Eifel GP: Friday Press Conference: Part 2

09/10/2020
NEWS STORY

Today's press conference with Franz Tost, Christian Horner and Masashi Yamamoto.

Q: Yamamoto-san, Honda has announced it is pulling out of Formula 1, how difficult a decision was that?
Masashi Yamamoto: Naturally it was a difficult decision for us to have to make. We had to make the decision to work on future carbon neutral projects.

Q: Will you continue to develop the power units until the end of 2021?
MY: Of course. So given the excellent partnership we have with both SAT and RBR, as our CEO said in his presentation what we are going to be doing going forward is implementing our new structure PU and in doing so hoping we can further strengthen the relationship we have with both teams and get as many wins as we can.

Q: As you say, great relationship with both teams. You've also had great success. Is there a sense that Honda is pulling out just as a championship challenge is on the horizon?
MY: Of course that's a very difficult question. For those of us on the ground, given the fantastic relationship we have with both teams, going forward we are going to be making the absolute most of each race as it come, as I say, to get as many wins as we can.

Q: Christian, coming to you, how much of a surprise was this to you?
Christian Horner: Obviously it was incredibly disappointing but there have been discussions ongoing for several weeks now and you could see the dilemma that Honda were facing. Obviously final confirmation of that came at the beginning of last week and then public confirmation last Friday. Hugely disappointing because it's been a great partnership in the first 18 months or so we've spent together but we full respect and understand Honda's decision making and we're grateful for the courtesy they have given us in giving us time to evaluate solutions for the future. In the meantime in the almost 18 months that we have remaining in this relationship we're determined to achieve as much as we possibly can both in the balance of this year and particularly in 2021.

Q: So, what is next for your team in terms of power unit supply?
CH: Obviously we need to consider all our options. A team like Red Bull is not a standard customer team. The team's aspirations are extremely high. It wants to win. It wants to compete and win world championships. We need to take the time to do our due diligence on the options that are available to us in order to finalise our thinking certainly by the end of the season and most definitely by the end of the year. We have to consider all the options and make decisions following that.

Q: Thanks. Franz, of the Red Bull-funded teams yours has the longest relationship with Honda. How much does this set you back in the quest to become the sister team to RBR, rather than the junior team?
Franz Tost: First of all the decision from Honda of course is a big shock for us. As you said we have a very long relationship with them and very successful as well. But we have to take it like it is and we thank them for the real good job they have done with us and the rest then we will see. We made good steps forward and now Red Bull will decide which power unit we will use from 2021 onwards and I hope we can continue with all the synergy processes and also have success in the future.

Video Conference

Q: (Phil Horton - Motorsport Week, via email) How many times prior to Friday's decision had Honda previously come close to abandoning the Formula 1 project?
MY: That's a very difficult question. The fact is that after we signed the extension with both teams in December last year a lot of different conversations started at that point. Naturally we also considered pursuing both Formula 1 and the work that we are doing before the rapidly approaching requirement for carbon neutrality. In the end the decision was taken to shift our top engineers to the work on future power units etc and unfortunately we were unable to continue with Formula 1 as a result of that.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Christian, is Cyril Abiteboul back on your Christmas card list and then the primary question to Yamamoto-san: Formula 1 announced plans for total carbon neutrality, net zero carbon by 2030, I believe Honda has announced plans for 2050 so isn't 2030 earlier than '50, is it not low enough and why did you then decide to extend your commitment to IndyCar which is not even on hybrid engines yet?
CH: Well, Cyril's always been on my Christmas card list, in answer to Dieter's question. I guess where he's taking that is, obviously Renault have to be considered as a potential supplier in the future so I think Renault is a different organisation than the last time they supplied us. They have a new chairman who seems passionate about Formula 1 which is good to see. Formula 1 needs that drive from the top of an organisation, that enthusiasm, otherwise it's impossible to achieve success in this sport. As I said earlier, we have to consider all options.

