FIA Friday Press Conference 10 October 2003 Team Members: Patrick Head (Williams) Peter Sauber (Sauber) Paul Stoddart (Minardi) Geoff Willis (BAR) Q: First of all, a question to all of you. We've seen the race weekend schedule for next year...
FIA Friday Press Conference
10 October 2003
Patrick Head (Williams)
Peter Sauber (Sauber)
Paul Stoddart (Minardi)
Geoff Willis (BAR)
Q: First of all, a question to all of you. We've seen the race weekend schedule for next year and I think it's fair to say that the press room is not impressed: there's nothing for the small teams, no cost cutting, nothing competitive on Fridays. And yet we've had a fantastic championship this year and there's a certain feeling of 'if it ain't broke, why fix it?' Your comments please, what do you feel about the changes being proposed, and why have they been proposed?
Ove Andersson: There has obviously been a lot of discussion about this but the final result is the weekend proposed as it is being proposed, is voted through the Formula One Commission, so it's not really a pure team decision. There are sponsors included in the decision, race promoters and so on. I feel that the teams are not really the marketing people of Formula One; it's a common solution which I suppose would be the ideal one otherwise promoters would have said something against it.
Q: Do you share the concerns that I've outlined, Patrick, for example?
Head: I agree with Ove. It isn't something in which we've had much of an input. There were a couple of meetings at Indianapolis but I think the agenda was being set elsewhere by people who have maybe more direct interests in what they can sell on Friday or what they can sell on Saturday. In a way, I certainly didn't like the two different testing agreements, but I can readily see why, for the less strongly budgeted teams, being able to test for two hours on the Friday morning was extremely helpful and we, Williams, were in support of Friday being a test day of say four or four and a half hours, and restricted testing, but there were other people with different interests. But just as for this year, we really didn't have any say in the changes from last year to this year but we got out there and the teams have done a very good job of adapting to race preparation in two and a half hours and we'll adapt for next year. But it isn't a decision in which we've participated.
Q: Geoff, are there technical, tactical and design concerns in the new regulations?
Willis: The biggest change next year is clearly the single engine regulation, and there will be a trade-off trying to minimise mileage versus maximising the benefit of having two hours running on the Friday. A couple of things about the regulations still need to be clarified. Certainly they would apply to us. We don't fully understand what the tyre allocation issue is going to be for the third driver on Friday and would we be forced to use the third driver for the rest of the weekend? We are not quite sure what the implications will be for the engine. The two qualifying sessions on Saturday; we are probably going to need a bit more time between them but these are small details. I think, very much like Patrick says, it's different but I'm sure we'll find the correct solution and we'll work around it. I don't think it really offers anything particularly strange from a technical point of view.
Q: Paul, there may still be grey areas, as Geoff just mentioned.
Stoddart: Well there is. But going back to your original question, I think it's very sad. Last year we were accused of having a boring championship. This year we've got both championships going to the wire. We've got a situation where Formula One has transformed itself in twelve months and we go and change it all. Last year there was much talk about initiatives to the small teams and as Patrick touched upon and I can testify too, the biggest disadvantage is budgets and clearly that two hours on a Friday morning enormously helped the small teams. It's been taken away. What it has been replaced with doesn't really help the small teams. Yes, the bottom six can run a third car if they chose to do so but there are a few little stings in the tail, like a super licence. For instance, the Japanese driver who was driving with Jordan today probably would not have been able to do so under the new regs. Certainly two of the drivers I've used this year would not have been able to under the new regulations. I think it's defeating the purpose of what we did last year. Last year we gave the little guys a bit of a chance. The Heathrow (agreement) street sweepers or track sweepers as we were called, it proved to be the right choice for many teams and I think it's really, really sad to see it disappear.
Sauber: Of course, we prefer the Heathrow agreement. We like to change to this testing agreement, but on the other hand, it's very difficult to bring all the ideas together, the ideas about the race weekend were so different and also the interests of the teams and that's normal.
Q: So having had a very good championship this year, wouldn't it have been better just to leave it as it was?
Sauber: Maybe we can change something because the first idea was to improve the whole weekend, especially for the spectators, on the track and the spectators at home. But now it's similar.
