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Miami GP: FIA Team Principals Press Conference

NEWS STORY
08/05/2022

Today's team principlals press conference with Toto Wolff, Zak Brown, Laurent Rossi, Christian Horner, Frederic Vasseur and Guenther Steiner.

Part 1: Toto Wolff, Zak Brown and Laurent Rossi

Q: Welcome to you all gentlemen. Let's go left to right, Toto, let's start with you, thoughts on the Miami Grand Prix please?
Toto Wolff: Mega. I think it's a fantastic achievement by all of those involved: promoters, Formula 1, and FIA to have come up with such an event and the city is hyped - is that how you say it? Formula 1 is all around, the amount of guest requests we have is amazing. I think we've finally landed in North America.

Q: Now what about on-track Toto? In terms of lap-time, it seemed like a good day yesterday. What conclusions did you draw?
TW: I think we brought some parts that function. The lower-drag package generally has been good to us in the past. The track surface seems to be very smooth, so our bouncing problem isn't as articulated, like on some of the other tracks. And I think we've just managed to chip away at the lap-time and yesterday was good. But we need to be also honest with ourselves: it's not like that we have brought a ground-breaking solution but probably the circumstances favoured us yesterday. We haven't seen Max running properly. So, I would express caution at that stage.

Q: Express caution - but do you think you now have a development path to follow with this car?
TW: Yes, I think we have more clarity on where we need to go. But I would say if we were to put this car here on Imola at 10°C and rain, the picture would have been maybe a little bit better, but still not good enough.

Q: And George Russell is 28 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton after four races. You always said George is good - but as he surprised you in any way this year?
TW: When you look at George's track record in winning the title in F3, in his rookie year, and then an F2, we knew that he was very good. And then obviously the Williams school, added it's part, so we were never in any doubt that he would that he would be very good. And you can see that it's materialising on the track. I like his approach very much. He's very rational, whether he is fastest in P2, or whether he's eleventh, it's just about applying the science and trying to make the car faster. But at the same time, Lewis was obviously very unlucky, being stuck in a DRS train last time around, so I enjoy seeing them working together, the level is high from both of them. And that has put us in a decent situation in the Constructors' Championship, so I couldn't wish for any better pairing.

Q: Zak, coming to you. Toto says this race is mega, what are your thoughts?
Zak Brown: Mega mega! I'm American, so I gotta go bigger! It's an awesome venue. I think Tom Garfinkel, Formula 1, the Miami Dolphins, the promoter have done an outstanding job. It's a proper racing track. You know, I think when you first hear something's going to go around a stadium, people then start talking about Caesars Palace from what that, thirty-forty years ago? This is definitely a proper racetrack. The demand from sponsors and fans has been off the charts, unlike anything I've seen since my time in Formula 1. Great to see just the atmosphere. So, I think in America, you got to give a lot of credit to Austin, who also built a fantastic venue to get Formula 1 back in America. And now we have Miami, soon to have Vegas. So, I really like where we are in North America as far as Formula 1's popularity.

Q: You talk about the atmosphere, you've been high up in the atmosphere with your ride with the Blue Angels. Just tell us about that.
ZB: That was awesome. It was terrifying. I'm really glad I did it. I got invited by one of the pilots. And most importantly, I didn't pass out or get sick, which was the two main goals. I got close! It was spectacular. Those pilots are amazing and the technology of those jets is amazing.

Q: And Zak, on track. Do you feel you're as close to the pace here as you were at Imola a couple of weeks ago?
ZB: No, I think we're a little bit further off. I think the track, the conditions, the weather, maybe doesn't suit our car. I think we got disrupted yesterday - as it did everybody - in the second free practice. But from what we can see so far, I think we're going to be a little less competitive than we were in Imola.

Q: And you've got a full roster of drivers here, your IndyCar drivers, including Colton Herta. When are we going to see Colton in one of your cars?
ZB: Later this year. We're getting our TPC test programme ready. Of course, all teams have to put a driver, or two drivers in, for two free practice ones. So we want to make sure who we put in, can be as competitive as possible, help contribute to the development of the car that weekend. And also make sure they bring the car back in one piece to have the next driver hop in for Free Practice Two. So, we have a couple of drivers that we'll be testing, and then ultimately Andreas will make the decision on who he wants to put in the car and we'll go from there.

Q: Laurent, thank you for waiting. We've had mega, we've had mega, mega, your thoughts on the track and the race here?
Laurent Rossi: Well, it's long overdue, obviously. I mean, given the fact that the US is half of the motorsports' cars market, it's big on racing, has been doing a lot for Formula 1 lately, through media, through investment, through management. It's a country of racing, a continent of racing even. So, it was normal, only normal, that we rebalance a bit with now two Grands Prix, next year three. Personally, I'm super happy because it's a bit of a second home. So, they know how to put on a show. They just did it. It's fantastic. Demands are through the roof. This is phenomenal. It's like mega, mega, mega! You wanted it!

Q: On track, what's the mood in the Alpine camp at the moment? It seems you have a very quick car, but you don't have the championship points to show for it at the minute.
LR: Yeah, that's true. So the mood is we keep our head down and we work. We need to convert that decent qualifying pace into like a consistent, sustainable race pace that we didn't manage to get, to be honest, in the first few races. And that's why we didn't get the points. It's just a matter of trade-offs and setting your car differently. So, we've been trying a couple of things yesterday, it was disrupted quite a bit, the track is tricky. We still managed to get our programme through and we will learn a lot. So hopefully this will come into a good place today and tomorrow.

