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F1 - T.Wolff: "Ferrari’s response in Spa was very strong"


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

F1, Italian Grand Prix

PART ONE: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Maurizio ARRIVABENE (Ferrari), Frédéric VASSEUR (Sauber)

Maurizio, obviously notable that you have had some very strong updates either side of the summer break, in Hungary and in Spa, which have made the car good on all circuits. Tell us how that’s been achieved and is there more like that coming in the pipeline later in the season?

Maurizio ARRIVABENE: I mean it’s not really a big achievement. You’ve got a big achievement when you are winning the race and we are not winning the race. Having said so, Belgium and also even Monza they are not races that are good for the technical point of view for our car, we know that. Knowing that even before we were working a lot but for the type of project related to our car, we are still… these guys, they are stronger than us.

You’ve committed to next year with Kimi and Sebastian, providing stability. Can you tell us why they work so well as a pair? And also some thoughts on your plans for your young drivers Leclerc and Giovinazzi.

MA: The reason why I think is quite clear. They went through the last three years with great co-operating within them. They feel very good together, being part of the team and translating this spirit to the overall team, I think we don’t find any reason why not confirming them together. Talking about the young drivers, they are growing, our objective is to of course to grow up young drivers and maybe to see them in the future with us. This is the final goal. But, before that they need to demonstrate in Formula One that they deserve it.

Thank you. Toto, following up on the first question to Maurizio, after dominating as you did at Silverstone, were you shocked or surprised the Ferrari was on a similar type of circuit, in Spa, and have you had to scale up your response?

Toto WOLFF: Ferrari’s response in Spa was very strong indeed. I don’t think that you should be shocked by anything in Formula but we knew that the DNA of the car and the performance of the car is very good on twisty circuits and they came to Spa and they were competitive. It’s the same thing we in Monza today also. Second free practice gave a good indication that Ferrari is to be expected to be fast tomorrow and on Sunday. I think this is the narrative of the season. It’s a tough fight between the two teams. It’s rare that you can say on Sunday who has had the faster car. You have to just put it all together, and hopefully the drivers put it all together, and then you can win the race. I think this is going to go to the very end.

Only one of the top four seats not confirmed for next year. Can you give us an update on Valtteri’s situation? And with him being 41 points off the championship lead, does he need a win here in Monza for Mercedes to maintain a two-driver challenge for the championship?

TW: It is a no-brainer for the team to continue with Valtteri for the very same reason that Maurizio mentioned – within the team the dynamic between the drivers is important in order to extract the best possible result. We’re very happy with Valtteri. It’s his first year with the team. He had very good moments, like in Sochi, and he had more difficult races, like in Spa. But we are not manic depressive and therefore stability is important and we want to keep him in the team and it’s just down to the contractual situation – the nailing it and signing it and hopefully we can do this.

And the second part of the question?

TW: Which was what?

Does he need a win here for Mercedes to feel you are maintaining a two-driver challenge for the championship?

TW: Again, Ferrari has a situation where Sebastian has been scoring lots of points and Kimi, for whatever reasons, not so much. Therefore, for them it’s probably a little bit easier. Our boys were pretty close together, until probably Spa. The situation is a little bit different now, but we would like to keep all options open and evaluate the situation in every race and see how it develops.

Thank you for that. Fred, your Ferrari engine deal all signed, can you tell us the benefits of that relationship? Also, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has said he would like a Ferrari junior team. Do you see it that way, with a chance to take either Leclerc or Giovinazzi, or both?

Frédéric VASSEUR: First of all, the deal is based on the powertrain, which means it’s the engine and the gearbox and then we will discuss together the fact that we could extend the deal on another parameter for some other parts. On the driver point of view, I think that if it’s regarding Charles for example, I think he has to be focused on the Formula 2 Championship, still a couple of races to go and it’s a bit too early to discuss about this. I hope we will have the discussion at some stage! But I think, to be honest, even for Charles it’s a bit too early to put it on the table.

You’ve had some time now – not much! – but you have had some time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Sauber. What are you telling the owners that the team needs to move forwards?

