FIA Friday press conference - Sakhir
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES - Guenther STEINER (Haas), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Mario ISOLA (Pirelli)
Q: Toto, can we start with you please. How is the Champion, Lewis Hamilton, was he even watching FP1, do you think?
Toto Wolff: I don’t know – probably not, he has better things to do than watching an FP1 session. He’s recovering. I think those first few days are always critical once you catch Corona. I think he’s OK. He was symptoms but they are relatively mild.
Q: So, bringing it on to FP1 this evening, George Russell, if we could talk about him. Just sum-up his progress, P1.
TW: FP1 was a good session for him. I mean, we need to calm everybody down because it was a first session on a new and short circuit. He delivered a really solid job in what we expected from him on a single lap. The long runs were difficult with our cars anyway, difficult to really establish a benchmark because Valtteri broke his car very early on in the session, wasn’t really able to stop it properly. So I would say I am happy with what George has done. It’s about what we expected him to.
Q: Guenther, great to Romain Grosjean back in the paddock. Same question to you: do you think he watched FP1?
Guenther Steiner: No, I don’t think so because he was in the gym, I texted with him during the session. I don’t know if he saw it, he’s in gym, trying to get ready. That’s what he’s doing in the moment, so I think he wasn’t.
Q: How does he want to be in the car in Abu Dhabi next week?
GS: I think he goes hour by hour. He wants to be in, he doesn’t want to be in. I let him decide and come up with how much does he want it. He’s training now, hoping to get ready to be in the car.
Q: And the man replacing him, Pietro Fittipaldi, P19, just a few words summing up his first session.
GS: The task was to go out there. He wasn’t in an F1 car since a year now, just familiarise yourself with it again, with the car, not even the track, and just try to get the best out. Unfortunately on his second set of tyres, on the Soft ones, he locked up and flat-spotted a tyre and it wasn’t useable any more, so we had to stop the session short for him, which is not idea – but he was thrown in the deep end and you have to live with that.
Q: Mario, coming to you, first up, how are you? You’ve had Covid since the Turkish Grand Prix.
Mario Isola: I’m now OK – so you can come closer. I’m feeling well, I’m OK. It lasted for a couple of weeks, as is the average, luckily I had no symptoms, just lost taste and sense of smell and I had a couple of days with fever, but now I’m fully recovered. I had four negative tests, so they can stay close to me.
Q: You tried the prototype tyres here last week. What conclusions did you draw?
MI: I think that everybody knows the drivers made not very positive comments. I believe the biggest mistake was not to give them the right information on which was the target of the test. Obviously, we are trying to fine-tune the current construction in order to cope with the additional loads of the cars in the future. We decided together to work in two directions: one was on the technical side to reduce the downforce for next year; on the other side to improve the current construction in order to have more resistance to integrity. That is what we did. Consider that we tested only 30 minutes in Portimão. We found a specification that gave us feedback in line with the current tyre but with an resistance to integrity that is a step better, so we decided to homologate it. I think that we have now clarified which is the target of the test, which is the programme for next year, we can test them again in the C4 compound in Abu Dhabi with a different approach, in a different way.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Toto please, what’s the likelihood of Lewis being ready for Abu Dhabi, and also, given the symptoms he’s showing and the timelines involved, what are the practicalities of being able to get him there? Basically, when’s the latest he can test negative and still make it to Abu Dhabi and participate?
TW: We have seen tests that were negative within ten days, so I think that is perfectly feasible, in my opinion but it would be a very positive development. Nevertheless, you need to look at the situation anyway because there is many athletes have tested positive for a long time after any symptoms and after they’ve been in any way infectious – but this is something the FIA needs to look into anyway.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mario, you were referencing the 2021 tyres earlier on. Talking to Andreas Seidl this morning, he said all the teams had provided you with projections about the sort of downforce and energy levels etc., for next year that they expect. Have you had all of this information, is it enough and what sort of increase in energies are you actually expecting?
