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United States GP - Friday press conference - Pt.2

17 November 2012


Questions from the floor:

Q: (Tom Richter - TV Nova)
I have a question for Stefano and Christian. Obviously this is a great event but we have the championship situation: two races to go, if you can please describe the moods in your respective teams and what prospects you see for the remaining two races.

Christian Horner:
You want to go first?

Stefano Domenicali:
I have no problem, on that I should be quicker! For sure we know it is a difficult situation because we are behind but as I said to my people there is nothing to lose apart from doing the best job that we can and at the end of the day we will see where we will land. But we know we have a Sebastian that is very strong with a fantastic car and we need to make sure that we provide to Fernando the best car that we can and doing the best job that we can on the track. We have seen in the past that everything can happen so we need to believe on this up to the end. As we always said, the numbers will be done at the end.


Christian Horner:
Our approach is to treat this race very much like any other. We've come here to try to get the best out of the weekend. To try to get the best out of ourselves as a team and the championships will then hopefully look after themselves. We've worked hard to get ourselves into a strong position in the Constructors' Championship and obviously Sebastian has done a tremendous job to haul himself back into the Drivers' Championship after the summer break – we were close to 40 points behind Fernando. With 50 points still available in the Drivers' Championship, you can take nothing for granted. We've seen how quickly things can change. We know that Fernando is a formidable competitor and Ferrari as a team. We've just got to focus on ourselves and look to get the best out of our package here this weekend.

Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer)
Charlie spoke to us yesterday about the prospect of adding points to super licenses instead of or in addition to the existing reprimand system. Could I please have your thoughts on whether you think offences both driving and non-driving should be treated on a points scale.

Stefano Domenicali:
I don't know what Charlie said yesterday, to be honest.

Christian Horner:
Charlie said there's going to be points on your license now – is that it? Right, 12 points…

Stefano Domenicali:
Team principal included…

Christian Horner:
I've got nine so… Martin, I'm surprised you've still got a license…

Martin Whitmarsh:
I haven't always. I think at the moment you're meant to receive three reprimands and then you get something so I think it's just presumably a further elaboration on that point. Like all things, any penalty system, providing it's administered in a correct, consistent manner then why should we have any problem with it? It's the same for all drivers and the same for all teams.

Q: (Julien Febreau - L'Equipe)
To all of you: regarding this season, in what way has Sebastian Vettel impressed you the most and do you think that now Sebastian is a better driver than in previous seasons?

Christian Horner:
Sebastian is a remarkable young man. He's continued to evolve as a driver and as a person. He's never given up this year. He's driven with great determination. It's been a tough year for him and the team, but he's fought hard to get himself back into this championship and he's driven extremely well. It's a halcyon period for Formula One at the moment; there are some formidable drivers on the grid at the moment. Any driver, either Fernando or Sebastian, if they prevail in this year's championship they will be fully deserving of that title. I think he's continued as an individual to evolve. It's only his hundredth Grand Prix this weekend and to have won 26 of those races, to have had more than 30 pole positions, to be a double World Champion at the age of 25 is something quite remarkable. But he carries that extremely well. I think he's a good ambassador for the sport He applies himself in an extremely focused way to the job in hand. That's my summary.

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well again, I think none of us were as qualified as Christian to answer this one really, but I think what you can say is that if you contrast this with last year... then Sebastian had an incredible start to the season and had great momentum and I guess you've got to say that it's impressive how he's come back this year and fought back into the position that he's in. Obviously the team's done a good job as well, but I think it's been a more difficult year for him to get into a championship-winning position than he's experienced before and you've got to give a lot of credit to him and to the team for being able to do that, so he's done a good job. He's learned some more languages as well, hasn't he?

Christian Horner:
Yes! From the mechanics!

Cyril Abiteboul:
Maybe I can just say a word, because I've lived a part of the season at Renault and as Renault obviously Sebastian is one of our customers. Obviously there's been a couple of failures that he's had to live with and I think that he's shown - even at the difficult moments - he's shown a great respect for everyone and all the parties involved, and I think that as such he has demonstrated his stature that he's clearly a grown-up.

Eric Boullier:
Just a quick one but that basically as a pure driver he's keeping developing his speed and getting more mature, definitely, more consistent and can bounce back from any difficult situation and take any opportunity so definitely you can see him growing even higher as a World Champion and future World Champion..

Q: (Sarah Holt - CNN.com world sport)
I just wondered, Stefano, if you'd like to state the case for Fernando, who's also had a brilliant season, because he's not had the fastest car, so I just thought that in contrast to the Seb stuff it might be nice...?

Stefano Domenicali:
Well, I think that Fernando this year has, up to now, done an incredible season, maybe the best, up to now, considering above all the starting point that we had at the beginning of the season with the car. Without maybe something not connected to any kind of his fault, maybe the position in the championship would have been different at this stage. But that's the way it is, so we need to start from that, but for sure, Fernando's season, in terms of maturity, in terms of driving, is really - I would say - incredible and I rate this season so far, honestly, as one of the best of his career, considering the situation that he was in together with the team, at the beginning, above all.

