FIA Friday press conference - Styria
Part One: Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes)
Q: Question to both of you to start with. We’ve had a thrilling start to the season with some great on-track battles between your teams. What can we expect here this weekend? Who’s the hunter, who’s the hunted?
Christian Horner: I think the races have been fantastic this year. Every race has been very tight between the two teams and so there’s no reason to think this weekend will be any different. I suppose the only variable that we have potentially over the weekend is the weather. As we’ve seen previously, sometimes when the weather does arrive here it happens in a big fashion. That’s going to be another thing to navigate. I think the racing’s been fantastic this year and it’s been tight and close and we’ve certainly enjoyed it so far.
Q: Do you think you’re on the front foot after last weekend?
CH: I think last weekend was a very strong weekend for us. Tactically we got it right. You could see that there’s very little between the two cars, particularly on a Sunday afternoon. So, it’s just about getting those marginal gains and getting the set-up right, reading the tyres correctly, reading the weather, getting the strategy right. So, it’s going to be about ticking all of those boxes and doing the basics well.
Q: Toto, hunter? Hunted?
Toto Wolff: I think hunter, definitely. I think we were good in France but we got it wrong with how the race panned-out. We could have been more active. In terms of race speed, we were good. It’s going to swing. It’s going to swing both directions, I believe, depending on the circuit. France should have been more to our advantage, Austria less, but having said that, the championship is long. There are at least 15 races to go. It will be about who can make the least mistakes. Who can optimise the strategy and collect points. DNFs can play a role but certainly at the moment, we’re hunting.
Q: Toto, you said after the race on Sunday that you gambled and you lost. Why do you feel the need to gamble?
TW: I didn’t mean it in the way of gambling. I’m not a gambler, I don’t like to bet on something that I’m not in control of – but there’s two Red Bulls now that are in the window and Checo was perfect because he was just in the right window that, if we would have pitted, he was right there. He stayed out. And, we were racing between our two guys, for all the right reasons, I believe, but when you’re having a competitor that’s as good as Red Bull this year, you’ve just got to plan and execute in the best possible way for the team.
Q: In terms of the planning, can you give us some insight into what’s gone on at the factory this week? What lessons have been learned from Sunday and how much input have the drivers had?
TW: The drivers played an important role. They did lots of laps in the simulator and we’re still experimenting with the set-up. You can get it right and then you land on Friday and the car drives or you can get it wrong. Obviously that gives an advantage of how fast your development curve or performance curve is over the weekend. So, they were part of it – but still, it’s learning in progress and that’s what any team should do, even if you’ve won the Championship seven times in a row.
Q: Christian, how significant was Sunday’s race at Paul Ricard, in terms of your performance relative to Mercedes?
CH: I think it was a massive performance for us because we’ve seen Mercedes have been so strong there the last few times we’ve been at the circuit. I think Lewis had led every single lap bar one. So, to get the pole position first of all was a huge thing, and then in the race, obviously it didn't get off to a great start, with a strong wind on Sunday afternoon, with Max dropping behind Lewis initially – but we managed to get back into the lead by getting the undercut at the first stop. And then, of course, you’re in a very difficult position where you’re leading the race and the options and the risk is that it’s easier to take that risk when you’re following. So, to take the risk when you’re in the lead, give us track position and make the pit call. It’s something we did in Brazil a couple of years ago and we chose to do it again in Paul Ricard. And it worked out. It obviously went down to the end. Lewis did an amazing job of keeping his tyres alive the last few laps. Thankfully there were just enough laps for Max to catch and make the pass. Phenomenal win on a day where we probably didn’t have the fastest race car of the two teams – but tactically and operationally we were sharp and we capitalised on that. To get Checo up there on the podium for a double podium as well, by exploiting an optimal one-stop, worked well for us. So, it was a big result and it was a good way to start this intense part of the Championship with the first of the triple-headers.
Q: And do you agree with Toto that you should be even stronger here, given the layout of the Red Bull Ring?
