F1 - 2024 Miami Grand Prix - Friday Press Conference Transcript

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TEAM REPRESENTATIVESLaurent MEKIES (RB), Mike KRACK (Aston Martin), James VOWLES (Williams), Zak BROWN (McLaren)

Q: I'd like to start, if I can, with one of the biggest news stories of the week. It is the departure of Adrian Newey from Red Bull Racing. I'd like to get each of your views on that. Zak, perhaps we could start with you. Are you surprised that Adrian is leaving Red Bull and are you interested in hiring him at McLaren?
Zak BROWN: Sounds like all the same questions the drivers got. Am I surprised? Six months ago, I would have been surprised. I think given everything that's gone on since the start of the year and knowing Adrian pretty well, and he's a very high-integrity individual, I'm not surprised he's moving on. The stuff that's going on there is a bit destabilising. It's probably the first domino to fall. My guess is not the last based on the resumes that are flying around. And as far as McLaren's concerned, I'm very happy with all the work the men and women at McLaren are doing. I think we've started to show since last year, second half of last year, that they know how to put performance on the car. So I've got all the faith in the world with the team that we have. We're on a quest to get back to the front, and I think we have the people, the talent, the equipment, the drivers to get there, so we're going to just stay the course.
Q: OK, thank you. James, coming to you now. You've confirmed that you've already spoken to Adrian. What can Williams offer him that other teams can't?
James VOWLES: I mean, it was a light conversation more than anything else, saying it can't have been an easy decision and fundamentally wanting just to have an additional chat about things. But from a Williams perspective, obviously, that's where Adrian really cut his teeth for the first time. And I think we're a team without politics. It's a small team that's trying to make our way back to the front. And I think it could fit very perfectly for someone that wants to potentially dig into a challenge like that. More than that, I mean, what is great about Williams is that it has retained the family feel to it. We're not driven by an OEM. We're driven by just a group of individuals that want to be there. And it's all about really racing. And hopefully some of that plays to his strengths. And then finally with Adrian, you have someone with his accolades, with his touch. There's not a team he hasn't been to – and that includes McLaren, ourselves, Red Bull – where he hasn't made a significant difference. And I think anyone here would be foolish not to at least open some conversation with him at that stage.
Q: OK, thank you for that. Mike, how seriously are Aston Martin pursuing Adrian?
Mike KRACK: I think I said it already, I have not really much to add and also I echo what the guys have already said. I think the record and the history speaks for itself. If someone like that is leaving a team, it's always causing say the turmoil that it is creating. I think we speak about nothing else about the last two weeks in the media, which is good, because we speak about Formula 1. But then, yeah, I already confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I think it was a clear answer, but nobody really took it seriously. So, we are quite happy with our technical team and we continue with them.
Q: So you're not pursuing Adrian Newey?
MK: I said already that I have answered this question more than once.
Q: Laurent, coming to you, how big a loss is this for the Red Bull family?
Laurent MEKIES: Well, you know, for sure it's a huge loss for Red Bull Racing. It is not affecting our project, obviously, that part of the car being completely independent. But, you know, I think it will be a loss for any team losing somebody of the calibre of Adrian. I think the guys have said everything, you know, the records speak for themselves. So, for sure, it's not going to be unnoticed.
Q: He's being linked to Ferrari. When you were at Ferrari, was he ever a discussion point about joining the team?
LM: You know, I think everyone was honest enough to say that every team had or has Adrian on his list. So, of course, I think all of us have been discussing with him and I'm sure even more right now that now the possibility becomes a bit more concrete.
Q: OK, just a couple more questions from me. Laurent, if we stay with you, can we start by talking about Daniel Ricciardo? First up, can we get your take on the incident between him and Lance Stroll at the last race in China?
LM: You know, for us, China… Daniel, above all, it was his strongest weekend so far. So, you know, we have been saying many times, he's progressing. You guys are going to see it. And in fact, he was very strong from Friday onwards. So, of course, if you are taken off the racetrack on the day of your strongest race, it's never going to be a pleasant moment. We think we were fighting for that famous point that makes so much difference in the midfield. Then for the incident itself, as much as it is unpleasant, it's the way racing is sometimes, and there is nothing else to do than to move on.
Q: And in terms of his own performance, you say it was his best so far. Where is he unlocking that potential?
LM: You know, we have been working very hard to make sure he has a car he's comfortable to push with. And some of it is coming from him adapting to it. Some of it is coming from us adapting the car to his needs. And some of the stuff you can do very short-term, and we have done quite a few steps. Some other steps will come later in the season, to go in the direction of giving him something he can push with. So he's on a good trajectory. I think we have now both Daniel and Yuki at a very, very strong level, and they are going to keep pushing each other like that for the rest of the year.
