FIA Friday press conference - United States
(Part One): Zak BROWN (McLaren), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes)
(Part Two): Guenther STEINER (Haas), Jost CAPITO (Williams)
Q: Zak, it’s the first US Grand Prix for a couple of years. How good is it to be back? How important is it to be back?
Zak Brown: It’s awesome to be back. This is such a great race. It’s obviously a bit of a home-town race for me personally, so I enjoy it quite a bit. The crowds are phenomenal, the city is buzzing. We’re not quite yet back to normal – hence the mask – but it certainly feels like a giant step forward. Formula 1 is best consumed with hundreds of thousands of people at the facility, and that’s what we have here, so really pleased to see the excitement in the city.
Q: How busy is it for you guys off track?
ZB: This is probably as busy as any race gets. We have about four or five hundred partners, tonnes of fan activity, so it’s pretty flat-out from about six in the morning until about midnight.
Q: Before we start talking about Formula 1, Daniel is going to be driving Dale Earnhardt’s NASCAR this weekend. What’s the history of the car and has Daniel had a seat-fit. Does he even need a seat fit?
ZB: He had a seat fit yesterday. He’s quite excited. That’s a special car. That started off life in 1983. It’s actually Ricky Rudd’s car that won at Riverside. I was at that race. And then it got converted to Dale Earnhardt Snr’s car in the ’84 and ’85 season, and won a handful of races, so it’s the real deal. We flew it out here from England where it lives, and Daniel’s going to give it a go. He did a seat fitting, which was I think more of just making sure that the seat-belt’s fit.
Q: Now, let’s talk about on-track. It was a slightly frustrating race for the team in Turkey. How confident are you that you can turn things around here?
ZB: I think we’ve shown really good speed at points this year and then we’ve had races where we’ve struggled. I think that’s part of the journey that we’re on. We’re constantly getting better but it’s not without race-by-race setbacks. In Holland we weren’t very strong, in Turkey we weren’t very strong. Spa, Monza and Russia we were. We don’t yet have a consistently quick race car, we’ve got a quick race car – but I think that’s just all part of learning and improving and this journey we’re on to get back to the front. We’re getting closer – but there’s still a big gap.
Q: And what about this battle for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship with Ferrari? They’ve shown a turn of speed in recent races.
ZB: Yeah, I think it’s going to come down to the wire. I think you’ve got two championships going on that are very exciting, right? You’ve got Lewis vs Max, which I think will go down to the wire, and then I think the McLaren versus Ferrari will go down to the wire, and I’d like to think we’ll take it – but I think it’s too close to call.
Q: Toto, Zak thinks it’s going to go down to the wire between Max and Lewis. Would you agree with him?
Toto Wolff: Yes, I think it will, because the swings of points are not massive. Goes one direction and then the other way. I’ve said before I think that the DNFs are the killer for this championship because you can’t… It's very difficult to recover a 25-point loss, so you need to minimise the mistakes. It’s exciting to see.
Q: What about the Constructors’ Championship? You’re now 36 points ahead of Red Bull. Do you think it's a little bit more comfortable in that one?
TW: Well, comfortable is the wrong word but I think there is a little bit of a bigger gap, that is solid but that could go very much to the end, and is an important championship for us as Mercedes.
Q: How important is Valtteri in that fight? Over the last four races he’s scored 38 points more than Checo Pérez. That’s massive. Are you confident he can maintain that form?
TW: His form was unbelievable in Turkey. For me it is really a 10 out of 10, and he seemed pretty good today. Comfortable, at ease with the car, and if he can continue to maintain his pace that is very helpful, not only for the Constructors’ Championship but also for Lewis’ Championship because he is taking points away from the other guys.
Q: You mentioned Turkey. It looked like you guys had taken a significant step there. Is that the reality of the situation? How big is that step?
TW: I think what we have been able to understand is how to hit the sweet spot of the car, in terms of the set-up. Today, when you look at the lap time, it’s a straight line gain and I think we’ve found the right compromise between drag and downforce. And, on the other side, we were very quick through the fast corners, which is good, and equal to Red Bull on the slow corners. Overall the car is much better together.
Q: A lot was made after the last race about Lewis’ strategy car – do you pit him? Do you not pit him? Did the fact that you opted for the conservative strategy there reflect the increased pressure at this stage of the Championship? Is now the time when you become a little bit more risk-averse?
