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F1 - F. Tost: "Our target is fifth place"


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

PART TWO: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Franz TOST (Scuderia Toro Rosso), Guenther STEINER (Haas F1), Beat ZEHNDER (Sauber)

Q: Franz, if we could start with you please: this afternoon’s troubles aside, the team seems to be enjoying something of a purple patch at the moment. You’ve scored in six of the eight races this year. Just how do you sum up progress so far in 2017?

Franz TOST: So far we’ve had a successful season, apart from Bahrain and Canada. We scored points in every race, at least with one car. We are currently in sixth position in the Constructors’ championship, only four points behind Williams. Our target is fifth place and I’m convinced that with our package, with a strong car, two good drivers and good engineers and also the team doing a perfect job, that we can fight back for fifth position.

Q: So what is going to be the secret to getting that back? Is it the importance of two car points finishes this year?

FT: Of course, if you are with two cars in the points, this helps but it’s also important to have a reliable car and to make some progress, to come up with upgrades, and I hope that our direct opponents will not develop their cars too fast and that we can keep this level and fight successfully against them.

Q: That’s the battle for this year, but if I can just look ahead to 2018, specifically drivers. Carlos told us yesterday in the press conference that he wants to remain within the Red Bull family but a fourth season with Toro Rosso seems unlikely. Is it unlikely?

FT: First of all, this is not a decision of Carlos Sainz. He has a Red Bull contract and Red Bull decides what he will do in the future and I’m a little bit confused about this discussion at this stage of the year because Red Bull has paid and financed the complete career of Carlos Sainz. They paid his Formula BMW season, Formula Renault, then Formula Three, GP3, 3.5 litre World Series and three years in Formula Three and why Red Bull should give him away to any other opponent when they educated him to quite a high level, and I think sometimes reality – also in Formula One – should play an important game and once more, it’s a decision of Red Bull.

Q: Was Carlos speaking out of turn, yesterday?

FT: I don’t know. Must ask him. For me he was quite normal yesterday when I talked to him.

Q: Guenther, if we can come on to you. Like Toro Rosso, you’ve scored regularly this year but the team has 21 points now, when it had 22 points at the same stage of the season last year. Is the competition more intense this year, or how do you explain that?

Guenther STEINER: Yes, I think the competition this year – the midfield – is more compact. I didn’t expect that coming into the season so therefore everybody is closer together and I think we scored, as well, six of the eight races so just less than Toro Rosso but it’s a big battle in there so I think if you go through the points, last year some people were very well advanced already and some were really behind with no points. Yeah, it’s more competitive and now we have to live with that.

Q: Do you think there have been some missed opportunities this year, for the team?

GS: Absolutely. I mean in Australia we were in seventh place, I think, and we had turbo failure but these things happen, you need to get over it and continue to do what you’re doing, so it would look a little bit different with those points, but sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re unlucky and you cannot change it anyway so just get up and get going again.

Q: Get going and try and stop as well. We’ve heard a lot from Romain Grosjean about brakes in recent races, brake problems. What are the issues and what’s being done to overcome the problem?

GS: The issues are inconsistencies in the braking, coming to the conclusion that he normally overheats them, that’s a consequence of the inconsistency of the brakes. We are having some parts here to cool them better so at least we can try to work a little bit. I don’t know if it is enough. It wasn’t enough today but we have got some more up our sleeve for tomorrow to try to do something and then in Silverstone we plan a switch to a different brake supplier and... We haven’t tested them. The first time on the car will be FP1 on Friday at Silverstone and hopefully it all works how it should and we will see what we have got then.

Q: Beat, hello again. Another point for the team in Baku, good race for the team, but there’s still no news about a team principle. When can we expect an announcement?

Beat ZEHNDER: I cannot tell you because we’re still in talks with several candidates and as soon as we have something to announce we will.

Q: How is the vacuum at the top affecting the day-to-day running of the team?

