Sunday 31 March 2019

2019 Bahrain GP: FIA Post-Race Press Conference.

DRIVERS // 1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes) 2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes) 3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)


(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

Q: Lewis, congratulations. You had to work so hard for that one.

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, today was a really, really hard job. This weekend the Ferraris have been incredible and I just had to see Charles because he did such a great job. I’m sure this is a devastating result for him as he had done the job to win the race. We were definitely lucky today but you have to take it as it comes. Ultimately, I still gave it everything in the race and I pushed as hard as I could, and obviously the fight I had with Vettel was great fun for me.

Q: Take us through that. You went around the outside of Turn 4 a couple of times and Seb spun off behind you.

LH: Yeah, if you look at that big flag on top of that tower there is a massive headwind into Turn 4, so I just gave it everything and braked later than usual and dived down the outside. I don’t think we touched or anything like that, but this is a great result for the team considering how hard the race was. This guy here [Leclerc] has lots more wins coming in the future so congratulations to him.

Q: Charles, I’ll come back to you. I’ll just have a quick word with Valtteri. Valtteri, P2, pretty satisfying, the pace was difficult, but you were there when it mattered.

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I think as a team we got a bit lucky today but we kept it together, we did no mistake as a team and the car was very reliable – and that’s the win today. The hard work at the factory is paying off like this, so that is good. Otherwise a difficult race for me. The balance of the car was a bit everywhere and I ended up doing a lot of mistakes and so on.

Q: A great start and you weren’t giving Lewis any extra space there in the early laps?

VB: No, I never will. The first lap was good. I had a bit of a lock-up into Turn 1, so I lost a place but then I had a good battle with Lewis and congrats to him.

Q: OK, congratulations on second place. Oh, Charles, I think your car should be parked there [in P1] today?

Charles LECLERC: It happens. It’s part of motor sport. Unfortunately today it was not our day. But I am confident. The team has done an amazing job to recover the lack of pace we had in Australia. And yeah, what to say? Of course I’m extremely disappointed, like the whole team, but it happens in the seasons. I think we made the best out of it. We have been lucky in a very unlucky situation. Hopefully we had the safety car at the end, otherwise we would have finished even more rearward and also I don’t think with the fuel we would have been OK. Vey hard one to take but thanks to the team for the amazing car all weekend long and I’m pretty sure we’ll come back stronger.

Q: Well, you got the point for fastest lap. The first few corners seemed a bit difficult, low grip, but then you took the lead beautifully.

CL: Yeah, I didn’t do a good start. Then we were very strong all race long. It’s a shame to only finish third but as I said, it’s part of racing, and we will come back stronger. 

Q: It’s your first podium, let’s look on the bright side.

CL: Yeah, exactly. But, as I’ve said a lot in the past, I’m never really looking at the result, I’m more looking at the potential there was to do better. Today, third was not our place, but yeah, very happy anyway. Congratulations to Lewis and Valtteri and as I’ve said many times, we’ll come back stronger.


Q: Lewis, an incredible race from start to finish for everybody but another really good performance from you. As you lined up on the grid today what were your expectations? 

LH: I think the expectation was it was going to be a very, very tough race. Clearly the Ferraris had been quick all weekend. Charles had been incredibly rapid all weekend and was quickest in all sessions, and truly deserved the win. I think at the start I was hopeful to leapfrog at least one of the cars and in my opportunistic mind I was thinking to jump both of them at the start. But I got a terrible start once again, which is a bit disappointing, as I’ve put a lot of work in to try and improve those. You fall down and you juts keep going, and get back up and I’ll keep trying. After that, I think it was up and down clearly throughout the race. It looked like I could keep up with at least one of the Ferraris. And then that second stint was horrible, on the soft tyre. Then we fell back behind the Ferraris and it looked like we were out of contention for a second or even the wind. I was just battling this snappy, oversteery car in these winds, which were very tricky out there. And then with the undercut, that was a very exciting moment for me. I definitely didn’t see all that happening when we pulled up to the grid, but I’m grateful for it. As I’ve said, clearly we were very lucky today to get the 1-2 as a team. I think collectively we’d done a solid job through the weekend and Ferrari had out-performed us from the get-go. We’ve got to continue to work, as everyone is, it’s very, very hard. We’ll analyse where we have gone wrong this weekend. And as I was saying downstairs, for Charles… do they call you Charles or Charles?

CL: I don’t mind. Whatever is easier for you.

LH: I’m struggling every time I say the name. He did an incredible job this weekend and he’s got a beautiful, bright future ahead of him, so this will only make him stronger.

Q: Valtteri, 32nd podium of your career, we saw you make a great start. You’re still leading the Championship after race two. How do you sum it all up?

VB: Yeah, actually there were many points that were very interesting and exciting in that race and good fun – but then there were points in that race where I felt quite lonely! I didn’t see anyone. So, yeah, I had a great start to the race, I managed to get into P2 but then on Lap One into Turn One I think the wind caught me up a bit, I braked a bit too late into Turn One, trying to keep my position, and I lost two places – so back to fourth place. I think Ferrari, ultimately, was very, very strong again today, like yesterday – but yeah, during the times with the wind I ended-up doing some mistakes, like I think some other drivers did as well, and it was extremely difficult to keep the rhythm – but yeah, there were some good battles and so on. I managed to save the engine at some point when there was no threat from behind and a big gap in front. Also, I had a plastic bag stuck on my front wing at some point, which was costing performance, so not the perfect race but in the end, luck was on our side and we’ll definitely take it – especially me, after al the bad luck last year. So, obviously hard luck for Charles, he was very strong – but y’know, it will come for him. I had to wait for more than 80 races for my first win, so I’m sure it’s going to be OK.

Q: Charles, coming on to you, your first podium in Formula One, but obviously tinged with disappointment. I just wanted to ask you what positives you can take from today?

CL: I think from the whole weekend there are a lot of positives to take. After Australia we were quite a lot far off. I think we found some answers – not all of them – but we found some. We came here, front row lock-out, which was very positive for the team, and we showed that they have done an amazing job. That doesn’t mean we’ll stay there for the rest of the season but that just shows off how good of a job they’ve done between the two races. And then I think we’ve shown also that we had very strong pace during the race. Probably we were the strongest today. Unfortunately the issues stopped us winning – but, on the other hand, issues always happen in a season and, if any time I have an issue, I finish third, then I think we could be quite happy. Today was not our day. It’s sad, because obviously I was so close of realising a dream that you have since childhood, which is your first win in Formula One – but hopefully this day will come one day in the future. I’ll work for that, and I’m pretty sure the team will work for this but they should be proud about what they’ve done this weekend, and we’ll come back stronger.

Q: How comfortable did you feel out front?

