1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Lewis, a pretty solid day at the office again for a Sunday afternoon, a 50-point lead in the championship now over Sebastian. But you can kind of feel a little bit emotional for Valtteri, obviously you switched positions, but you win and lose as a team and I guess that’s what you look at today?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it’s actually quite a difficult day. Valtteri did a fantastic job all weekend and he was a real gentleman to let me by. Obviously he’s not fighting for the championship, whereas we are. It’s just been such a great weekend for the team. The team have done such an exceptional job to have this advantage on Ferrari and to have a one-two. Usually you would be just elated, but I can understand how difficult it is for Valtteri but really he did a fantastic job today and he deserved to win. But championship-wise, as a team we are trying to win both championships and I think today it was a real team effort. Whilst it doesn’t feel spectacular, I know he is going to do great in the following races to come.
Q: Yeah, it takes a special human being to go and congratulate him first and I could see yesterday how happy you were when you got on pole position. but to turn the attention to the battle with Sebastian, obviously down into Turn 2. How did you feel it was? The stewards looked at it and said it was OK, but you got the job done very soon after that and then that’s what made your race wasn’t it?
LH: It was. Ultimately, for me, he did move over to the inside and then he moved again and nearly put me in the wall. I thought that was a double move. I guess they didn’t see that. Nevertheless, fortunately I was able to stay out of the wall and still get round the corner, and then it was a question of who was going to brake earlier in the next corner and I wanted it more at the time. We shouldn’t have even been in that position. I don’t really understand how we strategically ended up in that place but obviously the overcut or undercut or whatever it is I did… but anyway, ultimately, we’re really grateful to be here in Russia. The weather has been fantastic; the crowd has been amazing. The team here and back home, whilst it’s difficult, as I said, hopefully they’re proud of what they’ve built and the results that we have been able to achieve with their car.
Q: Not too long to wait until you go to Japan and take the fight. Valtteri, I’m not really sure what to say to you. You qualified on pole, you were dominating the race, but from a team’s point of view a second place is still great and you can everyone is still giving you a round of applause, especially this man standing next to you as well.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, difficult day. Obviously a good result for us as a team; we got maximum points. But personally, as everyone saw, it was quite a difficult race.
Q: Is it something you discuss beforehand in the fight for the team to get on top of Sebastian? Is this something you are going to have support Lewis on going forward?
VB: For sure, we always go through all the scenarios, all the facts. Lewis is now fighting for the championship and we are fighting for the Constructors’, so we always have a plan, but yeah today is… it’s always difficult to predict what’s going to happen in the race, how it is going to go, but it is what it is.
Q: Keep your head up man. From everyone that sees from the outside you did an outstanding job. Sebastian, you didn’t have an answer to Mercedes today, but the team did a very good reaction and strategy and you managed to get in front of Lewis and he very quickly retook the position.
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, well it was tricky, obviously you saw they worked very good together and at the start I had nowhere to go, no tow. Then I think we surprised them with a very good out lap and managed to jump Lewis but at the same time Valtteri was backing off a bit, and then I was struggling in the last sector, so Lewis was close and then had a run into Turn 2. I managed to cover and then I didn’t see him through the left-hander, I wasn’t really sure where he was. I saw that he was somewhere on the outside but then I think you also need to be at some stage fair enough and give room, even if I didn't want to, but I had to, to make sure that it remains fair, tough or hard but fair, but then he obviously got past. Then, yeah, I think everybody more or less the same pace. I think we were better with the tyres but probably not better in terms of pace. I tried my best then to put pressure on Valtteri but, yeah, I couldn’t get close enough.
Q: Do you think it was the mistake down at Turn 13 that allowed Lewis to get a run on you later in the lap?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, as I said, obviously Valtteri, as soon as he saw that I was behind, he backed off and I lost like 1.5 seconds to make me run into him, which I didn’t mind initially because I thought I could sneak DRS. But I had a tiny lock-up there and then, as I said, the last two corners were in particular difficult, so Lewis was close and he was on really new tyres, mine were just a lap old but not new. Anyway, it was a good race. I think we were closer today but obviously not the result we wanted.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To the two Mercedes drivers, the way you were able to build a small gap over Sebastian towards the end of the race, did you think you were going to be able to swap positions back or did it feel pretty set in your minds?
LH: Honestly, when I got the call that they had said that to Valtteri, I don’t know if you heard me but I said “just tell him to speed up.” They told me on the radio that they’ve… “Valtteri is going to let you go,” which is not what I wanted, and I said: “just tell him to speed up,” because I had Sebastian on my tail, getting quite close. So, yeah, naturally passing him did not feel good in that instant in Turn 13, and I didn’t know what was planned for the end. I was waiting to get some news or something like that but I knew that the team wanted it to end that way. If they had made that call, that confirmed to me they wanted it to end that way. But honestly, it’s very, very hard to find the right words. It’s very strange feeling. We’ve had a 1-2, we’ve dominated as a team this weekend, the team has done an incredible job and it’s obviously never, ever in my whole life been the way I’ve wanted to win a race. I just want to shine it on to Valtteri. There are not many team-mates who would do something like that.
Valtteri, when that call was made did you know it was like that until the end of the race, at the time?
VB: yeah, I could expect that. Because obviously, Lewis is fighting for the Drivers’ Championship, and I’m not. And the way we finished, compared to the beginning, makes no difference to the Constructors’ points. So, yeah, I was expecting that.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Two questions, first for the two Mercedes drivers: you had much fresher tyres than Verstappen but none of you could close the gap enough to try to pass – although Lewis had a bit of a go. Why was that? Is it the nature of the track? And also, for Valtteri, we had the unusual situation of having James Vowles going on the radio to explain to you what they had done. And Toto as well. Does this mean that the scenario that panned out was not one that was properly discussed before the race – or was it discussed and they were just trying to justify themselves?
LH: It’s a really beautiful place here in Sochi but the track honestly… on a single lap, when you’re on your own it’s cool – but it’s not very good at all for racing. You’ve got the really long straight but the characteristics of the circuit mean the first two sectors are quite fast and the last one, the last sector, the rear tyres are so hot, it’s impossible to follow another car, so you can’t even get close to have a run. I did ask Charlie if he could bring the DRS even earlier, because that maybe would encourage overtaking. You need to be 1.4s faster than the car in front of you – and when you’re racing with someone you’re not 1.4s faster than him – to overtake. I was just saying in the changing room just now, they should do it in reverse. Go backwards. Go the other way around the track, so you have the slow section first and then the fast sections, maybe… I don’t know if it’ll make a difference. But otherwise they’ve got to change the track to make it more racing-like. There are circuits that have which have a much smaller delta to overtake. Was there a lot of overtaking in this race?
The Red Bulls coming through early on did some overtaking.
LH: They had that 1.4s advantage to the others so…
Valtteri, same question to you first.
VB: Once I got close to Max, we knew he was going to go long. And we knew he had to stop. And I obviously had a long stint ahead of me. So, yeah, there was no rush. I was managing really. Then I got instruction from the team to close the gap to Max, and try and overtake, so I was getting, step-by-step, closer and then I really started to push a bit more. But yeah, then I got the call to swap places and that was it.
