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FIA Team Principals press conference – Spain

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 21: Bruno Famin, Team Principal of Alpine F1 and Ferrari Team Principal

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES: Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Bruno FAMIN (Alpine), Frédéric VASSEUR (Ferrari), Alessandro ALUNNI-BRAVI (Kick Sauber)

Q: Alessandro, let's start with you. Now, the team is going through a rough patch at the moment. What continue to be the biggest issues with the C44?

Alessandro ALUNNI-BRAVI: I think we can say that the performances are not there, so there is nothing to hide. At the beginning of the year we had quite good performance compared to our main competitors, but we didn't translate this into results, for all the reliability issues that have been, I would say, quite evident. And now, the other teams made a bigger step with the latest updates, especially Racing Bulls, also Alpine, and we need to recover the gap. We fixed the reliability issues, especially the pit stop, But on the single laps in qualifying, we are not there where we should be if we want to fight for the points.

Q: Now, one of the topics that came up in the drivers press conference yesterday is how much the current campaign is being affected by the preparations for Audi's entry in 2026. What's your take on that?

AAB: I think it's a mistake to mix both things. I don't think that the preparation for the Audi works team is affecting the current two seasons, and it must not. I think that we have weaknesses that we are trying to address. Andreas Seidl is working from last January on improving the team in this transformation process. But the transformation process starts from the improvement on the current structure and in finding the right people to reinforce our technical teams in every area. I don't think that there are two separate tasks to be done, one for the works team and one for the current team. There are not two separate teams. There is one team. that needs to be the foundation for the works team.

Q: So Valtteri saying yesterday we're taking one step back to take two steps forward is not wholly accurate?

AAB: I don't want to say it's not accurate, but of course we are not where we should be, also in terms of recruitment, in terms of the investment, and this is why Audi has decided in March to go for a full takeover of the Sauber Group in order to push for the investment that are necessary to make the step towards the works team. So I think that we are in a situation where we know exactly where is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are still in the tunnel.

Q: Alright. Thank you for that. I'm sure there'll be more questions for you later. Bruno, can we come to you next, please? You come to Barcelona on the back of a double points finish in Canada. Just how confident are you of maintaining that run of form here?

Bruno FAMIN: I think it's very different here. We are back to a normal track, if I may say. In Canada, we have been good in the execution. Very specific conditions with the weather. We have been good in seizing the opportunity, drivers, both – Esteban and Pierre have been very good. Strategy, mechanics for the pit stops, and we have been able to score three points, which is our best result so far. But here, it's very different. The track is a reference track, let's say. And I don't expect yet to be back within the points, to be frank. We will push hard for that, for sure. But we need to work. We are working hard to recover performance. But it's going to be, I think, a bit difficult here.

Q: There's a lot happening off track at your team at the moment. Let's start with today's news. The appointment of Flavio Briatore as an advisor. Why Flavio? What's he going to bring to the team?

BF: Flavio is going to bring his experience for sure. He's a 40 years’ experienced guy in Formula 1. He knows how to operate a winning team. He has a very good record and quite a number of world titles. And he will bring this experience, this fighting spirit to the team.

Q: Who is he going to be advising? Is he going to be advising you?

BF: He's going to advise the team. We will work together, of course. He's the advisor to the group CEO, but he will advise the team, and we are going to work and to talk permanently together, for sure.

Q: Alright, final one from me, regarding your 2026 power unit. Is everything on track at Viry-Chatillon?

BF: I’m quite happy with what is being done in Viry. We are working well. We have a quite high level targets, I think and for the time being we are optimistic in our ability to reach that target. And people are very focused now, since a lot of months, on this target. And we are all pushing for reaching it.

Q: Given that optimism that you talk about, what do you make of speculation that the team is shopping around for a power unit in 2026?

BF: First, I am not optimistic. I'm just saying we are on track for getting our... We know we are going to have some problems, which is just normal with this kind of very complex project. And about the rumours, we just don't comment on the rumours. We owe a lot of respect to everybody in Viry working on that project and the worst thing would be to comment the rumours.

