French GP: Friday Press Conference
Flavio Briatore (Renault), John Howett (Toyota), Colin Kolles (Spyker), Jean Todt (Ferrari).
Q. John, first of all, a couple of good times during Silverstone testing. Are you expecting those good times to be reflected here?
John Howett: We hope so. There's still a gap, obviously, between us and the top teams, but we're making steady progress and we hope to see that progress reflected this weekend.
Q. Was that a jump forward more than you expected, because obviously everybody else was developing and bringing out new bits?
JH: I still don't think it's a jump forward. Basically we're evolving the car, we have a lot more to come for the rest of the season but we hope we'll be back more to the competitive position of Barcelona here and at Silverstone.
Q. What's been the basic problem for Ralf Schumacher, he has a problem with the car, what is that problem?
JH: Really, you have to ask him but the fundamental issue is the front end of the car and the tyre grip at the front and getting the car balanced and giving enough front potential to give him something he can use with the style he has. We are gradually improving that.
Q. And it affects him more than Jarno?
JH: Yes, I think he has probably less acceptance of an understeering car and therefore we need to get more front performance and more potential onto the front of the car for him.
Q. We had Franck Montagny in here yesterday, and obviously the French are interested in whether he has any chance of a race drive.
JH: That probably depends on next year. We have two race drivers and he's the test driver and third driver in the team and that's the status that we support. The issue really is whether we continue the contract with Ralf next year, which we are discussing with him and obviously then, if not, what we would do in the future. But the priority at the moment is to focus on this year, improving the performance and giving Ralf the maximum opportunity with the car.
Q. Colin, there's a report that you're not happy with the updates on the Super Aguri cars; or maybe just not happy with the Super Aguri cars full stop. What is the situation with customer cars at the moment?
Colin Kolles: Well, actually I already said everything in this respect. There is nothing new. Arbitration is on-going and there's nothing more to say.
Q. So you haven't said anything more on the recent updates on the Aguri Hondas?
CK: It was just information to all the teams, informing them of what's going on.
Q. Is there a timescale when something might happen?
CK: I don't know. It's a legal issue, so I cannot give you any detail. As you know, the court is setting up dates, so I cannot tell you.
Q. But you haven't got any dates yet?
Q. What about your situation with regard to drivers: we saw them doing a fair amount of auto-crossing today. I guess it's not an easy car to drive, that doesn't help. But Adrian Sutil has out-qualified Christijan six-to-one which I would have thought was a bit of a surprise given Christijan's experience.
CK: Yes, it's for sure a surprise, and today was not the best day, to be honest and I'm not very happy today. I cannot hide it, obviously. One monocoque is broken so it's not very good.
Q. What's the cure?
CK: A better car.
Q. And when is that coming?
CK: In Turkey.
Q. Is that a complete redesign? What sort of modifications?
CK: On the mechanical side it's basically a complete new car. It will be the basis for the 2008 car and aerodynamically it will be a complete new update: basically new engine cover, side pods, front wings, rear wings. It's basically a complete new car.
Q. I guess it can't come quick enough.
CK: For sure, yes. I hope it's also quick enough, which is a big question mark.
Q. Will it be tested before the Turkish Grand Prix?
CK: No, I don't think so, there is no time for it.
Q. Flavio, were you encouraged by testing at Silverstone last week?
Flavio Briatore: I don't know. Testing is testing. It's greater encouragement when you have a podium after a race. To be quick in the test I don't think makes a big difference.
Q. So what about today, then?
FB: On Fridays everybody has different strategies. We are quite happy. If you see the numbers not (very good) but really we have some fuel (load) and we are quite happy. We have recovered a little bit in respect to the beginning of the season.
Q. It was said that you weren't particularly happy with Heikki Kovalainen's performances round about Monaco time. Since then, the two North American races, are you happier?
FB: Our problem is not with Heikki, our problem is the car. We are late and we are not happy because this year we are not... we have not done the job properly. This is our problem. We developed the 2006 car to the end for obvious reasons and now we are late and this winter we did the normal job which Renault does normally and now… In this job, if you make a mistake, you pay and now we are paying.
