Marcin Budkowski - najbardziej wpływowy Polak w F1 o kulisach Formuły 1. Anegdoty i wspomnienia
A: Today we have a really special guest with us. This person probably has the best job in Formula 1. A: The executive director of the Alpine team, Marcin Budkowski. Hi Marcin. M: Hello. A: So, when was the last time you spoke in Polish about Formula 1? M: A few years ago, I did an interview for Radio Trójka in Poland, but it was a long time ago. I was still at McLaren back then. A: Well, just in case, we can chat in other languages, we have a few at our disposal. A: I think your career is the dream of young boys.
A: Cezary, as a little boy thirty years ago, you can ask this question. C: Thirty... The thing is, I got a lot of letters from readers and messages asking how it is possible to become a part of Formula 1 and make a career. C: Many Poles are really interested in F1 C: so I’d like to ask you – are you aware that you are an inspiration to them, do you feel pressure of being a role model for Poles? M: First of all, I am very happy that many Poles are interested in Formula 1, as it was not the case in the past. Indeed, Robert's career accelerated it in Poland M: So I’m really happy about that, because it is sport, of course, it’s my job, but it’s also my passion. M: And it makes me happy that more and more people are interested in it in Poland. M: I am also glad that young people are interested and that they want to work in Formula 1.
M: Because it’s a fascinating job. There are career opportunities in this community M: so if I can help in any way, I will be very happy to do so. A: Was it always your childhood dream to join F1, or was it an unexpected series of events that led you to work there? M: I had quite an unusual life, because I moved from Poland to France with my parents when I was 5 and in France Formula 1 was very popular, more than in Poland in those years. M: So when I was a teenager I watched my races with my father from time to time and these were the times of Prost, Senna, beautiful years for Formula 1. M: And I immediately got involved in this sport, because of the cars, drivers, amazing technologies, but also everything around the world of racing.
M: It fascinated me. I was 11/12 years old and it became my hobby, my passion. M: I followed it with great curiosity and commitment. M: When I started my studies and decided to become an engineer, of course I tried to combine this passion with my job and become an engineer in Formula 1. M: And I made it. It was not easy, but I made it. C: I will throw in a controversial question: Senna or Prost? M: Prost, Prost. Because I was in France and of course in France Prost was very popular. M: He won four world championships, so he was an exceptional athlete in France. And very popular.
A: And your first employer. M: And my first employer. He is currently a special advisor to the Alpine F1 team, the former Renault F1 team. In a way, we've closed the circle. C: I suppose when you looked at that blue and yellow Williams Renault driving for the fourth world championship, you were one of those people who waited in anticipation and crossed your fingers for him to win. C: I was elsewhere in Europe, but I was also rooting for Prost back then. M: Absolutely, those were beautiful years. Not that they're less interesting now, because I think there's always a tendency, people say: ah, Formula 1 races used to be amazing. M: In fact, when you watch the last seasons, these races are very interesting and they are beautiful competitions.
M: But there is some fascination of these times, Lauda, Prost, Senna, these personalities and those times of Formula 1, and I still have such vivid memories from those times. M: And it is interesting to go back to those times, when we are together at the races, because for me they are memories from my youth, for him they are memories of his career, the last season. C: What advice would you give to young people who want to join Formula 1? They are just looking for a path. How can they increase their chances?
M: It depends on what type of career you want to make in Formula 1. And also what studies someone has finished or what qualifications they have. M: Formula 1 is a meritocracy, it employs the best people, so of course having good diplomas, good qualifications, good experience, possibly in other categories of motorization, is a big advantage. M: I also always advise people, especially young people, to insist that they never let go of this dream. M: Because this is also a trait that when people send me a CV or are trying to get a job, they are distinguished sometimes by the fact that they are so motivated. M: In my case, it was a bit like that. I sent letters and CVs to all Formula 1 teams. I sent over 40 letters. M: And I got one answer. One job interview. This is how I got a job at Prost.
M: If I had written three or four letters, I would have probably never got the job. M: I always say that if you fail to enter through the door, you have to try to enter through the window. A: You started with Prost and then there was Ferrari. You said before this season that this is an inspiration for Alpine and what you want to do.
A: How do you recall those times at Ferrari? You've been there three times in a row, the team won both the drivers’ and constructors' titles. M: Yes. I joined Ferrari after a year at Prost because the Prost Grand Prix team then went bankrupt and I had the opportunity to move to Italy and work for Ferrari. M:And I joined this team in amazing times because those were the days of Michael Schumacher, but also Jean Todt, who was the team principal, Ross Brawn was technical director, M: Mattia Binotto who is currently the Ferrari team principal, and then he was an engineer in charge of the engines on the track.
M: James Allison was with me in the aerodynamics department, so it was a Formula 1 dream team. M: A unique team that won so many races and so many championships, and dominated the sport for years. So I was still young, with very little experience. M: And it was a great experience, I learned a lot. Of course, in my profession as an aerodynamicist, as an engineer, I learned a lot from the best. M: But it also gave me an opportunity to observe why this team was so strong, why it was so dominant.
