Monaco: FIA President Max Mosley answers questions from the press after giving an update on the proposed regulation changes for 2008 Q: Two points, what would your personal preference be for a revised qualifying format and would the FIA perhaps...
Monaco: FIA President Max Mosley answers questions from the press after giving an update on the proposed regulation changes for 2008
Q: Two points, what would your personal preference be for a revised qualifying format and would the FIA perhaps give consideration to perhaps banning refuelling stops to make the racing more interesting because, quite frankly, there is a body that suggests refuelling stops have just turned the whole thing into a tactical affair and the actual issue of cars racing wheel-to-wheel is academic as long as we have got refuelling.
Max Mosley: Well, on the first point, my personal preference would be just for everybody to go out for an hour and whoever does the fastest lap during that hour has got pole position. And I would like to see a light on the car, a very bright light, that they switch on when they are doing a hot lap so that we all know they are on a hot lap and so do the cars they are overtaking and so do the spectators but I don't suppose any of the teams would agree with that, it is very much a personal view.
On the refuelling, I have to say I don't agree. I think the reason that we all tend to think back in the past, and you are thinking of an era when people had brake problems, people had tyre problems, and somebody like Alain Prost driving in a certain way at the beginning of the race would be very strong at the end. The engineers all say those days are in the past -- but I must say one of the engineers that said that at the meeting did have a brake problem at the last race. But in principle those problems don't arise.
I think the reason the cars don't overtake is nothing to do with the fuel stops, it is to do with the fact that the car behind is not currently faster than the car in front. And until we solve that problem, everything else is secondary because what we do now is we line the cars up in order of their speed having spent two days finding out which is fastest, and we then are surprised when one doesn't overtake the other.
Well, in the past this worked because people had all sorts of problems with brakes, with tyres, cars broke down, they lost gears, all sorts of things happened. That happens less and less now, they are spending a lot of money so that reliability is there, so the only sure-fire way is to make sure that, when they are racing, the car behind, for whatever reason, has an advantage over the car in front, and then you get racing. There is no other way to do it, in my opinion, and I think that is now a widely held view among the Formula One engineers as well.
Q: Max, it is fairly clear from talking around the paddock that there is not going to be any change, not matter what your deadlines are, unless there is a commercial deal. Is there anything you can do to get a commercial deal and will you be doing anything?
MM: The answer is that, answering the second question first, I can't make people do a commercial deal. It is not my job. I am the regulator. But I think you will find there will be agreement, with or without a commercial deal, partly because in any event there will be a commercial deal, but secondly, there are all sorts of ways in which we can bring pressure to make various things happen and I think that all of the teams recognise that you can't continue like you are until 2008, it is not possible. So I think we will get change. But the commercial things will sort themselves out, they always do. I mean, in the end, both the teams and FOM and Bernie and everyone concerned, need Formula One to be successful, otherwise they are going to have a problem. So I think there is a very strong incentive to do the necessary.
Q: You used the words a couple of minutes ago that you want to improve the show, if I understood correctly, on the chassis area. Do you maybe look seriously back seriously to what happened in Formula One in the 1970s, when you were running the March company, to maybe make available customer chassis?
MM: Yes, one of the things that I hope will happen is that we will persuade the teams to sell cars to other teams, parts or whole cars. I think that is essential in order to get new people into the formula, but we can only do that with unanimous agreement because there is a clause, an appendix strictly speaking, in the Concorde Agreement, that prevents that from actually happening at the moment. But I am very optimistic that will happen and I think it is the only way nowadays that a new team could come in.
Q: You said a unanimous agreement or just having to wait until 2008 for changes in the engine formula to be introduced. There may be a third option, which I think is roughly the same as 1993, with the changes being introduced in the interests of safety. Is there any chance we will see this happen?