MI: I don’t have a number now because the deadline to provide the upgraded simulation is the tenth of December, so we are collecting now the data. Some teams are convinced that they are going to recover the downforce quite quickly. Maybe at the beginning of the season. That’s why it was decided to work in two parallel directions. I’m not expecting to have loads that are different from this year, probably, at the end of the season, if we have a normal season. As it is planned now, we will have an additional load but we cannot quantify it now.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, this is a question for you. Do you see this, as many other people within Formula 1 do, as a showdown test between Valtteri and George for the 2022 seat?
TW: No, not at all. I’ve heard this rumour and obviously you can’t call it a shoot-out when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever. If George does well it’s an indication that one day he’s going to be in a good car and hopefully race for victories and World Championships – but that is far away. He knows that. He just needs to do a solid job, not make any mistakes, and continue what he has done. There is no shootout. We have total trust in Valtteri and loyalty as we’ve always had – and that is our position.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Guenther. It was announced by Ferrari just ahead of the practice session that Simone Resta will move from Ferrari to Haas. Can you explain what position he will have at Haas. Do you have to restructure the technical team – and also, is this move connected to Mick Schumacher?
GS: The position we are still defining. For sure, it will be a very senior position, obviously. Simone was at Ferrari for a long time in a very senior position now, so he wouldn’t come without having that one, it would be no point arriving there without a senior position. The connection to Mick is not direct. Obviously we work very close together with Ferrari, so when it was discussed we needed to reinforce our technical team after we went a little bit backwards the last year with the pandemic. So, he was a good choice – but it has nothing to do directly with Mick driving for us.
Q: Guenther. How much of a boost is it for your team? Simone’s arrival?
GS: As I said, we are restructuring ourselves on the technical side because we have fallen a little bit behind so for sure it’s a big boost that we get back on our feet again to get to the performance we had in 2018. You need good people and Simone was at Ferrari a long time and that had a short stint at Alfa Romeo. He was available and we took him.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, you said at the last race that you and Lewis were taking baby steps with regard to his new contract and talks in that regard. Does the fact he’s now isolating for ten days, how much does that hold things up in terms of you guys sitting down and hashing things out over a new deal for next year?
TW: Well, the timeline is being pushed back until he recovers. We know that we need to get it done, pretty well aware, both of us but the priority now is him getting back on his feet and being back negative. And then we will meet, or Zoom, in order to put pen to paper.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for Toto. George obviously has to adapt to Mercedes processes and also specifics of the car – but how do you expect him to assert his authority in areas that he can? What have you seen from him already in terms of asking for specific information, or asking if things can be done differently – that sort of thing?
TW: I don’t think he has to assert his authority. There is no authority required in the team. We know what we do and he has, of course, a good plan of where he wants the car to be – but being drafted in last minute, like it has happened for him, we need to find compromises. Compromises means he needs to settle in a car that isn’t his in processes that he wasn’t involved in. And we, on the other side, have a totally different personality and character than Lewis. So, it’s an interesting exercise, also for us, how adaptable we are, and also for him to being thrown in the cold water.
Toto, on the topic of being adaptable, Lewis is going to be missed obviously, but is there a buzz about the place having a new driver this weekend?
TW: First of all, there is no buzz, because Lewis is ill with Corona and we’d rather him not be ill but here with the team. Of course, we rate George highly and giving him such a possibility is, in a way, interesting – but with hindsight I’d rather have everything normal, as it was, because George anyway one day is going to make it into a good car.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Another question for Toto on the driver change. I know you said it’s not a showdown between the two of them, and all that kind of stuff – but if Valtteri is beaten by George, mentally, that’s going to be quite tough to take, I would have thought. So, how are you reassuring him and is it just a case of ‘tough luck, you’re a racing driver, you’ve got to go up against whoever’s put up next to you’?
