FIA Friday press conference - Abu Dhabi
Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Masashi YAMAMOTO (Honda)
Q: Mattia, first up, new track layout here at Yas Marina. What are the drivers saying about the changes?
Mattia Binotto: Honestly, not much because I had no opportunity to have a chat with them after the first session. Obviously, they drove it at the simulator, they practice it at the simulator, try to learn the new layout. I think they appreciate the changes in the last sector. I think they believe that can bring some more overtaking opportunities. Certainly, the new layout will be more demanding for tyres: high energy because high-speed corners but obviously now they are just discussing in the post-debriefing FP1 sessions. I think, as expected, it would be quite different to the past. I think the changes are somehow quite radical and, you have seen as well the lap-time has reduced quite a lot compared to the past, so quite curious to see the rest of the weekend. But for the comments from the drivers, I have not the right answer, right now.
Q: Now Mattia, last race of the season, so it’s a good opportunity to look back on the 2021 season. Let’s start by talking about the drivers. They’ve finished one behind the other in the last four races and they’re separated by just 8.5 points in the drivers’ standings. Is that exactly what you wanted from them?
MB: I think that’s a great result, showing that both drivers are contributing to the Constructors’ Championship. It was important for us by employing Carlos to have a good racer, consistent, bringing points to the Championship, and this is what he did from his very first year and season with Ferrari. So, if I look at the ways he has been integrated, the way he has delivered all though the season, that has been great. And having two drivers so close, finally, pushing them, I think is a good benchmark. You can see that one is a good example and mentor for the other and they are pushing themselves. Even at the last race, they have two overtaking opportunities, swapping the positions but it’s great to see and something that is encouraging for the future. I like to see those two guys fighting together and being so close.
Q: How impressed have you been with Carlos’ integration into Ferrari?
MB: Certainly, we are very keen on that. I think it has been obtained as well through quite a big effort through the winter time with engineers, was often in Maranello, sit down, go through the car, through the procedures, so it has been a lot of work back at Maranello and on the simulator, trying to prepare the season. I think we’ve seen the result of such an effort. We had a session of driving in Fiorano with an old car, just before the first testing, so everything was put in place, try to help Carlos for his integration. Certainly, he has been very good on his side as well. He has been doing good because he is a good learner. He is studying, he’s trying to learn, trying to understand and I think he has been consistent in his integration and development in terms of performance through the season as well.
Q: What about the car now? How pleased are you with the progress that you’ve made with it during the course of the season?
MB: You know last year has been a very difficult season, 2020, finishing sixth in the Championship. That was the worst in the last 40 years. In terms of performance, it was very poor, both on the straight lines and in the corners. I think that was the baseline for the 2021 because somehow most of the car was frozen, only two tokens or two changes possible. Aerodynamically, we could have developed it but with some limitations, so I think the baseline was difficult and so see that we are finishing third, again I think it’s encouraging. It’s showing that the team has been capable of addressing some weaknesses, the team has been good in understanding the weaknesses and developing the car furthermore. I think we have not developed much the car, we have just introduced an evolution of the power unit at some stage. That was it. To see that we have achieved a third place – and know that the competitors are strong around us – it’s showing that the team has done good progress and progress has been done in all the areas. I mentioned before the straight line and the corners but that’s the result of the aero, the chassis, the power unit – but as well I think in terms of race engineering, strategy, pit-stops, everything has come together with some improvements now. Third place is not what we are looking for as Ferrari. Our DNA, Ferrari DNA is to complete for the first place – but knowing what was 2020 I think it has again been quite encouraging to see the progress.
Q: As you say, it’s more-than likely you’re going to finish third in the Championship. Have you always had the third-fastest car?
MB: I don’t think in each track we have been the third fastest car. In the midfield, the level of competitiveness was very close and sometimes we’re slightly ahead or slightly behind – but I think we have been quite consistent through the season, scoring points with the two drivers in a consistent way. I think that was important because, by simply scoring points at each single race we have been capable of increasing our understanding in the Championship. I think it’s a great overall effort and result of the team.
Q: Final one from me. Can we look elsewhere quickly? Kimi Räikkönen is retiring after this race, he’s Ferrari’s most recent World Champion. How do you reflect on his time at the team?
