Tuesday 30 April 2019

Marklund suffers mechanical issues in Barcelona

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition
GC Kompetition's Anton Marklund suffered from mechanical issues at the second round of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship.
In the first qualifying heat, Marklund's car suffered from a blackout and he was forced to miss the start. The race was red-flagged after Herve Knapick rolled his car, but due to the strict regulations, Marklund was not allowed to restart and he was given a DNS.

Marklund lined up alongside Chris Hoy and Oliver Bennett in the second qualifier and claimed the heat win, but he damaged his front dampers over the jump on lap 2. Despite the race win, his final time was only good enough to place him in 18th overall.

Anton’s final qualifier on Sunday saw him jump the start resulting in him having to joker twice. He got off to a good start and claimed third place into turn 3.

The two joker lap penalty did not help Marklund's charge and he missed out on a semi-final spot finishing 14th overall.

“It’s been a tough weekend with mechanical issues on Saturday, but we decided to push ahead and make a lot of changes overnight to test something new, especially to the dampers," he said.

"The Bilstein guys were super busy and the hard work paid off, so that we had a fast car on Sunday with a p3 in Q3 and the 3rd fastest lap time in Q4. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage to make up for lost time but Sunday’s pace was really promising, so I’m looking forward to following this up to push ahead in Spa, Belgium.”

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Guerlain Chicherit: "It's been a weekend of ups and downs"

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
The second round of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship got off to a positive start for GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit claiming second place in the first qualifying heat, but the positive start was short lived when he suffered from a loss of power in the second qualifier. 

The Frenchman suffered from engine issues in Abu Dhabi, which his team were unable to solve ahead of the Barcelona race weekend and he required an engine change. 

“It’s been a weekend of ups and downs for us - some really good race pace and solid starts but unfortunately also technical issues that have cropped up again following Abu Dhabi that we didn’t manage to fix fully in the time in between races," said Chicherit 

Chicherit qualified for semi-final 1 alongside his junior team drivers Guillaume de Ridder and Cyril Raymond.

After a slow start in the semi-final, he ended up 6th at turn 1. He took the joker lap on lap 1 to allow himself clear air to push ahead to catch with the rest of the field. He was unable to overtake to fight for a place in the final, Chicherit ran wide on the last straight to block Timerzyanov enabling his GCK Academy driver Cyril Raymond to claim 3rd for a place in the final.

"Overall, we’ve had a good first European race of the season though and the incredibly hard work of the entire team is really coming together now," he said.

Despite a messy weekend in Barcelona, Guerlain Chicherit is confident that his teams [GC Kompetition and GCK Academy] can achieve better results in the coming races. 

"We’ve certainly shown a lot more confidence on the track in pushing for positions and having 3 cars in the semi-finals and our very first final for our young team GCK Academy is an incredible result and I’m really proud of both Guillaume and Cyril who’ve developed hugely since sitting in the GCK Clio R.S. RX for the first time."

"We’ll be busy now to get all four cars ready for Spa, Belgium, for even better results.”

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Cyril Raymond clinches strong result in only second World RX outing.

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
GCK Academy’s Cyril Raymond clinches best World RX result after only his second outing in the Supercar field.

Raymond lined up for his first World RX final on the third row of the grid alongside Janis Baumanis and behind Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Nicolas Gronholm and Andreas Bakkerud. 

Starting from the outside, Cyril ran wide into the first corner dropping to 6th. The Frenchman took the joker lap on the first lap behind Gronholm and showed strong pace. He eventually overtook Baumanis on the last lap to claim 5th place.

After the strong showing in Barcelona, Raymond slots into 5th in the drivers' championship standings.

“We had a near perfect weekend - 5th in the World Championship is huge for me, it’s a great result!" said Raymond. "To be among the top 5 World RX drivers is crazy."

Raymond praises the team for the Barcelona result. "Without the work of the team behind me, I could never have realized that we believed until the end, we always believed. Engineers and mechanics have done a lot of work on the Clio R.S. RX, I’m really happy for the team who really deserve this after the long months of hard work," he said.

"They are always there, they are full of support and it is great for the entire team, a big victory for our 2nd ever race."

Despite the strong result in Barcelona, the Frenchmen keeps his feet firmly planted on the ground.

"We need to stay concentrated, it’s a long championship but it’s only the second round in my first ever World Rallycross season and we have already achieved a top 5 spot so I’m very happy," he concludes.

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

GRX Taneco leaves Barcelona without the desired result.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gronholm RX Taneco
GRX Taneco heads home after an unsuccessful weekend in Barcelona at round two of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

Niclas Grönholm finished fourth in the Final, while Timur Timerzyanov could not progress further than the Semifinal.

The Finnish team showed very strong speed in Abu Dhabi, while glimpses of the speed was shown on Saturday with Timur Timerzynov finishing the day in third place overall. 

Timerzyanov is disappointed after having a strong opening day in Barcelona. “Finishing the race in fourth place of the Semifinal is not what I was hoping for, especially after promising Qualifying runs of Saturday," he said.

"I was up to speed for the first few laps of the Semifinal, but started to lose speed and maybe we didn’t play our tactics right at that moment."

Despite the setbacks at the second round of the championship, Timerzyanov remains confident that they will return to form. The Russian is sixth in the standings after the second round of the championship.

"The championship season is still in its early stages and I am sure we will come back for more exciting fights,” said Timerzyanov.

After struggling with technical issues on Day 1, Niclas showed good speed during the Qualifying heats on Sunday and set the second fastest lap time twice in a row. 

“I must say this was a mixed weekend for me," he said. "Despite some issues with the car, I managed to be close to the Top by the Semifinals and got through to the Final."

In the final Grönholm got stuck behind Janis Baumanis and could not capitalize on the speed he showed in the qualifying heats. 

"Sadly, there I had to follow a fellow competitor, who was slower than me, for several laps and I lost out on a possible Podium spot. It is what it is now and we have to look forward, but not forget what happened today," said Grönholm.

GRX Taneco Team Principal Marcus Grönholm remains upbeat about his teams' performance in Barcelona, despite not clinching a podium finish.  

“In a way I think the season has started well – we have shown that both our drivers can be really fast and fight for the maximum points, but this time it didn’t work out for us as we hoped it would," said Marcus Grönholm.

"We have to sort out some problems that we had with the cars and I am confident about the future.”

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Monday 29 April 2019

Sir Chris Hoy claims points on World RX debut.

PHOTO CREDIT: Xite Racing.
Former Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy claimed two points on his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut in Spain.

Since his retirement from competitive cycling in 2013, Hoy took up a number of motorsport challenges – most notably the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 in the LMP2 class. He has also competed in European Le Mans and the British GT Championship.

The Scotsman enjoyed his first taste of World RX. “I’ve had the best experience of my motorsport career so far,” he said. "Its been absolutely awesome. I can't overstate how much fun I have had to be behind the wheel of one of these amazing vehicles. To be part of it. To race. To line up on this grid here. The adrenaline yesterday and today was just incredible."

"So, its like a dream come true for me and I definitely want to come back and try again," he adds.

Hoy came into his maiden World RX race weekend with no true experience only a test session with the Xite Racing team at the Pembrey Circuit ahead of his debut in World RX. 

With no true experience in the World RX Championship, Hoy did not know what to expect in his maiden World RX race weekend. "I did not know what to expect. I certainly did not expect to get championship points. I just did not want to make an idiot of myself and get in other peoples way," said Hoy.

"At the start, I was thinking that I would be getting lapped and keeping other people up. So, it was nice to feel that I was battling towards the end. By race four, I felt like I was able to push on a little bit."  

On Saturday morning in the third qualifying session, Sir Chris Hoy came within metres of claiming the heat win, but Jani Passonen shut the door and the two made contact. Hoy rolled to a stop but quickly restarted and raced to the checkered flag finishing second.

"If I was a little bit quicker, I would have got through that gap and I might have won the third race, but that is what Rallycross is all about," Hoy said. "A bit of contact and a bit of bumping."

"I've learnt so much. Its funny last night going to bed, going to sleep your brain sort of processes all the information and then you wake up in the morning, and I felt that I hit the ground running today. And, I felt that I was on a different level to yesterday. Got some races under my belt and a bit of testing and got a little bit closer to some of the fast boys." 

