British GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2
9 July 2011
Questions from the floor
Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary)
This question is for Christian and Martin as you have different engine suppliers. There are some mischievous scare stories in circulation about the noise the new engines will or will not make in 2014. What do you hear from your engine suppliers about this? Are the engines likely to be so anaemic as we hear that the fans will be repelled?
No, I don't think they will. I think clearly there has been a lot of discussion about the future of engines and I think it is healthy now for Formula One to point forward to 2014 having all parties agreed to the new regulations. I think there was some care, clearly, the increase the number of cylinders, to increase the RPM, to stipulate a single turbo and all of those measures were about enhancing the sound. Everyone is aware and we have made sure that the engineers that are developing these regulations are aware that the very visceral engine notes are very important to Formula One. They are important to us. We all still love the sound of Formula One engines. They still send tingles down most of our spines. I think we will continue to work hard with the engineers and manufacturers to make sure that we have got great sounding engines in 2014.
I agree with everything that Martin said. I think Formula One actually ended up making the right decision. The V6 is a far better engine to install into a Formula One car. It should sound good. I think there was some concern about the straightforward engine but I think all the engine manufactures have got together and agreed on this with the Commercial Rights Holder and then passed it through the various channels to get it approved. I think it is the right move and hopefully they will sound great.
Q: (Sean McGreevy - CSMA Magazine)
If I can direct this question at Sir Frank and Christian. What are the major challenges facing F1 in the future?
The demise, which will certainly take place, of Mr [Bernie] Ecclestone, that's my opinion.
I think that will be a huge challenge but hopefully that will be in another 80 years at the rate Bernie is currently going. I think Formula One is in good health at the moment. I think the racing has been fantastic this year. I think the best advertisement has been the racing itself, despite the fact that we have had a driver that has been dominant every single grand prix so far this year, has been pretty exciting. I think the regulation changes that have been introduced this season have proved successful but inevitably there will be challenges ahead but I think it is a bright future at the moment. I don't think there is anything that any of us should be fearful of.
(Inaudible follow up)
Whenever you change technology it costs money, so I think stability is crucial and stability of technical regulations is crucial. One of our biggest cost drivers are technical regulations so moving forward, working with the various stakeholders in Formula One, we need to ensure that we continue to keep costs under control.
Q: (Marc Surer – Sky TV)
I have a question for Martin: you tried the new wing on Lewis's car this morning and on both cars this afternoon. Did you get the correct data in the conditions today to decide which one you're going to use?
Inevitably in these conditions the data gets a little bit compromised. You're not going as quickly as you'd like. Various pressure tappings that you put on the wings and around the wing don't function if it's too wet but we got reasonable data and the engineers are going through that. I think we've got enough information; whether it's a quick enough wing, that's another story but I think it's doing what we thought it would.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Question for Martin as president of FOTA; today we lost a lot of action on the track because there are just eight sets of wet tyres. Are you discussing with the FIA to change the rules, to have more sets of wet tyres?
In fact this weekend we had already spoken to Pirelli and the FIA about our concerns about such a weekend. We've got an extra set of intermediate tyres here this weekend that have to be given back. Had that rule change and the tyres not been available, then I think we would all agree that there would be very little running. So we've made one step better. I think the engineers and the drivers would always like as many tyres as possible and we'll keep pressing to have more tyres available but it has in fact improved this weekend, otherwise I think we would have had a very quiet couple of sessions.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Christian, we heard some criticism of the pit lane exit from your drivers, could you confirm that? What is the problem exactly?
For sure, if it's conditions like today, if the speed limit goes up to 100km/h I think it could be a tricky down there. Yeah, it's part of the track, at the end of the day it's the same for all teams and all drivers but I think they probably need to have a look at whether we – because the pit lane tapers as well – whether we remain with 100km/h or whether it would actually be better to look at a 60km/h speed limit.
Q: (Ya'acov Zalel – Hege)
In the past there was a strong link between technology of racing cars and road cars. In today's cars, there is very little influence or technology from Formula One into road cars. Do you think it's a problem, or the current situation is OK?
