Japanese GP: Friday Press Conference
Participating: Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri), Yasuhiro Wada (Honda), Tadashi Yamashina (Toyota), Hiroshi Yasukawa (Bridgestone).
Q. My first question to you all is simply your general reaction to being here in Fuji this weekend?
Hiroshi Yasukawa: Being here in Fuji is beautiful and fantastic. Yesterday we walked the whole course. One reason is that it's good exercise, and we were surprised. With the safety issues, they're very, very good I believe, and the whole facility is fantastic. Also I remember 1976, the first time Formula One was held here in Fuji. That time also, Bridgestone supplied the tires for Mr. Hoshino-san.
That time I remember we had very heavy rain. (Kazuyoshi) Hoshino's driving was fantastic, so without question, this race had a very strong impact. Since that time, everybody remembers Hoshino and also our Bridgestone super-wet tires. So it had a very strong impact. Also that was the first time we in Japan had Formula One - it was a big surprise, a big shock, to experience Formula One.
Q. So was that the start of the Bridgestone Formula One story?
HY: Yes, that's right. It has a very strong impact for us.
Q. Of course, you would have still been at school then?
HY: No, I'm a very old guy. (laughter)
Aguri Suzuki: I want to say thank you very much to the Fuji Speedway people. Everything is very well organized – they've done a very good job – and also the facilities are very nice. Yesterday we walked around the circuit with Hiroshi, and it's unbelievable with the safety and facilities and everything.
Thirty years ago, I also came here – I was about 16 years old – and it was my first time watching a Formula One Grand Prix. It had a very strong impact on me as I was thinking for the future that I must come in here, inside of the paddock. So it's fantastic that I am now in the paddock.
Q. It's an expensive ticket, isn't it?
AS: (laughter) Very expensive!
Q. Wada-san, were you here as well?
Yasuhiro Wada: I wasn't 16 years old, but I was here as well. In 1976 I was one of the observers, you could say, and I just wanted to personally take a look at the Formula One cars. It was a very big experience for me, and somehow I came back 30 years later – it's amazing.
Q. And your feelings about the circuit?
YW: It's a very good facility and very well organized. It will be nice to go back to Suzuka in 2009, but it's good to have two courses in Japan.
Tadashi Yamashina: This morning, when I was entering the circuit, I was very excited to see all of the Japanese people walking around. That's much different than the other European circuits. The mood is kind of different. A lot of Japanese fans – we can race in front of them, so such a mood is very exciting for us. I'm very happy that we are at the Fuji Grand Prix as I'm in charge of this circuit and as the managing officer of the Toyota Motor Corporation. So far I have good information that any big issues will be done very well.
Q. Some individual questions for you. For Hiroshi-san, it's your first year again of being the sole tire supplier – how do you think it has gone, and have Bridgestone got what they wanted out of it?
HY: Our understanding was that next year, 2008, we would do this, but this year, suddenly, our competitor stopped. Honestly, at the end of last year we were very busy as we had to keep fairness for everybody and also consider safety issues. But so far, I think, we have done a good job. Also, regulation-wise, the FIA made a very good decision.
Each race meeting we bring two specifications (of tires), and drivers have to use each compound. This is good for the fairness and spectator-wise, it is more interesting. If a driver starts with a tire with the white line, they must do one stop. If they do a pit stop and they use another white line tire, then the spectator knows that they have to do another stop. It makes it interesting, and it has people talking about tires, which for us is good.
Q. Is anybody asking for changes for 2008?
HY: I believe it will be the same as this year.
Q. And how are the tires behaving here – what's the general feeling in practice so far?
HY: This track is new for everybody, and I believe today that everybody tried the two specifications. I think everybody will choose the softer side for qualifying, that's what I think.
Q. Aguri-san, a lot of people say that the second year is harder than the first year in Formula One. Looking back at the second year now, how do you feel the team has done – how has it gone for you?
AS: The second year is much more difficult than the first year. In the second year, we have to get some results. The job is going well and already we have some points and some good races, but still, it's very difficult.
Q. What about the drivers for next year – are your drivers settled for next year?
AS: No, it's not decided, but right now we're talking about some things. I'm very happy for Taku and Anthony to continue to drive for our team, but it's not decided yet.
Q. We've also heard rumors of the team being for sale, some parts of the team being for sale, and we see new sponsors here on the car ...
AS: The money side is very difficult and it can be very difficult to find a sponsor. It's not only discussions with sponsors – with partners as well. I don't want to sell my team, so I need some very good partners.
Q. You've had a few partners…
AS: No, I don't think so. Right now Honda is helping my team, but on the money side, the technical side – there are more reasons to be talking to some partners.
Q. Wada-san, I think you have some new parts on the car here. How have they gone today, and I think you also tested some – some were good and some were bad. How was it today?
YW: As you know we are struggling to find good balance with the car this season, and at last week's Jerez test we tried some of next year's design ideas and parts. Unfortunately most of the parts did not work well, so we'll see.
Q. You must have felt the whole year has been a huge frustration?
YW: Don't mention that. (laughter) We have had a very disappointing year, and it's been up and down, up and down – sometimes we have a day to forget. The most important thing for us is how we learn from this and move forward – that's the task for us now.
Q. What would be your ambitions for next year?
YW: Well, everybody comes to races to win so… as much as we can push to the edge, we will do it.