Q: Alright. That's enough from me. I'm sure there'll be more for you in a moment. Toto, can we come to you now, please? Pole position and a podium in Canada. Are Mercedes back in business?

Toto WOLFF: You know you skipped Fred? He's getting a bit upset about that. I think you need to be careful to praise the day before the evening. We had really good steps since Imola. We've been able to add performance and we've maintained that direction. And I think we all got a bit surprised about the potential on Sunday in Montréal. But having said that, it's a very specific track. So I think hopefully performance is going to continue to improve, so that we can match these guys in the front. But we know it's never linear. You know, it's zig-zagging a bit.

Q: In what areas has the performance upswing come from?

TW: Since Imola, we've brought upgrades to every single race, smaller and bigger ones. So, you know, there's the odd thing that's visible where people talk about and the other things that are not. But it was aero and it was mechanical. And I would say that on the mechanical side, we've seen that the car is very good over bumps and kerbs. The ride is very smooth. And I would say that all of these marginal gains have contributed to better lap times.

Q: Can we talk drivers now? There's been a recent amendment to the FIA sporting regulations with regard to the minimum age of drivers in Formula 1. What does that mean for Kimi Antonelli this year?

TW: That means nothing. I think the FIA has taken a standpoint saying we don't want to have a hard limit on a particular age because it could be the fact that young men could be fast-tracked if their success is outstanding. So in a way, that wasn't lex Antonelli. That was more to change something in the regulations in the World Motorsport Council that anyway was in the discretion of the President before. For us, it doesn't make a big difference. Kimi is doing F2, he's doing the TPC testing, he's learning, he's developing, he's making mistakes, all of that together, and that is the current status. So that wasn't an acute need to put him in a car.

Q: Does this allow you, though, to give him an FP1 session at the very least?

TW: We could give him FP1 sessions after his 18th birthday anyway, which is right after shutdown.

Q: Alright, thank you Toto. I'm sure there'll be more for you in a minute. Fréd, can I bring you in on this young driver discussion? You've worked with many teenagers over the years. What's your take on age? Is it if you're fast enough you're old enough?

Frédéric VASSEUR: No, I think regarding the story about 18, it's more a matter of maturity for me and this is more linked to the guy than to the age. You have drivers very young, very mature, and some others, they are 30 and they are still not mature.

Q: Let's bring it on to Ferrari now. We've seen two very different Ferraris at the last two races. The brilliance of Monaco, the frustrations of Montréal. Can you explain that performance swing to us?

FV: Just that in Canada we did everything wrong from the beginning to the end, with a set-up issue, with a reliability issue, with contact on track. I think we put everything wrong all the weekend.

Q: But do you understand why you did things wrong, now?

FV: I hope so, that we'll see this weekend. But we have a good idea on every single topic and I hope that we will be able to avoid to do it again.

Q: So what are your objectives this weekend?

FV: To avoid mistakes.

Q: Have you got a firm result in your mind or is it understanding the performance?

FV: It's quite impossible today, as Toto said before, it's quite impossible when you are going somewhere today to have a good prediction of the results because we are a group of eight cars who did pole position or first row from the beginning of the season. It means it’s quite impossible to predict because it's a matter of one tenth or one tenth and a half. You can do a pole position the weekend after, you have a gust of wind at the end of the straight and you can be P3. It's the reality of the F1 today, the reality of the quali and we have to take every single result with a pinch of salt.

Q: Have you seen enough in FP1 to know that you've started the weekend on the right foot?

FV: Yeah, I think the first feeling is good. We had to test the package of parts that we brought this weekend. It went well. Now everything is going well, but it's more Saturday evening and Sunday evening that we have to draw a conclusion than Friday morning.