Q: Another one for you all. It's been a very close championship this year. Is that because of the regulation changes or has it been because of normal development?
Andersson: I think that question is very difficult to answer. Generally speaking, I believe that the championship, due to the new qualifying regulations, doing qualifying with the fuel and so on, has mixed up the grid and has been making races very interesting. So probably the rule changes have had a big influence to achieve that.
Head: I think the main influence has been that there have been three and sometimes four teams running competitively and that wasn't the case. We were able to qualify well in one lap last year but we weren't able to sustain that. The degradation of our tyres was much worse than with the Ferrari and so it promised to deceive really. Now there are three, sometimes four. I think the Renault is probably competitive at every circuit now, certainly the engine no longer seems to be as far behind as it was at the beginning of the season. I think last year the Ferrari was just head and shoulders above the other cars and however you mixed up the regulations you were still going to get a similar outcome.
Willis: Probably we've seen more varied effect of the tyre battle this year. There hasn't been such a consistent benefit one way or the other and it has depended on circuits and on conditions. And also, yes, there are more teams competing at a close to equal level technically so I think that's mixed it up. I personally don't think the qualifying has made any real difference to the outcome of the championship.
Stoddart: Certainly there have been more competitive teams in the top four, they are just that, they are the top four and they are out on their own. But look at the midfield. There are five teams vying for fifth place in the championship and I think that's where we have seen a bit more of a benefit from the rules. I think it's tightened the midfield up to a very close fight and in the top teams, tyres, there's no doubt, have played a part. But overall, we've just had a much more interesting championship for many and varied reasons. The results are there to be seen.
Sauber: Maybe the new rules about points for the championship have made some difference, especially for Michael. The qualifying? I don't know, maybe it's more interesting, also for the teams, the strategy is important, maybe not today but at the beginning of the season.
Q: Ove, the testing agreement of 48 days. Do you understand that to be 48 car days or 48 on which you can test in multiple locations?
Andersson: I understand it to be 48 days, not car days. Q: So you could be testing three cars in different locations on those days?
Andersson: As it stands now, this is how I understand. It could be a misinterpretation from my side, but that's what I thought was the proposal, yes.
Q: Toyota, this being their home race, how much pressure is on here, what sort of expectations are there?
Andersson: Well, of course there is the expectation that we should do well. I don't know if I can say that there is more pressure than usual, because if you are racing and you are involved in racing you always want to do well. But here, maybe, we have the whole board watching what we are doing and it adds a little bit extra pressure, sure. I think my colleague (GW) at the other side of the table has the same problem.
Q: Patrick, obviously you're in with a shout in the Constructors' championship so do you approach this weekend any differently?
Head: Not really. We hope the outcome is rather more favourable to us than Indianapolis was, where we made a bit of a mess of it in a number of ways. We've got to score four more points than Ferrari and the easiest way to do that is to finish first and second, so that's certainly our target.
Q: What does such an experienced team as yours learn from your Indianapolis race?
Head: We've still got some things to learn, I think. (Laughter).
Q: Anything in particular?
Head: Well, obviously both drivers made their own individual errors. Ralf's, when he was in a reasonably good position, was terminal and Juan's certainly affected the outcome of his race. But we then made some other strategic decisions that weren't ideal and obviously, at the moment, the conditions were favourable to Bridgestone's light weather tyre. But that's something that's existed for quite some time and it's something that Michelin have obviously got to get to grips with. I think Raikkonen drove a perfect race, and had it been dry, I'm not sure he would have won, but he probably would have finished ahead of Michael and certainly the wet weather resulted in his second place.
Q: Geoff, Honda pressure here, and expectations?
Willis: Well, certainly a number of reasons for pressure here. It's our home Grand Prix in a number of ways, certainly the tie-up between Honda and Suzuka circuit and Honda have a big plant here. In terms of importance, certainly we are pushing very hard to get back to fifth place in the championship. Clearly it's just as important to do well here as it was at any other race this year and if we don't succeed in what we're trying to do, getting that fifth place, it won't just be because of failing here it will be because of failing earlier in the year.
