FIA team principals press conference - Netherlands
PART ONE - TEAM REPRESENTATIVES
Franz TOST (AlphaTauri), Guenther STEINER (Haas), James VOWLES (Williams)
Q: Guenther, how was the break? Busy with driver contracts or was that already sorted before you went on holiday?
Guenther STEINER: Break was good, as normal too short, for all of us but no, the driver contracts, they were sorted before. I mean, it was… obviously when we got back, we got them signed and all the legal stuff done, but that was not a difficult bit of work, you know? There’s a lot more things to do which are more difficult than signing the drivers.
Q: Tell us a little more about Nico and Kevin. What makes them such a good pairing?
GS: I think we are, with the drivers, in a good place at the moment. And I always said, after our bad seasons, we need to build-up again. And I think we have got two solid drivers. Obviously Nico, we never worked with him before, but he fitted in very well with the team. He’s an asset to the team, like Kevin, and it was a very easy decision, what we are going to be doing. They both fit in, they just like what they are doing. Nico is happy to be back in F1. They are helping us to develop the team again, which was always the aim: to have two experienced drivers, just to keep on building the team. Because at the moment, our weakest part is the car. We need to have a better car and we are working on it, and they are actively involved in that, and they enjoy it. I don’t have to ask them for their input, they really want to know what’s going on and they both are confident that we can get it sorted out, that we are getting back where we want to be. So, I think the relationship on a personal level is good with both of them, so on the driver-side it’s all good. A lot of other things to do.
Q: When you were planning for 2024, was anyone else in the reckoning, or was it always going to be Hülkenberg and Magnussen?
GS: No, the aim was to keep them for stability. Once we saw, when Nico came back after three races, we knew that he was back at his best, so I never had any talks with anybody else.
Q: And would you say this is the strongest driver-pairing Haas has ever had?
GS: You can never say that because the circumstances change. You don’t have the same car, you’re not having the same opponents, so it’s difficult to say, but we are having a very strong one and for sure maybe it’s as good as we had before or even better.
Q: Now, you’ve said the biggest issue is the car, not the drivers. Let’s talk a little bit about the car now and what your goals are for the rest of this season. You’re tied on 11 points with Williams. Are you confident that you can beat Williams come season’s end?
GS: No, I’m not confident. They are doing very well. At the moment we are tied on points but they’re in front of us. Our aim is to do the best job possible with what we have got every weekend. To get the best out of it. And I think we, most of the time, have achieved it. We just need to get our pace better. We are working very hard and hopefully we can get to a stage in this season that we put a big upgrade on that will give us the direction for next season. That is the aim for us, that we understand where we need to go for next season. It’s no point to do something, going in a direction and then waiting to find out until Bahrain – because then it’s again too late. So, I think that is one of the aims of doing it now. Obviously time is now an issue because there are 10 races left and only four months in the calendar year – or three months of racing, not even four months – so, we are trying to do our best, and everybody is working very hard in Italy on this. Everybody is on it, we need to fix this and is positive about it. Obviously now we need to get it sorted. But even if we don't achieve what we want to achieve, I think we make a step towards what we want to be in the future. Even if the result is not immediately a positive one, at least we know what is possible and can build on that one. So, it’s a lot of things going on at the moment. So, as I said, having the drivers’ signing out of the way is a good thing and now we need to work on the next one, which is the car.
Q: You talk about an upgrade. When can we expect to see that later this year?
GS: I don’t make any promises, because otherwise, every time, every time, everybody asks me every race, ‘when is the upgrade coming?’ ‘how is the upgrade doing?’ So, we try to do it as soon as possible, hopefully in the middle of the 10 races left.
Q: And final one from me. Thoughts on the remainder of this weekend at Zandvoort. What did you learn in FP1? How confident are you?
GS: The track improved a lot over the session. We did a lot of testing because we have got a new front wing here. And also we went out there and did different set-ups of the front wing, just to get data, so at the moment it looks good. I don’t really have a feel for what is happening yet after FP1. It’s always difficult after FP1 to forecast what will happen on the weekend, so nothing different here in Zandvoort than anywhere else.
Q: Franz, Yuki’s 10th place at Spa, just before the break, gave AlphaTauri a timely lift. With that in mind, what are your goals for the second half of this 2023 season?
Franz TOST: To score more points than one. Of course the target is that we are within the first 10, to score points. I think that the performance of the car improved in the last two or three races and there are coming some other upgrades and I hope together with Daniel and Yuki that we can continue to score points.
Q: What are the limitations of this car?
FT: It’s still a little bit the aerodynamics. We have too little downforce and therefore many times we overheat the tyres, especially the rear tyres, and I hope now we can find solutions to prevent this. The aero team is going in the right direction and I’m quite optimistic for the future.
Q: Daniel Ricciardo has been with the team for a couple of races already. What has his feedback been about this car?
FT: His feedback is quite positive. He feels good in the car and, of course, there are some deficiencies, otherwise he would be in front – but I think that with this real valid feedback which we get from Daniel we can make further steps on the development side, because he is very experienced and he has already given us a lot of important information about the car behaviour and engineers are working on this now.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about Daniel and the two races so far. How well has he done?
