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British GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
08/07/2016

First question to all you, it's been two weeks since the UK public voted to exit the European Union. As team principals employing many EU nationals in the UK, as well as UK nationals in Italy of course, what impact do you think this will have going forward and what impact has the falling pound, for example, made so far?
Toto Wolff: Well, for us it has a big impact because from a personal level we don't know where it's going to go. There are many experts working in Brackley and we don't know how that's going to be handled in the future and it's the same in Germany, within the DTM team there are many Brits and it looks like everybody could be impacted the situation. In terms of the currencies, you can't interfere anyway. The weak pound is not so bad for us as we are getting the income in dollars and the mothership subsidises in euros, so it is actually a good ratio. But we have to wait and see. Nobody really knows what consequences are going to be, whether some kind of agreements are going to be formed. There is no short-term impact I guess.

Vijay, your thoughts?
Vijay Mallya: I've reviewed the position at Force India and we are largely British-centric, so we don't expect that Brexit will affect is in any significant way. Of course the depreciation in the value of the pound helps because the income is largely in dollars. Other than that I see no change.

Claire?
Claire Williams: I think it's slightly too early to see what the long-term impacts are for us as a business. There have been some short-term impacts around costs. We unfortunately pay for our engine in euros. All the hard work that we have done to bring the cost down by €4m for 2018 have been counterbalanced. Maybe Toto will let us pay for our engines in euros going forward, I don't know - a conversation offline. And then, for us there are concerns on the medium term once Article 50 is invoked and the implications of that around freedom of people to move in employment. I think we have to wait and see the true implications of that. Personally, for us an independent team, we don't have a mothership, like Toto does, and many other teams, and sponsorship is one of our key incomes. I think with the political instability that Brexit has caused there are a lot of businesses out there that are going to have to wait and see what they do particularly with their marketing spend and that of course could have implications for us as an independent team. As much as we were having great conversations prior to the referendum, those conversations are slowing down now and people are waiting to see what's going to happen. That's a real concern for us and I think a concern for a lot of sports teams out there. But again, I'm not going to worry too much. I think we'll wait and see what happens.

Dave?
Dave Ryan: Well, I think it's early days yet. Everyone seems to have an opinion but we don't know what's going to happen. The government doesn't know what's going to happen, so for us to speculate is just a bit too soon I think.

And Eric, as a Frenchman working in England, with a Japanese partner?
Eric Boullier: Just a few visa issues maybe in the future, but I doubt it's going to be that complicated. I think everything has been said. Nobody knows. We are definitely not the right experts to predict what is going to happen. It's a concern just to know where we go, exchanging, travelling, our money currency but so far nobody knows, so we just monitor what's going on.

And finally Maurizio, obviously you employ quite a few Brits.
Maurizio Arrivabene: Concerning Ferrari we are at the early stage. We have some employees they are coming from the UK. We are at the early stage now to evaluate how the situation is going to evolve. The big problems need to be solved at the European level with all the member states to better evaluate the impact of this decision. At the right time we will see how it's going to impact the guys working in our company but at the moment it's more important to have a clear vision and a clear view on the global situation in the EU and I think that the problem is even bigger than what could be related to us.

Thanks for that. Coming back to you Eric, obviously a positive result in Austria and news that you have another update from Honda. Are you getting towards your performance targets for 2016 and how is the second half of the season roll out for you?
EB: Let's say the development is going as per to plan. As far as targets are concerned we have much more ambitious targets, but this is as per plan going so far. There are some more upgrades coming this year and we believe if it's like today, we have validated all our upgrades as per planned on the engineering side and I hope that the other ones will be as the one we had before. But we keep working hard and keep under-promising and slowly, little by little we are getting there.

Thank you. Vijay, we haven't seen you for a while. You said a few weeks ago in an interview that your circumstances mean that your are devoting much more time these days to the Formula One team. Tell us about that?
VM: I am. First of all, I'm absolutely delighted and over the moon to be here in Silverstone. Apart from the fact that Silverstone is a very special race track for Force India, I am personally delighted I'm here, because all the other races I have virtually experienced in this virtual world. But sadly, currently I am unable to travel. That has to go through due legal process. And since I am now spending my time in England - far more regulated, less hectic - I am doing what I am passionate about. And one thing I sure am passionate about is Force India and Formula One and I spend a lot more time, I get a lot of pleasure out of it and the team is delivering results.

Absolutely. Okay thank you for that. Dave, in the points in Austria. You've had a very long career in Formula One and I'm sure you've had many more important results in many ways, but how much did that result mean to you and the team?
DR: It was a big moment for the team. I think more than anything else it put a bit of a marker down that we are serious players and we are working very hard. Yeah, it's one point and we need a lot more points, but it's one step at a time. So a great moment in the development of the team.

