US GP George, Mosley, Ecclestone press conference

Tony George: If I may, welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the inaugural Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. This is quite an exciting time for me. It's been about ten years now that I've dreamed of hosting this race...

Tony George: If I may, welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the inaugural Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. This is quite an exciting time for me. It's been about ten years now that I've dreamed of hosting this race and two years of a lot of work for all the people here in preparing the facility. We're very excited and hope for a good weekend.

Max Mosley: I'd just like to really congratulate Tony George and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, all the staff for what's been done because the facility that's been put up here is really quite remarkable and I think will serve as an example to a large number of places throughout the world. It's really absolutely top-class and it's been a wonderful surprise to us to see just how good you managed to build it. I think it's an extraordinary achievement. We're very grateful and we're very excited. I think this is somewhere where the World Championship can have a round for the foreseeable future; and we're very grateful to Tony for what he's done. Thanks.

Bernie Ecclestone: I have nothing to say.

Q: Could I ask Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Mosley when they made that remark about how impressed they are, about how Mr. George's circuit has accommodated Formula One and how it's an example for other circuits, were they specifically thinking of the British Grand Prix's venue bearing in mind their recent remarks about Silverstone's shortcomings?

MM: I think it certainly wouldn't hurt if in the United Kingdom we had a facility to the same standard as this one here. It is intensely embarrassing when people visit the UK to talk about perhaps having a Grand Prix. They then say we're going up to your circuit, Silverstone, to have a look and we have to say, "No, don't do that. We'll give you a list of other places to look at." We hope before long in the United Kingdom there will be a facility of world standard. If there isn't, the future of the British Grand Prix as a round of the World Championship must be very much in question. Thank you.

Q: Where do we stand at the moment as far as the British Grand Prix is concerned? Will it be at Brands Hatch or Donington in 2002 and beyond?

BE: It's going to be difficult for Brands Hatch because they don't have the planning consent to build the circuit. Donington, I don't know. Same situation there, I think. One thing is for sure, Donington couldn't build anything quite as nice as this but I think they built something quite nice.

Q: Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Mosley, could you please comment on the arrival of Formula One back in the States, not just at Indianapolis but the whole ambience of being back in the States and how important this is to Formula One to be here?

BE: Well, I think we've been trying to get back to the States for a long time and it's only with Tony's help that we've managed to do this, because there isn't anywhere else we could put a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship.

MM: It's always been extremely important to have a round of the championship in the United States. The difficulty has been a venue suitable to hold it. That's really why I was so grateful to have it here; and, also, it's, I think, a very positive development that this should be at Indianapolis, which all over the world is synonymous with United States racing. I think it's an ideal venue and has a great future.

Q: I'm sorry to ask another predominantly European-based question to Mr. Mosley and Mr. Ecclestone. Five minutes before I came into this press conference, I was phoned from London, the Independent newspaper has a front-page article this morning which relates to the government. As you remember last week, Mr. Mosley and Mr. Ecclestone were featured quite prominently in the British press as regards the misunderstanding with Mr. Blair in 1997; and the British government now proposes to rush a bill through the parliament withdrawing the exemption on tobacco advertising for Formula One.

MM: I don't think that would be of any significance because there's been no tobacco advertising for Formula One in the United Kingdom for about 25 years. And as a law made in the UK would only apply in the UK, it would have no impact whatsoever on Formula One.

Q: This is for Mr. George. Could you explain your feelings on why you think or thought originally that it was important for Formula One to be back in the U.S. and why it's important that it be here?

TG: Well, I think that throughout the ten-year, almost ten-year absence of Formula One in the United States, it became increasingly apparent to me that what was lacking -- not that the other events in Dallas and Detroit and Long Beach and Las Vegas weren't special, weren't unique -- but I think the temporary facilities present certain challenges; and I felt that a permanent facility was what was needed, whether it was Indianapolis or anywhere else. I was interested in trying to make that happen, bring it to a permanent facility that was hopefully suitable for Formula One and the competition in Formula One; but I think it also helps that Indianapolis is recognized as the center of motor sports in the United States and what better place to hold it than Indianapolis?

Q: Again for Mr. George: Tony, after 91 years of racing organizations coming here and pretty much deferring to the way this Speedway has done things and has traditionally done things, it's pretty obvious from one end of the facility to the other who's in charge here. How does it feel to have an organization come in and have such complete control over the events at this Speedway?