M: The energy, how it those talented people worked together, not against each other, but together. M: And this is something that I sometimes go back to and it also helps me, when I think how to organize a team, what the dynamics should be. M: Formula 1 has changed a lot. It was almost 20 years ago. It is much more complicated, more technological. M: But all in all, success is still based on having a team of people who work well together. Still the same rules. C: This is interesting because Aldona prepared some more questions and she lists the people you worked with at Ferrari – Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Mattia Binotto, James Allison. Exactly the same order.
C: And Stefano Domenicali wasn't at Ferrari then? M: He was, As the sporting director. Absolutely, I forgot to mention Stefan. M: So, every now and then when I'm in a meeting, we just had an F1 committee meeting yesterday of all the bosses from FiA and F1. M: And it was a virtual meeting by ZOOM, but when we have such meetings in FiA offices and I look around the tables, I see many of my former colleagues and it’s such a small world.
M: The people of that Ferrari team are now at the forefront of Formula 1. A: I am very curious, how does this translate into your cooperation now, that you remember each other so well from this dream team, from those 15 years A: and now you are all in different places completely? A: One is the boss of FiA, others are at Ferrari, Mercedes, and you have to work together. M: We have to work together. Does our past have any influence on our relations? M: It’s easier to speak to someone you know and with whom you have worked. M: I also have a special relationship with Jean Todt, because after a while in McLaren I joined the federation, FiA, and I had the opportunity to work with Jean Todt again.
M: I worked with all the teams then, so I worked with James, with Mattia, with these people in their different roles in the teams, M: and now Stefano has joined as Formula 1 boss, he replaced Chase Carey and we saw each other in Bahrain M: Stefano remembers me when I was twenty-something at Ferrari M: and now we sit together and talk about the future of the sport M: So it kind of strengthens relationships between people, because we were together on this adventure once. A: Do you talk about any funny stories from that time? M: I keep a couple, just in case I need a favour... I’m just kidding of course. M: We reminisce from time to time, but not at official meetings, but when we get together for coffee. So, every now and then there are funny stories that we tell each other. C: And when it comes to these meetings, what is the atmosphere like? M: Are they serious, with the chairman, do you address each other Mr Marcin, Mr Krystian? M: Or do you joke around? Is it laid back and does e.g. Christian Horner make jokes?
A: As you said, this is a small world, you have been in it for many years together. M: It is a small world, a very small world even. And people know each other. People respect each other in general, but not everyone likes everyone, so there are some skeletons in different closets. M: Yes, these are serious meetings, of course, because we talk about the future of sport and about important decisions, about regulations, about commercial and business matters, sponsorships and so on, so it's all serious, M: but yes, there are some jokes from time to time. M: We all have generally good relationships, because we actually spend more time with people from Formula 1 than with our own families and friends. A: You have already mentioned your job at FiA and I will ask you about it again in a moment, but now I would like to return to the 2000s for a moment A: because we are talking about that inspiration, those years of Ferrari’s success, but you were also at Ferarri when it was defeated by Renault two years in a row A: so what was the greater lesson – these years of success or those years of a very fierce, ultimately lost fight? M: This is a very interesting question because it was a time when Ferrari was dominating the sport and when I started my work at Ferrari, it was 2002, I had just come from Prost.
M: There used to be points for only the first six racers, so in the sixth place you got one point. M: At Prost, when we were finishing and we had one car, one driver who finished sixth or fifth, and earned a point or two, M: we all met at the Versailles bar by Prost's head office and there was a party because we were happy about this point. M: And a few months later, I started working at Ferrari.
M: During the first weekend of my work at Ferrari I think Michael won the race. I come to my office on Monday morning, everyone sits down at their computers and starts working. M: Nobody is happy? You know what, we've already won our fifth race this year and we'll probably win another ten so... M: And I'm not saying that it became a routine, because everyone was still working very hard and there was this motivation to win, but it was no longer such an achievement M: because since it’s every year and almost every weekend, it is doesn't give you the same feeling. M: And it came back. But it came back just after the years in which we lost the world championship and we were defeated by the Renault team with Fernando Alonso, because people realised it’s not a routine and that you have to deserve it.
M: There were external circumstances, there were changes to tires and things like that, but in total it also gave more motivation M: and when we won again, it was my last year at Ferrari in 2007, this pleasure of winning came back. C: Going back to those years, I wanted to ask because I heard from the Renault team that in the 2006 season, when Alonso won his second world title C: Renault actually had a slower car than Ferrari by literally 0.2–0.3 seconds. Did you know that? M: They had what, sorry? C: A slower car than Ferrari, that Renault was slightly slower than Ferrari that season. M: Possibly. Honestly, I don't remember those times so well M: Those seasons Renault's dominance was not so obvious, these were titles won with a lot of effort by Fernando.
M: I just remember that back then there were Bridgestone and Michelin tires and it made a lot of difference, different tires were better on different tracks. M: A lot had happened during these seasons. But I don't remember as well as you do about those details. C: I heard about it, I was also close to Renault at that time and I received such information.
