US GP: Friday press conference, part 3

Continued from part 1 Q: It's a question to all of you. The business aspect of Formula One is increasingly important now, and how difficult is it for you to find the sporting side of it? Or are you just feeling pretty objective about it? Can...

Continued from part 1

Q: It's a question to all of you. The business aspect of Formula One is increasingly important now, and how difficult is it for you to find the sporting side of it? Or are you just feeling pretty objective about it? Can you separate the two quite easily?

RD: Mine's easy. If there wasn't a sport in Formula One, I wouldn't be in it. Simple answer. But it's a fact. I love Formula One because of the sport, not because of the financial aspects. You have to be a competent businessman to succeed, but it's too demanding on your time and your life for it to just be a way to make money.

FW: Raising money is very competitive. That, too, can be very much fun if you're successful.

NF: I think there's much easier ways to make money than this. It's extremely tough, and this is kind of my first full year. The amount of travel we have to do and even in between races is very, very significant. If you didn't enjoy the fun of the sporting side, then frankly there are better things to do. So at the end of the day, I think it's all about racing, and the rest is just there to support it. Frankly, the sooner we get some of the question marks out of the other side of it, the better, and then we can concentrate on having fun racing and making the whole racing more entertaining which I think has been fairly successful this year so far, albeit with a bit of controversy, but I think that's what we need to all focus on.

PS: I think the sport is very important for me. I'm a racer, and I like Formula One. But unfortunately we need a lot of money to do it properly.

Q: A question for Ron about what you said before, we have to discuss in a closed-door between us. Do you mean 19 or also the red one team?

RD: There's going to be an inevidentability that everyone has to sit and discuss and agree. But I think if you have a situation where there are groups of people that can agree about it, you should try and get to a situation where there's a majority view, and then obviously if that majority needs to temper its position to get unanimous view, then that's what has to happen. But some of the discussions in the past have been very difficult to have because of the total intransigence of some people and that's, I think, was the driving force that saw the majority of teams sit down and say we want to see if we can agree. But we don't accept that that's going to be an automatic given. But it's more constructive to have discussions with like-minded people.

MODERATOR: Anything further to add to that? No?

Q: Frank, as you were talking about money early on, in the event of BMW going elsewhere, what proportion of the sponsors of your team are, shall we say, Williams sponsors and what portion are BMW sponsors, and are you confident you can retain most of those sponsors?

FW: Well, that's a business question, and I'd rather not answer it. But in simple in the event of a switch, it means we're still solidly in business.

Q: Question to Ron. Ron, last year at Spa when it became evident that you could qualify for a third car, you said you thought the rule may be changed. What does it take to change that rule? Because as things stand now, there's a certain competitor running an opposition tire lying fifth in the championship and therefore could qualify for a third car next year. What does it take to change the rule?

RD: I think to change the sporting regulations, which does not require unanimous agreement up to a specific point, and when that point was reached -- I'm trying to think of the date. Pat will probably know.

FW: 31st of October.

RD: 31st of October, up to that point it doesn't have to be unanimous and after that it has to be. When I was speaking about my view that maybe it would change, it was prior to 31st October.

MODERATOR: Any more questions?

Q: Another general question. There's been some talk that the calendar might shrink next year from 19 races. Do you think that's desirable? If so, do you have any guidance on whether the calendar will decrease next year?

MODERATOR: Peter, would you like to start?

PS: About the 19 races? I hope to have less, 17 is enough. Especially all this back-to-back races, it's too much for the team. And it could be worse next season because there is, I believe next season is the Soccer World Championship or something and maybe we have more back-to-back races than this year.

NF: I do wonder whether four races in five weeks that's coming up is simply too much for the customers. I think when they're that close, just how willing people are to give up their Sunday afternoons or, you know, will they be allowed to give up their Sunday afternoons to watch motorsports four out of five times. To me that's a question mark. I don't know the answer to that, so I support Peter. I think forget our side, I think we should be the entertainers, but I think the public needs to tell us whether they want that many races. For me, I don't know the answer, but I think spreading them out a little bit is probably a better move. If that means reducing it a little bit, then so be it.

FW: Well, I remember something Ron said recently at a recent team meeting that he said, the more races there are, the richer Bernie gets and the poorer the teams get. That's about right, Bernie makes the money. It costs us a great deal of money to go to extra races.

RD: Well, I mean, I've always had the view that we need a balanced championship. Obviously it costs us money to go motor racing, otherwise we wouldn't need people to invest in us by way of sponsorship, which I always hate the word because what we sell is media exposure. But putting that aside, if I had any reservations about these back-to-back races, they were definitely removed last weekend because I decided to wait until Kimi's car was released from the parc ferme, and that was delayed because of the issue of the gearbox change in Nick's car. So I was there, I think, until nearly eight o'clock. That was three really hot days. I walked up and down and watched the guys working and I tell you, they -- to do what they had to do and to disassemble and assemble, you could see everybody was extremely tired and not everyone had the motivation of a positive result. So you've got the psychology of not getting the result that you wanted blended with three hot days. And they're all back at work effectively Tuesday lunchtime. It's too much, it's too much. The impact, also, is dramatic on the families. Because you would think, of course, that they go back and have a rest, but there is no rest. They get back, and within two or three days they're working preparing the cars for the French Grand Prix. So it's just too intense at the moment. It really is.

