Want to know what the team bosses think? Here it is fresh from the FIA.
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Matthew CARTER (Lotus), Vijay MALLYA (Force India), John BOOTH (Manor), Monisha KALTENBORN (Sauber), Eric BOULLIER (McLaren), Claire WILLIAMS (Williams)
If I could start with a question to all of you about the findings from the F1 Strategy Group meeting that took place on Wednesday and which were announced yesterday, particularly the restriction on driver aids, things like the manual clutch, from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. So some thoughts on that and other perhaps more long-term items that were discussed; what are the key talking points for you and maybe we can start with Eric?
Eric BOULLIER: Well, on this topic of driver aids I think there is more and more communication between the team and the drivers, a lot of electronics these days in the technology of driving the car, if I may say this. More and more the drivers are relying on the analysis of the telemetry to use the car, so I guess there is clearly a push for limiting, let me say, instructions to the drivers, how to run and handle car and to leave the drivers alone to drive the car.
Vijay, your thoughts on the wind of change blowing through – what are the key areas for the future?
Vijay MALLYA: If it make the sport more attractive, the racing more competitive, then I’m all for it. I’ve always, of course, held the opinion that there are several more fundamental issues that the strategy group should be focusing on. Having said that every small step that can make the sport more attractive is a welcome step. Let he drivers drive the cars. Maybe there will be more competitive racing and that would be good for all of us.
Claire WILLIAMS: I agree with everything that’s been said so far. I think the Strategy Group meeting on Wednesday was a really constructive one. We discussed a lot of items. The meeting was a long one, but I think the general consensus was that there is a real appetite to make changes to the sport in order to influence the show for our fans. Talking about the driver aids, the communications from pit wall to cockpit was a small part of the conversation we were having and I think that if that makes the racing more exciting that would be really interesting for everybody to see. I think they’re going to roll that one out really, really quickly and then the ones that we have to do a bit more work around we’ll have to wait and see when those come to the fore.
Matthew CARTER: Yeah, I agree. I think that any emphasis that we can place on the drivers has got to be better; it’s got to be better for the sport in general. I hope it’s a step in the right direction and it’s a small step towards some bigger changes being made. Having sat on the Strategy Group last year, I hope that some of the changes do come through. A lot of things get talked about and sometimes not a lot of things happen. I’m hoping it’s a step in the right direction and that there are bigger things to come.
Monisha KALTENBORN: Since we were not part of the discussion it’s difficult for me to go into the specifics of it but from reading what the Strategy Group decided it looks like it’s going in the right direction because to us equally it is important that the competition is interesting again – that’s what the fans want out there, the partners and it seems to be going into the right direction.
John BOOTH: I think we can all agree that anything that makes Formula One more exciting is a positive thing. But I can’t really comment on the Strategy Group views; all I’ve read is a press release that was released yesterday and without knowing any detail or rationale behind it it’s impossible to comment.
Thank you for that. Now we’ll get down to some individual questions and Eric, we’ll start with you. Only one of your cars has seen the chequered flag in the last couple of races – it’s been a particularly difficult phase of the season for you. Is there any particular reason why that’s going on?
EB: I guess that’s reliability. So far we have been struggling a little bit with transmission and power unit reliability, so it’s been, it’s true, particularly difficult in the last races on track layout which our not suiting our car very well as well, at least at the moment. We have a lot of potential unlock, we always say this, and I think so far we have been unsuccessful to unlock, every time we try we face same unreliability issues.
Thank you for that. Vijay, big weekend for you and the Force India car, with an updated car. Tell us about the effort behind the scenes that’s gone into that and also your hopes for the remainder of the season: you’ve got Red Bull not far ahead but you’ve got Lotus breathing down your neck just behind you, so what’s your focus?
VM: Well, all of us have been eagerly awaiting the British Grand Prix and the launch of our new B-spec car. I have mentioned before that the car that we have been racing so far in the season is basically last year’s car modified to suit the 2015 regulations but the B-Spec car is the VJM08 challenger. I was very impressed when I first saw it myself last night. There is a lot of aerodynamic innovation in it and it looks lean and mean. Today was the first outing, in FP1. I think we still have to optimise the package that we have. There will be the inevitable upgrades that will come in future races, so we are hopeful to have a strong second half of the season, gradually improving race by race. So, yeah, Red Bull are about 23 or 24 points ahead, Lotus are breathing down our necks, we’re used to that, but I wouldn’t be overly optimistic if I said we are targeting fourth in the championship this year.
