Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Grönholm RX Taneco targets consistency and the final in France.

GRX Taneco have come a long way since the first round of the FIA World Rallycross championship, running two Hyundai i20 Supercars in the championship. Round after round, the Finnish team have improved their performance, qualifying for the semi-finals each time and getting more competitive. For the French round, the team have set their sights on reaching the final. 

The 1,088-kilometre long track with a 33% asphalt/66% gravel is reputed for its grip. Tyre strategy is all-important on a circuit that makes for spectacular racing and generates an amazing atmosphere. The Lohéac circuit draws crowds of some 75,000 spectators for the rallycross weekend. 

The lap record stands at 36.095 seconds, set in 2017. Timur Timerzyanov’s best result in France so far is sixth place in 2014. "Everyone always has high expectations for Lohéac because its a fantastic race and very popular," said Timerzyanov. "The circuit is short, difficult and quite tricky. There’s usually not much gap between cars."

Last time out in Canada, the Russian had a very difficult weekend with a number of incidents, and he now aims to put it behind him and focus on the way forward. "I stepped up my training after Canada and analysed my strengths and weaknesses over the last few races, to prepare for the French round as best I could," explained Timerzyanov.

Niclas Grönholm has taken part in the last two rounds in France, finishing in 14th both. The Finn has been the most consistent privateer driver in the championship, and has consistently qualifyed for the semi-finals and secured two final appearances this season. 

Niclas is confident that he can secure a good result for the team in France. "I think we’re capable of achieving a good result in France," said Grönholm.  "The track suits the Hyundai i20 Supercar because it’s steady-going in that there are no tight corners. I’ve been training hard at the wheel during the break. I’m looking forward to the race and feel ready to move up to the next level!"

EKS Audi Sport targets a podium finish in Lohéac

EKS Audi Sport drivers, Andreas Bakkerud and Mattias Ekström, are looking forward to round eight of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship in front of 75,000 fans. The fans transform the small race track at Lohéac into a bubbling cauldron.. 

“Lohéac is one of the biggest events of the year on the race calendar with sheer rallycross action galore,” says Andreas Bakkerud. “Whenever so many fans turn out at the track this gives me an additional motivation boost.” 

Mattias Ekström is also excited about the popular event in Brittany: “Traveling to Lohéac is a great honor every time,” the Swede said. “The many enthusiastic spectators there make us drivers feel like rock stars.”

Ekström clinched third place last year, achieved his first podium finish on the track with a length of about one kilometer of which only 33 percent are tarmac. The section the Swede enjoys most is Turn 5 – a fast, long right-hander that runs parallel to the Joker Lap. “There, you drift in third or fourth gear, constantly keeping the car’s nose very close to the wall,” says Ekström. “Very special as well is the Joker Lap itself with a jump when you enter the corner.” 

Bakkerud in 2013 won a round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Lohéac. In 2016, he finished the World RX round in France runner-up. “I’ve always done well on this track,” said the Norwegian. “Following my misfortune in Canada, I definitely want to be back on podium.”

At Lohéac this year, EKS Audi Sport are fielding two additional Audi S1 EKS RX quattro's for the first time – for Nico Müller in the FIA World Rallycross Championship [one-off in Lohéac] and Szabó Krisztián in the FIA European Rallycross Championship.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Kristoffersson chases a seventh win in France.

Defending FIA World Rallycross Champion, Johan Kristoffersson heads to France chasing a seventh win of the year, a result that would equal his own record from 2017. The Swede has a 55 point advantage over his nearest rival.  

Kristoffersson admits that a small error could be costly in his pursuit for a second championship title. 

"The strategy is to stay out of trouble. In the last couple of races I have really tried to do this, pushed to get myself in the best possible position; a position where I can control my own race and do my own thing," Kristoffersson explained. "This is what I want to do this weekend. With the championship like it is, I don’t need to take the biggest risks, I need to defend my position and help to strengthen the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden position in the teams’ championship.”

The Swede came under pressure from Peugeot Total in Canada, but aims to use every opportunity to stay ahead. "The last two years when I won in Lohéac it was raining and maybe the rain gives us a small advantage over the Peugeot,'' said Kristoffersson

“The Volkswagen Polo R Supercar is fantastic in those kind of conditions where grip is a little bit more limited. I have such a good feeling with the car when we’re sliding." 

"Normally in Lohéac there’s not so much gravel; it’s strange, it’s brown, it looks like gravel and dirt, but actually when you get there in the dry it’s giving you some more grip. So when the rain comes, I think it helps us."

Can anyone stop Kristoffersson in France? 

Solberg enjoys healthy Loeb rivalry.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
In the world of motorsport, there are always rivalries. Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb have both come from the FIA World Rally Championship. Solberg claimed one FIA World Rally Championship, while Loeb has won an impress nine WRC championships. 

Loeb joined the FIA World Rallycross scene in 2016 with Peugeot Hansen and claimed a victory in Latvia on his debut season. 

Petter enjoys racing against Loeb in the World RX championship, but winning is the best feeling. A win anywhere means everything, but the rivalry with Sébastien [Loeb] is a healthy one, like it’s always been," said Solberg“It’s funny how things change down the years."

"When we were both in the World Rally Championship, Sébastien and I were fighting hard. We were both at the start of our career, OK I was maybe a couple of years ahead of him, but we were pushing hard; we were young and really trying to find success and to find our way to the top in the sport," Solberg explained.

Loeb is on the hunt for his maiden World Rallycross Championship, while Petter is a 2-time World Rallycross Champion. 

“Things are a bit different now. We’ve both won some world championships – admittedly he’s still got a few more than I have, but I’m working on that! But we’re more relaxed about the pressure and everything that comes with the sport," the Norweigen explained. 

Regardless of Solberg and Loeb's success in the WRC championship, they both remain hungry for wins in the World Rallycross Championship

"We both want to win and we’ll push like hell for that, but the relationship with Séb is really nice. We can talk about what we did a few years ago, enjoy each other’s company and then we go out and fight for the first corner. I love this."

Team Peugeot Total aims to win in France.

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport
Team Peugeot Total heads home for round 8 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Loheac in France.

The Loheac circuit is the oldest and most popular French rallycross venue, it attracts around 75,000 fans – making it one of the most popular motorsport events in France. The lap record holder (with a time of 36.095s) is currently Sébastien Loeb, who finished runner-up last year. The rebuilt track is 1.088 kilometres long, with a lengthy joker lap section, and consists of 33% asphalt combined with 66% gravel. The tighter corners tend to be on asphalt with the fast corners on gravel.

The Peugeot 208 WRX EVO only enters its 3rd event this weekend. Last time out in Canada, the team placed its 2 new cars on the podium in 2nd and 3rd. The Canadian round proved that the new 208 WRX Evo supercar has the pace to win races. 

Sébastien Loeb sets his objective for round 8 in France: "Our objective as always is to go for the victory."  

Peugeot Total are leaving no stone unturned ahead of the French round. "We’ll get a test just before the race, at Chateauroux in France, which should be good preparation for Loheac and we’ll use that to make some final adjustments to the set-up," said Loeb.

"Loheac is a lot of fun to drive but there’s no particular secret to it: you’ve just got to be clean and fast everywhere and above all it’s important to get a very good start," the Frenchman adds. "It’s a track that can be quite demanding on the tyres, so you need to look after them and most of all avoid getting a puncture, which is a risk on some of the big kerbs that you have there.”
Loeb's teammate Timmy Hansen showed impressive pace in his 208 WRX Evo in Canada. The Swede feels confident ahead of the Loheac round. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport
I think that Loheac should suit us quite well: the gravel is very grippy when it’s dry, which is typical of French circuits, so it’s actually very similar to the type of gravel that we have tested on before," said Timmy Hansen

Although Timmy only managed to secure a second place finish in Canada, he kept pressure on race winner Johan Kristoffersson, which displayed the performance of his new supercar. But the Swede feels that there is room for improvement. "The performance of the car is all there: we just need perhaps to focus a little more on the starts, which is so important in rallycross, especially in qualifying where all the cars start in a single line."