BZ: We have to be realistic, it’s only two weeks since Monisha is not with us any more so everything is still under control.

GS: Beat is there! How do you know it cannot be in control, you know?

BZ: It’s not a  big deal for the moment, really. A decision will have to be taken.

Q: Looking further ahead to next year, does that vacuum I’ve just referred to, does it  somehow affect the development of next year’s car? Are decisions able to be made without Monisha there?

BZ: Not at the moment. If we haven’t got a team principle in the next half year then it might be a problem but at the moment everything is running smoothly, everything is in order, no problem at all.

Q: And a quick update on progress here at the Red Bull Ring; how was today’s practice session?

BZ: Not very good one, disappointing. We had too many problems, starting with a suspension problem on Marcus’s car which required the gearbox to be removed and fixed. And we had some electric management problems on both cars today and then we are not happy with the tyre temperatures – as always.


Q: (Graham Harris – Motorsport Week, Motorsport Monday) Guenther, they say hindsight is 20-20; you’ve now been in Formula One for a year and a half. Looking back at things, the way you set the team up,, would you have done anything differently had you known then what you know now?

GS: You always do. As you say, hindsight is 20-20 and also you always do but there is nothing which we would have done – or I would have done – completely differently. I think our plan is working or as good as it can. It’s never good enough until you win everything but knowing what happened, for sure you would do things differently but I could not tell you any specific part of that. You just know more now than you did then, but all in all, I think we’re pretty happy how it’s going, how we set it up,  our business plan, how we wanted to do it and of the last teams which started from zero, the new teams started in this millenium, we are the youngest one but we are also the only one still alive, so we are pretty happy with that. All the other ones left so I think it’s working

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Guenther, getting back to the brake issue that Romain seems to have all the time, we know the way you structured your team with listed parts and Ferrari as your main supplier etc. Is the brake system exactly the same as Ferrari, in other words, were he to be driving a Ferrari, would he have exactly the same problem, which would then imply it’s actually a driver or driving style issue? Where does the problem lie?

GS: The brake system, the mechanical parts are... I don’t know what Ferrari uses but they obviously very similar. I don’t know which spec of material they use but where there is a difference is in the aero, obviously, because we have to develop our own, and it seems that we have more overheating issues than them. But I think it’s a mix; part of it is the aero problem that we have, maybe less air to the brakes, because we have got a different front wing, and part of it is how Romain brakes as well. He brakes at the last moment and then turns, while the other ones are smoother with the braking. We need to make sure that he gets a car that he can apply his braking style (to). I think it’s a mix of things here, but in general the brakes are the same supplier. I don’t know exactly which material they use, if they use a different one but the design is the same.

Q: (Kate Walker – New York Times) Beat, this is a two parter, I’m afraid. First off, after Monisha’s departure we’ve also seen Robert leave the team. I was wondering what kind of long term assurances you can give to your current crew about their stability. And I was also wondering if you could respond to rumours that the current culture at Sauber is actually quite hostile to female employees?

BZ: (Laughs) Ok, first one: guarantee for employees. I think it’s just fair to say that if you have a new owner and he has a different view of how to operate an organisation then one or the other has to realise that he might not be the right person for the job. So this can happen not only in a Formula One team, this happens everywhere. And concerning being hostile against women: I really don’t know what you’re referring to. Monisha was a woman, of course. This has nothing to do with her being a woman or a man. As Mr Picci, the owner, said, they had different views how to operate the team and this was it. Full stop.

Q: (Sue-Anne Bellemont – Nextgen-Auto) To all three of you: we heard last year Franz saying that he was worried for the number of overtaking with the 2017 cars. Do you think the situation is finally acceptable?

