Q: Mike, let’s start with you, and can we start by talking about Sebastian Vettel, who has announced his retirement at the end of the season. Can you describe the impact he’s made on you, both as a driver and as a man?
Mike KRACK: How long do we have? Good morning. Obviously I was fortunate to be around when he started his career, when he was very young. And now also, probably when he finishes his career. So yeah, there’s that racing driver, where I think, if I’m fair, I think the biggest successes he had in other teams, so I know him only at the beginning. And now, as a man, obviously, this is a bit different. First, there was the youth, at the time, the excitement of being in Formula 1 and being there, and now with this very reflective personality, with a lot of a lot of thoughts that are not so common in our sport.
Q: Now, the sport moves very quickly, what are the plans for drivers going forward?
MK: You mean for us or in general for Formula 1 drivers!
Let’s start with you!
MK: Yeah, I mean, it’s clear that speculation is now starting, obviously, when Sebastian announces his retirement, so I think this weekend, we should really keep Sebastian in focus, and not speculate about names and bring the names forward. We will take care of that from Monday onwards. And then when we have someone then we will announce it.
Q: Just a quick word on yesterday, it looked like a decent day for the team. Vettel in P7. Are you confident that you can maintain that over the course of the weekend?
MK: Yes, if it’s dry, I think we can continue on this path. If it’s wet, and how wet, it will always be a little bit of a lottery. So yeah, I think we are on… we have made progress. Not at the rate we want but we have made progress so we think we can deliver good results this weekend if the conditions stay consistent.
Q: Christian, we’ll come to you now, can we start by talking about Sebastian? You probably know him best of the panellists today. What were his greatest strengths when he was dominating the sport?
Christian HORNER: Sebastian, in his time with us, was incredible. He came as a junior, he wrote a letter to Red Bull to see if they would support him, you know, locally, and, out of that came support from the local market, and then from the group, and then through the junior programmes, through Toro Rosso, and then into Red Bull Racing. I think the thing that stood out about Seb, was from the very beginning, you could see he was a very focused young man, and his work ethic was totally Germanic. He worked hard, he worked late, and he had a great sense of humour, so fitting into a British team, he embraced the culture immediately. He endeared himself across all areas of the business, whether he was turning up with chocolates for secretaries or learning the lingo in the garage – in a slightly different way to Yuki – but his commandment of cockney slang became legendary. His ability to just relate to people and get the best out of people. And he was formidable in the cars that we produced in that period of time. They were, again, halcyon days in Formula 1: massive competitors, big teams that we were up against, and some outstanding successes. He, at that stage, was very focused on achieving, not just success, but achieving and going for records. They meant a lot to him. And the fans as well, a huge amount, just seeing him collect every bit of memorabilia and every gift in Japan that he would then insist on taking home. And some of the objects were slightly weird, but he kept everything, he kept absolutely everything. He was a pleasure for us to have in our team. We achieved some great things together. And I think having just watched him grow from a boy into a young man, and I think he’s a very principled guy. He has very strong beliefs. We’ve seen that in the latter stages of his career, as he’s very much standing up for things that he feels passionate about, and rightly so. His family is important to him. He’s a very private man. So pleased to see he’s become an Instagramer recently. And whilst his Formula 1 career comes to an end, he’s got a lot that I’m sure he wants to do in his life. And I’m sure he’s going to go on and do some great things. But it’ll be sad not to see him around. But I think the timing is right for him. It’s not nice to see him running around in the middle of the field, he doesn’t deserve to be there. And I think the time is right for him to say, ‘now’s the time for me to call time on Formula 1’.
Q: You just described him as formidable, which was his most impressive season for you guys?
CH: He just got better and better. I mean, 2009, we were a young team, as well as him. And we made a few mistakes. ’10, he was, he was the standout driver that year, had a lot of unreliability and against the odds won the Championship at the end of the year. ’11, he built on that, ’12, was a super tough year. He’d only won one race before we left Europe. And then won, I think, four on the bounce to go head-to-head with Fernando in that final race in Brazil, but by the time we got to ’13, he just absolutely dominated and then nine victories in succession that he achieved, that was that for me was his pinnacle year: he brought everything together and was just truly outstanding that year.
Q: And turning our attention to this weekend. How’s the car performing? Do you feel Ferrari have got the advantage?
CH: Ferrari looked pretty quick yesterday. And I think this type of circuit was always going to play to their strengths. We were under no illusions coming here and it’s ironic how things are turned around. We used to look forward to coming here and now thinking we’ve just got to survive the weekend and limit the damage. But, you know, we expected Ferrari to be quick. I think there’s some areas on the car that hopefully we’ve been able to improve overnight and hopefully, I think in the races, we’ve always tended to race better than we’ve qualified so let’s see how that pans out. And of course there’s a bit of weather around as well, which can throw in another curveball.
