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

Questions from the floor

Q:
Ross, a week ago, you were quoted in Autosport as follows: it was an attempt by Michelin to circumnavigate the regulations. It is now clear that a large number of the Michelin teams have been running illegal tyres for a considerable amount of time.' For the avoidance of doubt, can you confirm that you did actually make that remark and, if so, do you still stand by it?

RB:
I think our opinions about the situation have been expressed. I've given you an explanation here of what happened and we want to try and run the rest of the championship in the best manner and best spirit that we can. I don't want to go back over those comments.

Q:
Most of this meeting has been about interpretation and it's clear that things are too grey in many areas. But I know that at least two of you are very meticulous about making your cars in compliance with the regulations at all times.

PH:
That's a bit sharp. There's four of us up here.

Q:
I'm thinking about people who lost races for little reasons. Perhaps I could ask you and Ron if, at any time, you had any doubts about these tyres which, to us as outside individuals, clearly have more tread on the track than the other tyre does, and if you did have any doubts about them I wondered if you sought any kind of assurances, either from Michelin or from the FIA, about their compliance with the rules.

PH:
I can say that we never had any doubts about the tyre, and Michelin had presented both the physical tyre and the cross-sectional drawing of the mould to the FIA and the FIA did not... in fact, from what I understand, there was a positive statement from the FIA that the tyres were in compliance, so it came as a surprise to Michelin...

I mean, do you really think that a company like Michelin would deliberately create a tyre that was outside a regulation and run it, considering that it would be outside a regulation, without checking very, very thoroughly? What we've got here is a change of interpretation. I don't think there's ever any such thing as black and white rules. There is always going to be room for interpretation, however hard you work on rules - such is the nature of Formula One and cleverness of the people in it. They will always find a split or a division or a different interpretation.

The FIA are the adjudicators and, within the limits of interpretation available, they are free to interpret and sometimes, by their own statement, they have changed an interpretation. The difficulty is, in something like a tyre, to change an interpretation in such a short time obviously means it is quite difficult to change the geometry of the tyre to fit a new interpretation. But, in this particular case, it only took a change to a mould - and a very small change to a mould at that. It didn't cause a change to a construction. So, it wasn't something that had serious safety implications which, obviously, as you can imagine, to produce a completely tyre for a circuit like this would really not be something that a company like Michelin would be prepared to do.

RD:
I have nothing to add to what Patrick said.

Q:
Ron, I know you really don't want to talk about this, so perhaps Patrick is the right person to answer, but I'm intrigued by the correlation between accusations that the tyres are illegal and the responsibility that then falls on the team if those tyres are indeed illegal. What is the actual relationship between Michelin and the team if the tyres are illegal? Does the team take the responsibility?

PH:
Well, the responsibility is with the team to present a car that complies with the regulations, but you've got to remember these words of 'cheating' and 'illegal' have not been applied by the FIA. All the FIA did was sending out a fax to inform people how they would be interpreting the rule in the future.

Q:
I'm actually referring to the comments that I hadn't heard, attributed to Ross, where he did use the word 'illegal'.

PH:
Well, he's not saying whether he did or whether he didn't, but the FIA, who are the adjudicators of the rules, have not declared the tyres illegal. What they have said is that, as from the Monza race, we will be measuring tyres when they are used and not when they are new. Quite clearly, this article, 77c, covers a large number of dimensions which defines that there will be four grooves. You can probably look at that on a used tyre, but one might be missing, that seems to happen fairly often, but the grooves are defined on a new tyre and the article starts off.... I think after the first two words, it says 'when new' and then carries on. It is this bit, which says at the end 'furthermore, the tread width will be no more than 270mm'...

But you can get into an enormous long-winded argument and I actually don't want to spend my time involved in it - whether the 'when new' actually applies to the last statement that says 'furthermore' or not - but quite clearly where the grooves are defined as 14mm wide at the top, 10mm wide at the bottom and no less than 2.5mm deep - I mean how can you measure that on a used tyre? You can't.

So there are a lot of dimensions that govern a tyre that can only be measured when a tyre is new. The FIA have not applied any words suggesting that any tyres that have been run have been illegal. They have just clarified how they are going to measure, or how they are going to interpret, article 77c from this grand prix onwards.

