F1 China 2013 - Friday press conference - Pt.2
12 April 2013
Team representatives: John Booth (Marussia), Ross Brawn (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Claire Williams (Williams).
Questions from the floor
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association)
Christian, coming to you first. Obviously Sebastian has apologized, as you've mentioned, but yesterday his remarks were basically as if that apology never existed. As Bob has mentioned he said he would probably do the same again under the circumstances, that he'd effectively undermined you as team principal and that it was indirectly, quote-unquote, payback for what Mark had done previously in not helping either himself or the team. On that basis, has your authority been shattered and do you have a driver who, when he sticks two fingers up to you and the team, is uncontrollable?
First of all, the drivers need the team. They're an essential part of the team and one element of 500 or 600 people. Has my authority been undermined? In that race he didn't do what I asked. Was I happy about it? Of course I wasn't. Did we discuss it? Yes, we did. Did he apologise? Yes. Has he learned from it? I'm sure he has. Would he do it again? I think he'd think twice but I think as he explained yesterday there is an awful of history between those drivers. It's something that isn't new. It's something that's been there between the two of them for the past four or five years. Let's not forget they are one of the most successful pairings that the sport has ever seen. They have won three successive Constructors' World Championships for the team and Sebastian, of course, has become the youngest ever triple world champion. Is my leadership undermined? I don't think so. I've led the team from the time that Red Bull entered the sport to those 35 victories, to those world championships. Of course there have been lumps and bumps along the way, there have been incidents between the two drivers. But we retain them because they are both fiercely competitive individuals, they drive each other forward and they bring the best out of each other and at some points of course it's uncomfortable for the team. But I think it's a healthy rivalry, even though they took things into their own hands. They gave each other just enough room and whilst it was uncomfortable for us on the pit wall to watch, it was spectacular driving, just giving each other room to work with, as they've done on numerous occasions. What's happened has happened. We can't change it, we can't go back and it's a question of looking forward and focusing on this event and obviously the next 16 events after this. As a team we're working as closely as we've ever done, as in both drivers to work closely together, to continue to improve, to continue to give their feedback to the team to keep moving forward because our competitors aren't far away. Sebastian hasn't achieved the success that he has in his career by being submissive. He saw and opportunity, he took it into his own hands, he'd saved a set of tyres from the previous day and he wanted that victory more than anything else. I think he justified to himself that previous events that had taken was part of his judgement on what he chose to do that day.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action/National Speedsport News)
John, Jules has been doing a good job; what has impressed you most about him and what do you think his potential is?
His calmness has impressed me immensely. Very likeable guy, we thought he may have been disappointed to lose out on the Force India drive, but he's just been positive from day one. As for his ultimate potential, it's very early to say. I've worked with him for two races and one and a half test days so it's a bit too early to see, but the potential certainly looks very good.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
I believe the president of the Federation circulated a letter last week to all team principals regarding its role in the cost-cutting process or cost control process and that it no longer intends playing a regulatory role in the process. This seems to be an about face after last year having called various meetings about this issue. How do you feel about this?
I think it would be inappropriate to comment because it's a letter between the teams and the FIA. It's a private letter, I don't see there's any reason to comment in public about it.
Well, we support the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement) for instance, or we support a means of controlling costs in F1 and we have to find a way forward, so we support whatever can be done to try and control costs or contribute towards controlling costs in the future.
I'm not sure that F1 is sustainable, the way it's heading, so the Resource Restriction is very important and we fully support it going forward. But I wouldn't want to discuss it, it's a private letter.
The Resource Restriction Agreement – there were numerous meetings. We have the Resource Restriction Agreement for the chassis which is not so important because we more or less have the chassis costs under control. We didn't manage to come up with a power train Resource Restriction Agreement which would have been much much more important because next year the costs will increase by eight to one hundred percent regarding the power train, and there we should have worked and should have come up with something but the manufacturers, as usual, had some meetings, pushed a little bit but brought nothing to paper because everybody is doing his development and is thinking of getting an advantage over the others. The teams, the customers have to pay, they bill them at the end. This is reality and as I mentioned just before, next year will become very very expensive.
