Senior team personnel - Robert Fernley (Force India), Mike Gascoyne (Lotus), Norbert Haug (Mercedes), Christian Horner (Red Bull), Franz Tost (Toro Rosso), Martin Whitmarsh (Mercedes).
Q: Robert, Paul di Resta seems to be doing a particularly good job with the team, I think you will agree. Tell us how you came to get him and how he is in the team. Of course, he came from a slightly strange background in DTM.
Norbert Haug: Strange?
Q: Well, shall we say ‘less normal’ background.
Robert Fernley: In 2009 we were talking between Norbert, Martin and myself and we all believed that Paul had been overlooked in the programme for Formula One. Together in 2009 we put a programme for him for 2010 where we all shared a little bit of responsibility to help him though and evaluate him. So, effectively Norbert was committed to help him - not to help him - but committed to him in DTM.
We wanted him to keep race sharp there. McLaren very kindly helped with a little more simulator time and obviously having done DTM for a year or two he needed to be weaned off sportscars and, of course, we provided the FP1 time to evaluate him, which is something that hadn’t been done before. We sort of broke ground there. There has been one of those stories about links to monies provided by Mercedes and things like that in order to help him come through and that is absolute nonsense. Paul is there entirely on merit. I think it is credit, to a degree, to Force India for finding and identifying him and a great help from our partners in bringing him through.
Q: Franz, in China we saw good performance from the drivers particularly in qualifying. Was that a slightly artificial result in comparison to what happened in the race as unfortunately they weren’t in the points in the race.
Franz Tost: They did a good qualifying. We started from positions seven and nine but then the start was not so good. After the first lap they came back in positions 10 and 13. Unfortunately Sebastien Buemi damaged his front wing. He got a part against the flap of the front wing and the front wing was damaged. We had to change the front wing, which meant we lost a lot of time and the race afterwards was quite good. He did good lap times. Jaime Alguersuari was quite competitive until the pit-stop. Unfortunately we made a mistake. He lost a right rear tyre and he had to stop so he could not finish the race.
Q: Was it slightly artificial or do you feel they could have been well within the points?
FT: Let me say maybe position nine or 10 would have been possible, but not better.
Q: Is that trend continuing do you feel? Can that trend continue?
FT: It looks like we are close to the points, at least today during the free practice we showed a good performance and I am convinced that we can finish the qualifying tomorrow close to the 10th position, maybe we are in Q3, we will see. But both drivers as well as the team are showing a good performance and therefore I think we can be once more within the points.
Q: Mike, great news for Lotus in that they have taken over Caterham. I realise from a political point of view it probably means more than from an engineering or technical point of view but will things change for you?
Mike Gascoyne: Not really for the Formula One team although it is great news for Team Lotus as a group. It was always the plan for the team to diversify and look at the automotive field. I think there will be further expansion in that area coming but it is just good news and it puts the whole group on a firmer financial footing.
Q: Norbert, I was going to ask about China where you led. Was that a true performance or slightly artificial but we have seen today that it was almost certainly a true performance. Are you feeling pretty satisfied here?
NH: Yeah, I think China was certainly much, much better than the first two races. They have been very bad indeed, but China was better. Having said that if you look at the two-stop strategy in Sebastian Vettel’s case, for example, of course the cars have been a little bit slower as they had longer stints, so it was probably not quite a true picture. But as the race went we would have been in a very good position with the right amount of fuel. But just to clarify that as well, it is very easy if you go so much faster than you anticipated, if you are in free air, then it is about three or four kilos. Everybody needs to save fuel during the course of the race because you are not volunteering and carrying three, four, five kilos more fuel than you basically need as that is lap time as well. In our case it was not a huge amount, but certainly enough after the braking manoeuvre of Nico (Rosberg) and not being in a position to push hard at the end. So it was fifth instead of probably a podium finish, whatever podium finish it would have been, that is speculation. But, yes, a better performance than the races before for both Nico and Michael (Schumacher).
Q: Martin, we don’t know where you are in comparison to Red Bull at the moment but pretty close, very close, maybe ahead, maybe behind. But how much do you fear the comeback of Mercedes and even the comeback of Ferrari. Nicolas Tombazis has said earlier on this week that McLaren have actually shown that you can come back in quite a big way and it is almost as though you have had the template of how to come back and now everybody else is going to follow it.