FT: Yes, I think we’ve had some fantastic races this year. It’s right that last year I was a little bit worried because I said that the cars would be quite fast in the corners which means it’s difficult to follow the front car very closely because of the dirty air and because of the wider tyres, and because of more downforce, the braking zones are much shorter and therefore it’s difficult to overtake. Fortunately we have so far seen this year very very interesting races with a lot of overtaking manoeuvres and just remembering back to the race in Baku which was quite entertaining and also seeing that Ferrari has caught and is fighting quite successfully against Mercedes, therefore I see a very interesting Formula One season and I hope that the second part of the season will be as interesting.

GS: I mean, very similar to Franz. We were all a little bit – I wouldn’t say afraid but sceptical how the overtaking would look but this season has produced quite exciting racing. You cannot ask for more so I hope that it stays like this and we produce the same show for the rest of the season and the next years. So I think it was a good decision to go in this direction with the regulations because the cars look nice, they create a good show and I think the fans are pretty happy.

BZ: I think in pure numbers we have fewer overtakings than last year but we have pure overtaking. Last year, every now and then you could just pass the guy in front of you. What’s obviously adding to the show is that Ferrari is close to Mercedes and there is a fight at the front, and there are several fights in the midfield so the sport is definitely more thrilling than it was last year.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Franz, Toro Rosso exists as a driver development or development-type team as opposed to the main team. If you continue to keep Carlos, he’s actually going for his fourth year which is way beyond the development stage. You’re also blocking other drivers coming through. What do you do in a situation like that? Yes, I take your point that he’s a Red Bull driver under contract. Do you place him somewhere else, possibly? What do you do to overcome this bottleneck?

FT: First of all, a driver always develops himself in Formula One. You learn something new every year. Secondly, he’s a young driver, he’s still has a lot of time. Another point is you never know what happens at Red Bull Racing; there could be an accident or something like this. And why Red Bull Racing should have invested a lot of money just to lose a driver for such a special situation and therefore I think that Red Bull is currently in a fantastic situation to have four really good drivers with Ricciardo, Verstappen, Kvyat and Sainz. I think that during the season, at the end of the season, Red Bull will make a decision who will be the drivers for next year. Regarding the young drivers, currently there’s only Gasly in a situation to drive a Formula One car. The other Red Bull Junior drivers are simply too young; they’re in Formula Renault, GP3 and it takes time and once a driver is coming up and Red Bull is convinced he’s very highly skilled, that he will have a good future, then Red Bull will decide what will happen.

Q: Would Red Bull consider loaning a driver to another team?

FT: I don’t know yet. We will see.

Q: (Jurgen Kemmner – Stuttgarter Nachrichten) To all three of you about the TV negotiations: do you think that is the good way, the right way if Formula One goes completely or mostly into pay TV? And secondly, how big or small is your influence into these negotiations between Liberty Media and the TV stations

GS: The second question first: we have no influence in it, no direct influence because they are the commercial rights holders so they can do what they want, but for sure they’re doing the best for us as well because what they get in revenue, we get some of it so we hope they do good fees. If it is a good thing or not? I’m not an expert in TV to be honest. They are pretty good; Sean Bratches comes from ESPN, he knows the TV  market and they need to make a decision what the future looks like in TV. Is it pay-per-view, is it on-line TV, is it whatever? Again, we have no influence anyway and we trust these people to make the right decisions, so we have got as many spectators as possible and as big as possible revenue. So in the end, we are just sitting in the bandwagon, we are not steering the bandwagon.

FT: Liberty Media is coming from this business and they’re very experienced there and as Guenther says, I’m also convinced about this, that they are very experienced and they will make the correct decision. I will be... the future of TV, is it going more to the internet side or is it pay TV, is it any other channel? We will see. I think it will be a combination and once more, I trust 100 percent Liberty Media because they is certainly nobody with more experience than them and they will for sure find the best decision for Formula One.

BZ: Yeah same, same. We have to trust them. They know the business better than anyone else and whether it’s going to be pay TV or public or whatever, they know the best way to go and of course, the number of spectators is very important to the show for sponsors as well but we have to trust them.