Full transcript from the senior managers’ press conference on day one of the Tuscan Grand Prix weekend, Round 9 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo Internazionale de Mugello.
Press Conference Part 1 featuring Mattia Binotto (Ferrari), Otmar Szafnauer (Racing Point), Guenther Steiner (Haas)
Q: Otmar, perhaps we can start with you please. We’re at Ferrari’s 1000th race. What are your best memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan?
Otmar Szafnauer: It’s a good question. I had respect for Ferrari as a fan. The first time I ever saw them race was in the early eighties in Detroit when I was in university at the time and went down – I studied in Detroit so I went down to the grand prix and I remember the Ferraris battling with the, I think it was the Hondas at the time, and having worked for Ford Motor Company and General Motors I was at that time rooting a little bit more for Ferrari than Honda. So that was when it started. And then the Michael Schumacher years were absolutely incredible. They dominated and I remember those years too – but at that point I was more than a fan. I was working hard at British-American Racing to try to beat them.
Q: Same question to you Guenther. Your best memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan?
Guenther Steiner: I think it was when Lauda came back from his big accident in the seventies. I remember getting up at night, watching him when he made the comeback in Japan when I think he lost the championship there. Coming from the north of Italy, for sure everybody was rooting for Ferrari and Lauda being so successful. That’s my memory of Ferrari. That sticks – and I think it’s a great company. It does a lot for Formula 1, it has done over the time. They have over 1000 grands prix now, which you think is a number but it’s a big number. So, yeah, it’s part of it.
Q: Coming to you Mattia. As Guenther says, it’s a big number. It’s a huge number. On a personal level for you, what does this milestone mean?
Mattia Binotto: On a personal level it’s an honour. I think being here today with my current role, head of Scuderia Ferrari and team principal and somehow also greeting the 1000, I think it’s certainly a responsibility but first of all it’s an honour because it’s a big history. It’s so long since 1950, always been here, never stopped. I think being the very first one, the most winning team, Constructor, Drivers’, number of race victories. So, at the end, I think it really is an honour, because when I was a kid, I was a fan. And so I never thought I could be here.
Q: Otmar, one of the biggest news stories coming into this weekend was confirmation that Sebastian Vettel will race for Aston Martin next year. What does his signature mean to the team?
OS: Well, we took a bit of time to make the decision between Sergio and Sebastian which just goes to show what a great job Sergio has done for us for the last seven years. However with Aston Martin coming in, and a bit of financial backing behind the team, a new factory happening in Silverstone, improving the team, adding twenty per cent more personnel, we’ve got some infrastructure too, that we’re embarking on to make this go faster, and therefore a driver like Sebastian who brings with him the experience of winning four World Championships and 53 races can only be beneficial for us. And he will help us take that next step that we all need to take in the coming years such that we can consistently race among the top three, top four teams.
Q: And what are you giving away in letting Sergio Pérez go?
OS: Well, he knows the team well, he’s got loads of experience. He’s a tenacious racer come Sunday, he’s a good qualifier. Rarely makes mistakes, brings home the points and if there’s a sniff of a podium, he’s usually there. So yeah, we are giving away quite a bit and I wish Checo the best of luck. He deserves to be in Formula 1 and I hope he can find a spot and we’re racing against him next year.
Q: Guenther, coming to you, one of the potential vacancies for Checo Pérez is Haas. How interested are you in hiring him for next year?
GS: I think Otmar did a pretty good sales pitch for him. He must be his agent as well! What Otmar said is true. He’s a good racer but we are just looking. There are a lot of candidates out there at the moment which we are talking with, which we are thinking about and we just need to come up with a decision. For a team, it’s quite good to be in the market because you have got a lot of things which you can pick up. We are in no rush to do anything and we just think it through, we come to a conclusion with an answer when we are ready.
Q: What are the criteria you’re looking for? How do you approach the problem of driver selection when you have so much choice?
GS: I don’t want to go through all the criterias but it needs to be a package, and what we need to see, how do we want to… what do we want to do in the future? How it is best of the team? We’re not just thinking about next year. Then, if you’re short on thinking, it is pretty easy: you try to get the fastest guy as quick as possible in. But we are thinking about the next five years after we have signed our Concorde Agreement now. So, we want to build up again, that we are getting back to the results that we had in 2018. That takes a bit more time to think it through: financially, talent, it’s a lot of things coming into play. And that is where we are. As I said, we are in no hurry.