The second part of the question was that you’d had the radio messages from Toto and James, was the scenario not one that had been planned-out earlier?
VB: Honestly I don’t want to talk about what we spoke of before the race. Inside, it’s between us – but obviously, it was a little bit confusing, the situation but it’s our thing, what we speak inside.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, I know you said it was a team decision, the move, but did you personally think you might move out of the way towards the end of the race when you knew you would probably finish ahead of Seb. And Valtteri, do you think that the team made the right decision?
LH: Honestly, at the end of the race I didn’t feel anything. When I went past, I told you, I didn’t feel good. After that it was all about trying to bring the car home, so I wasn’t really thinking of anything else.
Valtteri, do you think the team made the right decision?
VB: Like I said before, no matter today if I would win, Lewis would win, as long as we’re one-two, we will get the maximum points as a team. So, it doesn’t make a difference. The difference is that Lewis is fighting for the Drivers’ Championship and I’m not. From the team’s point of view it was the ideal result today. Maybe not ideal for me but for the team, yes!
Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) Lewis, did you expect the undercut would be possible with Sebastian? And after, as you came out of the pits behind him, you were third and Valtteri was first, you had Sebastian between you. How was the manoeuvre to overtake Sebastian? It looked like you complained about something. And Sebastian, your view of the manoeuvre?
LH: Well, naturally I was trying to win the race from the start and I was quite close with Valtteri and then he pitted. Then I had a good lap once I got past. I held on to my tyres a little bit longer than Valtteri potentially, a little bit. He said he had a bit of graining, so that next lap was good and then they kept me out for another lap which I think was ultimately probably not the right decision to make in the end as the tyres dropped off. Sebastian came in the lap before, undercut massively and I lost six tenths or so, once I caught the Williams it may have been. So I lost whatever time I gained there. So it was very risky and for sure it was quite frustrating when I came out behind both of them, I actually thought I was maybe potentially fighting Valtteri but I was fighting both of them and losing position - that’s definitely frustrating. So I had grip in the tyres and I’ve got to take the opportunity now to race with him which I did. And then I slipstreamed down to turn one and I pulled out. From my view, Sebastian moved and then moved again and at the time, if I didn’t brake, I would have been in the wall and we would have crashed so it felt, from my cockpit view, that it was a double move which we often talk about that we shouldn’t do but anyway, luckily I got away with it and I was quite forceful in the next corner.
Q: Sebastian, your view on the racing with Lewis?
SV: Which part? I think obviously we undercut him which was good. Then I think it was clear that Valtteri was dropping back to make life difficult, I guess, so they played well together as a team. Yeah, then I had a bit of a wobble into 13, lock up and Lewis was quite close so he got DRS down the straight. I saw him coming, it was very difficult to see with the mirrors but I thought I moved before the braking, so I wanted to make sure I covered the inside. Didn’t mean to be – how do you say? – an irritation at any point.
LH: I don’t feel anything… in the heat of the moment, it always feels one way. I’m sure if we watch afterwards you might watch it and say yes, I moved twice.
SV: Then, obviously I had a compromised run out of the second corner, defending my position. Then it was very difficult to see where he was. I couldn’t see him for a very very long time and then just saw his tyres and I knew that he was then somewhere there and I didn’t want to be a complete arse by pushing him into the dirt and potentially into the wall so I wasn’t quite sure where he was and then at some point I had to give in. I thought I could maybe get it back out of turn four but I had to give him the entrance otherwise, you know, at some stage it just becomes silly. Obviously I wasn’t happy when I lost the position but I think we did what we could today. We tried to push very hard, obviously and made the undercut but unfortunately lost the position. After that it was very very difficult. I thought I was a bit faster than Valtteri at certain stages in the race but not enough to get close and at the end of the race I had a lapped car which lost (me) 1.5s and then the gap was too big so there was not much point for two laps, I can’t close three seconds in two laps, not if you are within the same tenth so that was that.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Sebastian, the maths in this championship aren’t in your favour. There are only five races to go. Do you feel this championship is slipping away at all?
SV: To be honest, I go race by race. Obviously I’m clever enough – I wasn’t a genius in maths – but I was clever enough to pay attention to make it up myself but it’s not getting easier if we lose points. Well done to both of them, they played very well together as a team. In their defence, all the questions… obviously I know that you guys love controversy and therefore ask some naughty questions to them as individuals but I think in the position they were in it was a no-brainer what they did today so maybe not all the questions are justified. For us, obviously we tried our maximum. I think there was a slim chance to finish ahead of Lewis. I went through the racing bit this afternoon, so we have to be third and settle with that for today. I still believe in our chances; yes, obviously it’s not getting bigger, as I said, if you finish behind but who knows, it takes one DNF and then all of a sudden things look different – ideally two! – which I’m not wishing on Lewis but you never know what happens, so we need to stay on top of our game which maybe we haven’t been completely this weekend: make sure that from where we are now we focus on winning the last races.
Q: (Leonid Khayremdinov – Red Star) Sebastian, how could you explain the extreme tyre choice of your team for your next race in Japan? You will have ten sets of supersoft; even Mercedes will have only seven. Do you think it’s risky?
SV: We need to push. No I don’t think so. We will see when we get there whether we are right or they are right but I think the last races for us have been quite positive with the choices we made, no regrets really. You should bear in mind that when you make the choice, you are like half a year from the actual race event. I think we should be fine.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis and Valtteri, once this championship is decided one way or another, do you think if such a situation arises, Lewis, where you’re in front, Valtteri second, would you consider an act on giving Valtteri the win that you got today and Valtteri, would you accept a win in those circumstances?
LH: I have no problems with that. I don’t think he needs to do that. I think he has the possibility of winning many more races himself. At the end of last year I think he won quite a few. I don’t know.
VB: No, I think it’s more fun if we race for it.
1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com|
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta )
Q: Valtteri, I have to say, an incredible lap. Your team-mate looked in supreme form, but you go the job done and you got pole position on a track where you took your first win last year.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Thanks, yeah, it was a nice lap. In the end I managed to also improve a little bit. I don’t know what happened, I think he aborted his lap. It feels good. I’ve still got a bit of the shakes. It takes some concentration, but it was fun.
Q: Did it take that much to get pole position? I can see you’re still shaking, the emotion are trying to get on top. Lewis on supreme form at the moment coming up behind you to congratulate you.
VB: Yeah, maybe I don’t look like it, but I’m really happy, for sure. But it’s only the first step in this weekend. It’s a massively long run from the start line to Turn 1, so it’s going to be important to try to keep that position.
Q: You can be happiest today, you got the job done. Lewis, another front row lock-out by Mercedes. You looked like you did a very good sector, but just lost it out of Turn 7?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, first of all a big congratulations to Valtteri, he has been driving all weekend and just did the better job. It’s a great track and the weather is fantastic and we have a great crowd. It was intense naturally as it always is. Just my last two laps were not special at all! But you can’t always get it right and at least we are still in the fight for the race tomorrow. But the team are doing an amazing job, so really happy with the 1-2.
