Team personnel: Ross Brawn (Ferrari), Flavio Briatore (Renault), Ron Dennis (McLaren), Patrick Head (Williams)

Q:
Four general questions, starting off with the 2004 calendar, which has been released this week. I would like to have your comments on it, your thoughts.

Flavio Briatore:
Well, there is no feeling. I think somebody has accepted this calendar and it is their job, and I don't think, for organisers, it's so easy to find new circuits and it's not easy for the promoter. Our job is racing. For me, really the calendar is not bothering me too much. I accept it and I'm quite happy. If I'm not happy, nothing would change anyway.

Patrick Head:,/B>
I'm glad to see Spa back in the calendar, if only with a provisional situation over it. I might have to slightly re-adjust my personal arrangements because Brazil is at the end of the year as opposed to in March and usually I go down there a little bit beforehand, so that's quite a big change. I think the temperature is going to be very similar at that time of year in Brazil and probably no more rainy, so I don't think it changes much as far as the actual race goes. It's fine. As Flavio says, we don't decide the calendar. Bernie and other people decide that, and it's for us to go out and race.

Ron Dennis:
Well, Formula One is a pretty intensive business and, to be honest, expressing an opinion is normally only worthwhile if it has some influence on something - and, as the calendar is not decided by the teams, and as we aren't asked to put forward an opinion, there's pretty much no point in putting forward one now. It's the normal situation, fait accompli and we get on with it.

Ross Brawn:
I think, from an engineering point of view, Bahrain is going to be interesting. It's going to be very hot and we'll have two quite severe contrasts because we're going from Bahrain, which is possibly going to be one of the hottest races, straight to Nurburgring which is possibly going to be one of the coldest, so that will be an interesting conflict. But, from an engineering point of view, the new circuits are always interesting. So, Bahrain, China. It's going to be good to get stuck into these new circuits. It gives an opportunity for a team to perhaps gain an advantage when you get to a new circuit, if you can model it a little better or get some more background to it. Most of the circuits we race on, we know so well that there's not much variation so, from an engineer's point of view, it's always nice to see new circuits.

Q:
Three of you have teams that are very much in contention for the world championship, while the fourth could be a spoiler for the championship in many ways. What are your feelings? How do you approach the final races of the year? Is it any different to normal? Are you looking at your rivals all the time?

RB:
It gets more tense. It's inevitable because you have got the big prize up ahead of you so, inevitably, tension creeps into everyone in the team. You have to try and control it and not let it become a problem, but everyone gets a little bit edgy, you double check things. We're pretty fastidious in this business anyway, but everything gets double-checked, everything gets looked at again and we go through things very carefully. We probably stay an extra hour in the evening just to make sure. That's what happens, things become more and more important. Every race is important, but it does start to influence your way of working when you get this close to a championship.

RD:
Well, for us, we've worked hard in the last two months to bring a new aero package and other improvements, both on the engine and the rest of the car. I think most of the improvements will probably create a bigger step in the remaining two races - this being a high-speed circuit, we don't get as much benefit as the latter two races, so we should be reasonably strong for the balance of the season. It is clear, mathematically, that this is a race that is not going to decide the world championship, but it's certainly going to probably tip it in favour of two of the three. Obviously, we hope to be one of those two, but it's going to be a good fight for the balance of the season. We relish it and, as Ross says, you just try to raise your game that little bit more, everyone's that little more careful. We'll have to see what Sunday brings.

PH:
Well, I should think Bernie's plan has probably got Kimi winning here, Montoya second and Michael third - that actually then keeps it going, in the same closeness, right to the end. I'm sure that's not what Ross wants but, anyway, obviously, it is a very competitive position. I think in a way we're surprised to be where we are - but very pleased to be where we are. We've got a team with a large number of people who have competed in championships previously, so they're all pretty good at conducting themselves properly in those circumstances and looking forward to a good battle.

Q:
Flavio, are you somehow written into Bernie's plan?

FB:
Not really, but I think that, for Formula One, it's fantastic anyway. We have three drivers, three different teams, within one point, with three races to go, and I believe that, for our business, for the television, for everybody, it's magic. It's important to have the final like this and hope that we arrive the same in the last race.

Q:
Third question is the potentially grey area of team orders or team tactics? What's your interpretation of it, particularly as they could come into play during the final three races of the year? Is it a grey area or is it clear-cut?

PH:
Clearly, it is within a statement of the regulations that we're not allowed to apply team orders in a way that influences the outcome of the race, but what is a team order? I suppose that would come from Frank [Williams] or somebody, but we don't have anything in either contract of our drivers - it is just a general understanding that, if one driver is in a position to win a championship and the other driver isn't, that that driver will help them. But, if the drivers chose to make that decision, that's up to the drivers - it won't be imposed by the team as, clearly, we're not allowed to.

