which has nothing to do with the airline. So because the airline is a victim of – as I said – high fuel costs and excessive taxation doesn't meant that other public companies and their stakeholders should necessarily be compromised. So who should I justify what to?
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
If I may, I would like to ask a Formula One question: as far as the engines are concerned there are suggestions that just possibly the introduction of the new green engine – if I can call it that – will be postponed, and also have any efforts been made to try and cap the pricing similar to the V8 engines of the present? What will the costing situation be?
I think it would be a mistake to delay the engines again. If you recall, we've already delayed them one year and we've had to re… in fact we've changed them from a four cylinder to a six cylinder and then we delayed them a year. Every change actually costs a lot of money for the people investing in new engines. We're committed to a new engine programme, it's progressing, we've been able to justify the budgets to our board and we don't want to see a deferment or a delay in that new engine. I think it sends a very bad message back in terms of Formula One to keep changing its direction on things that are so fundamental, which need so much investment to make work. I think the new engine is very exciting. I think today engines are not really a topic in Formula One; they used to be, and I think it used to add to the sport, that the engine was quite a large factor in the performance envelope or the performance cycle of the car. I think the engines are much more relevant. Our company is getting some real benefits from the technology of this engine. We are using expertise and resource within the company to develop and design this new engine. It's a much more relevant engine. We're going to be running around on two thirds of the fuel that we're running on now with, we think, comparable power outputs. We've got to change the engine at some stage. We will become irrelevant with the engine if we don't look to change. The world's changing and I think the new engine is a far more relevant engine for Formula One for the future. If we're going to get new manufacturers into Formula One, which I think is a good thing, then why will they come in to build an antique V8 engine? They won't. They will only come in with this new engine, so we want to attract manufacturers back into Formula One and this new engine is very important (in doing that).
I think we are very clear. We have already delayed the engine once, from four cylinder to go to six cylinders. I think it cost us around ten or 15 million, probably the same for Mercedes and probably the same for Ferrari. So we have blown nearly 50 million for nothing. If you delay one year, we think it will be never (happen) because the delay will be '15 and then '16. For Renault, it is a strategic choice. I think the V8 was developed 25 years ago and I share the same advice with Ross. If we need to have some new car makers, only the new engine will open the door to new car makers. The last point is a key point: to have a Formula One in '14 with the old engine will close to the door to a lot of sponsors and new technologies. I think we have a clear strategy, I think it would be impossible to change our minds.
And for the cost: I think today you must add the cost of the engine and KERS. I think we will probably know in September the cost of the new engine. I don't think the cost of the new engine will be a drama.
We are not engine manufacturers, we never will be, so we have to depend on those who will supply us engines. I guess you've heard from both Mercedes and Renault here. I'm focused, at least, vis-à-vis the FIA on the resource restriction bit, because I think the cost of Formula One should be reasonable for all and give a level playing field for all participating teams. A power train, of course, is a very very important component of that.
As has just been said, we are also one of the non-engine manufacturer teams. We are first of all committed to cost cutting so from that perspective, we have to ensure that we don't go back to a point where engines were so much more expensive – if you look back ten years ago. I think that should always be kept in mind. We fully appreciate and understand that an engine manufacturer wants to showcase his technology in Formula One but they also have to consider that engines have to be affordable and become more affordable in due course.
I've always been a competitor, like everybody else here, and my own position is that as long as we get the very best engine – whether it's a fair price or not – as long as we can find the money to pay for it, we'll go and buy that engine, and our present geography – I mean that bloke behind(J-FC), who we are with presently, we know that they will supply us - if we can afford it - with a very fine winning engine next year and that's what we intend to do, and if we have to find more money, we'll find the money.
Q: (Alberto Antonini – Autosprint.
There has been some discomfort and some complaints, I gather, from the general public about the lack of show in the latter stages of qualifying, in Q3, due to the fact that some of the drivers and some teams play with strategy and try to save tyres. So among the suggestions to cure that has been the proposal of allocating an extra set of tyres – call it qualifiers or whatever – for the exclusive use in Q3, which they would have to give back anyway. I understand Pirelli has no objection regarding this, but I would like to know what your view is about this?
I'll put my foot in it. I think it's probably a good idea from the point of view that it maybe gives all teams a better chance. If you're a really skilful team with a brilliant engineer to run and control things, and you've only got three sets of tyres, you'll always get the best. If you haven't got such a person, you're always going to be at a handicap. If there's a fourth set, it may help out one of the weaker members. If there's an extra bob or two involved in running those tyres, maybe you shouldn't be in F1.
