Today's press conference with Federeric Vasseur, Mattia Binotto, Guenther Steiner, Mario Isola and Franz Tost.
Guenther, a promising start for the Haas team here in FP1 but it's been another difficult start to the season for Romain Grosjean. Are we seeing a repeat of last year or is it a different set of problems for him?
Guenther Steiner: I hope that he hasn't got the same problems here as he had last year. I think a lot of people would not enjoy that. I think we've struggled as everyone has seen. In Australia we were performance-wise not too bad but we had the pit stop issue. In the races afterwards... I shouldn't say it because I've got Mario beside me, but we had some issues, we couldn't get the tyres to work, which he will disagree with heavily, I forewarn you. But here it seems to be working. But it's too early to say, it's FP1, you know. We at least have to go through FP2 to get to some conclusions. This morning was a good session; it was enjoyable again. Let's hope we can repeat it for the rest of the weekend and we don't do any damage in the race.
But from Romain's point of view are you seeing more consistency from him this year than at the same stage last year?
GS: Absolutely. He's very calm. He cannot do anything about it. He stays very calm, he stays focused, and I've all the confidence that he doesn't repeat what happened last year.
Now, you've already touched on tyres. You were quite outspoken about them after the race in Baku two weeks ago. Just tell us what the issues were?
GS: Mario knows better than me. He's the expert on tyres, not me you know. We have got issues, we cannot get them to work, we cannot get the heat into them on certain kinds of tracks and that is our problem. I said in Baku that we would be struggling, beforehand. Here I was more confident, not completely, be should get them to work here and we get them to work here. But we have an issue that we cannot get the tyres to work at each track, so that is our issue.
Thank you and good luck this weekend. Mario, perhaps we could get your reaction to some of the comments Guenther came out with in Baku?
Mario Isola: Yeah, I believe that Baku is quite a unique circuit, where you have an asphalt that is very smooth and so is not going to generate energy into the tyre, you have a long straight, cold weather conditions, the tyres are losing a lot of temperature and we know from the past the characteristics of the circuit. Last year, when we developed the current product, we were require to have a product without blistering - you remember last year we had some race with blistering - and to reduce overheating. That was a clear request from the drivers. So basically, our tyres have been developed with this in mind. Also, the working ranges are probably a bit higher than last year. But we didn't experience any issue here in Barcelona in the pre-season test. We had good weather, but it was February, March, and the same in Melbourne. In Bahrain, OK, I had a chat with Guenther, I know their situation, and I hope they find a solution to that but I cannot say that it is a common problem to everybody. In Baku, because of the circuit characteristics it was a bit more difficult to keep the front and rear tyres in the right operating window. The operating windows cannot be narrower than last year because don't forget that we have two compounds, that we call C3 and C4, that are the same compounds as we had last year, so at least with these two compounds we have the same operating window, and this is the analysis I can do now.
Apart from the two compounds that are the same as last year, have the new compounds become harder to work with for the teams?
MI: I don't think so, because the C1 and C2 are slightly softer than last year and with the C5, which is equivalent to what we called the hypersoft in 2018, the main issue was the graining and the new compound has a better mechanical stability with the same or wider operating window. Obviously we have to discover that in the next few races, where we are going to use this compound. They tested this compound in Abu Dhabi, they tested it in Barcelona, because it was a free choice of all the five compounds, and I believe that the new compounds are not more difficult to manage.
Looking a little bit further ahead, you announced yesterday that Formula 2 will use 18-inch tyres in 2020. What can you tell us about your testing programme ahead of Formula 1 making the same changes in 2021? Have you decided how that's going to work yet?
MI: Yeah, for Formula 2 we obviously have a very packed test programme because we have to develop the tyres in six or seven months. We already agreed a test schedule with the promoter and with the FIA. For Formula 1 the intention is to have three sessions - September, October and November - and three teams are going to supply the mule car, and they are Mercedes, McLaren and Renault. And we are going to offer the opportunity to provide a mule car for 2020 again to all the teams, it's their choice if they want to do that or not. So it's the same system and the same procedure that we have used in the last few years. We offer to everybody, teams can accept or not and then we make a plan according to the number of teams that accept it. We have 25 days of testing for next year, as it was in the last few years, so we have a short development plan for 2020 in the first half of the season and then we switch on 18-inch tyres from September onwards.
