British Grand Prix Friday press conference transcript with Christian Horner (Red Bull team principal) David Coulthard (Red Bull) Ron Dennis (McLaren team principal) Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) Q: Ron, a lot has happened since the initial...
British Grand Prix Friday press conference transcript with
Q: Ron, a lot has happened since the initial invitation to you to come to this press conference, and perhaps the emphasis has slightly changed from one subject to another. We understand, obviously, that for legal reasons you are limited as to what you can say, but is there anything you can update us on about the finding of Ferrari data in the home of one of your employees?
Ron Dennis: Well, I think you accurately say that it was in that person's home. We've been very specific in our press releases. This concerns the intellectual property of another Grand Prix team and there is no intellectual property of another Grand Prix team on our cars, nor will there be, nor has there ever been. We have very high standards in our organisation. My own integrity is woven into the fabric of our company and I am now, having supervised a very detailed investigation within our own organisation, able to say that with absolute certainty that as this unfolds over the next few days, people will clearly understand all the facts behind what has been a difficult experience for McLaren. I can attempt to answer questions, but I want to be constrained in what I say because there are lots of people's reputations at stake here, not just our company's. But in speaking for our company, we, I'm sure, will be completely vindicated with the passing of time.
Q: A question for all of you about Lewis's career, because Lewis has come into Formula One with remarkable success and I think with incredible preparation and incredible back-up from McLaren. I'm just wondering if that has re-defined the job of a Grand Prix racing driver because it has almost become a full-time job in that Lewis spends so much time at the factory. Is this a new way of introducing drivers to Formula One?
Christian Horner: I think that obviously Lewis has arrived in Formula One very well prepared. McLaren have done an impeccable job in grooming him for his entry into Formula One but at the end of the day he still had to go and win the races, win the championships that he's competed in to prove his ability. He's made this step up into Formula One and he looks, for somebody in their seventh or eighth race, he looks like a guy who could well be in his 80th or 200th Grand Prix. That's certainly impressive. That shows the calibre of youngsters as well in the lower category and it's something that Red Bull, through the young driver programme, has invested in heavily over the last few years to bring youngsters all the way from karting ultimately to a Grand Prix seat.
David Coulthard: Having been part of the McLaren system, I know some of the facilities that they had up to the point that I left, and I would be surprised if any Grand Prix team has quite as complete a package in simulation devices that the drivers can use. Its obviously a state-of-the-art facility, more modern probably than anyone else's out there. As Christian has said, though, all the way through Lewis has had to prove himself, otherwise he wouldn't be sitting here. It's not charity work that McLaren are doing. They invested because they saw the talent and they've helped him develop that over the time. As to how much time a driver spends at the factory, I think that what tends to happen - and I lived through it all those years ago - is that the guys in their first years, they're so approachable, so nice, still fly EasyJet, go to the factory all of the time, all of those things. When I was test driver at Williams, I was at the factory every day, because frankly I had nothing else to do. I was trying to soak up as much information and create a career for the future. As Lewis inevitably moves off-shore and grows into his life, he will inevitably spend less time at the factory because there just won't be the time. He will need energy, recovery time to maintain the level that he's achieved already over the next 10-15 years, however long he wants to be in Formula One. So I think that expanding on the question a little bit, I don't think that you can just put the lid on the box of 'this is the blueprint' because I think it's a continually evolving process. I think that's the fantastic thing about Formula One and our business is that you can never say 'right, that's it.' You always have to try and find another way, another edge and improve constantly, and I'm sure McLaren are doing that as we are trying to at Red Bull and you should all be doing as well, to have life evolution, job evolution.
Q: Ron, am I right in saying that? It seems that you've formed a career path of phenomenal preparation for Lewis.
