European Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal) Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director) Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director) Q: First of all, Mario, as you know, a very...
European Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with
Jean Todt (Ferrari team principal)
Norbert Haug (Mercedes motorsport director)
Mario Theissen (BMW motorsport director)
Q: First of all, Mario, as you know, a very uncharacteristic Nürburgring weather today. How much has this caught you on the hop for your tyre manufacturers as well? The track temperature was one degree less than it was in Bahrain, now who could have ever guessed that? How much has that affected you and how much has it affected your tyre suppliers.
Mario Theissen: Obviously it plays a big role, but I can say that it is certainly an advantage to have had these conditions more than once this season already. It is very unusual for here, I think only once a year the temperatures go up in this region to what we have now, and I don't even know if the prediction for tomorrow and Sunday is identical. We should be able to deal with it but it is not what we expected here.
Q: So in terms of technicalities, what does that affect?
Mario Theissen: Certainly not the engine, there is no difference in the engine configuration or engine mapping due to temperature. I think all the rest is affected, but the engine not.
Q: Jean, were you expecting these sorts of temperatures?
Jean Todt: If you had asked me the question two weeks ago we were not expecting these temperatures, but since the beginning of the week we knew that was the prediction and that is what we will probably have tomorrow and a bit less on Sunday with 20 percent risk of rain, so that is what we know for the time being. But, I mean, this kind of information can change, but we will see.
Norbert Haug: Well, I think it is nice to see the Nürburgring with these conditions for a change, and as Jean pointed out Sunday should be a little bit less hot, maybe a chance of thunderstorms, we will just have to wait and see, but so far it's perfect.
Q: Has it affected the tyre suppliers at all?
Norbert Haug: Not really, I would say.
Q: Okay. Changing to qualifying, to all of you, is it going to help you or hinder you do you feel?
Mario Theissen: I don't know yet. Maybe the driver has a preference for one or other system, the individual driver, but I don't think it makes a big difference from the technical perspective. I don't see a car that is particularly good on low fuel and bad on a full fuel tank. The tyre situation doesn't in my view depend too much on the vehicle weight, more on the question of if you do one lap or more than one lap. I think most of it is down to the preference of drivers.
Q: Jean, you thought it would favour Ferrari a little bit.
Jean Todt: No, I didn't say it would favour, I said it would not be a disadvantage. Take it the way you want. But I confirm, we know very well that since the beginning of the season and even sometime last year our weakest point was over qualifying. It has been a bit more this year, and this year we had two qualifying, so once should not be against us.
Norbert Haug: I think it stays the same, but I think we will probably see different strategies. We will see people being in seventh place and doing five laps more than the other guys in front of them and still being in the position to win the race. That is the chance. If you are top five that should be possible, seventh is a little bit more difficult, but I think we will see higher fuel loads and race wins not coming from pole position.
Q: Norbert, you didn't have a very good first couple of races but since Bahrain things have come much better and obviously the last couple of races have been perfect. Give us an idea on some of the developments that have taken place, particularly from the engine side.
Norbert Haug: Well, first of all I think if you start your season and you qualify in the wet and the other guy qualifies in the dry then guess who is going to be faster. I mean, that happened to Ferrari, that happened to us, if a world championship will be decided like that, if I look back at 1998, between Michael and Mika, I think nobody would be happy, so we need to think about that system again for next year. I just think that the tyres were quite conservative at the first races, we didn't get our act together in qualifying but the basic speed was there. And if you look at Kimi's season, in the second race he was on his way to third place when a tyre went, in the third race he was third, the fourth race he was leading but dropped out with a driveshaft, the fifth and sixth he won.
So I think the speed was there from the beginning, but starting tenth or 11th, look at Ferrari, if that happens to you, you need half the race to get the speed and come closer to the front. But I think our first test in Paul Ricard helped us a lot to understand how to use the tyres and how to set up the car for the first fast lap both with and without fuel and so that helped from then on, but I wouldn't say we made a big, big step in terms of speed, we just got the right grid position and from there it is just easier.
Q: Norbert, the last couple of years here you have had a pretty miserable time, particularly with it being a home race. You must be much more confident this year.
