Interview with Max Mosley

PRESS CONFERENCE OF MAX MOSLEY, PRESIDENT OF THE FIA Max Mosley: I apologise for holding a press conference in this press room because a lot of people are here who are really just trying to get on with their work and are rather like a captive ...

PRESS CONFERENCE OF MAX MOSLEY, PRESIDENT OF THE FIA

Max Mosley: I apologise for holding a press conference in this press room because a lot of people are here who are really just trying to get on with their work and are rather like a captive audience. Nevertheless, I will try and do the best I can.

First of all, this is the first Formula One Grand Prix that I have been to for the whole weekend for two years, so I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer to answer - or try to answer - questions because there is not a lot of opportunity to talk to journalists other than occasionally in the office. That's the purpose here. I don't have any great announcement to make.

In my absence, I'm sure you have all noticed that Mr. Alan Donnelly comes to the Grands Prix as my representative and it occurred to me that some of you might not know much about his background and it might be useful to give you a very very brief resume.

Mr. Donnelly was a member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 2000. He was the leader of the British Labour group in the European Parliament for several years. He was for seven years the chairman of the European Parliament committee for relations with the United States Congress. He was for five years the European Parliamentary spokesman on the car industry. He was chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Group of car users in the European Parliament.

He was responsible for the European Parliament legislation on German Unification. He conducted the Parliamentary confirmation hearings for the governing board of the European Central Bank and he also chaired the transatlantic dialogue between the European and American car manufacturers. Of course, being the European Parliament spokesman on the car industry for five years is what brought him into contact with us. I'm very glad to have him at the Grands Prix, but of course his main work - he doesn't work full-time for the FIA , he has a consultancy so he is part-time with the FIA - is dealing with the relations we have with the car industry and the wider functions of the FIA. So that is Alan Donnelly, for those who didn't know, and you will see him around at all the Grands Prix and I know that a lot of you know him already.

That really is the only thing that I wanted to say. I can guess what some of the topics are that people will raise but it's probably more efficient if I endeavour to answer questions rather than to start making announcements. So who wants to ask the first question?

Q: I would like to know what is the status quo with Phoenix or DART or whatever you want to call it from the FIA's standpoint?

MM: The Phoenix situation is really quite simple. We believe that they don't have an entry in the championship. They think they do. They've gone to or are going to court in England to try and establish if they have an entry and no doubt this will be heard in the next few weeks.

Q: Could I ask you to confirm what we've heard which is that Phoenix was denied arbitration by the FIA, and I wonder if you could clarify the role of Mr Walkinshaw in the affair, because he appears to be the only person who represents the team to us or to anybody else?

MM: The first point; it's not true that we've denied them arbitration. On the contrary, we are telling the English court that they should go to arbitration rather than to court, because the Concorde Agreement is covered by arbitration, notwithstanding that we don't believe that they have an entry or come into the thing at all. I have no knowledge of any connection between Tom Walkinshaw and Phoenix other than a rumour that he intended to supply them with engines, but the person behind Phoenix is somebody called Nickerson and he's the person who made the application to the French court and got whatever it is they got from the French court.

Q: You've changed some of the rules recently, or at least the F1 Commission has and the World Council has backed it up. You've got an agreement with the teams not to play with the chassis for the next couple of years. Are you going to mess around with any of the other rules in the next year or so?

MM: Well, first of all, we never mess around with the rules. We give things careful consideration and go through the proper procedures. That said, just to clear one point up: the idea that somehow in Formula One the FIA changes the rules is a little misleading. We cannot change anything in Formula One other than matters to do with circuit safety or the appointment of officials or disciplinary matters. We cannot affect Formula One in any way (except in those areas) without going first to the Formula One Commission. In the Formula One Commission, the eleven teams have twelve votes, the promoters of the races have eight votes, the sponsors of the teams have two votes, the engine suppliers have a vote, the tyre suppliers have a vote and the remaining two votes, one is mine in my capacity as president of the FIA, and the other is of Bernie Ecclestone in his capacity as the commercial rights holder. Which means that unless you have a substantial majority of the teams in favour, you will not get something through.

