09 September: Belgian Grand Prix - FIA Friday Press Conference
REPRESENTATIVES: John HOWETT (Toyota) Flavio BRIATORE (Renault) ENGINE MANUFACTURERS: Norbert HAUG (Mercedes)
What are your views on the draft proposals for new regulations, John? John HOWETT: I think the first point is that if you
read the draft regulation the FIA has moved a long way from almost an exclusion of technology to actually meet quite a lot of the
suggestions put forward by the manufacturers and teams, so there was a positive sign of movement in that direction. I feel quite a
large number of areas, particularly aerodynamics, where both sides agreed the general direction to reduce downforce and increase
mechanical grip and improve overtaking, but still I donít think either the FIA or the teams have the ideal all-perfect solution.
And then finally, on the implementation of technology, which allows manufacturers to demonstrate technology, I think everyone
thought it was a positive move but the manufacturers asked for more time to study the implications and how, in the end, they can
support independent teams with this technology, regardless of the direction.
Q: But generally speaking you feel it is
moving in the right direction? JH: I think there is still a long way to go but from a regulation that was excluding a lot of
technology and capability there has been a significant movement from that position towards the position of the nine-plus-five, so
the trend is very positive.
Q: Flavio, what are your opinions? Flavio BRIATORE: I agree with John. I still believe
that whatever the Federation wants to do for 2008, reducing costs and increasing spectacle, we agree at Renault, because what we are
doing is decreasing our cost and everybody together. The federation is moving in our direction as well and together we make this
effort. Regarding aerodynamics, in the last ten years we have tried to make a car for overtaking and have never succeeded in that.
This process is not easy, but we need to arrive at this point, between us and the Federation, and I believe the final result will be
like that. So we are moving the right way.
Q: Norbert? Norbert HAUG: I can support what the colleagues have said,
but I think we have to keep in mind where the whole discussion all started. This is not a technical discussion in the first place,
it is a discussion what can we do for the spectator, and I think that has been a big change in the last couple of years. Formula One
is, and was, very much technical but at the end of the day we need to communicate to the customer and for us the most important
customer is firstly on the racetrack and then on the television. Of course, they like to see overtaking so we should investigate how
we can encourage overtaking. Currently, you saw it at the last race in Monza. It is virtually impossible to get close to the car,
even if you have a faster car, you are three seconds quicker, you just will not make it through a fast corner because 10m or 15m
behind you get understeer and cannot cope with it. Having said that, it is no criticism. It is not easy to achieve that but we have
to find solutions for that and they have to be the right solutions. It was not for a lack of trying in the past. We wanted to
achieve that, all of us, but we just couldnít manage it. That is an important issue. Hybrid comes in place, the only reason for
that is to save some energy, to store some energy then have the energy in place when it comes to overtaking. We can discuss further
issues, like the overtake button, like what we are doing currently with higher revs, this is very similar. You probably already go
to 300 or 400 revs higher and if you could find a solution to get 1000 revs higher that probably that might help with overtaking. It
is very difficult if you already rev 20,000 with a new V8, to go to 21,000, you can try it but probably only one time and that is
why I think we have to bring all these things together. But the positive thing is there is an overwhelming impression in all these
discussions that the spectator is in the middle of it and that is fine for us and I think fine for the other manufacturers and that
is what we are working on.
Q: One other thing that has come up recently, slightly allied with these new rules, is the
prospect of B-teams. What are your feelings about those, one or two of you are slightly involved in one way or another, it is
rumoured that McLaren could have a B-team, I donít know what you would say about that, also Toyota already supply engines to
another team. What are the feelings about B-teams? NH: We currently have no decisions, not at all. It is true; there was an
idea in place to form a Team Dubai. The team was asked, there were negotiations and there was a proposal in place. Currently we have
different discussions but nothing precise, nothing planned for 2007. The story was we would use McLarens or change McLarens or
whatever, but to my knowledge we cannot use McLarens, for a B-team, that is not allowed by the rules, and I think everyone should
know that we are very much against used Formula One cars. We donít think that is the key to the future. We think it is against the
independent teams if you sell used McLarens, Renaults, Ferraris and so on. We donít want to have that and this needs to be
properly discussed. So the rumour that used McLarens can to run in 2007 is not possible according to the rules. I donít know where
this story comes from. Of course, there are discussions in place, there are contacts with various people, but no decision and I
cannot see how that could happen in 2007 really, maybe things are changing but you need your own car, as far as I am concerned. This
is how I read the rules.
