TEAM REPRESENTATIVES Ė Mattia BINOTTO
(Ferrari), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault), Christian
HORNER (Red Bull Racing)
The world of Formula One is still reeling from
the news that FIA Director of Formula One Charlie Whiting passed away in the
early hours of Thursday morning. Some of the drivers gave us their thoughts
yesterday, and Iíd like to get your memories of Charlie as well, starting
with you Toto?
Toto WOLFF: It was a total shock when we received the news yesterday. You
see somebody every day and the day before and then heís gone, and it reminds
us what is important in life. We are all going at an incredible pace from
race to race and then it can get you like this. But Charlie was an
unbelievable person. If you are in that position over so many years and then
year and years and you still donít make a lot of enemies that shows your
character. He was always well balanced. You could seek him for guidance. He
would always, when it was difficult within the regulation to really get down
to the bottom and interpret certain things, he would give you a common-sense
answer that you could work with and he was just a reference point that will
be dearly missed. There is a huge whole at the moment that needs to be
filled but for us the person, Charlie, who strolls in for a coffee and was
just a decent man and Iím really sorry for his family in these terrible
Q: Thank you. And Mattia?
Mattia BINOTTO: For my side, I can only join the words of Toto. Charlie was
an incredible person, very great. Itís a huge loss for the entire sport and
a huge loss to Formula 1. I think we should thanks him for the entire
contribution he did to the safety in F1. I think itís something we will
remember. Certainly, he was such a great person, as Toto said itís quite
incredible from one day to another and I think itís how precious is the
life. But all great memories; a fantastic guy.
Q: Thank you. Christian?
Christian HORNER: Itís a huge shock for everybody. Obviously Iíve been
working with him for 20 years now and to get the news yesterday, first of
all itís disbelief. Charlie was one of the good guys. He was a racer. That
was his background. When you spoke to him about his days at Brabham, working
for Bernie, there was always a smile on his face. He knew all the tricks in
the book and that made him the ideal guy to become poacher turned gamekeeper
when he took on the role with the FIA. And he handled that role, a
tremendously difficult role, with great balance and diplomacy in some
incredibly difficult situations. He was one of those guys who went under the
radar but what he contributed was enormous, from a safety point of view,
from what the sport is today. I think there is a huge debt of gratitude owed
to Charlie for what Formula One is today, the safety, the lives that his
actions actually saved, you know the way these cars are now and the safety
record that they now have. Itís a huge loss to Formula One, a tragic loss to
his family and friends and for his young children as well. All our thoughts
are with his family and friends at this difficult time.
Q: Thank you. And Cyril?
Cyril ABITEBOUL: Itís difficult to add. Itís clearly a shock. I think the
paddock went silent yesterday when the news started to spread. Itís a
strange thing to learn such a thing to learn such a thing at that moment, in
the paddock, where unfortunately or fortunately the show needs to go on.
Itís just amazing what he has been able to experience, the 20 years of
evolution of Formula One. Just remember what Formula One was 20 years ago
and yet he has been capable of staying on top of the all tricks, loopholes,
hideys, constructive interpretation of the regulations with a balanced
judgement and integrity and being capable of frankly avoidingÖ or making
sure that all the ships would stay in Formula One, despite all the risks
associated with interpretation of the regulations and showing that you can
conciliate being quiet and balance and authoritative. And no one would
challenge his authority. Itís a huge loss but indeed the show must go on.
Q: Thank you. If I could stay with Cyril, weíve had winter testing, weíve
just had the first free practice session of 2019. Just give us a progress
report on Renault and in particular how Daniel Ricciardo is bedding in?
CA: Thereís been the winter, thereís been pre-season testing and there is
FP1 and first Iíd like to remove FP1 from the answer because it was a bit of
a scrappy session with some reprogramming that took away precious lap time,
as we had to test a number of items, so obviously our lap time was not
really representative. Anyway, there wonít be any lying or explanation on
Saturday, so letís wait for Saturday and Sunday. The progress report is that
we know we have a huge gap ahead in our attempt to reach the top three,
which has to be the mid-term target and in 2021 fight for wins. We are on
that journey. So much has been done; so much needs to be done. Good progress
in particular on the engine side and Enstone is still completing its
transformation and is striving to build a chassis that can win some races in
the years to come. Daniel Ė fantastic addition to the team. In summary, heís
inside what he looks from the outside and heís already making a fantastic
contribution to the team.