I obviously can't comment on whoever Franz's supplier is but in our case, taken over a reasonable number of years, the costs will be no higher than existing costs so of course there will be a peak at the beginning because there's going to be a lot of activity but with the homologation procedures which are in place and it's our objective to bring the costs down, so I don't accept that the costs are going to be eighty to a hundred percent higher, not in our case anyway. We're doing the whole package with the drive train. It is a new project, I think F1 needs a new engine, I think we've all heard the stories that Honda are coming in and there are other people looking at joining F1. I think it's regenerated that area, which it needed. That's our position.
With respect to Dieter's question, Williams is an independent team so we're always in favour of cost controls in F1 but with regards to that letter, no, we don't have a comment. It's not appropriate to discuss that.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport)
Christian, today we saw Vettel didn't go so well, so brilliantly as the last two weekends. Do you think that's a factor of what happened recently? The second question, which is also for Ross, is about the soft tyre; Ferrari was very fast today on the soft tyre, do you think that they are serious candidates for pole and then starting in front, for leading the race?
First of all, your question regarding Sebastian. Both drivers were working to different programmes today. It's an opportunity for us on a Friday to explore different set-ups and developments so obviously the information will be looked at this evening and set-ups will either converge or diverge over this evening into tomorrow but it's certainly been a productive day.
As far as your question on the tyres; it looks like the softer of the two tyres is certainly quicker but not particularly durable and obviously it's a question of finding that balance between what's right for Saturday and grid position and what's right for the race on Sunday. Felipe Massa certainly looked quick today on the soft tyre, but again, we've seen so many times that Friday times are meaningless in many respects unless you understand the programmes that each of the teams has been running to.
I'm presuming pole position will be set on the soft tyre, because it's over a second faster than the medium tyre but it has quite a short life, so you've got to work out your strategy over the whole weekend, from qualifying onwards and there may well be people who chose, in Q3, to conserve tyres or plan to start on the more durable tyre. But I think pole position will be set on the soft tyre because it's so much faster.
Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer)
Christian, you've spoken extensively about the history between your two drivers and the successes that you've had as a team. However, with his comments yesterday, what Sebastian appeared to make clear was that he feels that he trumps the team. F1 being both a team and a driver's sport, the drivers are still team employees; how do you intend to make him understand that his position is as your employee, not as somebody who has the right to decide whether or not to follow your orders?
Well, I don't think Sebastian for one moment thinks he runs the team, he knows what his job is, he knows what we employ him to do, he knows why we employ him to do it and he's been with Red Bull for a long time now, as a junior driver and as a F1 driver and now as a multiple World Champion. He recognises, more than anybody, the value that the team has behind the success that he's achieved in the car, and he knows that he can't operate without the team. So he doesn't put himself above the team or think that he's running the team for one moment. He's made a decision in a race as a hungry driver and obviously based that decision on all kinds of emotions at that point in time. I think that he's made his position clear, that he's apologised to the team, he's apologised to myself. It's happened and we move on but it doesn't change anything.
Q: (Chris Lines – AP)
We move on from here to Bahrain; there are still ongoing political and human rights issues there. Are you concerned at all about how this reflects upon F1 and how it reflects upon your sponsors?
I've got enough problems with my drivers, let alone Bahrain. We've got our own issues.
I don't see any problems going to Bahrain, like it was last year. I'm looking forward to going there. I think that it's very important to race over there. F1 is entertainment. We should not be involved in politics. We should go there, we should do our race, we should be concentrated there and the political side and political topics should be solved by someone else.
Q: (Trent Price – Richland F1)
John, Jules was able to settle down to a very quick pace, early on in that session and had quite a handy margin over his direct competitors. Was the programme that he was on a reflection of that pace?
Yes, you have to allow so much time for tyre evaluation in P2 now that the schedule tends to be changed around from previous years so we were on a qualifying simulation quite early.
Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport)
Christian, Mr Mateschitz said that he doesn't want to see team orders any more in his team. Are you afraid that a situation might come up where it's necessary to have a team order, possibly a situation like Ross just described where the two drivers are down on fuel or let's say that one driver has a better chance at the end of the season to win the championship over the other?
