Would you say this year has been the toughest season you have had working for the team?

I would say it's the worst season we've had! If you look at where we stand, without any points... We've had seasons before where for quite a while in the season we were last or second last, but yes, being there without points and in some situations circumstances resulting to it which are out of our control makes it very difficult to react in any way. So, yes, I think the worst season.

So what can you do as team principal to give the team belief that next season will be better?

In our case I would first of all say we have not had that much fluctuation within our team. As a team I would not say it's the same which it was 40 years ago but a lot of people are still there who were here in the very early times when we entered in to Formula One which was in 1993. They've seen a lot since then, they've seen these ups and downs so they understand the business is not easy, particularly as a private team. What I can just try to do is to give them the hope and the belief and try to show it with whatever results we can that we are working on getting things better. It has also been getting a little better bit by bit, and that's the only way you can actually keep the team together.

How important would getting ninth place back be for next year? What are the implications of perhaps not doing it?

First of all from a morale perspective for the team, the frustration would go, which is definitely there and it would give a certain boost to the team. Financially of course it helps, one should not just consider a few million not being money; it's a lot of money. The higher you go the more significant these positions get, but yes it would be a positive sign towards the team and only help us go more in a positive direction.

Has it surprised you that it's taken the team this long and it's still yet to score any points? When Marussia scored in Monaco did you think 'It's fine, that won't really impact us'?

Well we knew it was not going to be easy, but yes I didn't expect the team to be at this position. We've had our chances and there have been different reasons why we've not made use of them. We've also made mistakes after Monaco even in a couple of races and I think that's got much better in the last few races and we're trying to minimise that area at least and those factors.

We know that today we are not in a position where we, through our own strength like we did last year, can come and say we can score points. So the best we can do with the package we have, the whole package, is to be there, not to make mistakes and if there's an opportunity, take it.

Talking about the financial implications; you have been quite outspoken at times about the situation that the team is in and the direction the sport is going. Do you feel the larger teams, Bernie and the FIA don't really listen to your concerns?

Well I'm sure they listen but the point is not about listening, it's about doing something. That's where I think that we just lack, even if it's a minimum, a common basis. That's been different in the past. The oppositions come and change; we were a manufacturer team not so long ago and yet there were a couple of manufacturer teams and together we made sure that even the interests of the smaller teams were safeguarded.

Today we are at the other end. We have been before our BMW time in the middle, when we were still a private team but in the middle, so we've seen all those sides. If you compare all that, today there is not even that basic, minimum consensus there to do things together. I don't think you can today really go and make statements that 'if you can't afford to be in the sport don't do that', because all of us - no matter if today you're right at the top or at the bottom - we've all put significant investment in to our companies and our teams to be able to participate at this level.

I don't think it should be easy to say 'well it doesn't matter, if you can't do it then drop out'. And the argument that in the last 20 or 30 years so many teams have fallen away cannot just be applied that it's not going to be any different now. We are not in those times where you had 20 or 30 teams out there and you had to come and even qualify to take part in qualifying. That was a very different set-up. At that time it was really more about the private teams, private people coming in and wanting to race, so you can't bring those comparisons now.

Today we are at a level, thanks to the commercial rights holder who has put the sport on such a high level in every way, that we should try to see good examples from other sports which are comparable and then try to find a viable solution for us. We shouldn't make the mistake of going in directions even where people are in other sports or motorsports where they're not happy with it because they know they have to do it but ideally they wouldn't do it. So we need to maintain the teams, we need to have this diversity, because that makes Formula One.

Which sports specifically do you think F1 should be looking at?

Well I think we can look at so many sports. I'm not an expert in all these sports but you can see for example from football let's say from the Premier League or even the Bundesliga - the German league - where you definitely have the same situation of big clubs, small clubs but the big clubs or their federation do think about ways, initiatives how they can support the smaller clubs. There's been talk in the Bundesliga that Bayern [Munich] was prepared to waive certain income from certain games towards smaller teams because you need them in the league.

If you look at the English Premier League you don't have teams suffering that badly right at the end of the Premier League... Nobody's saying you should have as much as the top, after all we're about performance and competition. If you want to be better then do more, be better at your performance, that's the rule in here. But from the income we all generate together it should not be that if you're right at the end you have to struggle. It just should be enough that you can be in there and do your job. Then you have to put that together - which again is unique for this sport compared to all the others - with a certain stability on the technical side. Then if you have that it becomes even more interesting because smaller teams or private teams can have that off and on shot to the top. We've seen in our 20-odd years in Formula One how we've managed to go on top. We've managed to once finish P4 in the championship at a time where there were a couple of constructors, there was no talk about cost control and yet we could do that. I think that's the healthy environment we should be in.

How many teams do you feel are in a financially healthy state?

I don't think many...

Some teams seem willing to talk about the issue and others rumble on quietly, but do you think there's more than meets the eye? To the casual fan maybe they see cars go racing on a Sunday and think everything's fine...

I don't think everything's fine. I think some people here might want to think that, but it is not fine. It's really bad if we have to wait for something terrible to happen that we then have to react. If a team is financially healthy or not is very difficult to judge also with manufacturer teams. We were one not too long ago and where their backing comes from is clearly the manufacturer. Speaking for the manufacturer we had, racing was clearly not their core business so financially it just had to fit in to their plan. They also didn't give us any free cheque to say 'spend what you want to'. It was within a given budget and you had to stick to that, and if you wanted more you had to very clearly explain why and there was no assurance that you got it.

So I think even there to talk about if you're financially healthy or not, you're so dependent on that manufacturer and we saw what happened when they exit... So I think you have to be very careful to say how many teams are - as a business if they were to stand on their own without this kind of support - really healthy?

To follow that on slightly, how realistic are three car teams at this stage?

It's very difficult to say how realistic it is because you don't have insight in to all the teams, but I think what's the most important and what has to have priority for everyone is that we maintain the teams that we have. We need to have diversity and we should be very careful if we have to change the system. We've had the three car discussion often before, it's nothing new in Formula One and every time we've seen we very soon reach a stage where you realise it's very difficult to implement this kind of a change.

How will you determine the teams which will run a third car? Which is maybe the easiest to do, but the more important is how do you operate this third car? All the implications on points, not scoring points, who you put in there, how can this car even be in a way misused during a race? And you imagine the next set of implications this has if you look at seasons like this one where you have so much disparity between the teams. How would it look if there's such a dominant team and that has three cars, and then by coincidence the dominance has a lot to do with the powertrain you have so then the next set of three cars follows and you have the top six positions taken. Then you have some other ones which come in and take the next batch and if you're really bad out there you're always guaranteed to be at the end. How's that going to go down with the fans? So I think you have to be very, very careful if you try to make such changes.

From a Sauber point of view how confident are you that the team will be on the grid next year and that it will be in a better state than it is at present?

Well we see ourselves here next year and we will also definitely be in a better shape.

 

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