Q: Even though the 2008 rules would allow you to buy equipment from other teams? NH: But
they do not. That is in discussion. They do not. To my knowledge, we have no second hand cars in 2008. Firstly we do not have the
rules in place, secondly there are ideas on the table but this was never confirmed or written into the rules that used Formula One
cars should be the future from 2008 onwards. Or I got it wrong, I donít know.
Q: Flavio, your feelings? FB: I feel
a bit different from Norbert. We need to find a way to have a better show in Formula One. Formula One is a television event.
Technology is important, everyone has technology. In GP2 we have technology and it is only a question of the way you packaged the
technology. For me it is really strange. The GP2 championship costs 0.65 percent of what the Formula One championship costs. I donít
know what the difference is. We talk every year about all these technologies and things like that and in the meantime we have the
spectators walking away from the television. In that time we have less spectators in the grandstand, and I mean, I see people
enthusiastic to see GP2. I donít understand why GP2 cost 2.5 million and our team and other teams cost maybe between three and
five hundred million. I do not see what the difference is. Regarding the car, and this is my idea from the beginning, it has not
changed, if you have the freedom, why does the Jordan team need 300 people or 250 people. We need to encourage people to come into
Formula One so maybe for one or two years you allow them to buy a car. I see nothing wrong. I did that many years ago with Benetton
and Ligier. Benetton was always quicker than Ligier because the difference is the organisation, the driver and whatever. I mean, I
have nothing against that. What I really want to see is a more human Formula One, have a better show for our public and not spend
this money we spend. Because for me, you see the race of GP2 and the race of Formula One and maybe next year the difference of GP2
to Formula One is just four or five seconds difference. Really, I donít know what the magic about our racing is. I see a lot of
magic in GP2.
Q: John, what are your feelings? JH: It depends what you mean by a B-team. We agree with Flavio that
we need more teams on the grid, we would welcome that and Toyota, as a manufacturer, is prepared to make its commitment to Formula
One and supply another team with an engine at what we believe is a competitive price and offering high value. I think then perhaps
there should be some benefit between the teams as a consequence of that co-operation, but I donít see it as a B-team.
So your idea is much more as an engine supplier as you are at the moment. NH: As an engine supplier. Our core business is to
win as Panasonic Toyota Racing, no discussion. But at the same time our research shows the consumer is interested in technology but
we need to make that technology available to the smaller teams so that they can compete and compete on a fairly equal basis.
John, yesterday I asked Ralf Schumacher if he was disappointed not to have won this year because you have been so competitive. What
are the general team feelings? JH: I mean, obviously we are here to win but I think we acknowledge that there are two teams
beside me that are quicker than us. We are working hard, we have had a good season, we think we are racing well, we are getting the
maximum out of the package but we acknowledge that we have still got 20 percent more to push to really attach the top teams and we
are focused on it. We are happy both drivers are delivering as a total value to us as a team in the complete array of testing
through to racing.
Q: Flavio, Fernando Alonso has done a fantastic job this year. How have you seen him change? He is still
very young. How is he withstanding the pressure at the moment? FB: He is young but he has now had four years in Formula One,
he is not a new entry. Fernando is cool. It is a fantastic championship at the moment; we have a bit of an advantage to Kimi. We
know McLaren that in the second part of the season McLaren is quicker than us but we know in the first half of the season we were
better. Fernando, I believe, is no doubt doing the best for the performance we have at this moment. We need really to be cool, to
concentrate, we know McLaren is quicker but what is important is to finish in the race, this is what we say to do. After that I donít
see any problem with Fernando. The team is together and really there is no pressure. Sure, you have the pressure because everyone
asks you every day where the party is or stupid stuff like that. We donít want to do any party. At the moment Fernando won six
races and after Sunday we will see how many points we have. There are four races to go and maybe we will fight to the last race with
Kimi but that is good for Formula One as well.
