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Bahrain GP: Friday Press Conference: Part 2

NEWS STORY
27/11/2020

Today's press conference with Simon Roberts, Guenther Steiner and Toyoharu Tanabe.

Q: Guenther, how about an update on your 2021 driver line-up? What can you tell us?
Guenther Steiner: I haven't heard that question for a long time so thanks for asking! We plan to announce it before the season is ending but we don't know the exact date yet, but it's not long to wait. It's a maximum of two weeks, so please be patient.

Q: Is it results dependent?
GS: No. You mean Formula 2 results dependent? No. It's not results dependent. I need to disappoint you on that one.

Q: Now Romain and Kevin were in here yesterday and they said that your car is relatively easy to drive but if you bring in two rookies next year can you rely on their feedback to develop the car further, and how tough will it be for them at tracks like Baku?
GS: If we bring in rookies, if... I think next year if we bring in rookies therefore it's a good time to bring in rookies because the car next year will not be developed a lot because the freeze on the car, the homologation of the car, so you cannot make big changes, obviously we can make aero changes but the car will not change in the fundamentals, so it is a development and not as new development and next year our focus will be on 2022 anyway, so I think it's a transition year for us, so it would be a good year for rookies to come in, to learn being in Formula 1, getting to know the people that are around, how to go to press conferences and things like this, so I think it will be a good year, but the development will be very small next year.

Q: Tanabe-san, Turkey was a difficult weekend for Honda, made more difficult by Pierre having to start from the pit lane. Can you explain why you stopped work on his engine change?
Toyoharu Tanabe: Actually it was a very difficult weekend for us and following the failure on Pierre's PU at the Portuguese we discussed and then decided to change the PU if he did not qualify well. We submitted the change request to the FIA and then it was approved. And then later his starting grid was improved by the others' penalties. We changed our mind and then reported to the FIA. Unfortunately we already touched some of the parts to change the PU so in the end we got the penalty.

Q: And Tanabe-san, what is the latest on Red Bull's engine plans going forward? Helmut Marko recently visited Honda in Japan; was a decision about the future reached?
TT: I know the discussion is on-going between Honda and Red Bull but I believe at the moment no decision has been made yet. And also, I'm in charge of the technical management trackside so I don't know the very details of the discussions.

Q: Simon, first up, you missed Turkey after testing positive for COVID-19. How are you feeling?
Simon Roberts: Yeah, I feel very well thank you. I was very lucky, I only had mild symptom of losing a sense of taste. Apart from that, I felt absolutely fine so I feel that I kind of missed a bullet there but yeah, had to miss the race obviously, testing positive, so it was a bit disappointing but I'm here now so all good.

Q: Good, and tell us about the mood in the team? Is there a sense of frustration now that you're constantly finishing just outside the points?
SR: Yeah, I guess there is. It just focuses us even more to try harder and we're just trying to make sure we can get everything possible out of the car for these last three races. We don't want to walk away disappointed, thinking we didn't try everything we possibly could or left some stone unturned so the mood is... we're glad everyone's back, we're back to full strength now. The guys in Turkey did an amazing job. We had lots of people step in at short notice to support from the factory and that caused the guys in the factory, as well, to have to kind of shuffle around a little bit so that was a great team effort and it set us up quite nicely actually. As I say, we're at full strength now, for these last three so we've just got to get everything we can out of the car.

Video Conference

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Guenther, do you expect the driver announcement this weekend?
GS: No. I don't expect it this weekend, Christian.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Tanabe-san, what would Honda actually achieve through allowing Red Bull to acquire the IP for the engine? Would you still be getting the technical information? Would you still be running some form of research and development programme or would it just literally be give them the engines and let them get on with it and we're out of here?
TT: As I told you, I don't know the details of this project, so I don't know the project or not, but I believe we don't tell the details to the public so yeah, maybe some information will be distributed but at the moment no information for the public.

Q: (Christian Menath - Motorsport magazine) Two questions for Tanabe-san, both related to the race in Turkey. First of all, we've seen many drivers starting in second gear on the wet track but the Honda drivers all started with first gear. Is there a technical reason for that? And on the other side, some people said that the Honda teams had some problems with traction because of the vibrations of the engine. Is that true or is that just a myth?
TT: About the start, it was caused by many factors. So the system and procedure not only PU but also the chassis side and then our start strategy was not good for that condition, though we learned a lot from that slow start and we will improve that weak area for the future.

Q: (Edd Straw - The Race) Tanabe-san, Mattia Binotto has suggested that the next generation F1 engines should be much cheaper, maybe as much as 50% cheaper. How much do you think would have to change? What would have to be done to have F1 engines for the next generation, which are so cheap, such a big step? Is it possible?
TT: The discussion for the next generation Formula 1 engine has just started and then the people in the Formula 1, FIA and also the PU manufacturers are considering what is the best for this sport. Of course, we need to improve the efficiency of the PU which means that we have an ICE and the ERS system. At the moment, we have no clear direction yet but of course this is important, efficiency, also the cost of the PU for the entire PU manufacturers, also the teams. That's important, I think.

Q: Can I open this up to the other two guys please? How important is it that the engines get cheaper for the customer teams?
GS: I wouldn't call it cheaper. I think we need to make it more efficient, not as an engine but cost-wise. I think part of the new regulation, there needs to be a financial regulation, how much they can cost and that is not for me to decide how much it is because we don't make engines so it's more for the manufacturers who know how much it costs to develop this engine but for us, as a customer, it is important to be sustainable. If we can get the engine costs down, that makes sure that all the teams stay around because the engine cost is a big part of our budget at the moment. I understand the manufacturers cannot subsidise but I think they do already by swallowing all the development costs for the engines but they cannot subsidise the production of the engines and that's why they need to give us the cost of it, so very important.

Q: Guenther, what percentage of your budget is the power unit?
GS: I think it's about 10%.

Q: Simon, can we have your thoughts on this as well, please?
SR: I think the current PUs are so complex - they're amazing pieces of technology but that complexity drives costs and I think the future - as Guenther said - we have to look at sustainable power units, we have to think about the relevance to road car technology but we have to do it in a way that makes sense for everybody; makes sense for the teams, so we can afford to buy it and also makes sense for manufacturers that they can afford to develop those engines and battery packs but do it in a way that actually makes sense for them too. So as has been said already, it's very early days, looking at what's next, but I think it's a really important step for the sport. We need to consider it carefully.

Q: Simon staying with you and while we're talking about money, George spoke yesterday about the possibilities opening up for Williams under Dorilton's ownership. Has the cash injection arrived in time for the 2021 programme?
SR: So we are investing, right now, in the factory in a small way. We've got the opportunity now to kind of fix things that have been broken or things that we'd love to have done but just haven't been able to afford to in the past so nothing revolutionary but all good steps and all good progress. I think what George is really referring to is part of a long-term strategy, where we will invest in things and Dorilton will invest in things that will increase our performance, make us more competitive and help the team move forward.

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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