CH: Not really, I don’t see why. I think this circuit is likely to be very close. Again, we got off to a good start in FP1 but you can see the Mercedes is right there. It’s going to be about getting it right over a single lap and then getting the race and the strategy and reading the weather conditions correctly. It’s such small margins, there’s quite often less than a tenth, session-to-session, qualifying-to-qualifying, race-to-race. It’s incredibly tight. That’s what makes it exciting. I think that’s what’s motivated everybody within the team, within the factory and definitely the buzz walking into the factory on Monday morning, you just feel that energy.
Q: You mentioned the role that Checo played last weekend. What options does he give you that weren’t there previously?
CH: Well, he played that role perfectly last weekend because he was an alternative strategy to Max, and he was close enough and competitive enough obviously to make it work. They didn’t have the luxury of pitting into free air. The way the two drivers are cooperating and working with each other, that’s teamwork. He played the team game very well and it worked out for both of them.
Q: Checo gives you options. Have you taken up your option on him for next year?
CH: It’s still early days, we’re only at race seven. He’s doing a super job, the whole team’s very happy with him and at the relevant time we’ll sit down and have that conversation. He’s doing a great job. You can see he’s getting more and more comfortable in the team.
Q: Toto, while we’re talking driver contracts, Lewis mentioned yesterday that you’ve started contract talks for next year. How hungry is he to carry on?
TW: Very hungry. It’s a very new situation for him, that it is so tight in the battle with another team and another driver and I see him in very good spirits.
Q: Christian, it’s just been announced that Dan Fallows, your head of aero is leaving the team and going to Aston Martin. Where does that leave you in what is a very important stage of the development of the 2022 car?
CH: Well, it’s been known about for some time and it’s… all credit to Dan to be selected to be their technical director. He’s been with the team for 15 years, he’s a great guy and been a valued member of our team but of course we have tremendous strength of depth in the aero department led under Adrian’s tutelage. We’ve got some tremendous talent and it just frees up an opportunity for the next evolution – but Dan’s going to be with us for a while. He’s fully focused on this year’s car and will be with us until the end of his contract.
Q: So, promote from within – is that the plan?
CH: Yeah, very much so.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Two-fold question about the new FIA technical directive regarding the pit stop. Christian, since Red Bull has been superb in that field, do you feel targeted? Will you have to have some changes?
CH: Well the technical directive is certainly very wordy and you’d almost have to question whether it’s a change of regulation. I suppose we have been very competitive, we’ve got the world record on pit stops, we’ve had the majority of fastest stops during the year and it’s not by accident. I find it a little disappointing… I mean it’s the duty of the competitor to ensure that the car is safe and the penalty for a wheel not being fixed is that you have to stop the car immediately, so it’s a brutal punishment if you haven’t got all four wheels securely and safely fastened. So, what the technical directive is trying to achieve, I’m not quite sure, because I think there’s an awful lot of complexity to it. Of course, when you’re in a competitive situation, if you can’t be beaten then obviously the most logical thing is for your competitors to try to slow you down, and that’s obviously what’s happening here.
Q: Toto, can we get your thoughts please on the TD?
TW: To be honest, I’d tried to read it but it’s very complex in length. We had internally some question marks about some of these things but it’s the technical people, including the sporting director, who are in charge of that area.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To Christian please. To follow that up in a slightly broader sense: it’s the latest in the line of TDs and I think last weekend you said that Red Bull has come through quite a few accusations. Do you feel that you’ve got a target on your back at the moment? Not just with this particular initiative but just in general?
CH: I think you can see there’s an awful lot of pointed activity in our direction at the moment – but that comes with the territory of being competitive. An awful lot of energy is going into trying to slow the car down which, you know, is obviously what happens in a competitive business. So, it’s something that we’re used to but I’m not losing too much sleep about.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Christian, you and Toto, you’ve been together in your post-race interview at Sky and I do remember you said that payback regarding the front wing would come within a couple of weeks, I believe was the wording you used. Can you update us on progress on any steps that have happened since then – and when do you expect a new TD to kick-in potentially – and I’d be happy if both of you could elaborate on their general positions on the matter.
