Monday 30 April 2018

Loeb secures another World RX podium in a reliable and competitive Peugeot 208 RX.

Photo Credit: Peugeot Sport
Team Peugeot Total driver Sébastien Loeb may be used to snow from events like Rally Sweden – but he certainly wasn’t expecting it in rallyross! Nonetheless, Loeb secured a 2nd consecutive runner-up spot in round 2 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship this weekend in Montalegre, Portugal.

Sébastien Loeb got off to a flying start in Portugal by winning Q1 and finishing 2nd in Q2, making him the points leader overnight on Saturday. “I had a really good feeling with the 208 WRX from the beginning," said Loeb. "In the dry, the car was easy to handle, and I felt very confident: I could concentrate on the lap time rather than what I was doing with the car itself."

Loeb felt a bit less confident in the wet and slippery conditions of Q3 and Q4 on Sunday morning, he comfortably went through to the semi-final. The Frenchman finished 2nd in the semi, which earned him a place in the final that was held just as the snow started to fall hard. "It was a good fight all weekend and I really enjoyed it; it’s not normal to see snow! The battle is so close between everyone, but we are right up there too," says Loeb. "You have to do everything perfectly if you want to have a good weekend in rallycross. It's not always easy but very satisfying when it happens.” Loeb finished 2nd overall in the final: the same result that he achieved in Barcelona, to boost his position in the championship rankings.

Timmy Hansen was the only driver to beat Loeb in a race on Saturday, winning Q2 in front of his illustrious team mate to lie 2nd overnight in the overall points rankings. He too easily qualified for the semi-finals, and the news got even better for the Swede on Sunday afternoon when he won his semi-final, again in front of Loeb. "In the final, I was going well but Kristoffersson was faster, and I made a mistake when I was trying to keep up. The weather changed for the final and we didn’t have time to adapt the car to the slippery conditions: we still had the set up from the dry run before," said Hansen. "So, I think that was part of it, but it was also my mistake. I went too fast into the corner, hit the rail and spun round. That’s racing sometimes, mistakes can happen."

Kevin Hansen also had a great start in Portugal and seemingly got better and better as conditions became more challenging: finishing 5th and 9th in the wet Q3 and Q4 sessions on Sunday morning. These strong results promoted him to the semi-final but disaster struck when he was caught out by a rival who braked early and went into the back of him. "I had a really good start again in the semi-final and I was just behind Ekstrom: I was sure he was going to go for the joker," said Kevin Hansen. "Then he braked, and I didn’t have time to stop: I hit him in the rear and broke the intercooler." To save the engine from terminal damage, he chose to switch it off, and his promising weekend was sadly over.

"We've had two events now and I’ve been through to the semi-final on each occasion. I feel very good with the car and I trust it: especially when you have to go sideways like you do here," Kevin Hansen added. "Without the incident in the semi, I think we could have been in the final, so that’s great."

After reliability issues in round 1 at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, the Peugeot Total drivers have more confidence in the 208 RX supercar after showing good pace.

Written By: Junaid Samodien

Grönholm RX achieve targets in tricky Portugal conditions

Photo Credit: GRX Taneco
GRX Taneco aimed to get both cars through to the semi-finals, and they achieved this target with Niclas Grönholm and Timur Timerzyanov. The two drivers made a smooth start to the first day with Grönholm eighth fastest and Timerzyanov finishing in ninth place in Q1. 

Grönholm progressed up the rankings to seventh place in Q2, whereas Timerzyanov could do no better than 13th. “We didn’t make any mistakes and the car was running well," said Grönholm. "We need to do some more work on the settings as it’s a new car, but we’re getting there.”

On Sunday morning the conditions became tricky when the rain turned to snow, but the conditions didn’t prevent Grönholm from making it through to the first semi-final with eighth place and 14th fastest times. Timerzyanov, in search of points, qualified for the second semi-final by clocking the 12th fastest time in Q3, before following up with an encouraging seventh place. 

I went all out in Q4,” Timerzyanov said. “I got a good start and led my race. Conditions were quite changeable and it wasn’t easy to find grip. We missed out on the top 10 in qualifying by just one point, but getting both cars into the semi-finals is a positive result.”

Starting from the back row in each semi-final, the two drivers had a chance to secure a few more points which later would prove vital for the team consolidating FOURTH place in the Teams' Championship standings. 

I got off to a good start, but Kevin Hansen closed the door on me,” Grönholm said. “I had to take the main line. I was fourth at that point and then put in my joker lap. We were up with the pace, but the strategy didn’t work out in our favour.

We had a sensor issue,” Timerzyanov added. “I was stuck on the start line for several seconds. The car is in great shape but there’s still some work to do for the next round in Belgium.” 

The GRX TANECO Team will now head to Belgium. The Mettet Circuit will host the third round of the 2018 season from Friday 11 May. 

Source: GRX Taneco

A roller coaster ride for EKS Audi Sport in the Portugal snow

Photo Credit: Audi Sport
A weekend of mixed weather conditions at round two of the FIA World Rallycross Championship proved to be roller coaster ride for EKS Audi Sport. After positions one and three in the qualifying rounds the expectations of Andreas Bakkerud and Mattias Ekström had been higher than positions four and seven.

Andreas Bakkerud in fifth position after day one at Montalegre, he made a really strong showing on Sunday. On his favorite track in the mountains of Northern Portugal, the Norwegian won Q3 and Q4, so securing overall victory in qualifying ahead of Sébastien Loeb in a Peugeot. His teammate, Mattias Ekström, completed the strong qualifying performance of the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro cars in position three.

Then the first setback in the semi-finals: After having been bumped by Peugeot driver Kevin Hansen in turn one, Ekström, in fourth position, missed the final – for the first time since Canada in early August 2017. Bakkerud lost a position due to the tussle as well but, in second place, made it into the final.

But then Bakkerud, in his 51st run in the World Rallycross Championship, experienced a premiere: snow! “I’ve never driven a supercar on snow before,” said the Norwegian. “The conditions were extremely difficult. In the end, I only finished fourth. But the joy about my first qualifying victory in the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro outweighs any disappointment.” With his strong performance the Audi driver advanced to second place in the World Championship.

Today again showed how close victory and defeat are together in rallycross,” said Ekström, who was half a second short of making it into the final. “Following the qualifying heats, things looked promising but then, after turn one of our semi-finals, really bad. Due to the impact from behind I simply lost too much time even though I tried everything afterwards. The end was disappointing. But we again showed that we have a fast car.”

Source: Audi Sport
Edit: Junaid Samodien

World RX defending champion Kristoffersson wins in the snow at the World RX of Portugal

Johan Kristoffersson leading the World RX Final.
Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross
Johan Kristoffersson extended his lead in the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy after taking his second straight win of the season in the Bompiso World RX of Portugal. Sebastien Loeb finished second for Team Peugeot Total with Petter Solberg placing third for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden in the final, which was run in a blizzard at the end of a weekend of mixed weather.

