Hungarian GP: Friday press conference (part 1)

Hungarian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director) Eddie Jordan (Jordan team principal) Tony Purnell (Ford CEO Premier Performance Division) Willy Rampf (Sauber technical director) Paul ...

Hungarian Grand Prix FIA Friday press conference transcript with

Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director)
Eddie Jordan (Jordan team principal)
Tony Purnell (Ford CEO Premier Performance Division)
Willy Rampf (Sauber technical director)
Paul Stoddart (Minardi team principal)
Pat Symonds (Renault executive director of engineering)

Q: First of all, I would like to start off with what is a talking point as far as the press is concerned, and that is the Jenson Button affair, over whether he should or shouldn't be joining Williams. David Richards has asked for the team owners' support. Can you give him that support? What are your feelings about the affair itself? Eddie, can I start with you?

Eddie Jordan: Oh, thank you! You've done me a favour have you? Well, it is none of our business, really. By giving one member support over another it implies you know the facts and I think on this issue the facts have yet to emerge properly. It seems hard to understand. For those lay people looking at us as a sport, it seems hard to understand how you would in the middle of just having your best race ever of your life, by what you have said, at Hockenheim, to announce a couple of days later that you are going to another team that may not be quite competitive as the one you are in. To do that, something needs to either have been brewing, or something happening, or the guy has lost his marbles, and I very much doubt Jenson has lost his marbles, but I do not wish or don't want to be quoted on or comment. It is one of these things that has happened, in a way. The CRB, as you rightly say, it happened because of Michael Schumacher, and as you rightly say, I was one of the parties in that, so I am sure the CRB will sort this out. I think it is a matter for them. We don't have the privilege of the information to make a judgement to side with one or other and I think it is not our place to do that.

Q: Willy, any comment?

Willy Rampf: No, I cannot really comment. I don't have enough background information about the contract situation of Jenson Button.

Q: Paul, have you been asked to support David Richards?

Paul Stoddart: I haven't, actually, but that is probably because I have been away in South Africa and this all broke when we were over there. We pay money each year to keep something called the Contract Recognition Board going and this clearly is a case for them. It should be almost as simple as a few lawyers opening a sealed envelope, reading the contract, determining the contract and making a decision. Thereafter, like any process, people have the right of appeal, the right to arbitration, but if the contract is clear cut -- and most of them are -- then there will be a very clear winner and whoever that is, whether it is BAR or whether it is Williams, it should be a relatively quickly dealt with issue.

Tony Purnell: I think it is a little bit cheesy, the whole thing, and it is a bit of bad news for Formula One. You know, we would like a cleaner image. But the details we will never know and I suppose it is a very unfortunate way to change teams. We are sad to see Webber go but I think he has handled it beautifully. We have known the situation with Mark for many months. So, you can do it quite sweetly and ethically if you like. I don't think the messages from the Jenson Button affair are quite what Formula One wants.

Ross Brawn: I think it is a little unfortunate but it gave you something to talk about in a fairly dull period, that's for sure. But we don't have the facts. There are always two sides to every story and we are tending to hear a lot about one side and very little about the other, so I think until the facts become apparent or people can judge them or obtain the facts it is very difficult to judge.

Pat Symonds: Well, again, we don't know the facts. I think the only thing I can say is if an employee doesn't want to work for you, whether they be a driver, a mechanic, the guy who sweeps the floor, there is really no point in keeping them there. You want a happy - you want people who want to work for you, and if they don't want to work for you then you should be questioning yourself as to why they don't. And I think that is the only comment I can make on it.

Q: Next question, the rules. I would like to ask, first of all, the front row, if you feel happy that you have agreed on the rules and the back row, the fact that it is so late, how it affects you guys, as independents, presumably with smaller budgets than those in the front row. Can I ask you guys in the front row how you feel the rules meetings are going?

Pat Symonds: I will try not to state the obvious but we have got three areas we are talking about here. We are talking about the chassis, which is predominantly the aerodynamics, the engine and we are talking about the tyres. On the chassis side of things I don't think we have any problems. I think this will apply to all teams, it has been under discussion at the TWG for a while and from it the principles were well established and the detail really didn't cause much discussion. So I don't think there are any problems there. With the engine we have got a very difficult situation because we are really looking at an interim step. It is well accepted and again well documented by the TWG that really the only way we were going to get the performance that we felt we required was to come down on capacity and we have been talking about that for 18 months. It can't be done for 2005 so we have to take this interim step. We need to be careful that we don't confuse money-saving ideas with safety ideas but nevertheless our team are happy with the idea of running an engine for two races, we don't believe it is a very significant step in terms of safety, in terms of what we are trying to achieve, but nevertheless it is one that is worthwhile.