Q: Andreas coming to you. Let’s start with Sebastian. You were working at Sauber when he made his Formula 1 debut back in 2007. What impression did he make on you?
Andreas SEIDL: Yeah, so I remember those days, together with Mike, when we tried to get him going for his first test. And then also did the first Formula 1 race together with him in Indianapolis. But I guess straight away, it was clear to see some of the attributes that Christian was describing: obviously at that time it wasn’t foreseeable that he kicks off like that, and then he’s winning four championships in a row, but in terms of personality, character, yeah, he was always very special from the beginning, and obviously he was a great driver. I guess the sport will miss him. We will miss him. But at the same time, I think the most important thing is that he made a good decision for himself and for his family. And all you can do is wish him all the best and hope you still see him around from time to time.
Q: Let’s talk about yesterday. Drivers second and fifth in practice? Is this pace track specific? Or is it a result of you understanding the upgrades you brought to France a little bit better?
AS: It’s probably a mix I would say. And again, it was only Friday yesterday. So let’s see how the rest of the weekend goes but definitely was one of our strongest Fridays so far this year. The team back home really worked hard together with the race team in the last days in order to see how we can extract even more from the package we brought to Paul Ricard and I guess we made another step there, and yeah, it was good to see yesterday how the car worked on one lap but also in the long runs yesterday. And just hope now, we can carry this momentum forward into today and then tomorrow as well in the race.
Q: Do you welcome the rain?
AS: I will be very happy with dry conditions today. I don’t need extra complications!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsport.com) To Mike, your rear wing design you’re running this weekend obviously opens-up a development path that could scupper a lot of the intention the FIA put into the current rear wing designs to disturb airflow and allow closer racing. Are you concerned that could be a move to try and get a supermajority to get rid of it this season? And the other two teams, are you comfortable with the development direction that it opens up? And do you think it should be looked at? If it does prove to scupper the close racing intent?
MK: Throughout the development of… I mean, developing a wing or developing ideas, you normally do not wait until the last moment before you show it. So, we were in touch with the FIA, all along the development, to understand if this is something that will be accepted. And it finally was, so that was for us the moment where we said, ‘OK, we go for it’. Now, yeah, I think there is nothing special at the end of the day. It’s an interpretation of the rules and we developed a wing, according to that, in conjunction with FIA. And that’s it basically. And I’m not concerned about supermajority or anything. If the rules are changing, or these kinds of designs are not allowed, we will cope with it.
CH: I guess if it complies with the regs, that’s the main thing. It opens up another avenue that’s interesting. And maybe for once will copy something off an Aston Martin rather than the other way around. So, you never know!
MK: You were expecting this, and you were waiting for it, right?
AS: So far, our sole focus was on ourselves this weekend, for sure. We will look into this design, probably next week, and then make our mind up if that’s the route we want to follow as well. But then there’s rules in place, we trust the FIA to make the right calls here in terms of policing them. So far, so good, I would say.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Christian please. Obviously, the document that was released in Morocco made it clear that there is an intention or willingness to sell 50% of Red Bull Technology to Porsche. So can you explain the reasoning for why there’s the willingness for that to happen – should the deal progress as intended?
CH: Well, I think as I’ve stated all along there’s a healthy dialogue with Porsche and I think it’s great that a company like Porsche and Audi are looking at seriousIy coming into Formula 1 – but there’s some major caveats that we need to get past first, before things can get anywhere near progression. And that primarily focuses on what are the final technical, sporting and financial regulations for the power unit going to be? Are they going to be fair and equitable to the newcomers versus the current incumbent? So, that is the first piece of the jigsaw that needs to be completed. And it’s something that I know the FIA are working hard on and hopefully in coming weeks, we’ll get to see that. At that point, then obviously, we’re able then to sit down and have further discussion, with the guys at Porsche. It’s going to be a reasonably lengthy process. I would assume many things to discuss, but the most fundamental thing is: what are those regulations for 2026? And are they attractive enough for an entity like a Porsche or an Audi to come into Formula 1?
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) To all three of you, please. Regarding the TD 39 and the subsequent fallout, etc. What is the latest status at the moment? And could there be some kind of court challenge regarding the bona fide safety trigger point which obviously has been used?
AS: Regarding the TD, which is in place from Spa onwards, absolutely no concerns, happy with it, happy with the FIA leading this also. I think it’s also important they follow through after they kicked it off some weeks ago on the grounds of safety. And I guess probably the bigger topic is what’s happening for next year? But also, very happy with the discussions that are happening between the teams and FIA. Also, there we are happy with the FIA leading it and I’m sure we will find a good solution and then just, we get on with it.
