PART ONE: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing) Franz TOST (Toro Rosso)
Franz, let’s start by talking about drivers. It’s been a case of revolving doors at Toro Rosso in recent weeks. You’ve paired Brendon Hartley with Pierre Gasly this weekend. First question: Why them?
Franz TOST: Because both are Red Bull drivers, both are high-skilled drivers, fast driver and we want to test them for the rest of the season, because there is a high possibility that this will be the driver line-up for 2018.
So where does all this leave Daniil Kvyat?
FT: He is not anymore with Red Bull and therefore he is free to decide whatever he wants to do.
With immediate effect he is no longer part of the Red Bull family?
FT: No, he’s not anymore with Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
Now, from a Constructors’ Championship point of view, you said at the start of the year that you wanted to finish sixth. You’re currently there but Renault are closing fast and the recent musical chairs means that one of your prize assets, Carlos Sainz, is now with Renault. How do you think the championship situation is going to play out? Are you worried about the threat from Renault?
FT: Of course we are worried, yeah. You know, the background story for this is that Toro Rosso has a valid contract with Renault. We decided to change to Honda for 2018 and to terminate the contract we of course had to give something to Renault. The compensation was Carlos Sainz and therefore he is now driving for Renault. We are well aware, because of his speed, it’s a big threat for us because he scored most of the points for Toro Rosso. On the one hand side, we lost him scoring points for us, on the other hand side, he is now with Renault. He is very fast, as we saw in Austin, and it will not become easy, but if we don’t have any technical problems I am still convinced we can stay ahead of Renault and Haas.
Thank you and good luck with that. Christian, turning to you, let’s cast our minds back to the Austin race last weekend. Max has apologized on social media for the language that he used after that grand prix. It did get pretty heated. What’s your take on what happened at the end?
Christian HORNER: Well, I think there are two things here: there’s one, what happened on circuit, and then there’s what happened off circuit. What happened on circuit was frustrating, was difficult to understand, and particularly for the viewers following the sport and perhaps watching the race in the US for the first time. We had this situation with track limits, which had been abused, not just in Austin, but at other circuits as well, throughout the weekend. And then, unfortunately, Max got penalised for effectively abusing track limits. And it was obviously frustrating and where Max’s frustration obviously came from was that people had been running off track all weekend. He managed to make a move on Kimi, got up the inside and then committed to running off track at that point. Obviously to have then, on the final lap of the grand prix, to have made that pass, believe that you are on the podium, a fantastic recovery driver from 16th, the crowd loving it, you’re in the green room and Matteo pulls him out for the second time and says “sorry, son, you’ve just got a penalty and Kimi’s on the podium”. And unfortunately without the right of reply, without the ability to question, or even a hearing, to present his side of the story, of course, in the heat of the moment, you know these guys, they’re emotional, they’re passionate, they’re fired up, he had a microphone put in front of him fairly shortly after taking his helmet off and being removed from that green room, and of course emotions are running high, and he said a few things that were inappropriate, that he subsequently apologized for. But one can understand the frustration there must have been – having believed that you had achieved something only to find out in that scenario that it wasn’t to be.
So what is the solution with regard to track limits?
CH: I think it’s important to find a solution. I had a very constructive discussion with Charlie Whiting earlier in the weekend, because I think it needs to be simple for the fans, the spectators and the commentators to be able to follow and saying you can go off the track here but you can’t there because that’s an advantage here or it’s not such a big advantage there, in any other sport it wouldn't happen - if it’s rugby or tennis or any sport you can think of, out us out and in is in. Now, motor racing is more complicated than that, obviously, and I think one of the key things and a deterrent to stop drivers using and abusing these track limits is in the circuits themselves. If there was a kerb there, if there was a gravel trap there, if there was a surface that wasn’t conducive to being on, be it astroturf or whatever it is, I think if there was a deterrent to the drivers being there… they don’t go wide in Singapore, they don’t go wide in Monaco, because there is a penalty, obviously a severe one because there are walls there. But I think perhaps the circuits where we share with MotoGP, we can’t facilitate both disciplines with the regulations that we have and I think at those venues, like in Austin, you will either say “everything is available; use whatever you like,” or if you don’t want the drivers going outside track limits, put a kerb there or a rumble strip or a gravel trap that prevents the drivers or physically slows them, from using those areas of the circuit. That would then remove this ambiguity of “is that a penalty, is it not a penalty?” We saw many moves in Austin, and one that sticks in my mind was when Daniel was racing Valtteri Bottas – he went off at Turn 1, came back on the circuit and had the line for Turn 2. Is that an advantage, is it not? It just takes away that ambiguity. If there had been a gravel trap there he would not have gone there. If we can address that it will remove the emotion and the confusion that exists regarding track limits and circuit boundaries.
