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Abu Dhabi GP – Friday press conference – Pt.1

30 October 2009

Team principals: Bob Bell (Renault F1), Mario Theissen (BMW-Sauber), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing) and Ross Brawn (Brawn GP)

Press conference:

Q:
A question to you all. Please give us a comment about the circuit, the facilities, the importance about being here in Abu Dhabi and how you felt it has been for you.

Bob Bell:
As everyone I'm sure would agree, it is an absolutely fantastic facility and it is a wonderful opportunity for the teams to showcase themselves at a facility like this. We have been well and truly looked after and hosted well. That side of it is all fantastic too. I think it is great for the sport to be on show and operating at new locations throughout the world. I think the teams have settled in. We have not had the greatest of days but overall I think that was down to us, nothing to do with the circuit in particular. I think overall it is a great thing to be here.

Mario Theissen:
It is a magnificent place, outstanding facilities. I cannot image that this will be topped anywhere else in the world. Very good working conditions for the teams. An interesting track, especially the pit lane exit, which is very special. We feel very well here. I think it is really great and I hope for a good weekend, for a full house and this can establish as the signature event in the coming years.

Christian Horner:
I think it is unbelievable really. The bar has been raised by the introduction of several venues, Singapore included, then we come here and Bernie (Ecclestone) has been winding us up for the past 18 months saying 'wait until we get to Abu Dhabi.' I mean it is just unbelievable what the country has done to build a venue such as this. It is quite mind blowing really and the circuit looks a quality circuit as well, not just a pretty background. The drivers seem to be enjoying it. We have been fantastically well looked after. It reminds me a lot of Silverstone.

Ross Brawn:
Just a stunning facility. I think it is a massive credit to the people here and to Bernie. I know we give Bernie a hard time sometimes but he still creates races and encourages people to build facilities like this. It is a stunning facility. It is a very interesting track, quite interesting combinations, quite challenging from a racing perspective. The pit lane is controversial but sometimes I think we are getting a bit sanitized in Formula One, so a bit of extra challenge for the drivers is not necessarily such a bad thing. I think it is just fantastic.

Q:
What has been the reaction from the drivers, particularly the change in light if there was any reaction at all? Are there any other concerns that the drivers have mentioned? What do they think of the grip level?

BB:
Our drivers have not commented on the lighting. I spoke to Fernando (Alonso) about it and he was quite happy with it. He was quite comfortable. The grip level, I think, he felt was better than perhaps we came here expecting and the circuit did improve but it wasn't as bad as we imagined it to be. Overall on those two points very good.

Q:
Can we include in that the pit-lane exit? Were there concerns there?

BB:
Well, it obviously raised some eyebrows to start with but we all seem to have got used to it and certainly our drivers have not raised any issues.

MT:
Nick (Heidfeld) was very positive about the track right away. Robert wasn't so sure initially. The pit-lane is really difficult, well, the track generally was quite dusty in the morning and during the day and we could see even until the end of the FP2 the times got quicker and quicker. Especially in the pit-lane it was apparently even dustier, so they had to be careful there. But other than that only positive comments.

CH:
I think both drivers have really enjoyed the circuit. The tyres look a bit conservative and took a while to warm up and come in here. I think the only concerns our guys have raised is how quick these guys (Brawn) are in sector two.

RB:
Take the wing off and you will be quick in sector two.

CH:
Yeah.

RB:
The lighting, no comment from our drivers. It is interesting that the lighting is a long way away from the circuit and it doesn't seem to be casting any distracting shadows, so the lighting seems very good. They are enjoying the circuit. I think like any new circuit there will be some gentle evolution as the drivers get used to it and no doubt next year there will be a few modifications but nothing major is needed as far as we could see. They are enjoying it a great deal and I think it will be a great racing circuit. The slow entry onto the main straight and the slow exit may give a chance to overtake, so it is going to be quite hard on brakes. That will be a factor in the race and you saw a lot of teams they had problems with the graining of tyres but the track will improve tomorrow and that may not be an issue by Sunday. But as Christian said, the tyres are perhaps a little bit conservative and as a result they are graining a little bit – but no major issues.

Q:
Bob, how is the team working forward to 2010? Are you expecting to remain Team Principal? Some people might suggest it is a rudderless ship in that there isn't a team principal or there is a temporary team principal.

