Tuscan GP: Friday Press Conference - Part 1


Today's press conference with Mattia Binotto, Otmar Szafnauer and Guenther Steiner.

Press Conference

Otmar, perhaps we can start with you please. We're at Ferrari's 1000th race. What are your best memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan?
Otmar Szafnauer: It's a good question. I had respect for Ferrari as a fan. The first time I ever saw them race was in the early eighties in Detroit when I was in university at the time and went down - I studied in Detroit so I went down to the grand prix and I remember the Ferraris battling with the, I think it was the Hondas at the time, and having worked for Ford Motor Company and General Motors I was at that time rooting a little bit more for Ferrari than Honda. So that was when it started. And then the Michael Schumacher years were absolutely incredible. They dominated and I remember those years too - but at that point I was more than a fan. I was working hard at British-American Racing to try to beat them.

Same question to you Guenther. Your best memories of watching Ferrari as a Formula 1 fan.
Guenther Steiner: I think it was when Lauda came back from his big accident in the seventies. I remember getting up at night, watching him when he made the comeback in Japan when I think he lost the championship there. Coming from the north of Italy, for sure everybody was rooting for Ferrari and Lauda being so successful. That's my memory of Ferrari. That sticks - and I think it's a great company. It does a lot for Formula 1, it has done over the time. They have over 1000 grands prix now, which you think is a number but it's a big number. So, yeah, it's part of it.

Coming to you Mattia. As Guenther says, it's a big number. It's a huge number. On a personal level for you, what does this milestone mean?
Mattia Binotto: On a personal level it's an honour. I think being here today with my current role, head of Scuderia Ferrari and team principal and somehow also greeting the 1000, I think it's certainly a responsibility but first of all it's an honour because it's a big history. It's so long since 1950, always been here, never stopped. I think being the very first one, the most winning team, Constructor, Drivers', number of race victories. So, at the end, I think it really is an honour, because when I was a kid, I was a fan. And so I never thought I could be here.

Otmar, one of the biggest news stories coming into this weekend was confirmation that Sebastian Vettel will race for Aston Martin next year. What does his signature mean to the team?
OS: Well, we took a bit of time to make the decision between Sergio and Sebastian which just goes to show what a great job Sergio has done for us for the last seven years. However with Aston Martin coming in, and a bit of financial backing behind the team, a new factory happening in Silverstone, improving the team, adding twenty per cent more personnel, we've got some infrastructure too, that we're embarking on to make this go faster, and therefore a driver like Sebastian who brings with him the experience of winning four World Championships and 53 races can only be beneficial for us. And he will help us take that next step that we all need to take in the coming years such that we can consistently race among the top three, top four teams.

And what are you giving away in letting Sergio Perez go?
OS: Well, he knows the team well, he's got loads of experience. He's a tenacious racer come Sunday, he's a good qualifier. Rarely makes mistakes, brings home the points and if there's a sniff of a podium, he's usually there. So yeah, we are giving away quite a bit and I wish Checo the best of luck. He deserves to be in Formula 1 and I hope he can find a spot and we're racing against him next year.

Guenther, coming to you, one of the potential vacancies for Checo Perez is Haas. How interested are you in hiring him for next year?
GS: I think Otmar did a pretty good sales pitch for him. He must be his agent as well! What Otmar said is true. He's a good racer but we are just looking. There are a lot of candidates out there at the moment which we are talking with, which we are thinking about and we just need to come up with a decision. For a team, it's quite good to be in the market because you have got a lot of things which you can pick up. We are in no rush to do anything and we just think it through, we come to a conclusion with an answer when we are ready.

What are the criteria you're looking for? How do you approach the problem of driver selection when you have so much choice?
GS: I don't want to go through all the criterias but it needs to be a package, and what we need to see, how do we want to... what do we want to do in the future? How it is best of the team? We're not just thinking about next year. Then, if you're short on thinking, it is pretty easy: you try to get the fastest guy as quick as possible in. But we are thinking about the next five years after we have signed our Concorde Agreement now. So, we want to build up again, that we are getting back to the results that we had in 2018. That takes a bit more time to think it through: financially, talent, it's a lot of things coming into play. And that is where we are. As I said, we are in no hurry.

