Today's press conference with Zak Brown, Guenther Steiner, Franz Tost and Frederic Vasseur.
A question to all of you first: you had a meeting with Formula One earlier this week. In the broadest terms can you tell us what was presented and is there a positive way forward regarding 2021? Fred, if we could start with you please?
Frederic Vasseur: We can. We tried to cover all the topics of the project. I think that we are doing a good step forward. It's not an easy one because we are 10 teams around the table with different kinds of structure for the company, with different targets, but we are going in the right direction from my point of view.
Zak Brown: I would agree with Fred. Chase rolled out I think pretty much what we were all expecting around budget cap, revenue distribution, governance and technical rules. I don't think anyone was surprised because he has been consulting with all the teams, really since this time last year. And like Fred said, it was all a very positive step in the right direction. It's probably not an ideal situation for any of the 10 teams but given that you have 10 teams you're never going to land on something that works for all. So I think the fact that it's maybe not perfect for any one team means that he got it pretty right.
Guenther Steiner: I think I would like to say the same. There were positive talks. If they would all agree with what we want, we would be done. But they don't. They've got their own thing to think about, so.... No, without joking about it, I think it's a good step forward and hopefully we can get this done soon, because we need to move forward. We need technical regulations, we need the governance, to know how that works going forward, but Chase and Ross they work hard on it and together with the FIA, with Jean Todt, hopefully soon they can come up with the ultimate solution which will please all of us and find the right compromise among the 10 of us, which I don't envy them to try to find the compromise between us 10, but somebody has to do it and they will get it done.
Franz Tost: There's not too much to add. We talks about all the topics just mentioned and I think Liberty Media and the FIA is on the right way forward and I hope that soon we will have a final regulation on the sporting side, as well as the technical side. Regarding the commercial prospect, a little bit difficult, because as you can imagine the big teams do not want to spend less money, the smaller teams want to spend less money. It's early or later a compromise we have to find to have a good and competitive and interesting Formula One in the future.
Thank you. Zak if we could come back to you: there's a new face with the team this weekend in your technical director James Key. During your meetings with him so far, what's been on the agenda?
ZB: Well, it's very early days. James just started on Monday and attended the Strategy Group meeting with me on Tuesday and of course he's been here ever since. I think he's just in observation mode at the moment, getting to k know the team. We've made quite a few changes, starting in the middle of last year, and so it's great to have him on board. And then of course we have Andreas Seidl who will be joining us in a month to run the Formula One team, so once he's joined then we'll be pretty complete on the racing team and then we just need to put our heads down and try to go faster.
James Key is new but there's a returnee next week in Fernando Alonso, who is going to be testing next Tuesday. How do you expect his input to help the team?
ZB: Well, he's got 17 or 18 years of experience in Formula 1, he's got four or five years' experience with McLaren. Obviously a very talented, experienced driver and as we look to continue the development, as the midfield sitting here is unbelievably tight, we're going to value his opinion and feedback and to get three drivers contributing to how we can make the race car better is one third better than having two, so I think his experience will be a valuable contribution.
And his experience in 2018 in particular?
ZB: Yeah, ultimately a lot of this year's car was based on his feedback from last year, so for him to be able to get in the car and recognize the changes we've made I think he'll be able to say that we've gone in the right direction or the wrong direction, we need a little bit more of this or a little bit less of that and make sure that he gives Carlos and Lando as much of a competitive car as possible.
Thank you. Franz, you've got a new driver line-up this year, both of whom have been invited back into the Red Bull fold. First of all, how has Daniil changed since he was last with the team?
