Today's press conference with Zak Brown and Otmar Szafnauer.
A question to both of you. The British Grand Prix next month is going to take place in front of a capacity crowd. Home race for both of your teams. Can we get your thoughts on that please?
Zak Brown: I think it's very exciting that we are going back racing again with crowds. We have missed the fans. I think the fans have missed us. I think Formula 1 has done an excellent job of bringing the sport to them through various forms of media. I think the UK Government has recognised they've done an excellent job with vaccinations and as they start to roll out events I hope other grands prix follow shortly, which I think will be the case.
Otmar Szafnauer: Also very good for Formula 1 as well as Silverstone and the grand prix and the UK. We look forward to welcoming fans back and also, like Zak said, this is the first of many where we will have capacity crowds.
A one for both of you again, another calendar question of sorts. It was announced earlier today that Turkey is going to replace Singapore at the beginning of October. I'd love to get your thoughts on that as well. Maybe we can start with you Otmar, as you must have very good memories of Turkey from last year?
OS: Yeah, well, if it rains again and we have similar conditions and we put it on pole and race well it would be great. But we're not counting on that. It's great to have Turkey back, it's a good track and a replacement for Singapore and I hope the rest of the calendar can remain so we get 23 races in.
ZB: Yeah, I think it's great. Stefano and everyone at the Formula 1 and the FIA have done an excellent job putting on grands prix ever since COVID started and they've done it in a very safe and responsible way and I think that's what has allowed us to get to as many grands prix as we have. I think COVID certainly isn't behind us and we have various issues in various parts of the world and I think Stefano has Plan A, Plan B and Plan C with the full intent of getting 23 grand prix put on this year. Unfortunately we are missing Singapore but Turkey is an exciting race and I'm very confident of getting in a full calendar this year.
Zak, if we can stay with you now, I'd like to start by talking about drivers. Lando has now scored in 12 consecutive races and he's the only driver to have scored points in every race this year. Can you tell us how Lando has grown this year, as a driver, as a person and within the team?
ZB: He's doing an awesome job and he's done really an awesome job since his rookie season. He continues to show tremendous speed, a lot of maturity, racecraft, he knows when to take risks and when not to. He's been excellent in qualifying and he just continues to mature. He's young, he's 21 but drives with a lot of maturity and is doing an excellent job and hopefully it will continue. I'm sure it will.
Has the step that he's taken this year surprised you in any way?
ZB: No, not really. I think it's surprised some others but we've always known he's extremely quick. I think Carlos is showing how quick he was as a team-mate. They were evenly matched and so I'm not surprised but I'm pleased he's doing what we thought he would do.
Daniel has less than half of the points of Lando so far this year but he seemed very bullish after his race in France. Are we about to see him back to his best? How confident are you?
ZB: Yeah, I'm very confident. I think he's very close. You need to remember this year we had less testing. We were the only team that had to do an engine change, so with the less testing we had to do some more development on the car, as opposed to letting him get stuck right into it, so I think he's settled in, he's working extremely hard, he's happy, we're happy, great environment inside the team, so I think we're not far away from seeing Daniel at his best.
And it's been a very close fight with Ferrari this year yet you did pull away from them in France, you're now 16 points clear of them in the Constructors' championship, so who are you battling now? Do you think you can catch Red Bull or is it still very much a fight with Ferrari?
ZB: No, I think Red Bull's out of reach this year. We need to be realistic. I think when you look at the last race, while we're battling Ferrari today, Alpine certainly showed a lot of speed, AlphaTauri again this morning , so I think the season is not yet a third over and people, the development pace in Formula 1 is quite fast so I think while we're maybe looking at Ferrari today on the timetables, I think you've got to pay attention to everyone. Things can swing pretty quickly in this sport.
Otmar, coming to you: let's talk drivers first of all as well. Sebastian Vettel seems back on form, he's only three points short of his 2020 total already and he's scored in the last three races. When you look at the opening seven races of the season, where did it begin to click for him? Is there one moment that you can pinpoint?
