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Mexican GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
29/10/2016

Bob, if we could start with you, the news broke recently that Nico Hulkenberg is off to Renault. Does his departure weaken the team going forward?
Robert Fernley: No, not necessarily. Nico will certainly be missed because he's been a great part of Force India and the growing of Force India over the last few years, but we'll just have to make sure that we replace him with as good as we possibly can.

Well, a lot of drivers have been linked to your team for 2017, how close are you to making that final choice?
RF: First of all, I'm not close at all. It's Vijay's decision and we'll start those discussions probably when we get back next week.

So have you got a deadline in mind as to when you want to have it nailed down?
RF: No, I don't think so. I think we'll take our time, have a look at what offers are on the table, Vijay will make his decision and then we'll announce it.

Sergio said in the press conference yesterday that he's staying at Force India because of the opportunity that the new cars next year will bring. Has the team got the resources and the capability to deliver on those expectations?
RF: Yes, I think so. What is exciting for us for 2017 is that it's the first time we are on a reasonably level playing field. We're not quite the same as the big teams, the big manufacturing teams, but you've got restricted aero programmes, it's the first new generation car that we will do using a 60% model and I think we've shown already this year what we can do once we moved up to 60%, so I'm very optimistic that the team will be very competitive in 2017.

Thank you. Dave, you've been in your job for a year now, what were your goals then and have you realised them?
Dave Ryan: Well, when I arrived it was obviously a team in a bit of a holding pattern but with big ambitions. It became fairly clear to me early on that we needed to attract some different skill sets and some good people, which I'm pleased to say we have. So yeah, we are definitely heading in the right direction. We do need to improve in all areas still, but I think we have come a long way in the past year.

So looking at the longer term, what can the Manor team become?
DR: Oh for sure we want to become a strong midfield team. If you look at where we were last year and where we now sit, we've made a huge improvement. We need to keep making improvements and our goal is to be a serious and strong midfield team.

How integral are your current drivers to that ambition?
DR: Well, the drivers we've got we're very, very happy with, they're a great couple of lads, but going forward who knows.

Thanks, Dave. Coming to you Mike: this is the first time you've been in an FIA press conference as it's usually a role filled by Claire Williams for the team. She hasn't been at any races recently. Why is that and are we likely to see her before the end of the season?
Mike O'Driscoll: I certainly hope so. Frank, as you know, was taken ill at the Monza race. He's been a fixture in the paddock for so many decades now it's strange not to have him with us. He's had a tough time in hospital. He has contracted pneumonia. He is making a recovery, a slow steady recovery. We hope to see him back at Grove very soon. We all know how determined he is. We expect Claire to be back at a race... she has wanted to stay close to home, close to Frank, but in this modern world you are only ever a phone call away, so we stay connected and she's part of everything that happens on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis. We hope to see her by the end of the year and hopefully that will be Abu Dhabi and this will be maybe my first [press conference] but it might be my last as well, so thanks for having me!

Pleasure to have you! Williams have had a difficult season in which you've slipped backwards. From your perspective, as CEO, why is that?
MO'D: Yeah, two very good seasons in '14 and '15 and this year has been more difficult. First of all I'd like to give a lot of credit to Force India. I think they have done a superb job this year in bringing the fight to us and making the battle for fourth place more interesting than we would have liked, maybe. I think it's also fair to say that the development of this year's car hasn't gone as well as we would have like - all of the upgrades we brought haven't been as effective as we would have wished. I also think it's fair to say that we made an early decision in the season to focus on the 2017 development. We can play Monday morning quarterback and decide now to double guess - was it too early, too late - but we stand by the decision we made and we haven't given up the fight for fourth place and we intend to get it back in the remaining three races.

And just a final question from me: we haven't had your thoughts on the takeover over Formula One by Liberty Media. I would be interesting to get your thoughts on that?
MO'D: Yeah, first of all, I think Formula One is just a terrific global sport and it's no surprise that it has attracted interest from bidders around the world, from some of the large companies and it's a tribute to the work that Bernie and his team have done over the years in building Formula One to the sport it is. Liberty are a global heavyweight in entertainment, digital, media and telecoms and I've no doubt they can grow it and take it to new heights and that two working together are a very effective combination.

Franz, you announced last weekend that Dany Kvyat has signed again for 2017. How does he make your team stronger?
Franz Tost: First of all, Danill Kvyat is a very high-skilled driver. As we know from the past, he won the GP3 European championship; he was this year in China on the podium. Therefore, we are convinced of his talent. Secondly, his experience because next year will be his [fourth] season in Formula One and especially with the new regulations his experience will help us. And third, each party knows each other now very well. That means the co-operation also regarding next year's new car will help us hopefully to operate quite successfully.