Ron Dennis: First of all, we've done it for several young kartists and obviously gone from karting into other categories. We constructed a karting team for both Lewis and Nico Rosberg. Obviously they've both done a great job and Nico - though really more because of his age than anything and the way the licensing system works - I think he just stepped ahead as regards getting into Formula One a little earlier. But I was always keen for Lewis to dominate every category in which he raced, because that gives you a certain mind set and obviously we were very keen for him to follow what I felt and other people felt was the right path into Formula One. But it's important to remember, no matter who gives opportunity to young drivers, ultimately it's their own abilities, their own commitment, their own dedication and sacrifices that determines the result. I will never ever claim to be the reason that Lewis is the great success he's been this season. That is his own efforts and his own commitment. Yes, he's had opportunity; yes, he hasn't had to worry about money but the most difficult thing is actually to deliver, given those opportunities, and that's all down to him and obviously the support of his family. So the reality is that for McLaren we couldn't be in a better situation: a double World Champion, tremendous ability and focus, dedication with Fernando and Lewis there to keep everybody, including Fernando, honest. We're all working hard to get the job done and so far it's going quite well.
Q: Lewis, you really do seem to have made the huge effort to spend as much time at the factory, to prepare as well as possible.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, absolutely. I don't think you get to this position without working hard, as they've said. I was given an opportunity. I remember Ron said 'you have the opportunity but I want you to be the fittest guy out there' and so I had to make sure, even in my own self-confidence and self-belief, I wanted to be the fittest out there. Whether I am or not, who knows? So I had an opportunity to have a training programme, learn as much as I could about the car, so that I got to the first race and I had no problems and we didn't look back and say 'I wish we had done this differently' or 'I wish we had worked an extra day'. We took every day as it came and really maximised every day. This is what I've been working for so many years so when you get the opportunity, you don't just let it pass by, you get as much out of it as you can.
Q: Lewis, could you give us an update on how things went today?
Lewis Hamilton: Today didn't go too badly. I think the first session obviously went extremely well. I don't know what fuel loads everyone was on in the afternoon but we weren't particularly focussing on going out there to be at the top of the time sheets. We had a programme to stick to which we did. Now we have to go and analyse the data and figure out where else we can improve. But I feel quite optimistic about tomorrow. I think, again, we go into P3 with quite a good balance, but we can still better it. And I think we have a very good strong package for this weekend, so without a doubt, I still think we are able to battle with the Ferraris.
Q: David, could you comment on the fact you are being re-signed for 2008, which is obviously good news.
David Coulthard: Yeah, obviously I'm happy to continue the work with Red Bull. At the risk of repeating what I said before, it was a new challenge when I started there to try and see if I could play my part and help guide the team from the driving seat. Obviously, Christian has been busy with the recruitment side and the journey continues. We've had a bit of a troubled year this year but the pace has certainly improved and logically we would expect to build on that through the course of this year into next season. My enjoyment of racing remains absolute and my commitment to the team is 100 per cent as well. So yeah, looking forward to it.
Q: Christian, final question: what's the thinking behind signing David and what happens with Mark Webber?
Christian Horner: The logic behind David was very simple. We're very happy with the job that both of our drivers are doing. We're in an evolution phase of Red Bull Racing and David's done a very good job for us in the three years that he's been with us, and it was therefore entirely logical to extend that relationship for a further year. The team is still a young team. There have been a lot of changes over the last 24 months but it's coming together and, as we've seen, glimpses of pace this year. We've had a poor reliability record but that's something that everybody's firmly focused on and that will improve during the second half of the year. In David and Mark, we have a very strong professional committed line-up. I don't think there's probably a harder working line-up in Formula One than the two drivers that we have. They're very focused, they're both big team players and they contribute a great deal to our programme.
Q: Mark was signed up for another year anyway.
Christian Horner: Mark's agreement was always for a two year period so there's no real surprises there.
Q: It's a question for Ron: you've invested a lot of time and effort into Silverstone and the BRDC. Can you give us an assessment of what you think the future of the British Grand Prix is at Silverstone and whether you think it needs government money to ensure that it does continue?
