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FIA Team Principals press conference - Hungary

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MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 16: Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal of Alpine F1 attends the Team

PART ONE - TEAM REPRESENTATIVES

Otmar SZAFNAUER (Alpine), Andrea STELLA (McLaren), Franz TOST (AlphaTauri)

Q: Franz, can we start with you please. The biggest news story coming into the weekend was the return of Daniel Ricciardo to AlphaTauri. How’s he settling in?

Franz TOST: Very good. He came on Friday to the factory. We had a very emotional comeback for him. It was nice to see him once more in our team, because as you know he was driving for us two years, and we are very happy he is back.

Q: He’s 10 years older, he has eight grand prix victories to his name, but other than that how do you feel he’s changed as a person and maybe as a driver as well?

FT: How much he has changed as a driver I can tell you after a few grands prix. As a person, of course he is now more matured and I must say that he was always a very friendly person, we had a very good relationship in the past and I think that this will also be the case now. He is a friendly person, a good character and I’m really happy we have him in the team.

Q: How is Yuki relishing having a new team mate alongside him?

FT: Yuki is open to this, and although Yuki had a good relationship with Pierre Gasly as well as with Nyck De Vries, I think that there will be no friction between him and Daniel Ricciardo: both of them want to be fastest, yes? That’s usual in Formula 1, and we will see how this interesting game will end.

Q: Can we have a word on Nyck De Vries? What is it about his performances in the opening ten races that wasn’t hitting the mark?

FT: This was also a very emotional decision, because we have a really good relationship with Nyck, I just spoke with him on the telephone last week, and he didn’t have an easy time with us. First of all, as a rookie – and this is generally for rookies, also for the future, the first half of the season is not so easy because they are racing at many race tracks which they don’t know, like Melbourne, Miami, Saudi Arabia. Then they come to Baku, where it’s a Sprint race, that means it’s only FP1 and then it’s already the qualifying. That means, nowadays, if a young driver comes to Formula 1, he really has to be prepared in the best possible way, which for me means at least 5-6,000km of testing, private testing with an old car. Like Alpine did it with Piastri, this is the way how to go. Coming back now to Nyck, it was difficult for him, also our car was not so competitive, and if a car is not so good, it’s even more complicated. I expected a much better performance in Austria and in Silverstone because both of these tracks, Nyck knew quite well – but the performance didn’t come up and we decided to change him. Also, thinking to the second half of the season where he doesn’t know Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Austin and Qatar, which would not have made it quite easy. Now, with Ricciardo we have an experienced driver in there, which also helps us to develop the car, to find out better where are the deficiencies of the car and hopefully to improve the performance of the car.

Q: Let’s talk about performance quickly. You had upgrades on the car at Silverstone, further upgrades here at the Hungaroring, what are your hopes for the weekend ahead?

FT: The hopes are that at least one car is in Qualifying 3 and the hopes are that these upgrades work as expected, as the aero group calculated in the wind tunnel and CFD. But you know, decisive is always the lap-time and I hope that we made a step forwards with these upgrades.

Q: Andrea, coming to you now. The MCL60 was incredibly fast at Silverstone. You scored 30 points. Just how important was that race result for McLaren?

Andrea STELLA: It’s obviously a bit of a milestone in our journey. It’s important for McLaren. It’s important for the people that work very hard to develop and deliver these upgrades, and for our fans that finally could cheer a good result and a McLaren on the podium. But, having said that, it doesn’t really change what we are doing. It’s… as I keep saying… it’s all about working harder to deliver upgrades to the car and then let the results come to you and try to have these as regular as possible.

Q: You talk about the work that everybody is doing in the factory. Did that result in some way justify the changes that you’ve made to the technical team in the last few months?

AS: I wouldn’t use the word ‘justification’. I would say that, by having enabled some conditions, especially when it comes… I would remark the aerodynamic development, we have definitely accelerated the development of the car, and this has allowed us to take this performance step and, as we know, we have also taken the opportunity to reorganise, from a functional point of view, the technical department, identifying various areas in which we wanted to have focus and in which we wanted to have clear leadership. So, definitely an important change which has – kind of – enabled the talent that was already available at McLaren.

Q: So second fastest car at Silverstone. Will that pace translate here at the Hungaroring?

AS: I think what we saw in Austria, and in Great Britain comes with some premium. So, it's not only the performance of the car, we took benefit of the track layout, high-speed corners, cold conditions. So, here in Hungary, I think we are much more realistic, because of the track layout, because it will be a hot Sunday. We'll see in qualifying what the weather will do. For here in Hungary, we will be happy with being a solid contender for points, which already means that you are in condition to fight Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes, leaving Red Bull alone. I hear Franz saying ‘we want to be a Q3 contender’, so it's tough. So, we will be happy to be a solid points contender.

