PART ONE – Team Representatives
Franz TOST (AlphaTauri)
Laurent MEKIES (Ferrari)
Otmar SZAFNAUER (Aston Martin)
Q: Franz, can we roll it back to the last couple of races. Both Monza, and Sochi, difficult ones for the team. What are your goals for this weekend in Turkey?
Franz Tost: Not to repeat the last two races, because Monza, and Sochi was really a nightmare. We didn’t score any points, too many mistakes, and failures on the car, retirements, and so on, and I hope that here in Istanbul we come back to score points.
Q: The car in Sochi in particular looked really competitive. What lessons have been learned from that race weekend?
FT: Sochi was a difficult race, as you all know, a shower came, and we decided with Pierre to stay out –, but this was a completely wrong decision, as we know now, and you know, if rain is coming it’s always difficult to estimate how much water will come down, and we thought after the first shower it will stop. Therefore we decided to stay out with Pierre. It was a wrong decision, should have called him in, should have put on the Intermediates earlier, and then I think he would have been in a better position to score points.
Q: So when you’ve had a difficult moment like that, and you’ve rolled the dice, and it doesn’t work, how does that influence your thinking going forwards?
FT: First of all, we are sitting together, we are analyzing what we did wrong, what we have to do better in the future. We had a couple of meetings from the operational side to improve the work at the track, especially during the race if such conditions are coming up there –, and I hope the decisions we made are positive, if in the second half of the season we are coming once more in such a situation, to be better positioned, and make the right decisions.
Q: Would you roll the dice again?
FT: That depends. On the one hand, yes, because if you don’t risk anything, then it’s difficult to win. But you have two cars, and maybe you can split the cars. We could have, for example, put on the Intermediates on Yuki’s car instead of the dry tires because, as I mentioned before, we through it will stop, the rain, and therefore we put on the Soft tires –, but as we know now, this was a wrong decision. We should have put on the Intermediate tires. In the future, if one car is still out with the dry tires, we say OK, but then we go to a safe car with the second car, and put on the Intermediates. There were a couple of other points, and topics which we discussed, and I hope that we are now settled for conditions in the future.
Q: Laurent, first of all, what are grip levels like around the track here in Istanbul?
Laurent Mekies: Actually, the grip level was surprisingly high this morning. I know there was a lot of questions after the last race, we were all very surprised last year with the low level of grip which we knew was the result of the very late resurfacing of the track. But I must say well done to everybody involved because it seems to be back to normal here. So, I think all the drivers have enjoyed a much higher grip level compared to last year. We’ll see how it will evolve during the weekend, but certainly we are in a much better place than last year. So, well done to you guys, the FDA, and everybody else that has been involved.
Q: Can we talk power units now? The new one has completed a race distance with Charles in Sochi. What did you learn about it there?
LM: The main target of this new hybrid system for us was to anticipate some of the work we are doing for next year. So we were trying to validate the direction of development we have been taking on the PU development for next year. We fitted it on Charles’, it worked in a very smooth way through the weekend, which was the first objective. Performance-wise it was never going to be a game-changer – nothing is nowadays, it’s small steps –, but it was a step in the right direction, and we are pushing forward with Carlos this weekend.
Q: As you say, Carlos is taking it. Of the remaining races, is this the optimal track to do that, and to take the grid-place hit?
LM: I think if you ask your strategy people when is the optimal time to do it, they will always want to do it as early as possible because you want to take the penalty, and then enjoy the benefit of the new PU for as many races as possible. The short answer is, if you have decided to do it, you want to do it as early as possible as you are capable to do so. That’s what we have been doing, pretty much. We have done it quite well in advance, compared to our initial plan, with Charles last week, and now we do Carlos.
Q: Otmar, first of all, let’s talk about some great memories from Turkey last year. Of course, Lance on pole, Checo finishing second for Racing Point. Do those memories give the team a lift coming into the weekend?
Otmar Szafnauer: Yeah. Last year was significantly different, if you remember the very wet conditions, and very slippery track. I think it will be different this year. The memories are still with us, and what could have been had Lance not had his strake get stuck between the other strakes, which meant his front wing wasn’t working – because I remember he had a significant lead. But still, great for the team last year, but I think it will be different this year, including the weather.
Q: While we’re on the subject of drivers, your guys have tripped over each other at the last couple of races, particularly in Sochi. Have you felt the need to get involved yourself?