Q: Mattia, from a performance point of view, things look better, certainly in FP1 with Charles being P3. How confident are you of maintaining that form as we head towards the business end of the weekend.
MB: Not at all. Not at all. I think it is a brand-new circuit for everyone. Each single driver, each single team. I think the track will pick-up speed as well, so I’m pretty sure all drivers and teams will now look at the data, adapting their driving style and they will be a lot faster obviously this afternoon in FP2 and then later in the weekend. But I think, as we said, hopefully Belgium and Monza have been outliers for us. These were certainly different tracks where low drag is required. So we hope that here at least we can to our level of competitiveness at the start of the season, which is certainly not still great but at least we’re where we were before. Yes Charles did a great lap, he got the confidence with the track. I think he drove well – but still there is much to do, much to come as well on our side, looking at the data, the sectors and progressing through the weekend.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question to Otmar. Otmar, you’ve just done a Sky F1 interview where you’ve said that Checo was kept aware about your talks with Vettel, even though he’s claimed yesterday ‘nobody told me anything’. He also said yesterday that we could have appreciated a bit more clarity from the team about next year so he could have got a Plan B in place a bit sooner. Do you feel there’s more that Racing Point could have done to maybe help him for next year and keep him up-to-date with things?
OS: We did keep Sergio up to date as well as his manager Julian. When the decision is a difficult one, and it hasn’t been made, there really isn’t much more that you can say. So yeah, I don’t think we could have said anything more, otherwise we’d be guessing what the future was.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) A question to both Guenther and Otmar. To do with the arbitration over the Column 1 money back to 2018. I believe that’s come to a conclusion. Please could you tell us where your respective teams sat on the matter?
OS: We’re pleased that it’s come to a conclusion and we can now, the entire team, can focus on what we’re here to do, which is go racing and entertain the fans. We’re happy that it’s behind us.
Guenther, anything to add?
GS: No, nothing to add. What Otmar said is right. We move on.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport.com) Mattia, Toto Wolff said at the Silverstone press conference that one of our main competitors with a 3D camera was scanning the Mercedes cars inside and outside the garage. Main competitors suggest it was either Red Bull or Ferrari. Can you just clarify if you feel addressed by this statement of him?
MB: Honestly, no idea. I’ve no idea if someone was scanning their car. Certainly it was not us. Honestly can’t comment on it. I think that taking pictures, scanning, I do not see any way, anyhow a problem with it. I think what is wrong eventually is to do reverse engineering on entire car. But I think that one now has been clarified in the wording by FIA and I’m happy with that conclusion.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Otmar, when you were bombarded with questions about your driver line-up over recent weeks you’ve always stuck to the statement that both drivers were under contract for 2021. So, could you just explain exactly what changed to enable you to move Checo aside. Because the messaging from the team was an attempt to be emphatic, so there was unlikely to be a change.
OS: They were contracted at that point and, not to go into confidential clauses of our driver contracts, because we don’t do that, but exactly what I said in the past was true and as you can imagine there are probably some get-out clauses on both sides. But, anyway, we like not to talk about the details of drivers contracts.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – Auto Hebdo) Couple of questions to Otmar please. Otmar, what makes you confident that Seb will return to the Vettel that won all these titles and race wins, with you guys next year. Will he be allowed to beat Lance?
OS: I think the first bit was what makes us confident he’ll return to the Seb of old? Is that right? He’s 33 years old, he’s still in the prime of his career, he’s got a vast amount of experience, he’s still highly motivated to do well. He works really hard and we believe with our team and what we want to take it to and the level that we want to get to Seb’s a perfect fit for that and I’m confident that he’ll race well. We’ve always allowed our drivers to race each other and that’ll be the same in the future.
Mattia, perhaps we could get your thoughts on Sebastian switching to Aston Martin next year. What kind of a driver are they getting?
MB: As far as my thoughts, I think it is not a surprise. We are very happy for that conclusion. I think the fact that we told him very early in the season our decision for next year was really to give him all the chances to find a seat for 2021, so finally very happy for him as a person. As a driver, I think it’s great for Formula 1 that’s Seb’s still part of the line-ups next year because he’s still a four-times World Champion and I think he’s a fantastic driver. Will he do well in Aston Martin or Racing Point or whatever it is? I think yes, I hope he’s doing well, certainly. I think we can challenge him next year and hopefully we’ll be simply ahead.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) You said a few minutes ago it took a while to make the choice between Checo and Sebastian. That seems to suggest Lance was never at threat of being dropped. Can you confirm that was the case? And if so, is that confirmation that basically the team, because of the ownership, was always going to stick with Lance, no matter what.