Of course. It depends what you define as a team order, at the end of the day. During a race, you have a hundred different things that you have to manage, whether it be fuel, whether it be tyres, whether it be reliability, whether it be KERS – so many parameters that you have to manage and that takes very close interaction between the pit wall and the car. Of course, the drivers have to follow those instructions. What Dietrich is keen not to see is a situation where the drivers aren't allowed to race each other. As I said, our concern in Malaysia was not the fact that the drivers were racing each other, it's what the consequence would potentially be on tyre wear and the outcome of the one-two position on circuit that we managed to get ourselves into. From a Red Bull perspective, of course we want to see the drivers race and compete fairly and equally but at the same time, the drivers equally know that they need to respect the requirements from the team, whether it involves any of the elements I just discussed. Team orders are something that aren't new to F1, they've existed in different guises through pretty much every year that the sport has existed, and while you have a team and a drivers' championship, there will be that conflict on occasions between the two championships and the aspirations of a team and an individual driver.
Q: (Peter Stebbings – AFP)
Christian, you said how there was no love lost between the drivers in the past. How would you describe their relationship now, in light of everything? Are they even talking to each other, for example?
To be perfectly honest, it's no different to the relationship before Malaysia in many respects. They're both professional guys, they're both very driven, they're both very talented race drivers. Right now, they're sitting in a meeting, debriefing, across from each other about what the car is doing and how they, as a pairing, can improve the car with their team of engineers. Of course they will continue to work professionally, to benefit the team and ultimately obviously themselves. But I doubt very much they will be spending the summer break together or Christmas, but that's not what we pay them for. Why we pay them and employ them is because we believe that they're the best and strongest pairing in F1, as they've demonstrated consistently over the last three or four years.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association)
Christian, following on from that, we've seen many times in the past when a driver pairing basically cannot stand the sight of one another – Prost and Senna, Piquet and Mansell – that it just doesn't work. At the end of the day, something has to give. Do you have any confidence whatsoever that your driver pairing this season, will be your driver pairing next season, or are you already casting your net for a potential replacement of either of your two drivers for next year?
Well, first of all, Sebastian is on a long term contract so he's committed to the team. Mark's contract has been renewed on an annual basis over the last three or four years and that's something that we tend to address just in the same way again this year. Of course emotions are still fairly raw from the events in Malaysia, but they're still a very effective pairing and we won't make any decisions until later in the summer when Mark and the team will sit down and discuss the future. But after two races, it's far too early to even be contemplating what our driver line-up will be for 2014.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen)
Ross, you have a fairly controversial suspension set-up. It was a couple of years ago here that you had double-decker diffusers etc. At that stage, there was a proper governance procedure in place to look at the matter, investigate it and decide whether it was legal or illegal. How would the procedure work now in the absence of a Concorde Agreement, technical working group etc?
Well, first of all, there's speculation but nobody knows what our suspension system is and from what I know, it's not uncommon throughout F1. The old days of simple rollbars, springs and dampers are long gone, and they've been long gone for several years and I don't think it's controversial, I don't think there are any issues. On the separate matter of what would we do in the case of a dispute, then I think the situation would be exactly as it has been before: somebody would go to the stewards, complain, they'd look into the matter, it would be resolved one way or another. If people weren't happy with that, then it would be appealed and go to an appeal court. The sporting and working groups are continuing as they did before, in the absence of a Concorde Agreement, which I think is showing good spirit from both the F1 teams and the FIA. I know our technical director attends technical working groups, our sporting director attends the sporting working groups and they are following the same voting procedures and approaches which they did before, which, as I say, I think is showing good spirit from the teams and the FIA, and the FIA have advised the teams that's how they intend to continue until the Concorde Agreement is concluded.
Q: (Ian Parkes – Press Association)
John, we spoke to Max yesterday and he informed us that to fund himself for this season in F1, he's basically giving away part of his future earnings. Could I just get your thoughts on that first of all as team principal and whether you feel that that's a good idea going forward for a young driver to boost himself up the ladder, rather than a driver who perhaps would bring in sponsorship for a team?
It's nothing new. There are lots of schemes that have been tried over the years. I think Justin Wilson was the last one that I know that had a similar scheme; and sometimes it's required to find a way into F1. If it becomes self-funding then it's a great idea.
Transcript courtesy FIA