Friday 31 August 2018

2018 Italian GP: FIA Team Members Press Conference

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Ben AGATHANGELOU (Haas), Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Aldo COSTA (Mercedes), Simone RESTA (Sauber)

Ben, if we could start with you, great to have you with us. Very rainy and wet this morning. We know you were running your new floor because Romain Grosjean told us yesterday. Were you able to get to grips with it?

Ben AGATHANGELOU: I think things were clear already by the end of Spa to be honest, so here in the wet we’re not going to gain that much more this morning, so we’re taking it as a given that things are behaving as we saw by the end of Spa on one car.

Tell us too about the relationship you have with Ferrari. Big upgrades to the power unit this year and you really seem to have benefited in many ways from Ferrari?

BA: Obviously it’s an enormous strength to have Ferrari as a partner and we benefit clearly from the engine. The engine has made a huge step this year and I think we have been able to use it, maybe not so much so in the past. We’ve done a fair amount of our own development, the company is growing, so we’ve managed to extract from all parts of the budget.

Q: Thank you Ben. Mattia, moving on to you: great victory for you and the team at Spa last weekend. Where do you think your advantage over Mercedes lay?

Mattia BINOTTO: Difficult to answer. I’m always more keen to look at the whole package and not try to split it into different factors. I think the difference to Mercedes overall was very small at the end. They have been on pole in quali, so they have been the fastest car, as a matter of fact, and I think that in the race our pace was very similar. So to try to distinguish if there is a little difference, where it’s coming from, is a very difficult exercise. Our package is working well as a whole, from the aero, from the chassis, mechanicals and the power unit and I think that as well in terms of development we are all focused on all the areas.

Q: Now it was this stage last year that Mercedes started to stretch its legs in the championship fight. Is Ferrari in a better position now than it was 12 months ago?

MB: Certainly we are in a better position compared to ourselves, to start with, and if I consider Spa last year, for example, we were not as competitive as we have been this year. I think that since the very start of this season, since the launch of the car, we mentioned and we said that we focused our development in terms of efficiency and to make sure that our car could compete on medium-fast circuit types and I think that somehow we have achieved it. On circuits where efficiency is important, like Silverstone, like Spa, we got good results and I think that is a good base for the rest of the season. So again, compared to last year, I think we can count on a car, which is certainly better in efficiency today. There are still eight races to go, so it’s still long and it will be a long and difficult battle.

Q: Thank you Mattia and good luck this weekend. Aldo, we’ve heard about the Ferrari challenge, how do you and Mercedes assess what Ferrari have done this year? Do you feel they are much closer to you than in the past?

Aldo COSTA: As Mattia was saying, the two cars are very, very close. Yeah, we would say closer than in the past. You mentioned about the last part of the season last year, where we stretched our legs; obviously we hope to stretch our legs again. But we have to see if Ferrari will allow us to do that. It’s a very close fight. Development on development, each race, and we will carry on introducing new performance elements and we will carry on developing the performance of the car as much as we can up to the last race really.

Q: You have announced that you are stepping down as engineering director from the team at the end of this season, but you are going to remain as an advisor. What does that role entail, and how involved will you be with the racing team going forward?

AC: It was, as you can imagine, something that was discussed a long time ago. After having enjoyed an unbelievable amount the experience in Mercedes in the current role – seven years in the UK, really, really fantastic – I did ask the team to start being not in the same position, having a bit more time for myself, for the family, back to Italy and we found together, discussing together, again an opportunity for other people to grow up, to develop the team, so this is what I’m doing, as well as the current role – developing the organisation, developing people, team, mentoring, and by the end of the year my main new function will be, as you said, technical advisor of the team. I will work for James, I will work for my current direct report that will grow up in terms of responsibility and I will carry on mentoring and I will carry on collaborating with the team, developing capability, developing process, but a bit less involved from the timing point of view. In my opinion after 31 years of Formula 1 it is the best compromise for me to carry on being very fully engaged but as well, on the personal, finding better equilibrium.

And more time, as well, to indulge in your passion for driving Formula 1 cars?

AC: Yeah, yeah! That’s a growing passion. I’m part of the Mercedes senior driver programme! It’s important to have a group of driver for the third age of the future, because of the world population, the average age is growing. Joking apart, I’m enjoying a lot driving cars. Mercedes gave me a big opportunity and a friend of mine, who you know very well, Paolo Barilla, gave me another opportunity to test a lot of cars, so yeah, it’s a very nice moment, a nice experience.

Q: You are never too old, Aldo, so good luck with all of that. Simone, so, technical director of Sauber since the beginning of July. How’s it going? How’s life in Hinwil?

Simone RESTA: Well, how’s it going? I think it’s going pretty well. I’m happy with this new journey that just started at the beginning of July. I apologise if I show a lot of emotion, but new job, technical director here in Monza, in our country, is just a lot! With a lot of friends, with Aldo, who was my first boss at Ferrari, with Mattia, who has been a great colleague and a boss recently and also with Ben. It’s a lot, but I feel very happy with that and I think my experience in the Sauber-Alfa Romeo team that started at the beginning of July, I find it very interesting, a new challenge in a different role, there is a lot to learn but it is a good step for me, for my career.

Q: The team is making a lot of progress this season. How competitive do you think you are going to be in the upcoming races?

SR: If I was able to read the future probably I would do something different. Joking apart, the trend so far has been good. I think it’s fair to say that we are slowing down our development rate for the time being, and we are concentrating mostly on next year’s car, which is a big challenge but also a big opportunity for us to close even further the gap to the big ones. I hope we will be progressing a little bit in the next races and that we will be closer and closer to Q3 with both cars.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Mattia, earlier this year we had the FIA’s side of things when they were going through the Ferrari engine checks, just to make sure everything was OK. They had all their understanding of the energy recovery system, that sort of thing. Could you just give us your explanation of how complicated it was to satisfy everything the FIA wanted – and are you happy that you have now ticked every box you need to and you’re OK for the rest of the season?

MB: Obviously, the power unit is a complex element and it has been since 2014. FIA is fully aware of our components and it is our duty as well each time FIA is not fully, let me say, convinced that there is something right or wrong for them to inspect, to understand better. I think it’s simply what happens at the time there is some questions: we answer; we explain and I think that’s what happens. That’s it. FIA certainly is happy, declaring our car legal at every single race, and on our side, honestly, fully happy at seeing the point is completely closed by them.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Another question for Mattia. When you took over your current role, Ferrari was having a difficult season in 2016 – but we’ve seen huge progress since then. Can you just explain, in brief, how Ferrari has managed to turn around from that difficult position into its current position. This upward trajectory. And just explain a bit of your philosophy of how you issue technical leadership to the team to get that result.

