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Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: FIA Team Representatives Press Conference


Today's team representatives press conference with James Allison, Ayao Komatsu, Enrico Gualtieri and Pierre Wache.

Q: James welcome. Lovely to see you. Now, it's been a fairly up and down season for Mercedes so far. Are you close to achieving some kind of consistency with the W15 now?
James Allison: Well, I'm not sure that I've noticed too much of the up, but I think after a pretty uninspiring start, we are starting to get to grips with it a little bit. Today was a better day thus far. Let's see if we can sustain that through the important parts of the weekend.

Q: You're running some new parts here. Are you seeing some improvements that weren't there at the last race in Miami?
JA: I'd say cautiously yes, but it's a gradual thing.

Q: And James, looking at bigger picture stuff. How difficult is this period for you compared to other moments of pressure during your career?
JA: I don't think it's any more difficult for me than it is for all of us in the team. It's always tough when a car isn't where you want it to be. And that is not an enjoyable situation. On the other hand, once you do start to get your head around it and start to move it forward, that then becomes extremely pleasurable. So hopefully we've got the worst of the grim feeling behind us and are now on the upward slope of that.

Q: There are a lot of staff movements at the moment. You've had some big players come, you've had some big players go. Would you call this the normal ebb and flow of a Formula 1 team? Or are you gearing up to a new era and needing some new skill sets?
JA: No, I think it's more in the normal ebb and flow of an F1 team. The teams are big these days and in any given year you are shipping out a whole bunch of people and shipping in a matching number. That will be true in nearly every team.

Q: All right, look, final one from me. A lot of speculation about George Russell's teammate next year. Would you go for youth over experience?
JA: Well, happily, it's not me that makes that choice. So I'll just take the fifth on that one and leave it to the bigger dogs in the team to answer that.

Q: Alright, James, thank you. I'm sure there'll be more questions for you in a minute. While we're talking youth, Ayao, could I come to you now? Ollie Bearman has just driven FP1 for you guys. What was his programme? How impressed were you?
Ayao Komatsu: It was a kind of a standard FP1 programme. So you have two sets of tyres; two runs on low-ish fuel. The first run, getting to know the circuit, getting to know the car and then the second run, the softer tyres for doing a bit of a quali-type simulation. Then last run is high fuel, looking at tyre management and consistency. Again, he's done another very, very good job. You know, he's so calm. He understands what he needs to deliver each session, each run, each lap. And he's able to absorb the information so quickly, you know, either from himself from the previous lap or the engineer's feedback. So again, I can't really fault him today. Great job.

Q: And Ayao, what has he got to do to get a race seat with Haas in 2025?
AK: I think continue to deliver like this. You know, like I said, we haven't looked in the detail yet, but, you know, but at first glance we can't fault him, what he's done today. And that was the case last year when we ran him in two sessions as well. So, yeah, if he continues to perform like this, for sure, it's difficult to ignore.

Q: Let's keep talking drivers for a second. Nico Hülkenberg said last time out in Miami that you tried quite hard to keep him for next year. Just how much of a loss will his departure be for the team?
AK: Of course, we'll feel it. And it really depends who you're going to get for next year as well. But since Nico came with us last year, he's been providing us with amazing reference in qualifying and also his feeling in the car, feedback, especially for teams like us, you know, not as big as these guys, where some of the methodology or procedure is not as refined or detailed. You know, the driver plays a bigger role, if you like, in telling us how we should develop the car, where the strengths or weakness of the cars. So, yeah, again, we will feel it, it's a big loss and that's why I try to keep him but you know we are all adults and we all understand the reasons for him leaving and we push together you know like we've been doing before until the end of the season.

Q: One final driver question from me. it's about Kevin Magnussen now and penalty points. He's on 10 out of a maximum 12. Have you asked him to rein it in a little bit from now on to avoid getting a race ban.
AK: Yeah, I mean he doesn't want to get a race ban either. So of course we spoke about it, you know, away from the race circuit. And then yeah, this weekend of course we try to keep it as clean as possible. He has to be cleaner than, let's say, his baseline clean, if you like. But yeah, of course he's aware; we are aware. So it's not our intention to get him a race ban. So we'll see, but he knows what he needs to do.