OS: No. They spoke about it after, and I was there, and Lance was apologetic. He didn’t see Seb coming around him, and just moved over to take the corner, and Seb happened to be there, so yeah, there is no need, they’re completely fine.
Q: Final one from me Otmar. Martin Whitmarsh started at the team last Friday, first of October. How is his arrival at the team impacting you?
OS: Martin arrived on Friday so it’s only been a couple of days that he’s been there before I left to come here. He’s getting to know the team, and some of the other strategic things that he was hired to do, as we’re marching our way down getting those things done. There’s a lot happening at the team, and we welcome Martin. He can help with his experience. We’re building a new factory now, we’re building a new wind tunnel, for example, and there’s a lot happening back at base, even when we’re out racing, so it’s nice to have his experience.
Q: You use the word ‘strategic’. Is that his role? Is he more of a strategic thinker? Is he going to be coming to all the races?
OS: He’s group CEO which by mere definition means you have a bigger role, and a wider roll. He will be coming to some races. I think he’ll be coming to Austin, and then perhaps one more race this year, and then a few next year.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To all three, as far as the championship is concerned we’re heading towards the last quarter. Who would you tip as World Champion for this year, having looked at the past races?
FT: Personally, I hope Max Verstappen will be, clearly.
LM: It’s difficult to say. It’s a great fight. It’s after, whatever, 15 races or more, they are two or three points apart. It’s great to see. Looking from the side, it seems that we will see a bit more speed in the latest races with Max, but I’m sure it’s going to be a very tough fight until the last race. OS: Very difficult to predict, just because they are so close, they’re two great drivers fighting for a World Championship that’s very valuable. Hard to say: Lewis is very experienced. He knows how to win World Championships. Max is very fast, so let’s watch, and see. We only have a quarter left, and we’ll know.
Q: Are you going to give us a name?
OS: No – because I can’t! If I say one, I’ll probably be wrong!
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Question to Franz please. Franz, do you think there is a sense of regret from Honda for perhaps deciding to leave Formula 1 too soon? Because yesterday there were more details about the future cooperation between Red Bull Powertrains, and Honda. It almost felt like they wished they continued with you guys properly.
FT: I can’t talk in the name of the management, and of the board from Honda. But, as you know, the great manufacturers, there are some people, some managers who were happy to do Formula 1, and others that think the company should go in another direction. Honda has decided to go out from Formula 1, and nevertheless there is a close cooperation with Honda, and Red Bull Technology in the future. Whether then Honda will come back, I don’t know. Currently, they have decided to stop at the end of this year, and will provide us, and Red Bull Racing with engines in 2022, and from 2023 the engines will be designed, and built by Red Bull Powertrain Technology Group, and the rest we will see.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS.NL – via email) To all three of you, on the subject of sprint races, what did you guys think of the events at Silverstone, and Monza, and, going forwards, where would you like to see two races in one weekend?
OS: I think we’ve got another one coming up in Brazil, and thereafter we will have seen three different tracks, and make a decision on the future. Whether the benefit on a Friday outweighs some of the traditions that we usually have on Saturday. I think also it’s only fair that we listen to the fans. Perhaps do a bit of a fan survey to understand if the fans both at the circuit, and at home watching TV, which they prefer. I think we should listen to the fans, and, if it’s more popular with them, then we should do more of them.
Q: Otmar, your thoughts on Silverstone, and Monza?
OS: I think they were different. Silverstone to me was a bit better, but that’s the first time we did that. I think on Saturday, there isn’t as much overtaking as we would hope. I think people just settle in, and that’s what you end up with. So, let’s see what happens in Brazil, and then having a backwards look at everything, and see if we’re going to do it in the future.
LM: Similar thinking here. I think Silverstone, and Monza went very well from this new racing format. I think it put all of us on quite a bit of a more intense program on a Friday, and hopefully it have been received well by the fans at the track or behind the TV, so I think it’s good to have a more exciting Friday, then Saturday, Sunday. Yes, as Otmar said, you probably want to have a bit more overtaking, but I think altogether it produces a very intense weekend, and it’s probably – hopefully – what the fans want to see.
Q: Are there any tracks that would suit the format particularly well?
LM: I guess the main things we are careful with is to do it on a track where you actually have decent overtaking possibilities – otherwise it probably, a little bit, defeats the purpose. But again, we’ll see in Brazil. If you do it on three very different tracks like Silverstone, Monza, and Brazil it means you can be reasonably confident that you can extend it further to a few more races next year.