MB: Initially, I think it’s fair to say that our team, in terms of individuals, is very strong. We’ve got very high skills; it’s a fantastic team in that respect, whatever are the areas. And from the power unit to the chassis and to the aero. I think what we’re benefitting the last seasons is certainly stability in terms of the organisation, which in F1 is very important, because through the stability somehow you may start to set down a way of working, improve your procedures, your internal process. I think, relative to myself, I’m certainly not an expert in all the areas. 25 years of experience in F1; great time with Ferrari at the race track in the time of Michael Schumacher but always as a power unit man. When I grew up in that final role I think what for me what was important for me was to set the objectives but to make sure that the people were comfortable in their role, understood the internal process and work better not only as individuals but as a team. And where we’ve focussed all the effort is, I think, to make sure that the team was working properly as a team, and forgetting about the individuals. And that’s why, again, I think we are thinking about the car as a fully package, and not try to split down in terms of different components or units because we are a team and what is running is not a power unit or a wing but a full car. So, again, all the effort was to build the team as a team and set the right objectives, deal with them, try to be ambitious. I think that’s somehow what happened in the last two years.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Gentleman, this morning Michelin confirmed that they will not be tendering for the tyre supplier contract, and they gave as one of the reasons the fact that targeted deterioration goes against their objectives for a sustainable and well-engineers tyre. As engineers, how do you feel about that comment. All of you.

BA: OK. I think we can see that the nature of the tyre that we currently run, everyone can see the nature in which racing is governed by the characteristics that we inherit. Obviously, it’s been a massive evolution in the sport over the last four or five years with respect to understanding and managing how we make use, and strategic use of the tyre behaviours that we find. I think ultimately I can’t speak for Michelin’s motivations: they’re a great company, I’ve certainly worked with them in the past and they were more than capable of delivering what their set objectives were – more than that I can’t speak on their behalf. Certainly, we’re just in the business of making best use of what we’re given.

MB: Very difficult to judge and to comment. I know that the FIA is dealing with the tender; they are doing it by themselves and have started the process and are setting the targets. We have not been involved in the matter. So, without being involved, difficult to really to give a judgement, but I think as Ben meant. So, it was just mentioned that if Michelin does, somehow, make their choice, certainly they have gone, for them, what is the best choice.

AC: My thought is that we are in front of this usual discussion between what is the best for the show and what is the best for the performance. Of course, for the performance, specifically of tyres, and the current situation is not the best, but for the show, according to the work that has been done, the discussions that we have done for many many years, this was the trend that the strategy group and the F1 community wanted to go. So then I think we need to define the objectives, the objectives need to be defined by the government or at the end by the people that are part of the strategy group and if for the good of the show, the good of the sport, we have to take a certain direction, the single tyre manufacturer has to follow. There are no other chances, really.

SR: We just learn it now. All I can say is that we’ve got a lot of respect for Michelin history, for their story, for their technology and also for their decision. And if their strategy is not (inaudible) with the F1 business model, with the direction we’re trying to develop, I feel sorry for that but it’s one of the times that two roads cannot meet each other at some point.

Q: (Sam Collins – RaceCar Engineering) There’s been talk in the media about the 2019 technical regulations having an even higher rear wing than was originally proposed in the draft regulations which have been amongst all of you so far. Is it a bit late to make changes like that and how would it affect the balance of your car?

SR: I think it doesn’t look to be a dramatic change. Of course, having the rules defined as early as possible helps all of us to just lay down the (inaudible)  of the car and work developing it but ultimately I think everyone has got a big engineering group behind us and we can adapt to it and follow it. And especially in a case like that where it’s done for the purpose of safety, so to improve the safety of the driver.

AC: Yeah, the changes that we are seeing for 2019, I think they were quite last minute changes but we are capable to develop a car in such a time frame so it’s not a big problem per se but the issue may come from the fact that if they will be effectively helping what is the aim, which means improving overtaking and improving the capability of the car to follow, we will have to see if the direction that we wanted to take is exactly what we will reach.

MB: Relative to your question, is it too late or not for such a change, first we need to be honest: you cannot change the regulations if there is not unanimity from all the teams. Indeed the team have accepted it means that somehow we are able to manage and to (inaudible) the change so it’s not something that is imposed, it’s something that we are discussing through the technical working groups and we are all agreeing through our vote, so it has been accepted so whatever change, accepted or not, means we are accepting, we are able to (inaudible).

BA: I think that particular example is just one of many in the way that exchanges happen between the teams and the FIA and actually, with respect to the rear wing in particular, although it was quite late, there was a fair amount of discussion that preceded it that indeed investigated alternative ways of increasing visibility, like reducing the rear wing box height. There was a general consensus that because development had been under way, we were dealing with a wing that fit a particular box and the fact that it shoots up by 50mm isn’t a game-changer, so the maturity, if you like, that precedes a decision is fair and we’re all familiar with that, we’re all party to that.

Q: (Dominik Sharaf – Mattia and Aldo: Liberty Media said that the 2021 engine regulations could be delayed because there is not enough interest by new manufacturers but we know that Porsche, for example, is waiting for a final decision and a final version of the regulations, to decide on their Formula One project. So who do you think should commit first: is it Formula One or new engine manufacturers?

MB: Obviously having new manufacturers is always a good thing so if we are many and more manufacturers there’s more fighting in the championship which is something which is good. By 2020 the Concorde Agreement is finished and by 2021 we have the opportunity to have a new set of regulations on which we are working, together with the FIA and F1 Management. I think that obviously it’s not a matter of delaying or not, it’s a matter of setting something for 2021 which is necessary. Discussions are on-going, we’ve got regular meetings and I think that at the moment we are somehow close to define what we believe is the best compromise or the best solution for 2021.

AC: So my thought: what we have got at the moment I think is a great power unit, it’s a very very efficient system, very modern in terms of layout, quite innovative. So really making something better, ruling something better is not that easy. There has been quite a lot of conversation about it and going in a direction and then coming back. It will take time to define something better for the sport and unfortunately if new manufacturers want to come, they are very very welcome but there is nothing else than competing with the current rules if the rules will stay the same or still waiting for more time for the new formula. There’s no other possibility.

