Portuguese GP: Friday Press Conference - Pt 2

23/10/2020
NEWS STORY

Today's press conference with Simon Roberts, Guenther Steiner and Frederic Vasseur.

If we could start with you first impressions of this wonderful Algarve circuit. Simon could we start with you please?
Simon Roberts: Yeah, it's a great track. First time I've ever been, so really nice to see. Also we've got a brand new surface, which has made it interesting with the tyres this morning but yeah, it's a proper three-dimensional track and the drivers are really enjoying it.

Guenther Steiner: Yeah I agree with Simon. Everybody seems to be enjoying it and I think also this year going to a few new places or going back to really old places is exciting for Formula 1. I think we spiced it up there and something new is always nice. In general it's a very nice track and I think all the drivers enjoy it.
Frederic Vasseur: Yeah, it was a nice feeling this morning to be back in Portimao - I went there 10 or 12 years ago. But OK with Guenther, on this season we are visiting or re-visiting some nice tracks, like Nurburg two weeks ago or Mugello before and it's always nice for the championship to have new layouts and new tracks. It will be an exciting weekend.

Thanks Fred. Staying with you, how do you fancy your teams chances in Portugal this weekend on the back of what was a strong weekend at the Nurburgring last time out?
FV: Yeah, we made a step forward over the last couple of weekend and we were into the pace in Mugello and Nurburg. I don't know if it's linked to the new tracks or the fact that we are coming to different circuits but the pace this morning was OK, but let's see. It's still a long way to go before the race and we will see during the weekend.

And how impressed have you been by Antonio Giovinazzi's performances in the last couple of races?
FV: Yeah, but he was more consistent than at the beginning of the season and he did a good job. He was a bit unlucky during some events but the last one in Nurburg he did a very strong job but it's important for us to score points because we want to stay in front of Guenther and Haas and it's important to score points with the two cars.

Guenther, Romain Grosjean expressed surprise yesterday that you're changing both drivers for 2021. Was continuity a consideration for you?
GS: I'm surprised that he's still surprised with my decision. I'm always surprised, but he should be used to that. No, I think we just wanted to make a change and we thought it was the right time now because next year it will more difficult because with the new car coming in '22, we don't want new drivers in '22, when a complete new regulation comes in place, with a new car and different tyres and things like this. You want to start with somebody you know. If you had committed to either of them longer than this it would be at least for the next two or three years and at some stage we need change as well and we need to put our focus where we want to be in the mid-term. We are not looking only at the short term. In the short term obviously it would maybe have been best to keep them but now that we signed the Concorde Agreement going forward we need to look a little bit further ahead and see what maybe in three, four years is coming towards us.

How much was the decision to change both drivers driven by financial reasons?
GS: I mean, it is driven by the financial. If you can find a driver that brings sponsors it's fantastic or a driver that costs less. For me, in the moment, we need to invest our finances into the car, as I said, because next year's car will be very similar to this year's because some of the parts are homologated and frozen and we need to focus on '22 and we need to make an investment in the car and we need to use the money as best as we can for the money.

Simon, earlier this year Williams confirmed both of its drivers for 2021. Has the picture changed in recent weeks?
SR: No, nothing has changed. There's lots of speculation and there are lots of good drivers around that are now looking for seats. Dorilton bought the team and nothing changed. I can't say any more than that.

When you say nothing has changed, are you confirming that George Russell and Nicholas Latifi will be with the team in 2021?
SR: I'm not going to say anything about either of our drivers. They are both doing a great job. There's so much speculation around I don't want to inadvertently fuel it. Someone will take some nuance from whatever we say. We're happy. Let's watch the rest of the market.

Video Conference

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Simon, could you confirm please, that you will honour the contract with both drivers and that they will be with the team next year?
SR: I'm just not going to talk about it. Dorilton bought the team, nothing changed with regards to the drivers and there's some speculation and rumour. It's crazy, it's silly season after all, so yeah, we're not saying any more than that.

(Scott Mitchell - The Race) Simon, I appreciate what you said in the answer there, that you don't want to fuel the speculation but would it not make sense or be possible to extinguish that speculation by ruling out the chance of signing Sergio Perez to replace either driver?
SR: Yeah, possibly, but we just don't want to say anything, one way or the other. We're here to focus on a race weekend. We haven't got any news. Guenther's here, he has got some news. We've got plenty on this morning. We were running lots of part in FP1 and we've got to get through all that and get both our drivers in the best possible place for Saturday and Sunday.