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

REPORT: Timmy Hansen enters the record books with dominant win in Spain

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool. 
Team Hansen MJP driver Timmy Hansen claimed his first win of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship in a dominant fashion.

Hansen rebounded from an event-ending qualifying crash in Abu Dhabi to claim a clean sweep of wins.

The Swede joins Bakkerud and Kristoffersson to become one of three drivers to claim a clean sweep of wins in World RX. 

Team Hansen MJP spent nine days repairing Timmy's damaged Peugeot 208 Supercar following a hefty impact in Abu Dhabi damaging the chassis and roll cage. 

“We had to work incredibly hard and put all our resources into re-building my car from Abu Dhabi. The mechanics worked day and night and got the car here in good condition,” he said.

Hansen admits after a disappointing weekend in Abu Dhabi, he just wanted a clean weekend. 

“Honestly, I just wanted a good, clean weekend but I started with a win in Q1 and Q2 and won all four qualifying races. I think it’s only the fourth time that’s been done and only the third time anybody has the perfect weekend so I’m really happy to be in the history books," says Hansen.

“I really worked hard on my starts this weekend. You have to be super focussed to get a good launch with a rallycross car but we did it all the way through. And I’m really looking forward to building on this result.”

Younger brother Kevin finished second in the final after holding off a late charge from Andreas Bakkerud. The Norwegian started on the second row of the grid alongside Janis Baumanis. Bakkerud had a perfect start and jumped to the inside of the Hansen brothers trying to capitalize on the exit of turn one. 

He was unable to overtake the Hansen brothers and opted for a last-lap joker lap but still emerged behind Kevin at the run to the flag.

Kevin Hansen’s second place in Spain means the Swede maintains his overall championship points lead.

“I am really pleased with this result," said Kevin Hansen. 

"To get second place is very satisfying. I tried my best against Timmy but he was just too fast in the final."

“I don’t think about the championship too much. It’s nice to be leading and to know that I’ve been competitive so far. I am really enjoying the car and the whole feeling at the moment and I hope to keep this momentum going and keep a smile on my face,” he adds.

Bakkerud revealed that his Audi S1 Supercar had €60,000 damage after the qualifying collision in Abu Dhabi. 

Despite claiming a podium finish in Barcelona, the Norwegian said that his Supercar is not completed fixed yet.

“It’s been hard to play catch-up," he said. "We are still struggling from the crash in Abu Dhabi. We are still working on the car step-by-step but we are getting there."

“Three times in a row I have been on the podium in Barcelona so obviously I Iike it here."

Gronholm finished fourth in the final after getting stuck behind Janis Baumanis. The Finn maintains his second place in the championship on 48 points, eight points behind Kevin and 10 ahead of Timmy.

Cyril Raymond impressed in his GCK Academy Renault Clio Supercar and claimed fifth place in his first World RX final.

The GC Kompetition team had an improved performance from Abu Dhabi despite recurring engine issues for Guerlain Chicherit. The team was forced to change his engine. But despite the engine set back, the Frenchman claimed a place in the semi-finals alongside Cyril Raymond and Guillaume De Ridder.

Liam Doran had a mixed weekend but made it to the semi-final as did Timur Timerzyanov.

EKS Sport driver Krisztian Szabo had a last-corner spin in the second semi-final. The Hungarian claimed his first World RX heat win and claimed 10 points in the championship. While Timo Scheider had a strong start to the weekend but then ran into some difficulties. The German had a troublesome semi-final and claimed fifth place ahead of Szabo.

World RX debutant Sir Chris Hoy enjoyed his first taste of World RX and picked up two championships points.

Hoy’s Xite Racing teammate Oliver Bennett had a troublesome weekend with issues in nearly ever qualifying heat. ESmotorsport - Labas GAS's rookie Rokas Baciuska also did not have the cleanest of weekends in Spain.

Independent entry Tamas Karai was disqualified from the fourth qualifying heat after causing a collision at turn one. While Herve Knapick rolled his Citroen DS3 Supercar in the first qualifying heat and could go no further.

OFFICIAL RESULT provided by the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Sunday 28 April 2019

2019 Azerbaijan GP: FIA Post-Race Press Conference.

1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)


(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: Valtteri, an absolutely perfect day you’ve had. Lights out to flag, a bit of pressure from Lewis, but controlled and payback from last year and that win that went away?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, indeed. It was actually a tough race, even though maybe not much happening at the front Obviously Lewis was putting pressure all the time, so I could not do any mistake. But honestly, everything was under control so I’m happy to see the chequered flag and get this first place.

Q: You’re the calmest person I’ve seen. Back in control of this championship as well. You’ve had a very good start to the year. It’s all about keeping the momentum up. There’s no better guy than Lewis putting the pressure on, but to get that job done, what does that mean going away from this grand prix, back to Europe?

VB: It obviously means a lot. It’s incredible as a team on which kind of level we are performing now. I already said to the guys I’m so proud to be part of that. We’re all performing really, really well. For me as well, it’s only my fifth win, so of course it feels good and it carries on well.

Q: I hope you can enjoy your Sunday night; you certainly deserve it after this weekend. Lewis, your team-mate did a solid job all weekend, he just pipped you in qualifying but you never let him out of your sights today and you were fighting all the way to the end.

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, congratulations to Valtteri, he drove a fantastic race. He made no mistakes and truly deserved the win. It was all lost in qualifying, so there’s really not much more for me to say. But it’s a great result for the team. Honestly, this is the best start to a season we’ve ever had.

Q: I want to pick up on the team. Four one-two finishes. How much credit do you owe to these guys year after year after year to give you a car to do a solid job like that?

LH: It’s a team effort. Everyone back at the factory has been working non-stop every year. Every year they come back more hungry for success and it’s a true testament to strength and depth within the team. So really proud of everyone and really great to be a part of it. It was a really great race. For once we’ve been able to push the whole way. It’s pretty cool

Q: Sebastian, P3 at the end after qualifying. It looked like you struggled in the first stint, regained a lot of strength mid-race and you were able to put the pressure on Mercedes.

Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t know. You’re right. The first stint was really poor. I really struggled to initially get the tyres to work. I think they were too cold and I damaged them, and by the time they were hot they were damaged, so it was never really working. I was really uncomfortable, inconsistent, just couldn’t get a feel and confidence with the car, so that’s not usually so good around here. After that, I was surprised. I was already looking forward to a difficult stint on the medium tyres, but no problem to switch them on and they lasted until the end no problem. So much happier, much more confidence and I think we had some pace to at least go with them, sometimes put a bit of pressure. We obviously had to keep and eye on Max behind. With some of the overtaken, lapped cars he was getting a bit closer but in the end we had enough pace on the medium tyre to react, to keep him behind. It was crucial to keep that third, good for Charles to get that fastest lap at the end, to snatch it away from the Mercedes boys. Still plenty of work for us to do, obviously we are not quite where we want to be. But at this point we just need to maximise what we can.

Q: And I guess looking forward to a more familiar track, Barcelona, where you had such a strong winter and it looked like you guys were going to be the benchmark this year?

SV: I hope so. Obviously the last four races, on average, we were not quite there, so I think we are not the favourites going to Barcelona. But the team is in good spirits. We have another couple of stuff getting on the car, so we need to chase them down. We are looking to hopefully a smooth weekend. Our first four weekends haven’t been that smooth. But it will be crucial to catch them and turn things around.


Q: Valtteri, you said in China that the start of the race cost you the race there, but you looked determined to make sure that didn’t happen today?

VB: Yeah, honestly I could have done a better job at the start today. I think I was a little bit on the cautious side. I didn’t want to get the wheel spin started, so I was rather smooth on getting on power, not to kind of mess it up. But Lewis had a good start, so that’s why he was on the inside and we were pretty much side by side actually through Turn 1, so I was just carrying the speed on the outside, and same thing in Turn 2, leaving enough space. It was nice and fair and I was obviously pleased to keep the first place.

Q: That was the start, but then at the end you also came under pressure from Lewis as well. How tough was that pressure and were you two racing right to the flag?

