With Berger, Briatore, Fry, Horner and Theissen
The following is a transcript of todayís FIA arranged press conference following the first day of action at the Belgian Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger, Flavio Briatore, Nick Fry, Christian Horner and Mario Theissen represent Toro
Rosso, Renault, Honda, Red Bull and BMW Sauber.
Q: To all of you: your reaction to the hearing yesterday and the penalty, and also your reaction if youíve read the final judgement published today.
Nick FRY: We were just joking outside that you were going to ask us that question because I think it (the final judgement) was released when we were all sitting on the pit wall, so we suspect most of the audience have read it and we havenít, unless Flavio read it while he was on the pit wall, so we have not seen it. I think itís very difficult to speak about the judgement itself. My personal perspective is that itís good that McLaren are racing. I think from the Formula One point of view it would be extremely disappointing for all of us if a competitor of that calibre was missing from the grid, so I think thatís the good news. I think we all hope that this is the end of it. Obviously thereís a danger it wonít be but I think we would be better off focusing on the sport, the entertainment, getting the rules right to help that, getting the engine rules worked out and getting on with life. I hope it doesnít continue to perpetuate.
Q: What about the size of the penalty?
NF: McLaren are very rich, I guess.
Q: If somebody hit you with that penalty?
NF: I donít think Iíd be sitting here.
Mario THEISSEN: Well, what Nick just said is exactly what I said to him outside before. In fact Iím in the same position. I havenít had the chance to read the final judgement, the detailed judgement. I havenít been involvedÖ we havenít been involved in the case at all. We havenít been there at the hearing. What I know I know from you guys and Iím sure you know more than I do at this point of time. It certainly is a big fine and I can only hope it is over now, although I donít really believe in that.
Christian HORNER: Yes, hopefully it brings this issue to an end and everybody can focus on the last four races and on the Driversí Championship. Obviously the FIA has acted with the evidence that they had to hand and have made the decisions that they feel are obviously appropriate. One can only feel slightly sorry for McLaren in that the actions of a few reckless individuals have obviously hit them with a pretty Draconian penalty. But the evidence was there and the FIA have acted accordingly. But itís a big cheque.
Q: You talk about a couple of individuals; how can you prevent that happening within a team?
CH: I think itís very difficult, but when an employee comes to work for you, they sign on the dotted line to abide by the rules of that company and part of those rules, certainly in our team, is that they donít bring written down IP (intellectual property) or IP from other teams with them. Those actions have obviously been fairly reckless by those individuals involved and the company has picked up the can for it.
Gerhard BERGER: I think everything has been said. I think that the guys said it just now Ė I just agree.
Flavio BRIATORE: Same. Iím with Christian completely. I was on the pit wall Ė maybe you are too far from me so you didnít see me Ė and Iím veryÖ What is more important is that everybody knows the truth. Now everybody has the script (WMSC Decision) which they are able to read and we need to go on. We need to stop talking about this story and talk about the sport. If McLaren has been found guilty, it is because of the evidence at the World Council, only that. The size of the penalty depends. Itís important.
Q: (James Allen Ė ITV) Flavio, I understand that McLaren have brought to your attention something involving your team, and a similar sort of situation. Have you been told that thereís going to be an investigation into that and do you expect a similar sort of penalty if there is?
FB: First, if somebody tells me itís the same, I sue somebody, quickly. Second, itís not an investigation regarding myself and the team. Third, we give all the information to the Federation, at least when we found out something, and this is it. Itís as simple as that. And I give the evidence as well to McLaren, nothing toÖ And I donít think that in this case McLaren said to bring this case in the World Council as well for more confusing is possible, I think this result was not achieved. There was no confusion, there was just the fine for McLaren but it was important to try to take rocks in the direction of everybody. This I try with Red Bull for what I know. Itís as simple as that. I think McLaren was judged by the World Council, and there was enough evidence to find McLaren guilty, itís as simple as that. I donít want, at this moment (to talk) about Renault because first we are not being investigated, second we give all our evidence to McLaren and to Mr Mosley and to the Federation.
Q: (Miran Alisic Ė POP TV) I read a comment in a newspaper today that $100m for a normal human being is a huge sum of money, probably not for Formula One teams. You are representing five teams. What is $100m for you as a team? What would happen if you lost $100m?