Q: We used to sort of start the season in Argentina or Brazil or wherever in January and I think finish in Australia sometimes in November. Is there any reason we can't extend the envelope of the season or does it have to be in the windows for car-build reasons and things like that?

NF: I kind of like the idea of expanding it a bit regardless of the number of -- having done world rally for the last three years, it seems to work quite well there. You know, you don't have the time obviously to do so much testing. Obviously in rallying, usually you're not doing a new car every year. If you tie it in with some of the other proposals, maybe spreading it out a little bit and giving people a bit more time between races, not only on the provider side, on our side, as Ron says it's very intense for every team member at the moment but also for the public point of view, maybe there's some merit in that. The rally side starting the third week of January in Monte Carlo seems to work quite nicely. Just means you can't spend all that time running around in circles in Barcelona or Jerez, which may be positive.

Q: What would you feel about that, Peter? Starting earlier perhaps?

PS: I don't know. I think we need the time during the winter to build the new car and to develop the new car. We have not had a lot of test. We started in the end of November, two tests in December and some tests in January and February. It's not a lot. And when we reduce the tests during the season, I think the tests over the winter are necessary. And it's too complicated to do that together with races, especially for us because we have a small test team and we do all the tests with only one car.

RD: It's pretty complicated. It's not as simple as you first think. If you look at the simple mathematics, we all strongly want a three-week break in August. That's a very important break for all of us, especially when we say no testing in that break. If you have races every two weeks, we think that we can take that in our stride. So if you reduce the number of races down to 16 or 17, then the calendar does not require back-to-backs and you can have a reasonably close season. And I think everybody looks forward to the beginning of the Grand Prix season. If we could run year-round, I think it would be detrimental to Formula One. I think you do need a break, you need people to say, OK, that was that World Championship, forget everything that went the previous year and embark on a new one. The key is just reduce the number of races to avoid the back-to-backs. And in support of Bernie, you've really got to look at the reason why certain races happen at certain times of the year. It's climatic, it's national holidays, it's all sorts of things. We like to steer around World Cup soccer and Olympic Games. It is not quite as easy as you would imagine. But the simple mathematics are less races. That will remove some of the back-to-back races, and they are the ones that are really hard to accommodate.

FW: I've done lots of both and would rather have what we have now than starting in January.

Q: Quick question for all of you. Given there's a fair likelihood this championship could go to the wire and some things may have to in some way or other implement team orders to win a World Championship, do you think F1 is better served by banning team orders and having you guys play dumb and perhaps not admit that you are perhaps manipulating the results so the public would know what the true results were?

RD: I can give you an easy understanding. I believe that the drivers in our team, if one was faced with a mathematical impossibility of winning the championship and the other one could, I would be surprised and disappointed if by choice the drivers didn't drive in an appropriate manner. And I think one driver permitting another driver to overtake because it's in the interest of the team and his teammate does not constitute an instruction by the team. It's called having honor and integrity.

Q: Frank, would you agree with that?

FW: Yeah, I do. Ron is always talking about Max has the notion at least banned team orders, but even he recognizes the team has certain requirements as long as any maneuvering doesn't grotesquely offend the public. The guys here are clever enough to make sure there's none of that.

NF: When we get in that position, I'll let you know. (Laughter)

PS: I don't understand your question about team order.

Q: Is it more honest to hide the team orders and admit they're not happening or have them --

PS: I don't understand it. Sorry. It's too complicated for me.

MODERATOR: We'll make this the last question because of the noise outside.

Q: It's a good last question maybe. It's coming down to some human aspects. Ron, it's a question for you. I saw Kimi walking a dog in the paddock lately and just saw Juan Pablo playing with his newly born son on the back side of the pits. How do you like this new image of McLaren being a family place? (Laughter) Have you had discussions about it? Tell us a little bit how these discussions progressed, please.

RD: If wearing a Ronald McDonald uniform personally made the drivers go quicker or do get better results, I'd be the first one into it. (Laughter). The simple fact is that if these things, if I see something and I feel it's positive to the performance of the drivers, I'm completely comfortable. If I felt it was negative, I'd say something about it. And at the moment, you know, for different reasons, I think the two things that you've pointed out happen to be positive in the sense that the dog incident had some humor behind it which was not known. And I consider Juan Pablo's wife an extremely positive influence on Juan Pablo. So if the price the team has to pay to have Connie around is to bring the baby, too, then absolutely fine by me. And if it appears to be an uncharacteristically human aspect of McLaren, then, as I've said so often, you need to be in the team to understand the team. That's the way we always are, is just the circumstances in the past haven't led us to embrace the concept of prams and woofers. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: What an excellent way to end the press conference.

FW: Do you have the dog in the motorhome?

RD: No way. Actually, it was in there. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: We'll leave it there. Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen.

-fia/ims-

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Series Formula 1
Teams McLaren , Williams