VB: Yeah, you know, it was a pretty long stint, the second one. So you can sometimes play a little bit, when you push more, when sometimes you try to save the tyres a bit more, because it’s always a bit unknown how the tyres are going to behave when they are coming towards the end of their life. At times I could really notice Lewis trying really hard to catch me and he was really close at times, like in the end. So I had to really respond and push as well. The main thing for I was focusing on was just purely my own driving, not falling for the silly mistakes. I managed to keep it together, so for this I’m really happy.

Q: Well done today. Lewis, we’ll start at the start as well. Just how close was it between you and Valtteri and how tough is it to judge how hard to push against your team-mate?

LH: It’s always difficult to judge. But Valtteri did an exceptional job all weekend and today he was very fair in giving space and after that he was faultless. So today he truly deserved the win. It was a great race. It was really cool that we could push as hard as we could all the way to the end. It was great that the team allowed us to do that. Also just the team’s performance throughout the whole weekend, the engineers, everyone back at the factory who are just constantly delivering 100%. This is truly the strongest season we’ve ever started with but really deservingly in the sense of just how hard everyone has worked in the delivery, so really proud to be a part of it and this is a really great result for everyone.

Q: You mentioned the start to the season. That’s four straight 1-2s. Is this also the best form as a team you’ve produced in the time that you’ve been there?

LH: I think so, yeah, definitely. Valtteri’s really, clearly stepped up this year and is really happy in the car and really delivering and driving fantastically, so it’s going to take some really great performances from both of us to out-perform each other. And that’s how it should be. Hopefully at some stage Ferrari will be in the mix with us. I think this weekend, I do think they had the performance to be on the front row with both of their cars. From our data we saw that Seb didn’t get a tow, for example, which is worth four or five tenths or something, so he probably would have been on pole had he got that tow and the race would have been maybe more exciting. So, again, it takes one hundred per cent deliver throughout the weekend, which we, I think, were as close to that as possible. They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.

Q: Seb, moving on to you, Lewis says that Ferrari will have to pick it up if they want to fight Mercedes. How well did your race go today and how close to the maximum did you get out of your car?

SV: Well, he’s right. We need to pick it up obviously. We saw in the first stint that we really struggled to follow. I was really quite… yeah it was difficult to find a rhythm, difficult to extract grip from the tyres. After the stop it was a lot better. I expected it to be a tough and long afternoon but after that the car was quite good and I was able to push and I think we stayed with them, and with the blue flags maybe in the end we weren’t particularly lucky, the places around the track, I saw Lewis had some quite good tows with lapped cars here and there – but what goes around, comes around. I think overall the second stint was better for us than the first one. We lost, I think, all the potential to put pressure at the beginning of the race. But they were very strong and did absolutely right be pulling a gap. After that for us I think it was just to try and put them under some sort of pressure and bring it home.

Q: You’re clearly close to Mercedes, based on the finishing positions here. What do you think is going to be key to breaking this run of form that Mercedes has shown?

SV: Well, we need stronger pace, simple as that. We need to be faster. I’m convinced we’ve been, partly this weekend, looking very strong but overall not strong enough. So, it seems that for us it’s more of a conscious effort to get the car in the right window, whereas maybe for them it seems to click a little bit easier. Especially a place like around here, you need the confidence in the car. I’m not yet there. I can feel that I’m not driving at my best because simply the car does not answer or does not respond the way I like. And then I think it’s unnatural. I think everybody’s been there. I think all drivers know that sort of feeling: when it’s not there, then your judgement is normally right, to not go there because you end-up losing the car. So, yeah, I seem to be more sensitive at the first races than at the test. The test was really good but that’s a long time ago now. We need to look forward and improve the way we handle things, the way we work to just get faster. That’s it.

Q: Valtteri, returning to you, Championship leader heading back for the European season – just how much confidence do you take from this start to the season?

VB: Confidence is good. I’m happy to just carry on. Obviously, yeah, it’s been a good start personally for me for the season, it’s a long season ahead. I do realise that. But something I’m really proud of is the level at which the team is performing. It’s, for me, incredible. We need to be really, really proud of that – but not think about it too much. Just keep doing what we’re doing and the list of things that we can do better as a team is still long. So we need to focus on that. So let’s keep going.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, it was fine margins between you and Valtteri today. I think you lost a bit of time the way the VSC ended and then Valtteri got the tow just as you were closing in on the last lap from the Williams. Do you think it was fine margins that made the difference today? And Valtteri, what was the feeling when you saw you had a slower car up ahead to get DRS from on that last lap?

LH: Yeah, I think ultimately Valtteri did a better job in qualifying on that last lap, which put him in the position to be able to fight and then fine margin at the start, which… yeah, I’ll have to work on. And then I lost two-and-a-half seconds, or whatever it is, under the VSC, so had to regain that and, with only nine laps to go, that was not so easy. So, that was my fault and something I’ll work on. There’s somethings I can fix on the dash to make sure that doesn’t happen again. But, nonetheless, it was a great result for the team.

And Valtteri, your thoughts when you got traffic towards the end of the race.

VB: Yeah, there was some traffic, obviously you lose time mostly – but sometimes actually you can gain from it, like here if you can get a nice tow on the straight and get the DRS. It’s always a very welcome bonus when Lewis is putting pressure behind! It’s not always it works for you. Sometimes he gains from it. So that’s how it goes. Yeah.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Just to the two Mercedes drivers -- we saw Toto deliver a radio message in the final laps. I was just wondering what the rules of engagement were for you two in the closing laps of today’s race.

LH: It wasn’t a message to us. We were allowed to fight to the end.

VB: Yup.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Lewis, with hindsight probably that first lap fight with Valtteri was the defining moment of that race. Do you think you could have pushed a bit harder or been a bit more aggressive if it was another driver than Valtteri, your teammate?

LH: Definitely. Most definitely. It’s very very difficult -- ultimately you always have to remember when you’re in a team as big as this that you are only one, and there are so many people that depend on us, so selfishly I could have for sure pushed a lot harder and Valtteri would have lost position, maybe I would have gained position, most likely he would have got overtaken by a Ferrari or something like that, so we have to work together. So whilst I wanted to overtake him, I had to be cautious at the same time, to give him space so that we would block the front row and stay there. Ultimately I lost out in that, but that’s a sacrifice you have to sometimes make in order for the team to win. I think if it was a Ferrari there it would have been a lot different. And that will be how it continues for the rest of the year -- I think Valtteri and I have always had a lot of respect for each other, and we continue to do so. I think you can see that. That’s how we deal with it -- we discuss it before the race, we agree as gentlemen, and we stick to it.

Q: (Luis Vasconselos – Formula Press) For Valtteri, when you were speaking to di Resta before the podium you said it was tough but you had it under control all the way. Did it get too close for comfort on the two laps that Lewis had DRS?

VB: Yeah, sure, I didn’t want him to get DRS, that was not planned. He had a very good middle sector that lap and managed to close and here even if you’re like 1.2, 1.3 behind exiting from Turn 16 then you’re gaining time before the DRS detection. I wanted to keep him out from DRS, so it was my bad. But he was pushing hard, so that’s how it goes.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Seb, the feeling for you and Charles earlier in the weekend was that the team had made a step here, that the upgrades were working as you liked, and it just seemed like the circumstances of the weekend just sort of went away from you. Do you still retain that positivity from earlier in the weekend or do you feel like there is a sort of similar amount of work to do as before?

SV: Well, absolutely I think it was a step forward with our car, but I think more of a dominating factor is just the way we seem to be able to get on top of or into these tyres. I think there’s a lot of performance in that. The struggle we had here in those low speed corners is less of an aero problem, more of a mechanical grip issue. So a lot of homework for us, obviously, in the last couple of weeks, but I’m sure that once we get everything together the car is strong, and then we will be much more in the fight. At this stage, obviously, averaging the first four races we were just not quick enough.

Q: (Luis Vasconselos – Formula Press) For the two Mercedes drivers -- in the last two years your cars were called ‘divas’, but you’ve won on the first four very different tracks. Is this car the most complete one?

LH: I mean, it’s an evolution of the last couple of years cars, so it should be better, and it is in many ways. I would say it’s more our understanding of the procedures that we have to implement that allow us to deliver more from it. I think we’re able to extract a bit more from the car itself, and that’s just from diligence, due diligence we’ve done so much better through testing in our understanding and analysis. Everyone’s just taken a step forward and it’s great to see.

