FIA Friday press conference - Spain
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point), Zak BROWN (McLaren), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault)
Q: Please can we start with a quick résumé from each of you about the first practice session that has just ended?
Cyril Abiteboul: Typical FP1 Barcelona. We see drivers getting familiar with the track. So, on our side we have done something a little bit different this time, because we are already focussed on the race, in particular coming out of Silverstone where we feel that we underperformed in the race in particular. So, again, we want to have as much understanding as possible from how the tyres will behave on a long run, so we elected to run the Soft at the start rather than at the end. So obviously it doesn’t look great in terms of timing but again, that’s not what we were after this morning. Car looks OK, nothing really new. We’ll find out more this afternoon.
Zak Brown: It was kind of business as usual for a Friday for us. I think probably the only thing of note was changing Carlos’ chassis, with our cooling issues that we had on his car just to make sure that kind-of ran as-planned. Any time we do a chassis change we want to make sure there’s no kind of niggles with the car from a reliability standpoint. It was an uneventful free practice one.
Otmar Szafnauer: Similar to what Cyril said. We’re again trying to learn about the tyres for the race. We’re not really focussed on one-lap performance yet and we did exactly the same as Renault. We ran the quali tyre quite early and there was a bit of track evolution towards the end – but it was all about focussing on Sunday.
Q: Zak, if we could come back to you please. McLaren has withdrawn its intention to appeal the Racing Point verdict. Please can you explain that turnaround?
ZB: Yeah. When the verdict came out early in the race weekend in Silverstone, you’re in the middle of preparing to go motor racing, so we don’t have a lot of time to digest the verdict. And so with the intent to appeal – which you have to make pretty quickly – you just buy yourself some more time. There were contradictory statements from what’s been made from Racing Point, from a design, their own IP, etcetera on the brake ducts. The ruling from the FIA, they made some contradictory statements. So we wanted to take some time to understand it and then, over the course of the weekend, had several meetings, lots of discussions with the FIA and they made it clear that, from a bigger picture, we want to make sure that Formula 1 remains a constructors’ championship, as it’s historically been. I think the FIA agrees with that philosophy, as most people do. Just got a lot of confidence that the FIA will ultimately address that issue. Obviously Renault and Ferrari have continued with their appeal, which we respect, and are confident we’ll get the right outcome for the long term.
Q: Cyril, coming to you. Is it encouraging for you that McLaren have decided not to continue?
CA: I’m not sure how to answer that one. It’s not a matter… we are not deciding what we do based on what others are doing. We define our own strategy. which is very much a high-level strategy for the sport, as Zak has pointed out. Indeed, what we are seeking since the start of that process, it’s not a legal outcome, it’s not a degradation of the relationship between teams or team principals in the paddock. It’s really some answers to a situation, to a precedent that has been set; a disruption that has been brought into the sport and that’s what we’re after. We don’t think we have a clear resolution to that as of yet. We’ve been at the start of that process. We want to make sure we lead that process until there is a crystal clear outcome that can not be turned around once things are settled. I’m not talking about a legal settlement: I’m talking about settlement in general. We want in particular satisfaction that the rules will be changed. We have indication that it will be the case – but until it is the case, in that environment we know that you can’t back-off. So that is what we are after. As Zak has mentioned, we are expecting that Formula 1 confirms again that it is a sport for constructors. Not just OEMs but constructors that design the whole car; that create the whole aerodynamic concept and that each car is its own aerodynamic concept. That’s what are after. We appreciate that the rules are not clear and that’s what we are seeking from the process.
Q: And Otmar, coming to you, is it encouraging that McLaren and Williams have decided not to continue?