We've had many discussions, I think, amongst the teams last year about the tyre situation in qualifying. We think the rule we have now is OK. We also wouldn't be supporting extra tyres, and I think even if you look at the statistics that the amount - when teams do their strategies and don't go out in Q3 – as most of these teams have anyway been doing a lot more laps earlier, so I don't think it would really change much for the viewer. That's what the figures say, at least.
I don't have a strong opinion, to be honest. I actually think there's some interest in teams which don't go out. Of course people are here to see cars run and even when there's some teams that don't go out, you've got six or seven cars still competing hard for pole position. The teams that don't go out generally have resigned themselves to the fact that they can't compete for those positions right at the front, and I think those teams, being able to save their tyres, is in some way a compensation for their performance in the first part of the race. So it does give an extra decision and extra opportunity for the teams perhaps in eighth to tenth to save a set of tyres and be stronger in the early part of the race. There are two sides to every coin and is the show spoilt by the fact that some of the cars at the back of Q1 don't run? I'm not sure it is. I think everyone's focused on what the guys fighting for pole are doing. But if there was genuine proof that the fans want ten cars running all the time in Q3 then we'd accept some extra tyres.
I think for a car maker it's quite important not to change the regulations all the time. I think that if you make a comparison, it's like you change the size of the goals during the season.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – ESPN Radio).
Just a quick question to Frank: in Barcelona, right before the fire started, a few seconds before the fire started, you had just gathered the team around you. They were all kneeling in the garage. What was it exactly that you intended to tell the team at that moment? And if you've had the chance to talk to them and finish that speech and if that speech changed after the fire?
I believe like everybody else here, when you have a business or a large company – and mine's a small one – communication is fundamental. There was just a spot of communication going on, just happened to be in a rather public place but that was unavoidable. It wasn't about sex. Sorry. Sadly.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National).
Michael Schumacher spoke earlier this week about the irony that the sport is currently pushing to improve safety measures yet we come and race in Monaco every year. I was just wondering what your thoughts are on the safety of this circuit and whether the risk of racing here is justified?
Well, it was our driver who made the comment so…I think Monaco is a unique race, but there have also been big efforts made here to make it as safe as possible. We all know that motor racing can't be 100 percent safe, there is always some risk, but I think the developments in the cars, the technology in the cars, the technology at the circuits is always progressing well. Each year, I believe, it gets safer. There is risk and that risk probably varies at different circuits, but I don't think it's a situation that means we shouldn't race there. I think it's a manageable risk as it is at most circuits or all circuits in Formula One.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Vijay, you said Force India has got two shareholders: the Sahara Group and yourself. Does that mean the Dutch are now right out of the picture?
They have a tiny minority left.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
OK, so they are still there though, yeah? Fifteen percent, is that it?
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Monisha, given the recent history of Sauber, was it particular sweet for your associate football team to win in Munich?
An interesting angle to look at it! We didn't think of that at the time. We really wanted Chelsea to win, and I will not get into any discussion as to whether they deserved to win or not because we would probably then be talking for a very long time. It was just a nice kick-off of the whole partnership. It was the first time that we really were together in public, being at such an event where you can just make more out of it in the future, so it was a very nice kick-off of the partnership.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer).
One of the things that you guys have discussed today is cost-cutting. We're also given to understand that there were discussions on the same this morning. Could you please let us know what progress has been made in talks on cost-cutting and cost reduction in the sport?
I think there's been some good progress in the last few months. I think the situation with FOTA where some of the teams left FOTA was unfortunate because I think that was one of the main initiatives of FOTA. But that's continued. The FIA are now becoming more and more involved in cost-cutting initiatives for the future. I think ultimately that's who we have to rely on to police the measures we need to take to control costs, because as the costs have become let's say more swingeing, as they've become harder to meet, then it's important that we all have the confidence that every team is complying to the cost restraint regulations, the resource restraint regulations and everyone's applying the criteria in the same way and they are all following the same rules. It's very frustrating if you believe – even incorrectly – that somebody is not following the rules. Within the system we had, it was very difficult to have the right level of confidence. I think the FIA have now, at the request of the teams, have become involved and there's a meeting next week which I think will be a very important meeting to set the objectives and agree the methodologies and philosophies that we want to control costs in the future. But it is an absolutely essential part for Formula One for the future. I think we've seen the situation with the new Concorde Agreement that's been discussed amongst all the teams and we need to make sure that a good majority of the teams have got enough money to meet the limits of the resource restriction, that a team that has a lot more money can't gain any technical advantage. I think the resource restriction, for me, is an essential part to safeguard the future of Formula One.