Hungarian GP: Friday press conference (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: (not known) Eddie Jordan: Unemployed! (Laughter) Have you got a job? (Laughter) Q: It seems that the three guys on the front row know what the rules are and the three guys in the back row don't know what the rules...

Continued from part 1

Q: (not known)

Eddie Jordan: Unemployed! (Laughter) Have you got a job? (Laughter)

Q: It seems that the three guys on the front row know what the rules are and the three guys in the back row don't know what the rules are. I may be wrong here but I wonder if you can be more explicit. Can the guys on the front row tell us what has been agreed in the TWG, what are the changes we're likely to see next year, and I have a supplementary question which is that I understand Max Mosley placed a deadline -- I think it was September 6, I may be wrong -- and is that still in force?

Ross Brawn: I think the aerodynamic regulations are virtually agreed. We're crossing the Ts and dotting the Is, so I'm surprised that Eddie thinks we don't have a set of regulations, because my understanding is we do and by a process, I'm pretty certain they're the regulations which will go through, because I believe five or six teams have now written to the FIA saying that those are the regulations they want and therefore there is no other process in place for an alternative set of regulations. I think the tyre regulations are in place because Michelin and Bridgestone have written to the FIA and jointly asked for a solution which the FIA accepted. I think the only debate as far as I am concerned is the engine regulations where two teams in particular are objecting to the proposals. But in terms of building a car and knowing how the tyres are going to be run next year, we think it's clear.

Q: Mike Doodson asked what are the rules?

Ross Brawn: The diffuser is changed to produce less downforce, the front wing is lifted up, the rear wing is moved forward and there's one set of tyres for the whole race.

Paul Stoddart: Now wait. It has not been agreed. Ross is saying five or six teams. It requires eight votes in the technical working group to get it through and that's the problem we have time and time again.

Ross Brawn: I think you're wrong. If you look at how it's been handled, Paul -- I'm not saying I agree with the way it's been handled, but the FIA have said this is a proposal we are prepared to accept because we think it's a good proposal, and unless you can come up with an alternative proposal, which requires eighty percent, then this is the one by default that we are going to apply. So six teams have written to the FIA and said we are going to go along with your proposals. So by definition there can no longer be a majority for an alternative proposal. So as far as we're concerned, it's done.

Eddie Jordan: But to be fair, we have not been notified. I haven't been notified that six people have written to the FIA. And the other thing is that with the greatest of respect and they do a hugely important job, the TWG, the working group do not make the rules. They need to be ratified and I think Paul's argument is valid. I am inclined to support what Ross is saying, that if you were a punter and you were having a bet, you would have a bet that what's on the paper by Max is what's going to be accepted. That is sure but it is not certain. It's like what's the point of having an engagement with a girl? You are not sure you are going to marry her are you? She's said yes to being engaged but she hasn't agreed to do all the rest of the stuff. (Laughter)

Paul Stoddart: The trouble with all of this is that you get situations where you think things are agreed and then it's just turned over time and time and time again, and that is the uncertainty that the small teams are suffering. We do not know what is going to happen in terms of, as I mentioned before, Mark One or Mark Two version of these groups. The original was that the diffuser was going to be radically modified and the floor was going to be radically modified, but then the next proposal was the front and the rear wing which I believe, Tony, was what your people were dead against because it trashed your chassis for next year. And that's the kind of thing that goes on all the time. You get to a situation where one or two people make suggestions and a few more people jump on the bandwagon and say 'that's a great idea,' and then you get the other side and someone says 'well I've been going in a completely different direction and I've just wasted six months R&D.' It just doesn't work. This is August, guys, the middle of August. We need to know what we're doing next year, not still be talking about it.

Tony Purnell: Ross's summary, I think, was very pragmatic and probably the way it is going to go. But having sat in some of the team principal meetings, the Byzantine nature of Formula One politics means that surprising things can happen. However, I think Ross is the probable clairvoyant here.