C: But let's move on to the point when you left for Renault. There was a lot of buzz around this at the time. C: And it seems to me that then, if someone did not know who Marcin Budkowski was, they knew after the news broke out. Because there was a lot of controversy. M: When I left FiA for Renault? C: Yes. How was it for you personally? M: It was quite an interesting time, because I had been almost three years at FiA and it was quite a complicated story, M: because I had joined FiA after a period at McLaren and it was never official, but the goal was to replace Charlie Whiting, who was the Formula 1 director for FiA.
M: And let's say I was officially Charlie's deputy, but Charlie didn't really want a deputy. M: FiA and Jean Todt just wanted to make sure that when Charlie had enough and would retire, someone would be able to take over his huge responsibilities, because he was a person who mattered a lot in Formula 1. M: And those three years were quite strange, because on the one hand I learned a lot, first working with Charlie, with people from FiA, with people from Formula 1, M: then with Bernie Ecclestone and his team, but I also had contact with all the team bosses, with all the people who matter, so I built a strong network.
M: Things didn’t go exactly as they were supposed to and I didn't have enough prospects to replace Charlie in an adequate moment. M: And then there was an offer from Renault and it was one that was hard to refuse. M: They offered me to join the management of the team and in a sense make me the number two of the Renault team, a very promising project.
M: So, I decided that I would accept this offer and join the team M: but I knew that it would not be an obvious matter, because when I was moving from FiA to the team I knew there was potential for a bit of controversy and that other teams might not be happy about it. M: But how I experienced it specifically, it was quite interesting, because I handed in my resignation to FiA, but I hadn’t signed a contract with Renault yet. M: I don't think I've ever talked about it. And it was a matter of a day or two, I was just waiting for this contract to come in the mail. Everything was already agreed.
M: So I called Jean Todt, with whom I had a good relationship, to tell him that I was leaving. And I wanted to warn him first, before I officially resigned, to maintain the best possible relationship with him. M: It came out very quickly. So suddenly there were articles in the press saying that I was leaving, that I was joining the team and I had already resigned from FiA, not yet having contract with Renault. M: It was not a very pleasant period, it was quite stressful. M: But I was surprised myself how this whole story took on a life of its own and it started to be a topic of conversation, at FiA press conferences and so on, where I didn't go to races anymore because FiA asked me to stay home. M: So, I was anxiously sitting at home, drinking my coffee, and I remember there was a race in Malaysia or Japan.
M: I watched the press conference at six in the morning, the main topic of which was my move to Renault. M: So quite a strange experience, but in the end, luckily, this people stopped talking about it as other interesting topics appeared. A: Of course, I don't expect you to reveal a lot about working at FiA A: but I'm curious if you can say what it was like when the teams wanted to consult you A: or did you have such behind-the-scenes talks: listen Marcin, what if we hypothetically did this and this, then what do you say to that? A: And was it always official? How did such things get done? M: There are official and unofficial channels. M: Since it is a small world, people know and talk to each other.
M: Whenever the team wants to make sure that they can do something, they will write officially, present an idea or present some approach M: but often before such an official letter is sent, there will be talks, not necessarily behind the scenes, but simply at the race to discuss some ideas. M: But everything is transparent, nothing is done between me and someone behind a truck in the paddock. M: Everything at the end is put on paper or sent by e-mail, so a lot of people are informed, so it's not really behind the scenes. A: And has it ever happened that someone would surprise you with their idea, that someone came up with something that went beyond your imagination, beyond what you can do within the rules? M: Absolutely, this is Formula 1. M: From time to time there is a rule that has been in place for 20 years and seemingly all possible interpretations have already been thought of M: and sometimes a young engineer reads the rules for the first time and sees them in some other way, and comes up with an idea that no one had thought of before. M: Obviously, when there are new rules, it happens more often that people come up with different interpretations.
M: The most interesting thing is when there is a text that has existed for years, and suddenly it is interpreted in some other way which is difficult to disagree with. A: Do you remember any such example? I am curious. M: There were all kinds of things like that, in the years I was with FiA, there were stories about car suspensions – semi-active suspensions and various hydraulic systems, extremely complicated M: that had various exotic explanations, because each team came up with an explanation, which seemed most plausible, but in fact the system was doing something completely different. M: Anyway, I banned all these systems right before I left FiA. M: And the next step will be taken next year, with even simpler systems, because it was simply disadvantageous for the sport to use such a level of technology in such simple things. C: When it comes to technology, there is a question mark, because on the one hand, it is said that Formula 1 should be a leader in terms of technology, development, which in my opinion is not exactly correct, but sounds good.