FV: The problem is that we are in a tough situation because we started the project very, very late last year. We are also running of the previous year, but I think our biggest weakness is on the development of the chassis, because we started very late. We decided to switch on the ’18 car quite early also. But we knew perfectly the situation before the season for the team, and before I joined. For me it’s clear that we won’t be able to change the situation before the end of the season. We just have to keep the pressure, to race and to keep the team on their motivation. That’s very important in terms of preparation for next year also. But we know that the end of the season will be difficult, it’s not a surprise.



Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) A question or Maurizio. Coming here to Monza, if you have never been here and you are walking around this track, this place. I wanted to ask you what does Monza mean to you and to Ferrari?

MA: Monza is the Grand Prix of Italy and we are an Italian team, so of course for us, it’s like… it’s unbelievable – the atmosphere, the tradition, the history. Even Enzo Ferrari was talking always about the Italian Grand Prix as the grand prix. This is the emotional part. The public is fantastic; we can feel the vibe. I think even yesterday, it was only Thursday but we were feeling, all the team, the drivers etc, they were feeling the vibe of the tifosi and they were pushing us. The expectation is very, very high. Despite that we need to be humble because we know the natural [characteristics] of this year’s car and we know that Monza is not really the best track for us. Having said so, our attitude will be humble, but not surrendering. This is what I can promise to our tifosi and I hope they are going to support us big time tomorrow and also on Sunday.

Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) A question for Toto and Maurizio. Toto, regarding this engine oil-burning situation, there have been some conflicting reports in the press. Some said that you brought forward the engine so that you could adhere to the old 1.2-litre limit and others said you voluntarily adhered to the 1.9. What’s the truth and how do you see it going forward. Maurizio, what’s Ferrari’s stance on the whole situation?

MA: First of all, we have no conflict. I don’t want to comment on this kind of thing. Mercedes introduced early one engine that have also disadvantages during the course of the season, because you have no more development and this is the end of my comment.

TW: I think it was completely blown out of proportion. Exactly what Maurizio said, the reasons we have introduced it early was in order to bring some performance to the track, with the risk of having to do many races until the end of the season – more races than our direct competitors, number one. Number two, you lack for further development. The longer you wait for the last introduction of engine, the more you can probably add the upgrade. So these are the reasons we brought it and not in order to extract a performance advantage out of the capability of burning more oil. So, if you ask the FIA you will be quite interested to see what the results are, and they are pretty much all the same. I don’t know where that rumour came and it was nothing that was ever a problem or discussion among us.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Maurizio, Kimi said that his target is a race win in the second part of the season. Do you think he is a capable of getting it?

MA: He demonstrated that he could be capable to do it in Monaco. Also in Hungary he was nearly there. I would be happy if Kimi is going to win a race during the course of this season. For me, it could be a dream, because he was working so hard during the last three years and I think if he is going to win I can be happy.

Q: (Peter Hartig – BMF1) A question for Frédéric. I would ask you the main difference between being a team principal at Sauber, compared to Renault. It could be internally, it could be a little close that answer, and also according to the drivers?

FV: There is not big difference to be honest. The two teams are passionate and it’s a real racing team, in both cases. Now I am taking the team in approximately the same direction, because when I joined Renault last year, we were in a restructuring situation and it’s exactly the same with Sauber. I hope that I will have some other challenge in the future because it’s a bit tough. But, on the other hand, it’s a good challenge, it’s exciting, because we know where we are today and we know that we have a lot of work in front of us. On the driver situation, it’s also quite similar: they are young, they are doing a good job, they win a couple of races, a couple of championships in the junior series but we have to still improve – the same for the team, the same for everybody and we have to keep everybody under pressure, including drivers to try to improve and to get the best from them also.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) The commercial rights holder, Liberty, seems intent on introducing a cost cap of about $150 million from 2021 onwards, with a glide path through until the end of 2020. This of course has massive impact on your head count levels etc, because you would probably have to cut your head counts by 50 per cent in the case of Mercedes and Ferrari. Could you still see yourself still participating in Formula One after that has happened, to Toto and Maurizio?

