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Singapore GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2

24 September 2011


Questions from the floor

Q: (Joris Fioriti – Agence France Presse)
A question to all of you. What do you think of Sebastian Vettel's performances this year. Don't you think that his domination harmed the sport a little bit and would you want him in your team?

Robert Fernley:
Let's take it a step at a time. I think Sebastian has done a fantastic job this year as have Red Bull and it is up to the rest of the teams to challenge them. I don't think Red Bull should be asked to slow down. We need to get our act together and to be competing with them so hat's off to them and well done. There have been many, many years when a driver has dominated or a team has dominated so I think you have got to look at the overall package this year of racing and I think it's been outstanding across the board. I think the show is probably the best it's been for a long, long time. The fact that one team and one driver has dominated I don't think has detracted from that. Would I like Sebastian in our car? I think we have got two or three rather good drivers. I am quite happy with what we have thank you.

Jean Francois Caubet:
I hope that when Sebastian will have the title, if it is this grand prix or the nest grand prix, he will push a little bit more as I am sure the race will be more interesting at the end. For Renault, it is difficult to ask the engineer to slow down the engine or blow up the engine. I don't think so.

Riad Asmat:
Well he has done a fantastic job again. I think it is also the team that has done their part. Again, their domination I refer to Bob's point. We have seen domination and it is up to us to push ourselves. We are from behind but we hope to achieve some sort of success in the future. On him being a part of our team, I don't think we can afford it, but we have got a good couple of drivers right now and we are happy with what we have and we will push on from there.

Gerard Lopez:
I would concur – not trying to be boring – but I think they have the best car and they have somebody who can use it to the maximum, so he deserves to be where he is. I actually know him quite well for a long time already, so I can pretty much tell you that he deserves to be where he is today. And I will say the same thing as far as the drivers go: we have drivers that we like but he's a great guy.

Sam Michael:
I think he's done a fantastic job for the second year in a row now. It's not the races when Red Bull are dominant, it's the ones when they are not that show that he's really something special. He's won races when perhaps maybe they shouldn't have won and he's managed to drag… although the car's clearly very good, they haven't been dominant at every single circuit and some of the races that I've seen him win this year have been pretty impressive. So definitely hats off, he's deserved it.

Norbert Haug:
Sebastian is certainly a very special guy, very talented guy. I've known him since his early days in Formula BMW ADAC, the supporting races of DTM. Then he was a Formula Three driver with Paul di Resta. He learned a lot, he's a very focused guy, a very intelligent guy, a very demanding guy and an absolutely nice chap. We absolutely have to take our hats off to him. He's great, he deserves every single point he has got, probably more because he was unlucky here and there and he deserves what he has got. I don't think that the World Championship isn't interesting; in fact I think that this is one of the most thrilling seasons ever and I've been around for quite a while. The Pirellis have done a good job, the DRS has done a good job, there have been lots of surprises. There was Jenson Button being last in Canada for example, and then winning, doing lap times two seconds quicker than anybody else all of a sudden. There was Michael's performance there, as an example. I could continue for hours. There were lots of surprises in Formula One this year, which nobody would have expected, even the specialists. There was always a certain dominance in Formula One. There were the Williams days, I remember, the McLaren-Mercedes days, the battles with Ferrari and now it's the Red Bull days with Sebastian and also Mark doing a good job. But for sure, no dominance will last forever. We know that from the past. Everybody else will work very hard. We have a good relationship with Sebastian, friendship, I respect him very much and I think it's the same the other way around. We are, as I pointed out, very satisfied with the drivers we have. We want to climb up the ladder with the combination that we have, make another step next year and then we will see where we are.

Q: (Mat Coch – pitpass.com)
Now that you've had a couple of weeks to reflect on the Sky - BBC TV deals, how do you guys see it affecting your businesses in relation to marketing and sponsorship?

Robert Fernley:
I think we need a little bit of time for it to evolve with Sky. I think we're going to see a different format and a lot more depth and it's very difficult, at this point, to really appreciate what they are going to do. If you listen to the plans, they are very, very exciting. I understand it from a UK point of view that the free-to-air is challenged a little bit but I think there will be different levels of the sport now and different elements that Sky will bring to it which should be very, very exciting. I think we need to give them a little time. I don't think it's fair to judge until we've seen the sort of product that they're coming out with.

Norbert Haug:
I think you need to see things right: it was BBC taking the decision if I'm informed correctly and I think it was a great job from Bernie, from Sky, from everybody else to step in and now we will see what the development will bring, but of course the initiative from the BBC. It was not the commercial rights holder selling non-free-to-air and I think that it is very important to keep that in mind. I can understand the BBC's position but the basic plan was a different one. It's a good combination still. I think pay TV…this channel in England is completely different, for example, to Germany. I heard that they have ten million or whatever subscribers so basically you can have a lot of viewers. But I'm not qualified to judge that in detail, but I think it is important to realise how it all started.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Riad, if I understand it correctly, if you finish in the top ten again this year as you did last year, you move up a column which obviously brings certain financial benefits under Concorde. But by the same token, you have more to lose if you change your team's name, unless you get permission from everybody. How are you going to tackle that juggling act if you do change your team's name?

Riad Asmat:
I guess there is a process that we all have to go through but as I highlighted, it is a process that we will undertake if and when the decision is made but it's something that hasn't happened yet so I can't comment.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Are you confident that you will get that permission?

Riad Asmat:
I've got no motion of doing anything right now in terms of changing the name or anything like that so I can't comment.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Gerard, on the one side we are hearing about massive investments as we heard about early on; on the other side we're hearing stories of doom and gloom about bank loans and bankruptcies and all sorts of things: selling the team, Group Lotus wanting to buy the team. Could you clarify these issues please?

