Part 2 of today's FIA press conference with Jost Capito, Laurent Rossi and Toyoharu Tanabe.
i}Laurent, very warm welcome to you and to Alpine. It's race one, how excited are you to get going?
Laurent Rossi: Oh, super excited. Who's not excited on race one. We are ready to roll. I think everyone is. The drivers are excited, the mechanics are excited, the engineers are excited, everyone is ready.
Looking at the broader picture, how are you planning to translate your presence here in Formula 1 into the wider business?
LR: Well, we're going to certainly benefit from the audience of Formula 1, 23 grands prix across all over the world, 500 million people watching, that means basically that every week, there's always people like tuning in and looking at the brands, the constructors, so this will create awareness for the brand and in parallel we are going to expand our dealership network, to translate that hopefully into sales.
And Laurent, you are CEO of Alpine, how involved are you going to be in the Formula 1 team?
LR: Pretty involved. This is the cornerstone of our project. Like I said, this is going to be the main media platform for us. It's also the flagship of our savoir faire if you will, all the technology that we've developed into Formula 1, be it for the power unit but also aerodynamics, our mass expertise will translate one way or another at some point into technologies and services that we will use in our cars.
Jost, a warm welcome to you as well. You've had three months to get a feel for Williams. Can you give us your assessment of the team and what it needs to focus on?
Jost Capito: Well, first I want to say hi to all the media colleagues. The ones I have already seen and worked with in the past and I am really looking forward to meeting all the others, hopefully in person but I didn't work in the past with. So, to your question, the first three months? It's not three months, it's two months and the first month, I worked from home because of the pandemic situation but what I found at Williams, I got a very warm welcome. I think it's a fantastic team, it's a good team spirit, what Williams is known for and we try to keep that, and I found a lot of expertise as well.
And if we look at 2021 specifically, is this a transitional season for the team? I mean, will you compromise the '22 car in order to improve performance in '21?
JC: I think, as you say it, and as I mentioned before it is a transitional season '21 and we are really focusing on the '22 car and we are not going to take compromises on the '22 car because of the '21 car. There is not so much more we can do on the '21 car. We will fight through the season, we will push, we know where the car is and we will of course do further development but what can be done without compromising the '22 car.
Tanabe-san, a very warm welcome to you as well. Testing went well or the Honda-powered teams, do you think it was a realistic picture of your performance level?
Toyoharu Tanabe: Testing is testing. Actually, we don't know the other people, what they were doing something, what's the purpose. The three days test here in Bahrain went well for both our teams and we were able to accumulate a lot of data from the two teams and four drivers and it was quite positive and a productive test. As you know, we will see the competitiveness of our teams after running the qualifying and the race in this weekend.
A lot has been made of your new power unit. What are the main differences between this year's power unit and this year's?
TT: We reviewed every single part and then the kind of concept of our previous PU and then we designed this year's PU as a new PU. Of course our desire to improve our performance in our PU means ICE and ERS. Also with the new design we made it a little bit more compact compared to previous PU. I think it has contributed to the car package and performance as well.
You says it's compact, is it actually smaller than the size zero power unit that you had back in 2015?
TT: It's a little bit difficult to tell exactly where it's smaller and where it's bigger, so generally I can tell, smaller, that means compact.
(Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Laurent, I know it was only FP1 of the first race of the season but the lap times of Alpine were not very impressive earlier this afternoon. Are you surprised by your pace and are you bracing for a long and challenging 2021 campaign?
LR: We are not surprised because similar to what Tanabe-san said we accumulated a lot of data during the first runs two weeks ago and today we used fully the Free Practice 1 to test three different configurations of aero solutions so it was really a continuation, an extension of the testing. We have all of the data we need, we know where the car is. We were not going for quali runs or things like that today. It was really a matter of keep on accumulating valuable data. As far as the hopes for the season go, I guess we will see in a few races; it's a bit early to tell.
(Andrew Benson - BBC) Laurent, you have an unusual management structure at your team. You don't have a team principal, you've got a racing director who I believe doesn't go to the factory and an executive director who does work at the factory and comes to some of the races if I understand it correctly. Why do you think that is a better approach than the more direct line of authority that virtually every other Formula 1 team has got?
LR: Well, first off, yes, we do have some sort of 'super technical director' in the person of Marcin, who sits in the factory mostly but he comes to some of the races. Secondly, we do have a racing director in the person of Davide but he doesn't only come to the races, he is also in the factory. In fact, the sharing of responsibilities is very clear, in fact, among the three of us. If you look at all the other teams, I challenge you of finding a similar structure in each of the teams. At the end of the day it's just how you split the responsibilities. In our case we pretty much know that a car is essentially an evolving prototype from race one until the end of the last race, so Marcin will bring the best out of the PU in Viry and the chassis in Enstone, bring it on the track, work alongside Davide to improve that car over time and at the end of the day the two of them will have 80-90% of the team principal responsibilities and the rest falls into my remit.
(Lawrence Barretto - Formula1.com) Do you have any plans to further bolster your technical team following the signing of FX Demaison as technical director?
