Franz Tost, Riad Asmat, Norbert Haug, Luis Perez-Sala and Eric Boullier faced the media in Spain on Friday...
Q: Franz, as it's your first time in the press conference this year, can you give us an assessment of your two new drivers? They've had time to settle down. Two drivers for whom there are a lot of new circuit too.
Franz TOST: Yes. Daniel Ricciardo, our driver from Australia, he is a little bit more experienced, he did already 11 races last year. So far he is doing a good job. He is a highly skilled driver. He is committed, with a positive attitude and so far I must say he is really doing a good job. Jean-Eric Vergne, his new, a French driver. Last year he did Formula Renault 3.5 litre and of course all the tracks are new for him. It's not so easy, Friday morning, in the first session is to learn the tracks. But also he is a highly-skilled driver. I rate him very high. He is doing a good job and improving from race to race and if we provide the drivers with a good car they show a good performance.
Q: The car itself: Is the team able to ensure that the car is maintaining a good position, even catching the teams in front?
FT: We started the season quite successfully with ninth place in Melbourne for Daniel Ricciardo and then eighth place in Sepang with Jean-Eric Vergne. Then afterward, I don't know, we struggled a little bit. Our direct competitors improved their performance, Williams as well as Force India. They are clear in front of us. We brought some new parts here. We have to analyse the data and everything and hopefully set-up the car in a good way tomorrow for the qualifying and then for Sunday for the race. But there is a lot of work in front of us because currently the gap increased instead of decreasing.
Q: Riad, first of all, I think you've got some developments here, but how much more can you do. How much closer can you get to the teams in front this year?
Riad ASMAT: I think what we've done is obviously going to be a progression but there is a huge push back home obviously with the team we have currently. We have some parts here, hopefully again we evaluated them today and if we get the set-up right for tomorrow then maybe we will pull a lucky one. But I'm more looking forward towards to Silverstone and onwards where more developments are being done for the car and hopefully by year's end we'll be able to prove our worth, where we actually aim to be this year.
Q: And you've got changes to the team. The team is moving and you have John Iley now as well.
RA: Yes, it's been positive. We had a real look over the past three years in terms of what we've done in terms of investment and in terms of people. More importantly people - the latest being John. He's been with us a couple of months now and he's actually very influential now with the performance levels we're aiming for. Again, we'll be moving to Leafield in August. I think that's a definite plus for us. It's a bit tight for us now in Hingham but with the ambitions we have currently I think Leafield is the right place for us.
Q: Norbert, a certain amount has been made of the fact that you've had four mechanical failures on one car and the other one has done every single racing lap. How easy is it to explain that?
Norbert HAUG: Well, things like that happen. This is not our plan and we are not satisfied with these results for sure. I really feel sorry for Michael. This should not be the case, these are not our standards; the team can do a better job. But we need to have a calm and concentrated approach and I think all my colleagues here have been through phases like that. That happens in Formula One if you're pushing and on the limit. But still, it is not our plan to be like that for sure. We will fix that. A lot of people are working in a concentrated and focused manner. Michael is a perfect team player and I would have every understanding if he would be critical but he never is outside the team, so he fully supports the team and we support him. I think he is an example for each and every driver. His behaviour is just first class and so authentic. I rate that very, very highly. Going through thick and thin he could complain and say 'I should have as many points as Nico' or stuff like that, but you never hear that. He's a professional and he deserves good results. I hope they will come sooner rather than later. And again, he deserves that. We need to give him a fully competitive and fully reliable car and we're working hard to achieve that.
Q: We're only a third of the way through the season, do you think Nico can win the world championship. Do you think Mercedes can be a world championship-winning team?