TW: Valtteri has never been anybody that needs reassuring. He knows where he stands, he knows his position in the team, how we are supportive of each other and we have to remain realistic. George is a highly-rated young driver, one of the most highly rated, so it’s expected for him to be fast. He knows the team and this is a fifty-second circuit where you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right engine modes. In that respect, this is just going to be alright. We all expected George to be right there, and we see how the weekend ends.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Question for Toto. Lewis was in Dubai before travelling to Bahrain and that’s where it appears he contracted the virus. Did you know he was going to be there? Did he have permission to be there? And as a team principal, how frustrating is it to not have your star driver available for one, possibly two races?
TW: Lewis doesn’t need to have any permission. He rides anything he wants, he jumps out of every aeroplane he wants because he knows best what’s good for him and he’s a grown-up man and it was never an issue. I think contracting Covid-19 is something that we are all not very sure where you get it. If you ask Mario where he got it, he’s probably not going to know where. It’s just unfortunate. He was protecting himself a lot and then you go to Dubai, wear your mask all the time and come back with Corona. These things happen.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, I wanted to follow up my question from earlier. You’ve obviously put George in for a reason and one would assume that’s so you can assess how good he is – and therefore that he’s a Mercedes young driver presumably the basis for that information would be whether you wanted to put him in your car in the future. So, while I accept the point that it’s not directly a showdown, surely this will have some influence on whatever influence on whatever decision you make about driver line-ups for 2022?
TW: Andrew, it’s another set of data points. This weekend and maybe next weekend that will be giving us more information in our overall understanding of George’s performances but we know that we race next year with Lewis and Valtteri and where we are in 2022 is all going to depend how our own season in 2022 is going to go, and not by George’s performance on an oval in Bahrain and on a season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Toto, regarding the data points from George etc and that Lewis doesn’t have a contract yet, could some of these data points be used to influence the market value of Lewis?
TW: No, Dieter. We’ve discussed having George in the car. We know what we have with Lewis and he knows what he has with the team. Such a situation would never be utilised as some kind of bargaining power, neither by him, nor by us – it could do both directions. I respect very much who he is, how he drives, his records, and whatever happens this week or next has no influence on our talks.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Toto, just going back to George: he has always had a very mature head on his shoulders, all the way through his junior career, what is it about his mentality that you believe means he is able to jump in and do a good job in what is quite high pressure situation with a lot to take in in a short amount of time?
TW: I think he is somebody that is generally relaxed. He comes across on the radio as very chatty and buzzing but driving the car, in the debriefings, he is very focused and calm. Obviously the race record he has – winning GP3, winning F2, both in the rookie years – and the maturity he has shown from a very early age stands out. I remember him coming to my office when he was 15, 16 years old in a black suit and a black tie with Powerpoint presentation of why Mercedes should support him. So, very mature for his age but probably well suited from his personality to jump in the car in such a high-pressure situation. Burt again, let’s stay both feet on the ground. It’s FP1. These cars haven’t been taken out in anger and we haven’t raced yet.
Q: Guenther, you announced earlier this week that Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will be racing for you next season. What has impressed you about each of them so far?
GS: Their race results. One is leading F2 and one is third in the F2 championship and results always talk. I didn’t spend a lot of time with them yet as with COVID we cannot interact on a personal level obviously so we spent some time on the telephone and I need to get to know them. But for me results talk. They are both pretty mature guys for their age, obviously we always have to go back to their age, so I think they have a good future. And that is what we are trying to do: we are trying to make a step backwards to make two steps forward for the next seasons.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, a few weeks ago Lewis said that George had the potential to be a future world champion. What was Lewis’ reaction when you told him that you were planning to put George in the car and take his place this weekend?
TW: Lewis knew who the candidates were and who we were talking. I think those very special drivers they see and know who is going to come up and who one day could be up there for victories and championships. I think is priority is now to get healthy. I’m not sure he is going to follow in detail what is happening on track. If you are in bed and not feeling great, racing becomes a second priority.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Toto, we’ve seen in Formula E that BMW and Audi are both pulling out. What does it say about that series as a long-term prospect?