Kristoffersson led the final into turn one and, with the benefit of clear vision, drove confidently away from his rivals as the battle for places raged behind him. Backing up his round one win in Catalunya-Barcelona, Kristoffersson is now nine points in clear in the lead of the Championship.

"I felt like I had great pace all weekend and from the semi-final my PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo R worked very well," commented Kristoffersson, who won his first World RX final in Portugal three years ago. "It was snowing in the final and it was very, very slippery but I had a great launch and was able to get into the first corner in the lead. From there I just kept pushing as hard as I could for five laps so I could take the Joker on the last lap."

Loeb consolidated Team Peugeot Total’s strong performance over the course of the weekend with his run to second place in the final. The Frenchman and team-mate Timmy Hansen won two qualifying races and a semi-final between them. Loeb took the Joker in lap one and climbed to second place as the race progressed.

"I had a really good start and went for the Joker straightaway," said Loeb, who won the Monster Energy Super Charge Award for the quickest reaction off the line. "It’s been a great weekend for Peugeot and I am very pleased to be on the podium again. I had a really good feeling in the car from the start and felt confident in all conditions."

Solberg joined Loeb in taking his Joker early before chasing his rival all the way to the chequered flag for his first podium of the season. The two-time World RX Champion acknowledged the wild weather was a test of his considerable experience.

"We have had just about every type of condition," he said. "I competed in rallying for many years and I know how to drive in the snow, on gravel, wet mud and asphalt. But until I came to Montalegre, until I came to World RX of Portugal, I have never driven in all of those conditions in one day. It was unbelievable to be racing in a snow storm, but quite cool as well!"

Andreas Bakkerud was Top Qualifier and went on to place fourth in the final driving the EKS Audi Sport S1. The Norwegian claimed dominant wins in both Q3 and Q4 to leapfrog overnight leader Loeb in the Intermediate Classification but just missed the podium in the hotly contested final.

Making a career-first appearance in a World RX final, Guerlain Chicherit completed his landmark weekend with a run to fifth. A breakthrough result for the GC Kompetition team, Chicherit produced a superb performance in semi-final one to guarantee his route to the final as the Prodrive-engineered Renault Megane RS proved competitive in the Frenchman’s hands.

Timmy Hansen started on the front row alongside Kristoffersson after winning semi-final two, but a mid-race spin coming out of the final corner scuppered the Swede’s hopes of a podium and dropped him to sixth place.

Last year’s World RX of Portugal winner Mattias Ekstrom didn't progress beyond the semi-finals. The 2016 World RX Champion was in the thick of the action at the start of the race but was denied a place in the final by the in-form Chicherit.

GRX Taneco's Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov both advanced into the semi-finals again, together with Olsbergs MSE’s Kevin Eriksson, Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Peugeot racer Kevin Hansen.

In the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, Artis Baumanis claimed his second consecutive victory in the Volland Racing Skoda Fabia. A lowly 12th place overnight, the Latvian driver fought back to make his way to the final where he’d get the better of Espen Isaksaetre (Norway) in his Peugeot 208 and Ondrej Smetana (Czech Republic) driving his Ford Fiesta. With two of the six Super1600 rounds completed, Baumanis tops the championship standings, five points ahead of team-mate Rokas Baciuska.

Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG, commented: "Montalegre never fails to disappoint when it comes to enthralling racing, and this weekend’s World RX of Portugal has been absolutely no exception. Though the unseasonably cold and snowy weather certainly presented its own challenges as it changed quickly from session-to-session, the racing remained high quality throughout. Congratulations to Johan Kristoffersson and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden for their second win of the season – you can definitely say it was hard-earned on a day like this! Finally, thank you to the Montalegre organisers and the Portuguese ASN for putting on the event in very testing conditions – 25,000 fans have enjoyed fantastic racing in a spectacular location.”

The 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship will continue with World RX of Belgium at Mettet in two weeks’ time (12-13 May).

Story By: FIA World Rallycross Media

Sunday 29 April 2018

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Post-Race Press Conference.

Photo Credit:

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari)
3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Force India)


(Conducted by David Coulthard)

We have our top three here. Lewis Hamilton just being weighed in. We just have to wait for the guys to get their helmets off. We’ve got a very happy Checo Pérez there and Kimi Räikkönen. Checo, you’re first with the helmet off: fantastic, absolutely brilliant, last time you were on the podium was here.

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, two years ago. I think today I did the best two laps of my whole career. The last two laps with Sebastian behind, with cold tyres, it was so difficult. I was on the supersoft tyre. I had to keep a very strong rhythm, trying to keep close to Räikkönen, to make sure that Sebastian didn’t get close enough, and in the end we did a real… I’m speechless.

Great stuff, great job indeed. We’ll come across to our race winner, Lewis, that was the perfect example of you never give up, running down with cold tyres at the re-start. Could you predict what was going to happen with Seb?

Lewis HAMILTON: Definitely not. Really quite an emotional race to be honest. Valtteri did such an exceptional job today and really deserved to have the win. Also, Sebastian did a great job. I think it was really, really fortunate today, so it feels a little bit odd to be up here, but I’ve got to take it. I didn’t give up, I keep pushing but definitely a very untidy race from me.

Well, it was absolutely a fantastic race to see, congratulations Lewis. We’ll jump over to Kimi Räikkönen. Tough start to that grand prix, you came together with Ocon. The Clerk of the Course thought it was a race incident. I guess you have a different point of view?

Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Yeah, well, obviously I was inside and I think he probably didn’t see me. It’s pretty difficult sometimes to see. So obviously he just turned in and I was there. It wasn’t ideal the start for me but I didn’t get worse off from that, so I was lucky in that way. A difficult race after that. I tried to come back and at certain moments I felt good but I struggled a bit with the tyres, to keep them warm enough. I just tried to pay the long game and to stay there, expecting issues. It paid off, but it wasn’t easy.


Q: Lewis, many congratulations, win number 63. You’ve already said it wasn’t the easiest – but are you happier with the car this weekend than in China last time out?

LH: A little bit, yeah. In all honesty, I think I struggled throughout the weekend and I’m definitely struggling to extract, I think the car’s potential but also my potential so it’s definitely been a little difficult, particularly the last two races but also with the tyres in Bahrain. But I have to be happy with today. I have to be thankful and grateful for today because it is such a tricky race and you don’t know what’s going to happen: Safety Car comes out and you can lose out and lots of different things happening within this race but what’s important is just to keep your head down and keep going and live to fight another day. I came out in the lead and honestly I couldn’t believe that I was where I was, that I had a Ferrari behind me and I was just praying that I could keep it together, stay focussed and bring it home. So, we’ve definitely got a lot of work still to do, we still are behind, whilst we finished ahead today that was due to, as I said, lots of different circumstances getting in the way. But Kimi was nearly on pole yesterday, two-tenths ahead of Sebastian, their pure pace is a lot ahead of ours at the moment. Then, within the race, I’m sure Sebastian was managing but I’m sure their pace also in the race is a little bit up on ours. We definitely are there in the mix and we’ve not got a terrible car at all, by any means. We’ve just got to refine it a little bit and make it a little bit easier to drive. She definitely isn’t as easy to drive as it was last year. So yeah, that’s what we’re going to continue to work to.

