TEAM PRINCIPALS: Stefano DOMENICALI (Ferrari), Tony FERNANDES (Lotus), Colin KOLLES (HRT), Peter SAUBER (BMW Sauber)
Q. A question to you all. Can you give us some idea on how your team performed today?
Tony FERNANDES: Heikki (Kovalainen) had a much easier day today. He got through all his set-up work and was quite happy with the car. Jarno (Trulli) struggled to find what he wanted and we are going to have to do a little bit more work with him. Key for us was we overall thought we did better than we planned when we came in and the reliability was quite good, so not a bad day.
Colin KOLLES: We have two drivers who never drove before on this track, so they have to get acquainted to this. We are struggling with the set-up but no major issues. The car is reliable at the moment and this is one of the most important things for us.
Peter SAUBER: It was more or less okay. I think it was difficult for both drivers. For Nick (Heidfeld) it was a new car, new tyres, and for Kamui (Kobayashi) a new track. I think it was okay.
Q. And they ended up twelve-hundredths apart.
PS: Yes, yes that’s good.
Stefano DOMENICALI: In this morning’s session we wanted to do more mileage but considering the condition of the track it was really impossible. We did the minimum considering that we had a lot of things to compare and we didn’t do that because of the situation. In the afternoon I think the situation improved. Difficult to say where we are. We had a little issue with Fernando’s (Alonso) car. It was doing the fastest lap then when they reversed he started again but there was something that we need to understand what has happened and waiting for the car to be back. With Felipe (Massa) I think he was not happy about the grip, the general grip and the balance on the car. I think the condition of the track today was difficult for everyone, so difficult to judge but I think tomorrow could be a good fight.
Q. Are the drivers reporting that it is a smoother circuit this year, not so bumpy?
SD: Not yet discussed it. What we have seen is that the new surface is more slippery as the bitumen is with maybe some dust or oil and you could see also this morning with changeable conditions the oldest part of the track was easier to dry up while the new one took a bit longer.
Q. Another question to you all. Bernie Ecclestone is apparently trying to revive his idea of medals being awarded to grand prix winners. What are your own personal thoughts about that? Do you agree with the idea rather than the points’ system being the decider who wins the World Championship? Would you like the medal system?
TF: I defer to the older guys.
CK: I think we have other issues at the moment. Maybe Ferrari can answer this.
SD: We have not won more medals unfortunately. But apart from that I think it is an exciting idea. No doubt about it. It is something that has been discussed. As always in Formula One we discuss and go back with other solutions. For whatever reason the situation this year is good in terms of what you can recover from the points that you can gain. It is something that can be addressed in a very short time.
PS: I am quite happy with the system that we have.
Q. Do you feel the points system this year is an improvement over last year?
PS: It is much more difficult to count the points.
Q. Tony, can you clarify the situation between Group Lotus and Lotus Racing to become Team Lotus and also the ART link-up and the Renault situation as well.
TF: Well, when Colin Chapman set up the company (becomes inaudible) there was Group Lotus which manufactured cars and there was Team Lotus which was the racing team. What we acquired was Team Lotus. This year we operated under a licence from Group Lotus and next year we will operate under our own ownership. The chassis name still stays the same.
Q. And the link up with ART and with Renault?
TF: I cannot really comment on ART. As to Renault I have no idea what that is. Are you talking about Group Lotus with Renault?
Q. I thought Lotus Racing had a link up with Renault for engines for next year?
TF: We will make an announcement in due course.
Q. And there is no dialogue between Lotus Racing and ART?
Q. Colin, today you had to replace Sakon Yamamoto with Christian Klien. Why did Karun Chandhok not have a chance? What’s his future with your team?
CK: Well, he had his chance. I think Christian deserved also a chance, so therefore Christian is sitting in the car.
Q. Are you saying that Chandhok won’t be driving again as he has had his chance?
CK: I am not saying this. I think it was Christian’s, how could I say… he would be the first choice in this situation.
Q. And you would expect Yamamoto to be back in the car for his home grand prix?
CK: This is what we expect, yes.
Q. Peter, very sad to see Pedro (de la Rosa) going. But nice to see Nick in the car again. What was the thinking behind that? Was there a cut-off point after Monza?
PS: No, nothing to do with the Monza result. The fact is that Kamui and Pedro were more or less the same level but Kamui scored more points. We are simply not sure about the potential of the car. With Nick we have a clear benchmark as we know him well. This is important with regards to the development of the new car.
