Q: Will all three of you pick your personal highlight moment of the 2017 Formula One season. Zak, why don't you start us off?
Zak Brown: Highlight of 2017 or specifically the Formula One season? I think it would have to be the Indianapolis 500, was a special moment for McLaren and Fernando and I think the entire racing world. So, I think in 2017, we'll look back on that Month of May as a pretty exciting moment.
Mario Isola: I would say the test in Barcelona because with the new regulations, the new tyres and the new targets, it was not easy, and we had also a big challenge and the famous five seconds, the expected improvement of the tyres, and the cars, of course, and Barcelona was the moment in which we confirmed that everything was OK.
Cyril Abiteboul: Well, frankly the 2017 season has really been a rollercoaster so there have been lots of highlights, lots of ups and downs. I guess the best representation of that might be Mexico where it was at the same time a very difficult moment, so you may be a bit surprised by that answer. It's important to make a favourite moment that matters and a moment that shows you that some things that work and some things that do not work. It was a race where we put a lot of effort to actually be extremely competitive and we could see that we were extremely competitive on Friday but we also see that we were too competitive and that we took too many risks, in particular on the engine side with a lot of retirements, lots of issues and those issues, as they are always very difficult, when it's in our team or on any customer teams - for us, there is the reputation of Renault, all the work and effort that we put into that. And at the same time, while Mexico was a highlight, it was a win of Max in those circumstances it was a very strange moment and definitely a moment that I will remember.
Q: OK, staying with you, can you tell us what impact Carlos Sainz has had on the team in his short time there? He's qualified seventh, eighth and eighth, points on debut. How do you evaluate him?
CA: Well, frankly from that summary I think the answer is in the question. It's a very good assessment. He's clearly brought lots of energy, he's brought his motivation, his willingness to continue to progress and to continue to show what he's capable of outside of the sort of Red Bull environment which is a very good environment but sometimes also a strong environment for a driver to cope with. So he's done that, he's also scored some points. We hope he's going to score more points tomorrow or Sunday but also he's shown some very useful directions for the development for next year, because he's coming from a different environment. He was capable of bringing some ideas, suggestions. He's got a very good understanding of the mechanics of the car, the fundamental of the car and it's coming at a time when things were not complete for next year so that's very useful and we are happy to have made that decision.
Q: Well speaking of that, you'll be hoping, like every team to improve your chassis for next season, but for your engine clients a lot is riding on you improving your power unit so Red Bull and McLaren can get amongst the winners next season. Should we expect to see Renault at the level of Ferrari and Mercedes motors next season? Is that what we should expect?
CA: You know I don't want to make any promises. First thing will be reliability because we've seen this season that you need to walk before you run and I think we've been on many occasions too aggressive in the way that we were trying to bring performance and extra power to the engine too quickly because of the expectation of all customers including the yellow cars, so I think we need to go step by step: first be reliable then accumulate as many miles as possible during the winter tests - I think it's important for any chassis organisation. I understand, talking about Red Bull, that they changed their philosophy and are planning for the development of their car but if the engine is not reliable it's going to be useless. So we need to get that. And if we have that, I am extremely comfortable and confident that we have the sort of technological bricks to bring to the engine in order to make steps and to catch Mercedes.
Q: Zak, you have a lot riding on that from Renault. Will you be satisfied with anything less than podiums in 2018 from your team and the opportunity to win some races?
ZB: Well, that's certainly our goal. We're very confident in the Renault engine. They've got a great history in the sport and won half the championships in the last ten, fifteen years. And of course it's a complete package: the drivers, the team, the chassis, the power unit and we're up for it, we're excited, we're well prepared. We think we have the tools that we need so podiums are what we are going to be going for, whether that's the third, second or first step - hopefully it's a combination of all the above.
Q: You referenced Fernando's appearance at Indianapolis in your earlier answer; give us a word on his tests in WEC and also in your Daytona 24 hours team? How competitive was he and what are you learning about his versatility as a racing driver?
