Interviews

Interview with Racing Legend Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda is a man whose reputation precedes him. The straight talking, highly intelligent racing legend is a senior executive at the all-conquering Mercedes Petronas F1 team. In this interview he discusses how Mercedes climbed to the top, his annoyance with ‘bullshit journalism’, and his unsurprisingly old-school opinions on F1, from making the cars more difficult to drive to keeping the open cockpit concept.

 

Nico’s Retirement & New Driver

 

After achieving such success, how much of a surprise was it that Nico retired? There has been a lot of back and forth since that decision was made…

We were all surprised by Nico’s sudden retirement. Why? Because there was no sign whatsoever, when he signed his two-year contract in September.

I understand from a drivers point of view because I did the same twice, that this decision (retirement) comes very quickly, if you have enough. In my time, once with Bernie in Montreal, I got out of the car in practice and left. Because the curtain came down. It built up, built up and then I won everything, and then I just couldn’t drive anymore.

The young, new drivers like Nico have a different approach. He says, number one is my family. Fine. And then if I win one championship, I go. In my time, I think a lot of other drivers would say first comes my job, like in any other business, and I take care of my family. Not first comes my family, but both.

This is his way of thinking, which we have to respect, because if I think only from my perspective and from Mercedes’ point of view, he left us in a really tough place.

What upsets me personally the most is that I never expected him to do that. He had shown no sign whatsoever. So, if he had won a championship, the logic would be to defend the championship. Therefore, you sign another contract.

I only criticise him for one thing. Now, he says if ‘I had not won the championship’ I would have gone on for another year. No. this is wrong. Either the family is number one, or not. The pressure was too high he says. The pressure is higher when you lose the championship and you have to fight Lewis Hamilton for it again. Then the pressure builds up. Not comes down.

You famously made a comeback with McLaren and won your third world title. Do you see him coming back to the sport after a few years?

No idea. I guess not, because he is different. Family is number one. That’s what he says.

He is a funny person, but I respect 100% what he is doing. I tell myself why did I not foresee this could happen. And he had shown no sign. Everybody was totally surprised. In the team, we all saw him on a day-to-day basis. His engineer, Tony, in the Christmas party came to me and said, ‘I’m shocked Niki, I’m shocked.’ Yeah, me too.

We respect his decision, we will get over it, and have to one way or another find another Nico, a better Nico if we can.

It’s been a while since Mercedes have had to sign a driver, and the timing means it is likely to be particularly challenging. How will Mercedes go about it and ultimately who would have the final say?

First of all, Toto and myself run the whole team together. I am the chairman of the board, and Toto is the CEO. We communicate everything which is of importance. [At the time of writing, no decision has been made and Mr. Lauda was flying to Stuttgart that day for a board meeting. Mercedes have since signed Finn Valtteri Bottas from Williams to partner Lewis Hamilton].

As you can imagine, to find another driver of his calibre in December is tough. Our success in the past was in big part because we had two top drivers pushing each other all the way. The results of that were clear – Lewis won two championships, Nico won one, so we had the strongest line up of drivers.

Next year with the rule change, nobody knows where they stand. If normal rules would continue, and you have the best car, you can always move up with a solid driver once you know the baseline of the car. But now it is tough, and we have a very limited choice. We have to compare who is doing what lap time when, comparing drivers like Wehrlein with other drivers, as he is the young Mercedes driver.

Given the regulation change, there will likely be a lot of in-season development. With that in mind, how important will driver experience be?

Most important is the speed. Number one, always. But speed needs brain, experience to finish races, watch the tires and win over the season. The chance to crash should be zero, so the model is the top guys like Hamilton, Nico, Vettel, Ricciardo etc.

Verstappen is the huge surprise, comes out of nowhere and he is the superman today. [He] is one of the best, no question. With his experience, what he can deliver, it is unbelievable.

But they are all under long term contract with Red Bull.

With these new rules, it could simply be that Adrian Newey, or somebody else, has a brilliant idea as to how to interpret the rules and they suddenly have a quicker car.

The instability in the driver pairing really hurts now, because it will be difficult to know where the other Mercedes driver stands – how much of the performance is car related and how much is driver related. This is the ongoing discussion when one is not competitive, is it the car, is it the driver, is it the tires, all this bullshit which I hate!

Will Lewis play a role at all in helping decide who the new driver is?

Lewis is the benchmark. No question that he is the quickest guy in F1. Now that we need a new driver, he cannot be slower than 2 tenths per lap. That’s tough. Nico was overall 2-3 tenths behind, but whenever Lewis made some mistakes, or set the car up wrong, suddenly Nico was right there and that’s why we have had the success.