TW: It’s the first time I hear the number. It’s good that you tell us, so we are warned!

MA: Thank you!

TW: And the glide path until 2020. I think we are all living in the same financial reality and we have seen teams growing dramatically over the years and we are all very sensible that we want to somehow contain it. It needs to be done in a way that it is good for the sport, that it respects the structures that have been created, so it needs a glide path, and it needs to be fair. That is very important. We have all different set-ups, the way we are organised in different ways. Ferrari is a fully integrated team within the larger road car company. We are a separate entity in the UK. You look at all the teams; it’s very different. You need a governance that functions and you need a strict set of rules and then it just needs to cover everybody. The discussions that have been happening, at a very early stage, I think there is no big disagreement.

MA: I agree with Toto. Having said so, we need to take into consideration that this year, thanks to the battle between Mercedes and us, you can see, all the tracks they are full of people and I mean, maybe Liberty have to think about that.

Fred, any comment from you? Obviously head count won’t be an issue for you but…

FV: I won’t have to cut my head counts first – at least that’s a good news. NO but for sure at one stage we will have to work on it but it’s also difficult. We have to find a fair way. If we want to do something like this we need to find the best way to do it and it’s not so easy to police after the decision and to be sure everybody is sticking to the decision. For sure it will be in the common interest of the championship also to have close competition and to close a little bit the gap on the grid.

Q: (Luigi Perna – Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Maurizio. It’s a fact that introducing your fourth power unit in the last part of the season, you will be forced to respect a lower oil consumption limit because of the rules. Are you confident you can compensate for this disadvantage with respect to Mercedes with your new upgrades?

MA: First of all, we are not introducing out power unit number four for that reason. It has nothing to do with that. We have a plan since the beginning of the year and we would like to introduce power unit number at the right time and with the right power. This is the answer, but nothing to do with the oil consumption.

Q: (Agris Lauzinieks – Kapitals) Question to all three team principals. According to President of International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde in the world there is unprecedented economic situation where countries are doing really well economically – does this mean that there is also a boom time in the sponsors market that teams are having lots of demand and monies flowing into teams easily and will you have next year some new names printed on cars? Thank you.

TW: The market is a challenging market. I think in my experience I have seen years that were more difficult but due to the intense fight between Ferrari and Mercedes at the moment and growing audiences in many territories we have a quite a good pipeline and solid interest from potential sponsors and I’m optimistic that we can close some of these discussions.

MA: First of all, we are perfectly fine with our sponsors. Having said so, you notice on the car that some of them, they leave their spaces on the car and on driver overalls to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Ferrari and this is also a very good sign. Having said so, I can confirm what Toto said about Mercedes. We have contact every day with sponsors. They are calling us and the interest due to the battle between us and Mercedes is growing every day. Today the problem is to select the sponsor and find the space on the car – but not the other way around.


FV: For sure on our side it is a little bit different. The situation is difficult for sure but I think it’s also coming from the fact that we have much more sport on the TV and proposals than we had in the past. On the other hand, I think we have much more contact for Sauber than we had in the past and I think we can be optimistic for the future.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Getting back to this glide path and the budget cap. I’ve calculated that collectively the four or five teams that employ in excess of the sort-of 500 figure would have to retrench or redeploy something like 1500 engineers or staff members. How does one go about this and is that actually a responsible alternative?

TW: Again, I think that where we are at the moment, everybody at Liberty, the FIA are pretty conscious about the structures that have been created and it needs to be a consensus about how these numbers can be reduced to a sensible level, find out what a sensible level is and discuss the glide path and, in any case, avoid any hardship for anybody involved. So, it’s early days. It’s 2017 and once we agree on a way forward, we will have three, four, five years to adapt our structures to whatever the end result will be.


MA: I agree with Toto, every structure has a number of employees that is related to the business request, the objective and the performance and so on. I mean I’m not questioning the number of people that is working for Liberty or for FIA but of course to find an agreement we need to sit everybody around a table and we need to have a good confrontation about what is the reality of our companies today and to work on that. I’m not telling you that our intention is to do nothing but at least if they are sharing with us their thoughts we can discuss about that. Having said so, as I said before, linking my answer related to the sponsors, saying no to some of them, we are already applying a budget cut somehow.