CH: I think the TD isn’t really the issue. I think the TD, I’m not expecting any… for us it’s not a major issue. I think the bigger discussion is about a potential regulation change for next year that, here we are potentially in August, with what could be a major redesign of the car if the size of the floor were raised by the 25mm that they’re talking about, and other aspects. I think that’s a far bigger discussion. And I think one would say that that wasn’t purely on safety. I think that a compromise needs to be found. But it’s a little bit of a tricky one because that regulation change is massive. It changes the whole concept of the aerodynamics. And it’s a tricky one for the FIA, because where do you draw the line? While yes, there is a safety obligation of the FIA to look into, where does that line stop? Because you know, do we need to seek permission to go from slicks to wet or wet to slicks? If we hit a kerb or not. You’ve just got to be very careful about the unintended consequences of these things. And, of course, the caveat is safety and safety is of paramount importance to everybody – but it has to be taken into context, I’d be far more concerned about the roll hoop on the Sauber, that’s needs looking at from a driver protection point of view, as opposed to, the bouncing or porpoising, as it’s become called, that we haven’t seen at recent races. I’m certain, in fact, if you’ve just left the regulations alone, the engineering capability in this pit lane is such that it wouldn’t really be an issue next year. But I think there is room for a compromise. The FIA President is personally getting involved. I know he’s spoken to, I think, all of the drivers. He’s speaking to all of the teams and hopefully clarity on that, certainly for next year, will be forthcoming in the next few days.
MK: Yeah, TD 39, no issue. I do not expect any major change in the ranking or up and down the pitlane. As for 2023, I think the most important [thing], if it is right or not right, the most important [thing] is that we have a decision, because we need to make now some calls for next year’s cars and the later this gets, the more expensive this gets, the more dragging everything is. So I think the most important [thing] is to have a decision as soon as possible.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question for Christian. You’ve touched on a Porsche deal. Talking more holistically about that, it’s Red Bull tradition to own 100% of a franchise whether that’s in F1 or football? Why does it appear that this time there appears to be room for collaboration?
CH: I think, you know, it’s all about who a potential partner could be. And of course, you know, a company like Porsche, it’s an enormous company, great heritage, phenomenal brand. So, of course, there are attractions to that. But any partnership would have to fit with the Red Bull philosophy, obviously, the DNA, the culture of who we are, how we go racing and what we’ve achieved. It would be absolutely fundamental to any discussion of not changing that, you know. We’re successful for a reason. And you know, of course, in any discussion that would be conditional on any involvement.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For Christian and a follow-up on the same topic, obviously, Dietrich Mateschitz has been an immense supporter of the Formula 1 programmes, motor sport programmes in general and he may well yet be around for quite a while longer yet, but he won’t be around forever, and as the Red Bull F1 empire has grown, you’ve diversified the business, Technologies has grown, you’re now building your first road car, you’ve create the Powertrains facility. How much of a strategic element has there been to just making sure that the organisation is as rock solid as possible, long-term, whether that is working with a partner, whether it is a change in the exact ownership structure, that kind of thing?
CH: As you rightly point out, Dietrich Mateschitz, what he’s put into Formula 1, and not just Formula 1, motor sport across the board, has been phenomenal, and he certainly would not agree to anything that in any way compromised the team in any way moving forward. And I think that, you know, as you say, we’re investing in other areas. The announcement of the RB17, which will be the first Red Bull car produced, is tremendously exciting. I think that Powertrains, as well, is going from strength to strength. We’ve taken on further appointments and recruits, which will be announced shortly and that’s exciting for the project. And I think that, you know, things are really taking shape. You can see, in Milton Keynes we’ve gone from being an industrial estate or a few units on an industrial estate to being a technology campus. And that, you know, the investment by the group has been significant. And I think with the new power unit regulations coming for 2026, we’ll be the only team, other than Ferrari, to have everything under one roof, on one site, on one campus. And that’s tremendously exciting for us. And so Red Bull has seen, you know, tremendous growth in the sport in everything that we’re doing, and I think that commitment and that investment has been second to none.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) A question for Mike and Andreas. Obviously, both of you know Porsche very well. I’m sure you wouldn’t have talked about it a few weeks ago, but now their plans are in the public domain, what are your thoughts on their plans? Is Formula 1 the right place for Porsche? And also, specifically, what are your thoughts on their engine guys working with the ex-Mercedes people at Red Bull powertrains? What kind of project do you think they can come up with?