Franz, do you have anything to add on track limits?
FT: No I’m 100% in agreement with Christian on what he says. As long as the track offers the possibility to overtake, the driver overtakes, that’s in the nature of the racing driver. The manouevre of Max was fantastic. We must not forget the spectators, they want to see a show. Once more there was the room, there was the space to do it. In future they have to take for this that the drivers are not invited to use this area for overtaking. To say “yeah, you were with four wheels over the white line”, this is always something difficult, because maybe with the rear tyre is not so much over the white line and no, they must do something on the race tracks to prevent this, otherwise we should change the regulation and say overtake wherever you like, if you get an advantage, do it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mike Doodson – GP Plus) This is for Franz. Franz, you’ve seen a lot of young drivers over and you’ve had a few potential world champions through your hands. Can you tell us anything about the behaviour, from a technical point of view, of Brendon Hartley, which perhaps wouldn’t have seen from outside?
FT: You must have seen it from outside, because he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and he won the LMP1 world championship – that means the results are there. No, Brendon is a very high-skilled driver. He is very committed, passionate for motor sport, and I am really happy that he is back and I can tell you that if we give him a competitive car he will be there and he will also fight in Formula One for success. And I hope that especially next year that we will bring together a competitive package that he can also fight for victories and good positions.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Red Bull has spent, probably, hundreds of millions on driver development over the years and yet from the outside it seems to be a chaotic process. You’ve just renewed with Max Verstappen while Daniel Ricciardo is said to be on the market, yet you’re saying you want to sign him. Max, though, is going to be build the team around himself. At Toro Rosso, Daniil Kvyat was in, then he was out, then he’s back in again. Then Brendon Hartley, who was got rid of a couple of years ago, is suddenly back in, and from the outside it juts looks chaotic. Is there a science to this hundred million dollar programme or not?
CH: Yeah, absolutely. Red Bull has been tremendously successful in investing in young talent. All of the names that you have mentioned have had their opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise been there has Red Bull not invested in youth, backed youth, supported them through Toro Rosso into Red Bull Racing. Now, what we have, breaking that down, because they are all drivers on Red Bull Racing contracts – Max Verstappen, there was the ability to extend that agreement to 2020 and there’s not a team in the pit land that wouldn’t have taken that up. It removes speculation that’s only been growing and movements around him that are quite frankly unhelpful and distracting. That closed the book on that one. We’ve had a long relationship with Daniel Ricciardo and he’s currently within a five-year agreement that runs until the end of 2018. The absolute intention is to see him continue with the team until 2020. That’s without any doubt and a priority we have. Franz has quite clearly explained the situation regarding Carlos Sainz, who has been loaned and remains a Red Bull driver on loan to Renault. And then of course opportunities have presented themselves with Toro Rosso to look at new talent. Dany Kvyat has obviously had a large investment from Red Bull over the years. He had the opportunity to step into Red Bull Racing and compete in the 2015 season and the start of the 2016 season with the team. Formula One is a tough business and unfortunately Dany didn’t do enough, in our opinion, to warrant retaining that seat. But we still believed in him and he was given a second opportunity, which is very unusual in Formula One, to retake the seat with Toro Rosso. And then from there we obviously have other juniors that we have invested in that are knocking on the door of Formula One. The current GP2 champion, Pierre Gasly, merited and deserved an opportunity to step into Formula One. And I think, as Franz will no doubt cover, and as he has done in his previous answer, there is very much an eye on the future and the future for next year and beyond that. And I think the two drivers that Franz has for next year represent two exciting prospects for Red Bull Racing potentially further down the line.
Franz, do you have anything to add?