C: So how do you balance it? To what extent can you stick to simplicity? Many people are begging for the return of naturally aspirated V8s, but to what extent do you have to aim for these future technologies? Where is the line? Is there any idea for that? C: Many people are begging for the return of naturally aspirated V8s, but to what extent do you have to aim for these future technologies? C: Where is the line? Is there any idea for that? M: This is a tough question. And this is a constant topic of conversation and debate in Formula 1 M: On the one hand there is such a desire for Formula 1 to be such a technology leader and for it to be relevant M: So that car manufacturers who participate in the championship can, let’s say, ‘sell’ their cars, saying that some technology is shared. M: Just like now with hybrid engines. But on the other hand, it's a sport. It must be fascinating for the fans. M: And the more complex these cars get, the more systems there are that help the driver to control the car, the less spectacular it gets. M: And nobody wants to watch toy cars... I always compare them to toy cars on a track that go round and never fall out.
M: But that’s what it’s supposed to be about, it has to be about the driver’s talent and it has to be spectacular. M: And the more the rules open up, unfortunately the richer teams can benefit from it. M: This often leads to less spectacular races, so you have to find a balance. M: And it's often the case that teams come up with new ideas, new technologies, use it for a year or two and the rules change to stop it a bit.
M: It's just the natural evolution of the sport, to try to find this point of balance. C: Let's move on to Alpine's headquarters then, because your team has a rather unusual management structure. C: And I spent some time trying to understand who, what, and why. C: I found out that you are a bit more than an operational chief who makes sure that the people on the track are in their places and that they are working properly.
C: If I am not mistaken, your role is a bit more strategic, more about activities like development for the future, technological issues. Am I right? M: Yes, that’s pretty much correct. M: Overall, from the very beginning, when I joined the Renault team and worked with Cyril Abiteboul M: my role was focused on Enstone, where the Formula 1 teams are based. M: We have two headquarters, one in England in Enstone and the other in Viry-Châtillon outside Paris, which only deals with engines, but the rest of the team is in Enstone outside Oxford. M: And my role was just to manage the team in England and build, say, the strongest team M: because the strongest team will then create the fastest car and have the best chance of achieving a good result in the championship.
M: With Cyril's departure, I took over, in addition to responsibility for Enstone, the entire strategic and political role, representing the team on F1 committees, FiA, in talks with other team bosses and so on. M: Dawid has just joined us from Moto GP to deal only with the operational part in the races M: so under him there is the sports director and all the mechanics who run the cars in the races, so he has a small part of the team, but of course he has a responsibility at the races. A: Okay, so you come to work, sit at your desk and what do you do? M: I do something different every day and that is something that I really appreciate.
M: It is not always easy, because each day is different, with different issues. M: I have a life that is split between Enstone, where my office is and the races I go to, not all but most, so it's a lot of travelling and a lot of trips, a lot of differ ent places we visit. M: Unfortunately, it’s a bit less now during the pandemic, because going to races is much more restricted now than it used to be. M: But yes, my everyday life involves meetings with people in the team and outside the team, but also solving problems and situations that arise every day M: because Formula 1 is very unpredictable, new challenges appear every day and very rarely one the day is like another, and I really appreciate that in my work. M: But the days are long and intense. C: So, improvisation.
C: And what’s more fun, the work of an engineer on the drawing board or your current job? A: Right, because your dream about Formula 1 started with being an engineer and now you're a director, so what's more fun? M: It's fun to do both of these challenges. M: I started as an engineer, I studied aeronautics and aerodynamics, and it was such a natural entry into Formula 1 M: but after a few years I realised that I was probably more interested in management, people management, than just technology. M: And I realised when I became head of aerodynamics at McLaren that I finally had a department that had over 100 people then so it was a technical challenge M: but also in terms of people management, and although I had this technical background that was very helpful M: I saw that I can probably bring more, maybe more to the team with this kind of people management than from the technical side. M: And the combination of both, because in fact, even though I am a director and I manage a large group of people, my technical background allows me to understand these problems M: it also gives me the opportunity to manage a team unlike someone who has a purely management background. C: It seems to me that after two races you can see more or less the balance of power in Formula 1 C: The preliminary one, because you know, it will still change, there will be upgrades, but I think we have RedBull and Mercedes, then a strong mid-group C: where McLaren and Ferrari clearly lead, then Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin, Alpine, with Alfa Romeo and Williams not far behind. C: Is it more or less correct and what can you do to be competitive? M: Unfortunately, it is more or less right.
M: The beginning of the season was not very satisfying, unfortunately. M: Last year we fought for third place in the constructors' championship, even though in the last races we had a little bit of a struggle for that third place in the last race, but that was our goal this year. M: We knew McLaren would be a strong team this year and we knew that Ferrari would not stay in sixth place for a long time, because it is a top team with a huge budget and a lot of talented people. M: We knew it was going to be tough, but that was our goal.
M: There’s a gap between us and McLaren and Ferrari. M: We are in such the group with Aston Martin and I think Alpha Tauri, even though they are probably a bit ahead, so we are fighting more for fifth place now. M: We are working hard to improve the car's performance and to catch up with McLaren and Ferrari, with whom we want to fight, but let's face it, it will be hard. M: The gap is quite large, a couple of tenths of a second. M: But this season is different, because there is a revolution, the regulations are completely changing next year, the cars will be completely new.