We are recovering, that's for sure, and I hope we are competitive here. Competitive means being behind Ferrari and McLaren. Our fight is with BMW. This is what we are doing.
We try to have something new at every race because now, finally, something is happening at the factory and we believe we are in good shape, maybe after Silverstone. But really it's the normal process. When you're late with these pieces it's very difficult to catch up because everybody is so good and everybody's improving.
Q. So what's the goal in the championship?
FB: The goal in the championship is quite easy, I think. It's very difficult to achieve but it's easy (to say): to finish third in the Constructors' Championship. We are not dreaming: McLaren and Ferrari are stronger than us this year and we need to make sure we finish in the first three.
Q. Jean, improvement in testing at Silverstone. You were four tenths ahead in testing; are we seeing that reflected here today?
Jean Todt: I think we had less fuel in the car, you know. As Flavio said, ten kilos is between three to four tenths so what is important is the race, the qualifying day. You have a good idea about the fuel level, particularly in Q2, because everybody is with low fuel, and then during the race. At the beginning (of the season) we were in front, then since three races we are behind, so we will see where we are from race number eight.
Q. Tomorrow and over the weekend, you are involved with the ICM Foundation and you have Michael Schumacher and Zinedine Zidane as well. Can you give some indication of what all that is about?
JT: ICM is a foundation of which I am one of the founders. It's a medical foundation for research on the brain and spinal cord. It's going to start building by the end of the year a 25,000 square meter (department) inside one of the most important hospitals in Paris: eight floors, a thousand doctors and to do that, because it's a private initiative, we need to find money and every action we can do - all those here are welcome to give some money.
I know some of you are doing so and that's a way to let people know about it and again to get some finance. We get some State finance and we need some private finance so that's the aim of the initiative. Flavio promised he was going to contribute very highly, thank you Flavio.
FB: You're welcome.
JH: He's not signed it yet.
Q. Going back to Ferrari, there were reports after the last Grand Prix that there had been a breakage in your wind tunnel. How has that affected development over the last few races?
JT: Yes, that's true, we had a problem with the carpet (moving road), the metallic carpet and we lost about two weeks' development, but that's not an excuse.
Q. But it must have hurt the team a little bit?
JT: OK, but it's up to us to have a wind tunnel that doesn't break.
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Gaetane Morin – Le Journal du Dimanche) A question to Flavio, Jean and John, as a constructor's representative, is it important for you to run in France? And, if yes, will you tell Bernie so that we can save the GP here next year?
JH: I think as teams the first point is that we have to go and compete wherever the Commercial Rights Holder decides we have to do it. Obviously, as a country, France is very important for Toyota. We have few plants here and therefore it is a country that we want to race in, but ultimately, the decision is that of the Commercial Rights Holder. We hope that there will be a Grand Prix in France.
JT: Formula One is a business, so it is not a question, but if you ask me personally I love the French Grand Prix and particularly because on Sunday it will be 14 years that I have been running Scuderia Ferrari and it has been a great time, but let us leave sentimental reasons behind.
France is a very important country and economy. It is one of the leading countries in the European environment and it is important to have a Grand Prix in France. It is not up to me where it should be, but in answer to the question I hope that France will have a Grand Prix for the future and it is important as well for the Formula One calendar.
FB: I think the same as Jean. France is one of the important counties in Europe and for Renault it is important to have a race in France. Really we don't care about the logistics, if it is in Magny-Cours, or in Paris, but I am sure it is important for Renault and I think it is important I think for everybody because France, Italy, Germany, Spain and England are the five countries in Europe that are important for the history of Formula One. Maybe not in Magny-Cours, but I hope we hold a Grand Prix in France and maybe in a better location.
Q. (Tony Dodgins – Autosport) For Jean, what is your gut feeling about what would be a good future venue for the French Grand Prix?
JT: Definitely, if you are asking me, a dream Grand Prix would be in Paris. I mean like if you asked me about a Grand Prix in London, it would be amazing. But unfortunately, I don't think it is practical.