Q: (Christian Menath – Aldo, it looked like Mercedes started with the stronger car at the beginning of the season but I think it’s fair to say that the last races, even for the results didn’t always show it, Ferrari had the better car. In which areas do you think Mercedes was out-developed by Ferrari?

AC: Yeah, between race to race, there is always a variability of performance that is related to many many aspects: type of circuit, tyre management, key performance element of the car itself. So there is for sure… when two cars are very very close in terms of overall package, you will see anyway a variability. So we think we are very very close. We do not think we were particularly faster and we do not think we are particularly slower. As I said, it’s just a matter of variability of races. We see that Ferrari has done big progress in the power unit and we see that we have got two cars that are quite similar, both very competitive and as I said before, it will be a matter of introducing more development, solving more issues and being at the end the best car, not making mistakes, having good reliability will be key because not many results can we lose without impacting the final result, really.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Aldo, talking about your decision about becoming an advisor to the team, I know that you’re wearing a white shirt but when you wore a red shirt, Rory Byrne did something very very similar where he moved out, became an advisor. Is that your blueprint for this, where you will effectively take on a Rory Byrne-type role for Mercedes?

AC: In terms of formal arrangement, maybe yes, yeah, such a type of arrangement but myself and Rory have two different experiences, we’ve got different areas of influence so we are different but more or less something like that.

Thursday 30 August 2018

PART TWO: 2018 Italian GP - FIA Drivers' Press Conference.

PART TWO: DRIVERS - Nico HULKENBERG (Renault) , Charles LECLERC (Alfa Romeo Sauber), Esteban OCON (Racing Point Force India), Sergey SIROTKIN (Williams)

Q: Nico, can we start with you please and take a look back at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix and what happened at the start, specifically talking about the halo because opinion was divided about that prior to the start of the season, even among the drivers? Has your accident with Charles Leclerc changed your mind about the halo?

Nico HULKENBERG: For sure. I think it’s proven pretty useful and a good device. Obviously we can only speculate what would have happened without it but it looked pretty clear from the point that the tyre marks were obviously all over the halo and from that point of view it’s done a very good job, to keep the head safe.

Q: And looking ahead to this weekend, Nico, you’re carrying a ten place grid penalty but what do you think you can do in the Renault?

NH: Yeah, it’s obviously not going to be an easy weekend, carrying that penalty. Monza, perhaps a difficult track for us but it is what it is. We approach this weekend open-minded and want to deliver a good weekend and specially have a good race on Sunday, regardless of where we start or how difficult it seems. It’s always fun to race around here so just look forward to getting back in the car tomorrow and start this weekend.

Q: Charles, what was your over-riding emotion after the race on Sunday?

Charles LECLERC: The frustration to have not finished the race, to be honest. I was just very frustrated because obviously in the last few races we have been quite unlucky. Then looking back at the images (of the accident) we can’t know what will have happened without it (the halo) but obviously I was quite happy to have it over my head and as Nico said, I think it deserves to be in Formula One now, whether it looks good or bad, I don’t think that matters any more.

Q: And we’re at Monza, last European race of the year. There’s quite a lot of talk about next season. Just wondering if there’s any movement on what you’ll be doing in 2019?

CL: For now, not really. For now, I didn’t have any information so I’m just waiting and hopefully I’ll be able to say soon.

Q: Esteban, a lot of chat about 2019 this afternoon, so Spa last weekend was a spectacular result for you. Just talk us through your emotions after the race and how you feel it’s going to impact on your job prospects going forward?

Esteban OCON: Well, thank you very much, first of all. Of course it was a fantastic weekend and a fantastic qualifying, obviously. After tough time, we are back in a great way. It brings joy to everyone in the team, the mechanics, the engineers, everybody was pushing hard and had tough times but that’s totally behind, everyone’s happy now and of course then the cherry on the cake, the fifth and sixth in the race. A good start from me as well and a good result in the end with 18 points and we couldn’t come back in a better way and start in a better way.

Q: Sergey, if there are changes at Force India in 2019, there’s a chance they might affect Williams as well so what can you tell us about your job prospects going forward?

Sergey SIROTKIN: Obviously I can follow on the changes that could probably happen. I’m afraid I don’t know much more than what I can read on the websites but in terms of myself, I think – I’ve said this a couple of times already – I think I quite clearly really know my position in the team. I think I’m quite happy with the job I’m doing for them. They know my position, they know what they can get from me so if you want a concrete answer I’m afraid not right now,  right here, but if I have any worries, I’m afraid (inaudible)

Q: But it felt good to run in the points for the first time last weekend though?

SS: It’s been good to run in the points but the best thing is that finally we have the pace to be fighting, not just me running there because of whatever happened, but because we had the pace for it. It has been a very good weekend. I think we can take a lot of positives from there.


Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Nico, if we go back to Spa last year you are quoted as saying that you are totally anti the halo, not only because it looks stupid but the likelihood is minimal that an accident will happen in which a halo is actually helpful. Do you still agree with that statement?

NH: I think… whilst I am still not a big fan of halo and the device, I have to see the facts and admit that it does bring something to Formula One, especially the safety that we appreciate in the car. Yeah, divided, mixed feelings about it still but it’s not down to me anyway. It is what it is.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Esteban, the result last weekend, the performance in qualifying and the race, did that do anything for you in terms of settling you down for your short term future or are you now more confident about what’s going to happen to you between now and the end of this season, let alone 2019?

EO: Well, I hope it does definitely help. As a driver, the only talk you can do is on the track anyway, so that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment but yeah, still no news, only rumours and talk so as soon as I know more, I will let you know.

Q: (Daniel Majer – Obviously Monza is all about speed and you were not racing under the V10 regulations but at that time, speed records were broken here. If you would chose just for this particular Grand Prix to switch to cars that are much faster in a straightline, would you do that or are the current ones OK?

SS: Honestly, I didn’t know the cars and how they’ve been in those times but I think this year’s cars are quite quick in a straightline. Obviously they’re missing a lot of engine sound but from the pure speed-wise I don’t think they’re any slower than what they’ve been in whatever year you say with the V10s. So yeah, I wish I could try them a couple of times, but if I would swap them for the weekend I’m not sure.

EO: For sure, the sound was amazing back in the days of the V10s, V12s, also V8s were very nice but the cars we are running now, they are breaking all the track records so I think they’re quick enough, 1000 horsepower, amazing speed, so yeah, it’s quite enough.