M: And this year we have to start working on the car earlier than normal for next year. M: We’ve actually already started and the development of the cars for this year is almost complete, so it will be even harder to compete with McLaren and Ferrari. A: Is this revolution for 2022 a chance to quickly catch up? How do you see it? M: It is, because FiA gave the teams a blank card to start the project almost from scratch M: so when there are big changes, as in 2009, Brawn Grand Prix won the world championship thanks to a better interpretation of them new rules, so anything is possible. M: However, the truth is that the strongest teams, the ones with the best engineers, have been built up over the years with the largest budgets, and have a better chance of taking advantage of these rules. M: But for us, we see it as an opportunity to get closer to the top and who knows, maybe even build the best car.
M: Even though I do not expect a complete change, that suddenly Haas will be winning races and Mercedes will be at the end. M: But there is a chance to deal a few cards again. C: A lot is going on behind the scenes in Châtillon. C: From what I heard, three times the size of the previous one.
C: Also, in Enstone there is a lot of modernization, so my question is: what stage of this modernization are you at? C: And how do you get it all together to make this car? This is probably a hard task. M: This is a difficult task mainly because when Renault bought the team, of course the base at Viry-Châtillon has always been the base of Renault's engines M: but for years Renault has not been a competitor, as a Formula 1 team, and the previous team owner invested very little in this team, which is now Alpine, but which is based in Enstone. M: Therefore, many talented people left to other teams, and you can see these people today, including James Allison, Mike Elliott, the new Mercedes technical director was also there M: the head of Mercedes aerodynamics was also at Enstone, a lot of good people went to other teams, looking for a job M: because the team, Lotus then, did not even pay a salary at the end of the month. M: And all the technical infrastructure, the wind tunnel, but also various other tool that are used by Formula 1 teams, have been completely abandoned and without any investment for many years. M: So, when Renault bought it, almost 5 years ago, it w as a lot of investment that the Renault group had to put into this team M: not only to make one of the best teams, but to revive a Formula 1 team and get back to a good level. M: And we also hired a lot of people, more than 50% people now than in the beginning, five years ago when Renault returned to Formula 1.
M: So these people have to be put somewhere too, so we expanded our factory, the Enstone headquarters, parking lots and so on, all the infrastructure. M: So this is a job that is needed but that does not bring immediate results. M: We have to catch up with and make up for all that has been lost over the years. M: It was also my challenge, in the last three years, to rebuild this team, change people a bit, hire good people and create a team that works well together.
M: We talked about Ferrari earlier. Unfortunately, these results are not yet visible this year M: but I hope that next year, thanks to these new changes in the regulations, we will be able to show that this team is being built and that there is a new energy. A: At the beginning you said that you rarely talk about Formula 1 in Polish, but there are probably some Poles in the paddock? M: There are some Poles in the paddock, we also have some Poles in the Alpine F1 team. M: Of course, we also chat with Robert from time to time when we see each other in the paddock. M: I also talk with my partner from time to time about it, she wasn't a Formula 1 fan to begin with, but it's slowly changing, I'm working on it. M: But my language at work is English and occasionally French, when I speak with people from Viry-Châtillon who work on engines.
C: Is there any informal Polish group in the paddock? M: No, there is no specifically Polish group. We see Robert from time to time, either at the races or outside. M: Toto Wolff will also say a few words in Polish from time to time, but his vocabulary is limited, so it's always funny. M: But no, there is no such group of Poles, because there are not so many of them. Unfortunately. For now. C: We are working on it. Coming back to Robert. The last time we talked I asked him about you. C: There were a lot of compliments, he said that you are one of the few people with whom he goes out to dinner privately from time to time. A: From Formula 1.
C: Yes, from Formula 1. So what kind of dinner companion is Robert? M: Robert eats a lot. It doesn’t seem so, because he is skinny and of course he is an athlete. M: But I didn't know Robert when he was a driver in BMW and then in Renault. M: I actually met Robert three years ago when I started working at Renault through people from Renault with whom he used to work with. M: And I had a good relationship with him right from the start, he is just a normal, nice person. M: We saw each other when Robert was driving for Williams, I was living in Oxford then and we were saw each other when he had sessions in the simulator, because he did not really want to go out to dinner with people from work.
M: And we were talking. Of course, a little bit about Formula 1, but also a lot about other topics unrelated to Formula 1. M: And now, from time to time, we see each other at the races, but of course he comes less frequently now. M: Also because of all those covid rules, it's harder to meet people outside of your team, because you don't want to risk infecting someone from your own team. M: But yes, I stay in touch and I hope to see him at the races this year because he has been coming more seldom recently. A: You said that you only really met each other recently, but you must have heard about him before and followed him in Formula 1, and you also know what was said about him, even at Renault.
A: What do you think of Robert as a driver? M: Robert is an amazing driver and his Formula One career has shown it. M: And unfortunately, this career ended too quickly. M: It was amazing and he had tremendous respect in the Formula 1 community and was seen as the star of the future.