Martin Whitmarsh: No I think we have said from the outset that Adrian (Newey) and Red Bull were doing a great job and they are tough competition. Everyone will start to say it was up to McLaren to beat Red Bull but we were very clear all along that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault were all capable of raising their game and are a serious threat. They are good teams. They have got good resources, good people, good drivers so we don’t take anything for granted. We have to keep pushing to improve. Red Bull will and so will all of our other colleagues. That’s the great thing about Formula One. It is a race every fortnight but it is a race between each race to develop the car and whichever of the teams that are here or even those that aren’t here that develop the car the most this year they will win the championship. It is as simple as that. Christian knows that, but at Red Bull they are doing a great job but they are not standing still and waiting for us.
Q: Christian, it has been suggested that KERS was the great concentration between the last race and this race. To get it right, to get it working properly. Is that the case? How much concentration has there been?
Christian Horner: Obviously there has been quite a bit of focus on KERS but that only involves a select group of people. As Martin says development continues on all areas of the car and in this business you cannot afford to stand still. We have been looking to try and enhance the performance of the car, bringing a few smallish upgrades here but in the meantime also trying to get on top of the niggles that we have had with the KERS system. As our understanding has grown we have made more and more headway with the system in a pretty short space of time.
Q: Bob, we have talked about this development race. Can Force India be the equal if not more than those around it? How difficult is it for Force India to maintain a development race?
RF: I think the key thing, as Martin says, is the race between races effectively. Force India isn’t standing still. There is no question that we lost direction in the last quarter of 2010 and we had to take stock of where we were, where the issues were and we had to understand what those problems were. I think we identified them over the winter. We are running an evolved 2010 package at the moment, which is trying to correct some of those areas. Today we ran and evaluated the new front end of our aero package and hopefully in Spain and Monaco we will launch what we believe to be the 2011 package or the evolved one, whichever way you want to look at it. That will come out and hopefully it will keep us in line or slightly ahead of our competitors.
Q: Franz, we have seen you running Daniel Ricciardo on all the Friday’s so far. Is he being groomed for next year? What is the situation for him?
FT: The situation is that he is driving for Toro Rosso the first practice on Friday. He should learn the team, all the race tracks, to work together with the engineers, get a little bit of knowledge about the press work, about the marketing and this should be the preparation for him to race for Toro Rosso in 2012.
Q: No plans for before then? FT: No, currently not.
Q: You have two drivers? FT: We have two drivers, yes.
Q: Mike, what chances of you running KERS later this year. Is that part of the programme?
MG: I think that probably will be pretty difficult for us as a small team. Obviously, it requires some fairly large updates to the chassis to do that. I think we would have to be very convinced of the benefit that would bring outweighed against putting those resources into other areas such as aerodynamics, so I think it is going to be pretty difficult for us. We have got a lot of catch-up work to do in terms of development. We have made a big step forward relative to a lot of the teams on the grid but we have got to do even more as it hasn’t really affected our grid position, even though we are more competitive. But we are bringing a range of updates to the coming races so it is unlikely just for the amount of resource that it takes for the gain that you get. But it is something we are very actively working on for next year.
Q: Norbert, do you feel you are now potential winners?
NH: Potential winners? Not yet. We are working on it. I think that would be unrealistic. We have been forced last year and I think we have a real strong group of competitors around us. The team won the championship before but we restructured a lot and we have a new environment and we need to resettle things. That takes a while. It takes a while everywhere. But I think there is big potential there. We are learning. It is getting better and better. We certainly underperformed in the first three races. We don’t need to repeat that as I think that is well known. Hopefully we can stabilise on China or comparable to China. That would be the plan, to be among third and fourth position and then go forward from there. Every position you want to gain in that region gets tougher and tougher step by step, that’s for sure, but the direction is the right one I would say.
Q: Martin, we see Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button racing week in week out. How do they work together? How has that changed? How is that gelling? Is it continuing to gel or do you think it is pretty much stabilised? They seem to get on very well, they don’t seem to be major rivals.
MW: Well I think the good thing is they are major rivals on the track. Certainly neither of them likes being beaten by the other one and that is just as it should be. But they are both very, very open with one another. They share information and they share jokes as well so I think it is a fantastic relationship within the team and it helps us, that harmony. You cannot necessarily quantify it on the stopwatch, but it makes a pleasant environment for the engineers, their exchange of information. I think they are both very comfortable in the team. Inevitably two British drivers in the same team, immensely competitive individuals, there has always been the hope in some corners of the media there would be aggravation - and who knows what will happen in the future? But, so far, it has been very, very good. It looks as though it will continue to be so and they will race each other on the track. We have seen it on the track this year. They are not giving anyone quarter, they really want to beat each other, but I think they have got a tremendous amount of trust and respect and I think that makes it easier to calm my nerves a little bit, occasionally, when you are on the pit-wall wondering if you are going to be the idiot team principal that allowed your drivers to race each other.
