Italian GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2
8 September 2012
Questions from the floor
Q: (Barna Zsoldos – Nemzeti Sport)
Franz, I would like to ask you to recall some memories of the 2008 Grand Prix – the whole emotion, the whole weekend. Was it a confirmation for you, and for Christian, that Seb is going to be a future champion?
Let me say it in this way. We started already on Friday, if I remember right, to prepare the cars for Sunday under wet conditions because the weather forecast was quite clear: it said there was a high risk of rain. And I remember that we said to the drivers, 'stay out, do as many laps as possible', because here in Monza under wet conditions it's a little bit different than on other tracks because their are not so many possibilities that the water can runoff and therefore you have exactly to know where
to drive. Sebastian Vettel and Bourdais did a lot of laps and we found a good set-up in those days. And then I was quite happy on Saturday during the qualifying when the rain didn't stop. And then, of course, on Sunday, when it rained when the race was started under the safety car. Once Sebastian was in front I was quite convinced that he could at least finish the race within the first five positions. I didn't think that he could win the race but then he did a fantastic job. And then the team also during the pitstops made a good job and then at the end fortunately we won this race. But we must not forget there were very special circumstances. We clearly could see in those days that Sebastian Vettel's learning curve and his performance improved from race to race. And I was convinced that he could do a really good job at Red Bull Racing. That he won then the championship already in 2010 you couldn't know in 2008. But that he will have a good future, this was quite clear for me.
Q: (Dan Knutson - Honorary)
Pat, looking ahead to Suzuka, what do you need to have a fast car there and how will your car go there?
Well, I suppose it's dominated by efficiency and aerodynamics. It's just that we need to keep up the constant drive we've been doing all year, as everyone is, just to
improve the efficiency of the car.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
To the four team principal, 2014 obviously there's a major change in engines. The four of you are customers of engines – in other words you don't have teams producing your own – what sort of progress has been made on the costing issues and what are your expectations in this regard?
I think 2014 is going to be an interesting year. The engine is radically different. I think that it's important that the engine doesn't become the crucial, single performance differentiator – I think that would be particularly unhealthy for F1 and for the engine manufacturers involved. I terms of cost of supply I think the difficulty with introducing new technology and advanced technology such as the 2014 engine, it comes at a price. And I think all of the independent teams are very eager to know what that price is and what the impact of that price will be. I don't think it's the right market for Formula One to see an increase in costs. I don't think that's ultimately sustainable. But hopefully it won't have an impact on the fiscal side.
We have been very clear about our position. At the moment a lot of details are unclear on the technical side and also the price. We've also very clearly said that we don't want to go down to those times many years ago where engines were so horrendously expensive. I think in the last year, in this whole movement with costcutting and the engine freeze which took place. Now costs have really gone down a lot and we don't want to take three steps back again with this new engine and end up at a point which was there many years ago.
It's quite clear that this new powertrain in 2014 will increase the costs. It's not possible to make it cheaper, as we get it now, because there's a new engine, we have the new ERS system, there's the new batteries and everything will for sure increase the costs. And 2014 will become an expensive year. Now the question, how is the depreciation in the following years? Just maybe to level the costs, on an acceptable amount. This we will see and I hope that we can negotiate this with the manufacturers, I hope the manufacturers will be as fair as they were in the past. And then I'm convinced that we will find a solution.
I do share the same position. It's a concern, the costs of the new powertrain. We expect either though the engine RRA or different discussions we can have with the engine manufacturers… you know it's going to be reasonable… we don't see new technologies is going to be difficult to bring the price down, cheaper than now – but if there is an increase we just expect a reasonable increase.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Pat, yesterday Michael Schumacher said that covered cockpits were necessary, they will be introduced in the future for sure. Do you agree with that or are there other
options on the table from the Technical Working Group?
Looking back at the start of last weekend's race, it was a lucky situation. It could have gone very badly, so I think the whole of Formula One was very lucky. A flying car or a large piece of car flying in the air is still the one thing that we struggle to protect the drivers against. There's obviously been quite a lot of research by the FIA which is still continuing. They've looked at the covered cockpits and then different roll cages as well, so I think that research just needs to continue really, as quickly as it can.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport)
What is your opinion of the projected increase in fees paid to the FIA for next year?
Well, as you said, it's a potential increase. We have not been officially informed yet about this change by the FIA. If that's the case, we obviously will need to understand why and what will be the justification for such an increase, because there is a massive difference, as you can understand, between the current level [and the future one].
I think it's important to understand what's involved in the increase, what's included within it, what we pay that's external from the current entry, for example. There's only been a brief discussion about it at the moment. I'm sure there'll be further talks in the coming weeks.