Paul Stoddart: But that's the whole point. We need a clairvoyant? We don't need a clairvoyant - we need a regulation that makes rules.

Tony Purnell: If the sport's going to reform, this sort of thing needs to be tackled and in the future it just shouldn't come up because the regulations and the methods are clear, pragmatic and sensible.

Q: I am probably not supposed to ask questions, but I would like to ask Pat and Ross a question, and that is, wouldn't it be fantastic if we could leave here on Sunday knowing, with a recommendation from all of the teams or the vast majority of the teams which would be if you like a legitimate number of people to get the rules accepted. Wouldn't it be fantastic to do that this weekend or is that not possible?

Pat Symonds: I think that is very possible and we have a meeting on Sunday morning which I think will ratify it. My understanding is exactly the same as Ross's. It is what we are working on, it's what we believe is going to happen and it's what I think the Technical Working Group recommendations will be and Ross is quite right about the voting process. Effectively, at this stage, and I am sorry if the team principals didn't know it, but six teams have agreed to it and, therefore, the mechanism is in place for it to happen. Unfortunately, it now has to go... the team principals will get involved and of course, then things do become uncertain and erm (laughter) it is a difficult situation. We are too damned democratic for our own good in this sport. It's a very strange situation where the competitor sets the rules, but that's the way Formula One is. There are a lot of vested interests and it does get very messy and it's certainly time for reform. But our problem of today, I believe, is pretty well there. I am quite sure the technical working group will effectively ratify these proposals on Sunday and I'm sure that there will then be further argument, but strictly speaking, once that's done, those are the rules. Now, I know that perhaps that's perhaps an idealistic view and that there are certain team principals who have a lot of say, a lot of influence and they can turn things round but we're doing everything we can to resolve this situation and think we're behaving responsibly and professionally.

Paul Stoddart: I just need to correct Pat on one thing there. I don't know where you are getting this six vote thing from, but this whole process is under the Concorde Agreement and article 7.5 is very, very clear. Under what Max has put forward to the Technical Working Group, it requires 80 percent vote in favour.

Ross Brawn: I don't think it does Paul.

Pat Symonds: It is not quite like that, Paul, I don't think.

Ross Brawn: If no solution is found with the Working Group, then the proposal the FIA makes -- they make three proposals which the Working Group then has to accept one of and I'm sure we've got one proposal and I'm sure the other proposals are going to be putting the engines in the front and having eight wheeled cars or something or other. So there will be only one sensible proposal which will, by default, become the solution, so that's how it will work.

Eddie Jordan: Pat, I'm sorry to take you up on what you said, because it seems like cat and mouse here but the words were 'we're pretty well there', 'hopefully, blah, blah, blah' and 'then there will be further argument because it's the team principals, etc., etc.' Some of those words... Honestly, I agree with each of those sentiments because we are not there. We would like to be there, we want to be there. We want it fixed. Please, you guys, and us, we all should get together and we should all be in that meeting on Sunday morning if they can't make it on Friday, on Saturday. We should all be there and get it finished. It's simple. It's not difficult.

Ross Brawn: I support Eddie's comments, it is just that I have been to some team principal meetings and if we started that on Sunday morning we wouldn't have a race on Sunday afternoon. (Laughter)

Eddie Jordan: Are you excluding your own boss?

Paul Stoddart: And if we don't decide something we won't have a championship next year. We'll still be making this decision in January.

Eddie Jordan: No, that's for sure.

Tony Purnell: I was thinking of the comment that it is too democratic, but really it's more like the communists with their committees. You know committees never decide anything and what we really want is a dictator but a benevolent one, that we vote in every three years or something because that is how practical democracies work. Any democracy which works like the team principals' meetings will be doomed to failure.

Q: The situation with qualifying seems to be pretty fundamental to the show, and also the tyre situation is over-ridden by an important factor in your designing your cars. But where do you believe we stand on qualifying?