MB: As you said, he’s the last World Champion with Ferrari. It’s a long time I’ve known Kimi, I think it’s more than 14 years. He has always been a fantastic driver, very fast. I think he’s still fast today. But I think he’s a great man as well. He’s one of the few in the paddock I believe is a friend because he’s a man that you can always trust. He’s very respectful, he’s certainly not speaking a lot but in his way of behaving I think he’s really a great man and obviously the entire paddock will miss him in the future. I think like that: not only because he’s a good driver but because he’s a fantastic man.
Q: Yamamoto-san, coming to you now. To start with, how would you sum-up Honda’s time in Formula 1 since 2015?
Masashi Yamamoto (via translator): Starting from McLaren days, we have learnt a lot from them but we think we had a mutual respect too much. That’s why we had maybe a shortness, a little bit, of communication and then it was a shame that the project didn’t go well. And with Toro Rosso / AlphaTauri, we had the restart with them, and we have learnt a lot further with them again. And then we prepared many things for further development of the power unit. And with Red Bull Racing, of course as you can see, we are now fighting for the Championship. Having data from four cars enabled us to develop a lot. It’s obviously a top team and it’s great that we are now fighting for a championship with them.
Q: Whatever happens this weekend, you’ve had a hugely successful 2021. Has the Honda board re-discussed its decision to leave Formula 1. Was there any talk about staying longer?
MY: Leaving F1 was a very big decision for Honda, and it was for the carbon-neutral and also for the customers all over the world. Although we’re having good results this year, we never had a discussion to stay here.
Q: Looking forwards, how much help with Honda give to Red Bull Powertrains from next year?
MY: It will be totally controlled by Red Bull but in accordance with Red Bull’s request and also to support as much as possible the F1 activity for AlphaTauri and Red Bull, Honda will make our best.
Q: And on a personal level, Yamamoto-san, will you stay involved next year, helping Red Bull Powertrains?
MY: I have no idea at the moment, our focus is just for this weekend, to win the Championship. After that, going back to Japan and reporting everything to headquarters and thinking about the future.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Mattia, politically Formula 1 was quite turbulent last year. There was quite a lot going on. This season it does seem to have been a bit quieter for all teams bar Mercedes and Red Bull. I just wanted to know, for you, for Ferrari, how have you found the political battles in F1 this year and would you agree it’s been a more serene year for F1 on that side of things?
MB: The battle is very intense, and very nice I have to say, and even watching from outside it’s something incredible, coming to the last race, equal points, just waiting for the final rush. I think it’s something incredible, that’s for the fans, for the entertainment. Obviously it’s a shame, or a pity for us not being there. We would like much to be there and fighting as well – but it’s a great championship. F1, generally speaking, is giving a great show. It’s giving a great show as a sport, it’s been the case in this season but it’s always improving. I think in terms of show, broadcasting, communications, the sport itself, a lot is done and everybody simply can only enjoy it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mattia, we’ve reached the end of the first season under Stefano Domenicali, your former colleague at Ferrari who is now CEO of Formula 1. Could you just give us a summary of how you believe he has done? What he has introduced, what he has brought to bear on Formula 1 in this position please?
MB: Certainly, as for Stefano, he has been a former colleague. He has been as well my boss, not only a colleague. He is as well a very good friend. I think I can only answer by saying that he’s doing very well. I think that as well Liberty Media is doing very well, since Liberty media has started the job they have improved a lot the show and the way that we are really presenting the show to the fans, not only in terms of broadcasting but social media and all of that. Certainly we have stepped-up the level of communication and the way we are engaging with the fans. I think that Stefano simply after a year is doing very well. It’s not easy for him after Chase to keep the level because Chase has done a fantastic job but I know Stefano and I’m pretty sure even in the future he will continue doing very, very well.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Mattia, Carlos was one of several drivers who had to adapt to a completely new package this season. Amid all of the things that are being discussed about what the challenges are within that, it feels like one thing that wasn’t talked about a great deal at the start of the season in particular was all these drivers changing power units. I just wondered, in your experience, how much is there to learn between the different power units, how to get the most out of them. How much does that feed into the adaptation process for the drivers?
