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Australia GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
31/03/2006

A quick GPMA question, principally to Nick and Norbert and then to Pat afterwards: the fact that the GPMA has entered the 2008 World Championship, does that mean that any thoughts of a rival series are now dead?
Norbert Haug: We have been trying to bring things together for a while, as everybody knows. I think we are in a good way, but that does not necessarily mean that everything is sorted out, but we have a very constructive basis in the meantime and it’s progressing in the right direction. But having said that, not everything has been sorted out so far but I think there are really very good prospects of getting it sorted.

So what is the role now of the GPMA, Nick?
Nick Fry: I think it’s got an on-going role, regardless of whether everything’s sorted out. I think the big car companies are obviously spending large amounts of money on Formula One and I think the dialogue between them has been a) better than it’s ever been, and b) allows them, if you like, to get their act together before talking to the FIA or other outside bodies. So I would see an on-going role for that type of group. Whether it would be called GPMA or whatever is neither here nor there, because I think it’s a constructive thing to do.

Pat, your feelings?
Pat Symonds: Well, I think we should look at all the positive things that have come out of the GPMA: for example, we know the funded aerodynamic research, the fact that the teams are communicating, talking about common issues; so many positive things about the GPMA. As you say, the teams are now signing up for 2008 and a lot of good things have come from that. I think we should focus not on ‘has the threat of a second series gone away?’ or things like that. I think we should focus on the very many positive things that have happened in the last year or two as a result of the formation of the GPMA.

Nick and Norbert again, what do you feel about these engine regulations that have been suggested and the freeze on development?
NH: Well, first of all I have a big problem with the expression freeze. Freeze is something for the fridge but not for Formula One and that’s why I don’t think we should use a word like freeze. We are very interested in saving costs, as everybody knows. I think the manufacturers again had a very constructive discussion in that direction, together with Renault, Honda, all the guys who are here. And if you compare that to five years ago, say, I think we are really on a very good path. It’s constructive, respectful but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the problems are solved, but at least it is respectful and we listen to each other. I think the combination of the discussion and of the various manufacturers leads us in the right direction. I think that if we could cut the costs in half that would be perfect, as a first step. Maybe that is feasible. From Mercedes’ side we are very open on new regulations that help to make that happen but we absolutely have to make sure that we achieve these goals. It’s not a long time ago that we tried to achieve these goals with the V8s and I think it’s fair to say that at the beginning we have costs and at the end there might be a possibility to save ten percent or whatever but we need bigger steps, that is for sure. That’s why it needs to be carefully thought through and we are in the process of doing so and I think there are constructive discussions in place.

NF: Much the same as Norbert. I think the saving of money is something we would completely support. The car manufacturers are saving enormous amounts on changing the engines year after year, so to reduce that is clearly something we would want. I think the question is the way that you go about it, and we’re not at all convinced that a freeze is a good idea. As you probably know, that was tried in North America in oval racing and kind of almost directly led to one manufacturer pulling out and then the other one did so shortly or a couple of years later. So I don’t think there’s any good evidence that that’s a good thing for racing. I think that what we’ve got to do over the next couple of months is sit down as a group and work out the best way to save money. I think the meeting that took place at Ferrari last week was a first step, but no doubt between now and June there will be more of those meetings.

PS: Well, I think Renault’s attitude is that we are very very firmly committed to cost-cutting. If you look at an average budget for a Formula One team in round numbers, 50 percent is going on the engine, 50 percent is going on everything else: the chassis, running the team etc etc. So, as Norbert said, if we can cut 50 percent out of the engine budget, 25 percent out of the overall budget then yes, that is the sort of thing we should do. The FIA 2008 regulations, as published, are quite draconian on homologation of engines, but of course by entering the 2008 championship, as we all have done now, we inherit the right to discuss these regulations and Max (Mosley, president of the FIA) has been very open about it. The first of those discussions did take place at Maranello last week, with only a few teams there because it was a very early stage of discussion, but there was a reasonable amount of agreement. I think that far from it being the final solution or anything, I think that the idea of homologation is reasonable, but it should not be… to use the expression that you used, it should not be ‘freezing’ an engine, that’s totally wrong. We would need to allow some scope for development, we would need to bear in mind that Formula One is a spectacle, it’s entertainment, it’s a sport and an element of it, unlike many other sports, is the technical element. We need to maintain that technical element and I think engines revving at 19,000 rpm or whatever is part of that spectacle, I think, and it’s part of what both the casual and the dedicated spectator likes to see. So we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we need to think carefully about what we do. We’ve got to try and get this – round numbers – fifty percent cut in our engine budgets but still provide a good entertainment for all those people who want to come and watch us.

Sam Michael: As Pat said, Cosworth were involved in those discussions as well and we’re quite happy that they are representing our interests properly in it. There’s going to be discussion, debate and I’m sure they will come up with a good solution. There’s no one inside Formula One who doesn’t want to do that.

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