CH: I think obviously a lot of noise was made about the rear wing. New tests were introduced and the car has obviously fully complied with those rules at all times – but it would be disingenuous of the FIA not to look at the front wing in the same way. And of course, we’ve seen footage across recent races and obviously we’re just looking for consistency. Consistency of application of the regulations that deal with the rear wing, and obviously the front wing falls into that same category. And so the main thing we are seeking through all of this is a consistent application.
Q: Toto, your thoughts please.
TW: Yeah, consistency is important and, like Christian says, it’s a competitive field, a competitive sport where it’s about exploiting and where Red Bull is today is where we have been over many years. I remember DAS last year, and you’re trying to gain a competitive advantage and it’s fair enough now on front wings. Same thing. If there is something to look at, then the FIA will look at it and whatever the decision is, we will go with that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question for both. Christian and Toto, did you have some form of soft landing in terms of the budget cap? I know the FIA extended a soft landing to Ferrari – and if so, does it expire at the end of this month and are you fully in line with reducing staff and resources accordingly?
TW: I think you cannot call it ‘soft landing’ because if you have a structure like we have, it’s never soft. It was not always pleasant to reduce your population, to say the least, and we are really trying to comply to the dot with these new regulations and it will mean the whole organisation, the whole way we’re dealing with cost, a totally different game. So, there wasn’t any soft landing.
CH: No, I’d agree fully on that. It’s been a very turbulent period because we’ve had to say goodbye to people from the team that have been with us for, even in the team’s previous guises, 25 years service. I think it’s been a tremendously difficult period to say goodbye to those people and, of course, that concludes at the end of the month. And so, we’ve restructured under the current regulations. What I would like to see is more consistency rather than having the Sword of Damocles continually hanging over the team and staff at the end of each year. I would like there to be just one number that was there for five years, rather than constant, incremental decreases. Particularly when others are looking to build their capacity and resource on the other side regarding CapEx requests. It’s important that we achieve that, particularly as the whole world has just globally been through a pandemic and making these decisions and saying goodbye to these valued members of staff, has been tremendously difficult.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Christian, this is for you. Your press release announced that Dan Fallows was leaving and you said he would stay until the end of his contract – but you didn’t say when that was. Are you able to tell us that now?
CH: I’m not going to go into great details but it certainly won’t be within the next couple of years.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Question for Christian… sorry for Toto, though he’s also called Christian incidentally. Toto, I believe that you put some of your supercars up for sale. The obvious question then is: has this got something to do with the fact that you would, as an equal shareholder of Mercedes and Ineos, be liable for an equal amount of investment in the team going forward?
TW: No (laughs). It has a more simple background. I don’t get to drive the cars anymore. I don’t have enough time. I don’t think it looks particularly good if I was cruising around with a Ferrari, although it is a fantastic brand. But I haven’t driven the cars for a long time and I’m going electric with Mercedes at the moment.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – Auto Hebdo) To both, do you feel the championship battle is as intense between Lewis and Max on track as it is between you guys personally off track?
CH: It’s competitive throughout the team because that’s what it is – it is a competition. Every department is competing with their rival departments, not just within Mercedes but within every team. That’s the way we have always approached going racing. We are a competitive team, we are a hungry team, and we are enjoying the competition.
TW: Yeah, it’s a combative sport, on track, off track. But that is only noise. The true performance happens on the track. It’s lap time. You are either good enough or not and if you are not you have to acknowledge that and try to gain some performance back and the other way round.
Q: How different is the fight when it is an inter-team battle rather than an intra-team one, because both of your teams have dominated in their time, How different is this?
