Friday's press conference with Otmar Szafnauer and Andreas Seidl.
It's been a busy week for everybody in the pitlane with the freight delays from Mexico. Just tell us a little bit about how tough it's been for the teams.
Otmar Szafnauer: I'm probably not the best to ask because we were lucky to get our freight really early. I think we were one of the first to get the freight so we weren't impacted but looking up and down the pitlane, yeah, it's frantic. The second leg of a triple-header and getting your freight late is never good.
Andreas Seidl: Yeah, on our side we were heavily affected by the delay, so we got pretty much everything we needed to build the cars, the monocoques and the power units yesterday after lunch, so it was a very intense afternoon and the first part of the night but the team did a great job. I think we were done by around midnight so the crew still had a decent rest. Not ideal but at the same time, we are racers, we are used to building cars - after crashes for example - in an emergency, in quite a short amount of time, so very happy with the job the team did. The cars were running fine today so I don't expect any impact from this on the rest of the weekend.
Thank you. Andreas, if we stay with you, yesterday, the Ferrari drivers were telling us that McLaren will have the quicker car this weekend. What's your reading on the situation?
AS: There's a bit of a trend that we're talking each other up at the moment, race weekend by race weekend. From our point of view, we expect a rather difficult weekend here because I think there's some characteristics of the track, especially the middle sector, with these slow and medium-speed long corners which do not really play to the strength of our car. So, we have to see how it goes. A lot can happen again this weekend. It's a sprint weekend as well. Weather conditions permanently changing at the moment, so we simply have to focus on ourselves, extract the maximum again and hopefully that's enough to challenge for good points again with both cars.
Well, Andreas, let's throw it further forward. Two new tracks coming up in Qatar and Jeddah. What do you know of those tracks and what do you see of the lay of the land there?
AS: In terms of competitiveness, it's so difficult to say this year. As we have seen the entire season there's so much that plays around there. Each track we're going to, not just the track characteristics but the ambient conditions, the tyre selection as well. As always, we have the model of the different tracks we're going to, that are new ones. We're feeding our simulations with these models some weeks and months ago. We have both drivers in the simulator, preparing these tracks and hopefully we are well-prepared and in a position to fight for this P3 up to Abu Dhabi.
Daniel said yesterday that he thinks it will go down to the wire. Do you?
AS: Well, that's obviously the objective or the target. I think if you look at our season so far, we can be very happy. We made, in terms of points scoring, average points scoring per race, a big step forward again compared to last year. We're a lot closer again to Red Bull and Mercedes in terms of lap-times - but at the same time we are up against - yes - a very strong Ferrari team, which is not unexpected that they're coming back strong after the difficult year they had last year. They have the infrastructure, they have the people, the experience, two good drivers. It will be an intense battle but we will give it all up to Abu Dhabi. Obviously, we'll try to fight until the last lap.
And you mentioned it a minute ago, but this is the third and final sprint weekend of the season. What happens after this in terms of next year? With the Sprint. What actually - if anything - needs tweaking? What do you think?
AS: Yeah, I think the agreement with the FIA, Formula 1 and the teams is that we complete now, this weekend, the third one this year and then sit together in the different working groups, in order to analyse how these weekends went and see if there's tweaks or changes required when we do the six weekends next year. From our point of view, I think it doesn't need big tweaks or big changes. We are pretty happy with the format as it has been run this year. So far it worked out quite good for us in Silverstone and in Monza - so let's hope to have another good one this week here, and then looking forward to the challenge also next year.
Otmar, coming to you, on the subject of the Sprint, do you think it needs any tweaking?
OS: Well, perhaps a little bit. We should look at the timing of the weekends. We stay really late on Friday, for example, and come in early on Saturday, so if we just look at the entire weekend to make it a little bit easier on the crews, and if it doesn't take away from the fans, we should tweak it a bit - but in general I think for the most part we'll leave it as it is.
We'll come onto the on-track performance of Aston Martin in a minute - but there are many rumours in the paddock linking you with a switch to the Alpine team. What's the situation?
OS: I too read those rumours a couple of days ago and I was as surprised as anybody else but I just want to say that it's always humbling and flattering for people to say, "oh if Alpine are reorganising", I think Laurent Rossi said that in Mexico, and for the media to speculate that I could be wanted there. It's always nice to be wanted.
Where do these rumours come from, do you think?
OS: I don't know. The first I saw was AutoHebdo and not being French I don't know who they are but you know... and then I think it was translated into English from what my colleagues in the press office tell me.
And has your boss Lawrence Stroll asked for a clarification?
OS: Asked me for a clarification? No, he wasn't in Mexico and he isn't here. He wasn't feeling well. I'm sure I'll catch up with him during the weekend but no, we haven't talked about rumours. There's lots of stuff that goes on in the media that we don't talk about.
Let's move on to car performance. How did it go in FP1 this morning? Do you think the car will be as strong here as it was in Mexico?
OS: Yeah, It could very well be in that region. We had a good session, I don't think we got the cleanest laps in, especially when we put the Soft tyre on, so there's some learnings that we can do after our runs, modify the car a bit and see how we go in qualifying later.
Sebastian Vettel said yesterday that his race in Mexico had been, and I'm quoting him, "very smooth". How hard is it to reproduce that with this car?
OS: Well, Seb had a really good race. Lance was on the backfoot, starting towards the end, so Seb had a good start. He looked after the tyres really well and towards the end when he needed to have the tyre and the car, it was underneath him, so he could push. I think we can recreate it for the rest of the season.
Questions From The Floor
(Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Question is to Otmar. Otmar, in your answers to Tom a couple of minutes ago, and in your statement on Instagram yesterday, you left a bit of room for interpretation. Are you prepared to close down that room by saying that what was written by AutoHebdo was an invention and you're not talking to and have not talked to anybody from Alpine about running them in the future?
OS: Yes, so I don't have the ability and the pleasure of reading French, so I'm not sure what they wrote, so hard for me to say, Christian.
(Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Otmar, will you be with Aston Martin next year? Can you say that categorically?
OS: That's a good question. Look, I've been at the team for 12 years, I have no intention of leaving. I love this team. Most of the senior managers, especially through Racing Point, and the senior leadership team was recruited and put there by myself and I have no intention of leaving them. I have been loyal to this team. I have many, many offers in the 12 years I have been working for this team, especially in the days of the bankruptcy and insolvency. I could have left many times, but I am loyal to the employees there.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Sorry Otmar, but we must just continue this one to get a categorical denial from you, please. Are you absolutely not joining Alpine at any stage in the very near future at all, please? Yes or no?
OS: I love the question, Dieter, I love the question, but I learned a long, long time ago that predicting the future is an impossibility and if I could do that I would be in Vegas now.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Interlagos, here.