Hungarian GP: Friday press conference

Present: Ove Andersson (Toyota president) Flavio Briatore (Renault team principal) Ron Dennis (McLaren team principal) Niki Lauda (Jaguar CEO and team principal) Paul Stoddart (Minardi team principal) Q: Everyone seems to be facing the same ...

Present:
Ove Andersson (Toyota president)
Flavio Briatore (Renault team principal)
Ron Dennis (McLaren team principal)
Niki Lauda (Jaguar CEO and team principal)
Paul Stoddart (Minardi team principal)

Q: Everyone seems to be facing the same challenge in Formula One, to beat Ferrari. Can it be done, how can it be done?

Niki Lauda: I think I am in the worst position and Ron should answer first. I don't worry about Ferrari really, to be honest. I have to move my way up from the back, this is my answer.

Flavio Briatore: The answer is Ferrari has done a better job and at different moments in Formula One we have had the predominance of different team. There was a period of McLaren, a period of Williams, of Benetton and now it is Ferrari. It happens. We are working hard to make it better to try to beat Ferrari, this is the only way, to work much harder and get a better consistency in the team and we will do our best.

Paul Stoddart: I think for the next year it is going to be very hard to see anybody challenging them to be honest. Possibly Ron and Frank are in the best position but they certainly have a clear advantage which doesn't seem to be diminishing at this moment.

Ron Dennis: I think, perhaps using an analogy, if you start a golf match and Tiger Woods is in it, if you start to play on the basis that you are not going to beat him then you are not going to beat him. And whilst I have a very healthy respect for a logical, analytical approach to going motor racing, I don't think you should ever lose the will to win. As Flavio has pointed out, domination isn't an unusual phenomenon in Formula One, it has existed before, several teams have enjoyed it, it is normally not sustained for a great many years but it has been sustained for several. Therefore there is nothing automatic about whether they are or not going to maintain their dominance next year.

I think when it turns it is more likely to turn because of one particular tyre company getting an advantage and obviously there are, I think, nearly all of the teams here on Michelin. If Michelin work hard, and they have a lot of hard work to do, and provide a superior tyre to that that is provided to Ferrari by Bridgestone then you could see a relatively quick change. If one particular company produces an engine which has a dominance you could see a change. But I don't really feel it is just because of Michael. I think there are a lot of drivers that can win in Formula One. He is obviously very strong and maybe he is the best, but you don't need much of a margin coming from your package to be able to take them on and beat them, and I think we have shown it recently over the last few years and there are strong teams, obviously we ourselves are reasonably competent at the moment, but there are other teams that are going to emerge and going to be strong. But I think the starting point is not to start with the focus of being beaten.

Ove Andersson: I have to agree with Niki, we have other problems than thinking about Ferrari at the moment. We have a long way before we have to worry about them. But I also agree with Ron that, obviously, if we are in this business the ultimate target has to be to think that one day we will be able to win.

Q: Niki, if I can come back to you again and Ford's strategy regarding both management and drivers. First of all, are you expecting to be confirmed as staying with the team?

NL: I was never told that I was not confirmed, so I cannot answer this question that doesn't occur to me. I read newspapers but from Ford's point of view I have a contract, I have daily communication with my bosses and there was never any sign of anything like this.

Q: Just in the Financial Times today, they said you were expecting to be confirmed.

NL: I don't have to be confirmed. I have a contract.

Q: What is the strategy coming to the drivers? It has been suggested, for example, that Eddie would accept a test drive.

NL: You have to ask Eddie, I don't really know. I have not taken any decision on drivers whatsoever because our main concern is getting the car better and as we are working constantly on it we have not taken any decision on the drivers for next year.

Q: Flavio, it has been said that the new car will be ready in November. How has that development programme managed to run concurrently with the development programme, which seems to be very accelerated.

FB: We have a new engine ready in November and we try our best to have a chassis as well in November so we have not developed the car in the last two races because the package we have this year can go so far anyway. So we stop everything working in 2002 and try working in 2003 with the new engine and new chassis. We are in time and it looks like we will run the new car and new engine in November.

Q: What about a test driver, are you expecting to announce one?

FB: Not really, not at the moment. We don't know yet. We have not decided and we will try to make a decision at the end of the season.

Q: Paul, Anthony seems to have done a good job, even if he did break a record this morning exiting the pits. What have been the effects of having him on board?

PS: I think that given the fact he had not been in the car before this morning he has done an excellent job and we will forgive him for his thousand dollar fine for the fastest speeding record in the history of a driver I think. His effect on the team has really been a positive one. It really has had a good feeling, a good motivation in the team.