MY: Naturally we respect the regulations that the FIA and F1 are looking to implement going forward. I think when we look at the overall target of carbon neutrality, we're both moving in the same direction. However, given that Honda has customers all over the world for its automobile products, its motorbikes and also its general use products, there was the need for us to move our top engineers at an earlier stage to working on future carbon-neutral products. Going to your question about IndyCar: IndyCar, from our point of view, our work on IndyCar is run by HPD which is an independent part of Honda within in America. In this case, a lot of our R&D stuff based in Japan, which meant that for our future work we had to allocate engineers to, otherwise they'd be working in Japan.

Q: (Ronald Vording - motorsport.com) Christian, Helmut Marko talked last month about an engine-related clause in Max Verstappen's contract but last week, you said there was no engine-related clause in his contract. Which is correct?
CH: Well, obviously we don't want to go into the details of a driver's contract; that's private and confidential between the driver and the team. What I can tell you is that Max is totally committed to the team; he's in the same situation as us that we don't want to go soapbox racing in the future, we need an engine, we need a competitive engine. He needs a competitive engine to achieve the success that we believe he's capable of and he believes very much in this team still, that the team can achieve that success. We're in the same boat and, as I say, that boat needs a competitive engine. You probably do need a boat this weekend, looking at the weather outside - so that's where we're at.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) Christian, among the options that you've got, how practical or appealing is a Honda continuation project, even funded by Red Bull or in conjunction with another technical partner, should you be able to find one?
CH: I think, as I say, we have to look at all of the options and we have to take the time in order to do that. Red Bull need a competitive engine. Its aspirations are not just that of a customer team. When you look at the costs involved in the engine supply, they are enormous and that's why Formula 1 has failed in its attempt to attract new engine suppliers, new manufacturers into the sport, so it brings into real focus those costs, those cost-drivers through the regulations etc and I think Honda's withdrawal is a real shame for Formula 1 but it's also a wake-up call and I think that we really need to consider is 2026 too far away for the introduction of a new engine. What will that technology be? What should it be? They are questions that are going to need to be answered quickly in order to give a road-map to what the future of the sport is.

Q: (Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Just to go back to Christian on that engine option thing, is it really now just a situation that you only really have three options, although you say you're going to investigate all options, there are only three manufacturers in the sport and as you say, the costs are so huge, does it come down, effectively, to just those three manufacturers?
CH: Well, there are no new manufacturers lining up to come into Formula 1. I think Toto, in his early conferences, obviously made it clear that Mercedes are not keen to supply an engine so that limits your choice to therefore two current suppliers in the sport. And as I say, we need to take the time to do our due diligence, we want to compete and we want to win World Championships; that's the reason that Red Bull is in the sport, that's what it's here to do and we can only do that with a competitive power unit and that's where we need to take our time to, as I say, do the necessary investigation and due diligence.

Q: (Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Christian and Franz, please: could someone like Andy Cowell be of interest to Red Bull to build or develop whatever engine you manage to secure? And Franz, could you use a different engine supplier from Red Bull Racing, moving forward?
FT: No, we don't want to use a different power unit as Red Bull Racing is using because we want to continue with the synergy process. I don't want that AlphaTauri start once more designing our own gearbox, the complete rear suspension, all this kind of stuff. We have a very close co-operation with Red Bull Technology and we want to continue with them and therefore we want to have the same engine.

CH: I think... speculation goes from nought to hundred miles an hour in this sport and obviously Andy is a very capable guy but I've got no idea what his current plans... what he's currently up to. My last understanding is that he's still working on projects, obviously for Mercedes-Benz. And as I say, our priority at the moment is looking at what is the most competitive power unit for us, from 2022 onwards and we need to make that decision by the end of this year?

Check out our Friday gallery from the Nurburgring, here.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) To both the Red Bull team principals, just following on from what Julien had said in terms of separate engine suppliers, there is a possibility that it could actually come down to that whereby one gets, say, a Ferrari and the other one gets a Renault engine. How do you overcome the situation because obviously there could be some politics at play in this?
CH: I think it's very much a two for one scenario, so due to synergy project, due to integration of the drive train, then it's inconceivable to think that the two teams could operate on different power units and that introduces all kinds of complexities, particularly with IP etc from the different suppliers, so it would be way from ideal to put teams on different power unit solutions.