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 21: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff, Bruno Famin, Team Principal of Alpine F1, Ferrari Team Principal Frederic Vasseur and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative of Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber look on in the Team Principals Press Conference during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on June 21, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Good afternoon, gentlemen. It's a question for Bruno, but I would like the thoughts of all our panel on this one, as custodians and senior representatives of your teams. How comfortable are you that a man who was initially banned from Formula 1 for life, albeit overturned from a lifetime ban, has now been appointed to a senior role within a Formula 1 team and is allowed to come back and work for a team in the sport? BF: I already answered questions about the past and I don't really mind about the past. I'm always looking about future and trying what we can get and to get our team better. And that's really our goal. And what I see with having Flavio as an advisor of the team is the opportunity to have his experience and to help us. He has a very high-level knowledge of Formula 1. He knows a lot of people. And I'm sure he will support us in developing the team faster and better. That's all.

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Even though he never apologized for it. BF: I'm looking ahead, not backward.

Q: Can we get some other thoughts on this, please? Toto? TW: I think we need to give the chance to recover from these situations. I have known Flavio as an extremely smart businessman. He has a lot of know-how in Formula 1. Every input that I got over the last 10-plus years that I've been in much more contact – and I have a friendly relationship with him – was in a way helpful. There is a lot of experience and expertise that, like Bruno said, 40 years of Formula 1 do. And I think everybody deserves the opportunity to come back. And for me, for sure, having another clever mind in Alpine, someone that is able to simplify things and apply common sense, is in any case, where Alpine is today, is a benefit. FV: First, I don't want to make any comment on what's happened in another team. I have enough to do with mine. But overall, I think it's probably, as Bruno said, a step forward for Alpine. And it's good for F1 at the end if Alpine is coming back into the fight. We know the story and I think he paid the price of this and if now he's allowed to come back, he can come back. AAB: I agree, of course, with what Toto and Fred said. I never judge anyone if I don't know him personally and I didn't experience a relationship with him, so I'm not in the position to judge Flavio. I can just look at the track records he had in Formula 1 and also the inputs on the commercial side that he has given to Formula 1 in the last years, bringing sponsors, bringing new venues that have been important for the development of Formula 1. I think that, you know, if he's able to join the team it means that the ban is expired. So I think that, as Fred said, you know, we need to look at the future and give the people a chance, you know, to give a contribution. We need, you know, clever people in Formula 1. And I think that Flavio, we can say that he's a clever one.

Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Question for you, please, Toto. You've mentioned that you've brought updates since Imola onwards. Why not here? Because this is a renowned track for the testing of parts. Are you just trying to find a baseline now with what you've brought over the last four grands prix? And specifically with regard to the front wings, Helmut Marko said that he noticed on television that those front wings were flexing quite considerably. One would assume that you're happy with the legality? They've been checked etc. etc? TW: We brought parts, quite a bit to this race, but maybe not the visible ones. So I think in that fight, you need to add performance every single Grand Prix. And even if it's just a few milliseconds here and there, but we brought parts. In Formula 1, everybody jumps to a conclusion and says, I've seen that front wing and those side pods and those deflectors. Front wings play a big role today. It's clear. Aero elasticity plays a big role, but so do the floors. I think it's always the combination of these. You can have a front wing that flexes like a banana and passes the test, but the rest of the car just doesn't work properly in the interaction. I think everybody's trying to push the boundaries and within the regulations. And I think what we've been able to do over the last three races is particular on the right side, where we believe that we've made a big step and all of the aero bits that came since then, and maybe we've just been very much on the other end of where we should have been on wings and floors and all of that.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, can I get your response to this email that was sent to you and to other members of the paddock claiming that Lewis' car is being sabotaged? It's said to be from a member of your team. TW: Yeah, so it's not from a member of the team. When we are getting these kind of emails, and we're getting tons of them, it is upsetting, particularly when somebody is talking about death and all these things. So, on this particular one, I have instructed to go in full force. We have the police inquiring it. We are researching the IP address. We are researching the phone, all of that, because online abuse in that way needs to stop. People can't hide behind their phones or their computers and abuse teams or drivers in a way like this. I don't know what some of the conspiracy theorists and lunatics think out there. Lewis was part of the team for 12 years. We have a friendship. We trust each other. We want to win this. We want to end this on a high. We want to celebrate the relationship. And if you don't believe all of that, then you can believe that we want to win the Constructors’ World Championship. And part of the Constructors’ World Championship is making both cars win. So to all of these mad people out there… take a shrink.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Toto, I want to ask you about Fréd, actually, just to put you on the spot. What have you made of the job he's been doing so far at Ferrari? And how has the dynamic between you guys been? Obviously, friends before, but the rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari has been so fierce in the past, and particularly with some of Fred's predecessors, but how has it been between you guys in the past 18 months or so? TW: Fred and I have been friends since the early 2000s, when he was just setting up his Formula 3 team and I was looking after a few of these young drivers and we’ve gone back a long way and the friendship is tight and the trust is there, and nothing's going to change that, ever. We have a more intense rivalry, so there's a few things maybe which we don't share with each other anymore. We're both emotional people, so sometimes those emotions can boil up, but we understand each other, that we just have to do the best for our teams, and that may sometimes go against the other team. But that is the nature of the job. I think it would be wrong for me, and patronising, for me to say whether the job is good or not, that he’s done. From the outside, what I see is the team seems to be much more structured, a no bullshit approach. And Fréd has always been that. You can't tell him a story because he's going to see through it. And there is a reason why the team has started winning races and competing for a Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championship.