MM: We can't change the size of the engine for safety under the Concorde Agreement because the Concorde Agreement allows us to do something dramatic for safety only in those areas that concern the protection of the driver, or what you might call passive safety. On the other hand, to extend the life of the engine is a sporting rule. Some people might dispute that, but as far as I am concerned how often you can change the engine in the season is a sporting rule not a technical rule. It means we could, with the majority of the teams, bring that sort of change in sooner. We couldn't go from 3 litres to 2.4 litres, but we could go from a one-race engine to a three-or-more race-engine. Just for the record, even a six-race engine, a V10 3 litre, you are looking at over 700hp and you are looking at about 17,000 rpm, so people who say this is like a road engine, it is complete nonsense, absolute nonsense. It would be the same as a Formula One engine of about six years ago.
Q: Max, the drivers had a meeting yesterday evening to discuss ways in which they could have a better dialogue with the FIA in terms of things like these proposals. They don't want to take part in rulemaking but want to offer their advice as to how cars might better overtake each other etc. In the past their feeling has always been that the FIA isn't particularly interested in the drivers' point of view. Is there any reason for them to believe that might change?
MM: We have always, always listened to the drivers. Any time a driver, for example, rings me up I always speak to them, I have regular meetings with some of them, the ones who want to do it. In the past we have had drivers on various commissions. At one moment, before my time, there were two drivers on the Formula One Commission. But what happened was after one meeting they stopped coming, so (Former FIA President Jean Marie) Balestre, this was in his day, gave up. But we have a lot of informal meetings and where the drivers are very active, and particularly Michael Schumacher, who religiously goes to all the safety commission meetings and plays an active part and now Mark Webber has joined the commission as well and I think he will.
Our position is, as far as the commission is concerned, as long as they are prepared to attend regularly, like Michael does, we would like to have them on. Where they don't want to - and that is usually the rule -- there tends to be informal discussions. But we have unlimited informal discussions both with the Formula One drivers and with the World Rally Championship drivers. There has never been a case of a driver calling me, from either world championship, where I have not either spoken to them immediately or called them straight back.
Q: Some people say that the new Formula One would be like Formula 3000 is now, and Formula 3000 now is not very exciting. Also the new GP2 would assumingly have engines of 600hp so there would not be that much difference between 'Formula Two' and Formula One.
MM: I think you will find that in real life there is an enormous difference. First of all, the F3000 engines rev at, I think, about 9,000rpm and it has a single make chassis. In fact, if you made all the changes that I am talking about for Formula One tomorrow, you wouldn't notice any difference between an individual car going around now to then. The only difference you would see is that on a lot of circuits, perhaps not Monaco but a lot of circuits, there would be much more overtaking and much more racing. It is a completely different thing. It would have racing engines going at pretty much the same speeds they go now and you would have lots of different chassis, high technology, tremendous competition.
It is interesting that when we brought in the single weekend engine that was, for some of the teams, the end of life. And now here we are with an engine that has to last all weekend and the top runners have actually got more power now than they had last year, with changing the engine two or three times a weekend. They don't have as much power as they would have had had we not brought the rule in, but the progress is still there. You will see an inexorable increase in power, whatever we do, and in spectacle, I believe.
Q: How is the single tyre proposal progressing. It seems Michelin were not very keen on it in Spain, they said they had some concerns about it.
MM: Absolutely. Both of the tyre companies would prefer to go on with competition, unquestionably. In fact, what they would really like is Goodyear and Pirelli and everybody else to come in and give them even more competition. I fully understand that. And also, no tyre company is going to agree with a single tyre because what you are saying to each of them is you either won't be in Formula One at all or you will be in with about half the departmental size you have got at the present time. But the arguments in favour of the single tyre from the point of view of Formula One as a whole are so overwhelming that I don't think anyone apart from the tyre companies would really argue very seriously with the single tyre rule.
