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Austrian GP: Friday Press Conference - Part 2

NEWS STORY
02/07/2021

Today's press conference with Toyoharu Tanabe and Franz Tost.

Franz, can we throw it back to Sunday? What was your reaction to Pierre's clash with Charles Leclerc and how surprised were you that the stewards didn't take a look?
Franz Tost: First of all, it's always a big shock when after a couple of hundred metres one car is more or less out of the race because of a crash and yeah, Pierre came in but the rear left tyre was so destroyed that also the suspension broke and we couldn't send him out any more. It was a shock, because we were very competitive and I think he could have finished easily in the fifth or sixth place. But this is racing. This can happen and Charles didn't do it deliberately because he destroyed his front wing and he had to come into the pits. Therefore, for me, after the race it was gone.

So a racing accident?
FT: Racing accident. The stewards made this decision. I was a little bit surprised to be honest but it's the FIA's decision and there is nothing more to add. We respect it and that's it.

You say the car was competitive last weekend, so let's look at the positives. Where is the car good, particularly around this Red Bull Ring and is there anything you can do to make it even more competitive in the race than it is in qualifying?
FT: Yeah, in the first race, in qualifying we lost a lot of time in corner three and I hope that the engineers found something there to improve the behaviour of the car under acceleration. Also corner four we were not so good. But it looked quite positive today in the first free practice. And regarding the race I hope that the lower temperatures will help us, because our race pace did not match our pace in qualifying and we were too slow in the race. The engineers analysed what to do and I think that also there they found a good solution and therefore I am quite optimistic for qualifying and the race this weekend.

Can we have a look at Yuki Tsunoda now? Back in the points on Sunday and good today in FP1. Have you seen a change in him in the last few races?
FT: Well, Yuki is a rookie and he is coming new in Formula 1 and I believe for these young drivers it is really difficult to come into Formula 1, because at every race track on every race weekend they do the first time their qualifying there. Of course you can say they did FP1, FP2, FP3 they must know where to go. But, for example, the wind is increasing or coming from a different direction or the track is hotter or colder, so many things are changing. When I remember back to the accident in Paul Ricard, when Yuki crashed, we had some understeering problems in FP3 and we decided to give more front wing to do the work on the front suspension. He came to this corner, turned in, and then the car reacted a little bit more than he expected, came over the kerbs and there was also some wind direction change and he crashed. You cannot teach this to a young driver, he has to learn in every qualifying session what to do on this track and therefore experience is so important. Yuki is improving really well and the complete process is absolutely in the right direction. He didn't change the approach. He already had a good approach. But as he is now, he has much more time with the engineers, because he is living in Faenza. Every day he is spending hours with the engineers. This helps him to understand the car from the mechanical side, from the aerodynamic side, how to use the power unit. The power unit is not only giving you the power, it is helping under braking, with the MGUK and so on and so on. The young driver has to learn this. But it is not only for one track always the same. Every track in a different way how he can use the power unit. And there are different corners and you can't expect that a rookie knows everything from the very beginning onwards. That's why I always say a young driver needs three years to understand this complicated Formula 1, because Formula 1 has become much more complicated than it was years before. I am very happy with Yuki;. He shows fantastic natural speed and he is improving day-by-day, session by session and I am quite optimistic that we will see a very good second half of the season and that Yuki will also be successful in the future.

Yuki revealed a nice detail yesterday in the press conference when he said that Checo Perez has given him some advice and they've exchanged text messages earlier in the year. Has it been common practice for the senior drivers in the Red Bull programme to help the younger ones?
FT: It was always the case in the past that the two drivers worked together because they are coming from the same family but it's really positive if such an experienced driver like Pérez or Max is giving some advice to the young drivers. This helps enormously because they know exactly how to help them and where to advise them in the correct way.

Tanabe-san, you've won the last four races with Red Bull Racing. Just how much belief is there inside Honda that you can now win the world title?
Toyoharu Tanabe: Actually, we finished one third of the races in this season and then the result is from the first race is not too bad but we know Mercedes how strong they are and then they will come back with a strong car in the future, for sure. So, to improve our performance Honda Sakura members and the Milton Keynes members, along with teams, working very hard to improve our trackside performance. And then, to keep challenging the championship for this year.

There's been a lot of speculation about the power of the power unit that you introduced in France, some people saying as much as 15 brake horsepower more. Is that true?
TT: I'm very happy if it is true but it's no true. Under current regulations, any performance update is not allowed to apply during the season. As a result, our second PU is the same as the first PU in terms of specification and performance.

And what about AlphaTauri? Franz is sitting next to you; what do you think of their performance?
TT: We have been working since 2018 and then we worked together and then we are very happy, their car is showing good performance in this year and then as a result Pierre got sixth position continuously in qualifying so some good races, some bad races, but we are very happy to work with AlphaTauri for both drivers, and then Franz and the engineers, mechanics.

You're enjoying so much success this year. Do you regret that Honda is quitting at the end of the season or could the decision change if you win the World Championship?
TT: Personally, yes but regardless the result of this year's championship or our result, I think Honda's decision has been not changed from their previous one. It means leaving from the Formula 1.

(Andrew Benson - BBC) Tanabe-san, on the engine and the second unit that you've introduced, do the reliability changes that you've made enable you to run the engine in a more performing mode more often? For example, can you chose a higher performance mode for qualifying and race than you were able to before because of the reliability changes? Is there anything that could have explained this apparent improvement in straight line performance that Mercedes think they're seeing, for example?
TT: The current performance improvement is as a result from the hard work from Honda and the teams. Then under the current PU regulations, we need to submit any changes, so only allowed to change for reliability, for cost reasons and logistics. Then we need to submit very detailed to the FIA first and the FIA approves those changes. FIA distributes all the documents to the other PU manufacturers, so we need to have an approvement (sic) from the other PU manufacturers to change any single parts, specification. Then, why we are doing such a very much detailed investigation is a long time ago some teams improved their performance to make a change, to improve their reliability, so we are very careful to change the performance and then it is not possible to improve the performance during the season. That's my answer to that suspicion.

(Christian Nimmervoll - Motorsport.com) Tanabe-san, do you feel that Honda, at the end of the year, will be leaving F1 with the strongest engine?
TT: We keep analysing our position, compared to the other PU manufacturers, so that analysis, including the chassis performance as well, so if you have a good car with less downforce, sometimes you see a good engine power performance, so it's a little bit difficult to judge. Then our current results give us a... still we are not number one so as I said, we cannot improve the pure performance, like the IC performance, then we are working on very hard how to use the PU efficiently at the track, so we want to use current hardware more efficiently with team engineers.

(Scott Mitchell - The Race) Tanabe-san, based on your answers there, is it fair to say that the total output of the Honda engine hasn't changed with the second unit but you're extracting more of the potential that was there from the beginning?
TT: I can yes, so because we started using this '20/'21 new PU from pre-season test and then we have been learning gradually how to use our PU and then we improve our weakness and then we push our strengths and then as a result the base specification, the performance is the same but trackside performance, I believe, we have been improving.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Tanabe-san, could you confirm please, that next year's engines for Red Bull and AlphaTauri will in fact be supplied from Sakura and not from the Red Bull operation in Milton Keynes?
TT: Yes. Red Bull and Honda have been working on that project and then so how to proceed that transition for next year. I cannot tell the detail but generally we are going to a good direction and then we should prepare well for next year so now we are working very hard, I am working very hard at the trackside.

Check out our Friday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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