OS: A little bit. A little bit like Cyril said, we’ve appealed the decision based on what the stewards had written in their findings. The findings are pretty clear that, y’know, we didn’t do anything underhand or dishonest. We were completely transparent and open with the FIA throughout their process of checking both our brake ducts and the remainder of our car. It was basically… they concluded that the rules, especially for brake ducts, transitioning for a non-listed part to a listed part, were ambiguous and unclear and because of it, we believe our punishment for an unclear and ambiguous rule, that we didn't intentionally contravene, is a bit harsh. It’s the reason we’re appealing and we’re very confident that we’ll win on the appeal.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/racefans.net) Question for Otmar. Otmar, you’re obviously aware of the letter that was sent by Peter Bayer to the various teams on Tuesday, or Wednesday. How does this affect your business model going forward – because this, of course, doesn’t appear to be contingent upon the outcome of the appeal. The FIA has pledged to change the photocopier-type approach. They’ve pledged to change the engine modes, and there’s also talk about the tokens possibly being changed – although that wasn’t into the letter. What does all of this do to your business model? Because I would imagine that you’re the most affected team.
OS: I don’t think it changes our business model at all Dieter. We’re not the most affected team. We’ve got 500 employees. The reason we don’t have 700 or 800 like some of the bigger teams is that we lack in in-house manufacturing. But if you just compare us to everyone else in design, development, aero personnel, we are the same. We’re the same as the big teams. It has zero impact. We’ve always been a constructor, from the days of Jordan to the days of Racing Point and everywhere in between. So, we’ve got the capability of designing, developing, constructing all of our own components. It will have zero impact on our business model. If the rules become more clear, we will stay within the bounds of those rules. Absolutely no problem.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question to all three, starting with Otmar. With the token system and the concession for teams that are using 2019 gearbox and rear end, being able to switch to the 2020 component without spending tokens, Otmar, is that something Racing Point is planning to do. And then to all three, do you think that sort of concession will stay in place – or do you think there’s still room to negotiate so that this free change isn’t possible.
OS: So this was discussed, I think, starting in April and May of this year and it is a unique year, due to the pandemic that we’re facing, and the uniqueness of this year is freezing components that we usually wouldn’t freeze from year-to-year in order to save money. And this is how we got here. We all agreed, back in May, the token system that’s in place now. And for us, for example, it’s way too late to go back on that. We’ve stopped developing this year’s car a while ago and we’re in full development of next year. And because we buy our components – the gearbox we buy from Mercedes – it’s not really up to us to be able to control what we buy. We can only buy what they sell us.
ZB: Yeah, to Scott’s question, anything is possible until the 2021 season starts. I think sometimes with these regulations there is unintended consequences. It seems to be a bit out of balance that we have to use our tokens for our power unit change and other teams don’t necessarily have to spend tokens and yet are going to get a free upgrade. So, I think it is something that needs to be revisited and see if there can be a fairer conclusion brought to this unique token situation this year.
CA: Just to be clear, the token principle is right – but that exception described by Scott indeed is wrong. We’ve said it since Day One. We said it in April, and then again in May. We vote for the package of measures as it was presented in Strategy Group and thereafter into the World Motor Sport Council with the explicit mention that we were not supportive of that element of the regulation – but it was a package and that would be agreed as such. I think since then that more teams have realised the unintended consequences – or maybe they were intended consequences – of that clause and we standby what we said back in May. I think since then there are more teams that realise and therefore more teams have expressed concerns. So, yeah, I think it will be up to the FIA to define if that is something that they want to revisit. But if you were to go with the majority of teams, that’s something that today would clearly be revisited.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question to Otmar regarding your driver line-up for next year and looking into 2021 and beyond. We know previously you’ve been in loose talks with Sebastian Vettel over a possible seat. Sergio Pérez said it was just a matter of time before those rumours can go away regarding Vettel, and that he felt quite secure about his future. Are you able to give any update on where things stand in your driver line-up for next year? Have any final decisions been made?
OS: No, nothing more than what we’ve said in the past. It’s still status quo.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Zak, there were some comments from Otmar last week saying you know more about historic racing that you do Formula 1. Do you have any response to those comments?
ZB: Look, I thought a lot of what Otmar said was accurate. I’m not an engineer. I don’t know the rulebook first page to the last page but as CEO you have a racing team and it’s their job to know the rulebook and the regulations. In my time here leading McLaren I’ve never been fined a dollar, let alone $400,000. I’ve never been docked points. I think Otmar thought it was seven-and-half points until Sky Television pointed out it was 15 points. As far as historic racing, I think people that know me, know I enjoy historic racing and I’d invite Otmar to come join me because he’s got a historic car that he’s currently racing. So you know, that’s all part of the race weekend fun.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Cyril please. What do you think would be an appropriate sporting penalty for Racing Point that you’d like to see at appeal. Obviously 15 points so far. How many points should it be?
