Bahrain GP: Friday Press Conference: Part 2


Today's press conference with Simon Roberts, Guenther Steiner and Toyoharu Tanabe.

Q: Guenther, how about an update on your 2021 driver line-up? What can you tell us?
Guenther Steiner: I haven't heard that question for a long time so thanks for asking! We plan to announce it before the season is ending but we don't know the exact date yet, but it's not long to wait. It's a maximum of two weeks, so please be patient.

Q: Is it results dependent?
GS: No. You mean Formula 2 results dependent? No. It's not results dependent. I need to disappoint you on that one.

Q: Now Romain and Kevin were in here yesterday and they said that your car is relatively easy to drive but if you bring in two rookies next year can you rely on their feedback to develop the car further, and how tough will it be for them at tracks like Baku?
GS: If we bring in rookies, if... I think next year if we bring in rookies therefore it's a good time to bring in rookies because the car next year will not be developed a lot because the freeze on the car, the homologation of the car, so you cannot make big changes, obviously we can make aero changes but the car will not change in the fundamentals, so it is a development and not as new development and next year our focus will be on 2022 anyway, so I think it's a transition year for us, so it would be a good year for rookies to come in, to learn being in Formula 1, getting to know the people that are around, how to go to press conferences and things like this, so I think it will be a good year, but the development will be very small next year.

Q: Tanabe-san, Turkey was a difficult weekend for Honda, made more difficult by Pierre having to start from the pit lane. Can you explain why you stopped work on his engine change?
Toyoharu Tanabe: Actually it was a very difficult weekend for us and following the failure on Pierre's PU at the Portuguese we discussed and then decided to change the PU if he did not qualify well. We submitted the change request to the FIA and then it was approved. And then later his starting grid was improved by the others' penalties. We changed our mind and then reported to the FIA. Unfortunately we already touched some of the parts to change the PU so in the end we got the penalty.

Q: And Tanabe-san, what is the latest on Red Bull's engine plans going forward? Helmut Marko recently visited Honda in Japan; was a decision about the future reached?
TT: I know the discussion is on-going between Honda and Red Bull but I believe at the moment no decision has been made yet. And also, I'm in charge of the technical management trackside so I don't know the very details of the discussions.

Q: Simon, first up, you missed Turkey after testing positive for COVID-19. How are you feeling?
Simon Roberts: Yeah, I feel very well thank you. I was very lucky, I only had mild symptom of losing a sense of taste. Apart from that, I felt absolutely fine so I feel that I kind of missed a bullet there but yeah, had to miss the race obviously, testing positive, so it was a bit disappointing but I'm here now so all good.

Q: Good, and tell us about the mood in the team? Is there a sense of frustration now that you're constantly finishing just outside the points?
SR: Yeah, I guess there is. It just focuses us even more to try harder and we're just trying to make sure we can get everything possible out of the car for these last three races. We don't want to walk away disappointed, thinking we didn't try everything we possibly could or left some stone unturned so the mood is... we're glad everyone's back, we're back to full strength now. The guys in Turkey did an amazing job. We had lots of people step in at short notice to support from the factory and that caused the guys in the factory, as well, to have to kind of shuffle around a little bit so that was a great team effort and it set us up quite nicely actually. As I say, we're at full strength now, for these last three so we've just got to get everything we can out of the car.

Video Conference

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - Guenther, do you expect the driver announcement this weekend?
GS: No. I don't expect it this weekend, Christian.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Tanabe-san, what would Honda actually achieve through allowing Red Bull to acquire the IP for the engine? Would you still be getting the technical information? Would you still be running some form of research and development programme or would it just literally be give them the engines and let them get on with it and we're out of here?
TT: As I told you, I don't know the details of this project, so I don't know the project or not, but I believe we don't tell the details to the public so yeah, maybe some information will be distributed but at the moment no information for the public.

Q: (Christian Menath - Motorsport magazine) Two questions for Tanabe-san, both related to the race in Turkey. First of all, we've seen many drivers starting in second gear on the wet track but the Honda drivers all started with first gear. Is there a technical reason for that? And on the other side, some people said that the Honda teams had some problems with traction because of the vibrations of the engine. Is that true or is that just a myth?
TT: About the start, it was caused by many factors. So the system and procedure not only PU but also the chassis side and then our start strategy was not good for that condition, though we learned a lot from that slow start and we will improve that weak area for the future.

Q: (Edd Straw - The Race) Tanabe-san, Mattia Binotto has suggested that the next generation F1 engines should be much cheaper, maybe as much as 50% cheaper. How much do you think would have to change? What would have to be done to have F1 engines for the next generation, which are so cheap, such a big step? Is it possible?
TT: The discussion for the next generation Formula 1 engine has just started and then the people in the Formula 1, FIA and also the PU manufacturers are considering what is the best for this sport. Of course, we need to improve the efficiency of the PU which means that we have an ICE and the ERS system. At the moment, we have no clear direction yet but of course this is important, efficiency, also the cost of the PU for the entire PU manufacturers, also the teams. That's important, I think.