FT: I think that Silverstone, and Monza showed that this new format worked quite well. I think for the fans it’s something good because they have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday highlights: Friday with the qualifying, Saturday with the sprint qualifying, and Sunday with the race. Of course, we expected maybe a little bit more overtaking maneuvers, but we must be careful next year with a new regulation, and maybe this will change completely. I think that this format is positive, and I also expect some races will be added to this format. The only negative I see is for rookies because they have only one free practice session, and then they go already into the qualifying. This is not an easy one, but, nevertheless, as Otmar said, we have to wait now at São Paulo. This is the third race weekend where we have this format, and then ask the fans how they see it, and then decide what we do in 2022.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question for all three of you. We’re expecting to get the F1 calendar for next year in the very near future, and it’s going to have 23 races, a record-breaking season –, but it’s also putting a lot of strain on all of the personnel working in the paddock. I just wanted to know from all three of you how important is it to look after the wellbeing, and mental health of your employees with such a big calendar –, and what kind of processes or protocols are in place do you guys have, particularly from a mental health standpoint.
FT: We know now that we have 23 races. It’s fantastic, good job from FOM, I am looking forward to it. Regarding the people at the track. First of all, we are a race team. They all should be happy that we have as many races as possible, and, of course, we take care of the people, for example the mechanics after a race weekend they have three days, four days off where they can stay at home., and also, press, marketing, all the people which are at the race track have some free days after the race weekend. Engineers it’s a little bit more difficult, but also, if I remember back in former times, they had to go after a race weekend to tests which means that they also had to work there. I think we all should be happy that we are in a position to be in Formula 1, and to have 23 races., and if someone doesn’t like it, then he should go.
LM: Yeah 23 races is, I think, going to be a great calendar. To answer your questions, yes, we are building season after season a program for the race team, you know, to stay in the best condition possible, and yes, you add item after item, so you start from the physical aspect, and then you go into the nutritional aspect, and then eventually we are also looking at the mental aspects as you say to make sure that people have a good balance, and stay in good shape, and stay in good spirits. So I think all the teams are going to inevitably spend more, and more energy on trying to keep their people in good shape for these long calendars, but it is something that is very well embraced by all involved. I’m sure there will be further steps in the right direction.
OS: Well, we have been looking at this for quite some time, knowing that this was going to happen. I agree with Franz: it’s nice that we have 23 countries or 23 races that want us to come, and compete, and showcase Formula 1. However, we do have to be mindful of all the people that travel – the mechanics, and the engineers –, and we have put operations in place both back at the factory, and at the race track to make the travel as comfortable as possible for them, including sometime rotating people, and some other organizational changes back at the factory such that the factory will do more of the jobs that mechanics traditionally did at the track to just make it a little bit more pleasant for them. Yeah, we look after them, including any mental health issues. We have a travelling doctor as well with us. We look after them as best we can.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To all three, along similar lines, specifically about the presence of triple headers on the calendar. The first time F1 did a triple header pretty much everyone by the end of it felt that it was too much, and the teams had even indicated that they had been given assurances that it wouldn’t happen again, so in your opinion why are triple headers now back, and seemingly a permanent fixture on the calendar? Is there something different about them now that makes them easier for teams to handle?
OS: Well, the first time you do a triple header it’s all new, and then from there on you learn, and you do some things to make the triple headers easier. However, they still are very taxing on all of us. We have two of them next year, and hopefully after the pandemic is truly behind us we can look at the calendar, and minimize or even get rid of all the triple headers. The nice thing next year is that we start mid-March, and finish mid-November, which gives us a decent winter break. You can put up with a triple header or two if you know you are not racing up until Christmas.
LM: I think Otmar explained it very well. I think it is clear it is very challenging for Formula 1 to put a great calendar together in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. So in that context we obviously understand that there needs to be a level of flexibility from the teams which is why we just have to cope with these triple headers now, and then once, hopefully, the pandemic is out of the way we will sit down again, and see how to move forward as it’s probably the aspect that is the most taxing for the race team. Hopefully it will be the first thing that will go away once the pandemic is out of the radar.