Q:
Ross, according to your comments, it looks like wider tyres can provide quite an advantage, so can you explain why Ferrari and Bridgestone did not take this option of having a bit wider tyres?

RB:
You optimise your car, obviously, around the package you have. You optimise it around the tyres and all the other factors. Bridgestone had what they felt was a limit on where they were prepared to go with the wide front tyre from their interpretation of the regulation. And the difference between where they were prepared to go to and what we have is very small, it is not a big difference. So their interpretation of the regulation left not much scope for anything much different to what we have now. So, for us, it was no advantage. We did try some tyres with slightly different shaped shoulders but, as I say, Bridgestone felt there was a limit they wanted to keep to and the difference was very small.

RD:
I think that is somewhat misleading. The simple fact is I am well qualified, having been on Bridgestone tyres for several years, to know that Bridgestone always optimise the performance of their tyres. There is a constant and consistent trend to their belief in front tyre geometry and how it is constructed and what is the optimum width. And, of course, a narrow tyre always gives you a better aerodynamic profile as well. So I think it is misleading of Ross to say it was a regulatory influence that determined the width of the tyre...

RB:
I didn't actually say that...

RD:
...it was extremely misleading. It was not regulatory driven, it was performance driven. He knows that very well.

RB:
I didn't say that. What I said is that, when they tried a tyre that they felt was at the limit, it was very little different to what we have now. They do have a tyre that is wider than we have now, but it is not as wide as the Michelin because they didn't interpret the regulations that way. So the difference between the tyre they were able to go to and the tyre we have now offered no benefit.

RD:
There is a complete track record, one that goes back well beyond tyres, on teams who managed to obtain a completely correct and legal advantage, only to find that advantage is removed. Beryllium is one of the examples, I won't go into all the details of the Beryllium story, but I can tell you that, to actually process pistons in such an exotic material, is very technically challenging. It requires very careful control of the machining process because it is a calcogenic [sic meaning carcinogenic] material but, once actually manufactured, it has no danger whatsoever to anybody that is handling it or processing it or using it in a grand prix engine. And when we were using Beryllium very successfully, there was no reason why we should not have been able to continue using what was a very good technical advantage coming out of months and months of research and a great amount of funding.

It is normal in Formula One that, if a team has an advantage, it is looked at by several interested parties. It has happened on the gearbox design that we put millions into and, following repeated assurances of its legality, it was deemed not to be legal. It is the way Formula One is. It has always been that way, it will always be that way, it is what you have to live with, it is a difficult task to regulate Formula One, it is not easy.

However, I think that Ross' view that there is paranoia in teams is a little bit severe. There is clearly a difficult path for anybody that is in a judgemental role to take, be it a single individual in the governing body or the governing body as a whole, and I don't think anyone appreciates how difficult it is and there is always the concern that decisions favour one team over the other. But the important thing is to strive for clarity, unambiguous regulations and clear-cut interpretations and, when we stray into one of these areas, there is undoubtedly an environment of finger pointing. It is what people say and it is their actions that only heighten that perception. I am, for one, far more focused on putting water on this particular fire because I do not think it is good for Formula One, I don't think it is good for the reputations of the teams or, in this instance, a company that does not take financial gain from being involved in grand prix racing.

It is seen as a technical challenge to be in Formula One for a tyre company, and it goes without saying that I don't think there is a person in this room, not a team - and I think that includes all the teams - that could possibly put forward the view that Michelin, who have had such an outstanding involvement in motorsport through a whole range of disciplines, could even remotely consider producing a tyre that was not compliant to a regulation.

Q:
Patrick, of all the people in this room, you have the longest experience in a senior technical position in a grand prix team - from your memory, have you ever known the FIA to clarify or interpret a regulation not in favour of Ferrari. And does that lead to a broader problem in the government of the sport?

RB:
Can I interrupt, sorry, but what about all the changes that were made over the winter? Perhaps he [the journalist] can enlighten us on the changes that were made over the winter, how they were in favour of Ferrari...