Q: Now it was a fantastic race by Lando Norris at Silverstone. But can I ask you about Oscar Piastri? So close to his first podium. Do you understand some of the frustrations he had after that Grand Prix?

AS: Well, I think we all understand because he definitely deserved to be on the podium. And it was just for the unfortunate timing of the Safety Car that he couldn't achieve it. I think, for Oscar, while we see this peak in his result, actually, for us is just confirmation of his trajectory. If we go back even to Bahrain, we were already talking about his progress from session to session, and from testing to the first race as well. I think this is just capitalising on this gradient that seems to be so strong and consistent for Oscar.

Q: After two difficult seasons with Daniel Ricciardo, how has Oscar lifted his side of the garage?

AS: Well, the side of the garage, they kept working in the way with the best practice, with the attention that they’ve had in the previous years. But definitely, it's important from an engineering point of view that you learn as much as possible, having worked with different drivers, having gone through highs and lows. What's important in this sport is that every day you are better than yesterday. So, even in terms of the engineering that supported Daniel and now is supporting Oscar, there's definitely been quite a lot of learning and self-criticism, in a way, which is the way that you actually cash-in the learning from experience.

Q: Andrea, can we just get a word or two from you on the return of Daniel Ricciardo to the grid this weekend. What are your thoughts on that?

AS: Well, actually, I find it quite exciting and interesting. You know, Daniel is, first of all, one of the most popular drivers. Even when he was not driving, we could see, anytime he was on television, you could hear the crowd cheering, so that's good news, I think, for Formula 1 in general. We at McLaren, we left with a very good relationship. We love Daniel. So we definitely support him and we wish him all the best.

Q: Andrea, final one from me. McLaren was involved in the FIA's spray guard test at Silverstone last week. How do you feel it went?

AS: So, first of all, let me remark how important it is that the FIA has taken the initiative to look at how we can improve the situation with the visibility associated with the spray. So that's, I would say, a high priority topic in the agenda for motorsport. And therefore, we welcome this initiative and we’re happy to support the FIA. It looks like we could acquire quite a lot of data that were important to validate the models, because you do a lot of the design based on the development models, especially computer simulation and these days, I think, are invaluable in terms of being able, in the future, to use these tools to fine-tune the design of these devices. And I'm sure through the practicality of the tests, you could learn also, like, can these devices stay all the time on? What is the implication for pit stops, and so on. So, a very important step in trying to improve the situation with the spray.

Q: Otmar, thank you for waiting, coming to you now. Can we start by talking about management changes? There's been a fair bit going on at Alpine, Bruno Famin in coming as vice president of motorsport, then there's a new CEO of the Alpine brand as well. How is all that impacting the Formula 1 team and your management of it?

Otmar SZAFNAUER: So, I'll start with my management of it: shouldn't have an impact whatsoever. I've been there for about a year and a half now and the plans that I've already put in place, we're going to continue to pursue. The infrastructure that we've embarked on, where we're continuing to pursue and some of the hires that we're looking for, some like-minded individuals, that's still happening. Bruno's been with us for over a year in Viry and also in endurance racing and Dakar and this just adds Formula 1 – although he was part of Formula 1 already. So, it's not really that big of a change. And then on the corporate side, the there's a new CEO of Alpine Cars, whose focus will be Alpine Cars and not Formula 1.

Q: And Laurent Rossi has moved to special projects. Will he have any involvement in F1?

OS: So I've been told that he's moving to special projects, and no more than that, but I don't think his involvement will be Formula 1.

Q: Let’s talk about performance now. Unfortunately, Silverstone was a very frustrating result for the team with the double-DNF. What was your message to everybody at Enstone after the race?

OS: It's always hurtful when you have a double-DNF. On one side of the garage, we had a hydraulic pump failure. And on the other side, we were following Fernando quite closely and tried to – rightfully – undercut him. Pierre believed he was quicker than Fernando, so an undercut was the right thing to do. And two laps after we pitted, the Safety Car came out, which we couldn't have predicted. And that was really Pierre’s race. He was that fighting with Lance and, I think, Carlos Sainz, and I think they came together and that caused the DNF. So not Pierre’s fault at all. I think he was fighting for points at that point. But, you know, without the Safety Car, we would have been in a different spot.

Q: Given the pace of the car at Monaco, earlier in the year. Do you think the Hungaroring will be a track that will suit the car better?

OS: Yeah, I think so. There are certain tracks that suit our entire package a little bit better. And this is one of those tracks. Monaco's another one. And we also qualified well in Barcelona, for example, but that didn't quite go our way with some of the penalties that Pierre accumulated. But yeah, this is a track that should suit us.