TG: This is something that's very new for us. Anything new, you know, there's a learning curve that goes along with understanding it and perfecting it. I will not kid you, we have been challenged over the last two years in building the facility. We've, you know, been challenged in trying to adjust as needed to host Formula One, but it's working out well. And as I recall back in 1994, NASCAR did things a bit different with regard to how they conducted their restricted areas and whatnot. It took us a couple of years to get used to that. So I think after we get through this -- we were talking this morning about some of the things we need to look at and consider for the future, but I think as long as we continue to have mutual respect, we should be able to work through all these issues that we have in putting on a new event.

BE: You can be assured that nobody has control over Mr. George. He's just been extremely helpful. And understand what he's just said to you, that things are different and he's been very, very helpful to make us feel at home and run things the way that normally it is for the rest of the World Championship.

Q: Joint question for Mr. George and Mr. Ecclestone, for both of you. Ten years from now, where would you like to see this relationship with Formula One? And for Mr. Ecclestone, do you see this as a springboard, stepping-stone to more exposure for Formula One in this country?

TG: I think, you know, I see us -- even though every agreement has an initial term, I see this being a long-term opportunity for us and for Formula One. Hopefully it will help generate even more interest in Formula One so that one day, maybe five, maybe ten years down the road, Indianapolis is one of multiple Grands Prix, Formula One Grands Prix contested in the United States. I hope there's that much interest and following for it.

BE: I'm sure we're going to be here for a long time. As Tony quite rightly said, you've got to put something down in an agreement for how long it's going to be, but I don't see any reason why we would want to leave here.

Q: Now that you've established a proper infrastructure for Formula One in the United States, I was wondering what are you going to do to make Formula One more accessible to American sports fans? This year you're competing with the Olympics and now that you do have a facility, what can be done to make more people aware of F1 here?

BE: TV coverage. You know, that's the most important thing for us, to just find a way to get much better TV coverage.

Q: Have you arranged any agreements with a major terrestrial network for the U.S. for next year?

BE: Not at the moment.

Q: Continuation of that question for Mr. Mosley and Mr. Ecclestone: What are some of the challenges that you see for Formula One to show the American public what it is and what the appeal is and how Formula One hopes to overcome some of these challenges for an audience that's used to turning left?

MM: I think the big problem is that, from the Formula One point of view, the national racing in the United States is at such a high level and there's such a lot of interest that Formula One, in a sense, has to compete with that; whereas, in most other countries it is the great motosport event of the year. So here it's not quite the same. But in the end, it's a different sort of racing. It's a different sort of racing altogether from ovals. There is a following for road racing in the States, there's a great road racing tradition. I think it has to be allowed to grow. But I think the fundamental problem for Formula One here has been the lack of a permanent facility where the race has always been held. If there had been a Grand Prix, Formula One Grand Prix here since before the war, before the Second World War, it would by now be a major sporting event in the United States every year, rather like the 500. But it takes a long time to build those things up. We had Watkins Glen for a while and we kept moving around to other places and there was never really a home. Now, with any luck, there is a home and I think it will build up. But it will take time. It's a different sort of culture. It's rather like trying to sell soccer in the United States. It takes time.

Q: I would like to ask Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Mosley, did the tobacco advertising play any part in your decision in trying to put F1 in Indianapolis in the United States?

MM: No.

Q: Not at all?

MM: No. The thing is that tobacco advertising is allowed in some places and not allowed in others. At the moment we're trying, as far as we can, to maintain the existing schedule. We'll have to see now how things develop because in the EU, at least in Europe, there's some difficulty about the legislation and we're going to have to see how that develops. But basically to us the most important thing was to come back to the United States. Whether the tobacco advertising was allowed or not was secondary.

Q: Mr. Mosley, if you say that Silverstone is an embarrassment, what does that make some of the other venues in the championship? For example, I guess Interlagos, you know, you're railing against Silverstone where it seems to me there are some other tracks and you're not getting into them?

MM: There's always been tracks less than perfect, but the really bad thing about Silverstone is the fact that the public can't get in and out in a reasonable time. It is probably the worst circuit in the world from that point of view. It's really difficult to imagine how you can hold a World Championship event somewhere where there's no access.

