Friday’s FIA Press Conference

Friday 8th July 2011

Friday's FIA press conference

Friday’s FIA press conference

The big bosses had their chance to talk on Friday at Silverstone with Tony Fernandes, Frank Williams, Christian Horner, Martin Whitmarsh and John Booth taking the floor in the press conference…

Q: Tony, a big weekend in that you are showing the colours of General Electric, which is a major sponsor on the car, and also Caterham as well. Tell us what sort of effect that is going to have on the team having that support.

Tony Fernandes: Well, it is always useful to have a little bit of money. General Electric has been more than just on the sponsorship side obviously. They will do a lot on the technology side, so it has been a welcome addition to the team. Also, with Caterham, one of the principal reasons GE got involved was because of the car side and the production side in terms of electric cars and some of the things we are doing on the Caterham cars. It has been a fantastic symbiotic relationship we have put together. A big day for us.

Q: Where do you believe this will this lead in future, in terms of looking towards next year?

TF: What do you mean?

Q: Well can this bring you into, certainly, the midfield?

TF: Well, this year was always about trying to stay 10th and become a column one team. We are inching away slowly. I think by now we have all the facilities that we require. It’s the first time that we have got a full CFD cluster. We have got now a fantastic facility with Williams, our second wind tunnel. So, by September, we will really be able to utilise much more wind tunnel time than we have ever had. We are in a position now to really start developing next year’s car from as much of a level playing field with other teams than we have ever had. We will have to see, but it is our best shot. We always said two years, try and be 10th and then build from that.

Q: And of course you are both going to be running the same engine in the future, with Williams also having the Renault engine.

TF: Yep, the three of us here. Could be four if Martin’s changing.

Q: The Williams tie-up. Is that a year or so? How long is it for or is it quite a long-term arrangement?

TF: It is for two years but we hope to use it for a long time. I learnt a lot from Frank and hopefully we can continue that relationship for a long, long time.

Q: John, similarly, you have recently announced a tie-up with McLaren. Just give us the details of that?

John BOOTH: Yes, obviously very excited to have a technical partnership with McLaren. It is a wonderful opportunity to tap into years and years of experience and knowledge and give us a real leg up as we look to develop our 2012 car.

Q: How many people can you envisage actually working from McLaren, working with your team?

JB: I don’t think that is very clear at the moment. The deal was only finalised seven days ago. Although it is in operation as of now, I think it is an ongoing process working towards next year’s car.

Q: And you have also bought the Formula One business of WRT. What was the thinking behind that?

JB: Well, Marussia became a stakeholder in Virgin Racing six months ago. They have led an overview of the team over those six months and we needed to take decisive steps to move forward. It was evident from the start of this year we weren’t moving forward as quickly as we wanted to. In fact, arguably not at all performance wise, so we had to take steps to ensure the future of the team and put us on a positive footing. That’s the result. We need to take control of our own destiny and we now have our own design team working on the car for next year.

Q: I have seen the classified adds in Autosport this week. It is a double page of recruitment almost, but how quickly can you put it together?

JB: The base of the team is together. We are carrying people forward with us from our existing programme. We have some fantastic people that have been with us from day one and we are carrying the majority of those forward with us and we are just adding as we go along. The process is underway for next year. Design has started, it’s a good way down the line. It is just a matter of adding and building to that design team now.

Q: Christian, today very mixed weather conditions. How much did you learn, particularly about the diffuser effect or lack of off-throttle diffuser effect?

Christian HORNER: In reality very little with the way the weather has been. It’s been a typically English summer’s day where we seem to have three seasons in one day. We have run on the inters. We nearly got to the slicks, didn’t quite and then it seems that every other category has had a run on the dry tyres apart from Formula One. But we have learnt a bit about the pit-lane, tried out the new garage. Turned up and thought we were in John’s garage, not ours. It has been a restrictive day in terms of what we managed to learn on track.

Q: Are you happy being that end of the pit-lane?

CH: I was quite surprised, as I thought we were going to be up this end of the pit-lane. There is some nice grass up here and so on, but all the garages are the same size at the end of the day. But we are down the other end, which probably isn’t great for the spectators as they are not going to see many Red Bull or McLaren pit-stops this weekend, but there you go.

Q: But you could be in the position that you are in the pits and a column of cars come past you as happened in the GT race and there is nothing you can do?

CH: I don’t know about that. We will have to see. It’s a short pit-lane here, which adds another element to the race. Obviously the entry is a bit tight, so that is going to be interesting for the drivers. It’s a very fast run-in to the pit-lane, and obviously if it is wet on the way out we have seen a few cars down at our end of the pit-lane having a few moments on the way out. But I am sure it will be fine. But you have to say, other than being the wrong end of the pit-lane it is a great facility.