PH:
I probably have survived as long as I have in Formula One in that I don't keep a catalogue of everything that has happened in my mind beforehand. But I really just look at this single case and the business of the tyres and, as my understanding... I mean, obviously I hope our cars finish high in the points on Sunday and, obviously, the FIA are free to inspect the tyres after the race. But they have inspected a new version of the tyre that is being run here, which as I have said has had a small mould change, they have inspected a 26-lap old tyre of that tyre from the test and they have said that the tyre complies to Article 77c in its used form and its new form. As I said, they have put out a press release and they have said, as far as they are concerned, the matter is closed.

Q:
Patrick, we heard this rumour...

PH:
You obviously all think that I am the easiest one to trip up! [laughter]

Q:
We heard this rumour in the paddock that this summer some Michelin teams tested cars in Clermont-Ferrand. Is it true or not?

PH:
I heard this from a team managers' meeting that took place here either yesterday or the day before, I think. We have tested at Ladoux, Michelin's test track. It is an FIA approved test facility. When we test there, it is for wet tyres only and we have tested there only within the limitations that are an agreement between the teams called the Suzuka agreement. I am not aware of any other tests taking place at Ladoux at other times. We have obviously raised the matter with Michelin after it was raised in this meeting, and they say nobody has run at Ladoux outside the limitations of the Suzuka agreement.

Q:
In terms of the image of Formula One, Ron was saying that we have had all the facts on which to judge things. That is not quite true, because we haven't had the facts on what the actual widths were on the Michelin tyres at the end of races and what they were doing and how the Michelin tyre was working. That is one element of the picture that we haven't had to base our judgements on. But, given what has been said over the last ten days, if Montoya wins the championship, the platform for it was built on the 56 points he scored between Monaco and Hungary, and, if he wins the championship, is it inevitable that we can only judge that it was a tainted championship?

RD:
I don't think so. The reality is that the observations are always based on photographic evidence and the photographic evidence was always of contaminated tyres. One of the issues you have with racing tyres is the fact that they inevitably pick up rubber on a slowing down lap, when the cars tend to drive off line. And when those tyres - both the tyres we are using here and the tyres that were used previously - were cleaned of that pick-up, it is our belief that even the tyres that were used previously were compliant. So it is a question of actually putting a tyre in the condition in which it could be properly measured. I am sure most of you, if not all of you, appreciate that pick-up has no capability of producing grip on the circuit and it is a contaminant and even, I am repeating myself, even the tyres we used previously, properly cleaned and measured, were compliant. So I don't think it has any derogatory factor on any of the results of the Michelin runners leading up to this race.

RB:
I think that, as Ron said, let's put water on the fire. I don't believe for a minute that Michelin were trying to bypass the regulations. They obviously had an interpretation of what they felt was acceptable for the tyre and they are not a company that are going to do something that they knowingly know to be in breach of the regulations and that is down to interpretation. So I do accept that Michelin would not have done that knowingly, but we have had lots of instances in the past where people have found to have a problem with their car, or whatever it is, not knowingly. It is still a problem, even though there is no intent. I think there is an important difference there.

I don't think that Michelin intentionally tried to bypass the regulations but, if faced with a situation where there is a problem, it is still a problem, even whether there is intent or not. It is a very technical sport and, occasionally, you do find things that you didn't expect to happen. I mean, cars have problems and often not intentionally. We have had problems with our cars, Ron had a front wing that was a bit low a few years ago. He didn't do it intentionally, but it happens. So I think there is an important distinction there, something I would like to...

RD:
Similar to your bargeboards actually.

RB:
Yes. It is an interesting thing, the bargeboards, in that Ferrari as a company admitted that they asked the FIA for a clarification. I don't think to this day, McLaren have ever admitted that McLaren were the ones who told the FIA about our bargeboards.

Q:
Any further comment up there?

[Silence]

Q:
This is for Patrick and Ron because you are in the world championship, how much disruption...

PH:
Well, Ross is there as well...

Q:
Er, sorry, [are in the championship] on Michelin tyres. How much disruption has the tyre issue caused in the last few weeks and how much has that affected your development and your competitiveness?

PH:
Well, we have tried to keep our main focus on what is going to be going on on Sunday and what is going to be going on on Sunday two weeks from then and two weeks from then. I would imagine that, for Michelin, having to change moulds and make new tyres, starting presumably on the Wednesday morning after Hungary, and have them ready to run a week later, or less than a week later, at the Monza test, I imagine that must have caused a certain amount of disruption to them. But it certainly took a percentage of our focus at the Monza test - but only a small percentage, not major.

