Part One: Jost Capito (Williams), Zak Brown (McLaren), Christian Horner (Red Bull)
Q: Jost, can we start with you please, and let’s start by talking about Logan Sargeant who made his FP1 debut with the team yesterday. First up, tell us about the job he did for you.
Jost CAPITO: I think he did the job that was expected. And he did exactly what he was told to do. For him, it was a bit tricky: first time in an FP1 to get used to the car and the brakes. He was overwhelmed by the brakes especially. So… yeah… he did what he should do and we were quite OK.
Q: Now, news has just broken that he’s going to do two more FP1 sessions for the team. Next week in Mexico and in Abu Dhabi. Do you feel Logan is ready to race in Formula 1?
JC: Yeah, we feel he’s ready to race and, under the condition that he has enough Super Licence points after Abu Dhabi, he will be our second driver next year.
Q: Breaking news. Tell us, what will you expect from him, if he has the requisite Super Licence points. What will you expect from him next year?
JC: I think with every rookie who comes in, and he had one season in Formula 2, and I’m a fan as getting young drivers as quick through as possible into Formula 1 because the series , the cars, compared to Formula 1 cars, lack tracks, so get him in as soon as possible and find out if he’s capable to stay in Formula 1 long-term – which we believe he is. His first year in F2, and he won races, and he has been qualifying very strong, all the years in his career, so we believe he’s absolutely ready to get into Formula 1.
Q: Tell us about the combination that gives you for next year then: Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant?
JC: We can have a rookie because, with Alex, who’s still young but also already a very experienced driver, he established so well in the team, he gave fantastic results, he’s working well with the team, so we can put a rookie alongside him.
Q: Christian, looks like we’ve got an American driver coming to Formula 1 next year. Can we just get your reaction to that: how important is it for the sport to have an American driver?
Christian HORNER: I think it’s great news. Congrats to Jost and the Williams team on hopefully achieving that – obviously still subject to the Super Licence – which I think is another topic that we perhaps need to have a look at. But I think we see the growth in the US, we see the excitement that there is. I came from Vegas earlier in the week and seeing the plans there for that race as well, which looks to be an epic event, you can see the American public are really engaged in Formula 1, and I think we need an American driver. Not only just a driver, we need a successful driver in there competing as well. It shouldn’t just be Brad Pitt. So I think that, it’s exciting for Formula 1, it’s exciting times and the sport’s growing and developing. And I think we’ll see more American talent developing and emerging. Certainly we’ve got some interesting candidates on our Junior Programme that we’re investing in.
Q: Christian, let’s bring it on to this weekend. The team can win its first Constructors’ Championship in nine years. If, when, it comes, how much satisfaction will that give you?
CH: Well, you know, there’s still a bit of work to do to achieve that, depending on results this weekend. But I think when you think of the journey that we’ve been on, since… 2013 was the last time we achieved that. We came into the hybrid era and one team and one engine manufacturer has dominated that period and won every single one of those Constructors’ Championships, but we’ve never lost sight of what that target was. And we’ve never stopped believing, we’ve never stopped pushing, looking to extract the most out of the car, the team and in all areas. And the season that we’ve had this year has so far been phenomenal. I mean, we’ve equalled our best ever results in terms of victories, in terms of one-two finishes, in terms of where our drivers currently are in the Drivers’ Championship. So, if we’re able to convert this, it’d be wonderful to do it this weekend. It would be an outstanding achievement for the team. And I think it just demonstrates again that if you believe in something, and you really want it, then anything is anything is possible. Because there were times that looked like there was no hope of being able to even challenge the dominance that we’ve seen in in recent years but we’ve managed to turn that around and demonstrate that an independent team can do that, and can hopefully take the big prize, which for us is this year, as well as defending the Drivers’ Championship where Max has been unbelievable, if we can convert the Constructors’ as well, that will rank right up there with our best ever achievements.
Q: We last spoke to you in Singapore, about the budget cap. What is the latest on that please?
CH: The latest on that is that we are in a process with the FIA. We’re hoping to get closure on that. And at that point in time, then all the facts will be laid on the table and we’ll be able to talk very openly about the cap, and why we feel that our relevant costs are fully in-line. We’re in the process, we’re working with the FIA . They’re diligently trying to do their job and hopefully, in the near future, will have a resolution.
Q: Can you give us your thoughts on that process that’s taking place?
CH: Well, it’s a new process. I mean, what you have to remember, with these regulations, is that they were introduced, obviously, at a level where the $175 million, it was then reduced by $30 million during the pandemic, it’s a complicated set of regulations. It’s 52 pages. And of course we’ve been through that process and 2021 was the first ever year of a set of very complicated financial regulations, which of course, have a varying… interpretations to them from different accounting specialists. So obviously, the findings of the FIA have been made public recently. And we’re now in a voluntary process with the FIA, going through that process with them. And I hope you will be able to conclude it in the near future. But that’s where we currently are.