Q: Fernando Alonso has been quoted as saying he is going to wait for Sebastian Vettel to make mistakes, which will give him a chance in the championship.

CH: I think at the end of the day we are focused on our own performance. Sebastian has had an unbelievable first half of the year. In reality, I think he is 14 points off the maximum score, so he has not made too many mistakes so far. He has driven impeccably well and deserves to be in that position.

Q: So it could be a long wait?

CH: You know it’s a long season. We are not quite at the half-way stage. Eleven races to go. As we all know, with 25 points for a win now, leads can quickly diminish but it’s obviously a very useful lead. We hope we can be competitive in the upcoming races.

Q: Martin, to go back to that pit-lane choice. How does that pan out? Who decides which end you are going to be?

Martin WHITMARSH: I am not sure who decides that. I think it is a shame, as Christian mentioned, that we are slightly subterranean where we are. I don’t think it materially really affects us but clearly those in the grandstand cannot see pit-stops, which is a bit of a shame. But I have got to say that we can all turn up with opinions, but it is an incredible facility and I am sure a lot of people have put a massive amount of effort to be ready here this weekend, so for us to turn up and be critical I think would be the wrong thing to do. We have got to congratulate the BRDC and Silverstone for a fantastic set of facilities.

Q: Just going back also to the diffuser effect. How much did you learn today?

MW: Well we learnt half-way through the session that Christian hadn’t lost as much as we expected as obviously the rules are slightly fluid and appear to change by the hour at the moment, so we are still learning is the answer.

Q: Is that what the conversation with Stefano (Domenicali) was about?

MW: Yeah, I think, again, it is not a criticism of Red Bull. They have got to try to get the best they can out of the situation. I think we were all a little bit surprised when it appeared from whatever we’d been told that the regulations changed half-way through P1 and I am sure that put many teams this weekend a little bit on the back foot, so we are trying to cope with that at the moment.

Q: Can you explain in what way they have changed?

MW: Well, I think the expectation is that when you are off the throttle the engine throttles would be closed but there has been a negotiation and as I understand Renault’s throttles are 50 per cent open under braking and I think that is probably not what most of us expected coming into this event. That’s been a little bit of a revelation that we gathered during the course of the sessions today and we are trying to understand what we have to do.

Q: Like your own lobbying?

MW: Well, like our own lobbying, I am just trying to understand. Again in fairness to Red Bull, their view is as I understand, but Christian can answer better than I can that this is a reliability issue and they need to blow air through their engines for reliability purposes. I am not familiar with that particular precedent, presumable Charlie (Whiting) is.

Q: Christian, can we just get an answer on this?

CH: I mean Martin’s interpretation is interesting. My understanding is that Mercedes are firing on over-run. There has been a series of technical directives that have happened since Valencia and the latest technical directive is quite clear in that engines that have been run in previous configurations the FIA would take into account on an equitable basis. Mercedes argued that they’re over-running that they currently do was permitted, which was granted I believe on certain handling characteristics that if offered on a historical basis, and Renault is no different to that. Renault is in a situation as an engine supplier, not just to Red Bull but to two other teams as well, where again precedents have been set in 2009 and 2010. That data has been openly available to the FIA and the primary purpose of opening the throttle and, for want of a better word, cold-blowing as it has become known has been because of two purposes. The primary purpose being the blip on the down-shift and the second being a reliability issue. I think there was an expectation that coming here obviously a lot of focus has been placed on Red Bull. Do Red Bull have a silver bullet ion their car? We don’t but at the same time we expect the FIA to regulate in a fair and proper manner and that’s exactly what they have done in this case. They are the only ones with all the facts. They are the only ones with the data. They have looked at it. They have listened to Mercedes case and allowed Mercedes certain parameters. They have looked at Renault’s case and they have allowed Renault certain parameters based on an historical content, if you like, on what is a very, very complex subject that perhaps would have been better dealt with at the end of the season when the exhausts move to a completely different location which will remove an awful lot of the emotion that seems to surround this topic. I think the FIA have responded in a right and correct and equitable manner as all the engines aren’t the same. They operate in different ways. They have different control codes. They are the only ones that are privy to all that information.

Q: Frank, I am sure you are very excited with the tie-up with Renault and the return of Renault to Williams for next year.

Frank WILLIAMS: More concerned in a way than excited, as I think they might be disappointed they are not going to get back what they last knew 10 years ago. We are not quite as top a team as we were then but having that said it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to regain our momentum.

Q: Is that what it needed? Did it need the presence of an established engine builder, for example, if you wanted to put it that way, you have had a lot of data over the last many years?