To find a guy today who can deliver that on paper, with our new car, we don’t know how it will work out. So after 3-4 races we will still need to see where we stand and assess the performance.

Why did Ocon get chosen ahead of Wehrlein by Force India? Does that affect Mercedes’ decision, maybe the idea that Wehrlein hasn’t done enough in F1 yet?

It is simple. Ocon joined Force India because they wanted him, and we thought that Wehrlein needs another year with a more competitive car because Manor was not competitive enough.

The problem is that Wehrlein is our number 1 Mercedes reserve driver. Ocon is Mercedes, but slightly further away from us. It is necessary to see how quick Wehrein really is – so maybe one season too young for Mercedes, but possibly our driver anyway.

This season…

Mercedes are in F1 for the branding, the exposure, and of course to win. But whenever there is a dominant team, like you have been for the past three years, and even in the mid 2000s with Ferrari or 2010-14 with Red Bull, people turn away from F1 and in particular from the team that is constantly winning. How can you balance the need to win and still be popular?

Very simple, you cannot. Same thing if you have a skier or a tennis player, who wins every race or wins every match.  It gets boring, oh Djokovic won again. Now he’s down, but until recently…

So, when one team dominates, people do watch less television, or only the last couple of laps, or they switch off at the beginning after the start. But you cannot think of this as a team. All we have to do is to be the fastest team out there. We need to just focus on the quickest cars, have the quickest drivers, and win.

A lot of people complain, although this year less. Now we have more television viewers than any time before. When Mercedes dominated the first two years the whole viewership did go down, and everybody said that F1 was boring. But, funnily enough in the last year where we still dominated, still had the fastest car, and still won, it was a good year for viewership. Because it started with the crash for Alonso in Melbourne, then we had the crazy story of Verstappen and the Kyvat saga, and then the championship at the end, so there was always some very interesting new stories coming along.

Even though Mercedes won again, it was more interesting. But this is something we cannot influence, the only obligation for us is to win. We cannot do the other things. This is why we don’t want team tactics. The drivers can drive how they want. From day one, they were never restricted – we just needed a Mercedes driver to win. We don’t care which one.

You say no team tactics, but what about what happened in Abu Dhabi?

In that last race, when we told Hamilton to go quicker, we were worried. Or at least Toto was worried. Because Ferrari, with Vettel with much softer and fresher tires, could not just go for Nico but could get Lewis, which he wanted and he had the speed for it. Lewis obviously wanted Vettel to do something to help the championship go in his direction, but Mercedes has one mission.

It was made clear to both drivers after they both crashed in Barcelona. You have one thing to understand. Mercedes has to win. We don’t care who, which driver is not so important. And if you drive so stupid, that Red Bull wins, that is enough. You cannot do that to us. Fight as long as you want, as tough as you want, as long as Mercedes is winning.

But if you crash so hard, and get into politics that favour other cars to win, then this is wrong. This is the thin line with the racing drivers. So we never interfered. And with Lewis, you cannot do it anyway!

After the drivers collided in Spain – a lot has been written about Hamilton threatening to quit the team. Is there any truth to that? How difficult was it to manage the team after the first time both drivers ended each other’s’ race completely?

We just told them Mercedes has to win. Simple as that. That crash was a coincidence with a lot of things going wrong, like Nico had the wrong setting in the cockpit, so therefore his car didn’t have the electric power to accelerate properly.

Lewis tried to pass him on the right. But he saw the light blinking on the back of Nico’s car. The light blinking means you have 160 brake horsepower less. 160!  So our argument to Lewis was why didn’t you go down the left? Why try inside when you see he has no power anyway?

Go past him on the left, wave at him and you drive past. Safe. So there was a misunderstanding between the two, and they crashed. Nevertheless, these things can happen and we didn’t look very clever there, but it was sorted quite quickly. We just told them that one of you guys has to win, so be careful and don’t do this again.

It was all sorted pretty quick and there was no more issue.

How challenging did the team find it to deal with Hamilton’s reliability issues and all the ‘conspiracies’ around it? Especially given what happened in Malaysia…

He still thinks that we did it on purpose. Which is wrong. Nobody can do this on purpose. It is ridiculous. Brixworth has some 700 people, working to make sure the engines last. These things unfortunately can happen. If you race these cars, you can do all the reliability tests, but there is something that can still go wrong.

