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Singapore GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2

20 September 2013

Team representatives: Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Bob Fearnley (Force India), Tony Fernandes (Caterham), Claire Williams (Williams) and Eric Boullier (Lotus).


Questions from the floor


Q: (Chris Lyons – AP).
Eric, Kimi said yesterday that one of the reasons he left was that he wasn't being paid his salary. Can you clarify the details of that and does the fact that this has come out damage the brand of the team?

Eric Boullier:
I don't think it's damaging the brand of the team to be honest. The truth is that yes, we owe him money so that's true. He's going to be paid, that's true too and if you want to have a little bit more of the story, last year in the same period it was the same story: we were owing him some money but at the end of the year he was fully paid. It's just the way we manage our cash flow. Unfortunately we are not as rich as some other teams on the grid. You can also understand that a team capable of winning this year and fighting for some podiums may not be as sustainable as it should be. We have obviously favoured our people working in Enstone which is understandable I think, obviously the car development because this is the essence of F1 if you want to keep competing. So there is nothing else behind this story.

Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special)
Just to lighten it up a bit, in two or words or in the case of Franz, three, can you say who's going to be driving for you next year or who do you think will be driving for you next year? Tony?

Tony Fernandes:
No idea.

Claire Williams:
I have two: no comment.

Eric Boullier:
No.

Franz Tost:
We will see. The season's not finished yet. There are some races to go and then Red Bull will sit together and then we will decide.

Bob Fearnley:
It's Vijay's decision.

Q:
If I could re-phrase the question, do you all have in your own mind an idea of who you would like to be driving for you, or is your mind still wide open as to what your final pairing would be?

Tony Fernandes:
I would have one pretty clear and one open.

Claire Williams:
Yes, in one word.

Eric Boullier:
Yes.

Franz Tost:
Of course the Red Bull drivers - da Costa, Sainz and Kvyat – and then we will see where we end up.

Bob Fearnley:
No, ours is a process, we can't make those decisions at this point. It's something we do after the Indian Grand Prix.

Q: (Mat Coch – pitpass.com).
Eric, with Kimi leaving and the state of the team at the moment, are you after a driver to come in on a salary or are you looking for someone to bring funding?

Eric Boullier:
We keep the same strategy that we've had for many months. Geni helped us to bring the team to where it is today. We now want to have more finance, more sponsors because we need to step up and guarantee some stability over a few years. That's part of the strategy, this is what we are still working on and we need to deliver on that point. We see the timing was not the right one for Kimi but we still have to deliver this. That would then allow us to chose drivers on merit which is obviously the first choice.

Q: (Kate Walker – GP Week).
Claire, you mentioned earlier about the difficulties of ensuring that you have enough budget, the way that it's an annual process. We've been reading in the papers recently about troubles with the Venezuelan economy. I was wondering if that was going to have an impact on your operating budget next year.

Claire Williams:
We have a long term relationship with our friends in Venezuela so no, I don't really have a concern about that at the moment.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Lady and gentlemen, you're constantly going on about cost-cutting in F1, how costs must be reduced but as any housewife knows, there are two ways of keeping the household going: one is to reduce costs and the other one is to maximise income. Claire, you said earlier on that your source of income is sponsorship but I would have thought that the commercial rights holder also pays you something, and the commercial rights holder is obviously recording record profits. Is it not easier for the teams to club together to go and get more money out of the commercial rights holder than it is to constantly bang on about reducing costs and not reach agreement?

Tony Fernandes:
I think the team didn't get together. The teams had a wonderful opportunity to try and create a fair, equitable split so that the sport is sustainable. I'm obviously in another sport where I think the difference between the top and the bottom is not as great as between the top and the bottom in F1. If you look at the Premier League, the winner of the Premier League share of prize versus the team at the bottom is not as spread out. I think teams had an opportunity but I go back to my very first point: that teams looked at things on an individual basis as opposed to working together in FOTA and trying to find a win-win situation for everyone and create a very healthy environment in a sustainable sport. We screwed it up, it's as simple as that.

Bob Fearnley:
I tend to agree with Tony. I think we've had wonderful opportunities and we've collectively failed to be able to bring the deals together. There's a certain amount of greed comes in from the top teams as well and I think they have to take some of the responsibility for that but it is F1, it's not something that's new, there's never been any equality in F1 so you have to go out there and make sure it happens for yourself.

Franz Tost:
Each team has got the Concorde Agreement, at least from a financial side and if teams do not accept it, they don't need to sign it. It's as easy as that. And if they sign it, they have to accept it. There's nothing to complain of from this side. I think first of all the teams should try to come down with the costs. It's easy to say yes, we should get more money but give the engineers one million and they ask for two. Give them four million and they ask for eight million. It's something about the discipline within the teams and as I mentioned before, we decide by ourselves to spend the money for nothing as I explain with the testing. If the teams get more money, they go testing even more and in my opinion that's wrong.

Claire Wiliams:
I think everyone's said it all really. In my experience, this is the way F1 has always been so unless you have a seismic change in the future, then I imagine it will remain this way but as people have said, the teams may have had an opportunity but unfortunately they didn't take it.

Eric Boullier:
Well, I think it's been debated and it's true that I share the view of the other team principals that we may have missed an opportunity to just sit down with the commercial rights holder and re-negotiate something which could have been more in favour of the teams but we failed. I think on top of this it's not one more or less costs, I think it should be both of them to be honest, because, as Franz said, the more money you get, the more money we will spend if you don't have any safeguards around you. Your engineers will always try to find out the best way to be competitive and this is why we are paying them to be like this, but at the same time, the more open the regulations are, the more we will spend money and waste money. So it's true that we need both.