To pass a resolution, you need 18 of the 26 votes. All that's in the Concorde Agreement. So, to cut a long story short, everything that moves in Formula One, except circuit safety, disciplinary matters, and the appointment of officials, is subject to the control of the Formula One Commission, until the expiry of the Concorde Agreement which is not until 2008. The World Council has the right to refuse a decision of the Formula One Commission and send it back to the Commission for reconsideration. But in fact, as far as I can recall in the whole 21 year history of the Concorde Agreement, I don't believe that's ever happened.

Q: Thank you for that explanation. Are we going to see any changes in the regulations, for example, tyres next year, on the grounds of safety perhaps?

MM: Well, if we did make changes to the tyres, it would not necessarily be on the grounds of safety as such, it might be on grounds of anxiety about performance. But we are talking to the tyre companies, yes.

We are a little bit concerned that the cornering speeds are now reaching levels which are not reassuring and so we are now talking about taking measures to stop the cornering speeds going up too much beyond where they are now.

Q: I have a feeling that the new rules concerning the engines are not in accordance with the spirit of the sport and the penalty of ten places behind for the next Grand Prix is not a good one because I have the feeling it is a politic or economic decision, not in accordance with the sport.

MM: The point about the engines is that, from the point of view of the sport, whether you have an engine that does just the race and warm-up, 350 kilometres or something like that, or you have an engine that does the whole weekend, which might be seven or eight hundred kilometres, changes absolutely nothing at all. In fact, if you were working on engines, it makes much more sense to build a racing engine to last for a longer time than a shorter time. The idea that you fit perhaps three different engines in a weekend is massively uneconomic. It's terribly wasteful at a time when several of the teams have not got enough money.

Now we can sit there and have some idealised view of things and say, well, it's nice to let everybody do what they want, spend as much money as they wish, but when we start losing two, three or four teams off the back of the grid, suddenly the whole of Formula One is under threat and if you're a governing body, one of your tasks is to try to foresee these difficulties and deal with them. The problem is that it's all very well for the top teams to say, well, if you save me $20-30 million a year, I will simply spend it on something else. They've got the money and they can spend it on something else. We are not concerned with them. We are concerned with the people who are missing $20m or $30m out of their budget and have got absolutely no way of filling the hole.

If you are spending, which some teams are, as much as $20 or $30m more than you've got, you cannot do that for very long. Somebody has to do something and that is the function of a governing body. The moment you introduce a rule and say, you may only use one engine per weekend, you save a great deal of money because an 800-kilometre engine costs the same as an 300 kilometre engine. Also, if somebody wants to, they can still continue to use the 300 kilometre engine, they just won't do the practice, they will just do the qualifying. They might choose to do that. That will be a matter for them, but you are only using one engine. If you have a rule saying you will only use one engine, what do you do if somebody needs to use two? Well, you've got two possibilities. You either have to have some form of a penalty or you say 'you're out of the event.' Now it's clearly nonsense, if somebody blows an engine in qualifying to say 'sorry, that's it, you can't race.' On the other hand, if you just let him race where he would have raced, then everybody will blow their engine and fit a new one. Therefore you have to bring in some form of deterrent and having thought about it very carefully, the overwhelming majority of the teams were in favour of moving back on the grid. Ten places was chosen arbitrarily - it could be ten, it could have been 12 places.

Q: But wouldn't it be possible to proceed like with the tyres, for example, to bring, for each car, four or five engines, the FIA chooses three and decides which one will be used for the qualifying and so it would have been possible to use a maximum of three but not a maximum of one.

MM: We're using three at the moment. So that would achieve absolutely nothing. You would just continue to spend a fortune. You have to try and understand that Formula One is spending, at the moment, more than it's got, as far as the smaller teams at the back of the grid are concerned. You cannot allow that to continue. If you do, you will find that people will go out of business, and our job is to try and keep Formula One together.

We're in a difficult situation now. Everybody here works in the media. Everyone in the media knows that advertising revenue has dropped significantly, in some places, dramatically. It takes a little bit longer in Formula One, because there are contracts, they don't buy the advertising from week to week, they make a two or three year contracts. Don't be under any illusion, the income is going to go down. It's already insufficient. You cannot just sit there and pretend it's not happening. That's when you go out of business. That is how people go bankrupt. They sit there and don't recognise the problems. Now Formula One as a whole, we have to keep an eye on it. The smaller teams know exactly what their problem is, but they cannot do it on their own. They rely on the governing body to create an environment in which they can survive.