Q: And a sense of relief to be back at the top of the Championship?

LH: Hmmm… I definitely don’t feel relieved at the moment. I have really mixed emotions. Obviously, I could hear constantly I was battling with my team-mate over time, over the pitstop window and ultimately Valtteri had done an exceptional job. Obviously, I did a good job in qualifying and put myself in a good position – but there were a lot of faults in the race, which is rare for me – but I struggled with the car, struggled with the tyres and that’s something I don’t take lightly, so I’ve definitely got to go away from here and work even harder to make sure that there’s not a repeat performance-wise of today for myself.

Q: Kimi, so close yesterday, so close today. Is there a sense of frustration building inside you now, of what do you have to do to win a grand prix?

KR: No, not really, yesterday I can only look in the mirror and the reason is easy to know. Yeah, it was frustrating, as I said earlier, I was taking it easy into the corner and I still managed to throw it away, so that is more painful that just if you happen to know that you have to try something to be fast enough – but that wasn't the case. Yeah, pretty eventful race today. Got a destroyed front wing and tyre in the first few corners. I had a good feeling sometimes but was struggling to switch the tyres on. It was kind of on and off. I had a great many close moments. Even on the way to the grid I was pretty certain that it’s in the wall already but I managed to get it away from it. Too many close calls. The feeling was there but not consistently. I thought, OK, I just try to go as fast as I can and a little bit safer and the Red Bulls, looking at what they were doing earlier in the race it was pretty certain something will happen later on when they get close to each other. Everything changed after that and once put the other tyres on and again it felt OK and it all played into our hands. Very definitely a better day than yesterday but it still… second is not what you want but looking where we were earlier, you take it and we go from there. We know we have the speed. We just have to put things together, and I’m sure it will come.

Q: Checo, great to see you and Force India back on the podium. It’s been a dramatic turnaround by the team over the last month. How confident are you that you can stay where you are going forwards?

SP: Well, obviously, this result is a coincidence of so many things happening but it’s not a coincidence that we are always there to take anything that is offered to us. I think our battle is not here, to be honest, it’s the midfield and finally we got plenty of points today with this podium, that we can close up the gap to the cars ahead, to the Renaults. I think we were definitely the fourth-best team this weekend. In two weeks’ time, we have a very important challenge. Barcelona is where really the car is… you show all of your potential there. It will be very interesting to see where we are. I believe that we are making good progress. Up to now we only had one point as a team. It’s definitely a massive motivation for all the boys that are doing a fantastic job. They did an incredible job with the stops. With the strategy. Yeah, what else can I say? Amazing job.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Kimi, you’ve had a lot of bad luck in the races this season. You’ve had some big results go amiss through no fault of your own. Do you feel that you got a bit of that luck back today and how important is this for you to really kick on for the rest of the season?

KR: Well, I wouldn’t say that I have had a lot of luck over the years, but I don’t count on luck. You cannot count on that. I think you get what you deserve in a way and sometimes you are a bit luckier than other times but if I take over the years, I’m far from on the positive side yet. Maybe today certain things worked in our direction but then whatever happened in front of us are self-made issues in many ways. Stay out of trouble in this kind of race and definitely knowing what happened last year, it’s going to pay off. I’m more happy that I have the speed  - I know that I have the speed. We just didn’t do it: the mistake yesterday and some issues earlier. That’s the main thing, that we have the speed. We just need to put it together and I’m sure that we can do even better.

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Lewis, we didn’t see Valtteri hit anything; did you see him hit anything on the lap he had in front of you? Do you think there was still debris around the area where Romain had crashed before?

LH: For me it was impossible to see. I was obviously chasing Valtteri and it was so blurred, the vision is quite blurred at that high speed so all I could see was a few things fly away from his car and his speed reduced massively so I lifted and I didn’t really know what had happened, so I couldn’t tell you. And I couldn’t see any debris on the straight but the guys were telling me there was some debris there but there was also debris where Grosjean had crashed. It was all on the right side, before the left, fast lefthander so I can’t honestly say where it came from.

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Kimi, Checo hit you on the first lap, then you had the incident with Ocon. Was your car damaged for the rest of the race? Did you feel there was something lacking there?

KR: Honestly, I don’t know. Obviously we destroyed the front wing and right tyre but then they changed the front wing so I didn’t check the car at all. Then also, I think on the first lap, after the restart, on the little kink, coming on the last part of the straight, I hit the inside wall at full speed so I’m pretty lucky that the front wheel didn’t go. I was expecting to go quite fast but I was lucky. It felt OK, the car, honestly. I struggled a bit with the tyres sometimes but apart from that I’m sure there wasn’t big damage.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you mentioned that you think Ferrari’s still a bit ahead of Mercedes at the moment. We saw exceptional pace from you in Australia, you’ve sort of struggled since then. So do you think that in order to get back on terms with them or get ahead it’s going to be upgrades that you require or just unlocking more from the package you have at the moment?

LH: I think the performance upgrade battle will be important, to see how that development goes between both teams, so that will definitely be important. I think more unlocking the potential of the car. Australia, we started on the right foot on the Friday and it progressed and got better and better. Since then, every weekend we’ve generally started a couple of steps – at least – behind the Ferraris and struggled to catch up. So whilst there has been a lot of work that has been done, we are still, today, performance-wise, we are still behind them. If you look at them, they had a little bit more downforce this weekend yet they were a little bit slower on the straights but quicker through all the corners. The middle sector was always three tenths up, three or four tenths up, which we just couldn’t catch up so their package really suited this track perfectly, I would say. Maybe ours did in Australia but I would imagine they just didn’t unlock their potential in that race, particularly, and since then have. But I don’t think we’re under any illusions that we have the fastest car or that we don’t have work to do. We know that. Everyone’s working as hard as they can but we’ve got to keep pushing, really got to keep pushing. I’ve got to figure out how to get on top of this car a little bit more. Australia, as I said, I was really comfortable with it and since then I’ve not been and I don’t really know why, so I’ve got to try and work on that.


Friday 27 April 2018

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: FIA Team Members' Press Conference

Paul Monaghan (left), James Allison (centre) and Mario Isola (Right)
Photo Credit:
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Paul MONAGHAN (Red Bull), James ALLISON (Mercedes), Mario ISOLA (Pirelli)


Q: Paul, if we could start with you and deal with the here and now, Max Verstappen had a crash in that FP1 session. What can you tell us about the state of your car?
Paul MONAGHAN: It’s not survived unscathed, so we’ve got a front-left corner to change, we’re underway with that. There’s a little bit of bodywork repair to do on the left-hand side, change the floor, rear wing, that sort of thing. It’s time-consuming but recoverable. So, with a following wind we’ll get him out in P2.