Q: (Joe Saward – Grand Prix Special).
On the question of testing, can anyone of you think of a good argument this time next year when Bernie says 'look, you've gone to four tests, you haven't earned any money, why don't we have four more races in 2015?'

Eric Boullier:
Four is not enough. Ten more is better.

Q:
Could you race more, is that possible?

Franz Tost:
This is what I always request. I prefer to have more races where we gain money instead of spending money for nothing, therefore I would prefer to maybe have two races more or three or four races more – I don't care – instead of going testing for eight days where we go out to do some laps for nothing in the end, because reliability – as we can see – is no longer an issue. Ten, 15, 20 years ago we could say OK, we need to do some tests so that the cars become more reliable. That's no longer the case. What we are doing now is to create a new test team, because the theory that the race team will do the tests on Tuesday and Wednesday is absolutely wrong because they have to go home to prepare the cars for the next race. That means that on Sunday, the test team will fly in, then we do the test on Tuesday, Wednesday, then they go back. It's not only testing, it means bringing new parts, because the development will be increase and these are the costs.

Claire Williams:
I think there are so many considerations. Like Franz said, the major one for bringing testing in is that you've got to create a new support team. A few years ago, Williams disbanded - whatever the word would be – our designated test team so now we're looking at additional costs to create a new test team because you can't have your race mechanics and engineers working that amount of time but then there are other considerations. Could you use those days for a young driver development programme, for example, that could bring in revenue for the teams? So it's definitely conversations that we're having internally at the moment to see which would be better whereas I don't know whether... you bring in four more races a year or... Eric wanting ten more races. You're going to have to bring in more personnel to support that as well, so I think again, it's all about costs isn't it?

Eric Boullier:
Just to comment on this, when I said ten more races, I know we face the same problem that today we have a team sized for twenty races, so if we go one or two more races, I think we would struggle if we could do it, but if you had ten more we would have to have a second team. This is why I said ten actually, because four races would be difficult but it's better to race than test.

Bob Fearnley:
I think Eric's got a very good point there in terms of the amount of races, but the advantage you have of testing as opposed to having two or three races imposed on you is if you could make the choice of whether you wanted to go testing. You don't have to do that, you do have to do races.

Q: (Luke Smith - NBC Sports)
Eric, since Ferrari's announcement, the two names that have been linked to the seat (at Lotus) have been Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa. Where does this leave Romain Grosjean in this situation; is his future with the team secure or could you completely change your line-up for next season?

Eric Boullier:
His future is secure so far because he has a contract with us. Last year was a bit difficult for him; this year he's doing a great job. In the last four races, we have nothing to complain about. He was one hundred per cent up to speed, especially compared to his famous teammate. We just see now and monitor what he is doing and if everything is going as planned, he will have a great future with us.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens – Honorary).
One question: I might have missed something but you are all talking about a missed opportunity regarding next year. Why did you miss it?

Eric Boullier:
We couldn't sit down together and clearly we missed the opportunity by not taking the chance to conclude the process.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens – Honorary).
Aren't you grown-up enough to do that?

Claire Williams:
We're all too competitive.

Franz Tost:
We do not only compete on the race track, also behind the scenes, around the green table.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens – Honorary).
Just a comment, and I agree with Franz when it comes to testing, but your father, Claire, once said, a few years ago when there was a lot of testing, that 'the first race of the year, my car is about half a second slower than the quickest one. Then we go testing. At the end of the year, my car is quicker but still half a second slower than the quickest one.' So why go testing and, as Franz says, spend a lot of money?

Claire Williams:
That's true. Yeah. I do think that there is an argument that over the course of a year, if you start the season... to use an example, where we were at the start of this year, if we had had the opportunity to do some test days after the first few races, after Bahrain or Barcelona, it may have helped us, we don't know, so I think there's an argument for both sides.

Q:
To pick up on Freddie's original question, Tony is there a feeling among the teams that are represented today that you haven't got the voice that is heard, that missed opportunity that you're talking about. I assume that your opinion was given at various meetings. Was your voice not heard? Was that the problem?

Tony Fernandes:
No, I don't think so. I think there were numerous meetings, loads and loads of meetings, loads and loads of proposals but at the end of the day, some teams decided to split and when that happens, it's a divide and rule situation and the whole thing falls apart. I don't think it was anything else but that. There was lots of unity at the beginning but one by one, people decided to do their own thing.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen) .
would like to continue this particular debate about cost-cutting and maximising income. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that the teams screwed up in not maximising the income they could get from the commercial rights holder. The general consensus of opinion also appears to be that the FIA should control cost cuts. Am I correct in assuming then, that you people are asking the FIA to control something because you people screwed up?

Bob Fearnley:
I think that was my comment, actually Dieter. I don't think anybody else made that. My view is that the teams can't agree what day it is, never mind be able to agree cost-cutting measures...

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Tony used the words 'screwed up...'

Tony Fernandes:
Yeah, I do. I don't honestly think that if someone mentioned grown-ups etc around here, if we all sat together and agreed something, we wouldn't need anyone to police it. The reality is we can't. In my short period in F1 it's very clear, so I think someone here suggested the FIA controls that but the reality is that if 12 people in a room can't agree something, then that sounds fairly ridiculous, but going back to Claire's point, the competitive element of it leads us to this position and historically that's always been the case I suppose.

Claire Williams:
I don't necessarily actually have anything more to add to it.

Franz Tost:
For me, the FIA should not be involved in financial topics, but the FIA can come up with a regulation which helps the teams to cut the costs but then it's obviously up to the teams to spend the money.

Eric Boullier:
Nothing else to add, to be honest.


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