VB: It always can be better! For sure it’s maybe not still the easiest car to get to work, but once it works it’s quick, so something similar we’ve seen before and in the end, like Lewis said, it is an evolution from years before. There’s obviously work to do, but I think this year so far, the four races we’ve had, it’s not only the car. It’s all the areas the team is working on, how well we are performing in all the other areas than just the car. I think that’s maybe been the biggest thing so far this year.

Saturday 27 April 2019

Timmy Hansen claims overnight TQ ahead of younger brother Kevin Hansen.

Team Hansen MJP's Timmy Hansen has claimed the overnight top qualifier spot on the first day of the World Rallycross of Barcelona-Catalunya. 

The Swede continues his unbeatable form in Abu Dhabi having won both of his qualifying heats and he set the fastest lap time in each heat.  

“This is amazing. From the moment we did the first runs in practice, the car has felt good, I’ve been comfortable and it felt like I’ve been building on that," said Timmy Hansen. 

"The last run I did just now was one of those runs that you want to do – every corner was right, I knew what I wanted to do and the car just followed,” he adds. 

“It was a brilliant Q2 and it was a perfect Saturday, also with Kevin in second place as a team we have done a perfect Saturday, so it’s a brilliant result.”

Timmy's younger brother Kevin Hansen slots into second place in the overnight standings ahead of Timur Timerzyanov and Andreas Bakkerud.

Krisztian Szabo won race three in Q2 to slot him into fifth overnight. While Cyril Raymond finished second in his heat races and also provisionally held the fastest Q2 time until Hansen had his go in qualifying. 

Janis Baumanis slots into seventh overall in the standings, while Guerlain Chicherit and Niclas Gronholm slot in behind the Latvian.

Timo Scheider won his Q2 race and is tenth overnight ahead of Rokas Baciuska and Liam Doran holds the final spot in twelfth place.  

The drivers with a lot of work to do tomorrow are, Tamas Karai who is in 13th place overall, Guillaume De Ridder slots into fourteenth after tough qualifying run with a pair of fourth place finishes.

Sir Chris Hoy did not have the easiest of days after a jump start in Q1, then spun at the end of Q2 and ended the day in 15th overall.

Anton Marklund failed to make the start in Q1 but won his Q2 heat and is currently ranked 18th, ahead of Herve Knapick who rolled in Q1 and did not start in his Q2 heat.

The FIA World Rallycross Championship result after Qualifying 2. 
TEXT - Junaid Samodien

2019 Azerbaijan GP: FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference.

DRIVERS 1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes) 2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes) 3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)


(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: You’ve got to be the happiest man here today, Valtteri; what a sensational last lap to grab pole position. An interrupted session, you kept your composure, and I guess you stole that pole position from Ferrari, because they have been ever so strong? 

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I’m really happy for that. It was a nice feeling to get it done on the last lap – it was a nice lap. As you said, Ferrari have been really strong, so obviously Charles was out, by a mistake, and as a team we did really good to be where we are now after such a difficult practice.

Q: After everything that happened in China in Q3, it looked like you and Lewis had some traffic, but then, crucially, we heard your engineer saying you picked up a tow in the last sector, was that the difference to get it? 

VB: Well, it’s all about small margins and I did get a good tow in the last lap. Of course, the corners I have to drive as well. It’s all about fine details and I managed to hit the sweet spot.

Q: How difficult was it to get the temperature into the tyres with the cold conditions? 

VB: Yeah, it was getting trickier and trickier. We’re not supposed to race that late here but yeah, I got them to work somehow.

Q: Lewis, a Mercedes front-row lockout again. I know you always want pole position, but it’s a good job by you all to re-engineer this car and take the fight to Ferrari.

Lewis HAMILTON: Absolutely. It’s been so close all weekend. Ferrari have looked incredibly quick and Valtteri did an exceptional job in qualifying. It’s just a massively great result for us, because we came here, we didn’t have an upgrade, the Ferraris looked like they were particularly quick, also with Max, so for us to lockout the front row due to circumstances, I’m really grateful for it. It puts us in a good fighting position for tomorrow.

Q: Do you think you can continue that? What can we look forward to tomorrow? Do you think you can take the fight to Ferrari? 

LH: I hope so. I think that pace-wise we are slightly closer in race trim than it seemed in qualifying. Sebastian… I don’t know if he got a great lap but he may not have been in the right space, because it’s all about tows here. But nonetheless, we’ve got a good crowd here; I hope the weather is good. Valtteri is always quick here so I’ve had my work cut out so far this weekend.

Q: Sebastian, P3 on the grid. It was looking so good this weekend for you and Charles. An interrupted session. These guys just stole it at the end? 

Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t know if they stole it. I think they were a bit quicker than us today. For me it started a bit slow. Towards the end it was getting better, but it was quite tricky. The session was very long, the sun is going down, the track cooled down, so it was difficult to get the right balance of pushing on the out lap and playing with tow, trying to get something. I had a good lap but I had no tow to close the lap, so that cost a bit. But happy that we sort of got the maximum out, but I’m not happy that overall from a team point of view we were expecting to have a better session, with Charles and myself closer to the front.

Q: Just give us an insight: how much can the tow be worth? You were obviously at the front of the queue but that gives you the best preparation but they obviously maximized it by gaining that [tow]?

SV: Well, it depends, but up to half a second. Then it’s always a compromise, as if you are too close in the middle sector you lose out, but I would say going with the other people, probably around three tenths. So yeah, it could have been a bit closer with somebody in front, but yeah, as I said, the track was getting cooler, the car was more difficult to drive and I prioritized to push on the out lap to have the tyres in the window when I started the lap. Now I sort of regret that I maybe didn’t take the gamble on, but I still think it was probably the right call.


Q: Valtteri, your second pole position of the season, but is it fair to say this one is a little more unexpected than the first?

VB: You could say. Definitely after the practice yesterday and then this morning we saw Ferrari was extremely quick. Also Red Bull was quick. Even at the beginning of the qualifying they seemed kind of out of reach. But you never know what can happen. We don’t give up. In the end, Charles went off and it came down to one lap at the end. So I’m really happy for us. Obviously also a nice lap at the end and that really feels good.

Q: You mentioned the lap at the end. How good was your final lap and how tough was it to get that lap clean when you had Lewis behind you and a car in front as well? 

VB: Well, it’s obviously also the weather, because everything was delayed and it was a lot cooler, so the tricky bit was to get the tyres to work. When it comes down to one lap on this kind of track the tow effect is quite important and I managed to get quite a pretty good gap to the car ahead. But yeah, it feels good when you have a good lap when it matters.

Q: Congratulations. Lewis, it was so close between you and Valtteri and on your final lap I think you made a small mistake in the first sector. Is that where it got away from you, or did that help you later in the lap as you improved in the final two sectors? 

LH: Well, firstly, Valtteri did an exceptional job. It was a great result for us as a team. Coming into the weekend it didn’t look like we had the pace. The race pace looked good but the pace in qualifying we thought we might not be as close as we would like to the Ferraris. But we worked on the car and improved it today. Yeah, unfortunately my first two corners were pretty shocking. I had a small moment in Turn 1 and then in Turn 2. So already by Turn 4 I think I was three tenths down. But I recovered that in the next two sectors but unfortunately it wasn’t enough, and Valtteri did a great job.

Q: You mentioned the fact that both of you have got the job done. How big an advantage was it having two Mercedes cars in the final part of qualifying, and do you think that will help you in the race, given that Charles wasn’t in Q3 and that Pierre didn’t take part in it either for Red Bull?

LH: Sorry, I didn’t understand that…

Q: How big an advantage was it to have the two Mercedes cars in Q3? Certainly when you’re working out the tow and trying to prepare those final laps. 

LH: I don’t know that it makes a big difference, in the sense that you can still find your way behind someone else but it was definitely perfect for the team to have both cars there, and ultimately that’s the ultimate difference that Valtteri and I have been able to make at the moment, so we need to capitalise on that.

Q: Sebastian, moving on to you, a similar sort of question. Were your chances affected at all by the fact there was only one Ferrari in Q3?

