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Austrian GP: Friday Press Conference Pt 2

NEWS STORY
03/07/2020

Today's press conference with Mattia Binotto, Cyril Abiteboul and Franz Tost.

Q: (Christian Menath - motorsport-magazin.com) Mattia, on 11 February at the car launch you said that Sebastian was your first option and in May you announced that you would part ways. You said it was a common decision and yesterday Sebastian said he didn't get an offer from Ferrari. Could you please explain what changed from February when you said he was your first option to the decision you took not offering him a contract?
Mattia Binotto: Certainly. Let's take a step back as first, certainly we have always said during the wintertime privately to him and publicly that he would be our first choice, which I confirm. It's normal that during wintertime many drivers have asked us if there are any opportunities to drive for Ferrari. So we have certainly been contacted, but that didn't change our position, so Seb was our first choice. What happened since then? I think the virus, the pandemic situation, which changed the entire world not only out motorsport, our F1. The budget cap has been changed quite a lot, a lot more strict. The regulations have been postponed from 2021 to 2022, which is somehow important for us. Cars which have been frozen, or almost frozen, for 2020 and 2021. So let's say the entire situation has changed and on top of that I think that even the season has not started so there has been no opportunity even for Seb being back on track to prove how much he was really motivated to drive for Ferrari, which has been somehow unfortunate for him. So during the shutdown, as Ferrari, we had to reconsider eventually our position. We took a decision. So certainly that was our decision, it's our responsibility and we communicated to him. I heard that he was surprised. Do I remember that he was surprised., I would say yes, certainly. I understand it. I think it's pretty, let me say, normal to be surprised and while he accepted our decision I think that even still today I think that he is not fully happy with it, which again I think is something normal and obvious.

Q: How would you sum up Sebastian Vettel's time at Ferrari?
MB: I think it has been a great period - five years so far, six with the current season. He is a great champion, but he's as well a great person. I think that everyone in Ferrari, our fans, the people working internally loved the time with him. That's something on which we fully respect. I personally, myself, appreciate him a lot, as a professional and as a person and that is fully unchanged compared to our decision.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines/Racefans.net) Good day gentlemen, a question about fuels for the future. From 2030, Formula 1 intends having zero carbon etc and we have an engine change coming in 2025 or 2026, that's to be decided. How would you like to see Formula 1 go from the current fossil fuels to meet that target? At what stage should we switch to bio-synthetic fuels etc, possibly new technologies? How do you see the future on fuels?
Cyril Abiteboul: Thank you Dieter. It's a big question to ask. Let's take it step by step. What we know already is that there is a first step coming in 2022 with E10, so 10% bio-ethanol fuel. I think first it's important to highlight that we could have postponed, pushed back or even completely cancelled this first step in all the measures that we've been discussing, contemplating but eventually we decided to stick to it, because we all agree that it's a very important statement. It's good to make statements but it's also good to make tangible steps, so that first step was important to secure, even if delayed by a year. Then, looking further ahead, also what we have all agree is to contain the arms race on engine development such that we can leave a bit of space in terms of discussion, but also in terms of thinking and later in terms of development capacity for the 2026, if my memory is correct, 2025 or 2026, ne engine and that's a development that needs to kick of in 2023 and that will leave us one of two years probably to really think ahead what's good for Formula 1. As far as I am concerned, I would tend to believe that fuel needs to be part of that process, which may mean that we could have to delay that second step after the first step that will be for 2022 to the new engine that could be developed jointly with a completely different fuel, because it's important to keep in mind that you don't just throw a new fuel into an existing internal combustion engine. It's a complete redesign, a complete re-optimisation that you need to develop. And what will be the weight of electrification versus thermal engine is probably the first main question to ask and then indeed what kind of fuel you put into the internal combustion. So I accept, Dieter, that I'm not really responding, apart from that it needs to be part of a large process and a large-scale thinking process.

MB: Thank you Dieter for the question, I think it is an important one. As Cyril said, E10 in 2022, which is important, but then we need to look at 2026 for the next important step for manufacturers in that respect. We believe that full electric is not the only solution for the automotive for the future and I think that F1 has to be a platform for innovation in that respect or an alternative solution to the full electric. So, designing a regulation for 2026 where our power units need to become even more sustainable or fully sustainable compared to what we've got today will be key and to have full sustainable fuels will be important. Will those fuels be synthetic or bio or whatever, I think that is exactly the discussion we've got at the moment with the FIA, which is important, but I think our fuel supplier needs to be part of the discussion itself. So I think it's... at the moment it is the right time to analyse it, to discuss it and to eventually decide for the future, because sustainability will be key for the future and F1, as I said, has to remain an important innovation platform for the automotive itself.