Q: Fernando Alonso said yesterday that he thinks he's had his best start from a personal point of view, since 2012. But it hasn't shown on the scorecard so to speak. Are you sensing a lot of frustration on his side of the garage?
LR: Oh, yeah, of course. We are as frustrated as he is. I'm frustrated. He has only two points, I think, and it's always been like... if you ask people they probably think he's fourth in the championship because he's always up there. So, it's been fairly unlucky. All of the glitches that we encountered, and/or problems on the track were almost constantly on this side. So hopefully, the tables are going to turn a bit and he's going to show that, indeed he is in absolute brilliant shape.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) To all three of you, please. There was a recent discussion about increasing the number of Sprint events for next season. But publicly, the objection to that was put on the FIA side, and that it needed to be evaluated further. Were you surprised by that? That there was this lack of alignment between F1 and the FIA when that has been such a given in previous years?
TW: I think that scrutiny needs to be given on the decisions we take. And I'm sure that between Stefano and Mohammed, we're going to come to a resolution. For Mohammed it was important to hear the FIA's members' opinion, and he wasn't against it, just that he needed more time for that decision.

ZB: We tried to get six Sprint races off last year, which obviously didn't happen for this year. I think all the teams voted in favour of the six Sprint races, now that we've seen the data, which tells us it does create more fan awareness, and that's what I think is most important in growing the sport, is how do our fans respond when we try new activities? And as Toto said, you know, Mohammed voiced he just wanted to do some more homework. I think maybe the FIA and Formula 1 in a forum like that, maybe should align on whatever position they have prior to those meetings, but I'm sure it'll be sorted out.

LR: Not much to add after that, indeed, it's good that all the governing bodies are making sure they're fully aligned - because once you get there, you cannot really pull back. So, I think it's nice that we are working properly, we will have a bit of a debate and a bit of homework until we get to an alignment, and we just go for it. So it's just a matter of time, I guess.

Q: (Jeff Gluck - The Athletic) For all of you, please. Obviously, you're not wrong about this being mega, how does that this race in particular maintain its position, with so much hype going for it. Once Vegas comes on in future years, it's going to be here for a while. What are the keys to making sure this remains a top event?
LR: Well, I guess first it's the show on the track. So if the race is good, if they take care of the track, of the surface, if they address any issues, if we find some, in terms of like accident-prone areas, you know, all the things, if they make sure that the track is consistently providing a good show, that's already the first important parameter. And then it's all the amenities, facilities, everything that enables a good organisation around the event. And finally, it's the entertainment around the whole show, because it's a show: that's what it is. And so far, they're doing an amazing job, they are raising the bar. I trust they will be capable of keeping on doing this in the next year. So, I actually think this is going to take everyone one notch up.

ZB: I think, as Laurent said, putting on a good first year event, which is a challenge to get everything right, given the size and scale and newness to it. But if you look at Austin, 10 years on, they had record attendance last year, Silverstone has been around for 50-plus years and is already a sellout. So, I think putting on a great event, and then having it be sustainable over decades, is... I don't say it's easy to do but clearly it can be done. If you look at the grand prix calendar, the Italys of the world, they've been popular for decades and decades. So I think let's just get it right, put on a good show for the fans, and I think there's a tremendous amount of runway here.

TW: I think there's so many things that already work in favour of Miami: the city, the entertainment that it's provided outside of the racing track. But I think one major factor will be how entertaining the race will be. These are great expectations from fans and partners that come to Miami, and I think whatever needs to be done for the track to provide that real entertainment factor will be important to consider for the future. We have a very long straight, hopefully that can provide for some overtaking and if not, I'm sure that the team around Tom here will eventually come up with great solutions if it needs to be tweaked, which we don't know yet.

Q: (Jonathan Noble - motorsport.com) This weekend, there's been some dialogue between some teams and the FIA regarding Ferrari running two different specification floors at the Imola tyre test. First of all, are you comfortable with what took place there and the explanation of the FIA? And are there any concerns that teams can now exploit the regulations to use these Pirelli tests to test different components?
TW: I haven't followed that in detail. I've seen, obviously, the Tweet with the two pictures. But the FIA just needs to be on top of these things. It can't be that any team runs a component in an environment it shouldn't be doing. And I guess if the FIA was not 100% on it, I'm sure they will be now.

ZB: Yeah, I'm not close to the details other than I've heard the story. I think just what's important is that we do have total trust in the FIA to police the sport, whether it's at a test or a race weekend. But then, we also need total transparency. It's been suggested - or so I've heard - that maybe it was on an older floor. Maybe that was the case. But I think what's important is that if that's the case, demonstrate that to the teams. Just give us confidence that it's been policed appropriately, and total transparency. We've had in the past, not long ago, an engine violation a few years back, and then there was a significant fine. We don't know how much and we also don't know exactly what was done, and I think in today's day and age, total transparency will help the sport understand what happened, why it happened, and what's been done about it.

LR: Yeah, I think what Zak just said is clearly very important. I don't know what the details are either. I know of the suspicion, but I wouldn't say... I wouldn't point a finger yet, because I don't know the details. So that wouldn't be fair. But at the end of the day, all we need is transparency. We need to know if there was something wrong or not. And if there is, what's the outcome? That's it. All we need is transparency. I wouldn't point fingers at a moment. I don't know. But really, the most important thing is that we leave that under a veil and then we don't know what's going on. So...

Check out our Saturday gallery from Miami, here.

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