Toto: “The team is functioning well but we cannot relax for a moment”
Q: No team in Formula One history has ever got two cars on the podium for ten consecutive races. You could do it on Sunday. Does that say more about the car or about your driver pairing?
TW: First of all, we haven’t done it yet and it’s always dangerous. We’ve had the discussions very often before and then you end up in a situation where it was nine and no record. Those records don’t mean a lot. What it shows is that you have put a team together which is functioning well and it’s just not a question of whether it’s the drivers or the engine or the chassis side. I think it’s a joint effort from many people and certainly if we achieve that, that would be good.
Q: How have you felt about the token system this year, which has allowed you and your rivals to develop engines during the season? Would it be a good thing for the sport if it were continued next year?
TW: There is a plan in place to continue with the token system, although in a reduced form. It is a token – a token doesn’t equal performance. Sometimes it’s more complicated. Nevertheless, there are ongoing discussions about how to handle the situation going forwards. Certainly we acknowledge that Honda and Renault found themselves in a difficult position and this is a joint platform, so we are working with the FIA and with the commercial rights holder going forward, whether we adapt that system or not.
Q: The standard Formula One race length is 305km, except in Monaco of course, but the average speed is different, which leads to extremes. The Monza race lasts for 1hr 20m and Singapore lasts for two hours – which sometimes might be difficult for TV viewers. Have you considered or could there be a consideration to adjust the race length to the average speed of the circuit to make it more suitable, maybe for the younger generation of the TV viewers?
TW: Interesting one. I think we are seeing a phenomenon that the younger the viewer, the less patient. It looks like, at least, whatever you consume on your devices needs to be short, quick and easy – and Formula One is a long race. But this is also what makes it. So whether two hours is too much, or 1hr 20m or 1hr 10m is the right time, I think is a question for the FIA and the commercial rights holder to sort it out. Obviously the longer the race, the more advertising you can sell, and that is good, income-wise. The question is an interesting one.
Q: The commercial rights holder has indicated that, if Renault returns as a full team owner, they could be in line for historic and premium payments. That money can come from one of two sources: either from the commercial rights holder’s slice or from the teams’ pot. Assuming that it comes from the teams’ pot, would you be prepared to go for redistribution of your income to accommodate Renault’s historic payment?
TW: It’s similar to how it was a couple of years ago. The contracts were negotiated and discussed bi-laterally between the commercial rights holder and the respective team and this is certainly the case at the moment without any influence from the teams from outside.
Q: Today we have Renault and a French driver but no French Grand Prix. We have Mercedes and the German drivers but this year we haven’t had a German Grand Prix. We have Ferrari, Toro Rosso and Pirelli and maybe in two years we will lose the Italian Grand Prix. What do you think about this? Should the teams help the organisers to promote their national Grands Prix, maybe with money, publicity, management or marketing?
TW: My personal opinion is that those iconic and historic Grands Prix are important for the sport. But then there is a very difficult balance which needs to be achieved and that is securing income for the sport and income for the teams, so it’s not always straightforward making those decisions. Certainly for us, the German Grand Prix is extremely important – as is Monza and as is Spa – so from our perspective it would be good if we can keep those Grands Prix.
Q: Michelin have announced that they’re going to bid for the tyre contract from 2017 onwards but with quite a different approach to Pirelli. They’ve said they’d like 18 inch tyres and a tyre that will do one stop per race. Pirelli have pretty much said that they will do anything Formula One wants, so what would you prefer from the tyre manufacturer?
TW: I think first of all you need to honour your current partner. We’ve been going through various phases with Pirelli and they have had a pretty difficult task to fulfil what’s in vogue. We wanted to have more stops and a spectacular tyre which loses grip quickly – which we had a couple of years ago and we didn’t like it. Then of course, as a tyre manufacturer, safety is the most important thing, so you go more conservative which then meant not enough stops. We are heading into another year with Pirelli so, whatever happens afterwards, we need to concentrate on that partnership and try to resolve 2016. We need to produce as good a tyre as we can in a mutual partnership and collaboration for 2016 to have the best possible product for the best possible show. What happens beyond that is out of our hands because it’s between the FIA and the commercial rights holder to tender and to decide.