Norbert Haug: You never know what the race brings. We have had very good results here, it is going up and down and you have to realise there are five or six strong competitors and this is what Formula One is about. When we were world champions in 1998 there was Ferrari as a very strong competitor but not as many strong competitors as we have right now. And so, you know, if you start being confident before the race even starts, I think you are badly advised. Anything can happen. We need to get our act together, for sure, we have a better package right now but I think it is very important to be 100 percent disciplined, focused, concentrated, and not only saying it but doing it. This gives you the right baseline to win races.
Q: Jean, I know you have told us in your press conferences on a Sunday night what you feel the problem is with Ferrari at the moment, but can you just explain to a wider audience what the basic problem is?
Jean Todt: I mentioned before, so far mainly we have a problem in qualifying. We did not keep our standard in reliability, we had some problems, which, I mean, the new rules with one set of tyres for qualifying and for the race, I mean, we did not know when the rules were decided but once they were applied we did not interpret it as well as our competitors. And having one engine for two Grands Prix, we had to change one engine on Rubens and he had to start at the back of the grid, which I say is a disadvantage. But the same rules are for everyone, so it is nothing to complain, it is just up to us to deliver better.
And again, the first lap we are too slow, during the race we are quicker, sometimes much quicker than the opposition, but you know a car not specifically of Formula One, a racing car in front, I mean, it is like a wall in front of you, it is very difficult to pass even if you have three or four seconds of difference in lap time. So, I mean, when we start far behind it compromises the race
Q: On another subject, there has obviously been a bit of a dispute between your drivers, what have you been able to sort out? Does it change anything?
Jean Todt: You know, I can understand that it makes a headline, but it is not a problem for me. It is very, very little controversy, which makes you happy and I am happy for you, but honestly I don't care so much. They will be very motivated, which is a good thing. You know, there has been a lot of speculation about team orders over the last years. I knew I was going to be asked this question, so I wanted to be accurate. In six years I think it happened twice that we asked, for the championship, in 2001 and 2002, Rubens to facilitate the race for Michael. When we speak about that it seems like it happened every race, but it happened twice in six years.
So, I would not make a big thing out of it. And, yeah, I can understand Rubens' feeling, he was disappointed, I can understand Michael feeling to try to pass a car that was in front of him. So, I mean, I don't say one should or should not have done it. It is part of racing. The only thing that is important is that they didn't compromise the work of all the team, of the company, by hitting each other. It did not happen, so I have nothing more to say.
Q: Mario, after a great weekend last weekend in Monaco, quite an action-packed day for you today.
Mario Theissen: You mean the free practice? Well, we suffered from two problems in the second session. We have as a support race Formula BMW here at Nürburgring, the 15- ,16- , 17-year old kids. They did their two qualifying sessions today which was very interesting to watch. So I was here quite early this morning. In Formula One we had problems in the second session with both our drivers. Mark left the track a bit early, and then Nick had a technical problem, a driveline problem, so that causes us some difficulties now when making the tyre choice. We didn't gather the data we expected to get, only about a third of that, so it is a challenge for the engineers to take a tyre choice on this basis.
Q: Mario, I know your company will not comment on its Formula One ambitions, in terms running its own team, but you are someone who has been around racing for a very long time. What about your own personal ambitions? A lot of people would suggest that you want to become a team principal.
Mario Theissen: My ambitions are absolutely in line with the ambitions of BMW and that means we want to be successful, we want to win races and we want, eventually, to win the championship. The set-up in which we win the championship, the team structure is of secondary importance, and that applies to me as well. I am very happy in my current role.
Q: Jean, yesterday I asked why the Ferrari drivers will not attend the fans with the drivers' show, when I should have asked why Michael wasn't coming? Who in Ferrari decides which driver is going to attend the promotion and which not?
Jean Todt: I don't know about that, honestly. I know there was some planned promotion with the organiser of the Grand Prix and we agreed to do some promotion. But I arrived late last night and I am not aware of what happened. I will ask for more information and I will make sure that Luca Colajanni is not angry when he gives you the answer. I need an hour and then you can go and see him, and he will have the answer.
