Questions from the floor (continued...):

Q: (Alberto Antonini - Autosprint)
To Christian and Gerhard: a few months ago your teams were involved in a case of apparently storing blueprints from another team. How come it did not lead to an investigation by the FIA? It was back at the time of the Malaysian Grand Prix, around then, and someone came into the possession of blueprints from your teams, stating that there were similarities between the two cars. I just wonder why there was no investigation at all from the governing body.

Gerhard Berger:
There wasn't. I think there was no reason for an investigation.

Christian Horner:
I think they were Toro Rosso drawings I think you were referring to, so I don't think it directly involved us. A totally different scenario to what you're referring to has just been investigated.

Q: (Dave Smith - Evening Standard)
Given what you know about the McLaren case, if one of the McLaren drivers goes on to win the drivers' championship will that title be tainted in any way?

Flavio Briatore:
The drivers are in the car, this is what we know. If the car has any advantage because of some information or whatever, if the car is competitive because of some information, I think the driver has some advantage as well. It's quite simple. I think it's like that. But the driver has no fault about all this but I still believe that the driver has some advantage.

GB:
Well, I think you can see everything from so many different angles and try to find explanations and try to find some clever ideas but at the end of the day, there was a decision made yesterday. I think we should put [the affair] off from the table, we should get on with the sport as before, and obviously the two drivers have a good chance to win the championship. The better one of the two should win it, but still, I would say Ferrari is still in the game also, so the fans can see a couple more good races and I think we should just forget all the other business.

CH:
I totally agree with Gerhard. I think we've got four races remaining. We've got four drivers in contention for the championship, it's been one of the best driver championships in many years. There's still a great deal to play for and hopefully the focus, now that this incident has been dealt with, will now turn to the circuit and hopefully we will see Formula One at its best over the next four races.

Q:
But you see the point being made by the questioner....

CH:
I can understand the point. I think that for your average fan the driver is the star at the end of the day and whilst it will be painful for the team and for the manufacturer involved, I think ultimately the emphasis of Formula One is on the drivers, they're the people's heroes at the end of the day. It's been a fantastic championship to date and hopefully it will be a very exciting run into the finish.

Mario Theissen:
No bad feelings about that if one of the two drivers wins the championship. We have found out, throughout the season, that there are four cars ahead of us. They are stronger than us, quicker than us and we want to beat them fair and square on the track so in my view, we are number three this year and we are proud of that, and the drivers in front of us deserve to win the championship.

Nick Fry:
It would have been, in my view, extremely destructive and almost vindictive to penalise the drivers. I think that we can easily slip into self-destruct mode here of trying to ruin everything. I think we've got a great Drivers' championship, it's being fought out on a very even basis between those drivers and I believe the decision was exactly right to leave them out of it. I can see the point, I can see the purist's point of view, but I think it was a very sensible decision in my view.

Q: (Julien Fabreau - RMC)
Flavio, how much do you think the FIA's decision yesterday against McLaren was important for you to see Alonso come back in your team next year?

FB:
This decision was made by the World Council, it's a decision made whether I like it or not. It's a decision made by the World Council and it's nothing to do with Alonso. The fact that the World Council made its decision, I guess everybody here accepts the decision and we go on with the business. I don't believe for one second that the decision made yesterday will influence Alonso, drivers or us. It has nothing to do [with us].

Q: (Miran Alisic)
We are talking always about the drivers' and constructors' championship. How would you draw the line between the importance between the drivers' and constructors' championship?

MT:
Well, I'm here for a manufacturer's team. So obviously there are two perspectives. Formula One has always been a driver's championship and in the early days this was the only thing that counted. But in the early '90s when the manufacturers came in, it was for a certain reason. And in our case certainly the reason is to demonstrate our core competencies in Formula One, on this stage. So to a manufacturer certainly the constructors' championship is equally important. It still is the case that the drivers' championship is much more popular and that will always be and that is okay. But to us the constructors' championship is important.

NF:
If I put my corporate hat on I think I would agree with Mario. Obviously for a car manufacturer to win the constructors' championship is immensely important. It can be used in advertising... But if I speak from the heart and as a fan I would say sport is about people and I think it is about, for most of us, the drivers' championship and if I had to rank one of them as the top one, I think for most people it would be the drivers' championship.

FB:
For us, the company and the people working in the team surely the most important is the constructors' championship. Financially as well because what is counting in the finances is the constructors' championship and I have to agree with everybody that it is important as well the drivers' championship. I believe the best is to win both.