Q. And Nick will be in the car for the rest of the year?
Q. Stefano, Monza obviously was a high-speed circuit where the team did fantastically well. This is very much a different circuit. How are you feeling about the performance, especially after the first practice session here?
SD: I think Monza was a fantastic weekend for us and for our people there. But as I always say we don’t have to be over the moon if we have a great weekend and we don’t have to be a total down if we have a bad weekend. The most important thing is that the team is always focused on the job, trying to do the maximum that we can. We know that this situation is totally different. But we also know that we have to be there trying to do the right thing as what has happened this year in terms of development was not what we really expected on the track. That is something also other teams have coped with and we need to make sure this weekend that we are doing the right step and keep the performance one step ahead. Even if on paper this track is not really the best for us I think our job is to make sure that we do everything perfect and then we will see. The championship is very open for everyone. Everything can happen, so the only thing we have to do is stay focused, not to be too excited when things are going well, but just keep the feet on the ground and work flat out and that is what we are going to do here and at the other grands prix.
Q. And you would expect to continue bringing developments all the way through to the end of the season?
SD: Well, of course for the next couple of grands prix, yes, and then we need to see how the situation is before the last grands prix because of course we need to be focused on the new car project. Resources are limited, so at the moment the more time is passing the more we are swapping and taking people from this year (year’s project) to next year (year’s project). So at every race we need to understand what the potential objective to be achieved is and then we will decide when we really will devote all the resources to the new project.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Joe Saward) I have one question for each of you, all about next year but there are obviously different situations, so different questions. Colin, can you tell us about your plans for next year; are you a Spanish team next year?
CK: I hope so.
Q. (Joe Saward) Are there any other options what the team might be?
CK: I’m used to too many changes in the past. You never know what might happen, but the plan is to be a Spanish team of course.
Q. (Joe Saward) Peter, next year’s plans – you have a big white car at the moment. Presumably you don’t want it to be white next year?
PS: It’s beautiful, the white car.
Q. (Joe Saward ) It doesn’t pay very well, though.
PS: Yeah, that’s true.
Q. (Joe Saward) So do we have any plans actually finalised, apart from Kamui, obviously?
PS: No, but we are in contact with several companies and I’m confident that we will have a solid budget for next season. I hope as big as possible.
Q. (Joe Saward ) Stefano, in relation to Peter – because there have been some rather strange rumours this week about Felipe disappearing off to Sauber and Robert Kubica coming over to you – can you just put that story to bed completely and tell us it’s rubbish?
SD: Absolutely. I totally underline what you’ve said, because I think it’s getting boring news. Every day there is something new on that and I tell you that Peter and I meet a lot of times because we have a good professional relationship, so I can confirm what you said, absolutely.
Q. (Joe Saward ) And we are going to see the same drivers next year?
Q. (Joe Saward) Any other changes happening, are we going to see some restructuring technically?
SD: No. I think that for sure, our main structure will not change and the objective is of course to have a good number two who can grow up within the team but I think this is the objective of all the teams but nothing major, I would say. But as I say, once again, on the Felipe story, I think it’s getting a little bit boring.
Q. (Joe Saward) Tony, where to do we start? How about drivers for next year?
TF: We haven’t confirmed our drivers yet but I think over the next two or three weeks we will.
Q. (Joe Saward) And between the chassis and the gearbox you will have something?
TF: Yes, hopefully.
Q. (Joe Saward) And we are expecting to see a green and yellow car?
TF: I would say that that’s the only thing I can confirm one hundred per cent.
Q. (Joris Fioriti) A question to all of you. You always talk in a positive way about the countries visited by Formula One, even when the conditions are not great, in order not to offend anyone, but Singapore truly seems to be appreciated by everyone: night race, glamour, huge audience. Do you think this event should set new standards for Formula One, for the new countries to come or even for the old ones, and if yes, why?
SD: For sure, the standard of this venue is really very high but we need to be realistic in respect of all the different conditions and all the different situations that you have country by country. There are certain places which have behind them the strength of the country, that can invest and can do something what I would say is outstanding. But there are other situations where really you have private organisers that have to live with their own money, keeping up the tradition of the venues that is not really comparable with the power that this kind of situation can offer to the others, so I think it’s a mixed balance that we need to keep in mind and I think that the beautiful thing about Formula One is that you have this kind of mixed situation where you have this fantastic venue and you have the venues that are part of the heritage of Formula One and that are, in any case, very good for the show and for the history and heritage of Formula One.
