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Hungary GP: Friday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
02/08/2019

Today's press conference with Beat Zehnder, Mattia Binotto, Andreas Seidl, Christian Horner and Claire Williams.

Q: Christian, Max Verstappen is the man of the moment, having won two of the last three races. Can you just give us your thoughts on his current level of performance? Have you worked with a better driver? And how tough is it for any team-mate to match him?
Christian Horner: I think Max, not just in the last three races but during the course of the whole of this seasons, indeed pretty much Montreal last year, he's been driving incredibly well at a very high standard. It's certainly started to come together over the last few races. The win in Austria was a watershed moment, we were competitive at Silverstone, and obviously the race, the excitement of last weekend was a phenomenal performance by him, to keep his head, to have the pace in all varying conditions, and come out on top and win the grand prix. So, yeah, he's in great form and you know, hopefully we can continue that form into the summer break and out of the other side as well. He's certainly delivering at an extremely high level.

Q: How tough for any team-mate to match him?
CH: I think very tough. If you go up against Verstappen at the moment, for me arguably he is the most in-form driver on the grid. That's an enormous barometer for any driver to go up and be measured against. As a competitor you always want to measure yourself against the best that you can. So, he's a benchmark that obviously Pierre is measuring himself against.

Q: Mattia, if we could come onto you please. Rollercoaster weekend for the team at Hockenheim - the disappointment of qualifying and then the brilliant comeback drive by Sebastian. How do you begin to analyse a weekend like that?
Mattia Binotto: I think, as you said, the disappointment at first. I think we knew that we'd got a good car at Hockenheim, we'd been fast on Friday, Saturday and in the race itself. We didn't score the pole but we believed that we'd got the potential for it. And certainly when you're starting a race on the front row or the back of the grid, it's two different scenarios. Again disappointment, because it's more the empty glass. I think it's really a missed opportunity again for us, to have a victory in Hockenheim. And I think as a team it's where we need to focus: first of witnesses of what was wrong during the weekend. On the other side, I think still positive feedback, and we should not forget about them. I think we got, as I said, a competitive car whatever the conditions from hot conditions on Friday or cooler temperatures on Sunday, even the wet, so I think a lot of positives, the strategy of the team, the way we managed strategy, the pit stops during the race, race situations. And the team somehow kept focused after the disappointment of Saturday, and somehow were prepared for a good race. And a good race for Seb. No doubt. We are all pleased for him. I think it was important for him to have such, let me say, a race in Germany with a hometown and the crowd there. So, all pleased by that but I think overall we keep the disappointment of the weekend.

Q: Claire, you scored a point at Hockenheim, pending the appeal by Alfa Romeo. Your team has scored 3561 points in its history - but what did this point mean to you? Was it just reward for all the hard work?
Claire Williams: I think the point Tom, that you made about the number of points that Williams has scored in our history. I think for us to get excited about one point would probably be slightly erroneous. Everybody at Williams has been working so hard this year, it has been another brutal season for us, so I suppose to get any kind of reward, we should take and we should accept gladly - but as you say, Alfa have submitted their appeal against that so I think we're going to have to wait and see - but one point for me, I think, as a Williams, I can't personally be happy with that and I don't think anyone in our team is necessarily ecstatic about it.

Q: Let's move on to Beat and talk about that appeal. You've lodged the appeal after the race. Can you tell us what you've done that?
Beat Zehnder: We've been penalised after the race and we went for appeal, which is the normal procedure if you want to fight, and you think you have some arguments to win - otherwise you wouldn't do it.

Q: What were the mitigating circumstances? Why have you lodged that appeal?
BZ: It's an ongoing process and I cannot give you any information. Everything will be disclosed on the 24th of September when the hearing will take place in Paris.

Q: OK, let's cast the net a bit wider then. You've now been at Sauber for 32 years - the team in all its different guises. What's your assessment of the path that Alfa is now on? Do you feel more comfortable than you've been for several years?
BZ: Of course, we're in a better situation, especially on the financial side. We've gone through very difficult times in 2014, 2015, 2016; we've been close to shutting down the company. And I think this is, with Alfa Romeo and with the new ownership, we're in a much better situation and I think the big achievement of the team is that we're still around.

