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Bahrain GP - Friday press conference - Pt. 2

20 April 2012

Team Representatives: Bob Fernley (Force India), Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Eric Boullier (Lotus), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull).

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer)
I have question for Norbert: Reuters reported yesterday that Aabar are considering a complete withdrawal of their Daimler stake, could you please comment on that, let us know what you know?

Norbert Haug:
I just hear the speculation and read the speculation. Nothing more.

Q:
There's no discussion in Stuttgart?

Norbert Haug:
Nothing more to say, no.

Q: (Simon Cass – Daily Mail)
Probably a question for all of you gentlemen. The thing that seems to be said is that politics and sport don't mix but even by some of your answers that you gave previously, it's quite obvious that they do. Given that, wouldn't it have been better to try to wait another year for Bahrain to progress a little further before coming back to have a race here?

Q:
Martin, as the spokesman of FOTA?

Martin Whitmarsh:
I didn't know I was the spokesman. I think, again, the calendar has been set for some time, we are the competitors, it's a race in the calendar, we are here to race. Period.

Q:
Does anyone have more to add to that? Christian? Norbert? No.

Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer)
Since arriving I've been contacted by a number of Bahrainis who are actually supportive of the race, have you and any of your team members found similar contact from the citizens of Bahrain?

Martin Whitmarsh:
I think there is a lot of support for the race from all parts of society here, so I think that's positive. Clearly often the majority aren't heard on these occasions but I think there's a fair amount of support, you can feel it here. I understand they've sold out the grandstand so presumably that's a tangible sign of support.

Christian Horner:
I think the guys here have been very welcoming. They look after the teams very well and hopefully we can put on a good show on Sunday. I think at the end of the day it's a sport, we're a sporting team competing in a sport that competes at 20 venues around the world. We'll do our best as we do in all of those other events to do the best job we can on Sunday.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport)
Christian, Stefano and Martin, as the representatives of the top three teams last year, setting aside the safety of F1 personnel, if there is any bloodshed or injury or worse this weekend, among protestors, that are clearly aimed at having an anti-F1 element, should F1 be held responsible in any way, is F1's presence here acting as a trigger?

Martin Whitmarsh:
I don't think we're going to comment on that. We are here to take part in a race. I think we've made our position clear. So unless anyone else wants to add anything, I think we are here to race.

Christian Horner:
I echo Martin's comments.

Stefano Domenicali:
We need to be positive in life. It seems that we are looking for something to happen and this is what we don't want, as I said. This is really the objective that all of us here in the paddock should have, to be honest.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
The stock answer that keeps coming back when we ask about this race is that 'it's on the calendar.' There is a sporting commission, there is a technical commission, there's also a calendar commission. Now the first two actually go through the F1 Commission and then onto the World Motor Sport Council. The calendar doesn't. Do you people believe that there is a need for the teams – for the F1 commission, certainly – to have some input and to ratify calendars?

Christian Horner:
I think that's a position for the promoter and the FIA at the end of the day. When we enter a championship at the beginning of the year a calendar is published and you have the choice whether to enter or not. It's something that historically has always been the same and it's down to the promoter and then the governing body that's responsible for the safety of the drivers, the safety of the spectators and the teams to decide where those venues are.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
The question was, would you like to have input into it, as opposed to the procedure – I know the procedure?

Stefano Domenicali:
Normally it's not like that, to be honest. If we have to race over 17 Grands Prix, we need to have the organiser and the F1 has to have clearance from the teams so the discussion happens and this is related to the opportunity that they have. Then of course, the responsibility of other subjects is related to the national sporting authority, so the federation and the organiser, but that's the way it is at the moment.

Eric Boullier:
And if I may add something, we still have the opportunity to discuss with the governing body and the promoters about some adjustment in the calendar, not the location but maybe sometimes for logistical reasons we have some input.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Effectively, what we're then saying is that the teams are also responsible for the shape of the calendar the way it is at the moment, including the Bahrain race.

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well, you're saying it, we're not. Sorry, I thought you said 'effectively you're saying it' but I don't think we're saying that at all. The commercial rights holder and the FIA agree the calendar together. I think you know that and so do we, so I don't know why we're having this discussion really.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
But if it goes beyond 17, you have input.

Martin Whitmarsh:
In theory we do, but as you know, the commercial rights holder… he has to get the races into the calendar and typically we're not consulted individually on each race.

Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer)
The Sunni/Shi'a schism is a conflict that dates back over a millennia; how do you feel about being used as political tools in this game?

Martin Whitmarsh:
Listen, I tell you, we're at the start of a fantastic World Championship. There have been three outstanding races and there's a great championship ahead of us. We've had three different winners, it's been a fantastic start to the championship and I think we can have a fantastic race here on Sunday. I don't think that going into what's happened over the last millennia or the politics around the world is something that most of us here are equipped to comment on.

Q: (Daniel Ortelli - Agence France Presse)
We're all talking about politics, ethics etc. Do you agree that the main reason for having this race here and being here today is that there is so much money from the Emirates in F1 and in some of the teams that you represent?

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well, again, this isn't part of the Emirates and I think the commercial model of races, I think there is a lot of places in the world, and fortunately most places which pay reasonable money to hold a Grand Prix, so I don't think there's any particular premia in this part of the world.

Q: (Miran Alisic – RTV Slovenia)
Excuse me, don't you think that sometimes a race – even a fantastic race – becomes irrelevant if something more important happens somewhere?

Stefano Domenicali:
If I might say something about that, once again it seems really we (you) want to find something to make sure that this event is not happening and this is really what, hopefully, we, for sure, as a team, would like not to see and that's our approach, as I said. I don't think it's correct for us to go into a political discussion on what is happening. Of course we need to make sure that what has hopefully been started as a process in this country will happen soon and this is what everyone is really looking for but more than that, I think they will want to pull the things from different stories, different angles. Let's focus on our jobs and try, on our side, to speak about the sport. This is really our task, to be honest.

Bob Fernley:
If I could come in there as well, I think the Bahrain programme has been very very successful. As much as there is opposition to it, there is also a huge amount of people that are for this process, for the programme to bring through. As Force India, we are totally committed to this Grand Prix and to bringing this programme to reality for Bahrain, and hopefully, as we said earlier, it will form part of the healing process, and if we're part of that, we should be proud, not looking at ourselves and being negative.

Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – Estadao ESPN)
Bob, your decision not to take part in the second part of practice has been interpreted as many things and one of them is a sort of field protest because of what happened to the team on Wednesday evening. Is it to be taken as that or what?

Bob Fernley:
I don't think it's because of that at all. I think that what you have to accept is that on Wednesday evening there was a very unfortunate incident for members of Force India, and there is no question, it de-stabilised the emotional element of our team. Yesterday evening we put a programme together which addressed all the issues from the team, we sat down with them all, and that meant a slight re-structuring of the programme in order that we could make sure that there was comfort within the team and that we delivered a very strong qualifying and race programme, and I have to say that Sheikh Abdulla, Bernie, everybody has been enormously helpful in our process, but we have, as a team, to make sure that we gel that together properly and it's nothing whatsoever to do with… It's an internal matter that just needs stability, we provided that stability and we've stuck with the programme that we've had to put in place. It's not a slight at all on the event, it's just about an internal structure of Force India. We've had to do that, we've done it with pleasure and we've supported our team in that process and as a result of supporting the team, the whole of our programme is now secure for going forward for the Bahrain Grand Prix.


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