Q: Is it the best pairing you have ever had, do you feel?
MW: From a relationship point of view I think it is. I think it is very, very, good. It does not matter what I say, anyone can see it. You have only got to come into the McLaren hospitality facility and you see them together. It is very natural, it is not forced. There is general warmth and affection between the two of them.
Q: Christian, I think there was a meeting of the constructors or the team owners the last couple of days. Can you tell us what happened, what was decided or discussed during that time?
CH: A meeting of the constructors?
Q: Well a meeting of the team owners, a FOTA meeting or whatever you like to call it?
CH: I think we’ve got one later this weekend. I wasn’t aware of one earlier. Martin is the chairman, ask him. MW: We will meet at a fairly routine meeting, a number of issues, on Sunday morning.
Q: Christian, tell us about Sebastian’s accident today. The damage?
CH: It was a shame. It was just one of those things that we, as a team, were keen to have a look at the inter. As Sebastian went out the rain increased slightly, he got a little bit high on the exit of Turn Eight onto the kerb, just put a wheel on that astroturf that has claimed a few victims today and he was just unlucky. Unfortunately it did quite a lot of damage so rather than rush and cobble together the car for FP2 we decided it was important to rebuild the car carefully in preparation for tomorrow. It was one of those things. It did quite an extensive amount of damage. He must have hit just about every corner on the car so it has given the boys plenty of work to do this evening.
Q: Quite a rare occurrence really?
CH: I cannot think the last time Sebastian went off. It was just one of those things. It just started to rain a little bit heavier at that time. As we saw quite a few other drivers having spins and getting out of shape and unfortunately it just caught him out. It is a quick corner there. There is that bit of astroturf or fake grass and unfortunately there is little to zero grip on there and it just spun him off into the barriers. One of those things. Unfortunately he missed out on running time this afternoon but he saved a few tyres. You never know, he might need them.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Martin, we had quite a quiet morning at McLaren. I think you only did a few laps but, this afternoon, were you able to put any of the new upgrades on the car or is it basically the same spec as China?
MW: No we had some upgrades, a few. We took the decision this morning that we were not going to have enough time to do everything we wanted, so that was a shame. I think people know we seem to have an ambitious programme normally on a Friday morning. In P1 in particular we knew we could not do any meaningful work so that’s slowed us a bit, but that’s the same for everyone. You have got a limited amount of testing but we have got a few little bits and pieces, nothing particularly significant. I think here it is a very demanding circuit as we have seen. We were pretty shocking on occasions over the bump going into Turn 12 so I think we have got to do a little bit of work there. I think the drivers weren’t, they certainly didn’t look comfortable. I wouldn’t want to be in their seat when they were going over that bump so I think we have got to do something there. It is a fairly savage bump on most cars but I think we were as bad as most over it. I think we have learnt a fair bit this afternoon. The forecast for the rest of the weekend is that there is a fair chance of rain, certainly on Sunday, and we don’t have many intermediate or wet tyres available to the teams so we took a view that we weren’t going to learn much, we couldn’t do our development programme. You can easy have an accident and what happened to Sebastian, let’s be honest, could have happened to any of us. As it happens we did an install lap and we were going to just do a launch in the end. That’s all we intended. In the end we didn’t quite manage to do that with Lewis anyway so it was a fairly quiet morning, as you say. This afternoon was pretty busy, but there is a limit to what you can do as you have to do some long runs on heavy fuel, on the tyres you think you might start the race with.
Q: (Moderator) A lot of people are talking about the future of Formula One, the future marketing of Formula One. You all have a voice in that, what is it that you personally, in your team, want from Formula One in the future?
RF: I think that it should be a collective programme. It’s very nice to say what we want individually but we are a group of teams that put on a show, and I think it’s the consensus of the teams and where they want to go as a whole, and I think FOTA will handle that under the guidance of Martin and Eric Boullier. There probably are (individual requirements) but I think they have to be brought together with the needs and the consensus of all the teams.
