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Monaco GP: FIA Team Principals Press Conference

NEWS STORY
28/05/2022

Today's press conference with Mattia Binotto, Christian Horner, Andrew Shovlin, Frederic Vasseur, Otmar Szafnauer and Andreas Seidl.

Part 1: Mattia Binotto, Christian Horner and Andrew Shovlin

Q: Mattia, let's start with you. You've no doubt carried out some detailed analysis since Charles retirement last week in Spain, what can you tell us about the cause of the problem? And what fixes have you put in place here?
Mattia Binotto: What can I tell you? Not much! We did the analysis. We failed and damaged both the turbo and the MGU-H, so they will not be repaired. Obviously, we found the root cause; we fix it here, for Monaco, for the next races, and that's all the detail I will tell you.

Q: Now, so far, so good, this weekend. Practice went very well for you. And when you look at the strengths of this year's car, should this be one of your strongest circuits this year?
MB: Honestly, I don't think so. I suppose, I think if I look at our car, we perform for pole position in six races, showing that certainly the car on the single lap is strong. And it can be here, once again, in Monaco. True that we are going fast in the slow corners - but I think Monaco is a very specific circuit. And if you look at last year, for example, we have been on pole, but we are not the right car, or not the best car certainly, last year. So, I think that more drivers can certainly get the pole today and it's a matter of drivers get used, building the lap-time, taking the confidence with the car, going close to the walls, no traffic. So there are so many, let me say, variables around it, which can play an important, a key role, that today we will certainly be focused on try to do our best... and let's see. So, we've got a good car that is sure to be capable of being on pole. But I think today can be quite difficult as well for us.

Q: As you say, Charles was on pole last year, but didn't get to start the race. Have you discussed tactics with him ahead of qualifying this year?
MB: Not tactics. I think that it really is important to stay focused and concentrated here at his home circuit. There is a lot of distraction. But he knows that whenever he's in the car, he needs to be really focused on what he's doing, because so difficult around the track here. So, the only tactic is stay focused, be concentrated, get the best out of the car and the single lap. And let's hope.

Q: Final one from me. Christian said this week that he thinks there is a need to raise the budget cap. Do you agree with him?
MB: Yes, I agree. I think many teams are agreeing with him. It's something we already discussed between us. We believe that the budget cap, it's the second year of the financial regulations, but it's the one we are discussing the most about it. And the reason why is that there is an unforeseen force majeure - maybe - situation of inflation, which is so high and no one was predicting it. Six per cent of inflation is really a lot of pressure on our shoulders. So, we could have prepared ourselves for a reduction on the budget gap, 145 to 140, we could have prepared ourselves for a brand new car, no carryover parts, which was not the case last year, but we could not have prepared ourselves for such high inflation. So, I'm pretty sure that all of us, and not only the top three teams, medium teams, will hit the budget cap very soon in the season. And I think it will be really a shame that a sport like F1 will be dictated by their budget cap at the end. It has to remain a sporting and technical challenge. The budget cap, or the financial regulation, is certainly a very green regulation. It's only the second year and it will take many years to fine tune it. And I think, again, because of that low maturity of the financial regulations, where maybe there will be even no fairness or equity through the teams in the way we are interpreting it I think it, I think it will be completely wrong that a budget cap is dictating the challenge on track. So, I think the only thing we can do, as F1, sense of responsibility to give a bit of breathe, increase the budget cap for inflation, which is something as I said, which we never foresee. And I think that will be the right thing to avoid even maybe discussions at the end of the year and the championship, or maybe the team winning the championship was simply the one spending the most. And that will be wrong.

Q: Christian, coming to you now. What did you make of Ferrari's pace yesterday? After a night of analysis, do you think you can close the gap in qualifying?
Christian Horner: Look, I mean, they were very, very strong. We expected them to be strong here. They, you know, showed that particularly in FP2, yesterday, the lap-time seemed to come very easy for them. So, I think both of our drivers felt that, you know, we could make improvements to set-up. So obviously, a lot of data looked at last night. And, you know, hopefully, we've made some reasonable changes today. But yeah, certainly, advantage Ferrari yesterday.

Q: We saw some more DRS activation issues in FP1 anyway yesterday. Why is it proving so difficult to get to the bottom of that problem?
CH: I think yesterday's problem, again, was another independent issue, or just purely a software issue yesterday, so it was just a reset. And that was it. It was very different to the issue that we had the previous week. But hopefully, we've now got on top of those issues and hopefully won't be encountering them again.

