Full transcript from the FIA hosted press conference on day one of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Round 7 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Ile Notre Dame in Montreal.
Press Conference Part 1 featuring: James Allison (Mercedes), Maurizio Arrivabene (Ferrari) and Guenther Steiner (Haas)
James, we’ll start with you if we may. We had a lot of spins today across the field, particularly at Turn Six. Before we go into more detailed topics, maybe you can give us an explanation for that.
James Allison: It’s just the track is always a bit dirty here on the first day, and particularly so today — it’s very, very dusty, very low grip conditions. Six is a tricky corner, coming as it does after Five. I know that’s really fatuous, but it’s just an easy place to make a mistake.
So, Mercedes has had a few issues – it’s no secret – getting the softer compound Pirelli tyres to work to the optimum, and it’s cost you on several occasions now against Ferrari. How much remedial work can you do away from the track using things like simulation tools, and does this issue risk undermining your campaign if you don’t get on top of it soon?
JA: I think you need to remember that we’ve been on pole four out of the six races, and we’ve won three out of the six. We’ve been there or thereabouts in all of the races. The car has got many strong points to it, but there is some trickiness in the way that it handles, and that presents us with particular challenges when we’re setting the thing up. But there’s plenty we can do in the short term, plenty we can do at each race, and also to improve it over the medium term as well.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the fact that Mercedes largely relied on Pascal Wehrlein to do the 2017 tyre development work test last year, whereas Vettel took responsibility for most of Ferrari’s work. Do you think that’s in any way contributed to the situation?
JA: It’s very hard to say, honestly. I should think it has very little effect. What’s much more important is the work that we do on the car since the season’s started, and to try and improve the car – the real car, on the real tyres — as the season evolves.
Maurizio, coming to you. First Monaco win since 2001, congratulations. But it seems there wasn’t much in the way of team celebration after the victory in Monaco. Was that because your message to the team is that the job is still far from over?
Maurizio Arrivabene: We did not have any great celebration after Bahrain; we did not have any great celebration after Australia. As I have said many times, we’ve kept our feet on the ground, the season it still long. We were happy to win Monaco after many, many years, and for the first few seconds it was something that was somehow historical, but then you look at the calendar, the Formula One calendar, and how many races to go, you put your head down and you start working again.
Obviously very focused in this campaign. I guess one distraction you don’t really need is speculation about the drivers. Is it your preference that Ferrari goes forward into 2018 with the same driver line-up?
MA: We are not thinking about contracts now, we are thinking about the championship. They are two separate issues. We are all concentrated. As I have said many, many times we are working all together, including the drivers, we are very focused on our job and I have to say the contract is not an issue.
Guenther, Haas got its first double points finish in Monaco, many congratulations. It could have been more but for Kevin’s puncture. What does that say about Haas’ progress in year two?
Guenther Steiner: I think it just shows the maturity of our team. We scored the first time, which was… I think we tried quite a long time to do, but especially this year as well, because the midfield is so competitive I would call it, at least for us in our little group we are very competitive, not with the big ones but… It’s just the team is working better together. The drivers are working very well together. They push each other obviously, two goo drivers. I think it’s just…. things develop. If we keep on moving forward, this is what happens, so we have to try and do it every weekend now.
Giovinazzi’s going to drive for you at seven free practice one sessions this season. Tell us about the background and what your plans are for him.
GS: I think we just want to develop a young driver, because in the moment if a young driver wins or is very competitive in GP2, where does he go? And if we don’t give these people a possibility to get into Formula One, we end up with no new talent coming through, and we have a technical partnership with Ferrari, so we try to help them with drivers, with development drivers in their camp so we got together and said we’ll help people come up the ranks and we will have the stars of the future hopefully. So that is how it came together.
James, there have been a couple of races this year where Lewis has had particular problems adapting to whatever problems his car has had — I’m thinking Russia and Monaco, obviously. Can you characterise the nature of the problems he’s having, please, and whether there’s any pattern developing there?
JA: Well, first of all I’ll just preface it by saying that if you look up and down the grid you’ll see that this is quite common: there are several places where team-mates have strong weekends against the others. There’s been a couple where Lewis had a tougher time. What he feels is a lack of grip in the car. What we see when we look at it, and when we talk about it afterwards is that the grip is there, the grip is there, but it’s ever so easy to overstep it and to pay quite a heavy penalty in lap time as a consequence. And that experience that Lewis has had on a couple of occasions, Valtteri has had as well, but in a different direction and at a different track. So we have a situation where we have a car with a lot of performance that is able to compete at the front, but the window in which that performance is available is quite narrow and easy to step outside of.
This question’s for Maurizio. This Monaco win — what has it done for the team in terms of morale, what has it done back in Maranello, and in terms of just helping to propel this Ferrari team that’s come up very strong this season?
MA: Nothing special. As I said, on Sunday they were celebrating and were all happy. And then they turn immediately to the pits, they dismantled the boxes and the day after then they were on their way in Maranello and to be honest with you on Monday morning we have our race debrief and so everybody was focused on the next race. The debrief was about Monaco and the day after we were in another meeting thinking about Canada.