Good luck with that. Claire, coming to you, you’ve pushed Ferrari off the podium in the last two grands prix. This race, again, at Silverstone should be a good one for you and the team. Is there a belief within the team that you can actually challenge them for second in the championship?
CW: Yes, I think after the past two races, where we’ve secured podiums in each grand prix, there was a slight feeling of that; when we finished Austria that potentially we could be challenging Ferrari in the remaining races coming up. I don’t think any of us probably thought that when we started this year, it was obviously… I’m loath to say the word disappointing because off the back of where we were a couple of years ago to still be third in the championship now is a great effort by everybody in our team. But I think that there definitely now is that feeling that we could potentially take the fight to Ferrari in the remaining rounds and I think that would be an amazing achievement if we could do that. Even just to challenger after thinking about where we were a couple of years ago would be great.
Matthew, three points-scoring finishes in the last couple of races. What’s been making the difference for you and your thoughts on the championship battle with Force India that Vijay has just alluded to?
MC: We’re definitely targeting fourth, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out. I think the key for us as a team is to get both of our cars to the end of the race and once we start to do that we can start to accumulate the points we believe we deserve and that we believe we’ve missed out on to this point. As long as we can work on our reliability, I think we know the pace is there, we know the downforce is there, as long as we can work on the reliability and we can get both cars to the end of the race then we are certainly looking for fourth and we’re certainly looking to get up the championship table.
Monisha, obviously Mark Smith has just joined the team, just been announced this week. What does he bring that you have been lacking?
MK: Well, he’s been in motor sport for a very long time, particularly in Formula One. He has a lot of experience, which we will benefit from. He’s also worked with private teams, so he is very well aware of the challenges that private teams have. He fits in well into our structure and I’m sure that with him coming in taking up particularly jobs that are, like, overarching ones and are across all the areas of our technical committee, the people in the technical committee can have more capacity to concentrate on their specific areas.
Thank you. John, some updates here this weekend on your car; Will was telling us about them yesterday in the press conference. What’s your plan, though, in terms of the long-term: the overview of where you go from here, how you build the team, the engine partnerships – the direction for the team?
JB: Well, after a very difficult, well-publicised start to the season, we are at last entering a positive phase. Last couple of races we have brought on board a couple of multi-national companies that are new to Formula One. We are back in the windtunnel on a regular basis, started last week, and we brought the updates to the race this weekend. But on first year looking very positive and we want to continue in that vein and keep pushing forward.
And more long-term, the whole structure of the team?
JB: We’re building, we’re building. We started in Australia with really a skeleton crew back here in Silverstone at the office, the full operating crew at the circuit. But over the months we’ve been gradually building the staff base back at the office and we hope by the end of the season we will be back up to full strength.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Bob Bull – BBC Three Counties Radio) We talk about the Strategy Group and all the changes that have been mentioned, if you were being entirely selfish as a team manager, what one change would any of you make to the rules – would you introduce a rule or take one away – what one, single thing would you do, being selfish, to help your team?
VM: Well, we are on the Strategy Group and the most important thing that we have been focusing on, as Force India, is to ensure the sustainability of all teams in Formula One. If that is addressed as it should be addressed, even the small independent teams can be very competitive. If Williams beat Ferrari I think racing will be very exciting. If Sauber can beat a Williams it will be even more exciting and if Force India can beat a Mercedes that will be the cherry on the cake! But what I’m trying to say, basically, is that if all teams are strong enough to be sustainable and can focus on producing a competitive car rather than worrying about how to survive that will be the best thing going forward.
Monisha, you’re nodding.
MK: I absolutely agree with that. I don’t think we can really put one measure out there and say this is the one because that would be a miracle and in Formula One at least miracle don’t happen. So, I think what we have to target is what we want to achieve at the end of the day and that’s to have an exciting, thrilling competition and so many topics are linked to that. It is making teams sustainable, having independent teams, making the competition, from a technical perspective, exciting but not over-complicated… We have to reach out to the people again and have that connectivity that we don’t have. So, it’s just a very big picture and we have to see what measures really make us get there.
Matthew, what one thing would you pick on?
