US GP: Friday press conference transcript, part 3

United States Grand Prix FIA Press Conference Ron Dennis (McLaren) Eddie Jordan (Jordan) Tony Purnell (Jaguar) David Richards (BAR) Paul Stoddart (Minardi Friday, June 18, 2004 Part 3 of 3 Q: Some more questions? Yes, right at the back. Q: ...

United States Grand Prix FIA Press Conference
Ron Dennis (McLaren)
Eddie Jordan (Jordan)
Tony Purnell (Jaguar)
David Richards (BAR)
Paul Stoddart (Minardi
Friday, June 18, 2004

Part 3 of 3

Q: Some more questions? Yes, right at the back.

Q: Mike King with the IMS Radio Network, we'll be doing the North American broadcast this weekend. Mr. Richards, this question is for you, and forgive my ignorance of the technical rules of Formula One. But your third car was very quick today with Anthony Davidson, second only to Rubens Barrichello. Does the third car, is it required to meet the same technical regulations as the other two cars? And if that's the case, how impressed are you with his performance here today, given it's his first appearance at the track?

RICHARDS: The first question, yes, it has to comply with all the same technical regulations as all the other cars. He does, however, as the third driver have the benefit of additional sets of tires, which the other drivers don't; and fresh tires do make a significant difference. But nonetheless, Anthony has driven superbly all year, and he's an integral part of the team, not just on the Fridays but throughout the testing on the season and I would say well deserving of a place, a drive in Formula One in the near future.

Q: What are your thoughts, guys, on having radio transmissions between the driver and the pits available to the TV audiences and also to fans in the stands who have scanners like they do in NASCAR?

RICHARDS: Very happy with it, no problem whatsoever from my side.

JORDAN: Does it have parent control?

DENNIS: I don't have strong views either direction if it could be demonstrated to improve the spectacle, I wouldn't be violently opposed.

RICHARDS: I think, if I could have just one point, I think the one-lap qualifying would have been or could be significantly improved if you had an interface from the TV into the car on the slowing-down lap and be able to talk to the driver and get the immediate reactions about his lap. I think we haven't made the most of single-lap qualifying in the way it's presented.

STODDART: We've killed that now. No point.

Q: Sorry, Paul, will you say that again?

STODDART: I said we've killed that one now, you've only got one more race. (Laughter)

Q: What about radio transmissions?

STODDART: Great idea if we don't start looking after the public, it's a great idea. Eddie, did you want to get in there first?

JORDAN: No, not at all. I'm not sure everyone wants to hear some of the things that are said during the middle of a race. Some of the stuff is pretty basic. (Laughter) To say the least. So, yeah, but I mean it could be a fantastic way. We need to come up with more things. Doesn't matter, every idea is a good idea. Put them on the table, please.

Q: Tony?

PURNELL: I'd certainly support it, but I think it's tickling at the edges, I think, to make Grand Prix racing more entertaining. We just have to do something to make the cars overtake more easily, because I think what fans want to see is bunches of cars and overtaking. We just don't have that, and we need to.

Q: Any more questions? Yes, Jonathan.

Q: You've all signed off for the new qualifying format from Silverstone. Can you give us an indication how convinced you are? Is it a positive move and the right move? Are there any processes that have been put in place to ensure the final five minutes of the second session not a huge confusion for fans and television audiences with purple sectors and green sectors and the guy on pole not being quickest in the second session?

JORDAN: I think we've answered the question. (Laughter)

DENNIS: First of all, the teams that are constantly positioned as being solely and exclusively for change, and certainly this is one of those times. We've all contributed to trying to make the spectacle of qualifying better, and there is no question, you can look at the current situation, that we failed so far to make Formula One better than it has been in the past in the respect of qualifying. I think everybody started simply from the best of what it's ever been, and everybody said the best it's ever been is when all the cars were on the circuit at the same time and they were effectively, the drivers were faced at getting a clear lap in a 12-lap window. Everybody, I think, agreed with that perception but then immediately pointed out that that meant that in the one-hour session everybody would be very slow to go out and that would mean 20 minutes of nothing happening. That was an issue that was addressed by splitting the practice sessions and then things tacked on as teams either were successful in politicking some sort of advantage into the regulation or whether an interested party was able to politic something in. And where we have ended up is definitely a different format. Whether it is better or not, I think time will tell. But if it isn't, I don't think any team's not prepared to change it yet again. But we've got to run probably the rest of the year in this format or stay as we are. That's still a possibility, I think.