NH: Well, I think that whatever we did in the past, we have had at the last race the 300th race together with our partner McLaren-Mercedes and they won 73 grands prix. So we have been here for quite a while but what I think we never did is make any predictions or announcement saying 'we are going to win the next race or fight for this or that'. We do our best job and we are doing it in a focused and concentrated manner. I think if you see that we have had two difficult at the beginning, Nico being on the last lap in Australia eighth and then he had a coming together with another car and lost points eight points and was 35 points down to the leader and now he's 21 points down, so this is certainly the right direction. But we need to score points on a regular basis, we need to hopefully win more races and we are working, again... very focused on the direction. I think if you look at today, Nico did the fastest time on the prime tyre and then he was on the option. But he had this handicap of a yellow flag. Whatever Friday times mean, he would have been in a position to probably post the quickest time. And then the long runs look quite good. I don not know what that means compared to the others because you obviously do not know the fuel loads but our lap times were consistent. I think they have been in Canada. We have been very competitive in Monaco and we won in China. So the last five races I think we had three times good and convincing speed to be at the top or to mix with the top guys. Hopefully we can continue that trend. I would never go so far as to say we are definitely fighting for the world championship but of course it has to be the ultimate target. If we can achieve it, it would be fantastic and it would our ultimate goal for sure.
Q: Luis, first of all, brake problems in Canada. Have you got them beat here, do you feel - as this is quite a tough circuit on brakes as well.
Luis PÉREZ-SALA: Yes, we knew from the beginning, from Melbourne, that our brake ducts were not perfect. We knew that Montreal was the biggest, maybe most difficult track for the brakes and here is one as well, one of the tracks were you can have problems with the brakes. But the data that we have this morning suggests we are going to be close to the limit but inside the limit.
Q: Yesterday Pedro [de la Rosa] said how much he was enjoying bringing the team up, advancing the team. How much are you enjoying it?
LPS: Ha-ha! Really, I'm struggling a lot! But what is for me the worst thing of Formula One is that you have to travel a lot and be abroad from your house and far from the family. But this is a world that I like and I'm happy to be here and I try to push, to keep pushing, to try to get the team better and better each day.
Q: Eric, many times we've been told that Lotus is ready to win. The question is which driver? Who would you put your money on?Eric BOULLIER: I never put money on anything or anybody. I just wish one of my two drivers is going to be the eighth man, maybe this weekend. But rather than focussing on who will be the eighth man winning, I think it's in our philosophy just to improve ourselves, to work hard, to clearly look at ourselves, to be better, to improve our weaknesses to make sure that we keep this consistency first - and if we can score podiums as well it is very important for the championship. And if we can have a win obviously I will be the most delighted guy.
Q: Are you able to keep on top of development? Are you happy with the rate of development?
EB: Yeah, definitely. In 2010 we had a very strong rate of development, last year we had a strong rate but not as successful as we would have expected. This year is still good development: we have some good parts and good improvement in performance package that we bring not every race but nearly.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Wei An Mao - la Vie Creative) To all the gentlemen. As for the economic situation in Europe, do you think it will influence Formula One? Especially to all tracks in Europe in the future?
LPS: We have economic problems in my house - in my team! I think it is for everybody, economic problems, I think not only in Europe. Europe now is focussing on the situation but it's something that we have and of course it's going to touch us in some way. But this is still... I think this is not from this year: it's come in from the last three or four years.
Q: And is it going to affect Formula One?
LPS: Of course it's touching us in some way. We are getting less money from sponsors; you have less money to spend on the cars, on the team.
Q: Do you see the effect as well Norbert?
NH: Well, I mean the general issue is that we have to have this - however you call it - resource restrictions, limits, whatever - who does not see that? Who does not see what's going on? We have to have limits, you know the figures of the medium and high class teams as good as I do. There should be limits of how to achieve it: that needs to be discussed but I think there are quite constructive and good ideas but we need to make sure that this comes through. This is an important step coming to the economic situation. I think that is part of the challenge. We have had bigger challenges in the past and I'm sure we will have even bigger ones in the future. You have some ups and downs and I think these times are very good for learning. You will always learn. You will learn how to be more efficient - so there are also positives. We just need to deal with the facts.
FT: For sure it's not good, the economic crisis in Europe and we are also working in Formula One to come down with the costs but thanks to Bernie we are not only racing in Europe, we are racing in areas where there is some money and no economic crisis: like India, like Australia, like Canada, like Brazil and like Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. We go to Russia, we are in China and I think that's very, very important for Formula One, especially for the sponsors to be present all over the world. And this also prevents a major influence from the economic side on Formula One. Because all over the world, hopefully there is no crisis.