TW: No, I think the right call was at lap 40-something, 41, or 42, to pit and then try to overtake on track, because we had more pace than Checo but we decided to stay out, Lewis decided to stay out and it was fine, and then we had just two choices: either try to make it to the end and try to hold on to P3 or P4, or not. We saw that the pace was just dropping and dropping and we would have been eaten up by almost all the cars behind, probably dropped back to P6 or P7. We opted for the conservative call to actually finish P4.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Toto, there’s a report that Aston Martin wanted to change Vettel’s engine already at the Belgian Grand Prix, rather than at this one. First of all, can you confirm that is true, and can you explain a little bit the mechanism of how many engines you usually have in store, is there a large stock that you can always activate? Maybe you can explain a little background there.
TW: I think you can see that we are suffering with reliability this year. We’re going onto the sixth engine – I believe it is for Valtteri – and it’s not something that we choose to do but, on the contrary, we’re trying to really get on top of the problems, and we haven’t understood fully. I think we are a step closer now, so it’s not always that we are always, literally, easy with having the engines. We’re hanging on for dear life supplying all customers, and that is not trivial.
Zak, can I bring you in on this. Are you concerned about the reliability of Mercedes?
ZB: No, we’ve had a great run with Mercedes. We’ve won our first race since 2012. It’s been a great partnership, everything that we’d hoped it would be. Toto and everyone at Mercedes is pushing extremely hard, there’s great competition, so when you’re pushing, that’s always going to challenge reliability – but I’ve got to say, from a McLaren point of view, we’re very happy, they’ve got an unbelievable track record, so we’re not concerned.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question for Zak, about the Andretti Acquisition Corp. When the documents were filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission in March, you were named as one of the independent directors. I wonder if you could perhaps fill us in with how things are going, what your thinking is in that involvement and also whether there might be any conflict of interest, should the ultimate acquisition be a Formula 1 team?
ZB: I can start with the SPAC, it doesn't have anything to do with Formula 1. I’m good friends with Michael, we’re partners in an Australian Supercar team, we’re partners in Extreme E and it has nothing to do with Formula 1, never had any intention to do with Formula 1 and it’s going through its process now. So, stay tuned.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, question about the engine issues as well. On Sky, a few moments ago you were quite emphatic dismissing one of the theories put out about what the issue was. Are you able to expand a little bit on what the exact problem is with the engines, particularly with Lewis and how close the title fight is with Max. How much of a concern is it for his title bid in particular?
TW: I wouldn’t want to disclose what it is, for obvious reasons, but it is always a concern. I think that, when you look at Monza, for example, Valtteri had to start from the back, and we’re losing points on the way – but it’s like Zak says, we are trying to push the performance every year and this year we’ve come to a point where that has cost us points. Over the last seven or eight years, that mindset has won us races and championships, so wouldn’t want… would have hoped to have less penalties and use less engines but this year it has really hit us hard. McLaren and Aston Martin were more fortunate and in that respect, we just have to take it on the chin and do the best possible job.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Toto, you mentioned earlier that you’re finding the sweet spot between downforce and drag. There was obviously an aero package update earlier this year at Silverstone. Presumably that changed where the car’s aero sweet spot was exactly. Have you had to optimise that specific package more since then? Has it taken a few races to really nail it?
TW: I think what I enjoy watching is the intellectual process in the team. In the group around some of the guys. How to hit the sweet spot, and obviously we’ve introduced that upgrade in Silverstone and since then have comprehended every race a little better, how to extract the maximum performance, and now since Sochi, then in Turkey and also here, it proves to be definitely the right path.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Another one for you Toto I’m afraid, on the power unit situation. At this stage what would you assess are Lewis’ chances of getting through the rest of the season without taking another power unit penalty? And, if indeed he does have to take one, how difficult is it determining which track you would have to do so – because there are so few races left now?
TW: Well Ian, I can’t say whether we will be taking one and what the percentage is, but obviously the risk is still there, and what is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty and take the hit – or do you want to really run it and then possibly risk a DNF – and that is a discussion that is happening as we speak and we haven’t come to the right answers yet.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question for both of you about Netflix and Drive to Survive. I think this weekend will probably see more than ever the impacts of the series’ success in the United States. Max Verstappen said earlier this week that he wasn’t a fan of being part of the series, he felt that some things were made a bit fake and hyped up perhaps a bit too much. I just want to know what your thoughts were on the creative licence of Netflix, how close is it to the truth and do you think it’s a small price to pay for the success that it has?
