Today's press conference with Franz Tost, Mike Krack, Otmar Szafnauer, Jost Capito, Zak Brown and Frederic Vasseur.
Part 1: Franz Tost, Mike Krack and Otmar Szafnauer
Q: Franz, we'll start with you. First up, we're back in Montreal first time in three years. Give us your thoughts.
Franz Tost: It's fantastic to be back here in Montreal. For me, Montreal is always a highlight of the season because the city does a really good atmosphere; you can feel that the people love Formula 1; you can see that there are many Formula 1 fans. Of course, this is part of the history. Canada has a fantastic Formula 1 history with Gilles Villeneuve and with other Formula 1 drivers. And the track itself is very demanding. It's not an easy one. And it always provides us with an exciting race. And this will also be the case this year. I think today the qualifying will become interesting because we don't know: is it wet? Is it dry? Tomorrow it will be dry as it looks like sunshine, and therefore I'm looking forward to an interesting race weekend.
Q: And how's the car performing so far?
FT: Up to now it looks quite competitive. And I hope that this will be also the case today in the qualifying and tomorrow in the race.
Q: Now, let's talk Yuki. He hasn't had the rub of the green recently. He was set for a top six finish in Baku just last weekend until he had the problems with the DRS. And then, of course, grid penalties here. How's he dealing with all the disappointment?
FT: So far good. You know, in Formula 1, it's always an emotional up and down. I hope that the downs are finished now. We were unlucky with the power units because in Saudi Arabia, we had two engine failures, and therefore, now we have to change the power unit, therefore he has to start from the back of the grid. And in Baku, he was unlucky because the DRS failed. The real reason, we don't know yet 100 per cent. Could be that something damaged the flap. And therefore, the DRS didn't work anymore. But anyway, the car performance was quite good. And Yuki has improved a lot. Did a fantastic job, I must say. And I'm convinced that tomorrow in the race, if everything works well, that he can also maybe come close to the points.
Q: Pierre kick-started his season properly in Baku last weekend. How would you sum up his season so far?
FT: Pierre has also improved a lot. I must say he's showing fantastic performance. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the season, with a lot of reliability issues, for example, in Bahrain, when the battery caught fire, then there were some other reliability issues, was not his fault, it was coming from the team. And I am really happy now that, at least in Baku, he could show how good he is. And I hope that we will provide him with a competitive car for the rest of the season because Pierre has the ability to be in front. And it's just in the hands of the team to give him a really good competitive car.
Q: What about his future with the team?
FT: He will be a driver for us, of Scuderia AlphaTauri, in 2023.
Q: Is that confirmed?
FT: This is 100 per cent confirmed.
Q: Mike, let's come on to you. Your car seems to be getting quicker and quicker. Lando Norris even saying yesterday that he thinks you've overtaken McLaren. What was the programme yesterday?
Mike Krack: Yeah, it's nice to hear that from a rival like Lando. But I think we need to keep our feet on the ground. We must not forget, we had... we used one set more than others yesterday. So this, I think, eventually gave us a little bit of extra performance that we need to confirm if we really have it or not. You're right that we improved from where we started. But there's still a long way to go.
Q: In what areas have you managed to improve this car since you introduced this new spec in Barcelona?
MK: It's not only since Barcelona. So basically, from the beginning, there were three areas where we really focused on. One was weight; one was giving the driver feedback that they were not having, or not having enough. And the third one was obviously, aerodynamics, improving it as much as we could. And there's still a long way to go. But we tried to work our way up, continue working hard in the same areas, as we have done so far. And then we see where we end up.
Q: On the topic of feedback to the drivers, does this car suit Sebastian more than Lance?
MK: I think that will be a bit too early to say something like that. And there's also no reason why it should be like that. So, the characteristics of the car have not dramatically changed. So I don't think so, to be honest.
Q: Okay. So, as we sit here now, going into qualifying this afternoon, what are your objectives for the rest of this weekend?
