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Azerbaijan GP: FIA Team Principals Press Conference

NEWS STORY
11/06/2022

Today's press conference with Guenther Steiner, Toto Wolff, Mattia Binotto, Tom McCullough, Guillaume Dezoteaux and Mario Isola.

Part 1: Guenther Steiner, Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto

Guenther, we'll come to you first. Talk to us about progress this weekend first, because the last three races have been tough for the team. Do you feel you're making more progress here?
Guenther Steiner: That will be a short answer, because we didn't make any yesterday. So, I think, between FP1 looked pretty good and FP2, We weren't where we wanted to be. So, the guys worked overnight, obviously, to try to get back where we want to be. But I'm not sure. So, we have to wait for FP3.

But what about these last three races? What have been the issues with the car?
GS: I don't remember them all. Because we had so many. I mean, honestly, actually, I cannot... I don't want to say them all here. We always... I think the car was... we made good progress in Spain, with the car, with the set-up, and the car was competitive. But we never could get any points, you know? Because we made mistakes, either in qualifying or the race. So, it was quite disappointing and frustrating, the last races. But I think the car was, in the last races, good to get into the points but we didn't materialise any of them. So, hopefully, we can get the car back where we want to have it here, and try to get some points because now, a few races, we didn't get any, and, as I said, it's getting frustrating for everybody. But we know we've got a good car and we just need to keep our heads up and keep on working hard on it.

It's getting frustrating, yes - but do you feel you've slipped back relative to your midfield rivals?
GS: I think the midfield this year, there is never... it is not as clear as it was maybe the years before, depending on which race you are, there is always another car on top of the midfield, you know? So, sometimes you're better, sometimes you're worse because it's so close together. So, I cannot really answer if we slipped back I don't think so. Because in some of the races like Barcelona, we weren't bad, you know? Also Miami. So difficult to say. But it's difficult to say in general, because there is always a change in the midfield, who is good and who is bad depending on the racetrack.

And what about upgrades? What can you tell us?
GS: We will bring some upgrades. We are still working on some of the things where we want to bring a good package, not just a little bit and hopefully, for answer, the race after, we bring something.

And what about Mick Schumacher? He's now had two big crashes this season. How have they impacted his confidence and your budget?
GS: I mean, his confidence obviously, I spoke with him in the last week, for sure it's a little bit... he needs to come back, to gain that confidence back somehow, but it's difficult, you know? But he will make it. Budget-wise, obviously, it's a big hit. But it's not only the budget, it's also the production of the parts. We cannot keep up with it. You've got one set or two sets of moulds, and you cannot make more, and in a moment we go through parts, there is no tomorrow, because the races are so close together, to each other. So, it's very difficult to keep up and obviously cost a lot of money as well.

Looking at his Monaco crash, can you put a number on that for us, what it costs?
GS: No, we haven't gone through it, but it's never cheap when a car breaks in two.

Toto, let's talk about this weekend. So far it doesn't look to have been a straightforward one for Mercedes. How's progress?
Toto Wolff: It's like Guenther says, you're a bit better on one racetrack, and worse on the other one. I think where we are is a realistic assessment: we're third on the road. Sometimes we are a bit closer to the Ferrari and Red Bulls, sometimes we fall a little back and sometimes we are challenged by the good cars of the midfield. And this is just how it is at the moment and we need to work ourselves out of it. It's science, physics and not mystics. And that can sometimes take time.

Is there a sense of frustration starting to build that you haven't been able to maintain that Barcelona form?
TW: I think it is a normal consequence if you have been successful over many years, that suddenly you find yourself in such a dip, and you're doing your normal work that has been successful in the past but it just doesn't bring the results, and it's clear that sometimes a feeling of frustration keeps creeping in. But we are very honest about it. There's a lot to look forward for, we know that there is inherent performance in the car. We just haven't been able to unlock it properly.

What are the issues here, specifically in Baku?
TW: We are facing the same issues when the car is not quick, and that is we have a porpoising - but others like Ferrari has it too here, even a bit worse. But at different pieces of the track, we are bottoming-out badly, which affects our aerodynamic, and affects our straight-line speed greatly. And as a consequence, the ride is not very good. And this can cost several tenths, and yesterday we were losing a second on all straights to Ferrari and Red Bull.

Can we talk driver contracts now? Sergio Pérez has just signed with Red Bull Racing until the end of 2024. And given that Lewis' contract only goes until the end of '23, and you said last time that you didn't want to leave it as late as you did with him, then, is his future firmly on your radar now?
TW: Are we starting talking 2024 contracts? June 2022? No, we are in a happy place with Lewis and there is no doubt that we are embarking the season and the next one in a good place. But it's too early to discuss 2024. But having said that, I couldn't wish for a better driver pairing.