CL: I think in the same way as Esteban. I think a bit more sound would be nice but again, I’m extremely happy about driving these cars. As you said, we’ve broken quite a lot of records this year; I think it’s one of the fastest cars – probably the fastest car – in F1’s history so very happy to be in this.

NH: Yeah, nothing more to add. Mid-2000s, V10s?

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Charles, as an Alfa Romeo driver and member of the Ferrari Academy, what is your feeling driving in Monza this weekend?

CL: It’s absolutely amazing. Also in the past few years, Monza has always been a track where I’ve always had a lot of support, first being part of the Ferrari Academy  of course and yeah, also this year arriving at the track this morning, you can really see that with the return of Alfa Romeo, an Italian brand, that there’s a lot of interest in us and a lot of people are here for us which is great to see. I actually had more support this morning here than I had the Thursday in Monaco so it feels a little bit like a home race and it definitely gives a big boost to the whole team.

Q: (Fulvio Solms – Corriera dello Sport) Charles, you have a strong Italian side and spent so much time in this country. So which are your best and your worst memories of your Italian period?

CL: My best memory, it’s probably my first ever car win that I’ve had in Italy, in Monza actually, here, in 2014. I can remember I had quite tough first races in car racing and finally I could manage to win my first race here in Monza, so that’s probably my best memory. My worst memory? I don’t have much, to be honest. Probably when my tyre went flat on the motorway next to Maranello, that wasn’t a great memory.

Q: (Joe van Burik – Autocar NL) Charles, following the halo debate that’s gone on after Spa, I was wondering to get your thoughts if you’re more aware of driver safety in F1 following the accident of your friend Jules Bianchi?

CL: Obviously it has been a big shock when I… when we all lost Jules. It was very sudden. I don’t really get the question. Can you repeat it? What do you want me to…?

Q: (Joe van Burik – Autocar NL) Just wondering if you’re more aware of safety maybe added by the halo device, following that accident?

CL: Speaking for Jules, it wouldn’t have helped anything because the cause was not… it was just a shock and the shock was too big. Then I believe that in certain circumstances it can help. If it helped or not at Spa I have no idea but in some circumstances it can help so I think it’s a good thing to have.

Q: (Daniel Horvath - Charles, what about your future, when can we expect some news?

CL: I have no news for now. As I said earlier I’m just waiting for some information and as soon as I know, I will let you know but for now I don’t know.

Q: (Alex Roos – L’Equipe) Esteban, can you explain why Monza is a special GP and how it’s different from the other ones?

EO: I think for a few reasons it’s the temple of speed so the speeds we are achieving are massive. Racing is good because of the long straight, the slipstream. We run low downforce and yeah, it makes great racing overall so that’s the technical part. And then the atmosphere is just very much different to anywhere and the tifosi are amazing fans and they give us a lot of support and they are here, then they are massively here, waiting for us when we arrive at the entrance. It’s such a happy and joyous… everyone’s happy to be here and you don’t live those moments at a Grand Prix everywhere like that and it’s very special.

Q: (Barbara Premoli – Charles, can you explain to normal people like us how your body and mind reacts to a big shunt like the one we saw in Spa last week?

CL: To be honest, I think it looked a lot bigger on TV than it actually was. I felt, obviously, Fernando going over me but it was not like it was a big big shock. So yeah, the only thing I had in my mind is that I was just hoping for some miracle that the car was not damaged enough to go back to the pits but obviously when I looked in the mirrors again I saw that everything was gone so I couldn’t… I just found a way to stop the car and that’s it. But yeah, the images look very spectacular but from inside the car it was not such a big shunt.

PART ONE - 2018 Italian GP: FIA Drivers' Press Conference.

PART ONE: DRIVERS – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari), Romain GROSJEAN (Haas), Sergio PÉREZ (Racing Point Force India)


Q: Romain, welcome to Monza, but I would like to take back to last weekend in Spa where you scored for the fourth time in the last five races. It seems that you’re getting some momentum now in that Haas car, so I just wanted to ask what has changed and why are you happier with it now?

Romain GROSJEAN: Good afternoon. I think the car has been quick since Melbourne to be fair. In the first part of the season I made some mistake that I shouldn’t have done and I got some bad luck as well – there were plenty of times where we could have been in the points. Recently the run is going well and I’m hoping that continues, but to be fair the car has been fast since race one. I think the first races were up and down and they shouldn’t have been that way.

Q: Thank you. Sergio, if we could come to you now, please. You were instrumental in saving Force India, so tell us what the result at Spa last weekend meant to you and how it will likely impact on your future with the team?

Sergio PÉREZ: It was great to see everyone so happy after the tension that we had, not knowing what was going on with all the jobs, including mine and so on. So it was great to get that kind of result for the team. It just shows the potential my team has and I was very proud of that performance. In terms of my position it doesn’t change. I’ve got a contract and I keep performing and I keep delivering at my best. I try to score as many points as possible for the team, to try to get us further up on the grid. It doesn’t change from that perspective.

Q: Thank you and good luck for the weekend. Kimi, coming to you, a man who is seeking his 100th podium in Formula 1 this weekend. A lot of the tifosi here at Monza will be wondering what you’re doing next year, so the inevitable question: when will know more about your future?

Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: I don’t know. At some point, that’s for sure. Probably you can expect anything in here, that’s what I’ve learned over the past, so yeah, we’ll see, I don’t know.

Q: Do you want to come back for more, Kimi? Are you still enjoying the challenge of Formula 1?

KR: I enjoy the racing; I don’t think that’s a secret. The rest not, but that’s part of the job. Do I want to race? Yes, otherwise I wouldn't be here today. I don’t see that’s suddenly going to disappear. Who know, it might be, but I doubt it. Like I said, I don’t know, so we’ll see what happens.

Q: Thank you Kimi, good luck this weekend. Sebastian, thanks for waiting, coming to you now. Spa was a dominant performance by you and Ferrari last weekend. Do you think that pace will translate to Monza this weekend, given the high-speed nature of the track?

Sebastian VETTEL: I don’t know. I think in the end it was less dominant than you might think. In the end, we did well, and it’s good to see that we are able to improve our car. We had some bits and a new engine. So we’ll see. Monza in many ways is a bit similar to Spa, but then again obviously if you look at the track and the actual corners, not just the straights, it’s quite a bit different. We see in the past, I remember some good races here with great podiums but for sure we want more than a podium, but I think we will see what we get starting tomorrow and getting into the rhythm for the weekend.


Q: (Frédéric Ferret – l’Equipe) A question for Kimi and Sebastian. Can you tell us the feeling to be a Ferrari driver at Monza. And another question for Seb, what is the feeling when you win in Monza, even not for Ferrari?