ZB: Well, he's a true racer. I wasn't at his test in Bahrain so I've only spoken to him briefly about it. I think he found the way the cars, with their energy systems and the recovery work, are fascinating. I was at the test in LMP2 and as you would expect he was awesome, very focused and what we saw was the least amount of fall-off over a run that we've seen of any racing driver in our cars so he is definitely on the top of his game right now.
Q: And Mario, you unveiled your 2018 tyre line-up yesterday in the paddock here at Abu Dhabi with some new additions. What will they bring to the racing and do you expect to see most races next year featuring all three compounds and more variation in strategy as result?
MI: This is exactly the target to have more compounds. We don't have more compounds at each race; the system is the same as this year with three compounds selected by Pirelli in agreement with the FIA. But with a wider range we can have the right compounds at each race. This year was a bit tricky because with the hard compound, which was a bit too conservative and the other four compounds available, we have to race on twenty circuits with only limited movement across the compounds so the idea is absolutely not to generate more confusion, it is to keep the same philosophy, different colours immediately recognisable by spectators who also decided the name of the pink (tyre) but all the three compounds useable at each race so different strategies: one stop, two stop or even more.
Q: Just picking up on your first answer in this press conference; this year has obviously been the fastest for Formula One as you mentioned. Can you give us some numbers around that and also how the science of your tyres has evolved to cope with the loads involved and yet you're still going one step softer for 2018?
MI: When we design a tyre, we have to consider the end of the following year because obviously during the year we have a lot of development on the car and the stress on the tyre is growing at every race, so it was very useful to have all the data from the simulation of the teams and that gave us the possibility to tune our indoor testing in order to test all our prototypes and check that in terms of integrity they were OK, so this was the approach. And then we were expecting these incredible lap times in some cases, because also the speed in the corner considered that in some famous corners like turn three in Barcelona or Copse at Silverstone or at Spa, we had an increase in speed of 30-40kmh on these kind of corners so all of the lap time improvement was in cornering and not, for sure, on the straights where the additional drag from the wider tyre is limiting the top speed.
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Dominik Sharaf -motorsport-total.com) Question for Zak and Mario: you decided to cancel your tyre test in Sao Paulo last week, due to safety concerns so how do you feel about sending your mechanics, your engineers to a race in 2018?
ZB: You know we obviously were disappointed not to test. Understood, it was a conversation that we had with Pirelli and for 2018 I think we just need better security in the system. I think each team is responsible for their own individuals. We would never put anyone at risk and yeah, unfortunate incidents but we're fully prepared to go back to Brazil next year.
MI: Yeah, I obviously have the same opinion. We talked before on Monday morning after what happened on Sunday night and we agreed, together with McLaren, with the FIA that it was better to cancel the test rather than taking any risk with our people. Next year, I'm sure it will be different because you have to learn from what happened, not just to accept that and next year we will be prepared and I'm sure that also the organisers will put additional effort on that.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Following up Dominik's question, it's not as though the attacks this year were the first ones. If we go back five years, Jenson Button got hi-jacked etc, or attempted hi-jack. There have been continuous attacks so you are saying next year is going to be different. What makes you so confident that next year will be different?
MI: But this year we had quite a big increase in this kind of facts so you are right, when it happened to Jenson I was not involved in Formula One but we know that sometimes it happens. It can happen also in other countries, not only in Brazil but it can happen everywhere and we need to put the best effort to ensure that we are protecting our people in the best possible way. Then, if it happens, it happens.
ZB: It was unacceptable this year. I agree. I think the frequency was greater than in the past but everyone's discussing it so I fully expect the organisers, the city, the FIA, the teams, everyone to sit down and discuss how we can improve the situation so I don't think we're not going to not do anything about it. We are going to take more preventative measures, whatever those may be.
CA: It's obviously extremely sad what happened but Brazil is a great country, it's a great group of people with a fantastic culture for Formula One. We don't want to lose them from the calendar, for sure. There were incidents but my understanding is when the police force was in place, nothing happened so I think it makes sense to make sure that the police forces that were there on site on Saturday and Sunday are also in attendance on Friday and Thursday, if this is what's needed. Obviously this type of event is shedding a very bad light on the country, whatever is happening, so I'm pretty sure that they will do the necessary in order to avoid that in the future.
Check out our Friday gallery from Yas Island, here.