Attendees: Robert Fernley (Force India), Matthew Carter (Lotus), Paul Hembery (Pirelli), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing), Maurizio Arrivabene (Ferrari), Eric Boullier (McLaren)
Maurizio, if we could start with you. Obviously you’ve been here many times before as a partner of Ferrari. You’ve lived the moments of victory in front of the tifosi with Schumacher, Barrichello, Alonso etc. Tell me about the sense of responsibility you feel today as the boss of the Ferrari Formula One team at the Italian Grand Prix ?
Maurizio ARRIVABENE: You’re right, it’s a big story, because you feel Monza, Milan, all the region here on your shoulder. Yesterday, we were out of the track to meet the tifosi and you know looking at the enthusiasm of them, looking at the high of them, the way they were screaming, were thinking myself, Sebastian and also Kimi, we were thinking ‘OK, we have to do something for them’ and your pressure and your emotion is going up to the sky. You want to give them something and you want to see in their eye a big smile. But you are also conscious about what you can do here. So if I… I feel my responsibility here in Monza is huge, especially yesterday when we were nearby the tifosi and we were looking at them and their enthusiasm, I hope that the heart, the big heart that normally they took here after the race can be the equivalent of a token and it goes straight in our engine. What can I say more than that!
The Italian Grand Prix is the only race along with the British Grand Prix that has been on the F1 calendar every year since the start of F1. We hear all the time that the race is potentially under threat. Can Ferrari allow the possibility of there being no Italian Grand Prix? Are you playing any role in this process?
MA: Playing a role is a big word. I mean we are not negotiating with Bernie. It’s not our job, it’s not our responsibility. Having said so, I think the Grand Prix of Italy is Monza and I want to be very clear on that. The only picture that I saw in Maranello of Enzo Ferrari at a track actually was here at Monza and I said many, many times something very clear: there is a core of Formula One that in my opinion is represented by Monza, Spa Francorchamps, Hockenheim, Silverstone and Monaco. This is the core of Formula One and I think we have to preserve it. Because every person that is losing his own culture, he’s losing the roots, he’s not anymore a person – I mean if we are talking about human beings. But also for these kind of things. If we are losing the core in my opinion then we are losing the show, so I think we can do everything that is in our possibility to defend a Grand Prix and the clear statement is the following: the Grand Prix of Italy is Monza. The second sentence is that we need to preserve the core of Formula One. I have nothing against all the other Grands Prix, because it is an international show but even a show has a core and the core for Formula One is the number of Grands Prix that I mentioned before. This is my personal opinion and it’s also I think our opinion as Ferrari.
OK, thank you very much. Eric, coming to you: the performance curve is clearly upwards from a fairly low baseline at the start of the season but is the curve moving upwards fast enough for you?
Eric BOULLIER: No. Obviously we would like to be a little higher up in the hierarchy and maybe fighting for more points regularly. There is obviously the last… Spa and here would be difficult for us but we knew this coming here. We see some positives as well, because reliability is a bit better and we keep developing the car as fast as we can.
It’s no secret that you have quandary again over drivers for next season. What plans do you have for Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne. How many of those three do you expect to be racing in Formula One next year and which one of those three will be in a McLaren?
EB: Obviously we expect the four of them to race. As far as we are concerned, at McLaren we have only two cars, so there will be only two race seats. We have two world champions today and we do intend to keep them, so far. Nevertheless it’s a luxury problem to have four good drivers and we will do obviously… Kevin and Stoffel are very good drivers, both of them we expect to race Formula One but if we can’t fit or accommodate them at home we will do our best to make sure they can race next year.
Matthew, what did the podium at Spa mean to the team last time out and how much were you able to celebrate given all the stuff that was going on after the race?
Matthew CARTER: The podium meant an awful lot to the team and it really is testament to the guys back at Enstone and the guys that work week in, week out and the quality that know we’ve got down at Lotus. It was obviously was bittersweet because of everything else that was going on and I don’t particularly want to talk about that at this stage but certainly for the team it was a real shot in the arm and it’s really helped us and hopefully it’s a stepping stone to go forward.
It’s no secret that the ownership situation at your team has moved on a little in recent weeks. What can you tell us today about the future ownership and direction of this team?
MC: It’s difficult for me to say too much. Obviously my job is to run the team and to look after the team as it stands. The ownership and the shareholding of that team are down to our current shareholders and our potential future shareholders. All I can tell you is that negotiations with a certain car manufacturer have been ongoing for a number of months and as far as I’m aware we’re just trying to run the team as best we can with the tools we’ve got.
Thank you. Coming to you Robert, obviously there’s a draft calendar at the moment for next year with 21 races on it and discussions are ongoing about various areas of that, but the summer shutdown appears to be a talking point amongst your peer group. Can you tell us your thoughts on how important that is and how it would be not to have it?
