Giancarlo Minardi, the Minardi team's founder and former managing director knows all too well about the difficulties teams face in F1, but how has it changed since the days he was competing? To find out we caught up with him to hear his opinions on the state of the sport today
Giancarlo Minardi Interview
Dominik Wilde: During your time in Formula One the smaller teams were a big part of the sport. How do you feel seeing the smaller teams of today struggling while bigger teams get stronger and stronger?
Giancarlo Minardi: In the 80s-90s Cosworth supplied 75% of the stables. Today, the economic investment in Power-Unit is definitely out of proportion with respect to team management. So, making ends meet is hard. With the development of technology and the rise of costs, there has been a decrease in teams to the minimum number.
Dominik Wilde: How do the struggles small teams face today compare to what teams had to face during the time Minardi were in Formula One?
Giancarlo Minardi: It is difficult to make a comparison between two so different generations. The set of problems is different, especially from a financial perspective. We had our problems even if they looked like more solvable compared to those of today.
Dominik Wilde: There has been a lot of discussion about the new V6 engine formula. Of course it is more environmentally friendly, but the costs have increased massively. Do you believe introducing the new engines in 2014 was a good idea overall?
Giancarlo Minardi: No doubt, it is the future of cars. Probably we would should introduce it in a progressive way with fixed rules without confusing both fans and teams themselves.
Dominik Wilde: There are very few engine manufacturers in Formula One right now compared to the past, is this a good thing or a bad thing in your view?
Giancarlo Minardi: It's a bad thing. I have long argued that all car companies have a hybrid engine at their testbed, since it is the future of the car. With more prudent FIA and FOA policies we could have involved more manufacturers. For their part, manufacturers should not charge their customers for the costs. It is a path that everyone must follow. Someone, like Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda and Renault, does this on the track while others at do it at home.
Dominik Wilde: One of those manufacturers is Ferrari. Ferrari supplying customers in F1 is normal now but your team was the first Ferrari engine customers in the sport. How did this happen?
Giancarlo Minardi: It was due to good neighbourly relations and because in 1989 we had an important season in which we were actors. The contract was signed on 5 April 1990 in view of the following season. We were the first customer, and difficulties didn't lack, both for the price both in terms of management. It was the first time that a major house like Ferrari had supplied its engines and it took time to break in the machine. Scuderia Italia and Sauber have not collected the results achieved by Minardi. Today the customer management is a flagship for Ferrari and I am pleased to have been the first customer.
Dominik Wilde: When Minardi was in Formula One you had a reputation of developing talented young drivers. Of course, Red Bull own the team now, but use it to also develop future stars. What are your feelings about Toro Rosso in Formula One? Can you see any of Minardi in the team or is is completely different in every way today?
Giancarlo Minardi: You can still see the soul of Minardi since the staff of Toro Rosso is still made up of people who have shaped the history of the Minardi team. They continue a project for youth, although on behalf of the mother company Red Bull Racing. Sadly, the Minardi team was completely looted at the end of every year: drivers, engineers and mechanics. I recommend to all the top teams a junior team.
Dominik Wilde: Going forward, what does Formula One need to do the ensure the smaller teams survive and can compete on a level playing field?
Giancarlo Minardi: The gap between the bigger teams and the smaller ones is too wide, it is also due to economic reasons. The technique must be supported by significant funding.
Dominik Wilde: Looking at how F1 has changed over the last ten years, with nearly ten teams either leaving the sport or being sold, plus many different rule changes, how do you think the sport will look in ten years time? Can F1 survive this difficult period and have another 'golden age' with many teams and happy fans?
Giancarlo Minardi: Unfortunately, I do not have the crystal sphere. I believe that Formula One has always been a complicated sport, but it remains the most popular after soccer. Within ten years, we will discuss other technical solutions and about its management. The evolution will continue, but F1 will always be the most popular sport after soccer and the Olympics.
Dominik Wilde: I'd like to hear your thoughts about a big story in Formula One right now, the return of Renault as a works team. Why do you think Renault opted to re-purchase the team? From a business perspective, have Renault made a good decision to have a team again?
Giancarlo Minardi: Absolutely. They did well because they had a lot of expenses anyway. Sport is the best mean to bring a young audience to the brand.
Dominik Wilde: Do you think the Renault team's return is good for Formula One?
Giancarlo Minardi: Yes, in my opinion. I hope that other manufacturers will follow this path, even as engine suppliers.
Dominik Wilde: The team has faced difficulties both on and off the track in recent years, do you think Renault will be able to give the teams the tools to win again soon or do you see Mercedes and maybe Ferrari being too far away?
Giancarlo Minardi: I don't think it can happen in a short term because all the changes need a period of development and growth.