F1 - 2024 British Grand Prix - Friday Press Conference Transcript


Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Zak BROWN (McLaren), James VOWLES (Williams), Ayao KOMATSU (Haas)
Q: Ayao, why don't we start with you? And let's start with yesterday's big news. Ollie Bearman, you said he's the perfect match for Haas in 2025. Why so? 
Ayao KOMATSU: We are still pretty much a growing team. We are a relatively new team. And then we are restarting, let's say, and improving our performance. And Ollie, obviously, is a very talented young driver with a very strong head on his shoulders. And he's very calm, but mature, got the speed, and very much a team player. So the things how we want to progress as a team, that's what I mean by a very perfect match.
Q: Now, he was in the car for FP1 today. Did you see any change in his approach now that he knows he has a long-term future with the team?
AK: No, not really. Because, again, that's what was impressive before when we first put him in the car in Mexico, you know, very first time in a Formula 1 car, FP1 session. Of course, he was excited. But then again, he understood the objective of the team what this session means to the team, what we need to achieve. And then, of course, he's trying to drive as fast as possible. But within that bigger picture, he understands always the context very, very well. So that's what was impressive before. And then, of course, you know, it's not something he needed to change today. Of course, he was, I'm sure, very happy to drive in front of his home crowd after the announcement. So he was enjoying it. But fundamentally, the approach was exactly the same.
Q: Now, how does Ollie’s presence in the team next year influence your decision about who will be alongside him?
AK: Yeah, of course, especially for a team like us, we cannot have two rookies. So now that we've taken Ollie as a rookie, we will try to appoint somebody who's got decent F1 experience.
Q: Well, let's bring it on to the on-track performance here at Silverstone. You come here on the back of a very strong race in Austria last Sunday. How confident are you of, well, maybe even repeating that here at the British Grand Prix?
AK: I'm not confident about repeating P6, P8. That requires somebody else's misfortune. But I'm confident that we can fight for points. If you look at all the 11 races so far this season, apart from the Monaco DNF, even the races we didn't score points, we finished in P11 five times, I think. Bahrain was P12. So we've always been there and thereabouts. And we’ve put some new parts on the car this weekend. But we've got to really assess if that's really a step forward or not. But as long as things doesn't go backwards, you know, we should be able to fight for points. You know, if we are there all the time and if we execute a good race, we've got a chance to be a P9, P10. So that's what we're aiming for.
Q: Very quickly, what can you tell us after FP1 about the new parts?
AK: Not much yet. You know, we've done some data logging, data collection, but Nico drove the baseline car this morning. So we are updating Nico's car for the Silverstone spec this afternoon. So, you know, provided we can drive in a dry session, then we’ll get pretty good data, I think, and also the feedback from Nico, then we can make a decision.
Q: Alright, Ayao, thank you very much. Welcome to Zak and to Toto as well. Good to have you with us. Zak, can I jump to you now, actually? Because the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend came to an unfortunate end for Lando. First of all, what was your take on the battle between him and Max Verstappen?
Zak BROWN: Oh, the battle was quite an epic battle between some of the best drivers in Formula 1. So, it was quite an epic battle. Exciting for the fans, exciting for everyone in Formula 1. I think it was a matter of time until we saw the two of them going head-to-head. Obviously, an unfortunate outcome at what was a very small touch. But I think as we reflect on the weekend, I think we need – and I think this is something that the FIA agrees with – we need to invest more in our stewarding to have greater consistency and enforcement of the regulations. I think having part-time Stewards, it's a very difficult job, it's quite complex, and so to kind of do it on a part-time basis for the level Formula 1 is at, I think, is difficult, because Max and Lando were just duking it out as you'd expect them to do, and until someone tells Max, ‘hey, that's against the regulations’, he's not going to know any different. And so I think there were missed opportunities for the Stewards to make note. Also disappointed that at such a great team like Red Bull that the leadership almost encourages it because you listen on the radio and what was said. We all have a responsibility on pit wall tell our drivers the do's and don'ts and what's going on in the race and so I think we need to have respect for regulations and we've seen there be lack of respect, whether it's financial regulations or you know sporting, on-track issues with fathers and things of that nature, and I  just don't think that's how we need to go racing and we need to guide our drivers on what's right or wrong. And I think had it been addressed earlier maybe that incident wouldn't have taken place. So racing incident that I think could have been avoided if the pit wall and the Stewards had maybe been more on top of what the regulations say you can and can't do.
