Team representatives: Toto Wolff (Mercedes), Eric Boullier (McLaren), Rob White (Renault Sport F1), Stefano Domenicali (Ferrari), Claire Williams (Williams), Christian Horner (Red Bull Racing)

Press conference

Q:
A very interesting first day's running. I'll start with you Christian, as the defending world champion team. I guess given where you were two weeks ago in the winter testing, you must be fairly pleased with the way this first day of running has turned out. Tell us what has been going on behind the scenes in this intervening period?

Christian Horner:
Well today has been a very string first day for us. It's been our first proper test day of the season. We've had a very difficult pre-season with numerous issues, which have been pretty well documented prior to us arriving in Melbourne. It was refreshing for the drivers to get plenty of laps in and really get a first proper feel for the car. It's been an encouraging start but we still have an awful lot of work to do we can still see that there is quite a gap to the Mercedes and to Ferrari but we're starting to realise what that gap is and by the end of this weekend that should hopefully have a bit more clarity. But certainly behind the scenes there's an enormous amount of effort of going on both back in the Red Bull factory back in Milton Keynes and of course in Viry-Chatillon with the Renault guys as well. With such a big regulation change and such is the complexity of what is nowadays referred to as the power unit rather than the engine it's not unsurprising that there have been quite a lot of issues to deal with.

Q:
Tell us about managing the situation from your point of view. Does being a four-time world champion team recently - focusing on things like teamwork and morale - does it make it easier to rescue yourself from the kind of situation you were in because you've had some success or does it make it more difficult?

Christian Horner:
Neither of those issues has been an issue. Morale is extremely high and we work very effectively as a team. It's been a challenging winter to design, build and then obviously modify RB10, but the way the team has responded to the challenge has been fantastic. There is a real desire and inner strength within the team. We've achieved quite a bit over the past few years and that's not by accident. As I've said there are always engineering solutions to engineering problems.

Q:
Thank you for that. Moving to you Stefano. Obviously Christian thinks you're ahead of his team. Fernando was fastest this morning and third this afternoon. How do you assess the first day of term for Ferrari, and what was the difference in programme between Alonso and Raikkonen.

Stefano Domenicali:
Today was an interesting day just to see if some of the issues we had during the Bahrain test were solved. We are still not on top of all the things we have to solve and this is something that shows, as Christian says, the complexity of this project. But you know, what we have to do is keep working on the things we know. We need to improve and that's the way it is. For sure there were different things to test and to try between the drivers but that's part of the normal programme we do. In my view today maybe you will see that some teams were a little bit hiding or having some issues for the day. Tomorrow the situation will be different again, we don't know, we will see. If there will also be different weather conditions this will be another thing we never tested with this car so far, so the managing of the car in possibly wet conditions could be another exciting or challenging thing for all of us. But so far, it's important that we were able to run with the programme we wanted even if we had some little issue to solve. But that's part of the game, it's just the first free practice of a long season.

Q:
And are you happy with the structure you've got in place now? I know there has been a lot work behind the scenes - technical facilities, changes in the management, new people coming in, appointments and what have you. Is this the team you want now?

Stefano Domenicali:
I think the basic for sure. We've done a great job in the last couple of years to restructure the team, restructure the facility, that was absolutely and imperative thing to do and I think that now we are in the way that we should be to do the best we can in these conditions. So, so far I'm pleased about it.

Q:
Talking about restructuring, Claire, we'll come across to you. Obviously very much a new look Williams team in more ways than one. What steps that have gone on behind the scenes with your team are you most proud of at the moment?

Claire Williams:
I think like you said we've had a lot of effort that's gone on behind the scenes to make sure that we entered this season in a completely different place as to how we ended it last year. So I think a lot of work has gone one behind the scenes but I don't think you can single out one of those efforts. Bringing in the Mercedes engine has had a huge influence on our position this year and our performance. Bringing in Pat Symonds and him heading up a whole new technical team as well has been significant and played its part as has obviously bringing in Felipe Massa to partner Valtteri this season. So there has been a lot of work and we've had a good winter but this is only the first race of the year and we haven't qualified yet, so we'll have to wait and see how we do tomorrow.