FT: The first triple header is the easy one – Zandvoort, Spa, and Monza. I don’t think there is any problem. The second one with Russia, Singapore, and Japan is a little bit more a heavy one, but I think from the logistics side everything is under control, we are then nearly in the same time zone so I don’t expect any problems.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Just two questions based on previous answers. The first one is, all three of your said that one would have to review the Sprint Race concept after the three races, possibly even some fan questions. However, Stefano Domenicali this week said on Sky that there could possibly be up to seven. So is he being premature? Do you share his optimism or how do you see it, particularly given the fact there has got to be a change in the sporting regulations with unanimous agreement,., and then the second question is on the triple headers. Will the new weekend format for next year make it easier to accept these triple headers?
FT: Sprint Races: if FOM, and Stefano Domenicali want to have seven Sprint Races, and if after this year we see that the fans, and all the people around are all positive for this Sprint Qualifying, and for this new format then I support it, because I think it’s a good idea. As I mentioned before there are only three days of highlights, and this is what fans want to see. I don’t see it as a big difference whether there is a triple-header, for example in Zandvoort, Spa or Monza, and also for the second triple-header. Of course we must be careful regarding the material we maybe need, as a Sprint Qualifying is a higher threat to the material of the car, but nevertheless if we know it now, early enough, then the teams can be prepared for this, and we have to optimize everything from the operational side to get everything in place. Therefore I don’t expect that this is difficult.
LM: On the Sprint Race, I think as you see today, as you have seen many times, the initial feedback is very good from everybody, so we already had many loops of discussion with the FIA, and with Formula 1 in the various groups. We interact with them, and gave feedback, so I think it is to be expected that Stefano, in the case you mentioned, is planning more. What we say to each other, however, is that we will wait for the third to look if we want to adjust the format, to maybe modify some of the parts based on what the fans’ feedback will be, and what we will think, but I think in broad terms we are already agreed that this is a positive step for the sport so will we probably all expect already to have a few more of them next year.
OS: Yeah, I think very similar to what was said already. I’m sure Stefano has some more fan information as well, so he’s probably said it because it was positive, and the fans enjoyed it, Like Franz says you have something on all three days. But we should still do the third one, and like I said, have a backwards look at all three of them, and perhaps even make some adjustments so that it can better next year, and then decide how many.
Q (Andrea Cremonesi – Gazzetta dello Sport) Laurent, regarding your power unit. How much of this power unit will transfer to 2022, and do you think that the hybrid element now has the same power ass Mercedes, and Honda?
LM: At first, yes, what we see on this year’s car, what we have just introduced is a step that we will take to 2022, so that’s the answer of the first part of the question. When it comes to competitiveness analysis against the other manufacturers, it’s early days. Only one race weekend, and obviously we will anyway have to wait until next year to see what will be there on step before we assess whether or not we have completed the catch-up work or whether there is still work to do to be at the same level.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) To all three, another calendar question. I was wondering why when we have got a record-breaking season next year, 23 races crammed into 18 months (sic) despite the longer break that follows in the winter, why more pressure wasn’t brought to bear from the teams to ensure that races were geographically located better. We still have Canada-Azerbaijan, and then we’ve got the ridiculous triple header of Russia, Singapore, Japan? Surely the teams should have asked for races to be better geographically located?
OS: We have asked, but there is a lot that goes into doing the calendar, and it’s not just as simple as trying to write them down in a more convenient geographical order. Stefano, and his team do the best they can, with a lot of inputs. These days one of the big inputs is still due to COVID, and some of the considerations there. I think some of the locations we are going to were driven by some countries wanting to be later on in the calendar, hoping that COVID would be past us. So when you have those types of constraints, I think they have done the best they could with the constraints that we have today, and hopefully those constraints won’t be the same in the future, and we can do a better job.
LM: I think it’s a time for us to show flexibility in the context of the difficulties to put such a calendar with the COVID, and then again I’m sure we will sitting down all together once this is out, but we know they are trying to do their best with the constraints they have.
FT: To create the calendar is really a difficult topic. It’s not only regarding to the geographical side, to the logistics. It depends on the different countries, they have other events over there where you can’t come then with a Formula 1 event, or holidays or other things that have to be taken into consideration. Therefore, it is quite complicated to make such a calendar, and I think that Stefano, and FOM have optimized everything in the best possible way.
Frédéric VASSEUR (Alfa Romeo)
Guenther STEINER (Haas)
Jost CAPITO (Williams)
Q: Fred, first up, more points for Kimi in Russia. Just how much of a shot in the arm was that for the team?