Q: You've had a driver change here as well. What are your thoughts on Jacques' departure and Takuma's sparkling arrival?
Willis: Yes, certainly we had little notice of Jacques' decision. I heard yesterday on the train at about eleven o'clock in the morning after a telephone conversation between Craig Pollock and David Richards. Takuma has settled in very well. I think he's done a very good job today. We went through our programme today without error and a good safe but not too conservative qualifying lap this afternoon. Certainly we've all worked with Takuma. He's been testing for us this year and he knows the ropes, he knows the procedures, he knows the engineers, he knows the mechanics and he knows the circuit very well, so in some ways it's been a gentle way in for him, but despite that, it's been big pressure for him and I think he's done a very good job today.
Q: How much has he grown up in the last year, would you say?
Willis: It's difficult to make an answer there. He's certainly very easy to get on with, intelligent, perceptive and we've certainly enjoyed working with him and we're looking forward to working with him next year.
Q: Paul, a couple of questions to you. On the Minardi's bargeboard is printed 'not paid' over one of your sponsors, Stayer. Could you tell us the story behind that?
Stoddart: It's a bit of a sad story actually. Many of you know that we had a problem with the main sponsor at the start of the year and lost forty percent of our budget through no fault of our own and one or two others we've had problems with during the year. This particular one, despite repeated warnings and bounced cheques and, God knows, every other problem, I took the decision to put that on there today more or less just to send the message out that really you ought not to sign contracts if you don't intend to honour them.
Q: Another question is about the potential Italian investors. Have they been to the factory and where are they?
Stoddart: Good question! If you know, you might like to tell me. Most teams have silly seasons over drivers. Minardi and sometimes Jordan seem to have silly seasons over investors and ownership. I've made no secret of the fact that if the right deal came along which I felt could take Minardi further than I could, then I would be interested in it. But thus far we've just had a lot of time-wasters and one or two individuals that perhaps were serious but for one reason or another have not chosen to go forwards. So the answer is simply that there are no current negotiations on-going as we speak to do anything other than get on with racing next year.
Q: Now you've had a couple of back-to-back tests between your current car and the Arrows that you bought. What's the situation with that?
Stoddart: Well, we've done two tests now and a few of the results are quite impressive. But I think where it's leading to is that we'll end up a new car that is the best of both worlds. We've certainly learned a few things from the Arrows chassis but we've also learned that a year is a long time in Formula One. I think a lot of people thought that the Arrows chassis would annihilate the Minardi chassis and that simply wasn't the case. Perhaps our guys, on what little budget they've had, have done a better job than what I've given them credit for.
Q: Peter, what was the feeling within the team after your good result in Indianapolis?
Sauber: We were very, very lucky, I think, with the weather. We improved with the tyres, of course, the Bridgestone tyres are much better in these conditions and for the team it was a big, big step forwards and we were very, very lucky.
Q: Since then, you've announced that the two drivers will not be staying this year. Earlier this year, you said there was nothing wrong with the drivers. Why get rid of them?
Sauber: No, we are very happy with both our drivers but I have been fighting for three years to get Giancarlo Fisichella to drive for us and now it's OK. And Felipe Massa: We drove one year with Felipe Massa. He was fast, he was a little bit young, not a lot of experience, especially on the technical side, and now he could improve very well with Ferrari, do a lot of mileage, learn a lot on the technical side and now we will drive again with him.
Questions from the Floor
Q: Paul, in Canada you announced your Cape Crusader, Mr Ecclestone who we all thought would bring a lot to your team. I wonder if you've had a cheque or anything else from Mr Ecclestone. Could you tell us what the progress is with your relationship with him, and I wondered also if with his influence you could persuade some of your faulty sponsors to pay up eventually?
Stoddart: There's a couple of good questions there. First of all, Bernie's influence, as you put it, has helped the team and I think I can make it very clear today that although he hasn't invested any actual money that's largely because the team has actually improved its position since Canada in terms of sponsorship and funding itself, which is probably the best way for it to go. But certainly having Bernie in the background has done no harm at all, more perhaps for the future than for the present. And sadly, no, he has had no influence on non-paying sponsors but I wish he had.
