9/17/2003 0 Comments
Q&A With Paul Stoddart
David Cameron: I'm just following up on the finances, on Bernie and the fighting fund. Where does that stand at the moment? The last time I spoke to you you hadn't signed the contracts.
Paul Stoddart: We still haven't signed a contract, which isn't an issue because we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes on the association with the Bernie name - I don't think I need to say a lot more really. It is enough for us, and if you add to that the so-called fighting fund is now more aiming towards making sure that engines are available at commercially affordable prices for next year. It's quite clear that Jordan and I have got through this year - we've had a few bits of help, but no fighting fund as such - we've had a few things happen that have been in our favour, and Jordan have too to be honest.
So although the famous fighting fund never actually occurred clearly all teams - there's no point just distinguishing Minardi and Jordan - are through for 2003, so our focus now is on 2004 and what transpired on the 15th of January 2003 with those famous words "the ten million euro engine", which was backed up by the FIA team owners and team technical directors meeting on April 29th at Heathrow where what I would say consideration was given in exchange for commercially affordable engines, and that consideration was the retention of traction control and all of the good things that came out of that meeting.
Both Jordan and I and anyone else - let's not exclude Peter [Sauber] in all of this: yes at the moment he's fine, but you know, there'll come a time - where the engine being the biggest single expense for an independent team needs to be at a commercially affordable price, and that's where I think it's heading in this direction. There have been good signs of cooperation from various quarters; not just the GPWC but Bernie's been doing some work behind the scenes as well; you'll see that those words, "commercially affordable engines", will be honoured in 2004, and that is almost your fighting fund in effect.
DC: Have you or anyone at the team actually spoken to Mercedes about the engine deal?
PS: No, and I think there's a lot of confusion about the Mercedes engine deal. Because Professor Hubbert and Ron Dennis were the two instigators of the cheaper engines for the independent teams that has been directly linked in many cases to Mercedes being a customer supplier, and Mercedes through Ilmor could, I am sure, supply an engine, and they may well decide to do so.
Minardi have not spoken to them - we are perfectly happy with Cosworth and we will stay with Cosworth for the foreseeable future, and I think we are blessed to have perhaps the best engine working relationship with our supplier in this pitlane. All our own staff are ex-Cosworth staff, and there is a tremendous atmosphere in that relationship, a really bond, a really nice relationship. I ain't going to change that - that's not to say that we wouldn't have a good relationship with someone else, but when you're happy with something why change it - if it ain't broke, why fix it.
DC: So you've got an engine deal?
PS: We have an engine deal for next year - it's already in place - it was actually signed in Hungary. But what we don't have yet, we have a deal but we don't have a specification. This is not down to Cosworth, but we haven't decided what specification we want, and that will depend on which way we go with the car for next year and on the finalisation of the run programme for next year - there are still discussions about that and it might be changed, and that will have a dramatic effect because of the single engine rule. What I can tell you is that Minardi is running a Cosworth engine, and that is already signed for 2004.
DC: How does the differences in specification work? Isn't it a whole new engine?
PS: No, it's almost menu pricing - Formula One engines are unique beasts, but they do have more flexibility than perhaps is known. Under certain set of circumstances an engine which perhaps is in an existing car today, be it a Jordan, a Jaguar or a Minardi, could quite easily become a single race engine for next year - it is just a case of amending certain parameters in the engine. It's a direct trade off - you trade longevity for max horsepower and max rpm. Which comes back to what I was telling you that we need to know what the format is for next year, so we can see what a race weekend is in kilometres before we decide what engine type we are going for, and that's why while the deal is agreed the specification isn't.
DC: So effectively you could run an existing engine?
PS: One of the families of existing engines has the possibility to run as a single race engine, but it's a trade off - what we are trading is power and rpm. If it's an acceptable trade off it may well be through, as a hypothetical situation, re-engineering one of the existing family of engines we could find that we have no worse than what we've got now, and we're happy with what we've got this year, but with an engine that can do more kilometres. So this is why I stress that although the decision for running Cosworth is already done, the specification of engine is not, which is why we haven't done a big announcement because until we can define the specification and can have the engine sitting next to us you don't call a press conference. We've been consistent all through the year and I've said always that we'll run a Cosworth engine in 2004.
DC: Just to go back to the money side of things, has the proxy fighting fund been received?
PS: The smaller amount? Well, it wasn't directly from the teams, but we have got that. The money that was agreed to be paid, and let's just go back to January 15th to the original fighting fund, and there was no secret about it, was originally eight million dollars to Jordan and eight million dollars to Minardi. It didn't happen. There are monies floating around, some of which have found their way to Minardi and Jordan, which were monies that say Jordan would claim were rightfully theirs, but it doesn't matter what the reasons are - smaller amounts have found their way.