Tyres, I think, are the most difficult part of the whole equation and I would say as a team we are supporting the proposals that are put forward by the FIA at the moment but on a personal level I think really I do have to give a word of caution. I think that one of the very important things these days is the spectacle. We are talking about saving money but I am a great believer in generating income rather than saving money and I am very worried that if we do go to the single tyre rule that we will, I won't say destroy, that's an overreaction, we will certainly produce a show that I don't think will be as good as the show we have now and I think that is something we need to be very careful of. People say they want to see overtaking, they want to see a change in the order of the races and it may not happen so much with a single tyre. Now, the interesting thing is that we say yes, we are agreeing with the rules and we can get on and design our cars and this is why we need to get a move on. But unfortunately these days it is not just the technical rules, it's the sporting rules and depending on what happens with the qualifying procedure will determine how we go racing and hence what our cars are like. And if the qualifying procedure goes in a particular way I can tell you -- because we have already done the simulations, we have already looked at it - even at a race like here in Hungary, you would be looking at a one-stop race and, in fact, I don't think I am giving away too much by saying that our simulations say that you go to lap 49 here, which is like then leaving 21 left, and if you can't overtake on this track and you have only one pitstop that's two thirds of the way through the race I don't think it is very exciting and I think we have to be very careful of that.

Ross Brawn: I think the chassis regulations, almost by default, we have arrived at the solution. The FIA made a proposal, which was the proposal they intend to make in October, and I think everyone looked at it and it was very close to what a lot of us were prepared to accept, so I think on the chassis it has gone through, or will be going through. I think there is enough people in agreement to make it difficult for any alternatives to happen and, of course, everyone wants to get on with their cars. So, I think there is a reasonably substantial reduction in downforce that will reduce cornering speeds and certainly move in a direction of slowing the cars down. Tyres, we have a solution that was proposed by the tyre companies, which is what the sporting regulations asked for. Michelin and Bridgestone got together and made the proposal so presumably that is settled now for next year.

I think on the engine we are in broad support of the two main proposals, which are the two-race engines and the 2.4-litre V8. It is just the timescale makes it quite expensive to do it. Obviously over a longer timescale it would have been a little bit more economic but I think the 2.4 V8 is necessary to reduce the speeds of the cars and I think the two-race engine ultimately will make it more economic for the teams with smaller budgets to operate so we need to support it. So I think it is pretty clear what is going to happen and on Sunday morning we have a Technical Working Group meeting to just go through some details, I believe they are going through some details, and I think most people now are building their cars for next year.

Tony Purnell: My view is that there are many aspects of the sport that need reform and I guess Max is trying very hard to reform the sport over the next four years quite aggressively and I support some of the things he is doing. However, to be at this time of the year when you are not quite sure what the rules are to build the cars, I think very heavily favours the well-financed teams and is a severe handicap if you can't have parallel teams and you can't chop and change and haemorrhage money to cope with a change. In fact, the rules that have already been proposed have already caused us a bit of a problem where we have had to change next year's chassis design. We wanted to be ahead of the game. So, I think, for the future, avoiding this lack of clarity is absolutely essential. Hopefully the Technical Working Group will settle things this weekend and we can go forwards. I share some of Pat's worries about the entertainment value that we will get out of this package, but as an engineer, you know, we need clarity and to handle the finances we need clarity.

Q: Paul, what's the independents' solution? What do you feel?

