This Week in Ford Racing June 15, 1999

This Week in Ford Racing June 15, 1999 FIA Formula One FORD MOTOR COMPANY ANNOUNCED VIA A PRESS RELEASE LAST THURSDAY THAT IT WAS PURCHASING THE STEWART GRAND PRIX FORMULA ONE TEAM FROM OWNER JACKIE STEWART, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. STEWART...

This Week in Ford Racing June 15, 1999

FIA Formula One

FORD MOTOR COMPANY ANNOUNCED VIA A PRESS RELEASE LAST THURSDAY THAT IT WAS PURCHASING THE STEWART GRAND PRIX FORMULA ONE TEAM FROM OWNER JACKIE STEWART, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. STEWART WILL REMAIN AS CHAIRMAN OF THE ORGANIZATION, AND OTHER TEAM PERSONNEL WILL REMAIN IN PLACE.

SATURDAY, BEFORE QUALIFYING FOR THE MONTREAL GRAND PRIX, FORD OFFICIALS AND STEWART SAT DOWN WITH A GROUP OF INTERNATIONAL MEDIA TO DISCUSS THE PURCHASE AND THE EFFECTS IT WILL HAVE. BELOW ARE TRANSCRIPT HIGHLIGHTS OF THAT MEDIA BRIEFING.

PARTICIPANTS INCLUDED:

NEIL RESSLER, chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company; vice president, Ford Research and Vehicle Technology; chairman, Cosworth Racing; board member, Stewart Grand Prix.

RICHARD PARRY-JONES, Ford group vice-president, product development

JACKIE STEWART, chairman, Stewart Grand Prix.

RESSLER -- "As many of you know, Ford and Stewart Grand Prix agreed that Ford would purchase the company. It's really, kind of, a natural next step along the road that we and Jackie and Paul (STEWART) formed in 1995. It's also a natural next step for Ford's recent re-commitment to Formula One. As many of you know, Ford and Cosworth have a long history in Formula One. Someone told me that we had won 174 races and 13 championships, including three with our pal, Jackie, here, back in the late 60s and early 70s. You also probably know that our more recent experiences have not gone as well as those experiences we had in the 60s and 70s, although we did win the world championship with Benetton and Michael Schumacher driving in 1994. We're doing this for a variety of reasons. We think it's good business, to start with. The technology and the technical training is not equaled anywhere in the world of motorsports. We stepped in and redoubled our efforts and have our technical people rotate through both Cosworth and the Formula One team. The communications that Formula One offers also is unequalled anywhere in the world. The number of viewers we see around the world is as large as there is, actually, and it's an opportunity for Ford to be seen in the highest, most technically-demanding form of motorsports. Our intention is that we are in this to win. We are not in it just to be racing. We are in it to win. We expect to increase the efforts that have been in place thus far, and it is our intention to be victorious. We're happy that Jackie is staying on, and Paul, and we expect this year will continue on as is, with a gradual, steady improvement. And we expect to be soon competing with those at the front."

JACKIE, WHEN YOU STARTED, YOU TALKED ABOUT A FIVE-YEAR PLAN. CAN YOU COMMENT ON WHERE YOU THINK YOU ARE NOW AND HOW MUCH THIS NEW ALLIANCE WITH FORD IS GOING TO MEAN? STEWART - "When the business plan was first created, it was a five-year program, and we expected not to be seriously challenging the established teams until years four and five. We said that by years four and five we would be in position to win a Grand Prix, and therefore be in contention to win a world championship. That's an extraordinarily short time, when you look at what's gone in Formula One racing over the years with Ferrari - to this day 51 years in the business - and McLaren - 35 years in the business - and Williams - 30 years. But we also said we would have to go about our business in a new way. And that was that we were going to have to get large, multinational corporations that are not in the tobacco industry as part of our program. And that we were going to be well-financed from the beginning. Part of the new way of doing business is this strategic alliance, as I call it, which in Paul's and my views, are absolutely essential for a Formula One team that wants to challenge the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, etc. I believe, although we've had an immense improvement in 1999 and have a really good car and a wonderful engine, to take that next stage up, to seriously challenge a Ferrari or McLaren, needs an immense amount - not only of money, but also of facilities. And I don't think a team of today's ilk can do that without many, many years of previous income and profits to be able to invest in the type of equipment, technology and people, etc. I believe that what we have done in this new way of business with Ford Motor Company buying Stewart Grand Prix as a company, is an immense statement by Ford of how serious that commitment is. They've bought Cosworth, and have one of the best engine makers in the world. They've now bought a Grand Prix team, which we believe is as good a foundation they could have found, with perfect integrity to build on, and a long alliance already in place. The tobacco companies are eventually going to go. Even if we had taken tobacco money - and every competitor we have that is serious has taken tobacco money - but even they, if they lose their engine manufacturer, as we saw with McLaren when they lost Honda, and Williams witnessed when Honda left, they went three years without any victories in the case of McLaren. With Ford now owning this, we have a long-term stability for our engineers and our workforce and our people. And we can be competitive in those four and five years with the tremendous resources that Ford have ... and not just financially, but technically. So I think it's a rather logical way of doing business in a new way, and I think it will happen with more and more teams as time goes on."

