Following is the transcript of an interview with the President of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Max Mosley regarding Formula One rules changes for the 2003 season, which starts at the Foster's Australian Grand Prix in ...
Following is the transcript of an interview with the President of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Max Mosley regarding Formula One rules changes for the 2003 season, which starts at the Foster's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 6-9. Excerpts of the interviews were shown in Melbourne today at the launch of the 2003 Foster's Australian Grand Prix.
Q: Max, I guess by now everybody has read about the new regulations for 2003 but what are they really going to mean to the race fan, to the TV viewer, at Melbourne in March 2003?
A: First of all it's going to be the first race so it's going to be very interesting to see how they work. Secondly, the order of running on Friday, where the leader of the previous year's championship goes out first, so it will be Michael Schumacher followed by Barrichello and so on, that's going to be interesting because they're going to go out on a relatively green track and have to do a time which will be very important for them on the Saturday, so all this is new territory and I think even over here (Europe) people are going to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning to see exactly how it pans out.
Q: How did this idea come about because it's really a little bit similar to Indianapolis (500), but in many ways quite different and completely new for Formula One?
A: It came, actually, from one of the team engineers. And it is an original idea, because we were looking for something to make Friday valid and interesting where we would know that we were getting people doing real times and not just setting the car up. On the other hand, the idea of aggregating the times from Friday and Saturday somehow didn't really appeal, it's much more exciting to sit there with a real time going on, so this rather ingenious idea came up using Friday to determine the order of running on Saturday, because obviously everybody will want to be the last one to go on Saturday, with the added interest of maybe you get a shower of rain halfway through one of the sessions which throws everything up in the air.
Q: I suppose one of the biggest successes of all this is to get all the teams to actually agree. For an FIA president, that's quite a thing.
A: I think we were quite lucky there. On the other hand, I must say from the team's point of view I think they all recognise that certain elements of the sporting contest needed to be perhaps freshened up a bit. At the same time we didn't want to do so much that we changed the nature of the Grand Prix, and I think the compromise has been quite good.
Q: Do you think it's going to shuffle up the grid around a little bit?
A: Every now and then, because of course in the end if you want to see overtaking and close racing, which some people say they do, then it's no good spending two days carefully discovering which is the fastest car, putting him at the front and expecting somebody to overtake him, he's the fastest car. Normally he's going to drive away. What this will do is increase the chance that the fastest driver won't necessarily be at the front of the grid because there are so many different things can happen not least, of course, a mistake by the driver or a drop of rain, all sorts of things. So I think it will shuffle up the grid, but not to the degree where you say well you've changed the character of Formula One.
Q: Another element, particularly Friday, this special test session, if these three teams do sign up to it and don't do so much testing we are going to see test drivers in there. Are we going to see all the regular drivers as well? How is it going to work?
A: It's going to be very interesting to see who chooses what because if you were a front-running team at the beginning you would probably say to yourself I prefer to have unlimited testing, but then on reflection you might feel that the advantages to be gained from being able to test at every single Grand Prix circuit, something nobody has been able to do ever before, and have your test driver running there, and run the new components, might - in conjunction with 10 days of completely free testing, plus all sorts of simulation technology - might just outweigh the current practice of going around and around and round on all sorts of circuits. So we don't know who will sign up for it, nor do we know how big the effect will be; it's actually going to be very interesting to see. My suspicion is that more will sign up for it than currently think they will, on reflection, and that the benefits will be greater than perhaps are at first realised.
Q: One of the benefits would be plenty of good news stories as well, but you are going to allow a different test driver and let, say, Jordan run a different national guy at each race meeting, or how will it work?
A: That's the idea. The idea is it's private testing, so you do what you like provided the safety precautions and the normal safety rules are applied. You can really more or less do as you like, and you will probably find drivers from a certain country running and having a go and a really interesting mix.
Q: And they will all be mixed in with Michael Schumacher and all the other top names, presumably.
A: If Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, decided they wanted to take up this option, but if they did, yes, is the answer.
Q: Moving on another aspect of the new regulations - tyres - you've opened it up a bit, there has been suggestions that there was a special relationship between Bridgestone and Ferrari and that's helped them win this title so easily. This new rule opens that up.
A: I think undoubtedly is a special relationship between Bridgestone and Ferrari because that's what you would expect. Ferrari are their top team, and I think this is a tremendous exchange of information. The problem up to now has been Bridgestone could make a special tyre for Ferrari, or even just for Michael Schumacher if they wanted to, the other tyre company, Michelin, supplying both McLaren and Williams but being allowed only two tyres, two types of tyre at each race, had to make a compromise. Now they no longer have to make a compromise because they can have two types of tyre for each team, so you might well see a big reduction in the gap between McLaren and Williams on the one side and Ferrari on the other. But, of course, the tyres are only one factor - but a very important factor.