TW: Well, it’s certainly a little bit of a shake-up if two premium OEMs leave the series. But I think it’s good they have done it with a full season to go. But they will have their reasons, which we must respect. At the end, every motor racing series needs to return on investment and if that calculation doesn’t work for you it’s perfectly legit to decide to pull out. On the other side, we stay behind it. We have always been a manufacturer that has stayed loyal to racing series. We have been 30 years in DTM. We have been in Formula 1 for a long time as and engine supplier and as a team since 10 years. I think it’s important to understand that you have to go through the downs to come to the ups. I think the positive of the situation is that Formula E will progress on the learnings: why are these two guys leaving, is there anything we can do? I think the cost cap needs to come rather sooner than later, similar to Formula 1. These little entities need to profitable and only if they are profitable they will generate interest from shareholders, from people buying in, and it becomes a franchise value, like Formula 1 is going to be. I see the future bright in terms of the set-up of Formula E, but of course the series needs to deliver on all our expectations on branding, marketing and exposure. And if these expectations are being met, for us, it makes sense to remain in the series.
Q: Guenther, any thoughts on Formula E?
GS: I’m not as educated as Toto on Formula E because he has got a team there. My opinion is that it’s like everything else there was a hype in the beginning, it’s new, everybody goes in and then it just adjusts itself. Some people leave, because they say ‘this is not for us and it’s a little bit trialling’. Looking how it is, it is a shame two big OEMs are leaving, but I think it is there to stay. It reassesses itself and it will continue. Where it ends up, we don’t know.
MI: I agree with Guenther. We are not really involved in Formula E, but electric series are the future. We are also looking at new opportunities in electric series. It is part of the game. We have seen also in GT in many years many changes with OEMs coming and going away. It’s part of a normal life cycle of a series.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, Stoffel Vandoorne is your reserve driver and it’s now been four races this year that he could have taken part in but didn’t. Can you explains what your thought process was in going for George rather than Stoffel and how he is feeling about the situation?
TW: What were the four races?
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Well, two for Racing Point, another for Racing Point and now this one.
TW: OK. Stoffel is our reserve driver and has done the grunt work, simulator and travelling to the grands prix, and has the capability of driving these cars very well. No doubt about that. Telling him that George was in the car was certainly not something that I took easy and I didn’t expect him to be excited about it. He took it professionally and expressing his, let’s say, reactions that were totally legitimate and he’d rather be in the car than not and that’s understandable. He’s a great guy. He is one of our two works drivers in Formula E. He’s been really good last year, particularly towards the season end, and we count on him in Formula E.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Guenther, I’d like to give you the opportunity please of telling us how you thought Pietro did and what your plans are for him for the future please?
GS: The first session is difficult to judge because he hasn’t been in the car for a year now and on the first set of tyres he did pretty well and on the second set he flat-spotted early into it and that put an end to his session. It was not fantastic but it’s difficult these cars if you have not been in for a year. But he really prepared well for it over the last week since we told him he is going to race instead of Romain. He prepared himself and we just have to let the weekend come to us and try to make progress with him. About the future of him: I don’t know really yet what he is going to do next year, whether he is going back to race in some other series, We haven’t really talked about that one. But Pietro became a friend to the team in the two years he is with us. He travelled around like Toto said Stoffel did. The whole year with this guy sitting there, what I can drinking coffee and eating pasta and then when the opportunity comes up they are really happy. I don’t know if he wants to do that for another year or if he wants to go racing again
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES - Franz TOST (AlphaTauri), Christian HORNER (Red Bull), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point)
Q: Can we start by getting as word from each of you about that first practice and what the drivers have been saying about this new track in Bahrain?
