TEAM REPRESENTATIVES Ė Mattia BINOTTO
(Ferrari), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Toyoharu TANABE (Honda), Andrew GREEN
Gentlemen, welcome. Iíd like to start by taking
a moment to reflect on this being the 1000th world championship race for
Formula 1, and to ask each of you why you got involved in Formula 1? What
triggered your passion for this great sport? Andrew, perhaps we could start
Andrew GREEN: So, this is my, not quite 500th, but closeÖ 1991 I think was
my first race and I was not quite out of college, maybe two years out of
college and for me it was the Sunday afternoons sitting down watching those
guys racing wheel-to-wheel that really gave me the buzz. Thatís why I went
to college to study engineering; thatís where I wanted to be. At the time my
passion was also cricket. One of the guys I used to play cricket with was
Rory Byrne. He was the one who inspired me to write off to all the chiefs
and offer my services for free. And thatís how I got into F1 and motorsport
all those years ago.
Q: Thank you. Toto?
Toto WOLFF: Less holistic. I was interested in racing cars when I made my
driving licence actually but didnít follow Formula 1 at all, although
Austria had a great history of Formula 1 racing drivers. But I somehow got
into the sport by the finance side. The passion for racing cars in general
and then the business side of Formula 1, that encapsulates everything that
the business covers around motor racing that somehow attracted me, a few
years ago only.
Q: Thank you, Toto. Mattia?
Mattia BINOTTO: On my side, since I was a child I was watching the races
with my grandfather. He was a fantastic, passionate [supporter] of
motorsport, but especially of Ferrari. When, as myself, living in
Switzerland, you were looking at the red cars, they are something special
for Italy, so it was something important for me. So it was since I was a
child really a dream, of being part of F1 but even more being part of
Ferrari. And to this it might feel even like a mission Ė try to preserve
what is the heritage of this sport and Ferrari.
Q: Thanks, and Tanabe-san?
Toyoharu TANABE: Since I was a child Iím very interested in the car. Then,
in Japan, we actually didnít have a lot of racing in that era. But then
Honda started Formula 1 as their second era. Then I joined Honda and then
after joining Honda I asked my boss: ĎI want to work in Formula 1í. And now
Iím working for Formula 1.
Q: Mission accomplished. Thank you all. A few more questions. Tanabe-san, if
we can stay with you: itís been a very solid start for Honda so far in 2019.
How satisfied are you and can you close the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes?
TT: So far, we have started this season with a reasonable performance and
reasonable results. But reasonable means not fantastic yet and you see
clearly you see there is still a big gap between the top runners and us. So
we really need to push to improve our performance, to compete with our
competitors here. But we understand it is not to improve our performance
immediately but weíll keep pushing through the year.
Q: What do you think is the performance gap between yourselves and Ferrari
TT: I donít tell you specific number but you see the gap at the track.
Q: Thank you. Andrew if I could come to you, please. How do you assess
Racing Pointís start to the season and what sort of progress are you making
with the car?
AG: Itís been a difficult start. I think the competition is incredibly tight
in the midfield this year Ė tighter than Iíve known it for a long time. I
think weíre just slightly behind. Weíre not a long way behind but I think
our weaknesses were probably exposed in the first couple of races. Weíve got
a plan to obviously bring us back to our target level of performance, itís
going to take some time, but I think we have to remember that the car was
originally conceived in the mid to late part of last year, when the team was
in serious trouble. We were really struggling at that point. We had to make
quite a few decisions about the car and the architecture of the car back
then, not really knowing what was going to happen with the team, whether
there was even going to be a team. We are still getting out of that. It will
still take some time. Weíre in a much better place now, but improvements
take time. It takes time to build the infrastructure up to where we need it
to be. Itís easy now to say that we have the bills paid at the end of each
month, which we never used to be able to say, so itís one less thing to
worry about. But there are more things to think about, as far as the
performance of the car, where weíre going in the future, which is something
weíre thinking about a lot, where the regulations are going and where weíre
going to go in the future. Thereís a lot to think about now.
Q: And a quick word on Lance Stroll as well. Itís his first season with the
team. How is he bedding in, what are your first impressions?