GB: For me itís very simple: Iím bankrupt.
FB: Itís a lot of money for everybody becauseÖ $100m, for example, you have three or four Alonsos, three or four Schumachers in the team. This is what you have. Itís a fairly high penalty. Iím sure itís very high. NF: I think in Formula One, because the numbers are big, sometimes people talk about millions as if itís trivial. I can assure you, certainly in our team and I suspect in all the others, the budgets are worked out very carefully, we try and allocate the money as effectively as possible and $100m is a vast amount of money for any of the teams, I believe. The results of having to pay that, if it was actually cash, would be very significant. It would mean that we would have to find it elsewhere or whatever. I donít really knowÖ Itís not happened to us and I hope it never will but itís a vast amount of money even by Formula One standards. MT: Well, itís quite simple. If you are running a team during the season, you get aware of being fined $100m, you certainly donít have it put aside before, so if there is no one to open his pocket, you have to wind down your operations.
CH: In terms of monetary, itís obviously an inconceivable amount of cash. However, in proportion to budgets, Iím sure the FIA thought long and hard about the size of the fine but certainly from our perspective, I donít think our cheque book is that big. We canít fit that many zeros on it, so from our point of view we certainly wouldnít be in a position to be able to cover a fine of that quantum.
Q: (Stuart Codling Ė F1 Racing) Gerhard, a quick question about Sebastien Bourdais. I was wondering if you could say a few words about your personal expectations for him for next year, what you expect him to do for your team, what qualities he has that have got you so excited about him and have made you hire him?
GB: Well, Sebastien, as you know, is going to start next year, start testing after the last race. Weíve had him in the car three times already and gave him quite a lot of mileage, so it was good for him to get used to the car and to show us his potential and also good for us. We got a lot of data to study his strengths and weaknesses. He showed us good performance. He also showed good performance back in America, winning one championship after the next, so overall we got the picture from him which makes us feel confident that he theoretically can do a good job in Formula One. Weíre just going to know next year when heís in (the team) and after weíve given him a little bit of time to get used to everything, but until now, in the way how he worked with the engineers and the way how heís driven the car - long runs - he did very well. So obviously weíre expecting that he comes here (Formula One) and proves that he can do what we expect from him.
Q: On the driver market, Flavio, when can we expect to hear about your second driver?
FB: The second or the first? I think we are working on that and maybe before Japan, maybe, because really I believe that we need to look carefully at whatís going on, whatís happening, and then afterwards we decide. For the moment, we are not really ready.
Q: Are there fewer options this year? Thereís nobody who has dominated GP2, for instance.
FB: I think last year it was much easier because last year you had Hamilton who was really superior and you had Piquet, they were the two fighting. This year is much more equal, itís difficult. I donít see anybody this year who is a strong winner in GP2. You see the points as well, you have three or four drivers who are basically the same. We donít see a Hamilton, a Piquet, a Kovalainen or Rosberg. This year is the first year. Still, Pantano, who is ex-Formula One, is doing a good job. Itís not like the years before though.
Q: (Alberto Antonini Ė Autosprint) To Christian and Gerhard: a few months ago your teams were involved in a case of apparently storing blueprints from another team. How come it did not lead to an investigation by the FIA? It was back at the time of the Malaysian Grand Prix, around then, and someone came into the possession of blueprints from your teams, stating that there were similarities between the two cars. I just wonder why there was no investigation at all from the governing body.
GB: There wasnít. I think there was no reason for an investigation.
CH: I think they were Toro Rosso drawings I think you were referring to, so I donít think it directly involved us. A totally different scenario to what youíre referring to has just been investigated.
Q: (Dave Smith Ė Evening Standard) Given what you know about the McLaren case, if one of the McLaren drivers goes on to win the Driversí Championship will that title be tainted in any way?
FB: The drivers are in the car, this is what we know. If the car has any advantage because of some information or whatever, if the car is competitive because of some information, I think the driver has some advantage as well. Itís quite simple. I think itís like that. But the driver has no fault about all this but I still believe that the driver has some advantage.