Q: (Jon Noble – Motorsport.com) To Toto and Fréd, I know Bruno says the engine situation for ‘26 is a rumour, but there's obviously a possibility they could go down the customer route. If there was a possibility of supplying another deal, is it something you would be open to for ‘26, or is that door shut? TW: I think most of all, Bruno and Flavio and Luca are in the process of assessing how the 2026 package looks like. And there is nothing we can say or involve ourselves in that. I've seen the rumours. I've seen the chats that are going on. But at that stage, Alpine needs to take their decisions. And we are on the outside of that. BF: On our side, we are really focused on really developing the performance of the car and improving the team. That's why I'm happy to welcome Flavio on board. We have a lot to do. You know that our car this year is not at the level we wanted. We have got the support of David Sanchez as the technical director. He's doing a very good job in Enstone since a few weeks now. And we hope to be able to improve our car by the end of the year, to work on the 2025 car, and of course to look at the 2026 generation car and engine. And we are really focused on that. When we will have something to say, we will say it. But for the time being, we are really focused on making the plan for gaining performance faster and better thanks to our recent support.

FV: It means that I don't have to give my opinion, that the reply is clear from Bruno. And you have also to consider that for an engine manufacturer, 2026, it's a huge challenge. And for sure, we want to have a customer team. We have the deal in place with us. And to have another one, it's also a big challenge.

Q: (Edd Straw - The Race) One for Bruno, again on the appointment of Flavio Briatore. You've talked up his qualities – no doubt about that. You've talked about the fact he's perfectly free to work – absolutely fine there. But how do you justify the fact that you've said you've not even thought about what's happened in the past? What does that say about the company culture of Alpine F1, of Renault Group, that past conduct is irrelevant and it just comes down to what people can bring to the team. and how do you justify that whole thing, because he obviously what happened did a lot of damage to the image of that team and Renault and it's still the same team the same majority owner. BF: There is a very clear goal to improve the competitiveness of the team as soon as possible and as fast as possible. And we are looking for strong support. We are very happy to have received, again, David Sanchez, technical director. Very good opportunity. We have been able to seize it very quickly. And same thing for Flavio, I think the target is to make the team better as soon as possible and counting on the knowledge, the network, the influence of Flavio with us, it's an asset and we are using all available assets and we will still look for new assets to make the team stronger.