[laughter]

GB:
I think we are all doing this mainly to please the fans and the people watching us and for them it just counts more or less, the drivers' championship. So it is fine what Flavio says and what Mario says for us inside, yes, for certain reasons the constructors' championship is important but for the millions of fans I would say that the main championship is the drivers' championship. The star is the driver.

CH:
I think Gerhard summed it up perfectly there when he said the driver is the star. Where the constructors' championship does get important for a team such as ourselves is when you are not competing for the drivers' championship. We are fighting in a group of constructors. Toyota, Honda, Williams and so on... and for the people that work for you, where you are in the pecking order amongst your nearest rivals is important. But ultimately people remember who win drivers' championships. Constructors' I would say people probably have less memory for.

Q: (James Allen)
You are all the top managers in your organisations and those organisations have grown very big over the last few years. Obviously the top managers at Ferrari and McLaren clearly weren't aware of what was going on to cause the incident that was going to happen. To what extent has this been a kind of cautionary tale for all of you? And have you changed anything in your systems to make sure that you would know if something like this were to happen within your team?

MT:
Certainly we have taken some measures to prevent this from happening. On the other hand if there is a criminal element, you cannot rule it out. You can do what you want, criminal energy can always overcome the obstacles. But we are reviewing our internal processes and we will have a closer eye on that, possibly come up with some new procedures and rules.

NF:
Certainly the laws in the UK are very clear. You are responsible for the actions of your employees. An exception might be called if someone is extremely reckless or goes out on their own agenda. The law caters for that as well. There isn't anything specifically that we are planning to do at the moment. We think we are well covered in this area. It is something that can get checked very rigorously as part of the auditing process. I think our internal processes are pretty strong in that area but it does show how difficult it is, and I do somewhat sympathise with Ron [Dennis], when you have an organisation that big, to know what is going on right through is pretty difficult. But then that is why you have a management structure. But obviously you have to rely on people feeding things to you. It is difficult, but if you have an organisation of 20,000 people the same rules apply and there is no reason why we should be an exception.

FB:
The same feeling. I hope this is a good lesson for everybody. I hope that this stops all this litigation behind and everything and the people still understand... I mean we have signed a contract with a lot of people and it has a confidentiality agreement and this and that... but you know that in Formula one it is very hard because you try to have the best. You look at this happen to McLaren and logically to Ferrari, this story. Firstly there is nothing good to follow put it this way... And in the beginning it was two employees, an employee from Ferrari and an employee from McLaren start talking information. First I think these people need taking out of Formula One immediately. Maybe now everybody is much more careful and like you said Nick, it is so difficult to protect stuff because every engineer is moving from one company to another and a little bit of experience he takes with him etc, etc... Everybody at a laptop, everybody business. But maybe this is a good lesson for everybody and I hope maybe in the future it never happens again and we can be glad we are talking about the sport and the result and the champion. Maybe the result is positive stuff that has happened - only if we make sure it never happens again. Now everybody is much more cautious and of course you be careful because it is done for stupidity as well. It is not done because somebody wants to cheat you or whatever. I believe that if you take this like a good lesson, it is good for Formula One.

GB:
I think everything is said. It is very easy to be sucked into a situation like this, so I think it is a good wake up call for everybody to be sure that his process is better to be not in the same situation.

CH:
Formula One is a small world at the end of the day and people do inevitably move from team to team. But what we do rely on is the integrity of the people you employ and not to abuse previous IP that they have been exposed to. Certainly at Red Bull we have reviewed our auditing processes just in order to doubly protect ourselves against anything like this happening in our team.

Q: (Mike Doodson - Auto Action)
Gerhard, you have been a driver, you have had the girls chasing you...

GB:
That must have been a long time ago.

Q:
I suspect not. You have worked for a big organisation and been a fairly big cog in it, and now you are a 50 per cent owner of a team. I wonder if you could tell us which have been the highpoints of each part of your career and which are the lowpoints?