CA: We were expecting a consistent sanction. With other sanctions that we’ve seen in the past and the most recent one being the one we accepted last year after Suzuka when we were found in breach of the Sporting Regulations and not the Technical Regulations and excluded from that event and therefore losing all our points. There was no discount for Renault, so I don’t know why there should be a discount for Racing Point. It should be all the points of the events that have been protested. I think we are also going to be in a bit of a strange situation where, after every single event, Otmar will be called to the stewards, his brake ducts will be found similar to what they were, and unchanged, and again he will receive a reprimand. So we are facing the prospect of – what – almost ten races or something like that, or a bit less than that? Where his cars will be reprimanded. So, it’s a bit of a strange situation and I think that we’d like to have a bit more clarity about that. Not necessarily saying that they should be excluded for the season – but I think that also from a communication standpoint to the fan, to the public, explaining why your car is still somewhat in breach because he will receive a reprimand, but it’s OK to be part of the Championship and therefore to be eligible for points. We think it’s a bit awkward. So we would like also some closure about that, if possible.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question for Zak. Is it just a coincidence that the two teams that had intended to appeal but decided not to are Mercedes partners, either present or future? And how much of a philosophical gap between you and Mercedes on this issue? And were there conversations with Mercedes before you decided not to go ahead with the appeal?
ZB: I don’t know what drove Williams’ decision. I think I laid out earlier what drove our decision was our being comfortable that the FIA recognises this issue, says they don’t like this issue and they want to change it moving forward. That’s ultimately what we landed on the decision that we did. You’d have to ask Williams what their reason and rationale is. We don't talk to other racing teams about issues other than with what we have with what’s going on with the Racing Point racing car.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/racefans.net) Cyril, I know it’s fairly coincidental but around the time that Luca de Meo started as CEO of Renault, that’s when the entire appeal and protest started. What has his approach to all of this? Did he get involved in any way? Was he approached with pressure by outside parties etcetera?
CA: Clearly the great news is that in Luca de Meo we have a CEO that is really passionate and enthusiastic about cars, about the product, about sports cars and about motor racing. Clearly that’s something that’s going to be a game-changer for all of us in Renault. And also for myself. He’s been a great person that I’ve been able to personally engage, and clearly I’m not going to hide or deny the fact that he’s had other discussions with peers from the paddock or associated to the paddock. Clearly the decision that has been made and the process that we are following is a process that has been perfectly built and aligned with Luca de Meo.
Q: Cyril, has Luca set you any goals for this season?
CA: No. He knows the goal of the team, he knows the team situation. He’s here on the long run. He fully appreciates what’s being done, in measures, also what we are doing with the level of resources that we have – because I think he has a better understanding and knowledge of the sport, which is a good thing for all of us. But he also has clear expectations, not just for the racing team but also for the way the racing team will play a role in Renault’s long term strategy –– and I think that’s what matters the most.
Q: If Daniel Ricciardo gets that podium this year, Cyril, I think he’s going to hold you to that tattoo that you discussed last year.
CA: I think so. I guess so. That’s what I imagine now that the world knows from Daniel. Thanks, Daniel.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) A question for Cyril and Zak. We know that Sunday, as the appeals process was ramping up, Toto Wolff said he was trying to mediate between the teams to try to stop this going to the appeals court. Are you both comfortable with the team principal of a team that is involved in this case as a supplier to the team that is being protested against being a mediator in those kind of talks? How did those talks go and do you see anyway this can be resolved without going to the court of appeal.
CA: What’s fun for people who are watching this is that Toto is sitting just here so we need to be careful what we say! Toto has a natural leadership position within the sport and I’m not just saying that because he is here, you just have to look at what’s been happening in the last six Constructors’ Championships and as such I think it’s in everyone’s interest, including his interest, that the sport be able to put that matter behind and have a clear situation. I think we are all grown-ups and we can take our own decision and define our own strategy. There has been very intensive dialogue between all related parties but the main element is what FIA and what Nikolas Tombazis in particular, who has a lot on his plate, is coming up with in order to give satisfaction. We are not looking after a business settlement. It’s not that sort of thing that is going on. I want to be extremely clear that what we are after is clarity for the future of the sport and in particular for the manufacturers.
