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F1 - E. Boullier: "This engine is a performance step compared with the other engines we were using before"


Transcript of the part one of the Friday Press Conference organised by the FIA for the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix

Eric Boullier



Q: Hasegawa-san, the spec 3 engine was tested in Baku two weeks ago and it’s being used on both car this weekend, can you tell us what you have seen from it so far?

Yusuke HASEGAWA: First of all, we are happy that we had no issues today, so the car is running no problem, so it is very good. It is very early to say the car performance with just the Friday practice running but so far it looks nice.

Q: Fernando is eighth this afternoon, Stoffel Vandoorne is 12th, there must be improvements; can you give us any insight as to where this power unit is a step forward?

YH: I believe so, but of course car performance is not just coming from the PU, so the chassis is also updated and it also depends on circuit characteristics but yeah, from the data point of view the engine also contributed to some of the lap time improvement so we are very happy about that.

Q: Are you telling us not to read too much into this spec 3 engine or can we now say that Honda are now on the right path with power unit development?

YH: I want to tell so, but still it is too early, but definitely are closing up some gap to the front runner but it is not huge enough to catch up the top runner level so still we need to try more.

Q: And just a quick word about Sauber: you announced in Russia the collaboration going forward in 2018. How is that going? How much progress are you making? Have you had engineers in Hinwil looking towards next year’s car?

YH: Yes, of course we have started discussion but obviously we cannot disclose about the actual detailed situation but I can tell you that we have started collaboration already.

Q: Eric, just to look again if we may at the spec 3 engine. Can you tell us what the drivers have been telling you about it today?

Eric BOULLIER: It’s just an evolution of the engine. Clearly there is more performance coming out of the engine, so we can go faster, we have better power and better use of the engine.

Q: So just to clarify, there is performance coming out of the engine?

EB: Yes, this engine is a performance step compared with the other engines we were using before.

Q: First points of the season for the team in Baku, do you feel that things are starting to come together now for McLaren, do you feel that the team and Honda are making progress together?

EB: So obviously it’s already a three-year project. It started from very far from where we would like to be. A little bit of a setback at the beginning of this season but I think we can see now we are back on the right path of activity to get back to the front, where we want to be.

Q: A left field questions but a personal question for you about Robert Kubica. He rates his chances of making an F1 comeback at 80-90%. You know him better than most, what’s you take on seeing him back in a Formula One car again?

EB: I think everybody knows this us one of the biggest dramas in recent years in Formula One. He is a huge talent. He belongs to the top of the top and if he can come back I am sure he will be very welcome here.

Q: Toto, it was a pretty busy day here yesterday with Lewis and Sebastian. We heard from them and it would be good to get some thoughts from you too on what happened in Baku two weeks ago?

Toto WOLFF: I think they closed it yesterday. It is a matter of the two of them. They race each other. Great drivers and Sebastian clarified it all. There’s nothing more to comment on the topic.

Q: Would you agree that their rivalry adds a little bit of spice to what is already a thrilling world championship battle between yourselves and Ferrari?

TW: Yes, you can see that in the audiences. Live audiences and TV audiences are developing in a positive way and I think that the Vettel-Hamilton rivalry for the world championship, as it looks at the moment, definitely contributes to that.

Q: There was another meeting of the engine manufacturers last week. Can you tell us what progress was made during that meeting?

TW: I think it was a good meeting. There were many parties at the table – current suppliers, interested potentials future suppliers, as well as suppliers to all of us current ones, sub-suppliers, and we had a positive discussion. We redefined the main priorities for the next generation of engines. There is pretty much alignment among everybody about how that should be, in order to make the mistakes that we have done go away, and tackle the important topics, so it was a good meeting.

Q: You say there is alignment among you about the direction we should be taking. Can you shed any light on what that direction is?

