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Australian GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
23/03/2018

Today's press conference with Toto Wolff, Christian Horner and Maurizio Arrivabene.

A question to all of you to start with, what sort of shape are you in relative to each going into this new championship? After all, one of your is likely to be the world champion team at the end of it. Christian, why don't you start?
Christian Horner: First of all, it's great to be back in Melbourne, good to be going racing again. It seems like a long winter this one. A positive first session for us, though obviously difficult to read too much into times but you start to get an bit of an idea. You can see Mercedes taking off where they left off; they look in great shape. I think we made good progress with the car over the winter. The drivers seem happy and I'm envisaging a quite tight battle with Maurizio but I'm not sure at the moment what the delta is to Toto's cars.

Toto?
Toto Wolff: Again, like Christian said, it's good to get started again. We've had a pretty good test, much better than last year. But you're never very sure where that will end up in the first race and the first session was OK, as expected. We didn't see the Ferraris on the tyres that we have been running, and we need a little bit more time to understand, but I would say it's a decent start.

And Maurizio?
Maurizio Arrivabene: I totally agree. With the weather we had in Barcelona, by the way it's the same for everybody, but at a certain point I was a bit laughing because I saw all the engineers panicking but it was for the temperature, for the weather. One day Pirelli didn't provide to use the winter tyres, the snow tyres, so it was quite difficult and we had a day off. Seriously, though, I think I saw Mercedes in very good shape, also Red Bull in a very good shape and I think we are in quite a good shape too.

Questions From The Floor

(Yianni Mavromoustakos- Talkingtalk.com.au) Just for all three team principals, how are you feeling about tyre changes for 2018?
CH: I think Pirelli have introduced a broader range of compounds this year, hopefully better suited after 12 months of experience last year that we won't just end up with one-stop races. I think the conditions in Barcelona... plus the new surface there made it very tricky to get a clear picture and understanding of those tyres, so it's going to take a few race to see how things pan out.

Toto, more strategic variation this year, do you think?
TW: Yes, more variation I think. I think the hypersoft is going to be an interesting tyre because it has the biggest performance gap to the next hardest one, but it will be difficult to make it last during the race so that might end up in some interesting strategies. I'm looking forward to it.

Maurizio?
MA: As I said before, we didn't collect a lot of data in Barcelona of course due to the weather conditions, but the target was quite clear, to have a bit more pit stops during the race, to make the race more interesting and I think we are going to see interesting races with these new tyres.

(John McEvoy - Daily Mail) Toto, a few things about Lewis: what update is there about his new deal, how do you see his state of mind on the eve of the opening race, and what do you imaging is Lewis' view that he could equal Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the greats of racing, and what would it mean it he did it? I know there is a long way to go.
TW: On your first question, the contract we have been discussing before going into the winter holiday and then we kind of left it there to get away from Formula 1 and picked it up again in January and these discussions are going in the right way and we finalising the last topics and there is no reason to not think that is not going to happen soon. He is in a good frame of mind, I've seen him coming back strong from the winter. And in terms of the record. I think whether it plays a role I don't know but clearly with the four championship he is within a very good group of drivers and obviously the next one is to be achieved, but I don't think it's a good omen to discuss it or think too much about it. It's better to look at those records afterwards.

(Phil Duncan - PA) Toto, we saw that Lewis posted a video on Instagram yesterday about a lack of diversity in Formula 1. I just wondered what your views on that are as the team principal of Mercedes and do you think he's got a point and does Formula 1 need to do more to encourage more participation from ethnic backgrounds?
TW: I think that is one thing that is very important not only for Lewis but for all of us. The more diversity we can get into Formula 1 the better it is. We had yesterday an event where we launched Dare to be Different in Australia. That was a good success and whether it is different ethnic backgrounds or girls getting into motor racing, overall I think this is what needs to happen. Eventually this will grow and the balance will be better in future.