Q: Thank you. Christian, same question to you really. Howís progress with
the Red Bull Racing Honda package?
Christian HORNER: Yeah, itís been a promising winter. Itís been interesting
working with Honda. Itís been extremely collaborative. Obviously performance
is difficult to read in pre-season testing, but reliability has been strong.
I think we turn up here in Melbourne hopeful of a competitive season ahead
of us. But itís only really when everybody pulls their pants down tomorrow
in qualifying that you see where weíre at.
Q: And a few words on Pierre Gasly?
CH: Yeah, heís another product of the Red Bull Junior Programme, as
Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz. Heís
another exciting young product that weíve invested in as a junior driver and
heís in the seat because of the promise that he has shown. Obviously heís
settling in. Heís going to needs a little bit of time to get up to speed but
heís a very quick racing driver and we have high expectations of him in the
Q: Thank you Christian. Mattia, you were the pacesetters in winter testing.
How confident are you coming to this first race?
Mattia BINOTTO: Not confident at all. I think that winter testing is not
qualifying, itís not a racing environment, you never know what the others
arte running. Very difficult to assess the performance. I think we simply
focused on ourselves, we had eight intense days, very little time to prepare
for Melbourne. By the time you finish the testing the cars are ready to be
shipped directly to Melbourne, so I think itís really by here that we start
understanding who is the fastest. I think our challengers are very strong.
These guys on my left have won the last championships and they are still
somehow the team to beat. So honestly I think on our side we can only focus
on ourselves, step by step try to improve and try to be as fast as we can.
Q: Mattia, can you tell us a little bit about your new role, youíve been
promoted to team principal over the winter. How much time do you dedicate to
technical matters now?
MB: I think technical matters are still probably the highest priority. The
car needs to be fast and the rest will follow somehow. Obviously itís still
my main focus. Itís still let me say anyway, itís the main focus of a team.
I think the technical is where youíve got the main of your activities and
where you are putting your efforts. Itís true that there are a few more
things to be done and to deal with but technical is still the main priority.
Q: Thanks. Toto, it was pretty difficult to read Mercedesí programme in
winter testing. Whatís your summary?
Toto WOLFF: Yeah, also difficult to read for us. We hit the road and it
wasnít great. Then we brought a substantial upgrade package to the second
test and slowly but surely started to understand and learn and put the dots
together and at the end it was a quite decent end of testing. But like
Mattia says, the teams were, lap time wise, very close together, but very
few kilograms of fuel can make you look very good or less good. Thatís why,
pants down on Saturday, thatís the first real benchmarking this year.
Q: Well Lewis was in very confident mood in the press conference yesterday
and fastest in FP1 as well. What about Valtteri? What sort of form do you
see in him?
TW: Valtteri had a decent first session today. We tried a few things on his
car and the absolute lap time would have been quicker if he had pushed for a
quicker lap time. He came back very strong from the winter, did some
rallying, rediscovered the joy of driving. I heard that yesterday he said
that he got drunk a few times, to forget, so itís a good start. And I expect
Valtteri to be the strongest this year, the strongest Valtteri we have seen.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy Ė Daily Mail) Toto, Lewis does various things, has
various distractions, as some call them, or hobbies that heís involved in.
Sky diving and things like that, does that put the wind up you? Do you have
any rules and regulations? Do you need to speak to him, or do you just say:
ďLewis, just get on with it.Ē
TW: Well, of course, Iím always worried, and we had a laugh last year
because I couldnít get hold of him and couldnít get hold of my chief
strategist and one of the race engineers Ė and found out they were racing
motorbikes in Jerez and nobody would pick up the phone. And then they were a
bit apologetic. But Lewis is not an 18 or 19 year old young man any more.
Heís a five-time World Champion. He knows exactly what works for him and
what doesnít. All these activities, in my experience, are not a negative
distraction but on the other hand something that he enjoys that he enjoys
doing. Some things are just a hobby: like sports; others are more of a
passion, like the fashion business and every time heís able to decompress
from motor racing, he comes back stronger. We mustnít be judgemental. Some
people go on a meditation seminar to India. Others do Sky-diving. Others are
out for the ladies. Letís accept how everybody is. He is justified and has
shown that he is one of the best out there.
