Q&A with Jean Todt

08/07/2007
NEWS STORY

Do you know yet what caused Felipe Massa's stall on the grid?
Jean Todt: When Felipe went to the grid, he informed us by radio that finishing the burn-out the engine stalled and for the time being, we have not understood what was the reason so hopefully we will understand in the coming hours and we will be able to give the information, but we don't know yet, why it happened. Anyway, it's something that was wrong with the car, he didn't do anything which caused the problem.

It's the mid-season and both Fernando and Robert Kubica, who both had problems the Bridgestone tyres at the start of the season, are saying that they are finding it more comfortable, they've adapted their driving style and it looks like Kimi's done the same. Is that a fair observation?
JT: I don't know what happened with the others. The Bridgestone tyres are in a way are completely new for everybody, because you are well aware that the specification which have been given by Bridgestone are completely different from what we had in the past, due to only one tyre company involved at the moment in Formula One, so for us, when we started with those tyres last year, at the end of the year, when we had those tyres together with the other teams, it was completely new for us and then, probably, some car specifications, some way of driving of some drivers is more or less suitable to those tyres.

Is he still happy with his car?
JT: I will say that Kimi sometime was very happy with the car, I just think the first race in Australia, where he was on pole, quickest lap during the race, won the race and he had some more difficult races. We knew that looking back at the races like Monte Carlo, Canada, Indianapolis, we were not at the level of our major competitor and in Magny Cours and here, mainly during the race, we were probably performing better than them. I don't have any idea what will be the situation for the coming races. That's why we need to push hard and try to improve as much as we can, on the car and definitely on the reliability, because we have had too many problems with the reliability since the beginning of the season.

Have you read the Nigel Stepney interview this morning; what is your opinion about it and if you can give us some more details about Tuesday in the High Court of London, if there will be some public development or a new act of Ferrari or is just a normal procedure.
JT: I would say that the situation unfortunately is quite clear. To answer the first part of the question, yes, I have been reading some of the magazines which have been writing about that. Unfortunately at the moment I am not allowed to make any kind of comment. But as I said before to the Italian television, it's just a question of time to have more detail. I wish I could answer and give more detail now, but as it's a court case, I'm simply not allowed. If you analyse the different statements, official statements, which have been made by some people involved in it, you can clearly make your own judgement from what has been officially stated and then came out with some interviews. The last part of the question: yes, at the High Court there will be one public hearing next Tuesday.

I understand fully that you can't comment on the court procedures but Nigel Stepney has categorically denied handing any information over. Are you satisfied that there is nobody else involved in this.
JT: How could I say, to stop talking about that for the time being because I'm simply not allowed to speak about it because it's a court case, so don't ask me if it's only one, two, three… the things will come over the next days, over the next week and then when everything is settled, then probably it will be easier for us to comment and to answer to details, but at the moment, unfortunately, I'm not in a position… I cannot, simply, I cannot because it's a court case, one in Italy and one in UK.

How difficult has it been to keep the team - the drivers, the mechanics, everybody involved - concentrated on just this race over the past week, with everything that's been happening.
JT: Quite easy, quite easy. Fortunately I've said that very often what is happening is very good, a very good spirit, people are focused, the only thing they want to see is how to improve the situation, how to move forward in the championship, and the other things, we try to leave them away from it. I'm definitely not happy about this situation. I feel it's unnecessary to arrive to this kind of situation but unfortunately that's the situation we have to face but considering the team, it's not something they are involved, they are aware of it and the only thing where they are focused is to try to be competitive.

I know you can't talk about Mike Coughlan and Nigel Stepney personally, but Ron Dennis has said that his team is innocent of all the problems and it's only an isolated case. Do you believe Ron, first of all, do you believe the team, if they are found guilty, should be punished and perhaps lose championship points, and be penalised for being involved this scandal?
JT: I understand that some of you have spoken with the president of the FIA over the weekend, and I think he was in a better situation to answer than me. So we will have to answer to some questions from the FIA in the coming days and we will do so and from that, that will be their problem.

Do you believe McLaren is innocent?
JT: As I said, I don't have to… It's not a question to believe or not to believe. It's that the moment that I am sure I am not able to comment on those facts.

Could I ask you about the procedure; the court case on Tuesday, could you just confirm the individuals who are going to be named in that court case and what the accusation is against them?
JT: The first procedure was our lawyers together with some independent experts to go to visit the house of one of the top management people from a competitor's team. They decided after that, that they have some facts, which allowed them to move forward. And to move forward is to go to the High Court on Tuesday.

Could you give us names, individuals?
JT: I'm not going to speak about that.