Q: Zach, a couple of things to unpick there. First of all, on the stewarding front, are you suggesting that you'd like full-time Stewards, professional Stewards?
ZB: Yeah, I think given the level Formula 1 is at, how difficult the job is. I mean, hats off to the Stewards that are here every weekend. It's not to be disrespectful of what they're doing. I think it's hard to do on a part time basis and we're all racing full time. It's a big sport. I also think things need to be looked at the track limits. When Lando went off trying to pass Max. That was just a good, brave move. And I think we want to encourage drivers to have good racing. And for me, track limits are about cutting the track to get a better lap time. He gave the position back right away. It was clearly a slower sector. So I think there's some things that need to be reviewed and tightened up just so we have greater consistency. Because I think you hear the drivers say they're a little bit confused as what's on and what's off.
Q: And on the penalty front, Max, of course, got a 10-second penalty. Lando even questioned yesterday in the press conference whether Max deserved a penalty at all. What do you think would have been the appropriate penalty if one was needed?
ZB: I think what they gave. You're supposed to give a driver a car's width, and he didn't. And it's unfortunate. It could have just been a small rub, and they both carried on. But I thought that was the right penalty, because that's what the rule book says. But again, I think Max is an awesome racing driver fighting for the lead. And it's our responsibility as teams to let the drivers know what the limits are. And if you don't, I wouldn't expect Max to do anything differently.
Q: This battle, this incident in Austria has caught the headlines this week coming into the British Grand Prix. Have you been impressed by how Lando has dealt with the scrutiny this week?
ZB: Yeah, I think our conversations with Lando, we can't change anything from last week. We can try and make sure it doesn't occur again and address kind of having some full-time Stewards, things of that nature, but we can't unwind. And I think we're going to be very competitive this weekend. And so we just want them to be laser-focused on that. Of course, everyone loves a good battle. It wasn't long ago that Mercedes and Red Bull were having an epic battle. So I know it's exciting and entertaining for the fans. But at the end of the day, we want Lando and Oscar focusing on the job at hand. And that's exactly what they're doing.
Q: Alright, Zak, thank you. I'm sure we'll have more questions for you in a minute. Toto, can I bring you in on this? Zak has just referred to the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull in the past. What was your take on what happened last Sunday between Max and Lando?
Toto WOLFF: First of all, the drivers among themselves will know best. Lando and Max, they get on with each other very well. They will have discussed it. They're not going to trash each other in the media, but talk it through, and all the good guys will have a judgment on that, and we'll see what it means. I think that's number one. And number two is there's a set of regulations. And those regulations give the boundaries to the drivers, what's on, what's not. It's the same with track limits. You're either penalised or not. And in the same way, the way you race. And I think with the regulations maybe a little bit vague, or interpretations different from time to time, it's clear that the really good ones are going to push this as much as they can. And then we could end up in similar situations. It's not only among these two. I mean, we've seen it between the Alpines, et cetera, et cetera. So I agree with Zak on the regulations tell us what's on and what's off, number one. Number two. Yeah, I tend to agree with Zak, it's always amusing to see just one-dimensional comments of team principals where you think, let's be a little bit objective at least.
Q: Toto, do you think Max has changed his defensive driving tactics since he was battling with Lewis those years ago?