SV: Well, we would have loved to have two Ferraris in Q3 but I don’t think it makes a difference obviously. You try to find a sweet spot in the track, which is always tricky and you can see everybody is just waiting in the pitlane and doesn’t want to be the first one out. In the end I didn’t have a tow on my final lap, which cost some time in the last sector but it was quite tricky; the conditions were changing; because of the long qualifying session temperatures were dropping and yeah, I think it was even more important for me to feel the tyres and make sure they are there from the first corner. So, yeah, it was a difficult session but I think having one or two cars doesn’t necessarily make a difference. It’s trying to find that sweet spot. It’s a bit of a gamble always.

Q: You mentioned on the grid that you were happy with the lap that you produced in the circumstances – but after the final practice session, did you really expect Mercedes to be able to overturn the gap that yourselves had?

SV: Yeah, I think it’s been a trend that we are a bit faster in free practice compared to them, so I think it’s just down to doing things a bit differently but… yeah… certainly I struggled a bit in qualifying. It wasn’t straightforward this evening. So, mostly I think with the track changing, going with the conditions was quite difficult. Only in the end I think it started to come back. The last two runs, and especially the last run, seemed to be a bit more straightforward in Q3. Before that obviously it was key to make it through which, with the interuptions that we had, and the cleaning going on on the track, wasn’t the most straightforward thing. Certainly not happy from a team point of view because the pace looked really, really good in the practice sessions so far – yet we find ourselves behind those two again! But, tomorrow is a long race and I believe we have a better car with continuous laps.

Q: Valtteri, returning to you. Taking this pole position, after what happened last year in Baku, does it feel like you’ve got a bit of unfinished business tomorrow?

VB: Well, for sure it was… yeah, I kinda feel like that. Even though starting from pole, in some races it might feel like 50 per cent is done but here it’s nowhere near 50 per cent. Anything can happen here. We’ve seen that once I was one lap behind and I finished second in the race. Once I was leading three laps from the end and I didn’t finish. I’m glad, as a team, we’re at the front and it will be fun tomorrow.


Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Sebastian, you’ve had quite a moment in the same corner where Charles crashed a couple of moments before he did. Can you elaborate on just how close it felt from inside the cockpit?

SV: Well, you obviously try to go as close as you can here because it’s faster as close as you can to the wall. So, I don’t think you can seriously calculate the difference of a centimetre or two more or less. So, in the end, I think we all find ourselves in the same boat with some moments across the weekend where we think yeah, it could have gone wrong as well. I was surprised when I clipped a little bit the wall with the rear axle. Not much, but enough to upset the car – but I caught it, which was obviously crucial to carry on. But yeah, we had two incidences in the same corner now in qualifying – but there’s a lot of corners here where things can go wrong.

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Question to all three. Sebastian mentioned that it was a difficult and a long qualifying session. Qualifying has its own rhythm and you’re all used to it and prepared for it. How difficult was it keep the concentration and then have the rhythm with the two long interruptions we had today?

VB: Obviously sometimes it can be tricky but today it didn’t really seem to matter. When I was in the car and focussing on the lap it didn’t feel like we had a break. So, it’s all about trying to be on the moment. Don’t care if there was a 15 minute break or a two minute break.

Lewis, your thoughts on trying to keep the rhythm through a qualifying session that was so disjointed?
LH: I didn’t have a problem with the rhythm.

Seb, anything to add?
SV: Yeah, I think well done to those two for keeping the rhythm. Especially with doing a practice start in Q3 – that’s usually quite a rhythm-breaker – they did well.
LH: hmmm?
SV: Just on about your fake starts in Q3. Did you do a start or did you just stop?
LH: We just dummied you basically!
SV: Well, did you do a start or did you just stop?
VB: Kind of. Clutch calibration…
LH: Definitely clutch calibration.

Q: (Dzhastina Golopolosova – Youth Information Agency) Question for Valtteri Bottas. Today in qualification you were quite confident – what are your expectations for tomorrow’s race and what can you say about the eighth turn where Kubica and Leclerc made a mistake – is it a section of the track that is difficult?

VB: Like I said, here is a very unpredictable race. Obviously we are pretty happy we are starting with a 1-2 as a team. We feel we do have a strong car in the race – but here, anything can happen. It’s a very eventful race. Who’s tyres are going to last the best, who’s going to have the best pace. Also, with Safety Cars, how everything pans out. You can get lucky or unlucky. Many unpredictable things can happen, but we need to keep focussed as a team, and for me as a driver, and focus on taking it corner by corner. Where the accidents happened in qualifying, for sure it’s one of the most difficult parts on the calendar. It’s extremely tight, you’re going over the kerb. If you do a small mistake, you’re in the wall, as we saw, especially when it was getting cooler, it’s easier to lock the tyres up under braking. So, it can happen.

Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1vilag.hu) Sebastian, you said a few times that your car was working better in the winter testing. Do you think that something is missing, and if so, what do you think was the problem?

SV: Well, I think we are getting better at understanding where I think we are weak compared to Mercedes, so obviously the first couple of races have been difficult for us -- the tracks have been varying, the conditions have been varying, but I think there’s a sort of pattern emerging. I think we were in a much better place here, considering that the corners here are fairly low speed. I think we are much more competitive but not yet there, otherwise the picture today would have been a bit different.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport): Seb, you mentioned the difficulty of the track temperature dropping when the session ran on. Yesterday -- I know obviously we only had FP2 really -- you were particularly strong in the middle sector, but maybe that fell away today. Do you think that was just down to track temperature? Is that where you felt you lost car performance today, just not adjusting to the lower track temperatures as well as the others maybe?

SV: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know how it felt for the others, but I think it was tricky for us with the track conditions, with the temperatures dropping. Obviously in sector two you have more so the corners, so it’s quite normal when you struggle with the car and don’t have the confidence around here, the place you lose most is sector two. I think it goes hand in hand. Other than that, I think the car was quite good today when we were in the right place, but it was difficult to get it in the right window.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport): Question to Sebastian. You started in Q2, like Charles, on the medium tyre, you gave it even another go then. Was it too much risk, were you forced into too much risk in order to make it in Q3 on that tyre?

SV: No, I don’t think so. I mean, we tried, it was clear to see, but obviously by then the track has dropped already and that didn’t make it easier, so it was quite tricky the first lap but I was quite confident that the second lap will be better, so yeah. Obviously I only started it and then I was right behind Charles when it happened, so yeah. I think it’s just a tricky place, I don’t think it’s down to tyres at that point. Obviously a shame that we lost one car, that we couldn’t go through. Especially he was very quick this weekend, so. Now we look forward to the race and I’m sure we can recover.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat.com) Question to all three drivers. Obviously after Charles Leclerc’s crash we all heard that he was very critical towards himself. Later he wrote on social media ‘I was just useless today’. Do you think that he was way too hard on himself?

LH: I’d be the same. That’s how we’re tuned as racing drivers -- when it’s your mistake, we’re tough on ourselves. I think probably when you’re younger as opposed to being older you’re maybe a little bit less when you’re older. But still, it’s painful. There’s a lot of pressure around a track like this, on his young shoulders, so it’s totally normal. Years and years ago I didn’t come out of my room for two or three days when I had some experience like that, so I totally understand how he feels. It’s cool that he’s open about it, because he can get it out and move forwards tomorrow.

Q: Valtteri, your thoughts on being critical?
VB: Yeah, the own mistakes you do yourself and you could have avoided, they hurt the most, I think. And it’s annoying, so I definitely can understand. Maybe Finns, maybe we don’t shout it out loud so much, but we still have feelings.

Q: Well Seb, you had a Finn as a teammate previously -- have you seen a change with Charles as your teammate?

SV: Well, I think it’s normal -- if you do a mistake, you’re not happy about it. Being critical I think is also the reason why he’s here, why we’re here. I don’t think anybody of us enjoys that part of our racing life, but every now and then it’s part of it, so. The weekend isn’t over yet, I think we have a good car, and I’m sure we can recover as a team tomorrow.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll Motorsport-Total.com): Valtteri and Lewis, do you think -- given the potential of the tow around this circuit -- that being on the front row might actually have a downside too? And Sebastian, do you think there could be a chance in the first lap?