We've just been talking about the new engine regulations. I think that if you look into the automotive field at the moment - increasingly downsized engines, turbocharged engines, hybrid, kinetic energy recovery - those are all very relevant areas and that's one of the drivers behind the rule changes that we're now implementing. I think that it's important that there is some transfer, some linkage, some relevance to what we're doing. Formula One is increasingly about efficiency, fuel efficiency, use of resources and I think that – perhaps belatedly – we're putting quite a lot of effort there now. I think we ought to be hoping, in the coming years, that we will become more attractive to the automotive companies and more come in. I think the automotive industry has gone through an unprecedented recession, it's been tough. It's been tough in Formula One. We've survived. As Christian said, we've had some great races and we've been trying to improve our show, improve our governance, work together more effectively and I think that some of the rule changes that are being implemented now increase the relevance to the automotive sector.
There was a problem in that not too many road cars were revving at 18/19,000rpm, unfortunately, and that's why we've had to come down a little, but it's a balance because at the end of the day we're a show, we're a sport, we're a spectacle, we're a technical contest. There's a degree of purity that's necessary in Formula One that those of us who have been engineers in the sport have enjoyed and indulged ourselves in for many years but we've got to have that balance. We can have our fun but it's actually got to be seen as relevant fun.
I think Martin has explained the real situation. I think manufacturers do have a place but Formula One will carry on without them. Their value to us, of course, is the supply of engines; they supply the engines for what they can learn from the use of those engines under very high stress conditions. I think our particular formula works quite well and the chain of events that one party depends on the other but, whether manufacturers are dominant within the sport or not, teams like us will always fight them anyway so whatever is the status quo, we're happy to go along with it.
I think Formula One foremost and utmost needs to produce good races, needs to produce a good show. It needs to be a technological challenge and it's finding that balance that people turn on the TV or come to the races because they want to see man and machine at the limit, wheel-to-wheel racing which is something that we've really embraced for the last couple of years. As far as the technology is concerned, I think it is interesting, there are some relevant areas to the automotive sector. In our own case, we've obviously started a partnership with Nissan Infiniti, looking at certain hybrid technologies as the technical regulations become clearer for 2014. Obviously for Renault there is relevance to their road car sector but I think beyond that has to be the quality of the racing. I think Formula One, to a degree, is also a form of escapism, that people are coming here to hear loud cars, fast cars and, as I say, the drivers and machinery on the ragged edge, on the limit and that's what makes Formula One the spectacle that it's been over the last fifty years.
Q: (Andy Benson – BBC Sport)
Martin and Christian, the original ruling on the off-throttle blown diffusers was 10 per cent for everybody. Now Renault are being allowed 50 per cent throttle. Mercedes, I assume, aren't but they are being allowed some fuelling on the overrun so how can we be sure we're watching a level playing field, and is this the end of the matter this weekend?
I think, as you clearly say, first of all there was a technical directive which effectively turned it all off. That was obviously with reticence by the manufacturers and it has been very much a manufacture issue. Certain teams were then allowed to have fired overrun, to fuel their overrun, of which there are also, obviously, secondary benefits through the exhaust plumes and thrusts that that creates but that was permitted. Obviously Renault presented their position to the FIA, and let's not forget that this is an extraordinarily complex matter, to demonstrate that precedent is there that, for purposes of throttle blip and reliability, that cold air blowing open throttle was a necessary part of the operation of their engine, otherwise it would cause serious issues. It would be unfair to allow fire overrun and not allow the same parameters for another engine manufacturer. I think it's a very, very difficult job for the FIA to pick their way through this and I think all credit to them, they've looked to try and be as fair, balanced and equitable as they decreed that they would be through the technical directive, to come up with the solutions that they have. We're not totally happy with the solution that we have, that's for sure. I'm sure Martin isn't with his and I'm sure there are a lot of conspiracies in the paddock that these are the reasons why Red Bull is performing or McLaren is performing, or some cars aren't performing. That's just circumstantial at the end of the day. The fundamentals are that the engine manufacturers have been treated in a fair and equitable manner.