MB: Learning the power units is certainly one of the points that needs to be done and the energy management, the way the drivability of the engine, certainly gives a side that is difficult, but it is why we have tools like a simulator where you can train, and a lot has been done with Carlos just before the start of this season, making sure he knew all of the procedures of the engines, the way we are managing the energy and all the settings, the tunings. And I think it’s something yes, it takes time, but it’s not impossible. But you need a good driver, and the better the driver the quicker the process, and I think that Carlos in that respect, he has been very strong. We knew he was a good driver and this season he’s simply demonstrating it as well.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question for Mattia. We’ll have a new FIA president next week. I was wondering if there are any plans at Maranello to get Jean Todt back as a consultant or in some other role?
MB: I heard and I read about some speculations in that respect. What I can say is that so far they are only speculations. Personally, I worked with Jean Todt, he has been my boss. I think I learned a lot from him. It has been an honour to work with him and I would say that, as well, whatever would be the future, it will still be an honour for me to work together with him because I still believe that, as Mattia and as a team, there’s still much to learn.
Q: (Autosport – Luke Smith) Another one for Mattia. It’s been a very intense fight with McLaren this year for third place in the Constructors’ Championship. Although it’s not where Ferrari wants to be ultimately fighting, which is for P1, how much do you feel the fight for P3 has been helpful for Ferrari to battle-sharpen you and get you ready for a potential World Championship fight in the future?
MB: First we need to consolidate a little bit the position here in Abu Dhabi, so the season is not over. It’s true that we’ve got a significant margin and the hope is somehow to finish third. Our objectives, at least declared at the start of this season were try to improve ourselves in all the areas, in each single details, and we didn’t set the third position as the final objective for ourselves, we always said third will be the simple outcome of trying to work well as a team and in terms of team-effort now. Finishing third, again as I said before, it’s encouraging because it’s a declaration that the team somehow has made progress and is going in the right direction. So I think it is giving us some serenity as well through the winter time, which is important, giving us that serenity which is important because of what we are facing for 2022, which is a completely new challenge, a very difficult one and I think simply to have self-confidence, let me say, in the work we have done so far, knowing that still the gap to the very best is very big, there are two competitors ahead which are very, very strong and we’ve got a car which is not good enough yet, showing that somehow as a team, there are still a lot of progresses that are required. Finishing third is somehow important for serenity and showing the team efforts done so far.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mattia, you historically had if not the biggest then certainly one of the biggest budgets. Obviously this year is the first year under the budget cap and the financial regulations. Could you try to exactly explain how this impacted on your car performance, whether you had to cut back on the development of the 2021 car ahead of ’22 development etc, please?
MB: Certainly we had a big budget, maybe not the biggest. But with the financial regulations and the budget cap we had to cut some of the developments and to cut parts of our organisation. When you’ve got a cap, no doubt you need to limit yourselves. As Ferrari, as first, we identified 2022 as our top priority, so no compromises have been done in developing the 2022 cars. The reason of putting 2022 as a top priority is I think. Quite straight and obvious. It’s a new era in terms of regulations and more than that I think that knowing that we are behind in terms of team capacity compared to the best competitors this is why it was important for us to really focus on the future and try to do our best for whatever will be our medium or long-term future and that’s why the 2022… so we compromised somehow the 2021. Compromising means, as I said before, we have not really developed the car during the season. We developed the car for the start of the season. We addressed a few issues on car behaviour at the very start, in the first two or three races, but then we stopped completely the development and focused on 2022, except on the power unit, which we introduced in Sochi, Russia as the first development.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For Yamamoto-san, just reflecting on this era of Honda in F1. In your experience what has been the toughest moment you have gone through and what’s been the best moment.
MY: The best moment for me is the Australian Grand Prix in 2019, the first podium with Red Bull Racing. Also, of course, 2019 Austria, the first win with Red Bull.
Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) Mattia, Antonio Giovinazzi is a Ferrari-linked driver but he has lost his seat for next season. He said he is hoping to retain some kind of involvement in F1. As a third driver potentially with Ferrari. What are Ferrari’s plans for Antonio for next year?
MB: First concluding here in Abu Dhabi the current season, he is still our reserve drive for the weekend. For the future we are discussing with him and in due course we will simply try to announce what is the intention for next year but it’s not yet decided.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mattia, earlier on, replying to the question about Jean Todt possibly joining Ferrari as a consultant you said it was speculation and then you said “for now”, which is far from an outright denial. Have there been any discussions with Jean Todt about a future role with Ferrari?
Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing)
Q: Both world titles are up for grabs this weekend and that’s the Constructors’ trophy sitting between you. We can all feel the tension in the paddock, but what’s the mood in your respective garages?