AG: First impressions are really good. We saw it at the end of last year
when he tested for us post-Abu Dhabi. We could see the talent was there;
heís got some raw talent. We saw it in the simulator as well. Heís done a
huge amount of work off-season with us. His dedication is incredible. His
enthusiasm is incredible. Heís fitted into the team I think really well,
really well, and I think heís got a bright future ahead of him.
Q: Mattia, losing the Bahrain Grand Prix must have been very tough on
everybody in the team but particularly Charles Leclerc. What did you say to
him? How could you comfort him after the race?
Mattia BINOTTO: Losing was tough but even more probably frustrating but
giving us even more boost for the following races and for here in China. To
Charles, what I told him, I think he did a great race, he did a great quali
a great race but more than that, I think he has been fantastic on the
post-race comments, showing that heís really a mature driver. So, simply
telling him good job but weíre more happy with what you did after the race
and during the entire weekend. And thatís enough. Because then I think all
of us are simply looking ahead at the next challenge.
Q: Was there any reoccurrence of the problem during the test session in
Bahrain after the race?
MB: No, not during the testing, so thatís a problem that occurs only once
during the race. Never at the bench, never during testing, never in
practices. Ten laps or 12 laps to the end of the race, whatever it was. I
think on reliability, you need to be strong, on quality, you need to be
strong, but it may always happen and I think it was really unlucky the way
it happened. We changed all our units here in China for precaution, even on
the other car, so even on Sebís. Not because the one of Seb got the issues
so far, but I think at the moment itís the best way to protect ourselves
with the issue we have. And then we try somehow to understand and verify the
quality of all the units we have installed.
Q: And just a quick word if we may on Mick Schumacher who was testing one of
your cars in that Bahrain test. How do you assess his performance?
MB: To assess the performance, I think it is very difficult because first,
the weather conditions were very bad on that day and because at the end I
think that the objective was not really to assess the performance. It was
his very first day on an F1 car; more important for him still in the
learning phase, day-by-day, is facing a completely new challenge in his F2
season. I think what was certainly positive was the way he approached the
exercise, the approach to the day of testing, never pushing to the limit,
trying to improve run-by-run, learning the car, learning the team, and I
think in that respect he did a very good job: very well focussed,
concentrated and tried to do the proper job and learn. I think thatís the
most you may expect on such a day.
Q: Did you see any similar character traits with his father?
MB: The very first time I saw him after many years in Maranello, when he
came back. If you looked at him, I donít think heís looking very similar to
Michael but the way heís behaving is very similar, and the way heís
approaches the exercise and the way heís interested in the car, discussing
it with the technicians. So even in Maranello, you are looking after him,
but heís always in the workshop looking at the car, speaking with the
mechanics, and I think thatís very similar to his father.
Q: Toto, youíre leading both of the World Championships but what do you feel
is the reality in terms of performance at the moment?
Toto WOLFF: Itís nice to lead the two championships, obviously youíd rather
lead than not lead, but we have seen two very different grands prix. We had
a very high level of performance in Melbourne, compared to Ferrari, and not
a great level in the second level in Bahrain Ė but it was not only compared
to Ferrari, also you benchmark yourself to the other teams and I think that
was a race where we didnít perform as we should have done Ė but weíve always
said there was one race that was the race over the winter: who comes out of
the blocks best; and then there will be the development race throughout the
season, and this is certainly a challenging situation for us, as it will be
for all the other teams and good for the sport, I think, that you canít
really predict whoís going to win the race on Sunday.
Q: And a quick word on Valtteri Bottas. Heís leading the World Championship.