Q: You did the good job in Singapore. You got the best qualifying lap of everybody and you managed to control the race. You’ve come here with an upgrade and the car is working very well. How much do you owe to the team to keep that momentum and to keep that carrying on for you to take the fight to Sebastian?
LH: We rely fully on the team. The guys back at the factory, the guys here do an impeccable job and it’s really motivating to see new upgrades come, just to see the evolution of the car throughout the year, because I’m the one that gets to go out and test it. And as I said, a big thank you to everyone here in Russia for having us, because it’s a beautiful place so far.
Q: Sebastian, P3 today. I think we can say it’s not over, this weekend, but it’s very difficult from Ferrari’s point of view. Mercedes have come here with some upgrades and you just haven’t had the pace, have you?
Sebastian VETTEL: Not yet. We’ll see, maybe it happens tomorrow. Obviously it was important to get as close as possible to them, and then we’ll see. But it’s true that they have been very quick so we’ll see. Tomorrow is a long race, we’ve seen that the tyres are very important. For today, I think it should have been a bit closer, the gap, but not enough to be a threat. I had a tiny mistake in the last sector. But I knew that I had to improve by half a second, so I had to try. It didn’t work but I’m quite happy. The car felt alright, so that makes me quite positive for Sunday.
Q: It’s a long run down to Turn 2, which is the first braking zone. Do you think you can use the extra power you’ve normally got and equally is it your best chance of getting on top of these two?
SV: I hope so. I just spoke to Valtteri and reminded him of what happened here last year. Maybe we can turn it around; that would be nice. I think it depends on the start, the initial jump, that’s important. Then I think you know where you are and then we see what we can do for the first corner but after that, as I said, it’s a long race. Tricky one, but for sure if there’s a gap we’ll go for it.
Q: Valtteri, after a fairly tough run of form, you said you wanted a big result, so how sweet does this pole position feel today?
VB: For sure it feels good. I’ve only once on pole, earlier this year in Austria, so it’s been a bit long since last time, so it is a good feeling. Coming into this weekend I knew that normally this has been a pretty good track for me and again managed to get some good laps in qualifying and the car just felt really, really strong. As the times show, I think the team has done an exceptional job again, bringing new bits again at this race. We’re just step-by-step improving this car, which is going to be really important for the rest of the year with the championship fight
Q: Congratulations. Lewis, fastest in Q1 and fastest in Q2. It’s still a Mercedes one-two, but just talk us through your session, finishing second today?
LH: Well, big congratulations to Valtteri, he did a great job in Q3. It’s been a really good weekend so far, honestly. I really can’t complain. I don’t know where it really got away from me in Q3 but I struggled a little bit and Valtteri obviously picked up quite a bit of pace. The middle sector was where I was slacking, as I’d call it. Anyway, it’s great to have a one-two and it’s a long way down to Turn 1 so we’ll still have a fight at least tomorrow. It’s going to be a long race, for sure.
Q: Seb, third place today and with the pace that Mercedes’ showed in FP2, FP3 and then earlier in qualifying as well, do you think Ferrari maximised its potential today?
Q: …and in that case, what’s the potential for tomorrow?
SV: Well, we go racing. You never know what’s going to happen. I think… I was joking with Valtteri earlier that he should remember what happened last year where he was third, I was on pole. But you never know. It depends on the start. It depends on so many things. So, we will see. As I said, we will go racing and try to do, obviously, our best. It’s been a bit of a tricky one for us. We didn’t have the pace by quite a big gap, which is a surprise but it is like this and we will fight as much as we can tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, question for you. You mentioned the time loss in the middle sector so far. Can you talk us through where you think you’ve been losing that time – and did that have any bearing on the mistake on the second run, just knowing you had a little bit of time to find?
LH: The middle sector hadn’t been too bad throughout qualifying. Q1 was really good and then Q2 wasn’t so great and just generally throughout the weekend it’s been a bit up and down through that sector but been quick in the first and third. And then, yeah, the first lap in Q3, was down three-tenths in the middle sector but I was quickest in the first and last. So I knew I had to push quite a lot because I knew also he would gain time, so it wasn’t three tenths it has half a second I needed to improve. And so just over-egged it a little bit. I think I picked up a little bit of dirt on my outside tyres and then there was less grip there for the next corner.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – globoesporte.com) To Sebastian. What’s the main problem in your car? Your tyres don’t reach the temperature? They go over temperature? Or they are normal and you have understeer? Oversteer?
SV: To be honest, I was pretty happy. I think the car was pretty good. The balance was pretty good. I think it peaked in Q3 just the way it should so I think we got everything we could. I had a tiny bit of a mistake because I knew I had half a second to find, not just a couple of hundredths, so should have been two-tenths up on the last lap – but yeah, I was pretty happy with the car. It’s not like there’s a big issue with car balance. I think we reached out full potential today.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Question for all three drivers. We’ve seen that the track’s been resurfaced slightly on the approach to Turn One and that means the first row of the grid will definitely start on the new tarmac. Not sure if the second row of the grid gets it. How much has that come up with your discussions with the teams this weekend? Have you talked about it – and do you think it could make any difference off the start tomorrow?
VB: I think it’s a little bit unknown, to say exactly how much there is going to be a grip difference, if there is going to be – but usually new tarmac tends to have a bit more grip – but also it depends on the type of tarmac. We’ve been only driving around that part of the track in non grip-limited conditions, so flat-out. We’ll find out tomorrow how it’s going to affect.
Lewis, do you see it affecting the starts?
LH: I really don’t know. Pretty much the same as what Valtteri said. So, tarmac’s always different but we’ve not done a start out there, so I anticipate it’ll probably be different to the older stuff – but whether it’s better or worse, we’ll find out. Hopefully better.
And Seb, your thoughts on the grid?
SV: I don’t know. I thought P3 is also just in the range. If not, that’s not good. I think the grip should be a bit higher. I think it’s wrong to resurface just a bit, whether that’s positions one-two-three, or four-five-six, eight-nine-ten, it doesn’t matter. If you resurface something of the grid you should resurface everything. But it is what it is.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for the two (Mercedes) drivers: of course there is a championship on the table. I would like to know about that, from both of you. How is the strategy for tomorrow? Valtteri, are you free to race completely or to look a little bit for your teammate at the start, particularly? And for Sebastian, I would like to know if you can explain what happened after Singapore, just because some new parts didn’t work or there was something else wrong?
VB: My approach to the race tomorrow is definitely just trying to win the race. You can’t have any other goal, starting from the pole so that’s going to be the aim, for sure, but of course we’re here as a team, we’re fighting for both championships. Obviously Lewis is leading the championship with a bit of a gap to Sebastian and a very big gap to me, so always need to keep those things in mind but yeah, my approach, starting the race, is trying to win and we’ll then see how it goes.
LH: I think all of our goals is to try and win this race. It’s a difficult track on which to try and overtake so the start will be an interesting one and after that it’s partly about strategy which we’re all pretty much on the same (strategy). We just give it everything we’ve got.
Q: And Seb, your thoughts on Ferrari’s form at Singapore compared to here?