Franz Tost: Our drivers so far were quite happy with the track. We tried different configurations on the car. We looked reasonably competitive and did a long run as well with the option tyres, and just to be also prepared for the race, to get a picture of what’s going on in the race simulation and so far I must say everything worked quite well.
Christian Horner: No specific major issues other than it’s incredibly short, it’s bumpy and traffic is going to be an absolute nightmare. From a driver’s point of view I can see that the track is frustrating in some respects but from a spectator point of view it’s going to produce an exciting qualifying and race because the gaps between… when all the 20 cars are on the circuit there is a huge amount of traffic and I think the chance of jeopardy is increased significantly with this type of layout. I can’t remember ever having a sub-one-minute lap before.
Otmar Szafnauer: Same with us. I echo what Franz and Christian said. It will be tight out there in qualifying, especially in Q1. We just did a bit of work on one lap pace and did some race sims on the soft tyres as well, some long runs. We have a little bit to learn, come back in FP2, a little bit more tonight and we’ll see how we go on Saturday
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) A question to Christian. When we have look at the dynamic between Max and Alex Albon. Last week Max seemed to be a bit critical of Alex. What is the relationship between them?
CH: Pretty good. They’ve known each other since they were kids. They’re not much more than that now. Since they have been 12-13 they have been racing against each other. Alex won the Karting World Championship one year, obviously Max won it in subsequent yeas and there’s a healthy respect between the two of them. They were out karting with the rest of the mechanics, even myself on Monday evening. Max can sometimes call things as he sees it. But there is no issue or no atmosphere at all between the drivers.
Q: Christian, were you surprised by Max’s comments?
CH: I think Max just calls facts. I think that’s the way he sees it. He said it was obviously a significant gap but he was also stuck behind Sergio who was doing a great job and it’s very difficult to follow closely behind a car ahead of you. I think Alex, he was there to capitalise on Sergio’s misfortune. It was our first double podium since Japan 2017, so that was great to see from a team point of and it was a solid weekend from Alex.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Otmar, Renault is going to test Fernando Alonso in what is ostensibly mean to be a Young Driver’s Test after Abu Dhabi. If the rules had allowed it would you have pursued getting Sebastian Vettel in the car in Abu Dhabi or would that not have been possible?
OS: I’ve got to understand the rules. I was surprised to see Fernando being allowed to test so we have got to have that discussion with the FIA. I think the rules are pretty clear – it’s a Young Driver Test and a two-time World Champion almost in his 40s or in his 40s to me isn’t a young driver. I’ve got to understand what the rules are first and foremost and then see what we do thereafter.
Q: Otmar, if the rules permit it, will you put Sebastian Vettel in the car?
OS: If we can and the rules permit it and… there’s a bunch of ifs and we’d have to consider it.
Q: Christian, your thoughts on this, please, and if you do end up bringing in a new driver for next year, would you look to run him in Abu Dhabi as well?
CH: It’s an interesting… it’s one day of testing. Is one day really going to change the world. We’re allowed to run two cars there. We had no problem with Fernando driving the Renault as we would really if Carlos wanted to drive a Ferrari or Sebastian a Racing Point. Is one day going to change the world? But as a young driver test, I’m not sure how Fernando… I’m feeling younger already! The fact that he’s classified as a young driver, maybe we could get Nigel… he never retired, we could get Nigel Mansell to come and do the young driver test!
Q: And Franz, your thoughts as well please.
FT: We went along with young drivers. This was already planned in a way and there’s no other driver we take into consideration.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, regarding the engine freeze. Have there been any developments in the last few days in terms of where things are standing for that? And given the opposition from Mercedes and Renault at the moment in terms of their convergence mechanism that you and Mattia Binotto suggested, how do you see this situation resolving itself?