Q: Zak, your thoughts?
ZB: I don’t really have build (sic) beyond what Cyril said. We don’t need to give a running commentary of every meeting and conversation that we have.
Q: Are you happy with Toto acting as mediator?
ZB: I didn’t know he was nominated as mediator. But as Cyril says he has a tremendous amount of experience and relationships and knowledge in the sport. Welcome intelligent people such as Toto getting involved in the conversation to see if we can drive the sport to a better place.
OS: I’m not sure he asked me but I’ll give you my thoughts. I tend to agree with the gentleman to my left. Toto does have a really good knowledge of the sport, a big picture view. Not really about today or tomorrow but where should the sport go. He usually makes very good and very astute points, so no issue with Toto getting involved.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Cyril, your future driver crashed at Indianapolis yesterday. What’s the contractual situation with him and Renault in 2021 and 2022? Can he race at Indy or not, if there are no clashes?
CA: No, no, no. The very straightforward answer is I’m hardly breathing until next weekend that he is stepping out of his racing car from Indianapolis. But I can be very clear that once he is with us that is for good and for a while, so no distraction.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For Cyril. There is the specific protest and the appeal of that protest decision going on, but there is a bigger picture at play as well. Do you see any scenario whereby the resolution to the bigger picture issue could be a significant concession and stop you from going to the ICA and a similar one to Otmar, is there anything that would cause you to bail out of the appeal process now that it has been set in motion?
CA: I think you are right in pointing out there are two processes almost going on in parallel. Our end game, our objective, has not changed. It is clarity of the rules and confirmation that Formula 1 is a constructors’ championship. That’s what we are after. Again the onus is on the FIA to come up possibly, if they are aligned, with solutions and a response to that and we are not after anything else other than this.
OS: Well, from all the comments we heard today, nobody can deny that we are in this situation because we have unclear rules, especially when transitioning from a non-listed part to a listed part. We too want clarity, we don’t want anyone else to be caught up in this. However, the appeals process is about clearing our name – we did nothing wrong, we weren’t dishonest, we were completely open – and the reason for us going ahead with the appeals process is that we believe the penalty is a bit harsh for an unclear rule and we want to clear our name.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/racefans.net) Picking up on what Luke asked. I think the question was did any of you three invite Toto to be mediator and would you be happy with him being the mediator, as opposed to being involved, bearing in mind that he is still a shareholder of Williams, is a shareholder in Aston Martin, which is owned by Lawrence Stroll, and of course is supplying engines etc? Would you be happy with him as mediator and did you invite him?
OS: We didn’t invite him. However, whoever did invite him, it was a smart thing to do and I have no issue, like I said before.
ZB: Yeah, I think I’m going to go back to what I said before, which is that I’m not going to give a running commentary on the various meetings that take place in the paddock.
Q: Are Cyril?
CA: I already answered to a certain extent. We’ve had a number of discussions. There are other people that I have been very interested to talk to, like Christian Horner. You’ll see he is a bit in a particular situation with AlphaTauri, also to understand their view. I am interested to understand Toto’s view, Christian’s view, Mattia’s view as frankly the leading figures in the sport. But at the end of the day, the single possible mediator, and it’s not a mediator, it’s a regulator and that is the FIA.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) A question for Otmar, please? You mentioned that the rules were unclear, particularly when it came to parts transitioning from non-listed parts to listed parts, so why didn’t anyone in your team seek a clarification from the FIA over the last 12 months or so, as that’s the standard process?
OS: We did that in March. We invited the FIA and explained and showed to them our design and development process and they were happy with that and we got a clean bill of health from them. We got a letter that said that everything was in compliance with all the regulations, so we did exactly that. That happened in March. It just so happens that this year we started racing in July so there was a lot of time and a lot of opportunity, which didn’t come. We did just that.
