Today's team representatives press conference with James Key, Jan Monchaux, Mario Isola, Laurent Rossi, Jost Capito and Andrew Shovlin.
Group 1: James Key, Jan Monchaux and Mario Isola.
Q: James, we're going to start with you, tell us about the new parts you're running this weekend in France. What are the drivers saying about them? And is that backed up by the data?
James Key: The new parts are kind of a logical progression from the last big step that we introduced, which was Barcelona. Bodywork may look very different, but actually, it's along similar themes. So, it's all kind of an evolution, I would say, of where we've been. I think we got some really, really good feedback yesterday. I think it takes about one event to really dial-in something of that magnitude because its floors and other things as well. But the data backs up that it seems to be doing what we broadly expected. We've now got to set-up around it, which we'll spend a bit of time this morning doing, and driver feedback was pretty positive. I think doing the back-to-back with Lando allowed him to really see the differences , and report the differences he could feel. Conditions, morning to afternoon, were pretty similar. And he came back with some really useful data on that, and then obviously run it all the way through to get the mileage and early feedback. So, so far, so good.
Q: Now, in terms of developments, you've said recently, we know exactly what we need to do with this car. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that? What do you mean?
JK: Ha! I think we all know what we want to do with our cars. It's just the difficult bit is doing it. I think probably the better way to describe that is we can see what we need to do with the car. I think when you look at competitor analysis, you've here the driver feedback. Of course, we've got a tonne of data surrounding our car as well. We can understand where the deficiencies lie and link the driver comments to what the car is doing and where its strengths lie as well for that matter. But obviously, we attack the deficiencies as our primary goal. And we can see and sense what we need to do next. And probably, what the advantages is for... we've got two teams that have dominated this year, we can kind-of sense what it is they've got right from a set of characteristics and a certain type of performance. The performance you see from Red Bull and Ferrari is actually quite different but it results in a similar level of competitiveness. I think with a lot of analysis - and I think every team does it - you can get a sense of what you need to try and achieve and, taking where we are now, and with this update proving a few things as well, we can see where we need to head. Writing a brief for that is the easy part. Getting there, of course, is what we're all trying to do, day in, day out.
Q: And so, we're halfway through the season: when you sum up how it's gone so far, it's been fluctuating fortunes, the highs have been very high: Lando, on the podium in Imola - but why has this car been perhaps less versatile than you'd have hoped?
JK: Yeah, it's been a rollercoaster ride we didn't expect and obviously we were not enjoying... you know, when we hit the more difficult circuits. I think, to be honest, there's actually been a range of things there. So, certainly the car has been stronger at some events than others: strong in Monaco, Australia, Imola, as you said, very strong there. Weak at others: we had a very difficult Canada. I'm dismissing the first race because there were other problems associated with that. And sort-of average at other places. So, I think some of it is a learning process but I suppose the versatility, in terms of consistency really, isn't quite there. Having said that - so very honest about where we are with the car - there's been a few other setbacks as well. We had, for example, in Austria, an extremely difficult, unexpectedly difficult, first session, which was really the only session we had before we had to go into qualifying. I think without that, we could have gotten a little bit better. We had an issue in qualifying as well, unfortunately, we had the same in Canada: we had an issue in qualifying, which stopped Lando from progressing. So, although the car definitely needs to improve and become more consistent, there's been other things as well, which has affected our season. And we've definitely left points on the table this year: there's been more potential than some of the recent events have shown, I think.
Q: Quick word on the drivers if we could. Lando Norris seems to have been very consistent. Do you see him having taken another step forward this year?
JK: Yeah. Lando is still in an early stage in his career in many respects. He's worked at McLaren, as an F1 driver, as long as I have, which is three years. So, I think he's still progressing, taking steps all the time and do an absolutely tremendous job for us. I think the great thing with him is he's so consistent. One race to the next, he's able to push the limits of the car, find the set-up he needs, feedback very, very well, which is, which is great. And he's doing a splendid job for us. So, yeah, really, really happy with how Lando's developing.
Q: And Daniel?