Q: Zak, coming to you now. Can we get your thoughts on the budget cap and some reaction to what Christian has just said?
Zak BROWN: Well, I think the budget cap is very important for the future of the sport. I think everybody recognises that and that’s why it was put in place. It is complicated, it is new, I think none of us know any details. So, I think we need to wait for the FIA and Red Bull to finish up the process that they’re in. And I think just even like on the Super Licence, it was a shame not to get Colton Herta into the sport. I think he too would have been an excellent addition to the grid. And I think with this being a new process, what we need to do is come out of the backside of this, and learn from it and see what we need to do – as we need to do with other regulations – modify them from time-to-time. I think we all have opinions but we need to kind of see it through and then – as the teams, the FIA and Formula 1 do – sit around a table and say this probably isn’t perfect. I don’t think anyone thought it would be perfect. And then go: ‘What should we do to modify it moving forward?’ But fundamentally, the cost cap is a very important part of Formula 1’s future.
Q: Zak, you say ‘we all have opinions’. Last week, you wrote a letter outlining your thoughts on any budget cap breaches. Why did you feel the need to write that letter?
ZB: Because all the teams have opinions, and some speak about it vocally, others don’t necessarily always bring forward some specific views. So, I thought it was important from a transparency standpoint, we all sit around the table, there’s a lot of times we discuss things openly and then there’s a lot of back-channelling, and I thought I would just lay it out there – not knowing the facts of the case. So, it was more of a response of ‘if these types of things have happened’. It’s not for McLaren to decide they have or haven’t, but to put forward now that we understand the ramifications if you go over, what some of those benefits can be and how we should address them. So, it’s the same conversation, I think, we would have had when we came up with the cap, we just never really spoke about what would be some of the potential consequences and, like all the teams do, suggest to the FIA some solutions for them to take onboard – but ultimately for them to decide.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) Christian, please, you talked about being in the process. I just wondered, when it comes to the differences in interpretations, were there any opportunities prior to this for anything to be flagged up to you? You know, points in the process before this, where there’s dialogue between the FIA, anything like that that could have prevented this being something that happens in advance, basically? If there are differences in interpretations, could you’ve got the answer sooner?
CH: Well, I think that, as Zak said, it’s a process, it’s a new process. We made an interim submission in 2021. There was no feedback or suggestion that we were doing anything that was contrary to any regulations. And then, of course, the submission was made in March. Again, we didn’t hear anything from that submission in March until the latter part of September. So, it’s a significant period of time that there was… and, of course, there’s also duty within the regulations for the FIA to guide, to have effective compliance.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Question to Christian. Tricky one this: we’re all conduits to the fans who want to understand what is happening with the cost cap, and there’s been lots of views put on social media and discussions by the fans. But as far as I see it, Red Bull are the only team that have been accused of overspending. However that overspend has happened, however innocently that might have happened – and I’m not accusing Red Bull of cheating here – a figure of $1.8million has been quoted and the team haven’t denied this. So, however much, however innocent, that overspend has been, you’ve still benefited – am I right? – from an extra $1.8 million that could have gone into car development that you shouldn’t have had under a cost cap. So, do you concede that you have benefitted by an overspend, and that may in some way have contributed to some of the success that you’ve achieved in 2021, and 2022 so far?
CH: No. Look, absolutely not. I mean, what you got to look at is what are the relevant costs? And what are the relevant costs within the cap and what’s outside of the cap? And that’s where the interpretation comes from. And our view is that our relevant costs are within the cap. Now, obviously, we are in discussion with the FIA about what those costs are, and what are mitigating potential circumstances, you know, etcetera. So, we had zero benefit from a development perspective or an operational perspective, either for 2021 or for 2022 from the way that we operated it within the cap. Our submission was significantly below the cap. We expected certain things to be potentially challenged or clarified, as is the process in a brand new set of regulations, but based on external, professional accounting third parties, the interpretation of those rules, of a 52-page document to police this, were very clear from our side. So, we absolutely and categorically don’t feel that we’ve had any advantage either in 2021, or 2022, or ’23 or ’24 or some team’s even talked about ’26, is totally fictitious.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Christian, just on Zak’s letter. He said that the overspend breach constitutes cheating. So I just wanted to get your reaction to that and obviously, the accusation of cheating.
