Friday 5 June 1998 -- "Friday Five" press conference Drivers: Jarno Trulli (Prost) and Jacques Villeneuve (Williams). Team representatives: Ron Dennis (McLaren), Alan Jenkins (Stewart) and Nick Wirth (Benetton) Q. We ...
Friday 5 June 1998 -- "Friday Five" press conference
Drivers: Jarno Trulli (Prost) and Jacques Villeneuve (Williams). Team representatives: Ron Dennis (McLaren), Alan Jenkins (Stewart) and Nick Wirth (Benetton)
Q. We understand that the revised regulations for 1998, requiring grooved tyres and narrow cars, were introduced to make F1 racing safer. May we have some comments from you all on the validity of the changes, and on the effects they may have had on the entertainment value of the racing? JV: I guess it could be true to say that slower is safer, but if you're sideways in every corner, then that's not safer. It depends on how you read it. Whenever you make a technical change, ten other things change with it, not just the one that wanted to be affected. As far as the entertainment [value is concerned], nothing has really changed. As long as we remain so dependent on downforce, the more difficult it is going to be to follow people around corners. Another thing is that the cars are now so [aerodynamically] efficient down the straight that [a following driver] cannot get a tow.
AJ: If the FIA's objective was to reduce speeds, or at least to put a cap on any increase in speeds, then the rules have done that -- although it has taken a huge amount of change to achieve that. As everybody knows, the issue of overtaking is extremely complex. There is no clear idea exactly what to do to achieve that, or even whether it really matters. Grand Prix racing still has huge audiences, especially on TV, and although it is not my area to spell out the figures, people have watched GP racing for many years with the level of overtaking that we know about, and they appear to want to continue to do so. So I don't know how big an issue the overtaking is.
NW: I happen to have a strong view on overtaking in Formula 1. Although I see suggestions that CART racing is exciting because of the yellow flags and overtaking, F1 is exciting, at least to me, because it is so pure. There is nothing artificial about it. Yes, it can be tedious, like boxing or tennis when the Wimbledon final is a walkover, but when everything comes right and the racing is good, there is nothing to beat it. Other forms of racing are more artificial, with more opportunities for overtaking through the use of yellow flags, etc, but F1 offer fantastic 'highs' between periods of predictability. To see one of those 'highs' on TV is real: there is nothing artificial or contrived about it. I believe we should conserve that spirit.
Q. Jacques, you have been involved in both types of racing. Do you agree with Nick? JV: Kind of. Part of the problem [is the attitude in Grand Prix racing]. When I arrived in F1 the only thing people could tell me was that overtaking was impossible, and that you shouldn't even bother to try. If you go into a race in that spirit, all you think of is when to make the next pit stop, to give yourself a chance of overtaking someone. Oftentimes you can even see another driver thinking about passing someone, then in the middle of doing it he thinks, 'oh, I shouldn't be doing this.' It is as if it's in his mind not to do it, so he never tries it. If you end up banging wheels and crashing, the criticism that follows [will inevitably outweigh] the positive reaction that should come from your having tried to pass someone. It's almost as if it's better not to try to pass anyone ...
Q. Ron, what are your feelings? RD: Well, for reasons that may be understandable, we think the regulation changes have been wonderful. I concur with most of what has been said already and I agree that there is a purity to Formula 1 which we want to maintain. There must be a logical reason for the large audiences enjoyed by Formula 1, although it is difficult to say what that reason is. But the audience is real, and it may be due to the same factor that we see in football, which is the anticipation of actually seeing a player score a goal.
There are two issues here: close racing and overtaking. If you want close racing, you must have stable regulations which remain unchanged for long periods of time. Then there is an opportunity for everyone to catch up as soon as the top teams start bouncing against the limits of performance and the small teams start to make up the leeway. This is why we at McLaren tend to welcome changes in the regulations, and the more radical the change, the better it is for us. We don't enjoy the pain of the extra investment, but we like the challenge of being able to respond quickly. The designers love it because it gives them the opportunity to spend lots of money and to try new ideas. Of course there is the pain of not always getting it right, but that is the challenge of Formula 1.
I love F1 for a lot of the reasons that have been stated, and there wouldn't be the same satisfaction if we were running the same car that everyone else had, manufactured by somebody else. Most of the people in CART racing are doing that, and they don't have the ultimate satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes from everybody having worked together to get the performance. Having said that, I accept that there is some great racing in CART, and I am not knocking it. I am just stating the fact that at the moment it is one-make racing, which to me is not in the spirit of Formula 1.
Q. Jarno, you're new in F1. What are your feelings? JT: Unlike this year, when only the big teams have been ahead, last year we saw teams like Prost and Jordan joining Ferrari and McLaren. The new rules have changed that situation and -- as Ron says -- it is easier for the top teams to design and build the best cars at the beginning of a new regulation. It takes time for the smaller teams to be competitive. So I am not particularly happy about the new rules, because at the moment our car is not running well. Under the new rules, I have also found it more difficult as a driver, especially in the overtaking and while following other cars. Last year it was easier and we saw more fighting. But I think it will be better for the rest of the season, or at least next year.
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