Team personnel: Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Ange Pasquali (Toyota), Pat Symonds (Renault), Otmar Szafnauer (Honda), Mario Theissen (BMW)

Questions from the floor:

Q:
To all of you. What's your opinion about the possibility of having the qualifying session and the grand prix on the same day, the Sunday, maybe for next year?

Norbert Haug:
I can start. I think everything that helps to make a weekend or even a race day more attractive needs to be considered. I have to fully support Mario's opinion on these issues. I think it is absolutely vital for the sport. This is our view that, you know, everybody has got the same chances. So you might say, well, Friday you could have chosen it, on the other hand, other people have 90 test days and these guys have only the weekend or whatever. It should be a level playing field. And cutting costs would mean that this is achievable. I know that team principals sometimes see it in a different way, but I think there must be an open discussion. I think manufacturers, we've always have certainly the right and the duty to think about the future of Formula One. And I only can underline what Mario has said. I think this is a very important message to the outside world.

Otmar Szafnauer:
If we make changes to improve the show in Formula One, we're definitely all for it. So if those changes come for next year and we change the format again and it's better for the fans, then we should do it. And as far as -- what was the second part of that question?

But the other important point, I believe, is the level playing field. It should be the same for all of us, that's really important, so some of us don't have an advantage over the others. So if it's a level playing field and we improve the show, then, yeah, we're all for it.

Mario Theissen:
Concerning Sunday qualifying, we could certainly go out on Sunday as we do now on Saturday, no difference to the teams. I personally would prefer to stick to Saturday qualifying because we have to maintain Saturday as well as an interesting day. If we put qualifying to the Sunday morning, I think there is less, even less interest on Saturday. I would certainly prefer to have a two or three-day event rather than a one-day event. In my view, it's good to have qualifying on Saturday because there is lots of speculation, you see something, you know something about competitiveness but not everything. So you can prepare for race day. I think it's right to have it on Saturday. Certainly we should take every chance to improve the spectacle on Saturday and on Sunday, but focusing only on Sunday with the Formula One activities, in my view, would not improve the show.

Pat Symonds:
Well, not unusual for me, I have a contrary view. I think that qualifying on Sunday would be a very good thing. I think at the moment Sunday is a little bit empty for the spectators. And I rather like the idea of it being the sort of final shoot-out just before the race. From a team's point of view, it's very good, too, because we can then operate the parc ferm? conditions effectively between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon, which would make our life a little bit easier. Mario is absolutely right, we can't do that at the expense of Saturday becoming the dull day, but I think there are plenty of proposals on the table at the moment, one of which our team have put forward, that I think can satisfy these requirements.

Slightly different subject, we were talking about levelling the playing field. I think that's a great idea, but I'm not sure that communism in sport really mix. I think sport is about the winner being the best, and I don't see how you will ever totally level the playing field in any professional sport.

Ange Pasquali:
Well, I think everything has been said so far. Of course, we have to find the best balance, and I agree that you can't sacrifice one day to promote the other day. But everybody would agree, I think, that Sunday this year would be empty. It's quite difficult to draw spectators to a circuit where they would arrive in the morning and they have to wait until two o' clock in the afternoon to have some action. We used to have the warm-up in the past, which was kind of already excitement because we were trying, of course, all of us in the warm-up some strategy already. I believe personally that qualifying, the qualifying with fuel and the parc ferm? conditions on Sunday morning just before the race would be really increasing the excitement. Considering that, the Saturday would be also filled in. And why not if we would have the qualifying on Saturday, what we could call the low-fuel qualifying on Saturday and qualifying for the grid position on Sunday might be a good combination. But, again, it's up in the air, a lot of scenarios have been discussed already among the teams. And I really hope that we will come up with a common decision and agreement as soon as possible. Because, as Mario Theissen said, the spectators, they have to understand as well what's happening and there should just be one unique rule and format for everybody.

Q:
Norbert talked about almost any move being blocked, and for testing, for example, let's face it, one team has a lot of money and a test track outside their back door, they're never going to agree to a testing limit. Don't we have to make a fundamental change to Formula One in that you don't need a hundred per cent agreement to make major changes, maybe 80 per cent or something like that to get something through, otherwise things will just stall and stall and stall?