Q: Max, the idea of going back ten places and then the need therefore to conserve engines is going to result in a situation where on Fridays we may have sessions where nobody goes out. Now that's not in the best interests of the sport. Surely, you can find a way of doing it without having a situation where the people who pay to come in through the gate actually have something to watch (sic).

MM: Well, that's your view. What's going to be very interesting is this. If you want an engine to do eight hundred kilometres, it will have to run slightly slower than an engine that does three or four hundred kilometres.

Now a team will have a choice. They can do exactly what you've said: not go out on Friday, run the engine a little bit faster, have a little bit more power rather like they do in qualifying at the moment. They have to weigh up the advantage of having a little bit more with the advantage of setting the car up properly, getting it properly balanced and doing all the checks that have to be done. And in my opinion - but everybody is entitled to their own - and the opinion of several other people, those teams that run slightly less revs, but set the car up properly on a Friday, will perform better than the teams which have slightly more revs and a little bit more power in the race. Now, who turns out to be right remains to be seen.

Q: When you're sitting around talking about this with the teams, doesn't it get on your nerves somewhat when they all arrive in private jet. Do you think banning private jets might be a better way of saving money for the teams?

MM: This is exactly where you're missing the point and one or two of the big teams owners miss the point. A small team, which is running out of money, can, if it wishes, come in a single-engine Cessna or it can come commercial. That's its choice. But if you're operating in an environment where everybody has got to use three engines a weekend, you either give up or you pay the money. Bearing in mind that the sponsor, if you try to run all weekend on one engine, would start saying to you why are you running all weekend on one engine when the top teams are using three - no wonder you're not winning. What they spend their own money on, which is within their control, obviously we shouldn't interfere with. Where we need to do something is when the entire environment imposes costs on them, which are not necessary or not justified.

Q: Max if some or even many of the teams decide to continue as before, and decide to accept the ten places on the grid penalty, in return for being able to run the same engines as they currently do, will you be able to or decide to apply any further sanctions to that ignoring of the change?

MM: Not unless the Formula One Commission, by their usual majority, decided to do it. In fact I don't think that will happen. I think what will happen is that we will find there is very little difference - don't forget this is for 2004 - very little difference in the engines, and you will probably find that the 2004 engine, if they build one to do all three days as they would run at present, will probably have the same power as the engines that they are running today because they tend to pick up 200 or 300 rpm per season and the way you make the thing run longer is to run it - everything being equal - a little bit slower.

I think that the reality is that it will not change much once or twice a season, you will see a top driver start ten places further back because he's been unlucky. That can always happen, but it will be rare, and when it happens, it's the same for everybody and it doesn't do any harm, it's not ideal, but it does no harm. Some people think it would even improve the spectacle. My own view is I would prefer it not to happen, but I don't think it matters if it does.

Q: Can you please clarify the situation on the penalties for discipline matters?

MM: We had a difficult situation, which is this. If you had an incident in a race and somebody is to blame, one of two things happen. They either continue running or they have to stop. Now if they continue to run there is a very obvious penalty, a stop-go or a drive-through penalty available, and that is a deterrent to people causing an incident. The only difficulty comes if you have an incident that puts a driver out of the race, for which he is clearly to blame. Until just now the stewards had two possibilities. They could fine him, a maximum of $50,000 (US Dollars) or they could exclude him from the next race. Now you could argue, particularly with one or two of the higher paid drivers, a fine, even a $50,000 (US Dollars) fine is of no great significance. On the other hand, to stop him competing in the next race is really a massive penalty not just on the driver and his team, but also in some cases on the public.

You might get a driver excluded from a race just where everybody watching really wanted to see him race. You need something between the fine and the total exclusion from the race. And the compromise that the Formula One Commission came up with was to have the possibility for the stewards to move him back ten places on the grid, which is a significant penalty but is not a totally deadly penalty. It doesn't put him out of the race. It just puts him at a disadvantage at the next race. I think it will only happen very rarely, but it was quite clearly a gap that needed to be filled and that was as far as the Formula One commission and any of us could see the best way of doing it.