AS: Yeah, I think it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on any of these questions. For me, it simply would be great for Formula 1, for us as competitors, if great brands like Porsche and Audi would enter Formula 1. I’ve been part of a battle between Porsche and Audi as well for some years, which was great, and if they want to go for the same again, I would watch it with great interest as a fan.
MK: Same for me.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It’s a question to Mike. Without speculating on your driver line-up for next year. But Nyck de Vries is one of the names we’ve heard quite a lot in the paddock in relation to 2023. First of all, how do you rate him as a racing driver? And secondly, would you consider giving him an FP1 session in the second half of the season, as you have given a practice session to a rookie?
MK: Yeah, I said, it’s to start with already. I would not like to speculate today about driver plans going forward. So please be patient until it’s the right moment.
Q: Any word on Nyck? What impression does he make on you?
MK: Yeah, that means Nyck is one of many, many drivers. I know him through the Formula E times. He is a nice chap, he drove the Williams, he drove the MGP car last week, I think. So yeah. He’s one of the drivers we’re looking at but just as others as well.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Christian, returning to the Porsche joint venture situation. Regardless of whether that goes ahead or not, can you confirm that the power unit you’ll be using from 2026 onwards will be produced in Hall 8, or whatever you call that facility, whether it’s got Porsche on the tappet cover or not?
CH: It’s called the Rindt Building now, because we’ve gone past building numbers. Look, you know, we have recruited a very impressive group of people, within Red Bull Powertrains, you know, they’re hard at work. The first engine is due to fire up shortly. And, you know, it’s been a steep learning curve, but we’ve recruited some phenomenal talent. We’ve invested in the facilities to try and ensure that we’re able to compete with the likes of the current incumbents, and I think that’s a massive hurdle, because we’re going from zero 12 months ago, and we’ve built a factory in 55 weeks and obviously without total clarity of regulations that’s a key milestone to what the future looks like. So it’s an incredible commitment that Red Bull has made to the sport by investing in Red Bull Powertrains and it’s a key element for us, after Honda’s withdrawal from the sport, to take control of our own destiny and have power unit and chassis all integrated on one site. You know, strategically for the long term, that was absolutely the right way forward for us.
Q: (Jon Noble – Motorsport.com) Primarily to Christian but Andreas and Mike, if you want to add anything. Going back to the floor issue: how critical is it that this final call is made by the FIA before the summer break, so this doesn’t drag past the shutdown? And how tricky will it be if it ends up in a legal challenge which could drag on for weeks, well into the autumn, if you’ve got to make a call on your chassis design for next year?
CH: I think nobody wants to end up in a legal challenge, I think that there just needs to be a bit of common sense and a bit of compromise. The problem is, again, within the current regulations, you have different amounts of wind tunnel time available based on where you are in the championship. And at this late call in the day, I mean, we’re at 10 past midnight, you know, for next year, and if you’re looking at a fundamental change, that can have significant consequences. So, I think that there is an appetite, hopefully, for a sensible compromise. It’s not just about the raising of the floor height, or the throat height, which can have an impact into components that you wish to even carry over for next year. But I think that there are other tests regarding increasing the load test on the leading edge of the floor, for example, that we don’t want to get into some aeroelastic race, that whilst the height of the floor is raised, that the elasticity becomes the flavour of the day, and we all end up chasing, you know, wackier elastic concepts. So I think it’s important that the whole package in its entirety is dealt with rather than cherry picking single elements.
Q: Mike, you touched on the timing earlier, anything else to add?
MK: No, not much to add. I don’t think there will be a legal fight between the parties. I think we will find the solution, as we have done with many things lately. But as Christian rightly said, It’s 10 past 12. We really need to move on.
AS: Yeah, nothing to add. It’s clear that time is critical. But I’m sure we will find a solution in the next weeks.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, another question for you on the Porsche situation. It’s been known to dip in and out of series quite quickly. It only spent four years in LMP1, for example, spending a quite phenomenal amount of money. How important for any deal that you guys may do, does it have to show its long-term interest, investment, whether that’s taking a 50% share or that commitment for the long term?
CH: Well, look, I mean, there’s plenty of speculation about this, but we’re really only at a discussion stage and there are so many caveats based on regulations that are the fundamental part. I think Red Bull has demonstrated its commitment to Formula 1, its longevity in the sport, initially as a sponsor and then as a team owner and then as a double team owner and then as a promoter with a circuit and so on. And I think anything that we look at is very much with the long term in mind. We’re not looking at a short term solution. Strategically, it would have to fit obviously, within the long-term plans that the Red Bull have for its commitment in Formula 1.
Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) Mr Seidl, I would love to know, concerning when Daniel Ricciardo, is his place for next year depending on his performance the rest of the season or are you going to respect the contract until 2023.
AS: Yeah, I have nothing new to comment. Regarding Daniel, we have a contract in place for next year and we spend all our energy together with him at the moment, as a team, to give him a better car, to see how we can adjust the car as well to make it feel more natural for him to make it easy for him to be comfortable when pushing the car to the absolute limit in qualifying. At the same time, he’s putting a lot of effort in as well. And yeah, that’s the plan.
PART TWO – TEAM REPRESENTATIVES
Franz TOST (AlphaTauri), Laurent MEKIES (Ferrari), Alan PERMANE (Alpine)
Q: Can we start by talking about Sebastian Vettel’s retirement. Franz, I think it’s apt that you answer first. He won his first race with you guys at Monza in 2008. Did you expect him to reach the heights that he would go on to achieve after that?
Franz TOST: Yes, because I observed him already in Formula BMW and he won so many races. And then afterwards, we met a couple of times and he was very focused. The questions he asked were really good for a young driver and his big advantages were, first of all, he was 100% committed to Formula 1, or to motor sports in general in those days, because it was not only in BMW, it was also in Formula 3, and in other categories. And in Formula 1, when he came then to us, he brought in fresh blood, new ideas, he was very demanding and asking many questions. He went into details, which is very important, and he was always in a good mood, although we had at the beginning some problems with the car, but he pushed the team forward, and as a result, he won, together with Scuderia Toro Rosso in those days, the race in Monza. It was his first race [win] it was the first race win for Scuderia Toro Rosso. And, you know, his way of working, it was clear for me that he would become a real big driver. That he won then four world championships. This you don’t know. But I was convinced that he can become World Champion in Formula 1, if he is in the correct time, with the correct team. And this was the case with Red Bull Racing. And then later with Ferrari he was very successful, he won many races also for Scuderia Ferrari. And now he decided to stop Formula 1. We will miss him. I personally, of course, because we met a couple of times and he is a fantastic character, always open, and he was simply very, very successful. And we will always keep him in mind because with four world champion titles, he is in the list, on the top, behind Michael and Hamilton. Fangio has five and then it’s him and Prost, and therefore he has a place in history. And at Scuderia AlphaTauri, there is one staircase, the Vettel, named to him. And therefore we will always remember him with fantastic pictures, with his overall, and to the victory of Monza. And I wish him and his family all the best for the future.
Q: Thank you, Franz. Just bringing it on to the here and now. You introduced new parts in France. In what areas have these upgrades improved performance and where do you still need to make progress?
FT: We bought a new floor and we are still in the process to understand everything because if you bring such a big upgrade then it takes time to understand how the car works. And you know with this current format of the race weekends where you have only two hours on Friday, where you also have to test the tyres, it’s not so easy to get everything together in time. That means we are still in the process for fine tuning this upgrade and I think that the engineers are making big steps forward and hopefully we are ready for the qualifying today and we’re in a good situation.
Q: Laurent coming to you now. You’ve had two stints working with Sebastian at Toro Rosso and at Ferrari. How had he evolved and grown as a driver by the time you saw him at Ferrari?
Laurent MEKIES: I think it’s difficult to speak after Franz, when he speaks about Sebastian. It is actually the first time I hear Franz saying that somebody is 100% committed to Formula 1. So I think that’s the right definition for Seb, really. I think perhaps I’d like to separate here the driver and the man. The driver, Franz has said everything, incredible attention to detail, as has been said, from the very beginning you know there is something special there. And he’s only developed that all the way through. I think, going back to your question, in the second stint at Ferrari, you could see how we had developed these talent, this understanding in trying to bring a team all together, in the bad moments, in the good moments, I think he was just a second to none of that. And together with what you all know, the talents and dedication, and as Franz said, the unlimited attention to detail, it produced what it produced. But I think the other part we are all going to remember, is a man with an incredible respect for all his colleagues, all of us in this room, you will read the respect in his eyes when he talks to you. And I think it’s something he has certainly driven us to improve and to acquire and we are, I think, very privileged to have crossed his path.
Q: Thank you. And on the evidence of yesterday, Ferrari are living up to their pre-race favourites tag. Is the car performing as you’d hoped? Is there more to come? Just can you give us an assessment of where you’re at?
LM: The day was positive yesterday in the way that we completed our programme. We know yesterday’s picture is not the picture we’ll have today, because it’s going to be probably, you know, much colder and rainy today. And even if it’s race is going to come dry tomorrow, we expect much cooler temperatures. Nonetheless, the drivers were comfortable with the car, we have made small steps forward with it. And now it’s all about trying to be able to anticipate what the condition change is going to do to your set-up, to your performance windows and I think that’s what we’re all trying to focus on right now.
