Q&A with Williams chairman Adam Parr
15 July, 2011
Jul.15 (Williams) Williams F1 chairman Adam Parr speaks on a wide range of issues regarding Formula One and the team’s current affairs.
Where do you stand on the hot-blown diffuser saga?
Adam Parr: It’s a hugely complicated issue. Even if we know what it does to us, we don’t know what it does to everyone else. When people started to develop this hot-blowing technique, we sat down with Cosworth and asked if we could do it. They said yes and listed how many engines we’d need to develop it and how much it would cost. Then Patrick [Head] said, ‘hang on a minute, is this even legal?’
We discovered that there are three different rules under which it is probably illegal, two of which come under article 3.15. One is to do with parts that influence the aerodynamic performance of the car being rigidly secured to the chassis and the other is a new rule for this year, which says any system that relies upon driver movement to influence aerodynamic performance is illegal.
We asked for a clarification from Charlie [Whiting, FIA Race Director] and very rapidly we got the answer ‘No, this is absolutely not legal’. That has been his consistent view throughout all of this. Using the throttle in braking to gain aerodynamic performance is not legal; it’s using a thing that is moving rather fast and not rigidly secured to anything to help aerodynamic performance. That’s where we started and we were happy because it meant we didn’t have to spend a fortune developing a system.
How much money has been spent developing hot-blown diffusers?
Parr: I don’t know how much other manufacturers have spent, but it will be significant sums. Our intent wasn’t malicious and it wasn’t really in an effort to optimise our position; we just wanted to find out whether something was legal before committing a lot of money to the programme.
Is rule instability good for the sport?
Parr: The intensity of the competition in F1 is what makes F1 so compelling. That’s the way it is. The engineers don’t forget what they’ve already learnt and, as a result, everything gets more and more complex, more integrated and more expensive every year. Everything affects everything else. Charlie compared it to the banning of Active Ride in ’93, and that’s not a bad example. It was a very complex system and it took a long time to develop it, then it was banned.
How is the team doing financially?
Parr: As a team and as a company we can do better, everyone can see that. How have we done financially? When I started at the end of 2006, we’d just lost our partnership with BMW and what was close to a title partnership with HP, and we’d gone from free engines to being a customer, which, in those days was a lot of money. We took the decision to build-up debt to about £35m, which was a lot of money for us. Since then we have paid off 90 percent of that debt, we have recorded a profit in 2008, ’09 and ’10, we’ve brought the company to the stock market and we’ve got 500 people working for us. We’re supporting 3,000 British businesses and a lot outside Britain as well.
Can you elaborate a bit on your Renault deal?
Parr: The Holy Grail for us is a deep partnership with Renault, who will supply us with great technology. It’s a great marketing platform for them and it’s a great bonus for our partners to be associated with a car company.
The three teams that Renault are currently supplying are all associated with other car companies, whether it’s Infiniti, Lotus or Lotus/Caterham. You could look at our deal and say we’re the odd one out. There’s huge potential in the partnership.
Will the relationship with Renault include 2014 and beyond?
Parr: As I’ve already said, we’re not promoting another car brand in F1 and I think that may give Renault an opportunity. Due to our history with Renault, we’re almost synonymous with each other in F1.
Are sponsors falling into place for 2012?
Parr: Our on-track performance earlier in the year was so obviously inadequate that it wasn’t the right time to talk to sponsors. We always have great conversations going with people, but I asked our sponsorship department to back off. We needed to put in place a vision of the future that was very different to the vision of the present, before talking to people. Putting together a technical leadership group for the future; the partnership with Renault; the partnership with Jaguar and, hopefully, doing a better job on-track now were all prerequisites. With all of those things in place, I told our sponsorship guys to start going for it last week. I’m very optimistic that we’ll bring in some new partnerships next year.
How’s Qatar progressing?
Parr: Very well. We have a joint venture with Qatar Foundation, developing simulation technology and large-scale flywheels. Everything’s on track.
Has Pastor Maldonado justified his position in the team?
Parr: It was a very difficult decision at the end of last year. Nico [Hulkenberg] is undoubtedly an enormously talented young man. People derided me for saying Pastor was a very talented driver, but his record in GP2 certainly earned him a place in F1. We’ve seen his speed from the outset, but what he’s started to show is consistency and maturity. We’ve been in Q3 three times this season and Pastor has done it each time.
Are you seeing the same pace from Rubens as last year?
Parr: Where Rubens is so good is in the races. He keeps his head down and he’s just there. You need youth and experience in a team.
You made some pretty outspoken comments about TV revenues at the Fans’ Forum in Canada. Has Bernie Ecclestone spoken to you about that?
AP: It was portrayed that I was having a crack at Bernie, which, if you read one sentence, I suppose was fair. But that wasn’t actually fair if you looked at the discussion as a whole. What Bernie has created at the events themselves blows everyone away. On the media side, the quality of the TV feed and the race direction is unbelievable; it’s world-class. The thing I was trying to say in Canada is that social media, the Internet and even pay TV must change the landscape. Not only how you communicate and how you distribute content, but also economically.
Rubens has more than a million followers on Twitter, of whom a significant proportion is Brazilian. For Renault, Brazil is a key market and when Rubens is sitting in Grove at the launch of our new partnership and he’s tweeting that we’re back with Renault and what fantastic news it is, a million people, who have opted to follow him, get an endorsement of Renault that is not commercially driven. It’s what he genuinely feels. How do you quantify what that’s worth? How many TV adverts of a Clio is that worth? It gives you an insight to the possibilities available. We have to challenge ourselves as a sport, and challenge Bernie because he controls the commercial rights, to look at what’s possible.