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Belgian GP: Friday Press Conference: Part 1

NEWS STORY
28/08/2020

Today's press conference with Guenther Steiner, Christian Horner and Toyoharu Tanabe.

Guenther, first of all, a quick resume of FP1 and the problems that both of your drivers had please.
Guenther Steiner: The resume is very quick because we didn't do a lap. We had both engine issues, non-related one between the two of them and we have to change engines now for FP2 and hopefully we can get it done in time.

Let's talk about some positive news. Haas has signed the Concorde Agreement last week. In the weeks and months leading up to that, how concerned were you about the future and what were your conversations with Gene Haas throughout all that?
GS: I personally was not concerned. I worked hard to present a case which works for Mr Haas, you know? Because it still makes sense to use Formula 1 as a global marketing tool for his company. We just needed to reduce costs and get more efficient and that's what I did in the time we had off in the pandemic at home, working hard on plans, how to help finance the teams and how to do the next five years. And then, I presented that to him, and it took him a few weeks to think about it and he decided he wants to continue because it still works for his company.

...and of course the deal means that you can now start planning things like driver line-ups. Have those conversations started, and can you give us the strengths of Romain and Kevin please?
GS: No, the conversations haven't started yet because I always said I wanted to first to get the Concorde deal done - or we want to get the Concorde deal done, and then we think about it. Gene hopefully comes to some of the next races and then I can sit down with him and discuss our drivers, or what he will do for the future, which direction we go. I think their strengths are they are both experienced drivers now. They are both with us a long time, Romain even a year longer that Kevin and in the end they did a good job for us - but sometimes you need change. But we don't know. I'm not saying here that we change them: I just don't know what we're going to do. I'm not thinking a lot about that one right now. That will come as well to sit down with Gene and have discussions with him and then for sure he will have his ideas and we'll put everything together and come up with a solution for it.

Christian, coming to you, on the subject of the Concorde Agreement, you signed it first in Barcelona. What was it about the agreement that prompted you to commit so quickly?
Christian Horner: Well, I think we've been talking about this agreement for almost two years now so you have to take a holistic view on these things. I think we'd reached a point where the agreement was what it was and you've got to take a view on it. Liberty have been very clear since the beginning. It's been a lot less fun negotiating with Chase than with Bernie but he's been scrupulously fair and so I think there is a different distribution now, with things like the cost cap and a more even spread of distribution. Teams like Haas will certainly benefit from that. From a Red Bull perspective, obviously, seeing how Liberty have been running the sport the last few years, it feels like commercially they're going in the right direction and this agreement feels less binding than other agreements that we've signed in the past but it's more of a partnership I would say. It's now down to the teams to work collectively with the promoter to improve the show and the appeal of Formula 1. And this is an opportunity by all the participants signing to that to work collectively on that.

Now, looking at this season, we've just had the 17-race calendar confirmed. Given that you're behind in the points, Max 37 points behind Lewis Hamilton, how significant is it that extra races have been added? How beneficial to you?
CH: Well, hopefully it helps! Obviously there's still a long way to go. Usually after what would have been the summer break we'd have had nine or so races left, now we've got 11. It's just great to be racing and obviously every measure and precaution is taken to keep Formula 1 active and going to some interesting new circuits. Circuits that we haven't been to for many years. The last time I was in Mugello I was racing there in 1997. I just hope we do a little better than I did then. To go back to Imola, Nurburgring, Istanbul, again another great circuit, so there's some good challenges coming up. I think the races come thick and fast. Hopefully we can put more performance on the car and it'll be nice to have more days like we had at Silverstone a few weeks ago.

Tanabe-san, starting with the Concorde Agreement, both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri have committed to Formula 1 for the next five years. Are Honda going to do the same?
Toyoharu Tanabe: As a PU manufacturer, we are not involved in this. I think it's a good thing all teams signed to the agreement for the next five years. Regarding your question, I'm taking care of the trackside technical things. I'm not involved in the discussion for the Honda future - but I know that talks are ongoing.

Looking to next weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, there are going to be restrictions on the power unit modes that can be used. What will be the effect of that on how Honda operates over a race weekend?
TT: It happened very fast and actually we are working on how to operate our PU in the qualifying and the race - I mean with the same mode. We need to consider the performance and the reliability, balancing and then, as you said, we have 17 races now confirmed. We need to make a picture to the end of this season, so how to use the PU and how to compete in each race.

Video Conference

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Question for Christian and Guenther please. Christian, you referenced the fact that there was less of a commitment in this particular Concorde. There are constant comments about it being a five-year commitment, is it not more a case of it being a one year commitment for a five-year period? In other words an annual decision that can be taken before the end of March each year? And the other question is, did this particular element make it any easier to sign the Concorde Agreement?
CH: Obviously Dieter, as you well know, the agreement is strictly confidential between the teams and the commercial rights holder, so I'm not going to divulge any of the information within that agreement. But I think that previously parent company guarantees have had to be provided which hasn't been the case in this agreement, so it obviously makes it a lot more tenable in certain areas. It's, as I say, important to see the agreement as a collaboration that we all work for the benefit of Formula 1 to make sure that the product improves, that the racing improves and as a result the stakeholders, the fans, get a better product out of it.

GS: The only thing to add to what Christian just said there - which is completely correct - it's also that you have to see it as... the teams are pretty big, even with the budget cap, the teams will be still big and you cannot plan just months ahead because then you will never be successful. The practical issue of it is that, even if there is a theoretical out, you can do it but you cannot plan for it. Because if you plan for that one, you will not be successful and you will just be wasting your time and money by going year-by-year. So, I think it's as good as it gets and I think most of the teams see it as a five-year agreement, not with the intention to stop it any earlier.

(Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Question to Christian. You've had Sebastian Vettel in your team between 2010 and 2013 when he was winning all those championships with blown diffuser cars, pre-hybrid. Do you think part of his struggle at the moment is the formula has changed, and that was a particular formula, those blown diffuser cars, that suited him?
CH: Not really. I mean, Sebastian drove with refuelling, no refuelling, blown diffusers, no diffusers, F-Ducts, no F-Ducts, DRS, no DRS so, he drove a whole variance of different cars over the years and obviously what he achieved in the period during those years with Red Bull was quite special. I think he's the third most successful driver in the history of the sport and he's achieved some incredible things - many records which will stand for some time. For whatever reason, things aren't working for him at the moment. I think any driver has to be happy in their environment and you can see that he's carrying quite a lot of weight on his shoulders and that has a bearing on any sportsman, on any athlete. I don't think we're seeing the real Sebastian Vettel at the moment. He's obviously having a difficult time with the product that he has at the moment - but yeah, you can't take away anything that he's achieved, obviously, in his career to date.

(Andrew Benson - BBC) Christian, you had high hopes of challenging Mercedes this year. What's gone wrong? Why is the car not performing as well as you'd hoped? And how concerning is it this repeated pattern of starting seasons slowly?
CH: I think Mercedes have done a great job over the closed season. They've come out with a very competitive car. We're still splitting the Mercedes at the moment which is a phenomenal achievement by Max and yeah, we are working very hard to close that down - but they are a big machine, a well-oiled machine, a well-funded machine and obviously, as a package they're doing a very, very good job at the moment, so we're working very hard, we've had a good run of results and obviously we want to close that gap down because it's not just this year, it's also next year that it applies to. I think hopefully we have stuff in the pipeline, hopefully a better understanding of some of our issues from earlier in the year which will see a stronger vein of development could through onto the car.

Check out our Friday gallery from Spa, here.

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