MC: I think it’s a similar answer. I think at the moment one of things that frustrates certainly us at Lotus, it would appear that in order to win or even get near the podium in a Formula One race it’s pretty much related to how much money you spend. If that can be addressed in one way, shape or form, if the technical rules and regulations can be loosened and can allow for some smaller teams to come up with some innovative ideas, I think that goes back to the ethos of what Formula One is all about and if a small team can come up with something that isn’t immediately overruled or isn’t immediately copied by the bigger teams then hopefully it will open up and it will mean that you don’t just have to spend the most money to get the top of the grid.
JB: I totally agree with Vijay’s view. A fairer distribution of the income would help close up the grid and make the racing a little more exciting. The model’s out there in other sports throughout the world and it would be very easy to adopt for our sport.
What about the two big teams here – Claire?
CW: I think it’s a combination of what everyone has said so far; I don’t think I could add anything to it. But I don’t think it’s all just about changing one small thing. I think it’s a conglomerate; it’s about pulling everything together. I don’t think we should forget that this is an amazing sport. It’s one of the most-watched sports in the world. I remember watching it years ago thinking ‘these cars are amazing, these drivers are fantastic, they’re the heroes of our sport and these cars are rocket ships and they are the pinnacle of technical innovation’ and they still are and we still have to remember that. For me, personally, at the moment I would like to see more people talking more positively about our sport and the great things about our sport, not just the negatives, that we are trying to deal with as the Strategy Group at the moment.
And the manufacturer-based team point of view? Eric?
EB: Being selfish or not selfish?
EB: Being selfish… I am amazed, because you [the other panelists] are not being selfish at all. It is not like this in the Strategy Group, it is completely different – completely different. Umm… Freeing the engine development. By this I’m not selfish.
The unselfish perspective?
EB: The perception of the sport, I agree with Claire, is a bit wrong. So I think I would be nice… it’s the pinnacle of motor sport, all the technology, blah, blah, blah, but the perception now through the fans, through the media is wrong.
Q: (Rob Harris – Associated Press) Perhaps to someone who was in the Strategy Group meeting on Wednesday, Claire, since you were in there. They talked about changes from 2017 in both qualifying and the race. Could you expand on how different qualifying and the race could look from 2017 if what was discussed is approved?
CW: I’d love to be able to but at the moment the ideas that we are considering are embryonic and we have to ensure that do a full analysis of those ideas. I think it’s very easy to come up with ideas in a meeting and then to come out and talk about them in the public and get everyone very overexcited about them and not actually having done the full analysis can lead to disappoints, getting things wrong and then having to retract ideas. What we wanted to do at the moment was to tell everybody that we have new ideas that we are considering and that we want to bring out to improve the show for our fans. But until we’ve done the analysis to make sure that we get it right I don’t think we want to go into any level of detail about it. But as soon as we’ve done that I think we’ll all come out and be very proud of the ideas we’ve come up with,
Q: (Rob Harris – Associated Press) Wouldn’t it encourage more, as you said, positive talking about the sport if there were some positive ideas thrown out there for the fans to engage with?
CW: Absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons why the FIA are now issuing announcements after the meetings that we have, so that we can tell people what we are doing, perhaps in a headline way, but to try and get people talking more positively about the sport and I very much hope that when we are able to give more information then that will spin off a lot of positive news stories about Formula One, because we3 need to have those at the moment. As I said earlier, this is still a great sport and you need to take away some of the conversation around that to remember that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) The time has come for a decision to be taken shortly about tyres from 2017 onwards. It appears that there will be two different philosophies: one being the Pirelli philosophy, very similar to now, the other being Michelin’s low profile etcetera. As team principals, or owners of your businesses, or whatever your positions are, all of you, how do you feel about the possibility of a wholesale change on tyres.
MK: Well, for us, we want to the look at it from a perspective of what changes it brings to the cars first of all, and the designs of the car. Our costs again generated by that. From a tyre manufacturers perspective, I guess they have to see what works for their marketing strategy. As such, we’re quite flexible on that. We do think whoever comes in, that tyres maybe shouldn’t be made that big an issue again as they have been in the recent years. We’ve been through so many years before where you had one supplier, development being done by one team, fundamentally for one team. It was never an issue, it was never an issue and it was, again, never a point of contention for the public – again creating negativity around the sport. I think that’s the most important part of it. If you want to bring the sport back, to making the difference through the drivers, the different cars, then these kind of points have to be debated.