I'm sure people set out to do that. I think there have been about six technical directives on the subject so far and it's moved around and when the goalposts are moving partway through a practice session, then I think it makes it quite difficult. I think that with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better to make changes at year end, which I think Christian would agree. I think that to do this and to do it in a fairly cloudy and ambiguous and changing way inevitably, in a competitive environment, every team feels that it's been hard done by. At the moment, I think potentially a lot of teams will end up making the argument to cold blow. Renault have been in that domain for some time, other teams haven't and don't have that experience but we're talking about a very substantial performance benefit here.
Why is it any more of a performance benefit than fired overrun? At the end of the day, Renault is allowed to fired overrun for reliability purposes. If you can operate your engine in the same way as the Renault, then you are welcome to do it. The secondary effect I think it is wrong to suggest that there is a benefit beyond that.
No, but clearly if you've got, under braking, your throttles are open 50 per cent then it's a reasonable benefit. There's a lot of gas going through and I imagine that all engines will end up doing that, which I think isn't what was envisaged when it was said we're going to stop engine blowing.
Where is the difference between firing on overrun and creating so Mercedes engines aren't firing on overrun?
They've been constrained. As you know.
As have Renault.
So I think, providing the constraints are the same for everyone, but I think that it is clearly, the fact that we are having this discussion, it's messy and I think the intention people believed was that we were going to stop exhaust blowing when the driver didn't have his foot on the throttle. I think that was the simple concept but that concept has been deflected and therefore it hasn't been clear and the fact that these things were only coming out during the course of today is fairly extraordinary. But nonetheless, I'm sure we will remain calm and pick our way through, but I think it's probably better to make changes to the regulations between seasons, not in-season and also make changes to regulations that are clear and unambiguous. I think, at the moment, a lot of people are clearly getting emotional about the situation and I can understand why: it's frustrating for the engineers not to know what it is that we're allowed to do, because these changes by cold blowing you're getting 30, 40 points of extra rear downforce in braking and that's quite an attractive thing, so if you can do it, then you're going to try to do it, aren't you?
But you also get that. Let's not make any mistake here, that firing on overrun, the thrust that that generates through the exhaust creates a bigger effect, so let's just be absolutely clear on that.
And that's why it's been largely contained, and a lot of those strategies, as you know, are not permissible now. At least, it wasn't when I came in here. Maybe it's emerged as I've been sat here that maybe we can do it. Maybe you know more about it than I do, Christian.
I don't know. I read the technical directive that said four-cylinder fired overrun was permissible for certain competitors and that, I think, includes your engine. As far as we understood, before Renault were allowed their parameters, obviously there was a significant advantage going to any Mercedes-powered team. As you can see, it's a massively complex subject. I think the one thing that Martin and I will agree on is that it should have been addressed at the end of the year, but unfortunately, here we are.
I've been focusing on these two in front of me. Could I just say something on that, as someone who is very new to the sport, in that I think it's a little bit of a shambles that we're having these kind of discussions, I think you don't have that in many other sports. The rules should be very clear, everyone should understand them and they should be pretty black and white. It costs the sport a lot of money. I think that one of the dangers of the sport is changing the interpretations, it's really got to be black and white and I think it can be. If you look at GP2, it's very clear. I run a GP2 team, we don't have these kind of situations. Of course Formula One is technologically advanced and you need all that sort of thing but I think the regulators of the sport need to make things clear so we don't have this 10 per cent blowing, 50 per cent blowing, hot, cold, in between etc, and teams and engineers have clarity. Even over the last few months we've heard of all the controversy in football but the rules in football are clear, it's black and white, it's easy for the spectators to understand and I think that's a really big challenge for the sport because a man in the stand – I don't understand anything that these two have just said, God knows about all the spectators over there, so that's just something I wanted to add, as someone relatively new to the sport. I think it needs to be simpler, and I don't think it makes a huge amount of difference to the people who are watching it.
Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat)
Tony, have you been thinking of who will drive your cars next year and if you have, when are we able to hear of your decision?
No, we haven't, it's still very early days. It depends whether we have hot, cold, how our drivers react to it, but I echo what Frank said, it's early days for us to decide where the drivers are next year.
Q: (Nick Westby – Yorkshire Post)
Martin, the link-up to Virgin Racing, what benefits does that bring to McLaren?