CL: Well, very comfortable. The car felt amazing. There was quite a lot of wind, which was extremely tricky, especially out of [Turn] Four. So yeah, it was a very difficult race. i had to stay on it absolutely every lap. So yeah, it was very enjoyable, especially in the first part of the race when I had to catch back the position lost at the start.


Q: (Christian Menath – Question for you Charles. Can you describe how you felt the problem for the first time – and then what happened afterwards. Did you try to reset the car? Was there an intention to stop the car at all? Can you just talk us through it.

CL: To be honest, how I felt in the car, I really thought everything would blow up a few laps later. Happily it has not been the case and we still finished third, so yeah, just a loss of power, completely, very sudden. It got a tiny bit better after but the problem stayed there. And there were no signs before it to feel that anything was going wrong.

Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Lewis, how does it feel when you pass someone who is having some problems for a win. And a question for Charles, how difficult was it to pass Seb on Lap Five?

LH: Ultimately you want to pass someone because you’re quicker than them and through a fight. I went past Charles down the back straight and I raised my hand to him because there’s nothing I could do, obviously I didn’t have any problems, so it definitely feels weird and, honestly, you can’t believe your luck in those scenarios, but what can you do? You can’t deny yourself it. You just have to keep doing what you’re doing and pushing ahead. As I was saying, I’ve been in positions like that: we’ve been in the lead many a time when the car has stopped and I know how it feels. But it’s always good to look at the glass half full because today he still got some great points even though he had that problem and he was an outlier all weekend – even to his team-mate, he was so much faster than his team-mate all weekend so he has so many positives to take from it and we have a lot of work to do to try and keep up with him!

CL: Yes, well, it’s always a tricky situation when you get to fight your team-mate because the risks are very high and, as in every team, I think, they warn you before the race: OK, you can try things on different people, but with your team-mate, please be careful – which is something normal. So it’s always obviously that something more. But yeah, I had the opportunity on lap five and I didn’t hesitate, I just sent for it. I was happy it was successful the first time I tried, especially after the bad start. So yeah, happy with how it ended-up.

Q: (Ben Anderson – F1 Racing) Charles, you mentioned just after the race that you were lucky in an unlucky situation because of concerns over fuel. Was that a result of the problem you had with the MGU-H or were you struggling with fuel before the problem struck?

CL: No, no. It was just the result because of obviously being very slow on the straight, we were spending a lot more time on the straight so you are using a lot more fuel than normal so it was just a normal consequence of the lack of power on the straights.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Charles, at the start you lost the lead, obviously. How did you feel about that at the time, what was your approach after that and then we heard you come on the radio and say to the team ‘guys, I’m quicker’? Were you worried at that point that you weren’t going to be allowed to race and try to pass Sebastian?

CL: No, I was just letting them know. Then I think I had an answer, saying to me ‘OK, stay like this for two laps’ but then on the next straight I had the opportunity to go for it, so I went for it and it was a successful pass and then I was just quicker, so then I did my race. Then obviously, to lose the lead in this way it’s always a shame and always a disappointment but I also had a lot of things to do and there were still points to grab so I very quickly got back to focus on my race. Obviously the win was out of reach because of the problem but there were still very important points to gain. I just tried to focus as much as possible, meet the disappointment on one side and… yeah.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, it seems to me that those extra points for fastest laps are working because you are now leading because of that. Do you agree?

VB: Fully agree. They are points that will count at the end of the championship. Obviously, now, at this point, it doesn’t matter much but what matters is at the end of the championship and we’ve seen many championships finishing with very small margins. Today it was a bit out of reach with the strong pace of Ferrari, they got it, but yeah, for sure while there is this opportunity it’s going to be important but anyways, even though it felt a super-difficult race I’m happy to be getting this amount of points because in the end, consistency is going to be the key.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – We go to China and Baku, circuits with completely different characteristics to this one. Do you think the picture we have here we can transport to other rounds of the season?

LH: I think it’s really difficult to say, honestly. We’ve only had two races and they’ve been flipside, you know, both sides. One where we were rapid and far ahead and this weekend where they were.  So as always, every season, it takes a good few races before you kind of get a gist of where it all is but I anticipate it’s going to be back and forth between the two of us. If they have this straight speed in the next race then we’ll be watching them disappear but obviously we’re going to be working hard to try and understand where we went wrong this weekend and if we can improve the car but as you can see, reliability is also a very very key important part, so we’ve just got to keep working on all areas.

VB: Agree.

CL: No, as Lewis said, I think we struggled quite a lot in Australia. Here the car felt a lot better overall. Now we just need to work and make it feel that way every race weekend, but obviously the track characteristics are also taken into account. It has been a good weekend for us but that doesn’t mean it will be like this for the rest of the season, so we need to work and try to keep the position that we’ve had this weekend but it’s obviously not going to be easy.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Charles, you mentioned earlier that you were so close to fulfilling a childhood dream. Does today feel like the cruellest race you’ve had in your career?

CL: I will not go to that extreme because I think Formula Two in Monaco was probably the worst I’ve ever had but yeah, because it’s still a podium and it’s my first podium in Formula One so in a way I feel I should enjoy it, the way I felt like there was a lot more to take this weekend but yeah, overall, of course, it’s not the ideal race we wanted but we shall be happy about our third place despite problems.

Saturday 30 March 2019

2019 Bahrain GP: Post-Qualifying Press Conference.

DRIVERS 1 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari) 2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari) 3 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)

(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: Charles, it’s your first ever pole position in Formula One, your second grand prix with Ferrari, you’ve looked in control all weekend, and you’ve got the job done.

Charles LECLERC: Yeah, I’m extremely happy. Obviously in the last race I was not very happy with my qualifying – I did some mistakes in Q3 – and I really worked hard to try to not do the same mistakes here. It seems we did quite a good job, a front-row lockout and yeah, extremely happy.

Q: How hard is it to come to grand prix tracks and be up against a four-time world champion in the same car and try and get that task and take that [pole]? 

CL: It’s obviously extremely hard because Seb is an amazing driver and I’ve learned a lot from him and I will probably learn all year long with him. But today I am very happy to be in front of him, so yeah, it’s a good day for me.

Q: And the plan tonight.
CL: Oh, going to sleep and work hard for the race tomorrow.

Q: Sebastian, you line up on the first row of the grid. You had to use an extra set of tyres in Q2. Did that compromise your last run and leave a bit of safety there? 

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, of course. You have to first of all make it to the end. Maybe I was a bit shy in the second sector but in the end I think Charles did a very good job today and he deserves to be on pole, so happy with the one run I had at the end to get second and it puts us in a good place for tomorrow.

Q: And I guess happy to think that pace in Barcelona and what happened in Melbourne, to come here and dominate so far this weekend with Ferrari? 