Q: He seems to be very concentrated, very constant. What other qualities do
you see in him? FB: This year, Fernandoís one mistake was in Canada. After that, he has been fantastic. In the races he is
terrific. Sometimes in the qualifying Kimi is quicker, but this year Kimi is fantastic as well. If you see the difference between
Kimi and Montoya, Kimi has an incredible feeling with this car. I mean, sometimes Kimi is really difficult to beat but we know that.
It is important to recognise where you are. With the car we have at the moment it is not so bad, we have the possibility to be
second and third in the races and that is what we choose to do. Maybe we will have the possibility in Brazil to win the race as
well, we have a big step in aerodynamics there, we will see. But I am not complaining.
Q: Norbert, what are your feelings
about Kimi and to some extent Fernando as well? NH: Fernando has had a great season, thereís no doubt, not a lot of
mistakes. I see things a little bit differently obviously. Compared to Flavio, I wanted to make one remark: you cannot say GP2 on
the one hand and then on the other hand vote for the V8 which is revving to 20,000rpm. To my knowledge that costs a lot of money, so
we need to bring things together. And to point it out very clearly we are the ones mentioning saving money at each and every
meeting. And I brought up the point in Monaco last year already. There are cheaper ways Ė you all know that Ė than we have right
now but letís sit together and letís take the right decision. I think there is no comparison between GP2 and Formula One at all.
I think itís a good racing series, no doubt, but we shouldnít compare one with the other. That is the first remark and I think
it is very important not to mix these things. Anyway, coming back to your question. Fernando: I have a lot of respect for what
Renault has done. They are good, they are reliable, a good team. At the end of the day, they are the old Benetton guys Ė I know a
lot of them, they have a lot of experience and that is fine. They do a good job and as Flavio pointed out, at the end what counts is
who has got the most points over the course of the season. Having said that, I think none of you would have thought that we are
starting as big favourites in this yearís World Championship. We had some difficulties at the beginning of last year but from the
middle of last year we were heading in the right direction and we have had some ups and downs, such as happens in motor racing. We
have had a race in Turkey and in Monza which were very very stressful for the engine, probably the toughest combination together
with Monza and Spa and we survived and we gave the engine a lot of revs. But, of course, we have had to change (engines) three
times; we recovered during the races. We have been unlucky here and there but by and large our direction is the right one. Nobody is
leaving from the team and I have to support that team. We clear up some of these issues internally. Itís fine when we are
criticised but I have to see that the direction is the right one and obviously if Mercedes get things wrong we probably get a little
bit more criticism. That is normal, but we won seven out of the last ten races Ė should have been more but it isnít a bad score
at the end of the day. Iím a sportsman and I know that things like that happen from time to time. I do not wish it on anybody, but
none of us knows whatís happening tomorrow. And thatís how the sport is. Generally our direction is the right one, Iím 100
percent convinced, and I still think we are not at the top of the mountain, but we are climbing very quickly.