Q: Yesterday you mentioned you were giving Justin Wilson a run, that next year you will build a car that is big enough to accommodate him, and that you have some English investors on board. Can we connect all these things together?

PS: Firstly, I really feel for Justin. It was so, so marginal, but he just wouldn't have been legal in the car. It is not a criticism of the car or the regulations, we could have built this car bigger to accommodate him, we didn't, the car was built maximum for Mark and we didn't foresee the need to have anything bigger. But it doesn't take the pain away from Justin. The team worked for two days to get him in the car, it wasn't a quick decision, but it wasn't quick enough to be done. We would have had to build another chassis and we didn't have enough time to do that. Yes we would build a car next year that would most definitely accommodate a driver of Justin's physique and he has done enough with the team to impress us and he deserves another chance.

Q: And the possibility with the English.

PS: It is a possibility as opposed to a done deal and like a lot of these things if there wasn't such a focus on the finances within Formula One at the moment, these things would probably go unnoticed but there is a possibility and that is all I can really say.

Q: Ron, after your win in Monaco everyone said that this was the next potential race that could be won by McLaren-Mercedes. Is that still the possibility or have the goalposts changed a little bit as we saw in Magny-Cours?

RD: Obviously we were disappointed not to win in Magny-Cours but these things happen. Here, after initially having had two practice sessions I wouldn't say we have the strongest car, but I stress it is a little early to say that because when the circuit rubbers in things change. But it is a unique race and the most important thing is to be in the front two rows and that is what we are focussed on. If you can get into the first corner, just like Monaco, you can run this race from the front, so it requires a different strategy and as I said the target is to get on the first two rows of the grid.

Q: Now, we talked about the new cars. What are your plans for the coming off-season?

RD: There are plans, but they are not fixed so it would be premature to share them with the media.

Q: Ron, is the fact that the Paragon Centre is going to be late a problem?

RD: We've enhanced the specification and incorporated some very large, sophisticated equipment into the basic construction of the building and that's just changed the programme. We're still hoping to move into some parts of the building in October but it's going to be the middle of the next year in principle for the operation.

Q: Ove, what was the strategic idea of running Cristiano Da Matta?

OA: That was basically what we did but there wasn't any serious discussions.

Q: Ove, how soon are we going to see your new car, given that the second year is often said to be the most difficult year?

OA: At the moment we are working on a kind of a development car which is an improvement of the existing car and we hope to run this before the break and that should then be the basis for the next year's race car which we hope will be ready at the beginning of January.

Q: Niki, have Arrows paid for their engines?

NL: They have not paid for this race. Wednesday was the deadline to get paid for this race which we'd agreed; the money did not come.

Q: Niki, what are your bosses at Ford saying about the team? Are they losing patience, are they giving you guarantees that they will carry on?

NL: We keep them constantly informed about what we are doing and there is no sign whatsoever that we will not carry on.

Q: What's the situation with Jordan and Ford engines at the moment?

NL: It's very simple. Cosworth, because of the Arrows situation, made them an offer for Cosworth engines next, for a three year contract. Now it's up to Eddie to decide between Honda or Cosworth. It's an engine deal between Jordan and Cosworth, so there's no decision on any side now, if he wants to dump his engine and go into the Cosworth engine or not. It's up to him. He has a proposal from Cosworth for a three-year engine deal.

Q: If that happened, and he did a deal with Cosworth, would you be in favour of that engine being badged by Ford, or would you be against that?

NL: There is a contract the same as with Arrows where the engine is called the Ford Cosworth engine. The same thing applies for Jordan. It is called the Ford Cosworth engine. We call the engine the Ford Cosworth.

Q: So it wouldn't necessarily have a sticker on the engine cover saying 'Powered by Ford'.

NL: It has a sticker on the engine cover like Arrows: Ford Cosworth. It's in the agreement with Jordan.

Q: When would be the deadline for that agreement?

NL: We're getting a brand new engine, Jaguar Racing, which was three days early on the dyno so this engine is already in progress. This year's engine would then be the engine for whoever wants to have it.

Q: Are there any plans to get the money off Arrows?

NL: Sure, we have applied to all legal aspects of it, which will be decided on Monday, but yes we have to fight for the money because it is an existing contract and you can't ask for supply and not pay.

Q: There's an advertisement painted on the track out there, have any of your drivers talked about that to you?

RD: News to me; what does it say?

Q: It says Marlboro or something.

NL: If it's on the straight, it doesn't bother the drivers.

Q: Last year David paid a heavy penalty because the kerb was too high, on Friday last year, and now he had a similar accident. Do you think the kerbs are too high?