Q: Have you spoken to Max, do you know what caused the accident? 
PM: It’s difficult to know what caused it to swap ends under braking. Nothing’s broken, nothing’s gone wrong. I think he’s braked pretty much in the same point so we’re having a hunt through to see what may lie underneath that but I don’t think there’s anything sinister in it and he’ll be out in P2 – and he’ll be quick, don’t worry.

Q: Max’s problems aside, the team has hit the ground running this year with RB14, fastest lap in two of the opening three races and, of course, that terrific victory last time out in China. Just how much can you achieve with that car this year?
PM: We ought to have that chat in Abu Dhabi really, and then we can put facts to it. It really comes down to what the gentleman to my left does and what other competitors do. We will develop at the best pace we can, we’ll try to operate the car in the most competitive way we can and, actually, we’re judged by our opposition, aren’t we? We’ll do what’s in our control, get to the end of the year, be as quick as we can and if we’re in the hunt, we’re in the hung.

Q: And what can you tell us about updates? Have you got stuff coming in Barcelona? Is there a big chassis upgrade there?
PM: I don’t think there’s a race where we don’t have any updates. The magnitude of the updates varies race to race, as I’m sure it does for other people as well. There might be a few more changes in Spain – you’ll have to wait and see.

Q: Mario, if we could come to you now. You gapped the tyre compounds in China, leap-frogging the supersoft tyre. How successful was that approach? What feedback have you had from the teams?
Mario ISOLA: I feel it was successful but obviously, the Safety Car changed a little bit the situation. So, we had a two-stop race but mainly due to the Safety Car – but it’s interesting to see that the top teams – Ferrari, Mercedes – decided to qualify in Q2 with a soft compound in order to have this opportunity to start the race with a different tyre. So, we created a bit of difference in strategies also at the beginning of the race. It was the same in Bahrain where all the three compounds were suitable for the race and all the teams used different combinations, different strategies. This is the target we can achieve.

Q: The desire pre-season was for two pitstops in each grand prix – but one stop has been possible at all of the races. What have you got to do to achieve those two stops?
MI: If I look at the target that we have, it’s to have different strategies with different numbers of pitstops possible. Obviously if a team is able to control degradation, they always try to maximise the one-stop strategy – or to use the one-stop strategy. So, what we do when we select the compounds is to try to have a two-stop strategy that is the quickest – but obviously, we have a three-stop and a one-stop that is close to the two-stop but with a delta lap time, a total race time, that is sometimes a few seconds. So, depending on team choice and how they manage the pace, they can change and go towards the one-stop strategy that is always, let’s say, less risky, because you don’t go back in traffic – and we know how difficult sometimes it is to overtake another car – you don’t take the risk to have another pitstop, so to make a mistake in that pitstop, and so on. That’s why when you have strategies that are all very close, all the teams are trying to go in the one-stop direction. But, if we have different cars with different strategies, I think we had a couple of good races with a good show. So, we should continue in this direction.

Q: You announced yesterday your compound choices up to and including the Austrian Grand Prix. Is there a little bit of evidence of a more aggressive compound choice from Pirelli going forwards?
MI: In general, this year we are more aggressive with at least one step. Here in Baku we are two steps softer than last year. This is the direction. To make the right decisions, we need to collect more data. We started the season, for example, the nomination for Baku was 15 weeks ago and had available only the numbers coming from the Abu Dhabi test, end of last season, so we are collecting new numbers, we put the new numbers in our system to generate strategies, and, if it is possible, – we don’t just consider the numbers but also other elements – but if it is possible, we want to move on the softer side in order to have more interesting races.

Q: James, Mercedes are leading the Constructors’ Championship but this is the first time in the hybrid era that you’ve got three races without a victory – so what is the mood in the camp at the moment?
James ALLISON: Well, hungry to get that first victory, obviously! And hungry to follow it up with more. We’d had our chances. We’ve squandered some of them and we would like, dearly, to have a race weekend where we do everything right and get a race win.

Q: Is there any evidence that Lewis is struggling with this car more than Valtteri?
JA: No, I wouldn't say so. No, I don’t think so. If you look at pre-season, Melbourne and Bahrain as well where he was hampered by a gearbox penalty, but he’s been going well.

Q: How do you assess the pecking order so far this year?
JA: It’s tough to do, honestly. We were clearly quickest in Melbourne; it was really close between us and Ferrari in Bahrain and all three teams had a fair shout in China. Probably Ferrari had the edge overall but we looked like we were going to rob them with a bit of a burglary job in an undercut and then Paul had us over at the Safety Car. So it’s terribly tight – which makes for a great spectacle, gives us a real challenge and is anxiety-inducing and exhilarating in equal measure for us and the teams.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) A question for both Paul and James. From next season we will have an increase in the fuel limit in Formula 1. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the potential this has to change the competitive order. Do you think there is enough of a difference in the fuel efficiency of the different engine manufacturers to make a bit of a difference?

PM: Honestly, I can’t answer your question, because I can’t tell you how fuel efficient the Ferrari or the Mercedes is, not from their measured sheets, we can make an estimate. Will it change the competitive order, I don’t believe it will, no. What you’ll find is… let’s take the ideal scenario, by which the Red Bull is the quickest car next year. We’ll get first and second on the grid, other people will be behind us and then in the race you’ll have 110kg of fuel to burn. If we all need to lift off a certain amount at the beginning of the race then you’re not going to change the order very much. What will happen is, let’s say if our engine is less fuel efficient, then we won’t be lifting off but we will go off the line slightly heavier. If anything, what we will avoid is all the people lifting off the straights to try and save the fuel, which I think will be better for the overall spectacle.

James, anything to add?
JA: No, very similar. I don’t think it will change the order one iota, but people don’t really like the lift-and-coast spectacle and it will reduce that somewhat at the very heavily fuel-limited tracks. However, not all the tracks are heavily fuel-limited and there it will make no difference at all.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, To Paul and James: after the Ferrari report of their incident in Bahrain was shared with the teams, have you in way changed your pit stop procedures and operations?
JA: No, is the answer.
PM: We’re the same; we’ve not changed anything

Q: (Ben Edwards – Channel 4) To Paul and James: just a quick question about the rule change on the ability to fit mirrors on the Halo. I just wondered if teams had looked into that at all yet and if it’s something we will see in the future?

PM: Now there is some clarity, I guess we know that we can now put mirrors on Halos, so if someone wants to go down that route and try to fulfill the other requirements in the TD, which are not trivial to observe, then yes, we will see it in a few races’ time. Whether or not you actually can make it work I think is more tricky.