Q: (Sarah Holt - CNN.com world sport)
Regardless of what happens in the championship this year, it's really difficult to judge whether Seb or Fernando is the better driver of the two unless they're in the same machinery, I suppose.

Stefano Domenicali:
We can do a Ferrari challenge because we have all the cars here, but that is part of Formula One. For sure drivers can make the difference but alone cannot really win. It's a matter of teamwork, it's a matter of a good performing car, a reliable car, good teamwork during the race in terms of strategy, good pit stops. It's all about this. This is really the best thing about Formula One I would say.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R&B)
Martin, why do you think Lewis will regret his move to Mercedes next year?

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well again, as in a lot of journalistic quotes, they're not always wholly accurate and not always completely in context but I think the question I was asked was 'would I or would he regret...' and I said 'well both of us might do,' but again, I don't think any of us can look forward and predict with absolute certainty what's going to happen. At the moment, we're focused on racing the last two races and we'll focus on that, try and do a good job. I'm sure Lewis will do a great job next year driving a Mercedes.

Q: (Eddy Javier Tobias Carrillo – Wise Racng)
I want to ask any of you about the tyre challenge this weekend. Mr Martin (Whitmarsh) mentioned that the tyre (selection) was probably a conservative choice for this weekend from Pirelli. I wanted to ask how do you compare that with the braking zones, because the braking zones are very hard? I saw many drivers locking up in the braking zones. Is that helpful or not? How are you going to cope with that? And how many stops do you think you will be doing?

Eric Boullier:
On paper, we could say maybe a conservative choice but it's normal for Pirelli as well. It's a new track, new tarmac so no racing before so everything has to be built up. We could see a lot of track evolution over these two days, during the two sessions, so that obviously has to be taken into consideration for the rest of the weekend, especially for qualifying and the race. Actually our engineers are still analysing with Pirelli the wear and the degradation and these kind of parameters, so at the end, I think it's just a choice which was done and we have to deal with it and we cannot complain or do anything.

Norbert Haug:
We have to have an understanding for Pirelli in this case. Of course it's easy to say if you would have brought softer tyres but I think they just didn't have enough data about the circuit so they didn't exactly know how challenging this track would be so they went on the safe side and I think that's understandable.

Martin Whitmarsh:
We probably felt happier about the tyres here than we did when we were in Indianapolis a few years ago, so conservative is not such a bad thing.

Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer)
Martin, you said earlier that it's a shame that the race this weekend coincides with the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale. On the provisional calendar for next year, it also conflicts with the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale and I was wondering if any of you had plans to object or get the calendar modified so that we actually could break America properly?

Martin Whitmarsh:
Again, I don't know about the others, but we're not involved in setting the calendar. I think it appears to be a bit unfortunate but we're probably (involved in) a different
market and I guess it's difficult when you're arranging calendars to always get them... there's always another sporting event in most nations that you try to dodge around. I don't know how significant it is. As I say, this is a new market for us but it's obviously something that occurs. NASCAR draws a huge huge audience, both in attendance and in television so we've given ourselves a bit of a challenge there, I think. I wasn't aware of the clash next year.

Q: (Kate Walker - Girl Racer)
Speed are giving the NASCAR finale 30 hours of TV coverage this weekend. I think F1 is getting something like two and a half, so it is a bit of a problem for the dedicated motor sport fan.

Christian Horner:
I think the major problem is that whatever weekend you stick a Formula One race on there's going to be a NACAR race. Looking at their calendar, they seem to race every single weekend. Some of us think that 20 races is a lot. I think that those guys are doing a fair bit more.

Stefano Domenicali:
To be honest I have to say that I didn't know about that. I think that, for sure, in terms of quantity, there's not even a fight because it is impossible to fight in that respect. As I said at the beginning, we take this momentum to speak about Formula One because I don't think it's only a matter of having on one hand the main final and on the other hand one race in America but also it's a matter of growing the attention of Formula One and then maybe in the future, the hope is that if you have on the same day the two different events, we have it the other way around, meaning that we have done a great job in terms of promotion. That should really be our target at the moment.

Q: (Maurice Hamilton - Honorary) Formula One has arguably never been more competitive from the front of the grid to the back so driver talent is therefore the most important thing that you're looking for. We know that drivers with financial backing still play a part, certainly in the second half of the grid, the back half of the grid. I wonder if the front three can just give me their view on that and say if that's still an inevitable part of Formula One, despite the need to cut costs and perhaps Cyril could explain how important a driver with financial backing is to one of the smaller teams?

Christian Horner:
Well, I think that since Formula One started in 1950, there has always been a mixture of drivers that have paid for seats and drivers that have been paid as professionals. The demands and costs of Grand Prix racing have always required that and it's no different today where there's drivers that have perhaps were associated with sponsors but have still had to demonstrate their talent, demonstrate their ability to warrant a place. In a perfect scenario, you'd have the top 24 drivers on the grid that were the most talented 24 drivers in the world in a Formula One event. The reality is that isn't the case and I think that while Formula One is a commercial business and there are commercial pressures, I think you will always have that balance, but I think that what's good to see is that there have been schemes that have been set up to support young drivers who have found their way onto the grid that perhaps were associated with sponsorship but have also had to earn that position.