Q: Andreas, it's been an impressive season for McLaren. You're now 31 points ahead of Renault. Does the size of that gap surprise you in any way?
Andreas Seidl: It's obviously good that we have all these points in the pocket with not necessarily having the fourth fastest car for all the races, so that's good but at the same time it's not something we get carried away with. We have seen, for example at the last race, you just need one crazy race where Hülkenberg, for example is scoring P2 and we have no points and we would have a different discussion today. It's important for us to keep our heads down, to just keep pushing, to bring more and more updates on the track, and keep this positive journey up. But, of course, it's nice to be in this P4 at the moment and we try to fight for that until the end of the season.

Q: Tell us more about this positive journey, because last time you were here you said you'd arrived at a team on the rise. Just how far can you go? Can you challenge Red Bull?
AS: The reality is that we're still getting lapped. If there's a normal race. So there's still a lot of hard work in front of us. But, as I said before, it's important that we keep progressing as a team together with our drivers. It's good to see that the updates are working and hopefully we can make the next step with our car, also for next year. This is really what my focus is on. There's no magic, as we know, in Formula 1. It's down to hard work, to stay focused, and this is what I try, together with the team.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Luke Smith - crash.net) Question for Christian. Tom touched on Max's incredible recent form - I think he's been in the top five for all the last 20 races. He really appears to have hit the potential that we saw in the early part of his career. What changed with Max to cause this form recently? You said Montreal last year. Was it that rough start to last season? How important was that to him do you think?
CH: I think that Max is obviously still a young guy, he's only 21 years of age - but he's now in his fifth season of grand prix racing and he's now got the benefit of experience under his belt as well. His speed, his race craft, has never really been in any doubt but he's got that collection of knowledge and experience now. I think, you know, obviously last year, the beginning of the year was a little challenging for him with some missed opportunities. I think he reflected on that and really turned the corner from Montreal last year. That run of performances really since then has been phenomenal. I think he's continuing to evolve. I think that this year he really has stepped up as well as the senior driver, and he's performing at a very level - and that in turn pushes the team very hard as well. I think with the new relationship with Honda, he's enjoying that working environment, that working relationship as well. And so, there's certainly a very positive vibe around him at the moment.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport) To all five please. The talk about expanding the calendar. If we go up to 22 races do you think we would need to increase the number of engines and engine components you are allowed to use over the course of the season? Would that be one of the defining factors? And what does that do for the costs involved. Obviously F1 wants to bring down the cost, but adding more races, using more engines is expensive. Your thoughts on that please?
AS: Yeah, in principle we support the direction of going for 22 races next year. There's a discussion ongoing at the moment about what that means actually in terms of the number of components to be used and also the costs for a team like us, so that's still ongoing. I think if you look at the bigger picture for us, it's simply important now also to be a bit careful not to increase the number of races even further - for two reasons really. First of all, I think we really need to look after our people and make sure that we don't ask for too much there, because I think if we go now for the next step of even more races we definitely have to change some things inside our organisations, for all teams. And then, yeah, that's pretty much it. The second point of course we understand the commercial point of view but I think it's also important that we keep this exclusivity for each of the events, which doesn't necessarily get better by adding more and more races.

CH: The commercial rights holder has come to us to say, you know, that 22 races is a possibility for next year and would we support it. I think in principle, yes, is the answer, but it has to be combined with what other activities are going on in terms of: do we need to do as much in-season testing as we currently do; do we need to do as much pre-season testing? And I think if we are to introduce a 22nd race the majority of teams are taking penalties and using four engines anyway, so one would assume that it would make sense to increase the allocation on power units and components and perhaps if we look at the ratio and say 'well, OK, rather than using engines for going testing and if we reduce the in-season testing and pre-season testing slightly, if that frees up an engine that the majority of teams they're going to use anyway. From the next race there is going to be a whole raft of penalties coming through, and we're only just halfway through the season, so introducing another race on top of that and expecting teams to get through on three engines and three sets of components is a bit of a tall ask.

Check out our Friday gallery from the Hungaroring, here.

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