Pat Symonds: Well, you are right, and this was the point I was making earlier that it's all very well saying let's get the technical regulations sorted and then we can get on and design our cars but that is not actually the case. The sporting regulations will always have an influence on car design and very specifically, the qualifying regulations will and, being even more specific, whether or not you start the race with the fuel you qualified with. It really has a fundamental bearing on how you approach the strategy of the race and, hence, the simple design parameter of how big you want your fuel tank. So it is quite possible and I don't want to harp back to this but it is a thing we will agree on Sunday what the technical regulations are, but the sporting regulations, which don't have a body like the Technical Working Group to arbitrate them, the arguments could go on for many months yet and they can leave a problem with car design.

Tony Purnell: I have got strong opinions on this one because people say that the present qualifying is boring. But I think very strongly we should be entertaining people and I threw out a suggestion some months ago that some people have picked up on. In fact one of the magazines has a 'Fax Max' campaign, because Max Mosley said 'maybe we should start asking the public their suggestions for improving the sport.' I think that qualifying, given the problems of a wider reform, is a big opportunity, so I have thrown up this idea of having little mini races to entertain people on the Fridays and the Saturdays and to put a little more uncertainty on the Sunday race and very much to make sure that the best racing driver wins at the end of the year. And that will be Michael whatever qualifying is dreamt up, but I would like to see something radical, which is why I have suggested the two mini races that the magazine has written up. I certainly think that because the rules are tending more and more now to processional races, we have to do something to jazz it up.

Eddie Jordan: I just harp on the same thing I did. This particular year the coverage we receive has been vital. It is not everyone's best choice. I'm sure there are other options and Tony, I am not sure why F1 Racing (magazine) is so keen on it because they have gone very strong on it editorially, but actually it's very exciting. It could be a brilliant concept. But leaving that to one side, because it's a matter of opinion, but I would support some things like that. However, it is vital. We, as the teams not in the firing line to win or to be podium placed teams at the moment, have only one source of coverage and that is the qualifying and I think the big teams know that and they are helping us in that matter. But where you get a compromise between fulfilling that absolute crucial commercial need and offsetting it and creating a good, viable entertaining qualifying, is always going to be difficult.

Pat Symonds: I would just like to comment on Tony's proposal really. Reading the editorial of that magazine, there are a couple of quotes in there that I find interesting. One is 'overtaking action is guaranteed'. Well, I think that is a very unsubstantiated statement. There is another quote, supposedly from Max Mosley where he says 'there's no doubt the first ten laps are always thrilling.' I don't think that's always been the case. I am not against the proposal and I'm certainly not against change. I think a radical shake-up is a good thing. But I think the premise that a ten lap race will lead to overtaking is a mistaken one. I am sure all you journalists read our previews and you'll know what our views are on overtaking and how difficult it is. And I think that when you look at history of this circuit when Boutsen won many years ago, you think of Coulthard and Bernoldi, was it, at Monaco? There is no guarantee that people will overtake in a ten lap race any more than in a seventy lap race. I think there are a few basic principals of qualifying that we should adhere to. I think that the principal that we introduced at the beginning of last year that you race what you qualify in is a very good one. I think that's excellent. The idea that we had of qualifying cars, qualifying tyres all these sort of things, were inherently wrong. The other thing is that I think it is very important that we don't spoil the main attraction for the sake of the sideshow. Yes, qualifying is important, but the race is much more important. So let's make sure we don't have a boring race as a result of a poor qualifying procedure. I do like the idea of a little bit of chaos and I think that the single-lap qualifying has brought that in. I use the word chaos advisedly. But I don't like things to be too contrived. I don't think that that is what Formula One needs. I think a ballot is too contrived, I think success ballast is too contrived, but a little bit of natural chaos is not a bad thing. Finally, I think the Fax Max campaign is a step in the right direction. I've always advocated that if we want to know what to do, we should be asking the public, but it is slightly misguided. We should not be asking race fans who are going to watch qualifying anyway. I think I've probably said this in one these meetings before, but what we should do is go out on a Saturday afternoon while qualifying is on and ask the people in the street, in the shopping centres 'why aren't you watching qualifying, what is wrong with it? Why aren't you watching racing?' Those are the people whose opinion we need. The die-hard enthusiast is going to watch it, whatever. We want to get new people in, not just make it better for those who are watching.