M: He himself revealed that he had a contract signed with Ferrari and that was his next step in Formula 1. M: It's a career that came to an end too early and he could not show all his talent and I am convinced that he would have won a lot of races and a lot of world championships. M: But that’s fate, and he took risks, and unfortunately, it did not work out. M: Robert also has a lot of respect in the Formula 1 community because he has returned M: but also because of all the surgeries and rehabilitations and so on, and has shown the willpower and character that everyone admires in the Formula 1 world and beyond. M: And you can feel it in the paddock that despite the return to Formula 1, which was not quite a success M: The very fact that he returned, first in rally racing, then in different categories and then Formula 1, it arouses great respect. M: So, he is an important person in the paddock that is much liked and respected.
M: And he is known in the paddock and by the people who worked with him in the Renault days who are still on the team as an intelligent driver M: who works very well with the engineers, provides very good technical feedback, so he’s an asset for a Formula 1 team, beyond talent, just to develop the car and the team. A: This is now a question on behalf of many Polish fans, those who remember Robert's relationship with Renault, and that it was Renault that gave him the chance to drive an F1 car again. C: Yes, yes. Is there a chance that Robert will be associated with the Renault team in any way again? Without a category, yes, because… and Alpine are the brands that race in various fields. Can we have this... C: Can we have this...
M: Why not! There is no discussion about it at the moment, Robert is of course linked to another team and still has a career in Formula 1 M: maybe not directly as a driver anymore, but as a development driver for Alfa Romeo. M: You can never say that nothing will happen. M: We had some talks with Robert once about certain possibilities a couple of years ago, before he returned to Williams. M: Who knows, maybe we'll start a Polish team with Robert someday? C: We’ve got our fingers crossed. M: But for now, it’s all about Alpine and this is an interesting project, and in the future, we'll see... C: Since we’re talking about Robert, we have a question about another driver who has a similar driving style.
C: Fernando Alonso returned to Formula 1 after a two-year hiatus, and I have the impression that looking at what he says now and how humble he appears that he is a slightly different person. C: I don't know about his driving but he himself says he still needs to improve. C: He said that he must look for speed in himself, not in the car. C: A really cool approach. What is it like to work with Fernando? M: Exceptionally good. I had never worked with Fernando before.
M: When I joined the McLaren team, he was just leaving, so we had a couple of misses when he came, I left, or vice versa, so we had never collaborated. M: Of course, I know a lot of people in the paddock who have worked with him at Ferrari, at McLaren, at Renault, in various teams. M: He is a double world champion, so it’s obvious he is an exceptionally gifted driver. M: He is a driver who has won multiple times for different teams, won the championship, so he knows what it takes to win. M: Not only as a driver, but also as a team player. And that's his strength too.
M: The older, more experienced team members who were on the teams that won races or championships know how hard it is and what huge sacrifices, what huge efforts must be made. M: But some of the younger members of our team don't have that experience. M: When Fernando comes in and shows them what his motivation is, how much work he puts into it, how demanding he is of himself, he raises the bar M: He shows everyone what their attitude should be. M: But he's also extremely realistic, he knows he has been gone for two years and two years in Formula 1 is a lot.
M: Not to mention the six years Robert was away, but two years in Formula 1 is a lot. These are extremely fast cars, really difficult to control. M: There's a whole lot to work with teams, with engineers. M: Even when a driver like Daniel Ricciardo, who was with us last year, moves to McLaren, it’s not easy for him. And it was not easy for him two years ago when he joined. M: This is is just a team change during the winter, he doesn't drive for two months and he's in a new team.
M: And here Fernando returns to a new team, after a two-year break, and it's not easy, even for him, even for Fernando Alonso. M: He’s a realist, and he says: of course, the car should get better, we have to work on the car's performance, but I too, as a driver, have to give more. M: And this arouses great respect in the team, because we all know that everyone has to work more and better, and together we can also achieve more, just by working on teamwork. A: And how important is it for the team that there is a two-time world champion in the line-up, a man who also won these titles with you? M: There were a lot of people in the team when Fernando won the championship 15 years ago. M: Not only on the track, but also in Enstone, in the factory, so for these people it is wonderful, it is the return of a son who for them, there was lots of motivation and also memories of that time. M: And like I said, for the rest of the team that have either never won anything yet or have not worked with him, it's a uni que experience.
M: So this is important. And also, like I said, the motivation he gives, the incredible amount of work he puts into it M: you can see that even though he is who he is, that he is Fernando Alonso, that he won the world championship twice, he doesn't come in just for fun to drive these cars, he comes in because he wants to win. M: And he will put the maximum of his effort and motivation into it. He expects it from everyone and it is very clear.
M: A few seconds of interaction with Fernando and straight away it’s a matter of whether you are already working at 100%, whether you come in to work at the weekend or go home, he is simply extremely demanding. M: And it's funny, but it also shows people what level is expected of everyone. C: There are discussions about how to improve Formula 1, how to combine water and fire, which we discussed earlier. C: And I had this idea, as you are a Formula 1 engineer, I wanted you to say if it could be done. C: I thought to go back to the naturally aspirated V8, V10 engines, putting aside politics and the fact that they should be hybrids C: and for example, add only MGUH to them, i.e. only this exhaust energy recovery system C: and put two engines in the front in electric wheels and make a completely separate.