SV: Yeah, definitely. As I said that’s the main thing. I also said to the team that the main thing is that we got the job done, so this weekend the car felt a lot better all throughout the weekend, and it’s only getting better. Hopefully we can carry that into the race tomorrow.

Q: Good luck tomorrow. Lewis, you had a job this weekend; Ferrari have been on a different level. I guess you can be happy that you got closer but the hard work starts tomorrow again? 

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, definitely. I really enjoyed qualifying and it was great to see the progression for us over the weekend. The Ferraris have been incredibly quick. Charles did an incredible job, so congratulations to him. It was very close between me and Sebastian. The last lap, there was a little bit of time there, but that’s the fun of the whole game. Tomorrow’s the important day and it will be interesting to see how we do but we’re going to give them a good fight that’s for sure.

Q: Do you still believe you can win this race after the pace they’ve shown this weekend? 

LH: They’ve shown incredible pace but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be beat. We’re going to work at it; we’ll just keep our heads down and see what happens.


Q: Charles, many congratulations, a huge day for you. Can you just describe your emotions right now?

CL: Well, a lot of emotions. I’m trying to stay as cool as possible because, unfortunately, there are no points awarded for the pole position and all points will be awarded tomorrow. So, of course I’ll enjoy the moment, it has been a great day and a great weekend overall until now for us, and I hope it will continue tomorrow. The target now is to focus on the race and try to do the best race possible – but obviously it’s amazing to be here.

Q: You were fastest in all three segments of qualifying. You set a new track record. Leave anything on the table or was that last lap in Q3 perfect?

CL: Yeah, I think you can always do better. I am overall very happy with my lap in Q3. I think that was my weakness in the first race and yeah, I was disappointed after qualifying because of this. Today I am very satisfied. I think I put all three of my best sectors together, which is what I wanted. Then, of course, you can always do better but I’m extremely happy.

Q: Sebastian, compromised in Q3 by getting just that one run. I was just wondering if we could get a few thoughts from you about the turnaround by Ferrari from Melbourne two weeks ago. You’re now first and second on the grid and it wasn’t the same back there.

SV: No, I mean obviously we’re both much happier with the car this weekend. I think, the credit really goes to the team because it’s a team effort. I mean, in the end, we didn’t feel very happy with the car in Melbourne and the team has done very, very hard work trying to understand why, and I think we had some answers coming here, proving today that we are running at the front and fighting for pole. Locking out the front row for Ferrari is, yeah, a great testament of their work, first of all. Happy, obviously, not exactly my day but that’s how it goes, so I look forward to tomorrow.

Q: And a quick word about the man on your left?

SV: Well congratulations, I said to him earlier to suck it in, enjoy it. It’s his day in the end of the day. Certainly my day was not ideal but even, I think, with an ideal day, it would have been very difficult to beat him today. So, welll done. My first pole is a while ago but certainly it’s a day you never forget.

Q: Lewis, pole position in Melbourne two weeks ago, third today. A few thoughts from you about how that session went and the performance of the Mercedes.

LH: Firstly, congratulations to Charles. He did an incredible job, really really happy for him. The first pole is a dream that you set for yourself when you’re young. It only comes once, so he truly deserves. it. I had a pretty good session in general. Yesterday was a real struggle. All weekend we’ve seen incredible pace from the Ferraris. Honestly I didn’t know if we’d be as close as we were at the end because they were pulling some serious speeds on the straights, which is generally where we lost a lot of the time today. It was just in straight line. Great turnaround for them. I think my sessions went relatively smoothly. I’ve got the extra tyre for tomorrow, which I’m happy about and… yeah… I’m just excited because it was a close battle and that’s really how it should be. Three-thousandths, or whatever it was between myself and Sebastian. I definitely had it in that lap, the excitement of being on the edge and kind of having it and not having it is what makes it exciting. I couldn’t have done the same time as Charles, so we’ve got work to do but tomorrow is where the points are bagged. So, we will just focus, keep our heads down, try to maximise our strategy and our tyres tomorrow.


Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Lewis and Sebastian: when you had your first pole, you won. What are your expectations for Charles tomorrow?

SV: I think we both hope he doesn’t win! Straightforward! Obviously we’re racing for the same team, so I think for both of us, we’re hoping to have a strong race tomorrow. If you start one-two, you want to finish one-two, so yeah, that’s the objective for tomorrow. Nevertheless, it’s a long race. I think taking care of the tyres will be crucial. I think on one-lap pace we looked very, very strong this weekend so far, so yeah, quali was all about confirming that and for the race I think it will be a very, very close battle with Mercedes – and also Red Bull.

Lewis, anything to add?
LH: I commented earlier on his laps. He was quickest in every session so its very clear he had the pace and did a great job.

Q: Do you think you have the pace to beat them tomorrow?

LH: From my pace yesterday, no – but I made changes to the car overnight and during the day today so I’m hopeful the car is in a better position. This is honestly a weak circuit for me. That’s why I’m a little more upbeat – because I had a deficit fo three-tenths at least all day yesterday to Valtteri and managed to turn that around a little bit. The race here last year was quite strong. Ultimately, I had a gearbox penalty but now we’re in a much better fighting position. It’s very, very hard this race. It’s very tough on the tyres and it’s a physically-challenging circuit It is incredibly challenging for the car as well, so I just hope that there’s some excitement tomorrow – one way or another.

Q: (Ben Anderson – F1 Racing) To both Ferrari drivers: Mattia Binotto clarified yesterday that it’s very important that the two drivers are not fighting, taking risks and battling each other. So in that context, how will you approach the start and turn one in tomorrow’s race, considering that you’re on the front row? 

CL: Well, to be completely honest, we haven’t done the pre-race meeting yet so at the moment I don’t know. If you ask me, I will do absolutely everything to keep my first place but obviously, as you said, we are a team also, we need to work together and this will work, for sure.

SV: I think it’s pretty clear that from the team’s point of view we got the front row today and we obviously have a very very tough race ahead of us tomorrow so I think we need to work as a team and try to make sure we stay first and second. I think the order is irrelevant for the team so I think it’s pretty clear. Obviously Charles starts ahead so he has the advantage of pole position and then we will see how it goes.

Q: (Christian Menarth – Sebastian, can you explain what happened in the first run in Q2, that you have to do the second run, and did you feel that you lost the tyre set already yesterday because you took a set of softs less than the others?

SV: No, nothing to do with the strategy yesterday and this afternoon. Obviously it was a bit hectic in Q2 and I was just in an unfortunate slot which sometimes is very difficult to control so I got unlucky and didn’t have an option other than following Daniel for the lap and it was very marginal so we had to go again and then we lost a set that we were planning to run in Q3. Not ideal, preparing qualifying and I committed to one run at the end and it was crucial to get that lap to the finish. Second, I think, is alright. Obviously I was hoping for more but I think that is how the day went. I’m quite happy so for tomorrow I think it should be a new day and a different start.