JA: Yeah, it’s not a rule change, it’s a clarification of the existing rules and it is tough. It is tough to attach to attach a mirror and not make it wobble around and satisfy all the criteria of the TD that clarifies what you can and can’t do.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Again to the two technical delegates on the stage. If we look at the post-2020 regulations, where they’re talking about doing away with some of the heat energy recovery systems and increasing rev limits and fuel flow and whatever. Could we see a return to pit stops with refueling or are we just going to go to the line with cars weighing 50 or 60 kilos more than they do at the moment?
JA: Well, there would need to be a change that would allow refueling back into the sport for that to happen. If refueling was allowed it’s quicker to do a race that way, but I’m not sure that’s part of the package of things that is currently on offer for 2021. Does that answer your question?

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Then the weight is going to go up drastically?
JA: Well, the weight will be whatever the fuel allowance is, won’t it?

PM: It’s difficult to answer your question Dieter, because we haven’t been presented with a set of technical regulation proposals for 2021. You could up the fuel flow rate to the engine and not give us any more fuel flow for the race, in which case your off-the-line weight doesn’t actually change but will never attain the qualifying fuel flow rate. So, as James had said, we don’t have refueling at the moment, we could, but if that’s not in then you are correct in that the potential is for the car weight to go up off the line.

Would you like to see a return of refueling? 

PM: No idea, actually. We looked at it a while ago and from memory of the simulation work done within Red Bull, I suspect all the teams’ strategies would converge on the same thing, because you no longer have an ever-decreasing car weight, you reset every time. You‘ll pick the quickest way to do the race, the pit stops get a little bit longer, and if we all sit there doing the same thing then what we have done is to put a big valve in the side of the car.

JA: It’s to be assessed carefully but the refueling strategies are more predictable and allow less variation in the race and less surprise in the race than non-refuelling strategies, because once you put a chunk of fuel in your car, you have to stop on the lap where you run out, or a lap or two before and everyone knows when that is going and it just stops the surprise undercut or the chance overcut that comes with the current regs.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) James, last season Mercedes faced a sustained challenger from Ferrari, which mean that you were having to react to having an extra car or two in the competitive picture from the beginning. This year it looks like Red Bull is in the mix too. Apart from simply adding two more cars to the equation, how much more difficult has that made Mercedes’ life and how have you responded to that challenge.

JA: Well, time will how we respond to it. Hopefully we respond to it by being nicely competitive and at the front of the pack. But that will be very difficult, because these are two very strong competitors. Having six cars that can have a claim on the top step of the podium makes it a headache for all six that are doing that. All we can do is try to make our car as quick as it can be, with the developments we bring in the factory and then have a weekend, every time we come out here, where we make no mistakes, and hopefully other blink, and others maybe don’t develop quite so strongly. But these are three very strong teams, so it makes for an exciting prospect.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Channel 4) Question for Mario: have you had any feedback on the ultrasoft performance from the first session, because we heard Seb’s radio message where he said these tyres are toast and we know that Kimi’s only got one set of supers? Has there been any feedback?

MI: I think we have a lot of track evolution, which is typical of street circuits like this one. The circuit was with a lot of dust and so we need to wait for FP2 to understand the real performance of the three compounds. It’s not a surprise that the level of grip in general is very low so we will see. There is also the wind that sometimes affects the performance or changes the braking points and so on, so let’s wait and see what happens in FP2.

Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Mario, several teams including Mercedes have found it harder to find the sweet spot with the 2018 Pirelli tyres. Have you been surprised by that? And to Paul and James, how has been the tyres’ measurement from your own perspective? 

MI: No, I’m not surprised because when we have a working range, we give an interval of temperature where the tyres are working but there is always a peak and when you have three teams with the cars so close, they are looking for any hundredth of a second to find the best performance in the tyre. That means that it’s very difficult to find the sweet spot, even if you have a working range that is wider. To develop new compounds, especially the softer compounds we started from the soft from last year - that was the one with the wider working range, so the approach was this one, trying to increase the working range but as I said, it’s not flat performance from eighty to 110 degrees, you always have a peak and if a car is able to stay in that position, they have a performance advantage.

JA: Well, we have generally got it right in the race, so we’ve generally had the tyre working very nicely in the races, pre-season and in these opening rounds but we have not always got it right in qualifying, to make the tyre wake up and play on the single lap and that’s our job to do. It’s eminently do-able and it’s going to be fun when we get it right every time.

PM: To answer your question, I don’t think it’s any more difficult than it’s been the past few years. Once you’ve identified what you want to try and do with it, if the drivers and teams get it right then we can find it. I think it’s an evolution of what we’ve learned for the last few years.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, To the two technical delegates: there’s been this talk about the $150m budget cap which applies predominantly to technical issues and race operation issues because marketing etc are excluded. James, specifically your team, which is one of the biggest budgets on the grid and also to Paul, is it actually realistic to expect a team to cut back to $150m in two years’ time? 

JA: Well, I think the answer to that is probably a little above my pay grade. You want to probably pitch that towards Toto but what I would know is that this is the opening point of what will be a fair amount of discussion between the teams and Liberty over the coming weeks and months, and I’m sure that a position will eventually be agreed that works for all parties.

PM: I would agree with what James has said. We will see where the discussion goes and we’ll set the team up to suit the rules as they evolve and become clearer.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Another question for James and Paul: over the last few months, there’s been plenty of discussion over FIA personnel leaving and joining different teams on the grid; in fact one of those is starting his first Grand Prix weekend here with Renault. One of the suggestions has been that that could lead to a bit of mistrust from teams about what they can and can’t present to the FIA for fear of it eventually being taken elsewhere. Has there been any evidence of that so far and do you think that is a serious issue going forward? 

PM: It is a serious issue. It has been discussed in other forums, shall we say. I believe that there is now a non-disclosure agreement between the FIA, F1 and all the teams, so our data is at least protected. People move between the teams, so knowledge is transferred in that respect. I suppose someone in a governing body with access to all the teams’ areas could be a prize catch and I believe that there are changes afoot to limit how… what a gardening period and after that it’s a process that we are all at risk to, I guess.

JA: I think your question was whether there had been any evidence of that? No, the FIA have always treated our data with unimpeachable fairness and discretion and there’s no evidence at all that there’s been anything other than that, even with a couple of people leaving so no.


Thursday 26 April 2018

PSRX Volkswagen Sweden look to build on winning start

PHOTO CREDIT - PSRX Volkswagen Sweden
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden and defending World Champion Johan Kristoffersson were declared victors of the season opener at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona after championship rival Mattias Ekstrom was disqualified after making contact with Petter Solberg at Turn 1 in the final. 

“What happened in Barcelona wasn’t so nice [the first corner incident for which Mattias Ekström was excluded], but that’s history now," said Solberg. "We forget about that and move on to this race. And these are exciting times for the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team, we have some small upgrades coming for the car – nothing major, but they all count. It’s fine-tuning."