Q: Another aspect of the new rules, team orders. You had to act, you really did, but it's a tricky one to police.
A: Well, it's very tricky but I suppose you start off from the point that if the public can see it so can the stewards, so you are not going to get another Austria (arranged finish in 2002 Austrian Grand Prix) and then really we could have in one sense have gone after Ferrari over Austria because we have an article in the Regulations which says you mustn't interfere with the competition, and that clearly does, but their defence would have been, 'Well people have been doing this for the last 80 years, it's absolutely standard - Fangio and Moss and so on and so on'. Now we've got a specific rule so you can't do it. You may get a case where you are pretty sure they've done it, but you haven't got concrete proof. Well, that's something that happens in everyday life; what would then occur is the race director would bring the matter to the attention of the stewards, the stewards would hear everybody concerned, and in particular the team, and they might draw the inference from all the circumstances that, yes, there was team orders and the team did something they shouldn't.
Q: Fans, of course, of the Australian Grand Prix remember in 1998, that's perhaps where it started really seriously, with the David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen situation.
A: Yes, I think that reminded people that team orders do exist, or team arrangements exist, and can be used from time to time and of course it upset people who were gambling without taking that into account, which one can fully understand. Well, now everybody knows where they are. If it happens, the team can be penalised.
Q: Points for the top eight now. It's been the top six for as long as I can remember and now only two points between first and second. That should open things up. We look back through the record books and find we would have two different world champions over the last 15 years.
A: Well, it is. It's a controversial thing because back in the beginning of the 90s we moved from the classic 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 to 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 with the specific purpose of making a win more valuable than a second, increasing the margin. The argument being that someone who wins a lot of Grands Prix should also win the championship. Although that is still a factor, the feeling is that this is outweighed by the need to keep the teams closer together on the one side, and to give more people points - because you can get some very, very competitive cars and very competitive teams running at seventh, eighth, ninth places - so all these things are a balance and all one can do is try to fit the system best to the circumstances you've got. I think it's probably the right thing to do now because there is also huge pressure on all the drivers now to win races. You've got Michael setting out to win races at the end of the season when he had no need to win; he could have just cruised around.
Q: All these decisions have been taken by the Formula One Commission. Can you just explain who sits on it, what it actually is?
A: Absolutely. The Formula One Commission has effectively 12 teams, or the teams even if there are fewer than 12 of them have 12 votes. Then you have eight promoters - you have four from inside Europe, four from outside Europe. One of the ones from outside Europe is Ron Walker, who comes all the way from Australia - probably the worst journey of anyone. Then you have two sponsors representatives, you have a representative from the engine manufacturers, another one from the tyre manufacturers. You have the commercial rights holder, that's Bernie, and you have me (representing the FIA), and that adds up to 26. If you want to get a motion passed, you have to have at least 18 votes, so it's quite a conservative body; you've got to have a big chunk of votes before you can get anything through. But no one group can vote through on its own but both the promoters and the teams could block something if they really needed to.
Q: A lot has been said recently of the state of Formula One. We've heard television audiences have dropped in certain countries. What's your take on all this?
A: Well, I think there are a lot of factors that play there. First of all, there is more competition for television anyway, there's a greater choice. If you like watching sport, the amount of sport available now with satellite television and so on is enormous. Secondly, there is no doubt that it became fairly obvious quite early in the season in 2002 that Michael Schumacher would win and that the Ferrari was the dominant car, whereas in previous years - I think the previous seven years, five of them the championship had gone right down to the last race and really nobody was able to say who would win. So there is a tendency there on Sunday afternoon to say: should we go to the beach or should we watch Formula One, and maybe you'd say, 'Well, Schumacher is on pole, or he is on the front row, they're going to win'. Now, you can't fight against that and the only people that can really put that right are Williams, McLaren, Renault, Jaguar, etcetera. They have got to do a better job versus Ferrari. We can't ourselves help that, but I think myself that it's got all the makings of a very interesting season next season, but nobody can be sure.
Q: The natural order of things in Formula One is that you don't stay at the top more than three or four years and a one per cent improvement might suddenly put Williams or McLaren or whoever right back at the front.
A: This is absolutely true. The positions on the grid now, the times on the grids, are such that very few tenths of a second can move you a large number of places much more than ever in the past, it's more competitive than it has ever been, so you are absolutely right and usually when a team gets to be this dominant somebody comes along and makes life difficult for them. Not wishing any harm to Ferrari, but it would be nice if somebody did that next year, it would be nice if all three of the top teams were very close together.
Q: In four months time we have the Grand Prix in Australia. What shape will Formula One be in then? Will it have 20 cars, 22 cars, have you any idea? We hear this very day discussions between Audi and Arrows perhaps to take over Arrows, obviously it would be good to have that team still continuing?