Q: Thank you. I'm sure there'll be more questions for you in a minute. Enrico, if we could come to you now. You are, of course, Technical Director of the Power Unit, but if I could just push you into a slightly wider technical remit just to start with and talk about the upgrades you're running here at Imola this weekend. We've just had FP1. Are they doing what you expected?
Enrico Gualtieri: Yeah, as you said, I'm an engine guy, so I couldn't really comment too much on the technical upgrades. But I think that anyway, it's still early days. We decided as a team to bring the upgrades here for being a common session. So we are just at the beginning of the Friday session. We did what we intended to do in terms of plan. So now it will be a huge analysis of the data for FP2 and then immediately after FP2. And then we will see and hopefully we can build on these upgrades later on for the session and for the season.

Q: Talking of intentions, Charles is running power unit number three this weekend. Why is that? Was that intended for this race all along?
EG: Yeah, it was not intended in terms of a defined plan. But after Miami race, our usual post-race checks didn't fit completely on our standard values. So nothing to be worried about at this stage. But simply we decided to minimise any kind of potential criticality over this day, that is quite an important one. So we simply decided... as you know, being frozen, the engine, we cannot put it on the dyno, so we need track experience to confirm the possibility and the capability of the engine to go on. We will use the engine again over the season and being the third unit, fundamentally equal to the second one, is just managing the pool. So we will use it again over the next Fridays and then we'll go on with the standard plan.

Q: And can we push it further ahead now and talk about 2026? Just how is progress in the power unit division with regard to those new technical regulations?
EG: Yeah, it starts to get more intense over this month. For sure, 2024 will be the year in which we will have to put everything together. We are going on in the development of each different and every component. So it's getting intense, it's getting enjoyable and it's getting more and more challenging because there is a huge challenge in front of us and in front, I think, of every power unit manufacturer. So this year will be the one in which everything has to be put together in order to come into the 2025 to go over the validation period.

Q: Can you tell us what you're running on the dyno?
EG: It's difficult to say because I think that everyone is doing maybe different programmes. So we are using at the dyno some components, some units. But as I said before, everything still has to be put together and we will do over the next months.

Q: Enrico, thank you for that. I'm sure there'll be more questions for you in a moment. Pierre, thank you for waiting. Now, that was a slightly scrappy first practice session for Max with those two offs. What was he saying about the car?
Pierre Wache: Yeah, I think he's clearly having some issues in Turns 11, 12 and 14. Something we are looking at. I think the guys are there at the moment, while we speak, to look at the data, to see what we can do on the set-up to help him. But I will not say it's a normal Friday for him, but it's a normal Friday as an engineer, to try to improve the car for next session.

Q: Now, the field has converged in recent races. Does Red Bull feel pressure to find performance from RB20 or will the natural evolution of the car be enough to keep you ahead?
PW: We feel pressure to put performance on the car. I think all the people here feel the pressure to put performance on the car. It would be a dream to think that we can sleep on it and think we can wait and win the championship like that. In this business, you have to go ahead, otherwise you go backward. For sure, we are looking to put performance on the car. It doesn't matter if last race we win or not. It's our business and our mentality.

Q: The team was saying back in Bahrain at the first race that the car would look very different at race seven. That's where we are now. Is that upgrade being delayed or what's the situation? When can we expect a big upgrade from Red Bull?
PW: First of all, I think it's an upgrade we have here. I think the visibility of the upgrade is maybe not as apparent from outside, but I think it's something interesting for us. And what we put on the car and how we develop the car, it will depend on our tools' response to the performance. And we will decide not to make it apparent first, but to make performance on the car. It's how we work. The plan is not is not fully defined and is mainly dependent of what we found.

Check out our Friday gallery from Imola here.


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