Thursday 23 August 2018

PART 2 - 2018 Belgian GP: FIA Drivers' Press Conference.

PART TWO: DRIVERS - Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Stoffel VANDOORNE (McLaren), Marcus ERICSSON (Sauber), Lance STROLL (Williams)

Q: Max, we’ve just had Daniel in here fielding a number of questions.  Can we get your opinion? Were you surprised that Daniel has opted to leave Red Bull and you’ll have Pierre as your teammate next season?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Well, I think everyone was surprised but at the end of the day, he has to feel good about his decision, I think that’s the most important (thing).

Q: And what are your thoughts on having Pierre as your teammate in 2019?

MV: He’s a great guy. I know him already since we were go-karting together. Even at the beginning of this year he was one week in Monaco, he stayed in my apartment so playing FIFA in the evenings so we have a good relationship and I’m sure he is very quick as well, so I think it’s good for the team.

Q: Stoffel, your future is still unclear with McLaren but you know that Carlos Sainz will be in one of those seats so are you hopeful of being his teammate in 2019?

Stoffel VANDOORNE: Yeah, I’m confident although at the moment there is nothing guaranteed for next year. I’m feeling positive, obviously, after the summer break to come to Spa and have your home race with all the friends, family and fans that are here is always an extra… that gives you an extra boost so I think the main focus is on this weekend to really give the best performance we can and then we see what the future brings.

Q: Your form picked up in Hungary at the last race so are you confident that you’ll continue on stronger footing this weekend here in Spa?

SV: Yeah, very confident. I know we had a difficult run in the last couple of races before the summer break where we had the problems with the car which we couldn’t really explain and then whenever we changed everything got ourselves back to a normal competitiveness and I think we really showed in Hungary that the performance was back to where it should have been. Yeah, unfortunately we had a retirement there and yeah, I’m just looking to carry forward that momentum into this race.

Q: Lance, moving on to you: there’s been movement in the driver market, movement in the team ownership market over the last few weeks. Just how has the summer break impacted on your future?

Lance STROLL: Well, for the moment nothing’s changed on my side. I’m still wearing a Williams polo, we’ve got a race this weekend and I’m going to be 100 percent focused and committed on my job, yeah. On the other side, things have happened, really pleased for my father. He saw a great financial opportunity with Force India. They’ve been struggling for a long time, he sees a lot of potential in the company and he’s a businessman. He’s passionate about cars, Formula One, always has been. He’s saved 400 jobs and he believes that he can build a very competitive and healthy company for the future so I’m happy for him.

Q: And do you have a timeline for your own future and what to expect and when we should expect news about what you’ll do in 2019?

LS: Like I said, for the moment I’m here at Williams, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in the future. We’ll see what my father decides to do with me. He’s a nice guy. I hope he’ll take me.

Q: Marcus, moving on to you, as these two press conferences have shown, it’s been a very volatile driver market over the summer. What does that mean for a driver like yourself who’s also still waiting to see what he does next season?

Marcus ERICSSON: No, for me it’s the same like the other guys say: you need to focus on your job and deliver on track. For me, I need to prove that I should be in F1 for next year. That’s what we’re all trying to do. It’s no secret that I want to stay in Sauber, I think that’s been part of that scene for a long time now and we’ve made some great progress this year so I would like to continue that over next season as well but I know the coming races will be very important for me so I need to really focus and deliver on track.

Q: Does the fact that there’s been so much movement elsewhere change the fact that you’re focused on Sauber?

ME: No, I think there’s always been things happening in Formula One and you never know what’s happening the next day so I think you as a driver, you really need to focus on driving and deliver on track and then you have your management focusing on the other things so for me it hasn’t changed anything for me. I still have the same focus on the driving and the upcoming races and that’s where I will put my attention.


Q: (Oana Popoiu – Max, Red Bull will be using new fuel this race which apparently seems to be a little bit more faster in lap times. Where do you think this will take you in qualifying and afterwards in the race?