Q: Laurent, what is the mood in the camp?
LM: The mood in the camp is as high as it gets, because people like Charles, Carlos, Mattia, these guys are driving the team in all situations. You have the good moments, you have the bad moments and I think the difference comes from this sort of leadership, when they are able, whatever happens, to press the reset button, to bring everybody together, to look back at what happened, to learn from it and to go and look to the next race with a smile and with more motivation than the race before.
Q: Alan, thank you for waiting. Now. I’m going to ask you about Vettel. You haven’t worked with him directly. But what kind of a rival has he been for you guys?
Alan PERMANE: We’ve come across him on the track and he’s fierce, of course. And I think if we just look back one year from here, we spent 70 laps, or I spent 70 laps, on the edge of my seat with him behind Esteban, knowing that if Esteban put a wheel out or a foot wrong, Seb would have been there to pounce. So we have ultimate respect for him. I thought you might ask about Seb and I had a little think back and I remember, this is going back a little bit, so please forgive me, in 2013, end of the season, we had a really nice car, it was regularly on the podium, in the Lotus guise, and we even gave Red Bull a race a couple of times. We managed to get in front of Mark, we managed to get a second place, I think in Suzuka and I think in Austin, but we couldn’t get anywhere near Sebastian, at all. And I think he was at the top of his game then, of course, and of course so were they so yeah. So yeah, ultimate respect and as both these guys have said, out of the car he’s a pure gentleman.
Q: Thank you. His retirement frees up a seat on the grid next year. Fernando isn’t yet under contract with anyone. How important is Alonso to Alpine?
AP: He is very important to us. He works incredibly well with the team. He works well with Esteban. He works well with the engineers, with the factory, with both factories. So he’s a completely key member of our team.
Q: And has he taken a step forward from last year?
AP: I think he takes a step forward every weekend, honestly. He never stops trying, reinventing, learning. He’s a bit of a machine, in and out of the car. He’s relentless. So yeah, I think he’s still improving.
Q: Alonso said yesterday – and I’m quoting him now – that he is concerned about the pace of McLaren here in Hungary. What’s your assessment of their pace relative to yours?
AP: They were quicker than us yesterday, there’s no doubt about that and you could see from the very first lap that they were quick. And it’s fair to say that we are catching up a little bit but if you look from P1 to P2 we were a good chunk closer to them and today, with the weather we have forecast, if we have some rain all day that will suit us very well. We’re still very confident and we’re enjoying and relishing this fourth fight.
QUESTION FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) TD 39, porpoising, bouncing whatever you want to call it: what’s the latest situation and could us see the matter facing a legal challenge on the grounds of safety, whether it’s a bona fide safety concern or not?
LM: Well, without going into the legal side of things, I think we need to be very careful when we speak about safety grounds. I think we were all in this room last time we discussed it and that was for the Halo, these sort of things. And there are few as important topics as that to be discussing in future: roll hoops or something else. So I think you need to separate that from the discussions we are having with teams, with the FIA, on how to make situations better for the porpoising and in that context, what you mentioned the TD is doing a good job. The TD is effectively putting more pressure on the teams to operate their car far away from the proposing. It is also putting more emphasis on checking legality for plank wear. All of these things, all of these tools that the FIA has and is doing a good job at it to make sure that we don’t play too close to the boundaries but it’s not very different to what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago and if you run your car to low you will get your driver uncomfortable, you will get your plank illegal and you will get thrown out of the race. As far as we are concerned it’s an issue that pretty much has disappeared, we are now dealing with it as a completely normal set of items. If you have the issue you raise your car, if you don’t have it you could bring the car lower as we have done for quite a few decades now.
AP: Yeah, the same as Laurent said, I think we welcome that TD, we’re happy to conform to it and we conform to it without any issues. We’ve been back through all races this year and applied their metric to each lap and don’t have any issues with it. And from the start of the year we’ve been able to make our car bounce, porpoise or whatever you want to call it or touch the ground too hard and the drivers complained quite fiercely. I’m not even sure it’s quicker like that to be honest. And so we know where we like to operate and we know where the sweet spot is so we don’t have any concerns with a TD.
FT: Scuderia Alpha Tauri is very closely cooperating with FIA. They’ve got all our datas and they came out with metrics. I think so far everything is covered and I – concerning our team – haven’t had any complaints and neither from the drivers nor that we are not within the regulations and therefore for us this topic is closed.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Laurent, we’re seeing a lot of mistakes coming from Ferrari in France, especially Carlos being told he had a different penalty on the radio. I just wondered if Ferrari are feeling the pressure at this point and what you’re doing moving forward after the summer break to kind of stamp out these small mistakes that might be costing you a couple of points here and there.
