Abu Dhabi GP: Friday Press Conference – Part 2

by Dec 11, 20200 comments

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Today’s press conference with Simon Roberts, Frederic Vasseur and Toyoharu Tanabe.

Simon, must good to have George back in the garage this weekend?
Simon Roberts: It’s great to have him back. Feels like he has come home for the weekend, which is really nice.

Tell us a little bit more about the impact he has had today. What sort of feedback did you get from him in FP1?
SR: I missed the engineers’ debrief from FP1, but he came back in a really good place. He had a fabulous weekend last weekend. I’m sure he’s a bit disappointed inside but we gave him a really warm welcome back ands we are genuinely pleased to see him. His programme went according to plan. We were running a few rakes and things, looking at stuff for next year. But he settled in the car really quick. I’m sure maybe on that first lap he was trying to find his braking points again in our car but yeah, he didn’t put a foot wrong and got everything out of the car we expected. We move on to FP2, so we are looking for a good weekend again.

Yesterday, George said he will be a Williams driver in 2021. After his strong showing last weekend, how confident can you be of that?
SR: I guess from the inside we’ve known for quite some time what a talent he is. Last weekend he got a chance to show that talent on the world stage, and we are really pleased he got that opportunity. We’ve got Nicholas and George signed for next year and the main thing we are working on right now is making sure we give them the best car possible, so yeah, I’m as confident as I can be given that.

Just a few words about Jack Aitken‘s debut last weekend. What impressed you most about him?
SR: Jack, we’d seen him in the car in Austria and he adopted a similar approach. He starts well; he builds through the weekend. He’s very competent in the car. He gave us good feedback. It wasn’t like we had a complete rookie in the car; he’s been in our simulator, he knows the team well, so he slotted in really well. In a way, it’s a shame couldn’t see him again this weekend, just as it’s a shame we couldn’t see George in the Mercedes again this weekend, because I think it’s a big ask. We didn’t overload Jack, we were careful with him and we made sure we built up the way the car works through the weekend and we gave him just enough to get the job done. But by the time we got into quali and the race he was as up to speed with our car as we expected and delivered a good result. We wanted him to push and he did so we were really pleasesd with what he achieved over the weekend.

And what can you tell us about Jack’s future with the team?
SR: At the moment we’re still looking at what we do for support drivers next year. It’s an open question and I can’t really say any more than that right now.

Tanabe-san, can you sum up 2020 for us? Your target was to win the World Championship.
Toyoharu Tanabe: Because of the COVID-19 situation, it was a very unusual season. But everybody who took part in the season did well to maintain the situation in the paddock. So this season is one people will remember for a long time. Formula 1, the FIA and the organisers and all teams did very well in a very stressful season and to get to the end of the season. It was good. In terms of Honda’s point of view, we did not get the result we wanted, but there were some highlights, like Max winning the 70th Anniversary race in Silverstone and then Pierre got his first win in Monza, the team’s home race, which is the 15th race as a team. So we keep pushing hard this weekend to end the season the best possible. Also, after that we will start preparing for next year.

This morning during FP1 we saw Yuki Tsunoda walking around with Alpha Tauri clothing on and of course he’s secured his super licence for next year as well. He’s had a very strong end to the season in Formula 2. Do you think he’s ready for Formula 1?
TT: Yes. We will see his talent in Formula 1, well, we hope to see his talent in Formula 1 next year. He did a very good job in Formula 2 this season and then he learned a lot the previous test in the Alpha Tauri car at Monza and he keeps working hard to learn Formula 1 and then should be a competitive Formula 1 driver.

Fred, can we look back on the year with you as well? How much progress do you feel Alfa Romeo has made this year?
Frederic Vasseur: We had a very tough season overall, but I think we understood quite soon, into the season in Barcelona and then in Spielberg that the season will be difficult with the tight schedule we had but after the first couple of seasons, when I think we had a good reaction of the team, we put two cars into Q2 a couple of times, the drivers into the points and we did some good improvements and good step forwards, even if we had to fight with the COVID situation and financial crises so that we were not able to do all the development expected but it is like it is. I think it was the same for the teams around us but the team had a good reaction. Very often we were fighting with Ferrari on track and it was (unclear). Now let’s see what could happen next year and the step forward that we can do.

Let’s talk about next year. What have Ferrari told you about the new power unit you’re going to receive?
FV: It will be better!

Have they given you any numbers? How confident…
FV: No, no. For sure if I have numbers I won’t give them to you!

Well Fred, there’s been a technical re-shuffle at Ferrari ahead of next year’s cost cap. Your former chief designer, I think he was, Simone Resta is off to Haas as part of their technical partnership. Can you expect something similar at Alfa Romeo?
FV: No. We don’t have the same approach as Haas and I don’t want to make any comment on the Guenther project and Gene’s project. We are independent. We have a good collaboration with Ferrari on the engine and on the gearbox but that’s it. We want to develop the car by ourselves and to continue like we are doing the last couple of years.

Video Conference

(Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) For Tanabe-san, the power unit for next year, what areas will you be focusing on? Will it be more the hybrid area or will it be the ICE or both? What weaknesses have you picked up this year that you need to strengthen for next year?
TT: So, we have been learning our weakness in the past and then we try to improve every single area, not only engine, ICE but also ERS and then we try to make them as a pack for next year’s PU.

(Scott Mitchell – The Race) Simon, as well as what you were saying about support drivers for next year, there’s obviously the long term situation in terms of the leadership of the team. Where do stand on that and how important is it to have things in place because I guess to define the team’s long term direction, which is important, you obviously need to know who’s going to be leading that direction?
SR: Yeah, absolutely, and we’re working on that right now but I can’t say anything about it this weekend so yeah, situation normal, lots of discussion with Dorilton and when we’re ready we’ll be able to announce how we intend to move forward.

(Scott Mitchell – The Race) Simon because you’ve had the change in ownership, just wondering sort of how, sort of, the direction that had been laid out before in sort of Claire’s time, sort of how much has that sort of been reaffirmed as basically the way you want to proceed? How much has it sort of changed in the last couple of months behind the scenes?
SR: That’s a really good question. So from the cultural fit, with the team, there’s a lot of synergy between the road map that Claire had laid out and we’re staying very true to that. We want to be a great place to work. We want to make sure we’re caring and kind to all the people who work for us and we want to just do all the right things. In terms of the technology though, we now have the opportunity to invest and that’s what we’re doing. That’s started already. There’s not much impact of that on the car we’re racing on now but we will start to see that next year. Really this year is part of a long-term strategy, I always say, and that will build slowly over the next five years. The main thing is, we want to invest wisely, we don’t want to make mistakes and we want to play the long game and that’s what we’re doing.



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