Motorsport.com's Max Davies sat down with Arden International team boss, Christian Horner to discuss the future of the team including their possible future entry into Formula One.
Motorsport.com: Following the third-straight victory for Liuzzi in Monaco, what are your expectations for rest of the season?
Christian Horner: We are totally focused on the F3000 championship at the moment and our expectations are to retain both the drivers' and teams titles and I think Antonio has marked himself out as one of the main contenders and Robert reminds me a great deal of Bjorn. Every time he sits in the car he's getting a little better and is a great prospect for the future.
Horner: If we were given a clear objective from the FIA in the very near future then yes we could be ready fro 2005. Obviously we would have a great deal to sort out between now and then but yes ultimately we could be ready but if not then it would be '06.
M.com: Without giving specific numbers, how much would it cost for Arden to enter F1?
Horner: It would be impossible to contemplate entering F1 with the current bond still in place. However if we ran as a customer team with a 12 month old chassis and engine then you climate all the design, production and the subsequent colossal overheads that the current teams have to endure. So we could run with a considerably reduced budget to compete with the existing teams.
M.com: What departments will Arden need to improve?
Horner: Obviously we would run as a race team so we would concentrate on bolstering the main areas there. We would initially employ 60 people with a strong engineering line up and a marketing team and our resources will be pulled totally in that direction. We have 18 people working at Arden and will be enticing those employees to work alongside others with relative F1 experience.
M.com: Are you confident any move into F1 will not destabilise your F3000 championship?
Horner: This year we are totally focused on winning the championship and formula 3000 is our shop window. And it enormously important to our future plans that we're seen to be successful and performing at the highest level below F1.
M.com: Are you in contact with the current F1 teams regarding the sale of chassis and engines?
Horner: It's a bit premature for us to be speaking in any great detail with F1 teams at the moment until the FIA come up with clear and concise directives as to what we can and can't do. Once we have that then yes we will start negotiations with teams.
M.com: Does the current grey area surround the chassis and engines worry you?
Horner: The sport needs new blood in it. There are ten teams there at the moment the majority of which are manufacturer own who have continually come and gone during the history of F1 and there's no obvious candidates coming forward. Arden is a young, vibrant team and one hopefully with a bright future and I'm confident we can get in there and acquit ourselves very well.
M.com: So you are not concerned that your team could go the same way as Pacific, Simtek and Forti?
Horner: Well, what you have to remember is that they designed, produced then built their own cars immediately and in the scenario we're talking about, we would be buying a car that was proven to be fast and reliable. The teams mentioned over-committed themselves in the whole design and production stage with a car that was ultimately uncompetitive so they poured in as much resources in an effort to be competitive which left them very short on budget not go and operate the tam. Whereas our costs would fundamentally be operating costs of a known sporting packing.
M.com: How would the planned reduction in private testing affect Arden?
M.com: Do you have any say or influence on the proposals and the discussions that will inevitably take place between the fia and the F1 teams?
Horner: No absolutely not. I'm in discussion with Max about entering F1 over the last 12 months and ultimately it's their championship and they need to resolve whatever issues there are with regard to the future.
M.com: So Max Mosely is very keen to get your team and others into F1?
Horner: He's been very supportive to the idea and he knows F1 needs new blood and we both agree it is time for a shake up as all the current team principals are getting older. They're not all going to go on forever and people need to think where the future of the sport is coming from. From my point of view, F1 is going through a little bit of a recession currently which is a perfect entry point for us. Ultimately it will boom again, and we want to be there when it does.
M.com: Will you be able to afford customer chassis and engines?
Horner: It is a big assumption in your budget, what is the price of a 12 month car? We're looking for a reasonable rate. They're worth what the team's value them but take into account most cars have gone on to become museum pieces, in showrooms, sponsors lobbies or something like that. It would also provide a service to a team in that it would educate young engineers, technicians and even drivers and it could compliment an existing team quite well.
M.com: With the EU's ruling on tobacco sponsorship coming into effect in '05 before the agreed date with the FIA in'06, are you confident you can get a decent sponsorship package together?
Horner: The type of budget we're talking about is probably closer to that of what a Champ Car budget would have had two or three years ago at its peak and effectively we will be racing for less therefore our rate card would reflect that. I believe the figures we would be talking about would be far more achievable and give potential sponsors a realistic figure. What you have to remember is that F1 is a colossal sporting event with the sport getting huge attendances and TV viewers all of which has good value for potential partners.
M.com: Are you hopeful the FIA and EU will reach a positive conclusion quickly?
Horner: I can't see that tobacco sponsors would be a primary backer of Arden but yes in general, it would be good for the entire F1 community if a solution was found and one that would make the future a little clearer.
M.com: Have you then approached non-tobacco companies or have you indeed been chased by them?
Horner: Well obviously we've been looking at this project for sometime and we already have several existing commercial partners and as soon as we have a clear directive as to where our future lies, that will be the right time to begin discussions with potential partners.