Q: Ross, I noticed something bizarre during the last German Grand Prix. We all know that the Ferrari mechanics are very efficient and that the Ferrari engine is probably very good on fuel consumption but adding up the pit stop times of Michael I did notice that he was slower than virtually every other driver on three stop strategies and especially, he was 6.4 seconds slower than Button and 6.2 seconds slower than Alonso, stopping three times at approximately at the same time. It is an enormous amount of time. How would you explain this?

Ross Brawn: I think you need to study how the times have been generated. Because the FIA time is the time from when the car enters the pit lane to the time it leaves. And I think on two occasions we had to hold the car because of traffic in the pit lane, so the car was stuck there with cars coming down the pit lane and we couldn't release the car into the pit lane because there was traffic. So it doesn't actually reflect the time of the proper pit stop. I think that if you look at the televised coverage and use a stopwatch from the time we started the pit stop to the time we actually finished the pit stop you will see that the time is much more sensible. We do an analysis ourselves after each race and a large part of that was because of Michael twice getting held up in the pit lane because of traffic.

Q: I was interested in the opinions of Tony, Pat and Eddie on the Fax Max campaign and Tony's qualifying proposal. I would just like to have the views of Ross and Willy and Paul if possible?

Ross Brawn: I think that what's interesting about the whole qualifying situation is that there's lots of really exciting ideas. Tony's is an exciting idea, several people have come to me with an interesting idea. One is to start with all the cars, and after 15 minutes, the slowest five get taken out, and after another 15 minutes the next slowest five get taken out and it keeps going until five are left and you have then got one hour of cars running around trying to qualify. There are lots of really good ideas. I think that what is seriously lacking in our sport is a proper mechanism to assess those ideas on a proper basis to decide what is viable. Because we all have different opinions and as Tony mentioned earlier, the system we have of unanimous agreement or less than 80 per cent majority doesn't help to develop new ideas because we all have vested interests in what we want to see. And it would seem to be that the best approach would be to try and set up a mechanism, a working group -- a couple of people from the media, a couple of engineers, a couple of team principals -- and everybody unanimously accept that the conclusions of the working group are what we are going to have for qualifying. And then maybe even have one race a year where we can try all the new systems to see whether it works, because the problem is we commit, and like Pat said, we commit, we have to design the cars, we get frustrated because the car we designed doesn't suit the qualifying system, so we won't agree with it. Maybe one race a year could be a race which is set to one side to try these experiment approaches. The Race of Champions used to be ideal -- it was a non-points scoring Formula One race where it would have been an ideal environment to experiment new approaches and see if they work. I don't really want to support or condone Tony's proposal. I think it's very interesting, but all we should really have is a proper mechanism to go out there and find out whether it is better than what we have now.

Willy Rampf: I think overall it is quite good to think on quite a radical solution or a radical change to the qualifying, so overall I think it's quite good that somebody brought it up and said, OK, let's think about a completely different qualifying format. The problem I see with this proposal is it will be more costly because it will lead to qualifying cars and qualifying components again if we have short races. And I don't know how the public would react if we have a spectacular short race on Friday and one on Saturday. I don't know if they are still interested to watch a long race on Sunday. Maybe the interest would go down. I think that if we change the qualifying format then it has to be well thought out so that we don't have to correct it or change it during the season, because I think that this could be even more confusing for the problem and for the spectators.

