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Abu Dhabi GP: FIA Team Representatives Press Conference


Group 1: Laurent Rossi, Mike Krack and Christian Horner.

Mike, Sebastian Vettel, his last race weekend in Formula 1. What's the atmosphere like in the garage?
Mike Krack: As you can expect, there's a lot of people around trying to get their last moment with Sebastian. It's actually quite difficult to keep the distraction away, trying to focus on our last race because there is still something we could do in the Championship. So, it's a fine balance, like trying to keep everybody on it and allow them all to celebrate their moment with Sebastian. I try to keep it away until the chequered flag and then we can party.

You've only worked with him this year, of course, but what's been the highlight for you?
MK: I think there were many. There were many highlights but I think the highlights are maybe not what you expect - great moments - it's the moments you are going through difficult times and getting yourself out. Like when you have good conversations about what to do with the car, what he needs. These are more highlights for us than seeing it then happen on the track when he gets better results out of it.

What about car performance for this weekend. What can we expect from Aston Martin here?
MK: Well, the car has not changed big time. So, I think we are in the position where we are. We need to be realistic. It will be very tough to have a chance against the Alfa Romeos because I think since their latest update, they are a bit faster than us but we will try. Reliability is one thing; strategy is another one and we will not give up until the flag drops.

Last race of the year. Can we just get your thoughts on the season as a whole?
MK: Well, all in all, I think, disappointing, because we didn't have the start that we wanted. And then to work yourself out of where we started., it's very, very hard in the cost cap environment and with the intensity of the racing. So, at the end of the day, I think it's damage limitation, how you could call it. But obviously finishing sixth and seventh was not what we aim for when we started the year.

But do you feel you've got a good platform for 2023 now?
MK: Yes, yes. But the feeling doesn't really matter there. You have to deliver it. And we will see in March only.

Well, we're going to see a little bit of 2023 next week when Fernando Alonso tests the car. But what are your first experiences of Fernando and what's the programme for him next week?
MK: Well, obviously, first of all, getting him comfortable and familiar with the team with the car and get his impressions. I mean, the car is not exactly the same, because we run the different tyre generation, so we need to be careful not to draw wrong conclusions. But yeah, it will be more about getting up to speed with each other, get to know each other, get him comfortable in the car in the first place. And then go through a small programme to have any influence on the new race car.

Christian, let's start with Sebastian Vettel. His last race. What's your abiding memory of working with him?
Christian Horner: Well he's just a consummate professional. He came to us as a young kid with a brace and a funny haircut. And he just grew in that time as a Red Bull Junior. He's just got such an endearing personality, he'd turn up with chocolates for the receptionist and the secretaries and he just endeared himself to everybody, had the ability to mimic and impersonate so many different accents from cockney slang to Nigel Mansell. his Jean Todt was legendary. So, just a brilliant, brilliant character. And an even more brilliant driver. I mean, what we achieved together, the four consecutive World Championships, the way that he went into the final race here, in 2010, and in Brazil, 2012, phenomenal, phenomenal memories. Obviously, the last couple of years have been more challenging for him, but it shouldn't diminish from anything that he's done and achieved as one of the greatest drivers ever in Formula 1. And just beyond that, just a great guy. So many memories away from the track with him. He used to spend quite a bit of time, he'd come and stay at the house. I live in the countryside on a bit of a farm and they were lambing, the lambs were being born in a shed and he wanted to get involved and see, and I just remember the local farmer turning up with Sebastian helping to pull a couple of lambs out. And he didn't have a clue who he was, who this guy is, a four time World Champion, in a sheep shed. Or, I remember, he took a couple of donkeys - we've got a couple of miniature donkeys - he talked for a walk, and he's walking through the village and somebody nearly drove off the road thinking 'is that Sebastian Vettel with the donkey from Shrek?' So, just a lovely, lovely guy, and I think we'll all miss him in Formula 1.

Which was his best season for you?
CH: Well, he just got better and better. I mean, '10, it went down to the wire; '11, he was truly dominant; '12 he never gave up and came right; he won four critical races in '12. He'd won one race before we left Europe that year. And then delivered incredibly after we left Europe in '12. And then '13, he was just on a different level. And those nine consecutive victories were insane, and the level of intensity that he had to deliver that was outstanding.

