Turkish GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2
7 May 2011
Questions form the floor
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport)
Martin, we had quite a quiet morning at McLaren. I think you only did a few laps but, this afternoon, were you able to put any of the new upgrades on the car or is it basically the same spec as China?
No we had some upgrades, a few. We took the decision this morning that we were not going to have enough time to do everything we wanted, so that was a shame. I think people know we seem to have an ambitious programme normally on a Friday morning. In P1 in particular we knew we could not do any meaningful work so that's slowed us a bit, but that's the same for everyone. You have got a limited amount of testing but we have got a few little bits and pieces, nothing particularly significant. I think here it is a very demanding circuit as we have seen. We were pretty shocking on occasions over the bump going into Turn 12 so I think we have got to do a little bit of work there. I think the drivers weren't, they certainly didn't look comfortable. I wouldn't want to be in their seat when they were going over that bump so I think we have got to do something there. It is a fairly savage bump on most cars but I think we were as bad as most over it. I think we have learnt a fair bit this afternoon. The forecast for the rest of the weekend is that there is a fair chance of rain, certainly on Sunday, and we don't have many intermediate or wet tyres available to the teams so we took a view that we weren't going to learn much, we couldn't do our development programme. You can easy have an accident and what happened to Sebastian, let's be honest, could have happened to any of us. As it happens we did an install lap and we were going to just do a launch in the end. That's all we intended. In the end we didn't quite manage to do that with Lewis anyway so it was a fairly quiet morning, as you say. This afternoon was pretty busy, but there is a limit to what you can do as you have to do some long runs on heavy fuel, on the tyres you think you might start the race with.
A lot of people are talking about the future of Formula One, the future marketing of Formula One. You all have a voice in that, what is it that you personally, in your team, want from Formula One in the future?
I think that it should be a collective programme. It's very nice to say what we want individually but we are a group of teams that put on a show, and I think it's the consensus of the teams and where they want to go as a whole, and I think FOTA will handle that under the guidance of Martin and Eric Boullier. There probably are [individual requirements] but I think they have to be brought together with the needs and the consensus of all the teams.
It's important, you know, that from 2013 onwards, the new drivetrain is coming, that the price for the new drivetrain is not too high for the private teams, that we find a consensus like it was with the FOTA teams before, which was quite an important job done by FOTA, that we got a good consensus, and that we are racing in countries who can afford Formula One, that we can save our structure and our income, and that we increase the show. I think that the last races – especially Shanghai – were quite an interesting race, an exciting race and that we can continue to go on in this direction.
I think that it's important for Formula One to develop, to look at issues like green issues but you've got to make sure that it's kept in perspective, that costs don't go up, that we do put on a good show and also that we've got a formula where the independent teams and smaller teams can be competitive, and I think we've gone that route with FOTA. We need to go further down that route, but any changes that we bring in have got to bear in mind that Formula One will put on a good show when it has lots of competitive teams and we've got to make sure that we keep that.
I think first of all we need to describe what we have, and if I look back to the last race, all of us have been in Formula One quite a while, but this certainly was one of the most thrilling races, full of leaders, with Mark Webber storming through the field from 18th position to third, almost catching his team-mate, who started on pole position. So, I think we need to realise what the sport is delivering, what is happening currently and this is very, very good compared to whatever Formula One was capable of presenting in terms of very good and very thrilling races. I think the concept very much influenced by the FOTA teams cooperating with the FIA, the new tyres – everything was really good and, you know, today we are in the position to ask for new powertrains, for not too much money. The manufacturers brought Formula One and the teams into a position where they pay a third of what was paid five or eight years ago. I think sometimes we need to reflect on these facts as well. There is a very, very good Formula One. There is, of course, one team at the moment commanding, leading; McLaren catching up; then a handful of teams behind, chasing, but look at teams like Force India. They are doing an excellent job; look at teams like Toro Rosso, they have had their highlights. Look at traditional teams like Williams; okay, they struggle sometimes but never, ever have there been seven really very good teams in Formula One. Look at us, it's difficult for us to fight for third position and then go from there further on. But again, we are here in Formula One. Others left and I think it is very good that the Silver Arrows are in Formula One. That needs stabilisation, it needs more work but we are here for a decent amount of money and that's good. I don't want to paint the world in blue colours but we should reflect, sometimes, on what we have, because a lot has been achieved already and together we can further improve it.
I think Formula One is a fantastic show, it's a fantastic sport. I think we are all fortunate to be involved in the sport. I think that in the last couple of years the way the sport has continued to evolve, I think the racing on track has been fantastic. The competition has been good and one senses that the buzz about the sport, the interest in the sport has grown, has continued to grow, and you can see that through the television audiences, and in many cases circuit attendance, that we've even seen in the early races. I don't think that we've got there by accident. I think that collectively, the commercial rights holder and the FIA have done a good job to get us to exactly where we are and the teams and the drivers are a key part of that. I think that for Formula One to continue to grow and move forwards is crucial. I think stability is also very important. At the end of the day, it's about the show that we put on. It's about entertaining the crowds, entertaining the fans and the spectators, and that it is man and machine at the limit and that's what Formula One should certainly continue to be. It's important to have a balance of independent teams and manufacturers and I think at the moment we've got that balance right. I think costs have dramatically come down so an independent team such as Red Bull has been able to run at the front and win. I think that's certainly healthy for the sport and I think we're well set for the future.