FT: For me, it’s not chaotic. For me, it shows the possibility, thanks to Red Bull, that Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso can change drivers and can change hopefully also the performance topic and this is a privilege, yeah, because no other team in Formula One can do this. As I mentioned before, the situation with Carlos came because of the engine change. You can’t have everything in life. Of course we were not happy about this, but we think that at the end it will pay off, because I expect that Toro Rosso next year will be in a fantastic situation with Honda, and you must not forget that we have now two drivers at Toro Rosso, they are realty fast, they are high-skilled, they are committed, they are passionate and I am more than happy to work together with them.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) A question for both of you really. Franz you said that next year’s line-up is not certain yet, but the way you are both talking it looks like Brendon is going to be there next year along with Pierre. You say you hope to give him a competitive car. Christian you said that you hope that next year’s driver that Franz has got. How could they lose this, basically, what do they have to do not to be chosen as driver next year?
FT: As usual in Formula One, to build up a real good relationship with the right-hand pedal, to be fast. That’s it, just bring the results, you stay in Formula One. Totally easy.
CH: I absolutely agree with Franz. What is fantastic about the Brendon story is, that is a guy who started off life on the junior programme. He got dropped early on in his career from the junior programme. There was no remorse, there was no “poor me” or “haven’t I been badly treated”. At the time he thanked Red Bull for the opportunity and endeavoured to stay in touch. At that point he had nothing else to race. He went back to racing Minis, historic Formula One cars, anything he could get his hands on he raced. He showed a passion and a commitment to keep doing what he believed in himself as a race car driver. He renewed his association with Red Bull when he became a sports car driver with Porsche, and became a world champion, and again is competing for that world championship again this year. And I think it’s testimony to him, his determination and tenacity, and skill and talent that he has got himself back into a position where he has been selected to be in the Toro Rosso car for the races that he is doing.
Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Monday) Question for Franz: changing to Honda engines next year, are you not just a little bit worried seeing what McLaren are going through currently. If anything they seem to be regressing and more problems towards the end of the season. What’s the magic bullet you’re hoping that’s going to happen over the holiday period that’s not going to leave you as McLaren mkII?
FT: They have another year, or another winter time where they will for sure have the possibility to sort out the problems, which they have currently, and we, from Toro Rosso, are working as the only team together with them, and I think this will become a big advantage for us, and all the meetings we had so far are quite promising. I’m more than convinced this power unit will help Toro Rosso next year to become a very strong and competitive team. More problems we can’t have because we anyway changing every weekend the power unit.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To both, 31st of October, 7th of November, two critical dates coming up. Although you have the same boss – if I could call Dietrich Mateschitz that – you have totally different operations, so individually what are your wish lists out of the 31st and the 7th? What would you like to see for your teams please?
CH: I’d like to see a cheap, standard V12 engine at a 1000hp sounding fantastic – but I doubt we’re going to get that. But I think that… I think that what’s potentially going to be presented sounds sensible. I don’t have any hard details. It seems like it’s the first significant move by Liberty about laying their stall out for the future. And of course that power unit is a crucial part of what Formula One will be for the next ten years, from 2021 onwards. So having seen the agenda for the meeting it looks like they have a plan and it’ll be very interesting on the 31st to understand what those plans are. As far as the meeting on the 7th, is a Formula One strategy meeting where no-doubt there will be quite a lot of discussion about various topics – as there usually is.
FT: It must be an affordable engine, then I hope that the output of the engines are on a similar level, the performance of all the engines, because currently there is a still a too-big difference. Now fortunately Ferrari could catch up to Mercedes, but nevertheless Mercedes is still instead far ahead. I just hope the new regulation will help us, that the engines are not so expensive for the private teams, and be that the performance is on a similar level – because we need to have interesting races, we need to see overtaking manoeuvres and the current power unit is far too complicated from the technical side and it went to a direction where it is more or less a championship of the engineers and we must come back, that these power units give non-manufacturer teams the possibility to fight also for victories.
Q: (Alessandra Retico – La Repubblica) A question for Mr Horner. Bernie Ecclestone said in an interview with my newspaper that there is a close relationship between Mercedes and Ferrari and maybe, in his opinion, in the last two years, Mercedes has helped Ferrari from a technology point of view – to be sure that you didn’t get a competitive engine. You, I mean Red Bull. Does this make sense for you, or not?