MK: I think for qualifying, we need to target to have the cars into Q3. If we manage that we'll be really happy. If it's one, I think it's also good, but if we can... I think it will be, as I said, a bit over-ambitious, and not realistic to think that we ended up where we ended up yesterday.
Q: Otmar, your car's looking competitive as well here. How does your progress on Friday here compared to last weekend in Baku?
Otmar Szafnauer: Similar. We had a good Friday in Baku. We had a good Friday here as well. And a little bit of learning overnight, and we hope to improve a little bit more before we get to qualifying. But I think the weather has changed everything that we tried to do yesterday. So, let's see where the weather ends-up and how we can progress in qualifying and Free Practice Three.
Q: Do you think you can be the best of the rest here? And by that, I mean, the first team after Red Bull and Ferrari?
OS: Well, it looks like Mercedes were pretty quick yesterday as well. And they have been, if best of the rest is after Red Bull and Ferrari, I think they've been there more than we have. But it's exactly what we're trying to do. And we'll do our best. But like I said, the conditions have changed from yesterday. So let's see what that brings.
Q: Can I ask you about Oscar Piastri now? He was back in last year's car at Silverstone this week. How did that test go?
OS: Really well. Oscar's a bright young talent coming through, as we all know. And he's been testing last year's car. At more than just Silverstone. He's done a few others and will do some more in the future. And he's doing very well.
Q: How are talks about his future going?
OS: Well, we're contracted with Oscar and we have some options on him. So, there's no real need to hurry that, so we'll take our time and at the right moment, within the silly season, we'll have a look around and make those types of decisions.
Q: Do you think he'll be racing in Formula 1 next year?
Questions From The Floor
Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) Otmar, do you think Oscar will be racing in Formula 1 this year? There's been a lot of speculation about potentially getting a seat mid-way through the season.
OS: Yeah, I've read the same. It's hard for me to predict the future on that. So, I'd like not to - but I don't have any more knowledge than you do.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - RacingNews365) Mike, in your current role and position, how involved do you actually get in decisions regarding the future tech of the car, etcetera? I mean this big upgrade that you had. Were you involved in that at all?
MK: Yeah, I'm the team principal. I'm in charge of technical development. So I think yes, I am involved.
Q: (Jon Noble - motorsport.com) Otmar, I saw you down at Williams last night having a chat, which may have been formal or informal, but Oscar is obviously linked with a potential Williams future. Do you think he's ready for a kind of a rookie season with Alpine, fighting in the front from the off, or do you think he'd benefit from a learning experience elsewhere?
OS: I think both are good. I can't predict what will happen next year and the informal chat at Williams was... we have a mutual friend in Michael Andretti and he happened to be down there. So, I went down and Jost knows him well from his days of living in Detroit and I just recently learned that we're neighbours when Jost was living in Detroit. I just didn't know him. So we had an American-style chat.
Q: (Ian Parkes - New York Times) Sorry Otmar, another question for you. You said that... you were asked, will Oscar be racing in F1 next season, you said yes. Is that an absolute 100 per cent guarantee that he's already signed a pre-contract with another team, or somewhere else? Can you enlighten me please?
OS: We don't talk about the details of our contracts with the drivers. And that's something that we never do. So as much as I'd like to tell you, I don't think I can. But when I do say yes, you know, that's, that's the plan.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - RacingNews365) Mike, if you could kindly just sketch, does Andrew Green, then report yourself? And Otmar, can you rule out that Oscar will race in Formula 1 this year?
OS: In what order! Yeah. Andrew Green used to report to me!
MK: Yes, I'm working together with Andrew Green. It's not the only two of us, we have a very strong technical team and we have analysed from the beginning, where we are, where we can do things better, what we have to do next. And we will continue along that line. It's a very good team. And I'm happy to be part of it.
OS: I've said this many times, Dieter - and you've heard me say this: if I could predict the future, I'd be in Vegas, but I wouldn't rule it out.
Q: You're going next year!
OS: But I'd be there now!