ZB: I think Netflix has been outstanding for Formula 1. It’s driven a younger fan base, it’s driven a much larger fan base. It’s really had an impact in America. From what I can see – I can only judge the sport from what I know – so I can’t really speak to what happens in other teams. I think it’s factual with a little bit of theatre added, and that’s what television is. I think it’s doing what we as a sport would like it to do, which is turn on a bunch of new fans. I think it’s been hugely successful.
TW: I can only echo Zak’s comments. We were not keen at the beginning of Netflix because we wanted to concentrate on on-track performance and I was wrong. It’s clearly a big success. Everywhere in the world it was the number one documentary on Netflix for quite a while and it’s become part of Formula 1 and you can clearly see it’s beneficial and yes, we’re a sport and we need to stay true to the values of the sport and have no gimmicks – but sport is entertainment and I think these guys have brought us a new angle, a new dimension and the feedback that we get from fans is tremendous – especially here in the US.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) A question to both. Mercedes and McLaren have both had shareholder changes in the past 12 months. There is a lot of attention on Andretti’s interest in investing in Sauber, so I wonder from your perspective, has there ever been a better time to own an F1 team, and if you were the majority shareholder of a team, would you consider selling now given that values should theoretically only be growing?
TW: Yeah, I think we are in a very good moment in time for Formula 1 because the audiences are growing, the popularity of the sport has been increasing, we are slowly but surely tapping the Americas and Stefano, with Liberty, have been doing a tremendous job. So I can only speak for ourselves, we have grown our top line considerably. The cost cap has brought us a bottom line and that is how sports teams should be. It shouldn’t be a marketing exercise only and a cost centre. It should be a profit centre similar to what the US, American teams are and we are clearly there and I believe or I would very much hope that all the teams become profitable very soon and I think it is on the verge. You know what your costs are. You can’t spend more than 145 million dollars this year and going down. Formula 1 in itself is so successful that based on the EBIT that is being distributed to the team a large chunk of that is covered by TV only, so it’s a very predictable exercise. Whoever buys a Formula 1 team today knows exactly to the dot what they need to spend in order to be competitive, because we wouldn’t be able to spend more, so that's why it has become a very good business opportunity on my side. I wouldn’t sell a team. On the contrary, with Ineos coming in I bought an additional 3 per cent and I’m very happy about that.
ZB: I’d echo Toto’s comments. I think Formula 1 has never been stronger. I think Liberty recognized, when they bought the sport, there was a lot of value to be created and I think we are seeing that now. The investors that are coming into the sport are serious people, that are sports investors and own significant businesses and if you look at the value of other sports franchises around the world, Formula 1 teams are undervalued and I think that is why you see people coming into it. So now would be a good time for a buyer to come in but there are probably not many sellers at this point, which creates a good dynamic to push up franchise value, so I think Formula 1 is in a very good position.
Q: Zak, you’ve already said you know Michael Andretti well. How serious is he about Formula 1?
ZB: I don’t think it’s my position to really comment on Michael’s situation. What I would say is that he is very serious about Formula 1. He loves Formula 1. Obviously he has a lot of history, including his father being a world champion. I think it would be great if Michael and the Andretti name were involved in Formula 1. I think that would be another benefit again for the US marketplace, but we’ll see what happens.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Motorsport.com) Zak, how did coming out on top of the most popular team ranking in the F1/Motorsport Network/Nielsen Sports fan survey go down with your staff, sponsors and shareholders? Is that something that was a big talking point within your organization?
ZB: Well, first of all it was very flattering especially given where we have been the last five years, so to see our popularity climb as our results climb… I think our drivers have done an outstanding job and are a big contributor to being a very likeable team. All the men and women have been working so hard at McLaren, so it’s flattering. We try to put on a great show for the fans and our partners and it’s nice to see the very positive response from a big group of fans around the world.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To both team principals. If we have a look at Europe we have eight traces within a radius of about 1,000 km. In the Middle East we will have four within a radius of 1,000 km. In North America we have three in a radius of 5,000km. How many races should North America have in your opinion and where should they be please?