FT: It’s important, you know, that from 2013 onwards, the new drivetrain is coming, that the price for the new drivetrain is not too high for the private teams, that we find a consensus like it was with the FOTA teams before, which was quite an important job done by FOTA, that we got a good consensus, and that we are racing in countries who can afford Formula One, that we can save our structure and our income, and that we increase the show. I think that the last races - especially Shanghai - were quite an interesting race, an exciting race and that we can continue to go on in this direction.
MG: I think that it’s important for Formula One to develop, to look at issues like green issues but you’ve got to make sure that it’s kept in perspective, that costs don’t go up, that we do put on a good show and also that we’ve got a formula where the independent teams and smaller teams can be competitive, and I think we’ve gone that route with FOTA. We need to go further down that route, but any changes that we bring in have got to bear in mind that Formula One will put on a good show when it has lots of competitive teams and we’ve got to make sure that we keep that.
NH: I think first of all we need to describe what we have, and if I look back to the last race, all of us have been in Formula One quite a while, but this certainly was one of the most thrilling races, full of leaders, with Mark Webber storming through the field from 18th position to third, almost catching his team-mate, who started on pole position. So, I think we need to realise what the sport is delivering, what is happening currently and this is very, very good compared to whatever Formula One was capable of presenting in terms of very good and very thrilling races. I think the concept very much influenced by the FOTA teams co-operating with the FIA, the new tyres - everything was really good and, you know, today we are in the position to ask for new powertrains, for not too much money. The manufacturers brought Formula One and the teams into a position where they pay a third of what was paid five or eight years ago. I think sometimes we need to reflect on these facts as well. There is a very, very good Formula One. There is, of course, one team at the moment commanding, leading; McLaren catching up; then a handful of teams behind, chasing, but look at teams like Force India. They are doing an excellent job; look at teams like Toro Rosso, they have had their highlights. Look at traditional teams like Williams; OK, they struggle sometimes but never, ever have there been seven really very good teams in Formula One. Look at us, it’s difficult for us to fight for third position and then go from there further on. But again, we are here in Formula One. Others left and I think it is very good that the Silver Arrows are in Formula One. That needs stabilisation, it needs more work but we are here for a decent amount of money and that’s good. I don’t want to paint the world in blue colours but we should reflect, sometimes, on what we have, because a lot has been achieved already and together we can further improve it.
CH: I think Formula One is a fantastic show, it’s a fantastic sport. I think we are all fortunate to be involved in the sport. I think that in the last couple of years the way the sport has continued to evolve, I think the racing on track has been fantastic. The competition has been good and one senses that the buzz about the sport, the interest in the sport has grown, has continued to grow, and you can see that through the television audiences, and in many cases circuit attendance, that we’ve even seen in the early races. I don’t think that we’ve got there by accident. I think that collectively, the commercial rights holder and the FIA have done a good job to get us to exactly where we are and the teams and the drivers are a key part of that. I think that for Formula One to continue to grow and move forwards is crucial.
I think stability is also very important. At the end of the day, it’s about the show that we put on. It’s about entertaining the crowds, entertaining the fans and the spectators, and that it is man and machine at the limit and that’s what Formula One should certainly continue to be. It’s important to have a balance of independent teams and manufacturers and I think at the moment we’ve got that balance right. I think costs have dramatically come down so an independent team such as Red Bull has been able to run at the front and win. I think that’s certainly healthy for the sport and I think we’re well set for the future.
MW: I think Christian’s provided an excellent summary, so I don’t know that I can improve on that. From a different angle, I think that for the last 20 years, perhaps we, collectively, have not managed the sport as well as we can. There’s been in-fighting, there’s a competitive spirit in Formula One that sometimes has been quite damaging. I think the first thing is that we’ve had a relatively brief era now but we’ve had an era of unprecedented co-operation between the teams and I think that’s been fantastic and trying to get co-operation between the very large teams and the smaller teams has necessitated compromise on both sides, and I think that’s been a fantastic effort and I think the teams have collectively worked much better together.
We’ve had some great championships, we’ve had comparative lack of the paddock polemics, which I think we were all getting bored of, and I think we’re focusing on some great racing, a great championship last year and hopefully we will have another one this year. We have to work together with the commercial rights holder, with the governing body and establish that partnership that we can really promote the sport. I think that we’ve now gone some way to look at improving the show. We now have to tell people about it. We have to promote and I think, again, that needs all of us to work together. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. We’re all part of it.