In a nutshell, the argument is safety -- that you can control the amount of grip and the amount of grip is directly related to safety. On top of that you have cost, you would eliminate the test teams and all this massive testing which costs just as much to run a test team as it does a Formula One team but nobody watches, it is just, effectively, money thrown away. And you have got the fairness point that, it could happen, if one of the tyre companies comes up with a magic tyre tomorrow it would turn the whole championship on its head. That's fine, but is it right that an engine man could work all winter to find enough power, the usual four percent increase to give him a tenth or two tenths of a second, but you can put on a different set of tyres and it could be as much as a second a lap. It throws the championship out of balance and I do think the teams are unanimous on that.
For what it is worth, the two things to me that are completely fundamental are a single tyre, or equivalent, but having the result of a single tyre, and point two, the standard ECU, or at least the electronics completely under the control of the FIA. Those to me are the two fundamental things. Everything else you can talk about -- whether it is a V8 or a V10 is not the end of the world, but those things are. Because, if you control the tyres there is an argument that -- and this is very technical and I don't want to pre-judge what will happen -- says if you control the grip of a tyre it doesn't matter how much power they have they can't put it on the ground and even the best driver is going to be in difficulty. But those two things, the tyres and the ECU, are what we have got to stick at.
Q: We are all aware that the current Contract Agreement seems to constrict the way Formula One is run, so what is your blueprint for the next deal we will see from 2008 onwards. How will it work on the sporting side and the commercial side?
MM: What I think we should do in 2008 onwards is not have a Concorde Agreement at all, I think the FIA should simply run the regulatory side of the sport and all the commercial questions -- how much they get paid, what share they get -- should be a matter between the teams and FOM and the teams would act as a group and FOM would act as a group and they would sort it out between them and we keep out of it, just like, back in the 1960s, the FIA kept out, or should have kept out, of the disputes between the teams and the individual organisers about start money and so on. It is not our business.
Then, as far as regulation is concerned, I would see a situation where we consulted the teams and, indeed, those who have signed up for a long time should have a vote for a long time. But it would be more of a consultation process. Why do I think that? Because, if you look at the best experiment going on at the moment, it is in the United States, where you have got three major series -- NASCAR, IRL and CART. In NASCAR, the teams have virtually no say at all about the rules, and it is by far the most successful series. And, at the other end of the scale, CART, it is completely run by the teams and it is in serious difficulties. I do believe that if you have got a disinterested and reasonably competent regulator that you are more likely to get a properly run championship than in any other way.
In the end, the FIA has to make sure Formula One works because it isn't just prestige and things like that, also, in the defence of the ordinary motorist, there are an awful lot of politics and Formula One is a key that opens the door to virtually every politician and that is extremely important to us. But at the same time we have to make sure it works and if it works the teams will all do well anyway, just by itself, and FOM will make money. But that is their problem. We just have to make sure the championship has a constant and growing interest of the public and I think we are better placed to do that, looking at it carefully, than to be completely constrained at all stages by an agreement that stops everything being changed without everyone agreeing, at least in the short term.
Q: Max, how much has Michael's total domination this season hurt the sport and, also, have you found the racing boring?
MM: I don't think Michael's domination has hurt the sport because this happens in many sports -- you get a supremely gifted performer in the right team and they win everything. Even in things where the man is on his own - like heavyweight boxing - you get eras where there is just nobody that can challenge the person for a number of years, and I think that is part of sport. I think what hurts Formula One is the fact that even down the field the actual racing is often not as good as we would like. On some of the new circuits, which are more suitable for overtaking, then it works better. But we need to change the cars, and then we will get better racing. Michael? They have just done a brilliant job and when people do a brilliant job they deserve to be successful -- it is just that simple, really, in my view.
Q: A question about the new teams that may come to Formula One. Is there any chance we could get one or two by 2006? Have you had requests about that?