LM: I think the France/Carlos radio message example is a good one of how different situations can be, seen inside the teams and outside teams. I think what you describe was simply the result of the radio message being broadcast 30 or 40 seconds after what had really happened. And if you had to go back there, you will call Carlos back exactly as we did and do the pitstop exactly as we did so it just shows how difficult nowadays, in a complex sport, it is to understand the reasons behind a strategy or another. That being said, we’ve lost quite a few points this year. We have reliability issues, we have a few things that we need to be better at. And yes, we are working extremely hard on it, it does not increase the pressure because the pressure is maximum all the time because it’s a competitive world and that’s the way we like it anyway but it’s a positive pressure, it’s what pushes us to improve race after race, and it’s with that spirit that we approach Budapest.
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsoprt.com) To Laurent and Alan, the Aston Martin rear wing this weekend has raised a few eyebrows although declared illegal by the FIA. There’s some concerns that it creates an airflow and can disturb the intent of the current rules to allow close racing. Do you think it opens up a development avenue that could affect the ability of cars to close each other and is it something that should be left untouched or is it something that should be clamped down on now?
AP: I promise you there’s nine other teams running that in CFD at the moment and if it’s quicker, you’ll see nine more of them, I imagine. I can’t see why that wouldn’t happen if it’s completely legal. I get your point about the intent of the regs but we just want to go fast and be reliable so that’s really for the FIA and Formula One to work out. If they’ve circumvented the intent and I doubt there’s anything that can be done about that this year, possibly for next year but I’m very sure if it’s faster, then you’ll very soon see more of them.
LM: Same as Alan, really. It’s the best summary. If the FIA says it’s legal then everybody tries. If it’s faster it will come to the cars
Q: (Laurie Vermeersch – F1Only.fr) Laurent, Carlos Sainz showed super pace in the last races. He won in Silverstone, he has a good pace in Austria before the DNF, he has a super bass in France. He helped Charles to the pole position in qualifying. Can we say now that he’s becoming the leader of the team?
LM: So at first you are very right in saying that Carlos has had three extremely strong weekends: Silverstone, Austria, France. We are very, very happy with that. It did not show up so much on the final race classifications besides Silverstone because we had other things to deal with. But you are very right in saying that he has made great progress since the start of the seasons. We made no secret at the beginning of the year that naturally the car was not suiting him very well. We had to work a lot with him, with his engineers, with everybody back in Maranello to make sure we can give him something he is more comfortable with. And these things take time. And slowly, it seems that we are heading towards the right direction, which is another great sign for the team and the way we interact. So I think that’s where it is. Does it make somebody a leader or not? No, it doesn’t, it is not what makes a leader or not. We know we have two very, very good drivers. We treat them in a way that we can maximise our championship positions and we want them as fast as they can possibly be.
Q: Laurent, what did you change? Or how did you help Carlos come to terms with the car and get more comfortable?
LM: Well, at first it comes from Carlos’ ability to analyse what the car does and what he needs from it. And then not only is he able to feel it, but he’s able to communicate it to the engineers and slowly we have been able to transform that into actions in terms of the way we set up the car, and in terms of the way that perhaps we tweak some of the developments and that’s how it happened. You are never sure it’s going to produce the results you hope until you actually see these trends coming. So it’s good positive information for us to see that the trend seems to be there.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Motorsport total. Com) Laurent, in terms of potential team orders, something that’s being discussed outside the team, more than inside probably, but is the situation necessarily that you would focus on one driver in terms of the championship only when the other one’s mathematically out of the race?
LM: I think you’re right in saying that it is more discussed outside Ferrari than inside Ferrari. But more seriously, again, we have always been very clear, you know. We target to have the best result for the team; Ferrari comes first. And then of course there will be a point where we will need to focus more on a driver compared to the other one if the championship position is requiring. So, it does not mean waiting for the mathematical difference that you mentioned but it means being at the point of the season where you think it is the right thing to do so.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) A question for Laurent and Alan, with your Sporting Director caps on. Pit stops have undergone a bit of change over the past sort of year or so, we had the slowdown mid-season with the FIA clamp down and then for this year the cars have got so much heavier and the wheels as well, that’s made a big change. Can you talk us through how you’ve changed pit stop processes over that period? Have there been any massive changes or is it just a case of repeat and repeat and repeat until you get quicker and quicker?