GB: Well, I think you can see everything from so many different angles and try to find explanations and try to find some clever ideas but at the end of the day, there was a decision made yesterday. I think we should put it (the affair) off from the table, we should get on with the sport as before, and obviously the two drivers have a good chance to win the championship. The better one of the two should win it, but still, I would say Ferrari is still in the game also, so the fans can see a couple more good races and I think we should just forget all the other business.
CH: I totally agree with Gerhard. I think weíve got four races remaining. Weíve got four drivers in contention for the championship, itís been one of the best Driver Championships in many years. Thereís still a great deal to play for and hopefully the focus, now that this incident has been dealt with, will now turn to the circuit and hopefully we will see Formula One at its best over the next four races.
Q: But you see the point being made by the questioner.
CH: I can understand the point. I think that for your average fan the driver is the star at the end of the day and whilst it will be painful for the team and for the manufacturer involved, I think ultimately the emphasis of Formula One is on the drivers, theyíre the peopleís heroes at the end of the day. Itís been a fantastic championship to date and hopefully it will be a very exciting run into the finish.
MT: No bad feelings about that if one of the two drivers wins the championship. We have found out, throughout the season, that there are four cars ahead of us. They are stronger than us, quicker than us and we want to beat them fair and square on the track so in my view, we are number three this year and we are proud of that, and the drivers in front of us deserve to win the championship.
NF: It would have been, in my view, extremely destructive and almost vindictive to penalise the drivers. I think that we can easily slip into self-destruct mode here of trying to ruin everything. I think weíve got a great Driversí championship, itís being fought out on a very even basis between those drivers and I believe the decision was exactly right to leave them out of it. I can see the point, I can see the puristís point of view, but I think it was a very sensible decision in my view.
Q: (Julien Fabreau Ė RMC) Flavio, how much do you think the FIAís decision yesterday against McLaren was important for you to see Alonso come back in your team next year?
FB: This decision was made by the World Council, itís a decision made whether I like it or not. Itís a decision made by the World Council and itís nothing to do with Alonso. The fact that the World Council made its decision, I guess everybody here accepts the decision and we go on with the business. I donít believe for one second that the decision made yesterday will influence Alonso, drivers or us. It has nothing to do (with us).
Q: (Miran Alisic Ė POP TV) We are talking always about the Driversí and Constructorsí Championship. How would you draw the line between the importance between the Driversí and Constructorsí Championship?
MT: Well, Iím here for a manufacturerís team. So obviously there are two perspectives. Formula One has always been a driverís championship and in the early days this was the only thing that counted. But in the early 90ís when the manufacturers came in, it was for a certain reason. And in our case certainly the reason is to demonstrate our core competencies in Formula One, on this stage. So to a manufacturer certainly the Constructorsí Championship is equally important. It still is the case that the Driversí Championship is much more popular and that will always be and that is ok. But to us the Constructorsí Championship is important.
NF: If I put my corporate hat on I think I would agree with Mario. Obviously for a car manufacturer to win the Constructorsí Championship is immensely important. It can be used in advertisingÖ But if I speak from the heart and as a fan I would say sport is about people and I think it is about, for most of us, the Driversí Championship and if I had to rank one of them as the top one, I think for most people it would be the Driversí Championship. FB: For us, the company and the people working in the team surely the most important is the Constructorsí Championship. Financially as well because what is counting in the finances is the Constructorsí Championship and I have to agree with everybody that it is important as well the Driversí Championship. I believe the best is to win both. (Laughter)
GB: I think we are all doing this mainly to please the fans and the people watching us and for them it just counts more or less, the Driversí Championship. So it is fine what Flavio says and what Mario says for us inside, yes, for certain reasons the Constructorsí Championship is important but for the millions of fans I would say that the main championship is the Driversí Championship. The star is the driver.
CH: I think Gerhard summed it up perfectly there when he said the driver is the star. Where the Constructorsí Championship does get important for a team such as ourselves is when you are not competing for the Driversí Championship. We are fighting in a group of constructors. Toyota, Honda, Williams and so onÖ and for the people that work for you, where you are in the pecking order amongst your nearest rivals is important. But ultimately people remember who win driversí championships. Constructorsí I would say people probably have less memory for.