All of us, the six of us here have all been part of Formula One for some time so we’re part of the historic problem; we’ve got to be part of the future and how it can be better. I think there is, now, an environment of people realising that we’ve got to work together. We shouldn’t be complacent, we’ve had some fantastic championships. As Christian said, there is an increasing buzz about the sport but we shouldn’t be satisfied with where we are; we have to improve the show, we have to improve the promotion, we have to improve the co-operation, we have to make sure it’s sustainable. There are still teams that are vulnerable so we’ve got to make sure that this is a sport that is affordable for all of the teams. We shouldn’t lose any of the teams that we’ve got if we can possibly help it.
Q: (Sarah Holt - BBC Sport) Speaking of FOTA, F1 and the future - I’m happy for anyone to answer this if you want to - is it important that F1, as you renegotiate the Concorde Agreement, remains on free-to-air television? Or, could it thrive on a pay-per-view platform?
MW: No, I think it’s clear that the business model of all the teams relies on free-to-air. We’re selling a large, broad, media exposure. That’s the business model and I’m sure that that’s the business model of all the Formula One teams will require going forward.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) I’ll ask Martin this but if anybody else wants to chip in… We still don’t know whether there are 19 or 20 races this year. The decision on Bahrain was delayed until next month. How much do you feel that as teams, your views are being listened to, because after all, it’s your guys who are going to be on the ground if the race is re-scheduled?
MW: Again, I think the FIA and the commercial rights holder decide the calendar; we turn up and race. I think at the moment there’s obviously an evolving situation there. I don’t think any of the teams are being consulted, in particular. It is always difficult balancing the calendar. There are some sensitive issues there. I think we’ve got to wait until we’re informed of what that decision is.
Q: (Gary Meenaghan - The National) Two part question: I would just like to gauge your thoughts on what makes a track good for overtaking and what makes a driver good at overtaking?
CH: I think that it’s an interesting question and one that is difficult to fully understand. You’ve got circuits like Brazil, which always delivers good races. There are certain circuits, like Monte Carlo, that don’t lend themselves to good overtaking but always, again, have the habit of throwing up good races. I think the interesting thing really is the tools that we have this year, with the KERS system - when it works - and the DRS, the moveable rear wing. They’re two elements that have really helped the drivers. I think, in the last two races Mark Webber has passed about 20 cars, which is probably more than he’s done in the last five years. It’s certainly assisted the drivers, and I think historically, the last two races that we’ve seen in China and Malaysia, have been quite static races. There’s been more of a strategic element, whereas strategy is a crucial part, part of that strategy is that you’ve got to overtake and certainly the tools that we now have have encouraged that. I’m not quite sure if that fully answers your question, but I hope it gives a bit of an insight.
MG: There are always races where you never get any overtaking - Valencia - and I think that with the changes that we’ve made on the tyres and the type of racing that’s now giving us, I think we need to wait and see and look at some of those circuits that traditionally have been very processional races. And if we get overtaking at those circuits, I think we’ve shown… Many times we’ve tried to change the cars to promote overtaking. It’s proved to be very, very difficult, almost impossible. Certainly we need to look at circuit design, but also with the tyres operating in the way they are, it provides a very cost-effective way to get very exciting racing, rather than very expensive car changes. In the past, we were guilty of bowling ourselves a bit of a googly too often and spending lots of money and not really getting any improvement in the racing. The tyres this year have shown us a very clear direction.
Q: (Marco degl’Innocenti - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Christian about Sebastian’s accident: I can imagine that in the accident there has been some damage to some new aero parts updated for this race. Will it be OK to change them for tomorrow and for the race, or are you concerned that you have to take a step back?
CH: I think we’re reasonably well-equipped because you need to look at the data, look at the parts that have been consumed in the incident. But the information that I have so far shows that we are in reasonable shape but obviously need to understand the configuration the guys want to run the cars in tomorrow.
Q: (Cem Nadiran - Power FM) This weekend is actually a very sad weekend for us, because as residents of Istanbul, this is supposed to be the last race in Istanbul. I just want to know how you guys feel about this and how you felt about the seven years that you’ve been coming here and racing in Istanbul? How was it for you? Is it a hassle to be racing here in Istanbul or is it something nice for you? How do you feel about Istanbul Park? And what can you do to help us fix this situation?
MW: Firstly, I’m not aware that any formal decision has been made that it’s the last time we’re here and I, for one, hope that it isn’t. Istanbul is a great city, I think people like coming here and of the modern circuits, this, actually, is one of the good ones. It’s a good circuit, it’s a great city, we enjoy coming here and I think all the teams are of that mind. There are lots of rumours about the future of this Grand Prix. Maybe some of my colleagues are better equipped than me but I certainly haven’t any definitive information to suggest that this is the last time we’re here. I very much hope that it isn’t.