Q: In your mind is there any merit in having a retired Formula One driver on the panel of stewards?

MM: It is very difficult. You see there is a body of opinion that says you should have permanent stewards, permanent people dealing with these matters at every race. The problem is, if you do that they become part of the, I hate to use the word, but part of the circus. They get to know everybody, they have got their friends and enemies in the paddock, and they are not independent. We feel it is enormously important to have completely independent people making these decisions who, in the nature of things, will take decisions that sometimes some of us will think are wrong. I can think of lots of things the stewards have done where personally I would have done something different, and think everybody is in that position. This is the same with all sport, you see it in football, you see someone get a red card that you think shouldn't and you see somebody get a yellow card that you think should have got a red one, it just happens. But we feel the independence is perhaps the most important factor. A compromise that we put forward to the Formula One Commission but which was not accepted by the teams was that the penalties should be imposed by Charlie Whiting, who is the race director, with a right of appeal to the stewards, so that the stewards became really the appeal instance of the race, rather than the actual decision takers.

If you did that you would certainly get more consistency between one race an the next because there is just one person doing it, but at the same time you have the safeguard of an appeal. There is an argument for that but like all these things there is an argument against, and in the Formula One Commission the argument against succeeded. We tried a permanent steward for one season early in my time and the feeling was there was too much intimacy between that person and the teams. No criticism of him, but just in the nature of things you get to know everybody if you come to the races all the time. We feel the disadvantage of a degree of inconsistency and perhaps occasionally what some of you would see as eccentric decisions, is greater than...well the advantages of independence outweigh the disadvantages I have just described.

Q: We have a situation where Kirch might be out of business in the next 100 days. Can you comment on that?

MM: The situation is interesting, because as I think everybody knows that group one way or another owns 75 percent of effectively SLEC, which is the business that Bernie has built up and which has the commercial rights to the Formula One World Championship for the next 108 years. As far as we are concerned, I don't think it makes a great deal of difference, at least at the moment. It is a huge problem, for football because there are a number of football teams that depend on Kirch for their income. Formula One is the other way around. Formula One doesn't get money from Kirch, Kirch gets money from Formula One.

So Formula One is not in the unhappy situation of football, of wondering where the money is going to come from. In the longer term, we have the right of veto if those rights, which currently belong to Kirch, or if the SLEC group itself were sold to some undesirable organisation. We have the right of veto and obviously we would exercise that right if we though that the interests of motor sport in general and Formula One in particular were likely to be damaged. But in the nature of things, somebody is going to want to continue to show Formula One on free-to-air television world-wide and on pay-per-view also world-wide, and whoever does that will try to do a good job. It shouldn't matter too much who does it as long as they do it sensibly and we will confront the question as it arises. But there is no immediate anxiety.

Q: Brazil will face a ban in tobacco advertising next year, including Formula One. Are you expecting any modification of this law and are you going to have new races next year?

MM: The situation on tobacco is that we believe it is absolutely essential that if a ban comes in it is world-wide because if you start banning tobacco advertising in individual countries it is like trying to push the air out of a mattress - it simply goes somewhere else. There is a hearing in the European parliament on Monday on this question. At the moment the proposal for the EU is that there should be a final ban on the first of July 2005, I think. We are going to suggest the EU adopts the world date, which is the end of the 2006 season. That has already been adopted in certain countries and it is the date we have chosen for motor sport which the world council voted in October 2000.

It is in everybody's interests to observe that date. The countries who do not, risk a gap between the date when they bring in a ban and the world-wide date where they perhaps wouldn't have a Grand Prix. Without a world-wide ban it is also completely futile for an individual country to ban it because even if they were to succeed in preventing tobacco advertising at their Grand Prix they still would have television images all year coming from the other Grands Prix.

Q: Going back to the stewards, you said you prefer independent stewards and then you put the proposal that Charlie Whiting has a stronger position. We have all see what happened with the Ferrari rims so that sounds a little strange.