MM: I would really hope we could see a new team in 2005. There is no reason why we shouldn't if we could get agreement. But they need to know very quickly. We can't wait much longer - 2006, certainly. The trouble is the existing teams -- and one can understand it -- want to defend their situation and they don't want somebody taking some of the money that could otherwise go to them. They have to recognise that it is unhealthy, if you just keep a little cartel of people getting steadily older and you don't let anybody new in, it is not a particularly healthy situation, particularly in sport, and at a certain point it probably isn't even legal, let alone moral, so I think we can persuade them to open up, I hope we can.
Q: I would like to come back to the single tyre manufacturer proposal. I got your arguments regarding safety and fairness, but on fairness don't you think this argument could be turned around that if a chassis engineer found a magic solution it could be once again faster than the other chassis engineers. Regarding engines, it is the same problem -- all of a sudden somebody can find a solution. So why do you apply this argument just to tyres? Formula One is all about competition so isn't it against the sheer spirit of Formula One to run a single tyre manufacturer?
MM: Perfectly true, but we have two championships. We have a championship for drivers and a championship for car constructors. So there is a car championship and a drivers' championship, and a car consists of a chassis and an engine and the tyres are simply an accessory but a chassis is fundamental and the engine is fundamental, so it is legitimate to have a competition between chassis manufacturers and between engine manufacturers, but to have a championship that is effectively a tyre championship doesn't seem right. Now, the tyre is such a vital part of the make-up, in fact a disproportionate part, so seen from the viewpoint of a chassis manufacturer and an engine manufacturer it isn't there, it is out of balance. But, obviously, from a tyre point of view they will say well, they are stopping me competing. Well, the competition comes at the beginning, when we put it out to tender and the tyre company which puts in the most attractive tender from the point of view of the teams would be the one that got it.
Q: Just going back to the point about the new teams, with the getting rid of the Concorde Agreement, what would the deal be about the bond new teams have to pay to get into Formula One?
MM: The bond at the moment is merely a sporting regulation and that could be abolished, at the moment, for 2005. It was simply a device to stop endless people putting in frivolous entries. That could be changed tomorrow, it is not part of the Concorde Agreement, it is just a sporting regulation. So it won't be a problem.
Q: Max, there has been a lot of talk about improving the show. The pit lane walkabout for the fans in Barcelona is a huge success, last year the biggest day for traffic in Indianapolis was the autograph day on the Thursday. I know things have moved on since you could walk into the Silverstone paddock in the 1970s and get Patrick Depallier's autograph or whatever and get stickers, but what can you do to make the drivers less sealed from the public?
MM: I think there is a general willingness to do something in that area, certainly the organisers and promoters all want more driver involvement and I think the drivers are prepared to do that. Indianapolis was a very good example and I believe a discussion is going on between Bernie, well, FOM, and the various promoters about improving that. We would certainly like to see that happen, but we couldn't really say that is something that is under our direct responsibility because it is a commercial matter for the drivers. All we can do is encourage it, and we have certainly said that anything we can do to encourage that, we would. But clearly you cannot go back to the old days where anybody could come into the paddock -- it would be chaos if we did that, just like backstage at the Olympic Games you can't, but at club races and ordinary national races it is still possible.
MM: Ferrari have said that under certain circumstances that they would stop, and I am sure they are telling the truth when they say that. And certainly, from Ferrari's point of view, there could be an argument for stopping if things are not as they wish. I think it would be a great tragedy for Formula One because the two basic elements of the Formula One World Championship, really, are the team Ferrari and the Monaco race. One has to say that, these are two things that everybody knows about worldwide. It would be a great tragedy if Ferrari were to stop. I don't think they will stop. If Formula One is well managed and properly run and they can run fairly and nobody disadvantages them in some particular way I don't think there is any danger of them stopping. Clearly, if the costs are allowed to get completely ridiculous I think a lot of manufacturers will stop because it simply won't be possible for them to keep up.
Q: Mr Mosley, what is it in a competition when you have one team testing every day and another never tests and at the weekend they are competing for the same goal?