CH: Well, obviously, Zak’s letter – which wasn’t copied to us, obviously – we’ve had sight of that letter, and it’s tremendously disappointing. For a fellow competitor to be accusing you of cheating, to accuse you of fraudulent activity, is shocking. It’s absolutely shocking that another competitor, without the facts, without any knowledge of the details, can be making that kind of accusation. And that goes… you know, we’ve been on trial because of public accusations since Singapore. And the rhetoric of cheats, the rhetoric of… that we’ve had this enormous benefit, that the numbers have been put out in the media that are miles out of reality, and the damage that does to the brand, to our partners, to our drivers, to our workforce, in an age where mental health is prevalent, we’re seeing significant issues now, within our workforce. We’re getting kids that are being bullied in playgrounds that are employee’s children. That is not right, through fictitious allegations from other teams. And you cannot go around just making that kind of allegation without any fact, or substance. So, we absolutely are appalled at the behaviour of some of our competitors.
Q: Zak, would you like to comment?
ZB: No, well, I guess yes, because I will comment. Look, my letter set out that I think if someone – a team – spends more than the cap, they’re going to get an advantage. And the cap is a rule, no different than the technical rules in the sport. We’re not taking a view whether they did or didn’t. My letter was: if someone has, then here are the things that we think should be addressed. No different than if a ride height is incorrect, or a flexi wing, or whatever the case may be. So I didn’t mention any teams. It was a general response. Now that we are into the cost cap era, if someone breaches that, here’s what we think some of the ramifications are. I have no idea what the number is, I know none of the details. If we had more money to spend, that would put us in a better light and performance, more people, more upgrades, whatever the case may be. So, we feel it’s a performance benefit if someone has spent more than the allocated cost cap, that is up to the FIA to determine whether they have or haven’t.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) For Christian. You talk about the process, Christian. What exactly is that process? Have the FIA offered you a breach agreement? Are you negotiating over that breach agreement? Are you deciding whether to accept it? What is going on?
CH: The process, as per the regulations, is that we’ve been invited to enter into an ABA, which is for a minor breach, and a procedural breach, that you have the opportunity to discuss with the FIA and present your case, your position on this. And we’re in that process and have been for the last… pretty much, what, 10 days or so? Going backwards and forwards with the FIA. And I hoped for it to be resolved before this weekend. I’m hopeful that it can be resolved during this weekend. But should that not happen, the next process is it goes to the cost cap administration panel and then beyond that there’s the International Court of Appeal. So, it could draw it out for another six, nine months, which is not our intention. We want closure on 2021. I think that we’ve had some healthy and productive discussions with the FIA, and I’m hopeful of being able to reach a conclusion in the near future.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) Another one for Christian. Has this issue been impacted by amendments that came along after you submitted in March? For example, there’s a suggestion that in June there was a change to the way unused spare parts are allocated to heritage departments and so on. So, have the goalposts moved on you?
CH: Yes, in a simple answer to that question. We feel that, again, at such an immature set of regulations, there’s going to be clarifications and tidying up, and I think, certainly how unused inventory was treated was, in our view, a change to the regulation. Then perhaps… Certainly we applied a very strict ruling in the way that we treated our new stock. And I think that a clarification came out in June that changed the application of that. That had a seven-digit effect on our submission. But, of course, retrospectively, we were not allowed to change your submission. What you have to remember is that the submission can constitute about 75,000 line items. So, there’s an enormous amount of data that has to be inputted into these submissions and I think it’s only natural that, in a first year we have a set of very complicated regulations, to be able to get its arms around everything, is almost impossible. Almost impossible. And interpretations have been made, maybe by other teams have been slightly different, and then a change like that has a huge swing in your application of how you’ve completed your form which, had we been able to resubmit at that point in time, we would have treated very, very differently. So, you know, there’s probably several teams that have been affected in that manner.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) A question to Zak and to Jost, to follow up on Adam’s question, please. This clarification that came out in June seems to have quite heavily affected Red Bull from what we understand. Did it actually affect you as a team? Were you able to do resubmissions? Were you aware of the clarifications? Can you just talk a bit about that, what happened in June?
JC: No, it didn’t affect us, because we were in line with the regulation after the submission.
ZB: I can only speak to our process with the FIA, which we found to be very collaborative, lots of clarifications, we asked lots of questions, we were right near the limit, which is, you know, one of the reasons why, in this year we’ve all dealt with the inflation issue. But you adapt your response. I’ve been managing budgets my entire life in business. So it’s nothing that’s foreign to me. And no, we found the process to be quite thorough, quite detailed, and very manageable.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) For all three of you, we’ve been waiting for clarification for about two weeks now. Is this already the moment that you can conclude that this as a disgrace for the sport or is it too early to say that? And should we remember what Christian said that we hope for a fast solution – for instance, this weekend – but what happens if it takes another five or six, seven months?
CH: I think it’s in the interest of everybody, in the interest of the sport, in the interest of Formula 1 to get this situation resolved as quickly as possible. And I think there are many lessons that can be learned from it.
ZB: I agree with Christian.