JC: I was very happy to announced FX as a technical director. I found a lot of technical experience within the team and then of course FX has to work on defining his team and what is necessary to add on competence or capability we will do.
And Jost, does it matter that FX comes from outside the Formula 1 ecosystem?
JC: Yeah, it matters a lot and for the good, I would say. You think that he is coming from outside the Formula 1 ecosystem, he has never been in Formula, it was always his target to get in Formula 1. He is a brilliant engineer and he worked for nearly 10 years now with Willy Rampf who has been a technical director in Formula 1 and they worked very close together and with that a lot of Formula 1 spirit, technology, insight went into the WRC car and especially in the IDR. So, he has this kind of experience and he learned a lot from Willy Rampf during that time, so I think he is the perfect fit for Williams.
Do you have start date for him?
JC: Yeah, it should be after Easter. Now after Brexit we need work visas if we are going to come from the EU to the UK, so that includes a three-hour English test, which I had to do as well and luckily passed. FX passed it as well so he got his papers so something in the first two weeks of April he should start.
(Edd Straw - The Race) Another question for Jost on FX Demaison. Obviously his skills are clearly translatable to Formula 1 but given the pressure that's on for 2022, the speed of transition is essential so what are you able to do to make sure that he is on the same page as everyone who is already there who is steeped in F1 experience to make sure there are not a few months not wasted but just a little bit slower as he's really integrating himself and understanding exactly how the F1 team works?
JC: First of all, the technical team of Williams works pretty well, so it's nothing that he comes and has to fix something that is broken. Second, as I know FX he is a relentless worker. He is a workaholic and since he sees the chance that he could become technical director at Williams I'm absolutely pretty sure it's a lot of time he spent, all his free time he spent to understand the regulations and to fully understand Formula 1. And I know he is in close contact with Willy Rampf as well, so I think he is very well prepared when he arrives.
Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.
(Philip Horton - Motorsport Week) How much involvement will you and Honda have in terms of assisting Red Bull powertrains when Honda officially exits Formula 1?
TT: Actually, I'm not involved very much about that project. I just heard the basic direction has been agreed between Honda and Red Bull and now they are working on the detailed procedure for how to handle that project in the future.
Do you expect some of your engineers to go to Red Bull powertrains?
TT: At the moment, same thing. It's also under discussion.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) A question to Laurent. During yesterday's press conference Fernando Alonso seemed to indicate that he had decided and discussed his return with Cyril and Mr de Meo between April and the first week in July. In fact, he said before the Austrian Grand Prix, if I remember correctly. This would tend to imply that Mr de Meo was working on and looking at the Formula 1 team before his official joining of Renault on the first of July. Could you comment on this, please?
LR: I cannot comment on that because I was not involved in the discussions obviously. That said, I can tell you that Mr de Meo was not involved in anything related remotely to Renault because even us in the Renault Group, not even the Formula 1 team, could not speak to him until the very first day of his arrival at Renault, so I find it hardly believable.
Laurent, could we just get your thoughts on Fernando Alonso and how important is he to Alpine and the new programme?
LR: He's extremely important. It goes without saying that we brought a two-time world champion back because we have ambitions and it's not just for the sake of racing on the weekends and so be it. He's obviously bringing a wealth of experience. He knows a lot of the people here but he's also an extremely valuable example of how to deal with like pressure, making progress on the team. Fernando is going to bring a lot to the team, to Esteban as well I'm pretty sure and to everyone in the team, including me actually.
(Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Tanabe-san, when you look at the current performance level of Red Bull and even AlphaTauri this year with their new Honda power unit, could there be any regrets about Honda leaving Formula 1 too soon?
TT: Honda's decision about leaving Formula 1 is not related to our results. Regardless about our results from this year, we are going to leave. It does not effect.
(Edd Straw - The Race) A question for Laurent. When it comes to the management changes in the team this year, was it always planned that Luca de Meo would alter the structure and move Cyril Abiteboul out or did Cyril himself choose to leave and then Alpine had to work out the best available way to come up with a modified structure to deal with that?
LR: Unfortunately, I couldn't say because I was brought in only early this year after I delivered, alongside Luca de Meo, the new strategic plan for the Groupe Renault, but what I know though is that the structure was there when I arrived and we firmly believe into it and that's all I can say unfortunately.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) A question for Jost and Laurent please. It revolves around matters that happened before you joined your respective teams. However, perhaps you are aware of the situation last year with the brake ducts and the intellectual property. The FIA issued a technical directive whereby they clearly outlined what is and what is not permissible. Now obviously there are certain teams with customers and of course there is the potential to exchange information, data, IP etc. You are not linked to any other team, are you concerned that this practice could be continuing?
JC: We from our side fully believe and trust in the measures the FIA is taking.
LR: Yeah, similarly, I mean last year created a precedent. There is very clear instructions as to which parts are open and which parts are not, what is permitted or not. Everything is excluded for some parts, even photos and stuff, so we strongly believe that last year served this purpose and that the FIA now is very vigilant.
Check out our Friday gallery from Bahrain, here.