ZB: The market could definitely handle a third race. You know, it’s very complicated to put these races together, so the obvious wish list would be New York would be great, Las Vegas would be great, any of the big markets so I hope a third race happens. I think this race here in Austin is yet to be secured. I’d like to see that happen, I think it will happen. Miami I think will be the hottest ticket in Formula 1 next year. A third race here… We’ve got Montreal, which is very successful, we’ve got Mexico, which is very successful, but then again we have got to find the balance of what is the right amount of races in the calendar and react accordingly.
Q: Zak, any permanent circuits here in the US that you would like to see Formula 1 race at?
ZB: I don’t think any of them currently, in their current construction, could handle a Formula 1 race, either from a safety or a length of circuit, certainly a Laguna Seca is an awesome race track but I believe it is too short. And then you get into safety. But we have some great race tracks here in America – Road America, Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen – but I don’t think any of them in their current form are suitable for Formula 1.
Q: Toto, your thoughts, please?
TW: Zak is the expert in the US. I think if we were to have three races that sounds good, with Montreal and Mexico City nearby, but no one else better than Stefano is suited to take the right decisions.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Another one for you Toto, just following on from the question to Zak regarding the fan survey and popularity. Does it bother you that Mercedes is down on the popularity list compared to other teams like McLaren?
TW: Obviously you want your team to be number one everywhere but I think it’s the normal evolution that we have expected. We have been very fortunate to win seven times in a row, a tremendous streak of success and it’s clear that in an age where you cheer more for teams that had more difficult times and a little bit of the underdogs and like Zak said they are doing a super job with the drivers also, with Daniel who has been loved for a long time and with Lando doing pretty well, so they deserve to be right up there because the whole package in terms of marketing and social media is just very good. We need to think about what can we do, but you can’t change history and I wouldn’t want to change it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) On the same topic, what do you both think about Ferrari having slipped down to third on this list? Were you surprised and what are your opinions why, please?
TW: I mean, Ferrari is the brand in Formula 1 and has been here since the beginning and will always have great attraction. I think what is interesting to see is that McLaren is just so much bigger in terms of fan attraction and yeah, they need to ask the questions why that is. I couldn’t respond to that. We need to find out for ourselves how we can improve and what needs to be done without jeopardizing the on-track performance that always comes first. But obviously you’d like all of that to perform well.
Q: Zak, we’ll come to Dieter’s question in a minute but why do you think McLaren is so much bigger than other teams, as Toto said?
ZB: All I can really do is speak for how we go about motor racing. We try to be a fun racing team, an inclusive racing team, drivers that are very open and communicate with their fans frequently and often and kind of speak with them, listen to them. So we are just kind of doing our thing and it’s nice to see them react so positively to it. I try to bring a bit of… I’m a huge fan of the sport so I try to bring that to the lens. It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in the grandstands watching the Ayrton Sennas and the Lewises and trying to understand what would get me excited about the sport and we are just trying to provide that experience back to the fans and it seems to be working.
Q: And your thoughts on Ferrari, as per Dieter’s question?
ZB: It’s an unbelievable brand with a rich history in the sport. I don’t follow them so closely to, I think, have a view on what they do and how they engage their fans but they are one of the most famous brands in the world and it’s a snapshot of a moment in time, so I don’t think Ferrari has too much to worry about regarding their popularity.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Toto, just going back to the subject of straight-line speed performance and where the potential gains have come from. After Turkey Christian Horner suggested it might have come from the power unit, here he spoke about what you have potentially been doing with lowering the rear ride height. When you hear them sort of pointing the fingers in a few different places what’s your reaction to that? Does it amuse? Do you roll your eyes? Or do you brush it off as the games that get played in a title fight?
TW: I think we recognise absolutely that this is a sport where competitors will always try to find out whether there is some kind of silver bullet. My experience is that there is no such thing. It is all small gains, marginal gains that are being added and bring performance and we are trying to really comprehend our car better and add performance and lap time and weed out listening too much to the noise.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Zak, a question for you about Pato O’Ward. I came down to McLaren last week and his enthusiasm and excitement for his F1 test was pretty remarkable. How are things going in terms of Pato’s F1 preparations for Abu Dhabi? And as much as his focus may be on Indycar, he did say he obviously has a thought about F1 in the future, so how excited are you to see what he can do in F1 machinery?
