Flavio Briatore firmly believes that Renault’s World Championship chances are over. The Italian told reporters, during today’s Press Conference, that his team had underachieved so far this season, but would not stop trying to improve their car.
Briatore was joined in the Conference by Toyota’s John Howett and Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali.
2009 TURKISH GRAND PRIX
FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE June 5, 2009
Flavio BRIATORE (Renault),
Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari),
John HOWETT (Toyota)
Q: To start with could you talk about your own team s performance so far this year; whether and when you expect it to improve. How do you feel about it so far.
Flavio BRIATORE: We are not happy at all. We were expecting a different championship and we were expecting a much better performance from our car. From the beginning when we arrived in Australia we felt that we had a big difference between us and the Brawn. I think everybody felt that. I think you guys knew what was going on (becomes inaudible). Our team I believe approached the 2009 car from a completely different approach but we expect to improve race by race if it is possible. But now the question is if we see what happens. For me the championship is finished already. Brawn is very, very difficult to beat for anybody. Maybe Red Bull have a god possibility to finish second and I think everybody else is fighting for the third and fourth place. This is the honest situation, for sure. We never give up and we try to improve the car but everybody is improving the same and this is the situation where we are.
Q: When we had the first diffuser for the Renault in China we thought that was going to be the answer. But it doesn t seem to have made a difference.
FB: I don t think it is only the diffuser. It is with the concept of the car. Everybody now has the diffuser. I believe as well Brawn at this moment have another one or two tenths in the pocket. We try very hard but this is the situation. The team is improving the car and we have a chance now we are in June and July we want to really push with this car and see what happens. But the situation is really, really difficult for us.
Q: Stefano, same thing with you really. It looked better in Monaco but Monaco tends to be a little bit of a wild card really.
Stefano DOMENICALI: Well, I think that, first of all, of course, the start to the season was not really the start that we wanted or what we expected. We knew we had to pay the price as we fought to the end last year with our competitor McLaren. But then what you have to do is try to consider the reality and react and this is what we are doing with all the people at home. I think that the car has improved and our target is to make sure we do the maximum during the weekend in order to go back to our normal standard. This is the approach that we will have day by day. We did a step already in Spain and we had quite a good performance in Monte Carlo and we hope to have a good race here in Turkey and we will not give up until the moment when we really feel we cannot do it anymore. That is our approach.
Q: What about the indications so far here as you have a big reputation to defend. Felipe (Massa) won the last three years from pole and Kimi (RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen) won the year before that, admittedly not in a Ferrari.
SD: I think today it was pretty difficult to understand exactly what the picture is as the track was pretty strange. The track condition was very changeable. We saw that both the hard (tyre) and also the soft didn t perform as we expected in getting better and better. For sure the hard improved lap by lap but with no real grip on our car. But also with the soft we didn t improve exactly the time as we were thinking. But overall we need to consider the gaps today and we need to understand what the fuel load of all the cars is. It would be wrong to take any judgement before understanding the picture. I think that tomorrow morning with the track in a better condition we should have a better idea of what will be the race on Sunday.
Q: John, for Toyota was Monaco just a one-off? Did you understand what happened there?
John HOWETT: Well, we had four strong races. Barcelona, some question mark although relatively we didn t seem quite so competitive, particularly in sector three. Monaco was more or less unacceptable and we have to see where we are this weekend. We expect to have a return to a competitive position.
Q: What is the indication so far?
JH: Well, I think like Stefano says it is pretty difficult today. The track has been fairly green. The tyres have been difficult probably because of the track condition and we need to understand tomorrow. But relatively we have looked definitely stronger than Monaco.
Q: A question on a slightly different subject. There have been rumours that the Japanese Grand Prix won t go back to Fuji. What is the official line from Toyota?
JH: Genuinely it is not Toyota Motorsport s position. I am not involved at all with Fuji Speedway. It is another company within the Toyota group. I have heard that they are reconsidering but I genuinely can t answer and I don t know the exact position.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Hughes Autosport) Stefano, Max Mosley is saying that Ferrari is contractually obliged to race in next year s Formula One World Championship because of the Concorde Agreement. What is your take on that?