SV: Well, I don’t think it’s too different. Obviously in Singapore I think we were looking a bit more competitive until qualifying. Then, for various reasons, we didn’t get a very good session but I think also on Sunday it was true that we didn’t have enough pace. I don’t think anything has happened, to be honest. I think the races that we’ve seen so far have been quite close. I don’t think there was a race where we had really that superior pace in the race. I think it was always a match on Sunday, at best for us. On Saturday I think it’s been one way or the other but yeah, for sure, yesterday we didn’t get a very good feeling but I think today the car was really good and I was quite happy in qualifying. I didn’t have much to complain about but we’re still not quick enough so I think it’s just what we saw today but tomorrow is the race and that’s what we focus on now.
Q: (Valery Kartashev - Racing News Agency) My question is not about qualifying. You know the current situation where we have only two seats available in Formula One and much more young drivers who would like to be a Formula One driver but have no opportunity to do this. And yesterday, Lando Norris actually said that the Formula Two car is quite fun to drive, so maybe they would like to continue to do GP3 or Formula Two but there is one problem. There are no more spectators in the grandstands, so what about if you, instead of giving all the interviews on Thursday, have one race in a Formula Two car so we could see you in the same cars and spectators go to the autodrome and the young drivers could use your result as a benchmark.
SV: Yeah, anything’s better than interviews! I think it would be fun. In the past racing drivers were a lot more all-rounders, they raced in different cars, different categories. Nowadays motor sport has changed, the sport has changed and everything has got more professional, more serious so there’s also not that much time maybe on hand but I think it would be nice to drive more often and talk less.
Q: Lewis, you won the GP2 title but would you go back to race a Formula Two car against some of the current guys?
LH: I don’t really feel the need to. We’re already racing too much in my opinion, and I don’t want to drive a slower car. GP2, it’s the best thing you’ve ever driven up until you’ve driven a Formula One car. I’m pretty sure there’s not a single driver who’s driven a Formula One car who says I want to go back to a GP2 car. I don’t really see the benefit of it, to be honest. GP2 is not there for spectators, it’s a proving ground for young guys to get to Formula One, so I don’t really have an answer there.
Q: And Valtteri, would you rather race a Formula Two car on a Thursday than do interviews?
VB: If I could chose, I definitely would drive but I’m not that keen to race there. Like Seb said, it is pretty professional nowadays and there’s not much time and you want to invest more of your time or your thoughts or your commitment to this sport if you want to be at the top really.
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point Force India), Mario ISOLA (Pirelli)
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com|
Q: Toto, third and fourth for your team in FP1 today but you’re unbeaten at this circuit, have won every Russian Grand Prix so far – so are you the favourites heading into this weekend’s race?
Toto WOLFF: No. I never see ourselves as favourites. We were beaten in qualifying last year and Valtteri had a really brilliant started, towed the Ferraris and went into the lead. And how the season has been going this year, first of all, there’s no patterns any more, and I don’t want to put us in a favourite position, let’s see where we are tomorrow after qualifying.
Q: Off-track we had another driver line-up confirmed today with Haas confirming its line-up. Is there any news concerning your young drivers, Esteban Ocon and George Russell?
TW: No, not yet. We are still working on the alternatives, the remaining alternatives. I don’t expect there to be any news in the next week. We need to see how it all pans out at Williams and what we plan to do with Esteban long term and come up with a decision.
Q: Otmar, speaking of Esteban. He was involved in that first-lap clash with Sergio in Singapore. Has there been any talks with the drivers since then? What’s the latest in terms of what they can do, in terms of racing each other?
Otmar SZAFNAUER : Yeah, that was an unfortunate incident. We definitely spoke with them after. We analysed what happened and we’ll be speaking with them this weekend as well.
Q: And what is going to be the protocol for your drivers going into races?
OS: It’s going to be no different to how it’s been – it’s just I think they forgot, so we’re going to remind them that they have to give each other enough room, especially on lap one and even leave margin for error. So, if something does happen, they don’t run into each other. We’ll remind them of that and show them how that can be done.
Q: You’re making those calls as team principal now of Force India and you’ve been in that role for three races. Having got a good view of the picture of the team now, what do you think is a realistic target for the rest of the season?
OS: Well, if we continue to do a good job and don’t crash into each other, I think realistically we should be targeting at least sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, which is attainable but not easy to do. I think above that it will take some luck on our part or some misfortune on somebody else’s part.
Q: Cyril, Otmar almost rules himself out of the fight for fourth place – but who are your main threats for that fourth position, going into the rest of the season?
Cyril ABITEBOUL: Well, I think there is no real change in relation to that. Haas, since the season start, since the pre-season tests, has been really quick, fast but couldn’t really crystalize that pace advantage in the early part of the season. They would be our fiercest competitors but, as Otmar is saying, they are coming back very quickly in the Constructors’ Championship. They’re quick, very quick on one lap. I think our car is still very competitive in race trim but we know we’re suffering a disadvantage in qualifying, which is obviously playing a very big role in our capacity to maintain our fourth position. So, it’s all about defending on Sunday what sometimes we’re not capable of doing on Saturday.
Q: Your team ran Artem Markelov in the first practice session today, continuing the momentum of Russian drivers coming into Formula One. How do you rate Artem and his performance?
CA: I think he’s done a very good job this morning. He’s not made any mistakes, first and foremost and we had a number of new parts on the car, so we would not have wanted to lose those parts, obviously. Good also on the procedures, and God knows there is a lot in terms of engine, aero test and so on and so forth. In pace, he was very decent, more than decent, I should say. Eight-tenths off Nico, obviously who’s got a great track record of being able to extract maximum performance, in particular from the softest compound we have this weekend: the hypersoft. I think Artem struggled a little bit by degradation of the tyres. That’s an area where he needs to work and learn – but I guess an interesting referential point for his future hopefully.
Q: Mario, moving on to you. Cyril referenced the tyres there. We’ve got a step in the compounds, with the soft, ultrasoft and hypersoft but with a very smooth circuit here, what does it do for the strategic options at this track?
Mario ISOLA: We decided to nominate the hypersoft here because it is a smooth track but with some characteristics you need traction, especially for Sector Three, you need a strong tyre, especially the front for Turn Three, that is a very demanding corner. Then it is up to them to find the right setup of the car to preserve the tyres. We know that it is an aggressive choice, same choice as Singapore but with completely different characteristics of the circuit. Therefore I can imagine they will manage the tyres during the race. This is something that is happening since the beginning of the year. It’s a sort of reaction from the teams to our decision to go softer and with more degrading tyres, and we will see. This morning, FP1, I believe was not really representative, considering that we had a lot of track evolution – so probably in the afternoon we have a better picture of delta performance and the level of degradation.
Q: Pirelli has also been busy since the Singapore Grand Prix doing testing at Paul Ricard, looking ahead to 2019. So just how are preparations going for next season?