KR: Obviously the driving doesn’t change. It’s our home grand prix, so it’s more busy. We have a lot, a lot of support, a lot of tifosi here, so that obviously makes it a lot different. But if you purely talk pure driving, racing, it’s the same job than any other place. It just happens to be our home race. Obviously it’s an important race for us, for the team, as any race, but it’s for sure special. You feel it straight away when you come here, today or yesterday, in the show in Milan, it’s great. Hopefully we get a strong result from the team not just for us but for all the fans and tifosi.

Sebastian winning here at Monza? Of course it’s 10 years since your first ever F1 victory?

SV: Yeah, it depends which colour, or which engine you have in the back. I mean the first win was overwhelming in many regards. I didn’t realise at the time that I was obviously racing for an Italian team and had a Ferrari engine in the back, so I guess it was sort of OK for the crowd and they were happy too. I thought they were happy because it was me and it was a good race. But then two or three years after I won again in a different colour, they weren’t very happy, so I was wondering a bit what’s going on, because I hadn't done anything wrong, quite the opposite. The story of Monza is in the heart of Italy and where all the tifosi are. I think the last podiums I had, in the right colour, were quite amazing and obviously it’s definitely something I want to achieve, to win here with Ferrari. Others have done it before me and I want to join them.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Romain, Guenther told us earlier that both you guys will have the new floor, after changing last weekend. Can you just explain what the difference was last weekend between then and how you came to the decision to have it on your car here?

RG: Yeah, so last weekend we both had the update on the car and we were not very competitive on Friday, so on Friday night we decided to revert one car to the old spec, just to see the difference and to try to understand and gather a lot of data, which we did. The guys went to the factory and discussed with the aerodynamic department and it was clear that the new package is a good step in a good direction and that we should run it. It does require a bit of adjusting in the set-up, which Kevin did over the weekend using it and which now we know, so I think now we are going to use that new package which should be more competitive.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia EFE) A question for Checo. After all this emotional rollercoaster, what do you expect this weekend here?

SP: Yeah, I think we have a competitive car, we proved that in Belgium. We are coming to a similar track in terms of what you run around here, so I think we should be quite competitive, and the aim is still the same – to try to be the best of the rest and I think we have a good chance of doing that again.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Kimi, your greatest feeling here, is it pole in 2006, as you have not won here?

KR: Hard to say. I don’t think it’s been very good over the years, but I always enjoy coming here. First of all, it’s a nice, great circuit, it has a lot of history. It’s close by from home, so easy to come. I had some good races here for sure, not perfect. I’ve been on the podium with Ferrari once or twice. That’s been good. Not exactly what we wanted but important, so yeah…

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Kimi, you’ve always struck us, over the last 18 years or whatever you’ve been in F1, as a very private individual, yet you recently authorized a biography. I’ve read some excerpts that have been translated and it seems to be fairly open about your lifestyle etc. Why are you willing to open yourself to the world like that?

KR: Probably you had a wrong translation. What about that? No, how is it secret, because I lived through it and there have been an awful lot of stories about it, a lot of things. I don’t know how you think it’s such a secret. I don’t think… it’s something that I decided to do. It’s just a short story until now, it’s not such a big thing in my view. Like I said, I lived through it and it just happens to be now it’s in a book. Probably most of the things a lot of people know, maybe not all, but I don’t feel that there is something different in my view, but obviously probably for you guys it is different

Q: (Daniel Horvath – Kimi, as the oldest driver on the grid, what’s your personal feeling, how long can you perform at this level?

KR: Hard to know. I don’t feel that I drive any differently than 10 years ago. I think I drive pretty well, in my books at least, and that’s enough for me. I wouldn't be here if I didn’t feel I can drive as well as I feel that I should. That my tool to measure and decide when it’s enough. Who knows. I don’t know. Maybe I wake up one morning and I just don’t know how to go fast any more. I don’t think there is a time. It’s more feelings and how do you feel yourself doing it – good or bad. People always say that the speed will disappear but until this day I feel that it hasn’t disappeared for me. But maybe there is a morning you wake up and it’s just not there anymore. It could be like that but I don’t think you just put a date, you just turn this old or that and it’s just not there. If you have it, you have it and if not… that’s it.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Seb, do you feel any greater pressure performing in front of the Ferrari fans and how important do you think a win here would be in terms of your championship chances and the momentum that a victory in front of the Ferrari fans would bring?

SV: I don’t know. If you win you score more points than others, that always helps. You don’t have to be a genius to make that out. Obviously here for us it’s a different story, so I think it’s a bit isolated from the rest of the year in terms of how special it is for the whole team. There are a lot of friends, a lot of family from all the guys here. We are in Italy, in the home country of Ferrari and I think everybody, not just us drivers, not only the Ferrari drivers, everybody can feel and sense that there is something special going on and I think we have probably the two most special seats this weekend but there are a lot of seats and there will be a lot of people, so to be honesty, looking forward to it. Yesterday was a great way to start the weekend, with the event we had in the city and there were a lot of people and to see how excited they are is definitely different than any other race where I thought people were already excited, but they’re more excited here. So looking forward to getting out in the car and just to look for the same sort of satisfaction and feeling we had last weekend. The car is performing so we hope it stays that way and to make it even better.

Q: (Fulvio Solms – Corriere dello Sport) A question for Sebastian. Why after your victory in Belgian nobody in your team, neither you nor anybody else, remembers so big a figure like Sergio Marchionne?

SV: I don’t think that’s fair from you to say. One is the comments we give in the press but we are aware just how big he has been, not just for our team, but for the whole group behind and obviously knowing him he was a big supporter of Ferrari, of racing, and he was interested in going ahead and at some point you have to let things rest and look forward and I think that’s probably the way he wanted it to be and it’s probably a sign of respect, that you’re not trying to dig something up and especially in times like now, let things rest.

Q: (Alessandro Sala – Tercer Equipo) Question for the men in red, the first one to Sebastian. If this year you should be World Champion, we should read next year ‘my five titles’ biography? And for Kimi, both Ferraris first row, at the beginning of the first variante, which should be your move if you are side-by-side with Sebastian?

SV: I’m not planning to write a book. I’m not sure I can compete with Kimi. I haven’t read it because it’s in Finnish but… yeah… I mean. If that would be an idea for the headline, obviously that would be great if it happens to be like that but there’s a lot of would and should and could. So, not interested at that point. Yeah, as I said, I don’t think my book is as exciting. Maybe need to wait more years.