FW: Well, it is different to a company like Cosworth, who sell engines. That’s their job. They are very good engines by the way. With ours we have never had a failure. But when you are allied with a manufacturer they have a certain number of facilities available to a team such as ours that we can’t afford for ourselves. Some of those little facilities make a big difference. A tenth here and a tenth there and that’s what we hope will happen.

Q: In fact, you are allied with a lot of manufacturers as there is Porsche as well, Jaguar and also Team Lotus on the racing side. Is that just part of Williams Grand Prix Engineering?

FW: That’s just commercial matters in other parts of the company.

Q: And that contributes to the overall budget to keep Williams Grand Prix Engineering?

FW: Exactly that, yes.

Q: Is that an exciting and hugely beneficial thing for WIlliams?

FW: It is a lot of hard work for a small gain but we need the gain and any Team Principal would tell you he’d give anything to find a couple of tenths of a second between now and the end of lunchtime.

Q: And thoughts on the drivers for next year? Rubens (Barrichello) says he wants to stay with the team for next year.

FW: Well, I can’t say anything about our drivers until we have made up our own minds. Rubens is very highly regarded and is truly a treasure trove of information and experience and that’s something that will not be thrown away lightly.

Q: Has he done all you expected of him this season?

FW: Yes, I think he has. I think if we had given him a better car he would have been very close to the front, if not at the front. He is a superb driver.


Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) This question is for Christian and Martin as you have different engine suppliers. There are some mischievous scare stories in circulation about the noise the new engines will or will not make in 2014. What do you hear from your engine suppliers about this? Are the engines likely to be so anemic as we hear that the fans will be repelled?

CH: Martin.

MW: No, I don’t think they will. I think clearly there has been a lot of discussion about the future of engines and I think it is healthy now for Formula One to point forward to 2014 having all parties agreed to the new regulations. I think there was some care, clearly, the increase the number of cylinders, to increase the RPM, to stipulate a single turbo and all of those measures were about enhancing the sound. Everyone is aware and we have made sure that the engineers that are developing these regulations are aware that the very visceral engine notes are very important to Formula One. They are important to us. We all still love the sound of Formula One engines. They still send tingles down most of our spines. I think we will continue to work hard with the engineers and manufacturers to make sure that we have got great sounding engines in 2014.

CH: I agree with everything that Martin said. I think Formula One actually ended up making the right decision. The V6 is a far better engine to install into a Formula One car. It should sound good. I think there was some concern about the straightforward engine but I think all the engine manufactures have got together and agreed on this with the Commercial Rights Holder and then passed it through the various channels to get it approved. I think it is the right move and hopefully they will sound great.

Q: (Mc Greevey – CSMA Magazine) If I can direct this question at Sir Frank and Christian. What are the major challenges facing F1 in the future?

FW: The demise, which will certainly take place, of Mr (Bernie) Ecclestone, that’s my opinion.

CH: I think that will be a huge challenge but hopefully that will be in another 80 years at the rate Bernie is currently going. I think Formula One is in good health at the moment. I think the racing has been fantastic this year. I think the best advertisement has been the racing itself, despite the fact that we have had a driver that has been dominant every single grand prix so far this year, has been pretty exciting. I think the regulation changes that have been introduced this season have proved successful but inevitably there will be challenges ahead but I think it is a bright future at the moment. I don’t think there is anything that any of us should be fearful of. (Inaudible follow-up)

CH: Whenever you change technology it costs money, so I think stability is crucial and stability of technical regulations is crucial. One of our biggest cost drivers are technical regulations so moving forward, working with the various stakeholders in Formula One, we need to ensure that we continue to keep costs under control.

Q: (Marc Surer – Sky TV) I have a question for Martin: you tried the new wing on Lewis’s car this morning and on both cars this afternoon. Did you get the correct data in the conditions today to decide which one you’re going to use?

MW: Inevitably in these conditions the data gets a little bit compromised. You’re not going as quickly as you’d like. Various pressure tappings that you put on the wings and around the wing don’t function if it’s too wet but we got reasonable data and the engineers are going through that. I think we’ve got enough information; whether it’s a quick enough wing, that’s another story but I think it’s doing what we thought it would.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Martin as president of FOTA; today we lost a lot of action on the track because there are just eight sets of wet tyres. Are you discussing with the FIA to change the rules, to have more sets of wet tyres?

MW: In fact this weekend we had already spoken to Pirelli and the FIA about our concerns about such a weekend. We’ve got an extra set of intermediate tyres here this weekend that have to be given back. Had that rule change and the tyres not been available, then I think we would all agree that there would be very little running. So we’ve made one step better. I think the engineers and the drivers would always like as many tyres as possible and we’ll keep pressing to have more tyres available but it has in fact improved this weekend, otherwise I think we would


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