FT: I think he has done a very good job because we must not forget that he was out of the car for a long time and when he came back, he immediately felt quite familiar with the team, because he knew many people from the past and also, regarding the car, he is getting a better feeling now and already today, after the FP1, he gave us really good feedback and I think this will help us also for the next races.
Q: And how is the dynamic between Yuki and Daniel different to the dynamic between Yuki and Nyck before?
FT: The dynamic is quite similar, because Yuki has a good relationship with Daniel, as well as he had with Nyck. And from this point of view, I must say we have a really good relationship between the drivers.
Q: OK, what about Zandvoort this weekend? What can we expect from you guys?
FT: I expect one car in Q3 and the other car at the front part of Q2.
Q: Which driver is going to do which?
FT: I don’t care about this.
Q: James, let's come to you now. The break offered everyone in Formula 1 a chance to reflect on the opening 12 races of the season. What conclusions did you draw? Because it has been quite a year for you so far?
James VOWLES: I think the first conclusion I came to is that the team… I'm very proud of what the team has achieved. They've come from several years of really being punished and not achieving a terrible amount, and their heads are lifted high, they're responding to the direction of travel that we're going into and oddly, you can see the start of a cultural change as well, that’s happening. A culture doesn't change overnight. It doesn't change even in six months. It's years’ worth of work. But the facts are the team is ready to change. And that's one of the things I'm proud of them for. And I think, you know, there's points we've left on the table but for the most part, we've picked up every point that we could so far. Where we are, tied up with Haas, I think is a fantastic position, a position that we would have dreamed of before the season started. Where we go from here though, is this is the start of the journey and what I'm more excited by is the next few years rather than the last few months.
Q: On a personal level, what lessons have you learned about Formula 1 as a team principal that you didn't know before?
JV: There's many. It would take this entire press conference for me to probably summarise them but I'd be disappointed if I'm not continuously learning through this journey, every single month, every single year and be disappointed if you didn't ask me that question in one year time, and I still didn't answer, ‘I'm still learning every day’. The largest thing is this: you move from running small teams, even large teams, to an organisation, and they're very different requirements. There's not one single day where you're focused on the same thing. Typically you are in about 10 to 12 different meetings, each one of those on different subjects: it can be drivers, marketing, what’s happening in Las Vegas, engineering, performance, aerodynamics. And it's exciting. It's interesting, it'll keep you on your toes the whole time. And I think that dynamic and the ability to have to cover-off so many subject areas so quickly was… nothing can really train you for it until you’re in it.
Q: Now you've been quoted as saying the focus at the factory now is on 2024. Is that the case?
JV: Yeah, the car we have, that’s it. Unlike Haas, who I think are a fierce adversary, a fierce fight, we don’t have anything more coming for the remainder of the year. So, we have to try and pick up the points that are going to be available to us when they're going to be available to us. The focus – and not just now, but actually from a while back – has been on ’24, and actually part of the focus on ’25 and on ’26 as well. At the moment, we're in a fierce battle for this 10th, ninth, eighth, seventh. I want the team, for them, and for me as well to be in a fierce battle for positions above there. And you can't do that by continuously developing what you have at the moment. You do that by thinking forward into the future, and that will have a cost associated with it, potentially even going backwards for a year, but to go forwards again in the future.
Q: But given that the regulations are not changing very much over the winter, is there merit in pushing with what you've got now?
JV: Not with where we are. There's too much that we're changing, as a fundamental, and you can't do the two things at the same time. I’d much rather focus on breaking systems and rebuilding them rather than trying to make do.
Q: Can we talk about drivers now? Alex Albon: there's been an increasing amount of interest in him. And you've worked with some of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1. How high should Alex aim?
JV: His message I think was on point, which is he should be aiming for winning races and being on the podium. He has the potential and he frankly deserves to be in that position. But more so that's a journey he's happy to do with Williams, whilst we're on the pathway towards it at the same time. And I think that's the perfect summary of that situation. He's a racing driver coming to the peak of his career, he should absolutely be focused on doing the best he can with his God-given ability, while it still exists. But his lifecycle is 10… I mean, if you look at Fernando, it's 13 years that he has in front of him. He has a good amount of time in front of him now. But I'd be disappointed if any team-mate joined me and said ‘all I'm interested in doing is scoring the odd point’. They shouldn't. They should be focused on winning races and performing at the utmost.
Q: OK, final one for me. Logan Sargeant, what's he got to do to stay with the team next year?