How much do you think it helped or contributed to this performance this year, the fact that you were training a lot in Barcelona before the season starts – in terms of knowing the tyres?
MA: Everybody was testing. We have our driver, our official driver, the total of kilometres they were doing, I think up to 2000km Sebastian, 1000km Kimi, more or less, 3000km and we always appoint our official driver to do it. Of course, it’s helping a lot – but no-one prevents the other teams to do the same, so we have done our job, we throught it was important, taking into consideration the new tyre size and so on. In my opinion there is nothing special on that because we were doing everything. We thought it was the right thing to do. It’s no secret.
Maurizio, the most successful period in Ferrari’s history was when it had a clear number one, number two driver situation. After Monaco, a lot of people seemed to believe that you’d favoured Sebastian, certainly Kimi’s face suggested that, Lewis Hamilton said it was clear this was the case. Do you actually now have a clear number one and number two driver or are both drivers treated totally and absolutely equally.
MA: No. I was reading after Monaco and hearing a lot of speculation about number one and number two. I always said that it’s not that situation in the team. We are looking forward to the Championship. We do all our best for the Constructors’ Championship. To be able to do well in the Constructors’ Championship, you need two drivers. This is very important for the house, this is very important for Ferrari. It’s the only trophy. That trophy, if you are able to win that trophy, stays at home. The drivers’ trophy goes to the driver, of course. I was very, very clear since the beginning of the season in our rule of engagement, the team it’s above anything. But, until the numbers, they’re not going in one direction or in the other direction – I’m talking about the drivers – no team orders. This is very, very clear. The drivers know about this, they accept it and I think what’s happening in Monaco, I was… let me say I was also a bit laughing when I heard all these comments – because it’s not the reality. There’s no problem in between the drivers. We are looking as Ferrari to the Constructors’. The Drivers’ Championship is their job. They are free to do it, until the numbers are going clearly in one direction or the other. In that case, we apply our rules of engagement – but not now, and not in Monaco.
Press Conference Part 2 featuring: Yusuke Hasegawa (Honda), Paddy Lowe (Williams) and Jody Egginton (Toro Rosso)
Jody, we’ll start with you. A solid weekend in Monaco for Carlos Sainz with an equal career-best sixth place finish, he’s also scored points at five races this season. A word on his development.
Jody Egginton: Yeah, Carlos is doing really good job for the team. He’s developed tremendously since he joined Toro Rosso, he’s very objective in his feedback and he’s putting together some really good events now and as reward for that he’s picking up the points for us really. And he’s pushing the team hard, as he develops as a driver, and playing a big part the development of what we’re trying to do improve the car and improve as a team. And we’re pushing him hard, and together we’re responding and he’s responding and we’re beginning to see some really consistent and high level results now. So, we’ve got high expectations for him and he has high expectations for himself and we hope to be able to continue on this trajectory and carry on as we are and put these good results together and it will help us as a team to achieve our objective – which is to be in the top five of the Constructors’ Championship – and he’s playing a big part in that.
What happened to him this morning?
JE: A hydraulics issue this morning. It left him stranded on track, we couldn’t get the car back and it’s session-over. But again, he’s put a good programme together with his engineers this afternoon and gone a good way to recovering his weekend – which is another sign of his development, I think.
It’s 3-3 in qualifying between him and Daniil Kvyat, so what’s been preventing Kvyat from unlocking similarly-consistent race results?
JE: It’s a number of things really. We’ve had a couple of reliability issues which have taken Dany out of points-scoring positions. China being one of those. Also, we had a couple of bumpy first laps in a couple of grands prix. Bahrain being one of those where he got shuffled down the field, and then you’re in recovery mode and you’re having to try to get the car back into the points, which is difficult. And then in Monaco… Monaco highlighted again what makes Monaco, Monaco. He had a bad start, and then you’re on the back foot, and then what followed, followed. But it’s a range of things really. There’s a few things on the team side and a bit of unfortunate luck – but the performance is in there and the target remains the same. We’ve got two good drivers and we’re trying to yield maximum points from them to achieve the team’s and the drivers’ targets – but he’s been less lucky than Carlos, I’d say.
Hasegawa-san, first of all, can you clear up the situation regarding the engine update. I think it was originally scheduled for this Canadian Grand Prix weekend. What’s the status?
Yusuke Hasegawa: Actually, we don’t promise normally, although of course every time I try to update the engine as soon as possible, so every time we are ready, we will introduce it. Unfortunately, it has not happened here. So, still we are trying hard in Japan, and so as soon as it is ready, we will introduce it.
Any prospect in the next race or two or is it too early to day?
YH: Too early to say. So, I don’t give up but I can’t promise.
You will have seen the Zak Brown interview with Reuters this week. What is Honda’s response to the points he made?
YH: I don’t respond. Yeah, of course we are talking together, even this morning. It is obvious we are frustrated with the current situation and we are disappointing with our team result, so there is no wonder there are some complaining comments – but the things we can do is try our very best for the team, and we are still aiming to go the same direction.
Paddy, this has been a strong track for Williams over the years: podiums and a Williams on the front two rows of the grid in three of the last four years – so are expectations high for Lance Stroll – hometown boy – to get his first World Championship points this weekend?