Franz Tost: There will be different steps to find this sustainable fuel and I am convinced that the engine manufacturers, together with the fuel companies, will find a solution for this. I am quite positive that Formula 1, once more, could show to the people that research and development plays an important role and that they can come up with a proper technical solution and that we can use and continue the system of the current power unit, mainly to have two energy recovery systems. I think this would be quite a good solution against the electronic cars and I think that Formula 1 will do this important step and will stay, on the innovation side, at the peak of the motorsports.

Q: (Chris Medland - Racer) A question for everyone. I just want to get a general overview of the work you've had to do to get to this point? Obviously the situation has been different in the UK to France and to Italy and how have you been able to prepare your factories and go racing and be here and focus on the racing side?
FT: Yeah, as we all know, at the beginning of March it was quite critical in Italy. There were different districts, so-called red zones. Fortunately, Faenza was not included, but nevertheless Conte, the Italian President, decided that all the companies had to be closed and this depended also to Scuderia AlphaTauri. Fortunately then everything came together with the shutdown with all the Formula 1 teams and we meant we then had this period of around 63 days where we all had to stop working and I think that Formula 1 used this period quite well, with a lot of video conferences between FIA, FOM and the team principals to come up with the new sporting, technical and financial regulations. I think that we used this shutdown quite well to finalise parts of the regulations and that we could come up with a proper solution. The preparation went quite well. The mechanics came back and all the3 other people as well. Of course research and development suffered during these three months, there was nothing, the wind tunnel was as well closed. That means from this point of view from the development of the cars there's a delay but it costs less money so it's also an advantage. I am now looking forward that the season starts here in Austria, thanks to Red Bull, and that we will have hopefully a good second half of the season with as many races as possible.

MB:The situation certainly has been very difficult in Italy, especially, since after Australia we had to close our factory. Not only the racing team but the entire Ferrari factory has been closed. I think we, as Ferrari, have worked very hard to put our people in the most safe situation, especially when they went back to work. Ferrari collaborated a lot with the local government, really to set the right protocols for going back to work. I think we did a fantastic and great job and we have set somehow the benchmark for the entire Italy by putting really rigid, strict, severe protocols, but safe for the health of our employees. Our employees are at the centre of our concerns. And that's not only for the racing team, that has been for the entire factory. So it has been for thousands of people and I am somehow even glad to say that the entire people have been back at work when it was the right time and in the right and safe manner.

CA: What can I add, as a lot has been said. Probably the same has been applied in our two factories, one in the UK and one in France, basically with the UK trailing other countries by a week, but no big difference. Seven weeks of shutdown and nine weeks of shutdown in the UK and then indeed re-starting the two factories with a number of measures. Some of them are actually very visual, pretty much the same: social distancing, wearing masks, with extra care for all the interactions you can have between people, not sharing the same tools and so on and so forth. And also setting some targets, so basically we are right now at 50% of head count in our factories at any given time - with some cohort system, which is pretty much the same as the notion of sub-groups we have on track here. And we are progressively aiming at bringing more people back progressively. Obviously more people in production and in the design office with more people in the design office being capable of working remotely thanks to all the new software we have available and that has been a massive shift of mindset, including from a management perspective.

Q: (Lawrence Barretto - Formula1.com and Philip Horton - Motorsport Week, via email) Does Renault need a big-name signing alongside Esteban Ocon next season and are Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel of genuine interest to the team?
CA: No, what we need first is a driver. We need a driver for each car. We need a quick driver, we need a talented driver and we need a driver that can understand and buy into Renault's project. We are very clear about the nature of our team. We are a bit of a unique team in the Formula 1 landscape, but at the same time very loyal to Formula 1 but also a young team still in the making, with some struggles, in particular last year. So we need someone who is capable of understanding all of that and understand the value of all the work, ethic and effort we are putting into that. I am not saying that Daniel has not understood that. That's absolutely not what I mean. I am talking about the future. We are talking to a few names. Some big names, some lesser-known names. We are taking the time and again making sure that there is a good alignment between what we are and what any driver is looking to get in a team like ours.

Q: Can you put a time scale on when you will make a decision?
CA: No.

Check out our Friday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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