OS: I think it was a progression for Seb. He was incrementally getting better and feeling more comfortable with the car. He's very experienced, so going into Monaco he knew exactly what had to be done there. Qualifying is a premium there as we all know so he focused on that early on and had a good qualifying session, good race and then from there on, with every race, he gets more comfortable in the car. He's been comfortable with the team from the beginning and I think he'll get stronger yet with time and races.
Lance has run him pretty close in qualifying and the races; where have you seen Lance Stroll step up this year?
OS: Well, Lance is much more confident in himself. He's driving really well, drives really well on a Sunday, a bit unlucky sometimes on Saturday, just like last weekend, but he's done really well race-wise and again, good race craft. He's fast, good race pace and I expect the two of them to regularly score points for us.
And can we talk tech now? You announced yesterday a technical restructure of your team then today we learn of Dan Fallows coming your way from Red Bull Racing. Can you just tell us more? First of all, why the need to change the structure?
OS: Well, traditionally we've been probably the smallest team and for us to be able to compete with the teams that are winning World Championships, we know we have to grow and in order to do so, the organisation will have to change and restructure so we've done that with growth in mind and we've moved Andy Green up to Chief Technical Officer which was announced yesterday, who'll have three direct reports so he can focus more on strategic issues and we're helped by Red Bull announcing that Dan will be joining us as Technical Director.
And are there going to be other senior roles that you're looking to create or is this now it?
OS: Well, so underneath Andy Green there will three direct reports, Dan being one of them, Luca the other and Tom McCullough who is here as Performance Director is the third but underneath them there are other roles that we're recruiting for, for sure, and on the operations side, too, we're growing there so watch this space, there will be further announcements.
Questions From The Floor
(Andrew Benson - BBC Sport) Otmar, why did you not announce Dan Fallows before Red Bull did and secondly, Christian Horner's just told us that he won't be joining for at least the next two years. Is that your understanding of the situation as well?
OS: Well, we announced yesterday the re-structuring and we were going to announce Dan in due course but we don't control what Red Bull do and I'm grateful that they announced Dan. He's a great addition to our team, he's a likeminded individual, he's a high performer, he's won World Championships, he knows Seb, so we look forward to Dan joining. The start time? We're still working on that.
(Edd Straw - The Race) Otmar, how difficult is it, with the amount of recruitment you're doing, to get the right bodies through the door in good time, because obviously contracts being what they are, it's not a short term process, is it? These are years lead times to get people in and then integrated so with the ambition of a team, how difficult is it when you've got a situation with Fallows where it could still be as much as a couple of years based on what Christian Horner said to actually get the effect you want from your recruitment?
OS: Yeah, it's a marathon, not a sprint so I think the important thing is that we get the right people. You'd rather have the right people in your team as opposed to getting somebody very quickly but it doesn't work out, so the process is to identify likeminded individuals that are high performing and get them into the team and then if we have to wait a little bit, that's the process.
Check out our Friday gallery from Spielberg, here.
Zak, can I bring you in here? Is there any recruiting on at McLaren or are you happy with the structure you've got?
ZB: That's really a better question for Andreas who runs the team, but I'd say we're very happy with our leadership team but these are big racing teams and people move around but no, I would say we're very settled with what we have. We've got a game plan and we just want to execute against it.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) For both: you're both Americans and obviously Formula 1 is on a drive to try and attract Americans. How do you think the best way of going about this should be? For example, in IndyCar, the points that they get towards a Superlicence aren't as many as for Formula 2. Should this change? And are there any other ways of bringing an American in?
ZB: Yeah, I think there's a lot of talent in IndyCar and some drivers there that are extremely capable of being competitive in Formula 1. I think the Superlicence process can probably be reviewed as far as it relates to that. I think Formula 1 is growing rapidly in America. I think a lot of that is a thank you to Netflix but also to Liberty Media for recognising it's a very important market and I think the way you turn fans on is you open up the sport and let them see behind the scenes which is one of the things that we're doing on social media these days and Netflix and I think you can see the US fans are responding to that. I think the Miami race will be another great shot in the arm, if you like, for growth in America and hopefully we'll get an American driver winning races in Formula 1 in due course.