Q: Is there any possibility that Bernie will take an equity interest in the team?
Stoddart: I think not. I have to say that I am more anxious to see the outcome of either GPWC with the banks or a new Concorde Agreement because that's really where teams like Minardi and Jordan are going to get their future funding from. There will be a time when the sponsorship improves but I don't see it as being immediate.
Q: Paul, at the beginning of the year we had press conferences and you were talking about helping out small teams. In the middle of the year we had press conferences and you were talking about helping out the small teams and here we are at the end of the year and in a press conference where you're talking about small teams. Is anyone actually going to help the small teams?
Stoddart: In a word? I think you know the answer. No. That's not strictly fair, we have had a little bit of help this year but, no, it wasn't the fighting fund and no it wasn't what was well publicised back on January 15th. But there are reasons for that and I think long term, the only way forward, as I've said before, is that we need a new Concorde Agreement. It's not easy at the back of the grid but, then again, that's my problem. We're at the back of the grid because haven't done a good enough job, I suppose, to attract any sponsors. But it would have been nice if the full fighting fund had been delivered, yes.
Q: And can I ask you and Ove where the situation currently stands between the car manufacturers and the banks and a settlement? Is it close or is it far away?
Stoddart: I think, if I answer it first, my understanding is that there was almost a deal but it's not yet happened. What is a short time and what is a long time? I would like to be optimistic and think that we're going to see a solution this year but I have to be a realistic and think that it won't be this year. I'm eternally hopeful that it will be the early part of next year.
Q: Is there any difference of opinion from Peter or Ove?
Sauber: You know exactly. My English is not good enough to speak about political things.
Andersson: My English is also a bit...We don't really know too much of what is going on but we have understood that there should be a deal just around the corner but we will have to wait and see. There is no concrete information on it as far as I know.
Head: I think there's often a bit of a misnomer in assuming that the teams at the back of Formula One are tightly strapped for cash and the teams near the front are rolling in cash and desperately looking for what they can do with their excess. I'm not sure about the other teams around us but it certainly isn't the case for the Williams team and I was surprised to read that our new deal with BMW apparently means that we are going to receive $700m in the next five years. Well, I have to say that none of the documentation I've seen mentions anything that has any sort of serious number on it. The fact of the matter is, that for the teams who are at the front at the moment, and obviously all teams aspire to be at the front. But they have to plan their way forward, but you're all having to spend and commit to the level to compete against the strongest opposition, and at the moment the strongest opposition is Ferrari and you were talking earlier about 48 test days and whether that's 48 car test days. Well, as it's being stated at the moment, it's 48 test days and I doubt that Ferrari are going to sit there and say 'oh well, we'll halve our testing mileage.' Albeit that you can be more or less efficient during testing, there's very little testing you do where you learn nothing. And obviously, if you're limited to 48 test days it might push you to more often test with three cars or four cars, and maybe not always at the same circuit, and you can imagine the commitment there is in having all the completely separate equipment, telemetry and all the rest of it. So firstly, on the money side, I would like to say it isn't a question of... obviously the degree is different but even at the front, one is working very hard to try and make the maximum use of the budget available, and finishing off, I would say, people put it in different terms, but fundamentally everybody's got the same view that too much of the money that is generated, mainly through TV but through circuit exposure, advertising, whatever, is not going to the people who are putting on the show and spending money in order to put on the show. And whether that be Paul or Eddie Jordan or Williams, that's the thing that needs to be corrected and every team, whether it be at the front or the back, is waiting to see that to be corrected.
Q: Is it close?
Head: I've heard a lot of talk, but then I've heard that for at least the last year, so I'm waiting to see.
Q: After the US Grand Prix, there was quite a lot of talk in the American press about Juan Pablo's drive-through penalty and why it occurred, why there was no opportunity for you to defend that. I wanted to know what the actual procedure is, what you are told, do you get any chance to defend a decision that's made? Under the heading of Rubens Barrichello subsequently saying that, yes, he did have some sort of gearbox problem, but that yes, it didn't involve Juan Pablo but that in another part of the race, somebody else got past because the gearbox baulked and he was slow going into the corner. That's a grey area. Do you guys get the chance to argue that grey area before the penalty is issued?