Q: Jean, sorry to take you back to the first question which was asked you about the relationship of your two drivers, but I think you have to understand that our editors see two drivers, one of whom says the other one almost killed him; that's an on-going story for all of us. Now you say that you don't want the two drivers to compromise the working of the team by hitting each other but it seems the working relationship between Michael and Rubens is virtually finished, at least if this Italian paper is to be believed. Can you please tell us if that is the case, and if so how are you going to prevent this dispute between your drivers compromising the working of your team?
Jean Todt: You are in this world for many years and you know there is a lot of emotion. So if you ask a driver, and I think what is very important, myself, I have had the possibility in the first part of my career to share the seat close to a driver, being a co-driver, and there is a lot of emotion. Sometimes you don't control your emotion, which is human, and if you ask a driver for comments immediately when he comes out of the car, that comes out. You have two options: either you ignite the statements of the driver, and you have a piece of paper (newspaper cutting) which maybe states that, or you try to calm things down.
In my position I will try to calm things down and make sure that they speak together. It was Rubens' birthday on Monday, Michael called him. They were happy to discuss things. There is no controversy in the team. But it's competition. They have the same ambition, same car, same support, and your first opposition is your team-mate. So it has always been like that. We try to minimise as much as we can the opposition between them, but up to a certain limit.
It is something we have to pay some attention to, because on the other hand, I have always said that what does matter are the interests of the team, of the company, but at the end of the day we did manage quite well over the years and the drivers are happy to be together, they are happy to have dinner together, and very often, I see in this business drivers don't speak to each other. They (our drivers) speak to each other, they share opinions, they share opinions about private life, about business, so I would say that after six years together it is not going too bad.
Q: Does this mean that in your opinion the work of the team has not been compromised by the current dispute?
Jean Todt: No, not at all.
Q: Mr Todt, the perfect race car doesn't exist, nor does the perfect race tyre. Obviously Ferrari is presently experiencing problems. How would you like to proportion a percentage in either direction? Is it 30% or 70% Ferrari-Bridgestone, or vice versa?
Jean Todt: You know, let me thank Bridgestone for all the support they have been giving Ferrari over the last years. Ferrari has been winning six Manufacturers World Championships in a row, Michael won five Drivers' championships, and if you take each race we have won, we emphasise how important was the contribution of Bridgestone in helping us. That was probably one of the biggest advantages over our competitors. This year, definitely, we are at a disadvantage in qualifying mainly. They are a great partner, we are happy together, we will solve the problem together.
If you ask me when, I don't have any idea when, I hope as soon as possible, maybe on Sunday, maybe in two weeks, maybe at the end of the... I don't know. But still, what Bridgestone has been doing is fantastic, and I will not get into playing how much it is the tyres, how much it is the chassis, how much it is the driver: it is the whole package. We need Bridgestone to put tyres on our cars and we want to stay with them.
Q: Jean, would you welcome other teams from Michelin joining Bridgestone for next year?
Jean Todt: It is Bridgestone's choice. If Bridgestone wants to have some other top teams, we are very, very happy about that. And it will definitely help us, but it is not up to us to decide and there is nothing in our contract that says that they cannot have another team, so all that again is wrong speculation.
Q: Mr Haug, was that not the reason why you switched to Bridgestone because you were thinking that Bridgestone was helping them too much and was not giving the same importance to your team?
Norbert Haug: No, I can only underline what Jean says. We have had a great relationship with Bridgestone until now. We were together with them since DTM days, in GT days, since 1992 and we experienced a lot of support and really absolutely positive co-operation. But we took a choice: we sat down together, within the team, and we thought we will try the Michelin way, that has a background, for sure. And I would not say that it is impossible that Bridgestone comes back tomorrow.
So you have these phases, sometimes racing is up and down. You guys complained last year - me too - when Ferrari was dominant, and now it's the other way around so we should accept it and respect it and they are going to be strong. Look at the fastest race laps, look at Imola, look at Monaco, it will be a different story very soon. I can only say positive things about Bridgestone and Michelin as well. And these days we are partners with Michelin, but I think we have to have that style.
Q: To Mr Theissen, as I know you travelled home from Monte Carlo to Munich by car, you travelled through Switzerland?
Mario Theissen: Right, like last year and the year before.
Q: Any stop-over in the region around Zurich?
Mario Theissen: Yeah, if you drive 800 or 900 kilometres you have to stop from time to time! (Laughter) But I can tell you, I went there without refuelling. (More laughter)