Q: That's nothing new. It hasn't stopped the track going in the past and, as you well know, there are plans to improve access. Sorry, Max, I'll get to the point. Is that your only criticism, your main criticism is just access, not facilities and things?

MM: The facilities there are very second-rate, and they obviously need to be improved. But the biggest single problem was having television pictures shown all over the world of people stuck in the mud, stuck in traffic jams, people complaining it took them six hours and they still didn't get there. That really is unacceptable. It damages the whole image of Formula One.

Q: But with respect, the weather wasn't the track's problem and the race was being held at an unusual time of year. I mean, you can't blame the organizers for the weather.

MM: I think from the point of view of world audience and the United States this is a very tedious and parochial problem but as you've asked the question, the rainfall in April is exactly the same over a 30-year period as in July. There was always a race, a Formula One race in Silverstone called the Daily Express Trophy for many, many years which was held successfully. So to suggest there was something unusual about the date or the weather is simply untrue. They had a lot of rain, they were unlucky. The fact remains that there are no proper roads into Silverstone, it's just that simple. Now, they're talking about making one in the future, a bypass. But you would not -- if you were holding the Olympic Games, you would not ask them to hold it somewhere like that. In a way, if you're going to have a world level championship, you're raising the level all the time, you're getting facilities offered to you like the ones offered here, it really does devalue the entire thing if you hold a race somewhere like Silverstone.

Q: A question for Max: It's been reported, and Bobby Rahal has said you have had some informal discussions about a potential FIA oval racing championship and, of course, this matter has come up at different times over the years. Is there anything you could say, Max, about where that might be and what plans you might have in the long-term?

MM: There's nothing concrete. But as a matter of principle, we've always said both to CART and IRL that we could well envisage having an oval world racing championship because it is a completely different type of racing to the Formula One World Championship. And there's no reason why those two couldn't coexist; but, of course, a condition precedent is the establishment of a number of ovals. We've got one now being built in Germany and another one being built in the UK. So it may evolve. But it was really a restatement of a principle established back in the early '90s when I became president of FISA as it then was.

Q: This is for Max and for Bernie: Mr. George is famous for many things and one of them is very, very deep pockets because the investment, which is obvious to all of us here, is huge for a Formula One. Is there any place else in America that you could see that might possibly happen?

BE: Firstly, I haven't seen his deep pocket. That's the bad news. He spent a lot of money, I see, but it's not sort of drifted our way too much, to be honest with you. No, he's just a good negotiator, that's all. The question was: Is there anyone elsewhere somebody has a deep pocket?

Q: In North America where you could see you might have a Formula One race in the future.

BE: No.

Q: For the three of you, was the circuit layout here designed with passing as a mandate? And as a secondary, now that you've seen it, both Max and Bernie, how do you feel about the design in that regard?

BE: I mean, it's difficult to design a circuit where you know that people will easily be able to overtake. The problem is not the circuit, it's probably the drivers. It's to encourage them to overtake more. You know, all forms of sport today, you'd see what happened with Formula One a long time ago, with the motorcycle races, there used to be lots of overtaking, it certainly has stopped now. The reason it stops is technical issues. Even with NASCAR, apart from the very slow cars, you don't see the quick cars overtaking all the time like you used to. Mr. France said to me many, many years ago, "You've got to have half the field very slow so you get a lot of overtaking." The trouble with us is, and lots of forms of racing now, is very competitive. You see the grids with a couple of seconds gap, so it's not easy. People fight all day Saturday -- they will here, believe you me -- to be first on the grid and then somebody is going to be second, third, fourth and fifth. The reason they're normally third, fourth and fifth is because they're not as quick as the first guy. Why should they suddenly be quicker in the race? It's tactics that come into it. As Max always says, it's not that people don't want to see any more of this like the 125 motorbikes always overtaking all the time, it's just not interesting. The 500s don't do that anymore. It's more people hunting and sort of working at the tactics, when they're going to stop and things like that. That's what keeps people interested. The audience interest has gone up immensely since we haven't had so much overtaking.

MM: I was just going to make exactly that point. The problem is the overtaking is always discussed among the racers, the enthusiasts and people who have been in it all their lives. But the new people who come in, the huge worldwide television audience have come in the recent past and they seem to have come in because of the format of modern Grand Prix racing. Because old-fashioned Grand Prix racing was available on television, it's just that not nearly so many people wanted to watch it. I think that's fair.