Are you seeing anything different from him this season, compared to
TW: Itís this mania depression of Formula One that people are being written
up and written down and after Melbourne he was the reinvented superstar and
World Championship contender and after the next race again it was not the
case. I think we just need to let them go on with the Championship. He has
started the weekend well today. I think itís the same Valtteri we have seen
in the last years. He has all that he needs to compete on a high level, to
fight for race victories and eventually championships. I see the same guy.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Stuart Codling Ė Autosport) Question for Toto. Lewis said yesterday
that, if Ferrari have established an advantage on the engine side, it will
be much more difficult to catch up than if theyíd established an advantage
on the aero side. Could you elucidate a little bit on that? Is it a factor
of the tightness of the regulatory box or the inherent risks of pushing
TW: First of all, what needs to be said Ė because when I read articles itís
always not accurately reflected Ė if somebody does a good job, he does a
good job, and thatís fact. And whether he has a good engine and out-performs
all the others, or he has a decent amount of downforce and goes quicker
around the corners, that is irrelevant. It is always about the performance
of the package. As we have seen, Ferrari operating in Bahrain, they were
superior to all the other teams and there was massive engine power on the
straight Ė but itís not always engine power. Obviously drag levels are
playing an important role in the calculation. This is something we need to
evaluate. This morning there was a frightening lap of Sebastian again, in
straightline speed Ė but it is what it is, we have to stretch ourselves and
fight and extract performance out of the chassis and extract performance out
of the power unit and certainly see. Having a benchmark like that helps and
Q: (Julien Billotte Ė AutoHebdo) Question to Mattia. At the beginning of the
season you said that Sebastian will be given priority status in some
situations in the early part of the season. Could that philosophy shirt and
change towards Charles if he were to repeat the sort of races we saw from
him in Bahrain?
MB: Certainly as a team we need to give the priority to the team and try to
maximise the teamís points at the end of the race. As I said at the start of
the season, if there is any 50-50 situation where we need to take a
decision, the advantage would have been given to Sebastian simply because
Sebastian has got most of the experience with the team in F1. He won four
championships and certainly for us heís the driver who has most probability
to challenge for the title. Something we agreed with both drivers is, in a
few racesí time, things may chance for whatever reason Ė bad luck or
whatever could be the situation Ė we may change our position, no doubt. But
on the track, theyíre free to fight, on the track I think if there is one
driver who is certainly faster, he will get the advantage. I think that
Charles, as a matter of fact, he had an opportunity to be in pole in
Bahrain, he had the opportunity to fight for the win and he had position in
Q: (Dieter Rencken Ė Racing Lines / racefans.net) Andrew and Toto, your two
companies have recently signed an agreement for Racing Point to use the
Mercedes wind tunnel. When does this become effective? What are you trying
to achieve through it, Andrew? And then finally, why should we not see this
as a precursor to a Haas-Ferrari-type deal?
AG: Later this year weíll be moving into the Mercedes tunnel in Brackley for
purely efficiency reasons. Our aero department happens to be located in
Brackley; Mercedes wind tunnel happens to be located in Brackley. Itís a lot
easier to go testing in Brackley than it is in Cologne. So, when it was
offered as an opportunity for us to go testing there, it was an obvious
And Toto, a closer affiliation between the two teams?
TW: Well, first of all, we are not doing a Haas-Ferrari model because Haas
was a new entry, a team created from scratch. These guys exist for a long
time. I donít see whatís so bad in a Haas-Ferrari model actually. We have
enabled somebody that was keen to enter Formula One in setting up a team,
with the cooperation with Ferrari it got out of the blocks really well, and
fights solidly in the midfield. I think thatís good for Formula One. Our
model is very different. For the reasons stated before, Andy and his team
know pretty well what they want to achieve with the car, they have a solid
technical group of people and will go in that direction. They will be using
some of our infrastructure and we will see where that moves for the 2021
regulations. Once these are carved out, we will decide which of the areas we
want to collaborate and where it is possible, regulatory-wise.
Q: (Dan Knutson Ė Auto Action, Speedsport) Tanabe-san, one year ago you had
one team, now you have two teams. How much faster, how much improved is your
rate of development?
TT: Yes, so we can get double data compared to the one team (with) two teams
and then there are some differences in the team philosophies or ways of
working and we learned a lot. Then, not only twice but also more than twice
we can receive information and then we had a different driver Ė four drivers
with different characteristics and driving, slightly. Itís very hard how
much in some things but two teams appear to supply and accelerate our
Q: (Alessandra Retico Ė La Repubblica) Mattia, Montezemolo said in an
interview with my newspaper that you are at risk, in his opinion, to be
alone inside the Scuderia, because there is no one to talk with because the
president, John Elkan is not so experienced in Formula One and CEO Camilleri
is a great manager of course but his job is on the financial side of the
company. And like it was Ross Brawn with Jean Todt and Montezemolo himself.