CH: Well, it’s usual Bernie thinking, I would say, in the way that he’s pieced that together. It’s very clear that there’s a very tight relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes, the way they operate in meetings, one won’t lift the hand up without the other one being in agreement these days. So there is that dynamic. It’s not the first time that’s happened in Formula One, it won’t be the last time. As far as whether or not one has helped the other, that’s not our business. I’ve got no idea. I’d be surprised but yeah… what you see with Mercedes and Ferrari today, they’re very aligned in all of their thinking.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Since it’s Friday, there’s been suggestions that Friday practice in future might be dropped. Just wondering your thoughts on that. Ross has mentioned it just as a suggestion thrown up in the air. Is that possible? How soon? What do you think about it?
CH: I think obviously they’re trying to free-up space for more races. I think what you’ve got to be careful of is a good book only has so many chapters in it. If there’s too many chapters it loses its path. I think we need to be careful not to add too many races to Formula One. I think it would be a long way to come to Mexico for two days. Or Australia for two days. I think the Friday gives the promoter the opportunity to bring more fans, more people into the sport. I thing perhaps what we do on Fridays could be a bit different. We could liven it up, we could make it more interactive. Maybe we only need one session on a Friday afternoon – but I would be concerned about going to just a two-day weekend because that would feel fairly short, perhaps too short and will inadvertently put more pressure back on simulations, that you’re turning up prepared to hit the road running, and I’m not sure that’s going to be a great balancer between the teams.
Franz, your thoughts?
FT: I agree with Christian: the Friday running is important for the organisers to sell additional tickets and it’s also important for the teams, because we don’t have any more time in between for tests. We can only do simulations, and therefore the Friday sessions, especially for smaller teams like Toro Rosso are important, that we can do our runs, that we can do some different setups, and we can be in the best possible way prepared for qualifying and for the race.
Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Monday) Question for both of you. On the 7th, with all likelihood, you’ll be discussing what’s come out of the new engine regulations and looking at the next three years to develop the new engine. There’s been a lot of speculation about bringing in the new engine perhaps a year earlier in 2020. Can I have both of your thoughts on that? Is that something you’d push for, is it something you’d like to see – getting rid of the current engine a year earlier, bearing in mind, even if you agree now, it’s still three years before we see it?
FT: I don’t see an agreement because then all the teams must be aligned. The teams which are in front, which in this case Mercedes, Ferrari, I don’t think they will agree to this – because to develop this new engine, takes some time. Therefore, I don’t see the big possibility – but nevertheless we will have this meeting, this will be discussed there and then it will be voted and we will see the result.
Christian, would you like to see the new engine come in early?
CH: I’d love to see it come in next year. For me, these engines have done nothing but damage Formula One: they’ve done nothing to contribute to the sport; they’ve taken away the sound; the passion; they’ve added too much complexity; they’ve become far removed from road car technology; they’re effectively turning into diesel engines in some cases – and I can’t see anything that they’ve contributed that’s been positive, so the sooner it goes, the better. Unfortunately there’s a contract between the existing manufacturers and the FIA that guarantees the engine will be in place until 2020, and I can’t see there being sufficient motive amongst all the manufacturers to get rid of this technology and this power unit before 2021.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Christian and Franz, based on what you’ve just said, plus the previous question about Ferrari, Mercedes possibly being aligned. Given the fact that Mercedes and Ferrari are in Formula One predominantly for technological reasons, as a showcase etc., plus the fact that Ferrari does have a veto valid until the end of 2020, are you concerned that, if the regulations don’t suit them, that Ferrari, aided and abetted by Mercedes, could actually invoke it’s veto as they tried two years ago.
CH: That’s their business at the end of the day – but at the end of the day Formula One is a marketing business. It is a global platform which these brands are involved in to advertise their products and their brand. I think a technology showcase, that’s in some ways quite a spurious description because, as I say, the product that we’re racing has not a great deal of relevance to what’s in their road car product. So, Formula One is foremost and utmost a sport. There is obviously an element of technology to it but it’s at a crossroads where it decides what it’s going to be. Is it going to be all about technology, or is it going to be about fundamental racing, man and machine at the limit, putting on big events, spectacular events? Then, of course, each team will have the ability to decide whether it wants to be there post-2020 or not and you can’t predict or pre-empty what another team or manufacturer or group might be thinking.
FT: It’s in the hands of Liberty Media. They should come up with a proper regulation and then it’s the teams will decide whether to take part or not – but Liberty Media must take into consideration that Formula One is entertainment, is show and we must find a good middle way between entertainment, show and the technical voyage which Formula One went in the last years. Because currently we have a power unit championship. This can’t be for the future because if this is the future then Formula One is dead. One hundred per cent.