In the same way that Free Practice 1 had been met with low attendance, so too was the Team Principals’ Press Conference. With three minutes to go before it was due to start, a handful of journalists were in attendance owing to the fact the majority of the media was still in the media center writing up Valtteri Bottas’ collision into the barrier during the first session of the day. Those in attendance heard a variety of ideas for how to handle the unique timing of the race, the impact E Sports is having as replacement to karting and the decision made by Haas to retain their current driver lineup for 2020.
Guenther Steiner (Haas) was first asked as to why they retained the service of Romain Grosjean for 2020: At the moment, the driver’s not the issue it’s our car. We know his weaknesses and a lot of people know them. He has big highs and very big lows as well. Maybe next year is a good year.
As for Nico Hulkenberg’s chances in F1, Frederic Vasseur said ‘we are focused on Antonio…the speed is there for sure as he is matching Kimi in qualifying.’ Due to Haas’ decision, Hulkenberg moves ever closer to the exit door of Formula 1, something Cyril Abiteboul (Renault) would find very hard to see:
It will be difficult because we feel Nico has been a pillar of the team’s construction…for me Formula 1 and Nico will be unfinished business but it is out of our hands now.
Finally, could Nico Hulkenberg be in consideration for a seat with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing? Before such a rumour could be generated Christian Horner dampened any such aspiration saying ‘Nico is not on our list’
McLaren’s Zac Brown then reflected on the mood of his team: Momentum is important, it would be good to come away from here with a good result after two poor races…we want to improve on last year, we want to improve incrementally so fourth would be great but it will be tough holding on to it.
Challenging McLaren for fourth is Renault and Cyril Abiteboul made clear he is up to the challenge: It’s relatively important as we were P4 last year and everyone is expecting us to acquire that result if not improve it…we’d like this momentum to continue. It is fight [with McLaren] we are honoured to have.
Looking ahead to the changing face of Formula 1, Motorlat.com asked Zac Brown as to his thoughts on the F1 Esports series seeing how Lando Norris was with McLaren Shadow yesterday at the Singapore ESports qualifiers:
It has been very successful; we were the first F1 team to launch its own E Sports platform. I think it’s become grass roots. Historically, it has been karting which is quite expensive for people and I think Esports can put a steering wheel in the hand of men and women around the world of all ages.
Having scored 12 podiums in Singapore, how confident is Christian Horner of success this weekend as well? “Impressive statistics but Mercedes still finish ahead of us the last three or four years…we have a competitive car and hope to take the fight to them.”
Christian Horner is pleased of the progress of Alex Albon: “I think he’s done a very good job…particularly in Spa, his recovery to P5 was really impressive.” Comments which pile more pressure on Pierre Gasly as he hopes to return to the seat he views as his own.
Other comments were whether qualifying needs changing but Christian Horner shifted the argument: “If it’s a one stop race the grid position will be what dictates where the cars finish…if we can add in more variants to a race but not doing it artificially then certainly I would be in favour.”
Finally, much humour was had from the comments as to how acclimatizing to the time zone results in Zac Brown and Frederik Vasseur enjoying 5 breakfasts. With these comments the Press Conference concluded and the suspense for Free Practice 2 began to build and whether Max Verstappen could stay out infront.