Frédéric Vasseur: I think it was a good couple of laps for the team, but I think we had tough events before. We did a good quali in Zandvoort, and Monza, but we were not able to score points. It was a shame, but in Sochi we achieved it. Now we have still seven or eight events to go, and a lot of opportunities to score points, and we are still pushing.
Q: Well, seven or eight events to go, you’re now 16 points off Williams, are they catchable?
Jost Capito: (Laughing) Of course.
FV: Of course.
Q: Fred, how realistic is that?
FV: It’s tough, but for sure when you see the situation on the second part of the grid you need to have a chaotic event to score good points. The reliability of the cars is mega now, and if everybody finishes the race it’s difficult to score points, but you know perfectly also that during the season two or three times you will have a chaotic event, as we had in Budapest for example, and we have to be there this weekend. Let’s see what could happen.
Q: So you want a chaotic race here?
FV: As long as it’s not chaotic for us, yes.
Q: Can we talk drivers? You said a few races back that you were going to make a decision about Valtteri Bottas’ team mate for 2022 in September. We are now well into October. What’s the latest, please?
FV: I didn’t say which year of September, first! Seriously, we are not in a rush to take a decision. We have a couple of options on the table, and we have to take time to decide, but we are not in a rush. The situation won’t change over the next couple of days, and we will take a decision soon.
Q: What is holding the decision up?
FV: Because we are discussing with all the parties involved, and it’s not an easy choice. We are at the beginning of the new regulation. It’s a new journey for the F1, and we have to consider all the points. It would make sense for us to have a look on the last events of the F2, Monza, and Sochi. OK, now the situation is like this, and we will take a decision in the next couple of weeks most, probably.
Q: Guenther, neither of your drivers has raced here in Turkey before. What are their first impressions of the track?
Guenther Steiner: I think it’s just another new track for them, nothing too exciting for them. I mean, nothing more exciting than any other track, because there are quite a few they haven’t raced on. They haven’t raced on any of the tracks in an F1 car anyway. So, I think they quite like it. They don’t like the car too much, there’s a lot of understeer we have got in FP1, but otherwise I think they are pretty happy with the track, and everything that’s going on here.
Q: You have made no secret this season that 2021 has been all about the 2022 car in terms of development co can you give us an update on how that project is coming on?
GS:, and I wasn’t wrong with that prediction, no? Yeah, the ’22 car’s development is going well. We are making progress each wind tunnel session. It’s look a little bit like ’15 or ’16 to me, but to say how good we are, I have no idea, because I don’t know how good the other nine teams are. But as a team we work now again like we did in ’15, ’16, and ’17, the technical team in Italy, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we will be in the midfield again next year.
Q:, and are there any other aspects of the team that you need to develop, and bolster ahead of next year as well?
GS: I think there are always… You could bolster everything, always. You can always do better, but I think the other aspects of the team they are in good shape I would say, the race team is in good shape, and there will be no big changes there, because they just took time this year to get them ready for next year as well. There is nothing big coming otherwise. I think we will be ready. There are still a lot of people from 2018 when we finished fifth in the championship, so these people are still good, and they haven’t forgotten how to do this. I rely on these people, and I am confident they can pull it off again, that we have good result, maybe not fifth, but at least being back in the midfield like were in ’16, and ’17.
Q: Jost, coming to you; another strong weekend for the team in Russia. Are you at the point where you think this car can be competitive everywhere, for the remainder of the season?
Jost Capito: That’s very difficult to say. It was really unpredictable so far in the season, when we went to tracks where we thought we are not competitive, we have been more competitive than we thought, not really highly competitive, and it was the other way round as well, so we’ll see, and we’ll look at every race separately, and we’ll do the best at every race weekend.
Q: Now you’ve got seven races left with George Russell, but all the focus at the factory is on 2022. Are you starting to limit George’s exposure to further development?
JC: It’s not much involvement of the drivers for next year’s development yet, so that is not a question we have really… it’s not a question for us, so he’s doing his job, preparing the races, and preparing for the rest of the season.
Q: Will George return to the factory? Is he still doing simulator sessions?
JC: Oh yeah, of course. There’s nothing changed after the decision that he’s at Mercedes next year.
Q:, and would you like to see Alex Albon as soon as possible fill that role, and start getting involved?