Q: Let's talk about Checo. How did the conversations with him go this week? Does he now understand why you made the calls that you did last weekend?
CH: Yeah, he understood by Sunday, after the race. I think when you look at the race plot, and you see the different strategies that the drivers were on, it's very easy. He's a great team player, he's a huge part of our team. And I think that once he understood the different strategies, the tyre advantage, of course, that Max had, with temperatures soaring out of control. We saw the issues that obviously Ferrari had as a team, it was a logical thing to do, not to allow the drivers to fight each other, and try to bank those points. So, you know, we've obviously talked it through, the rationale behind that, which he fully accepted, and understood. And now, obviously try and focus on this race. And, again, try and take the fight to Ferrari this weekend.

Q: Now, the driver silly season seems to have started earlier than usual this year. Yesterday, Checo, was being asked about his Red Bull future. What's he got to do to stay with the team?
CH: He just needs to keep doing what he's doing. He's doing a doing a great job, we're very happy with him. He's driven extremely well, so far this year. The delta between him and Max is, as you know, diminished significantly, compared to last season. I think he's happier in the car. He's achieved that fantastic pole position already in Jeddah this year. He's driven some great races. And is a team player. I don't think there's anybody better in the pit lane. So, he's doing a great job, he needs to keep doing what he's doing and then talks should hopefully be reasonably straightforward.

Q: Andrew coming to you, seemed like a game of two halves for you guys yesterday, George happier with his car than Lewis, what were the issues?
Andrew Shovlin: In the first session, it was Lewis, who was a bit happier with his car. And then that balance seemed to switch a bit, going into FP2. But we were we were trying to make fairly big changes in terms of set-up to understand the important factors around this track, and then hopefully be doing more of the fine-tuning into FP3 today. So, we can pick the bones out of that: hopefully, we'll have two of them, finding the car a bit easier. But the main thing we've been struggling with here has just been the ride over the kerbs and on some of the bumps. The circuit is a bit bumpy, but it seems to be tripping us up more than the others. So that's been another of the big areas that we've just been focused on, over the last few hours.

Q: And in layman's terms, why aren't we seeing the gains that you made in Barcelona last weekend, here?
AS: Most of what you look at yesterday is actually the single-lap pace. And Barcelona, we weren't on the pace of Ferrari in particular, but not on the pace of Red Bull. So, if you look at the single lap picture, it's an area we know that needs work. And that was the case yesterday, if you look at the long runs, though, they were more consistent in terms of what the tyres are doing for us; they all looked to be in a good window. We're not suffering much degradation. So it's a similar picture. The only problem is in Barcelona, you can do something with that long run pace. And, as we know, Monaco, you need to sort the single lap. So that will be a big focus this morning.

Q: And Andrew, last one from me, can we talk about the drivers? They're 3-3 in qualifying so far this year. Tell us about how they're extracting the performance from the car? Do they do things very differently?
AS: We're all working to try and understand the car, and get it in a good window. And this is not as easy as some of the cars that we've had in the past. So, I've not really been tracking where they are in terms of qualifying, but they are trying different things - but very much working with the team and the engineers to explore different directions. And they've both been really good in that regard. And they know that if the direction that they go with doesn't turn out to be correct, it can cost them on a Saturday or a Sunday. But, as I said, we've got some more things to try this morning. But it has been really good to see the way that they're working together. They're both much more focused on trying to get the car further up the grid, than they are worried about whether one's just a bit ahead of the other or not. And we just need to keep that working relationship going.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Jon Noble - Motorsport.com) To all three of you. On the budget cap, while a majority of teams are in favour of increasing, it's not unanimous, and there's a danger that it doesn't move up. What happens if the budget cap isn't increased in its scope? Do you have to miss races, as Christian suggested? Do you lay off staff, or do you just bust the limit and hope sanctions aren't too much?
MB: I think that there will be no way for us simply to, to stay below. So, I'm pretty sure that at some stage we will go over. In the regulations, there is a threshold, which is a 5%. If you do not exceed the 5%, on the top of what's the budget cap threshold, it will be considered a minor breach. And what's a minor breach in case of force majeure? What will the stewards and the FIA decide on that, in terms of penalties? No idea - but I don't think there is any way for us - and for many teams - simply to stay within, and even laying-off people, I don't think that's a good and right choice. It's already summer time. By the time you organise it, and you do it, the benefit it can have is not sufficient to cope with the excess of prices and costs we've got. So, what will be the implications? For me, the most important, is many teams will breach it. And that, I think, will be simply bad for the Financial Regulations. Because if we come to the point that we are breaching the Financial Regulations, then I think we'll start debating the value of it. And we'll start debating if a financial regulation is worthwhile, is it working? And putting everything back in discussion. And I think that, again, to avoid that, because it's important to have a cap somehow, I think the only way is to take a breath, take some more time, and try to do a better and proper job for next year and the following one.

