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Emilia Romagna GP: Friday Press Conference - Part 1

NEWS STORY
16/04/2021

Today's press conference with Guenther Steiner, Mattia Binotto and Franz Tost.

Q: That was an eventful FP1 so can we start with a résumé from each of you about how it went. Franz, let's start with you please.
Franz Tost: So far everything went OK, at least with Pierre Gasly. I think we have a competitive package together. Unfortunately with the soft tyres he hit a little bit of traffic, nevertheless, I think he can show a good performance here. With Yuki, we were not so lucky because there was an electronic problem on the power unit - a wiring loom or something like this. I hope that they can sort it out for the second free practice session and that he can do some laps and that we can set-up the car in a proper way that he is prepared for tomorrow for the qualifying and Sunday for the race.

Mattia?
Mattia Binotto: I think, as you said, eventful FP1. The radio was working very badly and when you've got something like that it's very difficult because you're not managing communications with the drivers. On top of that, Charles has small issues with some power unit activations that we are trying to address. Nothing major but still it somehow makes the sessions more difficult. Carlos got a more, let me say, complete programme. First, on the hard tyres then moving onto the softer. I think overall he was collecting data as usual in FP1. I think to assess the performance? Very difficult again. I think in FP1, too early a stage. More important for us to stay focused on the car, on the set-up, on the balance, preparing ourselves for quali and then the race. But overall, I think good start to the event, the start of the weekend but still I think much to do. FP2, again, will be important. Now the sessions are only an hour it makes things a lot more dense - but I think an interesting session for us.

Guenther?
Guenther Steiner: As Mattia says, a very interesting session and I think having the session only one hour helps. All the cars are out, quite a lot for the spectators. I quite like that. And obviously with the data and the radio not working in the beginning properly, it was, for our two young guys, quite exciting, you know? Not having contact with the pits, they're not used to it. They did OK, getting around it - but getting a bit confused. They've learned that one now, so they've done this one, they are through that one. Nikita on his last lap, he made good improvements time-wise, learning. Mick was trying to go step-by-step and then in the end there was traffic because the red flag that then, in the end, everyone came out together but Nikita improved pretty good on his run on the soft tyres. And then, on the last corner, he got into the gravel and spun-out. I think the car is not damaged too badly, so we will be ready for FP2. It's actually, all-in-all, for the excitement, it was a good session - as much as it doesn't look like - but I think they learned a lot in that hour.

Q: Guenther, you say the team and the drivers learned a lot in FP1. Can we take it back first of all to the Bahrain Grand Prix. It was a tough weekend for your rookies. Can you just describe the debrief after the race?
GS: I think there was... it wasn't... Nikita obviously didn't do a lot of racing. He went off on lap one so there was not a lot to be said about that - but otherwise I think Mick made good improvements during the race. Each set of tyres; he improved. He managed them better and better and his times were better and better. For us, for a first race weekend with two rookie drivers, it wasn't bad. Actually, we are learning and that is what I am always saying, this year is here to learn. And obviously learning comes with pain. The pain is normally a damaged car. At some stage, we need to stop to do that. At the moment we just try to go through it and teach them as much as possible so we get better and hopefully in the future have got a better car.

Q: As you say, Nikita didn't do much racing. Just how difficult was it for him to move on from that race? What did you say to him?
GS: What I said to him? I said you need to keep your head high, you know? These things happen and obviously in the moment he's the beat-up boy, you know? Everybody beats up on him. That makes it tougher. In the end you come out on the better side - but you just need to keep your head up, focus on your next race and keep on going. That's what he did and he was here today, yesterday he was in a good place and today he's in a good place at the debrief, even if he spun out because he sees he's improving and he's learning. So, that's what he has to do. That's the only thing he can do in this situation - just keep on going, knowing that things went wrong but that he can do better.

Q: And how much do his spins this morning worry you, given what happened in Bahrain?
GS: How much do they worry me? At some stage they need to be reduced but he's trying very hard and I guess he's trying sometimes a little bit too hard - but he needs to find that limit but it's for him to find, not us. We can help him doing that but it's one of those things, as I've said before, learning is painful, you know? It comes with pain. At some stage that will hopefully stop and they will be in a good place.