One final one for me. In other news, Lewis is producing a film about Formula 1. Has he asked you to star in it?
TW: Well, we've discussed the kind of narrative and how that's all going to come together. And certainly there's... if it comes, it's going to be a great movie.

And I'm sure he's told you that Brad Pitt is playing you. Is that right?
TW: I don't think I can say too much. But if it were like this, I think that's cool.

Mattia, let's start by talking about this porpoising, because Toto just said that you have it perhaps worse than Mercedes at this racetrack? Is that how you see it?
Mattia Binotto: We got it. I think yesterday, we were certainly bouncing and bottoming. Is it worse to Mercedes? I don't know, honestly, I have not had a look to how bad it was on their car. I think that is the consequence of the fact that we are going soft, softer and softer, lower and lower. And it's great to see that the car maybe can afford it without losing too much performance, both on the straight, and in the corners. Now, it's always a compromise. I think that the recent package introducing Spain is a step forward compared to the past, in terms of bouncing phenomenon and behaviours. We are looking as well in the future for better improvements. And today we are bouncing but I don't think it's a limitation to our performance.

Can we throw it back to Monaco next, obviously a disappointing race for you guys. What lessons did you learn there?
MB: Monaco. First, I think that the car has been, once again, competitive, it showed that on different type of circuits and layouts, the car can prove to be to be fast. And I think we are again on the first line in Quali, which was great. I think that is where we need to start from. So, after seven races, still our car is showing and proving to be competitive. And then obviously, in the race, I think it has been a succession of quite difficult situations to be managed on the pit-wall, in terms of strategy. Finally, I think we didn't get the best out of it. And not finishing here with a victory. But I think that's showing that sometimes between targets and ambitions, it can still be a, let me say, a gap. And as a team, we are always trying to have lessons learned from that, try to build our experience, try to build our improvements, our tools to make sure that we can do better in the future. So, I think what happened overall, yes, certainly, there should have been an unlucky mistake at some stage because not finishing first when you are one-two, something was not great. But I don't think that the team overall made bad decisions. I think that the decision we took was based on the numbers we had at the time, which probably were not accurate enough to make the right judgement and finally we didn't finish where we would have. I think all decision we made in Monaco was try to finish one and two and not only for a single victory, which may be was too ambitious, but I think if a team is always looking for the best, it's at least the right attitude.

Mattia, can I just pick you up on something that you said. You said the numbers weren't correct? Was that the crux of the problem, is that you went into the race with the wrong numbers?
MB: I don't think that we went into the race with the wrong numbers. When on the first pit from Extreme to Intermediates, when Sergio Pérez, which was certainly the earliest he could have stopped without being too much in traffic, he just stopped behind Norris. It would not have been the case for us to stop earlier; we would have been certainly in traffic. But simply waiting for them, Charles got an 11-second advantage on Sergio, which is a big number; Carlos almost four seconds, and normally you know that, when you got such a gap and such an advantage, you can simply wait for your competitors to make the first move, and then try to react. And, as I said, Checo went out on Intermediate, certainly was fast, he was stuck behind Norris on the first out-lap. And then Norris came in. And at that time, Charles got almost 10 seconds advantage and in a lap, we simply went off, the advantage went off and things that no-one could have imagined - and it's not a matter of going to the race with no numbers - no-one would have imagined that 10 seconds difference between performance between those two tyres at that stage of the race. We never drove on Wet tyres in Monaco on 18-inches before the time. So, you do not start collecting, having data from the past. Lewis was on Intermediate at that time. I think he was gaining on us four seconds per lap, but not 10. So, I think it took us on surprise. So, that's why I'm saying that the team. I think covering Checo, was not a wrong intention but that lap has been very significant in terms of how it turned out.

Sorry to linger on Monaco, just one final question for me about it. It's just Charles, how has he dealt with the disappointment of the last two races? Because Barcelona as well, another victory potentially going missing.
MB: I think his disappointment is our disappointment as well. I think he was certainly disappointed as we were, and when you need to turn that into positive, I think as a group, as a team, you try to look at what happened and try to have lessons learned, and try really to look forward. I think that, already, the day after, we slept on the race and we started having our internal discussion, looking at all the numbers, try to review the race decisions and why we decided that and that. I think it came out that it was not an obvious call. And that's why I think we cannot blame the team - and myself I think - for the decision we took at the time, but certainly something to learn from it, to try to improve our tools furthermore, and ready here for Baku. Try to at least fight again.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.

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