MI: The test was very good. We had Ferrari, Mercedes and we were able to complete all the programme, so the construction is now decided, so we are supplying all the data for the new construction to the teams by the 1st of October – that is the deadline. We are working on some fine tuning of the compounds, because the target for next year is to nominate five compounds. The target is five compounds. We may need to homologate an extra compound, so six, but hopefully we stay on five. That means that we will provide all five compounds with the new construction in Abu Dhabi at the test that is planned for after the race, similar to last year, to give the teams the opportunity to have an idea of the 2019 product.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Otmar, Toto and Cyril. What are your thoughts about Russian companies investing in Formula One and motor racing and supporting Russian drivers?
OS: We travel all over the world and it’s great to see many nations supporting their drivers. I think it’s natural that companies will support Russian drivers. I think it’s good for the sport.
TW: Yeah, we’re seeing more Russian kids coming through the ranks. You can see them in go-karting. And if you look at even the small classes, the Bambini and the Juniors, there is more Russian kids inspired by Vitaly and all the ones that came early, and I think it’s good to have a mixture.
And Cyril, your thoughts, especially just having run a Russian driver in FP1.
CA: We have. And in addition to that, Renault has a very strong footprint in Russia. Russia might become one of the biggest and more important markets in the future mid-term plan of Renault, so it’s clearly a market that’s key for the future of the brand but there is no reason not to be also on the development path for Formula One. I guess for the rest it’s not really for us comment on any political aspects that goes a bit above this room frankly.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi - La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Cyril. I would like to know exactly what was the issue with the engine for Red Bull and McLaren and why did you decide to change the engines for those teams here. And for Toto, I would like to know if something changes in 2019 with the passage between Zetsche and Källenius?
CA: Yeah, engine changes, lots of things said and written about that. Reality is a bit more straightforward. It’s simply the execution of a plan previously agreed with all stakeholders. In particular, with Red Bull. We had a driveability issue in Singapore in FP1, early into the weekend and, to a far less extent, in qualifying. But I think we have a very demanding user in the person of Max, and not very quiet also. But I think the team has done a great job in order to provide Max what was needed in order to have a good weekend in Singapore, it’s very clear. As far as the introduction of the previous-spec engine is concerned, again, that was part of the plan. The C-spec as we call it, is a good step, I think it is a good step that everyone recognises, that Red Bull has a clear step in power that comes also with a certain number of limitations. That was part of the plan to introduce, at a later stage, a B-spec. It’s a bit unusual in terms of pattern – but again it’s a pattern and a plan that was fully agreed, specifically on the request of Red Bull.
And Toto, your comments on the changes at Mercedes next year.
TW: Yes. Dieter and Ola Källenius have been strong supporters of Formula One all these years. Ola has been on the board of the team since a long time, has been running Mercedes High Performance Engines before, and was the managing director of AMG. So, we have a very good relationship with the two of them and Dieter is not leaving, he’s just taking a cool-off period and coming back into the supervisory board and Ola, obviously, as the new CEO provides stability for our Formula One project.
Q: (Phil Duncan - PA) Toto, we’ve seen Lewis has arrived here off the back of two very impressive performances in Singapore and Italy. I just wondered if you could provide some insights into why you think he’s performing so well at the most and do you think this is the most complete and best Lewis that we have seen?
TW: He’s certainly performing on a very high level. Singapore was definitely one of the best race weekends I’ve seen from him. I think he’s just in a good place. It’s been a while that we work together in Formula 1, that he’s been part of the team, and he’s become a very solid and reliable pillar within the team and in the car’s development. And generally, I think, without wanting to go into too much detail I think he is in a good place in his life and he enjoys racing. He enjoys the activities outside of racing and give him a good car and then he’s able to perform on a level that is unseen.
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) Toto, Lewis said yesterday he had done work on how he works, or looked at how he works with his engineers this year. Is there anything that you have seen in how he goes about his day job, stuff that we wouldn’t ordinarily see that maybe has a bearing on how well he is doing at the moment?
TW: What is impressive with him is the constant development and the search for the optimum performance, and this translates into every aspect of his life. It’s how the briefings are being down, how the interaction with the engineers happens, the analysis of his own driving. He’s the only driver I’ve ever heard saying, ‘I haven’t driven well, first we have to look at my driving and then we look at the data’. This constant drive for perfection happens every year and is, I believe, one of the reasons why he is such a complete racing driver.
Q: (Andrey Kirsanov – Sputnik News Agency) My question is to Toto Wolff. As you know Saudi Arabia is preparing to provide its own Formula 1 driver. It’s a woman; her name is, as you know, Aseel Al Hamad. What do you think about her prospects for Formula 1 activities and what do you think in general for drivers for Formula 1 from Middle East countries. If anyone else wants to add something it would be great. Thank you.
TW: Well, it was very interesting to see how Saudi starts to participate in motor racing activities. My wife was in Saudi a couple of days ago to launch the Formula E race that is going to happen on the 15th of December there and has been met very openly and I believe that with the country opening up for women driving in general it’s just a matter of time before we will see young boys and young girls from Saudi racing in go-karts and maybe making it into single seaters and Formula 1.
Cyril, anything to add?
CA: No, we had the chance to do a marketing activity with that lady at the French Grand Prix, offering her a drive around the track in one of our demo cars. She has done well. She had done some practice before that and it was happening the same day actually that women were given the licence in Saudi, so I guess it was a way to mark a milestone. There are very many more milestones necessary on a number of aspects but that was one milestone.
Otmar, Mario, anything to add?
OS: I agree with Toto.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Otmar, there is all this talk about Esteban’s career next year. You’re a team of two unconfirmed seats. Is there a reason why you don’t put him into one of your cars?
OS: He’s a great driver, Esteban; I must start with that. He’s been with the team for a bit now and we know him and like him quite well and in due course we’ll announce our drivers.
Q: (Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) My question is also for Otmar. Yesterday we learned that the Uralkali company is suing the administrators of Force india over the sale of the team to Lawrence Stroll and his consortium. Are you worried by the situation? Are you confident that the administrator can defend their case in court?
OS: So I learned about it just like you did, I think I read Dieter’s story. We’re not involved at all, so that’s between Uralkali and the administrators, so from a team perspective absolutely zero worries. There is no involvement, so there is no focus on it whatsoever.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) My question is to Otmar. Did you ever feel anything concerning the new partners of the team, from the practical point of view, arrives money, you can develop more programmes? And what does it mean for the future? You could plan alright? For example, next season and next year’s project car if you have the benefit of more money arriving?
OS: Yeah, we have to be careful that the ethos of the team doesn’t degrade. We still have to spend our money wisely, but for sure financial stability helps in this sport. I can give you some examples. This year our launch car, or our first race car, that we should have had in Australia, came in, I believe, Barcelona. Had we had the money this year, for example, our performance would have been much better, much earlier. And that we will not suffer from next year. As an example, you mentioned over the winter, we will be able to realise all our developments that we come up with through some experimentation, we’ll be able to put them on the car because of the improved financial stability and that will for sure help performance.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) What about the budget?
OS: We are going through the budgeting process now, as we do every year, and we will increase that budget for sure, especially in capital expenditure. The team has lacked capital expenditure for quite some time. And then other areas of operating expenditure that will bring performance, we’ll have the ability to increase that too. But that budgeting process for next year is happening now and should finish around December time frame.
Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Cyril and Toto, we know the engine manufacturers, while we are preparing for the 2021 engine regulations, have been keen to keep the MGU-H, but that was initially part of what the FIA and F1 wanted to drop. How is that situation progressing? Do you have an update on whether you will be able to keep the MGU-H and is that what you two respectively want?
CA: I believe the FIA is still yet to confirm a package of measures and regulation changes for 2021, so I would not want to override their credibility on that. But I think what we can say is that most of the technical regulations are set and similar to the current regulations, but it is the way we are using the engine – with more fuel, more fuel flow, higher revs, more fuel also, in terms of allocation. That is also confirmed because we all accept that we need to do better, provide a better product for the show, for the fans, for the car – cars that are getting heavier and heavier – so we need more power, because it needs to remain a power-to-weight formula. I think where there is still quite a lot to be done is on the Sporting Regulations and financial discipline in relation to engines, so exact number of Pus, supplier obligations, possible dyno limitations. We are just kicking off that process, which is an important process, because all of that will really define the business model, which needs to be attractive at the same time for the manufacturers and for the customer teams.
Toto, where do Mercedes stand?
TW: Nothing to add; Cyril summed it up well.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines, Racefans.net) This is a two part question regarding the 2020 onwards tyre supply. And that is that we now, for the first time since 2007, have two competitors for the tyre tender. The three team bosses; are you in favour of a possible change to another brand with a different philosophy and Mario, how does this complicate your negotiations with Formula One Management?
OS: Well, we’re obviously interested. We’re going to have to use the tyres. Pirelli have done a fabulous job for us and for Formula One and for that we have to congratulate them. Yeah, there are two people tendering and we’re happy to work with whomever is the winning bidder or the winning tender.
TW: Like Otmar said, Pirelli has been with us for a long time and a stable partner. They have been given an impossible task that whatever specification we ask for and they deliver, it’s not as good as it should be so Mario has stood firm with the teams complaining. Pirelli’s a great brand and a pillar of the sport and that needs to be considered, obviously, and the teams have no say in that. It is a commercial and political decision that’s going to be taken by FOM. They need to look at the numbers, they need to look at the brand values and on the impact that a new tyre supplier can have versus the one that we know. I’d like to leave it with them, but we’ve worked with Pirelli really well over the past years.
CA: Nothing to add really, on the tender process. What I think is really important is to make sure to define what’s good for the sport, for the fans, for the show, for the mid-term future and really stick to it because as Toto has said, every single time we come up with a request and I think, in fairness, Pirelli has delivered but it seems to make us even more unhappy than the situation before. I think we are all complaining about the pit stop situation, the number of pit stops, optimum race strategy that is a bit straightforward, the fact that we need to drive very slowly on occasions and manage the tyres. It’s true that there is no point in doing all the investment that we will be doing in new engines if we are still limited by another component, another factor, so that’s really important that we have a good thinking about that and that we give proper time to stability to Pirelli or anyone else to develop the right product.
MI: As you know, we just finished the technical side of what is called phase one. We received confirmation from FIA that we are technically eligible to supply tyres for Formula One - it’s not a surprise, honestly - and now there is the commercial discussion with F1. There is no deadline for that so I cannot tell you how long it will last. They summarise very well what we did in the last eight years. We always tried to deliver what we have been asked to deliver. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, especially now you can see… Cyril was talking about pit stops and what is happening now but we know that if you add an extra pit stop to the strategy you lose 20 plus seconds. That means that you have to recover this time on track so there is a completely different approach from the teams compared to 2011, 2012 for example. They have to save the package, not only the tyres. That means that they try to plan a strategy with a minimum number of stops possible and this was clear, for example, in Singapore where the potential for the hyper soft was much higher so they could lap much quicker but the decision of more or less everybody was to save the tyres in order to plan a strategy with one stop - just have a look at the average degradation in free practice two that was more than 0.3s per lap and during the race was less than one tenth per lap and this gives you an indication of what is going to happen. How we can solve this is probably necessary to analyse the data from the first part of the championship and to understand which is the right direction in terms of the regulations and then we will see.
Q: (Julien Billiotte - AutoHebdo) Cyril, coming back to the spec C engine, we heard some comments from your friend Max yesterday, saying that at high altitude the engine doesn’t perform as well, in places like Mexico or Brazil. Are these comments accurate and also are you worried by Honda’s latest updated package
CA: I think that any engine - you can ask to Toto - but I believe that it’s fair to say that any engine performs not as good at high altitude but I guess the power increase that we have seen would have been equal in a track like Mexico so no, I don’t agree with those comments in general. I think Max would focus on the car. But we do have reliability concerns and therefore it was clear that the engine introduced for Max would not have been able to do all the races so it was decided obviously to go to a different spec but again that’s going to the plan that I was mentioning before, agreed with Red Bull engineering department and not driving department.
Then going back to your question about Honda, yes, well, frankly I’m worried about everything in general, in life, but in particular about a situation on the engine side. Honda, as we’ve seen since last year, it was already very clear, is making big steps, big gains. Red Bull has been very clear that they are investing massively, massively, probably and apparently much more than us which we are happy for Red Bull and Honda. Frankly we have our way to do things. We have a plan and we are executing that plan. It’s not just about arms race. We have all the aspects of the package to develop. No one is providing anything to us, either in the power train or on the chassis, so it has to be step by step. We are very confident in our upgrade for next year. We want to play the long term game.
Q: (Jens Nagler - Bild) One question for Toto and one for Mario Isola. Toto, Valtteri yesterday said that he has a mind just to get on pole and to win here. Is he allowed, since the championship fight is still ongoing? And Mario, we’ve heard that there was a fire in the Haas garage last night, destroying two sets of Kevin Magnussen’s tyres. Have you already learned something, how that could happen to your tyres and how they caught fire?
TW: The most important is that you accept that a driver will always want to be on pole and win the race and closing that perspective down, at the beginning of a race weekend, is certainly not something that I’m going to do. We take it step by step, see what happens tomorrow in qualifying. Hopefully he’s going to be very strong and put it on pole and then have a strong race and then we decide what the race situation is and the points situation.
MI: Yes, there was fire in the Haas garage. It was because of malfunctioning of the blankets, or the control unit of the blankets and two sets of tyres have been damaged. We have already replaced them with the agreement of the FIA but nothing special. You know that teams are allowed to keep the tyres in blankets at a maximum temperature of sixty degrees for the slick tyres, so usually they keep the blankets (on) during the night and they are allowed to do that. Then it happened. Luckily somebody was able to extinguish the fire very quickly so the damage was very limited.
Q: (Cesary Gutowsky – Przeglad Sportowy) Mr Szafnauer, yesterday Sergio confirmed that he is staying at Force India but there is no confirmation from the team yet so it’s kind of confusing so if you could explain the current status.
OS: Well, we’ll… like I said earlier, we will make the announcement in due course and we’d like to announce both drivers at once. We don’t see a big need to hurry into it so you’ll know very soon.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Mario, getting back to my earlier question: I had asked how complicated it becomes now that you have a competitor for the commercial side of the tyre tender negotiations. Can you see it becoming a lot more expensive, Liberty putting greater commercial demands on your board in terms of income etc?