Q: OK, thank you, Laurent. Mike, coming back to you, can we talk about the performance of your car? Fernando said last time out that it is stronger in qualifying than it is in the race. Is that how you see it? What can you do to improve its race performance?
MK: Yeah, I can confirm that. I think when you look at the last races, we always qualified much, much higher than we finished, which is nice in one way, but not so nice in the other, because the point is for the races and not for qualifying, and unfortunately this is something that for the drivers it's quite difficult because you start a race in a defensive mode, because you know if you go too hard to attack then obviously you will ruin your tyres. That is not a great situation to be in and we work really hard to get our race performance on a better level. We had a bit the opposite last year, so there were some lessons learned from there, but a lot of effort goes into race performance at the moment.
Q: And if you're Alonso, you risk the wrath of the stewards as well, as has happened at the last two races?
MK: Yeah, that is true. I think it comes as a result of being defensive. You know, you have to race really hard to defend against a quicker car. And I think it has been done really well so far because we came with more points than actually our race performance deserves. So I think that is a big achievement. But unfortunately, it means also at times that you are in the Stewards' room.
Q: Thank you. I'm sure there'll be more questions for you later. James, coming to you now, can we start by talking about the performance of your car? The messaging from Williams coming into Miami is that the circuit should suit the FW46 better. Is that what you saw during FP1?
JV: I think on Sprint race weekends there are a number of different fuel loads run. General weekends, we sort of keep to a similar pattern. So you can roughly predict where you are. But this weekend, the variation could be 20, 30 kilos between teams, which is more than the gaps between us at the moment, between really, ourselves and our RB Visa Cash App, it's a tenth and you can't tell that on the fuel level. So there's some characteristics of the circuit that should suit us better. But in truth, we have to sort of step back in the season and go, we haven't done a good enough job so far. What we've got to do going forward is make sure we start adding performance to the car at a higher rate than all of those in front of us and fight back into that position where we can be regularly scoring points.
Q: Going forward, can we talk about drivers as well? Kimi Antonelli is being heavily linked to Williams. He's been testing for Mercedes. Can we start by just getting your thoughts on the job that he's done in those tests for Mercedes?
JV: My information source is journalism for that. So I don't have any direct communication with Mercedes on how he's doing in the tests. I just understand that he has been testing in Imola and I think he also did Austria at the same time. So for that one, everything I read is what you read, which as far as I can tell, it's good. But you can't really compare in that situation. It's older cars. I'm not sure if it's a ‘21 or a ‘22 car. And there's nothing really to reference it to.
Q: He's being linked to Williams. A lot of sources saying that there is a desire to see him in one of your cars before the end of this season. That true?
JV: I'm sure there's a desire, but I'll give you my perspective on it. We have far bigger problems to solve than drivers at the moment. Alex has done championship-level drives and at the moment he's not scoring points and fundamentally we have it on us to improve our car going forward. That's my primary concern more than anything else and what we do with drivers going into ’25, ‘26. All of us here… Not actually Zak, he did a really good job early on in the season. But a lot of us here, and Mike's done his now, are just sorting out where we're going to be for next year fundamentally. And of that, there are options on the table, but it is far too early to tell. In the sense of Kimi, you have to remember it's just 20 months ago he was in a Formula 4 car. That's a large, large step up into a Formula 1 car in such a short space of time.
Q: OK, thank you. I'll leave it there. Zak, thank you for waiting. Can we talk about the upgrades that you're running this weekend? What is being said by Lando in particular during FP1?
ZB: Yeah, Lando has a full set of upgrades. Oscar's on upgrade light, if you want to call it that. He doesn't have the full set of upgrades, but does have upgrades on his car. So far, it looks good. We had a little bit of an issue, unrelated to the upgrades on Lando, that took a little bit of track time from him at the start of the session, but it looks OK. I think these Sprint weekends, Free Practice 1, you’ve got to get a lot accomplished while trying to learn about your upgrades. So Sprint weekends are a little bit more difficult to introduce upgrades on, but we took the decision to kind of split them so we can learn a little bit more. Oscar will have the full set in Imola. But so far, so good.
Q: What do you want from these upgrades? Is this going to put you on par?
ZB: Lap time. Come on, you've been around racing!
Q: Is this going to put you on a par with Red Bull?
ZB: I think that would be a stretch. Our hopes are that it gets us closer to Red Bull.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) A question for James. You answered Tom's question about Kimi, and you mentioned the driver situation for beyond this season, but specifically on the speculation that he could be in the car at some point this year. Has there been any conversation about that? Is there any possibility of Logan being replaced before the end of this season? 
JV: Let's put it this way. I haven't spoken to Kimi since Abu Dhabi last year. Hopefully that puts it in context. I know nothing about what's going on at Mercedes’ tests right now. We are looking, as everyone else is, for where we want to be on driver line-up for next year and we have our own young driver programme. In the case of Kimi, I can't really adjudicate on the level he's at. In case of him coming into the car this year, I've always said from the beginning, it's a meritocracy. Logan has to earn his seat. And at the moment, he has some tough targets where he has to get much closer to Alex. But there is nothing on the radar at the moment for replacing him.
Q: (Sahil Kapoor – NBC) A question for all four of you. Can I please get your reaction to Mario Andretti going to Washington this week where 12 members of Congress wrote a letter accusing FOM and by extension some of the teams of anti-competitive behaviour? One member even used the phrase cartel-like behaviour. What's your reaction and is this helping his cause of getting Andretti on the grid?
ZB: I saw it. I didn't follow it that closely. I think we've all been on planes getting here while it's happened. I think Formula 1 and the FIA have both taken their positions and they don't seem to be changing. So I think we'll just have to wait and see. And as I think all the teams have said, we don't have a vote in that matter.
JV: I'm not overly familiar with the US judicial system. What I can state is there was a due course and process completed by the FIA and FOM. And as Zak says, we don't have a say in any of that. So any more than that, I can simply read, like everyone else, online.
MK: Yeah, exactly as James and Zak were saying, we're really passengers in this. We read also from the news and the internet, in between the Newey stories, so I cannot really add anything more.
LM: Same here. You know, what matters is that there is a strong process in place with the FIA, with F1. We trust them. They have all the elements to make the right call. And therefore, we are simply carefully looking at what they are deciding.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) A question for all four of you. Firstly, could you all just assess what sort of impact you think losing someone of Adrian's stature would have on a team? And secondly, for Zach specifically, you mentioned dominoes and resumes flying about. Can you just expand on that, what you mean? Are you being approached by people at Red Bull for jobs, et cetera? 
ZB: Yeah, we've seen an increase in CVs coming our way from the team. And I think Adrian is the most successful designer of all time. So in addition to the technical that he brings to the racing team, people want to work for people like Adrian Newey and work alongside him. So I think they will be missing what he brings to the team from a pure technical point of view. And then I think the leadership and the excitement people get from working with him will be missed.
JV: I mean, almost word for word what I was going to say. He's an incredible character that has huge accolades behind him in the sport, well known for being the best designer really in his field. And that will have an impact, there's no doubt about it. How much he was involved in Red Bull or not, I couldn't say. We're not buried within there. But what I can say is it will have an impact. Of course it will, someone of his character and his strength.
MK: Yeah, again, same. If someone of that skills and experience and qualities is leaving a team, it has an impact. On the other hand, there will be others. There are always opportunities as well for other people. It's a team sport these days. It's very, very large teams that work together. To say much more, you have to be in the team, really, because each team is also a little bit differently structured, differently working, so to really say what impact it will have, it would be a pure guess.
Q: Mike, have you seen an increase in the number of CVs from Red Bull employees, as McLaren has?
MK: No.
Q: Laurent, please?
LM: We have to be very careful with the CVs coming from Red Bull, otherwise Zak is getting upset. So we haven't seen the increase of CVs coming. But no, seriously, of course it's going to make a difference in any team if a person of the calibre of Adrian is leaving. It's changing, of course, the internal dynamics. It's going to change. Also, as you said, you know, also from a leadership perspective, it's a new balance, I'm sure, to be found. And it will be the same for any team in that situation.
Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Monday) Something you are involved in, gentlemen, the points for positions. At the moment it pays 1 to 10. There's been discussions recently about 1 to 12 and possibly also bringing the difference between 1st, 2nd and 3rd little closer. I’d like your views on whether you think it's a positive move and whether you think there should be fiddling going on with the points for next year or just leave it as it is?
LM: Look, we think it's a good idea to increase the points distribution, mainly because there is no back markers anymore. We have 10 very strong teams. This year is a good example. We have a fantastic fight also in the second part of the grid, 10 cars fighting within one tenth, two tenths. And, you know, our pole position is P11 currently. Our win is P11. If nothing happened at the front, and the reliability of the guys at the front has been... extraordinary. So we think it's a fantastic fight. We want to explain it to the fans. We want to explain it to our partners and we think that points will help to give value to that P11, which today for us is a victory. So for sure we are supportive of an extension of the point system. Then know whether you go to P12, to P14, to whatever, we can discuss, but I think where the level of competitiveness of the teams is so high nowadays that the fight in the midfield, the fight at the back will also deserve some points.
MK: Yeah, I agree. I think the system needs to be looked at. We have a new fan base also. We are not anymore the purists that we were for these many years. So I think it is really time to have a look at this. Personally, I think there always needs to be something to fight for, wherever you are. A bit like Laurent mentioned, we should obviously not be too much influenced by how it is this year, because next year can be different than the year after. But I think it was a good consensus in the F1 Commission to say we want to make an adjustment, but we should not rush it, because we don't want to change it again later. So I think it's important that we have a good thought about it, and then we discuss some different proposals next time.
JV: Same thing. I think changing the points is sensible. Exactly that. There was just questions over where do we go? Is it P12, P14, P16? All cars, fundamentally. In terms of tuning it at the front, I think my conclusion from that is Verstappen won by winning the most races. It doesn't matter what you do. It would have still led to him winning championships. That's just a strength that they've come up with, the car and him, together as a package. But I think there's some sensible… It was a very good conversation at the F1 Commission around this where the room was pretty much united in let's do something that's good for the sport. However, let's take our time to get it right and do it once.
ZB: Nothing to build, other than supportive and agree with everything the guys said. I think increasing that will just create more excitement throughout the whole field. So we're supportive of more teams getting more points.
Q: How far back would you go is that?
ZB: I think certainly 12. I think there could be an argument made for all. That would obviously be quite an overhaul. But I think as soon as points come into play, it makes every pass that much more important. Sometimes cars will pull in, save some stuff on their car, wear and tear, because they're out of the points. That would eliminate that. If a quicker car gets shuffled to the back, every pass counts. So I think there's an argument you could make for the entire grid. Certainly no less than 12. But I think as James mentioned, we need to change it once and that's what we agreed at the FIA Commission, let's do a review and I think all the teams were in the same spot, that expanding the points is a good thing to do. 
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Zak, a question for you. I know you said you're happy with the make-up of the McLaren technical department at the moment, but there's no denying that Adrian Newey would be additive to anywhere he walked into. Is there interest in McLaren in bringing Adrian Newey to the team?
ZB: Well, I think you're right. I mean, as everyone said, with a resume and a track record like Adrian Newey, Adrian's going to add value to any racing team. But we're very happy with the trajectory that we're on. Never say never. But I'm very happy with the team, the technical leadership, the way Andrea is running the racing team. And we've got a plan and we're going to keep head down. And of course, always look for opportunities to make additive additions to the racing team.
Q: (Dan Lawrence – Motorsport Monday) This is a question for all. F1 Academy is here this weekend and there's a growing spotlight on the female drivers, but it's still a male-dominated sport. I just wondered whether you had any unsung female heroes in your team that you wanted to shed some spotlight on now.
JV: Yeah, we had an internal talent review just a few days ago. So we have Megan, who was an apprentice that has grown her way up into a successful role and ranked, I mean she's going to find out now through a press conference, but top tier, fundamentally. I have Chloe on the race team who looks after (inaudible) and other elements of things. And unfortunately, if you look on TV, you'll see inside our garage, I think probably at the upper end anyway of content in that regard. And I'm fortunate to be surrounded by an environment where effectively it's growing, which is what it should be doing at the moment. It's an open environment where we're open-minded on its meritocracy, but bring the best people in you can, and irrespective of where that comes from and who they are. F1 Academy is a different item altogether. What was encouraging is, again, if I take the F1 Commission, we had a really good conversation about how do we seriously take this to a point where we are bringing women up into Formula 1? Because there's a pathway, and it's awfully difficult at the moment. And I think out of the four hours we were together, we put 20, 30 minutes to that, even though it's dealing with a series we don't directly work with. So I think the fact that that's going to that level and we're talking about it is just how serious the world is taking it now and in a very good way.
ZB: Yeah, a lot, starting with my leadership team. Laura, our CFO. I couldn't run the business without Laura, and she's been with us for quite some time. She knows a lot about the racing team, so really helps all of us make the right strategic investment decisions. Chloe Todd, my Chief-of-Staff, also on leadership team. I pretty much couldn't do my job without her doing most of it for me. And Louise McEwen, who's our CMO, I think we're recognised as one of the best marketers in motorsports and fan engagement and all of that sits under Lou. We've just brought in Stephanie Carlin, who's running our Young Driver program and helping Andrea with business operations, and the list goes on. So quite proud to work alongside all of them, and we couldn't get our job done without them and many more, and I'm very happy the F1 Academy is just continuing to bring attention to our sport that's going to create opportunities.
LM: Yeah, I agree with Zach. You know, I think the F1 Academy is a fantastic tool, not only for bringing a woman to Formula 1, but also because through the F1 Academy, you for sure increase the level of embracement of women in general to our sport. And that reflects not only to the applications for becoming drivers, but also to get women in general more involved into our sport at all level, at all type of jobs, as Zach just mentioned.
MK: Yeah, same. Obviously, we have all the teams supporting F1 Academy. We have the liveries and that clearly also, I think, shows a level of commitment. But then also, I think, without naming names now, going through the organisation, I think we see change in general. We see more and more girls and women at all levels, be it in operations, manufacture, engineering, at the race team. And I think if we zoom or if we go with the camera through the pit lane, we see more and more women being part of the race team, which is a good thing.
Q: (Jenna Fryer – Associated Press) For any of you, but definitely, Zak. Three races in the US now. Vegas was a big spectacle. When we first came to Miami in year one, Miami was a big spectacle. I know all three of the US races have their own very individual identity, but what does Miami now have to do to remain the special spectacle it was, considering how much effort Las Vegas and what a show Las Vegas was?
ZB: I think they just need to keep doing what they're doing. Tom Garfinkel and Tyler are doing an awesome job. I think in between COTA, Austin, Miami, Vegas, Netflix, the soon-to-be Brad Pitt movie, which of course will be global, I think all those elements are helping build our sport very quickly in North America. Of course, a new television contract. If you look at the way Tom and Tyler responded after year one, the improvements they've made were substantial and very good. They continue to do that. So I don't see them sitting still. I think Miami is an awesome market that people like to travel to. So I think each one of these Grands Prix have their own personality. I think that's one of the things that's exciting about Formula 1. So I think they're not sitting still. They're constantly developing like we are our race cars. And I think it's an awesome event and going to go from strength to strength.
JV: Yeah, same thing. I met up with Tom today. If you compare where we are today, three years in, from where we were at the beginning, it's an enormous change. This was a car park. fundamentally that they converted into a top tier Formula 1 track. More so, I sort of rate things by how the atmosphere is on the grid. If you stand on the grid here and the race weekend, It's got similar repercussions to where you are at Silverstone or otherwise. You have a fan base that is completely in support of us as a series. And that simply wasn't the case three years ago. And that's through hard work and diligence by Tom and his team here. Again, to Zak's point, when you go to Vegas to here to COTA, all three are completely different. There's no real similarities between all of them. And that's the great thing about it. Fundamentally, they're different spectacles. But I think for all of us here, Miami is now for partners, for evenings, for effectively bringing in outside interest into the sport, top tier, if not the best out there.
Q: (Sahil Kapoor – NBC) Hames, could I please get you to elaborate a bit on Logan and the targets you've set for him, if there's anything you can share? And I believe you said earlier that what he was doing last year is not fit for purpose. Have you seen a step up from him this year?
JV: Hopefully I didn't say exactly those words, that would be very harsh of me. But what I was saying last year was at the end of the year, he came close to Alex, which is what I wanted him to do, but that progression had to continue. He had to be at the point where he's not sitting a tenth behind him, but rather challenging him and out-qualifying him and out-racing him, fundamentally. We're still on that journey. What Logan has as a challenge, fundamentally, in front of him is enormous. We can't underrate where Alex is as a driver. He was, I think, underrated before and he's a brilliant, brilliant driver in his own entity. In terms of Logan, what I've been asking for him is, despite the pressures of the world, the pressures we've created, the pressures I've created, the pressure all of you have created, you need to pull that all and put it behind you and make sure you're now out there fighting and out-qualifying Alex, pushing the team forward as a result of things. And those targets effectively are encompassed in a number of other more formal ways of putting it. Without doubt, this is a tough field. There's no doubt about it. But as I said all the way through, it's meritocracy, earn your place. Now, he's got more work to do, but he's also one of the top 20 Formula 1 drivers in the world on the grid. And there's a reason for that. And here in Miami at his home Grand Prix, I'm putting him on my shoulders and supporting him because that's what we should be doing at this point. He's in the car. He'll remain in the car. And my job here is supporting him.