Q: Can I open this up to the other two guys please? How important is it that the engines get cheaper for the customer teams?
GS: I wouldn't call it cheaper. I think we need to make it more efficient, not as an engine but cost-wise. I think part of the new regulation, there needs to be a financial regulation, how much they can cost and that is not for me to decide how much it is because we don't make engines so it's more for the manufacturers who know how much it costs to develop this engine but for us, as a customer, it is important to be sustainable. If we can get the engine costs down, that makes sure that all the teams stay around because the engine cost is a big part of our budget at the moment. I understand the manufacturers cannot subsidise but I think they do already by swallowing all the development costs for the engines but they cannot subsidise the production of the engines and that's why they need to give us the cost of it, so very important.

Q: Guenther, what percentage of your budget is the power unit?
GS: I think it's about 10%.

Q: Simon, can we have your thoughts on this as well, please?
SR: I think the current PUs are so complex - they're amazing pieces of technology but that complexity drives costs and I think the future - as Guenther said - we have to look at sustainable power units, we have to think about the relevance to road car technology but we have to do it in a way that makes sense for everybody; makes sense for the teams, so we can afford to buy it and also makes sense for manufacturers that they can afford to develop those engines and battery packs but do it in a way that actually makes sense for them too. So as has been said already, it's very early days, looking at what's next, but I think it's a really important step for the sport. We need to consider it carefully.

Q: Simon staying with you and while we're talking about money, George spoke yesterday about the possibilities opening up for Williams under Dorilton's ownership. Has the cash injection arrived in time for the 2021 programme?
SR: So we are investing, right now, in the factory in a small way. We've got the opportunity now to kind of fix things that have been broken or things that we'd love to have done but just haven't been able to afford to in the past so nothing revolutionary but all good steps and all good progress. I think what George is really referring to is part of a long-term strategy, where we will invest in things and Dorilton will invest in things that will increase our performance, make us more competitive and help the team move forward.

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll - Simon, do you expect to remain in place as team principal going into next season, and in case you don't, how's the headhunting going?
SR: Good question! I'd like to stay in place as team principal next season but yeah, we haven't had those discussions yet so who knows? Right now we're just focusing on getting through to the end of the season, trying to get some points and then we'll take it from there.

Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Guenther, I wonder if you could clarify what you've just said when you said that you thought your engine cost was about ten percent of your budget. According to my information, the FIA guidelines is about 20 million for a two car single season supply. Are you then saying your budget is 200 million which would be over the budget cap for next year?
GS: I think the FIA number is a little bit different and those are approximate, Dieter, so approximate doesn't mean exactly the number.

Q: Tanabe-san, we haven't had you in this press conference since Yuki Tsunoda tested for Alpha Tauri at Imola. Your impressions of how he got on? How impressed were you?
TT: I believe it was a good test. Only the purpose was Tsunoda learned the Formula 1 car. And the track condition was wet in the morning. He started with wet tyres and then the track condition was gradually getting drier and then he finally switched to the dry tyres. That condition gave him a lot of opportunity to learn the car's behaviour and then during the day he learned a lot, the steering (wheel) switch operation, also the radio communication. Additionally, for Honda and Japanese fans, it was good to see a Japanese driver driving a Formula 1. We haven't seen a Formula 1 driver recently so of course a decision is the team's responsibility, we don't know, but I hope we would like to see a Japanese driver in the near future.

Q: 2021?
TT: I don't know.

Q: (Phil Horton - Tanabe-san, you will introduce a new power unit for 2021. Given Mercedes's current superiority, is it realistic to believe a title challenge is possible?
TT: It's quite difficult to answer. Of course, we are developing our new PU for 2021, not only for performance but also reliability and then we know our position is still behind the Mercedes and then the other competitors don't sleep during the off-season so we have a very short off-season this year but everyone involved in Formula 1 makes maximum effort to win races, also the championship, so it's not quite easy to tell you we will win. On the other hand, we would be delighted to win more races and then try to be a challenger for the championship in 2021. So we keep working very hard on our PU for next year.

Q: Guenther and Simon, what did we learn during FP1 today and can you just give us an outline of what your expectations are for the rest of the weekend?
GS: I think I will start with the prototype tyres we ran first time here, the tyres for next year so we went out on them and we just learned... we still need to go into the data what they are doing, what they are not doing but otherwise we learned the normal stuff from FP1. You try a little bit the tyres you think you are not going to use so you can give them back and to do a short long run but nothing too exciting today except the prototype tyres which you don't test often but otherwise just another Friday on the track.

Q: Guenther, what feedback did you get from the drivers about the prototype tyres?
GS: I just left the debrief and they said... there was a little bit of discussion, how they feel. They were not very comfortable in the beginning. They are different, definitely different to the tyres now but I think running them the first time, we need to find a bit of a balance in the car going through the data and adapt the car more to the tyres. I think it would be too early to jump to conclusions after one run on a track which is improving by the minute, obviously, because it's green so we're running a second set this afternoon. Hopefully we learn a little bit more but in general it is like every time something new is coming, people don't like change, drivers don't like change so at the moment it's like 'oh I don't know if this is a good development or not' so we don't know basically.

SR: Yeah, so obviously we had Roy in the car this morning so we've had a pretty extensive test programme on both cars. You'll have seen us running various rakes and just basically gathering as much data as could. We ran the prototype tyres as well, obviously. I left the debrief before we actually got the drivers' comments so I can't really mention that but the main thing we focused on was getting all the right data and we did. It was not easy, it was pretty busy out there. The track was evolving but yeah, we stuck with it and got everything we wanted from the session.

Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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Published: 27/11/2020
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