FT: There is nothing to add, this is what I mentioned before. We want to work (with) the same power unit as Red Bull Racing because of the synergies which we have built up in the past years and we don't want to come back (to) where both teams have a different power unit and we can't use any more their synergies which are so important for both teams.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) For Christian and Yamamoto-san: I'm sure that Honda wants to exit Formula 1 on successful terms. Can you confirm that Honda will develop a completely new engine for 2021 first? And maybe both gentlemen can elaborate on the possibility, if it would be a potential avenue for Honda to sell IP and their technology and the Milton Keynes to Red Bull?
MY: Quite possible ready for next year of course we're going to be pushing forward with the development of a new structure, PU. In terms of the Milton Keynes factory and the facilities there, at the moment it is a blank slate. It could be that the conversation with Christian is something that we have going forward but at the moment nothing is decided.

CH: As I say, we are committed to 2021 so it's full force, full effort for the rest of this year but also 2021. It's great that Honda really stepped up for next year as well. They're not looking at leaving on a whimper. They really want to push throughout next season as well which is a real fighting spirit, both within Sakura and within Milton Keynes, which is fantastic but obviously we've been digesting the news but no formal discussions have taken place.

Q: Yamamoto-san didn't rule out you continuing with the engine in 2022. How seriously would Red Bull consider that?
CH: I think, as I said earlier, we've got to consider all of our options. A team like Red Bull has big aspirations. It's a winning team, we're the only team in Formula 1 in the hybrid era that has won with two power units. We gave Honda its first podium, its first victory in the hybrid era, as we did for Renault with their hybrid. So we have to weigh up all of the options and what will give us the most competitive package for 2022 onwards. We have a big regulation change coming for 2022 and the engine plays an integral role within that so we will take the time to discuss with the manufacturers, discuss with the FIA, to discuss with Liberty in terms of what their thoughts are for the future as well because obviously it's bad news for the sport that a manufacturer such as Honda has decided to withdraw for the reasons that they have.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - The Race) Just to follow-up on Christian's answer and also on what you said earlier about the cost of an engine project with this set of engine regulations. Is it an insurmountable cost to Red Bull and is this the most logical or practical opportunity that Red Bull would have to take on an engine project, given that there is existing resource that could be taken over, IP, that sort of thing?
CH: Well, look, it's like all things. You've got to consider all possibilities. You've got to be open to all possibilities. We see in this sport that sometimes the unexplainable can happen and it's our duty to look at what is the most competitive way forward in 2022. We have the time. Honda have afforded us that time. If they'd have made this decision in the spring of next year or in the autumn of next year, it would have been a far worse scenario for us, so we're only just halfway through the relationship with Honda and we've achieved a lot in the time that we've been together, we aim to achieve a lot more in the remaining time that we have together, and obviously there are the bigger questions that need to be answered between now and the end of the year.

Q: (Andrew Benson - BBC Sport) Yamamoto-san, will Honda continue to fund the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, after it leaves Formula 1?
MY: This is a conversation that needs to be had between Mobilityland and Formula 1.

Q: Whilst on that topic of funding, how does the decision impact on Yuki Tsunoda's chances of getting an F1 seat next year?
MY: Personally, I don't think our leaving has any impact there. Red Bull don't just let anyone drive their cars. I think they will be evaluating him strictly as a Junior driver and also it depends on his Formula 2 results as well. But we'd like to back him up where we can.

Q: (Luke Smith - Autosport) As a follow-up question on Yuki Tsunoda, question for Franz: how much does this decision have any bearing on your consideration for him for a seat for next year and can you give any updates on what AlphaTauri is thinking about in terms of its driver line-up for 2021?
FT: Scuderia AlphaTauri currently has two fast drivers with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat. We will do the young driver test day with Yuki Tsunoda and this has nothing to do with the decision from Honda that they will not continue after '21. The philosophy at Red Bull is always the performance and if Yuki performs well and he is doing a really good job in Formula 2 - he has won two races this year, at Spa and Silverstone if I remember rightly and in Austria as you remember hopefully, he was leading the race in the wet until a few laps to go and because of radio problems he couldn't win this race. He is doing a really good job and this is decisive, the performance of the driver and this was always the philosophy and this will always stay like it is and then we will see what Red Bull decides regarding their drivers for 2021.

Check out our Friday gallery from the Nurburgring, here.

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Published: 09/10/2020
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