Timmy's younger brother Kevin Hansen, an independent entry has improved consistently this season and has received an updated Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar.

The young Swede has gained some experience racing in France. "I have already had a good French experience recently as I’ve been driving a Formula 4 single-seater racing car at the Auto Sport Academy in France, and I think I can definitely use some of the lessons I learned from that in Loheac,'' said Kevin. "It’s a fast circuit where you have to be very tidy and clean, so this is what I can carry over."

Kevin sets his target for the French round. "My aim is definitely to be on the podium," said Hansen. "I think this is a realistic objective, as our 208 WRX should be well-suited to Loheac."

"The car that I’m driving has also benefitted from a lot of development and I feel that I’m improving personally all the time as well, so there’s no reason at all why we can’t be right up there.”

Sunday, 26 August 2018

2018 Belgian GP: FIA Post-Race Press Conference.

1 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)

(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

Q: Congratulations Sebastian, your 52nd victory in Formula 1, moving you ahead of the great Alain Prost, and a very important victory. Take us through the first lap, that crazy first lap, up to Les Combes.

Sebastian VETTEL: Well… yeah, I mean… more wins than Alain. I think… wow. Sorry. First lap: yeah, I had a great start and then I’m not sure Lewis saw me. He pushed me quite far to the left, but I knew my chance would be later on, up the hill. I think I timed it quite well. Obviously last year I was always ending up short, so yeah, it seems like it was better this year. Obviously we had a little bit less wing. Timing is crucial and I managed that perfectly I thought but then the Force India came as well, so… But as soon as I was ahead I was quite relieved. Obviously with the safety car it was the other way round. So I thought ‘well, I got that done, and now I get the safety car’. But I had a very good re-start; I had a very good exit out of the first corner, kept it clean, it was tricky with the tail wind braking for the first turn. After that a very smooth race. Lewis pushed very hard, especially in the first stint, towards the end he was very fast. In the second stint I could turn everything down a little bit and control the pace. But yeah, a great weekend.

Q: I love your answers; they’re like an essay!
SV: Isn’t that what you asked for!

Q: They’re perfect. Thank you! But then you had the pace after that to just hold him where you needed to.

SV: Yeah, also going through traffic I think I was a bit fortunate; I got them on the straights, so I didn’t lose much time. But I could see he wasn’t really pushing the last 15 laps, so I could relax a little bit more. It was quite tricky. I really enjoyed the race. To get a lot of time on this track is always very nice, in a great car even better, so now obviously looking forward to next week.

Q: Very well done. Lewis, seventh podium in Spa, but not the one you needed today, but still scoring 18 points.

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, congratulations to Seb. We did everything we could, I did everything I could in the race and I think we ultimately performed quite well this weekend, but he drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straights. So we’ve got to keep pushing as hard as we can to try to catch up but, you know, that’s all I can say.

Q: You had a go into the final chicane for the safety car restart. You thought you might be able to sneak through there?

LH: I think I could have but again he would have sailed past me on the straight. They’ve got a few trick things going on in the car. I did what I could, we did what we could and we’ve just got to keep working.

Q: Monza coming up, so their straight-line speed will be pretty handy there too.
LH: Yup.

Q: Well, we’ll see what happens next weekend. Max, congratulations. You have an awful lot of fans in the grandstands but it looked a pretty lonely race on the track?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, especially after the first 10 to 12 laps, but initially it was a bit chaotic and I had to get past a few cars, but we stayed out of trouble and after that we just did our own race and of course very happy to be on the podium here.

Q: This track hasn’t always been kind to you but today it worked really well. That was the best you could achieve with the pace you’ve got.

MV: Yeah, before we had been a bit unlucky, it happens sometimes, but I’m very happy with today.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, just picking up on something you said after the race, you referred to Sebastian and Ferrari’s straight-line speed at the start. You mentioned there that it didn’t seem like you were surprised to have him attack you. Are you surprised by the extent of Ferrari’s engine performance with the latest upgrade? And how do you think they’ve achieved that? We’ve heard you mention them maybe doing engine tricks. Do you think they’re just outsmarting Mercedes at the moment?

LH: Well, we came here with a pretty good upgrade and, I mean, generally, every time we do bring an upgrade they bring a bigger one. But no, we knew they were quick on the straights. They were quicker, particularly in qualifying in the last sector. We’ve known for the last four races or so that they’ve had some things on their car that’s enabled them to be quicker on the straights and yeah, we’ve just got to work harder, I guess.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Just to follow up for both of you, Lewis and Seb, it looked like in the middle sector the Mercedes was much quicker in the qualifying session. What do you both think? Is it more due to the power or the aerodynamic set-up that you have less drag but more downforce? In the first sector and last sector is it only do to the power that you’re losing out on the straights?

LH: It’s just power. They’re able to deploy more, somehow, than us, from Turn One to Eau Rouge, and then it carries on down the straight. And it’s the same down the back straight. I’m not really sure how but that’s how they are.

And Seb, is it just engine performance?

SV: Well, I hope so. I hope we have more power. That’s what we’re working for. If that’s the case then obviously well done to our engine guys. I think we’ve been making progress, especially the last two years, so, that’s good news. I think this feels pretty straightforward. We ran a little bit less wing, were faster in sector one, sector three and sector two was a little bit slower. But I wouldn’t disagree that this year in terms of power we are a lot closer than we were last year. I think last year we didn’t have a chance here, despite maybe running less wing – or more wing. It’s good to see that we’re making progress.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, when you say ‘tricks’ do you mean, do you think that Ferrari are bending the rules slightly? Or do you think it’s all legal?

LH: No, we all have trick things on our cars. Trick is just a word for something special, I guess.

Something special that’s legal?

LH: Just something special. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s on their car so I couldn't tell you either way.

Q: (Jaap de Groot – De Telegraaf) Question for Max. Was there extra pressure on you this weekend. It’s your home race, a lot of Dutch fans. Can you tell me something about the pressure? You tried yesterday with the rain to gamble all or nothing and today you delivered by getting the podium. How relieved are you? First how you dealt with the pressure and second how relieved you are delivering to the fans by coming third?

MV: There was no extra pressure. I just enjoy driving here at Spa in general. It has nothing to do with the fans, they just give you extra motivation and I just like to see it next to the track: that much orange. I think it shouldn't give you extra pressure. But, yeah, today was a good recovery after yesterday when we were unlucky in qualifying. So, of course, happy to be on the podium here. Of course, it was also great to see in the last lap, all the fans cheering you on. So really happy with that.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) Lewis, we saw an important advantage of Ferrari here today during the race. Do you think it’s related to the correct risks of Spa Francorchamps and next weekend Monza? And when we have another circuit like Mexico or Austin, maybe it can be less than we saw here?

LH: No, I think they seem to have  it where there are straights. You’ve got Mexico, long straights, they will have the advantage there. They generally have the advantage at places like Singapore. The next race, with this kind of performance they have on straights, we might struggle to match them there. We gave it everything we had today. We were, generally, often quicker in the middle sector in qualifying but for some reason, I think in the race even then, I couldn’t keep up. For them to pull over a second gap, that’s some serious pace they had today so we’ve just got to keep working hard and keep pushing.

Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – De Volkskrant) Max, how special is it for you to finish third here 24 years after your father did the same thing at Spa?

MV: I think it’s always nice to be on the podium. Yeah. I mean, 24 years ago, I don’t think my Dad even cares at all. Also I don’t really.

SV: 24 years ago he cared, I think.

