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2017 Formula 1 Malaysia Grand Prix: Friday Press Conference – Part 2

PART TWO: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Mario ISOLA (Pirelli), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Guenther STEINER (Haas).

Q: Mario, let’s start with you. We’re three-quarters of the way through the 2017 season on these new, wider tyres. We can all see what the lap time improvements have been but can you give us an idea of the increase in things like the cornering speeds and any other things you’ve noticed – apart from ‘don’t’ run over drain covers’.

Mario ISOLA: Yeah, we have seen on the corners that are grip-limited, we had an increasing speed that is 30km/h – 40km/h. We made an analysis on the quickest and most famous turn in Barcelona, in Spa, at Silverstone and it was impressive to see that Copse is now 290km/h and it is 30km/h quicker than last year, or we have Pouhon in Spa that is 40km/h quicker, so it is, in terms of performance, I believe we reached the target. Lap times, as you said, are visible for everybody. We are also analysing the data because this additional grip is generated not only by the wider tyres but also by the increase in downforce and, as an average, we have 100kg of downforce more on each tyre, as an average obviously, it depends on the circuit and layout, type of configuration and setup – but it’s quite a lot.

Q: What can you share with us about the plans for 2018? What are you going to do with the range? Are you going to go a bit softer? What’s the plan?

MI: We have defined the construction and we released the data to the teams on the First of September. We have a new construction front and rear, we will give some additional information soon. Obviously we are now working on our compounds – because the target is still to go one step softer compared to this year. We know that this year we have been quite conservative – but last year it was not easy to develop the new sizes with the mule cars so we decided to be on the conservative side. So the current Soft will be the new Medium next year, and we also intend to increase the number of compounds. It is still not defined but we have probably next year more compounds to give us more freedom in the selection during one event, because there are no modifications in the sporting regulations, so it still three compounds per event and the target is to have more flexibility.

Q: And just a comment from you on the Grosjean incident. We all saw what happened but from your point of view.

MI: Well, the tyres are not made to resist such a big impact so I cannot add anything else other than what we have seen on the television.

Q: Guenther, coming to you, talking about Romain’s accident, we all saw what happened, what can you tell us from his point of view, and also the state of the car.

GS: I think from his point of view, he is OK. Thank God he didn’t get hurt or anything. The car is damaged, in my opinion, things like this in 2017 shouldn’t happen on a permanent circuit, they shouldn’t happen on any circuit. This is, in my opinion, not acceptable. This is not up to the standards. So, I haven’t spoken with anybody. The next thing we need to make sure is how we can prove that it doesn’t happen in the race? Because in the race this would have been a little bit of a bigger disaster. If a few cars go over it, then the cover comes up. I’m still not through… to think completely through what happened to end up in this situation. In a few hours hopefully we know more. The damage is very big on the car. I don’t know exactly what it is because the car just came back five minutes before I had to get here, so they hadn’t taken the parts off to see if the chassis is damaged as well – but once we know that we see what we can do for tomorrow. We need to be sure that all the drain covers stay in place tomorrow.

Q: You dropped down to eighth in the Constructors’ after the race in Singapore – big result for Renault there, of course, but it’s so tight in the midfield, it’s still possible for you to finish fifth in the Constructors’ this year – even though you’re pulling a face – are you throwing development resource at finishing 2017 as strongly as you possibly can, given the battle you find yourself in?

GS: No. I think fifth is a little bit ambitious from your side. I think we can not finish fifth but we try to finish seventh. I think at this moment in time we would be happen with that. We stopped developing the ’17 car quite a while ago to concentrate on next year’s car. We have limited resources. We need to focus that we stay stable year-to-year, not just one year up and down because then you create a wave-effect and you never get a grip of what you’re doing. We try to do our best. We will bring a few more developments but they are small. The last one comes in Austin. We hopefully can score some points. I hope also that our worst circuits are behind us, like the slow speed, high downforce ones. Our car doesn’t like them. It’s tough, as you said, in the midfield. We just need to try to do always a perfect job – and not hit drain covers.

Q: And a final thought. We asked Fred Vasseur in part one about the idea of a closer collaboration with Ferrari on his side, particularly on the driver aspect. Would that have any bearing on your team? How does your Ferrari collaboration develop from here?

GS: I think our one is stable. We are doing it since now, it’s our third year since we started, and we do what we do. I have no influence what they do with somebody else and I don’t want to have one. We are happy with our contracts and our collaboration. So, if Sauber wants to work with them, I have no opinion and I’m OK with it. I can’t do anything about it any way – so why worry? We get what we want, and we are happy and we continue this.

Q: Toto, you’re defending a 28 point lead rather than chasing down a deficit but today things looked a little bit difficult for your cars. Is that truly representative of where you were and is there that much work to do?

Toto WOLFF: The lap time is reality, the stopwatch always tells the truth. The lap time today showed that we are not quick enough. The car seems to be unbalanced and that triggers an awful lot of consequences and it was certainly one of the worst Fridays I can remember.

Q: Now you renewed Valtteri Bottas’s contract but only for one year rather than longer term; what does he have to do next season to stay on, or is it more about what happens with other teams’ drivers and whether they look to move?

TW: It’s all in his hands, he just needs to drive fast and score good results. The dynamics between the drivers and the drivers and the engineer team is great so that is positive and it’s about competing on track and being fast.

Q: It’s the final Malaysian Grand Prix, obviously, but F1 has announced the contract with China has been extended for another three years. Your thoughts on both?

