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Abu Dhabi GP: Friday Press Conference Part 1


Can I start by asking all of you to pick our personal highlight moment from the 2017 Formula 1 season?

Toto Wolff: My personal highlight was the birth of my son, this goes beyond anything else. My Formula 1 highlight is probably Hungary, which for me was a very difficult race and very difficult decision-making at the end of the race but somehow was important to reconfirm the values of the team.

Maurizio Arrivabene: Hungary, for different reasons. Then I have to say also Monaco. Monaco was a quite good race. But Hungary in my opinion was the best. I have to add also Brazil, because in Brazil, when the championship was gone, I think the team demonstrated character and also they reacted quite well and so, if I have to make a choice, Brazil finally, for the reasons I described before.

Christian Horner: Well, it's been a year of births all round, so earlier in the year being able to witness my son born earlier in the year in January. Then, probably Max's overtake on Lewis, because we haven't seen it much, to win the Malaysian Grand Prix. Yeah, that was a pretty sweet moment.

OK, thank you. Toto, four consecutive Drivers' and Constructors' titles, the same as Christian managed a few years back. So only one question: can you keep it going in 2018, or were the problems that you encountered this year a warning sign that the tide is beginning to turn?
TW: I think the years before were outliers. We managed to have a really good package together, between chassis and power unit, and this year what we have seen on track, the fight between the three teams, is probably becoming more the reality for the years to come. The most important thing is to stay humble, feet on the ground, not take winning for granted but on the contrary, respect the others, respect they job they are doing and if you win in adverse conditions it's even sweeter. In so far, our expectations for next year are to have a competitive car again, win races again and be in the fight for the championship.

And Christian, Max is the highest points scorer over the past five races, even ahead of Hamilton. Is that a sign of what's to come in 2018?
CH: Yeah, the problem is that the championship is over 20 races this year so...! The last five have been good for him. Obviously we want to try to take that momentum into 2018 and so, yeah, the recent couple of months have been quite rewarding.

Maurizio, five wins and five poles, that's more than Ferrari have managed for quite a few seasons now. So is there satisfaction in that or sadness that the title slipped away from you in September and October?
MA: Of course the number of pole positions and so on they are important somehow but the most important is the championship. The good number that we have at the moment is demonstrating the good job of the overall team but the fact that we were not able to win the championship means that it's not enough, so we have to push forward to next year to do it better.

A final question from me: if you think back 12 months to when we were here in Abu Dhabi and think about how much has changed in the sport since then, and then project forward to November 2018, where do you think Formula 1 will be at that point. Toto?
TW: Well, 12 months ago Bernie was around. We miss the odd hand grenade flying through the paddock, but this is new times and what we need to do is support the new owners and the management to grow Formula 1. I wouldn't want to predict what will be in 12 months from now. There are quite some things that have been kicked off, some good, some less so to us, but most importantly we are all stakeholders of this fantastic sport and coming back in 12 months I would like to wish that this sport is growing in audiences, growing in fan appeal and that's basically it.

MA: I think we have for sure a good sign of renovation, of commitment, demonstrated by the new commercial rights holder, so for sure we have some positive news. For sure, we are focusing a bit more our attention on the spectators - television and also the spectators at the track. They are quite proactive but the problem is to find the right balance between team needs and commercial needs, talking in general. But I think we have a good sign that they are telling us that the future could be a good future for Formula 1.

And Christian...
CH: I think if you reflect on the last 12 months, as Toto says, many things have changed. This time last year Bernie was still running the show. Obviously in January the business was sold and a new management structure came into place. I think what's been quite interesting and quite dynamic about that is that there has been a steep learning curve for the new guys involved but they have embraced ideas, concepts; they've come with a very fresh, unbiased approach and while they have been going through a learning phase, a building phase over the last nine or ten months, a lot of things that may seem trivial have changed - just how we deal on a day-to-day basis. I think what is going to be fascinating is to see the lessons that been made this year, the infrastructure that's been put in place, the people that have recruited, how that's going to affect future years, because it's not going to be just next year, it's going to be the next three to five years. I would certainly hope that in 12 months' time we are sitting here with all of our drivers in contention for a world championship and for it to go right down to the wire. Toto has had it far too easy the last four years and hopefully Ferrari and Red Bull can give a much harder time next year.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Ysef Harding - Xiro Xone News) For all three, we often ask the drivers this at the end of the season, but what do you have planned for the end of the season and what will you look forward to in the short time we'll have off before next season?
TW: What we have planned? Unfortunately there is not really an off-season anymore. The car build is happening as we speak, trying to put the final developments on the launch spec. There is a part of the factory that is almost 24-7 at the moment. There is no downtime between the end of the season and the start of the season. Probably the only time we have it a little bit easier is between Christmas and New Year, we send the office staff on holiday but everybody else if pretty much flat out during that time as well.