Maurizio, you've confirmed Kimi Raikkonen today for the 2017 season. Was that mainly due to his performances and podiums so far this season and did you have any other candidates under serious consideration?
MA: We confirmed Kimi because first of all he deserves it. Having said so we are looking for the interests of the team and the interest of the team was not looking for another driver but concentrating on car development. We have two good drivers so that was not an issue for us, so we remove all the pressure from the shoulders of Kimi in taking this decision, that actually was confirmed yesterday in a phone call from the President, and a couple of hours [later] we are with Kimi. We turn the page and we look forward to work very hard where the problem is.

Picking up on that Claire, where are you at with drivers for next year?
CW: We are evaluating our options. We still feel it's quite early in the year to be making our decision. We have some performance issues at the moment so we really need Valtteri and Felipe to be concentrating on their track performance rather than worrying about what's happening in 2017. As you'd expect those conversations are going on behind closed doors and when we're ready to make an announcement we will, but I don't foresee that being the next few races.

Just picking up on what you said there, it's clear that Williams haven't been able to build on the performance of 2014 and 2015. What effect is that having on your thinking about strategy for next year and beyond?
CW: Running a Formula One team you have always have to evolve don't you and you have to look at your performance and if you need to make changes, whatever those changes may be, then you have to do that. We don't want to be going backwards. At the moment we seem to be having to look over our shoulders more than looking ahead to Red Bull and worrying about the Force Indias. That's a problem and that's a real concern for us and we need to address it. Fortunately, we've done quite a lot of analysis over the past few races to identify those areas of weakness and put them right. For us, that work is going on behind closed doors. We have some upgrades coming to the next few races, we have a new front wing here, which we hope is going to deliver a bit more performance to us, but there are other areas, structural areas of weakness in the business that we're addressing at the moment.

Toto, obviously you delivered the ultimatum to your two drivers after the collision in Austria. You called it a final warning: are you satisfied they have 100 per cent got the message? And why did you choose to make this whole process public rather than do everything behind closed doors?
TW: The whole story obviously brought a lot of narrative for everybody and as a team we have always communicated in a transparent way because we believe this is the DNA and the more you try to hide things, the more suspicious you become, the worse you can actually be in control of the situation. So, a lot has been said and I think at that point we should stop and look forward. We believe we have the best driver pairing in Formula One. For sure one of the best driver pairings in Formula One and we have confidence these kind of incidents can be avoided in the future.

And you're satisfied they 100 per cent got the message, yes?
TW: I am satisfied they 100 per cent got the message, yes. But at the end of the day they are behind the steering wheel, they drive the cars and they are in control.

And just quickly, an update on Nico's situation. We saw he had to climb out of the car early in the session.
TW: Yeah, we had a water leak, which at the beginning looked like we can solve the problem and then we figured out that it was meaning to take more risks on the engine if we were to go into the session.

Questions From The Floor

(Joe Saward - Auto X) Question for Vijay. You say you're passionate about the sport, and you are the FIA representative of India. You don't want to go back to India to solve the problem, what would you say to people who say that you're doing the sport damage?
VM: Nobody has ever said that I'm doing the sport any damage. Irrespective of where in the world I physically am present, doesn't affect my contribution in any part of the world. Certainly in India. I have been used to managing a multinational group of companies for the last 30 years and I couldn't possibly be physically present in each territory in which my business interests operate but yet I was able to guide and contribute and that continues.

(Abhishek Takle - Mid-Day) Question to Vijay. You said things have to go through the due legal process but you expect to be able to go to more races this season and as you mean you are able to travel, would you consider returning to India to fight the allegations levelled against you there? Thank you.
VM: First of all, with respect, this is an FIA press conference about motorsport and not about my ability to travel. Having said that, when the due legal process follows its logical course, your questions will be automatically answered. Until then my job is to make sure that Force India continues to perform and closes the gaps to my dear Claire in front.

(Marc Surer - Sky Germany) Question for Toto. Is this the race engine that had the problem today?
TW: No, it's not. It's a Friday engine.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Question for Toto. Toto, there's been an awful lot of controversy around your team, the last lap accident, meetings, final warnings, threatened race suspensions, a non-executive chairman making comments whether in a casual context or not which have damaged the relationships. Are you really confident that you and your team are strong enough to control this monster you seem to have created?
TW: We have won eight of nine races this season so far, two championships in the last two years. Nobody speaks of boring racing. There is stories and headlines being created. The spirit within the team is really great. We haven't lost people and we are very much looking forward into the new regulations for next year. So, you as a journalist, you should know that headlines are important for the sport, that headlines are sometimes being blown out of proportion. We contribute with these headlines. Not more, not less.

Check out our Friday gallery, here.

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