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2017 Formula 1 Malaysia Grand Prix: Friday Press Conference – Part 1

PART ONE: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Frédéric VASSEUR (Sauber), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Force India).

PRESS CONFERENCE

Christian, let’s begin with you and the announcement of the Aston Martin deal. Tell us the scope of that, the ambition and whether there is an engine dimension to it going forward?

Christian HORNERWell, it’s great news for our team. We have been working with Aston over the last 18 months now on a project, starting with the Valkyrie road car, and out of the upturn there has been within the Aston business over the last couple of years, they have decided that Formula 1 is the right platform to invest in and have taken up the title sponsorship of our team for the next three years. That collaboration will not only see an on-track, with the team being named Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, it also sees behind the scenes a collaboration on future products that Aston are working on and then producing some of those cars in Milton Keynes, producing more jobs in Milton Keynes – over 100 new positions are going to be created in the future – to hopefully produce some great looking cars.

And the engine dimension?

CH: There is no engine dimension at this point in time but what we await with interest is what will the regulations be, what are Liberty’s plans regarding engines and chassis from 2021 onwards. So in an ideal world it would allow an independent manufacturer such as an Ilmor or a Cosworth to be able to compete with the big guns. But until we can see what the scope of those regulations are, it’s difficult to make any assumptions.

And on the subject of engines, your sister team Toro Rosso has the Honda engines next season and you collaborate technically with that team, so how closely will you be monitoring the progress of Honda?

CH: I think it’s a really exciting development for Toro Rosso. It’s an opportunity for them to move forward. It keeps Honda in Formula One, which I think is also a positive and we’ll certainly be keeping an interested eye on how things are developing in Italy.

Otmar, you’ve kept the same two drivers for next season – a very exciting pairing – how are things working out between them since you had a talking to them in Spa and do you feel you have got on top of their issues without blunting their competitiveness?

Otmar SZAFNAUER: Yeah, they’ve always gotten on. They have their on-track incidents, like you mentioned in Spa. That event kind of focused both their minds and now they have a good understanding that if they come together you never know who the winner or loser is, but for certain the team loses. We all work for a team, we all pull together, we’re all team members. They understand that and they’ll be working for the team going forward.

You’re a clear fourth in the Constructors’ Championship now, and likely to stay there. Obviously next year with Renault likely to move forward, with McLaren pairing up with Renault and all the other moves going on, will it be an achievement to just stand still in fourth next year, or are you pushing the team to get third?

OS: Well, it will be difficult next year. Like you say, Renault have shown great steps forward this year from where they started to where they are now. I think it’s no secret that McLaren have a lot of resources and are also capable. It will be difficult for us to remain fourth, but we always set our sights on achievable goals and we will push hard next year to at least stay fourth and someone makes a mistake ahead of us, you never know what can happen.

Frédéric, you ran Charles Leclerc in FP1. How did he do? And how do you rate him, given that you’ve had so many great young drivers pass through your hands – the Hamiltons, the Hulkenbergs, the Rosbergs – how do you rate Charles against them?

Frédéric VASSEUR: I won’t rate Charles, only on the FP1 this morning, and it was a tricky session. He did very well this morning. He had not so many laps to do but he was at a good pace from the start and he did a very good session, even on the technical feedback everything went well. If you look on the global picture, he did very well in the junior series, he is doing very well in Formula 2. So far I think he had to be focused on the last part of the championship, to win the title and then you will see for next year.

It looks like Sauber could be more closely linked to Ferrari next season. You’re obviously an expert in bringing young drivers on, as we’ve just discussed. Is that the best direction, you believe, for Sauber to take?

FV: For sure there is a huge gap today between Sauber and the top teams and we need to find a way of collaborating with a top team fi we want to improve and if we want to improve quickly. Because the most important thing is to bring the team back into the field and then to be able to compete. OK, with the Ferrari deal we will improve and we will improve a lot and then we have to build up our own project to be able to fight with the guy in front of us.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To all three of you: there has been a resignation this week from a senior member of the FIA’s technical team. He has three months’ ‘gardening leave’, which would then allow him to go to another team in a technical capacity. Does it concern you that he could be taking some secrets from teams with him?

CH: Well, we take major issue with that if he does end up with another team. Obviously in these individuals you place an enormous amount of trust. In the role that Marcin has been responsible for he has been in an extremely privileged position and extremely recently he has been in people’s wind tunnels and looking at intimate details of knowledge of next year’s cars and I think three months’ notice period for him to then turn up in a competitor team in Formula One is entirely inappropriate. I certainly hope that isn’t the case and I’m sure it will get discussed quite seriously at the next strategy group meeting. It’s an important and vital role and it’s vital that the teams have trust and faith in the governing body that they can discuss their technical know-how, their technical secrets in many respects, which cost millions and millions of pounds, in confidence that that information doesn’t have the ability to end up in a rival team.

FV: First, we need to know where Marcin will go but I agree with Christian, it is a big issue, because the FIA is fully aware of all the teams’ project and at the end of the day if we can’t be open with the FIA it’s a tricky situation. But first we need to know where Marcin will go.