In this case it was the crankshaft which went wrong because the bearing failed. We know the cause now, because there was a different oil used, a new oil, which was part of the problem. And we corrected it. Lewis was very upset because in the end he lost a championship with this engine failure, but this is the sport and these things happen.

You are the only driver to have been a champion with both McLaren and Ferrari. Both teams have struggled in the recent past. Do you think they can return to the sharp end of the grid and really challenge Mercedes soon?

It is always the same. If you have really good engineering brain, in these more complicated cars of today, then you are the best. And this needs to be built up.

Let us say I would start a team from scratch today, it would take me years to have young people coming out of university, fully trained on the job, and able to make a better car than Adrian Newey. Years.

So, Ferrari who are now in big trouble, needs to get people from somewhere else, bring knowledge into their team, to speed up the time level to be competitive again. And today this is very difficult, because we and other teams secure all our people properly with garden leave contracts and whatsoever to stop knowledge being transferred to another team.

So for Ferrari, I think that even with all the struggles, can be challenging again soon. The Italians are very good when nothing works at putting everything together and still coming back rather quick. They could. If the engineering level and knowledge are understood in the right way, which is more difficult but still possible.

McLaren is different. McLaren has a huge problem with the Honda engine power. It was just not competitive. The car itself is not bad. The engineering level on the car is quite good, so when the engine comes back, and it will come back, slowly, I think McLaren will be competitive again.

As a big Alonso fan, I was disappointed when he said he would not leave McLaren this year for Mercedes. Do you think Fernando Alonso will win another championship before he retires?

Very difficult, because Honda will not get as quick as the rest of the people so quickly.

I doubt it.

He is a very quick guy, no question. Very political. At the same time, it depends, from the driving point of view, he is still the best, one of the best guys, no question. But, the car needs to be quicker.

This season saw the emergence of Verstappen, but other young drivers in GP2, GP3 have struggled to find competitive seats in F1. Is it too difficult for young drivers to get into F1 unless they bring major sponsorship deals with them? Is that good for the sport?

The sport was always like this, sometimes easier and sometimes more difficult for drivers to get in.

Look at Verstappen. Didn’t have to pay anything, he just had talent and was amazing in the car. So if there unique drivers, drivers like Verstappen, at the Formula 3 level, they will always get in. Especially now because there is a shortage again, many drivers retiring. Button, Rosberg, Massa all gone.

The sports needs drivers. We looked at all the serious drivers in the lower categories, but they are all not ready. They need 1-2 years more, otherwise they will be too far back in their performance level. But there is a much easier way to get in to the sport now. There have been other times when it was full, so then it was difficult for the young drivers coming through.

As you just alluded to, many long term drivers have left the sport this season. What are your thoughts on Massa, Button and their time in F1? 

Massa and Button were both very good drivers. Button, I really respect as a gentleman driver. Very quick in the past despite difficult times with Honda and McLaren now.

Massa very much the same; he was a real racer, a real Brazilian racer. Even this season In the Williams in his fight with Bottas, in the end they were very even these two guys, both very quick. A very good guy.

Mercedes, then and now.

It’s easy to forget after years of Mercedes dominance, but after they entered the sport as an individual team in 2010, Mercedes were struggling initially. Why did you decide to join them, and how have you and Toto turned the team into champions?

Once I sold my second airlines, NIKI, I was lucky that Dr. Zetsche (CEO of Mercedes) asked me if I would help them with the whole Concorde agreement and payment scheme. That’s where my association with Mercedes started.

I went to negotiate with Bernie, and it was tough in the beginning, but the Concorde agreement was signed up to 2020 and Mercedes was secured in the sport. My predecessor, Norbert Haug had not done it, and so Mercedes asked me to take an active role and do it as chairman of the board.
At that time, Ross Brawn and Nick Fry were also there, and Mercedes had just finished 5th in the constructors championship, not performing at all. So after I joined, Toto Wolff also joined and we participated in the ownership – he had 30 % I had 10% in the team, invested money ourselves, and that’s where it all started.

We had to work very hard to solve the puzzle to get right people, in the right positions, so that everyone is pulling in one direction. You can have the best engineers but if they are not working well together as a team, and working well with the rest of the team, then it doesn’t work.

The other big problem facing Mercedes at the beginning was the engine situation at Brixworth. This is the engine place, and there was basically no communication between Brixworth and Brackley, which was where Ross Brawn’s organisation was based when Mercedes bought it.