MM: The testing is something that we need to stop - it is that simple. We need to get the testing down to a level where people can do it with the race team and they don't have a separate test team and one of the great advantages of the standard ECU is that we would know exactly how much testing they were doing and we could limit it by mileage rather than by days and you would just be given, we would agree with the teams, so many kilometres you would be allowed and that's it. And then everybody would be in the same boat and we would be inclined to keep it right down, particularly during the season, because it is enormously expensive. It costs more than 1,000 Euros per kilometre to test one of those cars - well over 1,000 Euros per kilometre -- and it is just simply absurd to do that, because it is the same for everybody, particularly on the circuits now where testing is allowed, say Barcelona. They go round and round and round and all that happens is they are faster than they otherwise would be by a few tenths and they don't run quite so much on Friday as they would if they hadn't tested. It is a complete waste of time and money. So the standard ECU is a very, very useful tool there because it gives us complete control over what's happening.
Q: The logjam in decision-making, you were saying you can't change the engine capacity on the grounds of safety. Can you explain what happened in 1994?
MM: We got agreement. What we did in 1994, we had a whole lot of changes made after Senna and we did that with a fairly simple manoeuvre -- we said to the teams: 'We want these things changed and if you don't do it we are not going to organise a World Championship in 1995.' Then, anyway, everybody began to see the sense and people agreed, but it was done by unanimous agreement, with the little threat of not running a championship. Now, the current agreement has got a clause in it saying we will run the championship because that particular manoeuvre has now been stopped. There are one or two others that we could probably deploy but I would rather not talk about them at the moment. I think that is rather too confrontational.
Q: Max, Adrian Newey said yesterday that if you go down the route of letting people buy other teams' cars and parts you will very quickly end up in a situation with, perhaps, three or four manufacturers and the rest buying, in a CART-type or IndyCar-type scenario, which he said he didn't think was good for Formula One. What is your view?
MM: I don't think he has thought it through properly. Erm, he is probably a bit busy trying to make the McLaren work at the moment. Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. If you take teams like say Arden or Carlin, but there are a lot of other teams, they are not coming in to Formula One to buy chassis and run round at the back half of the field, they are coming into Formula One because they want to end up where Williams and McLaren and BAR and so on are, and they will start off by buying a chassis, they will get very good young drivers, they will run a very good team, they will be successful, they will start increasingly to modify the chassis they buy and then gradually move in to building their own.
They will certainly get an engine from a major manufacturer because I don't think anyone believes that in five years time we will still have seven major engine manufacturers supplying engines, that is one of the reasons we need these cheap engines. It gives people a route in whereas at the moment you have to go from zero to a full competitive Formula One chassis, with all the research and development that implies, and that is just not possible for anyone except a big car company and we need the new blood from the independent teams because in the end the independent teams are the backbone of Formula One and our job is to make sure the independent teams can get in and, when they have got in, they will have a competitive engine.
The whole of the strategy depends on inexpensive competitive engines and a way in that isn't prohibitively expensive. I am very confident. I can't see anybody settling for being a satellite team or for any of those things. And, of course, we are the people who decide who gets an entry and who doesn't, and that is quite important and obviously we will keep an eye on them. If we want to, we can keep people entering year by year to begin with to make sure that they are going down the route, or we can have rules that say increasingly they have to make their own chassis. But this thing from zero to immediate full Formula One status is virtually impossible.
Q: I wonder if you will excuse me for raising the British Grand Prix. I do so because you have personally aligned yourself with the damning criticism of Silverstone that has been made by the commercial rights holder. I am concerned that Formula One is going into new countries that I don't see as being long-term prospects, necessarily. In some cases I am sure that what they are doing is they are going into Formula One for national PR purposes. At the moment we have got some nonsense in London with a parade in Whitehall or something with Formula One cars, which I see as being a rather aggressive move by the commercial rights holder against Silverstone. Don't you think that Silverstone deserves some sort of special consideration given the fact it doesn't have any government backing and is being demanded to make a large investment that might only be worthwhile for two years?