FV: Yeah, at Sauber I can’t be against this regulation for sure but on the other hand I think the most important thing for everybody is that if we want to introduce new rules we have to be sure that we will be able to monitor the point. For me this is the most important. We will introduce into the system new discussion and it won’t be good point. When you want to make a rule you have to be sure you will be able to monitor it.

Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Toto and Maurizio. It just occurred to me that, in the past, we have seen some really fierce rivalries between teams fighting for the World Championship. The rivalry has often gone off-track, literally, there was some animosity between the teams but to me, from the outside at least, it seems that now Ferrari and Mercedes are in a surprisingly harmonious relationship and it didn’t go off track even though there were some issues where it could have. Could you explain why your relationship is so friendly – at least it seems so.

TW: You want Maurizio and I coming out here?

MA: I’m always surprised when I’m hearing this kind of comments. If you want we can organise a boxing match, if you want, just to create some spectacular relation but we don’t need to. We need to get used to a kind of civil relationship between the teams out of the competition. Out of the track there is nothing wrong if you are taking a coffee together and at the track we are punching each other. Because there is the competition, it’s not out of there. I can respect Toto as a person, not as a competitor, he knows that. I’m not going to take a coffee with everybody. With certain people I get on very well, with other people not at all. This is my personal choice. Having said so, I think that a civil and a gentle education is the minimum that is requested in all sports. Otherwise instead of being team principals we can be defined as hooligans – and we’re not.

TW: Many topics covered. First of all, I’m not going to let the sport ruin a respect that I have for a personality off-track. As Maurizio said, you get on with somebody or you don’t. Number two, I like the analogy to rugby: that you can be fierce and tough competitors and trying to punch each other during the match and win with all the necessary emotions – but you’re still able to have a beer afterwards. This is the attitude that we’ve had over the years: that we can be fierce competitors and we wouldn’t want to have a coffee during the race with each other. But it’s necessary for my third point of view, we are all stakeholders in this giant platform. And if this giant platform is successful, it makes the teams successful and it makes the sport successful and we are all benefitting from this. I think in the past – not only in the past, still today – there are individuals that are very narrow-mindedly focussed on Formula One as is there was nothing else besides it. And the truth is that there are many interests that we share besides the fierce competition on track. And Formula One is at a crucial point with new shareholders, with new management. We all want the sport to do well and it is necessary that we are capable to sit around a table and discuss the sport and be able to take our Ferrari or Mercedes or Sauber head off and say what in this particular situation is important for us to understand in terms of doing good for the sport. And this is the discussion we are having regularly and this is influencing our relationship.

MA: We’re not only discussing sport. With certain people you can… life is not only about Formula One, we can discuss about everything: about music, art, many, many other topics like all the other human beings.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Again Toto and Maurizio, back to the same topic, if they do actually reduce the cost of competing to around about $200million all in, would you be prepared, as the recipients of by far and away the largest slice of Formula One’s revenues to receive less – possibly half of what you’re getting at the moment, because the costs will be cut in half?

TW: You changed the number!

No – I said $200million including. The $150million is the basic cap excluding marketing, executive pay, drivers and engines. Adding up to about $200million.

TW: Again, I didn’t hear the number before.

Well whatever. If it comes in.

TW: I think it depends on the situation. I have… you wouldn’t want to reduce your salary of what you have now. And then just smile and walk off and say “that’s great.” We are all… within our responsibility is the sporting aspect of the team’s performance and there is the business aspect of the team’s performance and we are all going to try to maximise our revenue and keep the team healthy. It’s clear what the answer to your question is.


MA: I agree with Toto. In addition I would like to say that we… it’s the beginning of the story we were hearing many, many times. Everybody is focussed on making sure the sport is growing and so on. So, let us see the economics first: the earnings, the loss etcetera, etcetera and then we can discuss with pleasure. But we are at the early stage. We don’t have to rush that much before seeing the result and the number related.