After scoring ten points from the British Grand Prix, the team continues its climb towards fourth place in the Constructors' Championship. Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer offers his thoughts from an action-packed race at Silverstone and looks ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix where Formula 1 prepares for the second Sprint Qualifying of the season.
How does the team summarise its performance from the British Grand Prix?
Otmar Szafnauer: "After Silverstone, we've continued closing the gap to fourth place in the Constructors' Championship after Fernando's fifth in the race. Unfortunately, we weren't able to have both cars finish the race due to Esteban's retirement, which we now know was an electrical failure on the high-pressure fuel pump. Esteban was driving a great race and he recovered well from the lap one incident. The damage looked worse than it was, and the mechanics did a very impressive job to repair his car during the red flag break to have him back in the race. I'd like to add a deserved special mention to the mechanics, not only for the aforementioned repairs during the red flag interval, but also for finishing in first place for the fastest pit-stop during the race. There were plenty of positives from Silverstone - the new upgrades worked well, we were competitive on Saturday and Sunday - but the negative is only one car made it to the chequered flag and that's something we will improve in the fight for fourth in the Constructors' Championship."
What are your thoughts on the first lap incident?
OS: "The good news is that the drivers involved in the incident were all safe and OK. It was a frightening crash to witness and a scenario that, fortunately, we don't see too often. The FIA, Formula 1 and the teams have worked incredibly hard over the years to improve safety of the cars and this type of accident really underlines the high standards of safety. I'll be first to admit that I was sceptical of the introduction of the halo four years ago and I'm happy to admit my opinion was wrong. Just over the British Grand Prix weekend alone, we've seen first-hand the importance of the halo device in driver safety. We look forward to racing with Zhou [Guanyu] and Alex [Albon] again this weekend and we're very pleased that they are both OK."
What are the main considerations for Austria?
OS: "Spielberg is a short circuit with just nine corners and our car has performed relatively well in medium to high-speed corners this season, which is a key attribute of this track. The upgrades we introduced in Silverstone worked as expected and has given us a boost in on-track performance. Austria is the second Sprint event of the year and we'll have to dial ourselves in quickly with one practice session on Friday before Qualifying and I have every confidence that by Sunday we can come away with strong points. The weather can be unpredictable there and I think we have the ability to go well in Austria, rain or shine. It's the home race of our title partner BWT and we're equally looking forward to being with them over the race weekend and, hopefully, enjoying on-track success together!"
Esteban Ocon is set to embark on his 100th Grand Prix in Formula 1 this weekend in Austria. The Frenchman is keen to return to the points paying positions after a retirement at Silverstone last weekend denied him an eighth top ten finish of the season.
After a couple of days of reflection, how do you sum up your last weekend?
Esteban Ocon: "First of all, it was great to see that all drivers involved in the incident at the beginning are fine. It was a scary one and really shows how far safety in Formula 1 has come. On our side we've had a couple of days to look into the fuel pump issue from Sunday and identified what went wrong, so that is a positive. We know how crucial reliability is to achieve our goals, so it is paramount to minimise these sorts of issues going forward. We are very close to that fourth spot in the Constructors' Championship, so our eyes are set on that."
On Sunday, you will start your 100th career Formula 1 Grand Prix. An achievement you must be proud of?
EO: "Getting to triple digits in F1 is an achievement any driver would be proud of. You can say it's a number that reflects consistency in the sport and shows I am an established driver with good experience. But not quite as much experience as my teammate, I know! My dream was always to get to Formula 1, so it will feel good to say that I have taken part in 100 races with many more to come. But the focus is to have a smooth weekend with a good result on Sunday after the personal disappointment of Silverstone."
Austria is next up this weekend. Are you looking forward to it?
EO: "I'm excited to come back to another classic track. It's a very picturesque place to race cars with a relatively short lap compared to other tracks we go to. It's got a pretty compact configuration comprising of ten corners and a sequence of short, fast straights, with plenty of changes in elevation. There is good traction and straight-line speed is important to do well there, but this track is a good overall test for all cars, demanding power, aerodynamic efficiency and good braking. In the past, we've seen that weather conditions can be quite mixed in Austria, where it can be very hot, but we can never discount sudden downpours of heavy rain. The team is excited to come back and get racing again so soon."
Fernando Alonso heads to Austria next after a thrilling battle in Silverstone that saw him score a season best fifth position. Fernando will look to add another strong result this weekend in Spielberg and make it six top-ten finishes in a row.
It was a thrilling race at Silverstone. How was it for you?
Fernando Alonso: "Silverstone was a good result for us and I enjoyed battling near the front in the closing laps. We have to be happy with fifth. I think it was my best weekend so far in terms of our overall competitiveness and the result. We were competitive in all conditions in the wet and the dry weather. It's a good sign for us and something we can build on for the next few weekends. Our upgrades that we brought to the car seem to be working well and it's a credit to the effort by everyone at Enstone and Viry. It's also great to see both Zhou [Guanyu] and Alex [Albon] are OK after their big incidents on the opening lap."
Looking ahead to this weekend in Austria what are your expectations?
FA: "I hope we can pick-up where we left off at Silverstone. It's a back to back so we have to keep up the energy levels. Luckily the races aren't too far apart so the travel isn't a huge factor on this double header. As the lap is short at the Red Bull Ring it's always very close and Qualifying is usually tight between a number of cars. One small error or loss of time can be the difference between Q2 and Q3. It's also a Sprint Qualifying weekend and I think the track will be quite good for this format because overtaking is possible there. I want to keep scoring points."
Do you have any different preparations for a Sprint Qualifying weekend?
FA: "It different as you have only one practice session to perfect the setup of the car before qualifying. We had this situation last weekend at Silverstone because of the mixed weather. As a fan I'm sure it's more fun to watch and listen to a little less conversation and see more action. But we have to adapt to this format. We've had enough Sprint Qualifying races now that we are quite familiar with it. I also prefer that more points are on offer in the new format as it makes it more meaningful."