Stefano Domenicali:
I agree what Christian said but one point to add: the less chances that we give to drivers to test on the track, the more it's likely that we have drivers than can present themselves to a team with whatever you call it, with money to bring with them, and this is why we are so keen to have some more testing, also for them to make sure that they are able to show to everyone how good they are on the track, on top of how good they are in bringing money to the team.

Martin Whitmarsh:
I think there are some good pay drivers out there at the moment but to my mind, there are probably too many teams that have to rely upon pay drivers and I think that's a little bit sad for the sport and I think it's an indication that we've got too much financial pressure in the sport at the moment. I think you'll always have a few but I think too great a proportion of the grid, in my opinion, has to rely upon that and that just tells us that we've got to work harder to bring costs down in the sport, because it does distort... unfortunately the three teams at the front here certainly have to pay their drivers but I think we need to really improve the financial health of the sport, such that there's a smaller proportion of pay drivers, in my personal opinion.

Cyril Abiteboul:
The point that Martin was making is very true about the world economics and I think that it's a little bit more complex than that, actually. I don't like the notion of pay driver because I see them more as a commercial element which obviously is crucial when you are at the back of the grid, you don't attract the sort of TV coverage that the other teams attract and that's a reality. We are not complaining. We have to make our way through the grid, up to the (front of) the grid to get more coverage but before that happens, obviously the drivers are as ambassadors, a good commercial vehicle who have a value for any form of sponsors. Just talking in terms of contracts, usually we don't have any drivers who are paying for a seat, actually. It's just that he's introducing some sponsors to us who are helping the team to finance the season and financing their salaries, so actually in reality, there are no paying drivers as such. I don't want to start a polemic but even the best drivers in the world which are in the first row teams, there are some sponsors who are there also because they are there and I don't think you will qualify any of those drivers as pay drivers.

Q: (Carlos Jalife - Fast Mag)
I was talking to Mr Ecclestone yesterday asking about the Mexican Grand Prix and he said that it's hard because Texas has set a new standard. He said that no other country can run a Grand Prix if it has a facility that is less than this one that we see here in Texas. According to the world economic climate I would disagree but I would like to have your opinion on that.

Norbert Haug:
It would be nice if all the Grand Prix race tracks in the future would have a comparable standard to these facilities here, especially the race track is fantastic, the layout is great. It would be nice. I have some doubts whether this standard will be guaranteed for all the race tracks in the future. It does not necessarily need to be the case in my view.

Eric Boullier:
It's not easy to comment on Bernie's ideas, Bernie's comments, but as Norbert just said, it's great for all of us, also for you journalists, to have these kind of facilities, to do all our work in nice conditions, for the mechanics, the engineers and everybody so yes, the standard is good and obviously we would be happy to have the same standard and again, I would be happy to race in Mexico. I've been racing in Mexico in the past and it's a different standard but still we can manage.

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well, I think you've just got to ask the same question this time next week!

Christian Horner:
I'm lost for words after Martin's totally politically incorrect comments about the Brazilian Grand Prix! I think that there's 20 races and there's a lot of competition for those positions on the calendar. There's new circuits that are coming in in the future; there's Sochi in Russia that's coming in. There's an awful lot of interest and where Bernie does an incredible job, he keeps bringing new venues to the calendar, whether it's Singapore, whether it's Abu Dhabi, whether it's here in Texas. Formula One is now out of balance between Europe and the rest of the world, but it just shows how the world and the markets are emerging. It's very healthy for Formula One to have that competition, to host a venue, because what Formula One does bring to that country, to that state is quite significant.

Stefano Domenicali:
Well, I think that for sure that Bernie is pushing towards a high standard in all the places that we have to go to. I think it's the correct policy that he has to apply. Then it's a matter of negotiation, a matter to see what is at the end of the day the complete package in terms of the globality of the product that you're going to bring with a new venue, with a new Grand Prix. As I said, it's correct that we always try to be at the top and then it's a matter to see what we can really do but it's important to go in a place where there is a passion for Formula One, there's the money for Formula One, there's the interest, because in that respect, I have to say Bernie always has a good vision to anticipate certain things and we need to make sure that hopefully also in Mexico this will happen very soon.

Cyril Abiteboul:
I think everything has been said. If there is passion, I'm pretty sure there will be passion in Mexico, so why not? I'm not worried about some sort of standard because I think that passion is much more important. Personally, I remember my first race was in Magny Cours. I know it's a race that has been very much criticised by everyone but that's a race where I lived a fantastic moment and people were very enthusiastic there. Same thing with Canada and Montreal. I don't think this is seen as best in class of standard, but again I think this is one of the favourite races of the paddock and I think the public is again playing a big part because of the passion. I think this is what matters and the mix between the standard that Formula One wants to demonstrate, the statement that Formula One wants to make to its sponsors and to the internal feeling and nostalgia and passion that there is must be the right balance.


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