As Eric said, we've only been learning about this from the media. The FIA has not really got in touch with us so we have to wait and see what they really propose and what their intentions are but apart from that, I think the FIA is fully aware that there are many teams out there which are already in a financially challenging situation and if you put further burden on them like this - depending on the package - you should be careful about the situation.
It doesn't match so much with the cost reduction but we have to find out what is the reason behind this and we have to know more details and then we will sit together with the FIA and then we will see where we end up.
Q: (Naoise Holohan - Manipe F1)
Given the successes of Fernando Alonso during the course of his career and how he's driving this year, can I get the opinion of everybody on the question of him being the greatest driver of his generation?
I think it's always very difficult to compare drivers across generations. You have to look at the equipment at their disposal, who their competitors were at that time. Fernando, for sure, is one of the all-time great drivers in Formula One but I personally find it very hard to judge where and how you compare different generations. There are generations which we didn't even see which only people as old as [conference moderator] Bob [Constanduros] would remember and I think it's very difficult to judge drivers from different generations.
I do share what my colleague next to me has said. It's clear that it's difficult to judge and compare different generations. What we can say today is that in the career of a driver you have different phases and I would say that Fernando is at the top of his form today.
He's obviously an outstanding driver, isn't he? I had the pleasure of working with him in 2007 and again now. I think I would agree that it's hard to actually compare even drivers in different cars. What is the actual performance of the car? The only driver you can really compare to is your teammate because you have like-for-like tools. He's certainly at the top of his game this year.
From the arithmetical point of view, it's Michael Schumacher because he won seven titles and then Fangio, Prost, Senna and because these drivers have done the best job or did the best job during their career and to compare drivers within different periods of time is simply not possible.
As it has been said, each time was so different that it is indeed so difficult to compare, but I think it's highly impressive in a season that despite all the different winners and things like that, Fernando has been so consistent, always just bringing the car home and getting all those points. It's extremely impressive, the way he's doing it.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer)
Going back to the 2014 engines, in addition to the actual spec change, we're going to see a reduction in the number of engines available to each driver from eight down to five, that at a time with no real track testing. Are you concerned that the 2014 championship may be determined by engine reliability rather than driver skill?
Yeah. The concern is when you have a big change in the regulations is that you don't want an engine reliability issue, especially when you are limited to five engines per driver. You don't want to have an engine powertrain dominating compared with the others so there's a lot of question marks which I think have been raised by the Technical Working Group and even different groups working with the FIA. We have to rely if possible on the regulator in the governing body to make sure that everything will be in place, to make sure that reliability of such issues are fixed for the beginning of the season, even if it's not going to be easy to challenge for the engine manufacturers, but we have to believe everything has been planned at least.
I think Eric has summed it up very well. I think the other key thing to remember is that technology will be very new. Basically 50 percent of the power will come mechanically and fifty percent of the power will come electronically and I think the technology will be very immature and then you're talking about homologation of engines as well at the beginning of the season and I think it would be very easy to freeze in an advantage or a disadvantage which would be unhealthy for the sport, I think, so hopefully there will be some constructive discussion in the coming weeks to ensure that a performance advantage or disadvantage for a manufacturer of which potentially there will only be three, will be able to be addressed if somebody undershoots, particularly in the early years. It will all converge over time but as the technology is particularly immature there could be quite large variances, certainly in the first year or two.
Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer)
Is that a discussion that is currently ongoing?
I'm sure that in the Technical Working Group they are talking about it but it's a challenging topic. It's a difficult time to be introducing a new engine, obviously, under the financial climate that we currently have but that's where we are and hopefully in the time between now and when the engine is introduced, measures can be made to ensure that not only costs but competitiveness of a power plant can be measured and controlled accordingly.
Well, the risk is absolutely there and maybe we then have to also... or the engine manufacturers allow them certain activities next year regarding the reliability and maybe that could also have cost implications, positive ones, for us, so I think we have to be open to discuss that and look into that.
The 2014 powertrain package will become a great great challenge from the technical side, because there are so many new factors which have to be taken into consideration. It's not only the engine, it's the air system, the batteries and it's not only the reliability, it's also the cooling. I personally fear that the field will not be as close as it is currently. I think that maybe one engine manufacturer will come up with a special solution and those cars will be far in front, as we saw in the turbo years. I
just hope that the three manufacturers will come up with similar solutions and that the output of the powertrain will be at a similar level, that we also will see in 2014 a nice and interesting Formula One season as is currently the case.
