Today's press conference with Frederic Vasseur, Toyoharu Tanabe, Mario Isola, Otmar Szafnauer and Christian Horner.
Q: Mario, if we could start with you please. Cast our minds back a couple of weeks please, to Austin, when the 2020 tyres were tested by the teams. The feedback was mixed, what did the teams tell you, and what's the plan going forward with these tyres?
Mario Isola: Yeah, as you said, the feedback was mixed. I believed that we had quite difficult conditions in Austin. It was very cold and the new tyres are designed with a different philosophy. So the plan now is to test them again in Abu Dhabi where we have a two-day test planned specifically for testing the new construction and new compounds, so we will have a comparison that is more reliable compared to Austin. We tested this new construction during the year with the teams and with their cars and we found an improvement in terms of overheating, in terms of compounds with a wider working range - but mainly the new construction was designed because every year the performance of the cars is increasing and obviously we have to follow this increase in performance. If we don't change the construction, the only possibility is to raise the starting pressure - and raising the starting pressure is making the overheating worse and the behaviour of the tyre in general worse. So, the new construction has been designed with the target to keep the pressure as low as possible, according to the improvement in the performance of the cars. So, I hope that we can have a test in Abu Dhabi that is more representative. I fully understand during the race weekend all the teams are focussed on the race weekend itself, so they cannot adjust the set-up of the car - the aero-balance of the car - and the new tyres have a different profile. They are wider, especially on the rear, and this has an impact on the downforce of the car, as well as the balance of the car. So, we need a bit more time to test them properly on long runs, to understand if we achieve this target. After that, obviously we are very happy to accept any... not accept any decision but to discuss the result of the test and to see what is better for the sport.
Q: Looking further ahead, the 18-inch tyres for 2021 were tested by McLaren at Paul Ricard recently. What feedback did you get from the drivers and the team?
MI: It was positive feedback. They said that the 18-inch tyres were better than expected. They are more reactive, we confirmed some results that we had with Renault at Paul Ricard in September. So now we are finalising the 2020 test plan. Obviously we will have another 25 car-days of tests but I'm very positive. And in any case, what we have developed for the 2020 tyres, we have some concepts that we can transfer to the 18-inch tyres. So, it's useful to keep this direction for the future.
Q: Fred, coming on to you. We've asked you this question for a while now and you've finally got an answer for us: Alfa Romeo have re-signed Antonio Giovinazzi. Can you tell us your reasons for that?
Frederic Vasseur: I think he did a very strong second part of the season, he improved a lot. He is now matching Kimi in quali and I think the issue is not on the driver side. We have to stay focussed on this and keep a consistent line-up, and it will be the best thing to do.
Q: You say the issue isn't with the drivers. Let's turn our attention to the team. How well has this year gone for you and what are your plans for the team in 2020?
FV: The plan is to do a better job next year for sure. We started pretty well this season, we were P4 after five or six races and then we started to have an issue. Different issues, not always the same, but we didn't score a point in the second part of the season - or one or two points - but it's not an issue always with the pace and, at the end of the day, we are doing too many mistakes collectively and this is the big issue.
Q: Otmar, Checo told us in the press conference yesterday that 2019 has been a difficult and disappointing year for Racing Point. Would you agree with him?
Otmar Szafnauer: Well, it's not what we wanted. We definitely wanted to be a little bit further ahead. We're just one point ahead of Toro Rosso and 18 behind Renault, so yeah, we were hoping to be fifth or fourth this year, so from that regard, it's a bit disappointing. However, having looked back at what happened the year before this, when this year's car was in development, we were in a bit of turmoil, especially financially, so it's not surprising - although as a team we always want to do better.
Q: As you say, you're 18 points behind Renault, two races to go. How do you fancy your chances of catching them and even beating them?
OS: Well, we'll do our best. If we can mind the weighbridge and not start from the pitlane, that should help. Collectively, if we do a good job... but I think it's not just up to us. I think we'll need a bit of luck to be able to catch them - but we'll do the best we can.
Q: Tanabe-san, has this been a better first season with Red Bull than you expected?