TW: No, I think this is the way he drives. That's what I've seen in Formula 1 since he's come. And I don't want to be judgmental on that. I think you drive as much as you're being let off. And I'm not saying it's good or bad. But on a starting line, you go as much forward as you can without being penalised. On the track limits, you maximise the width that you can take. We, on technical regulations, we are maximising every area. So, the drivers will maximize every area from what's on and what's not. And that is as simple as it is. And that is on, there was a 10-second penalty. Maybe that's what. what the consequence is, but that's okay.
Q: And of course, George was the beneficiary of what happened between Max and Lando. Do you think you can challenge for the win this weekend at Silverstone?
TW: I think Lando and Max are probably, at the moment, a little bit ahead of everybody else. And that's not only on a qualifying lap that can be very, very close – although it wasn't in Austria because it's a minute lap time and they were still a few tenths quicker – but on race pace, these two seem to still be a step ahead. But we are really pushing it hard to bring more tools and toys onto the car. So, we are going quicker and that is a relentless push from all of the engineering and operations in Brackley and in Brixworth to be able to catch up. And at the moment I think George winning the race has probably maximised it and we were 15 seconds off before the crash, considering they were fighting a bit, so probably a little bit more. That is two, two and a bit tenths per lap. And this is where I would judge the gap is. And as long as we are not able to close that gap, we are not going to fight these two.
Q: Alright, well, best of luck to you. And James, bringing it on to you now. Toto said this week that Carlos Sainz is now in his sights again for a seat at Mercedes next year. So the battle to sign Carlos remains fierce. How long are you prepared to wait for him?
James VOWLES: I mean, I'll go back to, he's a world class driver. So the decision isn't imminent. It's not today that we need to make it. But what I've said all along is actually the timeline is less important to me. What's more important is that whatever decision we come to or the driver comes to, it's about forging a long-term relationship with each other – i.e. both see the journey we're on and want that to be a part of their lives. I'm fairly sure you'll see all this cleared up before we get to September. That's the normal time. If you look at a normal routine, we're actually just now going back into what is a normal schedule where August is spent doing contracts. But I'm pretty sure you'll find it all cemented by then.
Q: And do you have a plan B ready to go? should Carlos choose to go elsewhere?
JV: Fundamentally, yes. Simple answer to it.
TW: James has always a plan B and C, by the sheer nature of his previous job and engineering mind.
JV: I think we're on about Y or Z by now, just to be clear. But no, there's a lot of moving parts to it. More than the world will see, but it will all make sense, I think, once it fans out.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Question to you, Zak. Lando was quite forthright in his comments post-race, perhaps understandably so, given he’d just got out of the car. He described Max as being ruthless, aggressive. Yesterday, in the press conference here, he did a complete 180, pretty much. Max was in the right, he didn't make a mistake, arguably didn't deserve the penalty. Is there any concern that he has now perhaps conceded some psychological ground to Max in future battles going forward?
ZB: No, I don't think so at all. I think show me a world champion, and I think ruthless and aggressive will be two good descriptions of any world champion or Grand Prix-winning driver. I think Lando wants to move on from last weekend. Some people, drivers might enjoy a public spat. I think they have a very strong relationship off the track. They spoke. What they spoke about, I think, is between them, but I think Lando and from what I saw from Max's comments, they both want to move on and get back to racing each other real hard on track.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm –The Race) A question to Toto, Zach and James. Toto, it's a bit of an open secret in the paddock that Renault is exploring or at least wants to explore a Mercedes customer engine deal for the new regs. I just wondered where you're at with that, what talks have taken place, how long it would take to resolve. And then for Zak and James, obviously you've been in this position. If you were only just exploring this kind of deal now, how long would you be looking at to get everything in line for 2026?
TW: You know, I think that’s a complicated situation because we like the thought of, you know, replacing Aston Martin with another team because of the sheer learning you're doing. I think we're set up as an organisation that the more power units, the better it is in terms of accelerating some of the developments or the reliability. So this is where it is. I think it didn't go beyond the point of exchanging opinions or having like, you know, exploratory discussions. I think Alpine would take a decision, do they want to continue with their Formula 1 engine programme or not? And only when they have taken that strategic decision, we would dive into our agreements. But we're open-minded, and that's what we have told them.