EB: First we have to understand what has been addressed. Obviously there has been a tender that has been put out. I understand there is a couple of tyre manufacturers who have answered or will answer. I think it’s up to Formula One and the FIA as well to put the conditions of the tender, not up to the potential tyre manufacturer supplier to impose what they want. We, as far as I’m concerned, are running our own business and we know what we want to do with the sport – or I believe we are. It’s not up to the others to tell us what to do. So, I think if the tender has been properly addressed then they should have the right answers. If it’s 13-inches, 17, 18, 25, whatever it is. As long as it makes Formula One better. I think they need to be the same for everybody, then it’s not an issue.
JB: Well, Pirelli and Michelin, both excellent, excellent companies with a great record, whichever company is chosen will build a good tyre for the sport. I think it’s important that the correct tender process is followed.
VM: Well it’s pretty clear that there will be only a single supplier of tyres to Formula One, whether it’s Pirelli, whether it’s Michelin or anybody else. It’s probably the optimal solution that all teams be consulted and the FIA then issue an appropriate tender document so that the views of the teams are collectively incorporated and the tyre companies then bid to get the contract for supply. I think it would be wrong to allow tyre companies to dictate what Formula One should or should not accept.
MC: I think Eric probably hit the nail on the head. As a team it doesn’t really matter to us the size or the width of the depth of the tyres. We’ll put the tyres on as they are and as long as it improves the sport and it makes Formula One exciting and better then we’re all for it. Whether that’s with Pirelli or Michelin.
Q: (Daniel Ortelli – AFP) A quick one for Claire. Can you tell us if the Strategy Group had a look at the results of the GPDA survey on Wednesday, and can you tell us if the Promotional Working Group intends to look at the detailed data that was taken from the 200,000 surveys filled by the fans?
CW: Yes, a couple of surveys have come out, the results of which have come out this week – but I believe they came out too late for them to be discussed within the Strategy Group. Obviously we have an agenda set a couple of weeks in advance – so no, we didn’t discuss them in that meeting but that is the forum for those kind of discussions and everything that falls out of the Strategy Group, if they go to the PWG, we’ll have to wait and see.
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] There’s a lot of talk about negativity and often many of us here in the press receive some of the blame for that. I remember having a similar discussion with Toto about this so it’s a shame he’s not here to field the question, however Eric and Claire and others who’ve touched on it, can I just ask why, given that instead, why you don’t turn your guns, as it were, to the main proponent of the negativity that has been in the last 18 months both privately and publically and that would be the chief executive. I mean, why… the press seemed to get blamed for a lot when actually, if look at where it’s coming from and who people are willing to criticise, they are more willing to criticise the press, probably, than the chief executive.
EB: Well, I think we had to find somebody to blame and it was you guys, that’s it! I think, you can’t, as you say, turn to one person or one management or whatever. I think it’s a global perception. I think we have to deal with the view. Formula One has changed: last decade you had manufactures here, money was flowing in, every car manufacturer was here to promote his own brand, Formula One was on one mode. Nobody questioned anything because everybody was happy to live from this business model, let’s say. All manufacturers left 2010, more or less – I make it simplistic – we are left with the same costs but not the same money flowing in. So there was obviously something to be addressed. This is where the negativity turned on. So it’s not… we have to change in some way Formula One. We have to make sure teams are sustainable, teams are making money, everybody is making money in the system – but this is basically a very small story, simplistic story but this is where the negativity came from. We have just… we are in a transition time. We need to readjust it.
Anybody anything to add? Matthew?
MC: I think the negativity does come from the press. I honestly do. And I think… I presume you’re referring to Mr Ecclestone when you say the negative comes from him. I think he reacts to what is written in the press.
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] Do you?
MC: Yeah, I do. I think that Bernie tries to encourage the sport, he tries to make the sport be more appealing to the fans: the fans read what you guys write. The fans listen to what Bernie says, I agree, but ultimately they will read your stories and if your stories are negative, they will read those and they won’t read the positive.
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] Just quickly, in Canada, I think it was, Bernie said that engineers had given him a ‘crappy product’ to sell. I just wonder, is that… how does that tally with… that’s not us. He’s not reacting to us there.
MC: He said that the engineers?
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] …had given him a crappy product to sell.
MC: Our engineers?
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] Engineers collectively.
MC: OK. I think the negativity that we talk about, and certainly the negativity I think Claire is talking about, is negativity in terms of what we achieve as a sport and what we are as a sport. I think there is… and that negativity tends to come from the press. I don’t that you do enough of bigging up what we do achieve. I think it’s easy to look at the negatives. It’s probably easier for you to write stories about the negatives as opposed to the positives – that’s my personal opinion.
