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Japanese GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2

2 October 2009

Team principals: Bob Bell (Renault), Christian Horner (Red Bull), John Howett (Toyota) and Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).



Questions from the floor.


Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press).
John, regarding your comments about Kubica. How are you able to know how much you can spend on a driver until you get a final okay from Toyota regarding your budget for next season?

John Howett:
It is fairly easy. To me the budget is going to be roughly this size and you can reduce other areas. It is fairly simple. If you buy a cheaper driver, you can deploy that in other areas. I think a very simple equation for us.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press).
You have a rough idea then? It is not something that is going to vary wildly from what it is this year?

JH:
No, I mean I guess less than this year but still a very significant and substantial budget.

Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motor Sport News).
Question for Bob and John. It seems at the moment that Robert Kubica is either going to go to Renault or Toyota if the rumours are correct. Between the two of you who do you think has got the best chance of signing him?

Bob Bell:
I think I will say we have and John will say he has, so I think we will let history determine that one.

JH:
I mean we wait and see. I think we have an even chance.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B).
Two questions for Mr Howett. First I read that you are also in touch with Kimi Räikkönen?

JH:
Not with Kimi, but with his management, yes.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B).
Second question. What is the illness of Timo. Is it Kobayashi fever?

JH:
I just won't answer. It is a stupid question and it doesn't deserve an answer.

Q:
Hiroshi, Saturday and Sunday will be different weather from Friday. What is important about the tyre strategy for Saturday and Sunday?

Hiroshi Yasukawa:
Always the track conditions are changing. When you are coming to the race track this race track surface is normally very rough, but when cars are running and always put on some rubber the conditions get better. Then Friday, Saturday and Sunday it always improves and each time set-up is going to change and you should find a good set-up for good performance for the tyres.

Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motor Sport News).
Christian, the GP3 teams were announced last night and you're going to go into business with Mark (Webber) in a GP3 team. Can you just tell us how that's going to work out? And also, since you moved over to Red Bull Racing from Arden, the team has never won a championship. Are you going to do anything more with Arden in GP2 and GP3 to ensure an improved level of success?

Christian Horner:
Arden's been very successful since I left on a fulltime basis five years ago. They've won races every year, they have the capacity to take on more activities, GP3 being an obvious one, supporting grand's prix at ten events, unfortunately on a Pirelli tyre – I don't know what happened there! Mark has been looking at other bits and pieces and he was keen to get involved in something. Arden have the capacity to do it and therefore it made sense. He was keen to put something back into the sport to support young drivers, to set an example, work with them, young Australian drivers in particular. I think it's a good initiative that he's got involved in, to be putting something back into the sport, trying to help youngsters come through. There's a good management structure at Arden, my time is fully focussed on Red Bull Racing but I've got no doubt that they'll do very well.

Q: (Jerome Bourret – L'Equipe).
To all of you, may I ask your opinion on Ross Brawn's success as team principal? Is it a surprise for you and do you think he's the man who made the former Honda team into a winning one?

CH:
I think it's thoroughly depressing, the success that he's had this year! It would have been far better if they had never made the first race! But no, in all seriousness, they have obviously done a very good job, they've turned up with a good car, they've inherited a good engine and their drivers have done a very good job. It's been a great season for them and we're going to make it as difficult as possible for them in the remaining three races.

HY:
They are doing a fantastic job, it's great, but racing is very difficult. It requires much know-how and many things happen. I respect their results.

BB:
They've done an incredible job considering where they were a year ago – all credit to them. I think it's a great thing for the sport as well, that surprises like that still occur. I think that's great for everybody.

JH:
I think the results speak for themselves, it's indisputable and full credit to them.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP).
To all of you: we all want Formula One to gain an audience but when it's raining drivers don't run. It's quite strange, it doesn't happen in other sports. Are you quite ashamed of what happened today? They paid 200 Euros for their seats and they didn't see any cars.

JH:
Wimbledon gets rained off quite frequently.

CH:
I think one of the things it would be nice to address for next year and maybe Hiroshi can help us on this is that we are a bit limited on wet tyres, so we're saving them up for the rest of the weekend, because there's a good chance that there's a bit of rain tomorrow. If Hiroshi's a bit more generous with his tyres then you might see a bit more of us on the track on a wet Friday.

HY:
It's a big problem. Our budget is also limited, so we have to strike a balance. Anyhow, our responsibility is that we have to supply equal treatment for everybody. And also, our position is very, very tough. Actually, our main business is selling our tyres for cars but if the car business is very bad, in this case we are not selling which means that we cannot make any profit. Nowadays our board members are very tough on me. I have been doing this business a very long time, so I understand the balance required, so at some stage we need to find a good compromise.

JH:
I think on a serious note, it's a very valid point. It's something that all the teams are acutely aware of, that we have to increase the value which we deliver to the public at races and all stakeholders. So given more time, through FOTA we can try to address some of these issues and ensure that we deliver solid value and good value particularly to the fans and public.

BB:
I agree with John. If we can run and put on a show for the spectators and we can do it safely then we should do and quite rightly so. I'm sure Hiroshi would love to see us running as well, but he's got real budget issues too. Equally, I'm sure a compromise can be found that will deal with this issue in the future but it does need to be dealt with.