Q: Bernie, you mentioned deep pockets a moment ago and to an American, that connotes money. We're interested in money as you are interested in money. The Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 here announce the total prize fund and the winner's share. Might we be treated to that information this weekend? And if not, why not?

BE: Good to see you again. Funny thing, because what I was going to do is to ask all our friends here, what their sort of salaries are because it's just as interesting for me to know these things as it is for you to know what Schumacher earns.

Q: It's customary in this country, though, Bernie, to announce the prize funds and the winner's share?

BE: Why?

Q: Money makes news. We're obviously not going to get the money numbers.

BE: Well done.

Q: Are you at all surprised that it took nine years since the last race at Phoenix for the U.S. to get another Grand Prix?

BE: Not really. I mean, as we said, nobody has been, up to now, prepared to build a facility where we think we would like to put the Formula One World Championship. If you ever have to negotiate with Tony, you will know it takes nine years.

TG: I should have done this earlier. It was a lot cheaper back in the early '90s.

Q: Question to Bernie and Max: We see with the announcement that Bobby Rahal is going to be involved with Jaguar, talk of Barry Green perhaps being involved in BAR, Jerry Forsythe already being involved in BAR, we've seen Juan Montoya and previously Zanardi, Villeneuve, and even Michael Andretti many years back, going to Formula One, what do you see -- what steps or what do you see that can happen in the fairly short-term that will integrate, you know, the national series in the United States, CART, IRL or whatever, more fully into Formula One than they already are and perhaps get American drivers in Formula One?

BE: I'm leaving now. Tony?

MM: I think you have to remember that Montoya was Formula Three champion over in Europe before coming to the States. Also, Villeneuve was successful in European Formula Three before he came over and was successful in Formula Atlantic. There's a lot of backwards and forwards between the drivers and certainly the team personnel and the engineers, there's an awful lot of cross-Atlantic movement. We work very closely with several of the American series on safety and issues like that. So there is, actually, a great deal. But, fundamentally the difference is that both IRL and CART are oval racing -- I know they race on road circuits but fundamentally they're built and meant for oval racing; whereas, Formula One is absolutely a road racing formula. So there are differences and cultural differences but, nevertheless, there is a tremendous exchange of views and information. That can only increase now that there is a United States Grand Prix.

Q: First of all, congratulations to all of you and thank you. Looking forward to this. This first part is for anybody: Can you speak to the one advantage that this event and venue has over every other event and venue in the States that you feel confident that this will not only succeed now but in years to come? And very briefly for Mr. George, if you can speak about the economic viability of this event, if that's true this year or if you see an amortization period.

TG: Well, history -- to answer the first question, and this event is bringing a tremendous amount of economic impact into the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana and to the United States. For us, all of the facilities that we've built over the last two years, while some have been built specifically for Formula One and to accommodate a Formula One race, we're certainly going to be able to utilize them and enhance the overall experience here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for all of our events. So we expect for this event to be profitable from the first year and make a contribution towards return on investment that we've made in the facility. You know, we view it as a great opportunity to really live our vision of international leadership in motor sports entertainment. We have three world-class events here now. They're all unique. They're all different. I was probably one of the few tracks in the country that wasn't interested in having a second Winston Cup Race or even a first Winston Cup Race. Many of them are hoping to get their first one. A lot of people have been asking me why don't we bring the Winston Cup cars here and run on the road course. I happen to believe that Winston Cup is best showcased on oval tracks doing that type of racing. Certainly in the Indy Racing League, we built cars that could put on a good show and be cost effective to run not only at Indianapolis but around the country. We wanted to encourage driver development, we wanted to create opportunities for American drivers as well as other national drivers to come race in the United States and race ovals. But this event is unique. It's different for us. We want it to be what it is. It's the FIA Formula One World Championship -- I finally got that right at the end of the press conference. But it's different and it's European and it's going to take some time for us to all develop this. That's why I look for this to be a long-term part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's history going forward.

BE: I would just like to thank Tony formally for bringing Formula One back to the U.S. Without him we wouldn't be here. That's 100 percent sure. We'll stay here as long as he wants us.

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Barry Green , Tony George , Bernie Ecclestone