KR: I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously our aim is to be with both cars in the front and then see how it plays out – but obviously we know what we can do. We can race each other and we always try to beat each other but to be fair at the same time. I don’t see anything different on that

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Sebastian, given the advantage you enjoyed at Spa, is it something you think Mercedes can come back from – or do you think you’re going to hold that power advantage to the end of the season?
SV: Well, first of all, I find it quite nice that we get put in this position. I think people forget that maybe for the last five years, Mercedes has been absolutely dominant, especially in terms of power unit, and obviously, it’s nice from them to put us in that position because it means they believe they are not the strongest any more. So, it’s good to be up there with them and be a match but I don’t think we can take anything for granted. I don’t think we are anywhere near in the place they have been in the last years. So, I think we have to work hard to make things happen, and we are determined to work hard this weekend to put ourselves in the same position again, that we have a great pace in the weekend and especially in the race on Sunday.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – To Sebastian and Kimi, it’s more or less in the line of your last answer, Maurizio Arrivabene said that it’s very important for Ferrari to push Mercedes, they are not used to it over the last four years at least – but it’s also true that many people believe you have the best car, and many Italians say Ferrari has a great chance of being World Champion this year. If you go outside you hear this from many Italians. You feel this pressure that will exist?

SV: Not really. We know our car best and I think we have a lot of people on board telling us how good our car is on which point of the track, at which point of the year, similar to other teams. I think we know what’s going on. We know we have a great car. I think we have a good car that seems to have worked so far on more or less every track. Some better, some a little but worse but I think we are aware we have a good package but we cannot rest on that. I think we need to make it happen. Kimi and myself in the car, all the engineering crew at the track, everybody back in Maranello to try to put everything together. So, I don’t think you can compare to maybe the position other people have been in years ago. It doesn’t matter, I’m also not keen to compare because we’re looking forwards and we want to do our thing. As I said, looking forward to getting in the car. It’s a great feeling when you step inside the car and you know that you can fight for first position, for the podium, for victory on Sunday. That’s what you want as a driver but for the rest I think it’s healthy not to overthink.

KR: I don't think there’s any more pressure. I think all the pressure is that we want to do well: ourselves; our team. So that’s normal pressure that we put unto ourselves and something that we want to achieve. So, I don’t know. Is our package best? One weekend yes, next might not be. It’s that close that small differences will dictate who’s fastest over that weekend or the race on Sundays. If you don’t get everything right, you might not win. So, it’s very close. Certain conditions; certain circuits, one is a bit better for one team and the next one for the other team. We’re talking small differences in the end result. So, we can only do our best and see what happens, where we end up on Sunday.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Question for the two Ferrari drivers. Everyone’s talking about the engine improvement this year but it has been a collective growth from the team. Maybe not necessarily from last year but especially if you look back to 2016 when there wasn’t the progression from ’15 to ’16. So if you look at the work from 2016, how much has the team changed? Is it as much down to the way the team has reworked its structure as well as obviously improvements on the engine side.

SV: Well, I think 2016 was a key year for us. Obviously it wasn’t great in terms of performance, especially after ’15, we finished second in the Constructors’, you naturally want to be closer, a lot closer and we were not. We lost a place. But I think in terms of setting ourselves up for the future ’16 was the most important year so far – at least since I’m with the team. Obviously ’17 we had a rule change that helped us to use that restructuring in general that’s been going on. I think we, since then, have been able to improve on all fronts. Whether it’s the car, the development throughout the season to keep the pace up; whether it’s engine power and its components. So, I think things are going in the right direction but I think the opponent that we had years ago was very , very strong, still is very, very strong but y’know it’s good to see we are getting stronger and, in some areas, maybe caught up. In some other areas maybe have a little bit of an edge. In the end that’s where we want to be – and beyond that. I think that’s our ambition: to be up there and to be at least on the level so we can fight for it and to keep that level throughout the year, and if there’s a gap then to increase that gap. I think that things are looking in the right way but saying that, we still have a lot of things that we can improve, and still have potential that can be unleashed, a lot of processes that I think can be improved, so we have to work and focus on those and go step-by-step.

Kimi anything to add?

KR: No. 

Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Seb. Lewis made some remarks after the last race about that he couldn’t explain how fast your … how fast you were. Would you… I mean presumably you take this opportunity to say that everything in the Ferrari is above board and legal and b) does that give us a glimpse into Lewis’ mindset that he’s not quite sure how to deal with the Ferrari and the strength of it at the moment?

SV: I don't know. I think you need to ask him but I think he said in the press conference something with tricks – but then I think he said quite many times as well that he doesn’t want it to be interpreted in the wrong way and I think – maybe he did – I’m not so sure but  for all us, in terms of is the car legal or not, there’s the FIA responsible for it and I think we have several checks throughout the weekend to prove that. So as long as I don’t hear anything from that front then I believe it’s fine. Same for the others. So, as I said, maybe it’s more a question for him. And for us, it’s to keep out head down. If there’s something like momentum, then to use that momentum to make sure we go forwards.

Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Question to Seb and Kimi. Given the performance in Belgium from Ferrari, and given the comments that emanated from both Mercedes and Lewis post-race, do you think you have Mercedes worried for the first time in five seasons, for the rest of this season. And, if so, how can you play on that and make it to your advantage.

SV: To be very honest with you, I don’t feel anything related to Mercedes. I feel Ferrari, and especially this weekend – and that’s what I want to enjoy. I don’t know in which state or mind they are. I think, y’know, we are obviously up against the best if you fight for the front positions. And Mercedes have proven to be the best over the last years. I think they have been for many reasons. What we want to do, obviously, is to beat them – so we need to be better than them. I think that’s what we need to focus on. In which shape they are, and so on, I think it’s more for them to answer. As I said, this weekend, I don’t feel anything with Mercedes. I feel Ferrari – so looking forwards to that.

Kimi, anything to add?

KR: No.

Do you feel you’ve got Mercedes rattled?

KR: I don't know. You need to talk to them. Obviously, I don’t know. I’m not really interested in what their thoughts are. We do our stuff and try to do the best that we can and obviously improve and go forwards.

Q: (Alessandro Bucci – A question for each driver. Which is, or which are, your favourite Italian Grands Prix during your career.

RG: I haven’t had really any good ones here! I try to remind… 2009: no. Where did we end up in ’12 and ’13? ’12 I didn’t race. ’13 I can’t remember. We were not very fast on low downforce. ’14 I’m not talking about… no, nothing outstanding here.