MT:
Just a short answer - I agree.

NH:
Me too [laughter].

PS:
I think we already have an arrangement rather like this on technical rules. If technical rules would be changed within a year, there has to be a hundred per cent agreement, but they can be changed within 18 months or two years with an 80 per cent agreement. And I think that has worked very well for the technical rules and technical working groups' recommendations. For that to be applied to sporting rules may well make life easier.

Q:
Just go back to qualifying, the one thing you've got to remember from a press point of view, if you qualify on Saturday, you get quite a lot of publicity. For instance, whoever is on the pole tomorrow is going to be in the Indianapolis Star, the Chicago Tribune and whatever, and that's going to give people an added incentive to come on Sunday. How about doing something, God forbid, that's already been tried, where you lock in the front row on Saturday and qualify the rest of the field on the Sunday. That way you get the public to get two bites at the apple, they get the front row locked in on Saturday and you get to run on Sunday, which you obviously need to do at the moment. This parc ferm? until the race starts is obviously not good for the spectators.

I do think another point that I hope you guys did take home on Friday is when we had the pit walk, it took people an hour and a half to get in here because the pit walk took up so many people. For the last two decades, Formula One has distanced itself from the people who have paid for it - ie the spectators. If you go to Silverstone, I want to be the chain-link fence manufacturer at somewhere like Silverstone or Hockenheim, you've never seen so much chain-link fence in your life. And you guys, you pay the piper, and you should call the tune. You should make your drivers far more available than they are today at the moment. I think Friday was a really good example for you guys.

PS:
I'm not sure if it was a question, but I will certainly pick up on it. I agree very, very much with the issue of the spectators and what they get for their money. It really was good to see how many people were here yesterday. We used to see a similar thing in Montreal when that was opened to the public on Wednesday or Thursday. I think it's very good for the sport. You know, those are the people who come in, and I know I said earlier that we were a global sport and television is important, but we have to seed that audience with the local people.

We are distancing ourselves far too much, and I think particularly here in America, our local audience must find it very alien because we've all seen champ car racing on TV and how close they get to the spectators. I really think we should be doing something similar in Formula One.

AP:
I think the will from everybody to increase the show to get closer to the spectators, again is a question of compromise and it's true that it's difficult to compare racing like NASCAR or other kind of racing to Formula One in terms of spectators because I don't think we have ever had the chance to reach 400,000 spectators or maybe 500,000 for the Indy 500. But all the effort, I believe, are made at the moment to try to increase that; and a similar pit walkabout was organised in Hungary and was a big success as well. I'm sure it will improve it. Concerning the drivers, I can only support your point of view that they have to be more available for the spectators. We work on it and I think all the effort are in the right direction.

Q:
Question to Pat Symonds. Can you please talk a little bit about Franck Montagny who will be your official test driver in 2004? Do you think he will be the new generation driver that France is hoping?

PS:
Yeah, I certainly do. We ran a number of drivers last winter with a view to taking on our second test driver, because obviously Allan McNish is our primary test driver this year. Franck came out of that very well. He wasn't actually the fastest driver when we did those tests but if we looked at consistency, if we looked at feedback, we give these drivers quite a grilling when we test them. And certainly it's not just about lap time. He came out of it very well, and from that we decided that we would take him on as our second test driver.

Now, the second test driver gets to do some pretty boring things driving up and down in a straight line and taking measurements and stuff like that. But we gave Franck an outing at the French Grand Prix in the Friday test session, and not only did he do very well, but he did very well in some very hard circumstances. He had a problem with his engine and had to change cars. Shortly after that, it started to rain. And I was really impressed with the way he handled it. We took him to Barcelona last week to do some work for us, and it was a full-test program. He was looking at some of our Suzuka tyres; he was working on some developments that we were applying to the 2004 car. It was everything we'd expect of any test driver. And once again, he did a very good job. As you know, we've announced he will be our primary test driver next year. His racing in the Nissan series has been really exemplary, and I think he's got a very, very good future in front of him.

Q:
All of you talked about the value of racing in America. Are any of you willing to commit to have an American driver and not just as a token but one that is capable of going out there and doing well?