Ron Dennis: Well, I haven't been very involved in the issue of Silverstone and its future over the course of the last six months. I have been very much focused on the company's growth. A few things I can make comment on: I am one of the guardians of the BRDC and this circuit. There has to be unanimous agreement for Silverstone to be sold to a developer or into a structure that will see the membership sharing the proceeds. That will never happen if I'm breathing, so those people who are de-stabilising the club by those suggestions are really wasting their time because ultimately, the guardians have the power to stop it. The circuit is, obviously, given plenty of criticism and sometimes it's deserved but it is a true Grand Prix circuit, it is a circuit that's challenging for the drivers. Yes, the facilities could be better but they're significantly better than a lot of other Grand Prix circuits in the world. So it does get a little bit of a hard time but we are pretty much the centre of excellence for Formula One in England. A lot of Grand Prix teams are here, a lot of successful Grand Prix teams are here and therefore I think we should have the best Grand Prix circuit in the world. And for that to be possible, there has to be investment. Do I think it's appropriate for the government to invest in Silverstone? Yes. If they can invest in the Olympic Games. If they can invest in other areas that they feel are required to make England the pinnacle of any sport, then why not one where we traditionally had that position? It doesn't mean to say a complete free hand-out but there could be efforts made on planning, there could be support on infrastructure and there certainly could be a pound-for-pound match on any money that the club raises. There are people who are members of this club who have that capability and I strongly believe that Silverstone and the British Grand Prix has a future, but everybody's got to come to the party.
Q: A question for Lewis and David: when you've got a very talented rookie in one car, how dependent is he on the work of an experienced driver in the other car and to what extent do the modern simulation analytical tools and computers etc that analyse the set-up of the car, to what extent in the modern era have those taken that away and you can actually almost get away without the experience of the second driver?
David Coulthard: Well, I would have thought that, even when I started, the telemetry systems were powerful enough for you to be able to see all of the driver inputs: braking, steering, gear selection, the pitch that he would induce in the car, the yaw -- all of those channels are there and available to the driver, to his engineers. So even if you have the same set-up, that one driver's car is giving slightly more understeer then you would be able to analyse, to see whether it was because of a particular driving technique or just the slight differences sometimes you get in aero packages, when you bolt everything together. I think that the days when an older experienced driver could benefit over the younger inexperienced guy were the days before telemetry and the guys would be building diffs out of the back of the garage in all sorts of funny configurations. It was probably a lot more cloak and dagger stuff such as hiding things, it's just not part of modern Formula One and therefore, if you're quick, I think that the team can help you a great deal. Most of the set-ups that we arrive at race tracks at today are derived from thousands of simulations that are run to determine the right aero package. But inevitably at any given track, there's more than one way to skin the cat. You can run a high downforce package round Silverstone and achieve a very good lap time or you can run a low downforce package and achieve the lap time. You then start to look at other areas of performance: overtaking, likelihood of the gap you need to overtake, and previous information.
Lewis Hamilton: I agree.
Q: Question first to Lewis: this morning we saw a lot of cars and drivers going off the circuit. Was there any special problem or just a slippery track?
Lewis Hamilton: The track was quite dirty this morning and as soon as you get round the first corner, there's a huge gust of wind that hits the car and this is one of those circuits which is normally affected quite badly by the wind and it's always windy here. Today, I don't know how strong it was but you could really feel it. Going through a corner, the car might have been nicely balanced and then all of a sudden a big gust of wind hits you and it really does affect the car, so that's probably why it was so much harder today for everyone to keep it on the road.
Q: Ron, yesterday Lewis said that he would race for free, so I want to know from you which is the right price to pay for a talent like this?
Ron Dennis: I've been paying for ten years!
Lewis Hamilton: I never said I wanted to race for free. I said if Ron had come to me or any Formula One team came to me in the past years and said you can drive for us but we're not going to pay you, any driver would have jumped at the opportunity and that's what I said. I didn't say I wanted to race for free. Why are you going to tell him now?
Q: It seems that there is a third team involved in this investigation and you become a damaged team. Can you confirm that?