RD:
I think perhaps a somewhat amusing way to answer the question is from my youth. I remember seeing the film Ben Hur, and in that there is one sequence where the slaves are basically being flogged to row at what was called 'ramming speed'. Of course, that is the maximum pace at which to get the boat propelled to maximum speed in order that, when it actually hits its rival, it actually inflicts the most damage. And 'ramming speed' is what a grand prix team achieves, or attempts to achieve, at the point at which a world championship becomes as critical and as finely balanced as it is now.

Ross alluded to it using different phrases and anything that influences the rhythm and pace that you bring to trying to win in such a critical situation is disruptive. We most definitely - and I am surprised, and I think Patrick will correct himself when I say this - we most definitely had to devote a significant amount of the Monza test to the evaluation of this tyre. All other tyres on which we had the ability to run were irrelevant to optimising the car for this event, because there was only a limited number of the new tyres - in fact, each team had two sets - and, therefore, all the balance steps, all the things that we did on the other tyres, became immaterial when it was decided that we should run this slightly modified front tyre.

So, it was very disruptive and it also took away capacity within Michelin to give us two more slightly racier options in their range. It was disruptive. Did it have an influence on the world championship? Negative influence, how much of a negative influence, is very difficult to measure, but most definitely a negative influence and I think that was part of the strategy and that is motor racing.

Q:
There seems to be some undercurrent animosity towards Ferrari, particularly about the timing. If the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn't you have done the same - and, in fact, didn't you do the same? If you suspect they are running something illegal, even in the last round of the world championship, you wouldn't go to the FIA?

RD:
No doubt, the level of resentment in a similar situation, if reciprocated, would be as great.

PH:
Well, Ron has said that it was more damaging than I said it was. I just didn't want to make heavy of it, but obviously there was a level of interruption. But we have got used to competing in championships close in the end - unfortunately, not so much recently - and, historically, it tends to get contentious towards the end. In fact, as Ross pointed out earlier, the points you get at Melbourne are just as important as the points you get here but, of course, from here, you have only got three opportunities to go and score more points. But, when a championship is close, it is always a bit tense, so it didn't come out of the sun, so to speak, to us. This business of there being contention, the fact that the focus was on the tyres was contentious...it is just part of competing, that's all.

Q:
Two questions to Ross. There are rumours around the pit-lane that Ferrari might exercise Article 179b of the Sporting Code, the right of review, retrospective judgement of a result based on new information that has come to hand. Can you confirm, for the good of the championship, that that is not going to happen and, secondly, can you explain to us exactly what happened on Friday in Austria when Michael's car was found to be under the weight limit?

RB:
There are these rumours. I don't think Ferrari has made its position clear, and I think that decision is above me to make. I guess Ferrari will make its position clear in the future, so that is not something I can clarify for you here. [On the second question], we weren't found underweight because, if we had been underweight, we would have been excluded from qualifying. We weren't excluded so, by definition, we were not underweight.

Q:
What were you doing when Michael was first weighed?

RB:
I can't recall, but the car was put to one side, along with another car I believe, and it was checked and then they were happy.

Q:
Well, Charlie Whiting said that it was under the weight limit at that point and then re-checked about 20 minutes later.

RB:
Well, obviously they had a reason for believing it was okay the second time.

Q:
Ross, we understand you didn't really like the old spec Michelin front tyres, what is your interpretation of the new spec?

RB:
I don't know. To me, the tread is definable, and I know we are going to disagree on this, but to me you can define what the tread is. And, if you make a statement to the FIA that this is your tread, then you need to respect the fact that you have made a statement that that is your tread. For those of you who care to take the trouble, the Michelin website on tyres tells you what a tread is - it is the part of the tyre that is in contact with the ground. They stipulate what the tread is. So I think it is quite clear what you can and can't do. Of course, we choose to disagree on that, but I think understanding the clarification, or looking at the press release the FIA put out, it is quite clear what they are expecting in the future, so I am sure Michelin and their teams are going to respect that enforcement of the regulation.

Q:
Does the FIA have the equipment to check the width after the race?