Paul Stoddart: We've had three different qualifying formats in the last three years, we've almost had four. Undoubtedly, whatever happens, we owe it to the people that actually are watching this sport and not just the ones that come to the tracks but the 300-odd million that watch us across the course of a weekend, to actually get it right. One of the things that Ross said is absolutely right -- while unanimity exists, we will not agree on what to do. And all we're doing is chopping and changing. Tony's proposal is incredibly exciting and he has my total support but it would get knocked down by somebody else. And until we get out of this existing Concorde Agreement, get out of unanimity on everything, or all but... everything that matters and get into majority or super majority voting, we're going to have this situation prevail, however sad it is. From my own viewpoint, I thought last year's qualifying was quite good. We didn't have all the complaints, we didn't have all the arguments, we had something for Fridays, it meant something. It produced a couple of interesting results. I benefited from one of them in France. But we had some interesting grids. We still saw the greatest driver in the greatest car win the championship. Nothing's going to change that. Do you want to have a little bit of fun and go with the Tony/F1 Racing proposal? Yeah, it would be good, but you have put in the safeguards. Qualifying cars would find their way back in, for sure. As soon as we invent rules the teams with money find ways to break the rule... not break the rules, comply with the rules in a more beneficial way.

Tony Purnell: I think that Ross is absolutely right, that in an ideal system, we would have working groups and a nicely constructed system. Unfortunately, pragmatically, we don't have any of that. There is no real promoter element in the rules -- make it more exciting, make it more entertaining -- so I guess this going through the media and appealing to the public is a pragmatic way of just trying to improve the entertainment. I would strongly argue that if you ask people in the shopping centres or in the banks on Fridays or Saturdays which they would prefer, a mini race or a single lap qualifying or an hour running around, it would be overwhelming. I suppose, when you can't see how to do things or things aren't happening through the system you break out of the system to try to get something done. So I would appeal to people who would like to see the sport change a bit to Fax Max and make their opinion heard.

Ross Brawn: I think the big danger is do they understand what they're getting and do we understand what we're going to get, because Pat's explained that maybe there is no overtaking, maybe it is a ten-lap procession. If you said to me there is two ten lap races that we our qualifying position depends on, I would try and build a car like theirs (Renault's) with fantastic start performance because the start would be everything and then everyone would follow every other car around. He (Symonds) is the one who should be saying that that would be a really great system because he'll gain. We would all have to build cars like he's built to get the start performance because the starts will become far more crucial. It's OK saying 'let's get the public to vote.' I don't think the public are always the best judges of how this will eventually evolve into a system. I've heard it said, 'let's get rid of traction control, it will be far more interesting, the racing will be far more interesting, we'll get more overtaking.' Well, it is completely foundless. If we get rid of traction control, hardly anything will change. We got rid of launch control because everyone said we wanted more exciting starts. It hasn't changed a thing. So I respect the public's opinion but they need to understand what they're actually voting for. It seems very simple -- let's have two ten lap races -- but Formula One would evolve into a different form which would then perhaps negate the excitement of a ten lap race, so we really need to understand what step two, step three, step four is going to be.

Tony Purnell: I certainly agree with Pat that the Parc Fermé has improved life for people in Formula One and we shouldn't lose the benefits that have evolved and of course, the detail has to be worked out by the experts.

Q: Ross, last year's Hungarian Grand Prix was a tough one for Ferrari and since then Ferrari won everything, almost, except Monaco. So, to what extent was that race a booster for Ferrari?

Ross Brawn: I think, like everyone in Formula One, we are very competitive so any loss or any poor performance is an incentive to do better and I think you see it consistently, certainly amongst the teams that have the resources, that when they doing badly they work even harder and they put even more effort into trying to resolve their situation. You've seen it with McLaren this year and for sure we were very disappointed with our performance in Hungary last year. I remember when I had to radio Michael and say 'pull over because Alonso's lapping you'. He said 'you're kidding aren't you?' It was a rare event for him! The whole year was a big incentive for us because of the nature of the people involved and Hungary was certainly a big disappointment. When you have those disappointing races they stick with you and we've been doing a lot of work this year with a view to making sure Hungary is more competitive this year. I think we will be more competitive. I think we have got a much better car and we've got much better tyres. We've got a new specification of tyre here which seems to be working very well. Hungary is difficult because the track evolves a lot over the weekend so even what we're seeing today may not be a good barometer of what we're going to see on Sunday. But I know on Friday last year we were already in trouble so at least we're not at that stage, so it's a bit more encouraging.