MM: Well, I can see that, except that I don't think anyone would be sympathetic if one said the Olympic Games bid in the UK has got no public funding and therefore deserves special consideration from the IOC (International Olympics Committee). I mean, in fact, it has got public funding because the government wants it to happen, but having said that I don't think that we can say to the commercial people, that is to say to FOM and to the teams and so on, you have got to do a special deal for Silverstone, that would be unwarranted interference in a commercial matter.
However, although that is the case, in fact I believe a deal has actually been done or is very close to being done that will assure the Grand Prix for the next 2005 and 2006, and I believe the buildings are going to be built, I think there is a plan in place, and the UK government actually have played a major role in that. Richard Caborn, the sports minister, has been active in trying to get this to happen, and obviously they are not in a position to dole out lots of public money but they are in a position to use their influence. They have done that in all sorts of areas and as a result of that I think that it will happen. But it is not something we control and it is not something in which I have got any say but, as I say, the best evidence is that it is going to get sorted out.
The chance of having some sort of Grand Prix in London is about nil, I think, but, you know, there is nothing to stop people putting in a bid. They have made a bid for the Olympic Games, they could make a bid for the Grand Prix, why not? But I think Silverstone will be alright.
Q: In Barcelona, Bernie Ecclestone was saying that tobacco advertising would stay in Formula One beyond 2005 and 2006. Don't you think the sport has dropped the ball by not agreeing to accept the convention and what is the future for tobacco in Formula One and how long will it stay?
MM: Everything was fixed, as far as we were concerned, for the end of 2006, and then, unfortunately, the health department, what was then DG5 in the commission, went and moved the date from their original date to the end of July, 2005, and, of course, that interfered with all the contracts so then arrangements have to be made to keep racing despite what the EU has done, this has driven some of the races outside Europe and now, of course, people are saying, well, why stop in 2006?
Meanwhile, we were told by our lawyers that we were not in the position to impose a ban because that would be interfering with the commercial side of the sport, which we promised the European Commission we wouldn't do, so, in a nutshell it is a complete mess thanks to the health people in the European Commission and I think it probably will go on after 2006 and they are 100 percent to blame and we are just dealing with impossible people. It is quite annoying actually because we did everything and then, as I say, they messed it up.
So I think it is a pity, I think it would have been better if we had a clean break at some point because then on that date everyone would know that it would stop completely and other industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, and various other people who at the moment are reluctant to come in would be in and that perhaps would be better. But, again, it is out of our control, it is not something that we can deal with because it is entirely a commercial matter between the teams, their sponsors and, of course, the laws of the countries where we race.
Q: But isn't it bad for the sport's image?
MM: What can you do? It is a commercial matter. I mean it is just the same as if somebody sues a big company and loses, it is bad for the image of Formula One but we can't interfere with it.
Q: I am interested in the challenge of the standard ECU from your point of view. Obviously, you are going to have to make it work with the software and hardware of all the different types of engine. What would happen in the event of a failure? The only standard piece of equipment that is imposed on all the teams, as far as I can think of, is the fuel rig and we do quite often see those things malfunctioning or failing which does directly then affect a team's chances of winning a race. What would happen if a standard ECU failed?
MM: It would be bad luck on the team, and also, if you look at the fuel rigs and you do an analysis of which teams have had failures and which teams have had no failures and you compare that with their general success rate they are quite closely related. And the thing is that what you do get is a risk of that but in all probability, and I don't want to wander into an area where I don't know what I am talking about, we will have a basic unit, the specification of which we will agree with the teams, and I am sure it will have at least two degrees of redundancy, it would be unlikely to fail, and the teams will then be told all sorts of things they can and cannot do, how hot it can be, vibration levels, all those things, actually, are already under discussion and yes, there may be failures, but if there are, it is just bad luck. There won't be many that's for sure. It will be very efficient.