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Spanish GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
13/05/2016

Today's press conference with Cyril Abiteboul, Maurizio Arrivabene, Robert Fernley, Yusuke Hasegawa, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff.

Let's start with a question to you all. After much debate and discussion the FIA has now confirmed the revised engine regulations for 2017 to 2020. Are you pleased with the final agreement? Maybe we could start with Cyril.
Cyril Abiteboul: Yeah, I mean, it's an agreement, so we are pleased with this agreement in particular, but I think what's good now is to have a clear understanding of what's coming up for the next few years. We all know stability is important, so we have agreed for some stability up to 2020. We have also agreed for price reduction for customer teams, that's clear, that's agreed. There is also a clear target to get the performance to converge, because we all believe that it's important for Formula One. We believe it is happening anyway, but there is this clear target. It cannot be a guarantee, because no one can guarantee performance. You can't guarantee performance in the wind tunnel, same thing with engine. But we all know what we have to do. It's good, it's a relief, because we know what we have to do and we can make plans for the future.

Maurizio?
Maurizio Arrivabene: I'm very happy about that, because the most important news is that they talk and they move and that has opened the competitiveness for all of us and also the development. In terms of stability it's absolutely fine, so I have no doubt that this decision is going to help the sport.

Robert?
Robert Fernley: I think we'll reserve our position.

Meaning?
RF: We'll reserve our position.

Hasegawa-san, your thoughts?
Yusuke Hasegawa: Yes, not everything is good to the engine manufacturer, but it's good to fix the rules and I believe the rules continue to 2020, so the rule stability is very good to us as a big company so it is good.

Christian?
Christian Horner: I think what Bob was trying to say is that it is a little underwhelming. It's a very soft agreement between the manufacturers and the FIA. It tickles the price, deals a little bit with convergence, the obligation to supply doesn't really apply, so it's a very weak agreement. Unfortunately it's a shame more couldn't be done, but I suppose if you look on the bright side it's better than nothing.

A weak agreement Toto?
Toto Wolff: I just want to digest what I just heard in the last five minutes. We achieved a major price reduction over two years. We have opened up development scope for others to catch up. We have designed an obligation to supply so no team runs out of an engine contract. We have found a mechanism how performance convergence could be trigged. Lots of good things, many months of hard work in trying to get everybody on the same page, I think it's a good step forward.

OK, a few individual questions then, starting with Cyril. We're waiting to see what the engine upgrade brings. Can you tell us a little bit about the strategy behind the 2016 development programme and what you expect this upgrade to bring in terms of lap time?
CA: Well, the strategy is fairly straightforward. Quite opposite to what's happening in the chassis regulation with a major change between '16 and '17, nothing changed on the engine regulation between '16 and '17, so anything you can bring in '16 is good for '16 and '17, so there is no question mark or debate about how do you... do I split my resources between this year and next year? That's part of the development strategy, that's part of the programme. It's not all that we have in the pipeline; it's a good chunk of it. It's a good chunk for this year and we hope that it will be reducing some of the gap to the gentleman sitting in the front row to the benefit of Christian and Red Bull.

Robert, coming back to you: tough start to the year, eight points on the board after four races. You've brought some updates this weekend, but can you sum up where you are in early 2016 and where you're heading?
RF: Well, from our point of view it's disappointing that the results that we have don't justify the car and it's the exact opposite of where we were last year, where the results really flattered us to a certain degree. We've had two races where both cars got taken out in the first lap and the other two races, where a red flag and the safety car didn't help out strategies at all. I think we just have to keep doing the right things all the time and it'll come back to us. I'm very confident. The team is doing a great job technically. This upgrade appears to be working where we want it and we'll climb our way back to where we want to be.

Thank you for that. Hasegawa-san, going back to the discussion about engine regulations, obviously part of this new FIA agreement regards manufacturers supplying more than one team. Honda has always maintained it would welcome supplying multiple teams in Formula One, but have you actually begun any negotiations with anybody for 2017.
YH: As a matter of fact, we don't have concrete negotiations, although we have some conversations with some teams, but unfortunately we can't make a conclusion with some teams. Currently our position is that we have to wait until the situation changes.

But it's true to say that you still welcome the opportunity to supply a different team?
YH: Welcome is a different word. I think I have an obligation to contribute to Formula One society, so we are preparing our resource, but still we are not strong enough to provide multiple teams. We are preparing now.