Q: Otmar, in the context of all of this, can you just give us your thoughts on Fernando Alonso's performance this year? Do you feel he's taken a step up compared to last year?
OS: Yeah, I wasn't at the team last year. However, we did compete against him. We're often competing in the same space. So yeah, I think he has taken a step up, he's still a formidable competitor. He does a very good job. And he gets the speed very, very quickly. These cars are new: we haven't been to Canada in a while now, and with a new car, and I'm very impressed at how quickly he... a few laps, and he's there. He's doing a great job for us.
Q: And your intention is to continue with him next year?
OS: That's a really good question. Something I haven't thought about, that's in the future. Let's talk about that when we get closer to the break and that thing that I think you all call the silly season.
Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) A question for all three, I was talking to Christian Horner yesterday about porpoising, and the FIA Technical Directive. And he said that, actually, he felt that the most pressing, immediate concern was the budget cap and raising that, with inflation set to hit 11% in England, later in the year. And he also felt that an agreement of some sort would be coming in the next couple of weeks. Could you fill me in on where you are on that? Whether you think there will be a raise in the cap and that there's agreement now? Or are you still as firm in your positions as ever?
FT: This year is a difficult year regarding the financial situation, because the price has increased dramatically from the logistics side, as you know, also from the energy side, and also the car parts cost much more, as we expected. And Scuderia AlphaTauri is on the limit. But we must not have any accidents in the second half of the season, because otherwise it becomes, also for us, difficult. And if FIA, FOM and the teams come together to increase the cost cap a little bit, I will be of course in favour of this.
Q: Franz, Can we also get your thoughts on the Technical Directive this weekend?
FT: When this new regulation was created, it was clear from the very beginning onwards that these cars will not be easy to drive. Why? Because this floor, with a kind of Venturi principle makes it necessary that the cars are set-up quite stiff; that the cars are quite close to the surface and that the front and rear ride-height is quite low. At least, you will gain a lot of performance if the car's set-up as low as possible, and as hard as possible. In addition to this, you have the 18-inch tyres, therefore it is clear that there is less damping coming from the tyres, and that the cars are not any more so comfortable to drive as it was in the past. Now, the drivers complain about it. On one hand, I can understand, it's not so easy for them. On the other hand, this is a Formula 1 car. And I remember back when the wing cars were out there, there was a driver coming to me on Sunday evening and said tomorrow I have to go to the dentist because I lose my feelings because the cars are so hard to drive. And it's not nothing new. Now, there are two things. First of all, the drivers must do more training for the neck muscles and for the gluteus maximus, then this helps, for sure. Yeah. And the FIA is coming now with this new Technical Directive, which, of course, will help to find out how big are the forces. And then when they create these metrics, then maybe we can find a way to reduce the bouncing, and the forces which are coming to the drivers. How much this can be controlled, I don't know yet. We, from Scuderia AlphaTauri will support the FIA. We will give them the datas and then we will see what will be the result. But this is a Formula 1 car. This is not a Rolls Royce. And drivers should be aware of this. And if the cars are too stiff, or it's too difficult for them, maybe they should stay at home, in the living room, sit in the chair, and then they can do the races on TV or wherever. I don't know.
Mike, budget cap and the TD please?
MK: Yeah, so let's start with the budget cap. So, you will be aware that there is a lot of discussion still going on. And I think it will be also on the agenda of the next financial advisories, and also Formula 1 Commission. So, there was a lot of discussion, obviously, from all kinds of parties, all the time, I think we must reflect that the increase of cost is real. For various things, Franz said it, parts are becoming more expensive, running the factories are becoming more expensive. So, we support an increase based on indexation, but not the cap increase per se. So I think the cap is there for good reason, and we should respect it. But, my opinion is that we should also reflect the increase in cost. Then on the porpoising, if things become unsafe, or a safety concern, I think we must follow the FIA who is in charge. Safety first, before any performance concerns. So we support them 100 per cent. And as Franz said, we give the metrics and then we see that we can develop something that we get also the subject behind us and concentrate on racing.