Q: So Valtteri, you’re starting on pole -- do you think it could be a downside on the first lap?
VB: I honestly don’t think it’s going to be a downside. I think here still in the middle sector is full of corners, and it’s quite difficult to follow very close by. We hope the race pace between top teams is going to be very close, so if I could choose I’d definitely be sitting right where I’m sitting now. We’ll see tomorrow.

Q: Lewis?
LH: I agree with Valtteri.

Q: And Seb?
SV: Yeah, what to say? Obviously I’m not on pole so it’s going to be a big help tomorrow. It’s a long race, anything can happen here. Certainly if we have a good start, that might help, and then it’s a long straight after closing the first lap and we’ll see where we are. It’s a long race ahead of us. It’s definitely possible to overtake around here.a

Friday 26 April 2019

2019 Azerbaijan GP: FIA Team Principals' Press Conference.

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Claire WILLIAMS (Williams), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault)

Q: Claire, if we can start with you and the incident in FP1. What’s your reaction, and what’s the state of the car?

Claire WILLIAMS: I knew you were going to start with me! My reaction is probably not a surprising one, I’m pretty annoyed. However, we have had it explained to us, the circumstances around the manhole and what’s happened. I don’t necessarily believe it’s probably anybody’s fault, but still it’s pretty disappointing for us. It just seems like it’s one thing after another for our team at the moment. However, it’s happened, we’ve got to repair the damage. Our chassis is cracked so we have got to revert to chassis three, the floor is a write-off, and we’ve got some other small bits of damage around the car. The guys are obviously working pretty hard to make sure that we deploy chassis three; we clearly won’t get out for P2 and George will just have to get all his learnings in tomorrow.

Q: As you touched on, it’s been a difficult season for Williams so far, but you drafted Patrick Head back into the fold on a short-term consultancy basis. What impact has he had so far, and what’s the plan going forwards to turn around your fortunes?

CW: Ahead of this weekend I was kind of feeling there was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and then this happens this morning, but I’m not going to worry too much about that. It’s one of those things. So Patrick coming in, obviously for us is a great thing. He’s acting as a guide for our team of engineers at the moment, just making sure that they’re doing everything that they should be doing. We haven’t had the best year, clearly everybody has seen that. It started with not getting our chassis to testing, and we’ve had to really play catch up off the back of that. So we are now in a position where we have all our race quantities, we have the quality on those race quantities that we needed, and now we’re looking to bring the upgrades that have literally been sitting on a shelf as we’ve cleared the backlog out of manufacturing. So there is some light at the end of the tunnel, I think China demonstrated that we’ve brought a little bit of performance to the car, but we’re still far too far behind the ninth-placed team at the moment. We’re doing a lot of work back at Williams. If anyone thinks that we’re just hoping for a miracle or that things will just go our way at some point, that’s not the case -- a lot of work has been going on to make sure that we put ourselves in the right position. Obviously Patrick is playing a role in that as well.

Q: Otmar, if we could come to you next. Baku’s been a pretty good hunting ground for you in the past, and you’ve scored points in each of the three races this year. What are your expectations looking ahead to this weekend?

Otmar SZAFNAUER: Well, we hope that we’re a bit more competitive here than we have been in the first three races, but we’ve managed to score points in every one, which is good. We want to continue that trend and maybe pick up a little bit more than we have in the first three.

Q: The mid-field battle’s once again a closely fought affair. What have you made of that battle and how hard is it going to be for you guys to get on top?

OS: Well, I believe this year it’s even tighter than years past, and for us to get on top means we have to do everything right. And you know the margins are smaller, so pit stops have to be quick and precise, the drivers have to do a great job in qualifying and the race, you know it’s just all the details you have to get right if the margins are that tight -- the little details matter all the more.

Q: And you’ve had fresh investment in the team this year. Can you talk a little bit about the developments that are coming and the updates that we can expect from Racing Point?

OS: Well, that’s the other thing. You know we had a big regulation change, so the way I view this year and probably next as well is it’s going to be a development race. The fact that we have funding now to bring the developments to the car as quickly as our internal procedures will allow is a big benefit. We won’t be hampered by not having the funds to actually buy the components. So that will be a benefit, but the real issue is bringing developments to the car that make a performance enhancement, a performance difference, and that’s what we’re focusing on doing.

Q: Christian, if we could come to you next. Honda have brought an updated engine to Azerbaijan this weekend. How impressed have you been with their reliability and performance so far, and how encouraged are you about what to expect for the rest of the year?

Christian HORNER: Well so far, the engine’s run absolutely problem-free throughout testing, throughout all the races to date. This engine’s been introduced based on an issue they saw with the Toro Rosso engine, but it also enables us to run slightly more aggressive modes in the race as as well. It’s been hugely impressive, the effort and quality of stuff that’s been coming through from Honda.

Q: Red Bull took four wins last year. How optimistic are you that you can add to that tally this year?

CH: Trying to specify an amount of wins is always going to be extremely difficult; our goal is to converge to the where the current benchmark is, which is currently Mercedes. I think we’re doing that. Obviously we grabbed some opportunistic opportunities last year, and by the end of the year we had a car that was genuinely capable of winning on merit of its own and wasn’t circuit-specific. The whole team’s focussed very hard on getting development through on the chassis, obviously engine bits are coming through as well. It’s a long season, we’re at race three, so we’ve done three races and we’re on race four obviously now and we’re confident that hopefully we can continue to close that gap to Mercedes and Ferrari ahead.

Q: Just a quick word on Pierre – it’s obviously been a difficult start to life at Red Bull, but he seems to be getting more comfortable with the car. Where is he struggling in particular, and what can the team do to help him get on top of those issues?

CH: He had a tough pre-season, two incidents in the pre-season put him on the back foot and also probably confidence wise as well, but each grand prix we’ve been through so far he’s got stronger and stronger. I think China he’ll take a bit of confidence from, getting the fastest lap at the end of the race there as well. And yeah, I think just more seat time is extremely beneficial to him, and as we come back to circuits that he’s more and more familiar with I think we’ll see him make significant further progress.

Q: Cyril, if we could come to you. Renault were really positive ahead of this season; it’s then been a difficult few races for you. How would you assess how the opening three races have gone?

Cyril ABITEBOUL: I think it’s fair to say that it’s not exactly the start of the season we were willing to have, that we’ve been working for. I think that it’s important also to take a bit of distance of the emotions and of the constant drama we are living for in Formula One. We are already sitting P4 into the championship. It’s a tight championship, but we are already sitting P4 with only two cars finishing out of the six cars that have started the season so far. So if with two cars we are capable of doing P4, that’s already an encouragement. Last year we had to do everything extremely right to be able to secure that position, so I think it does say something about the step that we’ve done. It’s not enough, it’s never enough for sure. As a starting point we clearly need to improve the reliability of the engine; as you know over the winter we have been very vocal about the expectation but also about the ambition in terms of power gain on the engine. I think we’ve accomplished that, but in order to secure that we had to on a number of occasions to fast-track some of the internal processes because it’s a Catch-22. You’re running against time, and sometimes also running against limitations in resources, and clearly every single time we could, we biased our internal processes towards performance. So we are paying a little bit for that, but I hope that it’s short term pain for long term gain. On the chassis side, I’m extremely positive about the rate of development, which is stronger than it’s ever been, which is saying something about also the new Renault that we are starting to see in action.

Q: And just a quick word on Daniel Ricciardo, he had a tough couple of opening races but got on the board. How much of a relief was it to see him score points in China?

CA: It’s always good to score his first points, you know, and the sooner the better. But I think more important, he now has a car in which he has more confidence. In the first race in Melbourne we finally had the capacity to understand what he wanted. We’ve made changes, we prioritised the changes that he wanted to have, in particular on the systems that are related to drivers, so that he has more confidence in the car. Not exactly yet to the level of competitivity that we want, but so that he can attack and wait for the upgrades to come and hopefully pay some dividends.

Q: Toto, thanks for waiting, and welcome back to the press conference again. I think that probably shows how successful Mercedes have been this year. When you look back on those opening three races, how pleased are you with what’s gone on, and how much confidence does that give you going forward?