ZB: Yeah, Pato is a great talent. He had a great IndyCar season, winning a couple of races and he had a shot at the championship going down to the last race in Long Beach. He is extremely fast. He is quite a big personality. His preparation – he’s been in the simulator – has been very good. He’ll go out in Abu Dhabi… I think it’s important we don’t put too much pressure on him and we’ll see how he gets on. I think he will enjoy it. I don’t think, as he said, that many racing drivers, if you are a formula car driver, Formula 1 is the pinnacle. I am sure he is very excited and will do very well.
Q: Both of your teams have close ties to the US, so after two years away, how good is it to be back racing here and how important is it to be back?
Guenther Steiner: Obviously being back here after having missed out last year, it’s very nice. It’s a good place. It’s very important for the fans. There is a big appetite at the moment in the United states for Formula 1 and we can see that it is almost a full house. Over the whole weekend almost 400,000 people expected, which is a big number if you think about it. It’s fantastic to be back. I think the race track they prepared it, as well, pretty good for us coming back here. It’s very nice to be back here and it’s good for me because I live in America, so no jet lag!
Jost Capito: I was here the last time in 2016, five years ago but it’s the first time for the new owners of Williams. I know it’s just a year since they got into Williams and it’s very important for them, so we have 400 guests over the weekend here and all their companies are invited, so it will be big for us. As Guenther said, Formula 1 is in a moment, there is a big hype in the US and I think Netflix, with Drive to Survive, has a big part of this. And same with the full house, as Guenther also said, nearly 400,000 over the three days is absolutely fantastic and what we see already today on a Friday, I’m not sure when I have ever seen this kind of crowd for a Friday and it’s absolutely fantastic to see. I hope Formula 1 will do a good show over the weekend and it will get even more important and better.
Q: Now Jost, let’s stay with you because while we’re talking all things American, big news this morning, you’ve just signed an American driver to your academy, Logan Sergeant. Just talk us through why you’ve done that?
JC: Yeah, we’re looking… and you know we have the academy and we have to restructure the academy and we want to do more with the drivers and we were looking at what are the upcoming talents and Logan, for sure, is one who is not signed up by any other manufacturer and I think we’ve signed him up for talent, not for being American, so as he’s American, we have American owners and there is no American driver in Formula 1, it’s a perfect fit, especially for us and we expect him to really move on fast and getting involved in the team and I’m absolutely convinced he has a great future.
Q: What’s the programme going to be? Are we going to see him doing some FP1s next year, maybe?
JC: I can’t say that yet because we’re still in the final stages to get this all agreed and sorted out but we will have a good programme for him.
Q: And Jost, while we’re talking drivers, you’ve also spoken highly about Mick Schumacher recently. Just tell us a little bit more? Is he part of your plans for the future, maybe?
JC: Yeah, I was asked what I thought about Mick and maybe because I’m German and he’s German. And I think he’s going a great job, as Guenther can confirm, he’s a great job as a rookie, he gets better and better. I think he’s very confident. I think he’s working hard as well, that’s what I believe, he’s a nice guy and I was asked if he was good enough to be in a winning team. I said definitely, he has, for sure, in the future, he should have the chance to be in a car that can win. Maybe next year, you already have a car that can win. And then the media said, yeah, I’m open door for Williams and I’m very happy and so honoured that the media think if I’m talking about a winning car, they mean the Williams.
Q: Let’s talk about this weekend. How competitive are you going to be here, this weekend, at COTA?
JC: I don’t know yet, it’s too early to say. Especially as George has to start from the back, so…
Q: Tell us about the decision to change his power unit?
JC: I think we’ve seen that many teams have had to change the power unit and we are by far not the first. So we’ve seen this coming, that it has to be done so this is now here.
Q: Guenther, can we start by talking about Mick; his Q2 performance in Turkey? Have you seen him take a step forward recently? Are you confident that he can repeat that kind of pace here this weekend?