Q: (Christian Menath Ė motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Mattia. Did you
investigate the rim failure from the Barcelona testing any further? Last
time you spoke, you werenít one hundred per cent sure what happened.
MB: Certainly we investigated. We still do not have a full picture, full
picture or certainty on what happened. But we put a lot of actions in place
and we are pretty sure that, with the actions we put in place, somehow we
have cover there, we are safe for the next running. So, we are still doing
some checks. We are making sure that we have the full picture of what may
have happened Ė but let me say that we feel safe.
Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) The affiliation between some of the bigger
teams and the smaller teams has been in focus the last couple of years.
Weíve seen the likes of Haas use the regulations to good effect. Red Bull
and Toro Rosso are obviously closer aligned this year. With F1 moving
towards possible resource restrictions and things like that, is there a
danger it was going to become essential for big teams to have these
affiliations with smaller teams?
CH: I think mainly the benefit is for that of the smaller teams. There
wouldnít be a Haas if that model wasnít available. I think the affordability
of Formula One is extremely expensive. So, Toro Rosso, theyíre using an
awful lot of components from RB14. So, itís effective for them within the
non-listed parts theyíre permitted to do. They donít have to have the design
resource, the R&D infrastructure Ė so therefore the cost for them to go
racing is affected by that. I think that thereís ultimately a sensible
offset between needing to be a full-blown constructor team and being able to
acquire those non-listed parts. So, personally, we donít have an issue with
it, and feel that, for the smaller teams, itís been demonstrated that itís
cost-effective and works.
MB: Fully aligned with Christian. The Haas model has shown how good it is
for such a team, and I think at the end itís a good thing for F1. As weíre
looking ahead, I think if there are any concerns, itís up to us to
understand what are the concerns and make sure that we are mitigating, or
avoiding them Ė but I think that the model in itself is the right model.
TW: Nothing to add to what the two said.
CA: Obviously in a bit of a different position here. I have mentioned that
on a number of occasions. We could be spending hours to discuss that topic
but itís already a challenge for a team like us to compete against that top
three teams who have thirty to forty per cent more resources than us. But if
they are now capable of combining their resources with other teams, or
getting the benefit of synergies within the scope of a budget cap, thatís a
problem. Thatís a problem for us. Thatís a problem for at-least two other
teams in the field. And I donít want to talk for them Ė but that could also
be a problem for a new entrant, willing to enter Formula One and willing to
be competitive. So, thatís a serious topic because itís maybe that we are
now saying ďOK, we have three top teams and that will be it. And anyone
joining with have to accept they will not be in a positive to be
competitive. Iím not here to complain or moan: we know the regulation but
obviously we are extremely careful about whatís going to happen in 2021. For
now, we are not convinced about the safeguards or the containment measures
that have been put forward, despite the fact that you can trade some parts
in the context of a budget cap Ė but we will continue to work with governing
bodies to hopefully get to a more satisfying outcome.
Q: (Ben Hunt Ė The Sun) A follow-up on the question about Lewis sky-diving.
Not for Toto but for the other team bosses. For clarify really, do you have
clauses in your driversí contracts which prevent them from doing extreme
CA: Iíve just been through that very recently. We have a different type of
contract. Itís mainly, I guess an insurance and a financial topic because
there is a way that you are managing the relationship with your drivers and
there is a Ďwhat ifí scenario in case something bad occurs. So, without
disclosing any confidential arrangements, I think as far as we are
concerned, itís a bit like Toto: we have two mature drivers who know what
they should be doing and should not be doing. So itís pretty much their call
to decide. Obviously the financial consequences can be on their side if they
commit something that causes them to not be in a position to honour their
obligation any more. So, I would say that the generic, for younger drivers,
you would want to have more control on what he does Ė thatís what Iíve seen
in previous life. Thatís the situation.
MB: Whatís more important is to have the right relationship with your
drivers, making sure they understand, that they are sensible Ė but these
guys are professionals. There is nothing that you need to tell them. They
understand pretty well whatís the danger, whatís the risk and they are
CH: Weíre Red Bull at the end of the day and yíknow, no risk: no fun! We
donít actively encourage our drivers to go and take a lot of risks but
theyíve got to live their lives and have some fun along the way. Itís great
to see that our drivers take that seriously. We sent them surfing the other
day. Max Verstappen demonstrated restraint where he was nervous to get on a
surfboard for fear of being eaten be a shark. Despite nobody being eaten by
a shark on that beach since 1963 or something. So, obviously, I think itís
an important thing that they take care of themselves but itís good for them
to enjoy and experience other activities.