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] There are a lot of people in Formula One, your colleagues in other teams. We’re only… we can only write what we’re presented with and sadly a lot of what is being said is negative.
MC: You can write articles about how the technology that we produce… the horsepower they produce from the engines, the fantastic hybrid technology that we produce…
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph] …and the ‘crappy product’?
Let’s move on to some other perspectives on this. Perhaps maybe Vijay, do you have anything to add to this talking point.
VM: Formula One is perhaps the most exciting sport in the world. Probably has the highest viewership of all sports and, if Formula One is made sustainable for all participants I think the negativity will be removed. Having said that, and in specific reference to the question posed by the gentleman from the Telegraph, the media can present two points of view: either they can say that the sport is very boring because the two Mercedes cars are quicker than everybody else by miles, or, they can say ‘wow, Mercedes did a fantastic job’. It’s a question of the media’s option on how to present it. Having said that. I believe that all the positives of Formula One as a sport will be given more prominence if the fundamental issue, which everybody is speculating about – I’m sure many of us get asked these questions all the time – about ‘are you going to be around next year?’ This is a burning issue which teams themselves discuss at every possible opportunity and in every possible meeting, whether inside the strategy group or outside. So, as I said before, at this very press conference. If the stability of all participants in Formula One is addressed as a matter of priority, we will have more exciting racing and we will get a lot more positive media.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) A question for Matthew – and I hope you can answer it positively please – what is the situation with Gérard Lopez? By my calculation the last ten races he hasn’t been here at race day at all. Is he involved? Is he committed? Where does he stand as far as the team is concerned please?
MC: Gérard is still our owner, he’s still the chairman of the company. I’m not sure where you missed him but he’s certainly been to two if not three of the races this season – he certainly was in Spain on race day. He’s busy on other projects. He has other involvements, other business involvements and, as far as I’m aware, he’s leaving the running of the team down to myself and I think he’s probably happy with what’s going on at the moment and therefore doesn’t feel he needs to get involved. I hope so anyway.
Q: (Kevin Eason – The Times) Can I just ask you all a straightforward question as businessmen as well as team principals: if the chief executive of your company described your car, or your product as ‘crap’, would you expect him to be fired?
CW: If Pat came to me and called the car crap…? In public… erm… well I’d probably turn around and say “well you designed it, do something about it!” That would be my answer. I wouldn’t’ fire him. We had a crap car in 2012. We all knew that, we all said it. We held our hands up and and we tried to do something about it. I’m not quite sure what the purpose of the question is…
JB: I’m not sure I’m in the best position to answer that question given our current competitive position.
MK: You asked about the chief executive. Difficult for me to answer because I have that position as well. So, I’d have a bit of a conflict of interest on that. No, I’d clearly tell our technical people to get back into our offices, give them a chance to get their act together. If not, yes, you need to make changes.
EB: Well, ah, good question! I don’t know if it relates to our car or to some stories that have been related by Daniel. But let’s take my car, which will be easier to manage. Yeah, obviously I would tell him to sort out his house.
VM: The specific question from Kevin is: how would I respond to the chief executive’s comment that he had a crappy product to sell. He shouldn’t be selling the product if he thought it was crap. But considering that he sells the product – that he calls crap and makes billions out of it – he needs to work with the participants to un-crap it!
Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos – Racing Magazine) Question to Monisha and Vijay: you’re talking about making the teams more sustainable and competitive in the long run, and the only point of the document we were given yesterday, talking about costs is about bringing the engine power unit costs down. Is that enough or would you welcome bigger and deeper changes to make costs going down or just the power units going down would be enough?
MK: Well of course it’s not enough, you need to do a lot more and there are different ways to achieve that. Some of us particularly have always been in favour of a cost cap because we feel it sets an overall level above which you don’t go and you still have a lot of freedom under it so that was also in a way articulated by Max Mosley saying you need to have a cost cap and under it you have all the liberties so you have to do much more than just looking at the engines. The engines have been in the recent past the most decisive cost driver. We return to engine prices. You really wanted to move away from that and we did because for many years we were still at like $14m engines with many move engine lives to it. We brought that down to a very significant low level We wanted to go further down and we’ve gone in the wrong direction but that’s just one part of it. You have to look at the chassis side as well but always keeping in mind how you make the competition always interesting and get the field together, to have a reasonably level playing field.