Brixworth actually had a better relationship with McLaren than they did with their own team. So when I went to Brixworth for the first time, and saw this unbelievable place, high tech, top people working there, they said they actually work very little with Mercedes and almost entirely with McLaren.

One of the first things I did was to move them together – we have to first work for each other, and then for the customers to make it simple. Step by step, we were able to improve. We went from 5th to 2nd, and then three years in a row we won both the drivers and constructor’s championship. We did a good job.

It has been speculated that there has been underlying tension between current management and those running Mercedes F1 before its success, does Ross Brawn get too much credit for the current development of cars?

Ross Brawn is a perfect engineer and a great personality. He won with Schumacher at Ferrari, and then with Button in 2009 with the double diffuser, which was a brilliant idea that worked out. Ross Brawn is highly respected, no question about it.  But I wanted him to stay at Mercedes for a little bit longer after Mercedes bought his shares, that Ross had bought from Honda in 2008.

Early on, they [Nick Fry and Ross Brawn] even asked me how often do I want to come to Brackley. I said, ‘what do you mean?’ They clarified, Norbert Haug only came three times a year, and the board meeting. I said ‘no, no way. As long as the car is not winning, I come every day’. That’s basically what happened.
The catch point was when Toto and myself got Paddy Lowe into the team. I had told Ross we needed more strength there in the engineering department, and asked Ross to continue with Paddy for at least one more year, and then he can make up his mind if it is easy to work with him or not.

And in the beginning I could convince him, but then he suddenly decided ‘no I don’t want to do that’ and left, so Paddy basically took over alone. Mercedes were very successful, and I think we took the right decision.

Do you think Paddy Lowe will stay at Mercedes?

We don’t know yet, today is the big day where a lot of this will all be sorted out. The number one decision is the driver, and could take another week or so.

Very few drivers have been able to operate at the top end of the grid both as a driver and as a team director. How different is the skillset required?

Very different. Ecclestone is the best example. He runs a fantastic business very well over the last 30-35 years. He was the worst racing driver you can ever imagine. Bernie could not even start the car properly, and he still cannot drive the car today. But the business is fantastic.

Sure, it is always good if you know a little bit about it, but just moving like that does not work. There are the drivers, they should know their job and be the quickest in the world. Management is something else.

In the last few years, F1 has gotten so much bigger, with races around the world, much larger media presence, far more complex regulations. Do you think the way teams were run in the past, where you have worked under figures like Ron Dennis, Bernie Ecclestone, even Enzo Ferrari, is that no longer possible?

The structure is important, but much more important is how the workload has increased. In my time, it was very simple, change springs, shock absorb and gearbox and that’s it. Now you have all these electronic stuff on the car, a limit of only four engines a season, more reliability focused. So the workload has really increased.

The impact of the engineering brainpower on these cars has gone, 10-20 times more than in the past. So, the structure has to be different. More people have to be in the team, so it is more difficult and more important to synchronise all the departments, and get the best out of everyone.

Demands are similar, but more intense. Need to have even more people focused on to set the car right, make sure the reliability is there, cars are fast. This is not as difficult as it looks because the car makes that demand.

You clearly are not a big fan of sports media, and speculation in the media. How do Mercedes deal with that as it is such a big part of F1?

A really big development over the last 10 years, not just in F1 obviously, is Facebook, Twitter and all that bullshit. This ‘new’ way of communicating which you can do, if you always bear in mind to keep privacy and the right information level.

Therefore, we have Bradley Lord, the chief Mercedes press man, and he organized the best way for Mercedes to operate in this area. We have a fantastic set up where we communicate directly to journalists in the paddock. For instance, if we have an engine problem and we know the cause, we tell them right away. It is important for Mercedes to be very straightforward. Not like some other teams, for instance Ferrari, where they say nothing, or the wrong thing,

It amazes me for instance, how the newspapers are writing about Bottas, Wehrlein and Paddy Lowe. First of all, half of this is completely wrong, and also I’m not sure how some of this can come up. Sure, there must somewhere be a leak, somebody must have said a little bit, but then it turns into a ‘big thing’ where the information level that they put out is then totally wrong.

Generally speaking, in all our lives, when we read newspapers, I think that 80% of it is not true. Now we have come to the point and say (pointing at my hot chocolate) is this a chocolate, no it’s actually a coffee or a tea. We don’t really know, its maybe a little bit of everything. No. I’m a very pragmatic, black and white person – I hate small talk and that sort of rubbish.