TW: The main direction is that we don’t want to deploy huge budgets again in inventing a new engine, so the basic concept should stay the same, power to weight ratio is an essential number, we’d like to keep a certain hybrid part, it needs to be affordable for all the teams, in the same way it needs to be affordable for the OEMs that produce the engines, we need to tackle the quality of sound – that is something that we definitely need to tackle without losing the hybrid part. And in addition to that we discussed spec parts or standard parts in order to get the costs down and limit competition in other areas of the engine.

Q: Hasegawa-san can we just get your thoughts on future engine regulations and how you felt the meeting went last week?

YH: Yeah, as Toto mentioned, the meeting was very constructive, so we were discussing about the direction of what we should change. From the car manufacturer point of view, the Formula One power unit should be attractive, with a high level of technology but at the same time it shouldn’t be at a high cost and too much complication should be removed. So in that area we almost agreed about that, just we need to find out the exact solution for that.


Q: (Kate Walker – Hasegawa-san, from the inside, the fact that you are working with Sauber next year, you continue your relationship with McLaren, it looks to me like you have a long-standing commitment to the sport, but obviously there are lots of stories that say otherwise. Could you please just tell me about your long-term plans and show the extent to which you are committed to Formula One?

YH: Yeah, so obviously we are struggling this season. We are frustrated and we make Eric frustrated but that won’t be a reason to pull out from this society so Honda is committing to this stick to this activity very much and we will try everything to recover this situation.

Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Gentlemen, all three of you are here, so I can’t avoid the question. Eric, I read a comment you supposedly made in Baku about that it would maybe an alternative for McLaren just to temporarily switch to another engine manufacturer while Honda sorts it out. Do you think it's a realistic alternative? Hasegawa-san would Honda be open to a solution like that and Toto would Mercedes be open to solution like that?

EB: I think we have a common answer – no. To the comment – out of context. When I was asked they were asking about a discussion, Hasegawa-san… and Honda are the engine McLaren have and obviously when you say there are three options, somebody pick up one, so, no.

YH: Of course it is not our option, so we don’t want to do that.

TW: If it’s not their option, it’s not my option either.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Hasegawa-san, you said almost when you answered the question by the moderators, that you are almost aligned with what Toto had said. So where aren’t you aligned? Is it on the technology side, the cost side, where does the difference lie?

YH: As I mentioned, we haven’t discussed the details, so something like standardizing parts. Maybe it is a good idea to reduce costs but we didn’t fix which parts should be standardised, something like that. Almost we are agreed but we confirm exactly.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Toto, Lewis was complaining about power issues. Could you put your finger on that? Is there something to worry about this evening?

TW: Not to worry on the power unit. We ran power unit number one today and it is clear that this is coming to the end of its life, so on that side we haven’t got any worries.

Q: (Livio Orrichio – GloboEsporte) You said it is not an option for you but it can be an option for the new owners of McLaren. The society who is owner of the team has a great change recently. The group McLaren is known by this efficiency and Formula One is a business card of the group and it’s not a good image they are passing. Maybe they think about changing the power unit supplier. Are you prepared for that? Do you have a Plan B, considering what you said about Honda having a long future in Formula One?

YH: Of course we are not prepared for that and we want to keep this collaboration and at this moment there is no other story. Of course this is their option, but we are not considering that option. That is my answer. You should ask Eric about that.

Q: (Jurgen Kemmner – Stuttgarter Nachrichten) A question to all three: do you think it is a good way if Formula One goes completely or mostly into pay TV and the second question is how big or how small is your influence into the negotiations of Liberty Media with the TV stations?

TW: We are not the experts. I think Liberty and its management understand TV inside out and the response to that very important topic was that we need a study for each of the countries that are important for Formula One to evaluate how large the penetration of pay TV really is. There will be markets, such as yours, where pay TV penetration is tiny, a couple of percentage, and it’s clear that if you were to move behind the pay wall you would lose a large part of the audiences and I think the way they tackle it is in a very diligent way, an analytical way and they will decide on each of the territories, they will balance reach versus income. Formula One is not the only sport that needs to ask that question. We have seen that the Champions League had moved behind the pay wall and the consequence is that you are losing reach. It is a very difficult topic.