I think Christian's provided an excellent summary, so I don't know that I can improve on that. From a different angle, I think that for the last 20 years, perhaps we, collectively, have not managed the sport as well as we can. There's been in-fighting, there's a competitive spirit in Formula One that sometimes has been quite damaging. I think the first thing is that we've had a relatively brief era now but we've had an era of unprecedented cooperation between the teams and I think that's been fantastic and trying to get co-operation between the very large teams and the smaller teams has necessitated compromise on both sides, and I think that's been a fantastic effort and I think the teams have collectively worked much better together. We've had some great championships, we've had comparative lack of the paddock polemics, which I think we were all getting bored of, and I think we're focusing on some great racing, a great championship last year and hopefully we will have another one this year. We have to work together with the commercial rights holder, with the governing body and establish that partnership that we can really promote the sport. I think that we've now gone some way to look at improving the show. We now have to tell people about it. We have to promote and I think, again, that needs all of us to work together. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. We're all part of it. All of us, the six of us here have all been part of Formula One for some time so we're part of the historic problem; we've got to be part of the future and how it can be better. I think there is, now, an environment of people realising that we've got to work together. We shouldn't be complacent, we've had some fantastic championships. As Christian said, there is an increasing buzz about the sport but we shouldn't be satisfied with where we are; we have to improve the show, we have to improve the promotion, we have to improve the co-operation, we have to make sure it's sustainable. There are still teams that are vulnerable so we've got to make sure that this is a sport that is affordable for all of the teams. We shouldn't lose any of the teams that we've got if we can possibly help it.
Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport)
Speaking of FOTA, F1 and the future – I'm happy for anyone to answer this if you want to – is it important that F1, as you renegotiate the Concorde Agreement, remains on free-to-air television? Or, could it thrive on a pay-per-view platform?
No, I think it's clear that the business model of all the teams relies on free-to-air. We're selling a large, broad, media exposure. That's the business model and I'm sure that that's the business model of all the Formula One teams will require going forward.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters)
I'll ask Martin this but if anybody else wants to chip in... We still don't know whether there are 19 or 20 races this year. The decision on Bahrain was delayed until next month. How much do you feel that as teams, your views are being listened to, because after all, it's your guys who are going to be on the ground if the race is re-scheduled?
Again, I think the FIA and the commercial rights holder decide the calendar; we turn up and race. I think at the moment there's obviously an evolving situation there. I don't think any of the teams are being consulted, in particular. It is always difficult balancing the calendar. There are some sensitive issues there. I think we've got to wait until we're informed of what that decision is.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan – The National)
Two part question: I would just like to gauge your thoughts on what makes a track good for overtaking and what makes a driver good at overtaking?
I think that it's an interesting question and one that is difficult to fully understand. You've got circuits like Brazil, which always delivers good races. There are certain circuits, like Monte Carlo, that don't lend themselves to good overtaking but always, again, have the habit of throwing up good races. I think the interesting thing really is the tools that we have this year, with the KERS system – when it works – and the DRS, the moveable rear wing. They're two elements that have really helped the drivers. I think, in the last two races Mark Webber has passed about 20 cars, which is probably more than he's done in the last five years. It's certainly assisted the drivers, and I think historically, the last two races that we've seen in China and Malaysia, have been quite static races. There's been more of a strategic element, whereas strategy is a crucial part, part of that strategy is that you've got to overtake and certainly the tools that we now have have encouraged that. I'm not quite sure if that fully answers your question, but I hope it gives a bit of an insight.
There are always races where you never get any overtaking – Valencia – and I think that with the changes that we've made on the tyres and the type of racing that's now giving us, I think we need to wait and see and look at some of those circuits that traditionally have been very processional races. And if we get overtaking at those circuits, I think we've shown... Many times we've tried to change the cars to promote overtaking. It's proved to be very, very difficult, almost impossible. Certainly we need to look at circuit design, but also with the tyres operating in the way they are, it provides a very cost-effective way to get very exciting racing, rather than very expensive car changes. In the past, we were guilty of bowling ourselves a bit of a googly too often and spending lots of money and not really getting any improvement in the racing. The tyres this year have shown us a very clear direction.
Q: (Marco degl'Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Question for Christian about Sebastian's accident: I can imagine that in the accident there has been some damage to some new aero parts updated for this race. Will it be okay to change them for tomorrow and for the race, or are you concerned that you have to take a step back?
I think we're reasonably well-equipped because you need to look at the data, look at the parts that have been consumed in the incident. But the information that I have so far shows that we are in reasonable shape but obviously need to understand the configuration the guys want to run the cars in tomorrow.
