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Qatar GP: Friday Press Conference - Part 1

NEWS STORY
19/11/2021

Today's press conference with Christian Horner and Toto Wolff.

We've just had our first laps of this Losail circuit, so gentlemen, first of all, what have your drivers been saying about the track? Toto, can we start with you please?
Toto Wolff: First of all, it's great to be on a new track. It makes it interesting and you've seen the track ramp-up was quite high, so it's very difficult to really compare times. Also, some corners were taken pretty wide. I don't know if that makes a difference. Lewis was not entirely happy with the car this morning. Valtteri, more so, but the conditions are probably not representative of what we're going to be seeing in qualifying and the race, which happens in the night. So, I guess it's learning the track, understanding the set-up direction, where it could go to - but it's not yet representative.

Christian?
Christian Horner: Yeah, interesting track. Both drivers quite enjoyed it. Checo couldn't remember coming here until we showed him some pictures, actually won a race here 11 or 12 years ago. But I think it's a challenge. I think on low fuel it's going to be exciting for the drivers. I think that it's obviously designed primarily for motorbikes, which is why the kerbs are so low. I think track limits you could see becoming a bit of a nightmare for race control but I'm sure they were using that first session to look at where's the boundary line? But early days. I think it will ramp-up quite quickly.

Let's throw it back to last weekend now. We had a fantastic Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday. And the intensity hasn't let-up in the days since. Toto, starting with you, you've chosen to request a right to review to the incident on lap 48. Can I ask why?

TW: Well, the intensity is high. It's normal. There is two drivers, two teams fighting for a world championship. It's close, it's swinging one direction and then the other. Red Bull had a fantastic weekend in Mexico and then we were able to strike back the following weekend - but it's the tiniest of margins that could make a difference at the end. Also that has gone both ways. Max has lost points with crashes, that he wasn't entirely responsible for and on the other side we lost some points when it was about, for example, the Spa race, which shouldn't have been as it was. So, you fight every single point and we still feel the incident... so we don't expect to gain anything, to be honest, from the right to review but it's more about the principal and the philosophy because if it stays that way it means overtaking from the outside is pretty much not possible anymore because the inside controls the corner completely. Now that is anyway the case but as it was before, when a car is next to you, you need to leave a car width. That's not the case. We just want to take it to the end, have a judgement on that and then adapt, if necessary, for the last few races. And you can see some of the drivers have actually expressed that same opinion. So that's why we're making the stewards have another look on it.

Thank you. Christian, what was your reaction to Mercedes' request for a review?
CH: I wasn't really that surprised. I think, just referring to Toto's comments there about overtaking on the outside isn't possible. I think Max demonstrated clearly it is in Mexico, into the first turn. I think this right to review, we've been through it, at Silverstone, where we felt that there were strong circumstances to look at and the consequences of an incident like that were obviously serious with the retirement, destruction of the car and the loss of an engine, and so on. With this one, it feels a little bit spurious because the key questions to ask yourself, and the key fundamentals are: is it new? Potentially. Is it relevant? One could potentially argue that as well. Is it significant? Absolutely not. I think there are enough camera angles for the stewards to make their decisions. I think we've seen numerous incidents, both in the Sprint race and during the grand prix, indeed on the first lap of the grand prix, with Valtteri taking an almost identical line, and so I would be surprised, I would be disappointed if it were to go to another hearing but it's just frustrating it's taking this long. I mean, the discussion was yesterday. Not quite sure why it's taking... it would be nice to have it cleared-up, obviously before we go into the next session.

Toto, do you think the new evidence is significant?
TW: You know for me, the question is less a legal one. It is enough evidence or not to go to a review? I think it is - but it's clear that we both may have different viewpoints on that. It's more the racing consequences that it has, and I have a very strong opinion about that. So it is really important to understand what's on and what's not on for the next few races because we don't want this championship to be decided by a highly controversial situation that may end up in the stewards' room again and with lots of polarisation afterwards.

You did say last weekend Toto, that you didn't want to win the championship off-track.
TW: Well, that's the main aim. We don't want to end-up, after Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi wherever it may end in one or the other direction and it going to the stewards' room, or to the International Court of Appeal because one of the teams feels it wasn't treated rightly, so that's why now is the time for this for this very championship to discuss the rules.

Video Conference

(Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) A question to both gentlemen please. Is there any concern that investigating a grand prix several days after the event could actually open a can of worms and set a dangerous precedent for Formula 1 whereby you have all the teams challenging the results all the time?
CH: Well, I think that's the danger for the FIA with this. That if they do go down this route than every single incident from now on will be questioned. They'll be evidence from iPhones or spectators' phones. There'll always be something that can be deemed as new or relevant or significant and I think that the stewards made their call. It wasn't even referred to on their listing after the event. It was a non-issue. It was two drivers racing hard, both in truth went in deep, went in late. Both went off the circuit and we saw many incidents at Turn 4 throughout that weekend in both the race and on Saturday. Then, of course, if you wind it back, you know you get incidents like Istanbul, you get to incidents like at Monza. Where do you draw that line? So, yeah, the competitors are going to push every angle that they can but I really don't see the relevance of it and I think it does set a dangerous precedent if this incidence, on this occasion is reopened.

Thank you. Toto?
TW: I think indeed it's a danger. Nobody wants to have feeds from social media that's coming in and then you suddenly have new evidence, rightly or wrongly, so we need to clean that up. Hopefully in the regulations, with the consent of everybody that, first of all, the stewards need to have access to all relevant channels. I think in that case the stewards didn't have access to the onboard, which is an important tool to judge. I think we've had instances in the past, like Red Bull on the Red Bull Ring where Lewis didn't see a yellow flag but on the video you could see he did - or he could have seen it, and it was penalised. And I think in that case, those informations weren't available to the stewards, and that's why it's relevant and we should make sure they have access quickly to all these relevant channels. But I agree: we don't want to drag it for a week or two. That's not the right thing.

(Andrew Benson - BBC) This is for you Christian, but Toto I'd like a comment from you afterwards. Christian, in the incident at Copse during the British Grand Prix, the driver on the inside ran a bit wide, the driver on the outside didn't give room and you called that move from the driver on the inside "reckless" and "amateurish". In Brazil, the driver on the inside ran a bit wide and the only reason they didn't collide, you could argue, is that the driver on the outside did give room, but you called that "hard, fair racing". Could explain the apparent contradiction please?
CH: Well, I don't think it is a contradiction as it's two different corners, two different circumstances and two different car positionings, and I think Silverstone, you've got a gravel trap and a wall and you know the overspeed that was at Silverstone is incomparable with what it was at Interlagos., You could see at Interlagos that both drivers braked late. They have arguably outbraked each other but at no point was Lewis in a position to turn into the corner as Max was at Silverstone and of course the difference at Silverstone was that we had a driver end up in hospital. We had a car destroyed, we had an engine destroyed and a driver eliminated from the race. This was a racing incident. Lewis won the grand prix. He was the quicker driver in the quicker car on the day and you know there was no consequence and I think the two incidents you cannot compare, because then we can go back to Monza, numerous other incidents and you have to take each one in isolation. Different circumstances, different corners, different conditions, different layouts, different surfaces, different kerbs, different run-offs, they are incomparable.

Check out our Friday gallery from Qatar, here.

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