EB: Nothing much to add. As Toto said, we are not the experts. We are not in charge of this business, so it’s up to Liberty to decide how they want. I think there is a balance as well between free-to-air and pay-per-view. Like you said, some markets it doesn’t work, some markets it works. It also depends on how you also engage with the fans and how you keep the visibility of Formula One outside and there are some other means.

YH: Same as them. I have no strong opinion, because I am not an expert, but obviously increasing the fans and accelerating this activity is very important for us so we will support anything that Liberty wants to do.

Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Monday) Question for Hasegawa-san and also Eric, on team principals. Hasegawa-san, you did your negotiations with Monisha at Sauber – could you perhaps give us some of your thoughts about the fact she’s no longer there. You did all your negotiations with her: would it affect relations between Honda and Sauber and have you met the new management that are in there. And Eric, just a quick follow up, now that Ron and McLaren have reached an agreement and there’s a new structure coming into McLaren, are there any plans to appoint a proper team principle like the other teams or is that something that’s planned for the future or not planned for the future?

YH: First of all, I appreciated Monisha’s start in our collaboration – but this is Sauber and Honda’s collaboration so I don’t think there is any effect that Monisha has gone and I cannot make any comment about the inside of the Sauber organisation.

And Eric?

EB: Ron was the CEO of the McLaren Technology Group, OK? McLaren has several companies, y’know? So I don’t know what you mean by ‘proper team principal’ because I don’t know if I have to be upset or not, or offended. I actually got the licence, the FIA licence as team principal. I think it’s the role today of the team principal, compared with the old days, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis and others, has a little bit changed. In our case, McLaren, there is a split between the sporting and the technical and the commercial parts. Zak Brown is in charge of the commercial part, I’m in charge of the sporting and technical.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Toto, very, very quick one before I get on to my main question, we spoke about Robert Kubica just now. I believe he did some simulator work for you, what did that simulator work show? Is he actually ready to come back to Formula One as a proper, fully-fledged Formula One driver?

TW: First of all, what Eric said is very true. We all admire Robert, he was one of the great talents, we know him since 15 years, from his very early formula days, and he deserved the spot in Formula One and, on his trajectory, he had that terrible accident rallying, so we would all love to see him back in Formula One. He has been in our simulator a while ago, so that was not most recently but he has done well in some GT cars and sports cars. I believe that driving the Renault in Valencia went quite well and they give him another chance. I personally would love to see Robert back in Formula One.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) All three of you were at the engine meeting, or had companies represented at the engine meeting on Tuesday, I believe there was something like 37 people around the table, some of them were sub-suppliers but ultimately there were eight or nine OEMs or motor manufacturers involved – is that not too many? What is the right sort of level of engine suppliers? Is it four, is it six, is it nine? Where does that lie? Because we had that in the 2000s. We had seven and very soon one of the German companies left, one of the Japanese left etcetera.


TW: First of all, normally when you have 37 people on a table, the meeting is not great – but as Hasegawa-san said, it was pretty constructive. There were some great companies on the table that we worked with and some really credible independent power unit suppliers as well as us OEMs. The direction the meeting took was really good, was chaired by Jean and I can’t really tell you what the optimum number is. I think we are pretty good at that stage: we have four suppliers; four great brands in Formula One. Obviously it could have more if companies like Red Bull or Williams would have OEM support that would lift them into the next stage, so I’m pretty open for more.

Hasegawa-san, your thoughts?

YH: It’s a difficult question. Maybe four is a little bit less but ten is a bit much – so something in between four to ten, I think.

Eric, be interesting to get your thoughts too?

EB: Well, I was not at the meeting but I think there is another aspect as well, which is to make sure the next generation is simpler, cheaper and allow an independent engine manufacturer to join. So, back to your question, to the number of teams.