FB: Along the Champs-Elysee, next to your house…
JT: You have so many things – about the environment, all the historic places, however, where you cannot make noise and where there is not the proper asphalt and all that – so that is why definitely it has to be in a motor car stadium and in France you don't have so many of these or what you also call a racing circuit.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) For Mr Todt, about Nigel Stepney's situation, everyone knows he was not happy with his situation in the team after the end of last year, why did you keep him in active role in the team? And if his position was uncertain would it be a handicap to bringing back Ross Brawn because they were very linked together?
JT: I am not going into speculation on the second part of the question. On the first part, it is true to say that there is a legal case going on and as with every court case I cannot allow myself to make any comment at the moment.
Q. (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mr Todt, on the evidence of today, it seems that Ferrari are back where they were at the beginning of the season. Is that also your impression?
JT: No, as I said earlier, it is far too early to comment on how competitive we are in this race. I am convinced that as from the beginning of the championship we will be among the most competitive of the teams, and then it is step by step. We will see in qualifying and then the race…
Today, we had some encouraging results that followed the results we had in Silverstone with a new development that had been added to the cars and I really hoped that we would be in a position to be able to fight for the first position. I mean it is crucial if we want still to pretend to have a chance for the championships.
But overall Ferrari has been competitive since the beginning and we wished we had more success, but it is like with the wind tunnel, we did not work as well as our competitors and that is why they are in front. But saying that Ferrari is among the leading teams and has a group of people and great drivers and it is up to us to do our best for the next ten races.
Q. (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Also for Jean, can you tell us how long the wind tunnel was out of action and what alternatives did you have to fall back on?
JT: I repeat the information I gave earlier: two weeks – 14 days. And, we did not do any other alternative job in our wind tunnel because it was not working. Nothing.
Q. (Heinz Prüller – Kronen Zeitung) Jean, after tomorrow's drive by Michael with Zidane, what are your next plans for the FXX? Will Schumi drive at other circuits as well for your medical foundation?
JT: It is not only Michael tomorrow who will do a few laps with Zidane, in the FXX, but also Kimi will do a few laps with a 599 I think and Felipe on Sunday. And that is part of the ongoing programme for fund raising.
Q. (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jean, when exactly did the problem happen with the wind tunnel? And will you be going to the launch of the Fiat 500 car and did you have experience when you were young of driving a car like this?
JT: So, the wind tunnel was about two months ago, but if you want to be more precise later you can come to the motor home and we give you the precise dates. And concerning the launch of the 500 in Torino, on Wednesday evening at 10 o'clock. It is a big event, which is organised, and I am among the fortunate invited together with the drivers so we will all be there.
For me the 500… when I was much younger I had a Fiat 500 and being much older now my dream will be to find a Fiat Arbart to keep at my home, but it is very difficult so if you have any ideas please let me know.
Q. (Gaetan Vigneron – RTBF TV) A question for Flavio, knowing Fernando so well, what is your opinion and your analysis of his time with McLaren up to now?
FB: It is not me you want to talk to about Fernando. You need to ask Ron Dennis. I am sure Ron knows everything. Ron is the kind of a guy who knows everything about everything. So you ask Ron.
Q. (Gaetane Morin – Le Journal du Dimanche) Jean, because of your new motor home and McLaren's new one for Silverstone, I just want to know if outside of the track there is also a competition in building hospitalities?
JT: The new motor home you are talking about, I have been invited to visit it once and I think it was in Barcelona, and it looked beautiful and I understood it is to welcome the Press, so you should tell me how you like it. For myself, I am still staying in the same one.
Q. (Alain Pernot – L'Equipe Magazine) A question for Jean Todt and John Howett – what is your feeling about the new regulations for 2011?
JT: At the moment the only regulation we know for sure are 08, 09 and 10. Eleven at the moment it is just part of proposals and ongoing discussions between FIA and the teams. It is always good to have a draft document and we are working very closely with out team colleagues and with the FIA but there is nothing yet decided about the 2011 rules.
JH: I think roughly the same. It is purely a discussion document and we are waiting for a meeting to be held with the manufacturers' consultative committee to discuss openly the opinions and try to formulate the next level of conclusion from this preliminary proposal.