ZB: Yeah, from our standpoint, what's good for HPP is good for McLaren as far as we're concerned. They've been an awesome partner to work with. So if it adds value to their power unit proposition, then we're all for it. And as far as decision timeframe, I think the sooner you can make a decision on any decision that you make is just better time for preparations. I would imagine they'll probably want to make a decision before the summer break to give them as much lead time to learn about the power unit and ways of working.
Q: Toto, are you expecting an answer before the summer break?
TW: No, that's far too complicated and long-lasting, impactful decision for Alpine to make.
Q: Okay. Sorry, James.
JV: I think Zak and Toto said it eloquently. The more power you have in circulation, the more learning you have. There's no doubt about that in the current season. But I think it's also fair to say I'm not sure where McLaren and Mercedes are. But from our perspective, we have been working alongside HPP in order to get the concept right for ‘26 already for many, many months. And so whatever you do, you're going to be six to 12 months behind the three other teams. That's quite penalising in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't mean it's unachievable, but there's going to be areas where you're going to be compromising on. There's a tremendous amount of work getting ‘26 right. And the smallest decision on layout can actually have quite a large impact.
Q: (Diletta Colombo – AutoMoto) A question for James. Would you consider changing your driver line-up before the end of the season?
JV: We're continually evaluating it. What we've said to Logan is it's a meritocracy. You have to make sure you earn your place in the sport continuously. That's been the same message that has been for 18 months really for him. And we are open-minded to things. What I've said before and I've maintained today, is that our car, and this is a responsibility on my shoulders and the team, isn't quick enough. It's not a driver issue we suffer from today. We've simply been out-developed and we have to make sure we accelerate that process.
Q: (Filip Cleeren – Motorsport.com) Again for James on drivers. You've got Alex signed up for the long term, and you've said you want a similar long-term commitment from whoever's going to be his teammate. So you have Franco in the car. Where does he fit into that, and what does he need to do to be under consideration in the future?
JV: I think, first of all, today was sort of a reward for a very strong Formula 2 season. I like recognising that we have a strong young driver programme. We invested in Logan and we'll continue to invest in our young driver programme, simple as that. It's expanding quite significantly in the background. And today wasn't a showcase or demonstration or a test. It was simply reward for a good progression. And we have to do two FP1s in the season. It's sensible to do it here at Silverstone. I didn't expect it to be wet then dry then wet but anyway, that's Silverstone as well for you. I believe that you really can burn a driver if you put them in the car too soon. And actually in modern day Formula 1, what you're seeing is rookies are struggling as a result of things. So it's not just about excellent, you've done a fairly good Formula 2, you got a podium. Actually our investment, our commitment to them has to be an amount of time in a historic car, an amount of time with preparation to make sure that if we choose them to go forward, they're effectively in the strongest place they can be. And we haven't provided that to Franco at this point.
Q: (Thomas Maher – PlanetF1.com) A lot of the drivers yesterday were not supportive, but they were saying that the driving from Max last week wasn't actually all that bad. They were kind of saying that the way Max was driving last week wasn't actually all that bad, he didn't actually kind of progress beyond what he should have done in his battle with Lando. But I'm just wondering what aspects and what facets of Max's driving are you keen to see cleaned up going forward?
ZB: I don't think it would be fair to characterise it as Max's driving. I think, as Toto mentioned, you see battles all throughout the field. And so I think we just need regulations that are black and white and enforced accordingly. So I don't think it would be fair to say Max is driving. I think all these drivers drive at the absolute limit as they should. But then you have a set of regulations. I think if you look at Anthony Davidson's review on Sky Sports, a driver, as he mentioned, who has driven the track himself and driven Formula 1 cars. I thought he did a nice job of laying out what exactly was going on there. So I think it's not about cleaning up the drivers, it's about enforcing and having much clearer regulations on a consistent basis, whatever those may be. But I think these are the 20 best drivers in the world, so they can deal with about anything.