MV: I think we need a little bit more than just new fuel to be beating Ferrari and Mercedes. It’s always good to get upgrades. We always have to push ourselves and we are not getting the updates from the engine but yeah, we’ll see. Hopefully a little bit closer.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD) Max, Daniel talked a lot about his move. He said it wasn’t about the money, it wasn’t about you, it wasn’t about his position in the team but it was about a need for a change of scenery. Have you seen any signs of that because he talked also a bit about frustration with his position in the team and sort of stuff? Is it something you have already noticed, maybe?

MV: I don’t know. I don’t think so. Of course I think everybody has moments in their careers when you’re frustrated or you’re not happy with the current situation. I think everybody here wants to win races or wants to win championships but sometimes it’s not like that and you have to really be patient and work hard for it and yeah, sometimes you need the whole package to come together and I think that’s what Red Bull is working on at the moment and I’m confident that they can deliver a car that is capable of winning every race. We just need the whole package and we’re working towards that so that’s why it was also a little bit of a surprise for me that he left. If it then is a change of scenery, I’m not sure if it’s the best scenery to go to but yeah…

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Max, if you see the numbers of Honda, Toro Rosso this year, Gasly and his teammate, they overtake a lot of… they went over all the limits of the power unit, of the six elements that comprise the power unit. Do you think Honda will be able, from one season to another, to solve all these problems and also make a competitive power unit?

MV: Well, they took those parts mainly because they were either at the back of the grid or something happened which is not engine related so… I think at the moment they’re really comfortable and all the parts that they have that they wouldn’t take any other penalties so I’m not too worried.

Q: (Christian Menarth – Stoffel, you said earlier in Formula One nothing’s guaranteed for next year. Sorry to ask the question at your home Grand Prix but would you say it’s guaranteed you’re driving next weekend for McLaren, because there are rumours that you won’t be?

SV: I don’t have any doubt. I think these days there’s always a lot of rumours and a lot of question marks in the press but from my side I’m 100 percent confident. The only thing I can do is to focus on my job and I think I’ve shown that I’m very very close to Fernando. I think some of your colleagues have made up some statistics to show how close teammates have been with Fernando and I think I’ve been pretty much right up there.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Stoffel, obviously McLaren could have confirmed you for next year at the same time as they confirmed the other driver. The fact they haven’t clearly shows there’s still some doubt or question marks so why are you so confident about next year and what exactly has McLaren told you about what you need to do in order to be still there next year? Is it dependent on them not getting other drivers, is there a danger of fallback or have they said ‘look, if you keep performing at say Hungary levels for the next X races you’ll be fine’?

SV: I think the only thing I have in my own control is the performances on track and like I said before, I know I had a difficult run of races before Hungary with the problems we had on the car but then we showed that everything was back to normal in Hungary so I’m very confident for the next couple of races that the results are going to be back to where they belong. It’s still not going to be a miracle in the position we are in at the moment but I’m feeling positive.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Max, when you came into Red Bull from Toro Rosso it was effectively a similar step to the one that Pierre Gasly is doing now. At that stage, Daniel was the more senior driver in the team and then of course you grew up within that team. Next year you’ll be the team leader, based on experience and race wins etc in the team. Do you believe that you’re ready to actually lead that team with Pierre as your number two so to speak?

MV: I think, within Red Bull, I think we’ve always been treated equally so I don’t really see a difference in that now coming up and I also don’t really feel like a leader, I just try to do the best possible job for the team and for myself and of course I have more experience than him so I just try to use that to my advantage.

Q: (Inaudible) Max, in Hungary, you were very upset and Christian Horner as well about Renault. How do you feel now and have you spoken to Renault and Red Bull during the summer break about it?

MV: Yeah, I was not allowed to swear but after four years, I think at one point it’s really getting really annoying but yeah, we try to make the best of it for the rest of the season and hopefully we’ll still be able to fight for podiums or maybe a victory at one track.

