Today's press conference with Franz Tost and Laurent Rossi.
Can we start by getting your thoughts on being back in Mexico City after two years away. Laurent, perhaps we could start with you?
Laurent Rossi: Well, it's always nice. It's good to have races all over the world beyond just old Europe. It's quite aligned with the fact that the sport is growing globally. It's a nice race.
Franz Tost: I was also looking forward to coming here to Mexico because it's a very exciting track and with a very special atmosphere. There are so many fans here in Mexico. They are really knowing what's going on in Formula 1 because of the history with the Rodríguez brothers and now with Pérez and they understand Formula 1, you can see this on the grandstands. This stadium is something special, which brings another atmosphere into the sport and I think it's fantastic to be here and as far as I know the grandstands are full, like it was in Austin, and that's good for Formula 1.
Laurent, positive morning, splitting the two Ferraris. What are the drivers saying about the car here?
LR: Not much. The track was so dirty that we basically set only one good time more time, which was at the very end of the session. It's hard to read into anything here, I mean we are happy not two seconds off the pace from the leaders. We are happy we are back somewhere where we normally belong. But it's hard to read right now, so we would need the FP2 and FP3 sessions.
You say it's good to be back where you normally belong. After a tricky weekend in Austin, how important is it for the team to bounce back with some points here?
LR: Well, it's super important, because Franz next door is not going to leave me alone until the end of the season, so we really need to get back on our A-game. We knew Austin from the beginning would be difficult because the bumps are hurting everyone but especially us in terms of traction, that is our weakness I would say, rear traction, so we basically didn't enjoy ourselves so much there but we knew that once we go back into more classical, normal, regular conditions then it's game on and we are back on track. So that's the good news.
Can we talk more about this battle with AlphaTauri for P5. Ten points the difference. Are you starting to feel the heat?
LR: Yeah, well it's nice, it's racing. It would be quite boring otherwise, but yes, it's going to be probably a very nice dance until the end of the season. We are fighting for small points. The others seem to have hoarded the first eight positions, so we are probably going to have an intense fight until the last race.
In your view, who has the faster car at the moment?
LR: I would say it's us.
And how important is P5 for you in the bigger picture?
LR: Well it's important because we want to just keep some moment going. Simply. We were P5 last year, we're reaching the end of an era and this car is probably on its knees so we just want to keep the momentum going. The team has done an outstanding job during the year, scoring 15 races in a row, which is a great testament to the great work put there, so if only for that, to reward them for this huge work, despite a rather challenging car, P5 is important, yes.
Talking more generally about 2021, what do you feel has worked in the team and what hasn't? Earlier this week, you said in an interview that you wouldn't rule out a possible change of management, for example.
LR: Well, what I mean by that is that this year the team has achieved all of the details outside of the car performance itself, which obviously they focus on every race. We've decided that we will never let go of any tenth or hundredth, that would be hidden in anything else, like operation strategy and so forth and so on, so this is great because they actually improved greatly on all accounts, like operationally, strategically and so forth and so on so that has worked very well. Now we are reaching also a plateau in performance. The team has, I think, done a great work in the past, bringing Renault back from P9 to P5, P5/P4 where we belong. Arguably we've become amongst the best of the rest but now to get to the best - that's it - you need a bit of a different probably structure so I'm still deciding, I'm still assessing and there might be changes coming at the end of the season but for now, the team is fully focused on finishing this season strong and defending the fifth position.
Franz, can we start by talking about this battle with Alpine in the Constructors' championship? Is it easier being the hunter than the hunted?
FT: I would prefer to be in front but it's how it is. We are 10 points behind and as Laurent just said, it will become an interesting fight until the end of the season.
How confident are you of catching Alpine?
FT: I'm quite confident because I think we have a faster car. We have two fantastic drivers and therefore I'm optimistic that they can achieve this goal.
Now, you say you have two fantastic drivers; I did want to ask you about Yuki because his recent results suggest he's made some good progress. Is that the reality of the situation?
FT: Yes, that's the reality of the situation. Yuki is improving and is getting better and better. He's always better understanding the engineering side of the car and he has a lot of meetings with his engineers in Faenza to get a better picture about everything, to get a better feeling, also in the car, what's going on and to get a better understanding. This is the work which you have to do with a rookie driver in the first year and I was surprised this morning by his performance because you must not forget he is here for the first time and he showed really a good run in FP1 and I hope that he can continue during the weekend, although he must start from the back of the grid, because we changed the power unit but with this performance, he can overtake, quite optimistic that he can also score some points.
Why have you decided to change his power unit here?
FT: Because the other power unit ran out of mileage and we thought that here, Mexico, is the best possibility for all the components which we analysed and took together. I personally would have preferred Sao Paulo because I am a little bit worried about the climate situation here in Mexico but the engineers think this was the best choice which we could make.
And a quick word on Pierre please? What was he saying about the car in FP1?
FT: He was quite happy with the car, a little bit understeering there or maybe in the last corners, the rear tyres were a little bit overheating but generally... he lost some tenths, but generally he was quite happy with the car and he thinks that the car's working good.
Questions From The Floor
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Laurent, when the team was taken over from Lotus in the Carlos Ghosn days, he set a three year target for world championship glory. That's now been extended my yourself I believe by 100 Grands Prix which adds another four or five years to that. In total, it will have been almost 20 years since team Enstone won a world championship. What has taken Renault so long to get back to grips with Formula 1?
LR: Well, I wouldn't add those periods like that. We all know that in the past seven years everyone has been a glorious loser besides Mercedes, so the comment is worse for everyone. What happened with the team in the past few years, that we were still in an unbridled environment where you could just come in and pour money at... throw money at problems. That was not helping. Besides the support of Renault was not always easy to read in terms of long term because Renault, as you perhaps know, is going through difficult times. We're getting out of it now, hopefully, so now we have a bit more of a stability, bit more of a runway and also more clarity on the fact that the investments are going to be more of less similar to others, so it's going to be down to efficiency, experience, savvy-ness, other criteria, so I would say this new plan, we intend on fully delivering it and it should be less disturbed than in the past when, like I said, you could just decide that one year you're going to dwarf everyone else with massive investment.
Laurent, this roadmap of 100 races; is it 100 races to win the World title or just to challenge for the World title?
LR: Both. We want to challenge, we want to be back on the top of the podium, we want to be a strong contender for victory and if we get enough victories of course want to claim the world title. We're not shy of claiming it. Renault has a lot of titles to its name, especially as a power unit manufacturer but also as a team. We have, I believe, all it takes to get back there. It's going to be a tight fight, for sure, we're not alone, but we believe it's really feasible.
Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.