A: Let’s ask Marcin as an engineer if it makes sense, and then as a director, if there is a place and a chance for it at all. M: Interesting, because we started talks a few months ago about the next generation engine for Formula 1. M: From 2025, what will they be like. And this is the type of conversation, so I started, in a sense, with the answer of a director, not an engineer M: but we are just wondering what formula to find to make sport interesting, to reduce costs, but also to encourage current car constructors M: Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, who supply engines for Formula 1, so that they stay in this sport, that they continue to invest in the sport M: and possibly encourage new ones, because each of us wants to have more competition M: so that Porsche or Audi or other brands would enter the sport because its value would increase and it would be simply more interesting for everyone.
M: So this is a more political response, and more related to the future of Formula 1. M: But these engines have to be relevant, it has to be linked to what's going on in the world. M: And the world is all about hybrids now, and electric motors are the future. M: Electric motors aren't really fit for Formula 1 right now because they're just not at the level required in Formula 1, but hybrids are the short-term future.
M: And we're still pushing in that direction. M: So, to answer your question: yes, it is possible. Is it good for Formula 1 to have electric motors in the front wheels? Not necessarily, because it will be less spectacular. M: And the cars will get heavier, thicker at the front and also the four-wheel drive, the cars will become more stable. M: And what is interesting is this kind of fight with the car, because these are brutal cars, despite the fact that everything is developed now M: these are cars that have tremendous power and this rear-wheel drive is part of the show.
M: But the issue you're talking about is how to increase the hybrid ratio, so how to have more electricity in these cars and possibly less energy that comes from petrol. M: And, also the issue we are dealing with for the future is to have petrol that is 100% sustainable, so 100% from natural sources, because it is also the future M: and it is important for Formula 1 to be acceptable in this sense as a sport in a new context in the world, where people, of course, care more about the environment and sustainability. M: And this must be connected with the strategy of the constructors who participate in sport. A: So Cezary, keep on trying, but we will consult the next ideas. C: And I have one more technical question, because I read a quote, I think it was Gary Anderson and he came up with the idea of introducing two-stroke engines to Formula 1. C: Is this just a utopia or is it possible? M: I think so, because it does not connect with what will be in passenger cars M: and there must be a connection between Formula 1 and the real world M: because Formula 1 with huge V12 engines that burn hundreds of litres of petrol does not interest anyone anymore M: maybe a few people who remember the good old times, but it just isn't relevant in the world we live in.
A: Is it possible to ensure equal opportunities for drivers and teams in Formula 1? M: It is difficult because motor sports are expensive and budgets are still important here M: so unfortunately the richest and biggest teams still have the best chance of winning. M: But something has changed in Formula 1 this year. M: It’s the budget cut, a cap on Formula 1 team budgets.
M: And it is the first year of these restrictions M: it will take a couple of years for this to really change Formula 1, but it will force big teams to operate differently and to operate a lot closer to medium sized teams. M: We, for example, are a little bit below this budget limit, but we will be close to this limit next year M: so we are more or less the prototype of the future team of Formula 1. M: Our team, and it's not a small team, though we don't have the budget and the number of people who work in top teams, but we are a good example of the Formula 1 team of the future. M: And what it will do is limit the possibilities of large teams, which are currently able to spend almost unlimited sums, hire the best engineers M: build the best wind tunnels and the best technical infrastructure M: and thus benefit from these achievements by simply spending more and more, and more.
M: And this will level the playing field. Maybe not completely, but it will help to even out the chances between the teams M: and it will also make Formula 1 a sport that will have a better chance to survive simply. M: Because the more the best spend, the harder it is for the smallest to survive. M: And the future is that all teams will be operating more or less with the same budget and the chances will be more equal. M: And I think that it is good for the fans, because the driver will then have a greater role M: and there will be a greater chance that the best driver will win in each car, not like as it is now, that most often the best driver has the best car and then dominates this sport. C: Formula 1 is now in full swing towards equalizing the playing field, i.e. budget limits and other management.
C: On the other hand, there’s collaboration between teams, e.g. between Mercedes and Aston Martin, Red Bull has a long history with Alpha Tauri, but even more components will be shared C: Ferrari basically incorporated Haas, because Haas is based right next door now C: so I have a question, is there such a threat that you, as soloists, will stay somewhere on the sidelines and is this not a threat to Formula 1, to this idea of equality? M: We, as an independent team, have been fighting this for years. M: And at the beginning, there was a lot of lobbying with the Federation, with Formula 1, just to prevent these teams from cooperating. M: And we achieved changes, but more publicly last year, I’m referring to the Racing Point affair where Racing Point copied the Mercedes car and there was collaboration between the teams. M: It was more public. Of course, we filed a protest that we won. M: And it also allowed to limit the possibilities of cooperation between the teams, which, unfortunately, did not eliminate them completely.