VW: It's ultimately… Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sport. It's a fierce competition. It's a meritocracy. You have to earn your place there. He has to keep developing and moving forward. It needs improvements on consistency, which I’ve said through the season. The gap to Alex needs to remain the same and shrink over time. If we take a step back, we've put Logan in a situation where he came straight out of F2, had a day and a half of testing… Good luck, you’re a Formula 1 driver. And, I think, when I reflect on this year, this is probably more difficult than any other year I’ve been in the sport for throwing someone in at the deep end and allowing them the time to catch-up. We didn’t do any running in previous Williams cars, that was it. His time here is his time here. There’s elements where he keeps growing and finding performance and improvements, and performance under pressure. That’s what we’re looking for. The rate of learning has to increase now. He’s aware of all of that, and I think he has a huge maturity beyond his years. He knows that in front of him is a career and a journey that’s within his power to control. And our job is to support him on that journey rather than punish him.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) It’s a question for James, just on the focus for next year’s car, where does the leadership and direction for the car concept and design come from – because obviously there was a change at the end of last year with the technical leadership and on the aerodynamic side, so how has that complicated development through this year and then how do you work on changing the car for next year?
JV: Yeah, obviously good question. Pat [Fry] won’t be here with us in time to really have an influence on certainly the early elements of next year’s car. I’ve formed a group of individuals, which includes some strong people from aerodynamics, Dave Warner, who’s acting as our interim technical director, myself as well, Dave Robson who’s here at the track. And effectively it’s not the optimum way of doing it but there are a group of individuals that are basically agreeing the direction of travel that we should be going in. All of us sensible decision-makers but it means we’re united in our view of where we’re going. And I think thus far, to a certain extent, what you see right now has been the formation of that, and it’s in the right direction of travel but clearly it’s not a long-term solution. The long-term solution is having Pat come in and basically have a lot more hold on the reins of that direction of travel. But what I needed more than anything else when I joined was having the ability to link up all of the parts of the organisation so we’re pushing in the same direction, which is now what’s happening – and I’m comfortable it’ll produce a sensible step as we go through it.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Franz, it’s a question for you please. Laurent Mekies has now left Ferrari, could you give an update on his start-date with AlphaTauri and what the transition process is going to look like for him taking over as team principal?
FT: First of January, 2024.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Total-motorsport.com) Question to all three of you. We’ve seen Robert Shwartzman out on track today doing an FP1. When will you guys put a young driver in for a free practice? Have you got everyone lined up or are you still deciding on who goes and who doesn’t.
FT: Abu Dhabi, Isack Hadjar.
GS: Mexico and Abu Dhabi.
JV: I’m going to add more words, just to fill it out a little bit. From our perspective, Logan’s already completed his requirement to do so, and then we’ll be looking towards the end of the year, most likely Abu Dhabi for the second, still in discussion who it is. We have a number of junior drivers, I want to see how they perform across the Monza weekend. And we have other options on the table as well.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question for Franz and James, as Guenther has affirmed, he’s stuck with experience and you’re talking about Logan needing to find consistency. With more Sprint races, when there’s only one practice session, with a cost cap, is it harder and harder to stick by a young driver, or introduce young drivers when it seems more and more geared towards experience and a safer pair of hands?
JV: I would say yes. That’s what I meant by… on reflection, and I didn’t realise this in January, but on reflection, now that I have Logan as a part of the team, you look back as to how we are now with an ATA format, Sprint race format, wet weather as well, appearing pretty much most weekends and you’re in a situation where their learning cycle is significantly reduced, relative to what I knew five, 10, 15 years ago. I think it’s probably worthy of a rethink at certain levels as to what we can do to help drivers in that circumstance – because ultimately, we will get ourselves into a position where we are not adding new drivers at the rate we want to – or you have to give them so long in the car that you’ll compromise your performance. That’s a longer-term discussion than obviously this press conference here.
FT: It will become much more difficult for rookie drivers to come into Formula 1 than it was a couple of years ago. Why? Because first of all, the field is very, very close together. For a second, on the financial side, 10, 15 years ago, you got maybe for the tenth position, $20-$30million US dollars. Nowadays, you get $70, $80, $90 million. That means there’s a big difference and I think the direction will go the way that you try to have experienced drivers in the team because otherwise you’re in the back of the Constructors’ Championship, and apart from this, with the new race mode we have six Sprint races which means only FP1 and then already you have the Qualifying. This is everything a big disadvantage for your rookie drivers. If you want to bring in a young driver, you have to prepare him in the best possible way – which means to do minimum five to six thousand kilometres the year before, with private tests, and then it must be really high-skilled drivers otherwise it’s really difficult for them, because, don’t forget, at the beginning of the season, they don’t know the race tracks. Most of them have never been in Melbourne, in Miami, in Saudi Arabia. All of the second half of the season is a problem with Singapore, Japan, Austin, Mexico, São Paulo, Qatar, they all don’t know these race tracks because they are racing in Formula 2 and most of these races are in Europe, and therefore, once more, if you will want to bring in a rookie driver, you really have to prepare him in the best possible way, otherwise, no chance.
Q: Franz, you’ve worked with so many drivers, on the topic of not knowing a race track, how long does it take a driver to learn a new track?