Q: What about the upgrade path that the team has going forward? I think there's something coming for Spa? But are you satisfied with everything that's been put on the car so far this year, and what the plans are for the remainder of the season?

OS: Yeah, so we've done something similar to last year on the upgrade plans. We don't bring large packages, but when we do have an upgrade, we bring it as soon as possible. And we've had a new front wing recently, a new front of floor that we'll be running here. We haven't raced it yet. And then again, we'll have a new floor in Spa. So yeah, I'm pleased with the upgrades that are coming and the frequency of the upgrades and then we'll have some further upgrades after the break.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question for Andrea. I believe a few races ago, you stated that the upgrade plan was big one for Austria, and then two smaller ones in quick succession. But you've not listed any new parts for Hungary this weekend. So, can you just clarify, have I got that right? Have you changed the plan? What going on there, please?

AS: So, first thing to say is that here we have the front wing to be allocated to Oscar, the new front wing, which was impossible, because of the limited number of parts in UK. Then when it comes to the upgrades, actually, we realised that we need – from a design and production point of view – a bit more time to complete the full round. So, what we will actually see is that there will be some new parts coming in the next races and, above all, post-shutdown.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Franz, a question for you about Nyck. It’s obviously been a difficult period for him but when the decision was taken to hire him last year, off the back of Monza, there was a lot of hype, a lot of buzz around him after just one good race, really. With hindsight – I know it’s a beautiful thing – but should a bit more time has been taken to assess his performance and suitability for the seat?

FT: There was no possibility because he didn't race any more. And was at the end decided by Red Bull. And yeah, afterwards, everyone is more clever. I think at that time, it was the right decision.

Q: (Josh Suttill – The Race) Question to Otmar. Obviously, with the new structure, you’ve obviously got the vice president to report to instead of the CEO. Is that going to help the F1 team operate a bit more independently, without the threat of any kind of interference from management? Is that going to change the way that you operate? Especially, as you said, that the CEO is going to be more focused on Alpine Cars, rather than the Formula 1 team?

OS: So, you're absolutely right, the CEO of Alpine Cars will be focused on Alpine Cars exclusively. Bruno, who's been in motorsport for a very long time and has worked closely with Enstone, because he also runs Viry, will just mean that we're more like-minded in in the way we go forward.

Q: (Bence Boa – racingline.hu) Question to Otmar. At the start of the season, you said you wanted to be fourth in the Constructors’ and to close the gap to the top teams. But with poor reliability and other DNFs, you are only sixth, due to Aston and McLaren. How much of a challenge will it be to come back from this tough situation?

OS: Well, it's definitely a bigger challenge than at the beginning of the year when we all had zero points. But we continue to upgrade the car like we planned, we continue down the road of our plans of upgrading the team and putting the tools in place that we need. And our goal now is to make sure that even if we don't end up in fourth at the end, because of the points disparity, that we can be the fourth fastest team. So, we're still working towards that, and working hard, and everybody at Enstone and Viry are putting the effort in and bringing upgrades and the drivers, one of which has been with us for a while but the other one is gotten used to the team now. So, let's see what we can do going forward.

Q: (Olivér Kovács – Vezess.hu) A question to all. The latest news of the past weeks hints that there are professions that might be replaced by artificial intelligence. And journalists also can be in a kind of danger. Which jobs do you think can be replaced in Formula 1 by AI? Is there any process which has already been covered by it or is there an experiment going on about this?

OS: So, which roles will AI replace in Formula 1? I should probably start with roles that it won't replace. So, our catering team, our chefs, won't be replaced by AI. Our drivers won't be replaced. My perspective, and, because I'm old, I've lived through robotics coming into industry and the auto industry especially, when I was there, and robots took over a lot of jobs that humans used to do. And everybody was worried. And there shouldn't have been a worry, it just redistributed the work and that created more jobs for engineers or technicians that would look after the robots. And I think AI will be similar. We will get to a place where it will naturally take over some functions. However, us humans will then adapt and do other things. So don't worry, I think in the future, even with AI, you'll still be in the room asking questions.

Q: And will the Team Principals be answering them?

OS: Probably not. But I'll leave that for my colleagues to answer.

AS: That was actually going to be my point, we'll see if AI will replace Team Principals. It's a tool, that’s how I see it. There's always been tools, Otmar recalled the robotics, for instance in Formula 1 computational fluid dynamics, it took time, but now it is the dominant way of designing Formula 1 cars. And I think for AI it will be similar. What I can see is that teams will deploy this kind of tool in various areas, and then we will see the areas where it will be more fruitful. It is very early days, in reality. But it's something that you cannot ignore, as a Formula 1 team, because it may come with large opportunities. So, it's a tool that can come with opportunities and it deserves investments, but there’s no concern.