Q: (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Seb, can you tell us what problems you had? You seemed to have a few lock-ups in Q1 and Q2. 

SV: Yeah, I think overall the car was very strong so far this weekend. I’ve been a little bit more vocal about the rear not being exactly where I wanted it to be. Maybe Charles felt a little bit more confident all weekend but I think our qualifying slipped away a little bit with what happened in Q2 so you lose the rhythm a little bit. It wasn’t ideal but it’s not about, at this point, sitting here now, being P2, is not about arguing here and arguing there. I think you have to give credit to the pole-sitter, especially as it’s his first pole, so again, congrats and the focus should be on Charles today.

Q: (Jacques Deschenaux – Grand Prix Guide) Charles, you are the second youngest pole man in the history of Formula One after Sebastian and the first from Monaco. Did you imagine one month ago that your career with Ferrari would begin and be launched so quickly? 

CL: Not really. I didn’t have any particular expectations from it. I was completely aware of how much of a big step there is, obviously team-wise and also competition-wise because obviously the drivers I’m fighting with now are the best so yeah, I didn’t have any expectations. I’m extremely happy that it has started like this but again, as I said, it’s only qualifying. I hope I will end up and have strong points tomorrow which is the most important (thing) so yeah, we will see, but I am extremely happy to start like this.

Q: (Ben Anderson – F1 Racing) Lewis, you mentioned the struggles yesterday and this track not being a particularly strong one for you. What is it about this circuit that you find difficult and that the team has found difficult this weekend? 

LH: I don’t really know where the performance has gone. As I said, a lot of it is on the straights, if not all of it. So somehow they’ve managed to find a lot more speed on the straights but I think for us, the car has felt OK. It’s just… I’m just thinking that over the years it’s not been a circuit that particularly suited our car, for whatever reason, but I think we got into quite a nice place today and as I said, I think it’s the straight (line) speed was really where we lost a lot of time. In sector one, we’re losing three tenths, two tenths, whatever it is, just on the straightline speed, so that’s a significant amount. We’ve got work to do but I think the race pace was better for Valtteri yesterday, he had a really good long run. I think he had the best on the soft, I believe, so I’m hopeful that we have that performance tomorrow.

Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Are you confident with your race pace, in the case of Ferrari on soft tyres and in the case of Mercedes on the medium tyres and what does the strategy depend on, a one or a two stop strategy? What does it depend on? 

CL: Yeah, I am satisfied with the race run we have done yesterday, also with the softs. I think it was pretty close between… Valtteri, I think, did a long run on soft and myself… so yeah, I think we are pretty strong on that and then on the one stop or two stops again, we will review that tomorrow morning before the race so for now, I don’t know.

SV: Nothing to add.

LH: You will find out in the morning!

Friday 29 March 2019

2019 Bahrain GP: FIA Team Principals' Press Conference.

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Zak BROWN (McLaren), Frédéric VASSEUR (Alfa Romeo Racing), Guenther STEINER (Haas), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso)

A question to all of you first: you had a meeting with Formula One earlier this week. In the broadest terms can you tell us what was presented and is there a positive way forward regarding 2021? Fréd, if we could start with you please?

Frédéric VASSEUR: We can. We tried to cover all the topics of the project. I think that we are doing a good step forward. It’s not an easy one because we are 10 teams around the table with different kinds of structure for the company, with different targets, but we are going in the right direction from my point of view.

Q: Thank you. Zak?

Zak BROWN: I would agree with Fréd. Chase rolled out I think pretty much what we were all expecting around budget cap, revenue distribution, governance and technical rules. I don’t think anyone was surprised because he has been consulting with all the teams, really since this time last year. And like Fréd said, it was all a very positive step in the right direction. It’s probably not an ideal situation for any of the 10 teams but given that you have 10 teams you’re never going to land on something that works for all. So I think the fact that it’s maybe not perfect for any one team means that he got it pretty right.

Q: Thank you. Guenther?

Guenther STEINER: I think I would like to say the same. There were positive talks. If they would all agree with what we want, we would be done. But they don’t. They’ve got their own thing to think about, so…. No, without joking about it, I think it’s a good step forward and hopefully we can get this done soon, because we need to move forward. We need technical regulations, we need the governance, to know how that works going forward, but Chase and Ross they work hard on it and together with the FIA, with Jean Todt, hopefully soon they can come up with the ultimate solution which will please all of us and find the right compromise among the 10 of us, which I don’t envy them to try to find the compromise between us 10, but somebody has to do it and they will get it done.

Q: Thanks, and Franz?

Franz TOST: There’s not too much to add. We talks about all the topics just mentioned and I think Liberty Media and the FIA is on the right way forward and I hope that soon we will have a final regulation on the sporting side, as well as the technical side. Regarding the commercial prospect, a little bit difficult, because as you can imagine the big teams do not want to spend less money, the smaller teams want to spend less money. It’s early or later a compromise we have to find to have a good and competitive and interesting Formula One in the future.

Q: Thank you. Zak if we could come back to you: there’s a new face with the team this weekend in your technical director James Key. During your meetings with him so far, what’s been on the agenda?

ZB: Well, it’s very early days. James just started on Monday and attended the Strategy Group meeting with me on Tuesday and of course he’s been here ever since. I think he’s just in observation mode at the moment, getting to k know the team. We’ve made quite a few changes, starting in the middle of last year, and so it’s great to have him on board. And then of course we have Andreas Seidl who will be joining us in a month to run the Formula One team, so once he’s joined then we’ll be pretty complete on the racing team and then we just need to put our heads down and try to go faster.

Q: James Key is new but there’s a returnee next week in Fernando Alonso, who is going to be testing next Tuesday. How do you expect his input to help the team?

ZB: Well, he’s got 17 or 18 years of experience in Formula 1, he’s got four or five years’ experience with McLaren. Obviously a very talented, experienced driver and as we look to continue the development, as the midfield sitting here is unbelievably tight, we’re going to value his opinion and feedback and to get three drivers contributing to how we can make the race car better is one third better than having two, so I think his experience will be a valuable contribution.

Q: And his experience in 2018 in particular?

ZB: Yeah, ultimately a lot of this year’s car was based on his feedback from last year, so for him to be able to get in the car and recognize the changes we’ve made I think he’ll be able to say that we’ve gone in the right direction or the wrong direction, we need a little bit more of this or a little bit less of that and make sure that he gives Carlos and Lando as much of a competitive car as possible.

Q: Thank you. Franz, you’ve got a new driver line-up this year, both of whom have been invited back into the Red Bull fold. First of all, how has Daniil changed since he was last with the team?