Mattia, from a performance point of view, things look better, certainly in FP1 with Charles being P3. How confident are you of maintaining that form as we head towards the business end of the weekend.
MB: Not at all. Not at all. I think it is a brand-new circuit for everyone. Each single driver, each single team. I think the track will pick-up speed as well, so I'm pretty sure all drivers and teams will now look at the data, adapting their driving style and they will be a lot faster obviously this afternoon in FP2 and then later in the weekend. But I think, as we said, hopefully Belgium and Monza have been outliers for us. These were certainly different tracks where low drag is required. So we hope that here at least we can to our level of competitiveness at the start of the season, which is certainly not still great but at least we're where we were before. Yes Charles did a great lap, he got the confidence with the track. I think he drove well - but still there is much to do, much to come as well on our side, looking at the data, the sectors and progressing through the weekend.

Video Conference

(Luke Smith - Autosport) Question to Otmar. Otmar, you've just done a Sky F1 interview where you've said that Checo was kept aware about your talks with Vettel, even though he's claimed yesterday 'nobody told me anything'. He also said yesterday that we could have appreciated a bit more clarity from the team about next year so he could have got a Plan B in place a bit sooner. Do you feel there's more that Racing Point could have done to maybe help him for next year and keep him up-to-date with things?
OS: We did keep Sergio up to date as well as his manager Julian. When the decision is a difficult one, and it hasn't been made, there really isn't much more that you can say. So yeah, I don't think we could have said anything more, otherwise we'd be guessing what the future was.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) A question to both Guenther and Otmar. To do with the arbitration over the Column 1 money back to 2018. I believe that's come to a conclusion. Please could you tell us where your respective teams sat on the matter?
OS: We're pleased that it's come to a conclusion and we can now, the entire team, can focus on what we're here to do, which is go racing and entertain the fans. We're happy that it's behind us.

Guenther, anything to add?
GS: No, nothing to add. What Otmar said is right. We move on.

(Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Mattia, Toto Wolff said at the Silverstone press conference that one of our main competitors with a 3D camera was scanning the Mercedes cars inside and outside the garage. Main competitors suggest it was either Red Bull or Ferrari. Can you just clarify if you feel addressed by this statement of him?
MB: Honestly, no idea. I've no idea if someone was scanning their car. Certainly it was not us. Honestly can't comment on it. I think that taking pictures, scanning, I do not see any way, anyhow a problem with it. I think what is wrong eventually is to do reverse engineering on entire car. But I think that one now has been clarified in the wording by FIA and I'm happy with that conclusion.

Check out our Friday gallery from Mugello, here.

(Scott Mitchell - The Race) Otmar, when you were bombarded with questions about your driver line-up over recent weeks you've always stuck to the statement that both drivers were under contract for 2021. So, could you just explain exactly what changed to enable you to move Checo aside. Because the messaging from the team was an attempt to be emphatic, so there was unlikely to be a change.
OS: They were contracted at that point and, not to go into confidential clauses of our driver contracts, because we don't do that, but exactly what I said in the past was true and as you can imagine there are probably some get-out clauses on both sides. But, anyway, we like not to talk about the details of drivers contracts.

(Julien Billiotte - Auto Hebdo) Couple of questions to Otmar please. Otmar, what makes you confident that Seb will return to the Vettel that won all these titles and race wins, with you guys next year. Will he be allowed to beat Lance?
OS: I think the first bit was what makes us confident he'll return to the Seb of old? Is that right? He's 33 years old, he's still in the prime of his career, he's got a vast amount of experience, he's still highly motivated to do well. He works really hard and we believe with our team and what we want to take it to and the level that we want to get to Seb's a perfect fit for that and I'm confident that he'll race well. We've always allowed our drivers to race each other and that'll be the same in the future.