Toto, back to you. The team wrote and open letter to the fans after all the conspiracy theories circulating around Lewis Hamilton's technical problems. How did that come about and what was achieved by it?
Toto Wolff: Well, since a while already we are trying to have a pretty transparent communication with all the stakeholders. We engage a lot through social media with our fans and this was one more exercise in that direction, which we felt was necessary to say where we are coming from.

And how do you feel it worked out?
TW: I don't know. Clearly with Lewis and Nico in the car they polarise. There's always going to be controversy around that, but I feel it worked out OK.

OK, thanks for that. Christian, obviously the big talking point going into this weekend is the switch of Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. What part did you play in that and how hard do you think it will be for Verstappen to adjust to your car mid-season, given how little Formula One experience he has?
CH: I think Red Bull are in a unique situation where we've got four drivers contracted to the team. Two have always been loaned to Toro Rosso and within their contracts we have the ability to move drivers around and with the benefit of four relatively competitive cockpits we have the ability unlike other teams to move drivers from team to team. There's been some discussion for a little while, because obviously we monitor and follow the performance of each of the drivers very carefully, not only in the car but outside the car, through the development programme and through the tools we have back at the factory as well and basically we reached a conclusion to say there's never an ideal time to move things around but if we are going to move it why don't we get on with it, do it in time for the European season. It puts our best foot forward in Red Bull Racing, it gives Dany Kvyat the chance to continue to develop in the Toro Rosso environment and that was the basis of the decision. In the meantime it also allows us to tidy up options and secure things for the future as well, so all very positive.

Coming to you Maurizio: the cars are a lot faster this year than in 2015. I think Kimi was three seconds quicker in that FP2 session than he was 12 months ago. In terms of your performance as a team do you feel that until now you haven't been able to show the real Ferrari performance due to the various issues that you've had at the races?
MA: It's true, but can you repeat... our car is faster, three seconds to last year?

FP2 last year, yes.
MA: Thank you, I like to hear that! The problem is they [Mercedes] are faster than us! No, I mean we have a programme of development. We try very, very hard, taking also a big risk at the start of the season. We have also a bit of bad luck, being honest. But I've said many, many times this Mercedes teams is the strongest of the last 10 years. So to beat them you need to take some risks and you need to work very, very hard. I'm talking about this with respect for them but with determination that sooner or later we can catch up.

Questions From The Floor

(Vladimir Rogovets - Sb Belarus) We see here representatives of different teams. My question is for all. In Formula One it's very important to have good driver, good chassis and good engine - how many per cent can you give to the role of driver, the importance engine, of chassis?
CA: I think you should ask Toto, because he has all of it!

TW: One doesn't go without the other. You cannot give percentages. The best driver in a weak chassis will not be competitive and, if he has a weak engine, it will not help either. So you need to align the stars, try to get the best possible driver in the best possible car with a very competitive engine.

Anyone else like to have a stab at it? Christian, your thoughts.
CH: Yeah, I think Formula One, the three elements should have equal weight: the driver, the chassis and the engine. So if one of those elements isn't quite right, the other two can compensate. I think in today's Formula One, with the recent engine changes I think we've offset that balance, and so you've probably got - I don't know - 50 per cent engine, 25 per cent chassis, 25 per cent driver. I think the encouraging thing is the regulations that are in the pipeline for next year should rebalance that: it should make chassis a little bit more of a factor, which is going to challenge the driver more. So, hopefully for 2017 it should balance up a little.

Do you agree with those ratios Robert?
RF: I think there's an old saying that a good driver can always make a poor car look good - but not the other way around. So I think both of them are important.

Hasegawa-san, any thoughts on this?
YH: It is a bit difficult to tell the number. To me, every element has a one-third importance I think - to me.

Maurizio?
MA: I'm not good with percentages but being logical and straightforward, how can you go there and run around without the driver? And then you need to also have a good driver. At the moment it's a good balance in between the three. Maybe the engine is more important this year without doing percentages. Next year, I agree with Christian, you could have the chassis that is going to take up a bit more importance, making all the races a bit more interesting and also challenging the drivers' ability. But I think, looking at this year, it's very spread out between the driver, chassis and engine - and if I have to talk in percentages, with something more for the engine.

Cyril, you tossed the question to Toto at the beginning. Do you want to say anything about it?
CA: I think in theory we would like an equal breakdown between the three elements - but that never happens. The one thing that should not happen is that the engine is taking too much weight for the simple reason that you have fewer engine suppliers than you have teams. So, if suddenly the engine is taking more weight you are giving too much power to one single entity, which is exactly what happened in truth for Mercedes. Nothing wrong with that, just because they did a brilliant job - but it's never too good for the sport.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

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