Q: (Cem Nadiran – Power FM)
This weekend is actually a very sad weekend for us, because as residents of Istanbul, this is supposed to be the last race in Istanbul. I just want to know how you guys feel about this and how you felt about the seven years that you've been coming here and racing in Istanbul? How was it for you? Is it a hassle to be racing here in Istanbul or is it something nice for you? How do you feel about Istanbul Park? And what can you do to help us fix this situation?
Firstly, I'm not aware that any formal decision has been made that it's the last time we're here and I, for one, hope that it isn't. Istanbul is a great city, I think people like coming here and of the modern circuits, this, actually, is one of the good ones. It's a good circuit, it's a great city, we enjoy coming here and I think all the teams are of that mind. There are lots of rumours about the future of this grand prix. Maybe some of my colleagues are better equipped than me but I certainly haven't any definitive information to suggest that this is the last time we're here. I very much hope that it isn't.
It would be a shame if it's the last race here because now the infrastructure has really been built quite well and it's beautiful to come here, to the track. The streets, everything has been finished now. As everything is finished, it looks like we don't come any more, but it's totally easy: give Bernie more money and we come.
I think this is an exceptional race track. Martin already pointed out that, of the new race tracks, this is certainly a very good one, a special one. Turn eight, I think we saw fantastic television pictures today. Okay, the bumps are probably not what you want, but they are delivering spectacular pictures and so it's a great track. The city is fantastic. It's very good, you will probably never be caught speeding in Istanbul, which is also a positive in a way. We like being here, but it's not in our hands. Arrangements must be the right ones, but I think the guys here and the teams – they really like it, absolutely. We have been with here with DTM as well. We have been here with our partners, McLaren and we have good memories. I think we won three times in total with our engine, with our partners. It's a great venue and a great track of course. We could do with some more spectators, but it needs to be developed in the right way, and as Martin pointed out, I'm sure there can be a future.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Martin, I would like to revisit the issue of free-to-air and pay-per-view television. How does one really define free-to-air because arguably the BBC annual licence fee is a pay-per-view and in this instance… If you look at internet, for example, that could be free-to-air if we go in that direction and is it not really the business models that are possibly at fault as opposed to the broadcast medium? One of your members said to me that they got 42 seconds of TV out of China. That's not really free-to-air stuff, is it?
Okay. You're right, it's a much more complicated issue than terrestrial free-to-air versus pay-per-view but I think that what we require in Formula One is a mass audience to television, mass audience to the pictures we produce, whether that's internet, whatever the means. I was trying to answer that question, but inevitably, nowadays, media is much more complex than the polarised debate about pay-per-view and free-to-air terrestrial, but we certainly need a mass audience.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Wouldn't it be true to say that the future is now more business-to-business in terms of sponsorship rather than stickers?
I think Formula One remains the third largest sporting spectacle, the most powerful sporting media for creating media exposure, brand differentiation and media exposure is one of the most powerful driving forces of this sport at the moment and I think it will be for the foreseeable future, so I think all of the brands or primarily all of the brands that are involved in Formula One expect to see a very, very broad exposure of their brands, as a consequence of investing in Formula One.
Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse)
Christian, after a hard end to his 2010 season and a rather disappointing beginning to 2011 – at least if you compare his performances to his teammate's – is Mark Webber in an awkward position in your team, regarding his contract for next year? So my question is: is it true he's in danger? Secondly, he said yesterday he has his own destiny in his hands, which means that if he's good and he's sure he will perform well this year, he will stay at Red Bull. Is that true? And thirdly, if you had to change him, would you rather take a driver from Toro Rosso or any other driver?
Wow. That was a big question! Mark has had a difficult start to the year, or certainly up to the race in China and he drove an absolutely phenomenal race there. He's had some bad luck but he's still delivering at a massively high level and I think that the dynamics that we have between the two drivers, the combination of the two, is really very positive. They bring the best out of each other, they push each other hard. Mark, who is 34 years of age, 35 later this year... it was inevitable that we would, at a certain stage in his career, start to take things one year at a time which was a mutual thing. It was agreed between Mark and the team that we would take things, at this stage in his career, one season at a time and we're only three races in [to this season]. It's way too early to be focusing on 2012 at this point in time. We're very happy with Mark. He's a very popular member of our team. He enjoys driving for us, we enjoy having him there. He's delivering at a fantastically high level, he's probably one of the most dedicated grand prix drivers out there. But at this stage, it's certainly too early to be talking about the future. There will be a private discussion that we have with Mark and not something to be conducted through the media. When the time's right we will sit down and discuss it.
Toro Rosso are doing a great job of developing young drivers. Sebastian Vettel came through the Red Bull Junior programme and as a graduate from Toro Rosso, so, of course, we keep an eye on how the Toro Rosso drivers are developing and it's great to see not just the current drivers but the future drivers as well, further down the ladder: Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, even Carlos Sainz Jnr in Formula Renault. Red Bull has invested in some real talent but it's way too premature to be speculating on whether or not any of those will sit in a Red Bull racing car. We're happy with our current line-up and that's what we're focused on.