MM: The point was not that Charlie would take the decisions totally, which is what the stewards do. The Ferrari rim question, I think if you go into that, there isn't even the beginning of an argument against the course of action that Charlie took there. You are talking about four sets of tyres for a given car and you would only have a problem if that car had more than four sets available to use and that simply didn't arise. I don't think any serious person in the Formula One teams would question that Charlie is completely independent and fair-minded. I don't think anybody would dispute that.

Q: As a follow-up to the question on Kirch, the manufacturers are meeting here to discuss their plans for 2008. You have said in the past you imagine there will be no split. In the view of the Kirch situation, is that still your take?

MM: I think it is probably more likely rather than less likely now that a deal will be come to because instead of negotiating with a major media magnate with all that goes with that, the manufacturers will be negotiating with the banks. The other thing is I think everyone, particularly the manufacturers themselves appreciate that the discussion about two championships is beginning to have a negative effect in Formula One because we are now getting into the last five years of the Concorde agreement and a lot of sponsorship contracts are three to five year contracts. People start to wonder whether the situation is sufficiently stable to justify the sort of money that they can and would spend, so there is now an increasing pressure from all sides to resolve the matter and get a clear deal, and I think that will happen.

Q: For almost 50 years there was never a discussion about how often you are allowed to change line at the start, now we have it almost every two weeks, which led to a quite ridiculous fine against Montoya in Malaysia. Don't you think Overtaking is already difficult enough?

MM: If you recall, when the electronics were allowed back in we were all told by a couple of old hands that the racing was going to be incredibly boring because everybody would start as one and there would be no overtaking on the start and so on and then you see, for example in Brazil, the two Renaults going past the two cars in front. There is now a lot of overtaking and manoeuvring at the start but the drivers themselves proposed the single move rule and if they want to reconsider it we would reconsider it. But it is not really up to us to try to tell them how to drive. Even going around a big round point on a road there are no hard and fast rules as an ordinary road driver you know more or less what you can and can't do. They do that only much faster, but in the end it is just a matter of judgement. The drivers all know that if they collide with each another there is a very good chance that they would be severely disadvantaged if not eliminated from the race so they have a strong incentive not to do it.

Maybe I am being over optimistic, I don't know, but I would be surprised if this trend of having a collision at every start continues because it is disadvantageous to the drivers. But in the end I am afraid that you will get more collisions the safer the cars become the more people can push it to the edge knowing that if there is a collision it is not likely to hurt them. Now, personally I am very glad that is the case, but the fact remains that forty years ago you didn't take the risks you do now. That said I think it is very foolish if drivers express themselves aggressively in the press on these matters because in the end it is a very dangerous sport, we can get accidents, and if you get some strong expression in the press before an accident that could have consequences outside the sport.

Q: Returning to tobacco, my understanding is that the World Health Organisation has made a request about Moscow for there not to be advertising from its first year, before the world-wide ban. Is that something you would take on board and act on?

MM: I have no knowledge of such and idea. I think it very unlikely that the World Health Organisation would want to interfere with individual races. It would be manifestly unfair to say to some new organiser like, if there were one, in Moscow, you shouldn't do it when other people are doing it, I think from the discussions I have had with the World Health Organisation I think they share our view that the only effective way to do this is on a world-wide basis. I don't think they would go out of their way to try and disadvantage an individual Grand Prix. Clearly the thing to do is to have a date, world-wide, and then that is it. All rational people understand that, including, I think, the World Health Organisation.

Q: You made the HANS system mandatory from 2003. Should we infer that the FIA thinks teams haven't done enough in the meantime to make the systems work?

MM: No. The situation is that this has been monitored very carefully by the safety commission and, particularly, by Sid Watkins and his people. We now have quite a bit of experience from the United States, where they have been using it, and the case now for using it is, I think, overwhelming. The only remaining difficulty is that we as the FIA will not bring it in to Formula One or to Formula 3000, unless we are in a position, should we wish to do so, to bring it in other forms of motor sport, Formula Three, for example, and sports-cars, whatever. And that means we need to be clear about who has what licence and what terms.