JC: I agree with Christian as well. And I think that has to be… In addition, it has to be clarified in a proper way. That’s more important than being one or two days early or later.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) A couple of questions. Christian, can you tell us what the proposed penalty is that the FIA have given to you? Zak, a question about your letter. It seems a bit pre-emptive from my point of view. There could be a suggestion that you didn’t trust the FIA to be diligent and strict in their punishment. And generally, to all three: are you satisfied with the way that the FIA are handling this investigation? It seems pretty murky, you know, these deals, we’ve seen it before. They promised, you know, openness and clarity, and just being open with everyone. Yet it seems a very closed book, it just doesn’t send the right message to me. I just wondered if we could get your feelings on it?
CH: I can’t tell you that obviously. It’s a confidential discussion between ourselves and the FIA. What I will say is that once, hopefully, this situation is concluded there will be complete transparency and I will talk you through the reasoning behind our submission and the position that we had, as to why we felt that each of the line items that have been challenged we believe there’s a contrary position. So yes, and it should be transparent. The whole thing should be transparent. There’s going to be no private, you know, secret deal. I think it would all be absolutely above board. This is very different to a previous situation.
Q: Zak, please, first of all the letter?
ZB: Yeah, no, I think we have a lot of trust in the FIA. All we were doing was volunteering our opinion for them to take into consideration. I think it has been a transparent process so far, in that, you know, certificates were going to be issued, then it was delayed, but they communicated it was going to be delayed, they’ve communicated who’s received, who hasn’t, who had procedural. And I don’t think it’s right, that it’s, you know… It shouldn’t be a public hearing. And I’ve got a lot of confidence that it will be transparent at the end. So I think we need to let the process play out. And only then can you really take a view on what you think of the process. But I think so far it’s gone according to how they laid out what the process would be.
Q: Jost, the process?
JC: I think for us, we can say that we had a very open, very thorough and very constructive discussion with the FIA through the whole submission process, and thereafter, and before, through all of the season. As Christian mentioned before, it’s not that you just hand the paper in and that’s it. So it was lots of discussion. And this was very constructive with us. I believe that the FIA has handled it the same way with every other team as well. I think now it’s the right way to first sort the things out and not go public every single day with something new. I think it has to be thoroughly handled. And I believe the FIA will do that with every team. And then when the time is right, and when they are ready, for sure they will be transparent and go public with what the situation is.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Jost, based on what you’ve just said, you were in fact found in procedural breach of the cost gap regulations. As a team owned by an American investment company, did this have any impact on the investors’ standing? How did they react to it, because, again, that procedural breach is in fact, a breach.
JC: The procedural breach we had had nothing to do with Williams Racing. So as you know, there are all kinds of companies that are linked to the owner of the team that have to submit an audit. They have companies all over the world. So one third audit company said a couple of days before that they will not finish that in time. That was contrary to what they said before. So it had absolutely nothing to do with Williams Racing. And it was completely beyond our control. So with that, it has no impact on the investors.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Christian, you said you want closure through this whole situation? We’re already what, nine of 10 months into this season now as well, how important is it, through all of this, that we don’t have the same situation in another 12 months’ time that is clear from the FIA that your submission for next year will be fully understood?
CH: I think it’s enormously important. I mean, we can’t be waiting and being in October, November to find out, you know, the outcome of a previous year’s championship and I think the FIA going to put the resource in to deal with that, because I think, what you have to remember is this set of regulations was placed upon the FIA to police and I think it’s probably taken them by surprise during the last 18 months, just the scale, particularly with the scale of some of the teams and the complexity of it, to have to have to deal with it. And I think they’ve done obviously the best they can with the resources that they have, but, you know, obviously, the process, we’re assured will be a lot quicker next year or for this year. And of course, you know, there are significant challenges within 2022 that when you look at the amount of crash damage some of the teams are having, some of the update levels that are going on, you know, there are precedents that will be set from 2021 will have to apply and with a consistency in 2022.
Q: (Sam Hall – GP Fans) Christian, how concerned are you that given these clarifications, your submission for this year could be ruled to be in breach as well. And to all three, the 5% limit on the budget cap, this minor infraction, is it right that there’s such a big window for error before the more serious punishments are considered?
CH: Look, I mean, this year is a challenge with the energy costs and everything else associated with it. If I look at the facts, Max Verstappen has had the least amount of accident damage of any driver on the grid? Sergio Pérez is certainly at the lower end. If I look at the amount of developments compared to some of our rivals we are significantly below that. If I look at the quantity of parts that we’re bringing, if I look at where we are in the freight, we’re probably the sixth or seventh team that brings in terms of freight volumes to a Grand Prix. So, having been through this process, one can never say that you’re fully confident. But you know, I cannot believe when we look at the statutory accounts of others, and so on, that we are in any way out of kilter with the rest of the field.
Q: And Christian, the 5% window?