Christian Horner: I think the mood is one of excitement. Who would have thought coming into this season that we would be here with an outside shot of going for this trophy. But to be tied on points with Lewis, it’s been an amazing journey. It has been an amazing championship. We have won 10 races. The nine Max has won has matched all the previous victories in the previous seasons he has been involved in the sport. I think the way we have fought, the way we have pushed in this campaign, nobody has come close to challenging this team [Mercedes] in the last eight years. Here we are at the final race and we’re in with a shot. A long shot in the Constructors’ and an equal opportunity in the Drivers’, so I think there is a real feeling of excitement. I think there is a real feeling of enjoyment. It’s been intense, it’s been frustrating on occasions. You know, we have pushed the limits, we have pushed each other and we have pushed our competitors and here we are at the final race for the showdown, and it almost feels a bit like Squid Game that we’ve finished up here with everybody on equal points. But I think it is going to make compelling viewing on Sunday. Just as a team we are incredibly proud of what we have done this year. We are proud of the way we have raced. And we are particularly proud of Max. As a 24-year-old young man to drive under scrutiny, the pressure, the intensity that he has had has been quite simply outstanding. To go up against a 36-year-old seven-time world champion, the mental strength that he has demonstrated this in a sport, in a world where we see the scrutiny that there is has been outstanding and we are incredibly proud of everything he has done and that he is standing here at this race tied with statistically the best driver of all time, so it’s been an amazing journey and everybody in our team is certainly embracing this challenge, embracing this fight and win or lose or Sunday it’s been an amazing journey.
Toto Wolff: Yeah, also for us it’s exciting because both teams had their fair share of luck and bad luck and from where we sit is that team and driver both merit to win. The journey so far, like Christian said, very happy at times, exuberant, and very frustrating in different moments and to find each other here competing with equal points in the Drivers’ Championship is not only good for the spectators but also for us. It has pushed us to new limits. They have done a formidable job this year and that’s why it’s all in for this Sunday and whoever wins deserves to win.
Q: Staying with you Toto, the gap in the Constructors’ table is now 28 points. How confident are you of picking up that trophy on your left next week?
TW: Statistically that is a very strong advantage we have, but you can see how quickly it goes. We were just five points ahead and then Checo was involved in that crash and scored no points and suddenly it swings massively. So there still can be events on Sunday when that could swing in the other direction. I just hope we are all in for this fight, the four drivers and that we can maintain the gap and even increase it, because that would mean maybe that if it’s down to Lewis that we have won the championship.
Q: Christian can we get your thoughts on the challenge ahead with regard to the Constructors’ Championship?
CH: The Constructors’ is a long shot. I think the DNF for Sergio last week was brutal for that championship. Something would have to go significantly wrong for Mercedes not to pick up that championship but you know, it’s the last race. There’s so much at stake and anything can happen. Anything can happen. You can never give up. We learned that back in 2010 when we came here fighting for our first world championship, that Sebastian Vettel came here with an outside chance and came away with the Drivers’ trophy. It just demonstrates that if you never give up, you keep pushing, anything can happen.
Q: Christian, if the Constructors’ title seems a tall order, you’re still technically in the lead of the Drivers’ on countback. What have you been saying to Max?
CH: We’ve obviously talked about the weekend and the most important thing is for him to enjoy this weekend. For him to give his best, to drive exactly as he has in the previous 21 races, to attack the weekend in the way that he has, that has given him those nine victories, that has taken him to this point of being tied on points with Lewis. I think he has to enjoy it. I think that he has driven phenomenally well. I think since the summer break we haven’t had the strongest car and I think it is Max who has kept us in this championship. It’s the way he has extracted performances. You only have to think of the first turn in Mexico, the Austin Grand Prix as two recent examples of where he has driven out of his skin to keep us in this fight. I think the biggest thing for him to just go for it, just enjoy it. Obviously for us the target is that we have to beat Lewis. And to beat Lewis we have to win the race, because on normal statistics I can’t see anybody else being in that position, so the only chance we have to win this championship is to beat Lewis on the track. We want to do that as we have done on at least nine previous occasions with Max so far this year.
Q: Toto, same question to you really, what have you been saying to Lewis?