Ron Dennis: I do know that one particular journalist has a scoop. I know that there are rumours going around but I understand that the Sunday Times tomorrow will cover the situation well. The three team principals discussed the situation this morning and again it creates in some ways a bit more clarity. But I want to be very correct in this process. The first thing that I did when I found out about this problem was phone Ferrari, phone Jean Todt. The second was to phone Max Mosley and from the beginning we have been co-operative. We immediately brought independent people into the company to analyse and go through a process. I feel that as much as the reputation of McLaren has been challenged and in some instances, if not all instances, unfairly challenged, I feel that the important thing is to set an example and to behave in a very correct way. I can give a full and detailed understanding to everybody about what has happened over the last few months but it is just inappropriate. The way of the world is that the truth comes out. Probably the thing that I have learned more than anything over the last few days is how fast people are prepared to jump into severe criticism of McLaren. We have had, certainly in the last 20 odd years, an impeccable reputation in the aspect of how we conduct this racing team and how we conduct its business affairs.
Back to your question, over the next 48 hours there will certainly be more information available to people and some of that will perhaps give some insight into motives and what lies behind some peoples actions. It's not for me to criticise, we will let things unfold. But one thing I will say is that this is all being conducted under civil law, therefore there are no police involved. But that does not mean that we should not follow a proper procedure. Too many people are quick to jump and criticise and effectively condemn. As in most cases the truth will come out. I doubt that there will be many apologies afterwards but the truth will come out.
Q: Ron are you able to reveal details of the discussions that you had with the other two team bosses this morning? Whether they were satisfactory? Whether you were happy with what you heard from them? Have you had any indication from the FIA as to how long their investigation might take and how long it might take to clear McLaren's name?
Ron Dennis: The discussion with the team principles was enlightening but it is just part of the jigsaw puzzle as it were. With regards to the FIA, we invited them within one or two hours of this situation coming to light, of us understanding what the issue was, to conduct a full investigation. The duration of the investigation is really determined by - I would think - the civil action, but I'm optimistic that some of the things that need to be established will be established quickly. And for us the first thing is the confirmation that there is no intellectual property on our cars, and never has been, and never will be, that belongs to another grand prix team. Once that hurdle has been crossed, which I am optimistic will be crossed very quickly, then there will be the more complex issue of who said what, and did what, what was the true nature of the motives and the circumstances, ultimately just sorting through everything. I can't be more specific but I am comfortable that with the passing of time our reputation will be undamaged as much as it can be having gone through this process.
Q: Ron, is this, as far as you are aware of, an isolated incident? Or is industrial espionage in fact quite rife in Formula One?
Ron Dennis: This is a very competitive sport. Inevitably engineers move from team to team quite legitimately. Sometimes at the end of a contract, sometimes at a point where a settlement has been negotiated. That settlement can be between the engineer and the team or between the two teams involved. You cannot un-invent things. People move with all the knowledge and inevitably that knowledge is going to appear, sometimes with great perfection and accuracy, onto other grand prix cars. Very often it relates to aerodynamics because those are the ones that you can so easily digitally photograph and demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that their origins are found in other Grand Prix teams who are the owners of that intellectual property. But that is, to a certain degree, motor sport and there are limits. I remember with great amusement, locking another team's Aerodynamicist into the back of our truck who was measuring and photographing parts of our bodywork. And you could say that that was over the limit. But equally many photographers are commissioned to take detailed photographs of other people's cars and we take detailed photographs of other people's cars and that is probably within the accepted practices in grand prix racing. But there are unwritten limits to which everybody should adhere and clearly these exceed all previously known occurrences. Of course for me it is not a great experience. One of the things I put alongside integrity is loyalty and that also has been a difficult emotion.
Q: Lewis, how do you feel about so many people talking about you and having opinions about you. Do you feel that the people venturing those opinions understand you or are you already misunderstood?
Lewis Hamilton: I don't think people misunderstand me. You see what sort of person I am. You can see why I'm doing as well as I am, I've got a great opportunity. It is all a new experience for me. This whole year has been non-stop uphill, going through this uphill battle trying to understand and make the right decisions when I'm faced with a difficult solution. But I'm enjoying the whole experience. I've had an amazing level of support, especially in my home country and for anyone coming from a normal life to be a top Formula One driver it is going to be a difficult experience and take a while to get used to.