Toyoharu Tanabe: So far, after 19 races in this season with Red Bull, we achieved positive results compared to previous years. And then two wins, one pole position and then, additionally, both teams on the podium in German Grand Prix. We made considerable good progress in the year. We want to do our best in the rest of two races in this season and then we want to carry over this positive progress and the momentum for next year.
Q: As you say, lots of progress but has it been better than you expected, coming into the relationship?
TT: In terms of the relationship, I think very good. And then, so far the results of the race depends on the performance compared to other competitors. It's not easy to say good or bad. As a result, as I said, we got wins and a pole position. It's good progress in the relationship.
Q: Thank you. Christian, perhaps I could bring you in on this. How would you sum up progress with Honda during this first season together?
Christian Horner: I think it's been really positive. It's been a great relationship. The two companies are working really well together. In our first year we have achieved seven podiums to date, two grand prix victories, two pole positions - albeit that we only started from pole once - but yes, the progress that has been made with the introduction of each engine has been great to see. Reliability has been strong. This year was always going to be a transitional year in this first year of this new partnership but it feels like momentum has built through the year and with stability of regulations in all areas for 2020, we're really looking to take the positive momentum from RB15, the current car, into RB16, which will be our 2020 contender.
Q: Better than expected?
CH: I think in many respects, yes. I think if you look at... there were a lot of questions as to why we had made the move to Honda. I think very quickly, at the first grand prix, we achieved a podium. We've scored more points than we had at this time last year. All around, reliability has been strong, performance has been getting better and better. I think on the chassis side we were affected more than we thought going into the year by the front wing regulation change and Honda have certainly exceeded our expectations in all areas. So, it has been a really very positive start to this partnership.
Q: Christian, just one more question for you. You've re-signed Alex Albon for 2020. Just your reasoning behind that?
CH: Obviously Alex has done a very good job in his first year in Formula 1. He started the year at Toro Rosso and we then took the opportunity at the summer break to promote him into the senior team. The reason behind that was to have a look at him within our own environment. And since stepping into that seat he's finished in the top six at every grand prix, sometimes having to start from the back of the grid or even the pit lane. So, he's driven exceptionally well. He's given great feedback; his pace is improving and improving, at many circuits at which he's never been to before or countries he's never been in, like here in Brazil this weekend. He's earned the seat on merit. We're excited about his potential for the future. It was a relatively straightforward decision to come to, to extend his relationship with the team as the partner for Max in 2020.
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Christian, on Alex: he's had a pretty rollercoaster 12 or 13 months from thinking he's racing in Formula E to getting his F1 opportunity, driving an F1 car for the first time just before pre-season testing in the shake down and then obviously the Red Bull call-up. Now he's going to be going into next year in a car you hope is going to be fighting for the title. Have you ever seen a turnaround like this in someone's career and how well do you think has Alex handled that?
CH: What it demonstrates from Alex's side is great tenacity. Originally he was part of the junior programme, he was released from that early on in his career and he really had to fight to retain a career in motorsport and rely on his talent, tenacity and never-give-up attitude. And the way he applied himself, you know, driving for Fred's team in Formula 3, he pushed Leclerc hard that year. Formula 2 he graduated to and he had a strong career in Formula 2 and then, as you say, he was off to another discipline and then, ironically, trigged by the events created by Daniel's decision to leave to Renault created this opportunity for him to join Toro Rosso and then very quickly you could see that he had a decent talent and great race craft and that's continued and grown. And then the opportunity came for us to have a look at him within Red Bull Racing. It just shows that if you have the right commitment, the right attitude then things can turn around and talent does always rise to the top.
Q: As a follow-up to that, can you compare and contrast Alex with Pierre Gasly?
CH: I think that obviously for Pierre it was very tough for him coming into the start of the season off the back off two accidents in pre-season and that I think definitely affected his confidence and of course being the team-mate to Max Verstappen is a very tough job to have, having that reference point. For Pierre, it was a difficult first half of the season for him. Obviously we felt that with the pressure building on him, the public pressure, the media scrutiny, it was right to remove him from that and put him into the slightly less pressured environment of Toro Rosso. And since that switch I think he has driven again exceptionally well. You can see his confidence is growing. He's driven some very strong races and his pace is getting better and better. He looks happier in that environment, which is good to see.
Check out our Friday gallery from Interlagos, here.