We have to be careful about this, because this will continue and get much worse. You have to find in yourself a filter when you read a headline, where a headline is very often 80% wrong and then when you read the article, in the last sentence, it says ‘oh it could have been like this’. So the headline just drives you in a completely wrong direction.

The best example was that one newspaper here, which a couple of weeks ago, wrote that Lucas Auer [cousin of Gerhard Berger] who drives in DTM, will go into Formula 1 with Mercedes. Front page headline. The article in the back of the paper said the opposite. Toto Wolff said no way, he’s not experienced and has to drive in DTM first. I was not asked, but everyone in the back (of the paper) from Mercedes said no way. But the headline was he was going to F1.

For young people, it will just get worse and worse because they can’t compare to before. But I am in the middle of it, so I have experienced the past, and can see how it is going in the future. I can say very well, I will go ‘this far’ with new media and all this bullshit, but not any further because every day, I see its wrong. Especially with the F1, I can judge it because I know the inside information, which other people don’t know.

This is the crazy thing of today, that there are so many newspapers and such articles. Journalists do not anymore talk, and then write articles, they just go on the internet. You could write something interesting in your Oxford paper, and other journalists will pick it up, without checking, and bring it into their papers, and change it and say something that can be totally wrong. We are in a world of bullshit newspapers to be honest. It is hard for people to understand between yes and no, what is correct and what is wrong. It is an interesting development, which we are very good at Mercedes, about saying what’s going wrong or right in the team. Very quick communication, and we try to leave no room for wrong speculation.

Why do you still enjoy F1, with all the travelling and politics?

I don’t know. I never sit still all my life. If you ask me to go home and do nothing I would most likely kill myself. Basically, I am always interested to make new things and look forward, and what can I do here and there. It’s in my blood, and that’s what I enjoy.

I don’t enjoy when everything runs smooth. Now, it’s a difficult time coming up, I enjoy (it). All my strengths come up when things don’t work. Then I can put my detailed work, and actually achieve more.

So I look forward to the next season, because we have no driver and new cars where nobody knows what is going to be quick and what is going to be slow. This I enjoy every much.

Can you see yourself staying in F1 for a while or are there other plans, maybe a third airlines?

No airlines! F1 is a hard job, you cannot do both things. I’m going to sign a new contract in the next few weeks, for four more years, both Toto and myself. I’m enjoying it, it’s a hard job but its good.  I look forward to the next season for sure.

Future of F1

Are the new regulations a step in the right direction?

The reason they had to be brought in is because Formula 1 was just too easy. It is as simple as that. The small tires made it like Formula 3, which is very easy. You can lose the car, catch it, and keep on driving. Same thing, with the narrow tires in Formula 1, and that is wrong. You can always ride on the limit, but never have real problems.

Formula 1 has to get back to grip at the limit, and then you lose it completely. And then you can see the difference, between how many drivers can really get that fastest time, up to the last tenth, and not fly off the road. This is what the new rules are trying to achieve. So we said we have to go at least 4-5 seconds quicker, because these current cars are so easy to drive. When we go up to the podium, in some of the races, the drivers don’t even sweat. It’s too comfortable and easy. Therefore, the intention was to make it more difficult to drive these cars.

Part of the challenge when you go four seconds quicker, is to manage that speed because it is a lot quicker and you feel it. If the grip level at the top goes, you can spin very easily and it is very difficult to drive fast and keep these cars under control. And this is what we want to achieve. Verstappen for instance is definitely a genius with the way he drives. But still it’s easier for him to come in, out of a Formula 3 car, into a Formula 3 type Formula 1 car. Lance Stroll, who comes in now, a similar type of kid, has a more difficult time next year.

So, we will see in February, and then in the early races, if this has achieved. If it’s really going to happen, nobody knows yet because nobody has driven the new cars. But this is important to make Formula 1 the unique quickest racing series in the world. This is what it should be. The drivers who win Formula 1 have to be the best drivers in the world. The best. And therefore, the cars have to be more difficult to drive.

Formula 1 has always been seen as the pinnacle of motorsport. A big part of that comes not just from cars that are incredibly tough to drive, but also from the open cockpit. The Halo was voted down for next year – do you think it should still come in at some time in the future or is another solution necessary?

The problem we have is a simple one. Because of the unfortunate Bianchi accident, there is a court case going along now against Charlie and everybody, not because of the Halo but because of this stupid big pickup truck in the middle of the circuit. That’s how the Halo discussion started. It would have never saved Bianchi, from that injury, because the Halo could not have saved someone hitting the truck in the middle of the track. So, in this ongoing political story, it cannot be stopped.

