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Austrian GP: FIA Team Representatives Press Conference


Franz Tost, Guenther Steiner, Christian Horner and Alessandro Alunni Bravi.

Franz, perhaps we could start with you please. The last few races have been hard for AlphaTauri, especially Canada. What have been the issues?
Franz Tost: Wrong tyre pressure. We made a mistake in the set-up of the car because Yuki was quite competitive in FP3, when it was full Wet, and then in Qualifying, when it dried up, we made a mistake and therefore he was... He stopped in Q1 and once you are behind in Canada, it is difficult to catch-up and to overtake cars. We tried to do something with a special strategy, to call him in the first lap and go to the end. He was then in ninth position, behind Albon, but we decided to call him in. The tyre degradation was higher than expected and therefore unfortunately we didn't score any points. But I must say that the car is getting better. We saw this already in Monaco, when he was on the ninth position until the rain came and also in Barcelona, where he was ninth and then he had this incident with Zhou. The car showed a good performance there and, I must say, on the aerodynamic side we made some steps forward and I'm quite positive for the next races.

Well, you've got some new bits here this weekend...
FT: We have some new bits this weekend, we will also bring something new to Silverstone, and then we will see from the performance side.

Can we talk about the contrasting fortunes of your two drivers? Nyck De Vries has come in for some criticism from Helmut Marko. You've been watching him closely, obviously. Where does Nyck need to improve?
FT: I always say that nowadays it's really difficult for the rookies, when they come to Formula 1. Look to the first races: they don't know Melbourne, Saudi Arabia, Miami, and in Baku we had the Sprint race, that means only FP1 and then already we go into the Qualifying and especially the midfield is so close together, it's really difficult for drivers who are in there the first time and who have to learn all the tracks. Of course, they know where are the corners but, take the example of today: we have a Sprint race weekend, that means we had only FP1. We had now track temperatures of about 44-45degrees C, in Qualifying we will have 35degrees C or whatever, maybe 30degrees C and to find out this difference, to prepare the front tyres, the rear tyres, the brakes in the Qualifying, to bring them to the correct temperatures is not so easy if you are inexperienced to do this and do this for the first time in the Qualifying - because it's the first time, he is here the first time in Austria, and also the other tracks for the Qualifying, and that makes it difficult. Nyck is making some progress but it takes time. We see now how it is here in Austria and in Silverstone, Spa - because he is familiar with these tracks from Formula 3, Formula 2. He knows it and then we'll see. I hope that he will improve his performance, of course we expected more, because up to now he doesn't have any points. And let's see how it's going on in the next races.

You say he's making progress but can you just tell us one area of his performance that needs improving especially. Is it one-lap pace? Is he losing time through the slow corners. Can you just tell us a little bit more?
FT: It's not one big mistake, or one big deficiency. It's everywhere a little bit: braking; turning-in; getting the correct timing in the car. But this is also linked to the experience, just what I explained beforehand. If you as a young driver experience this the first time, you can't expect that you know it immediately, how to optimise it. And the midfield is so close together, it's hundredths of seconds, and if you lose in every corner two, three hundredths of a second, after ten corners it's two or three tenths. That makes it difficult. Once more, rookie drivers need time. If you don't give them the time, it's no chance.

What about Yuki Tsunoda then. Some of the drivers in the press conference yesterday were asked to name their top three of the season so far - and several of them put Yuki in the top three. Would you agree?
FT: One hundred per cent. Yuki is going a fantastic job. If we provide him with a proper car, he will be there.

Final one from me Franz: what's in a team name? Back to Helmut: he mentioned recently that AlphaTauri will have a new name next season. What can you tell us?
FT: Nothing! First of all, at this period of the year, all the teams negotiate with sponsors. And, of course, we have negotiations and the title sponsor is a very attractive one and we will see then what the negotiations will bring in the next months - but currently, we are talking to different companies fortunately. There is a big interest in Scuderia AlphaTauri, but nothing is confirmed, nothing is signed so far, and this will also not happen in the next few days. I think this will take a few months until everything has been fixed and then, of course, you all will be informed immediately!