GB:
Nice question. There is one thing that you cannot beat in this business and that is driving a racing car at the limit. To be able to be a Formula One driver and then driving for many years as I did, driving these cars around and working with these people and putting it on the road - that is the best thing that can happen. Unfortunately that time, one day, is over. Luckily enough for me I could stay in the business in different roles and it was fantastic for me to get out of the racing car and have immediately the chance to go with BMW into a kind of managing role. Together with Mario I had fantastic years and to be able to work in a big company and to see how the other side of the business looks is very interesting and you change your mind in a lot of areas. Whereas a driver you think everything is you and every day you are the big star and, as you say, the girls come and are happy to stay next to you... suddenly they are not there anymore because you are on this side of the pit wall. But you find a lot of pleasure also on this side of the pit wall. Now to be co-owner of Toro Rosso is also great. The difficult side of everything is... To be a co-owner you start to realise how difficult it is to move a team from the back into the midfield and to the front because the teams are quite different between a big manufacturer team and an independent team. You have a lot of time with the back on the wall, you know what would be the next step to do but you just simply cannot do it for budget reasons, for racers' reasons, for infrastructure reasons or for people reasons. That is the tough side of it. You are staying in the back of the field. You know that this, this and this should be done but how can you do it? It is challenging, it is very nice, it is great but also sometimes very difficult. But the best is driving the car.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport)
I have found, I can say, a controversial version about the constructors' and drivers' championships. I mean, before you said it was correct the penalisation of yesterday, even if those guys used the car with an illegal advantage. But at the end you said that this championship is a drivers' championship, they are the star. So I mean the people around the tracks don't know exactly what happened yesterday. I mean they can think that nothing happened yesterday because the drivers were not penalised. I would like to know your opinion about it and Nick I would like to know if you agree with Ron Dennis that the two guys, Coughlan and Nigel Stepney, wanted to use the information in some other team? I mean they were in contact with your team.

NF:
The documentation from our contact with Stepney and Coughlan was offered to the teams involved and the FIA. The FIA's response was a very nice letter from Max [Mosley] saying that he didn't really think it was really relevant. The information was provided by me on personal request by Ron Dennis and it wasn't used at all or mentioned. And I can only assume it wasn't because it had no relevance. As we have always said they were perfectly ordinary interviews and nothing inappropriate was either offered or said. So on the pure facts I can only say nothing was asked for, nothing was offered or proposed. I can only guess like you, I think it probably would have been very nice having a lot of documentation in the upstairs bedrooms, so you could come to a new team and become a hero. If we would have known that information was there we would have taken the appropriate action. And certainly we would not countenance anything like that in our team. But I can only guess like you. If you work backwards to your first question... I understand that point of view, the difference between the drivers and the constructors... but I stand by what I said earlier. I think it was the right decision to leave the drivers to their own championship.

MT:
Of course it is very difficult to differentiate between the driver and the team in this matter because of course the driver uses the car in order to be successful. But this is just not the way we look at it. There are four cars in front of us. Apparently all the four cars and their drivers are able to drive quicker than us. There is a gap and we have to close the gap no matter if it is two or four cars. We don't want to gain any position in the championship by someone in front of us being removed. It is just not relevant to us.

CH:
Just to go back to the first part of the question. Every TV channel I turned on last night showed Ron Dennis leaving a court in Paris looking fairly forlorn and having been awarded, I think, the largest ever financial penalty in sport. So in terms of are people aware of it? Yes, I think they are. It was broadcast around the world and that as a penalty in itself, I think was right that the team were judged to have acted inappropriately, the drivers had no influence over that. Why should they be penalised? I don't think it has affected their performances this year. I think the FIA made the right and appropriate decision to leave the Drivers' Championship uninterrupted and, as I said earlier, I hope we see a classic end to this year's championship.

GB:
I think that what Christian said is right and I understand that on top of it the drivers have been extremely cooperative in the whole court case, putting evidence onto the table and I think that has helped them to be finally not penalised.

FB:
I completely agree. Half with Mario and half with Gerhard. Half with Mario because for sure they are driving the car with some benefit, I think they had some advantage. Secondly, I think the drivers are very important in this case because they gave the evidence to the Federation when the Federation asked about everybody including myself and including the team managers that if you have any information regarding that... I believe they were very cooperative in this case to put the evidence on the table and give the possibility for the World Council to judge. I believe the drivers Fernando and de la Rosa have done very well, for me, for sure to give the Federation the evidence it was looking for in this case. I think the driver was correct, you cannot penalise the driver. And in the other case I think like Mario that if your car has any advantages over a competitor the driver has a similar advantage because the car is performing better. It doesn't matter if there are three cars in front of me, five cars or eight cars, I think this is logic.

Q:
I missed an important thing when I asked the question. The two drivers asked their technician to get some information from Stepney, so they are an important part. If you read the paper you can find it. So they didn't just drive, they participated in some way in these action. This is what we have understood from reading all these books.

MT:
It sounds a bit to me that you think the fine was not big enough, is that correct?

FB:
He is looking for drama.

 

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