FT: You know, as Formula 1 is the peak of motor sports, also on the technical side AI will play an important role in the future. And it's already involved in different tools on the technical side and will be enlarged in the future. Therefore, I only see positives on this, because it will enable us to sort out different topics much faster, and will bring us to another level.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) For all three of you, the CapEx extra allowance is being discussed at Spa next week. Has it basically been agreed, in principle, is it just a question of signing off? Or is there still going to be a debate? And also, how important is it in your three individual cases to have that extra spending opportunity?

FT: So, currently, our situation is that we will agree to this, because I think that the infrastructure is a very important performance differentiator and if you have more money to spend there, this will also help to increase the performance of the car. Therefore, we are in favour of it.

AS: Yeah, so it's not been agreed yet. There's a couple of options in terms of how you change this regulatory framework. In general, we are supportive of a little expansion of the expenditure. So that's our position at the moment, we will see what the majority of the teams will vote for.

OS: Yeah, Andrea's right. There are a couple options as to how much to expand. And I think if we're all sensible on the amount of expansion to level the playing field, then we're definitely in favour of that.

Q: Otmar, can you just remind us how many teams are needed?

OS: Five are needed for the change.

Q: (Florian Niedermair – Motorsport-magazin.com) A question to Franz. Obviously, Red Bull has taken the decision to release Nyck de Vries, but did you get consulted before this decision was taken? And if so, up until which point did they involve you in those discussions?

FT: Of course we are always sitting together to discuss different drivers. There's usually advantages and disadvantage. And then we make a common decision.

Q: (Ronald Vording - Motorsport.com) Franz, yesterday, Yuki Tsunoda said that in terms of technical feedback he could learn quite a lot from Nyck and he said Nyck was so detailed in the debrief that it reminded him of Niki Lauda in the movie Rush. How do you reflect on Nyck’s technical contribution to the team, and is that maybe one of the elements that you will miss about him?

FT: You know, Nyck is a very experienced driver. There's a reason that he won the Formula 3 championship Formula 2, and the Formula E World Championship and his technical feedback was very good, very detailed. and Yuki in his second year plus 10 or 11 races. That means he still is in a learning process and he will also learn a lot from Daniel Ricciardo, but the technical feedback from Nyck was very good.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Otmar, I know you’ve said that the new set-up has lots of motor sport experience. But you might say, well, I might say, that there's not a lot of direct F1 experience. Are you confident that there is enough knowledge of this championship to give you and the team what it needs?

OS: We don't know each other that well, but I've been doing this for 26 years now, Formula 1, and 33 years of motor sport. So I think we have enough Formula 1 experience. And if you look beyond me in the team that we have there, we're very experienced at Enstone. So, absolutely, I believe we have the experience element of it.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Andrea, a question for you about Lando’s development and progress this season. You've worked with him for a number of years, what kind of trajectory have you seen him take, particularly this year? How has Oscar helped push him? And is he evolving into more and more of a team leader in his fifth one season?

AS: I think you cover two important points. One is that Lando is definitely evolving towards more of a leading position. Not a leading position as the leading driver, but just drivers that kind of try to pull the team, just not only being on the receiving end of it. And the second point is that by having a driver as quick as Oscar, definitely you are in the condition to exploit the potential of the car better, because in some corners, even in FP1 Oscar is immediately competitive if not a little quicker, so Lando can say ‘OK, we can do this in this corner’, and so on. And likewise, obviously, for Oscar with Lando. The second element, which is remarkable this year, is how similar the comments are between the two drivers. And this is not only in the offline debriefings, but it's also when the drivers come back after they run the first run during a session. They actually use the same terminology, like it looks like they are in communication before reporting their feedback. This is obviously very important for engineers, because it means that what's coming from the driver is very consistent, is very clear, it gives you a clear direction for set-up and for development.

Q: (Jon Noble – Motorsport.com) Otmar, you say that the management changes won't change anything for you and the Formula 1 team. But have you had conversations with either the new CEO or Luca DeMeo about the Formula 1 operation, because senior change normally happens only if there is unhappiness about what's happened at a top level? Do you feel they’re committed? Do you feel they’re happy with your 100-race plan, especially in light of the rapid progress Aston Martin and McLaren have made in a shorter period?

OS: Yeah, everybody wants to do better and win. You know, we wanted to be fourth this year and we're still working hard to make sure that we can be at least the fourth fastest team by the end of the year. As for the Formula 1 team and the new management structure, the new Alpine CEO will not have any input into the Formula 1 bit of it. So that change was made mainly from an Alpine business unit perspective, not from a Formula One perspective. I haven't talked to Luca yet, but I will do over the weekend.

