Press Conference of Max Mosley, President of the FIA Imola - Friday 7 April 2000 Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have three points on which I would like to offer a few words, after which I will answer questions. The three points I ...
Press Conference of Max Mosley, President of the FIA
Imola - Friday 7 April 2000
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have three points on which I would like to offer a few words, after which I will answer questions.
The three points I would like to deal with are those involving post-race scrutineering; electronics in F1 cars; and the European Union.
As far as post-race scrutineering is concerned, it has been suggested in a number of quarters that all the checking of the cars should be done before the race starts, in order to ensure that the race result itself could not be in question. Theoretically, this would eliminate questions like those which arose in Brazil two weeks ago, or in Malaysia last year. Unfortunately, years of experience have demonstrated that it is impossible so to arrange the cars that it is impossible to change the settings or dimensions during the race.
There is a vivid example, from the USA, which demonstrates the impossibility of this concept. This involved NASCAR and a regulation specifying a minimum ride height. The ride height was checked by requiring competitors to drive their cars over a block as they left the pits. Theoretically, this meant that once the car was on the track there was no possibility of any adjustment being made to the car, hence the cars were deemed to be legal at all times. However, the teams developed a technique of jacking up their cars and inserting a wooden wedge into the springs to maintain them at the required height to pass over the block. As soon as the car was on the track, however, the wedges were shaken out of the springs and the car would settle to a new, illegal ride height.
In all forms of motor sport there are endless examples of similar subterfuge, which is why -unfortunately - we must continue to undertake our post-race checks. When a car falls outside the regulations, which happens occasionally, the long drawn out delay in publishing the results can be extremely annoying not just for the press and the public but also for the governing body. However, there is no way to avoid this happening, albeit occasionally. All I can say to you is that the people most concerned by this are the members of the team whose car offends the rules - and they will normally do their best to ensure that it does not happen.
I would mention here that there was only one such occurrence in the entire 1999 season, and so far there has been one incident in 2000. I sincerely hope that there is no recurrence. It is a question of the teams not running too close on these dimensions.
The second point concerns electronics on F1 cars. As you may know, there has been some discussion about the introduction of new scrutineering procedures. The reason for this is that we have become aware of the operation by some teams of open-loop traction control systems. These systems allow the engine management to "know" when the rear wheels are turning faster than they should, and reacts accordingly. We have taken a number of steps that will make it difficult for the teams to continue to do this. We have also agreed with the teams to set up a meeting, with their electronics engineers, in the next two weeks. The meeting will take this subject even further.
In time for Silverstone, what we have done is to examine all the cars and, figuratively speaking, cut a number of "wires," to make it more difficult for the electronics to be exploited in ways that we regard as inappropriate. With the co-operation of the electronics engineers we hope that this process can be taken even further. For the FIA it remains essential that all the teams race to the same rules. It is totally unacceptable that certain teams - those that are not strictly observing the rules - should be allowed to have an advantage over their rivals.
Why, you might ask, is the FIA unable to check every last detail, to be certain of what is happening deep in the "brains" of the modern F1 car? The answer is that the electronic systems now used in F1 are so complex that even if we had an army of people, it would probably still be impossible to know precisely what is going on.
Just to give an idea of the extent and complexity of these electronic systems, you may be interested to know that in several cases these systems provide an individual engine "map" for each cylinder of a 10-cylinder engine. The parameters include ignition and fuelling. On each map there is another map, and so on, creating what is in effect a three-dimensional structure - figuratively speaking - which it is almost impossible for an outside body like the FIA and its experts to penetrate. It would be more or less impossible for us to say with absolute certainty that there was nothing concealed there that should not be there.
Because it is our duty to be able to provide each team principal, honestly and competently, with a guarantee that none of his rival teams are infringing the rules in any way, the only way to cope with this dilemma is to simplify the rules. Hence the figurative "cutting of the wires." We will not retreat from our position on this matter, indeed we will build on it. It is, after all, a fundamental duty of any governing body to ensure that the competition is fair and that everybody races to the same rules.
The third point concerns the European Union. There is an ongoing and very tedious discussion with the Competitions department of the European Commission. I wish to say two things here. First, as far as the EC itself is concerned, the nature of our relations is by no means all negative. We cooperate very successfully with the department of the Commission concerned with road safety. Indeed, in a report issued recently by the EC, the major project operated by the FIA in collaboration with the EC, which is the ENCAP crash-testing programme, was acknowledged to be by far the most efficient and effective road safety programme in which the Commission has been involved throughout the last five years. That was not our assessment, it was the judgement of the EC's own report.