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Mario ISOLA (Pirelli)
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Two questions and the first is for Toto. Toto, with the letter you received you received from the FIA a few days ago do you have the feeling that the FIA wants you to stop winning. And also, especially on the engine side, with the engine modes, do you think that there is the chance that the gap of one engine manufacturer will be even bigger because you can afford to run higher modes the whole race. Probably also for Mattia, because he is an engine guy?
Toto Wolff: I think the primary goal of the FIA was to implement the rule to better understand and better analyse what is going on with the engines. It’s a very complex method between the combustion engine and all the energy recovery system and I having one mode it becomes more easy for the FIA to really see if everything is in compliance. And then on the second point: it has always been the case in Formula 1 that pulling back the leaders, or what supposedly are the leaders, is something that is good for the sport. We see it very much as a challenge. We have a good quali mode and we are able to give it a little bit more power in that last session. But if that is not possible anymore because everything needs to be smoothed out over the race then it’s not a deficit for us but on the contrary, we think we can translate it into more performance in the race. That is something that is a great challenge for us that will take on once the rule is implemented.
Mattia Binotto: I think what Toto said somehow is reflecting our thoughts as well. It’s not the last certainly, it’s even not the first technical directive on power units, showing how complex and difficult is that set of regulations. There have been many TDs which have been issued in the last months on the power unit and I think that all of them have eventually affected all power unit manufacturers. I’m think that the next one as well will simply affect all the power unit manufacturers. Will it affect one more than the others, I simply can only understand by the time we get the technical directive. We need to see the real, true content of it. Obviously, if you are the best car on track, the status quo would obviously the best solution to move forward. But at the end it’s not a technical directive that will be against one of the other manufacturers. It is simply again that the regulations are so complex that clarifications are required. That’s it.
Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) Toto, you have been very successful with Mercedes, which deserved to be praised really, but at the same time you have shares in Aston Martin and Williams, you’ve tried to broker peace between your Mercedes customer team Racing Point and its rivals. We’ve seen two Mercedes-powered, present and future, back down from the deal. You are unhappy with the Concorde Agreement and you are also managing driver in some way with the Mercedes young drivers programme. Do you understand that some people might have some concerns that you arte involved on too many fronts at the moment?
TW: I completely understand that if you have been successful over a few years and me as an entrepreneur, which I have always been, having interests in certain indirect relationships with players in the sport – this is annoying. If I were on the other side I would also pick on these things. There is one essential point with me: when I joined Mercedes, I decided, and this was an intense discussion with Mercedes, to do everything in the interest of the sport. So, to clarify: I sold the Williams shares but I got them back because they were held in escrow and the last payment defaulted. It’s not something that I wanted and I made it clear with Mercedes that my main priority with those shares is to sell them. So the process that has been started by Claire and the team is something that I really appreciate because it allows me to sell those shares. That’s number one. Number two: The Aston Martin investment is tiny. I’ve bought a few shares in a car company that has no direct shareholding with an F1 team but is simply doing the branding on the Red Bull car this year and on the Racing Point next year. I see it as a good investment – I like the products, the new management team is fantastic. And I have no board seat, which was agreed with Daimler, and no other involvement. I’m not a consultant, I’m not an executive and I’m just watching from the sideline what happens. And driver management. I’ve refrained from direct driver management. It’s all under the roof of MGP, of the Mercedes Formula 1 team. We have tried, like any other big team, to really look at the talent that is coming up from karting onwards, and like Ferrari, that has expanded its activities in the junior programme, and has some very promising young drivers coming up, we have done that a few years ago. Red Bull has done it. There is no conflict of interest. But I understand that it pisses some people off and sometimes the perception is something that is important to recognise and I do that.
Q: Mattia, what is your opinion on Toto being involved in so many different areas?
MB: I think it’s not the first time that in our motor sport or generically speaking sport, you have people who have interest and values in associate companies ore whatever. So, difficult for me to judge but for me what is more important is that there is a set of regulations that makes sure there are no conflicts of interest and if there are any it is certainly not up to me to judge but someone has to do it and I’m pretty sure that whoever has to do it is simply doing it and if so far there are no conflicts of interest that have been raised then eventually there are not.
Q: (Ronald Vording – motorsport.com via email) Mario, given the exciting race at Silverstone last weekend, would you consider softer tyre compounds in the future and perhaps be less conservative wirth the tyre choices?