Robert FERNLEY: I think it’s also very important to support the commercial rights holder. We understand the challenges it faces to put a global sport on and we have to make efforts to accommodate races where we can. But I think also that has to be done around the teams. We run a very tight ship. Most of the teams run a tight ship. The travelling staff need to have that summer break and if we don’t do that we’re going to burn them out or we’re going to have to bring in a second crew. Either way it’s not good for Formula One or the costs of the independent teams. The other thing I think as well is that from a media point of view there is a certain amount of anticipation that comes after the summer break for the second half of the season and I think we shouldn’t forget the importance of that from the expectation of fans and the eagerness of fans to get into the second half. So I think the summer break ad a whole, from my point of view and from Force India’s point of view, should be retained at all cost.
It’s been a strong middle part of the season for Force India – strong points, good qualifying performances – and you’ve just re-signed Nico Hulkenberg. How important is that piece of the jigsaw for the future?
RF: I think it’s very important for us to try to keep stability and I expect we’ll do that. Vijay is working very hard now to finish off the second contract with Checo and hopefully we’ll get some news on that for Singapore. With the continuity and the stability of rules into 2016 hopefully we can carry the performance through.
Paul, we saw a lot of long run practice today, some pretty big mileages notched up in free practice two. Can you tell us about what was learned in terms of where race strategy is?
Paul HEMBERY: Well, it’s pretty much going to be a one-stop race; we’ve known that coming into the weekend. That I guess is what the teams have been focusing on and 1.2 difference between the two compounds and as I say one-stop race unless of course we get some rain.
Spa was the first time for a while that you’ve had some tyre failures. We saw yesterday’s report but what more can you tell us about recommendations to the teams and what went into that report?
PH: The first thing I’d like to underline is the outstanding collaboration we’ve had from particularly Ferrari, Maurizio’s team, Toto and the Mercedes team. We’ve had a good sharing of information. And that’s been very positive as well, the involvement of the FIA. I think that’s something that sometimes gets lost in the media that behind the scenes there is a lot of collaboration that goes on and we thank everybody for that. Going forward I think it’s important to underline that we feel we need to have a little bit more collaboration directly with the drivers and we’ve already discussed that with a number of the teams and we have an agreement that there should be a clearer exchange between us all so that we’re all aiming for the same things going forward and that opens up what we feel needs to be a very serious testing programme in the future. If we are going to carry on in 2017 there are very dramatic changes to the tyre sizes involved and that needs a proper testing programme. In years gone by tyre suppliers in Formula One have been able to test for 100,000km every season and we’re currently unable to use any Formula One car whatsoever to do testing. We are working with the teams behind the scenes and I believe that going forward we will find a solution that will allow us all to be a lot more comfortable going forward.
Q: Coming to you Christian, obviously not a straightforward afternoon for Red Bull Racing. Can you tell us what was going on, some of the problems you had?
Christian HORNER: Yeah, we’ve had a couple of issues. We had a hydraulic issue on Daniel Ricciardo’s car, which was caused by the DRS system, so that just was a wing change that sorted that out, and we had a gearbox issue on Dany Kvyat’s car that needed some attention after the first session – so it’s certainly been a busy time for the guys downstairs so far.
Q: Red Bull’s owner Dietrich Mateschitz has said he’ll quit Formula One if Red Bull doesn’t have a competitive engine. It’s no secret you’re pushing behind the scenes to get either a Ferrari or a Mercedes engine – what kind of relationship can you promise them if you succeed?
CH: Well. Sitting here today we still have a contract with Renault. To my knowledge I’ve not had any discussion with Ferrari – unless Maurizio can tell me differently. But we’ve got an agreement with Renault as I say, we’ve got conditions within that agreement that aren’t privy to this group here and time will tell in terms of what their future holds for them. So hopefully something will be forthcoming in the near future.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question to Matthew. Matthew, it’s no secret there have been certain financial issues surrounding your team. A couple of days after Silverstone for example, winding up applications whatever, but from here on in you face enormous expenses in terms of running costs, freight to flyaway races etcetera. Can you guarantee us that you will in fact be at Singapore. Has, for example, your sea-freight container left for Singapore and when did it leave?
MC: I can guarantee you that we’ll be at Singapore. The sea-freight container… one of our sea-freight containers has left, our airfreight will leave next week. We will be in Singapore. As far as the first part of your question is concerned, yes, we’ve had… the financial issues are all over the press, everyone is aware of them. We’re working as hard as we can behind the scenes to get them sorted out. None of them have become terminal, obviously. We’re still here, we’re still racing and we will continue to do that. The negotiations that were referred to earlier on are going on behind the scenes. I’m hopeful that’s going to secure our future one way or the other going forward – and when I say one way or the other it just means we have more than one option going forward to secure the future of the team. As far as the race of the races this season, we have a budget in place and we will operate to that budget and will be at all the races.