SP: For me it was a great race 2012. Making it into the podium. Into the last laps, beating both Ferraris to the podium was a great race that I definitely remember well. Obviously the podium here is very special. It’s a nice experience. The atmosphere from the tifosi was very special, definitely. My biggest memory was 2012.

KR: I enjoyed going to Imola also. Good racing. I don’t know. I’ve never had very good races at either places but that was a really nice circuit to race. It’s close by. I call it an Italian Grand Prix. Here, not one that would probably be better than the others. Some decent, let’s say.

Seb, how about you?

SV: Personal one, obviously 2008. I don't think that… well, we’ll see, maybe there is a chance that something better comes up but when it comes to my racing here, I think 2008, the first win ever, it always stands out to be something special. The way it happened as well. Then in memory, or what I’ve heard about I think the ’88 Grand Prix will never be beaten in terms of importance for this country, for the tifosi, for racing here. And I remember, was there a race with three cars finishing close to each other? Was it the tightest finish? Five cars? That must have been a great race. I wasn’t there, obviously. By a long way! None of us what – but I think that must have been a great race to watch and follow. And then, as I said, the ’88, what it meant, obviously for Ferrari.

Q: (Barbara Premoli – Question for Kimi. I know you won’t answer me – but I need only to see your expression. In Monza, we have always had a big announcement. So, we have to expect something? Lift the cap! Look at me.

KR: Better glasses maybe? You need to talk to the team. It’s not up to me. That’s about it. Not my decision in the end.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

PREVIEW: Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb targeting victory on home soil

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship returns to European soil this weekend (31 August - 2 September) following its first transatlantic trip of the season, with Loheac in north-west France set to play host to motorsport’s most spectacular discipline.

Such is Loheac’s legendary appeal that a capacity entry of 25 Supercars will do battle for glory at Bretagne World RX of France, tackling the compact, 1070-metre circuit – the home of rallycross in the country and a popular stop on the World RX schedule, with upwards of 70,000 spectators regularly pouring through the gates over the race weekend. Adding to the challenge, the gravel at Loheac is unlike anywhere else on the calendar – hard-packed and abrasive in dry conditions, it can be unforgivingly slippery when wet.

Reigning champion Johan Kristoffersson (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) continues to set the pace in the defence of his hard-fought drivers’ crown, with a fourth consecutive victory of 2018 last time out in Canada increasing his advantage at the top of the title table. The Swede has won in France for the past two years and is targeting a hat-trick.

Team Peugeot Total pairing Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen currently hold joint second spot in the standings, and both have their sights firmly set on the highest step of the podium on the French manufacturer’s home turf. Loeb finished third at Loheac in 2016 and second last season and is looking to continue that run this weekend, while Hansen tasted victory champagne courtesy of a dominant display three years ago. Following a two-three finish at Trois-Rivieres, their tails are up as they bid to build on that momentum.

“As a French driver in a French team, Loheac is a very important event for me and our goal is to fight for victory," said Loeb. "It’s a track that I really enjoy, and there are no great secrets to mastering it – you need to have clean runs, be quick everywhere and above all make good starts. Tyre management and preservation is also a key factor at Loheac, since punctures are one of the major risks over the large kerbs.”

There is similarly a tie for fourth place between Norwegians Andreas Bakkerud (EKS Audi Sport) and Petter Solberg (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden), just a single point behind their Peugeot rivals. Both men are continuing to chase their first win of 2018 as World RX heads into its eighth round of the campaign, and both are formidable competitors and previous winners at Loheac.

Bakkerud’s team-mate Mattias Ekstrom is also well in touch following a consistent run of top six finishes, and the Swede – World RX champion in 2016 – is hunting his second podium of the year as he aims to climb the overall classification.

Kevin Hansen has enjoyed a strong season to-date in the third Team Peugeot Total 208 WRX, and having been closely-matched with his two team-mates in recent rounds, the young Swede is sure to be a factor in France. The same can be said for GRX Taneco Team duo Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov, while Olsbergs MSE took a step forward at Trois-Rivieres following a mid-season switch of engine tuner, giving Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson hope of a strong points-scoring run to the end of the campaign.

Behind the wheel of Team STARD’s Ford Fiesta, Janis Baumanis impressed in Canada by fighting his way determinedly into the final for the first time in 2018. The Latvian will be targeting more of the same in France, while there has been a driver change at GC Competition, with Jerome Grosset-Janin parting ways with the team and Liam Doran coming in to replace him alongside Guerlain Chicherit. The Briton’s last World RX appearance was at Holjes two years ago, so he will be fired-up to make his mark on his return.

Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier completes the 15-strong permanent line-up, and the Frenchman – who competes under a Belgian licence – will hope to turn his circuit racing skills to his advantage at one of the tracks where he has some prior experience.

Of the ten additional entries, four are homegrown, including former World RX front-runner Davy Jeanney – the first Frenchman to win an event at the pinnacle of international rallycross competition three years ago – and double French Rallycross Champion Gaetan Serazin.

In a high-calibre field, other names worthy of note are 2014 World Championship runner-up Toomas Heikkinen (MJP Racing Team Austria) – a driver with four previous Loheac starts under his belt – 2013 British Touring Car Champion Andrew Jordan in the sister Ford Fiesta, two-time DTM title-winner Timo Scheider in ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s SEAT Ibiza, 2015 European Rallycross Champion Tommy Rustad (Volkswagen Polo) and former British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan (Ford Fiesta).

ENTRY IMAGE CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media

FEATURE: Hitting the Brakes in Monza.

Monza is famous for its high-speed nature, with its long straights and only a limited number of corners. This makes every turn - and every time the drivers hit the brakes - even more important. 

Why is braking important? 
Before a Formula One car turns into a corner, it needs to be slowed down, so braking is the first part of any corner phase. So if a driver doesn't get the braking right, he will usually mess up the entire corner and lose valuable time. From an engineering point of view, a corner presents a bit of a contradiction. Under braking, the car should be as stable as possible, requiring the least amount of driver steering correction. However, once you reach the turning point of the corner, you want a car with a great turning capability that is very reactive to steering input. Ideal straight-line braking stability would require a rather numb front end with lots of front downforce; however, that would make turning into the corner very difficult. So the engineers have to fine-tune the car and try to find the right balance. The two main areas they will look at for this compromise are aerodynamics - mostly the front wing - and the suspension set-up. 