OS: Lance has been with us for a couple of years. He’s a young man at 21 years old and yeah, his father does own the team, so when he look to make a driver change, because Sebastian became available, it would have been Checo. Like I said before, there are options in his contract and those options didn’t exist for Lance.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) Two questions for all three of you. Firstly, the extra downforce cuts for 2021, now your guys have had a chance to look into the bigger change (audio breaks up). Secondly, this is the first of the new circuits. If we were at Imola, we’d now be going straight into qualifying after one practice session. Any thoughts on the challenge that’s going to provide?
Downforce cuts for next season. Have your teams had a chance to look into them yet?
MB: Certainly yes. Obviously when you are developing a car you need to target the level of downforce efficiency for the car. I think certainly if we look at ourselves, too much drag in 2020, we are aware of it and certainly we need to reduce it, so we’ve got clear targets. So yes, the cut-out has been assessed. At the moment in the wind tunnel and on simulations, we are working towards that.
GS: Yeah, we looked into the changes from regulations to have less downforce next year. And we are working on it. The outcome is not fixed yet but it looks like it’s easier to get rid of downforce than to gain it, so it shouldn’t be difficult to do but you need to be efficient in how you do it. So, we are working on it and yeah, it’s work in progress.
OS: We’ve started work on it. It’s not an insignificant change, so there is going to be work required to gain back some of the losses that we’ve experienced. That’ll take up a significant amount of our ATRs just to gain that back.
Q: And part two of Adam’s questions is: Mugello is the first of the new circuits we’re going to this year. And if you fast forward to Imola, you will have had your only practice session before going into qualifying because it’s a two-day weekend. Can we just get your thoughts on that, and how ready and how prepared you would feel now?
MB: That’s a good point. If you look at this morning, for example, there is a lot of… there is big gaps between drivers and teams – but I don’t think that’s the true gaps between drivers and teams and they will all catch up and at the end I think it will all be a lot closer. So, if you think we move that into Imola, it means that after only a session, I think that drivers will go into quali being less prepared. I think everyone tried the simulator, so everyone tried to prepare themselves to at least Mugello by learning the track on simulators. But when you come to the true track it’s certainly always quite different. So, I think Imola in that respect will certainly be very interesting. I think it will be less here because we’ve got the entire Friday and Saturday morning but yeah, that’s an important factor.
OS: I’ll just echo what Mattia said. It’s absolutely right: when you go to a track that’s unknown, track time is premium. We’re going to have a significant amount of that removed from us, so we’ll have to learn much, much quicker and I think maybe we won’t see the grid as it normally is. Those that can learn quicker will have an advantage and, absolutely right, the simulator becomes more of an important tool.
Q: Would you do a different run plan at Imola. You set your fastest time on the prime tyre this morning… OS: Yeah, we would do something differently when we get there, definitely.
Q: And Guenther, please?
GS: Yeah, I think what Mattia and Otmar said is right but also you have to consider here at Mugello some of the bigger teams they came here with older cars so therefore some of the drivers I think are better prepared than others because they drove here something, even not a current F1 car, which was completely legal. I think we went away from that, that you cannot go testing with old cars at race tracks which are new anymore. I don’t know if somebody went already to Imola but I think a part of the difference this morning was that one as well, because everyone is going everybody is going in the simulator but there is nothing like track time as you just said, so I think Imola if nobody is going there you shouldn’t have this big gap and I think it is quite positive if we achieve because then you see who is prepared to take more risk or who is learning quicker because there is a lot of elements and then maybe we can see a little bit of a mixed up grid getting to the race because one session and then qualifying there will be some surprises I anticipate. I’m not sure about it but if everybody is on a level playing field then the driver will makes the difference. For sure, it’s the engineers and how they set the car up but it could be quite interesting.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Otmar, I appreciate you don’t want to go into contract details. Would you have been able to rip up Sergio’s contract if he hadn’t missed those two races because he had COVID?