But also, and I can now only really speak for Minardi, our own position has improved quite a bit in the second half of the year. In other words we've had very much more support from our sponsors which has been great, we've brought in a test driver on Friday mornings which we didn't have in the first half of the year, and we've done a driver change. So clearly the combination of all of those things has improved Minardi's fortunes quite a bit, and we no longer have to worry about the end of the year.
DC: Have you got the money from Bernie, or is that still pending?
PS: No, that's our fallback safety fund if we need it, and we don't at the moment.
DC: Are you looking at a date for signing?
PS: We have an in-season date, which if we were short of money we could complete at a minute's notice and be okay throughout the winter getting ready for next year. So we've sort of got enough options now that we can go whichever way we want to.
DC: So as it stands it's a next season thing?
PS: Well no - it could be more described as a winter thing. The whole deal with Bernie was predicated on keeping ten teams in Formula One - when the chips were down Bernie was there. So what you're really looking at here is the situation where through association with Bernie our fortunes have improved to the point where we're still being able to stand on our own two feet.
However we're also aware that we don't want to have to go through another year like this so we're making sure that we are doing things, we're talking to investors, and we're talking to different people to make sure that next year is not a repeat of this. So if along the way we needed to get money from Bernie or a direct investment from Bernie then that would be available. So basically we have options, and that's really the difference from now and Canada - we had no options, whereas now things have changed quite a bit.
DC: Are you looking at things like sponsor deals for next year, driver deals for next year...
PS: Right now - in fact right now literally! (looks over to another table of people in the motorhome)
DC: Anything that you can actually say about it?
PS: I think the best way to say it is to generalise it, because it would be unfair to name individuals because we're speaking to so many. A point not to be lost - today, and indeed tomorrow's Grand Prix, eight drivers - 40 per cent of the field - either drove with us or is a current driver. Eight - a bit of a story in that. And if you have that kind of a track record where so many of your drivers go on to bigger and better things then it all of a sudden makes you a very attractive proposition - if you're a driver and want to get into Formula One, or you're a young driver's manager and want to get your driver into Formula One, then Minardi [is the better option], and no disrespect to Jordan or any other team.
At the end of the day our track record speaks for itself - Minardi is the place to start your career because people don't expect you to perform miracles but if you do, by God they take notice. So it's the best place to do your apprenticeship, simple as that, which means if I told you I had twenty names I wouldn't be exaggerating, if I told you I'm in serious negotiations with five I'd be spot on, and if I told you I expect to announce one in the next few weeks I wouldn't be lying. So more or less we are the place to come if you want to get your foot on the first rung on the ladder, and I'm quite proud of that really.
DC: We missed you in the press conference yesterday...
PS: I can't wait to see a transcript of that - I told Graham (Jones, Minardi press officer) to get me a copy of that - apparently it's about that thick! (indicates two inches with his fingers) I'm a bit pissed off actually because they told me it almost rivaled my one in Canada, and I'm very upset about that because I thought I had the most famous two points scored in Formula One and the most famous press conference in Formula One, so I'll be very upset if Ron's upstaged me - I'll be very, very pissed off! (laughs)
DC: Well I think yours is still better, but theirs is a bit longer.
PS: That doesn't matter - I don't care how long it went if they were just waffling about tyres - at least I had some serious issues that had people on the edge of their seats - they didn't have Bernie standing there crossing his arms, and they didn't have the other team principals taking seats in the stalls, so I think I've still got the record for that one!
And I'm not against that, I've got to say - my attitude with things like that is that we ought to be more open. I'm probably the exception in this paddock - I'm the only one who will tell it like it is - and if people want to hear it then great, if they don't then tough. At the end of the day what they get is what they see, it is how it is and that's the end of it. I sort of reckon the public love it to be honest - they like the truth, they like to know what goes on behind the scenes to a certain extent because they love the sport. I only wish that Canadian press conference was broadcast actually - it would have made for some good drama TV as Eddie said - that's about the only true thing he said all day!
DC: We had an mp3 of it on the site and people loved it - they all wrote in and said how amazing it was - I only wish we could have run a video of it!
PS: Yeah, you needed the video of it to see the body language as well - you needed Ron's jacket coming off, the rain pissing down outside, the sweat pouring down, the shuffling in the seats, EJ knocking the microphone over trying to see what was in my papers - it was bloody good I've got to say! People are interested in all aspects of this sport - we're lucky in that respect - and I don't think it hurts. You wouldn't want to do it all the time because people would think you're a bunch of wankers, but occasionally when there's a hot topic, a real gutsy type of topic, I don't think it hurts to sort of tell it like it is.
Leave a Reply.