Head: No, we don't. We saw on the TV screen that Juan Pablo had been put forward to the stewards, which would have been by the race director, Charlie Whiting, for investigation, but we do not have any opportunity to participate in that decision. The next thing we saw was that he had been given the drive-through penalty and you have to fulfil that penalty within the next three laps which obviously at a 1m12s lap time at Suzuka (he means Indianapolis), particularly with my leg here, I don't think I would go hobbling off down to the race director. We don't have an open line to Charlie, so... It was a move obviously... Rubens said to me he thought he'd left enough room for Juan. It was a fairly aggressive move, there's no doubt about that and certainly ended up with Rubens off the track. The penalty, in effect... there were other circumstances that certainly damaged Juan's race position but certainly without that penalty, he probably would have come here still in a position to compete in the championship, so it was a championship-excluding decision. Of course I am going to be in the position that I think it was unnecessarily harsh but we've seen some pretty... I'm still flabbergasted that looking at what happened between Michael and Alonso at Silverstone was considered perfectly OK, where he literally crossed from one side of the track to the other and pushed Alonso completely off onto the grass at 200 mph and I'm amazed that that was considered perfectly OK and yet Ralf's action at Hockenheim wasn't. But then you could say well I would say that wouldn't I? So... Personally, I would say there is a reasonable variety of decision-making over driving incidents this year.
Q: Patrick, do you find anything sinister in the fact that two incidents involving Juan Pablo and a Ferrari this year, the signal that's come up on the screen says 'incident involving car no 3', only your car? It always take two cars to make an incident in my experience?
Head: We're all paranoid. We're told that we're all paranoid in this business, and the problem is that it's so easy to drop into that mode of thinking. It's not something that's a productive thing to argue, because you can't really get to any result. But certain events that involve Ferrari and the FIA particularly have amazed me in the past and certain ones that I know quite a lot of inside information about have flabbergasted me. I've got a good respect, a strong respect for Charlie Whiting. But, meanwhile, he's not necessarily always his own master. Sometimes he has a difficult path to run but I'm not going to get myself into any more trouble than that.
Q: Question for Peter Sauber. Has Felipe actually signed a contract with you yet for next year. It hasn't been announced yet officially.
Sauber: Yeah, not yet.
Q: But he's definitely driving for you?
Q: Yesterday, Heinz-Harald referred to your 'new manufacturer' in the press conference. Can you clarify that?
Sauber: I heard that, yes. But which new manufacturer? Volkswagen for example? No. I don't know why he said that.
Q: Patrick and Geoff, over the years we have heard stories that Jacques Villeneuve could be difficult to work with, that he didn't have the right attitude that he didn't fit in the team. I don't know if those are true or not. At Indianapolis, Jacques said 'ask the guys I work with, they will tell you I give 100 percent and there is a lot of respect within the immediate team, my engineers, my mechanics and me?' Could you enlighten us one way or the other?
Head: Well, I have to say Geoff's the right one to reply. It is a long time ago since we worked with Jacques, obviously the end of 1998. I think to us his best year was 1996, when he was very individual, willing to try quite different set-ups that sometimes he provoked and remember he jolly nearly won the world championship in his first year in Formula One. He jolly nearly, but for an oil leak, won his first ever Grand Prix. I think he is a great driver, there is no doubt about that. In 1997, I think he had really a reasonably better car than Michael. In my view he made it unnecessarily hard to win the championship and certainly if I had said to Jacques 'I think you are running a little bit too stiff, I think you should look at softening the car up a bit, Jacques would look over at Jock and say 'I want to go stiffer tomorrow'. It was perverseness, really. He is quite a perverse fellow and his attitude is 'I'll show you I can do it my way'. Whether he had learned to be a bit wiser in his older years I don't know, but I think he made bloody hard work of winning the world championship in 1997. Meanwhile he is a very talented, very fast driver, and why he has had such a difficult time this year I really don't know and I'd rather hand over to Geoff now.