Q: (Rene Outman – Racing News 365) To all of you: there are a lot of fans here because of you Max and reports suggest that a Dutch Grand Prix could return to the calendar in the future. If you guys had the power to change the calendar, which specific track would you add?

ME: Anderstorp in Sweden. Not up to F1 standards. I think a race in the northern countries would be really good for Formula One because we have a lot of motorsport history there and a lot of fans so I think a race in Sweden, Denmark, Finland would be really good for Formula One so I would probably do that.

LS: I think a street circuit. Miami, that sounded really exciting. I know that kind of fell through but another street circuit could be pretty fun.

SV: I’d like to have a go at Imola. I think it’s always been a circuit I’ve enjoyed playing computer games on and always one I liked so it’s a shame that we’re not going there now.

MV: I would chose Macau but then we need to make it a bit wider, even though that’s a bit hard but that would be great.

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Lance, just picking up on what you were saying earlier, is there no link whatsoever between your father’s investment in Force India and your future driving career? Is the speculation that you’ll be driving for Force India next season then completely wide of the mark?

LS: Right now, I’m committed to Williams,  the contract with Williams.  We’ve achieved some good success in the past, last year, so right now I’m going to try and beat ‘em.

Q: (Sara Monterian – Max, since we already touched upon the question of the Dutch Grand Prix, there have been a lot of rumours where it could actually be organised. For example, there have been a lot of talks about either a street circuit either in Rotterdam or Amsterdam or a possible comeback for Zandvoort. If you would have the possibility to chose, which one would you chose?

MV: I would chose a permanent track. I think we already have enough street circuits on the calendar and anyway I like permanent tracks more. And then I don’t care where it is.

Q: (Rene Outman – Racing News 365) Max, a permanent track, obviously we’ve got another permanent track in the Netherlands, the TT circuit. If you had to chose between Zandvoort and the TT circuit in Assen, which one would you pick?

MV: Like I said, I don’t care.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Ericsson, your teammate has numbers better than you this season until now. How do you think it will interfere in your future in Formula One?

ME: I think you’re always compared to your teammate in Formula One, it’s natural. I think me and Charles have been very close in the races but in the qualifying he’s been stronger than me in the first half of the year so it’s important for me to improve there and that’s my main target for the second half, to make improvements in qualifying because I feel like I said, in the races we’ve been very similar. So of course it’s important, Charles is a very good driver but if I can show that I can beat him that would be very important for my future. So starting this weekend I need to try and step that up.

Q: (Inaudible) Max, you get along very well with Daniel over the past years. What’s your relationship with Pierre because I saw you at the skiing event this year.

MV: Yeah, it’s all good. He’s a really nice guy, I’ve known him from go-karting already, like I said before, so I don’t expect any troubles.

Q: (Inaudible) Lance, are you sure you will be finishing the year with Williams?

LS: Well, nothing’s guaranteed but right now I’m really just focused on this weekend and I’m going to give it my all like I always do and we’ll see what the future holds. Right now I’m just taking it weekend by weekend and we’ll see what happens.

Q: (Christian Menarth – Lance, are you discussing something like that with your Dad or is it just a business thing he’s doing on his own or is he asking what you think about Force India, how are they on track or…?

LS: No, he’s done his due diligence and he sees that they currently punch above their weight. They do a really good job with what they have so like I said earlier, he sees a lot of opportunity and a lot of potential so he sees a great financial opportunity buying them in a very difficult position and he believes he can help grow the company and make them as competitive as they can be. At the moment I’m at Williams, we’ll see what happens with me in the future and I wish him all the best with Force India. It’s definitely a very exciting future for him but like I said, right now I’m really just focused on this weekend and what I’m doing the rest of this year.

Q: (Jaap de Groot – De Telegraaf) Max, after Hungary there were some doubts about the motor. It was planned to change it next week in Italy and then there were some doubts that maybe you were forced to change it here in Belgium and take the grid penalty here. How’s the situation?

MV: From our side it was never a doubt because I still have enough parts so it’s all OK.

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