MT:
Well, to us it would be very positive to have an American driver. Of course, he needs to be competitive and it's a long way to get competitive. And it's very - it's maybe more difficult here in the States to develop himself into a competitive Formula One driver than in Europe. That's why we are about to set up a new race series here in the US - Formula BMW - which has become very successful in Germany already, and in Asia this year as well. And next year we are going to start two other series, one in the UK and the other one here in the US. This series is aimed at 15, 16, 17-year old kids who come out of karting and get their first formula car, single-seater car. And we are not only providing the car and the series, but we are also providing an educational program, an education to become a racing driver to learn everything it takes to develop in the world of motorsport and to be able to make his or her way in motorsport. It's a very big commitment. You will hear about this in a few days. And I think this is the first step to enable young drivers to become a Formula One driver. Of course, it takes another one, two steps between Formula BMW and Formula One. And probably seen as today, they need to go to Europe in between in order to prepare for Formula One.

NH:
Maybe to add something, I think that would be a perfect solution if you start here in this new junior Formula BMW, that's great. I mean lots of good talents are coming out of that formula in Germany and the next step is Formula Three, obviously. These guys learn a lot of in Formula Three. We supply an engine in Formula Three; we are very much focused on helping young guys. But a typical way for a young American driver could be to start in a BMW junior series and then do the next step in Formula Three in Europe. I think you need to come to Europe and you need to learn there, you need to learn the race tracks. It's a completely different form of racing compared to what you have in IRL. It is comparable probably to Champ Cars, but it is not very likely that you start like Indy Lights [sic], go to Champ Cars, go to Formula One. The obvious way would be starting Formula BMW, go to Formula Three to Europe and then make it to Formula One. This is a programme that would take a couple of years. But, as soon as talents are there, we would be happy to help them.

PS:
Start in Formula Renault [laughter]

Q:
Otmar, many factors go into deciding on the drivers for next year. You say the team makes the decision but you also consult with the team. Looking at one facet, it seems very strange to get rid of Jacques Villeneuve, who is one of the most recognised names, not only in North America, but worldwide. You're obviously trying to promote Honda and the team sponsors, and to replace somebody like Villeneuve, who is still a good driver and a world champion, with a young driver who's perhaps only known in his country, seems a bit strange. Maybe you could comment a bit on that.

OS:
Like I said, we had those discussions with BAR, and they will be making that decision. The discussions are a bit delicate, and publicly I'd like that you respect the fact that we'd rather not comment, and shortly the decision will be made by BAR. They've got many other people to consider other than what Honda believes and it will be announced shortly thereafter.

Q:
To Mario and Norbert. Normally the order of the pits is a function of the ranking of the championship from last year. But this year we see Ferrari, McLaren and then Williams. Is there a special reason for that?

MT:
I don't know, I was surprised myself when I saw McLaren on the right side. I expected Ferrari to be on the left side. But there was Renault. So I don't know the reason.

NH:
We have already changed it for next year, so Mario gets used to it [laughter]. I think there was a co-operation between the teams really. It didn't happen by coincidence, but it's better to speak to Frank and Ron about it.

Q:
Ange, as we get to the close here of the second season with Toyota and nearing the end of the first season with Cristiano, can you just kind of just general update on how you see the progress of both?

AP:
Cristiano has proven already since the first race, I think this year everybody remembers his qualifying on Friday in Australia, which was quite impressive until he had his mistake at the end of the lap, but mid-lap he was running second and he had a fourth time in Barcelona. He did the same in Monza. Cristiano is extremely quick. He has the disadvantage this year of discovering most of the circuits, which is not an easy task because last year we had two hours free practice on Friday and this year he has an hour where he has to make a comparison, learn the track, assimilate lots of things and go straight into qualifying.

Cristiano is coming up very, very well. His technical feedback is very valuable for the team. He has proven to be very quick in race conditions as well. Think what he did in Silverstone, even if it was out obviously by the safety car situation, was quite remarkable because he's been leading for 17 laps and he was not kind of mobile chicane but he was really making his way through. So we very happy and impressed by Cristiano's job so far.

 

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