CH: The 5% window. Again, I think it’s part of the regulations that potentially need to be looked at, because the ranging suite of penalties, again, are totally subjective. And I think this is what’s contributed to a concerted campaign for there to be a draconian penalty on Red Bull for what… At the end of the day, you know, we’re talking probably… What is in contention with the FIA is a couple of hundred thousand dollars. So, and as I say, I will explain later why we have a differing opinion within that submission of, you know, what, what our position was versus another. But what has been just tremendously disappointing through this whole process is that the leakage that happened is that then suddenly we are tried and subjected to what, three weeks of effective abuse. And then to be seeing… I mean, Zak’s got a very convenient memory of the letter that he wrote, accusing us of cheating and being fraudulent. You know, it’s just not right. It’s just not right. And this has to stop.
Q: Zack, the 5% window?
ZB: Yeah, I think in hindsight, the 5% is way too high. It’s something all the teams discussed and agreed upon. So I think that’s something coming out of this that we need to look at, because five 5% is, you know, a very substantial amount of money in percentage basis to things like car development, or people to hire, or wherever you may choose to spend the money. So I think that definitely needs to be reviewed.
JC: Yeah, I’ve got the same opinion. It has to be clarified. And the 5% is quite a lot of money. But when you look at the past before the cost cap, and compare Williams to the top teams, they were outspending, five to 10 times, not 5%. So now with 5%, the gap is much smaller than it was five to 10 times before. But nevertheless, it has to be sorted still, as we want long-term the same kind of competitiveness. And when I hear comments that now everybody has the same cost cap and has the same budget, that everything is on the same playing level, well, if teams outspend another team by five to 10 times for a couple of years, they’re starting from a completely different level. Then the cost cap makes it very difficult for a team that didn’t have the resources before to catch up, because we can’t outspend the teams who outspent us the years before, even if we would be in the position to have the money. But nevertheless, it has to be cleared. And you don’t have in the technical regulations, either the 5%. But I agree that it’s the first time of these regulations, and they had a massive impact on many teams. So for the first year to have a kind of a threshold of 5% it must have made sense. But it has to be more strict and clearer in the future, as the FIA and the teams also get experience with the cost cap regulations. And it’s complicated regulations, and they have to be complicated. We do not see that they can be simplified from the 50-plus pages to a five-page regulation. So it needs a lot of work and where I see when we work in the F1 Commission, the team’s work very well together to find the solutions with the FIA, and with FOM.
Part Two: Frédéric Vasseur (Alfa Romeo), Guenther Steiner (Haas), Mario Isola (Pirelli)
Q: Fred, let’s reflect on yesterday. Théo Pourchaire got his first FP1 outing with the team and he said it was the best hour of his life. What sort of a performance did he put in?
Frédéric VASSEUR: First of all, it’s a good return from Theo to say that it was the best hour of his life because I think that we have to keep in mind that they have to enjoy. On top of this, I think he did a very good job, that it was the first time for him in the car. He did one test day one year ago with the C32, a 10-year-old car and it was not an easy challenge. But he did very well. He used just one set to do the comparison between low fuel and a high fuel. And at the end the stint he did with high fuel was a very strong one. But I’m more than pleased with the job done and the feedback by Theo.
Q: Now, what about the updates that you ran first in Suzuka and I think there’s more here at COTA this weekend. How much of a step forward has the car taken?
FV: We will see today, but we are speaking about small updates and we are not speaking about half a second. But it’s so tight in the midfield between P6 and P20 that every single hundredths or tenths are valuable that we are still fighting for P6 and we really want to keep it and to put everything together.
Q: Well, talking of P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, you are seven points ahead of Aston Martin and it’s been, let’s say, a slow second half of the season for you guys – just one point in the last nine races. Can you just talk us through what the issues have been in those races and how you think it can improve between now and…
FV: It’s never coming from one single thing, you know. We have done the second part of the season. We had some reliability issues, with a penalty the weekend after, we had poor starts, we had a poor lap one, at the end of the day it’s so tight that you are P11 instead of P8 at the beginning of the season. But now with the updates and the fact that the pace was there in Suzuka and Singapore in dry conditions I think that we are able to come back to Q3 and to score good points this weekend.
Q: Good, because I was going to say what should we read into bought assets performance in particular yesterday?
FV: Yeah, but I’m not sure that FP2 yesterday was the most relevant session of the season but it’s always better to be at the top than the bottom.
Q: Alright, Fred, thank you very much. Guenther, we will come to you now. Unfortunate start for the team in FP1 yesterday when Giovinazzi had an off, but it looked like an encouraging FP2 with Mick in P5. Just how do you sum up day one yesterday?