VM: To carry on from what Monisha was just saying, there are multiple ways to reduce costs. It could not or should not be focused on engines alone. Yes, that is a very very important and expensive component but there are so many other ways in which costs can be reduced. There are also ideas that were discussed at the strategy group meeting about teams potentially agreeing to a cost cap or a budget cap and being allowed more technical freedom in return. So there are many ways to skin this cat. We have to find the most optimum solution but once again, the prize at the end is sustainability and that in itself will lead to more exciting competition.
Q: (Kate Walker – motorsport.com) Question to everybody but I suppose to a certain extent it’s probably more applicable for those of you in the strategy group and I hope there’s a positive way of looking at this but one of the complex issues that we’ve got is the way that everything is holistic, so if we want to change the race weekend format to make it more exciting to fans, that means we will be getting through more power units, putting more life on engines, that will in some way add to the cost. Could you give us an idea of the way in which, when you’re discussing these concepts, you sort of take the holistic approach and you consider if X then Y, because there’s so much knock-on and I don’t think we understand how complex a lot of this juggling really is for those in a position to talk about it?
EB: To make it positive, we have discussed a change of weekend format actually based on the fans’ requests, so we have thought about the financial consequences which we don’t see as negative yet but there will be some, definitely. This is why it needs to be addressed. It’s part of what Claire was saying before, this is embryonic, there are many consequences. We have not been through the details of what all the fans want because actually what all the fans want is a major re-shuffle which is going to cost a lot of money so it needs to be addressed differently and we can’t base everything on the fans’ wishes, as there are a lot of things which are good and some of them are maybe not that good. So it’s part of this process which we have to go through. We believe, collectively, a change of format, not necessarily of the race or qualifying but something else, maybe would be good for Formula One, maybe a good content – if I may use this word – for the people who attending the track but there are legal consequences, there are financial consequences, there are technical consequences, there are operational consequences and all these are under consideration.
Q: (Kate Walker – motorsport.com) How do you balance these considerations?
EB: We don’t. One of the challenges of the strategy (group) is to not go into details. We avoid going into legal, finance, technical, marketing operations whatever. If you start to go into this level of details, we will spend ten days just discussing one topic. That was one topic, do we need to change the weekend format or whatever it is and I think it was well discussed, just this topic, and this is why we have created some legal working group, technical working group, sporting working group, even financial working group in the past or promotional working group which Claire is heading, to try to push this, they are doing the job.
CW: I think just to say that when we’ve entered into these new conversations about what we want for 2017, I think the over-riding objective is that we want to make our sport, better, more exciting and more sustainable and then out of that falls all the different elements as to how we achieve that, whether that’s new chassis regulations, looking at the power unit, looking at costs, looking at what the fans want, looking at what the media expectations are, how we talk about our sport. We’re covering everything, but as Eric says, if we get embroiled in every single minute detail of those conversations, we would be in those meetings… we would never come to a Grand Prix! The holistic approach is there, I think. We all know what this sport is about, what the objectives of this sport are but it’s a long process, it’s a very drawn-out process to meet your objectives but the emphasis should be on the fact that we’re trying to do that. Formula One, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure the sustainability of our sport. This is everybody’s lifeblood at the end of the day, this is what pays everybody’s mortgages and so we all have a part to play in making sure that we address the challenges of our sport and make sure that the fans want to keep tuning in and buying tickets.
VM: All these initiatives that Claire just talked about are very welcome and I think have one end objective: make the sport more exciting which should translate into incremental revenue and that is all the process of un-crapping!
Q: (Daniel Johnson – The Telegraph) The question is for Monisha and anyone else who would like to answer it: Monisha, you mentioned Max Mosley; he said today of Jean Todt ‘I suspect he feels it’s not up to him to worry about Formula One. You have all these team principals, Bernie, CVC and they should just get on and sort it out.’ Do you share his view and if you do or you don’t, do you think Jean should worry more about Formula One than he does or does not?