Paddy Lowe: Yeah, that would a fantastic result from him actually – but don’t want to speak too early. We’ll just take one day at a time. He had a great day today. It didn’t look so fantastic on the sheet – but he wasn’t running the ultrasoft during P2 today – so he had a good, solid day considering it’s a new circuit for him and he was just learning his way through that – so we’re hopeful he can build on that tomorrow and, if we can get him into Q3 ideally and then score points in the race, that would be a perfect weekend for him.
And the rationale for not running the ultra, just not to take risks?
PL: So he’s going to run two ultras in P3, so we wanted to give him a clear run through on the ultra tomorrow.
Jody was mentioning before about getting both cars home in the points and the importance of that in the fight for fourth, fifth in the championship. Is there concern with you that six races in you are beginning to lose touch with Force India in the Constructors’ Championship due to all the double points scores they have been racking up?
PL: yeah, that’s certainly a concern and it looks to be a challenge to recover that. We had a major loss in Spain, because Felipe had actually been in great shape in to Turn 12, but then had a puncture and in the end we didn’t get any points in Spain when Force India got fourth and fifth on a day when three of the leading six cars retired. That was a very bad day for us from a points point of view. We are very much intent on trying to recover that, but it will mean we will need to build to a position where we are getting points with Felipe and also with Lance.
Hasegawa-san, just to follow up on the Zak Brown question, he said that Honda appeared lost on the interview on Wednesday and today he told the BBC that something needed to change at Honda in the future to make you more competitive. Do you agree with those assessments? Are you lost? Does something need to change and why do you think he would say that? Obviously we see the results on track but there must be more behind it than that?
YH: It is very difficult but it is very unfortunate that we can’t convince them that we can do that. From the results point of view of course we need much improvement, from the performance and the reliability point of view. So, yeah, we will do everything. We need to do everything.
Paddy, they’re increasing talking about some form of cost control in Formula One and it appears that Liberty are very serious about introducing something like that. What would you, from a technical perspective prefer, a straightforward cost cap or would you prefer restrictive regulations that make a spending war almost impossible?
PL: I prefer a cost cap, or some sort of cost constraint. A constraint on the input side. I think we had done a lot of experiments over the last 10 or 15 years by trying to control the output side. They haven’t been entirely worthless those manouevres, for instance the elimination of routine track testing has allowed us to not need whole test teams and cars to support those and people to sort those. That has been effective. The control of aerodynamic testing, restricting the number of wind tunnels you can use, that’s all been good. But I think the problem with continuing down that road is that if you really want to reduce the leverage of your spend, in terms of lap time, significantly you end up having to make the cars too similar. You end up with a lot of standardization and effectively dumb down the cars themselves and the innovation with the cars and to be effective it would be too detrimental to the product that we all enjoy as spectators. So I think the only real way to solve it is to control the spending at the input end of things, for which one of the solutions would be a cost cap.
To Jody, about brakes. I guess braking is one of the key points here in Canada. How do you adapt the car from Monaco to here in terms of brakes. What is required to change?
JE: Monaco has its braking demands anyway but coming to a circuit such as Canada there is a lot of work going on the background to define what our cooling needs are, taking into consideration traffic etc. From our side, to be honest, I think the guys have done a good job this year and we’re fairly comfortable on that side, but the key point is to make sure you’ve got enough cooling being supplied and your wear rates are under control and that you can operate in traffic. We’ve seen this year that it’s been sensitive to this; for a couple of teams on a couple of occasions it’s been difficult, but it’s just a case of making sure you’ve got cooling and that cooling is efficient and you’re minimizing any aerodynamic losses associated with it. If you can put that together then you shouldn’t have any problems.
Speaking with the new owners today they were talking about brand building, especially in North America where many are not familiar with Formula One. In cases where there needs to be some type of display for people who are not familiar with the sport, would you be will with the new owners to put on a display or demonstration so people can see the product, see the sport, get close to the cars, see and understand what Formula One is?
PL: Very much so and at Williams we are already collaborating with the new owners on a number of projects of exactly that nature. That’s something we are all very keen to support.
YH: I have no idea but to make this sport very familiar to the fans I think we have to do everything. I didn’t hear about that idea, so I don’t know.
JE: I echo Paddy’s comments. I think it is important to take that approach and work together with these people to promote the Formula One brand.
Paddy, coming from Mercedes, this year for you is a new challenge of course. Do you feel more relaxed, let’s say having more time for a new project, a new challenge? What are you feelings about this?
PL: It’s a very good question. People have said that I look more relaxed the last few months. I don’t know why that is. When you are at the very front of the grid there is an expectation that you should win every race and if you miss a single one then people are asking questions and consider it to be a disaster then of course that does bring a certain level of pressure, I have to say! But I think I handle pressure pretty well, so it wasn’t a problem to me. I think the pressure for me in my new job is very different, but it’s still very present. We have a lot of work to do. It will be a long road; we take one step at a time to try to move ourselves forward. It’s a different kind of stress and maybe it appears differently on my face. But I’m enjoying it whatever. I always enjoy this job, in whatever context.