FT: You know, when Danill was with us the first time, it was 2014, and he came from GP3 to Formula One. It was a big step in those days. He did a really good job with us and then he went to Red Bull Racing, he also had some good races there, he finished on the podium, but for different reasons he came back to us and he was struggling a little bit. But not because of his abilities or because of his skills. I think in those days our car was not so reliable or so competitive. Therefore it was a really difficult situation. He had then a one year break, was together with Ferrari, he learned a lot, became much more mature and has a better overview of Formula One. He is now back and he is showing his performance. Therefore, we are happy he is with us. Alex is coming from Formula 2. He won last year four races, showed a really good performance and from the first test onwards I was really happy to have him in the team because he surprised all of us by a fantastic performance and also by really good technical feedback. He has also a good overview of how to treat the tyres. I must say that Toro Rosso has a very, very strong driver line-up this year and I’m convinced that both of them will have a lot of success in the future.

Q: That’s the drivers, what about the engine? It’s your second year with Honda. How much progress have they made last year to this?

FT: They made big steps forward regarding reliability as well as the performance. I must say a big thank you to Sakura because they worked very hard and they closed the gap to the top teams and with Red Bull Racing I think they are this year they are in a position to fight for victories as well as the championship. I am more than happy to work together with Honda, with such an established company.

Q: Thanks. Fréd, let’s start by talking about drivers as well. Two new drivers. How has Kimi’s experience helped you so far?

FV: As you know, even if Sauber was there before, now with Alfa Romeo Racing is quite a new team and we restructured the team last year and the year before quite a lot and we have plenty of new guys and I think that to have Kimi on board is a good push in terms of experience also for the team. Drivers, for sure, they are a pillar of the performance, not only into the car but also alongside and he is part of the development of the company and the team.

Q: And are you confident that Antonio can run him close this year?

FV: Yeah, yeah. He did a very good Q1 in Melbourne and I will be patient. I remember perfectly the press conference last year in Bahrain, because a big part of journalists wanted to ask me when Charles would stop, because he was absolutely nowhere from them after two races and then he was the world champion. You just have to stay calm everybody and to give him the time to put everything together but I am very confident that he will do it.

Q: As you say, a lot of changes at Alfa Romeo Racing over the winter. What’s a realistic goal for the constructors’ championship this year?

FV: Honestly, it’s difficult to have a clear picture from Melbourne. The only thing I think it that you can move, in terms of team, from P4 for P9 or P10 from one session to another one. It’s more than tight, more than before, more than ever. It will be a big fight on development and we have to stay focused and to be able to do the same as we did last year, and then we’ll see. But I don’t want to point to something like this yet.

Q: Guenther, everyone else here has new drivers for 2019. You have the same driver line-up as last year. What advantages has that stability given you?

Guenther STEINER: Just keeping the stability, we hope to have an advantage that the drivers don’t have to settle-in, because that always takes a little bit of time: they know us, we know them and for us last year, when we had to decide, we came to the conclusion that’s the best way for us forward, just to keep it stable and go on another year with the same driver line-up.

Q: And, what about your ambitions for this year? You finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship last year. Given the size and budgets of the teams ahead of you, how realistic is P4?

GS: I think it’s very difficult to say yet – because we had one race, we had one big test and one race and we don’t know where we really stand. I think we have to wait a few races to see. That will be our aim. Whether we achieve it or not, I don’t know yet – but you always have to aim for something better. As Fred just mentioned, the midfield is very competitive this year. More than ever, I would say. So, you never know what is happening from race-to-race, which I find is interesting. We just try to make less mistakes: we didn’t start well in Australia with that one but we try to recover from it and just try to score as many points as possible and try to achieve fourth, which would be better than last year. But you never know. Let’s wait and see.

Q: And to get fourth, are you going to have to change your approach regarding regarding development?

GS: No. I think we made big step last year from two years ago, how we develop. We learnt a lot and we’ll try to be even better than last year. We will bring developments, we try to make them quicker this year. Last year we were a little bit slow because we don’t have our own manufacturing capabilities. We outsource. By doing that a little bit more last year we found better partners, better people which can react quicker. So, we just try to be quicker and do more – like everybody else will do. With these new regulations this year, this is the race to finish best of the rest: basically who can manager their upgrades better and who can do more, and who can get better upgrades.


Q: (Dieter Recken – Racing Lines / Reference Tom’s question earlier on about Tuesday’s meeting. It was here exactly a year ago today, according to the calendar, that Liberty presented their vision for 2021. So, exactly a year has passed. Have we actually made any progress in that year? To all four of you please.

FT: Yes. They made some steps forward, on the sporting regulations side as well as on the technical regulations side there are some really good ideas. I hope that they will take place. And from the commercial side, there are also some changes. As I mentioned before, I think they are on the right way but time is now becoming a crucial factor because we have to decide – or they have to decide – now, the final version of all these different topics within the next half of the year – and I hope that they will do this.


GS: I fully agree with Franz that it’s now a timing issue. We need to get this done quicker rather than later. And, on the other side, to answer the question ‘did we make progress?’ Yes, we made progress but progress you cannot only see in ‘is the new document better than the old one?’ It’s also progress I think, for FIA, FOM and us, is a better understanding of each other, what we want to achieve and what can be achieved with the different models we are getting out there. So, I think there has been a lot of progress made, not actually in what is offered but in the understanding of what needs to be done that everybody agrees. And that is not written on paper. That is more a general understanding of all the partners involved to make the next proposal, to get closer to get something final and to see where it needs to be reworked – but I would say there has been progress but as I continue to say, timing now is very important.


ZB: Not much to build on what Guenther and Franz said, other than yes, there has definitely been progress in that we now have a deal in front of us to react to. I think it’s been well thought-out. We’ve all been consulted and we’d just emphasise, yeah, timing now is of the essence so we can all get prepared – but the ball’s really in our court for that.


FV: Yeah, difficult to add something but honestly we did good progress and now we have to close the deal soon but at least on the technical regulations, the sporting regulations and all this side of the discussion, I think we have a much better picture of the situation, and on the other aspect, more financial, I think that we are doing one step in the direction of each other and we will be able to close something soon.

Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speed Sport) For all of you, starting with Guenther please, how would you describe your philosophy and style of team management?

GS: I would say pretty direct. I’m hands-on, I’m doing this a long time, I try to motivate people in the best way be being direct and telling them what I think and then we discuss. Pretty simple.

Zak? Your management style?

ZB: Probably best that you ask the racing team but my view is you need to bring on the best talent you can, empower them, give them the resources that they need and ultimately all these Formula One teams are big entities and so you need great teamwork, so I tend to focus on letting everyone do what they do best. They’re more talented than I am in many areas.


FV: It’s always difficult to describe yourself, and probably it will be much more useful to ask my guys. I’m coming from racing, and I tried to get everyone motivated with the same spirit: that we are a small team on the grid and we need to get the best from everybody if we want to be competitive. We have to keep the approach of the proper racing team and I think we are on the good way.