As the idiom goes: "One man's loss is another man's gain." In this case, Johan Kristoffersson gained from his rivals misfortune. “Barcelona was a good weekend that turned great for me. I have to admit, the first heats were not so strong, I was struggling to get comfortable with the car in the really wet conditions," said Kristoffersson. "We had made some changes to the Polo R Supercar and trying to find the feeling when there is virtually no grip and certainly no consistent grip is so difficult. I worked with the team and the engineers and by Saturday afternoon things were looking good – even better when the sun came out on Sunday!” 

Round one was eventful, but it concluded with a win for Johan Kristoffersson, the lead in both drivers’ and teams’ championships and a very successful start to the defence of both titles. PSRX Volkswagen Sweden now aim to build on the winning start to the season. 

Montalegre, Portugal is a race that has suited the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden drivers well in the past; Petter Solberg and Johan Kristoffersson have only lost one final in four years at the Montalegre track.

“I love this track. I won here twice and I was close last year before I got the puncture. This year I would really love to go back there and finish that job. This is a real rallycross track with some really nice corners and grip changes," says Solberg. "It’s somewhere that you can really lean on the car and have a good go. Fantastic."

Located in Portugal’s far north, Montalegre nestles in rolling hills and mountains overlooking the Spanish border. But, with an altitude of close to 1000 metres, the weather can vary from warm spring sunshine to heavy rain and near freezing conditions.

“Last year Petter and I were pretty strong in the heats, but that didn’t transfer to Sunday afternoon. I scored my first podium with PSRX Volkswagen Sweden with third place, but there was a bit of frustration when we left," said Kristoffersson. "It’ll be good to get back to this track and make more progress from last season. I think we have good potential in Portugal.

The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo R looks to be a very competitive car. The Polo R is based on the 2017 chassis with some cooling and aerodynamic updates. “I wouldn’t say this year’s Polo R Supercar is necessarily any faster than last year, but what we have from Volkswagen Motorsport is a car which has a wider window of performance; you don’t have to have the absolutely perfect set-up to get confidence, feeling and grip from the car this season. To know you’ll be able to react to weather or condition changes quickly really helps so much," Solberg said.

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Image Credit - PSRX Volkswagen Sweden

2018 Azerbaijan GP: FIA Thursday Drivers Press Conference

DRIVERS – Daniel RICCIARDO (Red Bull), Nico HÜLKENBERG (Renault), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas)


Q: Daniel, if we could start with you, last time you were in the press conference room you were very emotional after winning in China. Having had two weeks to reflect on it, why did that win mean so much to you?

Daniel RICCIARDO: I haven’t had many, I guess, so they still feel very special. The wins. I guess ithad been a fairly long time since Baku. A pretty long time between drinks, the last win and the whole race, I guess the weekend in Bahrain, the kind of… I just feel that the biggest disappointment in racing is being out of the race at the beginning, y’know, before it’s really started. You’re out of the race on the first lap or something, it’s tough – because you’ve worked all weekend to get to the Sunday and then it’s over like that. After Bahrain, I was obviously relieved to have a race the weekend after and have a chance to back it up. Well, to try again. And then yeah, the whole weekend, Saturday, FP3, another kinda head-down moment, but then to get out for qualifying and how the race turned out. It was cool. I guess jsut a lot emotion, happy emotions for sure. Yeah. The highs and lows of the sport can do that to you.

Q: Have you seen enough from Red Bull Racing to think about the Championship this year?

DR: Probably haven’t seen enough from everyone yet! So, I’m not thinking about the
Championship in that sense. Obviously, I want to think about being there. But yeah, naturally because we won everyone’s asking can we fight for the championship now? It’s still early – but I think we’ve proved, if we’re there, we can do a lot with it. That’s the plan: to continue to be there for the next few races.

Q: Nico, coming on to you, you’ve qualifying seventh at every race since Mexico last year. You’ve only been out-qualified by a team-mate once in the last 27 races. It’s an impressive stat, so let’s start by talking about qualifying. Have you made a step in this area?

Nico HÜLKENBERG: I think I’ve just managed to… yeah… to hit it on the head each time. I quite enjoy qualifying, I like getting out there where it counts and putting a lap together. I feel also the last 20 or so races I also had a car that allows me to do that and gives me the support that a driver needs also. Since last year, with this generation of cars, when you have the downforce, you’ve got more grip to work with. It’s just been a bit more fun and probably helps the way I drive also, a little bit.

Q: Let’s talk about where Renault are battling in the Championship. It looks, at the minute, a tight fight between yourselves, Haas and McLaren for fourth. Is this where you see yourself destined this year – or do you think you can start to challenge the guy on your left?

NH: No, I think for now it’s more, like you say, about Haas and McLaren, these kind of teams, to try to keep them at bay but it’s very tight. Each weekend will be a bit different depending on the tyre compounds, different tracks and layouts. What favours one car more than another one. But for sure it’s a big development race in the midfield also. But yeah, we’re trying to get ahead but still got a lot of areas to work on to catch all the three guys ahead.

Q: Kevin, coming on to you. While we’re talking about this battle for fourth place, perhaps we could ask you about Haas. Do you think they can maintain their current level of competitiveness, going forwards?

Kevin MAGNUSSEN: It’s not going to be easy for sure. We’ve started with a good car and done a good job over the winter. I think we’re in this situation and we haven’t had a perfect start to the year so I think there’s more in it if we can get through the races and clear out any mistakes. Then I think we’re in good shape. Whether it will stay like that for the whole year, I think it depends a lot on how the other teams do: obviously, Renault and McLaren. Last year, consistency wasn’t our biggest strength, so I think that’s an area we have improved, it seems. Our car this year is a little easier to work with and seems like it has a broader window for its performance. I’m hoping that we can at least be much more competitive thought the whole season than last year – but whether we can keep up to those big guys, it’s not going to be easy but we’ll do our best.

Q: You mentioned consistency, and one area where you have been very consistent is
qualifying. You appear to have made a big step since last year. Can you explain how that’s come about?'

KM: It’s only been three races but I think the car is obviously better than last year. It’s performing, as I said, it has a broader window for its performance and it’s easier. You can set it up for what you prefer as a driver, in your driving style and it will still work. It’s just a little easier to drive. A little more forgiving, more predictable and it obviously has more grip. In terms of aero it’s more consistent. I prefer a consistent car, especially on the rear, a rear that I can trust and depend on and predict. This car has a good consistency in that regard. I think that helps – but generally just being more competitive makes things easier.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD) Question for Daniel. You won in China from sixth place. Only one of the previous 72 races, there has been a driver starting outside the top five who also won. That was you, here in Baku. What is your secret? Is it patience? Can you tell me something about it?

