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Australian GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
18/03/2016

Today's press conference with Cyril Abiteboul, Maurizio Arrivabene, Eric Boullier, Gene Haas, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff.

Cyril, let's begin with you - welcome back as a Renault works team. Great history, 35 wins, two world championships and 100 podiums. How tough will it be to repeat those records against today's competition?
Cyril Abiteboul: I think it will be very tough and I know that there were a lot of comments regarding the time that it took us to make our decision last year. It's not so much the appetite to be in Formula One but to be in a capacity to be successful in Formula One, that was the question mark. So we come in that competition with lots of humility. As you mentioned we have been there fro quite a long period of time, almost 40 years but we equally we know that the level has raised considerably. So we know it's going to take time; it's a long journey, a long-term plan but we think we have all the ingredients - financial, technical, the support of a large group - to make that a successful one. We're going to take it step by step but it's absolutely possible.

What's the plan for the engine this year? You've not used so many tokens so far. Do you expect to be close to Ferrari and Mercedes by the end of the season?
CA: Well, actually, I think that this is a demonstration that we have used little tokens but I hope in connection to the fact that we have made a substantial step in terms of performance will be actual evidence that there is no connection between token use and performance. You can use a lot of tokens and bring absolutely nothing in terms of lap time, which actually is maybe something we did last year. I think the whole debate of tokens should go away and we should focus on performance. There is a plan to use more tokens during the course of the season, that's the plan and we have made lots of comments about that. Hopefully it will happen, both for the benefit of the Renault works team and also Red Bull.

Maurizio, coming to you - Sebastian told us here yesterday in the press conference he feels Ferrari has enough to challenge Mercedes this year. Tell us about the effort that has gone on behind the scenes to raise the level?
Maurizio Arrivabene: We are doing our job. We are working very hard during the winter and we know where we are, but where you really are depends on what the other competitors are going to be. During this weekend we will know.

We've got some new rules this year, qualifying rules, team radio rules, tyre rules etc coming into force, what differences do expect these to make, especially in the qualifying we'll see tomorrow.
MA: I don't want to be against any changes, Ferrari don't want to be against the change, I simply think that maybe giving a bit more time to the team to work on ideas was better. But I can't say so with a certainty. The only certainty is that more probably tomorrow at the beginning of the qualifying we are going to see a line like on Saturday at the cashier of the supermarket - everybody wants to go out. Then we will see. It's not fair to criticize before that has happened.

Eric, your thoughts on that, the new regulations?
Eric Boullier: Well, we'll see this weekend. There is some upside and downside. The qualifying format we had before, I think we all agree, was a successful format. We were used to it. I think it is true that there will be more traffic at the beginning of each qualifying segment and there should be more unpredictability for the final result, but we will see.

It was a tough year for McLaren last year to say the least. What's the winter been like at Woking and what do you expect for 2016?
EB: Well, I think every year we keep working harder and harder. It was a very, very busy winter for us. We'll see. Obviously there is a lot of progress. We have been able to work through this Friday this weekend, which is good for both Honda and McLaren. We will see where we are. Obviously we don't want to overpromise everything. We will go step by step and there is still some more to come.

Coming to you Gene, a very warm welcome to Formula One. Your start-up has been a few years in the development. How does the reality match up to the expectation?
Gene Haas: Well, I'm nervous. I think there are a lot of things going on here that I'm new to and the team is new too. So, putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together along with all the personnel and having it all come together for the first time has been a learning experience. That's really what we're here for is to learn how Formula One really operates from the ground floor. Your can watch this racing your whole life but there's nothing like being a participant to really understand it and I have a lot of respect for the teams that are here and the level of technical competence you have to have to even start one of these races. I'm pretty much in awe. It's a challenge and I hope it's a lot of fun.

You've done it before, of course. You built a NASCAR team from scratch, won races, won championships. Formula One is obviously a different ball game from NASCAR but what would success in Formula One on a global scale mean to you?
GH: I think you have to look at it in terms of years. I have the feeling that if you over-anticipate what you can do in the sport it will humble you very quickly. I think the first year or two just to be able to come to the races, be competitive, not make any major mistakes would be a tremendous achievement. I know a few of our drivers are hoping to score some points and that would certainly be an accomplishment.