Q: Mr. Dennis, you said there are no intellectual properties... If the information we have in the last two days is correct that one technician from your team has information like the size of the tank, the suspension board, tyre wear and a lot of information regarding set-up... We have had a lot of races since the end of April. Do you think that could have been a benefit to McLaren?
Ron Dennis: You get very much into the area of detail. As I said, it is understandable the conclusions that people come to but this occurrence was at the very end of April. Part of the information that we have made available to the FIA is all the details of all the developments in our cars in not only the period following the end of April but also the preceding months and all the drawings are available of those developments. None of those drawings and developments have any trace of a competitor's intellectual property. Clearly if an individual has access to information that information is in that person. Then you have to determine for what purpose it is going to be used. I can tell you that the purpose for which it was not used was to have any influence on our grand prix cars. Our system is a matrix system which means that the technical work we do is not a pyramid structure with one individual at the top, it is a flat structure. The development of our cars are very much controlled, from an R&D point of view, by Paddy Lowe and each discipline is under the control of one individual. Therefore it is extremely easy to track back the influence of any one individual on the development of our racing cars. Everything has a name against it. Therefore, I can categorically state that there are no developments, whatsoever, that have occurred in the months preceding 28th April or the months following 28th April and we can categorically demonstrate that to anybody who needs to have that information and of course that is the FIA. So that is what I can comfortably say. This will not end in anything that causes McLaren embarrassment.
Q: If the third party that you had in the meeting this morning had come to you two or three days ago and you had had that meeting then, McLaren could have avoided two or three days unpleasantness. Did you make that point to them? That they might have come to you sooner?
Ron Dennis: As painful as it is, and it is extremely painful, we have to follow a process because ultimately the process itself gets scrutinised by both the people involved in the civil matter and also the governing body. Every time any information became available to McLaren we shared it with both Jean Todt and Max Mosley and that was, to the best of my ability, in real time. As regards this third party there was very early on in the discussions with Jean, a clear recognition from him that he was not questioning in any shape or form either my personal integrity or that of the company. We agreed that we would have to go through a process. Inevitably some criticism is going to be more intense in some countries than others. It is not great that in some countries they didn't even give us the courtesy of publishing our own press releases which created an even greater groundswell of public opinion. But we have to be true to our principles. We said that we would follow the process. We are co-operating with both the FIA and Ferrari and sometimes that co-operation requires us to stay silent while this unfolds correctly. The silence is costing us but that is the cost of integrity.
Q: Lewis you have had a blast round here for the first time as an F1 driver and you've sized up the competition presumably in the two practice sessions. So what is it like going round and what do you think your chances are for Sunday?
Lewis Hamilton: It is an awesome track. It really has always been one of my favourites. Turn one, the first sector, the high speed corners, the history of the circuit and seeing how many people were there today, especially in the last sector there was quite a lot of people really. That's great to see and there are obviously a lot of British flags. So it's very exciting for me. I think it is a very physical circuit but extremely technical as well. Especially when it is so windy it makes it even harder to tune the set-up, even more so than on other circuits I have experienced. Going into tomorrow, in P3 we have to make a good test. Make sure we go through the programme that we had set out and we make fine small adjustments to the car. As you could see today, we have very good pace, I have no doubt that some of the people ahead of us were quite a bit lighter than us but we will obviously have to see tomorrow. I go into qualifying with quite a bit of confidence in my car and I really do feel that at least on a single lap we will be quicker than the Ferraris.
Q: And for the race?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, we will have to see what happens in qualifying but we aim to be ahead of them either way.
Q: Lewis, up until France it was a case of if you control the front row you control the race. Obviously Raikkonen won from third there. Last year this was a very difficult place to pass in these cars. Do you feel that whoever goes the most aggressive in qualifying is likely to dominate the race?
Lewis Hamilton: Not necessarily. I think that out of a lot of the circuits I found that today following another car was fairly similar to the experience I had in GP2. You can actually stay behind them in some of the corners, I don't know if that is because it is so windy here. You maybe slip out of their slipstream and are unable to get plenty of downforce. I think you'll see plenty of overtaking during the race but inevitably the guy in front doesn't have any dirty air and has an advantage so that has got to be the aim for all drivers.