Q: (Richard Bailey Ė motorsportm8.com) Today, around the world, weíre seeing
millions of school students walking out, staging a protest against
government inaction to tackle the threat of climate change. Formula One sits
at the pinnacle being able to demonstrate through its technical advances the
positive impact that this can have in terms of fuel burn and energy
regeneration, yet the message doesnít seem to be coming through as
effectively as it could. What more can the sportís key players do to drive
this message to the next generation?
CH: I think, actually, the efficiency of these engines is so understated.
The fuel economy that these engines are achieving is mind-boggling so
actually what Formula One is managing to do, in terms of furthering this
technology, is truly impressive and I think itís a message we need to get
across more. Weíve all come here on aeroplanes Ė or most of us Ė from across
the world and been burning fuel at 38,000 feet which is obviously a far
bigger carbon footprint than anything thatís going on in Melbourne this
weekend but I think in terms of the messaging that Formula One is achieving,
I think it should be actually praised. The technology that the manufacturers
have brought in through these engines and the economy thatís now being
achieved is quite phenomenal.
MB: I think thereís really not much to add. We need to communicate it
better. What is good is when you see that such technology will be
transferred into the automotive (industry) and certainly our, let me say,
turbo technology at the moment is of interest to the entire automotive
(industry) so that again F1 is showing on the edge of technology and in this
case really pushing the message so itís down to us really to explain it and
make sure itís happening.
TW: I think itís more the macro picture than the micro picture for us. My
teenage children are on the street today, walking out of school and I find
it really strong that this young generation wants to actively take care of
what the future is and there is this overwhelming problem burning fuel in
the airplanes. Iíve read, most recently, that the 15 largest container ships
burn or have as much emission as 760 million cars and the plastic that ends
up in the seas is a phenomenon that we can even see in Europe every summer
and I think these things need to be tackled and when we look into our
micro-cosmos itís like Christian and Mattia said, those engines have all the
energy recovery that you can find in the most modern road cars. We have
battery technology, we have energy recovery through various systems and they
have become more and more efficient and they are very much at the forefront
of technology that eventually ends up in road cars and each of us has the
duty, be it in our little small world, of not using plastic bottles any more
or looking after our own environment and in the same way as the guys being
involved in Formula One, making sure the right message is transported into
the world, that these engines are the most efficient and the most green
engines that have ever existed.
CA: Well, I guess it will be up to the new generation to demonstrate whether
or not itís still relevant to race in cars and go around in circles around
the world but more than that itís important that Formula One remains at the
edge of what technology has to offer and also those engines are just
fantastic as Christian and the others were saying. The average efficiency of
an internal combustion engine is in the region of 30 per cent to 35 per
cent. We are above fifty per cent in Formula One; thatís massive. If this
type of efficiency was affordable for all mass markets products that would
be a massive contribution to CO2 emission. So thatís something we need to
keep at the edge of in future. We are talking about e-Fuel, fuel that will
not be composed of fossil energy. This type will be a game-changer, I think.
We need to make sure that Formula One remains a demonstration for
Q: (Louis Dekker Ė NOS) Do you agree that twelve teams is a necessity for
Formula One, or do you say that the recent past proves that it might be a
bad plan? CA: I think that whatís important is the number of teams that are
competitive and can really directly contribute to the show and can pretend
that they are expecting to win. But if there is a business model which is
sustainable for 12 competitive teams, I think that that should be what is
TW: I think itís important that the starting grid looks complete and that
for the live spectators that you see lots of cars going around the track,
but I think we are in a decent place right now for Formula One and the value
of the teams is more important, to keep those franchises limited to attract
the best brands to enter or participate in existing teams. I think that is
the most important thing going forward.
MB: Not much to add. I think what they said is good enough.
CH: Yeah, I always go quality over quantity. I think weíve got ten teams
that are in pretty decent health at the moment compared to previous years
and I think that as we are seeing, when the grid is expanded, none of those
teams that came in a few years ago are still here today. Formula One, the
cost of entry is so high itís virtually impossible unless youíre an OEM or
multi- multi-billionaire and sometime not even thatís enough. I think weíve
got a good balance at the moment. I would prefer that we look after what
weíve got and have good quality and a closer grid than just inviting more
entries for the sake of filling the grid shot and being more cars to lap.