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) A question again for Toto. Just to come back to this email. The tone of the email was very similar to that of a lot of social media now, which has turned very toxic and very poisonous towards Mercedes. So I'm wondering two things. What has been the reaction within the team to that? And I should add that it all seems to be coming from fans of Lewis that are doing this on social media. So what has been the reaction of the team and indeed what has been Lewis's reaction to seeing this coming from his own fans?

TW: So first of all, I'm not reading any comments. I don't have social media. And I think it's important to protect oneself by doing so. And I've commented about this many times before, there will always be people that have their laptop on the chest in their bedroom and just typing away. And if people feel like they're abusing, want to abuse and hit out and hide behind a made-up Instagram account or anything else, that for me is… Come up, say who you are, and we'll take the criticism and discuss, but don't hide. And there seems to be lots of irrationality also, because we want to be successful. We want to be successful with the most iconic driver the sport has ever had. The privilege that we had to work with Lewis as an incredible driver, a great personality, that goes through the ups and downs like any other like any other sports person. I totally respect the reasons for him going to Ferrari. There is no grudge. There is no bad feeling. The interaction we have in the team is positive. And so every comment from the outside of what is going in the team is just simply wrong. But there's always a limit. I mean, if emails are being sent or telephone numbers are being used for these messages, then for me, the joking stops. And we will pursue it, whether that is successful or not. But there are limits to certain things. And obviously, online abuse is not only something that happens to us or to the team or to the people, it happens badly to Lewis, badly to Lewis, and to George. And therefore, people should, and we've seen Max speaking out about it and Kelly. People that abuse are cowards, because they hide. So whatever is going on out there with social media, with all the good things that it provides, and all those people that have been given a platform, that's just the negatives that come with it. I have no feelings to someone that abuses for the reasons I just said before.

FV: Yeah just on this one, and I'm putting my relationship with Toto aside, how you could imagine that a company with 1,500 people working night and day, pushing like hell to bring upgrades, and for you it's not enough, but bringing upgrades each races, we could kill one of our cars or damage one of our cars? This is completely irrational and nobody in the paddock could do something like this. We are fighting for the championship. Each weekend we are trying to score one point more than the other one. How you could imagine that we say ‘OK, that Lewis, we don't want to score points anymore with him’. For me it's completely irrational and completely out of the scope of the person who are doing my business.

Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Monday) A question to all four of you. In last 10 years we've seen annual results where four or five teams have finished basically in league one and five or six teams have finished in league two. We've now got new regulations on the ground for 2026. They haven't been met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Do you think there's anything that can be done to those regulations now that would allow it to be that one or two points could actually take you up the grid, or instead of one or two points still leaving you in tenth or ninth place?

AAB: First of all, we have been working, all the teams together with the other stakeholders, since 2021 with the new financial regulations, the new Concorde Agreement, in order to have in the medium and long-term convergence in terms of performance and have a larger platform that can fight for podiums. We have said that the biggest gap between the top teams and as you call the second level field is in terms of infrastructures and also in this case there has been a proven extra allowance for teams that are in the second part of the Constructors’ Championship that we can invest a bit more to close a step-by-step this gap. So we all want more participants able to fight for the top positions. It's a work that we are doing all together in the F1 Commission. But of course, this is a competition. So we need also to reward teams that have been doing a better job. But I can assure you that all the teams are really open. They are really working all together to improve the show. We know that the success of Formula 1 is for the benefit of all the teams and to have a successful championship, we need to have more competitors able to fight for the top positions.

BF: Maybe about the 2026 regulation. I think we need to stick on that date for sure. We cannot postpone anything. But I think in the last technical meeting we had with the FIA, the FIA was quite open to give a bit more freedom to the technical side in order to have the teams developing more the car, more downforce, etc. I think we are working all together, as Alessandro said, to have the best possible car, the best possible regulation, to have a close fight. And also the Formula 1 being still at the edge of the technology. And then I think we're all working on that. And I'm happy to see that the FIA is very open to make some amendments to the regulations to fine-tune the regulations. But let's keep it for 26. It's crucial.

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