MV: 24 years ago he cared but now he’s like, ‘you know what, it’s done. I’m retired.’ Yeah, it’s always good to be on the podium honestly.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, just reading into what you’re saying to your answers with regards to the trick things, will you or Mercedes be speaking to the FIA…

LH: I’m not saying that there’s anything illegal on. I’m just saying we all have something trick. There’s probably something trick on… Trick is just something that helps you bring that extra bit of performance. That’s all I mean. I don’t mean anything to it so please don’t read into it and please don’t twist my words and say that I say they’re doing anything illegal because they’re not. They just outperformed us today and we’ve got to work harder, but there are things that they have on the car that we might not have on the car and vice versa and we’ve got to try and find out what and improve on that. That’s it.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis and Sebastian, obviously the restart presented different challenges for the pair of you: Lewis’s chance of attack, Seb you needed to worry about defending. Can you just talk us through the sort of approach mentally to that restart and then how you handled it, obviously into La Source and down the Kemmel straight?

SV: Yeah, I think it was one of my worst restarts initially to surprise Lewis. I think he was sharp and obviously I knew that I had nothing to fear because the safety car lane or where the race basically restarts is not braking for turn 18. Also, when I realised the initial bit that it’s not great, also caught some wheelspin that I didn’t want, but I didn’t want to slow down again to then surprise him again or get a second chance because I don’t think that’s fair. Then I focused on the last corner, the last pair and that worked really well plus turn one where we had some tail wind the whole race so I was making sure I knew where the wind was going and again, got it really right and had a great exit and once I was told the gap, which was around 0.9s exit of turn one, I knew that I should be safe but then you never know with a little bit of headwind up that long straight and obviously looked in the mirror, tried to see him when I could and saw that he wasn’t a threat so I was happy when I went into turn five and stayed ahead.

LH: It started out well. I probably could have gone up the inside into the last corner, maybe, just about, but again, they would just overtake us on the straight so I held back and tried to stay close but he just pulled away out of the last corner and then through turn one they’ve been quicker than us all weekend there and out of it so by the time I came out of turn one, he was quite far ahead.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD) Max, is this result also proof for you that in the last eight races there are still things possible, despite the difficult split with Renault in which you are involved?

MV: We just try to make the best of it ‘til the end of the race. Hopefully on a street circuit we can be closer or at least fight them. Yeah, let’s see.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

2018 Belgian GP: FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference.

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
3 – Esteban OCON (Racing Point Force India)


(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Great to see the sportsmanship there, Lewis congratulating Seb. I don’t think he feels as good as you do. Your 78th pole position, your fifth here in Spa. You needed that rain at the end, Ferrari were very strong in the outright dry, but congratulations, great job.

Lewis HAMILTON: Thank you so much. That was one of the toughest qualifying sessions I can remember. It seems to get harder and harder all year long. I don’t know if they definitely had it, we were very, very close, you saw it in, I think, Q2, we were split by half a tenth, so I was hopeful I could make that slight difference but I knew it was going to be very close, they were very quick on the straights. But then the rain came and none of us have been driving this weekend in the rain, so I can’t even express to you how difficult it was. You saw that I went off in Turn 1. You’re tip-toeing, you don’t know where the limit is, you don’t know… the track looks dry in some places but it’s actually wet. That was definitely some of the toughest… even though at the last race it was very wet, but that was different circumstances, where you have more grip on those extreme tyres. With these ones it was so hard. I went off twice but I’m so glad I managed to keep it together for that last lap.

Q: Great job, Lewis, it gives you a great place to start this grand prix tomorrow. This championship battle is very much alive.

LH: It’s painful. I think everyone is on the edge of their seats, but that’s what’s great about this sport and it’s so great to see so many people here in Spa. It’s a beautiful place and an incredible track to drive and I’m really grateful for all the hard work the team have put in to give me the chance to be here today.

Q: Well done, enjoy the moment. Seb, it looked like Ferrari had the edge. Lewis thought that in dry running maybe he would have had the pace, but to me it looked like in dry running it was going to be a Ferrari front-row lock-out, but that rain suddenly changed everything. Was there much more left?

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, I think so. I think we didn’t time it great. Look, in these conditions it can be anything. You might as well take second from where we are. I think we had the pace today for pole but we’ll never find out; obviously Q3 was a bit different. I think the gap was quite big, so deserved for Lewis to get the pole, but tomorrow I’m quite sure we have good pace in the car, also for the race, so looking forward to that.

Q: Just when you mention timing. It looked like as if there was a little bit of… I don’t want to say confusion, but uncertainty…

SV: It was confusion! When all of a sudden it starts to rain like this, from a team point of view you have to manage two cars and Kimi was rushing to get back out and then in the end, now you look, it’s sunshine and it’s nearly dry again. I didn’t also know what to do, I had a bit of traffic, then I had the track drying up and I wanted to save a bit of tyres, and I had a bit of traffic with Esteban in front, and then you know that any lap could be the lap but equally you know the lap will be at the end if it continues to dry up. Yeah, maybe I was also not as calm as can be in the car and in the end happy with second, first row for tomorrow and we have strong pace, so anything can happen.

Q: Congratulations. Esteban, welcome to the top three! Your best ever qualifying. This is a big opportunity for you, uncertainty about where you are going to be next year, a result like that in tricky conditions – just how huge is this for you?

Esteban OCON: Yeah, it’s fantastic! Hi everyone, hello, thanks for the support first of all. It’s awesome to be in P3 after such a difficult time with the team we had. But now we are starting afresh and definitely happy with that result, third wasn’t expected today. The job did a fantastic guys… the guys did a fantastic job! Sorry, it’s the emotion! We changed the tyre really quickly and managed to go out and that was fantastic and I put in a clean lap and managed to get third, so yeah, let’s bring it on tomorrow.


Q: Congratulations Lewis, a very tricky session. Just how difficult was it out there?

LH: I think that was one of the hardest sessions that I can remember for a while. Obviously in the rain in the last race it was different, it was obviously incredibly difficult there, but this one, going straight from slicks straight to inters and you only had a few laps really to find the grip, to get the tyres up, to understand where the track was dry and where it was wet, because it was really patchy throughout the whole lap. So you come to Eau Rouge and you don’t know if you have to have a life, well obviously we all had to have a lift, but towards the end it was drying up in some patches and it was quite wet in other patches. I really can’t find the words to express the words to express how difficult it was. If you look at the laps… I don’t know how it was for other people but you saw that I went off in Turn 1 massively and then again into Turn 12, and so I only had one lap left, otherwise I would have been a lot further down the order. I knew I had the pace, it was just really about finding the balance of not pushing too much, but not backing off too much, and it’s different in every single corner and at no point can you ever be complacent. It’s awesome, I love that kind of… I’m super happy obviously, the team have done a great job. The rain is always a friend of mine, so…

Q: Sebastian, Lewis says the rain was a friend of his, you were fastest in all three practice sessions, Ferrari, as a team, in the dry, do you think the rain took qualifying a little bit away from you today?

SV: Maybe. We don’t know, we’ll never get the answer of Q3 in the dry, simply because it wasn’t dry. Like that, obviously it didn’t help. It was a bit strange, not easy to get your eye in and so on. It was a weird… it’s not rain, it’s not dry, it’s something in between. I knew that all of the laps don’t matter but the last one, so I was pushing, because you also don’t know whether you will have a red flag or somebody loses it in these conditions, very likely. So I stayed on track and everything was fine, but I never closed the lap but the last one. Obviously it was a bit chaotic and not great from a management point of view, I think. You don’t know how much it’s going to dry up and if there’s more rain coming, but I don’t feel we put everything together in the last lap. We ran out of battery and that was quite costly for nearly the whole lap and yeah, I just think it wasn’t a nice ending to a great qualifying up to that point. I mean, very exciting with these cars. Even in the damp conditions in the end it’s quite impressive, you know, you do Eau Rouge and you don’t have to downshift, you do it in eighth gear and it’s sort of flat even if it’s damp and you’re on intermediates. So great fun but obviously not very rewarding when you know that you could have done a bit better, but we start in second now, which puts us in a good place, and tomorrow we have a long race. We have a car to fight, a car to overtake so it should be good fun tomorrow.