OS: I do agree and it would have been nice to know the notice period. Three months I don’t think is long enough and had we known it was three months earlier, perhaps we would have hired him. But I think three months is nowhere near long enough.

What is?

OS: I think a year. I mean, it has to be long enough such that the technology that he is aware of becomes, if not obsolete, then not leading edge. There are some sporting regulations as well that prohibit us from selling current-year cars for exactly the same reason. The cars have to be at least one year before we can dispose of them and it’s for that reason and I think notice periods should follow along the same lines.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and Speed Sport) For the other two gentlemen: what do you think would be an appropriate time, one year or more?

FV: For sure, one year would fit with the spirit of the regulations but three months is really too short.

CH: I think industry standard for the type of role that Marcin has been performing would be anywhere between 12 and 18 months. We would look to place senior personnel within our team on at least 12 months.

Q: (Jake Michaels – ESPN) To all three of you: How can concerning was what we saw at the end of the session, with Romain Grosjean going off?

FV: For sure it was a huge crash. I am not an expert on the drain cover but I think we have to find a solution for tomorrow because it will be very, very risky, but I think that the FIA is focused on this point and I hope that we will be able to find a solution for tomorrow morning.

Christian you have experienced this before.

CH: Yeah, we had an incident quite a while back similar to that. The good thing is that nobody was hurt. Obviously the session was stopped and I’m sure all the covers here will be inspected rigorously before tomorrow’s running. I’m pretty confident and hopefully we won’t see a repeat issue.

Otmar?

OS: I think it just teaches that in future we should do it before it happens, have good inspection before something like this happens.

Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) This question’s for Christian, since your announcement with Aston Martin for 2018, social media has been very creative coming up with some liveries for next year – would you be considering taking some of those ideas from social media, maybe getting the fans involved – because Red Bull’s very good at fan engagement.

CH: We enjoy the work we do on social media, we have great interaction with the fans and followers of the teams. The livery is pretty much decided for next year but it’s great to see people’s interpretations and ideas and they should keep putting them out there.

Have you seen anything that’s on the right track?

CH: No!

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Christian, your team has recently published its financial results – or rather submitted them, filed them with Companies House. When I look at them, first of all, there’s about a £40million contribution from the parent company, but apart from that your budget’s about two and a half times the size of Otmar’s. Do you actually get 250 per cent the value compared to theirs or is this not really proof that there should be some form of budget cap in place?

CH: Well, I think what you have to look at is what are the cost-drivers in Formula One, and they are absolutely the sporting and technical regulations. We see costs spiralling out of control. We’re not by any means the biggest spender in Formula One as you’re well aware. And I think what’s going to be fascinating to see, hopefully over the next month or so, is what are Liberty’s and FIA’s plans regarding the future – because a budget cap becomes far less emotive if it goes hand-in-hand with sporting and technical regulations that absolutely deal with the costs, because they are the cost drivers. So I think, if the sporting and technical side are dealt with, some form of cap will be easier to bring in but if you put all of the pressure on the cap, then it becomes an accounting world championship and I think that some of the issues we have today with disparity of performance, with the amount of spend that’s going on, with the situation that’s regarding… Red Bull Racing is the only British registered team to be registering a profit, albeit a moderate one, and that shouldn’t be right in this level of sport.

Otmar?

OS: We welcome a budget cap or some cost controls within the sport. I mean, even with a cap I don’t think we’ll have the resources to spend up to it but I think it will help reduce some of the disparity in performance and that can only be good for the fans.

Fred?

FV: Yeah, we spoke about this in Monza, as I told you, I think the cap won’t be an issue for me.

CH: Just coming back on Dieter’s point, I think one of the key things within Red Bull’s cost is how much goes into promotion, and promotion of the sport as well, that are contained within that budget. I think Red Bull does more than any other team on the grid with its running show car activities around the world, with the way that we try to promote not just the team and the brand but obviously the sport in general as well.

About Ritesh K Bhana

Ritesh likes to think he is a true Tifosi, but he still remains fair to other teams. He supports two other teams which are not Red Bull and McLaren. Follow Ritesh on twitter @Humanshield_1

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2017 United States GP Broadcast Times

CDTGMTGMT+2Local
Free Practice 1Friday 10:00Friday 15:00Friday 17:00Friday 10:00
Free Practice 2Friday 14:00Friday 19:00Friday 21:00Friday 14:00
Free Practice 3Saturday 11:00Saturday 16:00Saturday 18:00Saturday 11:00
QualifyingSaturday 16:00Saturday 21:00Saturday 23:00Saturday 16:00
RaceSunday 14:00Sunday 19:00Sunday 21:00Sunday 14:00

2017 Drivers Championship

Pos.DriverPoints
1 Lewis Hamilton306
2 Sebastian Vettel247
3 Valtteri Bottas234
4 Daniel Ricciardo192
5 Kimi Raikkonen148
> Full Championship Table

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