GS: I’ve seen that he developed pretty well. He just, as I would say, it’s difficult to show when you have a car like ours at the moment, like we’ve got this year, it’s difficult to show to the public what he can do, but when the opportunity came in Turkey, he took it and he showed what he can do. But it’s not only the driving, I see the whole picture of the driver. It’s not only how fast can he be on a lap, also how handles the situation, to put himself in the position to take advance of a situation. That’s what he did in Turkey. It was unstable conditions with the weather, with the track surface and at the right time, he did the right thing with the team together, but how they worked together, it shows that he always stays calm, there was never a moment of panic, it was just everything was… he was ready for it, you know, and being ready in a situation like this means that he will be ready when you’ve got a better car in any situation, in my opinion. For sure, there will be mistakes be made but he really stepped up in Turkey to get into Q2, because he took… they took together the right decision at the right time and that made me very happy. I was more happy how they did that than the actual lap, how it was, because I know the limitations of the car, so just to take that opportunity was fantastic for the whole team and they can all be proud of it.
Q: Let’s talk about F1 in America. Austin and Miami are on the calendar of course in 2022 with talk of a third race in the future as well. As the only American team on the grid, how can you leverage that increased profile of Formula 1 on this side of the pond?
GS: I think we neglected that a little bit, in the beginning when we came in, because Formula 1 grew very quickly in the last two years, I would say. In the beginning, when we started it was a lot smaller and now it seems… why we didn’t see that coming? I didn’t have a crystal ball telling me but obviously we think this interest, we need to put more emphasis on it to attract sponsors, to get involved more with people from America and I think, as Jost says, there needs to come an American driver, give him a chance… in a good position to do that which is fantastic, which will be the next thing which will happen, an American driver in F1, so we just need to now focus a little bit more on the United States and do a better job than we did before, but I wouldn’t say we did a bad job, it was just that the market wasn’t there and now there is a market here, there is a big demand for Formula 1 so hopefully we can get a little bit of something out of it.
Q: And there’s a lot of speculation surrounding Michael Andretti potentially involved with a team. Would you welcome the arrival of the Andretti name in the sport?
GS: Yeah, as you said, there’s a lot of speculation. I don’t know any more than you, I guess, so I have no issue with… if Andretti brings in an investor which brings another American team to the grid, I’m fine with that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To both please. Given the situation that F1 finds itself in, the growth of the championship, budget cap, fairer financial distribution amongst the teams, everything that’s going on; has there been a better time to own an F1 team than now and do you agree with Toto Wolff’s suggestion that F1’s on the verge of every team on the grid being a profit-making team?
JC: Yeah. I don’t know if there haven’t been better times because I haven’t been in Formula 1 all the time, since Formula 1 exists, but I think when you look at the recent times, I think with the cost-cap situation, with the various races, with the new races, Formula 1 has a great opportunity and if they take to it right and the teams do it right, I think there is a good chance for the teams to be profitable in the future.
GS: What Jost said is completely right. I think there is, in the history which I know, in which I was involved in racing, I think this is the best time and I would agree with Toto that if you do a good job here, the aim of our business should be to make a profit, that is why you do business and I think there was never a better time than now to do this and also the value of a team, there is never a higher value than now for a team. I see it positive and I would just say that Liberty Media, since they took over, they really pushed hard the business aspect because they know a profitable business is here to stay, because a business which is losing money after a while, I always say, you run out of money or you run out of passion, one of the two, so then you stop and then you get into this… the teams not being worth a lot of money but I think it’s a very good time, at the moment for all the teams.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Jost, there’s a lot of talk about 23 races in next year’s calendar being a bit of a stretch for people and their families involved. I do remember that Cyril Abiteboul suggested, a couple of years ago, that probably doing less races would be worth considering, in terms of people not looking worn out and exhausted on TV and creating more exclusivity for individual events and creating more promoter fees from individual events by the rules of the market. Do you think that that’s an approach worth considering or does Formula 1 need to grab the opportunity that is there at the moment with both hands, with as many events as possible? And Guenther, if you want to add something, but I think I’ve heard you on this before.
JC: Yeah, I think Formula 1 has to grab the opportunities with both hands and it doesn’t mean as many races as possible. I think they could have 40/50 races and for sure that’s a bit too much but when you say that 23 races and compared to the races before, we have to see that when I’ve been in Formula 1 before there were 40 tests and there was part of a test team but also part of the race team went to the various tests and there was no curfew and the guys worked 24/7 and I am convinced, Formula 1, at that time, to work in Formula 1 was harder than it is now.
GS: I think Jost ganged up with Franz Tost, saying 40 races a year!