OS: It had no correlation with the races that he missed.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Otmar, given that you basically admitted that you copied last year’s Mercedes as much as possible for this year’s Racing Point car design, how much do the new FIA rules that have been put in place after that controversy affect your programme for 2021 design? And to both you and Guenther, what happened with the resolution to the argument over Column 1 money? Did you get it?
OS: Well, we welcome the clarity in the rules, like Mattia said. We will follows the rules. It won’t have an impact on how we go about designing and developing our car in the future. We’ve got 500 people in Silverstone who are very capable at designing and producing and good racing car, as well as developing its performance. We’ve always had that, we’ve always had that infrastructure from the time it was Jordan. What we lacked in the past was really manufacturing capacity. What we had in race car development was always strong. I think the new rules, although they make things more clear, will have zero impact on how we develop our car.
Q: The second part of that was did you get your Column 1 money.
OS: As I said before, it’s nice to have settled it and we should just move on and go racing.
GS: I fully agree with Otmar.
Q: (Sandor Meszaros – Autosport es Formula Magazine) Question for Otmar. Would you be so kind as to explain when the idea has come up to sign Sebastian Vettel? And was it a personal idea from Mr Stroll or was it a collective decision from the management of the team?
OS: I think the first part of the question is the idea came up after Ferrari announced that Sebastian would be racing there next year and we saw that as an opportunity and Lawrence does have a big say in what the team does as he is the majority owner but it was a collective decision at the end, but he does have other people that he asks their opinions and it was a collective decision.
Q: (Julianne Cerasoli – UOL Esporte) We’re at the end of the third triple-header. After this experience happening again, especially if Liberty tries to set up the calendar with races being geographically closer?
GS: I think triple headers are very tough for everybody. I think we can do them this year because it is an exceptional year with the pandemic. We need to make the effort and the people are ready to make the effort because they are all happy to still be here. And we had a few months not doing so much in the beginning of the year, so it’s possible to do in an exceptional year like this but doing it going forward as a standard I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s not only to the people and also for the spectator I think there is a saturation factor involved and if you race every weekend, just too close together, people lose interest. I don’t think that will help them going forward. Racing close in a region, staying in Europe, staying like this, is pretty nice but we are a global sport so we need to make sure we are represented globally. I think F1 did a good job to find ways out of not being able to travel as much as we do normally, or as far as much as we do normally, we still travel, and they came up with this compromise plan but I don’t think this is a plan that is here to stay. I think next year, always hoping that the pandemic will be over, going back to a more normal schedule, I think it’s better in general for F1 by not having triple headers, or a maximum of one, and then being more global again would be fantastic, so that we are represented in all the world and then not the majority just in Europe.
MB: Guenther already covered all the points. Nothing left for us. Nothing to add.
OS: I think multiple triple-headers are not sustainable. Yeah, we’re doing them this year but if I were to tell all the mechanics that this is how it’s going to be going forward I think they would choose to do something else.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) A question for Mattia and the others if they choose. Mattia could you explain to us exactly how the soft landing in the budget caps will work in terms of head count retrenchment. I believe there is a concession for the big three teams to reduce through until June next year, so they do have an advantage until June. Could you explain that please?
MB: I’m not sure I picked up the questions, but I will try to explain the mechanism of the soft landing. Obviously as Ferrari when we have been discussing the reduction on budget cap we have been very vocal on the fact that the new number, the new budget cap, would have meant a lot of reduction in terms of team organisations and members. We said we felt a social responsibility very strongly and we felt that it was somehow a wrong move towards the people, because it being such a period – pandemic, COVID – people losing their jobs was wrong. So what we simply asked was a soft landing – it has been ourselves to ask it and to obtain it – was a soft landing mechanism where we had time as a company to reallocate people in other jobs within our company. Simply that gave us six months’ time – I have to be honest, we asked for a bit more but that was the compromise – we’ve got six months’ time by the end of the year to reallocate people in different jobs.
Press Conference Part 2 featuring: Franz Tost(AlphaTauri), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing) and Frédéric Vasseur (Alfa Romeo)
Q: Franz, we’re at Ferrari’s 1000th race this weekend, can we start with you giving us some of your best memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan?
Franz Tost: When Niki Lauda won in Jarama, I remember quite well. There were also many other special events. I remember when Jacky Ickx was second behind Jochen Rindt at the Hockenheimring, I prayed to God that he stayed behind. Of course, Ferrari is the most well known brand in Formula 1. It is in Formula 1 since the very beginning and had very successful periods when they won races and won championships. The last very successful period was with Michael Schumacher and this was a fantastic time. Also I was a little bit involved there as I was working with Weber management. I can only congratulate Ferrari for this 1000th grand prix and wish them another 1000 races.