CH: Yeah, just to clear up a couple of comments have been attributed to missing races. I think what I was trying to point-out last weekend, when I was asked the question, was, it would be the equivalent of. We would have to miss numerous races to get anywhere near obviously getting costs under the cap. And I think certainly all the major teams are going to breach that that 140 count this year. Now, what we don't want to end up doing is, as Mattia has pointed out, there's a 5% threshold for a minor breach. What is the penalty for a minor breach? And what we don't want to do is end up playing a game of chicken. As to say: does he go to 4.9 over? Do we go to 4.7 over? And that would be one upgrade that could be the differentiating factor of, you know, this World Championship. So, I think what we do need is clarity, and clarity quickly. Because, quite simply, it's not right to be held to ransom by a couple of teams that aren't perhaps effective - because that was never the design of the budget cap. The budget cap was there to limit the top teams from a spending frenzy. None of us could predict, when we came up with a budget cap figures, which if you remember, were reduced by $30 million from where they were originally set, during the pandemic. And when we sat down and agreed those figures, nobody could have even contemplated world events that are driving inflation. We don't even know what that inflation is going to be in the second half of the year. We're all seeing the cost of living rising, we're seeing utility bills going through the roof. Where is that going to go in the next six months? So we do need the FIA to take early action on this. Because you know, we're coming up to the mid-year point. And, you know, there's only so much you could do. I think we have a responsibility to our employees as well. I mean, we reorganise, we reshape, we had to say goodbye to many long-time employees through redundancies last year to get down to a point that was consummate with the cap, before inflation came along. And I don't think it's right, that the pressure should be put on mass redundancies, within the sport. So, I think hopefully, common sense will prevail. It is a force majeure situation, it is a situation, obviously, that none of us could have foreseen, that have driven these costs up. And pragmatically, we just need to come to a common sense solution.

AS: Early on, we had a plan to land on the budget cap and work within it, as I'm sure everybody did. And then as costs like the freight were coming in, at being multiples of that, or energy, and just the effect of inflation. That's gone from being looking at ways to peg it back, to stay within, to a point where the challenge becomes insurmountable. And you have got levers that we've touched on, that you can push and pull your spending with. But the impact of those is not immediate. And the effect of them is not all-powerful. And that's the situation we're getting in now. Which is why I know Toto is very well-aligned with Christian and Mattia on this, is that everyone's facing a position where, even with the with the best will in In the world, it's almost impossible to bring the teams in. And people have talked about development budget. But development budget also goes to provide the parts that you're racing with. So, it's not this, this huge stash of money that you're only spending on wind tunnel parts, or go-faster bits. We as a team, and I'm sure we're no different, we're racing parts that are more worn out, we're carrying a lot fewer spares than we used to do. Every weekend, we're in situations where serious incidents could see as being either unable to field the car, or you're really cobbling together a car. And if we, if we're not constantly replacing parts with faster ones, we'd just be spending a considerable amount of money on the same parts. So, you know, when you look at it, the challenge that our team faces, and we're not the only one, as you know, it's probably the majority, is a very difficult challenge. And there are one or two, who if you were if you were targeting to be below, things have fallen in your favour. But it's an area where everyone's working together, and hopefully, we will find a solution.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) To Mattia and Christian, but Andrew, if you have anything to add, please do - just to follow up your answers there. Is the objection at the moment, purely on the side of two or three of the smaller teams and or has the feedback from F1 or the FIA been that you need to make a stronger case to have the budget cap changed?
CH: Obviously there's a couple of teams that against, and I think the voting process within in-season changes in the budget cap obviously requires a certain threshold, which currently there isn't. But of course, you've got to look at the bigger picture: is this a force majeure event? I would say an Act of War that has driven the inflation will be classified as a force majeure event. And I think, what we really want is clarity, because none of us want to end up, at the end of the season, all rushing to Courts of Appeal, or in Paris saying: 'he spent a million dollars more than we did', and so on. So I think we just got to come to a sensible threshold. For the smaller teams, there are levers that the FIA have, the components that are transferred, for example, gearboxes, suspension, the old listed parts components that carry a substantial tax: a cost cap tax, not a real money tax, but a cost cap tax. Maybe that's something that the FIA could look at, in revaluing those, because your teams that are even P7 in the championship are looking at breaching the budget cap at the moment due to some of that effective taxation.