Mario Isola: That has been discussed many times, also in the past. On the one side we have people asking for more aggressive choices because we push the teams to have two stops and probably more action, it’s more difficult to manage the tyres. And on the other side, we have the drivers who are not happy to manage the tyres, they want to push on them. It’s a difficult balance and we need to find a compromise. Last weekend it was a very exciting race but it was a bit too much dictated by tyre management. It’s not easy to find the right compromise but we are looking for that. First of all it has to be agreed with everybody – with the FIA, FOM, teams and drivers – in order to have a unique direction, to understand what is the right way to develop the tyres also for the future.
Q: Toto, would you welcome softer tyre compounds going forwards?
TW: I think it’s the same for everybody. We have seen there is some variation in performance between teams that do very well in hot conditions and softer tyres and we have been a team that has been particularly good when it is colder on any kind of compound. And we suffered last week in Silverstone because I think we didn’t have the car in the right place. You could have seen with Charles in the second stint, and also with Max, that their cars just worked the tyres much better than we did. Pirelli is going to choose the tyres for the best show and we completely understand that and it’s up to us to manage the tyres in the best possible way.
MB: I don’t think that simply softer tyres will dictate a better show. I think at the end it’s a matter of situations, weather conditions, the type of circuit, the type of situations, aero downforce, so at the end, I think again, it should be down to Pirelli to make sure they are doing the proper choice, the proper choice for what is a specific race, knowing as well that there are high degradation which can be bad for the wear and for the safety of the tyres themselves. So I think there are plenty of conditions that need to be taken into account and only Pirelli can do that. As for the fans of the teams, the fans of the sport, taking into account safety, the spectacle and again, as I said, and as Mario said, if you’ve got a race where it’s tyre management which is the driver of the result is happening as well.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, the ruling from the FIA about the Racing Point transfer made clear that Mercedes – the January 6 transfer apart – hadn’t given Racing Point any new information therefore it wasn’t a significant breach of the regulations. This appeared to have been an area that some of your rivals have homed in on as being a possible sticking point, a couple of your rivals have questioned Mercedes involvement in this whole case. Is it frustrating that even when you have an FIA ruling that makes clear that Mercedes wasn’t in breach of the regulations you still have these sort of questions being asked by your rivals? Or is that just what comes with being the leader, having a target on your back?
TW: I don’t think it’s related to being a leader. I think Formula 1 has always been the competition on the track and also the competition off the track and as hard as we race each other on Sunday or on Saturday, we also fight the political game that is important and has always been the case. I think the Racing Point case is an opportunity for your direct competitors to maybe push us hard and that has always been the case. We have a clear position on the Racing Point situation and in that respect it doesn’t really bother us and it shouldn’t bother us because the FIA have made that clarification and the little nudging that is happening around that is something that is acceptable.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, Lewis has been on the record as saying your future is key to his future. What are your plans for 2021? Will you still be the team principal for Mercedes?
TW: I really have enjoyed many years in Formula 1 in that role and the discussions that we are having are very good. I’m happy that my relationship with Ola is probably as good as it can be and we speak almost every day. There are many factors that make me want to stay in Formula 1. On the other side, it takes a toll and this plays into my consideration but as it stands, there is no reason not to continue with Mercedes and we will find out in which role.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Mattia, last week, when you were asked about whether copying a complete F1 car like Racing Point has done is possible by photography, and you said that you used to think it was very difficult or likely impossible and you wanted to understand the full concept behind this, you had questions for the FIA. How do you think Racing Point have done this, then, and do you believe that there has been some kind of inappropriate collusion between Racing Point and Mercedes beyond the brake duct issue?
MB: Honestly, I don’t think I have the answer and I don’t think it’s down to myself to judge. The reason why we have confirmed our appeal… I think it’s because we need to seek at least clarification and transparency. I think the brake duct is a point but I think that eventually the output and the decision of the international court of appeal will open up a more wider and broader discussion on the copy carbon car concept, which for us is important, it’s important as well for the future of the Formula 1, because at the end it’s about discussing intellectual property and I think that intellectual property is an important asset or a very important asset of a company. If someone would somehow copy almost an identical car of the previous year of a competitor, I think the set of regulations should somehow protect the competitor itself and that’s why I think at the moment it’s important simply to move forward and understand. Clarity, transparency for the fairness of the competition and for the Formula 1 for the future is important.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) Toto, I wonder if you could clarify please what you meant on global television last Friday when you suggested that your competitor teams, your rivals, are up the arse of the commercial rights holder and whether or not that phrase is an offense on global television and particularly coming from a managing partner of a Daimler company?