TW: Well, both have interesting aspects. The intra-team battle, which we had for quite a while, is obviously easier to handle because the drivers are part of the team, they are in the same car, while fighting with another team, you don’t really know where the performance advantages and disadvantages are and you can see that swinging. That’s difficult because you are dealing with imperfect information, many variables that you don’t know, but both are equally enjoyable for me.
CH: I’d see it the other way around. I think it’s much more straightforward having a competitor in the garage next to you rather than two competitors within your own garage, because you have a natural conflict of interest within your team there, within your own engineering team etc, whereas having the competition as the garage next door is much more straightforward and I think it focuses everybody’s mind and motivations. I think it’s healthy for the team and healthy for the sport. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve obviously seen seven years of total dominance, and I think the biggest winner is Formula 1, to have two teams and two drivers every weekend slugging it out.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Another one for Christian on Dan Fallows. I’m a bit surprised that Aston hasn’t put out their own press release yet. Your announcement seems to have surprised them a little bit. That triggers the question: was there anything unusual going on about hiring him from you that you are troubled with on some level?
CH: Not at all. It’s a small paddock and rumours start to circulate so it was a question of rather than our staff reading about it through the media, I’d rather they read it on a communication from the team. That’s why we chose to announce it. It’s something that we have known about for some time but it’s pretty straightforward.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Following up on the TD around the pit stops. Christian, do you think it will eliminate sub-2-second pit stops? And Toto, just to follow up on something you said earlier about some question marks internally, could you elaborate at all in what context you had questions?
CH: Well, I think it has already slowed pit stops this year. After the earlier discussions and directives that have been on the pit stops and I think to have to hold a car for two tenths of a second I think you could almost argue that it is dangerous because you are judging your gaps and the guy is releasing the car is having to make that judgement and it’s not been well thought through. Formula 1 is about innovation and competition and seeing pit stops in sub-2 seconds is a remarkable feat and we should be encouraging it, not trying to control it. Otherwise, where does it stop? We’re going to be told which way we should walk into the garage, where we should sit on the pit wall and which buttons we should press, I guess.
TW: Yeah, I’ve already been told which buttons I shouldn’t press, and stuff. You know it’s interesting to see because there must be a reason why that TD has come up and I’m not 100% sure. The operation of the wheel gun and the release of the car is a highly complex matter and I’m certainly… All of us in the team are up for competition because it’s a competitive field. But there is also the safety argument. And Christian mentioned it before: you put everything into your pit stop so you avoid your wheel detaching or coming off as the penalties are enormous. We in the past had a policy of making sure that that wouldn’t happen, and that also meant to have some circuit-breakers in the system, in a way that that could never happen and that slows you down in the pit stops. But that was our own decision. It had nothing to do with anyone else. Fast pit stops are nice to have and they look cool, but I am not 100% sure that they are such a huge performance differentiator, because we are talking about a tenth or two on average, not talking about the slowest or fastest pit stops. Yeah, it’s been interesting to see where that came from and what the basis was.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, Lewis has mentioned a couple of times in recent days about the straight-line speed of the Red Bull at Paul Ricard. Obviously, there was a new Honda engine in France. Do Mercedes have any question marks about how that speed was attained given the restrictions on engine development during the season?
TW: Well, the restrictions are pretty clear. The power unit is homologated; you can only come up with reliability fixes and in a way bug-cleaning, so there shouldn’t be any difference. Red Bull chose to run a very low-drag rear wing or generally aero configuration, which clearly when you see the speed differences in Ricard made a big difference. And now it’s about seeing what happens here, but as a matter of fact they were very strong. They ran a low wing and they were still as competitive as us through the corners and that shows that the car has downforce. We just need to do our homework and to continue to improve rather than pointing a figure on the engine. This is all in the FIA territory and it is much too early to say anything like this, that the engine is more powerful. There are so many things that play a role.
CH: I think Toto has answered it very well and I think maybe he should explain it to his driver. I listen with interest and sometimes some of the theories Lewis has are sometimes some way from reality. I think he has actually summarised it very well. We run less drag and we run lower wing and as a result of that you tend to go a bit quicker down the straight sometimes.