MB: Not much to add, would like, again, to reinforce whatever is the situation: small teams; top teams that it's a sense of responsibility that we've got all towards the regulations and F1. As I think, we had at the time, 2020, when we were reduced 175 to 145, it was certainly not in the interest of the top team to reduce to 145. It would have been so simple for us simply to stop it and keep 175, and today, there will there be no discussions at all. I think we made an effort, because we understood the importance of it, we understood the importance try to balance a bit more, the cap and the financial situations within teams. But I think as we did at the time, now we are experiencing the regulations, we know where are the limits, what needs to be improved. And I think as an entire community, all the teams should understand that, and be responsible. If a team is simply looking at its own individual interest, we will never move on. And the thing that, as Ferrari we accepted, even in 2020, to freeze regulation, when we knew that our car was very bad. Put all the criticism on our shoulder for an entire season. But we did that, for the simple sense of responsibility. If someone is not doing it today, when there is such a situation, which is force majeure, which is obvious, which everyone can understand. I would simply not understand it.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Christian, you mentioned mass redundancies. Could you amplify that a bit? I mean, is that a real prospect, that teams will be shutting jobs in a big way?
CH: Well, I don't think it's a realistic one because obviously redundancies come with costs. So, you couldn't you couldn't make enough people redundant to lose enough cost to come under the cap, so it becomes a superfluous situation. So you know, redundancies isn't the answer to this. You know, we just need to find a solution because we only have a six-month effect. So I think as Andrew said, there's only so many levers that you have in your armoury that you can pull, but so many of our costs are dictated - the calendar, we know what that is, the freight costs, the component costs, to service and build these cars. They're all pretty much fixed. And so we're very limited in the amount of levers that we have to be able to reduce costs when we're seeing energy costs going three-fold increases, when we're seeing freight going through the roof, we're seeing component costs, becoming way beyond anything that we've ever seen previously.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing News 365) To the two team principles, and Andrew, if you'd like to get involved as well, please do. Again on the budget cap topic, but with a bit of a twist. In terms of driver and key personnel salaries going forward, given that capping those either directly through an amount or indirectly through an allowance, where do you stand on these, given the fact that it would save your teams and company owners money?
MB: That's a point we started discussing now a month ago together with all the teams, F1 and the FIA. We understand the importance to try somehow to cap the overall expenses. Obviously, there is not only the three top, let me say, key personnel in the team, there is not only the drivers, there is the engine and the power unit as well, for which there will be a budget cap in the future. So, I think that, again, we are discussing it, there is not a straightforward solution, especially for the drivers' caps on the salary, for drivers' salary cap. But no doubt that we are discussing it and trying to understand what can be a solution. It will not be in the short term, the reason for that is we already have contracts in place, and we cannot simply breach them. There are legal implications, certainly to understand how to do that, so it's a discussion. It's an important one, we understand it and we recognise it will take time, but certainly we will go through the process.

CH: Yeah, the principle of a cap is well merited. I think the application of it is tricky. And we're seeing and we're experiencing that at the moment. And of course, I think there's an awful lot of things that need tidying up within the existing cap that we have, that's being rolled out to being an engine cap as well. I mean, there's all kinds of complications with that, again, with companies' reporting structures, etc, etc. So, there's many, many complexities, but I think we need to go beyond that. And personally, I think, too much weight and pressure is being placed on the cap at the moment. I think you've got to look at where your cost drivers are. And I think as Formula 1, we need to do a better job at looking at technical regulations, sporting regulations, because we're still designing and manufacturing very expensive cars. You know, the engine regulations for 2026. There's nothing cheap about them. And I think this is what then puts an artificial pressure on the financial regulation. We're going to end up more with more people in our financial department than we have in the drawing office. And what we don't want to see is that Formula 1 becomes an accounting world championship, you know, rather than a technical or sporting one. And I think that we've just got to get that balance, right, and just look at revisiting some of the fundamentals, you know, of why does it cost so much to build these cars?

AS: I think in general, there's no doubt that a well thought out cap can benefit the sport. And those are all areas that we're looking at to be brought into it in the future and they've got to be workable. But then if you look at the situation we've got right now, the chassis-side cap came in, and it isn't... At the moment it's very difficult to see how that's going to be workable in the in the current climate. So while they're very useful topics and on the agendas for very good reason, it is the immediate problem that is the one that... We need to prove that we can have a cap that works for the teams for the sport. And from my point of view, that would be the priority.

Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) Mattia, a question for you on a bit of a different subject. Charles recently has been testing a lot of classic cars, specifically Gilles Villeneueve's car at Fiorano, which was really cool to see. In terms of the similarities between Charles and Gilles, in terms of the significance of the driver to Ferrari, I don't know about driving style as well, but can you see some parallels there?
MB: Obviously, it's 40 years after and the cars are have changed a lot, the circuits have changed. If you look at the time and the cars they had, they were so dangerous. If you got an accident, you know what can be the consequence. And today the cars are very, very safe, I would say compared to what it was, and that thanks to all the effort FIA, F1 and the teams put into it. And so I think at the time, the drivers were really mad, and they were mad because of the amount of risk they were simply accepting and I think today it's certainly safer. But then, if I look at Charles, the way he's driving, his talent, and more than that it's the passion, the passion of the fans for him. And it's something what I call hashtag Essere Ferrari. Being Ferrari is somehow trying to enhance the myth of the cavallino. There are only few drivers which are capable of doing that and I think Charlie is one of these, as Gilles. Gilles was fantastic, in that Gilles won only six races, but remains for all the tifosi of the cavallino, the driver, no, and because it really was his way of driving, his way of behaving. It's the passion he put, and I think Charles has got that and that's something which is great, we are passionate as well ourselves, and we hope that you will win simply more than six races.

Q: (Adam Cooper - Motorsport.com) Another one for Mattia. Mick and Valtteri had MGUK failures yesterday. Valtteri had a PU failure in Spain. I think you may have had something at the Imola Pirelli test. Is there a pattern here? Are you chasing issues? Are you concerned?
MB: Reliability is always a concern. And when something is happening, it's never great. So it's worrying us. We are looking at what happened. And sometimes you've got straight explanations. It can be caused by external accidents. It can be caused by exceptional, let me say, circumstances. So other ones may be a true worry and concern. So reliability has been a key factor so far in the championship because we failed in Spain, and they think for Red Bull as well, they've got three DNFs, we've got one, as you said, our customer teams got some as well. So it's a challenge, as a performance reliability is certainly a big challenge and reliability, when you've got concerns, it's never obvious to fix them in a short time. And as for the performance, so yes, it is a concern. It doesn't mean that we are too concerned, I hope Christian is more than myself. But let's do our best job from now to the end of the season and hopefully everything will be smooth and clear.

Q: (Claire Cottingham - Racefans.net) A question for Christian, please. We spoke to Sergio yesterday who spoke about the team orders and you said that you discussed it all at the end. But he did mention that the team said they could have done a better job to give both drivers a better strategy at that time. I just wondered if you could elaborate on what was spoken about? And also just clarify, if in that situation again, would Sergio be in the fight for a win, if a similar scenario came up?
CH: Yes, I think what Sergio is perhaps referring to was earlier in the race when they both came up behind George. Max had had a moment that term for and rejoined and caught that group very, very quickly. Sergio had had a few laps of trying to pass George and you know, Max had got a DRS that was intermittently working but looked like he'd got significantly more pace at that time. So we decided to let Max have a go at passing Georgia and then unfortunately, our temperamental DRS would work on some laps and not on others. And it was a question of well, is it going to work this lap, because there was he was constantly within that zone, to be able to make a relatively easy overtake. And it was one of those painful situations where, you know, is it going to work this lap? Is it not? And I think Checo would have liked to have been able to have perhaps, after Max hadn't been able to make the pass for a couple of laps, to be able to be let back through to have another go. But of course we didn't have that crystal ball to see when that DRS you know would work so other than that he understood exactly when we discussed it pre-race that you know a three-stop versus a two-stop what the potential scenarios of that work that played out and indeed, in the end we converted Checo also onto a three stop to bag that fastest lap. So there are so many things in play that you know, as I say, by the end of by the end of Sunday he was totally cool with it.

Q: (Chris Medland - Racer) For Mattia, just a question about your driver line-up. Ferrari traditionally have had a world champion, an experienced driver in there. More recently you've gone for two younger drivers. Has that changed the atmosphere within the team and the way you work and has it helped the team resonate more with the younger fan base that's coming through in Formula 1 as well.
MB: As first, very happy with the line-up we've got. Pretty happy. They're young, true, but they are having good experience as well. When we employ them... Charles was obviously an investment since he was very young in the Ferrari Academy. But as well with Carlos, having young drivers is meaning that as Ferrari we are looking not only at the short-term, but the medium, long-term, trying to build let me say, solid foundations and I think those two are really behaving well and going well together and the level of collaborations on the technical, not only outside on whatever can be social media etc, but on the technical side they got they are complimentary, giving the right feedback. I think they understand the spirit of the team and that they are empowering somehow the spirit of the team. So really very happy so far. I know that Charles had a fantastic start to the season. A bit more difficult for Carlos, but he will get there very soon, I'm pretty sure. And I think that as well to try to win Constructors' Championships you need to have two good drivers, which we've got. So overall I think we are in a good place. We have a long-term contracts with them. I'm very happy with that.

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