Q & A with iSport's Paul Jackson

iSport team principal Paul Jackson has hit back at Ferrari's claims that an influx of new teams into Formula 1 would devalue the world championship

Q & A with iSport's Paul Jackson

iSport, which currently competes in GP2, is one of a number of teams to have expressed an interest in taking up a place on the grid under next year's planned budget cap.

However, Ferrari, which yesterday lost a legal bid to impose an injunction on the FIA's planned changes for next year, issued a statement blasting the quality of the aspiring new teams.

"Can a world championship with teams like them - with due respect - have the same value as today's Formula 1, where Ferrari, the big car manufacturers and the teams, who created the history of this sport, compete? said the Ferrari statement, "Wouldn't it be more appropriate to call it Formula GP3?"

Jackson spoke exclusively to AUTOSPORT about the progress of iSport's plans, and the reasons why F1 was reliant upon small teams.

Q. Have you seen Ferrari's statement?

Paul Jackson: No, I haven't seen it. There's so much s*** that comes out there that I just try to keep my head down and do what I have to do. I mean, Ferrari are obviously hurting because they lost their case. They are now between a rock and a hard place, and they've got to jump one way or the other.

Q. Essentially. Ferrari has suggested that smaller teams would dilute, even devalue, the world championship.

PJ: Well, at the end of the day, F1 always was small teams. If they named GP2 Formula 1 and put it on the TV, how many people would know? Only the real hardcore enthusiasts. There's quite a few serious people trying to get in there, there's a few silly entries that won't get in, but the serious people, once they are in there, I think they'll do a good job.

Q. How important are manufacturers to the sport?

PJ: If you look back over the past two or three decades, they have always been engine suppliers. They've had two or three dabbles at running a team and they've got out again, because running a Formula 1 team, or a racing team of any sort, doesn't fit with a big corporate structure. That moves too slowly; this has to move very quickly.

You need quick decision-making and adaptability, and big corporations don't fit with that philosophy. In the past it hasn't worked, and it's got to the point now where it's not working. Big, big corporations have got to look after their core business, which is manufacturing cars. They've got 400 or 500 people employed in F1, and spending 200 or 300 million, but they've got hundreds of thousands of people employed in their core business. And they've got to look after that.

Q. Where do iSport's plans stand at the moment?

PJ: Well, there's a big FOTA meeting tomorrow. We keep saying that there's a big FOTA meeting next week and they're going to decide things and they never do, but really and truly, at this one tomorrow, I think they've all got to decide which way they're going to jump. You're either in or you're out. It's that simple. We haven't lodged an entry yet - they're open between the 22nd the 29th.

We've got a few things to put in place before we do that, and that's all depending upon the outcome of the politics. If certain things happen then we have one set of options, and if other things happen then we have to go down a different route. So we can't finalise our strategy until they have decided that they are doing.

Q. Are there times when you wonder whether it's all worth it?

PJ: You do wonder what you are getting yourself into. But we know that; we go in with our eyes open. We know it's a bit of a nightmare politically. But I think to some degree, that's what they want to get rid of. The politics is generated by the big organisations.

If they're dealing with a smaller team structure, it's a lot simpler to deal with. Whoever is in charge is going to go 'yes' or 'no' and 'yeah, OK, we'll do that'. Whereas the big corporations are, 'OK, we'll have to the board, and then back to the board, and then there's a meeting in a month's time, and then there's a committee'. It just bogs the whole thing down.

Q. What is a ballpark figure for how much it would cost you guys to do F1? There's the £40m cap, but that doesn't cover everything.

PJ: Well, to actually run the team I think we'll come in comfortably below £40m. And then you've got hospitality and everything else on top, and that's just whatever you have got to spend on it. If you have got serious sponsorship coming in, you have got to deliver the hospitality.

If you haven't got an awful lot, you can scale that down a bit. That's a bit flexible and it's outside the budget, so I am not too concerned about that. We'll deal with that as and when it happens. From the time you put an entry in to when you have to deliver hospitality is quite some way into the distance.

Q. What about other areas like engines?

PJ: Engines - pretty much everyone knows what the price of that is going to be. In the first year they're not in the budget. So that doesn't matter. Take the engines out, and all the rest of it is going to come in comfortably under the £40m.

Q. So the real operating costs are not going to blow out hugely?

PJ: I don't think so. Engines are around the 5 million euro mark for the year, so even when they come in it's not the end of the world. I think even in year two - yes, we'll probably creep up to that £40m, but I don't think we'll go over it. It just requires a different philosophy to how they operate now. They need to just completely stop and change it.

And that plays into our hands, because that's what we do. OK, we are scaling up. The big teams are in a really difficult position. But what can I do about that? That's their problem. I think by early next week we'll have a much better idea of exactly where we're at.

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