JC: I think we have to be realistic. He is still working for Red Bull, and that will be the case until the last race so we hope that after the last race we can start working with him.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Fred, you’ve mentioned that you wanted to have a bit more time to see what happens in F2. It seems like Monza, and Sochi only strengthened Oscar Piastri’s case. Does Oscar have a serious chance of being an Alfa Romeo race driver next season?
FV: Oscar is doing a very good job, but he was very performant, and consistent over the last weekend, but as far as I know, and I understand, he’s linked with Renault… or Alpine.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To all three team principals: as we head towards the last quarter of this year’s championship, who do you think is World Champion? Who would your money be on?
JC: I think it’s unpredictable, and I don’t make too much… I don’t spend too much thinking of that because we’ve got other issues, and problems. So, I don’t care.
Q: Are you enjoying the championship fight?
JC: Yeah, of course I’m enjoying it, but if you are at the pit wall you are so much into what’s going on with your cars, so sometimes at the end I have to ask who won?
GS: So the question from Dieter is who do I think will win the championship, yes? Max. Keep it short.
Q: Are you going to give us any more as to why?
GS: No, because there’s more points at the end, that is why. I don’t know why. That’s the answer: Max.
Q: Do you think the Red Bull is the car to beat now?
GS: I said Max is the driver to beat.
FV: Difficult to know. It’s a very tight fight, but I think one of the topics is also the reliability, but we saw this morning Lewis will have to introduce a new engine, it will be a penalty, and this could be a game-changer for the championship because they are so close. Every single small event could decide for the championship. But I would say Lewis, so it will be 1-1. If Guenther says Max, I have to say Lewis!
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Fred, there are growing rumors of a potential take-over of Sauber Motorsport, and Engineering by Michael, andretti. What can you say on this topic?
FV: I can say nothing because honestly it’s not in my parameter. I’m the CEO, and team principal, and these kind of discussions is not with me, it would be with the shareholders, and that we have so many rumors, and so on that you have to ask the question to the shareholders of the company.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Question for Fred about your driver plans for next season: you’ve got Valtteri Bottas signed on a multi-year deal. Will you be looking for the same with your second driver or would you be open to a one-year contract?
FV: It’s a good question, but for sure with Valtteri we secured the future of the company. We could be tempted to have a one-year deal, and to not expose the team too much, but I think this will be a large part of the discussion. I would say that a one-year deal is a good option.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) If I could follow up what Fred said about Oscar before, and his link with Alpine. What’s the issue there? Do Alpine even need to formally make him available? Do they need to put in some cash to tempt you? Why does Oscar’s Alpine link complicate?
FV: Honestly, I didn’t discuss with Alpine about this, but if you invest in a driver for all the junior series, and to have a long-term program with him, I don’t see the point to let him go to another team in F1. It would be strange.
Q: Fred, you have a lot of experience with young drivers. How good to you think Oscar Piastri is?
FV: He won in a row the Formula Renault, the F3 in his first year, and now the F2 – it’s not done, the F2, because they still have two events to go, but for sure, if you compare with the past, that he’s doing a very, very strong job, but it’s crystal clear for me that he’s probably one of the best in the field today in the junior series. He did a great job last year also, he was fighting with Theo until the last event, and he’s one of the young kids that will be successful in F1, for sure.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Again, to all three: regarding the Sprint Qualifying concept, the original plan was to have three races, then decide which way to go forwards. Yet this week Stefano Domenicali said that there would be up to seven sprint races next year. Do you share his optimism or is he being premature, particularly given the fact that there would have to be unanimous agreement for a regulation change to accommodate that?
JC: I haven’t seen the outcome of the FOM investigation, and there must be a recommendation, based on data, what the fans, what the TV figures, what the value is of this, and based on that there should be a discussion then.
Q: What do you think of the Sprint, though?
JC: It doesn’t matter what I think. I think it depends… if it adds to the value for the fans, and for the event then it’s the right thing to do, and if it doesn’t then it’s not the right thing to do. No, I think we have to look what creates more value for Formula 1 for the weekend. As far as I hear from people that it adds something for the Friday, having qualifying on the Friday, it’s something exciting for the Friday, and the race is exciting as well so I hear positive feedback, but we need this based on data, and not just be a couple of people talking to me.
