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Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: FIA Team Representatives Press Conference


Team Representatives: Bruno Famin, Mike Krack, James Vowles and Christian Horner.

Q: Bruno, perhaps we could start with you, please. Now, you and the team were managing expectations during the test, but how much of a shock was the performance in Bahrain?
Bruno Famin: Yeah, that's right that it was a shock because we were really expecting a difficult start of the season, we knew this, and this is what we said during the launch of our car. But to be on the last row in the quali was a shock, to be honest. And it just confirmed the need of changing in our team, and we made the change.

Q: On a performance point of view, do you understand the issues with this car and have you got a route forward?
BF: We understand the issues. The main issues are quite clear. I think we have to remember also that we were at the first race of the season, which is very long. The car is totally new. We have developments coming. We will work hard in developing that car. But of course, understanding what are the problems is key to solve it. And we have a quite clear idea of what are the problems and we are really working hard.

Q: Bruno, what is the biggest problem?
BF: One of the biggest complaints of the driver, it's not a secret, because we can hear it on the radio, it's the lack of traction. That's why in Bahrain, where we really need very good traction with the slow corners, it was especially difficult.

Q: Just tell us a little bit more about having three technical directors. Why have you gone down that route?
BF: We really want to bring to the factories what we have done on the track side by the end of the last season. I mean changing the mind-set, unleashing the creativity, and having three technical directors makes the organisation much more horizontal, much less vertical. More activity, more agility, and really the motto is really to develop our people. We have very talented people and we want them to bring as much as they can to the project, to the team, to the company.

Q: When will we see the fruits of their labours? Is it going to be soon or are we looking to 2026?
BF: Both, because we have a new car with A524. There is potential in this car. We have something coming for sure, but we also need to change our way of developing the car, maybe racing the car as well. We need to change really our approach, our general approach on everything we will learn on A524 will be very helpful for developing the A526 for sure.

Q: Okay, Bruno, thank you for that. Mike, if we could come to you now. You had the fifth fastest car last time out in Bahrain. On the strength of what we've seen already here in Saudi Arabia, do you expect to be more competitive here?
Mike Krack: I certainly hope so. Yes, I agree that we were the fifth fastest team in Bahrain, but we need to obviously... I said it last year as well, we need to wait a couple of races to really see where we are. I think we were quite surprised in qualifying about our performance, but we were also a little bit surprised in the race. But the ranking itself, we were not really surprised. This is what we were expecting.

Q: We've just heard from Bruno what the biggest issue is with the Alpine. What is the biggest strength of the Aston Martin this year?
MK: We have done one event, so I think we should wait a little bit before we speak too much about the strengths and the weaknesses, because we had one track where Bruno said it is a very special track. Here it's a bit the opposite, so I think we should wait a little bit before we identify strengths and weaknesses.

Q: OK, well, we've also been talking to Bruno about technical restructuring. That's not the case so much at Aston Martin, but you have announced Bob Bell as the executive director technical. Can you explain the thinking behind employing him?
MK: Well, with Bob, we're fortunate to have recruited someone with a huge amount of experience, with a huge amount of technical knowledge. And I think when you look at what we have on our plate in the years to come, we felt that it is important to strengthen our technical department further. And when someone like that with this calibre is available, then I think it's very important that you try to have that. And yeah, I mean, Bob has started. It was a very good start already. We're quite happy that we managed to have him and let's see what this brings.

Q: Are you surprised that Bruno let him go?
MK: Yes.

Q: Fernando Alonso said he was going to wait a couple of races before making a decision about his future. Are you getting a feel for which way the wind is blowing?
MK: Sorry, can you repeat?

Q: How confident are you that Fernando will commit to Aston Martin?
MK: Well, I think Fernando highlighted many times now that first he needs to be sure about himself, what he wants to do, because he's a driver that is not participating in Formula One. When he runs, he wants to be at the front. And the commitment that you need for that, I think he's very aware of it. So he needs to make up his mind first if he wants to stay. And then if that's the case, we will push or we give everything that he stays with us.