II think you're aware that McLaren is a group of companies now and we have an electronics business which, I'm glad to say, all of the teams in Formula One are customers, as are all the teams in IRL, as now are all the teams in NASCAR. We have a company called McLaren Applied Technologies which is working with some teams to help them and develop them, and I think it's early days. As John said, they've now acquired some assets and some people and our business McLaren Applied Technology will try and accelerate them up a learning curve to make sure that they've got a competitive car next year. Exactly how we do that is something that's got to be resolved, it's fairly fluid as we look at what resources, what capability, what knowledge that they have and obviously we've got a range of experience and facilities within our group that we hope will bring benefit to Virgin.
Q: (Andrew Frankl – Forza)
Frank, do you miss Max Mosley, especially at times like this?
Sorry, my hearing is damaged after 30 or 40 years. Life goes on. Max – I happened to see him yesterday, actually, he came by at the office, clever as ever, sharp as ever, a little more genial at last. Retirement, in a way, is doing him some good. I think he was an outstanding administrator and leader of the FIA – I didn't say Formula One, I said the FIA.
Q: (Niki Takeda – Formula PA)
Tony, following on what you have said, you mentioned that the rules have to be black and white so how do you propose in your opinion to remove all the different shades of grey in this sport?
I'm the last person [to ask] because I don't understand half of them, but I think there are enough smart people in this business to make the sport easier to understand the rules and I have proposed it at the last FOTA meeting and I think there are some suggestions being put forward at the TRWG in terms of the terms of reference. I'm coming in as someone who is an outsider and saying how I look at it and making some suggestions. I think there are lots of smart people in there who can make it an easier and more black and white sport and I think that's what I put forward to FOTA last week because I think it is. This blown diffuser, I think it should be at the end of the season. I've always said that. If you're going to make a rule change like that, where teams have invested, it should be at the end of the season and now you're getting things being changed in practice sessions. I think this kind of greyness needs to be taken out. It has, in many other motor sports, where it is black and white, and I think it would be good for Formula One. I don't know how to do it but there are enough people in there who do know and I think there should be less energy spent on so much of the rules and the engineering ways of getting around the rules and they should just be black and white, so you know this is what you can do as opposed to we spend so much time trying to find ways to circumvent the rules. It should be very clear, and I think it can be done, because it is done in 99 per cent of other sports.
The other point to make there is that I think it's much better to address these problems in private, so that we don't add too much confusion for the spectators. A bit of in-house housekeeping before it goes public would be helpful, I think.
Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror)
Putting aside the technological gobbledy-gook that most of us didn't understand just now, am I right in thinking that what you're saying basically Martin, is that you believe that Renault-powered cars have a technical advantage – Red Bull have a technical advantage – and Christian is saying No, they don't?
I don't know whether they've got a technical advantage or not. All I'm saying is that we've evolved into quite a complex set of guidelines as to what's permissible. We've done everything against what Tony's suggested i.e. what was not exactly black and white but what was reasonably clear and what was being exploited has become a whole heck of a lot greyer and subject to negotiation which probably wasn't appropriate and I think that again, everyone here agrees, having clear rules that aren't unambiguous and are changed after good consent and between seasons is the right thing to do.
I agree with Martin. I think that at the end of the day, we don't want to be disadvantaged. We think it's unfair to have been excessively penalised through a technical directive that was released just after Valencia, that has been addressed in an equitable manner and I think that inevitably McLaren or Mercedes will think that they're losing out to Renault and Red Bull. Red Bull feels exactly the same, that the way that they operate their engine offers an advantage. It's something that we're just not going to agree on but I think that that's where the role of the regulator is, to balance this and on what is a very complex subject, they've done their best to do it. I think that as Charlie will probably admit, it would have been best to deal with this at the end of the year, because it is tantamount to a rule change and when you enter the championship at the beginning of the year and you design your car around it – and let's not forget that there's other teams that have significantly designed their cars around this set of regulations – for them to suddenly change halfway through the year is cost, it's time, it's effort, it's money and it's confusing. It's confusing to you, it's confusing to the fans and it's confusing to Formula One. So that's where we are. I think hopefully we can now draw a line under it and move on. It's probably not the last you're going to hear about blown exhausts or whatever else is blown these days but hopefully we can now move on.