What we cannot do is give any organisation a monopoly of supply on something that is compulsory. So we either have to be very clear as to the terms on which it is obtainable, that it can be got at reasonable cost by, say, a Formula Three driver, or we have to make it voluntary, in which case everybody does what they want. Before we make it compulsory we have got to know whether people can get it on proper sensible commercial terms.

Q: Is that what has caused the delay in it being introduced in Formula One rather than drivers being uncomfortable with a particular design?

MM: No, the delay with Formula One was partly the drivers, partly Sid Watkins wanted to be quite sure that the actual device itself would not fail in a serious collision because there were serious question marks about that, and thirdly that it is truly effective, which I think we now know it is. And I think those difficulties have all been overcome, therefore it will come in 2003. The only thing that could delay it is if we can't sort the licences out for lesser forms of motor sport, in which case we would have to make if voluntary rather than compulsory.

Q: Going back to the engine issue. Do you share the concern that the big engine manufacturers will be able to come up with a solution in two years time that can ensure the performance they still have where as smaller teams will go for the cheapest solution and so the gap will widen between big and small teams?

MM: I understand the point, but that's really an after dinner, second bottle of wine argument. The truth is, if you use only one set of pistons it is always cheaper than using three sets, the same applies to everything else on the engine, so even the biggest engine manufacturer in the world, if he can only use on engine and he can't take it to pieces at the circuit, can only fit one set of components in and they don't cost more merely because they last longer. If someone says to you, which sometimes they do, 'ah, but they will make a really special crankshaft', for the sake of argument, 'and this will be more expensive,' the truth is they would make that same, really special type of crankshaft today if they could, and run the engine faster because in the end it is all about speed.

The engine costs what the engine costs and whether it is 300 or 800 kilometres it makes very little difference. It is true that the development costs of the 800km engine are marginally greater because you would have to run it on the dynamometer for 800km rather than for 300km, but that cost compared to the components and the rebuilds and the capital costs of the extra engines is minuscule. So I am familiar with that argument because I know where it comes from, but it is not a valid one.

Q: Quite a lot of people have suggested the actual savings on engines pales into insignificance compared to what people spend testing. One suggestion was that we should have a four-day meeting with unlimited running on Thursday and Friday, but ban testing between races. How much was that discussed and what were the objections?

MM: One of the ideas that has been put forward was to stop all testing from the beginning of February to the middle of November except at a Grand Prix and to increase the running on the Friday from two hours to four hours, but not the Thursday, which would be a whole new ballgame. That would be the only testing, and you eliminate the test team. You allow the spare car and test driver to run, and then the test team's gone. It is true, that would make a massive saving. For example, I dropped in briefly at the Barcelona test and I know most of you have been to one of them. It is like going to a Grand Prix. It is exactly the same, the motor homes, the transporters, everything is there, and it is a parallel organisation, it is not the same people that are here. The only difference is there is no public, and you could say no point, because everybody moves up two or three tenths of a second and each person is there thinking they are going to improve our car and they do, they improve it slightly, but so do all the others, so everything stays the same.

Now, the least one can say is it is not rational indeed - it's completely crazy. But I and the FIA, cannot do anything about that unless the great majority of the teams agree, and the great majority of the teams don't agree for the moment. Now that may change in the future and certainly we believe that is the way to go. But there are arguments the other way and one has to acknowledge that, and in the end, contrary to popular belief, Formula One rulemaking process is a completely democratic. It is this thing of 18 out of 26 votes, and if I don't get the 18 votes together they don't have to listen to me.

Q: I just wondered what your problem was with Montoya expressing his dissatisfaction after the last race, and have you warned him about his future conduct and will you take action against drivers who do speak out?

MM: We try not to get involved in these sort of things. Unless somebody really starts to damage the sport, we try not to get involved. I think from his point of view it is a little bit unwise sometimes to complain about other drivers in case something happens when it might cause you difficulties. But it is only in the most extreme cases...and I think we have only had two during my entire presidency when we have actually taken action against a driver. We try not to. People should be free to express an opinion and certainly they should be free to dissent and to say they don't agree with the FIA. I don't agree sometimes with our stewards. I can't really say so, it would not be diplomatic, so I don't. But I think we live in a free world. It is only if a driver actually damages the sport that we would consider taking action.

Q: But he would maintain that Schumacher was damaging the sport by what he did?