OS: As far as the cost cap goes, we've been against an increase this year. And I do realise that there have been discussions going on behind the scenes to do something that's sensible. I'm not in favour of increasing the cap. But for sure, costs have gone up in a couple of areas that have been mentioned. The freight has increased. And that's very measurable, and it's measurable for all teams. So, if we come to some compromise on the freight, I think that's sensible. And as far as the TD you know, for us, we face exactly the same constraints of running these cars as everyone else does. And we just tend to run the car at a ride height that still gets the performance that we need, but it doesn't injure or hurt the drivers or destroy the car. We run it safely. And I believe every team has that opportunity to do so. Just increase the ride height. It will be safe and you have to do nothing else. It's just some choose not to and lobby the FIA to make changes. And unfortunately, a TD came out just recently that allows some changes to the car. Adding stays, which, if you came here with a stay - we didn't know because a TD came out on Thursday, so we don't have one - it just means you can stiffen the floor, run the car even lower and gain an aerodynamic advantage. So, to be able to do that, I think that that isn't fair for the rest of us that couldn't bring a stay, for example. So, we've got to be careful that we don't change the playing field mid-season. And I just say we can run these cars safely, just raise the ride height.
Q: (Adam Cooper - Motorsport.com) A question for all three of you. Stefano is working on a 24-race calendar, I think 16 outside Europe. How achievable is that for your teams, especially in a budget cap era? Obviously, people are cutting down on personnel, it's harder to rotate and so on.
OS: Well, I must say Stefano, Formula 1, have done a good job with a calendar recently and a good job in general. It seems like wherever we go, now, there's a massive fan base, it's sold out. So if there's demand, you know, then I think we will leave it to Stefano to decide, and Formula 1, as to where we go. And we will be supportive. However, looking at how the races are spread, when we start, when we stop, triple-headers are very difficult. And so, from that perspective, I think we can do a better job. And I know that they're looking at, you know, maybe not flying cross-continent and doing races and in the same time zones over and over to make it easier on everyone. So that will be welcome.
MK: Yeah, 100% agree with Otmar. Bringing the calendar more regional is, I think, the way forward. Triple-headers are a killer for the personnel. If we can manage these two things, I think we will be okay to do 22 or 23 or 24 races.
FT: As we are racing, you know, racing is our business, so the more races we have the better it is, the more income we have, therefore, I am looking forward to the 24 races.
Q: (Ronald Vording - Motorsport.com) It's a follow up to Adam's question. Formula 1 seems to be heading back to South Africa maybe as early as next year. At the same time, some European classics like Spa Francorchamps don't have a contract for next year and could be forced into a rotation system. What are your thoughts on that? And do you think that a classic such as Spa, which is part of Formula 1's DNA, should be on the calendar every single year?
FT: I'm really very much looking forward to go to South Africa, because we miss this race over there. We miss this continent. And it's really, really important to have a race over there. And for the other races, I don't want to mention any names. No money, no game, it's totally easy. If they have the money, we go there. If they don't have the money we don't go there.
MK: We support F1 in making a balanced calendar, I think they are well aware of where the fan base are, how much balance you need to have between new and classic, I would say. So if one or the other race is not on the calendar every year, I don't think it's a drama. We have to look for the new without going to 35 races or something like that. So, from that point of view, I think we will find a good balance. And as I said, if there is one not there for one year, something we had in the past, I think Germany rotated a couple of years ago, and it's okay, in my opinion.
OS: I think Formula 1 will find a good balance just like was said previously. Me personally, I love going to Spa because of the track. So hopefully that'll be one that can stay.
Q: (Jon Noble - Motorsport.com) Just picking up on Otmar's point about the second stay that has appeared on the Mercedes. Some teams are surprised that they were able to respond so quickly, thinking it would be nearly impossible to add a second stay a day after a TD came out. What's the realistic timeframe to make a change like that? And are you happy with the process of the FIA that all teams were informed equally about what was happening?