Unfortunately, as far as competitions policy and the EC is concerned, the FIA is required to deal with people whose view of the subject is extremely narrow and introspective. Furthermore, they do not understand sport - any sport - and the issues which it raises.
What I wish to say about the Competitions department of the EC does not apply to the new Commissioner, Professor Monti, who has only recently assumed his responsibilities. It is the hope of the FIA that Professor Monti will eventually regain control of his services, because it is those services which are responsible for the difficulties that have arisen between us.
There are a number of issues involving the EC and the FIA which can easily be resolved. However, there are two which cannot.
First, the Commission asserts that the FIA, together with the governing bodies of other sports, should not have a single governing body in each country of the EU. The Commission believes that all countries should permit a virtually unlimited number of sanctioning bodies, each of which would be empowered to issue licences, sanction races and so on. By implication, the same principle would apply internationally. As an example, let's take France, where the law requires just one governing body that will be recognised by the national government for each major sport. The EC's Competitions department has deemed this principle to be wrong: it would therefore insist on a multiplicity of governing bodies for each sport, in each country, all of them free to license competitors and sanction races.
The Competitions department of the EC apparently believes that having only one governing body allows that body abusively to prevent individuals from taking part in its sport.
The FIA contends that this argument is nonsensical. First, EC competition law is designed for the economic market place, in which it is possible for one party to gain economic dominance of a market and use it abusively to exploit that market. Such a situation is entirely different from a sport in which the existence of a federation is the consequence of a democratic electoral process. Under our system, there is no more sense in having two governing bodies for motor sport than in having two entirely separate elected governments in one country. The government only has a monopoly because it has been elected to that status - and as long as it is democratically elected, the same principle applies to a sporting federation. The chaos - not to mention the physical danger, which would result from multiple governing bodies is obvious.
The FIA's second conflict with the EC springs from the EC's contention that the organiser of any sporting event - say a Grand Prix race - should own all the commercial rights to that event. We accept this principle as perfectly reasonable. But it all changes when the organiser approaches us with a request for his event to form part of the FIA's World Championship. We would then accept the event as part of our World Championship, provided certain conditions apply.
Non-championship F1 races were quite common events until almost 20 years ago, and they would still take place, with all the top teams and drivers taking part, provided the organiser could pay an appropriate amount of money to attract them. But the amount required to attract a full field of F1 competitors to any such non-championship event would probably be as much as 50 or 100 times the amount paid by the organiser of an FIA sanctioned F1 World Championship race. The reason for this is that the organiser of a World Championship Grand Prix race gets the benefit of the guaranteed participation of all the F1 teams - with the quid pro quo that many of commercial rights to its are put into the pool of such rights which are sold as part of the commercial rights to the World Championship.
On these two major subjects, we have in effect told the Commission that we are willing to continue discussing the issues and that we will attend the hearing planned for next month. If the decision goes against us, we may even consider making an appeal.
But if, within the EU, the law turns out to be as the Commission presently claims it to be, then that law is inconsistent with laws in virtually all other parts of the world and inconsistent with the statutes of the FIA. The FIA would then be faced with two alternative courses of action. Either it will have to change its statutes to require all 119 member countries to obey the principles applicable within the EU; or it can regard the entire European Union as one country, within which - according to FIA statutes - the EU can behave as it sees fit. The countries of the rest of the world would then be free to recognise whichever body it chose as being the international authority for the EU.
This is the situation which already exists in the United States, where there are seven - soon to be eight - major sanctioning bodies. They include NASCAR, the NHRA, CART and others. These bodies come together as ACCUS, which is internationally recognised as the body which issues international licences to competitors applying from their various disciplines. There are other sanctioning bodies inside the USA which do not belong to ACCUS, but they have no need for, or desire to have, international representation or relations.
The FIA's situation, if it moved to recognition of the EU as one country, would be precisely analogous to what already exists in the USA. But the consequence would be that the countries of the EU would automatically lose their international influence within motorsport, because their representation on the governing body would be diminished. Inevitably, too, the number of World Championship events within EU territory would have to be decreased, simply because it would be absurd to hold nine separate events within what would for all intents and purposes be one single country.