Toto WOLFF: First of all, it’s always nice to be here. It was a great start of the season; we had a difficult Barcelona testing where we started to understand how to set up the car toward the end of the test only, and then we came to Melbourne and we had a very positive surprise. That was met with a little bit more scepticism then in the second race, where clearly the Ferrari package was the quickest on track. Charles, I think it’s clear, would have won the race if it wouldn’t have been for reliability, but reliability is part of the equation and part of performance. We came back in China very strong, and that is very pleasing, but three races out of 21 is very early and we mustn’t be carried away with a great start.

Q: And a word on Lewis Hamilton, who was back to his dominant ways in China. How impressed have you been with him this year and the way that he continually re-motivates himself?

TW: It’s always impressive to look at sportsmen who have been very successful in the past, been setting benchmarks that they’re always able to start a new season very motivated and very energised. Certainly the Lewis that I have seen is in a great place, he’s eager to perform at the highest level, and that is good for him and good for the team.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Claire, I know you’ve got more pressing short-term problems at the moment, but last week it was reported that there was interest in serious investment in Williams from Dmitri Mazepin, and I just wondered if you could clarify that from your position and tell us whether or not the team is for sale?

CW: Yeah, I saw those stories; I paid little attention to them. I haven’t met Mr Mazepin to talk about that. We had a brief conversation in the mid-part of last year, but subsequent to that there have been no conversations. I’d just like to be really categorical about it: Williams is not for sale. I have no intention of putting Williams up for sale. I don’t see why we would. I think certainly in times like this, that the team is going through at the moment, these rumours always come up, but with a business head on, when you’re team isn’t doing well selling at this juncture wouldn’t be the right time to do so. I think you would only investigate that opportunity if you are doing well. That’s the right time to sell. But Williams is in this sport and has been for more than four decades and we’ve never wanted to sell. This is what we do; we don’t have anything else to do. So, it is not on the market. I don’t want to sell it to everybody. I want to go out and prove that we can do what we are in this sport to do – and that’s to get back on the podium and to win races again. That may take us a long time, but it took Frank more than 10 years to do it when he first started in this sport, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more stuff thrown our way, like we’ve had today, like we’ve had this year, like we had last year. But you don’t give up when times get tough. For me it’s a test of your character that you continue and to prove to everybody that you can do it. That’s certainly the belief everybody has at Williams: that we can do this and we’re not going to just give up because the moments have got a bit hard for us.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/racefans.net) Claire, sorry to hone in on you again after the first question. However, there’s been a report floating around about gender gaps and Williams didn’t come off particularly well. As the only female leader of a Formula 1 team, this was rather surprising. Could you substantiate some of the comments or where do we stand on this please?

CW: Yes, another stick with which people are beating us at the moment. For me, certainly, the regulations by which we have to report our gender pay gap, which we have to do now in the UK, are misleading or they can bring about misleading results. Certainly, for me, the means by which you test how well you are doing to ensure gender equality within your business is firstly by the number of women you actually have and year-on-year we have more and more women coming to work at Williams and I’m pleased to say not just in the more female-dominated roles we’ve had in motorsport in the past, of admin and marketing. More women are coming up now in engineering roles; we’ve got more women in our aerodynamics department, in vehicle design, development etc. But it’s about how you support that talent as well. We’ve just recently launched, about four months ago, at the start of this year, a women at Williams network, and I think we are probably the only team to do that. It’s about not only encouraging talent to come into our team but it’s about how you support them when they are there. And secondly, the most important number for me when we are looking at gender equality is how you much you pay your female staff versus your male, and we went through a big analysis on this two years ago, before we even had to report on gender pay, and we made sure that every woman that was doing the same job as a man was paid the same amount as that male employee for doing that same job. For me, those are the three greatest measures of gender equality within a business and so I have absolutely no qualms knowing that the women in our organisation are treated on an equal standing as our men.

Q: (inaudible) A question for Toto and Christian. Toto, you said after the Chinese Grand Prix that managing the two drivers might be quite tricky for Ferrari. Do you guys think that this could be an advantage for you and as team bosses how difficult is it to manage these kind of situations and how difficult is it to explain to the drivers the different circumstances and decisions?

TW: From my standpoint, we’ve been quoted a lot about the Ferrari situation and I don’t think it’s right. We are not in the right place to comment from the sidelines about what is happening in Ferrari. What I can say is that we have been in a situation with Nico and Lewis that was tricky to manage at times, and equally not easy with Valtteri and Lewis, because two drivers that want to win races and do have the potential to win championships, that can be conflicting interests sometimes, and you just need to talk about it. And it’s not trivial. It’s a situation that certainly has an advantage for the team, because drivers are pushing each other and extracting more performance out of the car, but equally in managing personalities and strong characters is never trivial, whether it’s drivers or engineers or managers in general.

CH: Yeah I think different teams have different philosophies. Arguably having a very clearly defined number one and number two driver is almost easier to work with. That isn’t our philosophy at Red Bull. We allow the drivers to race and sometimes that can be uncomfortable, as we saw 12 months ago here in Azerbaijan. But the philosophy that we’ve always had is to give both guys the same opportunity and let them establish who is the lead driver on track. I think so long as you have clear rules of engagement then we’ve been, I would say, 90 per cent successful with that. I think in the three years that Max and Daniel raced with each other there were only ever two incidents, which considering they were starting next to each other at 90 per cent of the races is a pretty decent ratio. But each team has its own philosophy. It doesn’t make one right or one wrong, it’s just unique to each team, how they choose to racing.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Cyril and Christian, maybe we can create a little bit more fun for the Netflix people here. I recently listened to Natalie Pinkham’s podcast with Adrian Newey and Adrian basically admitted that there a bit of strategy in the criticism you did towards Renault in terms of a) making them invest more into the programme or b) making them exit altogether – I assume to get a new engine manufacturer. Christian, do you want to put any more context to that? And Cyril, obviously asking for your comment too.

CH: Well, I read with interest Adrian’s comments about that and I think what he is referring to is actually back in 2015, where we’d had several conversations, we’d been to Paris, we’d seen Carlos Ghosn, we’d presented what our concerns were and I think by 2015, when the engine was arguably worse than it was in 2014, then frustration boiled over to the point that it was like ‘OK, if we are more open about what our frustrations are, maybe it will force a reaction’. It didn’t! I don’t think you were even involved at that stage were you Cyril?

CA: I was just on my way back. I don’t know if that was a good thing or bad thing!

CH: So Cyril came back into the full brunt of it. You were a customer the year before! So yeah, it was one of things that you try every mechanism that you can to try to generate competiveness and at that time it was felt that maybe Renault couldn’t possibly afford the embarrassment of these engines not being competitive and not being reliable and not delivering, but yeah, unfortunately, it didn’t work.

CA: How to respond? It was very good until the last word – it didn’t work. One thing we can give credit to Christian and Red Bull is that they are fantastic at communication strategy and communication is part of this world, it’s part of Formula 1, it’s part of your strategy and your tactics. It’s not the first team and it’s not the last team to use all the weaponry of this world, and frankly you guys, to influence what is going on. I was reading yesterday that Max is happy to take an engine penalty – amazing! You know, that’s part of this world, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact, and I would concur with Christian in relation to that, our engine was not at the required level in 2014 and 2015. There are mitigating circumstances. You know, we were extremely happy and Renault has contributed to making Red Bull what it is today by winning four championships in a row – from a financial perspective with sponsors, from a technology perspective with talent, recruitment – Red Bull is what it is today thanks also to Renault. Thank your for giving me the opportunity to say that. But then, later on, indeed we lost a little bit the momentum and sight of what needed to be done for 2014 regulations. The rest is history and we;’ll see what the future is holding.

Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) A question to all five please. What’s the latest on the 2021 regulations? There was a big meeting one month and ever since we haven’t heard much more. Do you have any more details and generally how pleased are you with the way F1 is moving forward?

OS: Well, I think with every meeting we iterate what the regulations are going to look like. I believe there is a deadline of med-year for something to be published and I think we’re getting closer now. The FIA have asked the teams for feedback, which we’ve given. There are still some outstanding issues on some components that will either be supplied or not and when we know more information then I think we’ll get closer to that but mid-year something should be published.

Q: Christian?

CH: Yeah, it feels like we’re converging. There are still a few elephants in the room but yeah, it feels generally like on all front we are converging in the right direction, so hopefully over the next few months something can get sorted.