Q: (Petr Hlawiczka – F1News . cz) It’s pleasing to see Honda making progress. I would like to ask you how confident are you that you can half the gap to Mercedes until the end of the season. Or is it possible to make even bigger progress, considering what you have in the pipeline?

YH: Of course we try to catch-up them – but at this stage it is very difficult to have confidence about that. We will try our best for that. That is the only thing I can tell now.

Q: (Livio Orrichio  – GloboEsporte) To Toto. Toto, your main opponent Ferrari split with the most important engineer in the power unit area. If I were competing in Formula One, if I know my main competitor lost a main brain in one of the areas they most developed the project, I would have happy. What about you?

TW: I don’t know the structure very well. I’ve just read what you told me. I cannot comment what that is. Sometimes you split for the very right reasons because individuals have other opportunities, or because within the structure it doesn’t function, so I don’t feel in the right spot to really comment on a completely Ferrari internal option.

In terms of sport?

TW: In terms of sport, we all are trying to seek advantages on track but I don’t know.

Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Toto, moving on from the controversy in Baku between Sebastian and Lewis, how do you think what happened will influence their rivalry during the rest of the season. And do you think Lewis will see it as a weakness that Sebastian was so upset and made that mistake, and he will try to exploit it in some way?

TW: I think the two have a mutual respect for each other. This is how the year started. And it’s clear that when you have such an intense rivalry for race victories or championships, it’s going to have ups and downs and the longer it goes, the more intense it becomes. They both wouldn’t be multiple world champions if there would be great weaknesses, so me, from the outside, I don’t think that the event is going to stay in the drivers’ minds beyond this weekend. They move on.

Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) Mr Hasegawa, I would love to know if, in the future, it will be possible to see a team 100 per cent Honda? And if it depends on the power unit, the work that you are doing on that?

YH: So far we have no idea to get, to have a team – but of course for the future, so that nothing, anything has happened in Formula One. We have no idea, at all.

Q: (Barna Zsoldis – Nemzeti Sport) Toto, I think we all know how desperately Fernando wants winning car next season. Don’t you think you are in a wonderful position in terms of finance, grabbing him. ‘I mean, if you say, OK Fernando, if you want to win, come to us but I won’t pay you.’

TW: You would be a pretty tough team manager! Without any doubt he’s an important personality in Formula One and a great driver and Honda and McLaren appreciate that. With us at the moment we are really happy with the line-up. And I know it’s not the answer you want to hear but stability is an important factor, the dynamics between the drivers is an important factor and we have no reason to complain.

Q: Toto, when can we expect to hear more about Valtteri’s future?

TW: Valtteri is going a good job but I have been here for a while and I don’t think you should be rushed into a driver decision. The market becomes pretty interesting in 2019 and onwards and you just need to plan ahead what’s happening. That doesn’t mean anything speaks against Valtteri because he’s clearly our favourite, the one we want to stay with us a very long time – but we just need to make up out mind.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Hasegawa-san, everybody talks about the McLaren-Honda partnership of the ’80s – but they don’t actually talk about the Williams-Honda partnership of the ’80s. Have you had any discussions whatsoever with Williams recently about a future engine supply?

YH: With Williams? No, not at all. Of course. No. Never.

Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) You just said Toto that the dynamic is very important between two drivers. Does it mean it’s quite difficult or impossible to have two World Champions in the same team?

TW: No, I don’t think it’s a matter of World Champions or not. It is important that the relationship between the two drivers is very important for the dynamic within the team in order to extract the maximum performance out of the car; in order for joint development, collaboration and also on track, respect. There is many components that play into this. The past, current behaviour – and I don’t mean that in a negative way – but everybody is different and we respect that. This is why we’re trying to put the right combination of personalities together.

Q: Eric, just to follow-up on that, you have two World Champions for the last few years. How was it at McLaren?

EB: Exactly like Toto said. What you want is to have both your drivers working together, to try to emulate each other, to try to extract the best out of the car. In our case with Jenson and Fernando, they were working very well together.