TW: I think there is a factor that needs to be considered. The driver is in the car and he has the feeling and he sees the traction and pull-away, there was a difference in DRS and on-DRS zones. It’s pretty clear that the perspective and the feeling that the driver has is really important, especially Lewis, there is no better one to him. But what we need to say is that you need to look at the whole thing. There aren’t any miracles. You can’t bring a second power unit that’s homologated and go three tenths quicker. It was a low-drag configuration; the car was very quick indeed, quicker than ours in qualifying. It is what it is and we need to fix that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Toto, there are suggestions in the paddock that possibly Mercedes pre-empted or triggered the pit stop investigation, which then became a technical directive. Can you assure us that this had nothing to do with Mercedes, that all this happened without any knowledge from Mercedes? Another short question: at the end of this month James Allison hands over and becomes Chief Technical Officer. Is the handover fully in place and what are the implications of that handover.
TW: On the pit stop we enquired with the FIA on a safety mechanism, which is related to a system that we are using and whether that could be optimised. I would say that this was three or four weeks ago and it was a technology question. Did that trigger anything else? Maybe. I don’t know. And in terms of James Allison. He’s a mega guy but we won’t be missing the directness, sharpness and sometimes rude jokes because he is staying with us, he becomes CTO. He is going to overlook all the technical activities between power units, the chassis, Formula E and the other activities, America’s Cup, etc, so he is part of the gang and he remains part of the gang. And Mike Elliott, I’ve been working with him since 2013. He joined a few months before me as Head of Aero and since then we have had a friendship. He is unbelievably bright. I sometimes have to pinch myself that I am able to work with such an intelligent person. Beyond that we share very much management philosophies and we can talk for hours about neuro-scientific developments and psychology. Just a phenomenal person.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Apart from Lewis versus Max what is your favourite F1 rivalry and why?
CH: There have been some great ones over the years. The Prost-Senna times, I remember from my childhood were fantastic. Mansell-Senna… There have been some great rivalries. In any sport you need those rivalries, whether it is 100m sprinting or Formula 1 world championships. That’s what part of sport is rivalry, competition, because without that it’s just a display.
TW: Yeah, there have been great rivalries. The ones that Christian mentioned. I think it changes over time and the generation today is very different to the ones in the old. But you go through the tunnel here and you see all those unbelievable Formula 1 stars. I think it starts with Schumacher and there is Senna, Hunt, and you remember that they all had absolutely amazing performances, world champions, but they also had rivalries. That was part of their journey. Yeah, we have an unbelievable world champion in the team, the best ever, breaking all of the records and now we have a rival and that is good fun and good to watch. It is certainly very good for the sport. The audiences show thatl, sponsors are keen to be part of that fight and at the end it’s good.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Lewis was talking yesterday about Valtteri Bottas and he said he was a fantastic tem-mate and “I don’t necessarily see that it needs to change”. How much input will Lewis have into the decision on his team-mate for next year?
TW: Well, Lewis is part of the team and has always been in the inner circle of decision-making because simply we value his opinion and in the same way when we are talking about drivers there is nothing we are not sharing with him; it’s transparent. But the other way around too: when I speak to Valtteri it’s open and when I speak to George, it’s very much open, because I don’t want to have any hidden agendas. We need to evaluate the situation for the future. Valterri had some really good weekends but he also had some off weekends and we just need to minimise those and then we will take a decision and whatever decision we will be taking, Valtteri or George, the person that is involved in that will be hearing that first and that is the driver.
Part Two: Zak BROWN (McLaren), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Aston Martin)
Q: A question to both of you. The British Grand Prix next month is going to take place in front of a capacity crowd. Home race for both of your teams. Can we get your thoughts on that please?
