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GP Week : Issue 192
F1 >>> FEATUrE the next sensation comes up and then one is suddenly in the background. unfortunately, after sauber the next sensation was also financial – with Lotus, for example. But what does that say about the state of Formula One, where you have the fourth oldest team facing financial difficulties, you have a title contender also is in financial difficulties. This might be a bit of a naïve question, but why can’t teams sit down and agree on bringing the costs down? everyone I talk to says it’s a concern. I think it’s a very valid question, because what it shows for me is that the overall environment is not right, and what is wrong is to project this onto the product. Because for me, it is still one of the best platforms which combines sport, marketing, technology... It is ideal for companies – because it’s worldwide – to actually exploit this. No other sport can offer you that so regularly throughout the year, and that too year-by-year and at a global level. The other two sports or events which I mentioned are either every four years or they’re very limited to one place, whereas we are really, truly global and yet local at these places. So there’s nothing wrong with this product. But what is not right is that we reach financial levels where, actually, more than half of the grid cannot stay. This sport should not be about money. We know – and it’s always been the case – that there have been richer teams and poorer teams, but it was in some way level. If I look back even to the time when we were fourth in the constructors’ championship, long before all the manufacturers came in again, you still had the possibility as a small, private team to make that step off and on into the top four, top five and just cause the excitement. That’s getting more and more difficult. So what we really need to look at is that we are embedded in this overall global economic situation: it’s not good anywhere, so we need to react and it is not so difficult to react for us. We’ve done that before. We’ve laid the steps with the RRA, the Resource Restriction Agreement, and that’s the way we need to go ahead. You mention the RRA; you say it’s not difficult to react. But when Max Mosley proposed a £40 million budget cap it caused political ructions within the sport. The RRA came in, but the teams have shown that they’re not able to agree, or even implement the RRA. It’s toothless, because if you choose not to adhere to it, there won’t be any penalty. so do you think it needs a third party to police costs, because teams clearly can’t seem to agree? Absolutely. And I think this is very normal, because nowhere where many people come together can they manage it on their own. You always need an authority on top. So for me it is the job of our Federation. Like they check the technical side, like they check the sporting side, they need to look at the financial side. Because we see the dangers, and it cannot be that only the people who have the money should be the ones in the sport. Because even the image we have, and the standing we have lives from diversity. I’m convinced that you will not be able to have this kind of prominence and the image that we represent with just four teams. So you need the smaller ones, even if they are not that important maybe for the competition itself, but you need it for the overall picture. Because fans like it. And at the end of the day, it’s all about the fans, even for the companies, because the companies reach out to their clients, who are fans. We have to always keep our prime target, the fans, in mind. And they like this diversity. So as such it’s not difficult, that’s what I meant to say. It’s easy to implement something, but you need an authority to do it. We’ve set out a lot of principles which we gave the FIA and I hope that once the election is over, that the FIA will play an active role in this. You agreed your Russian investment deal over the summer. Has the money from that started coming in? We confirmed, we clarified that, yes, money has come. Things take their time; we cannot push it more, so we are working on it. Part of the deal is preparing sergey sirotkin to step up to a race seat. so in case he is not ready, is there a clause that restricts a part of the funding which, when he is ready and once you put him in the car, triggers the release of those funds? First of all, the contract is subject to confidentiality so I cannot comment on that at all. But clearly what matters to all sides is that whatever step you take is a sensible one; that you don’t just push through things. We will together look at how he will develop now, how he will do the testing, and then we will make our assessment. so the financial side of the deal is independent of whether sergey races next year or not? Yes. What has his progress been like? You did the demo run with him in sochi last weekend and now you’ve got tests lined up for him at the end of October. Are you impressed by what he’s done so far, working with the engineers in the factory and that sort of thing? It’s too early to say something. Clearly what we can see is very positive feedback from the engineers. When they spoke to him, he brings the right attitude along, he listens a lot, he learns very quickly. But all this can say nothing about how he will be on the track. The first test is on [7 October], and then we will start seeing how he is on the track and how he can adapt. Which brings me to the drivers, because Rubens [Barrichello] popped up as a name [in Korea] when you didn’t deny the fact that he could be a candidate. There are obviously many drivers in the running for the seat. Can you reveal who they are, who you’re considering, any names? No. I do not want to nourish any speculation! And also with Rubens, I don’t know where this story came from and why it developed to the extent it has. We clarified over the weekend that we have never spoken to him regarding a seat for next year, also not regarding racing in Brazil. I have a lot of respect for him, for what he has achieved, and I can fully understand that he wants to race again, but we’ve not had these talks with him. But there are some suggestions that you might go into next year with an inexperienced driver line-up and Rubens could probably come on board as a driver mentor, similar to what Alex Wurz is doing at Williams. Is that a possibility? No. We have spoken about young drivers and how he sees things but we have not spoken about any co-operation at all. Are you comfortable heading into next season, if you have to, with Esteban [Gutierrez] and Sergey? It’s a season of big changes, so are you comfortable heading into the year with such an inexperienced line-up? For me, that is not a question which is relevant because whatever situation we are in, we will decide on our drivers then and then you just make the most of it. We’ve had years even before in the team’s history where we had very young 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: