Sakhir GP: Friday Press Conference – Part 1

by Dec 5, 20200 comments

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Today’s press conference with Guenther Steiner, Toto Wolff and Mario Isola.

Q: Toto, can we start with you please. How is the Champion, Lewis Hamilton, was he even watching FP1, do you think?
Toto Wolff: I don’t know – probably not, he has better things to do than watching an FP1 session. He’s recovering. I think those first few days are always critical once you catch Corona. I think he’s OK. He was symptoms but they are relatively mild.

Q: So, bringing it on to FP1 this evening, George Russell, if we could talk about him. Just sum-up his progress, P1.
TW: FP1 was a good session for him. I mean, we need to calm everybody down because it was a first session on a new and short circuit. He delivered a really solid job in what we expected from him on a single lap. The long runs were difficult with our cars anyway, difficult to really establish a benchmark because Valtteri broke his car very early on in the session, wasn’t really able to stop it properly. So I would say I am happy with what George has done. It’s about what we expected him to.

Q: Guenther, great to Romain Grosjean back in the paddock. Same question to you: do you think he watched FP1?
Guenther Steiner: No, I don’t think so because he was in the gym, I texted with him during the session. I don’t know if he saw it, he’s in gym, trying to get ready. That’s what he’s doing in the moment, so I think he wasn’t.

Q: How does he want to be in the car in Abu Dhabi next week?
GS: I think he goes hour by hour. He wants to be in, he doesn’t want to be in. I let him decide and come up with how much does he want it. He’s training now, hoping to get ready to be in the car.

Q: And the man replacing him, Pietro Fittipaldi, P19, just a few words summing up his first session.
GS: The task was to go out there. He wasn’t in an F1 car since a year now, just familiarise yourself with it again, with the car, not even the track, and just try to get the best out. Unfortunately on his second set of tyres, on the Soft ones, he locked up and flat-spotted a tyre and it wasn’t useable any more, so we had to stop the session short for him, which is not idea – but he was thrown in the deep end and you have to live with that.

Q: Mario, coming to you, first up, how are you? You’ve had Covid since the Turkish Grand Prix.
Mario Isola: I’m now OK – so you can come closer. I’m feeling well, I’m OK. It lasted for a couple of weeks, as is the average, luckily I had no symptoms, just lost taste and sense of smell and I had a couple of days with fever, but now I’m fully recovered. I had four negative tests, so they can stay close to me.

Q: You tried the prototype tyres here last week. What conclusions did you draw?
MI: I think that everybody knows the drivers made not very positive comments. I believe the biggest mistake was not to give them the right information on which was the target of the test. Obviously, we are trying to fine-tune the current construction in order to cope with the additional loads of the cars in the future. We decided together to work in two directions: one was on the technical side to reduce the downforce for next year; on the other side to improve the current construction in order to have more resistance to integrity. That is what we did. Consider that we tested only 30 minutes in Portimao. We found a specification that gave us feedback in line with the current tyre but with an resistance to integrity that is a step better, so we decided to homologate it. I think that we have now clarified which is the target of the test, which is the programme for next year, we can test them again in the C4 compound in Abu Dhabi with a different approach, in a different way.

Video Conference

Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Toto please, what’s the likelihood of Lewis being ready for Abu Dhabi, and also, given the symptoms he’s showing and the timelines involved, what are the practicalities of being able to get him there? Basically, when’s the latest he can test negative and still make it to Abu Dhabi and participate?
TW: We have seen tests that were negative within ten days, so I think that is perfectly feasible, in my opinion but it would be a very positive development. Nevertheless, you need to look at the situation anyway because there is many athletes have tested positive for a long time after any symptoms and after they’ve been in any way infectious – but this is something the FIA needs to look into anyway.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mario, you were referencing the 2021 tyres earlier on. Talking to Andreas Seidl this morning, he said all the teams had provided you with projections about the sort of downforce and energy levels etc., for next year that they expect. Have you had all of this information, is it enough and what sort of increase in energies are you actually expecting?
MI: I don’t have a number now because the deadline to provide the upgraded simulation is the tenth of December, so we are collecting now the data. Some teams are convinced that they are going to recover the downforce quite quickly. Maybe at the beginning of the season. That’s why it was decided to work in two parallel directions. I’m not expecting to have loads that are different from this year, probably, at the end of the season, if we have a normal season. As it is planned now, we will have an additional load but we cannot quantify it now.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Toto, this is a question for you. Do you see this, as many other people within Formula 1 do, as a showdown test between Valtteri and George for the 2022 seat?
TW: No, not at all. I’ve heard this rumour and obviously you can’t call it a shoot-out when it’s about one or two races. That doesn’t give you any meaningful data whatsoever. If George does well it’s an indication that one day he’s going to be in a good car and hopefully race for victories and World Championships – but that is far away. He knows that. He just needs to do a solid job, not make any mistakes, and continue what he has done. There is no shootout. We have total trust in Valtteri and loyalty as we’ve always had – and that is our position.

Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Guenther. It was announced by Ferrari just ahead of the practice session that Simone Resta will move from Ferrari to Haas. Can you explain what position he will have at Haas. Do you have to restructure the technical team – and also, is this move connected to Mick Schumacher?
GS: The position we are still defining. For sure, it will be a very senior position, obviously. Simone was at Ferrari for a long time in a very senior position now, so he wouldn’t come without having that one, it would be no point arriving there without a senior position. The connection to Mick is not direct. Obviously we work very close together with Ferrari, so when it was discussed we needed to reinforce our technical team after we went a little bit backwards the last year with the pandemic. So, he was a good choice – but it has nothing to do directly with Mick driving for us.

Q: Guenther. How much of a boost is it for your team? Simone’s arrival?
GS: As I said, we are restructuring ourselves on the technical side because we have fallen a little bit behind so for sure it’s a big boost that we get back on our feet again to get to the performance we had in 2018. You need good people and Simone was at Ferrari a long time and that had a short stint at Alfa Romeo. He was available and we took him.

Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Toto, you said at the last race that you and Lewis were taking baby steps with regard to his new contract and talks in that regard. Does the fact he’s now isolating for ten days, how much does that hold things up in terms of you guys sitting down and hashing things out over a new deal for next year?
TW: Well, the timeline is being pushed back until he recovers. We know that we need to get it done, pretty well aware, both of us but the priority now is him getting back on his feet and being back negative. And then we will meet, or Zoom, in order to put pen to paper.



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