Zak Brown: I think it’s very exciting that we are going back racing again with crowds. We have missed the fans. I think the fans have missed us. I think Formula 1 has done an excellent job of bringing the sport to them through various forms of media. I think the UK Government has recognised they’ve done an excellent job with vaccinations and as they start to roll out events I hope other grands prix follow shortly, which I think will be the case.
Otmar Szafnauer: Also very good for Formula 1 as well as Silverstone and the grand prix and the UK. We look forward to welcoming fans back and also, like Zak said, this is the first of many where we will have capacity crowds.
Q: A one for both of you again, another calendar question of sorts. It was announced earlier today that Turkey is going to replace Singapore at the beginning of October. I’d love to get your thoughts on that as well. Maybe we can start with you Otmar, as you must have very good memories of Turkey from last year?
OS: Yeah, well, if it rains again and we have similar conditions and we put it on pole and race well it would be great. But we’re not counting on that. It’s great to have Turkey back, it’s a good track and a replacement for Singapore and I hope the rest of the calendar can remain so we get 23 races in.
ZB: Yeah, I think it’s great. Stefano and everyone at the Formula 1 and the FIA have done an excellent job putting on grands prix ever since COVID started and they’ve done it in a very safe and responsible way and I think that’s what has allowed us to get to as many grands prix as we have. I think COVID certainly isn’t behind us and we have various issues in various parts of the world and I think Stefano has Plan A, Plan B and Plan C with the full intent of getting 23 grand prix put on this year. Unfortunately we are missing Singapore but Turkey is an exciting race and I’m very confident of getting in a full calendar this year.
Q: Zak, if we can stay with you now, I’d like to start by talking about drivers. Lando has now scored in 12 consecutive races and he’s the only driver to have scored points in every race this year. Can you tell us how Lando has grown this year, as a driver, as a person and within the team?
ZB: He’s doing an awesome job and he’s done really an awesome job since his rookie season. He continues to show tremendous speed, a lot of maturity, racecraft, he knows when to take risks and when not to. He’s been excellent in qualifying and he just continues to mature. He’s young, he’s 21 but drives with a lot of maturity and is doing an excellent job and hopefully it will continue. I’m sure it will.
Q: Has the step that he’s taken this year surprised you in any way?
ZB: No, not really. I think it’s surprised some others but we’ve always known he’s extremely quick. I think Carlos is showing how quick he was as a team-mate. They were evenly matched and so I’m not surprised but I’m pleased he’s doing what we thought he would do.
Q: Daniel has less than half of the points of Lando so far this year but he seemed very bullish after his race in France. Are we about to see him back to his best? How confident are you?
ZB: Yeah, I’m very confident. I think he’s very close. You need to remember this year we had less testing. We were the only team that had to do an engine change, so with the less testing we had to do some more development on the car, as opposed to letting him get stuck right into it, so I think he’s settled in, he’s working extremely hard, he’s happy, we’re happy, great environment inside the team, so I think we’re not far away from seeing Daniel at his best.
Q: And it’s been a very close fight with Ferrari this year yet you did pull away from them in France, you’re now 16 points clear of them in the Constructors’ championship, so who are you battling now? Do you think you can catch Red Bull or is it still very much a fight with Ferrari?
ZB: No, I think Red Bull’s out of reach this year. We need to be realistic. I think when you look at the last race, while we’re battling Ferrari today, Alpine certainly showed a lot of speed, AlphaTauri again this morning , so I think the season is not yet a third over and people, the development pace in Formula 1 is quite fast so I think while we’re maybe looking at Ferrari today on the timetables, I think you’ve got to pay attention to everyone. Things can swing pretty quickly in this sport.
Q: Otmar, coming to you: let’s talk drivers first of all as well. Sebastian Vettel seems back on form, he’s only three points short of his 2020 total already and he’s scored in the last three races. When you look at the opening seven races of the season, where did it begin to click for him? Is there one moment that you can pinpoint?