BB:
We are all focussed on 2010. We do not hold any expectations about 2009 and we are making good progress. The team has picked itself up and is moving on very positively with the support particularly of Renault and all our partners and indeed some new ones as witnessed this weekend which is both good for the team and good for the sport. We are all moving ahead very positively. As for me I am happy to see the team through the next few months. That is my prime concern. There are some big issues we need to get in place and resolve before we go racing next year and that is my clear focus. Beyond that if Renault feel the most appropriate thing is for someone else to take over the helm I don't have an issue with that and won't stand in their way and equally if that decision came my way that is something I would have to consider in due course. But right now I am not being distracted by it. It is important that we get to the end of the year in good shape.

Q:
Mario, can you update us on the future of BMW-Sauber or Sauber as it will be?

MT:
Well, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. I think we are making progress but the crucial issue still is the place on the grid. That's all I can say, so there is no decision right now.

Q:
Do you have a time frame when you can expect a decision?

MT:
We don't have a clear deadline but it is clear that time is running and it gets more and more difficult for the team as obviously you can only sign drivers and sponsors when you have a place on the grid.

Q:
Is Robert's problem in the last session going to require a ninth engine?

MT:
Well, it has been an engine failure and it is related to our decision some events ago not to pick up a ninth engine for Robert. What we are trying to do is cover the final four race events with one engine, so Robert's race engine for Sunday has had three races already. The consequence is that especially on this final Friday we had to use an engine with way in excess of 2000kms, so we were aware of the risk. I just had hoped it would blow up in the final lap of the session.

Q:
So in fact you have got another engine which you will be using for the rest of the weekend which is still within the eight?

MT:
Yes.

Q:
Christian, how are you getting on with Sebastian's (Vettel) engine plan?

CH:
We are looking okay now. We got critical after a failure in Valencia. That plus us under quite a bit of pressure but I have to say Renault have supported us brilliantly and managed the mileage and exceeded the mileage with their target kilometres significantly. I think we were one of the highest mileage teams today. Sebastian has a race engine I think he last used in Japan for the race tomorrow, so there is absolutely no risk in terms of us using a ninth engine. Even if that engine failed we have another engine we could utilise. With the help of Renault we have managed to manage the situation.

Q:
You're definitely not going to win the world championship for drivers and you are definitely going to finish second in the constructors'. Is there a feeling of disappointment or is there great optimism and enjoyment of finishing in those positions?

CH:
I think you have to reflect on the year and you have to reflect where the team has come from as well. This year has presented a significant step for the team. We have emerged as race winners and we were title contenders with both drivers throughout the bulk of the championship. A championship is, obviously this year, over 17 races and hats off to Jenson (Button) and the Brawn team. They quite simply did a stronger job over the duration. They stole a march on us earlier in the year, had great reliability. They dropped three points' scores to our 12, but when you reflect on the second half of the season I don't think there is anybody that has scored more points. For the team it has been a huge step and I am extremely proud of what all the guys in Milton Keynes have managed to achieve and we have got good foundations. We have been well supported by Renault as you don't win races and achieve the kind of results we have had without great support from your engine supplier. There are a lot of lessons that have been learnt for this year and a lot we will take forward into 2010 and with continuity and reasonable stability in the regulations we think we can really build on what we have achieved this year and hopefully take the next step.

Q:
Ross, obviously you did take lots of steps this season. What is the atmosphere like in the team back at the factory and here as well since Brazil?

RB:
Obviously euphoria at what we have managed to achieve. Firstly, I would like to say the championship has been fought in a great spirit. I know sometimes the media likes grief or needle in the championship but I must say this championship has been notable for the spirit in which it has been fought. Good battles, good spirit within the teams and for me obviously with the results that we had a great championship to be proud of. It probably wasn't until I got back to the factory that I appreciated how much it had meant to a lot of our people because they have been there a long time and not had any success and the team had won one race up until this year. We have still got people there from the very beginning of this version of the team as the team goes back as far as Tyrrell. It is a long-standing team but guys did come up and say we have worked a very long time for this and it was special to go back and share the pleasure of the championships with a lot of the people there who had been working hard for so long. They never gave up. We had such a difficult winter with no clear vision of where the team was going and the guys still worked enormous hours, made enormous commitments, worked their weekends and did everything that was needed not even knowing if they were going to go past February, so it has been very special in many ways and for me quite exceptional because of the contrast of where we were over the winter and where we are now. I must say in those circumstances I think Mario to a fair degree is seeing it now. Formula One does come together when teams are in difficulty. We had a lot of support from everyone during that period. We have our fierce competition, but I am glad to say Formula One still sticks together to help each other when teams are in difficulty.

Q:
There has been quite a lot of focus on your drivers for 2010. Is there anything more you can tell us? Have you got closer to working things out with Jenson?

RB:
No, we agreed that we would get through the championship. We agreed that nothing would happen for a few weeks after the championship, so the next two weeks will be pretty busy.


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