Mattia, perhaps we could get your thoughts on Sebastian switching to Aston Martin next year. What kind of a driver are they getting?
MB: As far as my thoughts, I think it is not a surprise. We are very happy for that conclusion. I think the fact that we told him very early in the season our decision for next year was really to give him all the chances to find a seat for 2021, so finally very happy for him as a person. As a driver, I think it's great for Formula 1 that's Seb's still part of the line-ups next year because he's still a four-times World Champion and I think he's a fantastic driver. Will he do well in Aston Martin or Racing Point or whatever it is? I think yes, I hope he's doing well, certainly. I think we can challenge him next year and hopefully we'll be simply ahead.

(Edd Straw - The Race) You said a few minutes ago it took a while to make the choice between Checo and Sebastian. That seems to suggest Lance was never at threat of being dropped. Can you confirm that was the case? And if so, is that confirmation that basically the team, because of the ownership, was always going to stick with Lance, no matter what.
OS: Lance has been with us for a couple of years. He's a young man at 21 years old and yeah, his father does own the team, so when he look to make a driver change, because Sebastian became available, it would have been Checo. Like I said before, there are options in his contract and those options didn't exist for Lance.

Downforce cuts for next season. Have your teams had a chance to look into them yet?
MB: Certainly yes. Obviously when you are developing a car you need to target the level of downforce efficiency for the car. I think certainly if we look at ourselves, too much drag in 2020, we are aware of it and certainly we need to reduce it, so we've got clear targets. So yes, the cut-out has been assessed. At the moment in the wind tunnel and on simulations, we are working towards that.

GS: Yeah, we looked into the changes from regulations to have less downforce next year. And we are working on it. The outcome is not fixed yet but it looks like it's easier to get rid of downforce than to gain it, so it shouldn't be difficult to do but you need to be efficient in how you do it. So, we are working on it and yeah, it's work in progress.

OS: We've started work on it. It's not an insignificant change, so there is going to be work required to gain back some of the losses that we've experienced. That'll take up a significant amount of our ATRs just to gain that back.

And part two of Adam's questions is: Mugello is the first of the new circuits we're going to this year. And if you fast forward to Imola, you will have had your only practice session before going into qualifying because it's a two-day weekend. Can we just get your thoughts on that, and how ready and how prepared you would feel now?
MB: That's a good point. If you look at this morning, for example, there is a lot of... there is big gaps between drivers and teams - but I don't think that's the true gaps between drivers and teams and they will all catch up and at the end I think it will all be a lot closer. So, if you think we move that into Imola, it means that after only a session, I think that drivers will go into quali being less prepared. I think everyone tried the simulator, so everyone tried to prepare themselves to at least Mugello by learning the track on simulators. But when you come to the true track it's certainly always quite different. So, I think Imola in that respect will certainly be very interesting. I think it will be less here because we've got the entire Friday and Saturday morning but yeah, that's an important factor.

OS: I'll just echo what Mattia said. It's absolutely right: when you go to a track that's unknown, track time is premium. We're going to have a significant amount of that removed from us, so we'll have to learn much, much quicker and I think maybe we won't see the grid as it normally is. Those that can learn quicker will have an advantage and, absolutely right, the simulator becomes more of an important tool.

Would you do a different run plan at Imola. You set your fastest time on the prime tyre this morning...
OS: Yeah, we would do something differently when we get there, definitely.

And Guenther, please?
GS: Yeah, I think what Mattia and Otmar said is right but also you have to consider here at Mugello some of the bigger teams they came here with older cars so therefore some of the drivers I think are better prepared than others because they drove here something, even not a current F1 car, which was completely legal. I think we went away from that, that you cannot go testing with old cars at race tracks which are new anymore. I don't know if somebody went already to Imola but I think a part of the difference this morning was that one as well, because everyone is going everybody is going in the simulator but there is nothing like track time as you just said, so I think Imola if nobody is going there you shouldn't have this big gap and I think it is quite positive if we achieve because then you see who is prepared to take more risk or who is learning quicker because there is a lot of elements and then maybe we can see a little bit of a mixed up grid getting to the race because one session and then qualifying there will be some surprises I anticipate. I'm not sure about it but if everybody is on a level playing field then the driver will makes the difference. For sure, it's the engineers and how they set the car up but it could be quite interesting.

(Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Otmar, I appreciate you don't want to go into contract details. Would you have been able to rip up Sergio's contract if he hadn't missed those two races because he had COVID?
OS: It had no correlation with the races that he missed.

(Andrew Benson - BBC) Otmar, given that you basically admitted that you copied last year's Mercedes as much as possible for this year's Racing Point car design, how much do the new FIA rules that have been put in place after that controversy affect your programme for 2021 design? And to both you and Guenther, what happened with the resolution to the argument over Column 1 money? Did you get it?
OS: Well, we welcome the clarity in the rules, like Mattia said. We will follows the rules. It won't have an impact on how we go about designing and developing our car in the future. We've got 500 people in Silverstone who are very capable at designing and producing and good racing car, as well as developing its performance. We've always had that, we've always had that infrastructure from the time it was Jordan. What we lacked in the past was really manufacturing capacity. What we had in race car development was always strong. I think the new rules, although they make things more clear, will have zero impact on how we develop our car.

Check out our Friday gallery from Mugello, here.

The second part of that was did you get your Column 1 money.
OS: As I said before, it's nice to have settled it and we should just move on and go racing.

GS: I fully agree with Otmar.

(Sandor Meszaros - Autosport es Formula Magazine) Question for Otmar. Would you be so kind as to explain when the idea has come up to sign Sebastian Vettel? And was it a personal idea from Mr Stroll or was it a collective decision from the management of the team?
OS: I think the first part of the question is the idea came up after Ferrari announced that Sebastian would be racing there next year and we saw that as an opportunity and Lawrence does have a big say in what the team does as he is the majority owner but it was a collective decision at the end, but he does have other people that he asks their opinions and it was a collective decision.

(Julianne Cerasoli - UOL Esporte) We're at the end of the third triple-header. After this experience happening again, especially if Liberty tries to set up the calendar with races being geographically closer?
GS: I think triple headers are very tough for everybody. I think we can do them this year because it is an exceptional year with the pandemic. We need to make the effort and the people are ready to make the effort because they are all happy to still be here. And we had a few months not doing so much in the beginning of the year, so it's possible to do in an exceptional year like this but doing it going forward as a standard I don't think it's a good idea. It's not only to the people and also for the spectator I think there is a saturation factor involved and if you race every weekend, just too close together, people lose interest. I don't think that will help them going forward. Racing close in a region, staying in Europe, staying like this, is pretty nice but we are a global sport so we need to make sure we are represented globally. I think F1 did a good job to find ways out of not being able to travel as much as we do normally, or as far as much as we do normally, we still travel, and they came up with this compromise plan but I don't think this is a plan that is here to stay. I think next year, always hoping that the pandemic will be over, going back to a more normal schedule, I think it's better in general for F1 by not having triple headers, or a maximum of one, and then being more global again would be fantastic, so that we are represented in all the world and then not the majority just in Europe.

MB: Guenther already covered all the points. Nothing left for us. Nothing to add.

OS: I think multiple triple-headers are not sustainable. Yeah, we're doing them this year but if I were to tell all the mechanics that this is how it's going to be going forward I think they would choose to do something else.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) A question for Mattia and the others if they choose. Mattia could you explain to us exactly how the soft landing in the budget caps will work in terms of head count retrenchment. I believe there is a concession for the big three teams to reduce through until June next year, so they do have an advantage until June. Could you explain that please?
MB: I'm not sure I picked up the questions, but I will try to explain the mechanism of the soft landing. Obviously as Ferrari when we have been discussing the reduction on budget cap we have been very vocal on the fact that the new number, the new budget cap, would have meant a lot of reduction in terms of team organisations and members. We said we felt a social responsibility very strongly and we felt that it was somehow a wrong move towards the people, because it being such a period - pandemic, COVID - people losing their jobs was wrong. So what we simply asked was a soft landing - it has been ourselves to ask it and to obtain it - was a soft landing mechanism where we had time as a company to reallocate people in other jobs within our company. Simply that gave us six months' time - I have to be honest, we asked for a bit more but that was the compromise - we've got six months' time by the end of the year to reallocate people in different jobs.

Check out our Friday gallery from Mugello, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 11/09/2020
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