Q: Very well done. Esteban, moving on to you. Congratulations on the third place. Did you know at the end of that qualifying session just what was on offer for Force India today, that you could score such a good result?

EO: Well, what I knew is definitely that when it’s damp conditions like this you have an opportunity and something to do. It’s always closer between the cars when the conditions are like that and today we maximised the potential of our car. Last time it rained I was also starting third. It’s the second time it rains and I’m starting third, so it’s a fantastic result. Great to perform like this after a difficult time for Force India. That’s totally behind us now and we are focusing on this weekend and the car has been strong, even in the dry this weekend, so hopefully we will get a great result tomorrow.


Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question for Sebastian. You said moments after the qualifying “maybe I wasn’t as calm as I could be.” What was that referring to? Was it because of the rain or something to do with your mindset?

SV: No, I think we had a wobble, obviously, I guess everybody had in these conditions, swapping tyres. I think there was a bit of miscommunication, I was stuck in the pitlane for a while. In the end that didn’t matter but it was just not as calm as I think it could have been. After that, well, looking back it’s always easy in these sessions but as I said the lap that mattered was the last one. Before it was nearly irrelevant, other than keeping your tyres warm. But that you don’t know. You don’t know whether the rain increases again. The laps that I had before also I couldn’t close due to traffic. So, I knew that if I closed them the next lap will be compromised but the next lap will be drier… so what do you do? I think, as I said, it didn’t feel as if I got everything out for various reasons and therefore it was a bit of a scrappy session. But in the end, if it’s scrappy like that, you also saw the others not putting enough fuel in until the end, so it can be a lot worse and taking that into account, I think second is alright.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Seb. You said you ran out of battery in the last lap. It looked a bit like in the penultimate lap at the Bus Stop chicane you went a bit wide to have full throttle on the main straight, so usually you know when you run out of battery a bit earlier – so why did you do it and why didn’t you put it all for the penultimate lap then?

SV: If it’s that easy, maybe you should drive the car then you know everything! As I said, you try to close the lap before, you also try to get your eye in, stay on top of the track, and yeah, the way we set up normally it was fine to run until the end but I surprised myself when I crossed the line and saw that the battery was quite low – which then was very costly. But, y’know… You’re absolutely right, in the end we should have managed better as a team – but in these conditions, could have been a red flag in the last lap and then it doesn’t matter. I always try to open a gap in the last sector, last corner and slow down, charge the car – but obviously it wasn’t enough for the end, so we got caught up.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Esteban, you referenced the team situation in recent days. Obviously at the moment there seems to be a few question marks about your short-term future and what happens there. What do you think the significance of this result is in that? It seems a bit ridiculous to be P3 on the grid and have those sort of questions. And to Lewis and Seb, what do you think of the performance of someone like Esteban in the team and car he’s in at the moment to be P3 on the grid.

EO: Well, you know for sure, my future is not done at the moment. At the moment I don’t know where I will race next year, what I will do. So, y’know, as I said, the only think I can do is do well on track, to focus and do the same job as before, try to do the best. And if you do a strong job in Formula One, the teams, they can’t skip you, they need to have you. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Lewis, your view of Esteban’s performance in that Force India?

LH: I’ve always been a supporter of Esteban. I think, how he conducts himself and how he performs on track is exceptional and unfortunately we’re in a weird place in Formula One where you’ve got some teams that, rather than take a new up-and-coming kid, they’ll take whoever’s got the moment, which means the structure of the sport is probably wrong, and how the funds are distributed, or whatever it is. I also know, once I’d signed, once Sebastian had signed, things start to fall into place, and you’ve got to be and you’ve got to be super-super quick, and make sure you’ve got good management, so they’re sharp and make sure they do their diligence and they’re ready to quick-fire in the right direction. I’ve not read of who’s signed where and what seats are available but he needs to be in a great car because he’s one of the top drivers here so I hope that opportunity is there for him.

Seb, your thoughts on Esteban’s performance?

SV: Well, I think from the outside it’s always difficult to judge but I think he’s doing everything right. I think it’s very good for him to get this qualifying session under the belt and get the car in P3 where it doesn’t belong. I think that shows enough. Also, in a session like that where it can be quite chaotic and you can easily do a mistake, to keep your head together was crucial. That’s what he did. Then, I think, unfortunately it’s our times, a new guy comes in and he’s the superhero, then another guys comes in and he’s the superhero, then another guy comes in and then he’s the superhero, and then another guy comes in and he’s the new superhero. And by that time, the first guy is easily forgotten, even though he’s doing a very, very good job but not really considered any more, as in talked about and written about, so that’s why I think it’s good for him to have this result today, and he should get mentioned. Yeah, I think it’s his day and obviously for us, you sort-of expect to be there. We’ve got the cars and the consistency but, as I said, whatever the car is called he’s driving now, it doesn’t belong in P3 and he managed to do so, so well done, that should also be considered for someone signing him next year.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, we’ve seen in your career, time and time again that when it rains you often always seem to deliver. Do you think you’re virtually unbeatable in the wet?

LH: Definitely not. Definitely not. I think I also tend to do the job in the dry every now and again as well too – but no, not at all. I think it’s… I wish you could see how tough it is out there for us all, maybe you could see it by all of us falling off. It’s really about balance of circumstances and compromises and maybe Seb, as he said, he’d got a battery problem, or something like that. I’d managed mine myself and made sure I had enough power. Also the team helped me in being aware of that. So, I don’t really know what to say. Ultimately it’s for you to decide, to create an opinion about it. I love driving in the wet. I didn’t want it to rain. I was looking forward to it being really close in the dry. I think the Ferraris may… clearly had slightly the upper hand but I really thought maybe it would just be… I might just be able to do enough to get ahead of them in the dry. Maybe. Which is an exciting prospect. But when it rains. I mean, it was horrible! It’s not a case that I love it. It was absolutely terrifying for all of us because we were all tip-toeing around. It’s fun also – but you just don’t know when the front wheels are going to lock. When a front wheel locks, the car seems to speed up. I don’t really understand when that happens but you lock up and then it doesn’t stop after that. You’re just praying that doesn’t happen.

Q: (Oliver Brown – The Telegraph) Lewis, I was interested in your answer a couple of moments ago about Esteban’s situation. F1 seems to have got in this situation where perhaps further down the grid things are being governed more by money rather than merit. I just wondered if you had any further thoughts about how that situation has arisen and what the sport can do about it?

LH: I’ve not put a lot of thought into what the sport can do about it. The best drivers need to be in the best car. You can’t let somebody who’s got more money leapfrog a better driver. It shouldn’t happen. I think the governing body definitely has to somehow… and it starts from the low classes all the way up through Formula Four, Formula Three, Formula Two. Obviously there’s no space in my team, there’s no space in his (Vettel’s) team, there was a space in Red Bull. Then has to be some sort of a shoot-out of some sort maybe. I don’t know what his options are. In some ways, I wish I was managing you and maybe I would be able to help.

EO: Maybe we can speak later.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) To follow up on that Esteban, how much does it mean to you to have such loyal support from both Lewis and Sebastian, and also how annoying is this for you, this situation?

EO: Yeah, for sure, it’s awesome to hear that. I’m very happy to hear that. Of course, I want to be racing next year and I’m doing everything for it, I’m working very hard every day for it and to hear great things from those two champions is fantastic. I will see what the future is going to bring. I’m managed by Mercedes and they have been taking great decisions for me in the past so I’m sure it will be the same again for me in the future, hopefully, and I will be sorted out.

Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriera della Sera) Lewis, in the dry, Ferrari was very strong. Do you feel they can be favourite if it is dry?