FT: The driver knows the new track immediately but the circumstances are different. For example, if they go out in FP1, you have a track temperature of let's say 35 degrees, and then in qualifying 40 degrees. In Qualifying, maybe you have side wind or headwind or whatever, this changes everything. And this makes it so difficult and the performance of the teams is on such a high level, the cars are so close together that hundredths of a second decide about different positions. This makes it difficult. The driver knows the racetrack and the corners after, let me say, 30 minutes of driving because he knows it from Formula 3 from Formula 2 and also from the simulator. But to get the most out of the tyres, to get most out in the Qualifying exactly at this lap, this needs experience. And you can tell the driver whatever you want, he has to experience this. In which angle to go over the kerbs, when to brake, how to turn in – these very special things. Here in Zandvoort, for example, it depends where the wind is coming for tomorrow, in the Qualifying, where some sand is coming in there, you have to take attention of this. And this you can only get during the different years and this is the experience which the rookie drivers miss.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) For all three of you. We're still waiting for the result of the tyre tender. Speaking theoretically, if there is a change for 2025, what would be the positive for the sport? What would be the challenges? Do you have concerns, for example on how the initial testing would work?
GS: Yeah, for sure. If a new tyre supplier comes there is some difficulties there. I think the main thing is technically, these tyres, I think they're very technically challenging to make, and if you start with not having done F1 for a long time, like one of the supplier hasn’t, how do you go through a test programme, a very expensive test programme, because the only way to test these tyres, really, is on a current F1 car, with the downforce we have got right now. So I don't know how these problems have been addressed in the tender or how they came back with, as I'm not privileged to see that and I don't need to, because I know there are people qualified to do that looking at it. So if it comes, there's, for sure, a lot of questions [to be] asked, because for sure the big teams will volunteer to do this testing, but then the other big teams will complain that the other ones get an advantage. So, it's a spiral, which… I don't know, I mean, I think in my opinion, we wait until it is decided who is getting the tyre contract for the next years and then we see if you have got a problem or not. But I think it will not be easy if there is a new one.
JV: My thoughts are that we will be supportive, whichever direction we choose as a sport. If it does change, clearly it requires some amount of testing that has to be done. And that will fall to the responsibility of teams. I think Guenther summed it up perfectly, though. The technical challenge to produce tyres for a modern day Formula 1 car is extraordinary. It's not as easy as it was, perhaps 20 years ago. The downforce we're now producing is orders of magnitude, almost, higher. But again, there's a whole process behind it, FOM and the FIA, and in their process we trust. I'm sure they're taking into account all the difficulties and the pros and the cons both ways.
FT: First of all, it's good that there are two tyre suppliers who want to provide us with tyres because this brings us additional money and brings FOM in a good situation. From the technical side, I think a new supplier is quite late now with this decision. But anyway, fortunately, that's not my problem.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazine.com) A question to all three of you. Since last year, we get this list from the FIA with all the updates, aero updates, obviously. Until the summer break, there were huge differences between the teams in terms of quantity of updates. Of course, quantity isn’t quality. But for example, Haas had, I think 14 updates, AlphaTauri had 41 updates. Why do you think there are such big differences between the teams? Is it just how you declare these things? Are there different approaches in how you bring updates? What is your explanation for that?
FT: Our car was unfortunately not competitive enough at the beginning of the season, therefore, we have to push very, very hard to catch up. And this is the reason why we are bringing as many upgrades as possible just to get that direction, because as you know, there are no tests anymore and to find the correct technical line and way [forward] you have to put it on the car and then you have to use maybe some races as well as a test to get, hopefully, the right direction for the future.
GS: We just didn't find any performance and therefore we didn't put any upgrades on, because just to put the upgrades on to show something is not worthwhile, you know, you need to invest your money and therefore, we continue along to develop our car this year. I think it all makes sense, listening to Franz and myself here, why there is a difference, you know. There is not, like, just nobody puts upgrades on just to put them on. There is a reason behind. And if you have no performance upgrade… it should mean performance. If you have no performance, no point to put an upgrade on.
JV: I think from our perspective, you hit the nail on the head before when you say quantity isn't quality, necessarily. But in our particular circumstance, in Montreal, which was a very large update, nearly every surface of the car was changed. So, you basically can either invest in doing something like that, which is an enormous change to the car, or you can do small updates to floor edges to rear wings to front wings to other elements of the car. So, I think just on the quantity, what you should hopefully be more seeing is that different teams are moving forward or backwards relative to each at other different rates. That's an indicator of exactly what Guenther was talking about. When you have performance, you'll put that in the form of an upgrade and put it on the car. And they can sometimes be big sometimes be small, it’s the performance upgrade in terms of the delta that's important.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) For all three of you. Picking up on the young driver debate, and Franz, your point about the need for experienced drivers. Are we at an era now where the pay driver past we've had an F1, where a driver comes and says ‘here’s a wedge of money and I'll get a seat’, are we further away than ever from that now, given the commercial boom that F1’s enjoying, the cost cap and things like that, is there no longer so much of a need for some teams to maybe go down that path?