TW: I think there was an overall discussion on where we are as a team and after Brazil the easiness that we have rediscovered in the team and we all agreed that this is why we are here: close competition, fierce fighting for bot championships. And Lewis is one of the protagonists in the team to install and instil this kind of mindset. I see him and Valtteri in a way as a kind of pillar, playing their role, concentrating on their job, not being distracted by any noise and that’s why he is a leader with the great support of everybody and of course Valtteri.
Q: It has been a totally enthralling and occasionally explosive season and you two have had your moments when emotions have run high. What do you have to say to each other now that is down to the wire?
TW: Good luck, and may the best man and the best team win.
CH: Exactly. Exactly that. It’s been an intense competition. It’s been intense between the two of us. It will be intense next year and the year after. But we have got two great teams. We are separated about 15 miles back in the UK and I think that the commitment that has gone in has been phenomenal. I can’t speak for Toto’s team but our team has been outstanding this year, through the whole pandemic, through all the challenges, the triple-headers, everything that we have had thrown at us, they have been outstanding. So, yeah, if you would slow down a bit, it would certainly help!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jerome Pugmire - AP) Toto, how does this compare to the last race in 2016 in terms of tension, because obviously the tension was very high then between Nico and Lewis. How does that compare, for you, and also do you sense that Lewis is more tense now or less tense than in 2016 for the last race?
TW: Your place looks pretty cold! It’s very different. I would say that the intensity of the situation was maybe more in 2016 because if you have a rivalry and a fight within the team, trying to manage the two sides of the garage and obviously not being one-sided but keeping everything transparent was very, very difficult. Also, for me, I was still very much in my junior year, so I don’t want to go back to the difficulties of that relationship or that situation there. There are many things I would do differently today and this one is just a fierce fight between teams and drivers that have done a really great job, but sometimes in the races the two or three drivers in the lead we were 45 seconds up the road, like being almost the whole field and this shouldn’t sound arrogant in any way but it shows the push all of us have done in order to win this. It’s probably a level that certainly in my years at Mercedes is unprecedented.
Q: (Abhishek Takle - Midday) To both, you have obviously shaken hands now but during the season the war of words between the two of you was very barbed and at times even ugly. Why do you think that? Do you think somewhere a little bit of respect went out of it in the intensity of the situation?
CH: I think we are competing for two of the biggest trophies in sport and of course the competition is intense. I think as characters we are obviously quite different but we share the same intensity, the same competitiveness. I will defend my team, I will defend my driver, both drivers, to the hilt. That’s what you do. That’s who you represent. That’s who you look to protect and you know yes, there has been competition on track, off track, and it has been pushing the boundaries. Tot has done the same from his side and yeah, it has got heated and I think that’s sport. It would be for me very artificial to sit here or throughout the season and be all smiles with your biggest competitor. For me, I can’t do that, because that wouldn’t be being true or being honest. So, of course emotions boil over. We are in a competitive sport. That’s Formula 1. It shows the intensity of the competition, the intensity between the teams. It’s given you guys something to write about. I think it has just been honest more than anything and for me it would be totally fake for me to sit here and say how much we love each other and that we are going to go on holiday after this weekend. Because, I’m not going on holiday with you after this weekend by the way!
TW: I don’t know if it would be so much fun. I would agree with Christian. I think there is mutual respect for the job that the other team has done. They wouldn’t be where they are, competing for these championships all along, but it is just too intense. I stand for the team and the interests of the team and that can be fierce at times because it’s not only the derivers battling on track. It’s a fight for an advantage in the regulations and obviously we have also certain bias that comes from different perspectives and different perceptions. I can understand that rationally but if things go against the team or against the two drivers I can get quite emotional in the moment and Christian has his own way of dealing with it. As he said, very different personalities. But it is just the fight for this trophy, one of the most important prizes in sport. It’s a world championship and that’s why you cannot expect a lot of schmoozing between drivers, team principals and all the teams.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To both: what did you make of Michael Masi’s explicit reminder that a points deduction can be enforced in the most extreme circumstances? And I know that option is there all the time but do you think it would be right to apply that if someone causes a collision that wins them the title when that hasn’t been applied in other instances this season?
TW: I think that with all controversies that we had in the last few races and again, this is probably a matter of perception, different perceptions from different camps, it is a very good that Michael and the FIA have come out with a reminder of what the ISC stands for and I think coming out is maybe a good deterrent for everyone, just to keep to the racing clean, what is on and what is not on, and simply not only the real race result will matter for the championship but also the driving standards.