Zak, how competitive is IndyCar and perhaps a good reference for that is how Kevin Magnussen got on racing for your team last weekend?
ZB: I think it's extremely competitive. Pato O'Ward who we will test in Abu Dhabi later this year, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon - I think there's a lot of drivers: Josef Newgarden - that would be extremely competitive with the right equipment in Formula 1.
And how did Kevin get on?
ZB: Kevin did a really good job. Pretty difficult situation, to get dropped into a race car where you're making a seat and getting out in a race car shortly thereafter but the team really enjoyed working with him. He was a total professional, fast, but I think it shows how difficult the series is, that you can't just drop in and expect to be competitive after an hour of driving the race car for the first time.
And Otmar, your thoughts?
OS: Like Zak said, the popularity of Formula 1 is growing in America and thanks to Netflix, I've many many friends there who are ardent Formula 1 fans and if we do get an American driver that can compete in Formula 1 and I believe they exist, even there are some Americans in the lower series here in Europe and when they step up to Formula 1, it will just make it even more popular.
(Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Otmar, in the French Grand Prix you were happy with Seb and his long stint because you said it showed that Aston Martin were not playing with Pirelli tyre pressures unlike perhaps some of your rivals would struggle with tyre management. Can you explain this please?
OS: Yeah, well we had the new technical directive that we all had to comply with and we showed that our long run pace in the race was even more competitive than we thought it would be going into the weekend. It was a shame that Lance was caught out in qualifying, for him to go from 19th to in the points just shows we had good race pace and Seb towards the end caught the train in front of him and I think had he not gone off when the wind direction changed, he could have challenged for a few more positions ahead of him, so it just showed that what we are doing with the tyres completely complying with all the prescriptions that we still had the pace.
Otmar, if your guys get a clean weekend here in Styria, what can you achieve with your car?
OS: Well, we still have some work to do. Our long run pace looked decent today, looked competitive. I think we still have to work on our single lap pace so that we qualify well and if we can qualify well, with the long run pace that we have, we'd like to get both of them into the points.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Gentlemen, I don't know whether you saw the previous session but during a question about budget caps, Christian Horner indicated that he'd prefer to have a one-time number as opposed to a glide path which diminishes the numbers as time goes on. Would you prefer that as well? I know that you're obviously not in the position of the big three but ultimately it could affect you as well.
OS: Sure, I didn't hear it and I didn't hear the answer but a one-time number presumably means that the one-time number is the number we're at now. I guess if it was a one-time number we should have started with the number we're going to end up with. So my preference is the number that we've all agreed and we use the glide path to get there.
ZB: I don't think we really have a strong opinion. The decision was made some time ago and we've got a plan and executing against it so as a bit of a mute point given that the decision's been made and we're well on with our plan.
(Edd Straw - The Race) Otmar, one more on your newly announced recruit or the recruit that Red Bull announced. Obviously it's unusual that Red Bull went and announced it - obviously that was earlier than you expected. Are there any concerns about the fact that this is still kind of an open question? Is he 100% signed, sealed and watertight to come to you or is there some wider game going on here which lead to Red Bull announcing it, or is it just about arguing about the timing now?
OS: It is 100% signed, sealed, delivered. Dan is coming. It's just a matter of the timing.
(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) To both please: where do you stand on the front wing flex situation? We know all about the rear wings, but how do you feel about the front wings? Should there be checks on those?
ZB: I think entire race cars should be checked: front wings, rear wings, bodywork, brake ducts, you name it. The teams are constantly pushing the envelope and I think what the FIA has done with their technical directives, which are not necessarily race car-related, are always looking to clarify rulings, so if someone thinks someone's doing something they shouldn't then there should be an FIA check on it.
Do you have any concerns about front wings?
ZB: No, no, I can't say there's anything that has leaped out to us.
OS: There are no concerns from our end whatsoever.
Check out our Friday gallery from Spielberg, here.