Willis: Yes, Jacques is certainly a very robust character. I have very much enjoyed working with him over the last two years and I think in character very similar to how he was back in 1996 and 1997. I think he is a person who's quite a private person and can therefore seem to be quite distant, quite assertive outside but within a small group of people I think he is great, he is very open. In terms of his technical input he is very observant, spends a lot of time thinking about what has happened to the car, particularly during the race. He figuratively thinks on his feet, he is inclined to be his own man, in the way he wants to set the car up and the way he wants to operate. Possibly for that a little excessively difficult, but over the years I think he had actually become a better driver, certainly he was a lot better in the wet and a lot better in adversity. This year, it is difficult to say why he struggled so much. Certainly the team didn't help him in some areas with our reliability and earlier on in the year we let him down a number of times but he certainly has always tried very hard, he has always given a huge amount of commitment to his racing. I think probably he was an even more rounded driver just recently than he was in the days that he was winning the championship.
Q: Patrick, I am interested in Juan Pablo, particularly at the start of a Grand Prix. Does he sometimes get a bit of a red mist on. Indianapolis wasn't a particularly calm start and looking back at Montreal as well where he dropped it in the final chicane earlier on in the race. Is that something that you are aware of? Does he calm down as the Grand Prix goes on or am I just imagining it?
Head: Well, he is a fairly determined character. Whether one describes that as 'red mist' I don't know, but I think at Indianapolis it doesn't help if your drivers don't get good starts and I think up to Hockenheim I think our starts were extremely competitive. Since then they have been average to poor and I think probably it means others have moved on in that area faster than we have and I think at Hungary we were whatever we were -- second and third or something on the grid -- but we were fourth and sixth going into the first corner and we were eighth and eighteenth coming round at the end of the first lap. We had said to the drivers 'whatever you do on the first corner, do not end up on the outside because everybody who has done has slid off the track' and sure enough both of our drivers ended up nearly running into each other both on the outside of the track. You would have to say that I don't think they are thinking when they are coming up to the first corner 'I must remember what Patrick Head told me'. But Juan is a very determined driver and you get what you get and you get races like Monaco and Hockenheim and sometimes you get judgements and equally on overtaking manoeuvres the difference between people turning around and grinning and clapping and them saying 'what an idiot' is wafer thin in this business and you have got to take the differences and yep, I think maybe the overtaking manoeuvre on Rubens was a bit opportunistic but he could see Michael ahead and that was his problem, Michael pulling away from him. Rubens did leave a gap but in truth it wasn't a big enough gap.
Q: I think the reason we had the qualifying session on Friday this year was to try to improve the show on Friday. Is there unanimous agreement that the proposals for next year will make the show worse on Friday and if that is the case is that important anyway?
Head: Friday will certainly be important to us because obviously we are told in normal circumstances that if it is dry on Friday we have got to choose our tyre by nine o'clock on Saturday morning which is obviously deliberately positioned to make us run on Friday. We have to install our race engine by Friday morning by the start of practice so obviously we are putting miles on the race engine so I imagine people will be running maybe restricted revs, maybe some restricted distances. But we have got to choose our brake cooling, engine cooling, all of which affect the performance of the car on Friday. It's a very interesting day for us, it is no less interesting for us, in fact next year Friday is probably more interesting for us but it is probably more difficult to write a story about, I would say. But on the other hand, how much of a story do you write about the one-lap qualifying on Friday now?
Q: What about the first hour when the track is dirty?
Head: Yep, it will obviously be more difficult for everybody with a dusty, dirty track if they are not well cleaned with a little rubber on them. I am not sure where this 'roadsweepers' thing came from, I think it was Ron actually that...
Stoddart: Absolutely Ron.
Head: We'll blame Ron, since he's not here. But we will have to do that ourselves, obviously.
Stoddart: I think it is really sad. I think we have lost a part of the show on Friday, I think those of you who are writing stories for Saturday had something to talk about on a Friday. For me, our best moment of the season was Friday in Magny Cours and it went out as the lead story on the six o'clock night news in Holland. I can't believe we have just had it taken away. There was nothing wrong with the format and it has been changed for what is yet to be explained to me as a good reason.