For me, this Halo, this is completely against Formula 1. Formula 1 is open seater, there is less danger today. Especially when you look at the circuit development, which mean the circuits are so wide. But, we are stuck In the middle of this political decision, and the HALO as it has been proposed by the FIA, does not work.

The Alonso accident proved that when you are upside down, you might not get out, or at least not very quickly. Lots of little details came up at the Strategy Group meeting, so we were not sure if this approach was the right approach.

The drivers testing it – I would say maybe half of them have said they have or would be disturbed by the Halo. Disturbed means when you look at Eau Rouge, Spa you look up and you see the Halo and it’s an issue, not for protection but for visibility. Maybe half of them have said I can drive it, so the divers have mixed opinion if this is the right way to go.

Therefore, we have to find a new approach. Next year nothing will happen, but we are trying to look at different approaches, like the Red Bull fighter jet design. I think that it should go in this direction, because then you still have a Formula 1 car. You can still see the drivers head. And you gain more protection if something happens.

This sort of compromise has to be found, because we cannot drop the issue now as this is political. So once we have a new approach we like, we will see when it’s ready and then put it up. But for me, to make it clear, without the Bianchi accident, we would never have discussed this. And Formula 1 is still Formula 1.

The people who drive these Formula 1 cars, they have to be aware that it is dangerous. They like it, they love it like I did. And they want to race. They are racers. You cannot make Formula 1 100% safe. The people who drive in such cars should think before, do I want to take a chance or not? Very simple, it is a dangerous sport. To make everything safe is just not possible.

In the end, we have to take the correct decision of saying guys we cannot go any further. Otherwise it will not be Formula 1 at all. We want to see people racing, with certain risks and limits, and then you can see who is good and who is bad. To make it completely safe is impossible, so there is a difficult compromise we have to find.

What else is needed to restore F1 as a spectacle? 

A big thing are these stupid overtaking rules. This is ridiculous. Charlie wrote rules, one guy has to move in one direction this is allowed, moves in the other direction is forbidden, these are completely crazy. They are the best racing drivers in the world, leave them alone! They should drive the way they want. There are no rules like on the road. If you start introducing rules like on the road you stop racing anymore.

If they think the quick way is to jump over then they should do it, without hurting one another. So now at the next meeting in January we have to make sure that next year there are no more such rules.

So next discussion, track limits and the white lines. Guys go over them and go quicker. If there is just a white line and the track continues what does the logic do, go straight. So if you want to stop this, don’t stop it with rules or Charlie looking ‘how far did he go over the line’, five seconds penalty, just build a wall there; put a kerb! Simple.

But we have to let these guys race. The more rules you write, the more difficult it is to interpret, and you have Charlie, the steward of the meeting where you take one decision and then you can have Mexico where nobody knows who is third.

We have to cut all this back, because otherwise we are going in the wrong direction. Formula 1 is Formula 1, you cannot control this like road safety cars. This is important, otherwise people will lose interest.

What are your thoughts on the new ownership of the sport?

I have met Chase Carey a couple of times, he is the Liberty man. I had a meeting with him at Stuttgart last week. All he does at the moment is to run around and understand what we are doing, and understand our side of the sport.

Bernie has done a fantastic job over the past couple of decades, but there are things missing, like you can never watch a GP on your iPhone. Liberty Media will bring a lot of knowledge into these things.

New ownership, with a group like this, I think there will be some changes. But how long Bernie is sitting there and what Chase is doing, nobody knows yet. We have to wait, but I think it’s positive that there is new ownership and a new approach from the outside because it means something will be moved and changed.

In recent years there has been a clear push for F1 to expand out of Europe and become more of a ‘World Championship’. Should F1 be less Europe focused moving forward?

Sure F1 has to move to other markets. Bernie could sell the races, which are expensive, so we get the money from that pot.

Now we travel more and more away from Europe, sometimes to funny places, and sometimes to good places.

This is what Bernie has done very well. But the cost for the organisers is very high – because European races are really struggling to pay that 30-40 million, whatever it is Bernie demands for this one weekend.

The new owners need to look into this also, because we need the organisers, without them we cannot race. And the tickets, 400 euros and more in some places, works in Silverstone because the British always go to Silverstone, but doesn’t work in Austria or Germany.

So there has to be a new approach for the organisers, so that F1 keeps the baseline in Europe which is necessary because those are the known races, you cannot get rid of them, and then expand into other areas where it makes sense.

Thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it. All the best for next year.

Not at all, my pleasure.

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