Q: Just going
back to that, Montoya has had to have an engine change today, a precautionary engine change; how much of a worry is that for Kimi
over the next couple of days? NH: I donít think he thinks about these issues really. Once you are in a racing car and I
think you have to imagine you are in a racing car that needs full concentration, and outside of the car you probably think, well,
keep my fingers crossed and hopefully it works according to plan. But in the car, that shouldnít be a problem and you saw that in
Monza, Kimi is absolutely amazing. He got criticised as well which probably makes him stronger. The last one was a completely unfair
attack and a lie, but at the end of the day, that is how the stories go sometimes. It was not true what was written, but anyway, heís
doing a great job. And whoever saw his lap after the engine change, the amount of fuel he has had in Monza Ė I just have to say
that I take my hat off to him, and this was fantastic. He drove a great race, got stuck on traffic at the beginning, still
recovered, had his engine problem, without that he would have been in a position still to win and that shows his potential and the
carís potential. But one thing is for sure, without the technical potential, without the potential of the car, the best guy in the
world cannot do that and Kimi and us and Montoya, I have to say, is a good and strong combination. Juan Pablo is getting stronger
and stronger. He didnít win by luck, he didnít win by luck at Silverstone and I am deeply convinced that he is absolutely on the
right path and that he has driven great races. At least since Canada he was in a position to win four times at least, and he won two
of them and so that is a great achievement and a good direction.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heinz PrŁller
Ė ORF TV) Flavio, you could achieve a historic double: the first team boss to win championships with two completely different
teams. So far nobody has done that. How do you feel about that, Benetton and then Renault, Benetton with Ford, now Renault? How do
you see that and can you compare the way you brought up Michael to the championship and now trying to do the same with Alonso? FB:
For the moment I only won the World Championship with Benetton, this is sure, but as I said before, McLaren have won seven races, we
have won seven races. This is the situation this year. The championship is not finished; I donít feel I have the Driversí
champion at the moment. I feel that I am fighting to the end. I donít want to think about that I won the championship. But I am
pretty sure I will finish second. This is a good result for Renault anyway. Because for sure, when we started in 2001, it was only
four years ago and nobody put a penny in our team. And now we are there with McLaren and I believe we have done a good job. Four
years in Formula One, I think this is fantastic. And Benetton was unique. The budget we had there, beating Ferrari and Williams at
the time was really magic. Again, it took us four years to win the championship. I hope itís a good season for us, but really, we
have a very nice group of people, young and I donít know, we still have fun. Iím still around because in the end, we still have
fun. Letís see what happens on Sunday.
Q: (Dan Knutson Ė National Speedsport News) Flavio, if anything has gone wrong
this year it seems to have happened to Fisichella rather than Alonso. Has this just been a long string of bad luck for Fisichella or
what has been going on? FB: I mean, this is the best season Fisichella has ever had. He won a race, he was on the podium. He
has problems sometimes. Honestly, everybody knows that in one team it is impossible to make two cars different. We try doing the
best for both cars, but in another way, the team is very young. We started the 100 percent Renault team in 2001. Maybe we donít
have enough people or enough efficiency to make sure we have two cars at the same level. Sometimes it was Fisichellaís mistake as
well. We tried all the best to have two drivers to finish in the race, it is normal. But I tell you, sometimes it happens that
somebody is unlucky, sometimes you donít know why it happened but it did and this is the situation you accept. At the last race I
believe Fisichella did a fantastic job for the team. I donít think Fisichellaís season has been so bad. I think it is just that
Fernandoís season has been fantastic. This is the difference. Fernando has done an amazing season, no mistakes, never and
sometimes he had much more luck than Fisi. This is life.
Q: (Alain Pernot Ė Auto Journal) Flavio, which title is most
important for you, Driversí or Manufacturersí? FB: When you apply to the championship, it is the FIA Driversí
championship. It isnít the FIA Manufacturersí or Constructorsí Championship. You remember Schumi won with Ferrari, you never
remember this year somebody won the Constructorsí Championship with another team. The Driversí championship is the only one.
(Alan Baldwin Ė Reuters) Flavio, when a driver wins the World Championship, his value usually goes up considerably. Are you going
to give Fernando a pay rise next year? Can he expect more money? FB: Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. It depends
on the contract you have. Fernando is very happy, and I donít think it is a problem with money. It is just a problem to finish in
the races. This is the problem you have, not money.