Q: Does Formula One as an industry, in terms of television revenue and everything else, make money from Fridays?
Stoddart: I see Patrick shaking his head but there were some figures presented in the Formula One commission meeting last week that showed certainly in the UK it was important. The viewing figures were there. ITV, I believe, took it every Friday and showed it on the Friday evening. The marketing figures said yes, so it is a very strange one.
Willis: It didn't take very long this year to realise there wasn't a big penalty if you didn't qualify well on Friday as long as you weren't in the first five out on Saturday and I am fairly sure that during the year various people ran certain amounts of fuel to make it slightly harder for their competitors to see exactly where they were and it was always the case that Friday afternoon qualifying was never the same as qualifying was last year, when people went as fast as the car will go. And I think that always left a certain amount of doubt, certainly from the technical point of view. You had good confidence in what your fuel level was but you didn't assume that everyone else was empty either...
Stoddart: Guys, that's what we tried to do. We tried to liven it up and they have taken it all away now.
Willis: But for Saturday it is a different thing. But then again, by the end of the race, we can on Sunday... we can work out what everybody qualified on anyway.
Andersson: In my mind the race promoters and the sponsors have been involved in the decision and there has been no opposition from them. I have to believe that they are really the people who should understand. I don't think really the teams can take a strong position in this matter.
Q: Williams had a problem with the fuel rigs at Indianapolis and I think that pretty much all of you have had a problem with the rig at one stage or another. The problem for us is that when we go to talk to the teams they say it is because of a faulty FIA rig and when we go to talk to Charlie Whiting he says in every case it is down to operator error. Are you satisfied with the fuel rigs and if not what should be improved?
Head: I think the proof is somewhere between the two. There certainly have been problems that have been rig induced and those problems have been corrected and that correction has been provided to every team. I am certainly aware that there was a software problem earlier this season but the problem we had at Indianapolis was self-induced so Charlie is half right. And half wrong.
Willis: I think our only rig problem this year was in fact self-induced. I think over the years we have not been completely happy with the regs. We have eventually evolved to a point that we are happy. Whether all the time and expense and effort of doing that engineering has actually been worth it I am not sure.
Stoddart: I believe we had one problem this season with refuelling our car. We are more or less happy. I think it is the same for everybody.
Q: Patrick, you spent years trying to build the fastest cars as Formula One was about building fast cars. Then for the last seven or eight years you have been trying to restrict the speed of the cars because of the regulations. Now because the regulations can't be squeezed, much more time is being squeezed. Is it very, very frustrating from a philosophical point of view for an engineer not being able to build fast cars any more?
Head: Well, the regulations have been changed to slow the cars down during my time in Formula One and I suppose it probably started at the end of 1982 to ban, if you like, what were referred to as ground effect cars, although they probably weren't that much more ground effect than they are now. So slowing cars down has been around for an awful long time and whether it be by reducing the tyre width and putting grooves on the tyres and changing the aerodynamics, Equally during that time there have been some enormous improvements in the construction of the cars and the safety aspects which I would have to say to some extent the drivers then move towards using. It is not a deliberate activity but their confidence level and the assurance that the car gives makes them maybe perform manoeuvres that they would not have done 20 years ago. When the formula was changed, I think when we were running unrestricted turbos we were in the sort of 850 to 900 horsepower mark for racing condition and then the turbos became restricted with restricted boost and then there was a change to normally aspirated and I think that a DFR was 600 horsepower and there was some thought that nobody would produce much more than 650 out of a 3.5 litre normally aspirated and now we are at roughly around the 900 mark from a three litre. So obviously with that huge change of horsepower there has had to be quite a few changes to the technical specification of the cars in order to even contain performance to the level it has been.
Q: But it's like being a trained athlete. You spent years training up to run the fastest possible and now you are being told you can only use one leg.
Head: Yes, but motor racing is an artificial activity. If we were running on restricted rules, you know, we would probably have to spend two hours getting the driver into his G-suit or something before qualifying. So I don't find it surprising. The only thing, and it obviously is being debated at the moment, is the point at which it is felt the cars get excessively emasculated in order to maintain lap times when maybe the major driving thing is the very technically impressive improvements in engine performance.