RB:
I think it is potentially a very difficult area. It's interesting what Patrick said, because a driver is still a member of a team so he chooses to apply an order himself. I do think the team can step back and say 'it was nothing to do with us because he made that decision' because, firstly, you'd never be able to prove it - that he was the only one that made that decision. I hope that we don't get embroiled in all of that, but it is a very difficult area and I think that everyone here said, at the time when the statement was made 'no team orders', we would like a better definition of what is 'no team orders'.

I think Michael mentioned David and Kimi's situation at a previous race [Silverstone, where DC let Raikkonen past]. Now, clearly, that's okay, that's acceptable - if you've got drivers on two different strategies and you don't want one of them to have their race spoiled because he's on one strategy which requires him to go faster... We've had a precedent set that's an acceptable action, and I can understand that. But it would be nice to know where the limits are.

I guess we're seen as the cause of this introduction of the regulation but, even so, I think everyone would like to know where the boundaries are. It's always been at different levels, for centuries. If you've got two drivers in the last race and one can win the world championship, you don't want the other guy getting in the way. I think that's legitimate. If the other guy then tries to take an action which improves his team-mate's position beyond staying out of the way, then I think that's possibly going over the mark - but it's not clear.

FB:
I agree with Ross. We are in a grey area and interpretation is difficult because it's not black and white. It's very difficult sometimes. You're in the situation where one driver has a problem, maybe where the car is not set up well and a little bit slower, and the other driver is quicker. For the team, surely, it is better to have as much speed as possible, especially for Ross and Ron and Patrick. They have only one driver who has the possibility to win the championship, and what we need is some interpretation because, when the rule is not clear, it's not black and white, it's pink and every time we have the possibility to have different interpretation and we know every time it's not exactly what the people are expecting.

Like I said before, this championship is fantastic for Formula One, and I hope that, together, we don't try to destroy everything in the last three races. Everybody is professional, everybody knows how much money they are putting in the team and everybody knows that, if you have one driver with the possibility to win a race, I think it's a shame if you have a problem with your partner. I think it's a very grey area. The rule is not clear really, as Ross said, but I'm sure that if you have a driver in front who is a second slower, maybe you tell him to move a little bit because maybe the car has a problem, whatever. It's very difficult. Maybe the federation can clarify what it really means, because if not, you have a thousand different interpretations of that.

RD:
Well, virtually everybody has said something that is either completely true or, by and large, true. There are numerous conflicts within our sporting regulations. Perhaps here is a good example. We talk about 'solely' and 'exclusively' and 'unaided' in one particular regulation in respect of how a driver can and can't drive his car and yet it is pretty much an accepted practice here that it is acceptable for one driver to tow another when we're all qualifying together. So you could argue, in those situations, is one driver helping the other driver?

But the key is the word 'team'. In team play the definition is, no question, that you are working for a common objective, and it's how you facilitate that common objective which needs to be consistently interpreted. If we were to witness a race in which two team cars were lying first and second and the second-placed car could only win the world championship if he came first, I just cannot believe that anyone would comprehend that it is wrong that his team-mate allows his partner not to take the lead and win the world championship. We have to be balanced and, undoubtedly and dangerously, each and every set of circumstances requires an interpretation and rule interpretation is somewhat of a controversial issue at the moment. But it's not new to Formula One and I actually think that the vast majority, if not all, of the participants in grand prix racing would just like absolute black and white rules, so there was no ambiguity and there was no ability for or necessity for people to bring interpretation to bear. That's what we strive for, but it's what we constantly fail to achieve.

Q:
Final question, there have obviously been a lot of stories about tyres over the last few weeks. What's your feeling about the situation?

FB:
I'm sure Michelin gave all the information to the federation. I think our team, like everybody else on Michelin, feel it was not illegal at all because, if somebody was illegal, they would be disqualified and nobody, for the moment, was disqualified in any race.

We had this kind of tyre from Imola 2001 and, really, for us, the rule, we are talking again about interpretation, but 95 per cent of the people reading the rule was quite clear that you measured the tyre when it was new. If not, the rule would say that you measure the tyre at the end of the race. Nobody has asked me to measure the tyre at the end of the race in the last two years, and I don't understand why they started measuring the tyres at the last race.

Anyway, after this, I don't know everybody's situation, but we won the race in Budapest and, according to Charlie Whiting, our tyres were perfect. I think it was an issue that wasn't clear, interpretation again, but, after two years, it's very difficult to change the rule three races before we finish the championship. This is my idea. I don't want one manufacturer on Michelin to be accused of being illegal. When you have people like the second biggest manufacturer in the world, who is in Formula One, spending a lot of money, I don't think they deserve that.