RICHARDS: I think we've consistently proven as teams that we should not be setting the agenda here, and I don't think we're actually doing things in a very rational way. I think that in most businesses you consult the customer and you actually do a bit of market research and say here are the options, and I think the way to have gone about it personally would have been come up with three, four options, whatever it might be, and go out there and see what the TV audience and the TV production teams want themselves to make the job work for them. Because we're constantly under criticism of that. But on this particular occasion, I think at the end of the day it was a request from Bernie who said, 'This is what I'd like to do,' and he put the thing forward. Quite frankly, he's accountable for the TV audience, he's accountable for the people coming through the turnstile, he's the promoter of the championship, so I'm afraid he got my vote on that basis. It's I don't think the right thing to do, however.

Q: Eddie?

JORDAN: My concern is purely selfish, and that was that I was able to sell an element of time to my sponsors for not just terrestrial TV but for global feed. And I felt that was being taken away or could be taken away. Because whether we like it or not, there is not a person who is responsible for the production of television. He will be shot by his editor if he doesn't follow a red car. And on that basis, it will go down the next best one, whoever likely to be there. And if we are in England, you follow an English driver, and if we're in Germany, you follow a German driver and so be it all the way through. And I can't have that pot-luck effect when I'm doing proper sheets and spreadsheets about potential income and value of media. Because anyone who thinks that a sponsor does not have a media value on every and particular second that is appearance of your car, then, are crazy. Those days of somebody coming along saying, 'Hey, I'm a chief executive, I'd like to have my sticker on your car and we're going to have some fun and we go racing and see how it goes,' that is gone. Because you have proper marketing people who are all clamoring for other aspects of commercial viability, and Formula One is no different. You have to stand up and if the figures meet the criteria, you'll get the sponsorship. If it doesn't, you won't. So a little bit selfishly, I was considering what Jordan's prospect was. From that point of view, I probably agree with Ron that if you were to take the best scenario, so thinking of the sport for once, I think is a better solution but it has deprived Jordan of television income that I'm disappointed about.

STODDART: I think the point has to be made that two years ago it was recognized that the share of voice that the small teams were getting was minimal and the whole idea of single-lap qualifying was to give us all equal opportunity on the qualifying single lap. Now, that was achieved last year, and last year I felt we had something that worked. All year we had no complaints about this system. We had something to give the media on Friday. Friday meant something. We had a provisional pole position. We had a Saturday one-hour single lap that people didn't complain about. But putting the two together was a chronicle mistake. And we have to take into account the fact that we probably shouldn't have changed what we had last year. It worked, both championships went to the wire. That wouldn't have happened this year, but I don't think we would be having the complaints we're having or have had this year had we left the format alone. Famous words, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. For this new format A, as Dave said, is Bernie's suggestion, we have to wait and see. But certainly for the small teams, we're the massive losers in this. Without TV, our share of voice is really only in qualifying unless we're being lapped, and that takes it away, makes it very tough.

PURNELL: I'm open-minded to see how it works out. Who knows, it might work out very well. It's always difficult when you try something that's not been done before. I think that if you step back, you know, what are the problems? Friday there's not much for people to come and watch. Saturday, the same thing. You know, spectators and the TV. And Sunday, we wanted to try and get some unpredictability in it. That was the idea two years ago. I'm worried that that might have got lost. So if you want a bit of fun, just here's a little suggestion. See what you think of this. You replace qualifying with miniature races as they have in some other forms of motor racing. You know, you have a 10-lap sprint race, celebrity pulls names out of the hats and have a jumbled up grid on the Friday. Have a second race with the grid reversed on the Saturday. And put all the points together. If there's a tie, the fastest lap gets the nod. And, you know, something great to watch on Friday and Saturday, masses to talk about in the press. And for sure, you'd get a jumbled up grid. What would be so nice is that drivers would have to overtake, you know, to get the good position on the Sunday. But just a bit of fun. Let's hope that the second half of the season works out very well. You never know.

Q: Why didn't you want to stage the first half of the qualifying on Friday afternoon? You could have upgraded the Friday, which is still pretty meaningless for Friday.

STODDART: As I recall, the three of us at the back did want to retain the Friday. You better ask the others.

