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F1 Bahrain 2013: Friday press conference - Pt.2

19 April 2013


Team representatives: Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren), Paul Hembery (Pirelli) and Eric Boullier (Lotus).


Questions from the floor


Q: (Kate Walker – Girl Racer).
Monisha, we've heard recently in the last week or so talk of Pirelli bringing an extra set of slightly harder tyres for teams running a young driver on Fridays. Given your comments earlier, is this an initiative you support? To give rookies and developing drivers more opportunities on track? Do you think it's a good idea, will it be better for the show, and so on…?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
I think it's a good idea because it gives you first of all a good reason to really get in these drivers. And I think it also should be done in such a way that it should be not just an option. Maybe as a regulatory thing coming in that really you have to this, otherwise not many teams would really make use of this kind of an option. We see it with ourselves: if you have already a rookie driver who is one of your regular race drivers, do you really want to take away time from them to still get another one in? So, I think if it just comes in as an option we really would have to think about it: do we make use of it or not? But on the other hand it's extremely important as we can see with such drivers that, if they have more opportunities they're simply better prepared. It will be a difficult call for us if it's just an option. I'd prefer if actually it went down somewhere in the rules that you have to do this. And apart from all of this is the show element that you mentioned. You are maybe make it more exciting and maybe you could also get more cars to run. If you look at the sessions on a Friday, you have the first half an hour fundamentally, nothing going on. It could have overall a very good impact and also for the tyre supply I guess it would have a lot of positive effect: always getting someone new in, something exciting, new information, new faces coming in.

Q:
Just to clarify, what would you prefer? Two cars running on the track or a third car being run for a rookie with the extra tyres?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
I think it's too early to say that right now but what would be good for a team like ours is that you simply have to do this. If it's just with one car, it would be fine for us – but not just as an option. Because if it were an option, like in our situation, we'd really have to think about it. If you have even two new drivers coming in one season, do you really want to make use of that or not? If we tend to say 'no' it's got us nowhere with this rule.

Q:
Stefano, if I can bring you in on this. Would Ferrari be wanting to run rookie drivers, drivers from your Young Driver Development programme?

Stefano Domenicali:
Just to answer to your question about the tyres: yes, extra set on Friday to be used in the morning. Not only for rookies - but for everyone. It would be difficult to explain to the people that are on the grandstand that Mr X has an extra set of tyres to run and Alonso, Hamilton, whoever is not running because that extra set of tyres is just for the rookie. If we have to do something then I believe it is a good idea, to be honest, that we should do it for everyone in order to increase the number of running on Friday morning.

Q:
Martin, don't run a rookie driver?

Martin Whitmarsh:
Well, I think similar opinions to Stefano. It was originally discussed that there should be an extra set of tyres for rookie drivers but I think that's quite difficult. At the end of the day, if the people who we're thinking about in the grandstands, I think they come to see Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkönen, Button – that's who they want to see. I think if we all put out rookie drivers they've not heard of, I think they feel cheated in some way.

Q:
Eric, your theory?

Eric Boullier:
I have to say I do share the opinion of my colleagues in the front. An extra set of tyres, yes. We need to just make sure that we could maybe run it for everybody and not only for rookie drivers.

Q: (Mike Casey – Associated Press).
It caught my attention the other week that Red Bull were talking about possibly breaking the two second mark in pit stops. I just wanted to get your thoughts how pit stops had changed in the last year or two and if they're becoming a much more significant part of the whole race, especially with the tyre issues?

Stefano Domenicali:
I think that it's been many, many years that pit stops are part of the performance of the team, performance of the team is a performance of the position on the track, it's part of the performance with the strategy and so on. So it is quite natural that you try to develop systems to try to minimise the reaction time of the guys, to be as quick as possible, and I would say this is part of the attraction of Formula One and I think that we are reaching the limit, where to have a pit stop shorter than what we are almost doing is virtually impossible. The driver has to arrive and has to at least engage the gears and the clutch to start again, so it's a physical thing that he has to do. So it's one of the things where Formula One teaches everywhere that there are all sorts of room for improvements everywhere and this is a challenge. I also remember when we had the pit stops with refuelling, it was another stop where there was another part to it and unfortunately I remember very well in 2008 you can make mistakes which can cause problems to the team, but as I said, this is part of the nature of Formula One. I think it's really nice to see that.

Eric Boullier:
Pit stops are part of racing. In most of racing today you have pit stops. It is clearly important to get this association with the pit crew, having this competition involved into the result as a global performance.

Q:
Martin, I suppose with the regulations getting ever tighter, pit stops are one area where you can gain tenths of a second.

Martin Whitmarsh:
You can. They've got quicker and quicker. We used to think four second was stunning. I think at the moment, as far as I know, I think we still have the quickest one at 2.32 seconds. I think it's possible to get below two seconds. I think it's dangerous to put too much focus on that. I think now they are sufficiently short that in fact the odd tenth difference between the stops isn't material. What is material is the pressure we put people under to get to about a two second stop. Every now and then it goes wrong, and so the ones that are material are the ones that go wrong because of the pressure we put on people to try and do it in two seconds, and those are the ones that are often the game-changer, not 2.3s versus 2.4s versus 2.6s. I think we've learned that to our cost, we've certainly put a lot of pressure to try and get down there and consistently be the quickest. In recent weeks I've said to the guys I'm happy for it to be a bit slower providing they're absolutely foolproof and I think that's probably the right thing to do.

Q:
At Sauber, how do you prepare your crew for a pit stop and try to gain extra tenths?