GS: I think what Stefano said was not a fact. He said there could be up to seven races, not there will be because obviously he knows the governance of it, but I agree with Jost, we need to look at the data, what is done, and how the fans react to it. I personally think the Friday… something to fight for like a qualifying Friday is very good. I think there was set a race or the sprint qualifying race on Saturday, tweak is a little bit, do it a little bit different, maybe that it gets a little bit more interesting. I haven’t seen the ideas, I’m sure they, FOM, will present them to us, and see what we think about it, but in general I’m for it, that we do more of these weekends with the Sprint Qualifying. You know if we can tweak it, and make it better, and if the fans like it more, I’m for it. At the moment it looks like it’s positive on that side so just let’s work a little bit more on it, and hopefully we will make it that we have a few more because I think having a Friday it’s exciting for everybody.
FV: Yeah, I think we agreed to do a test on three events, and we have to go until the end of the test, and to do Brazil also, but we have perhaps two different aspects. The first one is the show, and the fans, and as Guenther said before, to have something official on Friday is a step forward. Now, on the sporting side, perhaps it’s a bit different because it will change from race to race, and track to track, and I’m not sure that Monza, on the sporting side, was a great event, that race on Saturday, but Silverstone was a good one. Let’s see that we… I think we have to close the loop, and to do the test again in São Paulo, and then we will see what we could decide for next year, but I think it’s really dependent, and related to the layout of the track.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) To Fred, again on the question of next year’s driver signing. You mentioned, with Oscar Piastri as an example, that it wouldn’t make sense for an organization like Alpine to invest in them, and then let them go elsewhere. Does that mean that whoever you chose to sign, it needs to be a driver who can fully be signed rather than on-line so you need full control of that, long term future of would you be happy in principal to take someone with some form of on-line or underlying agreement with another team?
FV: When you are taking a young driver with a new car, and so you are starting a new journey for the F1, and for the team, I think it would make much more sense to have the possibility to extend the contract, not a multi-year contract, but at least to be sure that you won’t lose the driver after year one, and it’s what I wanted to explain before.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Another for Fred, it’s about Oscar again. You know a lot about young drivers from the past, but you said that Oscar has what it takes to be in Formula 1, but some young drivers, for all the talent they have, they don’t get a chance. Do you think there’s a real possibility that he might actually miss out on F1 because he’s with a manufacturer or team that only has two slots, and they have no other customer teams? Does he have to break ties with Alpine? If he doesn’t get in next year or the year after, is that it?
FV: Yeah, but I’m not the manager of Oscar! But first of all, Oscar, so far is leading the championship, but he’s not champion, but he could be in the situation that he could do another season in F2, and for sure, each year that the situation is different with different number of seats in F1, and different situation on the driver side. I think that Renault Alpine, to do the step between Formula Renault, Formula 3, Formula 2, they are supportive with him, and that it would be a bit unfair to complain about the situation, but you had a couple of drivers in the past doing one year of testing or one year of F2 again if he’s not champion, and then he will be successful in F1, but it’s not because he won’t jump in F1 next year that it’s the end of the world.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Again for all three: if we have a look at next year’s weekend format which is effectively three days rather than three, and a half or even four days that we have now, does that make it a lot easier to accommodate the triple headers, and also to process the triple-headers from the stress perspective or does it make no difference whatsoever?
JC: I say the triple-headers are quite hard on the teams. The guys are four weeks away from home so it’s always stressful so everything that is less or shorter would help in that, but I think it is what it is.
GS: We actually started to looking yesterday at a meeting about the shortened weekend – let’s call it like this –, and there is something… we started to discuss that some people could come out later. For sure, everything helps to make the triple-headers having less impact on the people, like a three-day weekend, it will help a little bit, but I don’t think that if we’ve got two triple-headers, I think we have to deal with that because there are other things that come with it that we finish the season earlier as Stefano said, which is also good, that we are not going on almost to Christmas like this year, so there is nothing for free, but two triple-headers, I think we can get by, and for sure, having a three day weekend, a shortened weekend will help a little bit, and every little bit helps.
FV: I think we have to be realistic that we can’t expect to do more races, to generate more revenue, in a smaller period without triple headers, but at one stage it’s not possible. For sure that we have to perhaps reduce the weekend, the duration of the weekend, and to have a three-day event, but at the end of the day, I think also that we have to be happy with the success of the F1, and that we are doing step forwards, we have more, and more demand for the F1, and we have to see it as a positive that we don’t have to complain about the fact that we are doing too many races, and so, that we are going in the direction to do a better championship with more races, and so that is a very positive message, and signal. For sure we have to find a solution, to accommodate for everybody, but I take it as a positive message.