Do you have any comment on that?
MB: I didnít read the article, first, but I think that thatís completely
wrong. I got the full support from my chairman and my CEO. I think that both
John and Louis are great men, certainly very supportive to the team and I
think that I have got plenty of people in Maranello to speak with so Iím
well supported by my colleagues and I think that somehow we are quite a big
and hungry team with plenty of competence and skills so I think I feel fully
supported and hopefully I will have a long life in the team.
Q: (David Coath Ė Motorlat.com) Toto, we are celebrating the launch of the
esports series China championship this weekend. Iím wondering if you are
able to see much of the e-sports work, considering you have the reigning
TW: Yes, the virtual world was something I needed to get used to but
interestingly, when you watch an esports F1 race there is almost no
difference in how you perceive it than on a real on-board so itís crazy to
see how technology develops and the graphics have matured. We obviously
enjoy very much. We have set up this programme where we are trying to give
young kids a framework around their capabilities, itís not only the driving
and the coaching around but we are giving them a 360 degree support
programme. They are little Mercedes works drivers and winning the
championship last year was the icing on the cake. You can say somehow that
weíve done it in the real world and weíve done it in the virtual world and
again, as Iíve said before, youíd rather win that one than not. Yeah, Iím
happy to see how that develops.
Q: (Dieter Rencken Ė Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Toto and Matteo, following
the Liberty meeting, now that youíve had time to reflect on what they
presented, do your two teams have any red lines about what was presented,
particularly with reference to the revenue, the governance and the
TW: (To MB: He is wearing red, he has many red lines). That is a work in
progress. I think the meeting was good because in the meeting weÖ most of
Libertyís thoughts and proposals were made clear to the teams on the
cost-cap, on technical regulations and sporting regulations going forward
and that was important for us to really open up a thought process around it
and this is still very much happening. And in each of those areas, we seem
to have an alignment on what we want to achieve. Formula One needs
regulations, Formula One needs to stay high tec but on the other side we
recognise that if there are areas where we can save costs because these
things are not visible to the fans, then we really need to look at them. On
the cost-cap, for the big teams, I think itís an intelligent step to contain
the escalation of costs. We are fighting each other with more and more
resource and if we are able to stop that and reduce it, it will be for the
benefit of all of us, of our bottom lines and eventually it will decrease
the funding gap between the smaller teams and the big teams and I think if
we were to achieve that in the first step, thatís already a good step going
forward. And because of the nature of things, in terms of the prize fund
redistribution, nobodyís ever going to be happy. You would want to obviously
maximise and optimise on your situation that everybodyís going to have
pretty decent arguments why they should have more and this is a discussion
which really has just started in my opinion, but obviously, I would say, a
good first step.
MB: I think that Totoís answered well. But I think yes, I think this is the
start of the discussion and weíve got some more clarity. I think itís
important to collaborate, be open with each other. As Toto said, weíve got
common objectives, us and F1. Pretty sure that we will find the right
compromise if only through discussions, that we may find it, as we did for
the power unit. I think we adopted a change, we considered that we were very
back, finally we decided for a common good result which everybody was almost
happy with the compromise. I think thatís the same for the revenues, we did
the same for the governance, the budget cap, all the technical matters; itís
a discussion on-going but collaboration and discussions are all positive so
even if there are some distances at the moment, Iím pretty sure we will find
the right compromise at the end.
Q: (Stuart Codling Ė Autosport) Andrew, just to follow up on Dieterís
question from earlier about the wind tunnel: you take a Mercedes complete
power train and now will be using the wind tunnel. Do you think this is as
far as anyone should be allowed to go in terms of team affiliation?
AG: I hope not, because we take their gearbox and hydraulics as well. Iíd
like that to stay. I think thatís everything that is being discussed for
2021, I think thatís all on the agenda that Toto was referencing earlier and
it is what I was referencing earlier as well. Itís where we go forward as a
team, thinking ahead for 2021. We want to build our team to be the most
efficient team based around those regulations and when those regulations are
finalised we will have a clear idea of what we need to do.