OS: I think it was a progression for Seb. He was incrementally getting better and feeling more comfortable with the car. He’s very experienced, so going into Monaco he knew exactly what had to be done there. Qualifying is a premium there as we all know so he focused on that early on and had a good qualifying session, good race and then from there on, with every race, he gets more comfortable in the car. He’s been comfortable with the team from the beginning and I think he’ll get stronger yet with time and races.
Q: Lance has run him pretty close in qualifying and the races; where have you seen Lance Stroll step up this year?
OS: Well, Lance is much more confident in himself. He’s driving really well, drives really well on a Sunday, a bit unlucky sometimes on Saturday, just like last weekend, but he’s done really well race-wise and again, good race craft. He’s fast, good race pace and I expect the two of them to regularly score points for us.
Q: And can we talk tech now? You announced yesterday a technical restructure of your team then today we learn of Dan Fallows coming your way from Red Bull Racing. Can you just tell us more? First of all, why the need to change the structure?
OS: Well, traditionally we’ve been probably the smallest team and for us to be able to compete with the teams that are winning World Championships, we know we have to grow and in order to do so, the organisation will have to change and restructure so we’ve done that with growth in mind and we’ve moved Andy Green up to Chief Technical Officer which was announced yesterday, who’ll have three direct reports so he can focus more on strategic issues and we’re helped by Red Bull announcing that Dan will be joining us as Technical Director.
Q: And are there going to be other senior roles that you’re looking to create or is this now it?
OS: Well, so underneath Andy Green there will three direct reports, Dan being one of them, Luca the other and Tom McCullough who is here as Performance Director is the third but underneath them there are other roles that we’re recruiting for, for sure, and on the operations side, too, we’re growing there so watch this space, there will be further announcements.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Otmar, why did you not announce Dan Fallows before Red Bull did and secondly, Christian Horner’s just told us that he won’t be joining for at least the next two years. Is that your understanding of the situation as well?
OS: Well, we announced yesterday the re-structuring and we were going to announce Dan in due course but we don’t control what Red Bull do and I’m grateful that they announced Dan. He’s a great addition to our team, he’s a likeminded individual, he’s a high performer, he’s won World Championships, he knows Seb, so we look forward to Dan joining. The start time? We’re still working on that.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Otmar, how difficult is it, with the amount of recruitment you’re doing, to get the right bodies through the door in good time, because obviously contracts being what they are, it’s not a short term process, is it? These are years lead times to get people in and then integrated so with the ambition of a team, how difficult is it when you’ve got a situation with Fallows where it could still be as much as a couple of years based on what Christian Horner said to actually get the effect you want from your recruitment?
OS: Yeah, it’s a marathon, not a sprint so I think the important thing is that we get the right people. You’d rather have the right people in your team as opposed to getting somebody very quickly but it doesn’t work out, so the process is to identify likeminded individuals that are high performing and get them into the team and then if we have to wait a little bit, that’s the process.
Q: Zak, can I bring you in here? Is there any recruiting on at McLaren or are you happy with the structure you’ve got?
ZB: That’s really a better question for Andreas who runs the team, but I’d say we’re very happy with our leadership team but these are big racing teams and people move around but no, I would say we’re very settled with what we have. We’ve got a game plan and we just want to execute against it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) For both: you’re both Americans and obviously Formula 1 is on a drive to try and attract Americans. How do you think the best way of going about this should be? For example, in IndyCar, the points that they get towards a Superlicence aren’t as many as for Formula 2. Should this change? And are there any other ways of bringing an American in?
ZB: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of talent in IndyCar and some drivers there that are extremely capable of being competitive in Formula 1. I think the Superlicence process can probably be reviewed as far as it relates to that. I think Formula 1 is growing rapidly in America. I think a lot of that is a thank you to Netflix but also to Liberty Media for recognising it’s a very important market and I think the way you turn fans on is you open up the sport and let them see behind the scenes which is one of the things that we’re doing on social media these days and Netflix and I think you can see the US fans are responding to that. I think the Miami race will be another great shot in the arm, if you like, for growth in America and hopefully we’ll get an American driver winning races in Formula 1 in due course.