TW: I respect, Dieter, that you’re the moral authority of the sport. What frustrated me was that we, as the teams, are not capable of really joining up in order to have a common standpoint, not in a way that goes against Liberty or FOM, not at all, but we are having these meetings and everybody seems to be interested in the same clarifications and in the same kind of mark-up for contracts that are necessary. And then we leave the meetings and on air, I hear opinions that differ very much of what was said within the meeting. And that is a certain frustration, I don’t know why that happens, I have clarified my position very clearly with the ones that I think are the ones that pick up the phone immediately once the meeting is finished, and for me, I have come to a point that if we’re not capable, as the teams, to have a joint standpoint for benefit of the teams, then we’ll have to go back and have our own.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com, via email) Mattia and Toto: the FIA has told the teams that it plans to further cut downforce levels for 2021 on safety grounds. What are your thoughts on that decision and how disruptive will it be for your R&D programmes, given that it could take weeks or months to finalise the details?
MB: First, we simply need to remind that for 2021 the set of aero regulations have already been modified under the World Council for a reduction on aero performance because of the concern of the tyres. Initially we should have had new 18 inch tyres in 2021 which has now been postponed to 2022, so the tyres we have had in the past have been kept identical for 2021 as well. No doubt that by increasing the aero performance the severity of the usage of the tyres will be higher. I think that Silverstone, in that respect, has been a good example. I think there is nothing wrong in what happened to the tyres themselves but in the end it was simply the simple consequence of cars being faster and faster throughout the lap, through the circuit, so I understand that Pirelli is now concerned about that, I understand the FIA concerned for safety matters and I think that is a simply belief that, let me say, the changes already approved for 2021 will not be sufficient. In that case, we will do further changes on the aero for safety reasons, there is nothing we can somehow complain about. I think what will be the changes we are not aware of at the moment. Certainly it will impact all the cars, our R&D, but I’m pretty aware as well that it’s necessary for the safety and safety always comes first.
TW: I think Mattia has said everything that I would have said. We need to all be together in this and the cars, like Mattia said, have become faster than everybody expected and in that respect we can’t – how can I say? – expect Pirelli to catch up with new tyres and so, like Mattia said, absolutely we need to work together.
Q: Mario, as a follow-up to that, how involved have you been in that decision to further cut downforce?
MI: I learned the decision yesterday, so I’ve not been involved in that. Obviously it’s a decision that is understandable. The only reaction we can put in place to counteract the level of load and speed of these new cars is to increase the pressure and increasing pressure means that we have side effects - as overheating, as blistering, as degradation – and obviously we don’t want that, so less downforce and a further cut in aero rules are helping in this respect. We don’t have the possibility this year to make a proper development plan because it was agreed that for this year we have just the opportunity to test in FP2 for 30 minutes and therefore to make some validation of fine tuning of the product but not a new one. So I understand how difficult it can be for them, for the teams to modify the car or to design a new car for next year. We will continue to think about some fine tuning of our tyres in order to use them at a lower pressure, that means a different behaviour of the tyre otherwise we have to increase the pressure and react with the only tool we have at the moment.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Can I return to Phil’s question to Toto? You said there’s no reason not to continue with Mercedes and we will find out in which role. Can you therefore say that there is a possibility that you will not be team principal of Mercedes next year?
TW: You know this is down to the discussion between Ola and myself. We want to do the best for the team and continue to see the team prosper and as I’ve said before, I really enjoy the role and my plan is to continue but I never want to be in a situation that you’re becoming from very good to good and try to play my part in the team and that is the discussions we’re currently having.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just to pick up on that, Toto, it doesn’t sound like a big tub-thumping ‘I want to stay’, it just seems a bit of a vague response. If I could just ask it another way: do you plan to stay within the team on a day-to-day business? The other question I’ve got is that I understand you’re fairly close to agreeing the Concorde. Is that true?