Q: Christian, same question to you. Your memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan?
Christian Horner: I’m not quite as old as Franz, so I don’t go back to the ‘60s and ‘70s but look, Ferrari are an iconic team. Those red cars, whenever you saw them… I remember the V12s when Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger were at Silverstone. The noise of the engines was just amazing. There has always been this mystique about Ferrari and everything they’ve achieved over the years. And then obviously competing against them. Obviously in our early days there were doing the dominating with Michael and the incredible job they did during that period and then the time with Alonso. They’re tough competitors and a great, great race team, with so much history. Ferrari are synonymous with Formula 1.
Q: And Fred, your thoughts please?
Frédéric Vasseur: Well, I’m the youngest one…
CH: Are you?
FV: No, no. But it’s last year with Charles in Spa for me. It was a great one, even if the weekend is tough. But for sure that if you look at every single decade they were always there, performing, winning races and it’s like an honour for us to race with them today. We can be all proud of this and the story of the build-up over the last 50 years in F1, it’s magic.
Q: Franz, what a race for your team last weekend in Monza. Now that you have had a few days to reflect on it, how proud are you of what Pierre and the team did at Monza?
Franz TOST: I must say that Pierre and the team did really a fantastic job because Pierre controlled the race, it was not just a lucky punch and a few laps. OK, we had some luck because of the red flag and the Hamilton penalty, which helped us a lot obviously, but after the second start, once he overtook Stroll, he was controlling the race and how he controlled it, how maturely he drove, this was really something exciting to observe on the pit wall. When Carlos came a little bit closer he immediately reacted. We were very fast in sector two. We had a little bit more downforce than the McLaren and therefore he deserved this victory and it was really a fantastic drive from his side.
Q: How have you celebrated this week?
FT: We didn’t have time for a celebration. As you know it’s a back-to-back race. The race team in Monza had to dismantle everything, disassemble the cars, bring everything here to Mugello. And on Wednesday in the factory, Daniil and Pierre visited us and then we went from department to department, because we have quite strong rules regarding COVID-19, and each employee got a glass of Champagne and they made photos together with the drivers, always five people only. It took a while but the employees were very happy about this and this was everything on our celebration.
Q: And on an emotional level, how did that win compare with Sebastian Vettel’s victory back in 2008?
FT: A victory always is something very emotional. We all were very happy, but you know, a few hours and the job goes on. The next target is in front of us and this is Mugello, to have a good race here, and that’s important. Monza is past tense.
Q: Christian, what was the root of your problems in Monza and were you surprised by them?
CH: Well, the car was never particularly happy in a very low downforce configuration, so qualifying fifth we felt with Max we still had a chance in the race, Alex in P9. It wasn’t the best first lap. We lost quite a lot of performance at the start because the car overheated and it did likewise at the second start and then unfortunately we had the retirement. So on a day when Mercedes didn’t, for once, dominate proceedings, we were unable to capitalise on that, which was frustrating. But in the event that we were unable to, it was great to see AlphaTauri, Franz and Pierre get that victory. Monza for us felt like an opportunity lost.
Q: Are all your bogey tracks behind you now?
CH: I don’t know! I hope so! Mercedes are so strong at all the circuits. But I think this track plays a bit more to our strengths than Monza. There are still some good circuits coming up. It’s great to be here. I raced here in 1997. It’s just a phenomenal track. Other tracks we’re going to – Imola, Portimao, we’re going back to Istanbul this year, this improvised calendar has got some great race tracks on it this year.
Q: Well, it’s been a great start to the weekend with Max P2 in the first practice session. How confident are you of challenging Mercedes?
CH: They’re so complete at the moment. They have been truly dominant. So we are working hard, we’re continuing to develop the car as hard as we can in order to understand some of the issues that we have had with the car and I think we’re starting to get on top of that now. Hopefully we can get a little bit closer this weekend but it’s going to be a tough grand prix here.
Q: Is this the most dominant that Mercedes have been in the turbo-hybrid era?
CH: I think it’s right up there. Their first year they were incredibly dominant but they didn’t quite show their full hand because they had such a power advantage. Collectively, power unit and chassis, they are very, very strong at the moment. But we have shown they can be beaten, at Silverstone, and so that’s what we have to focus on, extracting and working to our strengths and getting more out of our car to take that fight to them on a more consistent basis.