Q: Franz, a frustrating season-opener for you guys in Bahrain but there must have been lots of positives to take away from the race as well?
FT: Frustrating was only the result - because we had a competitive car and Pierre, I think, could easily have finished in fifth position, but unfortunately he was involved in this incident where he lost the front wing. And you know, that's part of the game, this can happen. Yuki did a very good race, because we said to him before the race that he should not risk anything. He should do as many laps as possible, to learn, to get experience, and this is what he did, and he showed some very good overtaking manoeuvres and, I must say, it was a fantastic race from his side.

Q: Now, how good is this year's car?
FT: This we will see. Bahrain was the first race, today we are here in Imola - but it seems that the car is quite competitive from the chassis side. I think that, especially from the aerodynamic side, the team in Bicester has done a really good job. But also on the power unit, Honda, during the winter months, improved a lot. This new engine has a lot of power and therefore I am quite optimistic for this season. We have two fast drivers. Pierre is experienced. He's now in his fourth season and you can see this, how he is going out. When you saw this session in the morning, you can only achieve this if you have a lot of experience. And Yuki is the newcomer, the rookie, but he is very fast, he is a really high-skilled driver and I expect that we will have a successful season.

Q: Is this the most competitive car you've had since... when... since 2008 perhaps?
FT: Between 2008 and 2021 we had competitive cars. Let me say it in this way. During these years, everything has been developed from the design office, production, the vehicle performance group improved a lot, the engineering at the race track has become much better and the engineers are much more experienced now and, as I mentioned before, especially the aerodynamic department. I think we made a big step forward. The complete team developed in the last years and this is the result. Because, if you want to be successful in Formula 1, it's not only one parcel, it's everything together. I think that currently we are in quite a good shape in all the different areas and that's decisive to be competitive, and to be in the front part of this midfield.

Q: Mattia, coming to you. From Ferrari's perspective, what have been the take-home messages from these opening weeks of the season?
MB: Coming to Bahrain, the first race of the season last year, we were performing very badly there, both on the straights and in cornering - very slow in quali and in the race. So certainly for us it was an important, let me say, test. And I think the car, somehow, progressed well. As well if we compare to our competitors. I think we made good progress. That was not easy in a situation where most of the car was frozen, per regulations. I think the power unit made a good step forward. I think that today on the straights we are certainly not lacking the speed as it was in the past. And I think that, as well, the car is behaving well, and I think that was the most important. Certainly the debriefing, post-race was very long, that's normal at the very start of the season because, together with the drivers, we need to understand the car behaviours, the main limitations, how me way improve and I think addressing somehow any developments we can do during the season. I think we learned from Bahrain that our race pace was not as competitive as the quali. I think we've been better in quali compared to the race itself. That's for many reasons but certainly reasons that we tried to analyse. I think in the tyre management... in Bahrain it is very hot conditions, very different to the one of Imola, where you need to manage the overheating, especially on the rear. I think again here, coming now to Imola, it's important for us to evaluate the car behaviours in different conditions and make sure that somehow the progress we've seen are confirmed, I think that will be the key point for the Imola Grand Prix.

Q: And after the frustrations of last season, how much of a relief is the performance you've found over the winter?
MB: I think that the relief is to see that we are developing in the right directions. I think it is important to see that simulations, wind tunnel, at track now are correlating certainly better than what it was in the past, and that gives confidence in the tools, and our design capacity for the future. That, I think, was the most important and I think in that respect it is a relief. And certainly, the fact that the car is performing better, so that we can have a better result at the end of the race weekend, is important. We often said that our performance of last year was not somehow acceptable for a Ferrari brand, so we knew that these areas are important for us still, showing developments in all the areas. So again, I think the performance is certainly a relief.

Video Conference

Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) Question for Guenther please. Guenther, you talked about Nikita's mistakes and obviously they're both rookie drivers so there is going to be a lot of learning. It must be quite difficult to manage - because I guess you can't put a specific number of when mistakes become too common, like this many mistakes becomes too much of a problem. How exactly do you manage that? I guess externally it looks like the issue is, because it happened so often through the Bahrain weekend in every session, and now it's happened here, there is a bit of a worrying trend emerging.
GS: As you say, to put a number on it is impossible. It's not only difficult it is impossible. In Bahrain I would say what they had to learn is also the wind conditions in Bahrain were very rough and our car was already last year very bad in windy conditions, so just to understand that, it cost us a few spins - and Mick had one in the race as well. Obviously we are not planning to spin the car but on the other side, it's part of it, of the learning. So, I don't want to put a number or time on anything. This will sort itself out, in my opinion.

Check out our Friday gallery from Imola, here.

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