With the first Grand Prix in Melbourne approaching fast the team website asked Michiel Mol (Director of F1 activities) for his thoughts on how Spyker's preparations are going for this season.
Q: The deal to take over MF1 Racing was first announced around six months ago. How much have you been able to do since then?
Michiel Mol: When we announced the deal we had signed a contract, but closing it was only on 1 November so officially we couldn't do much, and only then did our work really start. Obviously before that we started to select a few key people, and from 1 November things went really fast. It's a new experience for me, but suddenly the world is looking over your shoulders at everything you do! If you use it the right way, that is actually a very good thing.
I think we've moved from a bit of a greyish feeling with the team to being younger and more modern and open-minded. I think that's one of the best things we have done. So that went better than I expected. Getting our sponsors and partners in, getting the drivers, getting the right people, getting the car done, I would say it's all according to plan. And the plan was pretty ambitious.
Q: Is everything going in the right direction now?
MM: It's always difficult to really tell, but I think we have the momentum now. We have turned a downward spiral into an upward one. We got Ferrari, we got Mike Gascoyne, and we've got two great young drivers. We're taking the right steps, and now we have to deliver. That will take time.
I think we can score some points this year, especially after mid-season, when the B-spec car will arrive. I think from that moment onwards we hope to become serious midfield contenders. And that's definitely the target for next year -- that's when you can really start racing, and the fun starts! We want to move from there slowly towards the top.
Q: Will the team be expanding in the coming months?
MM: It's not our goal to have the largest staff of all the teams, but it is our goal to have the best. We already have a great team, a good combination of young talent and experience. It will grow, but we're not here to grow the number of people, we're here to win races. But if it takes more people, we'll get them.
Q: Do you think that rule changes like the engine freeze and control tyres will really give you a chance to close the gap?
MM: That was one of the key reasons to get interested and push for a deal last year. I think the regulation changes will close the gap between the big teams and the smaller ones. I think we've seen that already, and in years to come there will be more changes that are in favour of the smaller teams. It will be more competitive and more fun, and therefore more people will watch. So a lot of good things will come together for us.
Q: Are you happy with the level of sponsorship that you have already attracted?
MM: We are still talking to a number of potential big sponsors but we've covered the budget for this year. So in terms of our business plan, we're safe. We can do all the changes, all the growth, all the things we want, but of course if we can get extra backing, we can just move faster! To get a title sponsor on board is our plan for 2008.
Q: So this year the priority is to show that everything is on track?
MM: We have to show we're serious, we have to show we're improving, and that we're going in the right direction. If there is a nice opportunity to do something special we must be professional enough to take that opportunity. All over the world and in Holland as well you can clearly see that the enthusiasm for F1 is growing wildly.
With companies like ING and AT&T getting into the sport, it once again shows that this is a serious business. Big multinationals do not get in just for the fun. I think that's very good for us. We are more or less the only team left without a title sponsor, so I hope we can get into a situation where we can make maximum use of that.
Q: What sort of feedback are you getting from Spyker customers about the F1 involvement?
MM: The feedback is already amazing. Although we only had our name on the MF1 car for three races the recognition of the brand Spyker has increased all over the world already. But I think you ain't seen nothing yet! If we race for a year with a proper Spyker like we have now, our global brand name will be huge. And that will of course help us to sell cars.
Q: Will we see Spyker road cars in the VIP car park at the races?
MM: There's always a special car park for the drivers, where the Ferrari guys park their Maseratis and so on. So of course our boys need to arrive in a Spyker!
Q: Are you coming to all the races, or are you busy with other commitments?
MM: There are other things that I'm doing, but I've tried to minimise those as much as possible. I think I need to spend about half a day a week on my former business, Lost Boys, and that's about it. So I have booked flights and hotels at all 17 races, and I'm looking forward to it very, very much!
Q: Is the first race in Australia is going to be a big day for you?
MM: Of course! That's the fun thing, we're having a lot of big days. The launch in February was a big day, but definitely in Australia we will have three big days -- the first time driving around on Friday, the first qualifying session, and of course the first race. I'll be nervous then!