(Lawrence Barretto - F1.com) A question to everybody: yesterday Lewis Hamilton was talking about the threat from Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo has talked about how you guys could all be within half a second this year. I'd just be interested to know where you guys think you are in the pecking order. I know we've had just a bit of testing and on practice session but just from what you can gather, where do you think you are relative to each other?
MA: It's difficult to calculate, because we have no clear evidence in Barcelona. I hope we are above my friends here but how I can predict exactly?+

TW: Very difficult to judge. We have seen last year with the new rules that each of the teams has certain strengths on different tracks. I think we could see a similar pattern this year. I don't see somebody running away. But as Maurizio says, it's very difficult to read in a glass ball at that stage.

And I suppose, Christian, it's a long season. At the end of the year last year, Verstappen has the same points as Hamilton in the closing stages, you finished very strongly?
CH: Yes, it's a long season and form will vary from race to race. Twenty-one races is a grueling calendar this year and by the time we end up in Abu Dhabi in November. It'll be fascinating to see how teams have developed during the course of the year. The cars are effectively prototypes at each grand prix and it's really the rate of development between now and November that will dictate the outcome of performance over the course of the season. But you have to say that Mercedes look in great shape and I guess it depends on how fast Lewis wants to go.

(Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Maurizio, every year, the same question: a lot of speculation that this season will be Kimi's last season. How do you see it?
MA: Kimi was driving quite well in FP1. We are at the first FP1 of the first race of the season, let him drive quietly please.

(Arjan Schouten - AD Sportwereld) Question for Christian about Max. When you're 20 years old and you already have sixty races and three wins, are you still a ‘talent' or are you already a more experienced driver?
CH: Max has achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time. He's got that benefit of those three seasons of experience now and I think he'll put that to go effect this year. He's already got that databank of knowledge. And last year what impressed me was how he dealt with the difficult days as well as the good days. I think that's all part of developing your character, developing your experience and knowledge - and I think it stands him in great stead. I think there's no further obstacles to him in terms of experience. He's gone through that now and I think he's in great shape. He's trained hard over the winter and looks sharp for the season ahead.

(Dan Knutson - Auto Action / Speed Sport) Gentleman, a new season, the same story: the big three and a gap to the rest. If you could make one or two suggestions to Formula One as a whole to close up that gap, what would you do?
TW: Difficult one. I think, we don't want to make excuses and say it has always been like that. If you look back the last 20 or so years there's always been two, three or four teams that have been more dominant - but clearly looking into 2021, it is something we need to address, everybody wants to see a tough fight at the front and wants to see the odd freak result, an underdog being capable of making it all the way to the front - but it's not trivial. It is a resource game and there is one factor that you can't change and that is time. Organisations are built-up over time, intellectual property is being created and that doesn't happen from one year to the other, and once the wheel turns - and I guess that's the case for all three teams being represented here - it's quite difficult to just put something in the wheel and stop it. In so far it's about, I guess, reducing the gap in terms of resource in a clever way - but this is not going to change overnight.

Maurizio?
MA: I mean I agree with Toto, you can't change overnight the overall rules, or you can't ask Cristiano Ronaldo to not score, because otherwise Real Madrid is too strong. It takes time, for everybody, effort. It's quite a complex matter to create, as Christian said, a prototype every year and especially to develop this prototype during the course of the year - but it's not impossible. Having said so, I think we have many years ago the wave of Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, than another wave with Christian, with Red Bull, now it's a wave of Mercedes. This is a sport and you can't stop a top team playing just to make the game fair. Because otherwise it is becoming an unfair game.

Do you see it that way?
CH: I've got a slightly different slant on it, I suppose. For me the most damaging thing over the last five years has been the introduction of the current engine regulations. I think if you look at Formula One as a whole, I think the regulations for both chassis and engine are too complicated. That drives cost, it drives complexity, it drives distance between the teams, so for me, I'd be all for simplification. Simplification of the power unit, simplification of the chassis, go back to basics of making the driver the biggest variable, whereas at the moment the driver is not a big enough variable. We want the best drivers competing against each other. I think you're always going to get variances depending on the skillset of the teams, and even if the teams have all equal budgets, you will still have teams that will perform better than others. That's competition. We see it in other formulas. For me, the biggest issue in Formula One at the moment is the regulations that dictate cost, performance and divergence in terms of powertrain.

Check out our Friday gallery from Melbourne, here.

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