JK: Daniel is contributing just as much, certainly with the feedback. And they have a very kind of similar feeling with the car. So, it's always good to get that correlation point from both drivers. When you get to the limit... of course you're talking about finer detail. And every driver has different types of sensitivity. Every driver has a limitation over a given lap. And so the feedback on the really hard-pushed, ragged-edge kind of feeling they have is slightly different. But the big picture is very similar, and they're giving us consistent feedback. So, Daniel's giving us as good a feedback as Lando is.
Q: But are his issues similar to last year, or are they different?
JK: I think... I would say they're probably a bit different. And I mean, the car is completely different. And, you know, we're not recreating some of the peaky kind of performances that we found with last year's car. You know, when it was strong, it was very strong, but then we had events where it really struggled a bit. So, we haven't quite got the sort of the peaky-ness, I suppose, with the feeling of the car. Equally we know we've got certain weaknesses, I think every team has, and they will affect one driver slightly differently to another. And we're working with both our drivers to address the weaknesses that they're pointing out that are unique to them, as well as the whole car.
Q: Jan, coming to you, we're talking drivers, so why don't we start at that point with Alfa Romeo. You've had two new pedallers this year. How have they impressed you?
Jan Monchaux: Good morning. They've impressed us massively. I mean, with Valtteri, we knew what we would get. And he fully confirmed that: his professionalism, his input he brought, but also the kind of positive attitude he had internally, which was also a massive boost for the team. So, there are no big surprises and he delivers. I mean, we know he's a great qualifier, even if he had here and there a few difficult weekends. And in the race, he usually doesn't do many mistakes. So, we know we have a very strong reference driver there. And Zhou is for me, he is a surprise of the season. I mean, we have a short memory, but if you would read back some of the comments of journalists last winter, they were quite sceptical, to remain diplomatic. And he's a great driver. He's learning a lot, he is very focused, he's been impressive in the race from the onset, in terms of his overtaking capabilities. He is quite impressive for a rookie: he doesn't damage the car. I mean, he was involved in two accidents but apart from that, he is usually neat, and in qualifying he's been consistently progressing. There is still room for improvement. Luckily, we have a reference driver, so he knows also where to work on. But Zhou is earlier where we wanted him to be than we originally expected. So, he is a very, very good surprise for us and I think for F1 in general.
Q: So, happy with the drivers. What about the car? Has the C42's performance been where you were hoping it would be prior to the start of the season?
JM: I thought I would be driving for the Championship so no, not necessarily! No, more seriously, we are reasonably happy with the car. Like every team we have a reference, he's always running on the front, so we know where there's room for improvement and we are working on it. So, all-in-all, we are... let's say I can't use a word to easily... we are, let's say, satisfied with the basis, but it's also about the development during the season. Our competitors are not sleeping, so it's about also bringing updates and bringing updates all within the cost cap, which is quite an interesting exercise. Where we probably have suffered most is in general is reliability, where we had a few setbacks, which is something which has highest priority for us to sort out, and make sure we can give a car for both driver so they can run all the session and also brings a car home on Sunday - because we left a lot of points on the tracks this season and that's pretty annoying.
Q: I remember, at the pre-season shakedown in Barcelona, you guys were suffering badly with the porpoising? Can you tell us a little bit about how you've managed to overcome that?
JM: Like, I guess every team: looking into the data and doing a few tests and manoeuvring ourself with a car in an area where the problem would not be there, or almost not be there. So, it's... I think, when you are in a team is relatively straightforward what to do to not enter that, that behaviour of your car. And we've been, through all the work we've been doing on the floor side, in the setup, we've been able to quickly get out of the difficult zone. But yeah, shakedown and Barcelona test was tough, yeah.
Q: Where do you see your battle for the remainder of this season? Do you think you can close on the guys in front? Or is it consolidating where you are? What's the plan?
JM: I would hope we can spoil the party of the orange and yellow or blue guys, and be there to also have a word to say up until the end of the season. I mean, we're only halftime. It's a matter of now being consistent, bringing updates. I think from the pure pace of the car, we can go and challenge these guys. But the midfield is so tight, you can easily end up in the back of Q2 or even not past Q1: four-tenths is really, really tight, so it's going to need a flawless exercise for the rest of the season if we really want to go and challenge the higher position.
Check out our Saturday gallery from Le Castellet here.