CH: Obviously there’s been some healthy discussion. Look, you can understand the respect the different positions of most of the manufacturers. Toto, who enjoys an engine advantage at the moment… of course. Naturally he’d want to freeze the engine for the next 35 years if he could. But is that healthy, ultimately, for the sport, to lock in an advantage, particularly for a period of three years, before we get to the new engine, if that engine is brought forward into 2025. As far Renault is concerned, one would have thought that it would make absolute sense for them to support a freeze but I think there’s got to be further discussion and hopefully a sensible solution will be reached in the next few weeks.
Q: Otmar, it was a tough race for your team here last weekend and at such a crucial time in the year as well. How have you guys picked yourselves up over the last few days? What have you been up to? What’s the mood in the camp as we come into this weekend?
OS: Well first and foremost, we had to understand the failure and the nature that we fix the root cause best we can going into this weekend and next. And then secondly there’s a lot of damage that was done on both cars and we had to make sure that we had ample parts to finish this season, like we need to. Those are the two big tasks from last Sunday to now and I think we’re in good shape for the next two races.
Q: Franz, Kvyat’s future has been the subject of much speculation for weeks. How tough has that been for him and have you been impressed by his resilience?
FT: Dany is experienced, he knows the game and the rules in Formula 1. He is a fast driver and he showed a good performance in the last races and also today, in FP1. I hope that also on Sunday he will be quite competitive and also the race in Abu Dhabi and then we will see.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsportmagazin.com) Otmar, coming back to the failure you had on Sergio’s car last weekend, can you give us an overview how you’re coping with the engine parts for the rest of the season? Do you have to sacrifice a bit of power to come through the season without a penalty?
OS: No, it was an MGU-K failure and we had a previous MGU-K that we could use for the next two races, so no hit on performance.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Franz, Daniil Kvyat told us yesterday that he was rather shocked when he saw what happened in his mirror etc. We saw you talking to him during the red flag period. Just talking from a team principal perspective, how do you treat or handle a driver after a situation like that?
FT: First of all, I said to him it was absolutely not his fault, that he couldn’t do anything, that he should take this on the side and be concentrated on the second start of the race. And he is professional enough and he did it in a really good way.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Franz or Christian, whoever is more appropriate to answer it. Yuki Tsunoda looked in good form last weekend and looked it again here but you never know what can happen in Formula Two where there are incidence of unreliability so there is a chance that he will slip to sixth in the championship and the best that I can make out, that would leave him slightly short of the points required for a super licence. Do you have a plan B or a contingency plan to ensure that he can get the super licence points? Are there assurances from the FIA that he will get a licence regardless? How do you handle that situation? FT: We have a plan B, of course. There’s absolutely no doubt that in Melbourne Alpha Tauri will have two cars on the starting grid with two every competitive drivers.
CH: I don’t whether you can see, Scott, but I’m so distracted by his moustache and it’s now, what, the fourth of December so we’re passed Movember. But look at it, it’s magnificent! What was your question? As we went into this conference, I think he was on pole position so he’s doing a good job, so it’s more of a problem for Franz, I think, so he’s obviously glued to seeing how that performs.
Q: Christian, if Alex Albon hasn’t done enough to justify his place at Red Bull Racing next year, is there a route back to Alpha Tauri for him? As there was with Pierre, for course.
CH: I don’t believe he forms part of Franz’s plans for next year, so it’s very much a Red Bull seat or a year on the bench. The focus is on giving him that opportunity, he’s got two races, he did a good job last weekend, being on the podium, his second podium in Formula 1. He’s had a good first practice, a good start to the weekend here and two more weekends to demonstrate that he’s absolutely the right guy to be in that car alongside Max next year, and we’re giving him all the support that we possibly can to achieve that goal.
Q: Just to follow up on that, Christian, if he’s not in your car, do you think it’s the best solution for him to be on the bench, rather than in Alpha Tauri?