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A general view shows spectators on the stands as they wait for the start of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Mogyorod near Budapest, Hungary, on July 31, 2022. (Photo by Ferenc ISZA / AFP) (Photo by FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images)

PART TWO - TEAM REPRESENTATIVES

Xevi PUJOLAR (Alfa Romeo), Dave ROBSON (Williams), Andrew SHOVLIN (Mercedes)

Q: Andrew, I'm going to start with you. Can we talk upgrades? You had a new front wing last time out at Silverstone. There's more pieces on the car here, a few changes, is it going to be enough to make Mercedes best of the rest?

Andrew SHOVLIN: I mean, that's what we're working to achieve at the moment. They're coming, I mean, we’re trying to get them on the car as quickly as we can, which is why some of the bits were here, some were in Silverstone. What we've done on the rear wing that's quite specific to this this track. But McLaren were very quick at the last two races, so the goal is try and get ourselves ahead of them, which will put us in a good place for the fight for second.

Q: Well, let's talk a little bit more about that fight for second. You're 22 points ahead of Aston Martin, but the performance yo-yos between the teams, can you explain a little bit more about why that's the case?

AS: There'll be track specific elements. We look quite good in Barcelona on max downforce. And hopefully will go well here. But the fact is, you know, you can't design your car for every single circuit. So you’re seeing the nature of the corner speed, whether ride is a big factor can come into it, whether it's an overheating circuit, or one where it's tricky to get the tyres to work, whether the balance is more oversteery, all of those things will change the relative performance. And then on top of that, you've got a pretty aggressive development race going on and you can see that with the steps that Williams made, that McLaren made, where people are bringing a lot of performance and the phasing of that is starting to juggle the order a bit.

Q: We’re talking about this battle for P2, why isn't it a battle for P1? Why is it proving so hard to rein in Red Bull?

AS: The way the rules are, you know, if you launch a competitive car, in a cost cap, it is quite difficult for teams to catch up. Because if you've got a competitive car, you don't need to be throwing updates at it week in, week out. They started in a very good place. And the fact is our wind tunnel resource is not very different to theirs and not very different to Ferrari’s, so that initial performance advantage you start with – and it has come down over the year – but when you look at how big it was in Bahrain and Jeddah, it's always difficult to shut that down in terms of the championship.

Q: Can we talk about George Russell now, because it was here one year ago that he got his first pole position. He said in an interview that he believes he's now faster than Lewis Hamilton. Can you tell us a little bit about the journey he's been on while he's been at Mercedes and where you've seen the improvements in him?

AS: He's a hugely professional driver who's working very, very hard. And he’s one of those that you'd say no doubt he'll win a championship at some point, providing we can give him a car that's fit for that job. And we're obviously working very hard to achieve that. But he's very technical. He adapts well to different conditions. All good drivers get better over time, they're focused on looking for every opportunity to improve. And when he got pole here last year it was a surprise for us, because we didn't have a good Friday. We did make some changes to the car, but he did a fantastic job in Qualifying to get that. So, he's super focused and no doubt that he'll be part of much success for the team in the future.

Q: Andrew, let's talk about the Alternative Tyre Allocation now. The rain in FP1 threw the cat among the pigeons a little bit, but how has that introduction of the ATA changed your approach to the weekend and to practice in particular?

AS: In terms of practice, they've taken two sets of tyres out of the allocation, you've got the same amount of running. So were it dry, you’d probably see teams running a bit less. You've got to use the tyres more sparingly. But the impact on practice won't be huge. I think it's just that you wouldn't be necessarily pounding round for the full hour, because when they reduced it from an hour and a half to an hour, it meant that you took all that slack out of the programme. You know, we don't sit around for 15 minutes waiting for someone else to clean the track, all teams are into it straight away.

Q: Final one from me. Spray guards. Mercedes trialled them at Silverstone last week. What was your take on what went on there?

AS: I mean, there's more work to do on them, but it's a problem that it would be useful to have a solution for, because I think the teams, and certainly the fans, hate it if a race can't go ahead because the conditions are too difficult. They're not ready to be moved into production and regulation at the moment. So there's definitely work to do. They do improve the spray that you get from the tyres, but you still get a lot coming from the diffuser, in the way that the rear wing’s pulling it up. That's all very powerful. But you know, interesting first steps and we're providing the car and some bits to do that development. It's the FIA’s project to decide where that goes next and what happens in the future.

Q: Andrew, thank you very much. I'm sure they'll be some questions for you in a minute. Dave, can we come to you now. Williams are flying at the moment. Seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. Tell us about the upgrade that you first introduced in Canada and the effect that that has had on performance?