A: It would be nice to have 22 cars. I think 20 is more probable as the number, not necessarily because they are Arrows, but because there are another team or two that are not 100 hundred per cent in good shape, but we are just keeping our fingers crossed that they will all be there in March.
Q: Do you see in two years, five years, more teams coming back and other manufactures joining in?
A: It's possible, but I think that depends on getting the costs down. I think we may see other manufacturers coming in, but I think that depends very much on getting the costs down. We've not been as successful as I would like us to have been at getting down the costs. The problem has been to get agreement among the teams. If it goes on getting more and more expensive, then I think manufacturers that are not currently in it will be inclined to say it's perhaps not as good value as they would like and maybe even one or two manufacturers that are in it might stop, so I'm keeping the pressure on all the time on the teams to do a large number of things which could be done which wouldn't interfere with the spectacle, or the sporting contest, at all but would make it significantly cheaper.
Q: You've made this raft of changes we have heard about but I understand in two or three weeks time you are meeting again and looking at changing the cars rather than the competition?
A: Well, the teams are going to have a look at that but I'm dubious as to what will emerge. Usually when the teams do this nothing much comes out of it because there is always someone - they need unanimous agreement, I should have said, if they are going to change rules now for next year - and there is always someone that's got a vested interest in some particular rule. Even, you could say, whoever has got the most money has a vested interest in not reducing costs.
Q: If the Concorde Agreement didn't exist and maybe it was more just a majority vote, what would you like to see? Would you like to see aerodynamics reduced, tyre widths - you obviously tried with grooved tyres to slow the cars down, but it didn't really work?
A: Well, the thing is that the grooved tyres did actually keep the lid on it. If you look at, for example, Magny Cours, 1992, it took them 10 years for someone to equal Nigel Mansell's pole position time from '92 so we kept a lid on it. The thing about the tyres is you know that works, you know that - take a silly example, if they're on bicycle tyres it doesn't matter if they got 10,000 horsepower, they won't get the power on the ground and they won't get around the corners. But in a perfect world we would have bigger tyres, more grip, more mechanical grip as they call it, but much less downforce. The problem is if we were to allow the tyres, the engineers would come forward with proposals for the downforce, and experience over the last literally 34 years has taught us that it doesn't work; they always get more back over the winter than they give up in the summer. So the only thing that would work is exactly you what say: if we didn't have a Concorde Agreement and the FIA could make the rules on aerodynamics. I would be quite happy to say to them, 'Have big tyres, have wide cars, all the grip you want,' because we will deal with the aerodynamics. But what you would have to do would be very dramatic and, of course, it would be visible too. Very visible on the cars. But in a perfect world that's what we would do.
Q: As FIA President, obviously motor racing is one of the things that takes most of your day but you are involved in other things and safety on the road. Are we still getting a filtration down of safety from Formula One into road cars?
A: Oh, yes; very much so. For example, when we did the 100-year deal with Bernie's company SLEC, we received more than US$300 million for that. That's all gone into a foundation, a charitable foundation, which spends most of its money on road safety; it spends also on motor racing safety, (but) most of it on road safety. This is having a big effect and, for example, NCAP that we are very involved with and of which I'm the chairman, the EU have put out a statement saying it's the most cost effective ?
Q: Max, as FIA President of course, you cover many other areas of motoring and safety, I know, is very important to you. Have we got things filtering down from motor racing?
A: Well, there are a certain number of things that go on steadily but, of course, the most important is perhaps the money we got when we did the 100-year deal and we put US$300 million into a charitable foundation, which spends its income on road safety, of course, on a worldwide basis - but it's having a big effect. Some of the other things we have been involved with like the Euro NCAP assessment program, the EU Commission have said that is the most cost-effective road safety campaign program they've got. We are also involved in all the intelligent transport systems research. There is an awful lot that can be done with electronics and modern intelligent transport systems for road safety and, again, the FIA is not only a member of the body that deals with that throughout Europe, which is called ERTICO, but I'm currently the chairman of ERTICO for a year or so, so really that's what takes most of the time and it's what takes also a great deal of Formula One's money - so it's rather satisfying to see that money which came from Formula One being used for that purpose.
Q: And finally, looking forward to March, a super race track at Melbourne and presumably you will be there, will you?
A: I'm hoping to be there and, yes, it is a super race track; they've made great improvements and also they've done a lot of work on safety and on the safety fences and protection and so on, that probably make it one of the best, if not the best, circuit from that point of view in the world. So we've got great hopes and I think we will probably see a really interesting race, which we are looking forward to.
Q: And the excitement of all these new rules.
A: Well, the excitement, yes. I hope they work as well as we think they will work and certainly a lot of us will be up watching with great interest in the UK, even those who don't actually go to Australia, but I think they will work and I think we will see some very interesting new factors coming into forming up the grid.
Q: Thank you very much for your time.