I think the 2014 power unit is a very interesting technical challenge, lots of complication, and the drive to improve performance and efficiency is going to be massive. Dealing with reliability is certainly not an insignificant problem. There were certain teams which want to run an engine in an old F1 car. That has been discussed at the TWG - I was keen to do that because I think it will help improve the reliability, running it in a proper car with all proper G-loading and everything. That was vetoed or voted out, whatever the right term is, so we're left trying to answer the questions on the dyno. We will answer some of the questions but we certainly won't answer all of them. There will be an element of risk when you go into the February testing, when you're going to have three tests to sort it out. If you've got a major problem, you're in a bit of trouble. Best we get our design right to start with, I suppose.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters)
Eric, there have been a couple of stories about Robert Kubica getting back into a rally car and trying that out. Has there been any kind of contact with you over the last few months? If he were to get in touch with you, would you be at all interested in giving him a ride in one of your older cars for old times' sake?
It's a long time that we haven't been talking about this. No, I did read in the press, like you, that he was doing some rally and actually he's supposed to do a rally next weekend or something like this, but we don't have much contact. I have contact with his management but nothing else. I've not been updated about his current state for a long time.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan - The National)
Eric and maybe all of you; in this era of no end of season testing, how important is the simulator?
You know the simulator has now reached a very good level of detail, to get the drivers familiar, to bring out the real use of a simulator which is not related to the driver. It's true that in the position today, where some drivers are stepping into F1 in the last three or four years with thousands of kilometers of testing, to generally get used to the team with the process of F1, with the procedure of the car, with everything, it's easy, obviously, to step into F1. With the current format, now, most of the drivers now have to step in with zero miles under their belts which is a bit tricky. But there is an economic reality as well. Testing costs a lot of money, a lot of resources as well, because not only money, we are already having a busy calendar during the season and we have set up - Lotus F1 are set up to have one crew for the whole season, so adding extra testing would obviously have consequences on the resources, so the question is up in the air, let's say. Is the balance today good enough with simulator and with a few test days at the end of the year? I don't know, I don't have the answer. I know that the balance today is working but is it fair or not?
Testing is very very expensive. If you want to go out for a test, you need your own test team. We cancelled the test team because of the costs three years ago. I think this was the correct decision. Regarding the young drivers, as Toro Rosso is a young drivers' team, normally we do it in this way that young drivers which are coming into Formula One get the possibility to run on Fridays in the morning, and I think this is a good possibility to step into F1, to learn everything. And every team can do this. It's not only restricted to young driver teams and therefore I think the current balance which we have from the regulation side is a good one.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - Motorsport-total.com)
Christian, you mentioned before a potential freeze of an engine advantage when the engines come in in 2014. Is that one of the reasons why Red Bull is so keen for an engine RRA to be introduced with a chassis RRA, possibly in 2013?
Er, no. The reason that we said that there should be... if an RRA is to come in in full force and policed by the FIA it should encompass all aspects of the car of which
the engine and power unit is a significant part, because some teams in F1 belong to automotive or are automotive subsidiaries that produce both chassis and engines and obviously some resource will come between chassis and engine and it's impossible with a chassis-orientated RRA to eliminate elements and treat, in our opinion, all parties transparently and fairly. Our view is that if you're going to look at a resource restriction of any form, you've got to look at the formula in its entirety rather than cherry picking certain elements, and obviously the engine is a key cost driver and therefore should be included within any overall package rather than just, as I say, looking to cherry pick certain items and cost drivers.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen)
Christian, your colleague Helmut Marko, if he was reported correctly, stated that he felt that the Sauber was the fastest car out there. Given that it's a James Key car, given that James is going across to Toro Rosso, are you concerned that possibly Toro Rosso will produce a faster car than you next year? And would you invoke drink orders in that case?
I think the Sauber has been a very good car this year. I think it's been clear at different races that they've had very good pace, including less than a week ago in Belgium. The changes in the regulations this year were significant and it seems to have concertina-ed the field significantly and that also includes the likes of Williams, Lotus have made a big step as well this year, so you turn up to a grand prix not knowing who is actually going to be competitive, how competitive your own outfit is going to be. I think James Key has done a good job previously, not just at Sauber but the teams that he's been at prior to that and I think it was an obvious choice for Toro Rosso when they were looking to restructure, to include James within their line-up. I think as far as the future is concerned, I'm sure he is going to be looking to make his mark there and the teams are open to race. Sebastian Vettel won his first race here in 2008 in a car that was designed in Milton Keynes and run by Toro Rosso, but the teams were free to race each other and that will continue to be the case.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen)
Franz when I visited you in May, you were speaking about your expansion plans and you were going to move into new factories etc during the shutdown. What sort of progress was made there?
Step one of our building is finished now and it's mainly for the composite department and we moved the composite department into the new building during the shutdown and fabrication has already started. You are invited to come there to see it. It looks good.