Dave ROBSON: Yes, as you said, major upgrade in Canada on Alex's car, at least. It did improve the car. I don't think we saw the best of it in Canada. I don't think it necessarily suited Canada specifically as an upgrade. But we got a lot of useful data on it. It did definitely improve the car. And then we've just spent the last few races obviously getting it first on to Logan's car in Austria and then just learning more about it, learning how to get the most out of it with the set-up. And I think it's been a genuine step forward and the drivers have taken to it pretty well.

Q: Where is it a step forward? And what kind of track layout does it lend itself to?

DR: That's a very good question. It improved the downforce delivery and improved a few of the characteristics, but primarily it was just more downforce. But really we haven't run it at a max downforce circuit yet. This weekend is probably the first time we will really see it in that configuration. So it would have been nice to have got some proper running on it this morning to see where we were. But hopefully we'll do that in a couple of hours’ time.

Q: And what is the upgrade path going forward from here?

DR: I think most of what was in the pipeline, we've now delivered. There was the front wing we brought to Silverstone and we'll see that again in Spa. But beyond that, probably just some small things if they come through the wind tunnel and we can make them quite quickly. Otherwise, it's now about the right time to start focusing on next year's car. And also just continuing to understand what we've got now, run what we've got through a few different types of circuit and just kind of hone our set-up around it and get the drivers to push the most out of it.

Q: We've just heard from Andrew about George Russell's evolution over the last couple of years. Can I throw that question to you but talk about Alex Albon? How much better is he getting? How much better a job is he doing this year compared to last year?

DR: He started off very strongly anyway. I think he's a very skilful driver, there's no doubt about that. I think what we have seen over the last year or so is him really develop into a proper team leader. I think we're seeing a new element of control and calmness from him, you can feel it spreading around the garage. I think that's really important. I think the job that, well, both drivers, but Alex particularly in Q1 in Silverstone, when we were struggling start with, I think his attitude in the garage when the red flag came out, considering he was last at the time, I think was really good and exactly what you'd expect of a confident, but sensible, professional driver. think if he'd got himself really concerned and stressed that would have spread quite quickly through the garage and it would have been tough and instead he was completely calm. He knew he had it under control. We went out and queued for six or seven minutes or whatever it was and he got the lap in and ultimately that's what led to the result on Sunday. So that's where you really see him evolving and that and as I say that real team leadership now; he knows what he wants and he knows how to get it.

Q: And what about Logan Sargeant? He had his best result of the year last time out when he finished 11th. Do you feel he took a step forward at Silverstone in particular?

DR: I think he took a step forward in Austria. I think that was a really strong race, probably went a little bit under the radar, but I think he drove exceptionally well. He backed that up in qualifying in Silverstone where, as we just talked about Alex, Logan was similar and did a very good job under pressure. And then he really backed that up with a really strong race. He wasn't much slower, if slower at all, than Alex on Sunday in Silverstone and I think probably it has helped him coming to a run of circuits where he's got past experience, that's probably helped. But it's good to see him string these results together. This should be another strong weekend for him. Yeah, and he's really developing very well.

Q: Can we talk about capital expenditure, CapEx, something that your team principal has spoken quite a lot about? It is going to be discussed at the F1 Commission next week. In terms of tools that you have at Williams, is there anything that you feel in particular that you're lacking, that the likes of Andrew will have down the road in Brackley?

DR: I think there's probably a bit of everything, having spoken to James. Obviously, he's there, he's got good sight of what Andrew and Co have got at MGP and I think we probably are just a little bit behind on pretty much everything, whether that's the wind tunnel technology, the manufacturing capability. You've heard James talk a lot about the systems and understanding where everything is in the development cycle and keeping proper tabs on everything which in a cost cap world, I think, has become increasingly important. So there's just a lot of that basic infrastructure and some specific machinery and things as well which it would be great if we can get ourselves up to standard that these guys are at and then we'll see what we can do with it.

Q: Xevi, thank you for waiting. Compared to last year, it's been a tricky one for Alfa Romeo. Can we talk about the C43, its strengths and its weaknesses?

Xevi PUJOLAR: I don't think then… it’s similar to last year. OK, we started maybe with a bit of an advantage but towards the end of the season everything became again very, very competitive. And I think this year, we started already that it was very tight in the midfield, and it doesn't take much to go two tenths faster, two tenths slower. What I've been saying before, from track to track drivers are adapting better to different tracks for different car balance, what's happening with the tyres. These two tenths makes you that you are either in the points or also out of the points. And now OK, we are P9 in the championship but they are P7 but there's only two points so everything can change very quickly and what we need to do is to push as hard as we can just to make sure that we recover that P7.

Q: Talking of pushing as hard as you can, you had an upgrade package at Silverstone. What did you learn there and how is it going to help you here at the Hungaroring?