Q: (Ken Kawakita – La Vie Creative).
John, can we have a little more detailed update about Timo's condition? Is it possible he has 'flu A' which is spreading widely through Japan?

JH:
At the moment the doctor doesn't think that's the case, so he's obviously had quite heavy anti-biotic treatment today and he seems to be responding well. At the moment his fever's dropping and we feel confident he can probably drive tomorrow. I think the doctor has to wait and see. Obviously he's had some worry about that. Jarno (Trulli) was actually quite sick on Monday, after the race. He wasn't too good during the race weekend and I think some of the teams' technicians have got various colds and fevers. I think quite a few people have suffered throughout the teams. Timo's definitely rough.

Q: (Ken Kawakita – La Vie Creative).
So that means there is still a slim chance for Kamui (Kobayashi) to continue driving for the whole weekend?

JH:
I think it's unlikely, to be honest, because I think Timo's really determined to drive tomorrow but there is a risk if he's not in good enough condition then there's a possibility that Kamui will be in the car but I expect Timo to be here tomorrow and driving the car.

Q: (Chris Lines – Associated Press).
Bob, in the past couple of weeks you've lost Flavio, Pat (Symonds) and now Fernando. You mentioned earlier that there have to be some major decisions at the end of the season. Should we have any worries about the future of Renault in Formula One, as a team and as an engine supplier?

BB:
Well, I'm not worried, if you can read anything into that. I think that for me the most important thing is that Renault are still here, despite the crisis we've just been through. It's been an extremely deep and difficult crisis, not just for the team but for the parent organisation and the fact that Renault have stood by us throughout all of this I think speaks volumes for their commitment, both to the team and to Formula One because their commitments to motor sport, even beyond Formula One, are very broad and long-standing, so it's not a matter that they take lightly, but they have stood by us and I think that answers the question for you.

Q: (James Allen – Financial Times).
To all of you: are we likely to see some testing re-introduced next year?

CH:
I think it's something that's obviously being discussed within FOTA. We've got this young driver test at the end of this year and theoretically when the race drivers step out of the car in Abu Dhabi, the next time they will be in a car is at the beginning of February. I think they get approximately seven days each before the first race. That's all the testing for the year. The most important thing is that the restrictions in budget and reductions in budget that we achieved this year were significant through reducing testing and I think that what we have to look at responsibly is that if we were to introduce any testing, that it doesn't necessitate teams needing to build up the resource of re-employing test teams. At the moment, we manage to do the mileage that we do with our race team on a rotational basis but it's something that for sure will be discussed and debated.

JH:
I think we're in exactly the same position as Christian. I think we'd like to do it but there are some challenges. I think it's being studied very hard and also the issue of trying to bring young drivers is another challenge associated with the reduction of testing and both those two are major issues which we think need to be resolved, but there are challenges, particularly next year.

BB:
I think one of the biggest problems is the young driver problem. I think that's very real. I think that if we can find a way of introducing some testing that doesn't involve us spending significantly more money, that it can be done at marginal cost with the existing resources, then it's something we should consider. But it does have to be under those conditions.

HY:
We have to be concerned about our budget as well. If we are spending too much money and if we have more testing then we have to prepare extra tyres and also manpower and logistics as well. We have to be concerned about these issues.

Q:
To the three team personnel: the current engine regulations are eight engines per driver, and penalties if you use more. Do you think this rule should be tightened or do you think the teams should press for eight? Should the engine builders try for longer life engines?

JH:
I think the proposal from the FOTA teams was to supply five engines per driver per race season, to achieve a lower price to support the smaller teams. But the current regulation is eight engines and honestly, because you do get a reduction in performance from the engine over mileage or kilometres, I think most people will probably be forced to go the route of supplying eight. I think it's a challenge for teams and the engine engineers. We are competing and if that's the regulation, our job is to deliver the best possible engine within the parameters that we're allowed to work in. There is a cost for the smaller teams to actually have a very reliable cheap powertrain.

BB:
Any initiative that attempts to sensibly take money out of the sport is worthwhile but it has to be introduced and managed correctly. Given enough notice we can do most of these things, we can make engines live that long or even longer. Let's just do it in sensible time frames.

CH: All I would say is that when I entered into Formula One five years ago the engine bill was your biggest overhead. Now, it's well down the list, the reduction in cost of engines over the last few years, the commitment that the manufacturers have committed to and in combination with the regulations has really quite dramatically reduced the engine costs for an independent team. I think that's extremely commendable and it's made the engines available at an affordable rate with parity to your supply team.

Q: (Will Buxton – Australasian Motorsport News).
For Bob, John and Christian: Nelson Piquet, as a racing driver, is saying that he obviously wants to find a way back into Formula One at some point in the future. Now regardless of who made what decision and how it all came about, would any of you give him a seat, given what's happened, and could you see anybody giving him a seat in the future?

JH:
That's a question for Bob, I guess.

BB:
I'm not sure I'll be giving him a seat and that's really all I can say.

JH:
I think on his performance, to be honest, disregarding the issue, I probably would not give him a drive and I would probably be further influenced in that decision by what took place.

CH:
I think John has summed it up. I don't think we would have any interest at Red Bull Racing.


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