Q: Toto, do you have anything to add?

TW: Yeah, as Christian said, it’s difficult because there are so many important balls in the air, whether it’s prize fund redistribution or the cost cap, technical and sporting regulations and it is progressing slowly. We’d like to have it done sooner rather than later and this is the joint objective of all stakeholders involved – the FIA, Formula 1 and the teams.

Q: Cyril?

CA: Nothing much to add. Maybe just on timing, we really see the end of June as the deadline. That is a necessary deadline for the sport, for the OEMs and for all teams really, to know what the future is holding and to start to make plans accordingly.

Q: And Claire, anything to add?

CW: Yeah, I would agree. I think that the versions that FIA and FOM presented to us a few weeks, we were really pretty happy with. I know that there are a few things still being discussed at the moment, to clarify, but we’d be very happy when they come out to sign them.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / racefans.net) Further to my question to Claire earlier on about the gender pay gap, how comfortable are the other four teams that you’re actually fulfilling the moral obligations in this regard as well – not only the legislative ones. And then Christian, I see you were asked to comment on Adrian’s comments. Would you like to comment on Dr Helmut Marko’s comment that he didn’t think a women driver was up to Formula One?

CA: I think frankly it was extremely well put by Claire and there is little that I can add. I think those indicators are good, because we live in a world of indicators but there are quantitative and we live in a Formula One world which is much more qualitative. Statistics are, in terms of quantity, pool of resources is much lower. I think really what matters is that, for a given position, there is equality and parity of treatment for a given position. And that’s basically, the hurdle. As far as we are concerned, we are obviously very keen. We go up massively in terms of resources, that’s given us the opportunity to attract with equality – but also our executive committee, our management committee is almost 50:50 between men and women, so I think it’s a clear demonstration that we are serious about that. And I will leave Christian to comment on Dr Marko’s point…

Toto, do you want to give a Mercedes standpoint?

TW: I think a lot has been said within Daimler. Within the Daimler board there is more female representation and when you look at the motor racing side, Britta Seeger who is on the board for sales & marketing and Bettina Fetzer, vice-president for marketing, they were strongly behind us going into Formula E and they are very engaged, also they are at Formula One very often and they are there on merit. The same in small is within the F1 team. I’m really happy to see that, from the young ones that are going us, it looks like the proportion of young ladies is much higher than it was in the past. Being an engineer, technician or mechanic is more of a career route than it was in the past. As you know, my wife has done a programme that was called ‘Dare to be Different’ and has joined forces with the the FIA now, in order to promote young women into the sport, so I’m the first one to have seen how powerful that can be and I think the proportion of females in our organisation will grow, or is growing as we speak – and that’s good.

Otmar, do you want to answer that question?

OS: Well, at Racing Point and Force India before, we don’t really differentiate by gender at all. So, we differentiate by the ability to do the job. There are many – well, not many – but a few departments that I can think of now where we have both men and women and they’re led by women and that’s just because they’re better at what they do. I think if that’s the philosophy, the gender pay gap should naturally become zero, so that’s how we go about things. The only other thing I’ve got to say is that, in my household, there are more women than men. You’ve got to try to treat everybody like you would want another boss to treat your daughter. So, if that’s the case, I think you get to the right place.

Christian, thanks for waiting, and to deal with Dr Marko’s comments as well.

CH: Well, as you all know, I’m all for Girl Power. I think it’s quite obvious that Claire should be paying herself significantly more than she obviously is. But, again, within our team, somebody that performs a role, it’s irrelevant whether they’re male or female. They’re paid the same for the role that they perform. We have some great engineers, some great designers, a growing contingent of more and more females coming into the business, which is great to see. Quite often we have a strategist on the pit wall that’s currently on maternity leave, in key and prominent positions. As far as Helmut’s comments were concerned, I think they were off-the-record comments, I think they weren’t… maybe they’ve been converted slightly. From a Red Bull perspective we’d be delighted to see more girls coming into the sport; we’d be delighted to see a girl get into Formula One and ideally be competitive. I think what he was alluding to is that there is nobody in a position to be competitive in Formula One at the moment and I think what that needs is for more girls to get involved at the grassroots, to get involved, to go karting and there needs to be a bigger pool of them coming through the sport. I think that way more opportunities will present themselves. There’s obviously a Formula W category now that starts shortly but again, where will that lead on to? They need to be able to move on from there. I think from a Red Bull perspective, we’d be totally in favour of seeing girls in motorsport come through – but I think it needs more involvement, and to appeal more as a sport where girls can get involved at a grassroots stage.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) To Claire. I appreciate it’s only a couple of hours old but do you have an idea of the scale and the cost of the damage, and will you be seeking compensation as Haas did when Grosjean hit a drain in Malaysia in 2017?

CW: We obviously know what damage has occurred. To actually quantify that cost, it’s a little premature to do that but we will be doing it and we clearly will be discussing that with the FIA.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Toto and Cyril, the two of you came forward last year with the suggestion of, in terms of the race calendar, probably doing less races rather than more. The idea, I believe, being more exclusive events and probably promoters paying more. Cyril, you also mentioned something about being fresher. Maybe the two of you – also anyone else who wants to comment, can elaborate on whether that has gone any further, and add your opinions to that at the end?

TW: The balance you need to strike is between understanding that Formula One is a very aspiration and glamorous sport and obviously less can be more. But equally, as a company, we want to grow our revenue and the obvious revenue trigger is doing more races. I think FOM is pretty clear that, if more races are being added to the calendar, they need to be creative and they need to make all the way down to the bottom line or be very attractive races, tapping new markets. I think the mix at the moment and the discussions we are having is right.

Cyril, do you have anything to add?

CA: No, I think it’s that balance between quantity, quality, being aspirational, being something special but still being capable of existing enough in that world that is full of content and proposition in terms of sports properties. We need to make sure that we are different in the space that exists right now, and the media focus for Formula One. In the current business model the only way to grow the revenue indeed is to add up more races – or at least to keep the current number, so if we really think that it needs to be changed in future, we need to change our business model, so that we don’t need to keep on growing the revenue – and that means reducing the costs, reducing the necessity to spend to be competitive. That’s maybe one of the positives for the budget cap. Maybe not for the next cycle but maybe one cycle from now, have the ability to reduce that cost so that we can think a bit more strategically, rather than being a slave or revenues.

Claire, how would affect an independent team like Williams?

CW: I agree with what Toto and Cyril have said around striking a balance, and maybe wanting to go to fewer because of the aspirational side of Formula One. I think you add more races and if you don’t get that balance and don’t get the necessary income in for going to four or five extra races, the pressure that it puts on our team… our guys are already going around the world 21 times a year, plus the tests. That’s a long time to expect people to be away from home. Great if you’re a team that can afford to have a support team, or a support structure that you take personnel in and out, or if you’ve got a second race team that you can send around the world – but clearly for smaller, independent teams, that’s a much harder piece of work and just puts far too much pressure on the system. Not just from a personnel perspective but also from how many additional parts we’re going to have to manufacture etc., So there’s a whole series of considerations around it.

Christian, do you have anything to add from Red Bull’s perspective?

CH: I think it’s been pretty well summed up. I think what you have to appreciate is that a grand prix weekend. Not for us but the people down in the garage, it’s a week-long event and for many other functions that are involved in going to grands prix. 21 is already a big ask. Going beyond that is, I feel we’re a tipping point. You then have to look at the construction of the grand prix weekend. Do we need to do as much testing as we do? The duration of the season. All those factors and what impact it has on cost and budget caps and so on and, is ultimately it going to make a better show? A book can only have so many chapters and we want to make sure as many of those chapters are as entertaining as possible and it crescendo’s to something. What you don’t want to have is saturation. And I think it’s finding that balance of what is the right number and what is the right construction of a race weekend.

And Otmar, Racing Point is obviously a team that’s growing, new factory is coming on. How does it affect your team?

OS: We are growing and we’re recruiting now – but not at a pace where we’d take a half-step backwards. We’ve got to really be careful that the new factory that’s being planned now as well as our recruitment drive and some other things that are changing  don' affect the performance at the end of the season. So it’s a fine balance to strike but it’s one we’re conscious of and working hard to make sure we get right.