XP: So we had the package and for us it was working, it was also focusing more on medium/high speed. The track… For Silverstone it was good. It was a step in the right direction. For sure when you have got all the mix, with all the teams it’s difficult to see. For sure we didn't see a change, like McLaren did a big change. For us it was working. We needed one more race, couple of more races, to extract a bit more. In FP1 we had the problem with Zhou, we damaged the car. We were lacking some spares as well on that package so had to take a bit more conservative approach. We have got more potential on that one. And for that track, also you can see, for example, the Williams, they were quite strong in Spielberg, Silverstone, this kind of higher track efficiency. Here is a different track. We hope that we can recover a bit of a performance relative to some of the competitors. We'll see this weekend if that's possible or not so that's what we're pushing for.

Q: And what about the upgrade path going forward?

XP: Yeah, we've got some upgrades in the pipeline on the mechanical side and also on the aero side for the next races after the shutdown. So for sure, we need to keep working on that. It's not only on the upgrades as well, but we can make progress as well on the operational side. We are working on just trying to make sure that we optimise track performance from everywhere, also working together with both drivers, trying to make sure that we extract everything we can. Everything is in the midfield is very, very tight so just one tenth for us it makes a bit difference. Then if we want to go towards the top teams it’s another challenge but for us at the moment, focusing on that P7, it’s extremely tight in that midfield.

Q: We've talked about George, we've talked about Alex; Zhou is only one point behind Valtteri in the Drivers’ Championship. How do you see him evolving over the last 18 months? What's impressed you the most?

XP: He's working hard and it's good because Valtteri is helping him a lot, so I think it's good for us that both drivers are working very close together and we've got Valtteri with a great level of experience. He’s fast and then Zhou can extract all that. Also in the races they work very well both together. When we need to fight for the points and fight against our competitors we have got a good team spirit, just to make sure that we get at least one car in the points and that's helping us a lot. And Zhou, the two of them, they're working very well on that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Josh Suttil – The Race) Andrew, we've seen two of your customers - McLaren and Aston Martin - make a big leap. McLaren have been able to do that in-season. Is that something that's possible for Mercedes this year? Obviously, it was easy for them, they were coming from further behind but is it something that's possible for Mercedes or is it about next year?

AS: It's encouraging because we know that the engine’s obviously, doing a good job in those cars. We're working hard to try and move forward. I think the step McLaren made was pretty impressive. You can see that they've changed a fair bit on their car. But for us, we do need to close that gap to Red Bull. We're still developing the car. Whether or not we could find the half a second that they look to have found, I don't know. That'd be a stretch target.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Motorsport-total.com) Andrew, you're well aware of Nyck de Vries’s capabilities and even Franz in the press conference, although they sacked him, was very, very positive about his technical feedback. Is there room alongside Mick Schumacher for a second simulator driver for returning to the Mercedes family?

AS: I think Nyck will be looking for more than just to become a simulator driver, so he'll want to be doing racing. I've only spoken to him by text and he said he'll let me know how his plans are coming on. He was certainly very useful for us in that role and we'd be welcome to get him back in that role but I suspect that his focus will be on finding race seats. And if it's not in Formula 1, in some other big and competitive series. He's clearly very talented: F2 champion, Formula E champion, which is a very difficult series to win. And he'll be looking back to get into a winning seat again.

Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Andrew, you've had a few races now to correlate properly the big upgrade package that came in for Monaco. What has that given you in terms of understanding the car? But also, has it actually given you lap time, a major step forward, or is it about the same? Can you just sort of quantify that for us?

AS: The gains change track to track. The front end of the car is a bit more coherent, a bit stronger now so we're having to work to balance that. But it does look to have gone in the right direction and our correlation over the last year has been strong in that we make bits and we race them, we're not putting kits on and off trying to decide whether we've done the right thing. However, look at where Aston Martin were at the start of the year and then where they've been in some of the recent races. That's only because other people are developing very quickly. It's difficult to gauge the progress when you just look at how the teams stack up. But the fact is, you can see those moves where people do bring updates. We just need to work to try and improve the development rate but the focus for us is making sure we can challenge Red Bull or whoever it is at the front next year. So it's a case of balancing that bigger goal with what we can do on this car and also learning with this car because if you don't change the car, you don't learn a lot. So a lot of the development is about learning for the future.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Dave and Andrew about James Vowles. Dave, what have you seen James bring to the team this year as team principal? Has he impacted things, particularly from a culture point of view? And Andrew, I know you guys go way back. What was he like in his evolution and ultimately becoming a team principal and stepping up to that role with Williams this year?