Faced with this choice, the FIA cannot - and its General Assembly will not - allow 15 countries to dictate to the other 104 countries how the FIA's statutes should be. If that's the way they want it, that's the way it will be inside the EU. The rest of the world, however, will continue as at present.
If and when the time comes for other international sporting bodies in the EU to make similar decisions on this same question, my opinion is that they will adopt exactly the same stance that has been taken by the FIA. They will, I believe, agree that it is unacceptable for a small number of countries, however prestigious and well established they may be, to dictate to the rest of the world how things should be done.
If sense prevailed, it would be easy and simple to resolve all these conflicts. Most unfortunately, however, our interlocutors on the EC are unwilling to meet with us for a serious discussion. Since we received a warning letter from the EC two and a half years ago we have had only two encounters, at each of which the EC representatives merely recited their case and then sat and listened politely to our replies. Having shaken hands, they then disappeared.
The only way to resolve these issues, we believe, is for us to sit down for a serious discussion of the issues. It is essential that the bureaucrats dealing with our case should understand the issues. At present, the simple fact is that they do not understand them. I do not believe that they are acting malevolently: this is a highly complex issue and they simply do not understand what they are dealing with. If necessary, I could continue by recounting the absurd suggestions that have been made by EC officials, suggestions which demonstrate their complete failure to understand the issues.
Having said all that, I am now prepared to try to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Alan Henry (The Guardian, Great Britain): Mr. President, some of the teams have suggested that the FIA, in its attempts to simplify the electronics, is in fact interfering with the stability of the engine regulations, as guaranteed by FIA statute. What is your reply to these charges?
MM: What we are doing is telling the teams what they have to do to ensure that their cars comply with the rules. Under regulation 2/7, they must satisfy us that their car complies at all times. We have made it clear that we are not changing the rules or interfering with their application. But we have shown them what they must do to be able to reassure us that their cars comply with the rules.
This may have the effect of preventing the teams from doing things which they are doing now, but that restriction is incidental. The important thing is for us to be able to inform every team that all of its rivals are completely within the regulations, and to know that we are making that statement will complete certainty. We wish to eliminate any culture of infringement of the regulations, because such a culture virtually obliges the honest competitor, if he wishes to be competitive, to become a cheat himself. This happened at one stage in the World Rally Championship, and there are beginning to be signs that it may be happening in Formula 1. We stopped it then and we are determined to stop it again.
Fredrik AF Petersen (Vauhdin Maailma, Sweden): A couple of years ago, with the objective of fighting Brussels as a united force, the FIA joined a group of sporting authorities which also included athletics and football. Is that group still functioning?
MM: It still exists but it is is not as vigorous as it once was. The group has not met recently because, first, of the death of one of its leading members, Mr. Primo Nebbiolo, and also because the body representing football - UEFA - went its own way to some extent in its negotiations with the EC. However, we are still very closely linked with the Olympic movement. With this in mind, next autumn we are planning a conference in Paris on sports governance. This will concern itself with relations between the governing bodies of sport and the financial interests which are now becoming involved in all forms of sport, not just in F1.
Dan Knutson (National Speed Sport News): As part of controlling electronic systems you said you were going to "cut some wires." Can you please tell us which wires?
MM: For more details on this you would need to have access to a copy of the fax which [FIA technical adviser) Charlie Whiting sent to the teams before the Brazilian GP. However, I see no reason why this fax should not be made available to the press. The most obvious change, and one which you will become aware of when it comes into force at the next race, is that we have told the teams that we are no longer willing to accept the use of electronically controlled speed limiters in the pit lane. We have reason to believe that the speed limiting devices have also been used to assist drivers to get off the line at the start, and perhaps also for other purposes to which we are unable to consent. In future it will therefore be the driver's individual responsibility to ensure that he does not exceed the speed limit.
Fundamentally, our intention has been to eliminate certain elements. As an example of the very sophisticated technology we are dealing with, I will mention just one technique. This involves measuring engine speed at two different points - let's say at the crankshaft and the camshaft - and thereby getting a measurement of the engine's rate of acceleration. From the two figures it is thus possible to deduce when the rear wheels are spinning, and thus to adjust the fuel mixture and ignition timing to reduce the wheelspin.