TW: It’s sad that we’re leaving Malaysia because of our partnership with Petronas it has become like a second home Grand Prix. We spend five or six or seven times a year in Kuala Lumpur and therefore I will be missing the race. On China, China is an important market for us with huge potential and insofar as extending their race there is good, good for Formula One.


Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To all of you, certainly the two team principals: a senior member of the FIA’s technical department has recently resigned. He’s got three months’ gardening leave, he’s obviously worked pretty closely with the teams during his tenure. How do you feel about the fact that he could possibly be joining an opposition team within the next… certainly by the start of next year?

TW: Do you want an undiplomatic answer or the diplomatic answer?

GS: They were sandbagging today just to promote comment but anyway… I was not involved in the strategy group meeting this morning but I know that a senior member has left or is leaving the FIA but I’m not sure where he’s going in the end, so I cannot accuse him of something, that he’s going somewhere if I don’t know. I guess somebody’s taking him so it’s as much as who is taking him’s fault as the guy who is going. I think a little bit in between. But first of all, we need to know if he’s going to a team and then where he’s going but I don’t know that yet, Dieter.

TW: I don’t think it’s correct because he’s had access to a lot of information, especially from Mercedes so he will tell everybody else, so I think for sure they are not happy. It’s like Guenther said, we don’t know where Martin is going. It’s just a rumour. We’ve received an e-mail from Charlie saying that he will be leaving the FIA and he will be on gardening leave for three months. I personally get on well with Martin and we wish him success for his career, that is clear, but we need to look at the timings, we need to be transparent with the FIA and give them access and therefore, in order to have the full trust of the teams, it’s important to have a certain stability and understanding how quick somebody can leave the FIA and join another competitive team.

MI: I don’t think I’m involved in that. For me, I was working very very well with Martin, we were co-operating on a number of things on tyres, future regulations and so on so it’s a pity that he’s leaving the FIA. I agree with Guenther on the fact that Martin obviously has a lot of knowledge and going to another team creates an issue for them but we don’t know where he is going so…

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Toto, if we put aside the fact that your son was obviously a member of one of the F1 in Schools winning teams on Wednesday night, you were there, very enthusiastic about it. Could you tell us from a pure Formula One team principal perspective what you think of the project, the initiative and how you think it can help Formula One overall?

TW: I didn’t know anything about Formula in Schools before I was actually surprised to hear that my son was joining it two years ago and it was his own initiative. I find it a really nice competition because young teenagers are creating a mini Formula One team. They have to raise sponsorship, they have to make a garage, create a marketing proposition, develop a little car. They are using tools such as CFD and mini-wind tunnels and then they put it on track and it’s very competitive and the best 52 teams made it to the world final last Wednesday and out of every corner of the world. And seeing them, how capable they are, and how enthusiastic they are for the sport, it’s really nice to see, so I will be cheering for Formula One in Schools, independently of whether my son is involved or not.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Toto, it would be fair to say that it would be one of the worst Fridays in your career. I would like to know if it’s just a question of lacking of grip, it’s just a question of heat or there is some other reason? And Ferrari put a lot of effort with new aerodynamic parts here. It seems that Mercedes is not at the same level at this event. Is that because you are thinking of bringing something more in Japan or in America?

TW: As I said before, it feels like one of the worst Fridays. We have brought some new parts to the cars as well and now we need to chase back why it didn’t go today, independent whether it was in the wet or in the dry, on the long runs or on a single lap, we just lacked pace today and we have twelve hours to understand and then hopefully have a car tomorrow that is more stable.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and Speed Sport) There will be a triple header next year; Formula One has this tendency that if they get away with it once, they will do it again, so how keen are you to see triple headers and know that if it happens, everything works out once, it will happen again?

GS: OK, I think it is… if you plan it well, I think the crew for sure are the most stressed out but the triple header is in Europe so at least we have got that advantage. We don’t have to fly from continent to continent. I think let’s see how it is but again, we need to get organised for this stuff and if it doesn’t work or if it is too stressful or if you can change something – you have to learn from it and change something for the year after because… I’m with you there, if we do it once, we will do it again. If we get spectators in front of the TV or some factor out of this, it will happen again. It’s just one of those things that you need to do and then come out and analyse and see if it is worthwhile to do again and how to deal best with it.

TW: I think Guenther summarised it pretty well. There will be other factors such as important events in other sports or outside of sport that need to be considered and I think making a calendar is not easy so we need to wait and see how we can cope with the three races and then learn the lesson.

MI: Yeah, we are like a small team so we have the same problems so we are organising our people and we need additional people of course to cover all this because also if it is in Europe, we have trucks moving with the new tyres or bringing back the used tyres. For overseas it will be more complicated and if it happens, we need to make a proper plan in advance. Everything is possible if it is an advantage for the sport obviously we will be ready to do that but it will have an increase in logistics and people we are obliged to use.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Toto, today we saw an Instagram movie – if I can say – something about Trump that was posted by Lewis. Are you worried that there can be some effect coming to the USA Grand Prix for him?

TW: This is a very controversial and polarising story. I wouldn’t want to get involved in politics. We all have our opinion. Lewis’s feelings about human rights are very strong and I think he wanted to show that and probably Instagram as the communication channel is something that he needs to rethink but I can relate to his feelings.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Are you worried for the United States Grand Prix?

TW: No, I think one of the most important things in the US is that you have the right to express your opinion and I would want to leave it there and not comment any more. I think we are here as sport teams and sports should unite and I’m not sure it is happening everywhere in the world so I would rather lead by example and not comment on politics.

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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