Zak, you've confirmed Fernando Alonso for next year. Some suggestion that it's a multi-year agreement. Can you give us any insights into the scope of this agreement and his ongoing status with McLaren?
Zak Brown: Yeah, we're very happy to have Fernando on board. It was actually done months ago and we just decided to announce it yesterday. Actually that's not true, we just got it done. But obviously we've been speaking with him all season about it. We've structured an agreement that allows us to race together for the foreseeable future but everything moves very quickly in Formula One so right now we're just focused on 2018.
Now, we asked the same question yesterday to him: the Renault engine has won twice this year and had 10 other podiums, so are those the kind of results you are going to be expecting/demanding from your engineering department for next year?
ZB: Yeah, we're here to win races; that's what McLaren has always achieved. Obviously the last few years have been very difficult. We have the drivers that we want, we have the support from our owners, financially, that we need, and we now have a power unit that has been winning races consistently, and championships, over the last decade, so I think we are well suited to get back on the podium next year.
Thanks for that. Robert, coming to you, obviously another fantastic season for Force India, consistent points scoring and a clear position in the championship now. But if you stand still in Formula One you go backwards, so as management, what steps are you putting in place for the future development of this team, and how much does it depend on the package that Formula One presents you in the coming weeks?
Robert Fernley: I think there are two elements to it really. One is that our goal, from our point of view, is to obviously maintain fourth and that's not because we don't want to move forward but it's probably going to be very difficult. I think we almost have two leagues of Formula One at the moment, the sort of premier league with the top three teams and then the first division. And those are separated primarily with a significant payment coming in from FOM and until that's bridged I don't think you are going to see any difference.
You had another team orders moment in Japan where Sergio was requesting to be allowed through. He didn't mind the refusal that came because he said afterwards that it wouldn't have changed the team result but can you give us a view on that decision-making process and how that team harmony is being managed now?
RF: Well, it wasn't really an order as such. Checo was pushing the boundaries a little bit. It was a very easy thing for us to say "just hold position" and Checo was very comfortable with that. It was already organised before we even started the race, if that's where we were going to be, that would be the positions we were going to hold and as Checo rightly says it wouldn't have made any difference to the team's position in the end result.
Gene, great result last time out in Japan, what does Haas do then for 2018. Robert has said he would like to maintain position and that would be a success in itself, but in what areas can you and your team move further up the grid?
Gene Haas: Well, obviously there's a lot of dancing around in the garage in terms of engines and teams and packages changing, so I think that probably makes me more nervous than anything. Obviously if McLaren gets on the podium that's probably going to push us down one position. You have Sauber going with a current-spec engine and Toro Rosso going with the Honda engine, which looks string again, so it could be a real challenge next year to even maintain where we're at now, so I think that's really what we're looking for in 2018. Obviously we have to get better. We've got to race better, we've got to understand the car better and if we can improve that maybe we can maintain our position where we're at now.
The idea of setting up the Haas Formula One team was to broaden the reach of your business beyond the domestic market, so has Formula One so far worked for you in that sense?
GH: It's actually worked quite well. We had a machine tool show over in Hanover, Germany about a month ago and we had a Formula One car there and I probably spent about half my time explaining to customers what we're doing in Formula One and I think it has put a little bit of intrigue into our business. People want to know who we are and what we are doing and I think it just leaves an imprint in people's minds of well, "I know what these guys are going, and maybe I'm going to watch them". It all works in terms of branding, marketing, even in a small niche business like machine tools.
OK, thanks for that. Toto, it's been a pretty impressive campaign from Lewis Hamilton, especially since the summer break - things like that pole position in Malaysia with a car that was clearly very difficult that weekend. Do you feel he's gone up another level this season and what do you think has brought that about?
Toto Wolff: Yes I feel he has gone up a level. It's the fifth year that we work together and in the car and outside the car he's just made a big step forward and it's very pleasing to see that. I think it comes down to the dynamic we have in the team. He gets on with Valtteri and that means there is no controversy at all trackside. We have a really good spirit between the engineering and the drivers, a good collaboration, and it's lifted the whole team up.
We've seen today that Max Verstappen has committed to Red Bull Racing until 2020. Helmut Marko said the other week that Daniel Ricciardo is on the market, would you rule out Mercedes taking an interest in him for 2019 and beyond?