Q: (Roger Bryon Ė Beyond Racing Line) Have any of you seen the Netflix
series ĎDrive to Surviveí yet? And if so, what are your thoughts on it? And
furthermore, what are your thoughts on a closer look for fans of more on the
inside of the workings of Formula One? Q: Well, who has seen the Netflix
CH: Iím really looking forward to season two. I think there may be a fight,
maybe between Cyril and Toto this season. The Netflix thing, it was an
interesting project. I think it shows a glimpse behind the scenes of Formula
One. I think itís had huge interest, from what I understand, because itís
not just obviously about whatís going on on track so it shows glimpses of
behind the scenes action. I think itís reaching a new market which is
important, I think particularly in the US as well. I think itís a different
side of Formula One, certainly interesting.
CA: I think the bottom line is that itís a good thing for Formula One. A
number of people have talked to me about Formula One for the first time
having never talked about Formula One so itís definitely reaching a
different type of consumer or fan group, which is good. Did I like
everything that I saw in it? No, so I think itís important to have some
formal disclaimer that itís a bitÖ although itís unscripted, itís a bit of
fiction also. Itís important also, given whatís at stake in terms of brand
reputation, that we donít completely confuse whatís in between information
TW: We obviously didnít participate for some reasons. I watched three
episodes on the plane. I think I missed the most important one, the fourth.
I thought Cyril and Christian were actually friends! There are some people
who never watch Formula One who have given good feedback. There is a lot of
fiction. People say that Guenther Steinerís a decent guy so he benefitted
from the series!
CH: I think what it demonstrated is that Formula One has a huge tourettes
problem! The amount of blue language in that series, particularlyÖ I mean
Guenther, every other wordÖ Heís scary!
TW: I think itís a good promotion for Formula One, itís well done, itís
obviously very intrusive in a certain way but the promotion is good.
MB: Not seen it yet, will do, but at least today I understand why these two
guys are on the extremities of the table! Iím looking forward.
Q: (Mike Doodson Ė Honorary) Iím British which I mention because my country
has resolved to liberate itself from the European Union. Some of you have
already commented on the difficulties that this process is going to create
for you. I wonder if things have got better or worse since then and if you
could mention some of the things which are going to present the greatest
difficulties after March 29.
CH: Well, trying to follow what on earth is going on in British politics at
the moment is rather difficult for all of us and itís slightly embarrassing
from outside looking in at the way that politicians are acting within this
whole process. The country obviously voted to leave and there seems to be
too much self-agenda thatís being tabled at the moment so thereís almost a
vote every day. Nobodyís quite sure what the votes are for. We donít know
whether weíre delaying, we donít know whether weíre staying, we donít know
where weíre going so if somebody could explain to me what actually Brexit
did mean that would be quite helpful because at the moment thereís an awful
lot of confusion over it so for us, the reality is itís business as normal,
weíll wait and see what and if and when Brexit does happen and when it
happens then weíll deal with it but of course you try and put as many what
ifs scenarios in place as you can to protect the operation of your business.
MB: Pretty happy that Maranelloís in Italy and obviously I can see that
these guys are pretty worried. Concerned obviously that Brexit is a concern
not only for F1 and I think that we should look at the bigger picture rather
than only F1 but I understand that they are worried at the moment.
TW: For some time, I found it really tragic but that tragic has somehow
changed to really good entertainment. Itís better than the Netflix thing,
actually. Every evening I watched BBC.com and what they showed from the
House of Commons and youíre not quite sure whether itís Monty Python or
whether itís really happening. I will get in trouble there. I shouldnít talk
about politics. But for us, we have 26 nations in our company and it is a
matter of concern. We are living from the just-in-time principle of getting
goods in and goods and people out and if this were to be disrupted that
would be a problem but I donít think that can happen. Formula One is the
silicon valley of the UK but there are many larger industriesÖ the
automotive industry would be massively impacted if there would be the
so-called no deal Ė I donít know what no deal would actually mean. But I
think at a certain stage, common sense needs prevail. I would hope so.
CA: Iíve nothing to add really. Indeed, we looked at the options, we tried
to make plans. Apparently itís at least pushed back, so March 29, I
understand, is not the deadline any more. What really matter is that
particular people we could see massively lots of nationalities, we want to
make sure those people can stay where they are and we can continue to invest