Q: (Barna Zsoldos – Nemzeti Sport) Question for Maurizio, Christian and Eric. Sitting on the pitwall during the race, what was your best and worst decision, best and worst moments and most memorable and maybe most embarrassing moments so far?
CH: Christ! I’ve been sitting on there for ten years now so there’s been a few. Most memorable moments, probably 2010 when we managed to go into the last race in Abu Dhabi and there were obviously four drivers in contention for the Championship and we managed to call it right on that day – so that was certainly a memorable moment. There’s been quite a few over the years but difficult to highlight too many today.
MA: In eight months I don’t have a lot of stories to tell you…
What was your best decision?
MA: My best decision, or my best thought, it was in Malaysia when we won the race. The first thought was ‘oh my God, it’s too early.’ In terms of embarrassment, I have two choices: one was Austria, the other was Canada when we don’t have a very good race in front of Mr Marchionne. I mean, pick one of the two, it’s the same.
EB: Best race would be Abu Dhabi with the Kimi win, obviously. The worst one would be Germany 2013 where Grosjean was on his way to win and couldn’t because of a safety car. Embarrassing moment… I have plenty now.
Q: (Miguel Sanz – Marca) Question for Eric. Which one of the seven remaining circuits, apart from Singapore suits well your car?
EB: Maybe Sochi. There is… it’s not as bad as Spa or here. It should be a bit better in every track. Singapore should suit us much better than the other ones, but more or less the other ones are fine.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) A question about the tyre situation today. Paul, could you confirm if the values that have been circulating in the press regarding pressures like 21 front and 19.5 rear have been correct. And have there been any other recommendations regarding cambers? And the same question to a couple of team bosses, especially Christian and Maurizio: are you satisfied with these values and how did it effect your performance today?
PH: Yeah, the values are based on information given to us by the various teams. Of course, not every team is the same so you have to take analysis based over the whole field. Based on what we’ve seen today, we haven’t seen any issues of blistering which might be one of the concerns if you raise the pressures. So, from what we’ve seen, it appears to be working for the vast majority of people.
CH: I’m not actually sure what the pressures are: they seem to go up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. I think Pirelli have reacted well to the situation last weekend, Maurizio’s obviously far more informed than I am in that respect. Hopefully there won’t be any issues here this weekend. Certainly in the long runs we’ve had in practice, that we’ve mainly focussed on today, everything’s been 100 per cent normal.
MA: For us, I said yesterday, we said everything. We have clear and constructive conversation and explanation from Pirelli. Today have another constructive meeting and we are going to meet each other even more often to better communicate between ourselves. I’m perfectly satisfied regarding the pressure. We’ve got that information very clearly from Pirelli and we are perfectly fine with that.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Paul, just to follow up that earlier question, could you actually give us the tyre pressures that have been recommended by you. As Christian says, they seem to have been going up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. And, are they just a recommendation is there any action to enforce a particular pressure?
PH: Well, from P1 they’ve been 21, 19.5 on the rear. So, that’s what they are, that’s what they’ll be for the weekend.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speedsport magazines) Christian, I realise your big engine upgrade is coming for Russia – but for the new units coming in this weekend, what has Renault told you? Do you have some tweaks in them?
CH: No, they’re pretty much the same specification we’ve had so far. At the moment no tokens have been used. When the upgraded engine will appear is TBC. There’s nothing actually confirmed yet. We’ll wait to here in due course, no doubt.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Maurizio, I heard that last night Kimi set a record for signing autographs with the tifosi for half an hour. Did you push him or where did that eagerness come from?
MA: No. I was simply talking with him in my way – no, I’m joking now. We had several conversations and I said I know that you are a very cool guy and most probably because you are cool, they like you but at least if we meet the guys – the tifosi – you have to sign and at least move your hand and say hello and possibly to smile. And he stuck to these instructions and I was thinking, is there something wrong here? I was happy, of course, but then I was thinking that maybe he’s becoming superstitious and he’s doing this and tomorrow it’s raining and also on Sunday. And I was hoping about that. He’s becoming a good guy and I was pleased about that, even if I’m still thinking and when I’m thinking, I said it can’t be Kimi, it was a sosia (doppelganger) or somebody else.
Q: (Fernando Ramos – Racing Magazines) Paul, you talk about the need of proper track testing in the future. Is this a condition for Pirelli to stay in F1 or if teams and the Federation and everybody don’t see common sense, can Pirelli afford to stay in F1 for five years without proper testing in the future?
PH: With the proposed changes that have been more or less confirmed with all the teams now with the dimensions of the tyres – going to wider tyres – then yes, it has to be a condition for staying in. You can’t make such a dramatic change without testing.
