British GP: Friday Press Conference – Part 1

Today’s press conference with Christian Horner, Guenther Steiner and Franz Tost.

Could we start with a quick resume from each of you about how FP1? Franz, can we start with you?
Franz Tost: We had quite a good session, I must say. We came here with some new parts, they worked well and I’m quite optimistic for the rest of the weekend.

Christian Horner: Yeah, we had a busy session with both cars, obviously trying to understand some of the issues from Budapest, so a productive session, a busy session, trying quite a few things, with different programmes on both cars, so I would say a sensible start to the weekend.

Guenther Steiner: Yeah, we had a sensible start as well, but I’m not as optimistic as these two gentlemen. I mean, we know we will be struggling here because of all the high-speed parts. But we had a good session, we didn’t have any issues and we just tried to figure out how the tyres work and to learn something, which again is very difficult because today is abnormally hot. It won’t be like this on Sunday, but we had a good session and we just try to improve what we’ve got.

Christian, if can go back to you, can you just tell us a little bit about Simon Rennie’s return to the pit wall?
CH: Well, Simon has obviously been with the team for a long time and he was race engineer to both Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo through his entirety at Red Bull Racing. Simon left the pit wall, through his own choice, at the end of 2018 to take on a factory-based role and that’s what he’s been working at for the last couple of years. But with the issues that we currently have with the car and an inexperienced driver like Alex we felt that it was unfair on the race engineer who was working Alex, who was relatively inexperienced, to have that pressure. So we’ve brought Simon back into the front line for the rest of the season. Mike remains under contract to us. And hopefully that experience, that knowledge while we aggressively develop this car will only help Alex, because you have to understand that every time he gets in the car it’s that little bit different and I think an experienced hand like Simon is definitely a positive for him.

Franz, we saw a lot of reliability issues on Pierre’s car in Hungary. What reassurances have you had from Honda that the situation is going to be different here.
FT: It was a sensor issue and Honda sorted it out, but because of this sensor issue we had a problem with the gearbox and a bearing failed and therefore Pierre had to stop on Sunday with a gearbox failure but I’m quite sure that everything has been sorted out and that the cars will be reliable.

Guenther, you said a couple of weeks ago that your mission this year was to keep Gene Haas happy. Just how happy was he after your result in Hungary two weeks ago?
GS: It was an up and down. We did something different to everybody else and we got away with a point, which under normal circumstances we couldn’t, so he was happy about it. But you know these highs are short, because we are here now again and we have to do it again. You are evaluated every weekend when you go racing, so let’s see how we can keep him happy. That’s more important than how happy he was last weekend.

Video Conference

(Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/ A question to Guenther. I don’t know if you saw the press reports but John Elkann gave an interview in the Italian media during the week where he said that Ferrari basically wouldn’t be in a winning a position until 2022 at the earliest. Given that you source most of your parts from there, how did you feel about that comment knowing that effectively you’d probably be in the same situation in terms of your performance, even if not winning?
GS: I’m aware of the situation we are in and I see what they are doing and they are in, so I was not very surprised by the statement from Mr Elkann. So it was no surprise. For sure, it’s never nice to be told it will be difficult but again if you admit that it will be difficult you work hard to make it better going forward. But I wasn’t really surprised that he said that because for sure they did their analysis of the first three races and came to that conclusion and he just said it how it is.

(Erik van Haren – De Telegraaf, via email) Christian, are you afraid that somebody like Max Verstappen will lose his patience if it takes even longer before he can fight for the world title?
CH: Well, look, we know that Mercedes are the target; they’re doing a very, very competitive job and they have got a very complete car and package at the moment. They are setting the benchmark very high and we have to take on that challenge. And everybody in the team is extremely motivated to do that and everybody within Honda is very motivated to do that and obviously Max in particular as well. It isn’t going to be easy, Formula 1 isn’t easy. But I believe in the people we have, in the capacity and capability we have and I think that we will eventually be able to mount a challenge and really take the fight to them. They’ve turned up with a very good car this year and we have a big regulation change certainly for 2022 but I think that before that there is plenty of opportunity.

(Luke Smith – Autosport) – We’ve had the first confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test for a driver, with Sergio Pérez. I just wanted to know how you are managing your drivers in terms of their travel and where they go between races and things like that. We know that Checo maintained himself within all the guidelines but did take a trip to Mexico. What are you doing with your drivers to make sure they are minimising the risk and that they don’t pick up this virus
FT: We always tell to the drivers, but not only the drivers, to all the team members: stay disciplined, which means keep the mask on, wash your hands, clean your hands. Stay with people whom you know and also there keep a distance, don’t go to parties and try to keep the virus away, because we have seen now how dangerous the situation in reality is and looking back to March nothing big has changed, because medicine is not able to come up with a vaccine and therefore we will see. I hope that in the close future they will come up with some medicaments or whatever so that we are not anymore in so dangerous a position to catch this virus and when we have to stay at home currently.

CH: I think it’s a stark reminder that… you know, sometimes in Formula 1 we are a bit isolated and we all live in our bubbles anyway, and I think that when it happens to somebody like Pérez, a driver, is affected like that, it’s a stark reminder that these procedures are here for a reason and the procedures we take as a team, the procedures we take as a collective in Formula 1, we do everything we can to ensure that as little unnecessary contact is made either at the race event, away from the race event, within the factory. It’s very, very difficult and it’s a stark reminder that this thing hasn’t gone away yet. It’s still out there and we are going to be travelling to countries where obviously there are second waves and peaks that are still bubbling away. And that’s where as a group, as Formula 1, we do need to keep that discipline with the procedures that are in place. I think that the whole thing was handled well and executed well by the FIA and by the team.

GS: Yeah, I would agree with that one. The FIA, FOM and the team handled it well. We just tell our people to keep to the guidelines and not to do anything different, but we know it can happen, as we found out. It can get everybody. But then if you have a good reaction to it we can limit from spreading anymore. But we just have to be responsible, each of us, because we cannot follow each person, what he’s doing outside the race track, but hopefully we can be all responsible and sooner or later this virus is going away when our team is instructed to behave by the guidelines.

(Sandor Meszaros – Autosport es Formula Magazine, via email) Christian, you have spoken already about Alex’s race engineer but how happy are you with Alex’s performance and in what areas does he need to improve?
CH: I think there has been criticism if Alex, which in some ways has been unwarranted and unfair. If you look back to the first race in Austria, through strategy he was in a position to arguably win that race and was taken out by Lewis Hamilton and he finished fourth in the next race and fifth in the next race. We know the car we have provided our drivers with this year isn’t optimised and it has had some difficult characteristics and for a driver that doesn’t have experience, he’s only just had over a year’s worth of Formula 1 experience, that’s a tough call. But the way he has handled the situation, the way he has handled the pressure has been impressive. And I think he just needs time and we’re doing our best to support him as much as we can and things like the experience of the race engineer he’s now working with will only compound that.

Check out our Friday gallery from Silverstone, here.