LH: They were favourite today and they will be favourite tomorrow. That doesn’t necessarily say that they are going to win. They’ve been favourite for quite a few races now and we’ve managed to somehow turn that on its head and come out ahead. Tomorrow’s going to be a very tough race. Sebastian’s long run blitzed everyone’s yesterday so I don’t know if I will be able to create the pace that I will be able to build a gap but tomorrow I will find out and I will give it everything I’ve got. It’s always a tough race down to turn five here at the start and so… and these guys are obviously incredibly quick on the straights. We will see.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) Lewis, a personal question: you were pole in the wet, pole in the dry, street circuit, high speed circuit, no mistakes, you win starting from pole, starting from the back. You’ve already won the World Championship four times but from outside you never drove so perfectly as this season. What is the reason, are there any particularly reasons for that? Can maturity explain that?

LH: Well, I definitely don’t think I’ve driven perfectly this year but I think our goal as drivers and athletes is to try to… there are so many elements that you have to try and perfect and I’m trying to work on all of those. It’s how you manage your time away from the track…

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) For example?

LH: What are the elements? Well, it can be how you engage with your team, it could be how you strategise your time away from work, how you switch off, how you switch on, how do you train, how do you grind yourself down, how much do… when it comes to driving, how do you improve practice, how do you improve consistency, how do you reduce risks, mistakes, how do you encourage your team to push to the limit and build you a reliable car? It’s not a case of them just doing it, you have to do it as a team. So there are so many elements and naturally with experience that helps but you have to keep working because you’ve got youngsters coming along who have the new fresh motivation so finding also the motivation to replace that. It does help when you get to fight great drivers like Sebastian and you have this kind of battle because it requires you to have to dip into the unknown and really raise the bar beyond what you thought you could raise it to and I think that’s the challenge that all of us have and that is what me and Sebastian are having this year which is exciting.

Q: (Bart Van Dooijeweert - NU.nl) To all of you: it will be the coldest Grand Prix of the year, temperature around 15 degrees. How will it influence the race and tyre strategy?

SV: Well, it’s a bit easier, it doesn’t get so hot in the cockpit but it’s still summer. I don’t know the weather forecast for tomorrow but what I heard it should be dry but then it’s Spa so anything can happen, a bit like Nurburgring, it’s not far from here. No, it doesn’t change much. As I say, it’s probably a bit nicer. It’s difficult to tell how it would this weekend with 30/35 degrees because we didn’t have it. I think it’s been like this the whole weekend.

EO: It’s the same for everyone so we have to deal with the cold conditions. Last time we had conditions that cold was winter test and it was not easy, so we will see. It’s never an easy race anyway.

LH: I think it might be better for blistering so it might be better for all of us. The hotter it gets, the more likely these tyres blister. The actual better tyres, which they’re not using currently, is the tyre with the thinner tread in terms of blistering, so cooler makes that a bit better.

Friday, 24 August 2018

2018 Belgian GP: FIA Team Principals Press Conference.



Q: Cyril, we had Daniel Ricciardo in here yesterday explaining his decision to join Renault. When did you start talks with Daniel and just how did that deal come about from a Renault point of view.

Cyril ABITEBOUL: Obviously, we have known Daniel since a while for the collaboration we naturally have on the engine side with Red Bull since 12 years. We’ve had random discussions – jokes – with Daniel since a while. It would be hard to put an exact date on the first joke about this type of switch. But I’d say that’s it’s a while since we’ve expressed our interest in him, the fact that we liked him, his style, his skills, his talent, his leadership and the fact that there could be an opportunity for him at Renault. We’ve always been clear with what we are, what we are not yet, that we are still in the making. That if he was interested in a turnkey organisation, in a turnkey team with a turnkey car that would not be with us – but if he was interested in a project in construction where he could play a role, we would be interested. So, you know, that’s where we left it and we accepted also since day one it would take him a bit of time to digest and to consider because it was an important decision, you know such a switch is complex. It’s complex in life and in the career of a driver, which is short – but it’s also complex in the life of a team, both for all organisations involved. So, we accepted that. We accepted he would be sort-of making and controlling the timing and obviously we had to look at alternative options in parallel in case it would not happen. And yeah, I think he sort of digested the proposal and eventually made his decision.

Q: It seemed to come quite late. Daniel said it was over a 48-hour period that he finally made his call. Did it come as a surprise to you as well when he finally gave you the news?

CA: Yeah, it came both as a surprise but also as a relief because it’s positive news. It’s great news for Renault, for the team – but it’s also news that carrying not just lots of… not just emotions but also responsibility and some obligation to deliver. To deliver cars that are in-line with his expectations, with his talent. We were already obliged to our shareholders, to our sponsors, to our fans, towards the legacy of Renault. Now we are also obliged towards him, and we want this charismatic driver finds what he’s come to find and to look for with our organisation. So, we just have a bit more pressure – but it’s healthy pressure.

Q: Christian, it’s basically the same question to you. When Daniel turned around and said he was leaving Red Bull, he said that that came over a short period, that he made the final decision. Did it catch you out?

Christian HORNER: I suppose the whole process with Daniel has dragged on this year. Y’know, we started talking really in February, initially aiming to have something done by Australia and then obviously, that got postponed until after Monaco, and then Monaco got postponed. The whole process has been fairly drawn out. Obviously in recent weeks, Dietrich Mateschitz was involved in the discussions with him in the discussions from Barcelona, in Austria and all indications were that he was going to stay. Certainly, that was the intent from the team’s point of view. Obviously, Daniel, when he called on the Thursday, when he landed in the US, having had everything in front of him that he wanted and had required, financially, technically, duration etcetera, etcetera, there was something in him that he still felt he wanted a change. Certainly, that’s how he’s explained it to us and that he felt the timing was right to do something different. So, of course it was a surprise. We’d expected if he were to leave it would be a for a Mercedes or a Ferrari – but that’s obviously his decision and we fully respect that. We’ve had ten great years. Red Bull invested in him as a junior in Formula Renault. He then went on to win the [British] Formula 3 Championship. I remember going watch him at Silverstone in Formula 3 and seeing even at that stage his talent was very clear. He then obviously graduated through the Renault World Series into Formula One with HRT and from there into Toro Rosso and then from there was selected to partner Sebastian Vettel when Mark Webber retired. We’ve seen him grow during that time, evolve as a personality and as a driver. He’s been a pleasure to have in the team at Red Bull Racing the last five years. He’s driven some great races. He’s a big character. We’ve given him a platform to express that and we wish him well for the next journey in his career.

Q: Gil, welcome to the press conference. Fernando was sitting next to Daniel yesterday and spoke a lot about his decision to move on, so we’re going to look to the future. You ran Lando Norris in your car this morning. It’s unusual for McLaren to run a different driver in FP1, so why that decision?

Gil DE FERRAN: We’ve I think been investing in Lando for a fair few years now. We’re trying to give him as much exposure as possible. This was an opportunity for him to drive the car at a grand prix weekend, which is a different situation, more people on the track and a lot of track evolution and also a completely different level of downforce – so I think we keep walking the development road.

Q: Looking to the future from a personal point of view, you’ve now been in the role for couple of months. What are your priorities at McLaren?

GdF: Look, to your point, I’ve been here two or three months. It feels like a lifetime already! It’s been many long hours and I took the first phase of this appointment to really assess what goes on in the team and try to get to know the people better and understand what everybody else does in the team. And one of the things that is clear to me is that there’s a lot of talent within the team, up and down the organisation, so I guess my main priority is really to unlock that talent and hopefully turn that into better results.


Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-Magazin.com) There’s been a lot of confusion about Fernando. He said that he had an offer from Red Bull Racing to race for you next season. Can you clarify that please?