You have been following Kimi in his very difficult races and now seeing him winning two times. How has he been dealing with the situation?
JT: If you remember, every time we spoke about Kimi you are asking me if I am happy about him and I always say yes, I'm happy because I feel that he's a very talented driver, that he's very good and that he's doing a great job inside of the team, and that we give him as much support as we give as much support as Felipe. Honestly, I'm not surprised. I always said we had two great drivers, it's up to us to give them a good car. Sometimes we did not give them a good car, sometimes like today, we did not give them a reliable enough car and we pay the consequences, so it's up to us. It's not a question of the driver. We have two among the best drivers in Formula One. We are very happy, very proud to have them so it's up to us to do the rest of the job for us and for our partners.

It is said that Kimi's driving style is very aggressive, so will the team prepare some special set-up of the car for him, to let him finish races?
JT: It's just a question of his race engineers, his group of people he has around him to collaborate and to try to get the best out of the car during free practice, during qualifying, the race and during the race. I seems that they are always working together and that's probably one of the reasons why we have had the result today with Kimi.

Ron Dennis said at the press conference earlier this weekend that you spoke with him and you mentioned that you believed in his personal integrity and the integrity of the team. Can you confirm what you said?
JT: It is true that Ron called me a few times since the information came officially. But I am not going to comment on the telephone discussions we had.

With all that has happened in the last week, will this have any bearing on the future of Ross Brawn and his decision. Is he still talking to Ferrari about coming back to Ferrari?
JT: We are talking about two completely different matters. Ross is a great guy; he had some fantastic achievements at Ferrari. He decided to take a sabbatical year. I don't want to speak for him, but he is very sad knowing all that has happened. We are all very sad about what has happened. And there is nothing that will interfere in the choices we have to make for the future. It is something you should ask him, and it is true to say that I mentioned we will meet over the next weeks, and I confirm that we will meet over the next weeks.

Jean, it has been written that Ferrari took action after being tipped off by an individual in a copy shop in England, which seems bizarre. Can you confirm that?
JT: I cannot confirm that. But as I said, I can understand the question, it's a fair question. But it will come out very quickly and then you will, or you will not, have some answers to the questions that you may want to have answered. All of that will be covered.

Honda have confirmed that they spoke to Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan. Are you happy that they are no longer involved in the investigation?
JT: Again, I don't have everything in hand to comment about that. We had a team principals' meeting on Friday, which finished about 1pm. Nick Fry came and informed me for the first time about this meeting. That was the only time I spoke with him about that.

This morning in the newspapers Nigel Stepney said that he knows where, 'the bodies are buried'. Referring to processes put in place within Ferrari in the last 10 years that should remain a secret. Are you concerned that he could talk about secrets inside Ferrari, and whether or not this is a way to silence Nigel because he knows too much about it?
JT: You know. It makes me smile, and it is good sometimes. But after 10 years, or the last 14 years, it is true it is like being in the family. There are so many things that do happen. But we have had over 14 years with the team, some good times and some tough times, but nothing that cannot come out. So you know very well in this business that if something has to come out it does not wait 10 years. We have about 900 people employed in the company, so the answer is quite easy.

When it does all come out, and we find out whoever is right and whoever is wrong, do you think it is unfortunate for the image of F1 that this is happening anyway?
JT: I will let you decide about the answer. I would prefer to speak and comment about the race, the great race we had today, the problem that Felipe had, and the championship that is an interesting championship rather than having to comment on these types of things. Unfortunately that is the fact when you are facing some irresponsible people.

Jean, one outfit which is rumoured to be running customer McLarens next year has said that their project is going to happen even though they cannot announce details at the moment. What are your thoughts on Ferrari running a satellite operation behind the main team?
JT: You know at the moment we are supplying two teams with engines: Toro Rosso and Spyker. We don't yet know what will be the rules for 2008, about the different options, but at the moment we have only had strong discussions about continuity and supplying engines. Saying that, if we are facing different offers, it's something of course we will consider.

One week ago, Ferrari won by over 30s, here it was just by a few seconds. It was a particular situation here or there; which is the right balance between you and McLaren?
JT: During qualifying it's quite tight, if my memory is good, we taken pole position five times, four times with Felipe, one time with Kimi and four times they set pole position. Then about winning, we won five races, they have won four. So it's very little gap, sometimes they have been quite far behind us. Today, one important point was that Kimi was 19 laps following Hamilton who was leading the race, and probably things would have been different if he had been on pole. But then we could clearly see that when Kimi has free air or when Felipe has free air, today we were more competitive.

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Published: 08/07/2007
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