TW: We've renewed the contract with Valtteri. That means that our whole focus is on Valtteri and Lewis for next year, first of all to finish this year as good as possible, and then next year on the two and we haven't thought beyond 2018.
Questions From The Floor
(Dan Knutson - Auto Action and Speed Sport) The FIA is going to announce the new engine rules soon. What do you expect to see and what would like to see as far as engine rules for the future are concerned?
ZB: Very much looking forward to seeing what the new engine rules are going to be. We've all heard snippets of what that might look like. I think everyone is in agreement. We need less expensive engines in general. We need less expensive racing budgets and certainly power units are an element of that. I think manufacturers in the sport are critically important, always have been, but at the same time it would be great to have an independent engine or two, that if you weren't in a situation where you had a manufacturer or you had other options, would be healthy for the sport, as it has historically been. So hopefully rules will be put in place that will allow both manufacturers to continue to enjoy the success and benefit of Formula One, while allowing some independents to come in and provide some maybe more economical but yet competitive situations for engines for teams to choose engine partners from.
TW: I think we are in a pretty good position at the moment because we have multiple manufacturers engaged in the sport, committed to the sport, contrary to many racing leagues where manufacturers have exited so we mustn't forget that this is a solid pillar of Formula One. But I agree with Zak. We're pretty easy with whatever rules come in. We believe that what the studies have said that technology is important as part of the USP of Formula One, so we shouldn't make it low-tech, but equally making it possible for an independent manufacturer to come in, such as Aston Martin for example, would be good for the sport. The more brands we can attract, the more interesting it will be. The way we tackle the situation is we are very interested to hear what the FIA and FOM's position is going to be and then go with whatever they suggest.
GH: We've heard a lot of different technical variations on what the engine will be, so it's hard to speculate. I think it's certainly going to be simpler, they'll probably drop the heat generating unit and I think that's good but I kind of agree with the other voices here that we need to have a specification that allows a major manufacturer to come in an design an engine - and not only the engine but also the transmission - as just having the engine without the transmission really does limit your choices. So it would be nice to have a specification even for the transmission, so that you could get the entire package from the one vendor. These days the engine and transmission really are integral to one another and it's difficult to separate them and make them work smoothly.
RF: I think everything has been said. I would agree with all three.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) A continuation of this topic. I believe that one of the discussion points had actually been all-wheel drive, driving the front axle through some motor-generator KERS situation. Toto, I believe that Mercedes is certainly not anti that. What about the other three? Are you in favour of an all-wheel drive Formula One? Or does that go against, to use a hackneyed phrase, the DNA of Formula One?
TW: I think what I said before, technology is important. If there is an emphasis on maybe not having the -H any more, the heat recovery any more, how do we compensate for 60 per cent of electric energy that is being lost. There are various possibilities and front motors is one possibility. It's not that we are absolutely stuck on implementing front motors but we have to discuss all possible technologies that can compensate for the lack of power.
Robert, your thoughts on this.
RF: I think that all technologies are welcome - but I think it's also the key element of what we're looking at from the engine point of view is to keep the cost down. So, if going to four-wheel drive or whatever combination we have of that is going to increase cost, then it defeats the object of where we're going.
GH: Well, four-wheel drive is entirely doable but like anything else, the details are the math involved. We're talking to Ferrari a little bit about that and they basically came back and said, well, if we get rid of the heat generator and exchanged that for a front-wheel drive regenerative motor, then there simply wasn't enough energy to be recovered. So, you know, you have to be careful. It's the same trap Formula One got itself into when it selected this engine. It seemed like a simple idea but when you started doing the engineering it became very, very complex. Caveat to Mercedes, they got it right. The other teams struggled for a long time. So, I think we have to be very careful before we say "let's just throw a four-wheel drive car out there," because it could be another one of those ones where one team will probably hit a home-run and the rest of us will be struggling with trying to catch up with that. I think simple's better.
ZB: I don't think we yet have a strong technical view. I think we're more focussed on the criteria that we discussed earlier, as far as budget and competitiveness. I think that needs to be addressed. And then what technologies you use within those parameters, I think is to be discussed at a later date but we're certainly not opposed to four-wheel drive.
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