OS: Well, the TD came out when our chief technical officer was flying over, so it was quite late, and we aren't able to produce a stay here. And as far as the process goes, it's a technical directive. And technical directives, as we all know, aren't regulations. So it could very well be that we shouldn't be running this in qualifying, in the race. And if teams have brought those stays, I would imagine they could be, perhaps, looked at after and then protested. So it's against the regulation as it stands today. But we definitely don't have one. And unfortunately, if you do have an extra stay, you can run the car lower, lower and stiffer, and gain some advantage.
Q: And Otmar, what's the realistic timeframe to produce one of these?
OS: By the next race, we'd be able to do so. But you know, we've chosen to stiffen the floor in that area, at the expense of weight. And as we all discuss, there's some cars that are still overweight. And that's a trade-off decision you make between adding weight to the car so you can stiffen the floor. If, if you're just given a stay then you don't have to add the weight and do the same job. So anyway, yeah, we couldn't do it in a day is the answer.
Q: Thank you. Mike, please.
MK: Yeah, I think the timing of the TD was not really ideal, because you have all the team travelling, everything is on site. And then, yes, you can react, but you need to be really sure what you're doing or you need to know upfront what this will do. So, I think in such a situation you have to take a conservative approach, and then look for it for the following race. But as I said, the timing really could have been better.
Q: Franz, please?
FT: The timing was absolutely not good, because most of the people were travelling and just to send out a Technical Directive a few days before the race is for sure not the best. And to the reaction time, you know, especially the floor of a Formula 1 car is a very sensitive part. It's not just to put any parts on it without investigations. Me, from Scuderia AlphaTauri, have to find out what we do, in which direction we will react to the technical directive, regarding the stiffening of the floor or whatever. And this takes some time. And we will for sure not do it here. And then we will see what we can arrange for Silverstone.
Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) Otmar, you mentioned Michael Andretti. Obviously Alpine is working quite closely on his plans for F1. But it does seem to be quite a lukewarm reaction from the rest of the paddock about him possibly joining the grid. Are you surprised by the opposition that some other teams have shown and what kind of benefits you think Andretti joining the F1 field would have?
OS: No, I'm not surprised. I mean, there's pros and cons in having an 11th theme. But I think, you know, Andretti is a big name in motor sport. Absolutely a big name in American motor sport, too. And we're having more races in the US now and I think a team like Andretti could, perhaps, make the entire pie the revenue pie bigger, such that we all benefit.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing News 365) To all three of you, much has been made about the timing of the TD. But if we look at it, it was actually introduced under the auspices of safety. Is it really a safety-related issue given that it's really a set-up issue.
FT: I don't know whether it's a safety issue. If it will be a safety issue, then something should have happened in the last races, which was not the case. Therefore, I don't see it now. As a safety risk. I see this as a sign that some drivers complained about the cars and that they had some problems with their necks or with their muscles. And therefore for me, it's not a safety issue. And the rest then, we will see.
MK: I think the FIA has concerns about driving for a longer time in such conditions and then leading to an issue with the health of the driver, leading then to a safety issue, because you might lose concentration or consciousness. I think this is also how it was formulated. And for me, when it comes to safety, we have to trust the FIA and follow what they are instructing.
OS: Well, like Franz said, we've been running these cars for a while and we can all run the cars in an unsafe manner, but we choose not to. So, there's an easy solution, it's just to raise the ride height a bit, don't run it as stiff, and then the drivers don't face some of the ailments. And that's exactly what we do. We try to find a good balance between having the driver comfort but still gaining the performance. And I think all teams can do that.
Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) It's a question to Franz, please. Just going back to what was said right at the very beginning about Pierre driving for the team. Again, for 2023, could you just explain what the process was for talking to Pierre, because he was suggesting in Baku that obviously in light of Red Bull re-signing Sergio Perez, he needed to speak to Red Bull to decide what was the best move for him for next year. So did you have to do much to convince him to carry on for 2023?
FT: He has a valid contract. There's nothing more to say.
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