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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: FIA Team Representatives Press Conference


Group 1: Andrea Stella, Christian Horner and Mike Krack.

Q: Mike, let's talk about the on-track business that we've just seen in FP1. Felipe Drugovich, second-fastest, did a great job.
Mike Krack: Yeah. It was obviously a session where a lot of new drivers were run, I think 10-ish? So, that's obviously... and then a lot of aerodynamic rakes we saw on all the cars, that then went off. But yeah, was quite a good session, it all went according to plan, he was well-prepared. He was driving well and... not much to say, to be honest. He delivered what we expected.

Q: Tell us about the car, because you've clearly found some consistency with it - and I think that is evidenced by the performance of Lance Stroll in the last few races. He's had three results in the last four. What has changed? Why is Lance in particular so much happier with the car now?
MK: Well, we tried to develop the car to suit a bit more his liking and to suit his driving style. And, I said it many times before, if we provide the right tools to the drivers, they will perform. And this is exactly what happened. It's a shame that it took us so long, to come back being a bit more competitive, but there's still a long way to go.

Q: But if you took the car now back to Mexico, would you be more competitive now?
MK: That's hypothetical, so I cannot answer.

Q: Talk us through some of the progress you've made with it. Do you think, when you look at the problems you had in Mexico, that you've solved them?
MK: You know, Mexico is a special track. You are at altitude, you struggle with cooling, you struggle with things that you do not normally struggle with, so that is why I'm a bit careful answering that question on Mexico in particular. I think we have managed to bring the car back into a better performance window than it was in Mexico and, as I said, we still have a long road to go, a long way to go, because... I mean, we lost a substantial amount of pace over some races and coming with this, it also means we lost a lot of points in the same time - so that is something that, I'm quite happy that we managed the turnaround - but it should not have happened in the first place.

Q: Can we talk about the Constructors' Championship now? We've got several really intriguing battles. We've got the battle for P2 between Ferrari and Mercedes, and then the battle for P4 between yourselves and McLaren. You are 11 points behind McLaren. How realistic is it, do you think, that you can beat them?
MK: That's a good question. If you asked me this three races ago, I would maybe have answered differently but I think as long as there is a mathematical chance, and it is not a huge gap, we have seen also that McLaren can make mistakes - but they are ahead of us. It's not something that we focus too much on. We have to give it all, we have to be 100 per cent and they have also to be not at 100 per cent. So, it is not 100 per cent in our control. So, from that point of view, we're relaxed about it and try to do as good as we can, and then we see on Sunday how it goes.

Q: Can we get your reflections now, on the season just gone? First of all, Fernando Alonso. He said yesterday that his performance this year is one of his best. Equal, he thinks, with 2012. What is your take-home memory of working with Fernando?
MK: Well, only positives. As a team, we were blown away from the first day - until today actually. To be honest with you, I always thought it was a bit honeymoon months in the beginning but I'm quite happy that we have managed to extend the honeymoon. I think we have received a remarkable team player, constructive at all times, especially when it was difficult. When the car was competitive - or, more competitive - it's obviously easier to be constructive but the true qualities came out, and let's take this Mexico example, that both drivers, it would have been easy to take the microphones and slam the team, go against the team, and it would probably have been deserved but I think the true qualities of the team-playing character of both drivers came out in that time. And, for me, that is one of the highlights of the season, as a team, that we managed to stick together in that time.

Q: His contract runs out at the end of next year. Is there a desire to extend it?
MK: I think I don't have to answer that question. Absolutely yes!

Q: Christian, let's come to you. Let's talk about FP1. You had Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar in your car, 16th and 17th. What did you make of their performance?
Christian Horner: I actually thought they did very, very well. I mean, working to the programmes that they were working with, with the fuel loads and engine settings that they were operating to, I thought they acquitted themselves extremely well. I think for Jake, I mean, a massive step from a Formula E car to Formula 1 power. It was quite telling that the first adjustment that he needed to make was to tighten his crash helmet due to the speed that he was achieving. But I thought both did a great job. Very useful for us, to compare the virtual world that these guys have been driving in with Isack and Jake doing a lot of simulator running this year, to correlate that with the real world. And so, a really useful exercise and a great opportunity for them to get a run out in a grand prix car.