Thanks. Franz, perhaps we could move on to you. We heard from Guenther an overview of Haas' start to the season, perhaps you could give us your thoughts after the opening four races from Toro Rosso's point of view?
Franz Tost: Toro Rosso has a competitive package. We have a car that works well, we have a powerful engine from Honda, and two drivers that are also competing quite good. We scored points in all the races apart from Baku but I think Daniil could have finished there in the ninth or tenth position but unfortunately he was involved in a collision with Ricciardo. I'm quite positive that we can also be here within the first ten. Generally speaking I think we are in the position to come with at least one car in qualifying three and to score points.
OK. A word about Alex Albon as well. He was something of an unknown quantity coming into this season. Has he surprised you with how quickly he has adapted to Formula 1?
FT: Yes, it was a positive surprise, because as you know, if a young inexperienced driver is coming into Formula 1 there is always a questions mark, but I said already during the test sessions here in Barcelona in February that Alex could become the driver surprise of the year and so far he has done really a very good job, with good technical feedback on the mechanical side and the aero side, but also regarding the tyres he understands how to use the tyres in the best possible and we are really very happy to have him in the team.
Thank you, Franz. Fred, coming to you, we saw some compliance issues with the front wing of Kimi Raikkonen's car in Baku a couple of weeks ago. How have you resolved that for this race? Have you reverted to an older spec or have you updated the Baku wing?
Frederic Vasseur: Just to clarify, that I think first we were out of the spec, we did a mistake, and perhaps you could consider that the decision was a bit harsh, but it's like this, we have to clean in front of our door first and I think the mistake was on our side and for sure that we are not coming in Barcelona with the same wing.
It's been a strong start for Alfa Romeo this year, particular on Kimi Raikkonen's side of the garage. But we saw progress from, Antonio in Baku. How confident are you that he's made a breakthrough and that he can progress and challenge Kimi for the rest of the season?
FV: I think if you look at the first four races I think he was into the pace but I think we made on his side too many mistakes. He had some reliability issues. He got the penalty in China first, he didn't do the quali and then in Baku... OK it's far too much, we have to give him a clean sheet one week and to do a proper job, but I think he is improving. He was in front of Kimi in Baku, and he did a very strong quali also in Melbourne. No, I'm quite confident that he is very focused and motivate and the results will come and will help.
OK, thanks Fred, good luck with that. Mattia, we're back Barcelona, where two months ago Sebastian in particular was singing the praises of your car. The driveability then seemed to drop away when we went racing. After FP1 today can you tell us, are you back where you were in March?
Mattia Binotto: I think we never dropped away. I think that certainly we had a strong winter testing, but I think that our main competitors were as strong as we were at the time, and on the last day of winter testing they scored the same lap time as us. As a matter of fact, I think we already mentioned that they would have been very strong as well. I think that since then we are both developing our car. The car developed, so coming here it's certainly not any more the same car we had at the time, the weather conditions are completely different, the heat is certainly a different factor. So, are you exactly, let me say, on the same page? I don't think you can compare. I think more important that it's a relative competition so it's more important that we are focusing on the weekend and trying to optimize the car and the package, and we are doing our best.
You've bought a host of upgrades to this race. A lot has been made of the power unit upgrade that is a couple of races early. Can you just tell us what's been going on in Maranello to bring these updates forward? Are people working even harder than normal?
MB: Obviously when you are planning such a change on your schedule you need to do it a few weeks ago. It's not something we decided within that week. Having started the season in Melbourne we recognized that somehow we may have been late on our let me say performance compared with our competitors and we tried simply to push on all the main items where we were already planning developments. We were simply looking for opportunities in anticipating some of the programmes. We did it already with an aero package in Baku which was somehow introduced earlier compared to our initial programme. We did it here as well for the power unit. You simply achieve that by trying maybe sometime to shortcut or intensify the activity. I have to say that the people back at Maranello have worked very hard, we intensified our activities, and we are working still very hard, as it seems that's what we need to do at the moment.
Check out our Friday gallery from Barcelona, here.