I think that, today, we have qualified, tomorrow again, and then racing and for me the best thing is winning. I don't think the tyres only make a team win or lose and I think that it's a great win for Formula One, as I said before. I hope we don't have any controversial situations in this championship. We need a good championship and for me the best thing is winning and everybody will be happy because in the end you have a fantastic championship.

PH:
I don't think there's much difference to me from what Flavio said. We, Michelin, in their display of their tyres to the FIA over a period of two-and-a-half years, and through open disclosure of the profile to the FIA, makes any such use of words such as 'illegal' or 'cheating' or something completely inappropriate, but the FIA, after Hungary, send us all a fax changing their declared intention on the wet tyres and stating that they would be measuring the tread width after the race. To Michelin, that was a new situation. They looked at it on the nose. There is a very small modification to the tyre mould in response to that change of interpretation of the rule and the FIA have inspected tyres that we ran at the Monza test with that very small modification and they've said that, as far as they're concerned, they're fine. They've said in their release that the matter is closed.

RD:
Well, I think this is one of the very rare occasions in motorsport where all the facts and the timing of what took place and when are well known to everybody. I think there is every opportunity for the media to effect its own judgement, and I think they're effecting it on factual information. I think the media response was appropriate. I feel that the position ultimately adopted by the FIA following the various discussions that took place between them and some of the teams and Michelin was the appropriate action, but I do find it uncomfortable to come into this environment, which is effectively a forum that is supported by the governing body, to enter back into what has obviously been a pretty controversial issue.

Being the somewhat openly spoken individual I am, there's inevitably a desire to retaliate to the insinuations and accusations, but I'm going to say nothing. I hope that where we have arrived is really genuinely the end of it, because I think we've got a great world championship that is most definitely going to stay so until the end of the season - especially if there is no more controversy brought to bear. I think we all get up in the morning and most of us look in the mirror and we know how we feel ourselves - you feel whether you have integrity and whether you run either your company or your team or your own life in a manner that you're comfortable with, and I never have a problem with what's looking back at me. Perhaps other people do, but I don't.

RB:
I think we touched on earlier that we would all like black and white regulations and depending at which direction you come at a regulation from, you can take a certain interpretation. Obviously, our interpretation was not that the tread was constrained by only being measured when new. With the construction of the regulation, I can understand how someone may wish to interpret it that way, but the construction of the regulation was not when... it would have said, furthermore, when new, the tread would be no more than 270. It doesn't say that. So we had an interpretation which was obviously different to the Michelin teams. We have a regulatory body...

PH:
Why did you wait for 38 races before raising this point, if you had this view all the time? It seemed an odd time to raise it, Ross.

RB:
That tyre, as I understand it Patrick, you had at Monaco.

PH:
It's exactly the same mould, comes out of exactly the same mould, that appeared in 2001 at Imola.

RB:
Renault used different tyres to you, Patrick. There's a range of Michelins being used in Formula One. We weren't aware of the problem, so any suggestion that we had timed it is inaccurate. Bridgestone is an extremely ethical company, and they were aware of this problem for some time, but didn't raise it to our attention. They were troubled with how to deal with it, and they came to us after the race in Hungary and said how can we deal with this problem, because in our view...

[distracting laughing in the audience] Do you have to keep laughing? Thank you. In our view, they brought the photographs of the tyre in Hungary and said to us can you explain this to us, and we asked Charlie for an explanation. He said to us he wanted to investigate it because he didn't understand it. He didn't understand what he could see on the tyres and went away, and the consequence was the letter that came out on the Wednesday after Hungary.

PH:
I thought the consequence was a meeting at Maranello on the Tuesday, of the president of the FIA and the race director.

RB:
As we know, paranoia runs rife in Formula One. Ron, quite rightly, said you need to look at yourself in the morning and ask yourself if you've got integrity. That meeting was set up weeks ago and was a meeting to discuss our business in Formula One. Some of that discussion has been discussed recently, about the schedule that we should run in Formula One. It's not uncommon for us to have meetings with the FIA to discuss things. To suggest that meeting was only about the tyres... in fact we were asked not to discuss the tyres with Max and Charlie when they came, because they said they were dealing with it. They felt it was inappropriate to discuss the tyres, so I think to suggest that meeting was only held... I don't think Max would break his schedule to come over to Italy on a Tuesday after a race for a matter like that.

So as I said, there's a huge amount of paranoia in Formula One. We had an interpretation and we asked the ruling body for a clarification and that was the clarification they gave - I think all the suggestions of Machiavellian plots is just the normal paranoia that runs in Formula One. I do hope the championship is... I think it is a fantastic championship. I don't think this is going to make a huge difference. It was important to us that we felt we were competing on a level playing field. As I say, I don't think it will make a huge difference and I think we've got a great championship ahead of us. And may the best man win.

 

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