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Abu Dhabi GP: Friday Press Conference


Today's press conference with Cyril Abiteboul, Maurizio Arrivabene, Christian Horner, Otmar Szafnauer and Toto Wolff.

Cyril, if I could start with you please: major news surrounding Carlos Ghosn. As one of the architects of the F1 programme, what impact is this going to have on Renault's F1 project?
Cyril Abiteboul: Well, I think it's fair to say that, indeed, Carlos Ghosn was instrumental in the decision to return in late 2015, but obviously it's not just one man's decision. It was debated at length in executive committee, at board level, and that was the decision of the company. We have been racing in Formula 1 since more than 40 years. We are part-way on the journey of a long-term plan - six years. Six years to build the team, six years to hopefully challenge these guys. That's where the focus is at the minute. There is a clear continuity of all the operations with Thierry Bollore, who is no stranger to Formula 1, as he has been a director of the board of the team since 2016, so obviously this is where we need to focus and support Renault in that overall continuity.

So, in conclusion, are you saying there will be no impact?
CA: We have no information that there will be any impact. We don't see any reason why there would be more impact on this programme than on anything else. For the time being: continuity, focus on what we have to do, which is complete the championship in the best possible way this weekend and then focus on the second phase of our plan in Formula 1, and this is the success that will matter, the success or lack of success, and this is where I need to deliver.

Thank you. Maurizio, coming to you: Ferrari came close this year, statistically your best season since 2008. What additional resources do you need to bring to the programme to beat the guy sitting next to you in 2019?
Maurizio Arrivabene: The habit to win.

Is there anything you need to change within Maranello to help you do that?
MA: Not really, maybe kind of reinforcement but, as I said, but we need to swap our mind and to work a bit more on the habit to win.

And is there anything you can do to instil that winning mentality?
MA: I already gave you the answer, OK? Thank you.

OK, thank you. Christian, if we could come to you please. You're losing two things after this weekend - Renault and Daniel Ricciardo. Can you reflect on the contributions both of those have made to Red Bull?
Christian Horner: Yeah, it's slightly awkward, because I'm sitting next to Cyril who is taking both elements back after the weekend. I'll start with Renault. It's been 12 years... Cyril was making the tea when we first started with Flavio.

CA: He's always nice!

CH: It's obviously had its ups and down but overall, if you look at the record and what we have been able to achieve - eight constructors' and drivers' world championships, 59 victories so far, well in excess of 100 podiums, 60 pole positions - they've all come with Renault power. Obviously that chapter comes to a close this weekend and we open a new chapter with Honda in 2019. But despite the turbulence that there has been in recent years, we hope to sign off on a positive note, and as I say, close the chapter on the Renault story. With Daniel, he's been with us for 100 races, won seven of them. He's grown up with Red Bull. He was an unknown kid from Australia who arrived in Europe when Red Bull first picked him up, taking him through the junior formulas, into Formula 1 through Toro Rosso and into Red Bull Raving. It's been great to see his development, his growth, and he's been a big part of our team for the past five season. All his seven victories, all the points he scored in Formula 1 have come in Red Bull cars. Hopefully we can give him a good sign-off in his final grand prix this weekend and wish him obviously the very best of luck for the future. But again, as one chapter closes another opens, with Pierre Gasly.

Thank you Christian, hope that goes well. Otmar, your team has been protested by Haas on the eve of this race. How many of a surprise was that?
Otmar Szafnauer: Well, after the protest was lodged it wasn't a surprise at all. But just before that we weren't expecting it really, so a bit of a surprise, but in a way it's good that all of the information can be presented to the stewards and in due course I think they'll make a very informed decision.

Just throwing it forward to this weekend, how competitive do you think Force India are going to be?
OS: Well, looking at our times from FP1, if they are representative, and I think they are, we did a little bit of long running with Esteban at the end and over a lap Esteban looked pretty competitive. We always go well here anyway, so I expect us to be the fourth quickest team.

