PRESS CONFERENCE, 23.05.2013
Monaco Grand Prix 2013 - Thursday Press Conference
Alain, it's been a while since we last saw you in an FIA press conference, welcome along. Explain a little bit about your role with Renault Sport?
Well, my role is mainly as an ambassador for Renault, the brand Renault, since last year. Even if I have done many things with Renault in the last few years, for different things. Also this year I'm an advisor for the strategy, being part of the executive committee.
In terms of 2014, how far advanced is Renault's programme?
Everything goes well. The engine should run in June on the dyno, the final version. But everything is belonging to the programme.
And when do you think that Renault Sport will be finalising its teams for 2014?
I'm not myself negotiating with the teams but we all know that it's going to be accelerating during this weekend. I don't know. I cannot say any dates for all the teams but I hope very quickly.
Alain, I'm sure you've been watching the racing quite intently. Has the sport got the right balance at the moment between exciting racing or tyres dominating too much?
I think in the past and very recently it's been very [much] criticised for not having a show or indecision. We should be very lucky that we have these kind of races. In the last few years, we have the decision only in the last grand prix. Obviously, also think about next year when we have the new engine coming we will talk maybe a little bit more about the engine, about technology, about being much closer to the product of the automotive industry. But we still need to keep the show also. We need to keep the indecision so it's going to be even better balanced but at the moment I wouldn't criticize what we have today.
Alain, four French drivers in Formula 1 this season. We're here in the South of France for the Monaco Grand Prix, do you see anything in those drivers that might indicate to you that one day they could be the next French World Champion?
Difficult question! Because in the last 20 years there have been announced many, many times a new French champion. Just let them work, you know? They are four, we are very lucky to have four drivers, different competitiveness in teams. Romain for sure is in the best position to win at least, maybe the first race very soon. And just wait and see. Don't put them under too much pressure, they have enough.
Alain, as Renault F1 Sport brand ambassador, how do you feel about the fact that the public perception is that in fact Infiniti won the championship last year as the engine supplier because if one looks at the team principal's shirt, there are five Infiniti badges and two Renault badges, yet Renault seems to be paying it all. How do you feel about that?
I know it's very difficult... it's always difficult to answer this kind of question for me, you can imagine. The perception you can have here is obviously the right one, could be the right one. The involvement of Renault in Formula One, is very clear om the last few years. As you can see, the market in Europe is not very good and they're already aiming for having a new image, new visibility in new markets: Russia, Brazil, India and a little bit later in China, those are the big markets for Renault. Obviously everybody would like to maybe have a different situation for Renault inside Formula One, for example, again, a new team, a Renault team, but the strategy of the president and of Renault is very clear. They want to stay the way they are at the moment and I must say that in this countries thet we are talking about it's working very well and they're increasing the image of the brand and they're selling more and more cars and they want to continue like this. As I said, the perception you can have here maybe is a bit different to what they achieve instead of having a proper team, more aggravation. Again, talking about strategy, if you see what Renault has done in the last 37 years, they went from the French national team to being a partner with Williams and Benetton and then another team and then now they are supporting the team with whom we have won the World Championship for the last three years. So they could change, they could maybe change in the future, but at the moment we need to keep to this strategy decided by the president.
There's a lot of talk these days that the drivers cannot drive 100 percent flat out the whole race. Let's take a year when you had a good car, say in 1985. How much of the race could you drive 100 percent flat out? When you weren't driving one hundred percent, what percent were you at and what parts of the car did you have to conserve, to make sure they lasted the race?
I think it's difficult to compare, obviously, because today the cars are so advanced technology. Normally the driver can push 100 percent in normal conditions. The tyres this year are very soft which makes it a little bit different. In our time, if you want to compare, we had to take care of the brakes and gearbox and fuel consumption and obviously also tyres because sometimes we had to be careful about the tyres, but the regulations were also very different and at one stage we had three types of rubber and we could make changes and I very often ran hard tyres on the left and soft tyres on the front. I even raced in Las Vegas in '81 with qualifying tyres on the front, but that means we cannot compare, but that also proves that you need to adapt yourself, as a driver, as an engineer, to the regulations and obviously we're experiencing complaints this year... in fact it's not that different compared to last year, except that you don't want to see maybe some rubber on the track and having accidents. But apart from that, you just have to adapt to the situation, drivers or engineers. It's typically Formula One.
It's not been since Olivier Panis in 1996 for a French driver. What advice would you give Romain Grosjean, for example or the other French drivers... the frustration about that long spell, what advice would you give to them?
I don't think you can give advice to the drivers to be honest. They know what they do, I'm out of Formula One as a driver for the last 20 years exactly and why should I give advice to... we all see what is happening, we see that Romain, for example, has a very good car, he should be able to win a race very soon as I said. But no advice from myself. If they want to have advice they can ask a question and I'm happy to answer but not giving advice like this, no. Mental is a very strong thing for sure, but also we give them a lot of pressure very often, but this is a cycle. As soon as one is going to be winning, it could snowball and I hope it works like this.
Alain, every year someone says that Monaco is too dangerous. This week's hero was Ralf Schumacher. I wonder, it hasn't really changed much since your day. Do you think it is too dangerous? Do you think it's still a relevant place for a Formula One to be held?
I wouldn't say that. It's as dangerous as another race track can be dangerous. It's different, for sure. You have to be a little bit careful, especially in the traffic with all the cars. Being alone is not being more dangerous than with another car. I must also say that the passive safety, what they do with the marshals and all the work they have done in the last thirty/forty years, is exceptional and yeah, there are some conditions... when it's wet in some places where it could be a bit tough but it's such a fantastic race for everybody, especially for the drivers obviously. That is part of the tradition and you should accept it, even if it was a little bit dangerous, obviously. You should accept that.
Alain, when we spoke a year ago here you said that what ultimately pushed your team, Prost Grand Prix, out of business was the engine costs. We've heard quite a few people here talk about engine costs next year. Renault, in particular has come out and said that their price will be between 20 and 25 million which is a 250 percent increase over the current price. What do you say to that? Is there a chance, do you think that teams could go out of business because of engine prices next year?
It is a problem, it's first of all part of negotiation and the prices you've said is much higher than it is in reality, but again, I'm not the one negotiating. Your reference with my team is obviously a good reference. I was paying 28 million dollars for the Ferrari engine in the first year and I was supposed to give 32 million the year after. I had to pay this money but I had to give a guarantee and pay almost cash before. That was in September, October or November, I don't know. Why I say that because it's always a way of trying to get the best for the general interest and we will see what is going to happen in negotiation but also you need to know that the budget of Renault Sport F1 is 150 million Euros per year, and you can imagine... if you just make a very quick calculation about the price you can imagine divided by four teams, for example, and you will realise that Renault is paying a big contribution.
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