RD: He only hit the kerb after spinning, so the kerb wasn't the cause of the spin. The height of the kerb actually demounted the tyre as it hit sideways. It broke the bead an instant deflation. But in these situations it's the same for everybody. I don't think high kerbs are very constructive either to slow the cars or to... because they keep cars on the circuit, they are an obstruction, which, to a certain respect the drivers ignore at their peril. As you pointed out, when they do get it wrong, instead of, for example in Hockenheim now, we have these run-off areas. No one took an advantage going off the circuit onto one of those higher friction run-off areas. It was a disadvantage, but the best thing was that the car was able to rejoin the race or practice undamaged and I think that's a constructive way to move circuits forward. To create an obstacle which takes the car out of the race or practice seems counter-productive to everybody, not just the teams, so I think the way forward is the way that we're going as illustrated in Hockenheim. So the most simple answer is that high kerbs aren't a good thing.

Q: Are there any plans to engineer another three week break in next year's calendar, because when Bernie Ecclestone initially announced it, he said 'I'll leave it up to the team owners, I've done my bit, now it's up to them' or is it too late?

RD: The teams have no involvement in the calendar. I think the calendar that's been put out is provisional but I'm not sure. I think it's a provisional calendar. In former years, teams have advocated strongly for a three-week break. I don't think any team has changed its opinion and all of us have benefited from the time one way or the other. I think it's a good thing to have that break but I haven't discussed it with anybody, with either the teams or Bernie at this stage.

FB: I believe it's good for the mechanics for everybody, but what we see in the provisional calendar for next year, it's not there any more. Honestly we never discussed this with Bernie about this. But I believe it's very important for the team to have this three-week break for everybody, especially for the mechanics.

RD: It also bears on testing, it's in fact the testing teams that really suffer. They go to a circuit and they are not constrained by practice. They are not going there with the certainty of running two hours or two and a half hours. They go there with the certainty of running maybe six to eight hours and then at six o' clock when the circuit closes then they are working through the night and it's an exhausting experience. To create a break, it's not only physical, it's mental and it's also a big impact on families. There's a lot of good people, especially from that sector who leave Formula One because of the pressures it puts on their families. That's why we work hard to get a three week break and that's I think why it's pretty frustrating for everybody to be presented with a fait accompli, because that's what we've been presented with.

Q: How easy will it be to shift dates now?

RD: Well, it's provisional, but I think that the problem we have is that most of the teams are perhaps under a lot of commercial pressure. The world, at the moment, as you can see, is in turmoil and there seems to be no predictability to so many things that ultimately affect our business and of course we are working hard to address those issues, just like any company that's out there trying to survive or maintain margins etc, etc and therefore this issue has probably slipped down the agenda but hopefully we will be able to bring it back up the agenda when things quieten down a bit.

Q: It's been suggested that under the Concorde Agreement a team can miss two races without losing their rights to be in the championship. Is that your understanding, providing they pay the promoters whatever fine there is?

RD: There are several clauses in the Concorde Agreement that bear on this issue and the condition of the team is critical as well. So if the team is in liquidation, it's automatic...the rights fall away automatically so I think the important thing for Arrows to maintain its value is it stays out of liquidation. If that's the case, and I know that there are still serious efforts being sought or solutions, if that is the case, then I think it's a question of the teams and the governing body, but more the governing body, but I think they would look to the support of the teams, taking a pragmatic view on some of the other regulatory aspects that determine whether a team has to pay a fine or not. There are automatic mechanisms but there is the power within the FIA and certainly with the teams to waive those, and I think in this instance, most teams... I would feel most teams would be supportive of anything that would keep another Grand Prix team involved.

Q: Paul, at the other end of the grid, can you tell us what the financial and sporting consequences of what has happened with Arrows, presumably their disappearance, would have on your team?

PS: It's an interesting question. There's quite a serious article in today's FT (Financial Times) which some of you may have seen which goes into reasonable detail. I think, as Ron just said, there are prescribed clauses within the Concorde Agreement which govern a situation like this and to second again what Ron said, it very much depends on the solvency of the team. If a team is in liquidation, it is game, set and match, that's it. But if it's not insolvent then there's light at the end of the tunnel. It remains to be seen whether Tom is deemed to be insolvent this weekend. I'm sure an issue like this will be fought quite extremely in the courts and the word liquidation or insolvency will become subject to intense argument over interpretation and timings as it was in the Phoenix case, all over timings and interpretation.

Q: Ove, if Allan McNish was to go from Toyota, what would be the benefit to your team, how would Toyota gain?

OA: Well, I think we haven't decided what we are going to do yet, so why do you assume that we will let him go? I don't understand.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Justin Wilson , Allan McNish , Niki Lauda , Paul Stoddart , Flavio Briatore , Bernie Ecclestone
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Minardi , Jaguar Racing , Jordan