What makes braking in Monza so important? 
Monza is a relatively fast track, so the drivers have to slow down their cars from very high speeds. Additionally, they will be running the lowest downforce configuration of the year, which makes braking at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza even more tricky. Most of the track in Monza is wide open throttle and only limited by the drag characteristics of the car and the performance of the Power Unit, making the eleven corners of the circuit particularly important, as that's where a driver can easily gain or lose a chunk of lap time over his competitors. That is especially true for the two major braking events at the Autodromo - the Variante del Rettifilo (Turn 1 and 2) and the Variante della Roggia (Turn 4 and 5). On his fastest race lap in 2017 (Lap 50), Lewis was going over 330 km/h before he hit the brakes going into Turn 1, shedding over 260 km/h and slowing down to under 70 km/h. On the straight before Turn 4, he was doing 310 km/h and decelerated to under 110 km/h. At both events, the drivers will easily pull over 4G. To put this in comparison: a high-performance road car with special tyres can achieve a little over 1G. The heavy braking is not just demanding for drivers, but also for the brakes themselves: On the long straights, brake discs will cool down to about 200 degrees Celsius. But when the driver hits the brakes, temperatures will rise to over 1,000 degrees within a second. Managing the brake temperatures is therefore an important job of an F1 driver as brakes that are too hot are prone to fading and might cause reliability issues. 

How similar are road cars and F1 cars when it comes to braking? 
The short answer is not very similar at all. Formula One cars have lots of downforce available - and the amount of downforce increases the faster they drive. The more downforce the car produces, the higher the grip level - which means that the cars have more stopping potential at high speeds than they have at low speeds. This makes braking an F1 car quite challenging as the grip levels change. While, for example, it would be quite difficult to lock the wheels under braking when the car is going at speeds of over 300 km/h, it is in fact quite easy to do so at 60 km/h. So F1 drivers have to brake very hard at the start of braking when they have the most stopping potential and then fade it as they get towards the turning phase of the corner to prevent potential lockups. But that's not the only difference between an F1 car and a road car when it comes to braking. F1 cars also use brake migration - a dynamic change of the brake balance as a function of the brake pressure. Here's how it works: Under braking, there's a weight transfer happening in the car. It's the same kind of weight transfer you can experience when you stop any vehicle abruptly - in a road car, you're thrown into your seat belt, on the London Tube you might end up on your neighbour's lap. F1 cars use this kind of weight transfer to their advantage and shift the brake bias towards the front of the car when the drivers first hit the brakes. When they then slowly come off the brakes to prevent locking up, the weight transfer to the front is reduced. At that point, the brake power is migrated rearwards - by how much depends on the track and the type of corner. Drivers can adjust the brake migration on a corner-by-corner basis through a rotary switch on their steering wheel. Just before the turning point you could move the brake bias almost entirely to the rear to give the car a bit of oversteer, allowing it to turn more quickly - similar to the effect of pulling the hand brake in a road car. 

How did hybrid technology and brake-by-wire systems change braking on an F1 car? 
Hybrid engines have given the engineers the chance to harvest kinetic energy under braking and use that energy to propel the car forwards again when the driver accelerates. But in addition to harvesting energy, the introduction of hybrids and brake-by-wire systems gave the engineers another avenue to fine-tune the car and further advance braking by improving brake migration. In the pre-hybrid era, the teams used mechanical systems to change brake balance through a corner or a braking event. To quickly adjust the brake balance between corners, they would use a hydraulic system. Both of these functions can now be operated with a switch on the steering wheel - in fact, a total of five buttons and rotary switches on the wheel. This means that the drivers can access those functions much faster. Another benefit of the system is that the engineers can compensate for how the power unit behaves under braking and downshifting. Every time the driver opens the clutch, he loses the engine braking. In the pre-hybrid era, that would mean that there were sudden shifts in brake balance and brake power every time the clutch would open and close. Today, the cars can counteract that with a little spike of brake pressure every time the car loses the engine braking. This means that the rear brake torque is more continuous, allowing the driver to operate closer to the peak of the tyre slip. 

How hard do F1 drivers hit the brakes? How much pressure do they apply to the brake pedals? 
Generally speaking Formula One drivers generate a lot of brake pressure. When they hit the brakes, they basically stand up on the brake pedal. As they brake at 4G, they will apply roughly four times their body weight to the pedal. At the same time brakes - like almost everything else in an F1 car - are highly customisable and depend very much on driver preferences. The brake pedal can be adjusted to how hard a driver usually hits the brakes as it works as a lever upon the master brake cylinder. So if a driver feels that he has not enough power in his legs, the brake pedal can be manipulated to generate peak pressures more easily; however, this would also mean that the pedal will travel further. For that reason, training his legs is part of every driver's fitness programme. 

How much does the braking point vary on a lap-by-lap basis? Are F1 drivers able to hit the brakes at the same time on every lap? 
The ideal braking point will change over the course of the race - depending on fuel loads, compound choice, tyre degradation and how much the drivers have to manage the tyres. So the drivers have to vary their braking during the race, keeping in mind all the parameters that influence it. In qualifying, the braking points stay more or less the same as the car goes out on similar amounts of fuel and on fresh rubber. If you look at telemetry overlays from qualifying, you can appreciate that the drivers are able to repeatedly hit the brakes at roughly the same spot. Usually, they will brake within a couple of metres or less; five or six metres are a significant difference. This is all the more impressive if you consider that a car that's going 330 km/h travels almost 92 metres in a single second. So being able to hit the perfect braking point is a matter of fractions of a second. 

How do drivers find the ideal braking points? 
Drivers determine the ideal points for braking over the course of the weekend. They will start conservatively, braking early and allowing for a small margin of error. As the track builds up grip, they will push the braking points deeper and deeper towards the corner, changing it by a few meters at a time and pushing it all the way to the limit. But there's always one braking point that is extremely tricky to get exactly right: braking into Turn 1 on the opening lap of the race. There's no practice on Sundays, so drivers have to estimate the grip levels as best as they can from the few laps to grid they do before the race. To make things more challenging, the brakes will be cold, making it even harder to estimate where to brake. Additionally, the other drivers might be willing to take a bit more risk going into Turn 1 as the field is bunched up and one can easily gain a position, so you don't want to brake early as you might be overtaken. All those circumstances make it very difficult to determine when to brake into Turn 1. However, the drivers do get a bit of help from their engineers who will suggest brake balance and brake migration settings to them based on historical data. 

FEATURE BY: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.