Q: Alright, Mike, thanks for that. James, coming to you. Now, you've said it wasn't the cleanest weekend for Williams in Bahrain. Have you been able to make progress in the right areas since then?
James Vowles: Very much so. So, I mean, [not] the cleanest weekend was obviously that we had an issue with Logan's steering wheel that meant he was just out of contention. And with Alex and Logan, we were overheating the PU very significantly, which just meant we had to drop back from competitors, couldn't race competitors, couldn't overtake [and there was] a large hindrance in that. But I think even more than that, we just didn't get everything right. We were on the back foot when we started testing there, very late coming into things, and the impact on the race is a consequence of that, in my opinion. The main item now is coming here to Saudi and making sure that we recover what we can from that and start moving forward.

Q: How complicated is it to introduce a new steering wheel?
JV: In terms of putting it in place, quite easy, you just click it in, but in terms of the electronics underneath, fairly complicated. As with everything on the car, when you're completely going from ground zero back up, which is what was happening with that steering wheel, it's an all new design, it is very easy to introduce slight issues as a result of it. With the car now, we can put it onto a site called a VTT, a Virtual Track Test, test systems, cooling, radiators. With steering wheels, you can run it on the DIL, the Driver in the Loop simulator, but there's no vibration or otherwise and it's only really when you're running an angle on the track that you can start to explore some of those features.

Q: Quick word on Logan. How important is it for him to get some good results early on this year and get some momentum?
JV: It's important to him to get good results. The only thing I would say is it's not the early on bit. What we have to see from him is progress as we continue on. Early on implies that there's a risk if he's not performing after three races that something will happen, and that's simply not the case. In the case of Logan, he knows that he finished last year starting to build on what he had as an experience base, and he's coming back here not as a rookie now, but someone that has years of experience behind him. He's got to build on that without mistakes, without error, and continually move forward. And I would say today in FP1, happy with that when you look at the gap to Alex, but the field is so tight now that just a tenth is pushing you back four or five places where we are.

Q: James, thank you for that. Christian, coming to you. In terms of performance, the team has clearly done a fabulous job with RB20. Is there one aspect of the car's performance that stands out?
Christian Horner: I don't think there's any single attribute that stands out. I think, as you say, it's been an outstanding team performance. I think the technical team, as you could see, it's an aggressive evolution of RB19. We took a concept that was hugely successful in RB19, the most successful car of all time. But I think that you can see that the whole design team and the production side of the business, the supply chain, all aspects of the business have pushed the boundaries with this car to keep evolving it, to keep pushing it. And I think that there's some great ingenuity on the car. But it's only one sample of 24 races, at a specific track. All the tracks vary quite a lot that are on the tour and in the championship. So, you know, let's see how the car performs at a completely different venue at a street circuit like this.

Q: Checo wasn't as happy in the car last weekend as Max. Is he in a better place here?
CH: Well, he's always run very well at street circuits and he's always revelled at this kind of circuits with barriers and concrete in close proximity. So he had his first ever pole position here. He won the race, the Grand Prix, here last year. So his confidence is high at this type of venue. And as we all know, confidence is something crucial with drivers.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Ian Parkes - New York Times) Christian, you'll obviously be aware of Jos' comments on race day in Bahrain, describing the tensions in the team. It's on the brink of exploding if you remain in charge. Where's the end game here? He inferenced that it's either you have to go or he'll pull Max out of the team.
CH: Look, I'm obviously aware of the comments that were made. There was a discussion subsequent to the race, and I think everybody's focus is very much on the future. The team's focus is very much on defending both of these world titles that we've fought so hard to achieve. Max has three successive world titles to build on that. the 55 victories that he's achieved, the 114 victories that as a team we've achieved and now sit tied with Williams on the amount of Grand Prix victories. So our focus is very much on the future. And as I say, discussions took place following the race in Bahrain and we're all looking forward.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Jeddah here.


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1. Posted by Wokingchap, 08/03/2024 11:38

"Not my favourite team leader, but the press just don't let up on CH here. I admire his patience."

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