Q. Yamashina-san, it has been said that there is a special effort for this race, a special project was set up. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
TY: As you can see on our car, there are several new parts, for example, the front blanking and the end plate. You can't see the difference in the floor but we put everything on that. Also we prepared a special gear set for Fuji, so lots of effort. If we have developed these areas, we have already used these parts. For example, the top crash wing, that was developed earlier and we used that in Belgium or some earlier race. Today, I took one of our responsible people in the Fuji project and if we lose something…
Q. Have you been pleased with the result today?
TY: Today is P1 and P2, so it's not directly related to the final race result, but so far, the drivers' comments are relatively stable and I'm very satisfied. But for me, the result is a little less than I expected.
Q. We've been asking about the second driver for some months now, when do we expect an announcement about the second driver?
TY: So far, the team has asked me not to say anything about that in case I mentioned something. So far nothing is decided but of course, my ideas and other team members' ideas must be combined. For example, Japanese journalists have strongly asked me to utilize Kazuki Nakajima or other Japanese drivers but I'm still thinking about that. Of course, Ralf is one of the candidates. I must look at every possibility.
Q. But there's no deadline for when we might hear?
TY: No, because next March might be…
Questions From The Floor
Q. (Heinz Prüller – ORF TV) For Mr. Hiroshi I have two questions. It looked as if the difference between the two tires is bigger here than on any other circuit. For some drivers I saw eight/nine tenths. What really is the difference in lap time? And the other thing, I try to remember in '76 if you had the Japanese driver with the fastest lap in the race, was it Hoshino on Bridgestones?
HY: Yes, it was Kazuyoshi Hoshino. As to your first question, I think it basically depends on the set-up, because I was also interested in today's action and I went into the pits and I looked at the tires. Some cars' tires were very smooth, some cars had a bit of abrasion. I think the set-up factor is very strong. But this factor also reflects the difference in lap time.
Q. (Heinz Prüller – ORF TV) But as big a difference as that?
HY: That's a bit difficult. I cannot say.
AS: It depends on the team. Some teams use the tires better than others. For instance if my team is using prime tire or option tire, sometimes there is no big gap, but with some other teams it may be much bigger. It depends on the set-up or the car. It's very difficult to say how much difference there is between the tires.
Q. (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) Wada-san, it seems that all the team principals have now agreed the definition of constructors. What is your understanding of the definition of non-constructors?
YW: I don't think we have any firm agreement yet, because we haven't signed… or rather we haven't seen next year's Concorde Agreement yet, so I think discussion is still somehow going on and hopefully we can resolve this discussion quite soon.
Q. (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) Wada-san, so basically for next year, what are you planning for the gentleman behind you (Aguri Suzuki)?
YW: Well, as we did this year. We shall supply the engine and gearbox and beyond that, any technical support. It depends on the circumstances. We would like to support him as much as we can. It's up to him.
AS: We are still good friends.
Q. (Ken Kawakita – Sportiva) Continuing on the same subject, do you have a plan to supply the chassis if you have reached an agreement on the definition of a customer car?
YW: I think that there are several discussions around the so-called customer teams. One is the definition of the constructors and another discussion revolves around customer cars and how to share the money from FOM. Those are two different discussions that are moving simultaneously, so it depends on the result.
Q. (Ken Kawakita – Sportiva) That means Aguri-san must wait when thinking about next year's project?
YW: I hope he can continue to do his racing team. It depends on what is decided but I'm sure it won't take too long.
AS: Now it's very difficult to talk about this matter because the Concorde Agreement is not decided. After it's decided, we can discuss the future.
Q. (MC) It means it's quite difficult for you. There's not a lot of time…
AS: Yeah, but I have some ideas. I don't know if there will be a decision soon.
Q. (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) It's a question for Aguri-san, Wada-san and Yamashina-san. It's regarding the Concorde Agreement; there's a strong possibility that it may not be signed off in time for next year. Would you welcome it if the new one starts in 2009?
YW: There's a lot of discussion over the date. I think we are very close in finalizing a Concorde (Agreement), whatever shape it will be. For the last two or three years we keep talking about the… In the days of the GPMA we spent a lot of hours and days talking about the many aspects of the Concorde Agreement, not just commercial matters and the definition of a constructor but there were a lot of subjects to be discussed and renewed and re-confirmed, so I think we spent quite sizeable hours to mutually understand, so I hope a decision will be very close.
AS: I have a little bit of a different feeling. We are already meeting seven or eight times during this year. There are still some points on which we are not agreeing or some points we are agreeing, but I don't know when this agreement will be done.
Q. (Ken Kawakita – Sportiva) Yamashina-san, regarding next year's driver choice, is this matter related to or depends on Fernando Alonso's future, which is rumored to be unclear?
TY: I don't know if Fernando Alonso will come to Toyota or not. If he wants, I must think about that. I don't know if Fernando will… We must think about our team only.
Q. (Ken Kawakita – Sportiva) But if Fernando moves the driver market will be moving dramatically.
TY: But if Toyota will be involved in that process, we must be happy, but sometimes we are omitted because the current car performance is not so good. Anyway, we must think about ourselves first.
Q. (Ted Kravitz – ITV) For Mr. Wada. Will Honda run the earth car scheme next year?
YW: Basically, we will continue but that doesn't necessarily mean the color is exactly the same or not.
Q. (Niki Takeda – Formula PA) Again for Wada-san. What exactly is the purpose of your participation? We can see the lack of performance this year, sadly, so is it purely an engineering exercise or a brand-enhancing exercise? What is it?
YW: You mean the purpose of the Formula One activity? Well, it's not simply one thing. I think it's a mixture of engineering challenge and also carrying on the racing heritage which is connected to the Honda brand. Obviously, nowadays we have to think about some marketing aspects of the Formula One society as well, so it's not simply one factor but the combination of all of them.