FT: The pay driver is out. Because, first of all, most of the time, the pay driver is not the fastest one and the FIA, with the Super licence, stopped this. That means a driver can only come into Formula 1, if he is successful in Formula 3, winning the championship in Formula 2, whatever, to get the points he needs for the super licence. Nevertheless, it can be that the driver gets the Super Licence is fast and brings a sponsor, this is the best what can happen to the team. And it's always welcome.
GS: I think the other thing you have considered in addition to what Franz says, which is 100% right is that in the old days, you had teams which were financially not stable. Now we've got 10 very solid teams here, you know. So nobody needs to rely on a pay driver right now, because Formula 1 is in such a good spot with 10 teams, which are all stable. So it is more difficult to get into. But as Franz said, the ideal situation is you have got a driver which has got the Super Licence points because he is good, actually, and he has got a sponsor behind him. And I think that is the direction in which we’re going. If somebody has got the talent, so he can get the Super Licence, and then he brings a sponsor that will bring us in. But I think we are in a transition into that way. Just paying your way in, not being good, it doesn't work, for two reasons: the teams don't want that, because as explained again by Franz before, now the Constructors' Championship position is more important than having a driver bringing you a little bit of money, therefore you go on something you know, and you need to be good to get into F1. And if you have got some sponsor you will have a chance. But if you're not good enough, you will not get in here anymore.
JV: Yeah, summarised well by Franz and Guenther. In the Constructors' Championship, the gaps between all three of us here on this sofa is, at times, milliseconds. So you want to have drivers in the car that are – it's a meritocracy – performing at their utmost. So this is not about just bringing in a few million in order to satisfy the bottom line. The few million comes from the Constructors' Championship by making a step relative your peers. So that's been a positive change, I think, for the sport. Now, also what you're seeing is individuals, including ourselves, we're investing right down at the level of karting and paying for drivers to come up through, but the point is the investment is there from teams right at the junior levels in order to bring up and form a meritocracy, so that by time they come to us they're experienced individuals. So it's not that rookie drivers are dead, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I think this concept of taking a few million to put someone in the car is not the way that we can perform these days, otherwise you'll fall back.
PART TWO - TEAM REPRESENTATIVES
Enrico CARDILE (Ferrari), Paul MONAGHAN (Red Bull Racing), Tom McCULLOUGH (Aston Martin)
Q: Tom, can we start with you, please? We've just had the summer break, we've had a chance to reflect. What is your assessment of Aston Martin's season at the halfway stage?
Tom McCULLOUGH: Reflection is the right word, we did a bit ourselves, speaking with Fernando and Lance, prior to the break, and again, after the break. Reflection on what we've achieved, really, looking at where we were last year, how strong we have been the first half of this year to be fighting for the podiums we've been fighting for, to be fighting solidly, really, for P2 in the Constructors’ if we're being honest, with Red Bull a bit of a level ahead at the moment. But, overall, strong first half of the year and really looking forward to the second half of the season.
Q: Undoubtedly a huge shift from where you were last year, but there was a change in the pecking order as we got closer to the summer break, with Aston slipping back. How do you explain that?
TMcC: It's never one thing. And it's a relative game. Obviously, some teams came back strong who maybe weren't as strong to start off with. We're forever developing our car, bringing new parts of the car, which sometimes just bring base overall performance, with no characteristic changes, sometimes they bring a bit of a characteristic change. Sometimes you go to tracks that suit your base package, more or less. We've actually changed the sort of aggressiveness of development in certain areas. And you know, sometimes you push things harder, not as hard. And I think the races just prior to the shutdown, with introducing a few more parts, and the correlation of those parts gave us a lot of confidence at the back end of the first half of the season, and again, an evolution of those parts here again this weekend, and going forwards, still trying to push quite hard between now and the end of the year.
Q: But Tom, how did the drivers’ feedback about the car change during those opening 12 races? Did it change as we got closer to races 11 and 12?
TMcC: I think with any race driver, when he looks at the time sheet and he's near the front, he's happy, even when you look at your data and you think that’s doesn’t look very nice. And sometimes when you're a bit further back, and you're happy with the data, and the driver’s not happy because he’s further back as well. So for us, it's about understanding the car on track and understanding our weaknesses relative to other people and just trying to carry on developing as hard as we can do.
Q: Now, the car is clearly good. But you mentioned the word weaknesses. Where are the limitations?
TMcC: That depends track to track, you know, and also the car has evolved a reasonable amount during the year. I think overall, at the start of the year, I mean, our DRS switch and our efficiency was maybe a little bit not as competitive. That's an area we have improved during the year. I think prior to the shutdown and the parts we've got here, a lot of that has been aimed at getting back to the level where we're pretty happy across the whole speed range. So low-speed to high-speed corners, as well as good efficiency and DRS switch. So really, you’re always trying to address your weaknesses. They're all relative, you know. The drivers sometimes have been quite happy with the car even though we're not as competitive as you want to be. But you look at the data and you see where other teams are a bit stronger and you think ‘right, well, is it the car, is it the tyres, the driver, the control systems, the whole lot?’ It's very complicated and we just try to develop the car as hard as we can do.