MM: I didn't say that Montoya was damaging the sport, did I? I just said that we are not doing anything because we don't think anybody has damaged the sport. Those sort of disagreements are all part and parcel of a world level sport. As soon as you have characters and different views and a large group of media you are going to get this sort of thing reported, and I think we all have to be grown up about it. We are not too worried about it unless we feel the interests of Formula One are really being undermined.

Q: A few years ago I asked you about people taking legal action against car companies and you just rejected it out of hand. It is starting now, we have got Belgium looking at legislation to have health warnings on cars and banning the use of speed as a means of selling cars. Now that is a long-term threat to the sport because if manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make fast cars they are not going to need the sport to promote them. What can the FIA do about that to stop these policies going through?

MM: First of all, I think that anybody who wants to put that idea through that you should have a health warning on cars has got a very uphill struggle. The more realistic thing is that the road car is going to be more and more regulated. The technology already exists to make sure nobody breaks the speed limit. The FIA's attitude to that is really two-fold. First of all, if we have totally enforced speed limits, just take that example, we need rational speed limits. And as we have the technology to enforce the speed limits we also have the technology to vary them according to circumstances, rather than to have them arbitrary and in many cases indefensible, which is what we have at the moment. But apart from that, as far as the sport is concerned, the more the car on the road is regulated, the greater the incentive to come into motor sport.

You don't necessarily have to have in the future massive roll cages and all sorts of protection which you needed 20 years ago because the road cars are now much safer than in the past. So we see the future as much more grass roots motor sport, saying to young people 'if you want to go fast, the road is not the place to do it. The road is for getting from A to B, it is not for going fast or taking risks. If you want to go fast and take risks we can accommodate you, we've got rallies, we've got racing, and that is where you should do it. If you think you can drive fast, come along to a club race and see how you get on', because they will be quite surprised. Even club racing is very quick.

Q: What do you think about the teams putting screens up in the pit lane during official practice so nobody can see?

MM: Personally, I think it is a pity, but I understand why they do it. They want to hide their technology. But they delude themselves that the other teams don't know what their front wing looks like, in fact I believe it is complete nonsense and each of the top teams know every detail of the car of the other top teams and there are various ways of doing that. However the people to put pressure on about that are not us, the FIA because it is not really a sporting matter, but the sponsors. They should say, 'look, you cover this up, you don't show my logo'. Although I disapprove of it, it is not something I really have the right to interfere with, and again how would I get it through the Formula One commission, I'd never get my 18 votes. But I agree with you.

Q: If one of the Minardi drivers causes an accident at the start tomorrow, what would his punishment be in Barcelona?

MM: It would be a matter for the stewards, but the Stewards would weigh up the degree of penalty in moving them back, whatever number of places it was, arguably but not necessarily less than ten, because I think you are assuming that Minardi will not be more than ten places from the back, they'll weigh that up versus a suspension or a fine, and take the decision accordingly. But of course moving back ten places only really works for the front twelve drivers, and then it works progressively less as you go back, and the same, of course, is true of the engine rule. But the point is that the stewards have one more weapon. They would weigh all the factors up and take a decision accordingly having regard to all the circumstances of the case.

Q: Considering the crash this year in Australia or last year, for example, in Germany, is a standing start an absolute rule or a point of discussion?

MM: There is no current discussion about having a rolling start. There have been discussions in the past, quite often, but at the moment it is not something that anyone is putting forward. For what it is worth, our feeling about a rolling start is that it is if anything more dangerous than a standing start because at the start line, instead of at anything from zero at the front of the grid to say, 200 kilometres at the back, they have already passed it at whatever the racing speed is, or very close to it, at that particular part of the track.

They then arrive at the first corner in many cases with even more speed than they arrive at the present time and less room for manoeuvre. It is something you could debate for hours, because there is an American view and a European view, but certainly it is not a theme at the moment, and the arguments in favour of the rolling start are not sufficiently strong that I would put it forward and I don't think any of our safety people would either. But like so many questions in motor sport there is no total answer, in the end it depends on your view.

-fia-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Bernie Ecclestone , Tom Walkinshaw
Teams Ferrari , Minardi