Today's team representatives press conference with Toto Wolff, Franz Tost, James Vowles and Alessandro Alunni Bravi.
Alessandro, what a great start for Alfa Romeo in the Bahrain Grand Prix, Valtteri coming home in eighth place. Tell us about his performance - because some people in the team are saying it's his best drive for Alfa Romeo. Would you agree with that?
Alessandro Alunni Bravi: It was a great performance for the team, of course, and for Valtteri. Last year, as you remember, we struggled with the start, with the first lap. I think that he had the very best start of the last two years with us, and then we had a solid performance in the race, which confirmed what we have seen during the test. But, of course, it's the first race, so we don't need to rest on our laurels. We need to work hard. We have another test, a very important one, another attempt today, a very important one in Jeddah this weekend, so, let's keep our feet on the ground. We know we want to fight with Alpine, with McLaren but the Championship is long.
As you say, one swallow doesn't make a summer - but how much confidence does Bahrain give you coming into this weekend?
AAB: It gives confidence that the work we have performed during the winter went into the right direction. We know that we had some weaknesses in last year's car, there are areas we need to improve quite a lot and we did a step. How much this step will be, big or sufficient, we will know during the season.
How much more performance do you think there is to come from this design?
AAB: It's not about performance or this design. It's about how much we will be able to develop the car during the season. This is a starting point. We need to be consistent in developing the car. This was one of the areas where last year we miss something. It's where we are working more.
Tell us a little bit, if you could, about the chemistry inside Alfa Romeo at the minute - particularly the influence of the drivers. They seem to be working very well together. We saw that when Zhou went for the fastest lap, sacrificing the end of his race in Bahrain.
AAB: There is a good spirit within the team. Both drivers have been working very well, also last year. They complement each other. And, of course, this is the direction we want to be. There is teamwork in every area, starting from the driver.
James, coming to you now. It's only a sample of one race but what is your assessment of the FW45? What can you achieve with that car this year?
James Vowles: It's got a lot of the characteristics of last year's car. So, what I mean by that since there's going to be tracks where it's very strong as it was last year as well. I think here, for example, you'll see it suits the track a little bit more. But exactly as mentioned previously, we need to take care, because these two tracks are not the normality throughout the season. There are plenty of other tracks where there are some weaknesses that are definitely inherent in the car, still in the car. That will come forward.
Now you've had time to get your feet under the table at Williams, since we last spoke to you in preseason testing. How would you describe the vibe in Grove?
JV: The best word I could use is 'spark'. There's a spark. And it's fascinating to see. There are shoulders lifted, there's heads held high now, there is really direction that they can see where we're going and how we're moving forward. It's a team clearly that have had a tremendously difficult winter, and difficult few years even prior to that. But they can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and direction we're going in.
And how different to Mercedes, your previous experience?
JV: Yeah, I mean, it is very different. You have to take into account that Mercedes was dominant for so many years. It has facilities beyond dreams and desires. To a certain extent, Williams didn't necessarily have that. It had a period of its history where it didn't have the investment required and it reflects that in the building that's there. However, what I can see between both organisations is passion: desire to effectively move forward and do the best you can and that remains there whether you're at the back of the grid or the front.
Now you've started to make changes already with the announcement of a new Chief Operating Officer of Frederic Brousseau. Just tell us: what is he bringing to the team?
JV: Some of the key elements are... a Formula 1 Car is circa 15,000 components that have to be built, produced and fit together within the space of a few weeks. To get that properly done, you need an amount of planning across all of your organisation. And that's really what he brings to the table. He's done that at Pratt & Whitney, he's been there for over 20 years, he has a good experience and good knowledge about how to bring thousands of people - in our case, hundreds - together in a key clinch moment. And especially under the cost-cap: the more efficient you can be at doing that, the more money that's available to develop the car later.
So, is that the most important hole that you needed to fill first, and then what comes next?
JV: I wouldn't say it's necessarily the most important, but I think it's a key element of every aspect of the team. Going forwards, it's still... there's a technical leadership where, at the moment, I have lots of people standing in and doing a great job, but we need to supplement them with good experience from industry.
Final word on the drivers. Alex Albon, great job to the points last time out, but specifically Logan Sargeant. He seemed pretty stoked after his debut in Bahrain. Just what has impressed you about Logan so far?
JV: From the first laps of testing, immediately you could see that the pace was there. I was a little bit reticent in wondering whether it would take him a little bit of time to get used to it. The second aspect is, it's his first grand prix. The pressure on your shoulders is enormous and he took it in his stride. He was three-wide through Turn 1. Normally in your rookie race, that ends up in disaster and he just dealt with it, with enormous amounts of maturity, and from then onwards, and I'm sure as you'll see, throughout the year, he'll step forward.
What's his feedback, like?
JV: Very good. It's as you would imagine: he hasn't got the experience that Alex brings to the team. But he has this young, fiery passion that comes with things. He wants every millisecond you can out the car.
Franz, sadly, no points for AlphaTauri in Bahrain. Is that the current level of performance of the car or did the weekend throw up some unforeseen problems?
Franz Tost: Unfortunately, I think it's currently the performance level of the car, because we expected a much better car. We struggled in Bahrain, looks a little bit different here. I hope that at least we are with one car in Q3, but we have to do a lot of things to make the car faster. And especially on the aerodynamic side. There are different programmes going on, but the engineers tell me that we make some good progress, but I don't trust them anymore. I just want to see the lap time because this is the only thing which counts.
Franz, can we break it down. What are the issues with this car?
FT: Too little downforce. Not enough downforce, therefore the car is unstable under braking, overheating the rear tyres, washing-out at the apex, bad traction. Everything what you need to do a good lap time.
And do you expect, with only five what we call 'braking events' here in Saudi Arabia, do you expect to be more competitive here?
FT: Yeah, here in Jeddah the characteristic of the racetrack is completely different. And both drivers were, yeah, not satisfied with the car but said the car feels better than in Bahrain. We have still some understeering problems which we have to get rid of, and the rest, and we will see.
Franz, you say you don't trust your engineers anymore. Do you mean that?
FT: Yes, because during the winter months, they told me the car is fantastic, we're making big progress, and then we come to Bahrain, and we are nowhere. What should I say?
Can we talk about the drivers. A lot was made over the winter of your desire to see Yuki step up. Have you seen the improvements you wanted?
FT: Yes. Yuki made a big step forward. Not only from the driving side. Also from the technical side. His technical feedback is really good, and I must say, also, his race was competitive. I think he got the most out of the car. And Nyck is still learning. What we have to provide the drivers is a fast car and then they are there. Both of them are high-skilled drivers; both of them showed in the past that they can win races, that they can win championships. It's up to the team to provide them with a competitive car.
How's Nyck settling in?
FT: Very good. I must say that he is quite familiar with the team, with the engineers and it's, as I just mentioned before, up to us to give him a good, competitive car.
Because Helmut Marko did say after Bahrain that he'd like to see Nyck step it up. Do you agree with him?
FT: Nyck will step up. If he has a good car, then he will be there. You know, if you are a young driver, a newcomer in Formula 1, then it's even more difficult if the car causes troubles. It's easier with a competitive car to show good performance. And I'm convinced that Nyck will increase his performance and that he will show us good races.
Check out our Friday gallery from Jeddah here.