Particolarmente attesa la conferenza stampa FIA dei rappresentanti dei #team al GP di #Singapore, dopo l’annuncio dei grandi cambiamenti che hanno coinvolto Toro Rosso, McLaren, Honda e Renault. Protagonisti dei due incontri Masashi YAMAMOTO (Honda), Katsuhide MORIYAMA (Honda), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso) e Zak BROWN (McLaren), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing)
PART ONE: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Masashi YAMAMOTO (Honda), Katsuhide MORIYAMA (Honda), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso)
Moriyama-san, today the new partnership with Toro Rosso and also the separation with McLaren was announced. Can you make a comment from Honda’s point of view?
Katsuhide MORIYAMA: Yes, good afternoon gentlemen, my name is Moriyama and I am the operations officer for Honda and today I am here representing Honda. Well, first of all, before we start, I would like to show my deep appreciation to the FIA and to Liberty Media for giving us such a huge support in order to conclude the deal in such a short period of time and in providing us such a special stage to announce our new start. So now regarding McLaren: it is very disappointing that we have to end the partnership without achieving our target, which we had set at the beginning of the project. Also it is a shame, the fact that we were not able to reach our performance target, that affected a lot the relationship. However, it also my pleasure that we can start a new relationship with Toro Rosso, a team with a very youthful energy and a history of nurturing the stars of the future. I think this is the start of a new chapter for Honda F1 and I’m already looking forward to seeing the opening race in Melbourne next year.
Moriyama-san there have been suggestions in the past few months that the Honda board actually discussed pulling out of Formula One, and if so why did the board decide that Honda would remain in the sport?
KM: For Honda, Formula One has started with the dream of our founder Mr Soichiro Honda and we already have a 50-year history in Formula One and for our company obviously Formula One is a very important culture as well as the DNA of our company. It is true that we have gone through a very tough situation now and nobody was satisfied with the current board, especially the board. It is true that we have gone through many discussions due to the dissatisfaction of the present and we discussed the project with the company and how to improve the situation. Quitting F1 was never an option for us. It is out goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting with the frontrunners of the sport. Our spirit, Honda’s spirit, is going to come back and for next year our goal is to fight for the top three at the front of the grid.
Thank you very much. Yamamoto-san, you are the person who is actually dealing with all the negotiations with McLaren and with Franz and Toro Rosso. Tell us how it all happened from your point of view.
Masashi YAMAMOTO: It’s true, because we have been struggling with the goals that we had, it’s true that from the beginning of the season there had been discussions with McLaren about dissolving our relationship. Honda always wished to continue with McLaren towards a good result. Therefore, it is, for us, a shame and a pity, a disappointment, that we have to separate. But as you know, since the Italian Grand Prix the results haven’t been famous and so our thoughts have started to change. So, as you know, in fact from the US Grand Prix last year, we work with Super Formula in Japan and from last year in the US we met with Dr Helmut [Marko] and we have been having conversations regarding the Red Bull [Junior] Pierre Gasly, who races in Super Formula in Japan. So I’ve had many opportunities to speak with Dr Marko since last year regarding the Super Formula and after the Italy Grand Prix, Dr Marko actually mentioned Toro Rosso. In fact, Mr Franz Tost has lived in Japan and knows Japan well, and as you know Toro Rosso is a very young team and I think we have many things in common and we are very much looking forward to working with Mr Tost.
Yamamoto-san, Honda has obviously had a very difficult in coming back to Formula One, so what makes you confident that you have can success with Toro Rosso?
MY: Although we do not have much time until the start of the next season, I feel that we are going to have a very good season, a good relationship between Honda and Toro Rosso. I believe that Toro Rosso is a pure racing team. The spirit of Toro Rosso is very similar to the spirit of Honda and in the short time we have I believe we can work smoothly and successfully for the next years.
Franz why is this the right move for your team and who is going to make the gearbox?
Franz TOST: First of all, thank you very much to the Honda management, to Moriyama-san and to Yamamoto-san to trust Toro Rosso. We at Toro Rosso are very proud and happy to work together with such an exclusive partner like Honda is and we are convinced that we will have a very successful future. The gearbox will be made by Toro Rosso, like the year before.
OK, what happens this year and next year with drivers? Dany Kvyat, Pierre Gasly we’ve heard about and also Nobuharu Matsushita. What are your thoughts on the drivers in this situation?
FT: Well currently we have two quite successful and competitive drivers with Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz and I assume that they will finish the season with us and regarding the drivers for next year and then Red Bull will decide who is driving with us and of course we will also take into consideration any request from our partners.
PART TWO: TEAM REPRESENTATIVES: Zak BROWN (McLaren), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing)
Q: Zak, let’s start with you. After much deliberation, you’ve separated from Honda. What was the tipping point, and what sacrifices do you have to make now?