Paul Stoddart: Well the first thing is that we are not preparing and getting ready to build a new car and there is a simple fact for that: We cannot afford to make a wrong choice. Here we are at the Hungaroring, traditionally a bit of a watershed race where people announce drivers, engines and are well advanced on their design and build programmes for the following year and we haven't got a clue what the regulations are. I take on board what the guys in front in the Technical Working Group were saying but in the team principals meetings it is completely different. We are nowhere near agreeing on any of this. We are not agreed on an engine for next year for two races, we have got one team principal saying he is not going to turn up if that's the case. We have got another manufacturer saying they are going to pull out if that's the case. We are nowhere near agreeing on the aerodynamics package unless, and as Ross said there is a meeting on Sunday morning, unless it's phase one because phase two is completely unacceptable. On tyres, there have been suggestions made but there is no agreement at the moment on tyres, and this could all get forced through on January 15, which is the final implementation date of Max's proposals. But to a small team, or anyone who has not got the budget to run two or three parallel development programmes at the same time or the wind tunnel testing that is required to get back those aerodynamic losses -- because we did one quick session, the guys in front are far better qualified to talk than I am but we lost 30 percent with the aero package as we believe it has been put forward -- the bigger teams have the resources to gain that back and the actual drop you would see in the times next year would be not insignificant but it wouldn't be massive. The ones it would be massive for is the ones who haven't got the money to run programme after programme after programme chasing these rule changes. Any change costs money and no matter what it is it costs money. It might have a long-term benefit but it has a short-term killer effect (unclear). The simple answer is I think it's devastating for the small teams and if it does go to the wire, so to speak, where we don't have any clarity before, perhaps, October 30, when we have to get the sporting regulations right - I think you will probably find the whole lot will come as a package around that time, I would like to think it is going to be agreed before then but I am a bit pessimistic on seeing agreement between the team principals -- I would like to think there would be some kind of alleviation perhaps along the lines of Max's suggestion that with the engines, the 2.4 V8s for 2006, the small teams that haven't got one, can't afford one or aren't in a position to provide one can continue to run their V10s and there will be safeguards in place so that you don't have too big an advantage. I would like to think that if we are going to be so late coming up with agreement on what it is we are building cars to next year, that some consideration is given to small teams to give us a fighting chance where we can run this year's cars for a determined period of time until we can build the new cars once somebody tells us what on Earth we are building these cars to. In short, not happy!

Q: Never have guessed! Do you feel similarly, Willy?

Willy Rampf: On the engine side I think we are in a good situation because we have discussed the situation and we are quite confident that next year's engine is reliable and quite powerful so this is not an issue really and a point of concern for us. On the tyre side, we don't exactly know what the tyre regulation will look like but if the tyre regulation does change the strategy for next year- say one and two stops instead of three stops -- this would obsolete the different chassis concepts and when we are in the design phase, I mean, fuel cell volume is something you cannot change during a season so we have to make a best guess what is the fuel cell volume for next year. On the technical regulations changes, we support them because we think it is a good chance for us, as a smaller team, now with our new wind tunnel as a good and reliable tool, we could benefit. The problem is, if the decision is very late then it is very costly for us because we don't have a parallel team developing the new car, we have one team of aerodynamicists and the later we decide about these things and the technical regulation is defined, the more difficult it is for us because we have already started with next year's car concept in the wind tunnel and whatever we have done up to now I think we can throw into the bin because it is not valid any more if the new regulations come in. So the regulation change is fine for us, but the later the final definition the more we are against it because it's costly, that's the main reason, and I hope the final decision is fairly soon.

Q: Eddie, what about your thoughts?

Eddie Jordan: They are more or less along the lines of everybody here. I am trying to find how the normal person would see this because we have got a sport and we have got to entertain and we have got an obligation to make sure it's the best we can do. After the last meeting we had in Hockenheim, where again the team principals failed to come up with a decision to try to agree, I was really frustrated so I wrote to everyone, which it is not a usual thing that I do, but my main message in that was that above all we do not need rules imposed on us. It would be far more prudent and sensible for the team principals to agree on this occasion, where a time factor is of the essence. We need, as Tony called it clarity -- that was a word I used in the letter -- but I also used the word certainty. We need certainty, not in October, yesterday. We need it immediately. And I would urge the guys here in front who are members of the TWG to bring forward the meeting of Sunday to tomorrow, which might, therefore, enable us doddery old team bosses to get together on Sunday morning to ratify that and to sign it off so that there is not another race gone by before we do it. If that was possible, guys, you would be doing us a big favour because I think the TWG has some obligations, we have some obligations, but one thing that is of absolutely paramount importance is this business will haemorrhage itself quickly because we know the big teams will always be strong and the little teams will always be weak. Now, anyone who is not naive will understand that has always been the way it has been in this business and it's never going to change. But what it must do is give us all a fighting chance. It is just preposterous to think that a set of rules and regulations for next year's championship are not clear and defined at this moment in time and I would urge all parties including myself to come together as soon as possible and if the guys can meet tomorrow and get us team principals together on Sunday let's sign something and get it done, then it seems as if we have agreed it rather than somebody else sticking it down our neck.

Continued in part 2

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Eddie Jordan , Ross Brawn , Paul Stoddart , David Richards
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams , Minardi , Jordan