Part 1 of 6
The text which follows is an unedited and rough transcript of informal exchanges during lunches hosted by Max Mosley for the representatives of the British media, in London on 7 and 8 February.
Question: Is the governing body trying to keep down costs in Formula One in any way?
Mosley: I think there are things that could be done which would reduce the costs without reducing the spectacle. You can never stop people spending money, but I think there are savings to be made and we are talking to the teams about various measures. For example, reducing the number of engines they use, having a rule about the number of engines you can use.
Question: Would that also increase the spectacle. For instance if Schumacher blew his engine and finishes his supply…
Mosley:… . And has, for example, to start at the back of the grid, or halfway down the grid. Absolutely. I think everybody feels this is a sensible way to go, and everybody knows that an engine could last all weekend if you ran it slower. But it's not quite that simple, because if you know that an engine has to do, let's say, 800 kilometres rather than 350, although you could make today's engines do 800 kilometres, you need to… if you built an engine specifically to do 800 kilometres it would not be the same as an engine that has been built to do 350 but is being made to do 800 by running it slower. To optimise would take them some time, but that's not necessarily an argument against doing it quickly.
Question: But if you just limited it to three engines, wouldn't that save costs enormously.
Mosley: Yes, but I think a lot of teams…they all have different arrangements. Some teams probably only use two engines per weekend; others use more. Some people use qualifying engines in that they run the engine faster and they run it hotter, and they only run it for a short distance. So probably the fairest thing to do is to have a fairly radical change so it's the same for everybody, but it's something we need to negotiate… we are actually talking about it to the teams.
Question: How has it gone down with the teams?
Mosley: Most of them are in favour. In fact the only argument has been about when, not if. I don't think there's much debate about the if.
Question: So that would be just one engine for the weekend, would it?
Mosley: Ultimately, yes.
Question: Surely people can relate to that easier as well, because their engine lasts….
Mosley: Exactly. If you tell the average person watching that they change the engine before qualifying, and they change it again after qualifying before the race, he would be astonished. It brings nothing. As long as the rules are the same for everybody, it's actually fairer. All you do is save a lot of money.
Question: Is there a limit at the moment?
Mosley: None at all. You can change them as often as you like.
Question: It would be one engine per car per weekend?
Mosley: And then using the spare car would have to count as using an engine.
Question: So if Schumacher's engine blew in practice on Friday, (then indistinguishable)
Mosley: No, then he puts in another engine and has to start at the back of the grid.
Question: So one engine…
Mosley: One engine per car and if you are forced… Obviously if it blows up in the race, that's the end of it anyway. If it blows up before the race, you can change it for the race, but you have to start from, let's say, the back of the grid. That's what's being talked about at the moment. Or ten places back.
Question: So it's a penalty of some sort.
Mosley: Big penalty, yes.
Question: So what did you say about the spare car Max?
Mosley: If you use the spare car, that would have to count as using an engine, using a second engine.
Question: What if say, there's an incident at the first corner of the race, and they go back to take…
Mosley: No, that would be alright. Once you're into the race, that would be OK. No, you've got to have a rule to stop them systematically….
Question: That could jumble up the grid…
Mosley: Well, every now and then you would get a leader of the championship forced to start either half way down or at the back of the grid, and every time that's happened, very rarely in the last few years, because of rain or something, it has improved the race enormously.
Question: What's the earliest date when you can introduce the engine restriction ruling?
Mosley: 2003, because it's a sporting regulation, so we can bring it in 2003 provided it's voted through before the 31st of October. I think there's a strong body of opinion within the teams in favour of doing something and it remains to be seen whether we can actually get it through all the instances.
The Formula One Commission has to pass it which means getting 18 votes out of 26 and the teams have got 12 votes, the organizers and promoters have got eight votes and then there's a few others like us.
Question: What about the manufacturers? Are they sympathetic to this?
Mosley: Yes, and no. They all like the idea because it will save them money, but there is a reluctance to do it too quickly, because they've just developed whatever it is, and they don't want to have all the cards thrown up in the air. But on the other hand there is an argument for doing it fairly quickly. There's no doubt that money is going to be tighter.
Question: But we've gone through recessions before, haven't we?
Mosley: Yes, there are a lot of economies that a team can make before it actually packs up.
Question: Are there any other teams having real problems?
Mosley: I think yes is the answer. I think a lot of them are having great difficulty putting together the sort of budge they need to be reasonably competitive. But that's always been the case because unless you've got the same budget as whichever is the richest team, you haven't got enough money.
Question: Is there anyone close to getting into the situation Prost did?
Mosley: Not that I know of. No, but then when you are in that situation, you tend to keep it very quiet, because the creditors start pressing.
Question: Isn't there a danger in a limitation like this that you're effectively reducing Formula One, you're bringing it down to the common denominator and bringing everybody down to the level of Tom Walkinshaw and Eddie Jordan, rather than making them come up to the level of Ferrari and McLaren and Williams?