Christian HORNER: Just to be totally clear, there was no offer to Fernando Alonso for next year. Fernando is a fantastic driver, he’s a great talent in Formula One. He’s obviously chosen his path. We had an enquiry from Flavio Briatore, and from Liberty Media, but the position within Red Bull has always been very clear that we invest in youth and have a talent pool through the Red Bull Junior Programme. And as has been the case with Sebastian Vettel, Kvyat, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, we’re always going to draw upon the talent pool that we have. We have offered Fernando a contract in the past, but that was back in 2007.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) Christian, what was the criteria to choose Gasly instead of Carlos Sainz Jr? And also, the same question I did yesterday to Max – if you see the numbers of both Toro Rosso drivers concerning the engine combustion internal MGU-K, MGU-H, they are over the limit for long and we still have nine races to go. Are you confident that Honda will solve all of these problems from the middle of the season to the next one, and also provide performance?

CH: To deal with the fist part of your question, we selected Pierre Gasly based on what we see performance-wise the job he’s doing within Toro Rosso. Obviously we’d selected Max Verstappen prior to that having had the choice of either Carlos or Max at the time. To allow Carlos’ career to continue to develop we effectively leased him out to Renault to continue that career development. We had the option to bring him back, but faced with the options that we had and looking at relative performances that we chose, Pierre Gasly was the right guy to fill the seat and graduate into Red Bull Racing. Therefore we released Carlos immediately to pursue other options in Formula One. He had an offer on the table from McLaren that we didn’t want to in any way impede, make sure that he was free to be able to take that up, and it’s great to see that he’s now in a good team like McLaren. Regarding Honda, obviously the changes that you talk about – some of which are tactical, not purely based on reliability, in a development phase – they are pushing hard; we have confidence in what we see, in the investment that we see going into the programme, in the quality of personnel that are involved in the programme. Things are very much moving in the right direction; only time will tell, but I think that you’ll see inevitably more changes again this year, but it’s all part of a development process for 2019 and beyond.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Cyril, after Hungary with the Force India situation you expressed concern that its salvation could turn it into a Mercedes B-team or satellite team type situation, yet I believe that you signed your approval for the team to get its money, et cetera. So what changed your mind? Have you had assurances that this won’t happen, or what was the situation?

CA: No, to be extremely clear we did not change our mind in the sense that we never wanted to cause any more difficulty for Force India. We are already at ten teams, which I think is the minimum for a sustainable Formula One. If you look at also, by the way, opportunities for young drivers obviously more teams would be better than less teams – or at least more cars – so clearly we would not want to have caused anything bad for Force India. Having said that, it is true that we have seeked reassurance from the commercial rights holder that in future it will not be a requirement to be part of a group of teams in order to be able to fight for championships or to fight for wins. That’s definitely our ambition, to be in that position, but we don’t have right now the capacity or the strategy to form any particular alliance such that we would have a junior team or a partner team. We have a partnership with the gentleman on my left on the engine side, which could be expanded with more technology, but that’s not really something that we want should be imposed on us as a model in order to be successful. So that’s the sort of clarity that we are seeking from the commercial rights holder, that could not be obviously obtained through some new regulations in the interim of time necessary for Force India way forward and survival, but particularly in the context of the work on the budget cap and the restriction on resources, that debate, that discussion, is going to become even more important. We’ve had discussions, I believe that we share the same vision as Ross Brawn, as Chase Carey, for the future of the sport, we don’t have any guarantee, but we understand that we see the world in the same way.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Christian, you said that Liberty approached you after Daniel’s decision was made known. Are you suggesting that Liberty were somehow trying to place Fernando with you, or were taking an active role in trying to change his mind to stay in the sport?

CH: There was just an enquiry as to whether we would consider Fernando. Which you can understand from a promoter’s point of view: Fernando Alonso is a great asset to Formula One; if he could be in a competitive car I’m sure they would prefer him staying than pursuing his triple crown. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything different.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Question for Christian and Gil after Cyril’s comments about the Force India situation and the prospect of teams buddying up. Could I just get your comments on the prospect of the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari having that potential increased political power within F1?

GdF: Look, I think that for us at McLaren the highest priority is to have Formula One that is entertaining, that is healthy, that is competitive, and sustainable -- where all the competitors are on a level playing field. I think throughout this whole negotiation that has been our main priority. Beyond that I’m probably not the right guy to comment. You should pass that question to Zak, I guess.

CH: I think there’s obvious economic benefits, particularly for the smaller teams. We have Toro Rosso under the same ownership as Red Bull Racing, there are obvious economies of scale, but one has to be careful. Certainly something that we’ve never pursued is utilising wind tunnel time, other technical tools, to the benefit of one team. I think if there can be financial gain through the exchange of technology, that’s absolutely fine and something that should be looked at and included moving forward. But what we don’t want is that potentially Ferrari have two customer teams, that their capacity is effectively funding research and development of the lead team. That’s something I’m sure will get tidied up as we move forwards with the regulations, and particularly I think the golden opportunity to deal with that is the new Concorde Agreement or whatever it chooses to be called after 2020.

Q: (Walter Koster – Saabrücker Zeitung) Mr Horner, you said in a German magazine some weeks ago that ‘drivers must be more important. Engines are too significant, they represent 70 percent of performance. That means that 30 percent remains for the chassis, tyres, and pilot. Do you have the impression that constructors and engineers moved the pilots into the background and that Formula One is particularly a championship of constructors and engineers?

CH: I think Formula One today is a little out of balance. My personal view is that the engine within these current regulations plays too prominent a role. I think Formula One needs to be a combination of three factors in equal measure -- driver, team/chassis, and engine. If you have two of three of those elements that you can still be in a competitive position, and I think that at the moment we’re a little bit out of kilter because the engine is such a dominating factor that you can’t compensate if you have two of the other elements. Hopefully, within regulations that are being under discussion and appraisal for 2021, there is the perfect opportunity to try and redress some of that balance, At the end of the day, Formula One -- of course it’s a team sport, but the most prolific thing is the drivers, and we want to see the best drivers competing against each other more frequently.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Christian and Cyril, picking up on that particular point, and I think it’s timely because it was my plan to ask about the engines. Since you were last there, it seems as though the plans to introduce some form of different technology for engines from 2021, that there’s been a bit of a U-turn, and in fact in this week’s race programme Ross Brawn is saying that possibly the timing of 2021 should be looked at in any event, and that we may in fact keep the current units beyond that. How do you two feel about that, you as a customer and Cyril, you as one of the engine companies?

CA: No, I would agree that I think what Formula One is trying to do for 2021 is extremely ambitious. It may be required, but it’s extremely ambitious, and what I mean by that is basically it will be the first time in F1 history I believe that we would at the same time change chassis regulations, engine regulations, Concorde Agreement, governance structure, new budget cap. That’s a lot. That’s a lot. There might be the risk of trying to embrace too much and not produce and deliver anything. Our view would be to try and be a bit more pragmatic and focus on what is the main emergency for Formula One, and I’m thinking really of the show, of the disparity between the teams, the disparity in the revenue. We think that this is really the main priority. I think some clarity on budget cap or not, because the costs are certainly too high. We don’t think that the engine regulations are at that level of priority. Am I satisfied with the engine situation? No. The answer is no, and we need to improve that, but that’s mainly by working and by working harder. I think that we’ve done investment and organisation change, and there is more to come so that we can overcome our deficit, but that’s our problem – that’s a Renault problem; it shouldn’t be a problem for the sport. That’s why I believe that we should reduce maybe the weight of that topic, of that issue, within all the list of priorities of Formula One. Stability should be, by definition and by default, the prevailing scenario in this circumstance.

Q: Christian, your thoughts on those changes?

CH: I think I understood what Cyril said! There are broad similarities. I think at the moment our situation is different to where it was two or three months ago. Stability is important. There's no new manufacturers coming in, these regulations are impossible for a new manufacturer, should they come in. I think that rather than making a half-hearted change and getting it half right, I think it’s better to take a little bit more time to really consider what is the right engine for Formula One moving forward. If that needs a bit more time, or a couple more years to achieve that, then that’s the sensible approach.

Q: How long do you think it would take to plan that out?

CH: I think at the moment now I can’t see anything changing before the 2023 season, to be honest with you.

Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Gil, are you able to give any updates on McLaren’s Indycar plans for next season. Zak previously said that a decision would need to be made over the summer and we’re getting towards the end of the summer and obviously that factors in with Fernando’s future as well?

GdF: As you know, IndyCar is still under serious consideration, but we have not made any decisions of yet and I think when we have, we will let you know.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sport) – A question for Cyril and Christian. We talked a lot about the future and next season, but the fact is this season is not finished yet. You already signed the divorce papers, but there are nine races to go. I don’t think that’s a very simple position to perform. How do you two look at the last races of this season.

CA: With Red Bull? Frankly, things don’t change. We’ve had 11 years and a half of collaboration and we are not going to run that down for the last six months. I think Red Bull is still in the position to have good results, to secure some podiums, maybe some wins – they have done that already this season, so why not more. We need to have a discussion this weekend regarding the introduction of a new-spec engine, an upgraded spec of engine, which could come as soon as Monza, but we need to have that conversation based on their assessment of reliability risk versus extra performance. That’s the type of discussion we are prepared to have, to me in an air of the great of collaboration that we’ve had, so absolutely no change of philosophy or position on our side.

Q: And Christian, your thoughts on that relationship and also the fact that Daniel is leaving? Is it a tricky situation for you between now and the end of the year?

CH: It’s very much business as normal. We’ve got nine races to go. We go for it every weekend, we try to get the best results we can between now and the end of the year and that obviously includes with Daniel. I sat down with him earlier in the week, after he came back from his holiday and said ‘look, we’re not going to talk to you about what’s going on in 2019, but our objective is to do the best we can between now and the end of the year. The same rules apply as for the past four-and-a-half years. You’ll get equal opportunity and we just want them to give their very best until the end of the year, which I’ve got absolutely no doubt that he will do, but obviously things like simulator time and so on will now become much more restricted.

Q: (Oliver Brown – The Telegraph) Max said yesterday, when asked about Daniel’s move, quite pointedly, that it’s a change of scenery, but he doesn’t think it’s the best scenery. You were obviuously, during the heat of battle in Hungary, very critical, saying Renault were supplying you with a sub-standard engine. Given the loss of Daniel is very significant, is there any added frustration in losing him to an organisation of which you have been very publicly critical?

CH: I think the decision is Daniel’s choice, and as long as he’s comfortable looking at himself in the mirror with the choices that he’s made, you have to respect that. He is a free spirit. It’s the first time in his Formula 1 career that he has been out of contract. He doesn't have a management group around him or anything like that; He comes to his own decisions, and this is a decision he’s come to on his own, and you have to respect that at the end of the day. I’m grateful for what he has done for us and for the team. He’s driven some phenomenal races. There have been some iconic moments where he’s been making people drink out of shoes or whatever else on the podium. The decision to make that change, that life change, is purely his decision, and he has his own reasoning behind that. All he can explain is that he feels he needs a change. It wasn’t, as I say, due to any fiscal reason, or contractual reason, or feeling the team was treating him any differently to the other driver, so this is purely his decision, that he feels it is time to try something different.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) On the subject of the sport: Eau Rouge is flat, has been for a while now, Blanchimont’s flat, and this morning two of the cars, one of them being yours Christian, appeared to be flat through Pouhon as well. These are iconic corners that aren’t corners anymore. Is the grip power ratio wrong in Formula 1?

GDF: My personal belief is that the faster the car, typically the more difficult it is to drive, because you have to perform all the same things in a shorter period of time. That makes it more difficult for you to accomplish that in a very precise way. Having said that, to your point, there are a few corners that were very difficult corners. When I was here, God knows, 20 years ago, Eau Rouge was a very difficult corner and it doesn’t appear to be that way any more, so I think the balance between tyre grip, car weight, downforce, and power are really the big knobs you can turn to affect that and maybe they should be looked.

CA: No, I fully agree that power to weight and power to drag are probably not what we need in order to have spectacular races. Not necessarily races, but to have aspirational drivers, because we need to be able to see the drivers fighting against their car, fighting as they enter into every single corner, and we don’t see much o that any more. I think this is distorting our image of the drivers, who are still doing a remarkable job, but we don’t get the same sensation, emotion, as spectators. So I think that should be one of the priorities of future chassis and engine regulation, because you could increase the power also.

Q: Anything to add, Christian? And were you flat at Pouhon?

CH: If you look at our car and the amount of downforce wer are running on the car, some of those corners are pretty exciting for the driver. Some of the corners here, if you look at Eau Rouge, with kerbs being moved around a bit, run-offs being included nowm there is no penalty, ultimately, for getting it wrong now, You’ve got safety versus performance discussions there. Some of the corners are perhaps made a little bit too easy as well and it’s when you get a variable condition here that then things become really exciting. You get a little bit of rain, and suddenly Eau Rouge becomes a big corner, Blanchimont becomes a big corner. So it’s that balance.

Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Christian, can you give an indication about the competitiveness Red Bull have on this circuit, knowing you problems with speed etc?

CH: We understand that Mercedes and Ferrari are introducing upgrades this weekend on the power unit, and I think this weekend and next weekend are going to be difficult races for us. But you know there inclement weather around at this circuit, so anything can happen but I think you have to say that Ferrari and Mercedes very much have the upper hand at these two venues. Hopefully when we get to the likes of Singapore and Mexico we’ll be able to give them a harder time.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Cyril, Christian has just said and it has also been reported that they were willing to accede to all Daniel’s demand. That would have included some sort of substantial fiscal demands. Obviously, to get him you must have matched it or come very close, whichever way. It’s no secret that Renault doesn’t exactly have the biggest budget in the paddock, so from a commercial perspective, have you had an increase in budget to cover it next year, do you get more money from Renault, are you going to cut back on some of your expenditures or how do you commercially afford him?

CA: Two comments: First, in my opinion, Renault can afford pretty much anything. Renault is the largest car maker involved in Formula 1 – full stop. So we can afford anything as long as it makes sense. Then it’s just a question of value for money and whether it makes sense to spend that given where we are in the development of our team. Second, I don’t think we were the highest bidder in obtaining Daniel, without going into details. He bought into the project not necessarily because of the money. I don’t think it would be great to put this sort of light on Daniel. And lastly, it would not make any sense to bring a driver by having to make some concession on our capacity to finance the development of the engine or the chassis. So, in shorthand, obviously it means an increase of our budget.

PART TWO - TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point Force India), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso), Claire WILLIAMS (Williams)

Q: Otmar, not much of a summer break for you, I’m sure it was very busy. But now you are the Team Principal of Racing Point Force India. Can you just talk us through the past few weeks from your perspective?

Otmar SZAFNAUER: It was a busy few weeks for myself and mainly for the administrator who was trying to find a solution for our administration. I was busy basically informing all of our team members who were on holiday of the goings on and trying to communicate what was happening. It’s not an everyday thing, administration, and a lot of people didn’t understand the process and when you don’t have a good understanding of the process it creates anxiety, so I was just trying to keep everyone together and informed. But well worth it in the end.

Q: And then more specifically, this past week and especially the last 48 hours since arriving at Spa, what’s been going on behind the scenes?

OS: I think, from what I understand, it started of as a share sale that then transferred into an asset sale, for reasons I don’t quite understand. But once that happened we needed a new entry into Formula 1 and to gain a new entry in a short period of time takes a lot of work, so the last 48 hours was working towards Racing Point Formula 1 Team gain its new entry, and that was a lot of work to do that. But fortunately with the support of the FIA, FOM, our fellow competitors and colleagues within our community, we got it done. I’ve got to thank the teams as well for supporting us.

Q: Speaking of the other teams, we’ll move on to Claire. Force India’s future has been closely intertwined with yours based on Lawrence Stroll’s involvement. Can you let us know where this leaves Williams going forward?