(Lewis Larkham - Crash.net) Guenther, with Haas keen to field an American driver in Formula 1 and you're open to running an all-rookie line-up, would you be interested in Colton Herta and could it be an option for 2021, given his impressive performances in IndyCar? He has also surpassed the revised 30-point minimum requirement for a Super Licence.
GS: I think Colton Herta is doing very well. He's one of the drivers when I watch IndyCar and I'm back in the States, actually. I think he's doing a great job there. I haven't spoken to him so we stop this speculation. We have had to stop speculation lately. But I respect a lot what he does. He's very young, I think he's got a great future but I think he's pretty happy where he is at the moment, and therefore we didn't talk to him. It is also always difficult... I know that he based in Europe before and all that stuff but he's in his second season in IndyCar and he's with a good team there and the investors, I think they want to see him there but I haven't spoken with him, but I have the utmost respect for him, what he's doing there but he will not be in our car next year.

Guenther, Lewis Larkham said in his question there that you're open to running all-rookie team line-up next year. Can you just confirm that is the case?
GS: Yes, yeah, we're open to anything. We're open to anything. I always said that. I'm sorry I didn't respond to that, Tom, but for me it's like we're open to anything and I don't want to go down and say it could be this, it could be that because it was so direct, he asked if Colton Herta is on it, I say no because otherwise speculation starts there but what we are going to do, we will try to announce as soon as possible who our drivers are so we stop this guessing but we are not at that point because we haven't got signed contracts yet so it would be no point to say something, this could be, this should be because then people just... if it doesn't happen, then you have to again explain it, so people just need to be a little bit patient. Hopefully it isn't long, maybe a month or so away, and then everybody gets to know but it's just one of the things, if you do contracts, you are obliged not speak about it.

(Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Fred and Guenther, I know you're both not going to tell us if Mick Schumacher is going to be in one of your cars, I'm not stupid enough to believe that, but can you tell us a little bit about the strengths and weaknesses you see in Mick because I'm sure you're following his career development. Do you think he has what it takes to be successful in Formula 1?
FV: Yeah, if you have a look at what he did in the junior series, he did pretty well, he won the F3, he's leading the F2 now. Each time he took one year to be at the top of the field but he's doing the job at the end. This is the most important thing, he's about to improve and deliver and now it's a shame that we didn't have the opportunity to FP1 two weeks ago but let's see what happens.

GS: I don't think I can add anything there to Fred because I think he's the expert in these things, he's form...

FV: You can say something.

GS: But the best teams in the feeder series over the last 20 years, I would say, yeah, he's this old so I think Mick, now leading the F2 championship, says it all. I don't think we don't need to say any more than that. He's in his second season in F2, he's leading the championship - I wouldn't say by a good margin - by a nice margin so I think he's doing a good job and I think for sure he's ready for Formula 1.

Check out our Friday gallery from Portimao, here.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) For all three, we've had a recent increase in terms of COVID cases - we think of Mercedes, we think of Renault, we think of high profile cases at Racing Point this last week. Are the three of you totally comfortable that the FIA's policies, procedures, the whole COVID infrastructure is working the way it should be?
SR: Yeah, I think we are. We only focus on what goes on in our team. We are taking extra special measures really, for the last two events we've started that, and we also do the same at the factory. The most important thing is keep all our team safe and we work really hard at that but we're all out... in our normal lives as well, as safely as possible. Yeah, compliance with the FIA rules is pretty straightforward, pretty easy. We have no issue with it whatsoever.

GS: I agree. I think the FIA guidelines and rules are very good implemented, how they are also done at the race. I'm sometimes surprised that we don't have more cases because, as Dieter said, the cases are going up everywhere and they risk a sporadic case popping up there and about in here but I think that you cannot... it has to happen, so I think we are pretty safe. We do the same for our people, we try to adhere to all the regulations, rules and so on and sometimes this saying we have no freedom any more but our freedom is that we can go racing and everybody gets a job, that's the most important thing is how I explain it. We need to watch. If each person is responsible we will be OK but your initial question, yeah, I think what the FIA is implementing is pretty good.

FV: Yeah, the FIA and FOM put in place a protocol, the protocol is strict and I think all the teams are following the protocol strictly and so far that everybody is safe and we had some very small number of positive cases but I think compared to the rest of the world it's a very small number and everybody is doing a very professional job in the paddock but now, for sure, the number of cases is rising up like crazy and we have to be more and more focused on this.

(Scott Mitchell - The Race) To all three: looking ahead to next year and also preparation for 2022. As we have the new aero restriction rules coming into place which will give the teams at the bottom of the Constructors championship more development time and as you get closer to 2021 and you start to have a bit more of an idea of where your development's going to be set, do you see much of an advantage coming, even next year and then in preparation for 2022 with a bit more aero development, or do you think that actually in real terms it won't make much difference?
FV: Yeah, the situation is a bit strange, with the car almost frozen for next year, even if we had some small modifications on the aero regulation but for sure we started the development for '21 and quite early into the season we will have to switch to the '22 because it's a completely new rule and it will be the same for everybody, then we will have to adjust when we want to switch completely and it will also depend on the first event and where we are on the grid at this stage but it will be the same for all the teams and we will all have the same approach at the end.