Q: Fred, can we start by talking about the effect of Sebastian Vettel’s switch to Aston Martin next year. It means of course that Checo Pérez is on the market. How interested are you in him?
FV: I think that Checo is interested in all the seats on the grid, available at least. I won’t move, I told you last week or the week before, in the course of September we will have the discussion with our drivers about next year and then we will decide together what we have to do. For sure now we have plenty of drivers available on the list.
Q: How long is the list of drivers that you’ve got talking to you?
FV: You made the list before me…
Q: But with the Ferrari juniors as well, Fred?
FV: Yeah, but you have some Ferrari drivers junior drivers, but you have Kimi first for us, to know what he wants to do and what we want to do with him and then we will see with the other ones.
Q: Now, Fred, if Kimi Räikkönen wants to stay in Formula 1 next year, will you have him?
FV: Yeah, sure, but if we are all interested to collaborate and the collaboration is good, it will make sense to continue.
Q: And if you have an experienced guy like Kimi in one car, would you go for someone with less experience? Would you go for a Ferrari junior?
FV: I won’t find someone more experienced than Kimi. It’s the advantage, that for sure the team-mate will be less experienced than Kimi.
Q: Final question, let’s talk about this weekend: what are your hopes?
FV: That we are targeting to put the two cars in Q2, that we made some steps forwards over the last weekend but we have to continue in that direction but we know that it’s not easy, it’s quite tight, it’s even more tight here in Mugello than somewhere else and Q1 will be difficult with the traffic but I think that we can target to have the two cars in Q2.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Motorsport.com) Christian, at the Friday press conference at Silverstone, Toto Wolff said ‘one of our main competitors was scanning our cars with a 3D camera last year, in the garage and outside the garage.’ The (phrase) main competitor meant Ferrari or Red Bull and Mattia just told us it was not Ferrari. Do you feel addressed by Toto’s words?
CH: Well, looking at the similarity between the Racing Point and Toto’s car this year I can only assume it must have been Racing Point. I don’t know what Toto’s referring to there but yeah, no idea I’m afraid, certainly not us.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Fred, with the project that the team’s been involved with Alfa Romeo there have been high points but this year the results aren’t quite what you want them to be. What do you see as the next logical step for this collaboration and would you consider moving beyond the Ferrari family to make use of the new era coming in 2022?
FV: No, no. We are discussing with Ferrari to extend the collaboration and then we are quite close to sign the deal and with Alfa Romeo the same.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, since Pierre Gasly’s victory at Monza last weekend obviously a lot of talk about him potentially returning to the Red Bull in the future. Pierre himself has said he would be ready but he understands the position is fully out of his hands. Would you consider bringing Gasly back to Red Bull for next year and when do you expect a decision to be made on Red Bull’s 2021 line-up?
CH: Well, look, I think Pierre has done a fantastic job. I think taking a step back into what was Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri he’s found his confidence, he’s driving incredibly well and AlphaTauri are doing a great job with him, I think it’s good to see, it’s really good to see that that’s working out for him and I think that as far as Red Bull Racing’s seats are concerned we are focused on Alex Albon, we want to try and give him the best opportunity to retain that seat. We’ve got some issues that we are working on with the car and I think that it wouldn’t make sense to switch the drivers back. AlphaTauri is now a sister team rather than a Junior team. I think that Franz is happy, I believe, with Pierre, so there’s no… the final decision will be made later in the year but there’s no push from our side to reverse the situation. We want to address some of the issue that we have with RB16 which I think we’re starting to understand and get on top of and then go from there.
Q: Christian, would you ever look outside of the Red Bull family when it comes to drivers? Checo Perez, for example?
CH: I think our preference has always been to nurture talent and whether that’s Sebastian Vettel, whether that’s Daniel Ricciardo, whether that’s Max Verstappen, they’ve all come through the junior programme. They’ve been schooled by Franz and then they’ve obviously delivered very well in Red Bull Racing seats, so our preference is always in that home ground talent but if the pool isn’t big enough, then of course occasionally you have to look outside of it but our intention is absolutely to work with the talent pool that we have.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) To all three: have you looked into the downforce cuts for 2021 and how big a change will it be, especially given the desire to cut costs?