Q: And how does someone like Fernando, with all of his experience, help in a situation like that?
TMcC: We looked at him from outside when he was at Alpine and then we obviously you know him for years, having been in the paddock. You listen to his radio comms. He's obviously at a very high level and he’s pretty impressive as a driver. Actually, working with him is even double that nearly you know. He's so motivated. He's so hard working, his preparation, his questions. He knows to ask the right questions too. I often say the drivers are one of the best sensors in the car. And you know, he's definitely one of those. You've got all your data, you're trying to correlate, develop, work hard understand the very complex world that we live in, if you think about the tyres, the aerodynamics, everything else that's going on, and he has an ability to really, really understand that and to help you. He helps you on the big picture stuff, whether you're developing a car, race weekend execution, strategy… The smaller stuff is important too, you know, you need to be doing this to get good pit stops. You need to be this for a start, you know. His work ethic is second to none. We're really enjoying working with him. Even when we haven't been as competitive, he's been super supportive and strong, and he knows that now he can still do very well in this championship.
Q: Did you get any texts from him while you're on holiday?
TMcC: I turned my phone off and spent two weeks on the beach.
Q: The weekend has started well for you. How confident are you of continuing that?
TMcC: You say it started well, but it wasn't a straightforward session for us. Obviously, we had a few issues in the garage. We didn't get Lance out at all to do a timed lap. So, on that side of the garage, it was pretty poor. Even for Fernando, we had a few issues. We managed to get through the aero test programme, the rakes, the bits and bobs we wanted to do. But we run quite late on track, which always helps you a bit with track evolution. But yeah, early days. I think recoverable for Free Practice 2, that's the key. We understand the issue with Lance's power unit and it had to come off the chassis and it's already back on the car. And I'm hoping for more straightforward Free Practice 2.
Q: Alright. Best of luck for the rest of the weekend. Paul, coming to you now. What a season you guys are having. A record 12 wins already with more records set to tumble. What is it about the RB 19 that's proved so effective?
Paul MONAGHAN: It's lap time would be the obvious thing to say, wouldn't it? We're in a very privileged position and it's a testament to all the hard work that's gone in, many hundreds of people in Milton Keynes, that its weaknesses are less than those of our competitors, it would seem. We're blessed with two very good drivers. And one of them, obviously, his confidence is sky high. He's pretty resolute. And I guess you could say that our ducks are lined up in a row presently. And we've been a little bit fortunate perhaps in the first half of the season. Occasionally, we didn't get the best out of ourselves, but it was still enough that we could get home. So it's, yes, a privileged season to enjoy, isn't it?
Q: Tell us a little bit more about the car? What is its greatest strength?
PM: I would say everything with it. If you look, we're blessed with a very strong engine, two very good drivers. You were asking Tom what the weaknesses of their car are and our probably are similar characteristics, we just do it with a slightly quicker lap time. And you chip away and chip away and try… There's no complacency. It's not as if we're resting on our laurels or anything like that. We’ve still got 10 races to go, 500 points in the Constructors Championship. But ultimately, we're blessed with a very competent car, different circuits, different downforce levels, different speed ranges – Monaco to Spa. It’s weaknesses are not such that we can go to one track thinking we might get a win and other tracks we're going to struggle. We don't fear them as such.
Q: You've won so many races and championships with Red Bull. Is this the best car you've ever had in your time at the team?
PM: I've not really made that comparison, actually. You tend to deal with the immediacy of this and I think maybe if we get to the end of the season, and we've remained as successful, then maybe you look back and think ‘wow, that was really quite something’. But when you're in it, you don't look at it as such. Each race, they come up on fairly quick succession, we've got one next weekend haven't we, and maybe it's an avoiding complacency, certainly there's no discussion in the team as to… this one's a really good one, it's better than that one. None of that happens. We're in the fight. We're in the thick of it. It'll be a challenge again this weekend and next weekend. So it's not a moment to look back and think ‘that was a good one or not such a good one. Did we do well? Did we make fewer mistakes?’ It's not a point for consideration presently.
Q: How much does this unbeaten record weigh on your shoulders and everyone in the team?
PM: Personally not, because… Someone reminded me before this press conference, ‘oh, you're coming up on Seb’s nine in a row.’ Hadn't even thought about it until the chap mentioned it. Because we're in the competitive environment and you're dealing with short-term problems of P1 session, what do we do for P2, P3. How are we going to approach qualifying? What's the weather like? And it would be wrong of us to rest on what we've achieved so far. We want to keep going. And the only way to do that is to treat each race as an individual competition and we've got to push ourselves to get the most out of ourselves the car, the drivers, if we're going to stay ahead of these guys.
Q: Now, Max Verstappen, you've just said that his confidence is sky high. How has he improved from last year?
PM: I think his all-round assuredness is one of his greatest strengths. He can have a bad session, bounces back the next session and he's right on it. He doesn't make many mistakes, does he? That's a pretty good indication of his level of self-confidence. I think his self-belief, his belief in the car and the team is very strong and he’s a fabulous team player. And aren't we lucky to have him.