Leo Wieland (Auto Bild, Germany): We all recognise that the post-race scrutineering of the cars is important and necessary. Why, therefore, is it not possible for the podium ceremony to be delayed until such time as we can be sure that the drivers on the podium are fully entitled to receive the trophies?
MM: This is a valid point, but it involves its lesser of two evils. On the one side, if we waited for all the technical checks to be completed, we could be waiting for as long as three hours after the race before the podium ceremony could be held. By that time the TV coverage would be over and most of the spectators would have gone home. In effect, the podium ceremony would become meaningless. If on the other hand we continue to hold the ceremony immediately after the race, we run the risk of having someone celebrate who should not be there - and unfortunately it is impossible to put the champagne back in the bottle. Obviously the lesser evil is to hold the podium ceremony in the expectation that the finishing order will stand. Last year it was alright on 15 out of 16 occasions - and usually it will continue to be right.
Joe Saward (Motorsport News, Australia): The FIA has announced a fine of $100,000 on the CBA for the potentially dangerous incidents which occurred during qualifying for the Brazilian GP. There is an important safety issue here, and it has been suggested that this punishment was too light, especially when one considers that Jerez lost its right to hold a Grand Prix race simply because in 1997 some local politician interrupted the podium ceremony. What is your response? Should the Brazilians have been more heavily punished, especially given that their track was dangerous?
MM: If you are suggesting that Interlagos was dangerous because it was bumpy, I cannot agree. In the tradition of road racing there is no reason why a track should not be bumpy. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent us putting a sleeping policeman at each end of the pit lane. The teams know that there are bumpy tracks on the championship schedule and they should set up their cars to suit the conditions. Interlagos had in fact been resurfaced before this year's race, but unfortunately the subsoil underneath the road is so unstable that the bumps reappear within a matter of weeks. There is no difficulty in setting up a modern F1 car for bumps: it is just that it will not be quite as fast as it would be on a smooth circuit where it can be set up lower.
On the suggestion that the fine imposed on the Brazilian organisers was out of proportion to the punishment levied on the organisers at Jerez, we had the option - everything being equal - of making the fine much higher or even of cutting off the Brazilian GP altogether. However, on listening to the explanation from the Brazilians it became apparent that they had completely underestimated the effect of an F1 car passing underneath a lightweight advertising sign.
At the speed which the cars were doing at that point on the circuit they are producing about two tons of downforce. In order to generate that level of downforce, it requires huge quantities of air to be moved upwards very suddenly. Given the blast of air that the signs were subjected to, we felt that we should not have permitted those signs to have been located there. Our Safety Commission is therefore now examining the question of whether advertising signs should be allowed to hang over a racing track at all. In due course the Safety Commission will make its recommendations on this subject. But bearing in mind that we allowed the Brazilian promoters to place the signs there, and that they probably didn't know what potential there was for the failures which occurred, it seemed only fair to impose the penalty of a comparatively modest fine.
As far as Jerez 1997 was concerned, the local mayor had the right to approach us beforehand with a request to be allowed on to the podium. That could, and would, have been arranged. But instead he forced his way on to the podium while trying, unsuccessfully, to have our security guards arrested by the local police. I regarded such conduct as outrageous and the World Council later reached the decision mentioned by you. Later we rescinded the decision following meetings in Spain involving the mayor of Jerez, the Minister of Sport and other national officials. But we had to make it clear that nobody should ever take it upon himself to interrupt our ceremonies, especially where there was the option beforehand of asking to be involved.
Andrew Benson (Autosport, GB): The teams have been claiming for at least three years that it is impossible for the FIA to police their electronic systems, and in particular the use of traction control. What prompted the FIA to introduce these latest changes?
MM: The fact is that while the ingenuity of the teams increases, we also get better at discovering any irregularities. Until a certain point last year, I believed we were policing the electronics very satisfactorily. But over the winter it came to our notice that something had been going on which we believe was wholly unacceptable. As you know, we download all the team's computer programs, and we keep records, so we are able to conduct a continuous audit. This demonstrated that something had slipped through the net. I am not about to name names or to identify the team involved, but this incident showed that we could no longer make the assumption - one which we had always made in the past - that major companies would not be involved in actions that were blatantly against the rules. This has caused us to take a different attitude and we are no longer prepared to take anything on trust in this matter. Previously we had thought that no major company would be prepared to be involved in a deceit of this kind.