Guenther STEINER: Yeah, FP1 with Antonio crashing on his first lap, it was you know, unfortunate. You can almost feel sorry for him, you know, it’s like he goes out there trying to show that he’s still around and then he has this crash and then he overheated the clutch and he couldn’t go out anymore. So it was very unfortunate, but as Fred said, FP2 yesterday with the development tyres, it’s difficult to judge what actually happened. We have got the expert here who can tell us. because he knew which tyres we had, you know. We don’t know, we went out there. But again, it’s better to be on top there than on the bottom, you know, so we continue to live the dream of FP2.
Q: Now, let’s talk about your second driver for next year. On Thursday, Kevin said that Mick Schumacher deserves another season in Formula 1, what’s your reaction to Kevin’s comments?
GS: I heard this comment for the first time. I don’t think… Deserving or not, a lot of people deserve something. I need to look after the whole team and see if Mick is the chosen one. You know, I’m not saying it’s not Mick or anything. I think I got a lot of consultancy from people, what people think who should be driving the car, who deserves what and whatever. And obviously, Kevin said that as well, that he thinks, but that is what he thinks but in the end I need to look after or we need to look after our team for the future and then we will take the driver we want in the car and we think we can go forward with in developing the team you know. So if it is Mick, it is Mick, and if it’s somebody else, it’s somebody else. But you know with these comments, I mean, I get them all day long. You know people telling me what we should be doing.
Q: Well, what is in the best interests of the team in terms of that second driver? Do you want someone with more experience?
GS: I mean, Mick has got some experience, obviously it’s his second year in Formula 1. Is that enough, you know, to take the team forward? We need leadership from this position. And these are all the things I evaluate, you know, that’s the most important thing. How can we take the team forward?
Q: Final one from me. It’s the team’s home race, you’re very popular here. What can you tell us about the level of support that Haas has here at COTA? Any crazy gifts, any offers of marriage for you?
GS: Not yet, maybe tomorrow, another one, you know. I don’t know about that one. And I don’t know how my wife feels about that one, you know. Maybe she feels good about it, she gets rid of me, you know. You never know. But no, it’s fantastic the support we get here, you know. I just can see over the last years, when we started here nobody really knew that there was an American team and now people start to embrace it, because they are watching Formula 1, they realise there is an American team, and it’s always fantastic to come here.
Q: Mario, we’ll come to you now. Both Guenther and Fred have made reference to FP2 yesterday, of course, you got to test your development tyres, how successful was the programme?
Mario ISOLA: It was a good test. It’s the first time that we use this opportunity to test the tyres in a dedicated session during a weekend. It was discussed a lot with the teams, because looking at the season, the second half, with all the overseas events, it was difficult to find any room for testing after the events, as we usually do on Tuesday and Wednesday, when we stay on track, because we don’t want to overload the team personnel with additional days abroad. And it came from some teams to find this solution. It was a good test. All the cars, more or less all the cars completed the plan. We were focused on the hardest compounds of the range. We just had once C5 for Guenther to put him in… I’m joking, obviously, because then you translate it and it’s not good! No, it was a good test. We have lots of data. We didn’t know what to expect. Because when you have traffic, you can have red flags, or the track not in good condition. Unfortunately, in Suzuka, it was not possible to run any test. Yesterday was, I don’t want to say ideal, but it was a good opportunity. And if it works well, and we will see also in Mexico, how it works, we can use this approach also next year in a couple of events.
Q: You say you gathered a lot of data yesterday, what sort of feedback did you get from the drivers?
MI: They were testing a blind specification. So basically, they didn’t know what they were testing. They had the baseline tyre versus a prototype. We got good feedback. I believe drivers were complaining a little bit about the warm-up phase, because we were already testing with 50 degrees of blanket temperature, that means 20 degrees less compared to this year. And obviously in this case, the difference in warm-up is something they can feel clearly. But for the rest, I had positive feedback. The new construction was, as I said, the 2023. The target is to reduce the understeer that they have in low-speed corners. And for the rest, we have to fine tune some of the compounds in order to have them better spaced across different levels.
Q: You say it was the harder compounds here? What’s the plan for Mexico? What compounds there?
MI: The softest, because Mexico is a completely different circuit, where you need grip from the tyre, so we are planning to test the softest part of the range. With this last test we are in a position to define the five compounds we want to homologate for next year. And the plan is to supply the 2023 tyres in their final version in Abu Dhabi at the post-season test, both for the cars that are testing our tyres with the race drivers and also to the cars that are using young drivers.
Q: Mario, quick word on the race tyres that were actually running this weekend. How was practice? How many stops can we expect?
MI: I believe we will be on a two-stop race. This track is quite severe on tyres. We saw high degradation yesterday in FP1. We have to check again in FP3 because in FP1 as usual you have a lot of track evolution. But with our strategy tool at the moment the quickest strategy is on a two-stop.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – RacingNews365) Mario, you just ran through some of the tests of Japan etc. If anybody asked you to name the circuit with probably the worst weather conditions on average to test dry tyres, they would have come up with Japan. So could you please run through what sort of considerations there were that made you decide on trying to test them in Japan, which was unsuccessful?