TW: Don't expect them trashing each other here, sitting on the sofa. I have lots of bad things to say about Zach, but I would never do it even if he sits next to me.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) I've got a question for you. I think the suggestion from you a few weeks back was that Carlos Sainz wasn't an option. You said that you were going to look at youth for the future. What has changed in the past few weeks? And to James's point about burning up a driver too quickly, are there any concerns about Kimi Antonelli? Obviously, F2 this season has been a bit tricky, but I understand the private test has been very, very good in Formula 1.
TW: Yeah, the season has been a bit tricky because overall the two have not been on a level and I think the team recognises that. That wasn't great, but last weekend was pretty good. The pace was there, there were mistakes in getaways, so that's something a rookie needs to learn, that's clear. But he has a lot of pressure. He's being talked a lot about. His junior formula and go-karting track record is one of a kind. And that's clear that the pressure ramps up. But it's like his father says, a champion needs to be thrown in the cold water and needs to swim. So they are very clear about that. But the driver market at the moment is quite a dynamic, interesting thing. I think because some of the drivers have more options and some of the teams have more options. So it's interesting. And you know, it's like Bernie said: ‘last week I had an opinion, this week I have a different one’.
Q: (Henry Clark – The Daily Mail) A question for Zak, just to pick up on your answer to the first question. Obviously, every driver is different, got different characteristics, but you named some of the characteristics that you need to be a world champion. Based on what's happened with Lando changing his opinion in the last 24 hours, is there any concern that Lando is too nice? Is that something you need to work on with him? or are you happy with the way he is currently?
ZB: Very happy with Lando. I think there's a difference between what a racing driver's like when the helmet goes on and the visor goes down and what they're like Monday through Thursday and how they communicate and carry themselves and the relationships that they have. So I think if you look, a lot of world champions, sweethearts outside of the race car, but pretty fierce once the helmet goes on. And Lando's no different.
Q: (Keith Collantine – RaceFans.net) Zak, given the point situations in the championship, is it fair to say you've got a strong and realistic chance of fighting for the Constructors' Championship? But the Drivers' Championship looks more difficult for Lando, and it might be worth telling him that more accidents like that with Max in pursuit of the Drivers' Championship is going to hurt your Constructors' Championship chances.
ZB: You know, we're just trying to do the best we can every weekend. I don't know if I would describe our chance at winning the Constructors’ strong, but I think there's clearly a chance there if we continue with the points we've been picking up the last five, six races, then we would close that gap by the end of the year. But you just got to do that one race at a time, as does Lando. And I'm not going to give Lando any coaching on how to drive. It was a very small touch that could have ended in nothing other than maybe a few tyre marks and unfortunately cost the race. So when you're going for the win and you're battling a world champion, these things happen.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Another question for you, Zak. Earlier, you spoke about a lack of respect at Red Bull. Is that something you would like to speak to Christian about, or is it perhaps something the FIA needs to speak to perhaps him and Red Bull about?
ZB: That's the FIA's role. I don't really have any interest in speaking with Christian.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Toto, please. You just spoke about Kimi Antonelli and the pressure that he's under. I just wondered, can you share anything about how he's coping with that pressure? It's been a rapid career progression to this point. How is he coping with lots of people he's never met speaking his name and talking about him? 
TW: What I like in terms of his attitude, generally his family, who has been always close to him, is the objective assessment of a situation, and that is good or not good enough. And I don't think that the pressure harms at all the way he performs in the car and how he drives. You can clearly see it's a good benchmarking with Ollie Bearman. They are pretty close. Ollie had an obviously very good race in Austria and Kimi on the Sunday, had a clutch release issue in the second race. So you've got to swim. That's clear. It was a rapid career progression. He's 17. Hasn't got even a driving license for a road car. And the best ones will be able to cope with that, with the amount of scrutiny and the pressure, and it's going to get bigger.