Will we see a return of the Toro Rosso name?
FT: I don't think so. I think there's another possibility to get more money out of it.

Guenther, coming to you, a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for you guys last time out in Canada. The Hulk had that amazing qualifying performance and then slipped back to 15th in the race. Was that a bigger slide than you were expecting when you woke up on Sunday morning?
Guenther Steiner: Absolutely. I mean our race performance is not there where it should be, and then he got also unlucky with the yellow, with the Safety Car, and was in just a lap or two before. But in the end, it doesn't take away that our race pace is not where we are good at and that is our biggest weakness at the moment. Obviously that weakness is not a good one because you score points on Sunday and not on Saturday. I mean, it's great to qualify good, but we knew on Saturday that our race pace was not what it should be - and then as you said, you wake up on Sunday morning knowing that you're going backwards but 15th maybe was a little bit over the top but still, we need to keep on working at it.

What can you do to solve the performance differential between Saturday and Sunday?
GS: First of all, understand why on Sunday we have got the problem that we cannot keep the tyres in shape or in form. We need to sort that one out. We need to sort that one out and long-term we need to work in the wind tunnel on the problem. And short term, just to try to find the balance of the car that we are stressing the tyres less, you know? Maybe even sacrificing a little bit of qualifying performance to be better on Sunday. It's not an easy task to do but we started up straight away after Canada, everybody put their heads together, to see how we can get out of this situation, so we are having better Sundays.

Tell us about the drivers' contribution to those discussions. Does it help that you have two experienced drivers this year?
GS: Absolutely - and both, when we met after Canada with the senior technical people, they were both involved in those discussions. I wanted that they tell the guys directly how they feel in the car. Because sometimes it's 'yeah, could be this, could be that'. No, there is a guy which is actually driving it, and what does it feel when you are in traffic - where we lose most of our performance - how the car behaves. So, they are both very willing to help and obviously their experience now should help us to find out where we need to work to get out of this situation.

Given those discussions, given the pace of the car in FP1, and the fact that you have a good record here at the Red Bull Ring - I'm thinking 2018, both cars in the top eight last year - are you hopeful of a better result this weekend?
GS: I'm hopeful but I don't know yet. It's a Sprint race weekend, we had one free practice, you know. There were people that didn't put Soft tyres on at the end. It's very difficult to read into the results of FP1 here, and on any Sprint race weekend because everybody does his own programme where they want to focus on. One hour is just a little time and everybody tries, in their own way, to get the best out of it. So, I think I wouldn't read too much into FP1 - but we did what we wanted to do in FP1, and we have to see where it takes us between today, tomorrow and Sunday. Three exciting days in front of us.

And did the new pitot tube give you better information?
GS: I wasn't back at the debrief because you called me up, so it's your fault that I don't know.

OK. My fault. I accept that! Christian, coming to you now, can we start with Checo. He missed the media day yesterday because he said he wasn't feeling very well. How is he today?
Christian Horner: Yeah, he's feeling better. I think it's the joy of having young children. They tend to bring home every bug and pass it on. Checo is a father of several youngsters and I think he just picked up one of those bugs.

How seriously did you think about getting a replacement for him for the weekend?
CH: Not at all, to be honest with you. We have reserve drivers here and it was never a question, I think. It was obvious he was going to be OK for today.

Can I just extrapolate that further? Had you needed another driver, who would it have been?
CH: Well, we obviously have numerous drivers that are available to us, so we would have pulled one out of the hat, had we needed one.

We're back at the home of Red Bull for the first time since Dietrich Mateschitz passed away in October last year. Just how much are you and the team feeling his loss here?
CH: It's funny because you turn up and you feel his presence here. The passion that he had for Formula 1, the passion that he had for the local area. I mean, the facility is... it's a beautiful facility, and he was so personally involved in that. His fingerprint is on everything where we are, and all the hotels and the surrounding area. So, while he is not with us here in person, his presence is still very much felt, and of course he's very dearly missed - but his vision lives on through the team, through the brand, through the company and yeah, it's testimony to him that we're sat here.


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