MI: Our CEO already announced our position so I don’t want to add anything to that. There is a commercial discussion now. We have our position, we will make our offer and so I don’t know anything about a competitor. So it’s quite easy.
Q: (Livio Oricchio - Globoesporte.com) Cyril, you’ve said at the beginning that the problem of Max is related to the way he conducts in the last race. My question is, as far as we understand, all the secure system of having the power unit today, the driver won’t be able to damage one engine or am I wrong?
CA: I’m not sure I said that. What is true is that Daniel managed to find some work around, some way to drive around the limitation of the engine in FP1 in Singapore but anyway, it doesn’t remove the fact that we should have done a better job on having the right drivability for the two drivers in Singapore which is again something that we’ve done. There are always limitations in the way that you can simulate on the dyno, the behaviour that you will then experiment on the car. We don’t have the sort of very complex full car dyno to test the engine in its ultimate environment. That’s something we are looking at. We think it’s a bit unreasonable to have to invest in such equipment but if we have to do it, we will eventually do it. We would prefer that the FIA takes action not to encourage crazy investment like that but that we may be something that would have helped in the circumstances.
Q: (Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Cyril and Toto, there’s talk that possibly from 2021 onwards there could be some sporting restrictions on engines in terms of restricted dynamometer or simulation time etc. Are you in favour of this as a cost-saving thing, so it would be very similar to what we have currently on wind tunnel restrictions etc?
TW: Yes, in favour. I think the ATR functions well on the aero side and if we find a sensible way to do it on power units and cap the ability of spend, it’s something which we need to do.
CA: Fully agree.
DRIVERS – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Sergey SIROTKIN (Williams), Charles LECLERC (Sauber)
Q: Marcus, Sauber announced this week that Antonio Giovinazzi will be racing next season but you’re going to be remaining with the team in 2019, so just give us your reaction to the news about what’s happening next year.
Marcus ERICSSON: Yeah, it’s obviously disappointing to be not racing. It’s all you want to do; you want to race. It’s not good news for me, obviously. Still, I’m happy to be able to continue my relationship with the team but then yeah, let’s see. I want to race still, so I’m looking at different options on how to keep doing that and looking at everything really, what I can do, in what series and what it could be – but it’s still a bit early. It’s quite fresh, this news, so I need to look at my options. Overall, of course, I would like to stay.
Q: You said on social media ‘it’s not the end of the story – just the start of a new chapter’ but does it feel like it’s the end of the Formula One chapter, in your eyes?
ME: No. My goal is still to come back into Formula One. I think for 2019 that’s not going to happen but hopefully after that there will be possibilities to come back. That’s still the goal, to come back to Formula One.
Q: Sergey, moving onto you next. You raced here in what was GP2 but this will be your first Russian Grand Prix as a Formula One driver – so it must be a special weekend for you.
Sergey SIROTKIN: It is. It’s going to be special, for sure. Obviously being here almost every year, since F1 came here, I raced here in GP2 but it’s all quite different form being here as a race Formula One Driver. I can feel it already now, it’s a lot of attention, a lot of support, which is very nice to feel as a driver, it’s very nice to feel especially in the situation we are this year. I mean, it’s a lot more activity, it’s a bit of… y’know… I would say it’s a bit more difficult to manage all of that but I mean, I try to get the best from it, I try to get energy from it and keep going. So, it is a pleasure to be here and race in front of the home crowd.
Q: That’s the specifics of this weekend – but more generally, do you know what you’ll be doing in 2019 yet?
SS: I definitely know what I want to be doing. I’m not sure I can guarantee something right here, right now, but, I mean, I think it’s quite obvious, with the way everything is developing, I think it’s quite obvious what I want and it’s something that should happen quite soon. Yeah, I have no guarantees right now, right here, but at the same time I’m not too much worried about the future, let’s say.
Q: Valtteri, this will be Sergey’s first grand prix here in Formula One and this was the scene of your first Formula One victory for Mercedes last year – so does it bring back special memories, returning to Sochi?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Definitely. You never forget the first time. It was a good memory and it will be nice to be back here. Strong track normally. I’ve had pretty decent races so in that way it’s a nice approach to the weekend.
Q: You had more wins after this win here during last season but 2017 was the last time you won a grand prix. How do you go about turning that around this weekend?
VB: No wins for me this year yet but there’s still a bit of the season left and I come here with only one thing on my mind and that is being on the pole and winning the race.
Q: Charles, you’ve a few weeks now to digest where you’ll be racing next year, and you called it a dream come true, to be moving teams. Can we ask, in those dreams, have you started thinking about your first grand prix victory yet?
Charles LECLERC: No, not yet, it’s still very far away. First of all, I have to finish this season on a high, which is for now the main importance to me. There are still six races to go, so I’ll first try to focus on that. Obviously, it’s a dream come true to be racing for Ferrari next year – but I’m trying to take it out of my mind to focus fully on the end of this season.
Q: Focussing on that then, what is it you want to do with Sauber in these final six races. What are the things you still need to learn and work on ahead of your move?
CL: I think you can always improve. To learn, I still think I can learn in everything. So there is still a lot to learn. The target for the end of the season is to try to keep our form. It’s not going to be easy, because, as the team already mentioned, we started to focus, or the team started to focus, on next year’s car and I believe some of the other teams are still pushing a little bit to gain some positions in the championship – so it’s not an easy situation to be in, but we will try to keep our form.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Question for Marcus. The confirmation that you would be reserve driver obviously followed pretty immediately after Sauber confirmed its driver lineup. So, it’s not like you had to face speculation in public about what you would be doing or if you would drive for another team. So, how much notice did you get have? How aware were you that was coming? And did you have much opportunity to look at maybe Williams for next year or staying in F1 in a race role?
ME: I think when Kimi signed, I think that was bad news for me. I was still hoping but then obviously over the past weekend I got the information that Antonio had signed for the other car. And then yeah, my management were looking around a little bit but we decided to continue with Sauber and the relationship there, which we think is important. And then yeah, we go from there basically.
Q: (Andrey Kirsanov – Sputnik News Agency) My question is to Sergey Sirotkin, to our champion. As you know, the last edition of Formula 1 in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes, he won this edition. So what are your expectations for this edition in Sochi, how are you preparing and who are your main rivals in this time?
SS: Tricky question because everybody speaks that we are coming here to Sochi and that it should be a special event and so on and so on, but at the end of the day, in terms of preparation, how you build up your weekend, how you prepare yourself and how you do all your work with the team, it doesn’t really change much at all. It doesn’t matter if you go to Sochi or you go wherever else, every time you try to do your job, you try to do it as good as you can. If I could do anything better than I could I would do it a long time ago, I wouldn’t wait for here. So, I wouldn’t say there is anything different. I wouldn’t say anything different in terms of our opponents or whatever. So yeah, again we just try to do the best from where we are and maximise the situation and I’m afraid that’s it.
And your main rivals?