AP: Yeah, it is really certainly on our side. They have dropped slightly in speed, but really not very much and 2.2, 2.3 seconds is a regular thing, where I guess they were maybe 1.8 when they were the absolute quickest, but they’re still around two seconds. So the wheels are heavier, the cars are a little bit heavier, we don’t really notice that I don’t think in terms of stop performance. There is some stuff going on for the future. With the FIA, the teams are working on, possibly, electric pit guns – for all sorts of reasons, for eco reasons, for savings on freight, and just moving forward. I think we’re a little way away on that, honestly, to retain the same performance that we have now, but essentially, what we have now is what we had last year with a bigger wheel.
LM: Yeah, same here really. I think it’s a good opportunity to give credit to the guys that, as you say, have been able to show pretty similar performance with these new wheels, heavier compared to what we were doing last year. Of course, it’s coming after a lot of training, after a lot of analysis. What do you need, ergonomics, training, to hardware on the car, to be able to allow them to perform at the same level. But I think it’s a good occasion to say a big well done to them, as a group, in the way they have been able to come to that level of performance. Of course, if you then look up and down the pit line, yes, on average we go a touch slower, as Alan said, maybe on average we do a few more mistakes as well, but it’s something that I’m sure will be ironed out as time goes on and more practice is done.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Laurent, obviously Charlotte made the high-profile mistake last time. How do you go about helping Charles find the right way to cut back the mistakes, because the strike rate of those errors is maybe a little bit too high? And is there a way to help him do that without losing that edge of incredible speed?
LM: Let’s start from the speed. He has been showing such outstanding speed this year again that you don’t want to go and touch that aspect and Charles doesn’t need us to understand, as a great racing driver, to understand where he needs to go in terms of closeness to the limit. He is a master of that and, as we all do, mistakes can happen. I think we don’t look at single mistakes, we look at the strike rate. We look at how extraordinarily you’re able to do things compared to stuff that you do not as good, and I think his strike rate this year has been very, very impressive and we don’t want him to change anything.
Q: (Silvia Aria – Parabrisas) Laurent is it possible that when things don’t go right is Charles Leclerc a little bit more emotional than Carlos?
LM: I would not say so, really. You know, with both these guys we have had very good highs and we have had very painful lows this season, and in both ways, in both directions, when they come back to the garage, when they have looked at what happened, when they have looked at the data, they are able to reset, to be in the learning mode pretty much after 15 minutes. So you need to separate that from maybe what you can hear on the radio in the heat of the moment when they are racing with a high heart rate. I think it’s two different things. But when they get out of the car and they analyse everything, after an hour they will be back into the analysis mode and showing little emotion in a negative way, no negative emotions, but instead you can see it drives them to even more motivation.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) For all three of you. What’s the latest on your plans for FP1 rookie running? How hard is it to find a slot because, for example, you’re not going to do it in Singapore, Suzuka is a bit tricky, Alfa have said they don’t want to do it on weekends when there’s FP2 Pirelli tyre testing and basically you’re all running out of weekends to fit them in?
FT: Currently, we plan to run Liam Lawson in FP1 in Spa.
LM: For us it’s Robert Shwartzman that will do our two FP1s. We haven’t exactly decided on which events it’s going to be. You are right in saying that you would not pick races like Singapore or races where the race drivers need more running. I don’t think we have an issue in doing it during one of the weekends where we have Pirelli testing.
AP: Yeah, it’s not a huge issue to find a weekend, there are plenty, and I think we’ll see Oscar in our car, either in Spa or Monza for the first time.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Back to the porpoising, etc. There’s a change on the cards for next year and that’s been pushed through under the auspices of safety. Any comment on whether it is actually a safety issue, please?
AP: I think that’s for the FIA to decide, Dieter. I think our team would prefer not to have any technical changes. And I’ve heard sort of stories about protests or it going legal. I think that’s unlikely. We would like it to remain as it is. As I said earlier, we can control our car, we’re very happy that we can run it completely safety, and I’m sure the drivers will back that up. And I think the issue, up and down the pitlane, does appear to have largely gone away now.
LM: Same as Alan, really. But early on, we discussed what we felt was something to be important on safety grounds and something not to be important on safety grounds. I think in that case it’s nothing to do with the magnitude of stuff that we should be imposing on safety grounds. If there is a discussion to have, let’s have it. There is a governance that is in place to do so. We are very late in the day to change cars for next year. Most of us will be already in the final stages of our programmes. As Alan said, it’s pretty much a non-problem now for quite a few races, so it would be rather awkward to impose a design change now.
FT: The last discussions and proposals for the changing of the floor has, in my opinion, nothing to do with safety, it’s just politics.