Q: (Fabrizio Corgnati – Diario del Web) Maurizio, based on the data that you learned today in free practice, what are your realistic goals for the race?
MA: There needs to be an awful lot to look at Mercedes. I think – being serious – we saw, as expected, Mercedes are very very strong in shape but our pace was not bad. It’s too early to promise something but we try to do our best, especially because it’s our home Grand Prix, but again, we have a lot of competitors but Mercedes is still far away from us at the moment.
Q: (Graham Kill – Grand Prix Times) For everyone, apart from Paul: we heard the latest team, Williams, confirming an unchanged driver line-up for next season. There’s a bit of a perception out there that the drivers’ market has become a bit more conservative and teams are more reluctant these days to change drivers. Do you agree that that’s the case and if so, do you have reasons for it, perhaps the testing ban or something else?
RF: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that you’re not going to move drivers and change drivers. I think you’re always looking for stability and if you have drivers that are performing well, you want to retain them. And equally, if they move on and the opportunity comes to bring somebody new through, certainly in the independent teams, you’re going to take that opportunity.
MC: I think we’re probably in a slightly different position in that we have two drivers under contract. The only reason that we haven’t announced our driver line-up for next year is that we’re waiting to see what pans out in the next few weeks/month or so. So absolutely no reason to change, both drivers under contract but I think there’s probably wider issues to play at Lotus at the moment.
Q: Eric, you’ve kind of half answered it already.
EB: Yes, I did it.
MA: We confirmed Kimi after Hungary. Again, he’s a World Champion, he’s the last World Champion with Ferrari. We don’t have to forget that. And the second reason was for stability with the team, it’s quite a new team and we would like to keep the stability in the team and to have a clear goal for everybody. I have nothing to add. And you see also, yes, he is very very good in PR so he’s becoming another Kimi. Vettel, I don’t need to say a word about Seb.
CH: Well, changing drivers in any team is quite a big thing. The drivers are pretty fundamental components and I think that if ever you’re going to change, you want to change for the better. So in answer to your other question, our driver line-up… Ricciardo was on a long term contract as is Dany Kvyat who obviously, from our perspective, has options that we have to exercise at certain points in time. Now Red Bull has always invested in youth and brought in some really young talent and it’s great to see Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Junior doing such a wonderful job this year and again, through GP2 and other categories, Red Bull continues to be investing in young talent so we’ve got quite a large talent pool but of course you always want to put your best foot forward.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS.NL) Maurizio, I saw a lot of yellow T-shirts at Ascari with the text Lello and that’s an Italian driver in GP2, Marciello, so the question is who will be the next Formula One driver from Italy and when?
MA: There is no time. The yellow rumour at the moment in Italy is Valentino Rossi. The yellow. Lello [Marciello] is a driver and all the drivers in the Ferrari Academy have to prove their talent before (they get) a contract in Formula One. I’m pleased that Lello has a lot of fans or supporters. Supporters count a lot but at the end he needs to prove his talent. This is for everybody in life. You want to go there, deserve it. We are pleased with him but the season isn’t finished yet. Sorry people, I was hearing yellow and I was thinking Valentino.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Paul, obviously there’s an awful lot of PR fall-out after the incidents at Spa-Francorchamps and then this week we had some rather warm words coming out of the commercial rights holder. We can think of millions of reasons why but the fact of the matter is that it’s virtually unprecedented. We know that you’re locked in a battle with an opposition tyre company for the contract going forward. Were there any thoughts on the part of Pirelli’s management and board to withdraw from Formula One after the fall-out?
PH: No, I think the fall-out was rather exaggerated. As I said earlier, we’ve been working extremely well behind the scenes with Maurizio and his team and also with Toto [Wolff] and a number of the other Formula One teams and the FIA so I think a lot of it’s more in the media rather than a practical situation. We’re obviously discussing at the moment going forward and there are a number of areas that we need changing to enable that to happen. I’ve already mentioned testing, we also want to make sure that we’re all singing off the same hymn sheet so the teams, ourselves and the drivers all know what we’re aiming for and we’ll all agree with what we’re doing, that there’s a common sense of purpose, so that’s really where we’re at.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Maurizio, is there news on James Allison’s contract? Has he signed a new long term contract with Ferrari?
MA: I already said so, I already confirmed that in Belgium. Yeah. He’s got a long term contract with us.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Maurizio, could you please confirm that Ferrari has upgraded its engine for Monza and by how much?
MA: The super engine, the famous super engine. We’ve spent a couple of tokens here but we have a little improvement but we are far from this super engine that has been mentioned, a lot of time. I can confirm that we have spent a couple of tokens but I don’t confirm that we have a super engine here. We have a Ferrari engine, this is enough.
Image via Sutton Motorsport Images. Transcript reproduced with permission from the FIA.