Q: Zak, how competitive is IndyCar and perhaps a good reference for that is how Kevin Magnussen got on racing for your team last weekend?
ZB: I think it’s extremely competitive. Pato O’Ward who we will test in Abu Dhabi later this year, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon – I think there’s a lot of drivers: Josef Newgarden – that would be extremely competitive with the right equipment in Formula 1.
Q: And how did Kevin get on?
ZB: Kevin did a really good job. Pretty difficult situation, to get dropped into a race car where you’re making a seat and getting out in a race car shortly thereafter but the team really enjoyed working with him. He was a total professional, fast, but I think it shows how difficult the series is, that you can't just drop in and expect to be competitive after an hour of driving the race car for the first time.
Q: And Otmar, your thoughts?
OS: Like Zak said, the popularity of Formula 1 is growing in America and thanks to Netflix, I’ve many many friends there who are ardent Formula 1 fans and if we do get an American driver that can compete in Formula 1 and I believe they exist, even there are some Americans in the lower series here in Europe and when they step up to Formula 1, it will just make it even more popular.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Otmar, in the French Grand Prix you were happy with Seb and his long stint because you said it showed that Aston Martin were not playing with Pirelli tyre pressures unlike perhaps some of your rivals would struggle with tyre management. Can you explain this please?
OS: Yeah, well we had the new technical directive that we all had to comply with and we showed that our long run pace in the race was even more competitive than we thought it would be going into the weekend. It was a shame that Lance was caught out in qualifying, for him to go from 19th to in the points just shows we had good race pace and Seb towards the end caught the train in front of him and I think had he not gone off when the wind direction changed, he could have challenged for a few more positions ahead of him, so it just showed that what we are doing with the tyres completely complying with all the prescriptions that we still had the pace.
Q: Otmar, if your guys get a clean weekend here in Styria, what can you achieve with your car?
OS: Well, we still have some work to do. Our long run pace looked decent today, looked competitive. I think we still have to work on our single lap pace so that we qualify well and if we can qualify well, with the long run pace that we have, we’d like to get both of them into the points.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Gentlemen, I don't know whether you saw the previous session but during a question about budget caps, Christian Horner indicated that he’d prefer to have a one-time number as opposed to a glide path which diminishes the numbers as time goes on. Would you prefer that as well? I know that you’re obviously not in the position of the big three but ultimately it could affect you as well.
OS: Sure, I didn’t hear it and I didn’t hear the answer but a one-time number presumably means that the one-time number is the number we’re at now. I guess if it was a one-time number we should have started with the number we’re going to end up with. So my preference is the number that we’ve all agreed and we use the glide path to get there.
ZB: I don’t think we really have a strong opinion. The decision was made some time ago and we’ve got a plan and executing against it so as a bit of a mute point given that the decision’s been made and we’re well on with our plan.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Otmar, one more on your newly announced recruit or the recruit that Red Bull announced. Obviously it’s unusual that Red Bull went and announced it – obviously that was earlier than you expected. Are there any concerns about the fact that this is still kind of an open question? Is he 100% signed, sealed and watertight to come to you or is there some wider game going on here which lead to Red Bull announcing it, or is it just about arguing about the timing now?
OS: It is 100% signed, sealed, delivered. Dan is coming. It’s just a matter of the timing.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To both please: where do you stand on the front wing flex situation? We know all about the rear wings, but how do you feel about the front wings? Should there be checks on those?
ZB: I think entire race cars should be checked: front wings, rear wings, bodywork, brake ducts, you name it. The teams are constantly pushing the envelope and I think what the FIA has done with their technical directives, which are not necessarily race car-related, are always looking to clarify rulings, so if someone thinks someone’s doing something they shouldn’t then there should be an FIA check on it.
Q: Do you have any concerns about front wings?
ZB: No, no, I can’t say there’s anything that has leaped out to us.
OS: There are no concerns from our end whatsoever.