SS: It’s exactly the same as any other single race. First of all I think we should look at ourselves because I think it’s that type of track where we can have surprises, in both ways, in a good way and in bad way, and depending on that it will put us either closer or further away from the teams we want to be fighting with, so it’s quite difficult to say. But there’s not much movement around the field now anyway, so I would say nothing is going to be much different from what we saw in, let’s say, the recent three, four or five races.
Q: (Valery Kartashev – Racing News Agency) My question is to everybody. In Singapore, Lewis Hamilton said his passion for music and the fashion industry helps him to stay motivated, so my question is: do you have something outside Formula 1 that helps you to stay motivated and recharge the batteries?
VB: Yeah, I think everyone definitely has some things they have time to do between the races. I think for me personally it’s been always… I love sports. It’s a way of staying healthy and a way of getting rid of stress that we can experience with this sport. If I have free time, which I didn’t really have since the last race, but if I have, it’s nice to see the family, friends that you don’t normally get to see. Personally, I love nature, so sometimes a proper escape to hiking or some mountains or something is nice.
ME: Yeah, I’m a bit the same like Valtteri. I enjoy sports in general. I recently opened a paddle centre, so I play quite a lot of that with my friend. I enjoy that a lot. And then, I’m an ice hockey freak, so I watch a lot of ice hockey.
CL: First of all, what motivates me is the results. To me, it’s just trying to work as hard as possible to get the best result possible then on track. Then what relaxes me is just staying with the family and friends in Monaco. Nothing special to be honest.
SS: I would repeat what Valtteri says. I mean most of my life is anyway dedicated to the cars, so anything related to that – I’m never really going far away from it. Again, some type of training. I do like also to stay with the family, to go to see some nature, to be as switched off as possible at certain points from racing. So nothing really much unusual I would say.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – Globoesporte.com) To all drivers, I start with Valtteri. You started third position and you became first before… at the end of the straight you got a good two from Sebastian, overtook him. And we saw this year also, Sebastian starting behind Lewis in Spa, the same situation; he overtook him after the starting grid and a long straight. Circuits like this, it’s interesting to maybe start from second position or even third rather than pole position?
VB: Yeah, it is tricky one here. It is an extremely long run into Turn 2. Last year I missed the pole by, I think, less than one tenth, which maybe in the end was good, I got a nice tow. But you also need a good start for that. I think still you would like to be on pole because from pole if you get a good start there is… I think if you look at the past, 2015 and 2016, who started on pole could keep the first place into Turn 2. It is a tricky one. Now I think there is a bit of resurfacing done, which affects position one and two. Normally when there is new tarmac it means there is more grip so potentially you would like to be in the first two places.
Marcus, you’ve raced here before, is this a circuit you can make big gains at into Turn 2?
ME: Yeah, I think when it’s a long run into the first braking zone, it’s obviously important with a good start but then you need to look for a good tow, especially these days with the heavy downforce cars, it can make a difference. But as Valtteri says, you still need a good start, to get the momentum on the people around you. But it definitely opens up a bit of a mixture of positions, because it’s such a long run, you know. Some other tracks, like Singapore, even if you do it a good start it’s difficult to make up from it, but here it can really make a difference and you can gain quite a lot of positions.
Charles, it will be the first time you race here, so is this something you look at when you come to a new circuit?
CL: Yeah, you do, but it’s quite difficult to speak when you don’t know the track. Starts haven’t been my strong point this year; I think I struggled quite a bit. But to know there’s a long straight will for sure help overtakes after the start, but apart from that I don’t really know what to say. I don’t know this track so…
Sergey, did you have a similar experience in GP2?
SS: I don’t really remember how it was in GP2, but for sure this kind of track, the speed you approach Turn 2 for the braking and the speed you actually want to brake down to for the apex, it’s quite a big offset, so you can still do something. But again, it all should start with a good launch initially. Without that, it doesn't matter how long is the straight you won’t really be able to do much.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) In Singapore we had blue flags as a topic in the race and afterwards. It seems to have split opinion on their merit in Formula One. What are your respective thoughts on blue flags? Should they be dropped or do they still have a place? Could it be implemented differently? What do you think?
SS: Firstly, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it as the leading car, obviously, so I can imagine that for the leaders it’s as painful as it is for us. It’s one story when you’re just finishing your race and you’re not really fighting but there are some other occasions when we’re still fighting for positions and for us it’s quite painful to find a good safe way for ourselves, first of all, to let the leading cars pass by. Honestly, I don’t think I have the best experienced to comment if I wish to keep that or if I wish to get rid of it but yeah…
CL: Well, in Singapore first of all, I would like to thank Sergey because if my strategy worked that well it’s thanks to him also.
SS: It was a pleasure.
CL: I think if it’s done well, it’s the right thing to have in Formula One but then in Singapore it was a bit of a mess, I think. At one point, the marshals were waving yellow flags at me for several laps but I had nobody behind or more than one second or quite a lot more, actually. If it’s done properly I think it should stay but we just need to fix this issue for next year in Singapore.
ME: I think it’s always difficult with the blue flags and there are always arguments between the top cars compared to the guys they are lapping and it’s always two opinions there. I think we’ve tried 1.5 seconds, we’ve been down to one second and now I think it’s 1.2s. It’s difficult to find the perfect solution. I think it changes from track to track. In my opinion I think 1.2s is a good compromise. It’s never going to be perfect, but I think it’s just part of the sport, part of the race and I think as it is now I think is the best solution in my opinion, that’s the most fair for both the top and the guys who are getting lapped as well. I can also understand the frustration in the case of Valtteri in Singapore, obviously, because it’s a track where it’s very difficult to get close enough but at the same the guys who they are lapping are also having a race and fighting for points so it is a very difficult subject but I think where it is now is a good compromise.
VB: Well yes, first of all I’m definitely happy to keep the blue flags. I’ve been on both sides, really. I’ve been blue-flagged many times as well. I think honestly, as Marcus says, it really depends on different tracks. Sometimes this new 1.2s rule is good and sometimes it’s a bit tricky to get close enough to trigger the blue flags, like what happened to me in Singapore but it is also going to be a compromise, it’s never going to be perfect. In the end, for all the lead cars lapping, it is the same. Sometimes you get more luck with it, sometimes more unlucky and that’s how it goes. For now it’s fine.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Sergey, what are your thoughts on the recent success of Russian drivers you met before, in two years’ time in the Formula One paddock? Is it a question of growing motor racing culture in your country or the chance to have big companies to support you?
SS: I think it’s a good question. I think it’s a bit of both generally, the racing getting more and more popular which obviously gives more chances, initially, for the drivers first of all, more like a base and I think we will see it even more in the future. Same for the companies: there are more and more companies and different organisations and so on starting to be interested in supporting the racing, whatever it could be. It could be drivers’ sponsorship, it could be like that here. Many companies supporting the track activity here in Sochi or other things similar in Moscow or whatever. Yeah, there’s definitely a lot more movement around this sport nowadays than there’s been, even when I started so it’s a good way to keep going and to improve it. I think it’s still just beginning and I think what’s going on on the base what we have today is going to come in quite a few years and I think it will be quite an impressive improvement.