Q: On the other side of the garage, Checo Pérez, how do you explain his fluctuations in form this year?
PM: The confidence between drivers will ebb and flow. You see it in other teams and you'll see it in our one and don't forget that Checo won in Azerbaijan, didn't he? He stuck it on pole in Miami and then the confidence flowed to Max in the race. So it will bounce between the two. Checo has never been down in the dumps after a race. He might reflect upon it, thinking it wasn't his best race. That's within his right to do so. But he comes back the following race weekend, he's confident, he's chirpy and he's a wonderful element within our team and we will support him with everything we've got.
Q: Does he want something different from the car to Max? Is that where sometimes he might have an issue?
PM: Drivers, in my experience, always want subtle changes or subtle differences across the garage and that's nothing unusual. He's quite close to Max with this car in terms of his set-up preferences and his choices. It makes it a little bit easier going forward with this one. His approach to it is very similar to Max, the differences are so small and with this car I'd say it's perhaps less than 2021 car. So no, in answer to your question, is it broadly different? No, they're very close.
Q: Enrico, welcome to the FIA press conference, great to have you join us. For people who don't know, perhaps you could just maybe introduce yourself and tell us about your time in Maranello? How long have you been at Ferrari?
Enrico CARDILE: So, I'm an aerospace engineer, I joined Ferrari in 2005 on the sports car division working on performance. At the very beginning that was [unclear] management and then from there I did other performance. In 2016, I joined finally the Scuderia as Head of Aero development and from there I progressed up to now.
Q: And I've asked the other two guys on the sofa about the opening 12 races. So can we talk about the first half of the season? What areas of performance have you been pleased with? And where do you feel there's more work to do?
EC: We think that our main weakness is on the aero characteristics of the car, so all the focus since T1 [pre-season testing in Bahrain] when it has been pretty clear that we were not at the level we expected to be, the weakness was coming from there. So all the focus, all the efforts has been since T1 on improving the aero characteristics of the car.
Q: And how does that manifest itself, show itself in terms of on track? What did the drivers say about the car?
EC: We have been lucky because the comments of the driver has been always aligned between sim and track and aligned with the data we gathered from the car. So we can see what we are complaining about. We progressed a bit through the development of this car, improving some characteristics of the car, but the pace we are developing the car is obviously not satisfactory, because we are still far from the blue guys there.
Q: And are you going to continue to develop the car this year or is the focus in Maranello already on 2024?
EC: This year has been crucial for us, to put a lot of effort on this year’s car, to better understand from where the weaknesses were coming, and how to do a better job. So we kept developing the car in the wind tunnel since the summer break. We will bring some updates in the next races but now [in the] wind tunnel we are fully focused on next year’s car.
Q: Now on the topic of next year's car, Fred Vasseur said in a media call on Tuesday that next year's car will be very different. What can you tell us about it?
EC: Not a lot, but it will be very different, because developing this year’s car we realised that some architectural choices we did were not right. It was constraining the development too much. From there next year’s car will not be an evolution of this year’s car like this year’s car has been compared to last year’s car, but it will be a brand new car – different chassis with different design, different rear end to allow our aero [department] to better develop the car to achieve their targets.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) First of all, to Enrico, and probably for the other two as well. You mentioned the pace of development at Ferrari. Since last year, we get a list from the FIA with development parts on the aero side and for the second time in a row, Ferrari was quite far at the end when you just look at the number of updates, I think you had like 14 or 15 until the summer break. The average was like 25. I think Red Bull and Aston Martin had like 25. Do you have an explanation for that, why Ferrari has less updates than the other teams? And to the other two, do you have an explanation why there are so many so big differences between all the teams’ number of updates?
EC: I don't know how you're measuring the number of updates. I didn't count honestly what these guys brought on track. I know what they brought but I never counted them. This year, we brought a lot of stuff and the stuff has been brought also one close to the other, because we revamped completely the car in Spain. We brought a completely new floor in Miami, we revamped completely the car in Spain, we brought another complete floor in UK. So that is our situation. This year we pushed much more than last year.
PM: My initial thoughts, to answer your question, is the number of changes is not indicative of the magnitude of change. So we may alter a floor edge wing and deploy a… You'll see a change for it, but it doesn't mean to say that it's large in its magnitude. The aerodynamic effect is between ourselves. The development race is about your lap time and a qualifying car and a race car and where you finish on Sunday, not necessarily the number (of updates) that we bring so I don't think it's as perhaps as indicative as your suggestion at the moment.
TMcC: Yeah, I really just carry on from what these two gents have said. I think sometimes, actually, the small parts which are a part of another larger part can be quite dominant as well for the performance and ultimately, as Paul was just saying, we're just here to make the cars go as fast as we can do.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Tom, you were talking earlier about the various factors that obviously go into fluctuating performance and place in the pecking order. There was a lot of speculation over the summer break that one of the factors for Aston Martin could have been around the front wing and flexibility and some potential changes in the middle of that first half of the season. Is there any truth to that? What can you say about that suggestion?