Andrew Benson: Does this mean that a Formula 1 team was competing last year with an illegal car?
MM: We believe this may have been the case.
Anne Giuntini (L'Equipe, France): With electronics becoming more and more normal on road cars, why does the FIA refuse to open the regulations in F1 racing?
MM: This is a very interesting question. The reason is this. If you look at road cars, there is an increasing tendency for them to drive themselves. The technology already exists to do this in a primitive way, and it will not be long before a passenger car exists which does not need a driver at all. I have no doubt that any one of the F1 teams could set up its cars to do a very fast lap without a driver. It would be more difficult if there were to be more than one remote-control car on the circuit at the same time, but a single car would present little difficulty.
This faced the FIA with a choice. Should motor racing be a technological contest between the teams, with the driver present merely as a passenger; or should it continue to be a fundamentally human sport which opposes two or more drivers using very high technology machines? We took the decision six years ago to make sure that it was a human contest. We were prepared to accept the high technology, but only as long as the driver had to control the car himself.
The only way to ensure that the driver does all the work himself, without assistance from a computer as his electronic co-driver, is to keep a very careful check on the electronics. This in itself is an enormously laborious process. At the moment we could probably eliminate 80 per cent of our work on this subject if we were to permit traction control. Many of the teams believe that traction control should be permitted, because it would make life much easier for them. The FIA, on the other hand, believes that a driver has three fundamental skills. These are: steering the car, using the brakes and - in a high-powered machine like a Formula 1 - controlling its acceleration.
If traction control were to be permitted, even a driver with comparatively modest skills would be able to floor the throttle coming out of a slow corner in the wet, and the electronic system would take care of any problems. The great skill is getting the maximum acceleration, when you have what is in effect unlimited horsepower, under difficult conditions.
By permitting traction control, we would therefore eliminate one of the three fundamental skills involved in driving a racing car. Having done that, why not introduce another concession, for example full electronic braking? The computer would calculate the effect of decreasing fuel load and aerodynamic load and other factors, and the extraordinary skill required of a top racing driver to do those things for himself would be eliminated. Instead of driving the car, he would merely press a button as he approached a corner, leaving the computer to apply the brakes at the right moment at the right pressure. The computer would also do all the gear changes, it would correct the steering in the corners - and a mediocre driver would be able to drive almost as fast around any corner as the best driver in the world.
This would spell the end of the human element in motor racing. We believe that if you were to do that, it would mean the end of Grand Prix racing as we know it. Our philosophy at the present time - and we believe that the teams agree with us - is to give the drivers machines incorporating as much high technology as human ingenuity can provide. The car can be very powerful, and it can have astonishingly effective aerodynamics. But the driver must drive it by himself, without a computer helping him. That is what differentiates between the best drivers and those who are less good.
Jonathan Legard (BBC Radio 5 Live, GB): Returning to the discovery of an illegal car last year, when did the FIA become aware of the illegality and why did you not throw it out of the championship?
MM: We only became aware of it over the winter, as part of our auditing procedure. We don't yet have 100 per cent proof, but we are sufficiently sure of it to know that it is something that must be brought to an end.
Q. How do you react, Mr. President, to suggestions that the FIA is biased in favour of Ferrari?
MM: I have heard this, and I have also heard that there is a conspiracy to ensure that Ferrari wins. If this is true, we are not part of that conspiracy. On the evidence of what has happened, the arch-conspirators must surely be the driver who made the accusation, together with his team manager, because they are the ones who did most to help Ferrari last year. Indeed, without that team's help, Ferrari would almost surely not have won the constructors' championship.
The reality is that we at the FIA go out of our way to try to be fair. It is inevitable that each teams expects the FIA to favour the others. In what has now become a very anglophone structure - with so many of the leading administrators being Brits - it is very important not to give the impression that the system favours the British teams. And I am glad that nobody thinks that way.
What we do like to see is a contest which goes all the way to the end of the championship season. But even there, it is impossible to influence what happens. If you look at the way the contest for the title developed last year, or the year before, no human being could have arranged that. It turned out to be very exciting. This year, if the title is decided early on, that would be regrettable. But if one team is good enough to build up a big lead, then it will have deserved it.
Q. Joe Saward: Don't you feel that if electronic controls continue to be imposed, then there is a danger of F1 going the way of chariot racing?