While we're on the subject of next year, you've got two relatively experienced drivers in Kvyat and Sainz, you're going to have an up-to-date engine from Renault, you've managed to retain all the key technical staff in the team during the course of this year. Given all that stability how does that change your ambitions for 2017?
FT: First of all we must know how good the car will be, how good the complete package will be, because it's difficult to estimate nowadays where we will be, I think no team can do this. But I think we have all the ingredients together to come up with a very competitive package, because the technical staff, under the lead of James Key, have in the last years done a fantastic good job. As you mentioned, with Renault we have a new engine partner and their power unit is quite strong and I hope this will also be the case next year. We have two experienced drivers, which was never the case before at Toro Rosso, and also the team itself is improving. I expect a lot from the team and I hope that everything works into the direction what we think will be the case.

Thank you Franz. Eric, thanks for waiting, I'd like to continue exploring the theme of next year with you as well, because it looks likely that McLaren will finish sixth this year and given the amount of work that's going on in both Woking and in Japan at the moment, what is the minimum that acceptable for McLaren in 2017?
Eric Boullier: Doing better than '16. Obviously we don't have any numbers in terms of ranking in the championship, or targets like this. There is, like you said, still a huge amount of work to be done in Woking and in Japan, so we'll see next year what we have as a package. We'll see how fast or quick we can develop the car next year and then we will draw a line about where we want to be. But we just want to be on the move now. We were ninth last year in the championship, sixth is very likely this year obviously. We just want to better next year.

So ninth, sixth, third in 2017?
EB: No comment!

My words, not yours! Now, Jenson Button in Monza announced that he is going to take a sabbatical next year but he is going to retain very close links to the team. In your position as Race Director can you tell us how he will work with the race team next year?
EB: Well, there are many ways for him to bring, let's say, his experience and feedback and guidance as well. It's good when they are in car, but outside the car as well, especially a driver with a lot of experience, can bring some good advice. He will obviously be a part of the simulator team, which is important to correlate with the car. He will be attending a few grands prix as well, so his vision or let's say his understanding about the racing next year from outside the car will be interesting for the team. In many ways, his great experience will be a good contribution for us next year.

Questions From The Floor

(Joe Saward - Auto X) You're all from different backgrounds as team principals, or racing directors, whatever your official title is. They don't have a school for team principals: what is it you need to be a Formula One team principal?
RF: A reasonably thick skin, I think. I don't know actually Joe, you're very right in saying there's no school for it. It's something you have to build with experience. I don't think anything comes easily. You have to have a knowledge of all elements of racing - so it's commercial, technical, hospitality, every aspect of it. I think unless you have that overall awareness of what's going on in Formula One at all times, it's a job that will elude you.

FT: First of all, you should know and be aware about the most important pillars in motorsport in general, and especially in Formula One because to run a Formula One team, you cannot compare with a normal company. Formula One has their own rules. Especially it takes time to build-up a team, to find the correct people, that they work together. As you know, you hardly have technical problems, you have only problems with people who are working together or not working together. You have to find a way that this is the case. Then, on the economic side, to find sponsors, to convince companies that Formula One is the best possible platform for marketing reasons. And to bring in, let me say, the satisfaction in the team: that the people are motivated; that they like this job and to convince them that this is a very special work - because there are not so many Formula One teams, that they are lucky to go to 21 races for example, to see different countries and so on.

MO'D: I wouldn't disagree with the comments you've already heard but I'd say that, as with any organisation, it's about people and it's about leadership and it's about motivation. It's about the ability to organise. And great instincts. And if all of that's founded on really good knowledge of Formula One and motorsport, I think you'll succeed.

EB: Most of what they say I would agree to - but I think first you need to like racing. If you don't like racing I would never turn up in the paddock in my life, y'know? Obviously if you like racing then it depends on where your pass is going. I guess to be a racing director or a team principal you need then yes, you need to lead, you need to understand who you're working with, you need some commercial skills, some political skills, some... I don't know, most of it you try to get.

DR: First of all, if you talk about team principals, if you go back to Frank Williams and Ken Tyrrell, people like that, Ron Dennis, those team principals, they owned the team, they did everything. It's changed now. Not one of us here owns the team; we all work for other people and, for me, it's all about understanding your role within the organisation. We had different people with different skillsets and we work to those skillsets. In terms of a team principal, I think it's very different today to how it used to be and it's really just putting the right people in the right places to do the best job they can.

(Silvia Arias - Parabrisas) Monsieur Boullier, with Jost Capito arriving next year, what will be your position in the team?
EB: Well, if I may correct, first he already arrived because he started on the 1st of September. My position exactly the same, racing director, his position is to be CEO, which is to different roles within the company. One is obviously being in charge of the business and more factory-based and the other is in charge of the racing. So no change. There is a racing director and a CEO in Manor, the same in Williams, there was the same in Lotus where I was before, so...

Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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