SD: Well, our position is very clear and we have already said that. That is the position of Max of course. We had an agreement with the FIA but we felt that the obligations inside that agreement were breached, so the agreement is not valid anymore. We have put in our entry together with other competitors with the condition that we think is important to respect for the future of Formula One. If I may take the opportunity to say that I think it is important at this moment to be constructive. There is no-one who wants to have any fight with anyone because this is not, at least on our side, the position that we want to take. It is a moment where we genuinely need to find a solution. We have been here in Formula One for 60 years. We behave with a lot of responsibility to make sure that the values of Formula One will remain and this is the reason why we feel that it is important to look at this condition. This is the approach that we have taken together with FOTA. Do not underestimate that this year with FOTA we have already achieved a lot of cost saving measures without anyone that was requesting us as we know what the environment around is. But stability, governance, rules and the way to change them, these are crucial points to the future of Formula One. We want to work together to try to find a way out of this moment which is really not good for Formula One.
Q: (Jonathan Legard BBC) This is a question for all of you. Can any of you shed light on these conditions which you were encouraged to attach to your entry beyond 2010 by FIA President Max Mosley and then apparently he is now quoted as saying you cannot possibly apply conditions like this. You just have got to come in or that s it. How do you read the situation?
JH: Regarding the situation I don t know. We will just have to wait and see what the response is. If you look in the International Sporting Code, I think it is Article 75, there is a mention of conditional entry although it does mention that it needs to be specified in the supplementary rules which maybe it isn t. We did attend a meeting where we were invited by the President to submit conditional entries. I think the conditions are the conditions that the FOTA members have jointly developed and feel are the right conditions to submit our entries in and are positive for the future of the sport. The reaction? I think we just have to wait and see.
SD: I think on my side I think I can add only one thing. The starting point is I think what the FIA wanted to achieve in terms of goals and I think they were very clear. And I think that the answer from all the teams that are entering the championship and want to attend for the future in Formula One are basically targeting exactly the goals the President of the FIA gave to us. This is very important to tell. We know that cost saving is very important for all of us but with all respect we should know how to run our business and we are here to make sure that in any case we are profitable and we develop the brand and we use Formula One for marketing tools. That is part of the business. We know that and we have a proposal to make sure that we control for the future a significant reduction in costs. So target one is done. Secondly we want to have stability on the governance of the rules and basically make sure that the process by which you can change the regulation is the one that was used in the history of Formula One in the right way. The third point is by doing that, by being altogether, we are confirming all the teams to be here and stable up until 2012. I think basically that was another point of worry for the FIA not to have a constructor present in Formula One. I think that all these points are basically responding to the right points of Max when he was worried about the future of Formula One. This is honestly what I can add to what John has said.
FB: I think it is very clear. Everybody in the last two weeks says there is a war. There is no war. We don t want any war. There was a comment saying we need a war. I think we have the responsibility for the employees that we have. I think we have the responsibility with the fans and with the supporters of Formula One. We don t want war with anybody. What we want is governance. We want a system that was always in Formula One. We want a Formula One Commission. We want a Concorde Agreement. We want stability. We want to cut costs and make Formula One more efficient. It is not nice when somebody says that next year Renault will not be in Formula One anymore, Toyota is not in Formula One anymore and BMW is not in Formula One anymore. We do not trust these people and in the meantime we are trusting Mike Gascoyne with all respect to Mike Gascoyne and Mr Campos with all respect to Mr Campos. Yet this bunch of shell companies is putting in the entrance. I think it is very destructive when somebody tells me that Renault next year is not in Formula One anymore in a moment we are negotiating with sponsors, with supporters. It is destructive for Toyota and everybody as well. We want only a healthy Formula One. We have the responsibility with the fans. We never talked about the million, million people watching us. People do not understand anymore what is going on. We want only to just stay in the business, have a normal governance and work with everybody, with Mr Mosley. We do not want a war with Mr Mosley. Nobody wants a war with anybody. We don t want a war with Mr Ecclestone. We don t want a war with anybody. We want to have a better Formula One, better show, better entertainment. This is what we want. For sure we want to be Formula One more efficient and this is nice if we are working together to achieve the target. What we want to achieve is maybe much less of what is proposed by the federation but is a different way to achieve it. There is no war. There is no winner, no loser. If there is a war everybody will lose but we just accept all the bombardments we have day by day. We are not at war with anybody. We just want to respect our employees, our brand and it is not nice when somebody tells us that next year Renault is no longer in Formula One. This is really destructive if somebody believes the constructor is not in Formula One anymore. We have been in Formula One the last 20 years if you are talking about Renault and Ferrari 60. What kind of guarantee can this company give you that apply for entry to the championship. There is nothing wrong with a new company if it is properly done. We are talking about that, it looks like Brabham is just arriving and the family is fighting already. It is only a shell company. This is very destructive for Formula One, for the value of our brand and for the show, for the people. We want this Formula One, simple as that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken The Citizen) This is primarily a FOTA question: there seems to be a perception that FOTA is being extremely selfish and possibly even sinister in trying to keep out the newcomers, those who have registered an interest in coming in. Does FOTA actually welcome these incoming teams?
