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Japanese GP: Friday Press Conference


Today's press conference with Christian Horner, Masashi Yamamoto, Franz Tost and Frederic Vasseur.

Yamamoto-san, you introduced an engine upgrade in Russia. How much of a step forward is that? And in more general terms, how much progress have Honda made this season?
Masashi Yamamoto: Regarding this season, we were not as quick in the development as we would have wanted to. However, recently, everything has been much better, especially regarding the combustion chamber. We have upgraded it, and it's finally complete, and very successfully complete. Regarding Russia, and the problems we had with the other engine, it had regard to the calibrations but we have fixed it since Russia, and within this one week before the race in Suzuka, we have fixed that issue and so I suppose Mr Tost can look forward to great weekend.

How are preparations going for 2019 with Red Bull Racing? Do you feel a big pressure to deliver top results?
YM: Yes, regarding 2019, we are very pleased to also work with another top team. We believe Red Bull is a top team in Formula One. We - me and Christian - we have had great communication throughout the year, and obviously there is pressure, however this pressure, we turn it into good energy, and this good energy will bring us fantastic and fabulous results. Of course, with Team Toro Rosso, Team Red Bull on both sides, pressure into great energy, great results for 2019.

Franz, you had a busy week leading up to Honda's home grand prix. I believe Sakura on Tuesday, Wako Wednesday, Suzuka factory yesterday morning. Just tell us what you found in each place and about your experiences this week.
Franz Tost: And Tochigi! You forgot another company. No, it was fantastic, the visit with the two drivers, all the different factories here, the research and development factories from Honda. The people were very enthusiastic and they liked to talk to us, to ask questions and I must say the Honda employees are really Formula One fans and I hope that we can provide them with good results, so they can see all the hard work which they have done in the last months come to a successful end.

It was announced recently that Daniil Kvyat is going to return to Toro Rosso next year. After a year with Ferrari, what kind of a driver are you expecting back in the Toro Rosso fold?
FT: I was with Daniil Kvyat out in Sochi, we had a fantastic dinner together, he is relaxed, I have the feeling he is much more measured that the year before. I expect a competitive Daniil Kvyat. We all know he is very fast, that he has a very high level of natural speed and he just has to sit in the car, push the right-hand pedal and you will see he will show good results because he can do it. We all know this.

Christian, we've just heard from Yamamoto-san about Honda's preparations, their hope for good results next season, can we just get your take on how things are going with Honda. How are advanced you are.
Christian Horner: We've been very impressed with the progress that Honda have been making during the course of this year. Obviously, we're now working closely regarding... incorporating the engine into RB15 for next year. I have to say the communication has been excellent between both companies. We're hugely impressed by the effort, commitment, desire, determination to succeed that there is in Honda. Certainly, when Yamamoto-san talks of energy, we're not lacking any energy within Red Bull Racing, regarding the 2019 season.

Bringing it back to this year, you're now 101 points ahead of Renault in the Constructors' Championship, so you're pretty much nailed-on for third place. How has that affected your preparations for next year? Have you started work on the new car earlier than would be normal?
CH: Well, we have a regulation change coming for next year, the front wing changes the characteristics of the car quite significantly, so we're effectively in no-man's land in the Constructors' Championship, so obviously, a large amount of resource is already being placed into next year's programme - but of course any updates we can introduce and learn from, we're bringing trackside.

When did you start work on next year's car?
CH: It becomes a transient process. So, obviously as soon as the regulations are released, you start to look at kind of impact that there is and then that ramps up through the summer months. So, pretty much all the design team now are obviously focussed on 2019.

Fred, excitement is building about Charles Leclerc and his move to Ferrari in 2019. We saw another great race from him in Sochi last weekend. Just wanted to ask you how much Charles has changed as a driver, and as a person? The driver who turned up in Melbourne, compared to the driver that's now racing in Japan.
Frederic Vasseur: Compared to Melbourne, for sure he's got a lot of experience. He struggled a little bit on the first event of the season with management, mainly due to the fact we had a very short winter session in Barcelona due to the weather. The first week. The first races were a bit difficult for him but then step-by-step, after second or third race he was able to put everything together and he improved consistently. I think he's still improving.

Let's throw it ahead now to 2019. Kimi Raikkonen was at your Hinwil factory a couple of weeks ago. What sort of work was he getting on with there?
FV: He's not designing the next car! We tried to sit him into the car. The next year car. It went well!

What about Giovinazzi? How excited are you about him joining the team?
FV: For the whole team it's a huge push that we have still a couple of guys who were there when Kimi drove for the team, and the reputation of Kimi at Sauber is still huge. When we did the announcement, that it was a great push for everybody and I think it will be helpful for the team.

Questions From The Floor

(Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Question for Franz, Christian and Yamamoto-san. Regarding Honda's upgrade and the progress we've seen so far. Franz, what are you expecting the difference that will make in the midfield battle? Christian, do you agree with some of the comments from last weekend, that it puts Honda at least level, maybe ahead of Renault, and Yamamoto-san, how do you feel about the comments, the positivity the upgrade has had from Red Bull and Toro Rosso?
YM: Regarding Spec-3, which we have brought in Russia, well, actually, obviously as you know, it hasn't raced yet, so it will be the first opportunity to race with the new spec. According to the results that we'll have after the race, it will be more comparable. We can start comparing data with the other ones that we have used before. So, not only the engine but of course the entire performance with the car.

CH: Well, it's obvious that progress - and good progress - is being made and that's really encouraging for us. Our focus is not on where our current position is. It's where the lead position is. That's the same goal that Honda share. In-roads are being made to reduce that gap to the benchmark in Formula One. You need all elements to be performing to win in this sport, and of course the engine is a key element. We're looking very much forward to 2019 and starting this relationship with Honda.

FT: With the spec-3 engine we must be in Q3 and we must stay ahead of Sauber because they put a lot of pressure on us in the Constructors' Championship. That's the target.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines, A question to Christian and Franz. In the past the Red Bull group has had very close relations with the VW group across various categories - rally, DTM, etc. I believe that: a) you are reducing your DTM involvement and secondly, the relationship you now have with Honda covers two Formula 1 teams and MotoGP. Does this supersede your previous VW relationship or replace it or what are your plans going forward?
CH: Obviously there was a historical relationship with VW across different elements of motorsport. The withdrawal from DTM coincides with other movements going on within DTM. Obviously it's a growing partnership with Honda. And of course Red Bull, who operate in many categories of motorsport, work with many different manufacturers but of course this relationship in Formula 1 is extremely important. There has been a long and successful partnership within MotoGP and we hope some of that success will be mirrored in our Formula 1 activities.

Franz, anything to add?
FT: There's not much to add. Toro Rosso was together with Volkswagen at the beginning and we had a real good co-operation also with them, especially on the sponsorship side, but then we changed the engines to Renault and now to Honda there was not any more the possibility to work together with Volkswagen and we are now with Honda for the next years and we are very happy about this.

(Luke Smith - A question for Yamamoto-san. Could I get a progress update on the Honda young drivers, Makino and Fukuzumi, in Formula 2 for 2019 and your plans to keep them there? And how important is it for Honda to get a Japanese driver on the F1 grid in the coming years?
YM: Yes, obviously to have a Japanese driver on the Formula 1 grid is very important for Japan and for ourselves for the future of this motorsport in Japan. Regarding Making and Fukuzumi. As you know he has won in Monza. Regarding the series that they run in, as you know, the teams have been working with the new regulations, a lot of changes, trying rolling starts etc so it hasn't been a very stable series this series itself. But they are both very good drivers and we are educating them for a bright future.

Check out our Friday gallery from Suzuka, here.


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