CH: It’s one of 22 races. What’s the difference between this race, for example, and Silverstone or Hungary? There has to be consistency, there has to be a consistency of stewarding, or penalties and I think that’s the thing that drives people more mad than anything else, is when there is perceived to be an inconsistency, so that piece of the sporting code that’s been highlighted in the notes, that’s always been there, that’s not something that’s been reintroduced for this weekend. Nobody wants to see this championship end up in front of the stewards or in a gravel trap. We want to see these two titans of drivers, who have gone wheel-to-wheel so often this year go at it again this weekend, that’s what, as a team we want, as a driver Max wants. There needs to be consistency and so I can see why Toto and Lewis, with the disadvantage of race wins, would be pushing for that but nobody’s going into this race to say it’s going to end in a crash. There’s been great speculation about it but our focus is on trying to win this on track and do it at the chequered flag.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, Christian said a couple of races ago that this is the most intense political fight he’s been in during his time in F1. Is that an assessment you would agree with compared to your fights against Ferrari and particularly last year as well?
TW: I think there were years with Ferrari that were brutal and this one is intense in so far that it has been going all year and it’s a part of the… Part of Formula 1 has always been that you’re trying to just have been a situation that you deem to be the right one and that you try to not necessarily gain an advantage but in a way balance it in your direction without being totally off the line. I think there are certain boundaries but definitely, that’s part of the FIA Formula One World Championship and they have been great opponents.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Toto, much has been made, including by yourself, about the so-called spicy engine. Could you confirm please, that it’s of a specification that’s been available to Valtteri for example, plus all your customer teams? And then what was the rationale behind cancelling the Kingspan deal, please?
TW: All good questions. I think that what we have seen this year is that we had a lot of degradation on our power units, it’s a phenomenon that we only really understood after the summer and it would put us in a situation that the engine would lose reliability and we’ve seen that Valtteri is on his sixth engine and Lewis on his fifth. The drivers not have these problems and take and not have taken penalties, so therefore putting a new engine in Lewis’s car hopefully protects from a reliability standpoint and would mean that it’s a fresh engine and it was new in Brazil. On the Kingspan situation, it’s much simpler than one would expect. Kingspan and ourselves, we sat down, we said it’s probably not the right moment to be in a relationship like that and we both agreed mutually let’s put a stop on it.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) To both of you, it’s actually with a nod towards next year and the new regulations coming in. Obviously you will have had your programmes running in the background but I just wondered whether this intense title fight that you’ve both spoken of has had any kind of detrimental impact on those programmes in particular?
CH: Well, when Ferrari turn up with the fastest car and smash us out of the park at the first race then you’ll have to say that it probably did but I think that we’ve all known that big regulation changes coming for 2022 and we’ve applied our resource accordingly. I’m sure each team has done what they feel is right and it’s put pressure on the organisation, of course, but that’s where I think the team have been outstanding because to keep a development rate on a new set of regulations and keep a focus on this year’s car has taken a monumental effort and the commitment shown by all of the team, throughout the team, has been phenomenal. But we will only see when we come back in a couple of months’ time, with completely new cars, they look different, they’re going to feel different, they’re going to drive differently, you know, who’s got it right, who’s got it wrong and then it all starts again.
TW: Also to add to that is that obviously regulations have been changed, we are all operating under the same financial cap and the concepts are very new and then what was introduced is the aerodynamic regulations, where teams based on their standing in the championship had a little bit more allowance and so it’s pretty much possible that teams who hadn’t competed for the World Championship this year, whether it’s Ferrari, McLaren or Aston Martin or Alpine are capable of coming up with the intelligent concepts based on much more runs than everybody else and just doing it very right, so I think we need to expect much closer fighting for championships and races than we had before and that’s exciting.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Christian, the question is about would have, could have, should have. Every year we have them and I know in racing that doesn’t win any races but Max has lost something in the region of 52 points for contact over the course of the season including I think 18 at Copse. I just wondered if you looked… how much does that play on your mind and what is your biggest ‘what if’ moment of the season?