RB:
I think it is a rule. It is not a particularly complex piece of equipment. They have callipers, I know, that they can check it with, so I don't think it is a problem.

Q:
Ross, under what circumstances would you protest the earlier results?

RB:
It is not really for me to get into that discussion, I am afraid. It is for the board of Ferrari to decide whether they want to do that.

Q:
Ron and Patrick, and maybe Flavio, are you worried that the FIA would revise the results? Do you think it is realistic that it could destroy Formula One?

PH:
Article 77c is not clear, and quite clearly Bridgestone and Ross have applied an interpretation and quite clearly Michelin have applied an interpretation to it. What has happened is that the FIA have circulated since Hungary how they intend to interpret the regulation beyond Hungary. I really think it would be an extremely sad thing for Formula One to be arguing about whether an interpretation that was clarified after Hungary should be applied retrospectively, when these tyres have been plain and visible, fully declared, fully approved and raced, I am told, for 38 races.

I certainly notice these days how little is in the national press about Formula One other than reports of grands prix weekends, whereas there used to be a certain amount talked about Formula One between races. Now it is completely missing from the sports pages on the Sunday in between. I think the patience of the general viewing public about Formula One would be totally exhausted if Formula One went through a casino of retrospective interpretation. I think it would be extremely sad, but anyway it won't be for me to judge. I think the biggest thing we have got to do is to get the public to be interested in Formula One and I don't mean interested because it is a casino and a charade. I mean interested because it is a great competitive event, not just between drivers but between teams, between tyre designers, between team managers. It is a great competitive event and we have got to work to get the public interested in it.

RD:
Well, as I pointed out earlier, I think that the supposition that our tyres were not compliant was based on photographs that carried with them the contamination, the pick-up I referred to. I still feel strongly that the tyres were compliant when properly cleaned and measured. Of course, I don't think any of the tyres on which we competed, other than maybe one or two from Hungary at Michelin, probably even exist now, so it would be a very severe ruling if you were not able to prove that cars were or weren't compliant on races that have taken place months ago.

But I do feel we should all try and look to the bigger picture of grand prix racing. The commercial instability that has come as a result of the demise of Kirch is still holding grand prix racing back. Three-quarters of our business is held by non-interested parties, save for the fiscal aspect of that involvement, and that in itself is a very negative ingredient in pushing Formula One forward and addressing some of the issues that Patrick alluded to. Unfortunately 75 per cent in virtually all businesses - and certainly ours is not an exception - constitutes control. There seems to be a complete naivety in all three banks in so much that anybody purchasing shares in that particular time is faced with at least 50 per cent loss, purely as a result of the world economy and the dot com bubble burst. And yet they fail even to be able to grasp that very simple economic fact, which makes finding a way forward very difficult when they are just so reluctant to crystallise their loss and turn to the future of Formula One and a more practical way to generate an income from their investment. They have a non-realistic approach to the future and it is that fundamental point that we should lift our sights to and try and rise above these inevitable almost, I don't want to say side issues, but lesser issues. There is, I think...

Let's try to remember that this is a great sport and it is a sport that is controlled, in respect to its commercial growth, by disinterested parties that are not prepared to sit down and talk about the things that we need to do to address some of the issues in the sport. They are prepared to talk about something that has relevance to them recapturing their lost money, and that is a feeling that is felt by many people both within the governance of our sport and the other commercial partners and the teams as a whole. I hope that nothing more manifests itself during the course of this year, be it post this race or any other race, that whoever wins the world championship that they feel that they have really won it. The most important thing is to sort out the much bigger issue and that is why I tend to be far more quiet and focussed on that part of it than I am on these issues which, of course, are frustrating and distracting but are of less importance.

FB:
If it was so important, this interpretation, after two years, why did the FIA never measure the tyre after the race? Everybody knows that, when we finish the race, the FIA measures everything, weight, height, whatever. Everyone knows the tyre is fundamental in the race, so why, in two years, have the FIA only started measuring the tyre when Ferrari talked to them? In two years, not one person from the FIA has measured the tyre. If the interpretation was using 270mm after the race, I think the FIA would measure the tyre after the race. Why in two years have we never had this measure? This is my question, and please can an official guy answer?

Q:
I think we are going to leave it there. There is no-one to answer to that.