TF: I think Stefano has answered it very well. Obviously if you have a whole nation behind it (the event) it’s a lot easier. Singapore’s a small country which gets everyone together, it’s easier to get everyone together. Don’t take anything away from it, I think they’ve done a superb job and there’s tremendous excitement here. I continue to say that you obviously need time for the other new venues to really fully mature and it takes time. They haven’t had the racing pedigree of Monza or Monte Carlo or Silverstone, and I think that for the whole Formula One grouping to work harder in making racing second nature in some of the newer countries, I think the potential is huge. The price for getting huge crowds and activity, back up races in all these other countries is very critical but it will take time and it will take work but I think it’s very important that we get all the races up to the standard of a common platform. Obviously there will be some better, some better organised, some better financed, some will be private but I think that we still, as a sport, need to work harder on some of the new venues, because I think there’s a tremendous upside.
Q. (Mark Fogarty) Tony Fernandes, the licensing agreement that you have with Group Lotus is that the extent of Group Lotus’s involvement in your team?
Q. (Mark Fogarty) So then how do you claim heritage, because you’ve pointed out that Team Lotus and Group Lotus were separate entities, but in fact back in Colin Chapman’s day they were quite symbiotic, so don’t you need Group Lotus to have some sort of direct involvement in your team to be able to be actually able to claim the lineage?
TF: I don’t want to go into the legal side of it, but there were two separate companies and two very separate pools of goodwill. Of course they co-operated and of course we would like to co-operate but if Group Lotus doesn’t want to then there’s not much we can do about it. That’s not to say that they won’t, I think it makes sense, and maybe the ownership will come under one anyway in due time. So there was co-operation but there was never ownership and there was never racing by Group Lotus and vice versa, Team Lotus never manufactured cars.
Q. (Mark Fogarty) No, but you clearly understand that one fed off the other, image-wise, you know, Group Lotus…
TF: No, I don’t think that if you look at the history of Team Lotus there was much talking about the Esprit or the Elan etc, in fact Group Lotus probably used the imagery of the Formula One team a lot more, if you look at the history.
Q. (Mark Fogarty) So is there any prospect of Group Lotus getting heavily involved?
TF: The door is always open. It makes sense if they did. If I was sitting there and there was a Formula One team that’s going around the world with twenty races, promoting a brand, if I was the CEO, I would definitely want to get involved, especially if I’m not putting any money in it.
Q. (Mark Fogarty – Auto Action) You’ve clearly spoken to the management about it. Do you get any feeling of why they’re not involved or why they would want to get involved?
TF: Best you ask them.
Q. (Joris Fioriti) Stefano, Fernando really seemed to be very fast before he stopped, even faster than Sebastian Vettel; do you think it’s possible you may win and be faster than the Red Bulls on Sunday?
SF: I don’t know. I think that for sure the fight will be very tight but I am expecting Red Bull to be a little bit stronger than us here in terms of pure performance. What is going to happen then during the race no one knows but I think I need to be very careful but that’s the picture that I’m getting here at the moment.
Q. (Joris Fioriti) Mr Fernandes, what are the goals for next year? Do you think you can match the tail enders of the established teams? What do you expect for next year?
TF: I think if you look at this year… when I was interviewed it was Formulaone.com and I said to Tom that we had an A, I think we’ve actually done alright this year but reliability could have been better. We had a very short time to develop the car. We stopped developing this car after Silverstone. We’ve put all our investment in next year’s car, so we would have a really respectable amount of time to develop the car and our wind tunnel work is already showing quite good results. We will have a new engine and we will have a new gearbox and internals which I think will help us to propel ourselves. As a first year entry we took two drivers that we paid for which showed our seriousness and we hope to continue that. So if you think that we have time to buildâ€¦ 18 months to build a new car, we can have better internals and a rear end and an engine and two reasonable drivers. We’re hoping we can move up the grid. I can’t say exactly where we are but we’re taking this very seriously and we’ve had a long term plan and slowly but surely we hope we will move up the grid.
Q. (Mat Coch) Colin, there’s been a lot of speculation about the future of Hispania with Durango, Jacques Villeneuve, even Stefan GP in recent weeks. What are the team’s long term goals and ambitions and what are you doing now to really drive the team towards those goals?
CK: To be honest with you, I’m really speechless, that you believe this speculation. Why should I answer you if you mention the name Durango and of the people you just mentioned before? I cannot make any comment because I never spoke to these people. We are working day and night. Obviously Tony has his plans, we have our plans and we will stay with our engine, we will have a different rear end, and we will have a different car but we will stay with Cosworth, this is the plan.