MI: Yeah, to make a proper test plan, we have to select sessions during the year because we need to test, collect data, analyse data, prepare another loop of prototypes and this is the process. That means that we started as soon as possible at the beginning of the season, using the option of the Tuesday and Wednesday after the European events. It is clear that when you have, for example, a back-to-back event – Barcelona/Monaco – we cannot test in Barcelona or this year we had Silverstone/Austria, if I’m not wrong, and it was not possible to test in Silverstone. So in some cases, even if a circuit is ideal for testing, we cannot do that because of the calendar. For the second part of the season, it was really, really difficult to find any room for testing. We were planning to stay in Suzuka for a couple of days, a couple of days means that, okay, maybe you have one day with rain, but maybe you also have one day in good weather conditions and you can actually run your test properly. With one hour or one hour and a half of testing, you must be lucky enough to find the good weather in that sweet spot to test the tyres. That is why when we discussed the opportunity to test in Suzuka, we came also with a proposal to have a backup event that is Mexico, because we were expecting some troubles in Suzuka. That is what happened and that’s why we have this backup.
Q: (Sam Hall – GP Fans) Fred and Guenther, we’ve just spoken to Christian, he’s suggested that if Red Bull can’t agree an acceptable breach agreement with the FIA then this potentially could go on for another nine months: situation of the cost cap. How important is it for everyone that this situation is resolved quickly, so that we can get on with the sport and stop talking about the regulations?
FV: For sure, at the end, the sooner the better but the most important for me is to have the good level of penalty. It’s not because we are in a rush that we have to do something like this and to take any decision. This is crucial for the F1, for the future for the cost cap and now it’s into the hands of the FIA to find the right level of punishment. But for me, it has to be sporting, because you count for sporting infringement, because at the end, it’s a sporting infringement, we are not speaking about financial, we are speaking about updates and at the end we have to find the right level of punishment.
GS: I gave, Fred, that we need to move on with this and find the right level of punishment, which is not too lenient and then also think about how we avoid in the future that we are discussing such a thing for, as Christian maybe mentioned, for another nine months, because it shouldn’t take nine months. If you look at the sport, at the moment, why we are where we are is because part of the budget cap came in place. There’s a lot of interest out there, a lot of fans come: 440,000 people this weekend here in Austin over the weekend, and then we discuss a budget sentence on a budget cap for nine months. We need to come up with better solutions to this and all together and then I think the FIA at some stage needs to make a penalty, move on whatever it isn’t. I have no idea what it will be, and I’m not the judge, and I don’t want to give a penalty, what is right and what is wrong but I think we need to sort this case out, that we are not keeping on talking about it, and in future have a regulation in place. If you’re underweight with the car you know what you’re going to be done, you’re going to be excluded, then you don’t do it. There needs to be this philosophy behind it, breaching the budget cap, that there is a clear fine with it. If you consume too much fuel, there is no leniency. You’re not going back to discuss it for six months. You get it at the end of the race. So I think that is the most important thing that we get quickly over it and it’s now down to the FIA and Red Bull to find an agreement with what they want to do because I have no idea. I know it was breached, obviously, but I don’t know by how much and what the penalty should be because I’m not part of the panel which decides that.
Q: (RJ O’Connell – Racefans.net) Frédéric and Guenther, with Zhou and several other drivers set to take grid penalties I want to ask if the number of power units components should be increased given that we are also coming up to the maximum number of limit of races in a season?
GS: It’s more a question for the PU manufacturers. We are just customers so I cannot answer for them. But in my opinion, this regulation was done to get the costs under control. It’s one of these things. And if they can give us power units and the cost stays the same, I have no opinion about it but I think they will be unhappy otherwise, I think we should make sure or the PU manufacturers will make sure that they are reliable enough. When this regulation came in place, a lot of people said that it cannot be done and he got done. It’s just engineers can do a lot if they are forced to do it. You just need to tell them so I think it should stay what it is. But as you say, this year we had a little bit too many reliability issues, but I think it will, about it no developments, you just can make changes for reliability. It should get better anyway.
FV: I’m not sure that we have to change something. If you increase the number of engines they will design the engine for less mileage and we’ll have exactly the same engine for more mileage and we will have exactly the same issue that if you do the season with six engines, the engine won’t be designed for 8,000 kilometres, it will be designed for 3000 and you will have the issue at 2,000 kilometres. And on top of this, this regulation was made to keep the costs under control and with the new regulations on the engine, it will be frozen and we will get better reliability in the future that we have to stick to the current regulation.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) Just wanted your thoughts on the Suzuka report, its conclusions and the fact that it’s come out so quickly. And for Mario, particularly, what’s the latest on the investigation into reducing spray from wet tyres, which is obviously one of the conclusions?