Q: (Dan Knutson Ė National Speedsport News) John, how keen is Toyota
to have the Japanese Grand Prix moved to Fuji? And is there maybe a possibility of having two Japanese Grands Prix in the future? JH:
Honestly, I run the racing team and Iím not really involved in Fuji Speedway. I think Toyota obviously would love to have a Grand
Prix there, that is something they will have to discuss with the commercial rights holder, I presume, with Bernie, and we have to
wait to see. I am frankly not involved with that sort of discussion at all. I know theyíve built it, theyíve improved it and
they are passionate about motor sport and they would like to have a Grand Prix there, but whether it happens or not is beyond my
Q: (Tony Dodgins Ė Autosport) Flavio, you talk about the numbers involved in current Formula One teams, and if
you restrict the engine technology and you cut down on testing, save costs, you reduce employees. What do you see as the ideal size
for a Formula One team and what happens to the excess employees? FB: Sometimes you do something to keep somebodyís job. I
believe itís the market. I donít think itís a problem for a group like us and Mercedes to re-locate people, especially in the
engine situation, because we always need good engineering and the engineering in Formula One is very good. But what I believe is
that in the future we need to look at more income, because this is what the teams want and the manufacturers want. For the job we
are doing, in more than one way, you need it to be less expensive, because thereís big money there. I believe that, as Norbert
says, we need to sit together and really have a focus what we want to do. And I believe we are getting there because it is the
process between us working with the Federation to have this. I donít see any problem with the employees, at this moment. I talk
about Renault anyway. I canít talk about another manufacturer, because we need a lot of good people in Renault. But we are talking
about sport, we are talking about Formula One. At the moment, we are talking about between 800 and 1000 people and I think it is a
little bit too much. I donít want to do any comparison with GP2, I donít want to do any comparison. The difference is so
enormous, itís not a comparison, but honestly, I think if we go in the last five our six years there have been an explosion of
costs. I believe that, especially in 2008, if itís possible in 2007 already, try to increase the television event for our customer
and cut costs.
Q: (Heinz PrŁller Ė ORF TV) Is there bonus money for team bosses, team managers for World Championships
as there is for drivers? FB: You know, tell me one day if something happens to count how much money I make? Itís very
complicated. We are in this business for winning a race and maybe for winning a championship and if you are winning a race, this is
a miracle, youíve done a good job. Itís as simple as that, I believe everyone is in Formula One to win a race, and sure you have
a base salary - this is for a driver - and if you then want to motivate the driver there is some bonus. But it is something very
internal which we discuss.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Norbert, you alluded earlier to the Dubai team; that was more than a
year ago and we really havenít heard anything about it since. Is it still active or is it now dead in the water? NH: Letís
say there are contacts with McLaren with the people but it is in a static situation.
Q: (Dominic FugŤre Ė Le Journal de
Montreal) About todayís topic. The weather is very changeable. How have things changed, maybe over the last five years, about how
the teams predict the weather and get ready for conditions like weíve had today. Is it in-house people, services you hire, how is
that worked? FB: Everyone tries to work out the best possible (situation) but you are fighting with nature, it is not easy,
especially in Spa. Weíre doing our best. Everyone has the same information but it is very difficult to predict exactly what will
happen? In some areas yes, but Spa is very very difficult.
Q: What do you do? You have an agency? FB: I believe
everyone is organised as best as possible, but today our forecaster got it completely wrong. We know it was going to be showery but
the timing was different. It is very difficult to predict exactly the minutes, the seconds. Sometimes it does happen, I think it was
in America and it was quite close, but if it is raining, it is the same for everyone.
Q: Ron said they were very pleased
with their weather forecasting, he believes itís going to be very accurate, so do you use a different agency? Perhaps you can
explain to Dominic what sort of agency and how itís all worked out? JH: We have a weather station here on track and they
were fairly accurate today so that is why we ran quite a lot in the morning session and we tried to get some evaluation done but the
lap times were obviously fairly slow. In this location our weather station will not give an accurate forecast for tomorrow. And
really, with all these things, you need to use some physical or mental system and you need to stick your hand out and see is it
raining or not and use some physical or mental interpretation of the actual information youíve got. Itís a fairly low-cost
service that we get, but it actually probably occasionally enables us to make better decisions but not every time, I promise you.