DR: I’d like to qualify on the front row. It’s not always the case. I don’t know. Obviously the race is the race and qualifying is super-important in the sport but you can also have a different car on Sunday. You can take more opportunities and more opportunities can present themselves in the race – and that’s ultimately what we get to the weekend for, is the Sunday. The race obviously had the mid-race safety car in China and bunched everyone up and gave me a second chance to attack. I sensed an opportunity and made sure I capitalised on that. I think that’s something I really demand from myself and, I guess, expect from myself. A bit like Baku last year. Mid-race we were at the back but it was kinda just… you see a car in front and you try to pass them, you see the next car, you try to pass them, you see the next car and try to pass them. Obviously, I knew Seb was going to have the penalty, Lewis had the headrest thing. It was crazy – but again I sensed an opportunity and knew the restart was super-important to try to pass the Williams in front and in the end, for me that was the race-winning move, so I think yeah, just being aware of what’s available.
Because we’re not winning every weekend, when you have a sniff of a victory, that’s all the
motivation and the hunger I need. It’s enjoyable when you can see it in front of you. 

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Question for you Daniel, you have a big decision to make at some point over what you do for next season, which team you’ll be driving for. Red Bull is an environment you know extremely well, it will be a big change of scenery if you did go to another team. Lewis was in a similar situation a few years ago, left McLaren for Mercedes. How curious are you to find out if the grass is greener somewhere else?

DR: It’s a good way of putting it. I don’t know. The curiosity will not overcome the facts, I guess, in terms of what options I will have, I guess and then which car is ultimately the fastest I can be with. Obviously that’s really top of my list. So yeah, I wouldn’t just… to answer that differently, I wouldn’t just go somewhere else just for a change. If I did move on obviously I’d want to make sure it was something I feel would potentially be better. That’s all really.

Q: As a follow-up to that, do you feel a loyalty to Red Bull?
DR: There will always be a bit of that, for sure. It’s kind of like, the start of it, 2008, it’s ten years since I was in the Red Bull Junior Team. So it’s a long time and they really set it up for me, to make all this happen. There will always be that. At some point you’ve got to weigh-up what does what but regardless, there will always be something and I’d always show love, I think, nonetheless.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Daniel, you said you can go to one place potentially better. After watching the last race, we saw Kimi competing for Sebastian, not for himself, and he was faster than Sebastian all the weekend, except in qualifying. Aren’t you worried that eventually, if you consider the possibility of Ferrari, that people you ask the same function as Kimi, to work just for another driver and not for himself, being a world champion like him?

DR: These are certainly things that I would… wherever I may be, or go, I would always make sure that there was some clarity. I wouldn’t want to go somewhere where I didn’t feel I had a chance. At the moment that’s what I’m chasing is to try and be world champion. That’s my goal, my dream, something I really believe I’m capable of, so yeah, if someone said ‘we’ll let here but you can’t do this’, that’s not an attraction option to me. Is that the case somewhere? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what’s going on with other teams. At Red Bull there’s always been really good clarity and I would say fairness, since 2014, since I’ve been there. That’s been certainly a nice  environment and I would expect that environment everywhere.

Q: (Louis Dekker - NOS) A question for Nico, Kevin and Daniel. How surprised are you that Mercedes didn’t win yet and do you think it might change this weekend? Is it good for the sport?

NH: I think there have always been some circumstances that stopped them from winning. In
Melbourne it was a safety car, in Shanghai as well, in Bahrain I don’t remember. I tend not to look at their race so much. I think they will get a shot at it pretty soon. Again, I think they have one of the best packages, so it’s just a matter of time.

KM: Nothing to add to that.

Are you surprised?
KM: Oh yeah, very surprised.

DR: They’re still very competitive and probably for circumstances and maybe not executing the perfect race yet are perhaps why. I think it is a matter of time. It is good for the sport, I think, to have that little bit of a change for now, but I don’t think it’s going to be necessarily a trend. As Nico said, I think it is a matter of time. They do have a fast car. They do have certainly a good package. We’ll try to keep holding them out as long as we can. But for sure, I expect them to be strong every weekend. 

Q: (John McEvoy – Daily Mail) Daniel, to what extent have you had any talks with Ferrari or Mercedes or Red Bull about next year, and how would you feel going side by side with Lewis?

DR: So, I’ve only had talks with Red Bull. Even already last year, we’ve been pretty open with each other, and through the media as well, I think everyone is aware they’re interested in keeping me. We’ve had some talks regarding that obviously. I’m aware of other reports, but there hasn’t been anything else. They’re not true, at least up until now certainly not. Lewis: I would love to be challenged against the best and Lewis is arguably up there, so for sure that would be a good challenge. I’ve got a good challenge now obviously with Max and I had Seb, so I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for, but that would be a good challenge.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Daniel, to date Red Bull have managed your career, so you’ve driven for them and they’ve also been your managers. Now at the end of this year you’re on your own. What sort of infrastructure do you have? Do you honestly believe you could negotiate a crucial contract for your future and concentrate on delivering your best on track this year? Do you have a manager? Do you have some advisers? What do you have?

DR: Yeah, I’ve got a small little group, a network, around me and as far as the real negotiations go. I’ve got a guy doing that for me. Look, I’m obviously super aware and invested in what I want and where I see myself I guess, but as far as the real in-depth talks and all that, I think it’s best for me not to really focus on that too much. I’ve been getting asked the same questions since Austin, since Max re-signed. I think it was in Austin. So, it’s been probably been more than six months now, and it hasn’t got me. I don’t over complicate it. I guess with the people around me I keep it pretty small and I’m happy with that.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Daniel, as a follow-up to the earlier question. Could you
specifically rule out that you have any kind of pre-arrangement with Ferrari, because that’s what the reports have been in Italy?

DR: No, that’s not true. Yeah, I can say that.

Q: (Ralf Bach – Autobild Motorsport) The question goes to Daniel…

DR: I’m going to buy these guys a drink… Jeez!

Q: (Ralf Bach – Autobild Motorsport) You’re brave driver, I expect now a brave answer. Do you think you would have won the race in Bahrain with the Mercedes in this situation?

DR: Oh, I answered this question in Shanghai. I know you weren’t in Shanghai. All I said is that I would have tried. I don’t want to say tried like… I would have had a look in Turn 1. If it worked, I don’t know, I don’t want to say it, because I wasn’t in the race and it’s probably not fair, and it’s probably a bit disrespectful when I wasn’t in Seb or Valtteri’s shoes. But I would see myself having a lunge for sure, so that’s the way I would answer it.

Q: (Maksudov Teymur – Daniel, Baku was the only race you won last year, and how do you feel now when you are again here and does it give you more confidence before the current race?
DR: Well done, Baku. I’ve been waiting to say that. Felt good! Obviously some good memories. I think when you come back to a track that you’ve had success on, I don’t think it necessarily changes your confidence. I think every race you go to you come prepared and that gives you confidence. So I’m not coming here thinking I’m going to be better than I was last week or anything like that, but there is a good feeling. There’s a nice feeling coming back, some good memories, so there are happy thoughts, I guess, and that’s nice. But the approach to the on-track stuff and the way I’ll approach the weekend, that doesn’t change. 