Mosley: Well, first of all I think that's only true financially, it's not true in any other respect, and in a way it's more of a challenge to build an engine for 800 kilometers than for 350. Or a more interesting challenge, or a more relevant challenge. The thing is that the top teams will still be the top teams but everybody's costs, whether they are at the front or the back, will go down and for the people at the back, that's actually very important.
Question: That's very relevant for the road car market too, isn't it?
Mosley: I don't know enough about engines in detail, but in principle, it must be more relevant to build something that does 800 kms than something that does 300 kms. Ultimately, I think we should get rid of a lot of the exotic materials. We should try not to use materials which would never ever be used in a road car. An example that we have got rid of is aluminium beryllium. The chance of using that in a road car was just about nil. What has happened is that the whole of the American space and defence programme has been opened up. Companies have made these exotic materials for the American defence industry and are now offering them on the open market so they go round the Formula One teams offering these magic materials. Because they are the only people making it, whatever it costs to actually manufacture, they can charge more or less what they like because they do the job. Something like aluminium beryllium is just so much better than any available material that you would probably never use it in a road car. It's also toxic to work on.
Question: Surely that line of argument is that if somebody comes across an exotic material that is more enduring and is better than something else but then spends a fortune trying to find that and using it but will have no road application, no application for cars, because it's too expensive. You would have a million pound Ford Fiesta.
Mosley: Yes, well that is the argument against it. The purists would say that you should have the freedom to do that. We can't do that (banning materials) without the teams all agreeing. We can't ban titanium or whatever unless everybody agrees.
Question: Don't you think you will have Mario Illien or Paolo Martinelli locking themselves away for six months to develop some phenomenally high powered engine that will last for 800 kilometers and the actual expenditure that they have piled into that development are just the figures…
Mosley That's undoubtedly true as far as development is concerned but the resulting extremely expensive engine, if you are only allowed to use one per weekend, will not be as expensive as if you are allowed to use two, or three or four. And they are doing that already. Whatever it takes, they are prepared to do, because the honour of whoever it is, Mercedes, BMW or Ferrari, is at stake. But if you limit the number, then it doesn't matter what they do, they can't spend as much money as if they've got a smaller number of engines.
Question: Do you think it's the FIA's responsibility to limit the amount of money if the teams are prepared to spend it?
Mosley: To some extent we should not interfere in anything unless the sport itself is threatened, but when it gets to the stage where it becomes threatening to the sport, then I think we do because otherwise we risk having no Formula One, and if we don't do it, who is going to? The small teams– everybody says, well of course they want that– and the big teams want to defend what they've got. If you're the referee or the neutral arbiter, arguably it's your duty then to try and solve the problem. But again, we can only do it if the majority of the teams are in favour.
Question: Is there any interest in the twelfth place on the grid (the twelfth place in the paddock)?
Mosley: A lot of people have made inquiries. But there are only two possibilities. One is that somebody goes along to the liquidator, acquires whatever Prost is, and then comes to us and says‘ I satisfy all the conditions, I've got an entry, I'm going to be in Australia.' And provided they really did satisfy all the conditions in the various agreements, there is an entry, he's paid the fee and he could turn up in Australia. That's possibility number one. Possibility number two is that Prost disappears in which case no one will fill that place this year and then it will be open to a new organization to enter the championship in 2003. If they want to do that, they've got to put up $48 million with their entry, which is what keeps people serious. You know that if somebody sends you a cheque for 48 mil they are serious. And then of course, as you know, we then give it them back in 12 monthly installments starting with their first race. For example, Toyota will start to get their money back, as of Australia, with interest. In fact what we've done, in their case, we've got a bank guarantee which they pay for, so if they don't turn up we cash it. They haven't actually stumped up the cash. If we were actually given the 48 mil, it would just sit on account, the interest would accumulate and we would give it them back in 12 installments.
Question: Would the team have to be called Prost?
Mosley: If they want to be in Australia? There's a complicated rule. They can change the team name anyway. It could be called Mosley Racing, but the chassis name can be named with the consent of the FIA which we wouldn't unreasonably withhold, but only every five years. Now the chassis name changed from Ligier to Prost, which is a point, but when the five years is up, I don't know. It's probably just up. So then they can also change the chassis name, so strictly speaking, I can pitch up, it could be March Engineering Limited and it could be a March. That's a thought, isn't it!?
Question: But there's actually no chance of anybody pitching up in Australia, is there?
Mosley: I wouldn't go that far. If somebody really wanted to.
Question: Couldn't Craig Pollock…
Mosley: If he'd got the money. He wouldn't need the 48 mil but he would have to satisfy the liquidator. You could probably do a deal with the liquidator because I'm sure he would rather take some of the money than none of it, but whoever it is would have to get going. There's not a lot of time for that but it could happen.