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To both team principals; If we have a look at the Middle East, at the moment, this year, we have four races in a radius of about 1,000kms, in Europe it’s eight races within a 1,000kms. The North American continent, this year, will have three races within probably 5,000km radius. What do you believe is the right level of events within the entire northern American continent and where should they be, please?
GS: Phew, that’s a question, Dieter, to give a number to what is the right event. I think you shouldn’t take this season and last year’s season where we had this event… more events in some places than others because of the pandemic but in a non-pandemic year I think for sure, North America can have up to five races in total.
Q: Any particular areas? Tracks? Cities?
GS: No, I wouldn’t go… I don’t know who is out there, who wants a race and so on so I couldn’t, but for me North American is not so many places, but five, I think, is fine.
b I think Formula 1 has to go where the market is but also Formula 1 lives through TV, I don’t think it’s that important where the races are, it’s more important how the communication is, how the broadcast is and how interesting the races are. But I agree with Guenther, so three to five races in North America and then in South America coming to this so in North and South America could end up in being five to seven races and I think that is fine. Also the races in the Middle East are fine. And as Guenther said, you can’t have this year and last year as a normal year because race locations had to be done because of the pandemic situation, where we had, in a couple of places, two races one after the other. This is not a normal situation but I think Formula 1 has done an outstanding job last year in getting this number of races, getting 17 races in the calendar where most every other sporting event were cancelled and we did an absolutely outstanding job and this year, again, if we get the 22 races in the box it’s fantastic.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Guenther, Max Verstappen, this week, was quite outspoken against the Netflix Drive to Survive series. He said ‘that they fake a lot of stuff’ and he has decided not to take part in any interviews this year. As someone who has figured quite prominently in this series, to say the least, I just wondered how you felt the way you’ve been portrayed in this series over the past couple of seasons and whether you feel any more could be done, perhaps, overall, with regards to Netflix?
GS: I’ve said a few times I haven’t watched it Ian and that’s the truth, so I don’t know how I portray in it so I don’t have an opinion on that, but I would have an opinion if Max doesn’t want to take part in it, it is his decision and I would critique that. It’s free to participate or not and he decided not to so we shouldn’t get an opinion or be opinionated about it. And if he feels he wasn’t portrayed right, it’s his full right not to take part in it . Obviously the fans are missing out of seeing Max because I think he’s a first of all a good driver and he’s a character, he’s a personality but if he doesn’t want to take part that’s part of his life but to answer your primary question, how I feel about that, I don’t really know.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Guenther, I guess last year particularly, maybe the start of this year, one of the main issues for the team has been the lack of performance on the engine side. We’ve seen the step Ferrari has made, especially with the upgraded hybrid system they’ve had on the car the last couple of races and I know you haven’t got access to that this year but with what you know about what they’re planning for next year, what you’re seeing on track with this new hybrid system, how much of a step are you expecting from the new Ferrari power unit in 2022?
GS: I think we chose not take the hybrid system because even that step would have not helped us, not done a lot for us but I see a positive, because obviously this would be the hybrid system, a system for next year which we should really look forward for it. They have done a lot of work on the ICE as well. I was with Gene Haas in Maranello before Monza and they showed us what they have done. How good it is always difficult to say. It’s the same with the car. Even if their engine is good and the other engines are super good, they are still behind so I think they put the right amount of effort in to make a better engine and next year they have to be equal to all the other engines out there or hopefully even better.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Guenther you say you were in Maranello with Gene Haas around Monza time. I’m sure you went to Ferrari but I’m also pretty sure you went to go and have a look at your design and engineering office and manufacturing facility for your new car for next year etc. Are you now in a position to give us an idea of how much of that car for next year will be Dallara and how much of it will be Ferrari? The Ferrari-run consultancy that you’ve got under contract.
GS: It’s neither Ferrari nor Dallara, it’s a Haas car, Dieter. I’ve explained that a few times. We’ve got people working at Ferrari which are all employed by Haas and they are not managed or run by Ferrari because that’s also legally or by the regulations not allowed to do and at Dallara, we still have got about 30 people working exclusively for us and then sometimes we round them up when you get to the end of the year or the beginning of next year, when the work load is getting high, we throw in more people and that’s the advantage of Dallara, they’ve got good people there and you just can go into the resources and you don’t have to hire people for the full year. I would say about 30 Haas people at Dallara, it’s about 70/80 Haas people at the Maranello office.