GS: I would say for '22 regulations the advantage of having more time and so on will not be a big advantage. It will help us but the big teams still have got the momentum going for what they are doing now when we get into the '22 development in '21 so I think it will level the playing field but we cannot expect in '22 that everybody is the same. I think also there are finances involved and even if a budget cut comes in, how much can you spend of what you are allocated on wind tunnel time. So I think it gets closer together and if you do a good job, somebody could surprise for '22 but for sure we will be full on the '22 new regulations once we get to '21 as soon as we can because '21 will go by very quickly with the old car and we don't want to invest time and money in that or as little as possible - we have to do something but we want invest as little as possible in that programme but get ready for the future which is '22.

SR: Yeah, I agree with what Fred and Guenther say. It will make a difference and we're kind of pleased that that optionality is in the regulations going forward, but the big teams, they've got so much inertia in their IP and their technology that it's not going to suddenly come back but it will help so yeah, I think we will all be in a slightly better place in theory but it's still a lot of work to do and when you're a long way back, you've got to catch up. It helps.

(Christian Nimmervoll - motorsport.com) Fred, again, I don't expect you to drop any names but we know that one of your drivers next year will be decided by Ferrari. When you talk to Ferrari about your driver lineup do you voice a preference who you think is best suited to that car or is it completely Ferrari's decision?
FV: If you are not expecting an answer from my side you are right, you won't get it. But it's not without discussion but it's not that black or white that we need to have a look on what's happened on the current races and also the evolution of the F2 drivers and so but don't forget that we have still six events to go and we are not in a rush to take a decision. This is the most important.

(Ronald Vording - motorsport.com) To all three: Helmut Marko said Red Bull's preferred option for 2022 is take over the Honda project and run the engines themselves but they want a complete engine freeze from 2022 onwards. Would this be acceptable to you?
SR: I think it's more of a question for the power unit manufacturers really. We buy our engines, we're very happy with that situation.

The concept of an engine freeze; does that appeal?
SR: I don't know. But there's not that much change possible under the regulations currently, so maybe there's something that Red Bull know about or are fearful of, I don't know. They will have to be a bit more explicit.

GS: I think the engine manufacturers, between them, they need to decide is it worthwhile to invest a lot more money in developing the engine we have got now or should we invest in technology for the future, but we cannot decide. I think, to go back to the question, these engines now, if the engines are parity, and then freeze them, I'm OK with that but it's not my decision. I don't have a vote in that one, to be honest, but I think it's more the few manufacturers saying we develop this engine for - I don't know - five, six years, how much money do we need to put in to get a little bit advantage out of it, is it worth or should we focus on the long term future of what is the best technology. Again, I've got an opinion, I've got no vote so I'm not very... here nor there because I cannot decide it any way, but in general I'm open for everything. If you want to make changes, fine, if you stay like this... what can I do?

FV: Yeah, as Guenther said before, the discussion is for the few suppliers, not for us. At the end, we are expecting to have a cheaper engine for sure but at the end of the day we have to take care of this kind of request to freeze the engine, it's always coming from someone who has a personal interest. I remember that during the discussion that we had last winter that Honda was pushing to avoid to freeze the engine but I think that we have to discuss it between them but to take a decision, not based on what happened last year or what happened in the last six months but on what could happen in the next ten years.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) I won't ask a question that I don't expect an answer to so Fred, if you don't mind, I wonder if you could clarify your contractual situation? I'm told or I hear from people that it may expire at the end of this year. Are you going to renew it, will you be with the team next year or is it just another crazy season rumour?
FV: We have no contract for next year, nobody has an option and you will know about the drivers quite soon.

(Lawrence Edmonson - ESPN) Simon, again on the drivers, just within the new structure, who would get the final say on the drivers for next year and can you give us some indication on what the key motivators would be for drivers: would it be money, would it be talent, something else?
SR: The decision will be made by the management committee and the board of Williams Formula 1. It's a normal situation but we have nothing to say on that matter right now, so that's all I can say.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Sorry Fred, I was actually asking about your own situation, not the drivers' situation. Will you be with the team next year, is there a contract that's expiring, what's the situation there please?
FV: I have a contract with Sauber, the challenge is huge and I have the contract until the end of the season, it was already the case last year and I'm really focused on developing the team for next year. I'm not thinking about my personal situation.

Check out our Friday gallery from Portimao, here.

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Published: 23/10/2020
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