FV: It’s a bit early stage for us because got the final regulation last week or the week before but for sure it will have a big impact on the downforce. I don’t want to speak about points but it will be huge and it’s also probably necessary for the tyres that if we are still developing the car and we want to keep the same tyres we put the responsibility of this on Pirelli; at the end we will do a choice and I think it was the right move from the FIA.
CH: I think it’s a bit of a tickie one. I think the teams will get back all the downforce that it perhaps takes off. Maybe more could have been done because the rate of progress in Formula 1 is such that if there is concerns about the load of the tyre then yeah, maybe more should have been looked at but of course whenever you change something, it does introduce cost because whatever you change creates differences so it’s finding that balance.
FT: We are just studying this new regulation and of course we will lose a lot of downforce but as I know, the development speed in Formula One I would not be surprised if at the beginning of next year or maybe a little bit later, the downforce level will be the same. Regarding the costs, nothing will change. There were a lot, the current diffuser and floor, or another one, at the end it’s just the same.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Primarily for Christian; the financial regulations provide a mechanism for a soft landing for those larger teams who need retrench staff and this goes through to June next year. Would you need to avail yourself of this particular one? And then to the other team principals present: do you see this mechanism as providing any form of advantage for the top three or four teams?
CH: I think the mechanism you’re talking about was primarily to accommodate Ferrari, in particular, with their employment laws but I think what we’re seeing as we inevitably delve deeper in these regulations and of course they have a much bigger effect on the top three teams than they will for the teams that are already operating below the cap but you know what’s been exciting for us is to look at projects that will soon be announced that we’ve won with external clients where we will be taking on different work and different work streams in different categories. We have obviously designed the Valkyrie car over the last four years and we’re looking at other options where we can utilise the skill set and talent that we’ve acquired in Formula 1 in other projects. Obviously those regulations do have a fundamental impact on the teams and of course that cushion, as it were, for 2021 does offer a soft landing, particularly for Ferrari who pushed so hard for it.
Q: Franz, do you feel that soft landing is an advantage to the top teams?
FT: Of course it’s a small advantage for the top teams because they can keep people longer, but we must not forget but the three top teams built up a fantastic infrastructure in the last years and now because of the cost cap they have to change many processes in there and therefore I think it’s a very fair compromise and I am a fan of this.
FV: Yeah, the cost cut and the financial regulation will have a huge impact on the top teams and I think we don’t have to be focused on the first six months and what will happen in the first six months because the regulation will be in place for at least the next five years. It will be a mistake to just focus on what could happen in January or February. I think it’s a huge impact for them. They’ve made a big effort, also on this point and I think it’s a normal situation.
Q: (Erik van Haren – De Telegraaf) Christian, in Monza, Max Verstappen said both the car and the engine this year are not good enough. Do you agree with him?
CH: Well, I think, certainly in Monza, we were nowhere near the competitiveness that we wanted to be in and of course we’ve had some issues with this car this year. We had high expectations coming into the year and despite being second in the World Championship and having won one race so far plus the other five podiums we’ve achieved it’s never enough. The whole of the team is working very hard to get on top of these issues because of course this is the fundamental elements of the car that are in place for next year as well. I think we’re starting to understand some of the issues that we’ve had and the whole team, as I say, is working very, very hard to ensure that we are on top of them for the second half of the season.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Christian, I just wanted to pick you up on your remark about the change of status of AlphaTauri from Junior team to sister team. Can you explain the thinking behind that and how much is it to do with the fact that as you described it, the talent pool is limited or whatever the phrase was that you used?
CH: Obviously AlphaTauri is a rebranded team for this year. I think that their aspirations are beyond where Toro Rosso’s were and I think we obviously have a synergy project within the regulations that we’re allowed so for example, the sharing of the wind tunnel will happen for the first time next year, which makes complete sense from a financial perspective. That’s what I was referring to and I think that, from a talent pool, Red Bull has invested in so many young drivers over the years and we’ve got some good young talent coming through. You can see in Formula 2, Formula 3 the talent that we have and will continue.
Q: Franz, can I just pick this up with you? Do you see AlphaTauri as more of a sister team now than it was a junior team?