TMcC: Yeah, we're always developing the car. We did change the front wing philosophy a little bit from the start of the year, during the year. But that's just part of our constant evolution and development of the car. So no, no big characteristic changes there from our side.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) The FIA has been hiring extra technical auditors to work with Dominic Harlow. Just wondering what you think of that process of FIA people turning up announced and having a look around? Do you think it works? Does it give you confidence that the FIA are on the case in terms of the cost cap and so on?
PM: That was foolish to pick up the microphone, wasn't it! What the FIA do within other teams I cannot comment upon. It is down to us to demonstrate our legality. By the nature of the current regulations, even going back to about 2010 when the aerodynamic testing restriction first came in, it requires the FIA to perform some sort of audit in order to establish that we are legal, so it's gone on for quite some time. Now it's more broad in its scope of investigation, we have this sort of incremental list of parts we have to prove we were observing. We are questioned on cost cap, we are questioned on all sorts of things and as I say, the only way to prove ourselves legal is for the visit. It can be random, it can be planned. I don’t suppose anybody's got anything to hide so we shouldn't fear it. It's a bit inconvenient but that's occasionally life, isn't it?
TMcC: Yeah, Dominic and his team… We've known Dominic for many years and some of his chaps as well and they come in and do their job and the governance is so important, whether it's the financial side, the technical side and you know, nothing to hide so it's part of the job.
EC: At Ferrari we are working with the FIA to be compliant with all the regs. And we trust FIA on their checks. Nothing to add.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Total-motorsport.com) Paul and Tom, Enrico touched upon the fact that now full focus is on 2024 and that it's going to be a completely different car for Ferrari. When will you start focusing on 2024 and will it be an evolution of this year’s car or will it be a blank canvas?
PM: The work on 2024 is well underway. I suppose in the privileged position we find ourselves in, to say it's an evolution is probably a logical conclusion. And there is still some effort in 2023 and that will go on for a little while. Don’t forget, there are lessons we can learn with the current car that will feed into next year. It would be foolish not to take such opportunities and the further we go into the flyaway races that lie ahead of us, the more emphasis will be placed on 2024 car. And at some point, the more and more of the current people that support us through the race weekends will spend more time on ‘24 as needs be. So that's roughly where we are at the moment.
TMcC: Pretty much the same, to be honest. There are some parts… obviously the ‘24 car, you have to start pretty early. The understanding of our philosophy of car really is 18 months old really and continuing, of course, you're always tuning your philosophy to try to be as competitive as possible. There are lessons that we're learning, developing the ‘24 car that we can transfer to the ‘23 car. Obviously, what we see at the track is always weeks, months behind the development side. But we're still trying to develop the car reasonably hard this year, with some parts coming. We're still able to transfer some of the learning from the ‘24 to this year's car. And there's still a lot of races still to go this year.
Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Mr Monaghan, you yourself used to work for McLaren during the ‘90s and you might have been able to witness the impact that Ayrton Senna was making back then. Now do you think that the mania that Max Verstappen is causing, especially over here in the Netherlands, is comparable with the enthusiasm for Senna back then?
PM: Gosh, thank you for reminding me how old I am! I was a mere boy at McLaren at that point so I didn't really enjoy the trackside euphoria around him. Certainly he had a massive presence whenever he visited the factory. So I can't really give you the comparison of trackside then to trackside now. I've been blessed to work with some fabulous drivers in the time and all of them are talented people, different individuals. The euphoria around Max, I see it here with 130,000 people with orange flares and then you can't see anything. So I guess time has changed and people change… and I don't really know how to answer your question to be perfectly honest. I think we should enjoy the sporting icons and relish their presence on the grid.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Enrico, help us out a little bit here. Carlos Sainz sat here yesterday and said that the car we knew wasn't great at the start of the season and we've been scratching our head a lot, race-by-race, and we're not quite sure whether we're going to have a good weekend or a bad weekend. And the more we studied the data, the more confused we seem to get. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the impression he gave. So tell us what's going on at Ferrari? Do you understand this car? Do you understand what's going wrong? And is there a way that you can find to make it better for the season? Or are you just kind of giving up hope a little bit?
EC: For us, it is crystal clear what we did wrong with the car. Which are the weaknesses is clear. It’s not a matter of understanding what we should do. Now, for the future, it’s a matter of delivering a good product which will cope with the targets we have. So, we are not in nowhere land. We know what we have to do. It’s a matter of doing. It’s a matter of finding the right contents of the car, the right architecture or the car to achieve the target. The other point is this car is consistent during the race weekend in terms of behaviour, but sometimes this behaviour changes from track to track. In Hungary, we had a difficult time, in Belgium the performance was back. So sometimes this happens but then during the weekend if the car is consistent we can work on it. On this track we dedicated FP1 to specific tests, to better tune our tool set, to better operate the car this year and to have data to improve the behaviour of the car next year. But I disagree with Carlos virtually.