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Japanese GP: Friday Press Conference Part 1

NEWS STORY
06/10/2017

Cyril, there's been a lot of speculation regarding the future of Marcin Budkowski. Now, you have announced today that he is joining Renault. Could you elaborate a little bit on what he is going to be going for the team and how you came to get hold of him in the first place?

Cyril Abiteboul: Well, indeed, as you say the speculation and the rumour is part of the explanation of why we decided to make it official. We didn't feel it was good actually to have any sort of ambiguity for any of the parties involved. It's clear, and we appreciate, that it's a sensitive topic for lots of parties, but it was important I think to present our side of the story. Marcin is coming in a non-technical capacity. He's coming in a senior position into the team. I think it is a great career development for him. It's something that he is doing because it makes sense in his career. As far as we are concerned, since we came back we are still building our team, building our structure. We tried something with Frédéric Vasseur last year, which, I mean it's no secret, unfortunately did not work out, but Fred has now found a fantastic position with Sauber but there was still a gap and a position to be filled. Simply there is a lot to be done. Renault Sport Racing is involved in many different categories, Formula One but also Formula E, we are based on two sites, one in the UK and one in France, responsible for chassis and engine, supplying engines to lots of great teams with big expectations. So simply lots to do and I just needed some help and someone I can trust and that can work alongside me particularly on the development of the Enstone team.

Can you just remind us, when will he be starting with the team?
CA: Again, there has been lots of talk about that, not from us. We always made it clear that we would not want to be aggressive in relation to that. From a contractual perspective he could be available from early next year, but we have had a constructive discussion with the FIA and I believe that we are close to reaching an agreement on a start date that would I say make everyone comfortable. I think that is a date of early April, which is basically twice his gardening leave provision has been discussed, has been invoked. Nothing has been confirmed yet but that is something we are completely prepared to entertain as far as we are concerned.

If we look back to the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend. It was a great victory for your engine. What does that win say about your power unit, and can you tell us a little about the development plans for next year? Is there going to be a qualifying mode, for example?
CA: Yes, I think it says that we are catching up progressively. We are not quite there at the level of the two gentlemen on my left and right, in particular. I think the Renault powerplant is actually becoming very decent in race operation, but indeed we are definitely missing something in qualifying. Obviously it's always a balance running safe and being aggressive and obviously the more potential performance we have then the more capacity we will have to be aggressive on Saturdays. This is typically what's on plan for next year, even though we believe also that the regulation will help us in bridging any sort of deficit in relation to that on Saturday. So it's positive and I think it's something that McLaren could also see and part of the decision of working with us for the next three years.

James, the last couple of races haven't been the easiest for the team. I was just wondering if you could shed some light on those performances and how confident are you of running a little bit better this weekend at Suzuka?
James Allison: Well, they're two weekends that showed that it's sometimes better to be lucky than good. Nevertheless, if you look at the season as a whole, it has been divided into three types of experience. There have been a few races where we have come out and crushed everything in front of us. There have been a few where we've had the other end of that deal, where we have definitely come off second best. And then a whole lot in the middle where it has been pretty much a 50/50 slugging match. The last two were in the category where we got beaten for pace. We're hopeful from what we've seen so far this weekend that this one will not fall into that category, and that we will be putting up a decent fight of it, and I suspect that it will fall into the slugging match category that most of this season has been so thrilling to be part of for.

Where is the focus at the factory at the moment. The Constructors' Championship looks pretty nailed on, so are you allowing yourself the luxury of focusing on next year back in Brackley?
JA: Well, I wouldn't agree with you about the nailing business, but the truth of it is that every single team, every single year faces the dilemma of how they ramp down their efforts on the car that races and how they ramp up their efforts on the car that will race next year. Every single one of us, the teams that is, will be transferring a substantial amount of resource onto next year's car, because they couldn't fail but to do that. But there is still an amount of residual resource, more than residual, going into this one to make sure that those developments keep coming until later in the season.

Thank you James. Mattia, the last few races for Ferrari have been something of what if. I was just wondering, with reference to Malaysia in particular, if you could shed any light on the reliability problems you had there and how confident you are that you have solved those coming into the Japanese Grand Prix?
Mattia Binotto: You can never be fully confident of solving the problems you have got. It's true that the problems we had were completely unexpected; there are problems that we did not experience both at the dyno or at the race track during the entire season. There were some quality issues with the parts. We failed an inlet manifold of the engine, from the compressor to the cylinder heads, and it happened twice, because we had the same problem with Sebastian in qualifying and Kimi in the race. Obviously it happened twice in Malaysia, in an entire season, so certainly some boundary conditions have affected the overall reliability. This is something that we are analysing. Obviously in parallel we reinforce the components, but it's something which we still need to better understand.

The last couple of race we haven't been able to see what your cars have been capable of, but fastest in practice in Suzuka this morning. How do you assess the pecking order now in Formula One? Do you think you have the fastest car?
MB: I think qualifying is the best way, somehow, to evaluate it. We had the pole in Singapore, true, but we were not on pole in Malaysia. So I think we have progressed, we progressed through the season. I think for us battling for the pole, or being on pole was more difficult at the start of the season compared to today. Overall our package has improved but it's never enough. Being fast is not sufficient. What counts is finally winning the race.

Questions From The Floor

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Cyril, regarding Marcin Budkowksi, do we understand that he will reporting directly to you and then people like Bob Bell and Rob White will be reporting to Marcin. Is that the structure that you envisage?
CA: Yeah, that's correct. The official position as announced today is Executive Director, so he will be sort of my right-hand man in Enstone, a place where I am not enough, given all the travelling and in particular the long seasons. So Marcin will be factory-based and Bob Bell, Nick Chester and Rob White will all together report to him.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Mattia, Sergio Marchionne was quoted on Monday as saying that it was unacceptable what had happened in the previous two races and that changes would have to be made. When this was put to Sebastian yesterday, he said he thought that there were some changes coming but they had nothing to do with that. Could you elaborate on that? What sorts of changes are envisaged that if a driver knows about them, they must have been announced internally already?
MB: I think that to improve your performance you need to improve your car and your package but as well you need to improve your organisation. What we are considering is something, already planned, is to improve our quality department. Our quality department will be and somehow is already reinforced and those are the changes that our chairman was meaning.

(Jens Nagler - Bild) James, Lewis referred to the car as being a bit like him - great potential, but doesn't always do what it has to do. Is the car a kind of a diva or is it, in the end, understandable, what it does?
JA: It is difficult but it doesn't disobey the laws of physics. It is clearly understandable but that doesn't mean it's always easy to get the best from it. It's been a challenge this year to achieve the results we have with, but nevertheless we have achieved some pretty decent outcomes with it, so it's not been a bad machine for us. However, we would like a car that is easier to throw at the race track and easier to guarantee that every time we come racing we get every last little bit from it. Such changes as we have been able to make this year we have and we hope that next year we make something with a slightly sweeter temperament.

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