Monisha Kaltenborn:
Well, we've had some good examples like McLaren managing to get under three seconds. We're not quite there I would say. Over the years, you see how quick pit stops have been getting so now this margin for us is trying to be at or under three seconds. I think what's also happened is - which the guys with the pressure are fully aware of - is that even if you get things just a little bit... just a few (tenths), not even a second or so wrong, you have so much more to do than gain positions because the whole field has got together, so I think that's where also a lot of pressure has come from. Even the slightest mistake can lead to quite a lot of position losses in the race.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Last week, I asked the team principals present in China how they felt about the fact that the FIA will apparently no longer get involved in regulating the cost control process. How do the four team principals here feel about that?

Martin Whitmarsh:
I think Formula One teams are fairly tenacious so I don't think we give up on it. I think we all know that cost control is important in Formula One. There are maybe four teams that have financial stability and certainly we don't feel threatened at the moment as a team, but we're very aware that there are currently eleven teams, we need eleven or ten teams minimum and I think it's very easy to under-estimate the challenges that those teams are facing. It's something that when the emergency happens and teams start to fail, it's too late to react and I think that will go like dominos. Therefore, it we want to be responsible members and citizens of Formula One, then we've got to do what we can to control costs, we've got to do all we can to ensure that a minimum ten but at the moment that eleven teams have got sustainable business models. I think that's a right and sensible thing to do. We've put a lot of effort in. We've had some success. We're pretty good in Formula One at talking about our failures because we've had those as well, but we've had some success. There's some sensible measures out there. We need to do more. We've reached the point where it's natural for a governing body to get involved. We've seen that in other sports. I understand that the FIA needs encouragement from the teams and I'm going to continue to do what I can to encourage the teams to try and work together. We're not natural workers together on these sorts of issues. We work better in crisis situations but I think it would be foolish to wait for the next big crisis in Formula One to try and work together. I think the right thing is to work hard at it now. I'll certainly keep pushing but we will see where we go.

Monisha Kaltenborn:
For us it's absolutely clear that you have to control costs in the near future. You can do that in different ways. You can look at the measures that we have now, like an RRA. You can look at stable regulations, probably a mix of everything which would lead you there and you definitely need to do that to have a healthy sport. Ideally, like Martin said you would want your Federation involved in it and we won't give up on that, and try to maybe talk to the FIA to find ways how we can get the involved.

Eric Boullier:
I think we need to take into consideration how to control costs. It's a very serious matter now in Formula One. The RRA was one way to do it which I believe was the right way to do it but it looks as if there were different opinions. There are, as Monisha said, several ways to do it, we need to do it properly, having more stable regulations and stricter technical regulations to avoid any loopholes to spend more money. I think this may be the only way to control costs, to have them policed correctly. This is the support I will give.

Stefano Domenicali:
I agree that we should control costs, the matter is how to control them, to be honest, because we tried in a way, we made a great step forward, because I can talk about us, which for sure is one of the top teams which spends that amount of money because other teams honestly will not reach that level. For sure, we need to work together in finding the way to control it. I'm very open whether it has to be the FIA or the teams working together because there are always pros and cons but we should do something together, that's for sure.

Q: (Mike Casey – Associated Press).
Obviously we're in a country that is going through a political crisis, not at the circuit but outside in some of the neighbourhoods there are some pretty tough clashes between protesters and police. Your thoughts on coming back here again, even with those protests going on?

Stefano Domenicali:
I don't think it would be good for Formula One to be involved in the political situation of the country because then there is the risk of being pulled from one side to the other, which is not really what we should do. For us, it's a place where Formula One has always been hosted at the top level and we see since 2004, when I believe the first Grand Prix was here, that there was a great development of Formula One as a sport in the Middle East area. Other than that, I cannot comment more.

Monisha Kaltenborn:
I fully agree with that. For us, it's first of all the responsibility of our Federation and the commercial rights holder to evaluate the situation and then decide whether we race here or not and if they think it's the right decision then we come and race here.

Martin Whitmarsh:
I think we're only all qualified to talk about it from a sporting perspective and since Bahrain introduced Formula One to this region, it's been a great event and a hospitable Grand Prix to attend. Really we're racers here, we're here to go motor racing, and I think that's all we should be commenting on.

Paul Hembery:
There's not really a lot you can add to what's just been said in many ways. It's hard when people try and draw you into a political situation which is something that we're not really qualified to comment on. I really just concur with what's been said.

Eric Boullier:
Being the last one... I just hide behind my colleagues saying they've said everything. It's true that we don't want to be dragged into a political situation. If the promoter, the FIA and the commercial rights holder agree with the decision to race here we race here.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – The Citizen).
Paul, shortly before lunch, when asked about the Pirelli situation, Mr Ecclestone said rather cryptically that 'from our side it's all done.' Is that your understanding of it? Could you explain what he could have meant by that please?

Paul Hembery:
(Laughing) What, you didn't understand that, then? Well, it's all done then from his side. I think that's all I can say. It's on-going, I think I've told you before that we need to have some clarity over what's going on, going forward. As time passes, we have to make decisions as a business. We're not immune to what's going on in the European automotive business in particular; sales were ten percent down in March in the overall market. That impacts heavily on us and we're currently having to make action plans to address those challenges. I would think that from our point of view, sooner rather than later... time is of the essence, I would suggest now.

Q:
What is the time scale?

Paul Hembery:
I don't particularly want to give deadlines to everyone because it seems like a negotiating point but there is a time scale and I'm pretty sure I know what it is. You might be inviting me here shortly to have a different type of press conference, I don't know, but there has been progress and we are discussing and hopefully it will get resolved in the near future.


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