Willis: It is a very good question because you can say an awful lot about this but just to add on rather than cover the same ground as Patrick, engineering is all about resource management. If you remember the old definition of an engineer: An engineer is the person who can do for a pound what any fool can do for ten and we have always had resource limitations, whether it is money, time, material properties, whatever. So it doesn't really matter what the regulations are, there is still an engineering challenge, you are competing against others in an arbitrary set of regulations. But they may be no more arbitrary than the budget you have got as an architect or something like that. So I don't really mind what regulations we have. Clearly from a safety point of view it is easier to control the cars than it is to re-design circuits. We have got to get the balance between technological interest and competition and television spectacle. The only problem we have is trying to come up with a set of technical regulations that avoids typecasting the cars and it is quite difficult at the moment the way we have evolved the regulations by more and more small restrictive steps that is suspect if you painted all the cars exactly the same colour and you all asked yourselves honestly, could you actually recognise which car was which? And that is our biggest challenge in the technical working group. We keep skating around it. How do we come up with a clever set of regulations that don't force the solution to be almost identical, keeps the competitiveness, keeps the finance under control and maintains the safety. It's something I don't think we have solved yet but we continue to talk about it.
Q: After so much serious discussion, can each of you forecast the results for the championship? It is not a debate, it is just a nice game that looks good in the papers!
Andersson: Well, I suppose the championship is pretty clear and I am very interested to see the manufacturers and if I give you a name I hope Williams will win to constructors.
Q: So you are saying Michael Schumacher and Williams?
Andersson: Yes, that is what I am saying.
Head: I think Michael Schumacher will win the drivers' championship but I think Kimi Raikkonen has had a fantastic season and has driven extremely well. And I think Williams will win the constructors' championship.
Willis: It is a difficult one. If you are talking about who you would like to win the championship I must say I think I would have liked to see Juan Pablo win it. He is a very open character with a competitive nature...
Q: But who do you think will win it?
Willis: I think it will be Michael winning the drivers', um, and I would like to think my old team (Williams) has a good chance of winning the constructors'.
Stoddart: Michael will win the drivers' and I would like to think that Williams could win the constructors' but I think it will be Ferrari.
Sauber: I think Michael will win the championship for drivers and the other one is open.
You wouldn't be sitting on the fence would you?
Q: Patrick, for the reasons you explained earlier the 48 days' testing rule rather than the 48 days' car testing rule means that the cost for testing next year could be exactly the same as this year or even more expensive because of the logistics.
Head: Um, you are not forced to test at different tracks at the same time and that obviously adds to costs in terms of personnel and equipment but equally there is no limitation, I believe, I haven't seen any limitation on the number of cars you run. So I don't see it at this stage as a restriction on what has existed this year.
Q: So isn't it rank lunacy that the great and the good, the powerbrokers, and that includes the teams and team bosses, have got together and decided the format for next year and I understood one of the criteria was to save money, and you have come up with something that isn't going to save money. Well, it won't. Ferrari will spend exactly the same as they do now won't they?
Head: Well, fundamentally Ferrari, as was discussed earlier, are extremely influential in this business and they are the people that have said that they will not accept a limitation on testing and more than restricting the current situation of five days following a Grand Prix down to four days which takes us to something over 48 days. And when something has to be agreed unanimously and one team says I am not even prepared to discuss this because I am not prepared to discuss a limitation on testing then there isn't much point in taking it an awful lot further, is there?
Q: If I could actually ask all five of you, because you were in the meeting when the decisions were taken, I think. How does this improve Formula One?
Stoddart: It doesn't. It simply doesn't. It doesn't save money. It destroys the advantage the small teams had and it is not going to help. And it wasn't really unanimous either.
Sauber: For us it will be the same as this season because we have about 34 or 36 test days so it will make no difference for us whether we can test 48 days.
Andersson: We are all in favour of reducing the testing to try to save money but as Patrick was saying we have to be unanimous and there isn't the possibility to get a unanimous agreement on this issue so that is why we have the situation we have.