Q:
You had the fastest time in the Bahrain test, you did the second-highest kilometres in testing, where are you today? What has today's running revealed to you?

Claire Williams:
Today's been positive. I think the engineers are all relatively happy with what they've managed to achieve. It's been the usual programme of everything you'd expect us to be running on Friday practice. I think Felipe had a bit of an issue this morning which prevented him from going out - but that was to do with his radio software rather than an issue with the car. Valtteri seems comfortable with the car, little bit of understeer that we've got to correct overnight but both drivers are saying that they're happy.

Q:
Eric, fifth and ninth this afternoon, plenty of laps on the board. Is it about what you expected from your first day of competitive running?

Eric Boullier:
I don't know if we had any expectations today, just obviously we had a lot of plans and a lot of tests to do, to go though. Obviously first to put again some laps and miles and setup for the drivers. I think we can be happy, we went through most of the plan today so I think the team did a good job.

Q:
You've been at McLaren a few weeks now. What changes do you want to make in the team and how much autonomy are you going to be given to do that by the management group?

Eric Boullier:
The first part of your question, it is still in my head, on my mind, my plan. But it doesn't have to be public. This is obviously a great team, a lot of history, the best facilities, I think, in the paddock. And obviously a lot of great individuals eager to do well and go back where the team should be. So, that's going to be... let's say, most of the work is going to be to get everybody on track on this. For the second part of the question, it's a team effort as always. The idea behind the split in the team principal role is something which we have... I actually had personal experience in Lotus. I think it's good today when you have so much travel during the season and so many people to care about at the factory, it's obvious that you need to focus or get some different roles split over the company. I think it worked well in the past and it should work well in McLaren.

Q:
Toto, you came here as favourites, certainly among a lot of pundits, fastest and second fastest on the soft tyre runs, long run looked to be a step ahead of the others. Did it turn out how you expected today?

Toto Wolff:
Yes. If you look after Free Practice Two and analyse that, that was quite satisfying. As you said, on one lap the pace was good and the long run was good as well. But you can see how quickly it goes. In Free Practice One, Lewis went out and after half a lap the car stopped, so you need to be very careful. It's just enough to have a little problem and the race or the qualifying could be finished.

Q:
Obviously you've got two top drivers and clearly a competitive package. Have you had conversations behind the scenes in terms of priority, team orders, obviously thinking about what happened last year?

Toto Wolff:
Yes, we had those conversations, and I think it's important to have those conversations. Both of the drivers know each other for quite a long time, they have been team-mates before - back in karting - and we got caught out by surprise last year in Malaysia and we don't want this to happen again. It's just very good discussions we had. They're not only very talented and fast but also very intelligent. They treat each other in a very fair way. We went through some of scenarios and I think we're in a good place.

Q:
So it depends on circumstances as to what you decide?

Toto Wolff:
It depends on circumstances, yes.

Q:
Rob, two teams getting plenty of laps on the board today, two teams in a bit of difficulty. Obviously your problems going into this season have been well catalogued. How do you feel about what we've seen today?

Rob White:
First race weekend is always a testing time and of course this year feeling particularly anxious because we're not as well prepared as we would have liked to have been. So, one of the things that Christian rightly alluded to is the fact that in some ways some of the race weekend scenario still needed to be practiced for the first time in P1 and also P2. So, pleased to be able to run through a normal-looking race weekend programme. That's the big achievement of today.

Q:
Obviously you hadn't done too many practice starts coming into this Melbourne weekend. I noticed there were quite a few taking place with Renault-powered cars today. Are you happy where you are on practice starts?

Rob White:
Yeah. There was nothing magical. They were kind of towards the end of the run plan for the testing and we didn't quite get there in the pre-season testing in several cases. We haven't got any particular concern about them. Of course we're now into learning about the setup parameters in order to try to get some performance into the practice starts. It is a very important phase of the race. We're very conscious and all of our teams are very conscious of that. So, once again, we're behind where we would have liked to be and the task now is to try and gain ground.

Q:
A quick line from you on that Christian, are you comfortable on the starts.

Christian Horner:
It's been the least of our problems. We haven't been out on the track doing laps, let alone starts. We're hoping to start the race on Sunday so we'll need a start.

 

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