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Qatar GP: Friday Press Conference - Part 2

NEWS STORY
19/11/2021

Today's press conference with Frederic Vasseur and Franz Tost.

Let's start with a question to you both. We've just had the first laps in Formula 1 here, can we kick off hearing what your drivers have been saying about the track here? Franz, let's start with you?
Franz Tost: They both are quite happy. They said already yesterday that they like the track. There are some challenging corners in there. Some parts are quite fast and it looks after FP1 that the car is reasonably competitive and both drivers are so far satisfied with the car. We have some small topics from the set-up which we have to sort out but generally speaking they like the track.

Frederic Vasseur: I think the feeling is quite similar, that the layout of the track is a good one, a lot of high-speed corners and for the drivers so far they are quite keen for this. We will have discussion about the kerbs probably, during the weekend, but the layout is OK. It was a bit sandy this morning but it will be OK in the rest of the weekend.

Fred, can we stay with you because it has been a busy news week for Alfa Romeo this week, with the announcement that Guanyu Zhou will be your second driver in 2022. Talk us through that decision. Why Guanyu and not Antonio Giovinazzi?
FV: I think we are at the beginning of a new journey for the team in F1 with the new regulations and if we have to change I think it's the right momentum and Zhou is doing very well in F2, he is P2 in the championship. There are still two races to go and he could be champion and I think it comments that he is the right choice today.

So that leaves you with Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu for next year. How strong is that driver combination?
FV: I think the combination is an important topic, that Valtteri is very experienced, he's doing very well. He did a fantastic second part of the season this year and he will bring to the team his own experience. And alongside, we will have a rookie coming from the F2 that I think it's always important for the rookie to have a reference and with Valtteri he will have one of the best references in the field.

Is Valtteri excited about the opportunity to build the team around him?
FV: This, you have to ask to Valtteri first, but yeah, it was part of the discussion. I think he was and it's quite natural when you are the teammate of Lewis, you are a little bit in the shadow of your team-mate and with us it will be a strong pillar of the performance of the development of the team. I think it was also for him an important step and I'm really convinced that he will achieve in this position.

Will any Mercedes personnel be coming with Valtteri to your team?
FV: So far no. Except the physio.

Do you see it as a disadvantage having two new drivers, going into the...?
FV: I don't think so, because it's not the continuity of the current car, that for sure with the new regulations, a completely new package, new tyres, new aero regs and for sure you need to have someone with a big experience and I think with Valtteri we have this. But I'm not sure that it makes sense today to have the continuity into the line-up but I think everybody will have his own assumption of this and it's more a matter of opportunity than something else, but I'm convinced that it was the right choice for us.

And as you say, it is new, everything in 2022. You've got the new drivers; are there any other areas of the team that you feel need building up, bolstering, going into the new era?
FV: Yeah, but it's a now and then process, you are always trying to reinforce the team to improve on some positions and we are doing it but I will keep it for me.

So now that your plans are complete, what are your expectations for 2022?
FV: The last two seasons were a bit difficult for us but we did a much better '18/'19 and we have to come back in the mid of midfield, let's say, to be able to be in Q3 much more frequently and we know that this is a decent step forward but as we stop completely the development of the current car at the end of 2020 and we were fully focused on the 2022 project, I think also that Ferrari will do a good step forward and I'm convinced that we can be back where we were in '18.

Franz, can we talk about young drivers? Any advice that you can give Fred on bringing a young driver into Formula 1, because you've done plenty of that yourself over the years?
FT: Yeah, but Frederic knows for himself how to handle everything because he is so experienced from GP2, from Formula 2 and so on. He knows everything for himself, it is not necessary to give any advice.

Let's talk about Yuki now, Franz. It's been a tough couple of races for him and he thinks he was hard done by in Brazil with his penalties. What's your take on his crash with Lance Stroll?
FT: For me this never should have ended in a penalty because Yuki just overtook him, was on the inside, was running over the kerbs and Stroll could have given a little more space. For me, this was a good overtaking manoeuvre and he should not have been penalised for this.

And you're involved in a very tight battle for fifth in the Constructors' championship with Alpine. How much do you need Yuki to step up and score points at every race?
FT: Yeah, you need everything, every single point and I hope that Yuki will score points in the next races. He is improving his performance a lot, like you could see this morning, also in Mexico arriving in qualifying one in his first run, he was faster than Pierre and but then in qualifying two he couldn't get it together but that's also a normal process for a young driver. He has to learn this, how the tech and the most efficient way in the qualifying to get the most out of it and he is continuously improving his performance, you could see this, and therefore I'm optimistic for the next races.

And I feel we have to talk about Pierre as well because he's doing such a good job; do you feel this is his best season in Formula 1?
FT: Yes, he has continuously improved his performance, year by year and you can hear in the debriefs when he is talking about the car, about the technical side. He now has the experience and it's important for a driver to understand, especially nowadays, these complicated cars and with the power unit and everything to get everything optimised and he has now reached a very high level of knowledge regarding the aerodynamic side, the mechanical side but also from the power unit side, he does many changes in the cockpit from his side to optimise the performance and for me Pierre is belonging to the best drivers in Formula 1 currently.

So given Pierre's performance, given the competitiveness of the car, given Yuki getting better, how confident are you of that P5 in the Constructors' championship?
FT: I'm quite confident. As we've already said, we have a good car, we have two fantastic drivers, we have a team which is working very good so we should achieve this goal.

Questions From The Floor

(Phil Horton - Motorsport Week) Fred, now that the 2022 driver line-up is finalised, what's the plan next year for Theo Pourchaire?
FV: Still staying in F2. We had a long discussion in the last couple of weeks that he did a fantastic season in F2 for the first one but we have also to keep in mind that 18 months ago he was in F4, that the step between F4 and F3 was huge and he did well in F3, the same for the F2. He won this season in Monaco but as Franz said before, the car is so complex and we have just six test days before the season, it means that it would have been, from my point of view, too risky, too challenging to do the step now. It's much better to be focused on the championship in F2 next year and we will see the future.

Will he play a greater role inside Alfa Romeo next year?
FV: Theo, yes, Theo will for sure do some FP1. We will do some test days that we will try to prepare him for the future, but again, when you are doing the championship in F2, the most important thing is to win the championship and not to prepare the future or something like this, and I will ask him to be champion in F2.

(Luke Smith - Autosport) Fred, a question for you about Guanyu Zhou. It wasn't specified in the announcement how long the contract is with the team. Could you reveal, is it a one-year deal, is it a multi-year deal, and what were some of the qualities you saw in Zhou that made you want to sign him for next season?
FV: I won't make any comment on the duration but if it was the case, for sure, it would have been part of the press announcement but we are expecting to have a long-term collaboration.

What about his qualities?
FV: Quality, I think that first, I think the performance is speaking for itself but he's a front runner, that he won this season in Bahrain and Silverstone. In F2 it's probably the two most demanding tracks, Bahrain for tyre management and Silverstone, it's high-speed corners but he did some pole positions, he's always there, consistent and I'm sure he will do well next step and also I would say that the determination because that he moved from China to Europe and we know perfectly that when you move from Europe even to Japan, it's not an easy move for a driver and Zhou did the opposite. But when you are 13 you move in Europe just because you want to become a racing driver, for me it's a mega, huge commitment but I'm convinced he will put all of his energy into the project and I'm convinced he will do well.

Check out our Friday gallery from Qatar, here.

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