MA: I thought that Toto was giving some information about what they are doing, but he is smart enough and didn't give us any information, unfortunately. Having said so, I agree that there is not anymore an off-season. We are working all the time, especially when you have to work on the gap that we still have, so you have certain people, the people that they are all year at the track, for example, the guys who are working during the grand prix, they are taking a bit of vacation, not that much, and all the others they are still working on the new car.

And yourselves? Are you going to take some time off, are you going to have a holiday?
MA: I don't think so. Maybe Christmas but I'm not even sure. But I don't like to sit for hours at the table, to be obliged to talk to people, to be nice. One day. Fine, I have to do it, but I don't eventually like it.

TW: You're not into talking.

MA: No.

TW: Well, I'll pretend to look at the young driver test next week and stay here with my family for two days on the beach and then have two days off. And during Christmas and New Year - as an Austrian you have to go for a ski, hopefully not injure myself this year.

What could possibly go wrong? And Christian, how about you, are you going to take some time off?
CH: Yeah, we're all going to Toto's; we're just debating which hours - the summer house or the winter chalet, where to go. There's a month between now and Christmas and while the operation side of things comes to a close on Wednesday this week, after the test, back in the factory the design and production side of the business is all running flat chat. So there are commercial things to get tied up between now and the end of the year. So usually you're flat out right up until just before Christmas. Then you break up for Christmas; then you get ill. Yeah, I'm looking forward to Christmas with the family and yeah, then before you know it it's new year and away you go.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - Las Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for all of you, it's about what we heard today that there is a McLaren issue about the fin and if you talked to your technician about that and if you are worried for the overall picture of the cars next year?
CH: A month of so ago we had a meeting and I though we all agreed that we were going to leave the fin as it was and stick the number there. And then in usual fashion we left the meeting and things changed and Zak decided he couldn't see his rear wing - he's obviously signed a major sponsor for next year and he's trying to get as much coverage as he can, so McLaren presented another variant. The problem is that the aerodynamicists then looked at it and said "well, that screws up the rear wing, so we don't want that". So I'm not quite sure, as we sit here, what we got. I think it goes back to what's in the regulation, which is no fin and so we have to just work out where to stick the number. Maybe we'll have another chat and see if we can persuade Zak this weekend to put the fin back.

TW: I personally hate the fin.

CH: You've got one driving for you!

TW: True, not all fins! I personally think it ruins the shape of the car. Obviously it has an aerodynamic purpose and some cars benefit more from having the fin and have more stability and more crosswind instability, but overall it's not the nicest of elements in general.

Maurizio, what about you, you've also got a Finn in the car, do you want one on the car?
MA: I'm quite neutral. I'm waiting for a decision. What is quite funny is that Zak said that the fin was interfering with the rear win, and in the meantime he said he would like to have more commercial space. So somehow he is removing the fin and doesn't have anymore that commercial space, and on top he needs to find space for the number, so I think there is something wrong here.

TW: You se what we talk about in the Strategy Group...

Q: (Arjan Schouten - AS Sportweld) For Christian: Max told us after Brazil that Renault switched the power of the engine into a bit safer mode, with a bit less power. Any signals that it will be a similar case here or will it be last race, risk it all?
CH: I think obviously after the events of Mexico you can understand Renault being a bit nervous in Brazil, which is also a quite high altitude race. But coming here, last race of the year, nothing to gain or lose in the Constructors' or Drivers' championship, I think we should go for it with both cars, and hopefully that will be the approach of our engine supplier too.

Q: (Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Maurizio, talking about the Finns...
MA: You have Bottas too!

Check out our Friday gallery from Yas Island, here.


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