FT: You know, when Danill was with us the first time, it was 2014, and he came from GP3 to Formula One. It was a big step in those days. He did a really good job with us and then he went to Red Bull Racing, he also had some good races there, he finished on the podium, but for different reasons he came back to us and he was struggling a little bit. But not because of his abilities or because of his skills. I think in those days our car was not so reliable or so competitive. Therefore it was a really difficult situation. He had then a one year break, was together with Ferrari, he learned a lot, became much more mature and has a better overview of Formula One. He is now back and he is showing his performance. Therefore, we are happy he is with us. Alex is coming from Formula 2. He won last year four races, showed a really good performance and from the first test onwards I was really happy to have him in the team because he surprised all of us by a fantastic performance and also by really good technical feedback. He has also a good overview of how to treat the tyres. I must say that Toro Rosso has a very, very strong driver line-up this year and I'm convinced that both of them will have a lot of success in the future.
That's the drivers, what about the engine? It's your second year with Honda. How much progress have they made last year to this?
FT: They made big steps forward regarding reliability as well as the performance. I must say a big thank you to Sakura because they worked very hard and they closed the gap to the top teams and with Red Bull Racing I think they are this year they are in a position to fight for victories as well as the championship. I am more than happy to work together with Honda, with such an established company.
Thanks. Fred, let's start by talking about drivers as well. Two new drivers. How has Kimi's experience helped you so far?
FV: As you know, even if Sauber was there before, now with Alfa Romeo Racing is quite a new team and we restructured the team last year and the year before quite a lot and we have plenty of new guys and I think that to have Kimi on board is a good push in terms of experience also for the team. Drivers, for sure, they are a pillar of the performance, not only into the car but also alongside and he is part of the development of the company and the team.
And are you confident that Antonio can run him close this year?
FV: Yeah, yeah. He did a very good Q1 in Melbourne and I will be patient. I remember perfectly the press conference last year in Bahrain, because a big part of journalists wanted to ask me when Charles would stop, because he was absolutely nowhere from them after two races and then he was the world champion. You just have to stay calm everybody and to give him the time to put everything together but I am very confident that he will do it.
As you say, a lot of changes at Alfa Romeo Racing over the winter. What's a realistic goal for the constructors' championship this year?
FV: Honestly, it's difficult to have a clear picture from Melbourne. The only thing I think it that you can move, in terms of team, from P4 for P9 or P10 from one session to another one. It's more than tight, more than before, more than ever. It will be a big fight on development and we have to stay focused and to be able to do the same as we did last year, and then we'll see. But I don't want to point to something like this yet.
Guenther, everyone else here has new drivers for 2019. You have the same driver line-up as last year. What advantages has that stability given you?
Guenther Steiner: Just keeping the stability, we hope to have an advantage that the drivers don't have to settle-in, because that always takes a little bit of time: they know us, we know them and for us last year, when we had to decide, we came to the conclusion that's the best way for us forward, just to keep it stable and go on another year with the same driver line-up.
And, what about your ambitions for this year? You finished fifth in the Constructors' Championship last year. Given the size and budgets of the teams ahead of you, how realistic is P4?
GS: I think it's very difficult to say yet - because we had one race, we had one big test and one race and we don't know where we really stand. I think we have to wait a few races to see. That will be our aim. Whether we achieve it or not, I don't know yet - but you always have to aim for something better. As Fred just mentioned, the midfield is very competitive this year. More than ever, I would say. So, you never know what is happening from race-to-race, which I find is interesting. We just try to make less mistakes: we didn't start well in Australia with that one but we try to recover from it and just try to score as many points as possible and try to achieve fourth, which would be better than last year. But you never know. Let's wait and see.
And to get fourth, are you going to have to change your approach regarding regarding development?
GS: No. I think we made big step last year from two years ago, how we develop. We learnt a lot and we'll try to be even better than last year. We will bring developments, we try to make them quicker this year. Last year we were a little bit slow because we don't have our own manufacturing capabilities. We outsource. By doing that a little bit more last year we found better partners, better people which can react quicker. So, we just try to be quicker and do more - like everybody else will do. With these new regulations this year, this is the race to finish best of the rest: basically who can manager their upgrades better and who can do more, and who can get better upgrades.
Check out our Friday gallery from Sakhir, here.