RICHARDS: No, I don't remember being asked one way or the other about that particular point. I think the fundamental point, however, is -- we're playing around with qualifying here, but Tony made the reference to the whole notion of the way it was structured in the first instance was to create, you know, a sort of not an artificial way as you do in other sports but to create a set of circumstances where there would be a grid on Sunday that was sort of different each race. What we put in the proposal that is going forward now for the latter part of this year will produce the fastest drivers at the front of the grid and will be repetitious time after time, in my opinion. It will produce, might produce interest in qualifying, I question that because I don't think it will be very easy to televise but it will certainly produce duller racing as a result of it.

DENNIS: No, nothing to add. I think that just to restate something I said earlier, which is don't put the teams as the villains in this process. They're not. We are under constant pressure for change. And we have remarkably little voice in some of the change that takes place.

Q: To Eddie and Tony, much is made at the start of this season that Jordan and Jaguar would run with exactly the same engine. But rumors over the last few races that Jordan's engine can't run in the same configuration in terms of powers and revs because of reliability. Can you just clarify what the situation is, please?

PURNELL: Sure, Eddie does get the same engine as us. The contract allows for a significant upgrade mid season, which will happen. There's small variations between the engine, but on the whole, up to this race actually there hasn't been a time when I can honestly say, you know, we could have picked the engine number out of a hat and, you know, distributed them that way. This race we've got an upgrade that we're trying with MARC, which we've just built one engine and see how it goes. There's always a risk when you try an engine for a first time. But we're trying to as much as practically possible keep the engines on par.

Q: Is that sufficient, John? Yeah, front row.

Q: Mr. Purnell, two questions. The first question is: Do you think your performance has changed after Ford and Jaguar fired Niki Lauda two years ago? The second question is, how disappointed is it to be if you say that you have the similar engines like the Jordan team if the Jordan team is in front of you?

JORDAN: Oh, I love that. (Laughter)

PURNELL: First of all, the performance of the team, we're operating on a huge amount less money. Just about everything the technical department do is an improvement. We just have to be very, very prudent on it. And I think that the progress of the car to, you know, to produce something that can even touch the McLarens, who are undoubtedly operating on double the money that we have, I think it's outstanding. So I'm actually proud of what everybody's done over the last 18 months at Jaguar. They've done a good job. As far as the challenge of Jordan, it's very healthy. We've got to -- the Jaguar team has got to beat the Jordan team; and I'm sure Eddie's mindset is that the Jordan team has to beat the Jaguar team. If you've got the same motor, more or less, it's easy for people to judge.

Q: Eddie, he said more or less the same engine. What are your views on the engine thing this weekend?

JORDAN: I have nothing to add. I mean, it's very clear. Ford have promised us quality, and I'm sure Cosworth and Tony, like what he said, does it.

PURNELL: I think the Cosworth guys have done a good job this year. The engine is pretty reliable, and they've made some good steps with it and good show.

Q: Any more?

Q: At a time when you're trying to sell the sport here and in Canada, how do you all feel about 114,000 people leaving a circuit and millions more turning off the television sets only to find out the next day that the result has been changed? Is there a more satisfactory way of doing it?

JORDAN: It was great. (Laughter) It was great.

DENNIS: I think, fortunately, it doesn't happen that often.

JORDAN: And he says the same, but he won't say it. And he's a liar as well because he says it was great. (Laughter)

STODDART: And I just wish they disqualified two more.

JORDAN: What a result.

DENNIS: It is part of Grand Prix racing. I've been on the opposite side of the fence so many times of, you know, these small infringements, most of which is certainly not performance enhancing and most of them relate to oversized by a technical staff. And, of course, the most famous of which was when one technical director stood in front of the world and acknowledged that his car didn't comply and that was subsequently reversed on the basis of a whole charade that took place post that event and cost me a Constructors Championship. That is motor racing, and it's going to happen from time to time. It's so infrequent, but teams don't normally go out and breach those sorts of regulations and there has to be a price paid and unfortunately the team suffers the points loss. And the media and the viewers suffer the consequences of information changing after a period of time. But there are things that happen much longer, athletics is, I suppose, a good example where the drugs issue in athletics can take months, sometimes a year or more before you really know what the outcome of a ruling is. So we're not unique in our sport, having a result change after a period of time. But we do try and minimize it.

Q: OK, thank you very much, gentlemen. Thank you.

Part 1

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Anthony Davidson , Eddie Jordan , Niki Lauda , Paul Stoddart , David Richards
Teams McLaren , Minardi , Jordan