Claire WILLIAMS: First of all, I think this is obviously a great story for Formula 1. Prior to the shutdown we were all slightly concerned as to Force India’s fate, and I think Lawrence stepping in and securing the team’s future is a great thing, not just for our sport but obviously for the employees, so at Williams we are delighted. I think probably the biggest knock-on effect for us will be the lack of Lawrence’s presence in our motorhome. I know that he has spent a bit of time in the Force India motorhome this weekend already. But for us at the moment, it’s business as usual. Lance still has a contract to drive for us until the end of the season, he’s racing for us here in Spa and Lawrence is still in our motorhome.

Q: You mention Lance. He was sitting in that seat in yesterday’s press conference and said that he’ll wait to see what his dad wants him to do in the future and hopes he’ll take him to Force India. Can you just clarify: will Lance race the rest of the season for you? Is that what you expect?

CW: There are a lot of twists and turns on Formula 1 aren’t there? I think we’ve seen that over the past few weeks alone. I think it might be slightly odd if Lawrence owns one team and his son is another, but hey, this is Formula 1! At the moment, as I said, Lance is contracted to drive for us, he’s driving here this weekend and as soon as we have more information, when we know, then we will share that.

Q: Thank you. Franz, a confirmed move in the driver market is that Pierre Gasly will leave yourselves next season and move up to Red Bull. Just what are Red Bull getting in terms of a driver in Pierre?

Franz TOST: They will get a high-skilled, very fast, experienced driver, because Gasly is a good example of how to build up a driver. He was very successful in all the lower categories, where he won races, where he won championships, and when he came to Toro Rosso at the beginning of the season, he was already quite experienced. He is fast, he has a good technical understand, he has a good understanding for the tyre management and therefore I am convinced that he will do a very good at Red Bull Racing.

Q: With Pierre moving up that means there is at least one space available at Toro Rosso next season, but there is not a huge amount of drivers ready at the moment within the Red Bull Junior Programme, so what do you do for 2019?

FT: We will see. Red Bull is discussing different names and I am convinced in the close future they will come up with a name.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Otmar, the situation around the team means that there are quite a few consequences for you guys. So could you just explain what the resolution is on things like championship prize money and where you stand with engine allocations and that sort of thing, and what it means for the team as well?

OS: Well, the biggest consequence is the fact that we start from zero points, so we forego the 49 points, because those belong to Sahara Force India, which is not an entrant anymore. We are a new entrant and we start from zero. We’ll do the best we can to score as many points as we can in the remaining race and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the season, and that will determine some of the prize fund for the following year. As far as engine allocation goes, we had confirmation today from Charlie that we will continue with the engine allocation and gearbox allocation as if we never ceased racing. I think in his eyes he thought that was the most fair thing to do vis-à-vis the other teams, so that’s how we’re going to go forward.

Can we just clarify, Otmar, that if you are foregoing the championship points that you had already earned this season, you are having to forego the prize money earned in previous years by Force India?

OS: No. The remaining nine teams have signed, so to speak, a document that enables us to keep the money that Sahara Force India had earned in years past.

Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Otmar, we know that Force India was considering a name change both for this season and looking ahead to 2019 as well. As a new entrant, now would have seemed like a perfect time to get rid of the Force India name. What were the reasons behind keeping that in the new team name?

OS: Isn’t that ironic: we wanted to change it, we didn’t, then we could have changed it and we didn’t? The reason is we started the year with Force India as our chassis name. Formula One, the FIA, they don’t like chassis name changes and I understand why, because it confuses the fans. And we thought it was prudent to keep Force India for the fans. The cars’ are still pink, we still have the same sponsors, we still have the same drivers, we have the same motorhome, we have the same employees. You look at us, we’re exactly the same. I think it would have been confusing to remove Force India. Racing Point was added in front of Force India instead of Sahara – we were Sahara Force India before – that was just so we can distinguish between the old and the new and Racing Point just happens to be the name of the company in the United Kingdom that owns the assets to that’s the only reason for Racing Point being there, but the chassis name still remains Force India and I think from a fan point perspective that’s the right thing to do.

Q: (Oliver Brown – The Telegraph) For both Otmar and Claire: a lot of people in F1 like to talk about this sport being a meritocracy and yet the conjecture which now links Lance with Force India arises purely from the fact that his father is part of the consortium that controls the team. This doesn’t have to be referencing Lance specifically as I know it’s sensitive but how much do you feel that F1 genuinely is governed by ability or is it still governed by who you know?

CW: I’ve talked about this point a lot over the past 18 months. I think the crux of it for us is that as a team, as you would expect, we wouldn’t put a driver in our car for a variety of different reasons if we didn’t feel that they had the ability to race a Formula One car. These machines are not easy to drive, they’re dangerous, you want to make sure you’ve got somebody who’s competent enough to be in that race car and Lance has proved that. I also believe that over the time that he’s spent with us at Williams, that he’s demonstrated that he’s got talent and that he deserves to be in this sport. He had a season last year in his rookie year where he took the first row of the grid in Monza, I think it was. He took a podium, one of the only drivers to do so last year outside of the top three teams. So I don’t think that you can say that Lance is only in this sport because of his father.

OS: I tend to agree with Claire. Lance, for sure, especially in the lower formulas, has proven to be a race winner, a winner of championships. We’ve been watching him too because he’s a competitor of ours and the one thing Claire didn’t add is that every time it rains it seems like his talent shines and that’s usually the sign of a driver that has great car control so we don’t know him intimately but for sure he deserves to be in this sport, not just because of his Dad.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Otmar, the situation of yourself is that you’ve gone from COO to CEO and also team principal. Could you also confirm that you were given a shareholding up to 25% of the revised company please?

OS: Wow. Wouldn’t that be great? Haha. Yeah, I can confirm that that isn’t the case but I like your suggestion. I’m going to go… before the ink’s dry, I’d better go talk to Lawrence and the consortium. That’s a good idea, that’s a good idea!

Q: (Julien Billiotte – Autohebdo) Otmar, will you keep the same driver line-up for the remainder of the season or could we see changes at Racing Point Force India from Monza onwards?

OS: Yes, for the short term, it’s the same two. What happens thereafter it’s not impossible to change, that’s for sure, but a lot of agreements would have to happen so I don’t know, it’s hard for me to predict that in the future.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Franz, I know that you mentioned that Red Bull are speaking to some drivers about next season and hopefully there will be an announcement soon. What do you think of the prospect of a driver from outside the Red Bull pool currently coming into the team next season? Obviously the likes of someone like Stoffel Vandoorne might be available next year if McLaren doesn’t chose to stick with him

FT: As I mentioned before there are different names which are being discussed but up to now no decision has been made so therefore we just wait and Red Bull will announce it.

Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Franz, are you able to give any updates on James Key’s status? McLaren said they had a plan to get him out of his contract early if possible. Do you see that happening any time soon?

FT: I don’t care about the plans from McLaren. Fact is that he has a Toro Rosso contract.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Franz, with the main team, Red Bull Racing, taking on Honda engines next year, are there any plans for yourselves to have a far far closer technical operation in terms of listed parts etc or how do you see that evolving?

FT: We will have a very close cooperation with Red Bull Technology next year because we will have the same rear part, which means the power unit, gearbox and the suspension, everything within the regulations, because we want to use this much.

Yeah, the front suspension as well, the inner parts, not the outer parts, that’s all, but that’s a lot, because you know the complete rear part means also the hydraulics, the electronics, all this kind of stuff.

Q: (Pierre van Vliet – F1i.com) Otmar, about the name thing, is it going to stay the same? The team name? The chassis name for 2019?

OS: Yeah, we’ve got some time to decide that but I believe now that we are a new entrant with Force India as a chassis name. For us to change, we will have to get approval from the Formula One Commission, so we’ve got to come up with a name that will be lasting and appropriate and also be approved by the Formula One Commission so I don’t know what that is, this is brand new, but the good news is that we’ve got a few months to think about it before we have to enter next year or for next year.