Thanks. Toto, first time we've seen you in this forum since you won both of your world championships, so congratulations on that, but I wanted to talk to you about drivers and a driver that Otmar has just mentioned. Esteban Ocon was in here yesterday saying that he is going to be working very closely with Mercedes next year, so what are you plans for him?
Toto Wolff: The plans are pretty clear. He's going to be very close to the works team, to Mercedes, he's going to be our reserve driver, our third driver. We hope to maybe do the odd test with him also. We're looking at pre-season and in-season, but that is not sorted out yet. He will spend a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for a seat in 2020.

CH: If you could show him what the flags mean, as well, that would help.

Toto, just before moving on, talking about Ferrari earlier, can you just tell us about how you have viewed the threat from Ferrari in 2018?
TW: Ferrari has ramped up their game over the last years tremendously and I think the performance levels were pretty close to each other. We had a few races where we were doing well and then Ferrari came back and they had the upper hand. I think this fluctuated over the season. In the end we came up with a small advantage, but they have become a formidable competitor. Definitely, if Honda goes with Red Bull next year it might be another team joining the party but with the new regulations anyway it's up in the air if somebody else could be competitive, but we very much embrace the challenge, we enjoy the fight. It's why we're here.

Questions From The Floor

(Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Question to all five please. F1's politics usually exists in its own little world but back in Britain we have a political situation with Brexit and the exit from EU, unravelling, a bit of a mess and no-one knows what the consequences are going to be. All five of your respective teams and companies have links to Britain in some way, shape, or form. How closely are you monitoring the Brexit situation and what do you think the consequences could be at this stage?
TW: We are monitoring it very closely because as Mercedes we have a large operation in the UK. Our motorsport division, call it 1800 people, with a large percentage of EU citizens working for the team. Personally, I try to stay out of politics but this topic is very close to my heart because we forget why we ended up with the European, 70 years ago there was a war and the European thinking was to prevent that in the future. In times where everything changes in the last two years, nationalism coming up in various countries, new alliances forming, others breaking up. My personal opinion - I'm not speaking for Mercedes - is here that we should be looking very carefully at the situation and not risk the economy of a country. So, it is a factor for us, as I mentioned the EU citizens working for us, we are importing lots of goods from the EU, we have taken steps to make sure they are not stuck on the border. Overall, not a very pleasant development.

Cyril, have you got anything to add?
CA: Not much to add. I think we share the same concerns, we share similar footprint, or so from an industrial perspective, Renault and Nissan in particular has important factories in the UK, which is an opportunity for us to have a discussion at a proper level with the public authorities from Great Britain to understand what will be the treatment, in particular for movement of goods and people. Obviously we don't want logistics or freight to be delayed in any shape or form, as well as people. We've gone very quickly in the recent years and it's been done in particular thanks to the possibilities offered by the UK, bringing in youngsters, people are coming out from school, we don't want that to change. That would be dramatic for Formula 1 - but I have full trust in the authorities of Great Britain to understand this is not in their interest to lose what is one of the pillars of British Industry, which is motorsport and Formula 1.

CH: Living in the UK, we're living and breathing it like some of the rest of you guys and you get a little bit bored with, every time you turn on the news, hearing about Brexit: what the deal is; what it isn't. Theresa May, she's obviously doing the best she can with not a great hand - little bit like Chase Carey really! - and it's a complex situation but I think over the next couple of weeks there should start to become some clarity and I think the bottom line is that people will continue to do business with the UK if we're competitive and remain good at what we do. Formula 1 is something that the UK has excelled at in recent years and it's no coincidence that four of the teams sitting here are based all in the UK. Yeah, there's obviously some turbulence around at the moment but hopefully, in the coming weeks and months, they'll be a solution found. There has to be one, ultimately, and it won't affect how we go about our daily business.

OS: We too watch with keen interest because we also hire... we have many employees from the EU and we're based in Britain and have to cross borders quite a bit into the EU to go racing. So, we're watching with keen interest but I have faith that the UK and EU governments will come to an equitable solution that'll be good for all of us.

Check out our Friday gallery from Yas Marina, here.


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