Daniel, you’ve had fastest lap in two of the opening three races. Are you favourite this

DR: I wouldn’t go that far! Maybe a fan favourite, is that what you're saying? I hope we’re
close, but I think it’s too early to say we’re favourites. I think we have a good race car for sure. I think one-lap pace we’ve still got to show a bit more. At least for Saturday I think we’ll
probably not be there but Sunday, who knows, that can turn around.

Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) I was going to ask you Daniel, but the question fits all three drivers: the three of you have had a better start to the season than last year and I know the season is still long but does this give an amount of confidence, a boost?

KM: Yeah, definitely, it’s a much better season, getting off better at the start of the season so yeah, I would say the answer is yes, it’s a nice feeling and it’s more and enjoyable and easier to look forward to the races when you know you’ve got a good car and can fight for points.'

NH: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely fun if you have a good couple of races and straightaway you get a couple of points and good results on the board. For sure that helps yourself, you know, but also the whole team, all the people are working hard; back in the factory, it puts a spring in their step and helps to create a good atmosphere and motivation inside the team.

Q: And Nico, how are you enjoying the intra-team battle with Carlos Sainz this year?

NH: I enjoy it, it’s good so far.

DR: Yeah, I think the team one’s a big one. For sure it’s getting a good start like that it’s… there’s a lot of people back at the factory and for them to have that kind of motivation and that drive, it’s a long season and to get that kick-started early with some results is really important. I definitely feel that and believe that so that’s cool and I think from a personal point of view I think it’s just nice to get the season started well, because there’s a long break, obviously, between the… the off-season, then you do your training and you obviously prepare as well as you can so when that then corelates to good results on track that’s also a little bit rewarding.

Q: Bahrain was only two races ago for you guys, are you worried about reliability?

DR: I don’t want to use the word worried because, at least from my point of view, I’ve just got to drive the car. In a way it’s out of my control so I’m not going to drive around worried. You’re going too fast and too focused to be worried, but yeah, right now I’m not really in the short term. Maybe once we get later in the season it’s likely we’ll come across some penalties or whatever but right now… baseline chill.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) We know now that next season Formula One is going to raise the fuel limit slightly. From your perspective, do you feel a bit too forced to manage your races at the moment and do you think this is going to make a significant difference in terms of flat-out racing next year?

NH: Yeah, it will definitely help the fuel saving situation and not really having to worry about that too much, on that front, definitely allows you to push to the limit. Obviously it’s not always just about fuel sometimes, it’s linked in with what the tyres are doing, how they behave. Weekend for weekend that’s quite different. There might be some of that left still but for sure it’s a positive thing I think and in the right direction.

DR: Yup, I don’t see any real loss for the… Like races like Melbourne, that’s quite a high fuel
demand circuit – there’s probably a better word but you know what I mean. So there’s a lot of lifting during the race, a lot of fuel management I guess. We all do it, part of us, like now, we’re all used to doing it but for sure it’s going to be better if we can race with real intentions for every lap.

KM: Yeah, I think it’s good that it’s been raised. There are some races during the year that can be really really tricky like Russia for example, it can be almost ridiculous there. So it’s nice to see that going up so you can push a bit more. I don’t mind a little bit of fuel saving… sometimes even before you had these limitations, like five years ago they were doing some management because they would start the race with an anticipation of safety cars or whatever. A little bit is fine but sometimes it’s too much. I think it’s a good change. 

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Daniel, what exactly are you looking for in your next contract? You’ve been reported as saying you don’t want anything longer than two years because Formula One’s going to be changing post-2020. The other top teams have all got somebody established in there already. What are you actually looking for? You’ve said you’ve got key requirements that you want, what are they, please?

DR: Did I say key requirements, Dieter Rencken? I don’t really know how to answer any more contract questions. I don’t know if I’m getting bored of it but no, look, the real requirement obviously is to try and put myself in a position to win a World title. As I said, it doesn’t mean where I am currently is not that place but I think that’s why I’m trying to take my time with it because it’s still too early. Obviously we won the last race, that was great but realistically we need to win more than just once in the season to fight for a title so that’s why I’m going to take my time, but that’s the priority for sure and I guess the financials and all that are definitely behind that.

Q: Daniel, how concerned are you about the regulations post-2020?
DR: I guess I haven’t thought about it too much. We’re aware of it but I don’t know if I’m concerned about it. I don’t know. I feel like every year something changes, as in like life changes, things change, so looking beyond, like two years after this, seems like a long way away so that’s more for that but for the sport itself, I think all us drivers will do what we can to make it – any change – to make it for the better, we will, for the racing, for the atmosphere, for all of that. We are, let’s say, investing some time in those discussions, amongst us drivers, but I’m not necessarily concerned about the sport or where it’s going. But yeah, for me personally, I think just thinking about 2021 now seems like a long time away.

Q: (Ralf Bach – Autobild Motorsport) Daniel, my last question about your future, for the moment: you said you didn’t speak with Ferrari or Mercedes at the moment, only with Red Bull. But are you patient enough to wait, that people come to you or do you have a deadline maybe in summertime and nobody, apart from Red Bull, was talking to you? Would you then go to the people from Mercedes or Ferrari, to ask what’s going on? Or would you just wait until they come to you?

DR: I guess it’s not a bad question. For sure, like the summer seems fine. I guess I don’t really fear not having a seat next year so I don’t feel that I need to sign something tomorrow or I will have nothing, so I guess for that reason I feel like I can see until the summer what’s happening. If nothing has happened since then, then yeah, I guess I think of Plan B or whatever that is and if it’s only then Red Bull, then that’s where I am at so yeah, but I don’t really feel that I need to push anything until then.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – All of you drive cars with power units that have won races this year: Ferrari and Renault. Mercedes out of first place until now. Can you comment what improvements your partner took for Renault to win the races and also Ferrari?
Q: Your thoughts on the Ferrari power unit this year, Kevin, compared to last year?
KM: Yeah, it’s a step forward, not only in power – a little step in power but in reliability. We need to see a little further to be sure that the reliability is there completely but it seems like it is. No complaints about the power unit. It’s not the power unit’s fault that we’re not winning, for sure.

NH: Yeah, I think for us at Renault it’s the step in reliability that we’ve managed to fix. Obviously the second half of last year we had a lot of problems, lost a lot of points and results and I think they’ve managed to cure and fix a lot of the issues there. On top of that, also worked on a lot of the installation things. Powerwise, I think we’ve made a step too so they’ve done a very good job on the Renault power unit over the winter. Doesn’t mean that there’s not more work to do but I think we’ve done some good improvements.

DR: I think, in race trim, I think on Sundays… I guess it’s no secret we don’t have as much power available on a Saturday as Ferrari and Merc power units but I think on Sunday, when everything kind of settles down and you run a race mode-type of engine, I think we’ve closed the gap on Sundays so yeah, following the quicker cars in China, for example, even Kimi in Melbourne, from what I remember last year, it felt like we were certainly losing out a lot less in those conditions so that was nice, that was positive, for sure.