JH: Yes. I think there s a lot of misinformation which carries on from Flavio s point. I think that all the major companies, and I would say beyond manufacturers and FOTA members who have contributed in six decades us, almost one decade to Formula One and I think we have been working very unselfishly in the last four or five years to reduce the cost of entry. I ve never heard any resistance from any FOTA member to welcoming new teams. I think, generally, all we re asking for is a stable platform derived, really, from a Concorde Agreement and once we have a stable governance and a stable platform I think we can significantly improve the sport for the benefit of all the stakeholders and that s purely and simply the intention of FOTA. And if I could go beyond that, I think that we are, as many of the major players in FOTA, an integral part of global motor sport. We re involved in young driver programmes, quite a number of us provide Formula Three engines. You see major sponsorship, for instance, from Red Bull. We are active from grass roots to motor sport at the top level, everywhere. I think the value of motor sport is very important to us, so to point out that we are being selfish or sinister is, I think, genuinely wrong. Most of the big companies involved in FOTA I think are serious about motor sport and adding value at all levels across all areas of motor sport. Renault, I think, are very strong in that, Ferrari are synonymous with motor sport. I don t think we have to say anymore.
SD: If I may add just one thing to what I said at the beginning: do not forget that this year, without the help of the members of FOTA it was maybe not possible for some of the teams that are contesting the championship this year to run. So we did something for the benefit of all the people that are racing now, to make sure that they can stay alive. So I think it is wrong to say that FOTA is selfish. FOTA is in the status to say that it is an entity that is here to make sure that it s working properly, with the FIA, with FOM, for the benefit of motor sport, and this is the way that we are approaching this, all the members, all together, in that respect.
FB: I think the same as John and Stefano. We shouldn t forget an example like Brawn; without Mercedes, sure they would have no engine for this season. That s quite clear. A lot of the team members of FOTA have their engines for five million for the future and it never happened. Five million is a representative amount, six or seven percent of the budget. We re talking about the gearbox. FOTA wants the new teams, no problem, but everybody has to respect the same rules, the same situation. We want Formula One with one rule, we want Formula One with different engines we want Ferrari engines, we want Renault engines etc., etc. I don t think we re asking something completely mad. What we want is stability, stability of governance, that s what we want. I don t think it s something which is selfish or cynical. I think FOTA has made incredible steps to help everybody. We are very happy if some new teams want to enjoy Formula One under the same conditions, with the same rules.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Stefano, you mentioned earlier about being constructive but how destructive is it when the president of the FIA this week turns round and mentions that if you guys want your own rules, you can go and run your own championship? And if, come next Friday, the FIA rejects the block bid from FOTA, will Ferrari be prepared to lead the other nine teams into that new championship?
SD: First of all, I can reply what I can say. We want to be as constructive as we can. Of course, for me in this civilisation of discussing, confronting themselves, it s the nature of this world, it s something that we need to accept and it s not normal that when you want to find a solution, you cannot find a solution. For me that s imperative. And I think that everything that we re asking for, if I may say, is absolutely linear and consistent with the history of Formula One: nothing new, so it s very, very logical. Regarding the second question, if our entries are rejected, what is going to happen? I think that within FOTA we need to sit down and discuss the situation but we really want to find a solution.
Q: (Joris Fioriti AFP) Everyone has pretty much the impression that FOTA and the FIA are pretty much bluffing, so which one is bluffing the most? And the second question is do you think that the FIA has put itself in a very bad position because there are six to eight new teams which want to enter the 2010 championship and ten wish to remain?
JH: We can t really answer, that s a position the Federation has to explain to you. I think whether or not they ve done the right thing or the wrong thing is something we can t really clarify. I would confirm that we re not bluffing and I don t mean that as a threat. I just think that we just have a sincere, simple, straightforward position which we believe is correct for stabilising the future of Formula One. From our side, it isn t power politics or war, as Flavio said.
Q: (Juha PÃ¤Ã¤talo Financial Times Deutschland) If nobody wants a war can you then explain why it s so difficult to find a solution for this crisis?