TW: Yeah, I’ll answer the second one first. I’ve been pretty vocal after the meetings that we had within the team to say this is what we need and this are the clarifications we need in order to move forward but I’ve changed my opinion in Silverstone for exact reason I told you before: I don’t think that the teams will ever be united, everybody’s tried to achieve some little deals outside, there’s a blame culture in the media so we’ve decided to move forward with Liberty, I’ve had some very constructive discussions with Chase over the last weekend and most of the clarifications that we wanted to achieve have been discussed and I feel that we are in a good point to sign the Concorde Agreement and move on. The second one, I can just repeat what I said before: I enjoy what I do, I enjoy it mostly because I love to work with the people that are in the team and there is no better place for me to be than in a meeting room with the engineers, to sit in the garage and watch the great work that is happening around. I enjoy the battles that we have off-track, I like to engage with our sponsors and partners and this is how I feel. What that means for the future is a decision that I need to take together with my wife and together with Ola and that doesn’t mean that I won’t be around as a team principal or I won’t be around in any other role but it’s just that I’m thinking about it.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Just about this staying at Mercedes thing; when do you think there will be news on that? Is there a deadline by when it needs to be resolved? Obviously whether Lewis stays or doesn’t is linked to that, so when would you expect to know whether you’re staying or going?
TW: I think Lewis staying at that moment is the best he can and it’s what he wants to do. He has the possibility of achieving great success going forward, winning more races and hopefully championships. It’s flattering that he says that it’s dependent on what I do but I think he doesn’t need me, he has a great team there that will always support him but as I said before Jon, I haven’t taken the decision yet, these are discussions that are ongoing and that are positive and I enjoy them. I don’t want to give it a spin that I am leaving because that’s not the case. It’s just that I’m in a moment of reflection, of reflection of where Formula 1 is heading to, what is happening around the Covid case and also personal reasons, that I’ve said before. Susie is in a good place, running a Formula E team and that means she’s away a lot. I’ve been to God knows how many races, I think 120 Formula 1 races in the last eight years and that is something we’re thinking about.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, did the team get to the bottom of what happened with the tyres last weekend and what were the indications for the usage of the tyres on the long runs this morning?
TW: I like your little Japanese garden in the background! I think, what we’ve said before, as a team you develop the most on the days that are difficult, because you rarely go back from a race that you’ve won or where you’ve been successful and say ‘why did we win?’ That exercise happens, of course, but it’s never there with the intensity and the pain of losing and therefore the days we lose are the days we learn the most and we almost have this mindset that we enjoy these days, because it shows us where are our shortcomings are and where we need to improve as a team. We’re certainly far away from perfect and that ambition is within the team and when you hear our debriefs even after a successful weekend it sounds like everything has gone wrong and therefore I enjoy – me and my colleagues enjoy days where we are beaten because this is the point where we need to develop and hopefully here in Barcelona we have another chance to prove whether we have understood. I think that the groups around our guys in Brackley have done a really good job, I think the analysis that I have heard sounds right and in the first free practice we have seen that we haven’t struggled with the tyres, we were still competitive on a single lap so we need to prove that on Sunday and I’m very curious to see that.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Mattia, you explained that you want to seek clarification with the appeal. Don’t you think you will get the clarification regarding what is allowed and what isn’t, intellectual property and so on from the FIA and not from the Court of Appeal?
MB: First, I think, being an appealing party I don’t want to enter into too many details, I don’t think that would be appropriate. On the other side, I think no, I think that further clarifications are required which is not only… I think what, let me say, the decision of the international Court of Appeal will somehow open to our wider and broader discussion, which is of the entire car and not only the brake ducts. That’s what we are really looking for and as I said before, it’s a matter of sport fairness, it’s a matter of protecting the IP for the future. If I look back in the past I can’t remember once where a team has copied precisely or most precisely an entire car and at least that since we have got that set of regulations 2009 and therefore I think that clarify is required because I don’t think it’s good for the sport but again, it’s not down to me to judge and that’s why I think that the ICA will be important in that respect.