FT: It would be a shame if it’s the last race here because now the infrastructure has really been built quite well and it’s beautiful to come here, to the track. The streets, everything has been finished now. As everything is finished, it looks like we don’t come any more, but it’s totally easy: give Bernie more money and we come.
NH: I think this is an exceptional race track. Martin already pointed out that, of the new race tracks, this is certainly a very good one, a special one. Turn eight, I think we saw fantastic television pictures today. OK, the bumps are probably not what you want, but they are delivering spectacular pictures and so it’s a great track. The city is fantastic. It’s very good, you will probably never be caught speeding in Istanbul, which is also a positive in a way. We like being here, but it’s not in our hands. Arrangements must be the right ones, but I think the guys here and the teams - they really like it, absolutely. We have been with here with DTM as well. We have been here with our partners, McLaren and we have good memories. I think we won three times in total with our engine, with our partners. It’s a great venue and a great track of course. We could do with some more spectators, but it needs to be developed in the right way, and as Martin pointed out, I’m sure there can be a future.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Martin, I would like to revisit the issue of free-to-air and pay-per-view television. How does one really define free-to-air because arguably the BBC annual licence fee is a pay-per-view and in this instance… If you look at internet, for example, that could be free-to-air if we go in that direction and is it not really the business models that are possibly at fault as opposed to the broadcast medium? One of your members said to me that they got 42 seconds of TV out of China. That’s not really free-to-air stuff, is it?
MW: OK. You’re right, it’s a much more complicated issue than terrestrial free-to-air versus pay-per-view but I think that what we require in Formula One is a mass audience to television, mass audience to the pictures we produce, whether that’s internet, whatever the means. I was trying to answer that question, but inevitably, nowadays, media is much more complex than the polarised debate about pay-per-view and free-to-air terrestrial, but we certainly need a mass audience.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Wouldn’t it be true to say that the future is now more business-to-business in terms of sponsorship rather than stickers?
MW: I think Formula One remains the third largest sporting spectacle, the most powerful sporting media for creating media exposure, brand differentiation and media exposure is one of the most powerful driving forces of this sport at the moment and I think it will be for the foreseeable future, so I think all of the brands or primarily all of the brands that are involved in Formula One expect to see a very, very broad exposure of their brands, as a consequence of investing in Formula One.
Q: (Joris Fioriti - Agence France Presse) Christian, after a hard end to his 2010 season and a rather disappointing beginning to 2011 - at least if you compare his performances to his teammate’s - is Mark Webber in an awkward position in your team, regarding his contract for next year? So my question is: is it true he’s in danger? Secondly, he said yesterday he has his own destiny in his hands, which means that if he’s good and he’s sure he will perform well this year, he will stay at Red Bull. Is that true? And thirdly, if you had to change him, would you rather take a driver from Toro Rosso or any other driver?
CH: Wow. That was a big question! Mark has had a difficult start to the year, or certainly up to the race in China and he drove an absolutely phenomenal race there. He’s had some bad luck but he’s still delivering at a massively high level and I think that the dynamics that we have between the two drivers, the combination of the two, is really very positive. They bring the best out of each other, they push each other hard. Mark, who is 34 years of age, 35 later this year… it was inevitable that we would, at a certain stage in his career, start to take things one year at a time which was a mutual thing.
It was agreed between Mark and the team that we would take things, at this stage in his career, one season at a time and we’re only three races in (to this season). It’s way too early to be focusing on 2012 at this point in time. We’re very happy with Mark. He’s a very popular member of our team. He enjoys driving for us, we enjoy having him there. He’s delivering at a fantastically high level, he’s probably one of the most dedicated Grand Prix drivers out there. But at this stage, it’s certainly too early to be talking about the future. There will be a private discussion that we have with Mark and not something to be conducted through the media. When the time’s right we will sit down and discuss it.
Toro Rosso are doing a great job of developing young drivers. Sebastian Vettel came through the Red Bull Junior programme and as a graduate from Toro Rosso, so, of course, we keep an eye on how the Toro Rosso drivers are developing and it’s great to see not just the current drivers but the future drivers as well, further down the ladder: Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, even Carlos Sainz Jnr in Formula Renault. Red Bull has invested in some real talent but it’s way too premature to be speculating on whether or not any of those will sit in a Red Bull racing car. We’re happy with our current line-up and that’s what we’re focused on.