Q: Riad, perhaps a comment from you?
RA: I think, I mean it's a given, the economic crisis is not just this year, I have to agree, it's been around for the last two years. But the fact is that it affects everyone around the world and business-wise obviously Formula One. As a team commercially you will be affected because the companies that want to be part of it will have to reduce their marketing budgets, so on and so forth. That being said, I agree with Norbert: we do need to look at what we're doing internally and be more precise and be more resource restricted to a degree. It's a matter of the business that we're running at the end of the day: I have to make it as efficient as possible in the hope that we can sustain our being here. But it's a given, we can't avoid it, it's there. We just have to be smarter - and one of the areas is to manage our own resources, and hopefully with us working together maybe we'll find a solution.
EB: I will do a résumé, I guess, of what has been said. We have to be sensitive to this economic crisis especially in Europe. And we have to monitor also us being based in Europe. We have the chance, as Franz says, that Bernie's business model for Formula One is global. Our sport is the only global sport in the world, so thanks to this global platform, we, as a team, for example, have been able to bring some big names and new sponsors, like Microsoft, who were never in the Championship in Formula One. Obviously we don't have to hide behind this, we have to be very careful about the impact of the economy in Europe but we are lucky that our sport is global.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) To all five of you: a lot has been made recently about the cost-cutting, cost-saving measures in Formula One. Enshrining them in the regulations was discussed after Monaco on the Monday, it was discussed last week on Friday in the WMSC meeting. I believe you people had a follow-up meeting yesterday. Has anybody got any reservations about enshrining the cost-saving measures or cost-cutting measures, budget caps - whatever you want to call it - in the Formula One regulations?
EB: It's true that actually it's a good follow-up after the previous question. If you monitor the economical situation in some parts of the world, you obviously have to consider yourself and think not only that you're plus one, you're plus two but also you're plus five. And it's true that there are some very constructive discussions between the FIA, Bernie and teams today, to try to take conscience and to try to clearly understand what is Formula One and what will Formula One be in the future and what we want to do with Formula One. Formula One has already downsized its costs a lot but we believe there is some more work to be done and this is why there are all these discussions, but the more people around the table, the less easy it is to take radical decisions.
FT: We are discussing the resource restriction agreement. Currently we are mainly only discussing about the resource restriction agreement regarding the chassis. In my opinion, the chassis resource restriction agreement is one point but the costs - especially from 2014 onwards, which will come up and which will increase dramatically - is the powertrain, and therefore the resource restriction agreement for the powertrain would be for me or let me say for Toro Rosso even more important than for the chassis. It must be a complete package. I am really worried that we are discussing on one side the costs decrease, but from 2014 onwards, with this new powertrain and the new engine, with the new ERS system, pick-up batteries, the cost will dramatically increase and this is what we also have to discuss, which is quite important, the development and the research costs which will rise to develop this package.
NH: You need to deal with the facts. The engine lease years ago was twice as much as it is right now, that's due to manufacturers bringing that down. I think that was a big help for all the teams. It's very clear that if you develop a new engine that it costs money and I think Formula One has never had an engine formula like today, where basically everybody gets a competitive engine, ten teams at least. That needs to be mentioned. Then there was a process in the past deciding that a new engine has to be developed and of course that costs money. We worked very hard, together with the FIA, and we have the same opinion with the other manufacturers to bring costs down but this is over a period of five years, so the target has to be minus twenty, minus thirty percent over five years and I'm sure the engine lease will, over five years, be comparable to what we have right now, but we need to see that we will have a new engine, an engine that you can market in a very good way, if it comes to sustainable ??? and so on. We just need to have changes. I hear some voices saying ' delay the engine.' One thing is for sure; if you delay the engine, you run two programmes in parallel one year longer and your customers will pay for that. We cannot have fully subsidised engines, this is not possible. I think the engine manufacturers especially have been very very fair and I would be pleased to hear that at one stage as well, because the engine lease was in excess of 25/30 million years ago and we brought it down, and I think that fact has to be mentioned. We can discuss aerodynamics and so on and so on. There are lots of areas where we can save money, but deciding and building and developing a new engine costs money - much less money than the last one, the V8, but we need to see where we are. I'm the first guy to support restrictions but then we need to do it in a coherent way: chassis, engine, whatever. Mercedes has always been one of the driving forces. I'm sure the Renault guys do not see it differently, the Ferrari guys do not see it differently. If we all work together we will achieve our targets but one thing is for sure: just listening to voices saying the engine is more expensive than it used to be. Let's deal with the facts and then we know where it's coming from.