Zak BROWN: Well, let me start James, and then I’ll come back and answer that question. I want to thank a lot of people because this has been quite a public process and involved a lot of people and required a lot of cooperation to get the outcome that I think was best for the sport. So, starting with the McLaren fans, they’ve been unbelievably supportive as we’ve been through a difficult three years and looking forward to next year. We’re very excited to be partnering with Renault and all the work that Cyril and his team have put in and then it took the collaboration of Christian, to my right, Toro Rosso and Red Bull, and then last but not least Honda’s been a great partner. Obviously, we haven’t had the on-track results that we’d hoped for but they certainly gave it everything they’ve got. We felt it was time to move on, and then the FIA and Ross and Chase. So, there was a lot of people that had to come together to make this happen. Ultimately we knew… I don’t think there was a specific tipping point other than we knew we were in trouble in pre-season testing and we needed to improve upon our 2016 results. So, we knew we were in trouble then. We’ve spent quite a bit of time, most of it has been in the public domain, trying to find ways to get Honda competitive with us, and we ultimately couldn’t get there in the end – but great that they’re staying in the sport. Just want to thank everyone for their assistance. I think everyone’s going to be excited for Australia next year.
Q: So, does this mean Fernando Alonso will be staying with the team next year?
ZB: Well, we’re going to turn our attention to Fernando now. We’ve been speaking a lot, he’s been waiting to see what technical solution we came up with. He won his two championships with Renault. He’s very happy with the racing team, we’re very happy with him, so I think in the not too distant future we should be able to get something done and that’ll be the last big piece of the puzzle. Then I’ve got to find us some sponsorship with our commercial team and get ready for next year.
Q: Cyril, coming to you, we’ve heard from Honda and Toro Rosso in part one of this press conference, their side of the story, we’ve now just heard from McLaren. Tell us about the Renault side. The engine swap and Carlos Sainz coming to you.
Cyril ABITEBOUL: Well, as mentioned by Zak, it’s been a fairly long and complex process for the number of parties that this was involving but I think that the solution reached is one that is good for all parties. It’s in particular one that manages to keep Honda in the sport, and I think it’s very important to keep diversity of manufacturers involved. As far as we’re concerned, it was not an easy decision. We know that we are making a competitor stronger. We know that very well. Having said that, the activity of Renault in Formula One, since 40 years that we are in Formula One is in particular articulated around what we are doing on the engine side: we are a car maker; the engine is at the core of the automotive. That’s what we have always been doing. We have been a works team on and off, we are currently ‘on’ – but it doesn’t remove anything to our engine activity that must be sustainable. In relation to that, what we want to do is to supply aspiration teams, great teams, great drivers. We’ve done 13 years with Williams with five championships, 12 years with Red Bull Racing, four championships as constructors, so we really look forward to the start of this new association with McLaren.
Q: Can you confirm exactly which teams you’ll be supplying with engines from 2019 onwards?
CA: Before 2019 there is 2018. And 2018 it is very clear those two gentlemen on my right, and one thing I must stress is they will get equity, and perfect parity of treatment between the Renault works team, McLaren and Red Bull…
ZB: You said we were going to get better stuff!
CA: Oh yeah! Sorry! This is a public one! So, this is something that matters. And in relation to 2019, obviously with McLaren today we are announcing a three-year partnership until 2020 and the rest, obviously, is a bit of speculation at this point in time with Red Bull Racing.
Q: OK, Christian, coming to you, what is Red Bull’s plan for engines form 2019 onwards? I understand that you alluded to this on TV earlier today.
Christian HORNER: No, I think what you are referring to, I was asked a question about Porsche coming in Formula One and I answered that very clearly that we have an existing relationship with an OEM that don’t make Formula One engines and obviously, that will continue. We are absolutely delighted for Toro Rosso with their Honda announcement. I think it’s great news for Toro Rosso, it’s great news for Honda, it’s great that they’re continuing with Formula One. Obviously, it’s facilitated that Zak has managed to get the Renault engine that he was craving and Carlos Sainz gets to further his career obviously in Cyril’s team while also remaining part of the Red Bull family. So, I think you have a rare occasion in Formula One where everybody’s happy.
Q: Does any of this make your job more difficult in securing the long-term commitment to Red Bull Racing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo?
CH: Well, both of our drivers are currently under contract at least for next year and it’s down to us to produce a good car, be competitive and then, of course, why would the drivers want to be anywhere else? We’re obviously not short of options on drivers but obviously, our preference is absolutely to retain the two that we have in the car at the moment.
Q: And just a final quick through from you, very strong performance today, particularly in FP2. Daniel was in here yesterday and he said he thought he might have a chance of winning this race. Does everything you’ve seen today – short runs, long runs – give you a bit of encouragement on that front.
CH: I think both guys have had a strong day today, particularly Daniel this evening had a strong session – but we didn’t really see Ferrari’s true hand, particularly on the short runs, and Mercedes always hold a bit up their sleeves – but it’s been certainly a positive day. I think Daniel’s invigorated by his new haircut that he turned up with the other day and obviously been using that air conditioning to good effect.