FT: I think that the team has grown up in the last years, that we show better performance, the cars are more reliable, the co-operation with Red Bull Technology is very positive and all the synergy process brings us a lot of advantages, everything within the regulations. And we have AlphaTauri now, we are the brand ambassador for AlphaTauri and therefore we have to show a good performance, we have to be there because otherwise it doesn’t make sense for AlphaTauri to be in Formula 1. This is what Christian meant, that we have to improve the performance, we have become better and the victory in Monza showed that we are able to do it.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Fred, don’t take it the wrong way but you are an experienced figure in the French racing scene. I believe you founded your first team in 1996; what did Pierre Gasly’s win in Monza meant to you and motor sport in France?
FV: I think it’s important for everybody in France in motorsport. It’s a great achievement for Pierre and AlphaTauri also. They did very well, Pierre did a fantastic event, but he is improving and it was… I don’t want to say that it was abuse because that he was quali in P9 or something like this but at the end of the day, over the last couple of events he has was improving and he was not miles away from a good event. And then, for sure, if you’re in this situation and you want to win, you need to have a chaotic race but as Franz said before, when he was in front he was able to manage the situation, to have a very clean race and he did a very good job. It’s also good motivation for all the young teams in France, doing go-karts and junior series, that’s the way is there and let’s continue like this.
Q: (Julianne Cerasoli – UOL Esporte) To all three: are you planning to keep any changes you’ve made due to COVID, both regarding sanitary measures and things which had to be changed due to the pandemic and which are actually working better?
FV: Tough one. No, I don’t know that it’s… for sure I think the world will change also and we will to… COVID is not behind us and we will see what happens in the next few months. I think the world will change, due to the situation and a way of life will evolve also, and I don’t know if we will change something in the future or not. It’s some constraint but it was the price to pay for everybody if we wanted to continue to race. It was a great achievement for everybody. If you have a look at other sports – if you have a look at football for example, it’s quite a disaster with tons of players positive and so far we did very well. Altogether it’s an achievement but I think that at some stage we will have to be focused on the future.
CH: I think that what we’ve seen during this period is technology moved and so conferencing and teams meeting and Zoom and all these different technologies and so I think there are elements of that where efficiency can be improved. Obviously Formula 1 is a remote working environment when you’re back at the factory and I think there have been some interesting developments with technology there with speed and processing and so on, and so I think they will be the elements. I think obviously press conferences in future should all be done by video conference and so on, but I’m looking forward to getting rid of the mask. Hopefully we can get rid of the mask relatively soon.
FT: AlphaTauri have quite strict guidelines regarding COVID-19. We always do permanent tests; every employee in the morning has to do a temperature test. As I mentioned before, when the drivers were there, we didn’t allow all the people coming together. We split into smaller groups. We need to pay attention to this because the virus is still here and I just hope that now, during the winter months, it will not become worse. I also hope that from the medicine side they will find a solution, vaccine or whatever and that next year we will have a season without this stupid mask here and that we can come back to our normal life.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To all three, picking up on sister teams and the opportunities going forward. I just want to know from Christian and Franz’s perspective, how have you seen that sort of relationship evolve and what do you see as the advantages going into the new era of having the sister teams rather than senior and junior team and for Fred, do you see yourself becoming more of a sister team to Ferrari, for example, or is it more of a straightforward customer relationship even in the new era?
FV: The relationship with Ferrari is like it is and they are supplying parts, engine, gearbox and some other parts and the collaboration on this one is a good one but we are not sharing the same wind tunnel, for example, as some other teams are doing and for sure I think it will probably be an advantage in the future and to have a larger collaboration.
CH: Well, obviously the regulations have been clarified very recently as to what is permitted and what isn’t and it doesn’t fundamentally change anything that we’ve been doing with AlphaTauri apart from the fact that we start co-sharing the wind tunnel which makes a great deal of sense. So the tools that we’re using, within the models, the model size, AlphaTauri will be utilising the same equipment, the same tunnel and of course , hopefully that will be helpful for them in their development, particularly with the 2022 car being such a significant regulation change. So I think the regulations are now clear, the grey zones have been taken out in terms of what is and isn’t allowed and hopefully AlphaTauri will certainly benefit from that.
FT: Not much to add. I just want to explain, regarding the wind tunnel, because we are the only team using the 50 per cent wind tunnel and then of course Bedford is 60 per cent there which will obviously bring us an advantage because you can make much more valid measurements and the rest is not a synergy process, we did it already in the last years quite successfully, it was saving money and improving the performance, because Red Bull Technology at a very high level from a technical standard and therefore I don’t see anything special.