CH: It’s not something that we’re contemplating at the moment so I guess once we get to the end of the year, then we’ll evaluate all of those options. He’s on a long term agreement, as all Red Bull drivers are when they join the team. Our focus at the moment is on the race seat and giving him the opportunity to demonstrate that he is making significant, building on that podium from last weekend and this early practice form.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Christian, just to follow up on that, Alex was half a second, on average, slower than Max Verstappen in qualifying over the first half of the season and he’s still half a second…. enough to justify a Red Bull seat the following year. Why is it that this year might be different?
CH: Well I think you’ve got to look at how Max has evolved over the last few years. If you look at his average, Alex’s average is still closer than that of, for example, Pierre’s was last year to Max. We know we’ve had some issues with the car that have made life particularly difficult which I think we’ve worked hard to address and have been addressing, so we’re confident that that situation will hopefully improve for him and for any driver. Max is a tall order to go up against, he’s arguably probably the most in-form driver currently in Formula 1 and I think it would be tough for any driver to go up against Max currently.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, we’ve got a situation at Mercedes this weekend with George Russell stepping into the car for Lewis Hamilton. I think there are some parallels with when Max stepped up to Red Bull back in 2016, obviously coming from what was effectively a junior team, through the academy up to the works outfit. What are your memories from that very first weekend that Max was with Red Bull? Was it quite natural from the word go, how he worked with the team and then obviously winning on debut?
CH: Well he astounded us from the moment he got in the car because there was no shakedown or anything like that, similar to George. The first time he got in the car was in Barcelona. I remember Q1 and Q2 he actually had the upper hand on Daniel and then just not having any experience with the car as the circuit was evolving, Daniel wound more front wing into the car and extracted a great lap and they qualified third and fourth. We then ran different strategies in the race, giving Daniel what we thought was the preferred strategy on what was a two stop and Max went out and made a one stop work as did Kimi on that day and won the race and it was astounding that someone of his experience and age – you have to remember at the time – the maturity and control that he showed, so it was a fairytale debut and of course George is familiar, I guess, with many of the controls. He’s been a test driver there before, he knows many of the people and it’s the best car currently in Formula 1. It’s won the most races this year, it’s an enormous opportunity for him and one that I’m sure that he’s looking to make great use of. It benchmarks him against Valtteri. I’m sure Toto’s looking to use it to perhaps negotiate Lewis’s contract in some way, shape or form. So it will be fascinating to see how it plays out but it’s great to see another youngster getting that chance and opportunity.
Q: Otmar, Lance said after qualifying last weekend that there were a few issues and that you were going to talk about it after the session. What conclusions did you come to as to what his issues were during that session and how do you think it’s going to play out tomorrow here in what Christian has already described as being a very intense session?
OS: Yeah, it will definitely be an intense session tomorrow. I think track position will be at a premium. We’ve got to be out at the right time and in the right place tomorrow. The only issues were a bit of a miscommunication as to how many laps Lance had left after the red flag and that’s easily fixed.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question to both of the Red Bull company team principals: why is it that Honda should be prepared to give up the IP and the engines that they worked so hard and spent so much money on and not have any return, or would there be some return for them? What’s the game plan there?
CH: Well, Dieter, I’m sure you can understand that we’re not going to share in a public forum the details of any discussion or negotiation with Honda but nevertheless to say that the relationship between the companies is excellent, continues to be extremely strong and there’s positive discussion. I think Honda are being as helpful as they possibly can be to see that we have a competitive power unit available to us in 2022, should we chose to go that route. Focus in the meantime is very much on 2021 for Honda to leave the sport on a high and huge effort is going into the 2021 campaign in Japan. FT: Nothing to add.
Q: Just on the subject of Honda this weekend, Franz, how important is horsepower around this particular layout?
FT: Horsepower generally is very important in Formula 1 as in any other motor sport category and we all know that Honda improved during the winter months a lot on the performance side but also on the reliability side and I think that the power unit currently is not so far away from Mercedes and nearly the same level as Renault and better than Ferrari. And it depends also on the downforce level the cars are running therefore I think that cars with the Honda power unit have a good chance here to be successful and eventually to win the race.