MM: I am not an expert on chariot racing, which clearly you are. But I have never heard it suggested that chariot racing failed as a sport because of restrictions placed on its technology by its governing body. I think you have got to do better than that, Joe!
Alberto Antonini (Autosprint, Italy): After the Brazilian GP, five of the leading cars had to be re-checked for wear to the skid blocks underneath. Several teams are now using as much as 80 kilos in ballast - most of it mounted in the skid blocks - to adjust the handling of their cars to the characteristics of each circuit. Do you accept that there is a case to be made for an end to the ballasting of F1 cars and the reinforcement of a largely ignored minimum weight limit?
MM: When it comes to measuring the various aspects of the car after a race, whenever there is an element of doubt it is applied to the benefit of the team. In the case of four cars in Brazil - apart from Coulthard's McLaren - they were very marginal on the skid blocks. However, they were not actually outside the regulations, whereas the McLaren was outside the permitted dimensions, beyond argument. Your point about weight is very valid. Throughout my life in this sport, including the period I spent in F1 as a team owner, I have been campaigning against minimum weight limits. My argument was always that a constructor will always aim to make his car as light as possible, and if there is any weight to spare, then it will be located somewhere on the car that favours the competitiveness of the car.
At the moment, in terms of weight limits, the teams are in favour of the existing regulations. It is something that we discuss from time to time, but as far as I am concerned I tend to agree with the views you have just expressed. I am inclined to the view that in any accident the amount of energy that has to dissipated is directly proportional to the mass of the car. The smaller the mass, the less the energy and the less severe the accident, etc.
What, then, is ballast? There are definitions within the rules, the most fundamental of which requires it to be securely fixed. Schemes involving the pumping of mercury round the cars, for example, have been rejected. In fact we don't mind what material is used as ballast - provided it is firmly fixed.
Alan Henry: Over the past six years, the race here at Imola has inevitably generated thoughts about safety. I understand that there are some new safety barriers here, and that tomorrow you will be announcing plans for improved cockpit safety. May we have some general cockpits on these and other matters of safety?
MM: To summarise, we have now moved into the area where to make any significant gains in safety, the work has to be extremely technical. For this reason, all the advances in safety now come from research programmes involving bodies like the Road Transport Research Laboratory, the major car manufacturers or certain universities. The announcement to be made tomorrow involves a collaboration with a major car manufacturer. However, the days are gone when it is easy to make an improvement. We now have to recognise that we can never make motor racing safe, we can only reduce the possibility of someone being seriously hurt or worse. Some of the developments are very interesting, but we are now on the cutting edge of what is possible.
Meanwhile, I don't want to pre-empt what you will be learning tomorrow from Professor Hubbert of DaimlerChrysler, which involves air bags and similar devices contributing to cockpit safety.
Joe Saward: Has anything been said to the team which you 'rumbled' during the winter? If not, why not?
MM: Nothing has been said yet, because we are waiting until we are good and ready. And we will have a little discussion. We aren't wasting time, because we know the deception has stopped. We now need a few more facts, which we expect to find by going back through our own records.
Bob McKenzie (The Express, GB): If you cannot name the team, can you say if it involved one or both of the cars belonging to the team? Do you believe it materially affected the outcome of the 1999 World Championship?
MM: When you talk about a team, it inevitably affects both cars. It did not materially affect the outcome of the 1999 World Championship. We have the option of taking retrospective action: it remains to be seen whether we will.
Q. What are the FIA's plans for changes to the aerodynamic regulations in F1 racing?
MM: There are certain changes planned for 2001 and 2002, all of which are currently going through the Technical Working Group. But I don't have enough information to give you any technical details, except to say that the general principle, as always, is to reduce downforce. If we can, we want to minimise the loss of adhesion created in the wake of another car. I have to say that we have very good cooperation between our people and the F1 engineers. We are seeing progress in those areas - and this is an ongoing process.
Mike Doodson (Auto Action, Australia): Mr. President, several of us have noticed that our professional credentials this year, for the first time ever, have not been issued by the FIA. Instead they appear to emanate from a commercial company, half of which is now owned by a little-known company best known for broadcasting The Muppets on German television. Can you please persuade us that our professional and other interests are still in the best possible hands?
Thank you very much for your attention, and for giving me your time.