MK: Well, since we are the ones who – and this comes a bit back to your earlier question – who really to a certain extent, at least, have to be blamed for where we are today in this sport although we usually like to blame others for that. We do have to sort out our problems ourselves which means that we have to sit down together, all of us preferably, and try to find the right solution ahead. At the same time, there are things and issues which we cannot resolve, I think we have to accept that. A couple of us have the view that, when it comes to rules, regulations, they should be imposed on us. I think most of the sports have that, particularly of the dimension Formula One has today and we all would never agree to anything that suits everyone, so that job by definition is with the Federation and I understand that the Federation has many other things to do but it is the Automobile Federation, it is the Federation of the ASNs which also deal with motor sport, which get a lot of money from motor sport so I think it would be good if more action can be taken, also towards Formula One as the pinnacle of motor sport activities and more action can be taken and more decisions can be taken.
Q: (Daniel Ortelli – Agence France Presse) For Vijay, John and Monisha as team principals and business people; if you had the opportunity and if it was allowed by the FIA to use a full spec, 2013 V8 engine for thirty percent of the price of the present engines, would you go for it next year?
JB: No. I’ve been an opponent of these engines that we’re using now from the very start because it was obvious they were going to be very expensive. As Claire touched on earlier, we are the cutting edge of technology. What Formula One has achieved in developing the current engines, particularly in fuel consumption and maintaining the same performance is outstanding and to go back would be a retrograde step.
Q: (Daniel Ortelli – Agence France Presse) If there is a balance of performance between the current engine and the V8 engine?
JB: Still no.
VM: This is a very hypothetical question. At the end of the day, I think all the decision makers want to optimise costs, reduce costs and focus on sustainability. I think the type of power unit you use is part of that consideration.
I would like to just take this opportunity of clarifying something to the gentleman from the Telegraph. He directed a question to Monisha about Mr Max Mosley’s article. I’m privileged in the sense that I sit on the World Council and I can absolutely assure you that President Jean Todt is very involved and very concerned with Formula One. He himself describes Formula One as the pinnacle of motor sport at almost every meeting.
Once again, to answer your question: V8 engines, if it’s uncrapping, that’s a solution.
MK: No, the answer’s no because I think we shouldn’t go down the way to create a two tier system like this. These engines are there now. We might like them, we might not like them but they are there and that’s reality so we should rather try to find other ways to… if one of the intentions of this is to support certain teams, we need to find other ways for that.
Q: (Bob Bull – BBC Three Counties Radio website) We’ve heard a lot about this negativity and what the fans do and don’t like. Can you explain why there’s a 140,000 crowd sell-out here this weekend in view of the fact that the fans don’t like the racing? Have you any ideas on that?
CW: I was hoping someone might ask a question about this race weekend. Brilliant. It’s great. Silverstone has done, as they always do – I know I’m biased because I used to work here – but they’ve done a fantastic job in their ticket promotions and selling their tickets. I think we’re lucky with the weather, it’s unusual for Britain in summer to have such a glorious weekend ahead. I hope it’s going to stay dry. But I think that does say a lot about our sport and I think it does say a lot, still, about how passionate British fans are but they are probably fans from all over the world coming to watch us race at Silverstone this weekend. I was stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and 20 minutes this morning which I thought was great because I think it still shows that our sport is healthy and people do still want to come and watch us race and I hope that we as a group of teams put on a really fantastic event for them this weekend.
EB: Yeah, obviously it’s great to see all the British fans around and to have a new record of attendance so I’ve been told but I’ve also been told that Australia and definitely Canada was up by ten percent as well so it’s good to see that our sport is great and attracting people to the grandstands.
JB: I always thought the British fans were the most knowledgeable fans in the world and obviously they are much much more than anybody spreading negativity around.
Q: (William Kimberly – Racetech Magazine) We’ve seen the World Endurance Championship grow from strength to strength over the last few years and some might even argue that that’s challenging Formula One for the pinnacle of motor sport: BMW coming in. Are there lessons to be learned from a technical point of view for Formula One in the way that they approach their regulations and let them work freely in what the engineers can do?
EB: I think the intentions come as well from the fact that there are manufacturers there. When you’re a car manufacturer and you enter any arena you have a duty to activate and communicate around your brand so that attracts attention. To be fair with the ACO, they did a brilliant job at clearly balancing the performance between the different models and not only in P1 but in P2 and GT as well. You could see again, this year, after 23 hours some cars fighting for their positions which is quite amazing. There are maybe some lessons to be learned but I think the FIA, as far as I’m concerned, are doing a great job in Formula One. I guess everybody’s watching what’s going on but I think we, as the pinnacle of motor sport, we’re not doing a bad job on that.