MI: There is very little we can do with the wet tyres to reduce the spray. I believe that most of the spray is also coming from the floor, from the diffuser so it’s not the tyre that is spraying water… not just the tyre that is spraying water in the air. In addition, in 2017, we had to increase the width of the tyre that is obviously not helping the level of spray of the water. Then, we can design a different wet tyre, obviously provided we can test because at the moment we struggled to find any room for testing on the wet tyres. That’s why we are planning some winter testing on the wet tyre. We can change across, over time, we can change the ability of the tyre to disperse more water, less water but we are also trying to find some creative solutions to reduce the level of spray in the air but I believe that it’s very little compared to the total of water that is creating visibility issues.
GS: I read more answers on how the report came out on the tyres. I think it shows that it can be done. We got a quick report and at least when we move on, if something happens again, we discussed this. There were things found in there which can be done better and I think a lot of people held their hand up and said ‘you know, this was not ideal, we got away with it, but we need to do better in future’. And I think that’s a good step forward. I think everybody agreed on it and let’s see that we get these things what happened there behind us and get better in the future.
FV: Yeah, I think on the report, I think it’s a good thing that we’ll be able to get the report one week after the race, that it’s a good move from the FIA and to have a clearer picture of what’s happening in Suzuka – the good and the bad things. And regarding the tyres, we can’t ask Pirelli to provide tyres able to evacuate hundreds of litres per minute and to have no spray at one stage. They are not magicians.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – RacingNews365) Mario, based on what you’ve just said, you’re obviously implying that the venturi effect of the ground effect cars is throwing up… as it throws out the air from underneath, it’s doing that with water. Have you had any discussions with the FIA or Formula 1 about possibly different floor designs to reduce that because if it’s going to cause that it’s a problem?
MI: No, because it’s not our job to design the floor so we can be involved in designing the… if you have to change the floor.. We’re not going to change anything on the car and we just develop a different wet tyre. We will have discussions obviously with FIA and FOM. We have a dedicated Tyre Working Group involving also all the teams and any suggestion is more than welcome. As I said, we have also to find room for testing wet tyres; it’s not easy, you need to go on a specific circuit where you wet the track artificially. It’s not just… you can wait for the rain and test when it’s raining. So it’s really complicated but before doing that we need to define together which are the targets for the wet weather tyres because as I said, we can make a different, extreme wet but how different? If you improve the aquaplaning resistance, probably you spray more water. If you decrease this ability, you evacuate less water, you reduce the spray, but then you can have a car aquaplaning. So which is the right compromise? In my opinion, looking at the current wet weather tyre, we should improve a little bit the warm-up phase and also give to the extreme wet a bit more performance and I was also listening to some drivers saying that in order to reduce the crossover time and to be closer to the intermediate so they are not pushed to change from extreme wet to intermediate too early. That’s my personal opinion. Then obviously, we will discuss that in the meetings organised for that.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) Guenther, Jost Capito just said that Logan Sargent will drive the second car next year so you’ve got the last available seat for ‘23. Daniel Ricardo said that he won’t be on the grid next year. You’ve said you’re open to hearing or having discussions with him if he’s interested. That doesn’t seem to be the case. What do you make of the insinuation that he’d rather not be racing Formula 1 next year, than race for Haas?
GS: I think you need to ask Danny that one, not me, why he doesn’t want to race? I mean, not for Haas. I don’t know if there’s something against Haas or just he decides to do something different for a year? I cannot guess what he wants to do. I have no idea what to answer you.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) Can I ask all three of you about the Brad Pitt movie. For Fred and Guenther, what did you learn in the meeting yesterday with all the CGI stuff they showed you? What do you expect the involvement of your team and drivers to be? And is this a big opportunity, something you can sell to sponsors? And for Mario, were you already talking to them about supplying tyres? And again, is it a big PR opportunity for Pirelli?
FV: I think that we don’t have to consider the position of every single team in this kind of project. For me, it could be a mega step forward for F1 in general, that as Netflix did a couple of years ago that for sure then it’s relative to the team. You speak about one team or you have footage about one team. But overall, I think that it’s good for F1 and it’s a mega project, and we will all support the project for sure.
GS: I was particularly impressed by the technology they showed us. They used to do Maverick, because I didn’t know that this existed so I think they are the best out there in the moment to do something like this. And those are the names involved and as Fred said, it’s the best for Formula 1. It’s very good, doing things like this with this calibre of people, and I think there’s no negatives, there’s just positives. So I think it’s fantastic.
MI: I agree with them. We have not been involved for the moment, but we will see.