WE'RE ALL AWARE OF THE MARKETING IMAGE CLOUT HAS. ARE WE GOING TO SEE ANY REAL CASE OF RACING IMPROVING THE BREED AS FAR AS YOUR ROAD CARS? PARRY-JONES - "Yes. It's a subtle process. It's not a case of a continuing stream of magic silver bullets. In many cases, there's one of two silver bullets perhaps every decade or two. The real value is the continuous stream of knowledge and the improvements in the way we do business, for example electronic control. If you look at the major impact, or the technology change on the road cars in the last 10 years, by far the largest element is the implementation of microprocessers and digital control mechanical systems. To make them behave in linear ways, which means we can optimize the performance in a variety of conditions. The leading edge in using microprocessors in that way, is in Formula One. So we have our own people on the Formula One team, intimately involved in that technology. And we rotate those people back from the team back into the company, and we have tremendous communication going at all times, with what we like to call home base - which is Neil's people - and Visteon - the electronic software and hardware supplier. We're seeing a lot of maybe not so visible, but important - and even vital - flow of information and technology regarding microprocessors above all else. It's not the only area, but it's perhaps the single most important one."

DOES THE STRENGTHENING OF FORD IN F1 MEAN A LESSENING OF BUDGETS IN ANY OTHER AREA FOR FORD IN RACING? RESSLER - "No."

IS THERE A DANGER THAT NOW THAT FORD OWNS A FORMULA ONE TEAM, THAT CORPORATE RED TAPE WILL GET IN THE WAY OF QUICK, NIMBLE DEVELOPMENT? RESSLER - "Well, that's always a risk, but we have no intention of trying to run this from Dearborn, Michigan. It will be run out of Milton Keynes (ENGLAND), and a matter of fact, the purchase of Cosworth Racing, and now the purchase of Stewart Grand Prix, removes the interfaces across that one has had to negotiate. I would suggest that the structure now enables us to be quicker than before, and we certainly don't intend to big company red tape in the operation of this effort."

INTERVIEW WITH STEWART-FORD DRIVER JOHNNY HERBERT.

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT FORD'S ACQUISITION OF THE STEWART-FORD TEAM, ANNOUNCED AT THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX? JOHNNY HERBERT -16- STEWART-FORD I think it's a smart move for everybody concerned. What the team and Ford have achieved since last season is amazing. The Stewart-Ford team is no longer running at the back of the field but at the front. Ford's acquisition is a logical step to ensure that the team will continue to improve - it's what has to be done for us to become a McLaren and Ferrari beater. There is no doubt the deal will be beneficial to the team, Ford and Formula One in general.'

AFTER FINISHING YOUR FIST RACE AND SCORING POINTS FOR THE STEWART-FORD TEAM AT THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX, ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT RACE AT MAGNY COURS? 'It was nice to finish my first race of the season and get two points in Canada - not just for myself but for the whole team. Perhaps my new helmet design brought luck. I incorporated the Union Flag into the design at the front just before the Spanish Grand Prix and before Canada I changed the colour at the back from green to blue - so I will stick with this design for the French Grand Prix. At Magny Cours we should do well again. Like everybody else really I'm hoping for a good qualifying, a reliable race and a points scoring finish. We have a three-day test (Wednesday June 16th, Thursday June 17th and Friday June 18th) at Magny Cours this week so it's directly from one continent to the next. However it's definitely an advantage to test at a circuit before a race weekend because you have longer to work on the set-up.

ARE YOU EXPECTING ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE AT MAGNY COURS? 'Throughout the season the SF3 has gone well in quick corners and Magny Cours has got a few. The car should be good at Estoril just after the start- finish line and through the Nürburgring and Imola chicanes. During the testing we will be looking to improve the car for places like the last slower section called Lycee.

DO YOU LIKE THE MAGNY COURS CIRCUIT? 'The track has got three parts I really like - the 120-mph Estoril and the two chicanes. However to be perfectly honest the rest of the circuit is a little boring - or as boring as it can be when you are driving a Formula One car ! Magny Cours also gets very difficult in the wet because the actual racing lines become a bit odd.

AFTER MAGNY COURS IT'S YOUR HOME EVENT - THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX - ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IT? 'Obviously Silverstone is very special to me. It was where I claimed my first Formula One win in 1995 and I know the circuit well. There is always a fantastic atmosphere and the support all of us British drivers receive makes it even more special. I am really looking forward to it and will keep my fingers crossed for a good result.'

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Stewart Grand Prix , CIP