M: What was interesting is that when we filed and won this protest, it turned out that a lot of fans were behind us and supported this approach. M: Because it's not something the fans want, it's not good for Formula 1. M: They all want ten independent teams that just compete with each other. And let the best team win. M: In this case it is not only that a small team gets help from a large team and therefore has better achievements than what it really deserves M: but also a large team takes advantage of it and benefits from it, improves its performance, it's not fair in this sport. M: So, the fairness in this sport is that there are ten teams that compete using their own people, their own infrastructure, not that there are collaborations and exchanges. M: This is something, thanks to our protests and various lobbying actions, we have managed to reduce, but unfortunately, we will not be able to eliminate it completely.
A: Luca de Meo says that the goal for this season is more podium places than in the last one, and in 2022 to win a race or two, so how can that be achieved? M: Luca de Meo is the president of Renault and of course, as our president, he is an ambitious man and gives us very difficult challenges. M: And that is his role. M: The truth is that Luca is a huge Formula 1 fan so he is our biggest fan and it is very positive for the team that we have someone at the head of the Renault group who supports us so much M: but he is also very demanding and wants to see results and progress. M: I am aware of the climate in which we are operating at the moment, it’s difficult.
M: Some strategic decisions we have had to make in recent years have resulted in our achievements this year, so he knows this is a long-term project. M: But he wants to win, he wants to win as soon as possible. M: Luca also has visions for the Alpine brand, which is very ambitious and he wants to build this brand. M: It already exists, but wants to really expand it and make it a French Ferrari, or a French Porsche. M: Of course, on a different scale at the beginning, but he wants this brand to be built around the team. M: And this is a great opportunity for the team, and I think for the brand, because it is a combination of forces.
M: I want Formula 1 to be the main marketing tool for Alpine, but you know, the better the results, the better the marketing. M: So, he gives us ambitious goals. And we will try not to let him down. But these are not easy goals. C: I have a lifestyle question. C: The Formula 1 paddock has changed a lot during the pandemic and now, as a writing journalist, Aldona can, because she's from TV C: but as a journalist I can't go into the paddock, and I can't go to lunch with you or with someone else, meet and chat for a few minutes privately.
M: She can't lend you a microphone and a camera, right? C: No, if they catch me, they'll take my press accreditation. C: I must be careful. C: But I’m wondering how it has changed for you, I am afraid that from the point of view of the teams, it is better that those journalists and many different guests who are not there now C: that they do not roam around the paddock, that it is more relaxed and calmer there, no one is watching you there, no one is running up and asking questions. C: How does it look like from your perspective? M: It is calmer for sure. M: Because from time to time there are a lot of journalists in the paddock, a lot of people want to talk, do some interviews and so on. M: But honestly? We don't like it because we miss the fans, because it’s about the atmosphere around the race, and now the stands are empty, it's sad.
M: But the paddock has also become a very peaceful place, where we are finally hanging around in our own circle, everyone can see each other from the teams M: but the fact that there are no journalists, no team guests, no sponsor guests, is also complicated for our sponsors who support us and enable us to participate in this sport. M: They can't come to the track, they can't invite their guests, so it makes contacts difficult. M: We do various remote marketing operations, filming ourselves on the phone or on camera, we do interviews through ZOOM, but it's not the same.
M: So, the paddock has become a bit of a boring place. A place only for work. M: And also travelling to races in general has changed. M: Though we work very hard, very late, from time to time we managed to go out for dinner, see something, visit something. M: And now we just come, we sit either at the track or in the hotel, we don't see anybody on the track except the people from our team. M: And we go home by plane. And we're in quarantine when we get back.
M: It seems to me that everyone is waiting impatiently for better times, where the paddock will become a lively place again M: where there are a lot of people and a lot of fans too, people with a passion for this sport. A: See Cezary, the Formula 1 teams even miss the journalists now. So, you’ll invite us when it is safe? M: Now we have these zones where you can talk over a distance M: but it's not the same, and especially for you I don't think it's the same.
M: So I know Formula 1 wants to make changes as soon as possible, but it has to be a healthy balance to make sure the championship can go on. A: Marcin, what would you like us to wish you in this new chapter of your career as a director? M: Successes for the Alpine team, because of course this has been my main goal for three years, building this team M: It’s not easy and this season shows that we are not where we want to be yet. M: I am optimistic for next year because new regulations, new opportunities, a new car, a new engine, many possibilities and I can see how the team is working much better.
M: Only now it has to be translated into track results and achievements M: So yes, this is a project that I am very committed to and which requires a lot of work and dedication. M: The best success for me will be the success of this team in the future. C: We wish you that and thank you very much for the interview. C: It was a pleasure for us, we learned a lot. C: And I would also like to point out that you speak Polish very well.
C: There was some concern in the make-up room before, but it was just great, very smooth, so thank you very much. M: Thank you, I can see that you are already preparing for the next interviews. A: Of course. C: I’ve already written down some questions. M; Good. A: And more ideas on how to improve Formula 1.
C: Yes, I'll come with a better plan next time. M: Thank you.