FT: I would say a democratic way of management. All the people which are in the team and the board management of the team are involved in major decisions. We are sitting together nearly every second day to discuss the important topics and then we make together the decisions – to motivate the people and to find the money to run the team. Those are the jobs.

Q: (Ben Anderson – F1 Racing) You were talking about the need for urgency over clarifying the 2021 picture – but whatever those rules look like, there’s talk of a delay to publishing them, maybe until December, to not benefit the top teams and help the smaller teams. As leaders of smaller teams, would you really benefit from a delay to the publication of the regulations, considering you would have in theory less time and less resource to react to that delay?

FV: It’s always difficult to know if the late publication of the regulations will help the small teams or the big teams – because they’re also able to develop much faster than us and it’s not an easy goal or an easy way to decide. Honestly, for me it’s not just a matter of timing , it’s also a matter of  being sure about what we are doing. It’s much better to take this kind of decision that to publish something a bit later. we are not in a rush to publish something on the 27th of June. It’s not the big part of the deal.

ZB: We’ll just react accordingly, as other racing teams will. Obviously if you start earlier, you get a bigger head start, also gives the ability to maybe spend more money, which the big teams have. So, if it’s June, August, December doesn’t really matter: it’ll be the same for all ten teams and we’ll all respond accordingly.


GS: I agree with Zak – but whatever it is, it is, on this topic – because I think the big teams will always be in a better position because, in theory, they should be in even a better position if we start later because then they can throw even, more in a short time, emphasis on it. So it’s neither here nor there. At some stage we just have to have to come to a conclusion that we get started and get going. Keep it practical and don’t discuss, or maybe get a little bit of an advantage because that is why we don’t decide. From our side, if we start in June, fine, if we start in December, fine as well. We will not have a big opinion about either of it.


FT: First of all, it’s not 100 per cent decided yet. Should be confidential but anyway… as we see, people know about what we discussed in this meeting. The main topic is not to spend even more money because the earlier the new regulation is being published, the earlier the teams start to investigate this new regulation and spend a hell of a lot of money for the development. Which means, if the new regulation comes out in June, this year teams immediately will be concentrated to build up engineering groups to investigate this new regulation and to start with the different tests and simulations, just to get an advantage out of it. We will see where we end up.

Q: (Abdulrahman Al-Saud – University College Bahrain) We’re aware that the Bahrain circuit will have more opportunities for overtaking compared to Melbourne. How do you help the drivers find that edge to identify whether they can or can’t?

FT: Whether they can or can’t overtake? They just should push the right hand pedal and overtake. Where’s the problem? DRS open and go. There are three DRS zones here, long straights. I expect that we will see much more overtaking manoeuvres than in Melbourne. We all know that Melbourne is a track where it’s difficult to overtake but here in Bahrain, I think that there are possibilities that drivers can overtake and the rest we will see on Sunday.

GS: I agree with Franz.

ZB: Yeah, I think you let the drivers drive so they’ll figure out best where they think they can make a move on the driver in front of them.

FV: I won’t explain to Kimi where he has to overtake!

Q: (Ben Edwards – Channel 4 TV) Zak, you’ve got some big names management-wise at McLaren. You’ve got James Key coming in, you’ve mentioned Andreas Seidl, you’ve got Gil de Ferran there. Can you just explain to us the roles that each of those are going to play?

ZB: Yeah. Andreas Seidl is going to be responsible for running the Formula One team, full stop, so he’s the boss and will ultimately be responsible for the performance. James Key is the technical director and will ultimately be responsible along with many people for producing a fast race car and then Gil de Ferran will remain in the role that he’s been working with me in as sporting director, which is looking over a variety of McLaren Racing programmes and he’s done a great job, kind of jumping in as we’ve been in transition and so when Andreas gets settled into that, you’ll see Gil go more to the role that he was intended to do when we brought him on in the middle of last year.

Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Zak, of the four team bosses here, you are the only one whose team is not strongly affiliated to one of the top three teams at the moment. Do you share Renault’s concern of the status of so-called B-teams, especially in regards with aero-listed parts?

ZB: Yeah, of course we do. I think the way the sport has grown has enabled teams to be able to do new business, if you like, with other teams and we’d like to see the sport come back to more of a purity of a constructor. They’ve done a great job, we all know what the rule book allows and so they’ve done an excellent job with it but we’d like to see everyone be a little bit more independent moving forward.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, On exactly that topic, because that was my question. In any event, you obviously run an independent-type situation whereas the other three are in some way or other affiliated to a larger team, I wouldn’t be insulting and call them B teams but certainly satellite or supplier relationships. How do you feel about these regulations, the other three?

FT: First of all, if someone, who runs a manufacturer team is complaining that the small teams are faster and better than him, then he hasn’t simply done his homework in a proper way, because we at a Toro Rosso, we have from Red Bull Racing the gearbox from last year, the rear suspension from last year and parts from the front suspension – most of the front suspension we’ve anyway done ourselves. So, the reason why Toro Rosso is so competitive is mainly because of the fantastic power unit which we have from Honda. It seems that others are not doing such a good job and therefore they should not complain and wingeing around. They just should do their job. We have a good package together with the car, fantastic drivers and a fantastic power unit from Honda, that’s the reason why we are competitive.

GS: As Franz says, leave us alone, leave us doing our job. You know, we are fine, get back to yourselves. I think a lot of these manufacturer teams should also see the opportunities they are given because they want to take something away from us, I see it like this, which was there before. We didn’t invent it. Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Haas, Ferrari didn’t invent this. This was there, we took it, this model and they did. If they want to do it they can do it but we are not going to say you have to do it, so we are not the people which want to take something away from the manufacturers. If you think your way is the better one, have it like that. Good luck and I wish them well, but if you don’t deliver as Franz says, if you are yourself your own problem, because you don’t do it well, don’t blame other people doing a different job for doing it well and trying to diminish what they are doing by making it worse, because in doing that, the gap will grow, because at the moment the teams which have these affiliations with the big teams, they are getting closer to the top three and that’s what it should be. If we are knocked down, then we create, instead of a two tier society, it will be a three tier. There will be the works teams, the good ones, then we will have the bad works teams and then there will be us so what have we achieved then for the sport? That is our principle. We don’t try to take anything away from anybody. It was there, it was decided, democratically years ago, that this is a model which can work. We read the rules, some other people didn’t and here we are, so I think it’s a model which is pretty good to go forwards.

FV: Nothing to add, but I don’t want to speak for the others but yes, there is a regulation that we are playing a fair game in the area of the regulation and we have to stay aware about the (inaudible) for everybody. I don’t care about what the others could think about the situation but there is a regulation, we are pushing like hell to stick to the regulation and to do our best and that’s it.