RA: We've had numerous meetings on this matter but one thing is for sure is that everyone agrees that we need to reduce costs. I've been in this for two and a half years and I can see the level of exorbitant areas that could be managed better. The points are taken, we have discussed it. There are some ideas bandied around. The groups that are related to those areas will be talking to each other and hopefully soon enough we do come to a conclusion, but we have a position, obviously, and we will support anything with regard to resource restriction, we will support that all the while. I think there has been some improvement over the last two years from previous times, but there is a lot more we can do, I think, going forward. From our side, we will support anything that's positive.
LPS: It's clear that for the biggest teams there are going to be clear rules. They are going to reduce their budgets but I'm a bit worried about the small teams like us. To reduce our budget is not easy but even to stay with the same budget, I would say, will be difficult, because maybe next year it will be at the same level but we will need to understand how the situation will be in 2014, as Norbert says, what will be the cost of the KERS, the engine, to have a clear view of the future for us, maybe in five years' time. I'm quite happy with Norbert that the engines have reduced a lot. I was not involved in Formula One as I am now but I remember the cost was large, maybe four or five times what it is now but I would like to maintain this level of costs for the future. It seems that it is going to be difficult, or we have to understand what the situation will be.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - The Citizen) Sorry, the question was - thanks for all the detail - but the question was does anybody have any reservations about including the cost-saving measures in the Formula One regulations?
LPS: I don't think so. Does anybody? (General shaking of heads and 'No')
Q: (Sam Collins - Racecar Engineering) Autosport today is reporting that customer cars are back on the table - second hand cars from the previous year. Is that something that's right for Formula One which is supposed to be the technological pinnacle of motorsport? And is it something that any of your teams would be looking at either supplying or purchasing?
NH: I think that's very easy to answer. If you ran this year with last year's car then just guess what happens.
LPS: Maybe for a small team it's going to be at the beginning this year, some years, like in 2014. There are a lot of changes, it's not easy because they're changing the engines, it's not an easy thing to do.
EB: The question is easy but the debate is more complex. Today's Formula One is based on constructor regulations. If we have to go to customer cars to serve Formula One and be the Formula One of the future, why not? I think the discussion is open now. I know some teams would like to stay as constructors, some teams would maybe need to be customers to save their budget or their company, but it's a more complex debate and actually together with the previous question about costsaving, it's obviously crucial in this discussion.
FT: It depends how much money a team has. The customer teams can buy the car and can run the car. We at Toro Rosso have started to build up the infrastructure and will build the car by ourselves. Page 6 of 7
RA: From our point of view, again, we're a constructor. We came in with that particular objective and we've been doing it for the past two and a half years. But again, an idea is an idea. We're always open to ideas and obviously we will have to review things if it does come to fruition then go from there. But we are proud of where we are, what we've built. We came in as a constructor, as Eric mentioned, and we hope to stay that way for now.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) We are talking about cutting costs, reducing costs and so on, and there is the rumour that the number of Grand Prix could increase. The number on the calendar could be larger. I can understand that more Grand Prix means more money for everybody but in your opinion, what is the ideal calendar for the future: twenty, 24? How many Grand Prix in Europe, because the crisis is deeper here in Europe?
FT: The year has 52 weeks. We should have 26 Grand Prix! Some in Europe, yeah!
EB: I think you have two philosophies. Is it going to be like NASCAR with 38 weekends, if I'm not wrong, or staying around twenty. The true question is over 20 Grand Prix we have to reconsider our structure, because we obviously have a team personnel issue, travelling and logistical issue. As you say, we can speak about cost-saving but more Grand Prix means more revenue for Formula One and the more countries we can visit is the more countries we can bring Formula One to fans. There is no exact number, no magic number I guess, but I'm rather like Franz - more races, why not?