Q: Looking at the viewing figures that we have for this year, they're actually not that bad at all. They're actually on the same level as in previous years. Is all this talk about changing absolutely necessary or is it all about battling egos among the people who are making decisions?

Pat Symonds: I think the viewing figures are quite interesting, because I think they are up about five percent overall. What is particularly interesting is that they are up a hell of a lot in Italy and Germany -- now there's a surprise - and they are down in Finland and they are down in Holland -- also what a surprise. Maybe that tells us more than what we're talking about.

Ross Brawn: I think safety is an issue, genuinely. I think we do have a safety issue and harping on again about the mechanism we have, the working group has known in reality that we would have to do something for a couple of years now and we've simply not been able to find a solution amongst ourselves. Most of the time we can, but on this particular issue it had become very difficult to find an ideal solution and really, this year, we had to knuckle down and find a solution and most of what's been proposed to slow the cars down has come from the Working Group. Maybe we should have done that a little bit sooner but I think safety is a concern. The cars will still be very, very quick but I think all the track safety standards, we just reached a limit of them over a period of time and we have to reset the point, go back and start again.

Tony Purnell: I don't think the qualifying figures are so good. I think they are dramatically worse, so that's a side that does need a change. And the other thing is the general health of the sport needs strong teams throughout. We have seen nothing in the way of new teams come in and we've seen the divide between the rich and the poor grow ever bigger, so that it's almost become like an aristocratic sport where Ferrari are the emperors, the next level down are the ministers of McLaren and BMW, and then...

Paul Stoddart: Some of the beggars.

Eddie Jordan: Steady Tony, be careful.

Tony Purnell: I will say no more!

Eddie Jordan: If I could just move slightly away from that subject and answer it in the same way, I cannot believe that if we've seen the provisional races for next year, 19, I think we need to look at it altogether because if we are going to do 19 races we soon have to think about a two day race weekend and maybe the Friday is a testing day or something separately, and maybe combine it one. But we will all kill ourselves because the next year it will be 20 and 21, so we have to find a solution. It's just finding it difficult. On your question more specifically, I don't care - it is a little bit unfair. Look, actually, the person who suffers most is Michael because everybody on the street, your taxi drivers to your painters, whoever, they are inclined to think our sport is boring at the moment and the problem is people don't realise what a great, great sportsman, the greatest driver of our time, and he has made everyone else relatively stupid because he has just been so good. That's not anyone's problem, it's just the fact is that the perception is that our business is boring and hence we have to change, change, change. And I partly agree with you. The problem is that if you were to take Michael away you have got 10 absolutely cracking drivers who could get on and have a great race. It's not Michael's fault and I don't think we should be knee-jerking just to find excuses to try to make something that will continue to be like it is, because Ferrari aren't going to drop the ball, are they? They're going to go on and get better. We had just better sit down and pray that Michael retires sooner rather than later!

Willy Rampf: I think overall it's the right decision to make some changes specifically to improve the safety of the cars because the cars are getting quicker and quicker in top speed and in lap time. And I think it's also the right time to make changes to the technical regulations. And as I mentioned before, we are in favour of changes to technical regulations if they come early enough, because we see a good opportunity for us and I think it's up to us, the Technical Working Group, to come up with a proposal, or to define a proposal that the cars and the races are still interesting.

Paul Stoddart: Your question centred around that the egos and attitudes of people that stop this change or rather cause this if I've got it right. I think the Technical Working Group are perfectly competent and left to their own devices would have come up with a decision a long time ago to sort this out. Where it all falls apart is when it goes to the next level. There are too many different agendas, too many differences of opinions and the more you have unanimity in the team principals' position, you are not letting the Technical Working Group do their job. They are more than capable of putting this out. It could have been done months ago.

-fia-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Jordan , Ross Brawn , Paul Stoddart
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Jordan