Q: (Christoph Becker – Frankfurter Allegemeinezeitung) This week there’s been a call up for the first time by international organisations on F1 and FIA to demand the release of prisoners who have allegedly protested against the race here. FIA and F1 have refrained from doing so. What’s your position here?

FT: It’s quite easy. We are here for a sport event, not for a political event. That means, first of all, I was surprised that there are still some political turmoil which I don’t think is the reality. I think that the reality is just that a few people want to create troubles and Formula One is here to make sport, to entertain the people and we should not be involved in any political questions. This, people should do, who are here, who are living here. The government, whoever, that’s their job, not our job.

Q: Anyone else like to add to anything Franz has said on the subject? Ok.

Q: (Jens Nagler – Bild) There are have been some complaints from drivers that they couldn’t see the starting lights in Melbourne. I’m just wondering, did you hear anything from your drivers, how much of a problem is it, is there any solution?

FV: No, we had no issue with these particular points but I think it depends also on the position on the grid and probably the halo but I think they will sort it out quite soon, to find a clear solution.

Q: It was Pierre Gasly in this press conference yesterday who said he had problems in Melbourne. Anything from your drivers Zak?

ZB: No, our drivers didn’t say anything.

GS: No, nothing from our ones, they were fine with it.

FT: Also the good start!

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Gentlemen, apart from Zak, you may have noticed…

ZB: I’m not a….

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, … has got the brand of an e-cigarette, a new generation cigarette on it. Is it something that (inaudible) turns commercial relationships for your own teams, going forward?

FT: I don’t care where the money is coming from. I’m fine with it.

GS: At the moment we don’t have a presentation, nobody’s approaching us and should we be approached to do it we would look into it and think about it but this one of the things we are not going actively after, alternatives to cigarettes, like we will deal with it when we get the problem.

FV: No particular comments on this point because we are not in the same situation.

Thursday 28 March 2019

2019 Bahrain GP: FIA Drivers' Press Conference.


DRIVERS – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes) Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Pierre GASLY (Red Bull Racing), Daniil KVYAT (Toro Rosso), Lando NORRIS (McLaren)


Lando if we could start with you please: two weeks on, how do you reflect on your grand prix debut in Melbourne?

Lando NORRIS: If I look back now on how the whole weekend went, it was better than I anticipated going into the whole. During it you obviously change how you think you can do and after qualifying eighth, which was awesome for my first quali, I ended up 12th in the race, which was a bit disappointing. But overall I don’t think there were many things I did wrong. Obviously there was a the start and a couple of bits in the middle of the race, but for my first weekend I don’t think I could have asked for much more.

Q: The car seemed more competitive over one lap in qualifying than it was in race conditions. Do you think that will play out this weekend as well? Is it a characteristic of the car?

LN: I don’t think so much. I don’t think out race pace overall, apart from the very end of the race, was too bad. I lost a couple of positions in Turn 1, so I was still P10 and I think my pace in the first stint on the softs was reasonably good, keeping up with the guys ahead. But I just got a bit unfortunate in the middle; I didn’t get past Antonio as quickly as the others did and that put me back in terms of results. I don’t think our pace was a problem. I don’t think it’s a lot worse than our quali pace, it’s just it didn’t go as cleanly as qualifying.

Q: And looking back to 12 months ago in Bahrain : a great victory for you in F2, a great weekend. What’s the goal this time around?

LN: Well, I’d love to do the same, but I don’t think that is a very realistic goal! Obviously it started the season off very well last year. As much as I would love to have a similar result to what I had last year I know that’s an unrealistic aim for this weekend. I think we have got to just take it one step at a time. First time in Formula 1 here, so it’s going to be a bit different.  But hopefully we can have a weekend like we did in Australia, a good qualifying and that will set us up a bit better for the race and I can work on the things I didn’t get done so well.

Q: Good luck for this weekend. Thank you Lando. Daniil, you scored a point on your Formula 1 return in Australia. How satisfying was that?

Daniil KVYAT: I think it was a good race for us. All the weekend we were quite competitive. It was good to know that we are in the mix. The midfield is very tight this year, so we were definitely in the fighting mix. The race itself was very…. There was quite a lot of action, so in the end to score the point at the end of the first race of the season is always good and we just look ahead. Here it’s a different kind of circuit so we’ll see what we can achieve here now.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about the car. How competitive is it and what are its greatest strengths?

DK: It’s hard to say just one strength or weakness. Everyone seems to be very close in the midfield, so you have to have a really good weekend always. It seems like if you lose just a couple of tenths you can lose a few positions, so you always need to be working on putting everything together. Otherwise instead of entering into Q3 you can end up maybe P14, P15. It’s a tight midfield and it’s good to know that it is. It seems that there will be opportunities for everyone.

Q: It’s been a while since we had you in an FIA press conference, because last year you were working with Ferrari. Can you tell us a little bit about what you got up to in 2018 and what you learned?

DK: Obviously I wanted to race but it was very good to be a part of such a team as Ferrari. It was great to see Sebastian and Kimi working from very close. There was a lot of simulator work; they always kept me busy, it was very nice. Learning, I think it was best that I managed to stay close to the F1 world in a way and tried to do my jobs just as good as possible to help the team to achieve the best result possible. It was a very good experience.

Q: Thanks. Pierre, it was a tough weekend for you in Australia, but how much encouragement did you take from Max’s performance?

Pierre GASLY: I would say the overall performance during the weekend was good. A good start, looking at the practice, and also the Q1. I think the overall pace was looking promising and yeah, for sure, what happened in qualifying really put us on the back foot for the race and on a track like this made the final result pretty poor and clearly not what we wanted. It was a pretty tough weekend to accept because I think we deserved a better result on Sunday but things didn’t go as we would have liked. We just need to make sure we have a clean weekend. I think the performance from Max is really positive for everybody in the team, and for Honda. I’m really happy for Honda to get their first podium. It’s looking pretty positive for the coming races.

Q: It seemed like you got caught out by the track evolution in Q1 in Melbourne, so can we expect a different approach to qualifying this weekend from you and the team?

PG: I think we have a better idea of the performance of other teams and on the grid. I think we could see that basically all the teams got a bit closer compared to last year. I think we have a bit more information and we’ll probably be a bit more careful. But let’s see how the performance is from one track to another. It can be quite different. I think Bahrain is back to kind of a normal track and let’s see how the weekend goes.

Q: Well, it’s a normal track on which you went very well last year. What chance of a repeat this weekend or going better than fourth?

PG: We’ll go for the best we can. We saw in Australia we have a competitive car - in quali and also in the race. For sure Mercedes and Ferrari look really strong but I think the most important thing is that if we manage to put everything together we should have get a good shot at having a good result this weekend.

Q: Thank you. Charles, we’re getting used to seeing you in red but it was just your first race for Ferrari two weeks ago. How do you reflect on that and can you just talk about the emotions you felt back in Melbourne?