CH: You can always look back at the ‘what if’ moments and I think if we look back at particularly Silverstone and Budapest they were brutal for this championship. Max would have been sitting here as World Champion had it not been for those incidents which were not and were deemed to not be his fault but you have to look forward, you can’t dwell on ifs, buts and maybes. We’ve kept ourselves in this championship, there’s been a couple of races where things could have gone the other way for him but he’s kept fighting, he’s kept himself in there and here we are, race 22 with a crack at the title and I think that we need to look forwards, not backwards.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) A couple of races ago, Christian, you hinted that the team was looking at considering a protest. Can we rule out the chances of a protest on Sunday? And the second question to Toto: could you explain, roughly for us, where you managed to find this increase in speed over these last couple of races, if it wasn’t the spicy engine?
CH: Regarding the question for me, are we going to protest? We have made our points clear a few races ago, to the FIA, about things that we were unhappy with. The FIA have introduced stringent tests and I believe modifications have been made to our competitor’s car. So, we just want a level playing field and I think hopefully we have that, we rely on the FIA to police that. It’s an incredibly complex sport, there’s a huge talent pool of engineering skill that look and interpret these regulations with tremendous ingenuity and that’s part of the appeal of Formula 1 but we rely wholeheartedly on the FIA to make sure these things are policed and adjudicated correctly and I think, hopefully with the tools that they now have, that certainly will be the case.
TW: I think we understood much better how to run the car in terms of aerodynamic configuration, particularly how much rake you give to the car, how you put the aero balance right, how much rear wing you run and then obviously a massive effect from a new engine and you put all of this together with a circuit that suits the car with the right decisions that are being taken by Andrew Shovlin and his team and Loic Serra and these guys. People tend to believe in Formula 1 that there’s one silver bullet but it’s not like this. It’s small things that add up and I think that that’s where we took some good decisions.
Q: (Jenna Fryer – AP) To both of you: Max was… several times yesterday he said he doesn’t not think he’s been treated fairly this year. I assume he means by the stewards. I’m wondering if either of you agree with that?
CH: It’s heating up a bit. I think that on occasions I think he has been treated harshly. I think he has come under scrutiny that we haven’t seen applied consistently with other incidents and he feels aggrieved by that and I think that the problem is for Max is that scrutiny is on him, he has the spotlight positioned on him, he’s running at the front, he’s competing against a seven time World Champion and I think that allegations about his driving, about this driving style, about his driving standards have been… there’s been a narrative that’s been pushed to put pressure on him and I think that he’s driven fantastically well all year. Max drives in a manner that ignites passion, it has brought fans into the sport, it’s brought new fans into the sport this year and we do not want him to change. We want him to drive in exactly the manner that he has that’s put him on a precipice of competing with Lewis for this World Championship and it’s been great to see the new fans coming into the sport this year, the young fans coming in and that, in a large part, is because of what he’s been doing and the way he drives, the way he has taken on the greatest driver of all time, the most winning driver, the biggest champion, and I think that all credit is deserved on that, and of course the mental pressure on a young man with the scrutiny that he’s had has been immense this year and the way he’s conducted himself, the way he’s handled that, it’s right that he feels aggrieved with some of those decisions. And of course, what you want as a driver is consistency, what you want as a team is consistency and I think that’s the most important thing that we request coming into this weekend.
TW: I don’t want to go back to specific incidents nor comment on the driving itself. It’s probably more a matter of perception, your own perception and your own perspectives and that will influence your thinking and how you see the world and that’s OK. I think we’re trying to – as good as we can bearing in mind that we also have that influence in having that most clear view on things and that obviously differs from Red Bull, but that’s OK, you just need to acknowledge that they see it through their glasses and have an opinion and we see it through our glasses and the stewards have a very difficult job to stay neutral and come up with decisions.
CH: You didn’t look very happy in Brazil, hunh?
TW: And last one, and in Jeddah.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Has there been a communication as to what action will be taken in a Brazil Turn 4 or Saudi Turn 1 situation?
CH: Brazil Turn 4, Saudi Turn 1. Look, again, it just comes to… you want consistency, consistency of all. What happened in Turn 4, what happened in whatever it was should be applied to this race. You can’t just go and pluck something out of the air and say OK, yep, that’s what will now apply because I think that would make a mockery of the policing of the championship.
TW: Yes, we had our opinions on Brazil but it’s important for this race and for the future to make it clear to the drivers that it’s well understood and we’ve heard comments that it wasn’t well understood and that in the end it’s the drivers who need to judge when starting a race, what’s on and what is not on and I think that in that respect it’s important to reiterate that this weekend.