DR: Yeah, James has brought a wealth of experience and knowledge and also, I think, a whole new approach which is really starting to spread around the factory. I think that’s probably gone hand in hand with Alex maturing and becoming quite calm and consistent, level-headed and James brings something similar. He obviously also brings clear knowledge of, as we talked about, what Andrew and his colleagues have got at MGP. And so it really feels like we've now got a clear plan for the next few years. That's very much rooted in recent top-level experience and now we've just going to put that into action but in the short term, yeah, there's the whole atmosphere is new and it's refreshed. It's helped by some of the on-track results but I think that whole thing is a little bit chicken and egg, and James has definitely played his part in that.

AS: Yeah, all my good memories from races… I was sat next to James on the pit wall for 20 years or whatever it was. He's left us with a really impressive strategy group. So Rosie [Wait] is running that now and that's working very well, but partly because James was trying to put the group in place that could follow him. But his ambitions were always more than just doing the strategy. But it's great to see him enjoying the role at Williams and having a positive effect there because we knew that he would be a loss to our team. But yeah, nice that he’s enjoying success.

Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Andrew, on the spray guards, what's your general feeling in terms of the solution, direction that’s been taken? Does it need to be something a little bit more comprehensive to contain that amount of spray? And if so, how high should the tolerance be for the aero disruption of what's going to be a bolt on part given the potential to avoid, say, a Spa ’21?

AS: If the loss is the same for everyone, then the scale of it doesn't matter too much. You obviously need it to make a tangible difference. There's also difficult… you've got to stop the race to fit these things, or the race has to have not started to fit them. But as I said, it's not our project. We were just contracted to do some work, to run a car and the FIA will steer it and decide where the future goes. But the goal of making sure we can give the fans, who've paid to come to the track on Sunday, a race to watch is definitely a worthwhile one to do. And I think it's good that the sport has these initiatives where it's trying to find solutions to the bigger problems.

Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) What are your thoughts on tyre blankets and the challenge Pirelli is faced… Williams was involved in the last test at Silverstone?

DR: We ran some slick tyres without blankets in Silverstone last week. Actually, they behaved pretty well. I think Silverstone is a particularly demanding circuit for that approach but I think Pirelli are tackling it well, and I think we've seen that with the extreme Wets, the full Wet tyres which now run without blankets. They behaved, to be fair, very well, when we ran them recently. So I think it is a demanding challenge for them. I think it is genuinely difficult, especially with a slick, high energy circuit like Silverstone. But they've made good progress and whether it's ultimately the direction we'll go in, I think is to be decided but I think they're tackling a very tricky problem pretty well.

XP: From our side, we did some tests over the winter on Wet and Inter and we were surprised on the results. I think for us it was it was good. Now, the approach on the slicks, if the product works and we can do an out lap and tyre preparation, we don't have an issue from our side. We are prepared for the challenge and if it is the same for everybody then we will get the running on these tyres. Maybe I will say probably on the dry tyres it will be more challenging because you have got the bigger delta temperature from garage to track but with all the products they're doing, probably there will be soon to have a product that is ready to race.

AS: I think the challenge of the dries is a lot bigger than the wets and you can definitely run race weekends without blankets because you could do it next week if you wanted to do that. The question is, does it improve the racing, do you have a better show? And whilst you can do it in testing, the grip comes halfway around the lap and then it's relatively normal for the drivers from there on. There are scenarios that you can't really do in testing like a wet to dry transition if there's a safety car and all the cars are in the pits. There is so little grip if you're in a damp pit lane on a 20 degree slick tyre that's designed to run at temperatures up to 100. And whether those elements of safety are covered off are we ready to commit to this as a sport? I think there's still a number of questions to be asked. But what we said from the outset was that we need to get the product ready before we commit to it in regulation and that conversation, I think, still needs to be determined. Will the sport be in a better place if we get rid of blankets or not? And will it have a good or a bad effect on how the racing pans out?

Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Andrew, during Lewis's media session yesterday, he was asked a very similar question to yourself with regard to why Mercedes has not quite caught up yet with Red Bull. Within his answer, he remarked that given the aerodynamics of the car, the vortices encountered underneath it are, to use his words, mind-blowing. Can you elaborate as to what it is you are encountering underneath the car at present that is complicating matters and making it then difficult to try and develop it going forward?

AS: Well, with the old regulations, which we had a good grasp on, you didn't need to consider the car in the same dynamic sense. You were just saying it's at a certain roll angle, steer angle, certain ride heights and in doing that, you could capture what was going on. The flow structures under our car, under every car, are more complicated now and they're more transient. And what Lewis was referring to was really the fact that, as other teams will have had to develop their tools to cope with this new set of aero regulations, we're getting to a stage where the correlation is good, we can start to understand the effect of changes. But we're not at the position we were with the regulations in 2020/2021 where you had a really, really good grasp of everything that was going on. So he's just referring to the fact that the way the floors work is more complicated than it used to be.

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