Christian, coming to you - a new season, several new partnerships for the team. It feels, maybe from the outside, a little bit like a team in transition. What's the plan for the next stage?
Christian Horner: I think that it's exactly that. I think we are in transition and I think we are hopefully getting on an upward curve now. We've had a positive winter, a busy winter. All the teams work hard. You know if you come into Formula One everybody works hard and arguably the smaller teams work the hardest as they have the least resource. But it's about working smartly and I think this winter the team has worked not only hard but creatively and cleverly. We have a good basis of a car to develop throughout the year and with the different partnerships we have introduced, some exciting partnerships, welcoming Tag Heuer to the team not only as a sponsor but as branding on our power unit and also the announcement yesterday with Aston Martin, it's very exciting for Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

Coming back to the discussion about the rules, specifically on the team radio I'm interested. What are your thoughts on those restrictions and the repositioning of the driver as very much the man in control, the decision-maker?
CH: Well I guess like modern technology these days and how people communicate, we're working by text - maybe to SMS the driver would be an easier way, because we're not allowed to say much these days. I think it's going to be a voyage of discovery and I hope we haven't gone too far on the radio stuff, because that's taking away an element of dialogue between the engineer and the driver and some of that from behind the scenes can be quite entertaining, some it X-rated, but quite enthralling for the fans. We've got quite a few changes to take on board this year, let's see how it goes.

Coming to you Toto, obviously the last couple of years some records that pushed the boundaries a bit beyond where they have been before. But nothing lasts forever, as I'm sure Christian will tell you. How nervous do you feel and do you think you have enough this year to hold everyone at bay?
Toto Wolff: Before I answer the question, first of all I'd like to welcome the group and if you listen to what he says, that is certainly the right approach to enter Formula One. He's been successful in NASCAR and obviously with his own company and I have no doubt that you will be successful in what you do here. You have to stay on your toes, that's clear. You can be caught out quickly, either by regulations or just by not taking the right decisions and we've seen that over the last couple of years. There is a constant skepticism whether we have done a good enough job over the winter and we're going to know more tomorrow.

Mercedes has some young drivers coming through the system - Pascal Wehrlein racing here with Manor, Esteban Ocon coming through and seconded to Renault as a reserve. Will we see more of this sort of development of drivers coming through from Mercedes in the next couple of years?
TW: I think it's a good development. In the past it was only Red Bull holding up young drivers and transitioning them into Formula One on merit and now with Renault coming in and having Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen being back in a car, Pascal Wehrlein in a Manor and an additional team which has financial resource, I think it's good news and hopefully we will see more good young people come into Formula One based on merit. For us certainly it's about finding the right places. It doesn't make a lot of sense to start an inflationary system and just enter many young kids if you don't have a place in Formula One. With Esteban and Renault I think we found a good solution for our mutual benefit. Equally with Pascal, a completely different challenge for him this year than last and we'll see how that pans out.

Questions From The Floor

(Martin Moravec - DPA) Maurizio, last year you said that if Ferrari would win four races then you would go into the hills of Maranello barefoot. What would you do this year if Ferrari becomes World Champion?
MA: I'll let you know when it's happened.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Last month the Commercial Rights Holder was quoted as saying "this sort of thing is what is commonly known as a cartel and cartels are illegal. We are running something that is illegal. On top of all that it is anti-competitive." Given the EU laws etcetera and also the complaint that's also recently been filed, is Formula One really being run as a cartel? How do you feel about this comment? Any comeback on that?
TW: Hi Dieter! It's nice to start all over again. First of all, when you're looking at today's press conference, there's a lot of positivity around what's happening. Red Bull has bought Aston Martin back into the sport, a mega-brand. Renault is back as an official works team, Haas has entered the sport, an American team. But having said that, I don't think there is any cartel around here, nor is the sport run as a cartel. Bernie is always good for controversy and throwing one in. If that were to run like a cartel we wouldn't be sitting here. Some of us are part of multi-national global companies and we're taking compliance very seriously. So... it just causes headlines but nothing else.

Maurizio?
MA: I think this talk of a cartel is simply ridiculous. Simply ridiculous. Everybody, they are doing their job, they try to do their best. We are talking here about brands who have a long story. They are not going to throw out of the window their story, their reputation for this comment that they don't deserve even one word. I have to say, it's strange because in this world you have to be careful sometimes because, if you are talking a bit more with somebody, if I'm going to go to the dinner with Toto or Cyril, I do a cartel? It's simply a dinner! We have to learn something from rugby, that when you are in the field, you play very hard, you punch, whatever you have to do. And then afterwards, they go to the dinner and no-one is talking about having a cartel or creating some mismatch during the match. It's simply ridiculous.

Cyril?
CA: No, I would not agree with that definition of cartel for the simply reason that we are all in a competitive environment, so at the end of the day Ferrari wants to win against Mercedes and hopefully one day Renault will want to win, I don't know, against Ferrari. So, for that simple reason, any sort of unity will not last. So I will not agree with you. I will not concur with that. Plus, you have to accept that only a limited number of manufacturers have the financial capacity to subsidise the cost of the technology in accordance with the current regulation that we have all accepted. So no, I would not concur with that view.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

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