Q: Well, and the World Championship Winning grand prix car. How much pressure do you think was on them?
CH: Well, a huge amount because they both knew that if they bend it, they'd never be asked to drive it again! So, you know, that's the pressure in itself. But you know, they both, as I say, acquitted themselves very well, and gave very clear feedback. And it was useful, not just for this race, but for future projects as well.

Q: Christian, can we now just get some reflections from you on 2023? It's been a remarkable season, one that you probably wish isn't going to end.
CH: No, I'll be quite glad to get to the finish line. This one seems to have been a marathon of a year. But an incredible year, a magical year for us. I mean, to be sitting here, having only lost one race so far. So, 20 grand prix victories, first and second in the Drivers' Championship, Max winning 18 of those races, breaking records of consecutive wins of Sebastian's, breaking McLaren's record from 1988 for consecutive grand prix victories in the season as well. It truly has been the most remarkable year and it's testimony to all the men and women behind the scenes, it's not just what you see here, trackside, it's what goes on behind the scenes in the factory and of course, reliability has played a key role in that and I have to pay a compliment to our partner Honda for producing us a reliable engine. And of course, you know, operationally, strategically, we've been on top of our game this year, and the drivers have been brilliant. I mean, for Max, I think it's been a sensational year for him. So yeah, difficult to come up with a superlative big enough to do the season justice.

Q: You're the longest serving team principal in the pit lane, you know. How difficult it is to win. Do the last 12 months feel a bit surreal?
CH: Well, I think the lesson in life and in this business is you have to celebrate every success. Because you don't know when the next one is going to come. And I think we came into the sport, just under 20 years ago and were perceived as the party team, as not perhaps taking life as seriously as some of our counterparts and, and we built the team up and by 2009, we started winning. 2010, we then started winning championships, and that period was a golden period with Sebastian Vettel. But then a big regulation change and circumstances beyond our control deprived us of being able to be competitive. That was a challenging period but what I was immensely proud of is that the whole team, the core team, really stuck together during that period. And once we got a power unit that brought us into a position to be able to compete again, we made real use of that and so, there were times during that seven year drought that it felt unachievable, to get back to the winning days of 2010 to '13, but I think it just shows if you have a clear target, and you believe in the people around you, and work collectively as a team, then anything is achievable.

Q: Now, you've told us in the past that you haven't updated the RB19 in any significant way, since the summer break. How much closer do you feel the field has got to you?
CH: I mean, the biggest changes we've had have been livery changes. So, and of course, at different times during the season, we've had different competitors, giving us a hard time, whether it was Aston Martin that started the season very strongly. I mean, if you think back to Monaco that just came down to Quali. That was just one lap in Quali that determined that race. And then more recently, McLaren have really brought us a firm challenge at some very recent races, we've had Ferrari up there as well and Mercedes occasionally as well. So, it's been varying who the competitor has been. I think, where we've been particularly strong is we've just managed to achieve that level of consistency across many different circuits, conditions, and circumstances.

Q: Andrea, thank you for waiting. First question. How is Lando, after his crash?
Andrea Stella: He is very well. Fit. Looking forward to getting in the car once again.

Q: And how was the car? Is it a new chassis this weekend?
AS: It's a new chassis.

Q: OK. Can we deal with some breaking news now? McLaren and Mercedes have just announced the collaboration continues until 2030. Can you explain the reasoning behind that decision? And also. the length of the contract: why so long?
AS: Well, the reasoning of the decision is actually for us, it was quite straightforward, because we are very happy with the ongoing collaboration. They were absolutely instrumental, even in the progress of the team this year, I have to say, but above all, the kind of reassurance we got from a technical point of view, the operational standards, just how solid is what we saw, when we checked what was at stake for 2026, made this decision quite simple for us. So, we are just delighted that we have this level of continuity and stability as we look forward. And yeah, we are delighted that we could make this announcement.


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1. Posted by GordonG47, 25/11/2023 9:39

""MK: That's hypothetical, so I cannot answer."

Polite way of asking "Do you have any more stupid questions?""

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