Gerard Lopez:
It's been one of the surprises for me in Formula One. The fact that any time we have a new driver, any time we announce something, any time I take a trip to Brazil or Russia or whatever, suppose I'm looking for money for the team. The fact is that we're involved in a lot of businesses. This one, as a matter of fact, is one that we hope is going to be break-even at some point in time. It's not but it's not one that needs to make money for us. We make money somewhere else. I used to answer this giving examples and so on. To be honest, I don't care any more because if it was reality we wouldn't be there for a long time. I think the team that we took over had about 480 people. We saved those jobs and added about forty jobs to those. Facts speak for themselves. As I said, I used to get quite angry every time I would pick up something like that. Now it's almost like crying wolf and nobody cares. The fact is that the facts are there: we are investing, we're adding sponsors. Our drivers, whenever they get called pay drivers, I actually feel bad for them, not for us because at the end of the day, there is no driver that I think or I hope could bring enough money to actually carry this kind of team forward. I find it disrespectful to those guys. I used to find it disrespectful to us, to be honest with you. Now I don't any more so now what we do is we get on with the things that we have to do. We make the investments that we have to make and at the end of the day we will see – in terms of results – what will be in the future and hopefully we will be wherever our investments carry us, which is to be one of the top three teams.

Q: (Mat Coch – pitpass.com)
Sorry, carrying on from my previous question, at the moment there is about 97 percent of people in the UK that watch Formula One on free-to-air TV. Some numbers that we've gathered in the last couple of weeks show that only about seven percent of those viewers are going to be interesting buying a subscription. Does that not hurt your sponsors and their interests in the team and their expectations of their payback?

Robert Fernley:
Probably just coming back onto that is that you've been very focused on the UK. It's a global market. Obviously we want to make sure our fans in the UK are serviced as well as possible, but at the end of the day, it was the BBC that made a decision. Bernie put together a super compromise. There will still be the ability to watch it on BBC and watch every race, but then you've got the added value… I'm not so sure your numbers are going to be right when it comes down to the real agenda. I think you will find that a lot of people will switch over.

Norbert Haug:
I'm not a specialist in that market but you need to apply the right facts. Where does the figure of seven percent come from? If I'm informed correctly, you can watch each and every Grand Prix free-to-air, this is still the case, and so maybe it's an addition, if it's played in the correct way. We have to wait and see but there was no alternative.

Q:
But basically you're not worried about your sponsorship?

Norbert Haug:
No.

Q: (Chris Lyons – Associated Press)
Sam, I know your interest is much more on the sporting side than on the financial side of things, but on a broad principle, Williams going forward in the years to come – not just next year but in the years to come – are they in a situation where they will be able to make decisions on drivers based purely upon what they bring to team in terms of ability or is Williams in that situation now where it's got to look more towards sponsorship and the financial aspects rather than just pure talent?

Sam Michael:
If you take the first part of your question about Williams financially, they are obviously entering a lot of different areas of their business such as WHP with the hybrid power system – that's standing out to be a very… an industry that's going to open up a lot over the next few years. They already have contracts with major motor manufacturers, so that's one area that's quite strong. They're obviously investing pretty heavily in Qatar. There's the new Jaguar programme as well. There's lots of different areas that Williams is diversifying into to ensure… which a lot of other teams have done as well. McLaren is a good example, earlier than Williams, and that will continue to be more and more profitable as years go on. That will help Williams put themselves into a good position. Other teams have done it, there's nothing to say that Williams can't either so I can't see that that will be an issue for them in the future.

With respect to their finances, if you then come to their drivers, if you look at the two drivers this year. We've got Rubens who is obviously an experienced guy, a multiple Grand Prix winner. Although Pastor Maldonado is a rookie, he's GP2 champion and he's run pretty close to Rubens all year. If you take out the first four or five races, which is entirely normal for any rookie, I would normally say that a rookie needs a couple of years, but you can definitely start to see the signs as to whether the guy is capable or not by mid-season and I would definitely put Pastor Maldonado in that category. And if he wasn't in that category, he wouldn't have kept his drive going forward. So I can see the guy having an even stronger year next year when he knows all the circuits, because he's still on a slope. He'd never turned a lap around here before this evening, so I would say that to say that Williams are taking their decisions on drivers from a financial point of view is not really correct at the moment, because otherwise they wouldn't be choosing the drivers that they have. I think Williams will make the choices that are best for the company and the best results. That's what it will come down to.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Question to Norbert and Jean-Francois regarding engines, both at the moment and 2014 onwards. We used to have a situation where there was a maximum number of teams that an engine supplier could supply. In 2014, we could possibly have as many as five manufacturers supplying twelve teams and when you look at it, somehow five into twelve doesn't work that well, particularly when you've got one manufacturer supplying four teams with engines. What do you people think the maximum should be allowed, both from a sporting and a financial, commercial point of view?

Norbert Haug:
For me it should be an open market, that's it, basically. I hope we're in a position to have five engine manufacturers, that would be very pleasing for all of us, I think. This is even more competition, but maybe we have less than five, we will see. It doesn't look bad at the moment. The rules are heading in the right direction; over a five year period there will be lots of cost saving. All us engine manufacturers work very constructively on that point together with Ferrari and Renault, especially Cosworth also and our target is to save thirty percent budget over a five-year period which is challenging but which is achievable. For us, if five teams chose the engine X, then they should do so, it should be a free and open market.

Jean Francois Caubet:
By regulation, today it's four teams, but I share that same advice, I am pushing for an open market because we are in Formula One and regulations cannot solve all the problems. I think the key point is not how many teams, the key point is which teams because when we are dealing with top teams, it's not easy to have one or two top teams when you provide the same engine. The problem is more with who and how many teams.


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