Toto, can you bring us up to speed with what happened to Lewis Hamilton this afternoon; we saw he lost at least an hour of running. What was the problem and what else have you lost?
TW: We lost a lot of running due to an electronic problem, which we need to identify yet. It shouldn’t be a big issue but losing valuable time in free practice two is obviously not perfect.
Looking back to the last grand prix, can you tell us what new rules have you imposed on the drivers since that collision in Spa and given that there will always be, I guess, close calls on track between drivers in a tight championship fight, are you convinced that they will be enforceable?
TW: First of all, if that particular incident would have happened somewhere back in the field it would have… or it has been actually judged as a racing incident. Now you don’t want to see these kinds of things between team-mates and I think this is valid for any other team and particularly not between team-mates who are racing each for a win, for a podium. We’ve made it very clear that we want to stick to our philosophy in letting the drivers race – it’s about the Drivers’ Championship, we acknowledge that. Nevertheless, what we said from the beginning was that there shouldn’t be any contact between their cars and I guess this is valid for us and it is valid for any other team and this is why we re-emphasised that point.
You were quoted in a radio interview that you would potentially risk changing your driver line-up should there be any further indiscretions from your drivers in the future. Could you just clarify that remark as to what circumstances would force you make what would appear to be a drastic change?
TW: This was exactly the context – what would happen if we could not get on top of the situation. Obviously at that stage we are very happy with the line-up of the two drivers and we’ve always said that. We trust them and we had a very good discussion with the two of them, a very clear discussion, and we’ve always said that this shouldn’t happen and I think at that stage of the season maybe it was important to re-emphasise that. My statements were about what would happen if we wouldn’t get on top of it and this is something obviously which is a very, very worst case vision and I don’t think that we were ever going to get there.
Toto, “A Formula One car is as easy to drive as it has ever been,” says Christian. Do you think that’s a good thing?
TW: First of all, coming back to FP1 this morning, the boy who was driving in FP1 is an ex-F3 European Champion and he’s 22 or 23, so it’s a different situation. I think if somebody’s good enough, he deserves to be in a Formula One car. Now, we’ve had the discussion this morning and we still believe Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and Formula One drivers should be people who inspire, drivers who inspire, and they should have the qualification. I think this could be an endless discussion: somebody who is very talented, does he deserve to have a seat in Formula One? The example we discussed this morning was Kimi Räikkönen. So we’ve seen that in the past. I think he probably deserves a go in Formula One because he has shown great talent in the categories below, in karting and in F3.
Toto, you made comments recently that you may be putting together a junior programme for your F1 team. Any updates on those comments? And could you elaborate on a route or a programme that you’d give to that driver?
TW: There is a great history in the Mercedes-Benz junior programme, many years with Frentzen, Wendlinger and Schumacher. We have a junior programme, we have obviously a good F3 engine and some of the boys we co-finance, we help them in racing the budgets to finance those engines. This is already happening for many years. The idea was in further expanding that programme, similar to the one 25 years ago. We’ve started to think about it. We had a look at some of the very good boys but we are not yet ready – and the simple reason is that there is a championship in our way. In the next two-and-a-half months we should be concentrating on getting that done – and probably over the winter we’re going to structure a junior programme and I’m very much in favour of doing it. But if you’re going to do it, you need to do it properly.
There is a banner in the main grandstand opposite the pit straight that you may have seen today. It reads ‘Ugly Circuits, Ugly Cars, No Engine Sound, F1 is Dead’. That banner may have only been put together by one person or a small group of people but how do you feel when you see something like that inside what is one of F1’s most historical venues – and what can be done, again, to change that kind of negativity that is currently swirling around the sport?
TW: Obviously everybody has an opinion and there are lots of forums where you can express your opinion. If I would have read all the opinions in the last two weeks I would have needed heavy drugs to survive that.
We’ve heard from Marco regarding the engine unfreezing, if I can term it that, but we haven’t heard from Toto. What are your thoughts on it, particular in terms of the possible costs increases of an unfreeze. Can you do this without increasing costs?
TW: Well, there is another point besides costs. I think we need stability. Obviously we have a competitive advantage, it’s pretty clear at the moment but we would take the challenge on. I think it’s about defining what we want to do. We are twelve races into a season and we’ve had that advantage. Is it the time at the moment now to change the rules to change something? Maybe. I think we did... the discussions we’ve had so far were pretty open. There are various concepts on the table and if we decide to go completely in the opposite direction and to open it up completely, it’s like Christian said, we have four power units per drivers, this will increase the costs quite dramatically, not sure whether we could deliver all the same engines – all the same specification of engines to everybody, logistically it’s not feasible - so the devil lies in the detail but the discussion we are having is very open.