FB: Honestly, we don t know. For us it s a surprise why it s so difficult. On my side, we don t understand why it s so difficult. We want to be in Formula One. We want to be there in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015. Again, we are always talking about 2012, I don t know why. We are talking about the future; why not 2013, 2014. I don t think there s any difference. From day one, FOTA was never aggressive with anybody. We just want to participate in the championship, we want to cut costs, we want to have clear rules, we want to have a governance, we want to go through, like it was in your time, we need a Formula One Commission, we need to make all the decision-setting together for the good of the sport, for the good of Formula One. All the time we are forgetting the fans, the tifosi, the people. We re always forgetting these people. There is a lot of confusion now. I don t understand what the problem is. I think some people really don t understand why there is a problem. It s very destructive. We re not bluffing because when you have the responsibility of three or four hundred people, it s not bluffing. These are people who go home and the next day we need to make sure that we have the money to pay their salaries. You re not bluffing when you are putting on the line so many employees between everybody. We have to be concerned about that. We have people who have mortgages, we have people who have to send children to school. We are not bluffing. As I say, we don t want any war, we want stability in order to have a long term Formula One engagement. This is what we want. We don t want anything special, we just want stability, just stability.
Q: Max Mosley said in Monte Carlo that he will insist anyway on this £40m budget cap. Could it be realistic in 2011, 2012 for you or at any time?
SD: As I have said, the objective to cut costs is pretty clear but we don t think the way and the numbers have to be published. This is a business and we have to manage it and this is the reason why, with all respect, we are not publishing the income or the revenues of other activities connected to Formula One because that s normal. In business, it s part of the game and we want to save money in the way that we feel appropriate to run a business, to run a company. We may arrive at certain numbers but in a different way managed by the teams, and this is the way, as I ve said before, to basically achieve the target of the concern of Max, that Formula One is too expensive.
FB: We have ten teams in Formula One, as usual. During the last seven or eight years we have had ten teams. We don t understand what s happened this year because at one point after Honda decided to not be part of it it looked like everybody would follow the Honda route. There was this really panicking situation about (needing) more teams in Formula One. We didn t get that point because none of the ten teams still in Formula One want to stop. Honda is not Honda, it s Brawn. It s not that urgent to find GP3 no, whatever Formula Three teams to enjoy Formula One. I don t think it s so urgent because everybody has guaranteed to participate in the championship. We re still here. Next year, if everything is normal, I think everybody will still be there. We didn t understand all this panicking, why we need to change everything. It s very difficult for us to understand because we have confirmed that we want to stay in Formula One, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and we need governance. This is what I think is quite clear. We don t understand why we need this panicking that there are no more teams in Formula One next year.
Q: (Sarah Holt BBC) Have you had any official response from Max Mosley since submitting your conditional entries last Friday? And the second question is, are you worried that all the remaining eight FOTA teams may not stand together on June 12? Williams has already been suspended, are you worried you might splinter?
JH: Before coming into the room, I hadn t received answer on behalf of Toyota and I don t think the others have, so unless something s come whilst we ve been sitting here, at the moment there is no answer from the Federation. I think at the moment, that whilst there are differences, what I think is really impressive about FOTA at the moment is that most of the teams really have a common wish and common bond to achieve the same objectives, so frankly I m very optimistic that FOTA will remain intact.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) John, are you going to suspend Force India? This is the most recent rumour that we ve heard because they ve done something different. And for Stefano, what will Ferrari s position be if Ferrari are accepted and for instance, Renault and Toyota are not accepted by Max Mosley?
SD: I can answer the second question and I ll leave John the first one. As we said, we are moving jointly in this position, so our position is clear to answer the first question on our situation formally speaking. Secondly, the conditions are the same for everyone, so hopefully we will all be in.
JH: On the Force India question, what I would say is that it s likely they may be suspended. I haven t really had the opportunity to speak to Vijay (Mallya) directly. I think in accordance with FOTA he submitted a conditional entry and apparently due to commercial issues, totally unrelated to any other team or support, they felt obliged because of other binding legal activity due to funding or other issues they needed to submit an official entry. He will be here tomorrow and I will speak to him and I have to say that I think it is the intention of FOTA to suspend them, based on a face-to-face discussion with Vijay but he has confirmed to me, through Bob Fearnley, that he is totally supportive and committed to FOTA.
Q: (Dieter Rencken The Citizen) The FIA set an entry deadline of May 29. You people submitted your entries before then, so no problem. However, subsequently, you people issued a deadline of June 11 in terms of signing the commercial agreement. If that deadline is not met, where do you go from there?
JH: In my case, from Toyota s position, we re quite relaxed. I think that what we re asking is reasonable. We believe that common sense will prevail and I think that should the entries be rejected, as Stefano mentioned, we need to sit down and discuss the next steps. We do have a number of scenarios and scenario planning and the worst case scenario would be to have to establish our own series, but I think FOTA has a list of scenarios based on the reaction and how the response of the Federation moves forward.