Group 1: Otmar Szafnauer, Guenther Steiner and Mario Isola.
Q: Guenther, let's start with you. You've been globetrotting since we last saw you in Saudi Arabia. You went to the NASCAR race at COTA - the Circuit of the Americas - last weekend. Let's start with that. How was it?
Guenther Steiner: It was pretty good. A new experience for me. I tried to help out in the broadcasting, you know with the...
Q: Should I be worried?
GS: No! You don't have to worry about anything! I found out it's not an easy job! I just wanted to try. Fox asked me, and I said yes because I want to try, a little bit, different things. How that feels. But now I stick to this one, I think.
Q: And, of course, Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen were making... well, for Kimi not a debut, but how did they get on?
GS: I think they got on pretty well. It's very difficult for an F1 driver to go there, you know. I think the biggest difference is that it's a contact sport, NASCAR, and you never know when it's coming. Obviously the guys which do it on a weekly basis, they've got a lot of experience, and if you drive an F1 car, you're not used to being pushed and shoved around. I think they did pretty well. As you said, Kimi did it before, so he's a little bit more used to it. I spoke with both of them and I think the biggest thing is, they enjoy it. I think it's good fun, and not having the pressure they had here when they were racing full time here, to come in there, and do this race with a completely different car, in a chilled environment. It's pretty cool to do.
Q: Let's bring it onto the Formula 1 team. How's it going? Of course, Kevin got his P10 in Jeddah, last time out. Just give us a summary of where you think Haas is at, at the moment?
GS: If I just would know! No, joking. I think Bahrain, we were not good, I must say it - but we knew why and I always said I think Jeddah is a different place, and in Jeddah, we were pretty good, I would say, for where we are at. It's just so tight between P5 and P10. There is nothing. Six teams are very close together, and each track you start from fresh. I think Jeddah was OK for us. Without the Safety Car, maybe we could have got a little bit closer to Otmar's car but we couldn't because we got stuck behind Tsunoda, who had an almost free pitstop. But we are happy where we are. We just need to work hard and keep on improving so we can keep this place. Nico's doing a good job. I mean, he's pretty happy - but we cannot be too comfortable because it's so close. A tenth of a second sometimes, we've got five cars. But I think it makes the Championship in the midfield - with the midfield now going from P5 to P10 - very interesting. So, it's always tense there, with what you can do and what not, but I think we are OK.
Q: Are you OK this weekend? Just tell us what happened in FP1 and how hopeful you are for the rest of the weekend.
GS: I think what we saw up to now, we are roughly like we were in Jeddah. We are there and thereabouts between six and seven, I would say. The times are very difficult to judge because, with the red flag coming out when the GPS system went down, both of our drivers were actually lucky because Norris obviously didn't know that we were coming, because he was not on GPS anymore and we could not see him, he couldn't see us. So, we lost those laps but all-in-all there's still a lot of work in front of us this weekend to get again in a position to score points. It's not a given that we score points, we need to work hard and the guys put a lot of effort in for the race pace, that we are good in the race pace. We achieved that in Jeddah, we were there with the other ones. We are doing the same here, trying to get the best race pace out and then just qualifying, do a fast lap as quick as we can. So, hopefully we can make points - but we have to wait for Sunday to know.
Q: Mario, let's bring it on to you. Let's get a summary of FP1 and how it's going from your point of view.
Mario Isola: FP1 is always difficult to really understand from our point of view because there is a lot of track evolution and teams are more focussed on the set-up of the car. I believe that we decided to bring three different compounds, or the Soft is a different compound, compared to last year, because last year the C5 was a bit too soft, nobody was going to use it during the race, so we want to encourage different strategies, possibly with a mix of one and two stops. But also using all the three compounds. And the Soft in FP1 was used only by Verstappen since the beginning for all the session, but at the end from other drivers and it's working quite well - so I'm confident we can have different strategies on Sunday. I don't know if one or two stops yet. We get more data in the afternoon with FP2.
Q: Can we get a word about how the new compounds this year are performing. First time this year we've had you in the press conference. When you look at Race 1, Race 2 and what we've seen so far, are you happy with how things are going?
MI: I'm happy because the targets were to obviously increase for the new construction the level of integrity, which we have done because they are using a lower pressure. The second point was about reducing the understeer and also in this case I believe the new construction is helping to balance the car. And the third one was to test this new C1 compound that was working quite well in Bahrain. We are also trying to understand if we can use it in more races. It's close to the C2 to maybe sometimes we can also replace the C2 with the C1. We need to get a bit more data and to agree with the FIA the allocation. But yeah, the new package is working as expected. So, I'm happy.
Q: Let's throw it forward now. The tyre tender has been launched for the 2025-27 seasons with an option for 2028 of course. Now, you've been F1's tyre supplier since 2011, you've confirmed your interest in continuing with the tyre supply. Was that an easy decision for Pirelli to make?
MI: It's never an easy decision because we invest a lot of resources and money in Formula 1 but we are happy with the results so far. 13 years is a long period and to continue for another three, four years is also a bigger commitment, but the sport is very healthy, we are happy with the current situation. We are happy to play our part in the sport, as I said, and to follow the requests that are coming from drivers, teams, FIA and F1, to have a sport that is even better, if it is possible. So now we are in the process of analysing the document that is quite long. It's different from the past with a lot more pages to analyse but, as I said, the general feeling is that we want to apply and to continue. It's a process and we will wait for the end of the process.
Q: Otmar, P4 in the Constructors' Championship last year. You spoke of wanting to use that as a springboard to close on the top three. Just give us a summary of what's happened so far this year for Alpine?
Otmar Szafnauer: Well, in the two data points that we have, the two races, the first one in Bahrain didn't quite go to plan for either driver. I think one started nearly at the back, or last, due to some issues he had in Qualifying. That was Pierre. Esteban made it into Q3 but then was very quickly penalised for being outside of his grid position. And from there we also made a mistake and started working on his car too early after his penalty and I think he also was caught speeding in the pitlane, so that kind of ruined his race. Pierre went from last to in the points, ninth, which was a great drive from him. I think one second behind Bottas at the end. We just needed another couple of laps. We were catching him. But anyway, we scored. And then at the last race I think we were comfortably the fifth fastest team with Ferrari just ahead of us and us really not pushing hard to see if we could overtake them. A bit conservative but what we've got to do is get back on that springboard, as you said, and develop over the season - it's a long one - and continue to do what we did last year and improve the car as we go along to try to catch those ahead of us.
Q: What have you got coming? Because we're being told that McLaren have got a lot of changes coming for Baku, Mercedes are going to bring a big upgrade in the coming races as well. Do you think you can fight with them - or are they going to be too far ahead?
OS: No, we think we can fight with them. Yeah, we too have a decent-size upgrade coming for Baku and then a little bit more only a week later in Miami, so we continue to push the upgrades out. I mean, the important thing is that they all work when we put them on the car and we have good correlation with our simulation tools. We had good correlation last year and if that continues and if we continue to push the upgrades, we'll take that development fight over the season to the others around us.
Q: Now, Pierre is new. How's he settling in? Has he got his feet under the table at Alpine? Are you impressed by him?
OS: Yeah, he's new and it takes time. He's enjoying the team, he likes his engineering team and the mechanics and we like him. He's fast but it will take time at the margin to eke every little bit out of the car and he's still getting comfortable with us. I talked to him after the last race and he said, 'look, give me a couple more races and there's a couple of tenths in me'.
Q: But where are those couple of tenths going to come from? Can you see it in the data?
OS: I think it's just a better understanding of driver and engineering team to set the car up like he likes it.
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