Let's bring it on to the here and now. The car performance looks better here than it was in Brazil. Is that the reality?
CH: Yeah. We didn't get the car right in Brazil. I think just the one session, I think, hurt us. We didn't adapt the car to its optimum and I think that compromised us for the entire weekend, both in the Sprint and in the Grand Prix itself. So, I think, with the benefit of hindsight, obviously we would have changed quite a bit on the car in Brazil, we're here in Abu Dhabi, we had a decent day yesterday, a good morning. I have to say Liam Lawson did a strong job as a rookie in the morning, bit responsibility on his shoulders in Max's car - but both Max and Checo, they found a decent balance in the evening session and hopefully that will carry over to today, and most importantly, tomorrow evening.

Christian, a lot has been said and written about Max refusing to give up P6 for Checo in the closing stages of the São Paulo Grand Prix. Can you explain the root cause of the problem there?
CH: Well, I think the root cause of the problem was, we had never envisaged being in a situation, being in the final few laps, being in sixth and seventh place in that grand prix. And I think it was something that, as we hadn't envisaged it, we hadn't discussed it, before the race, and I think, that was a mistake on our part, that we should have thought through, or tried to think through every single scenario. And so, I think that that was a mistake as a team that we didn't discuss it and come up with a very clear plan. Obviously, it was unfortunate, what happened but it was quickly discussed, openly and transparently. And both drivers were very clear, open and honest with each other and from that, as a team, we move on and the dynamic between the drivers is absolutely fine. The objective this weekend is very clear, what we want to achieve as a team, something that we've never done previously. To achieve a one-two in the Drivers' Championship would cap-off an unbelievable year for us but I think, we made some mistakes in Brazil, we've learned from that and, as I say, we move on. We've done some amazing things. These two drivers have performed incredibly well together. They're the reason that we are in the position that we are. Max's season has been on another planet this year. So, we're not going to let the events of a couple of laps in Brazil dictate the year for us, and we come fighting into this race to do the best we can as a team, to get the best result we can.

Helmut Marko mentioned on television yesterday that Daniel Ricardo is to rejoin the team next year as third driver. Is the deal done and what role will he perform?
CH: Well, we haven't signed anything yet but Helmut in his enthusiasm has obviously announced it! So I guess that means that Daniel will be joining us - unless, of course, he chooses not to sign it. Daniel is a big character, it's been disappointing to see his performance this year. I think he would have wanted a lot more out of the season, but he's still one of the biggest names, one of the biggest characters in Formula 1. He obviously has a history as being a Red Bull Junior, and just with the demands that are on the race drivers these days, just from a marketing perspective alone, we're very active as a team, we do many, many show runs and events and to have a driver of Daniel's profile and history with the team, within the group is only an asset for us. So, it means that he keeps in touch with Formula 1 and we'll obviously be using him on the simulator as well, he'll be attending, potentially some events, of course, if he does sign a contract, but I'm sure that will all become clear in the event of him signing a contract.

Laurent, thank you for waiting. We'll come to you now. On the evidence of yesterday, the pace of the car looks promising here. What's the feeling inside the team?
LR: Similar. I think we are where we should be, which is like usually seven- eight, hoping for the big guys to make a mistake. But it's been like that throughout the entire, I would say, half-season now. So finally, if we put a very clean race together, we should finish more or less in this area, which is the hope.

And if you do of course, you will see seal P4 in the Constructors' Championship. How important is that for you?
LR: I mean, it's always better to finish P4 than P5, no doubt. At the beginning of the season, the goal was to put a new structure in place, which we did, that structure was supposed to deliver innovations, upgrades throughout the entire season, to be more competitive, which we did, which culminate, ultimately in a better position, which we are very close to be doing. So it is important, not just financially but also for the momentum. We said we would try and progress every year to catch up as much as we can with the top teams. It's important not to miss the first step. Hopefully, we're going to get there.

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