Charles LECLERC: To be completely honest, the emotions, I didn’t really feel them. Obviously when you are at a race you are focusing on the job you have to do in the car and that’s what I try to do as much as possible. It was not an easy weekend. Obviously after the Barcelona weekend we expected more, but on the other hand there were a lot of positives to take. Anyway, Melbourne is not such a representative track on car performance – even though that doesn’t mean we are as strong as we want to be. But yeah, there is a lot of work to do and I’m pretty confident in the team that we have done the right job in between Melbourne and here to try to improve. And on my side I think I did quite a lot of mistakes in qualifying and during the race and I will try to not repeat these mistakes.

Q: They weren’t totally obvious to us watching, those mistakes. Can you elaborate?

CL: In Q3 I didn’t put the lap in as I wanted to and then in the race I think you have seen the off on the TV. It didn’t have any consequences for the result because obviously I was fifth and there was nobody behind but in other situations it could have been a lot worse, so I need to work on this.

Q: Now you finished a minute back on the man who is on your left up on the podium. Was it a particular issue with the car in Melbourne? How did it feel? Did it feel well balanced or did you think it was just track specific and you expect to be more competitive this weekend?

CL: We expect to be more competitive. I think our package is strong. We have some answers to the lack of performance in Melbourne. I don’t think we have all of them but we definitely have some answers to it. Then we will only see here whether it was only track specific or if there is something else but I am pretty confident in the package we have.

Q: Valtteri, you’re the championship leader for the first time in your career, how does that feel?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, for sure it feels good – but it’s only one race of the season, and now the full focus is to this weekend.

Q: You said after the race in Melbourne that the car felt amazing. How confident are you of a repeat in Bahrain this weekend?

VB: Honestly, it is quite difficult to say. For sure, we were all positively surprised on the performance we had in Melbourne – but, like Charles said, it is a bit of a funny circuit, and I would say here this weekend and China, we’re going to get a much better picture of the real performance at this point of the year. Obviously it was very welcome for us to see that kind of pace and the feeling with the car was a lot better than in winter testing – so obviously the time spent between was very efficient. So, yeah, see how it feels here.

Q: You said after the race that it was the best race of your career. Why do you think that was? Is it because this year’s Mercedes suits you better than either of the previous two?

VB: It must be the beard! No, honestly, it really felt after the race that it was one of the best, or my best race. Obviously the start of the race was key to getting the lead – but after that, I did no mistakes and everything was very much under control. And when you feel you are performing at your best is a beautiful feeling. I now just need to keep the momentum and feel that again soon.

Q: Do you feel more comfortable in this Mercedes than anything else you’ve driven?

VB: For sure, every car is always a bit different and in the end you, as a driver, need to be the one that compensates yourself to the car to get the most out of the package but yeah, I would say in testing, in Melbourne, everything started on the right foot. I never felt anything odd with the car. For sure there are things we can still improve, but yeah, I feel comfortable in the car.


Q: (Erik Bielderman – l’Equipe) Question to Pierre and Charles, how did you manage to deal with frustration after the first race. What I mean by frustration is that, for Charles, you couldn’t go to have a proper fight with your team-mate, and to Pierre, that you were expected with the Red Bull to make points and that was not the case.

CL: Yeah. There was no frustration on my side. Obviously it is the first race but on the team side I don’t think there was anything to gain, whether I was fourth and Seb fifth, or me fifth and Seb fourth. It was exactly the same amount of points for the team, so it’s understandable that they didn’t want to take the risk for us to fight each other and lose even more points. So yeah, it was like this and I understand the decision.


PG: Yeah, as I say, it was quite tough to end up with that result after the promising free practice. We showed some good pace in FP2 and FP3 and yeah, at the end of the weekend, not to score points with the package we had, for sure was difficult. But we know the reasons and we’ll try to do our best to make sure we have clean weekends – because the package is working well.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question for Valtteri. There’s been a lot of talk about how you’re much more determined this year and come back much stronger, much more focussed than you perhaps were last year. That question was posed to Lewis and he says he sees no difference because he always considered you to be competitive and a strong driver – but would you say there definitely has been a change in mindset from you this year, and that Melbourne was a proof of that – or is it too early to say.

VB: For sure, if you look at the results, it’s obviously very early in the season. It’s one race – but I can for sure say that something in my mindset has changed for the year. The preparation over the winter and just the way of how I feel and think about things has changed. It’s quite difficult to explain in detail but I feel different to years before.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, how would you rank this circuit? Is it in the same group with Russia and Austria in your mind?

VB: It’s normally been quite a strong race for me but obviously every year it’s a new race, and you still need to go off quite well. I think racing here, this year, might be a bit better in terms of overtaking with the new DRS zone so I think still, ultimately, the race pace is going to be important but it’s been a strong race for me personally in the past  and yeah, I can rate it quite well on my list but obviously the aim is to approach every weekend knowing and aiming to be on top of your game and not to have any bad races anyway.

Q: (Kate Walker – New York Times) To Charles and Valtteri: the next Grand Prix weekend in China is going to be our 1000th round of the F1 World Championship. I was wondering if you can tell me, of those 1000 races, whether you were racing or whether you were watching as a fan, what’s your favourite memory?

VB: If I have to choose one now, I feel the happiness at home, looking at the TV, of the driver: it was Mika’s first win in 1997 and the last race of the year and obviously he went and won a couple of titles so I would say that was my favourite.

CL: My side, I will probably be a bit selfish and maybe Monaco is my best memory because it was my first ever Formula One Grand Prix last year so it was something special and to be completely honest, I haven’t watched that many Grands Prix on TV because I was always out racing in karting so yeah, Monaco last year was my best memory.

Q: (Oubay My question is to Charles: how could you describe the atmosphere at Ferrari after the first race? And also, is there a fundamental issue with the car or just a matter of finding the perfect balance?

CL: I think the mentality is the right one and we need to keep this one throughout the whole year. The mentality is very positive. Obviously we are aware there is a lot of work to do but I’m pretty confident, as I said, in the team, that they will do everything to improve the car. I don’t think there’s any fundamental issues in the car concept. I’m pretty confident in that too. It’s just about fine-tuning. Obviously, as I said before, what we showed in Australia I don’t think was the real performance of the car and I think we are all quite confident that we can be better already from here in Bahrain but as I said, the mentality is very good in the team and we need to keep this spirit. We are all working as a team and all working together and this is a good thing to see.

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Valtteri already mentioned that overtaking is probably fairly easy this weekend. There are three DRS zones. Is that going to affect the strategy you’re going to have for the race and is this the way you want racing to go with more DRS zones?

LN: I think it will affect us slightly. You obviously have more chances of overtaking so you would say a two-stop strategy could be a better chance than trying to do that in Australia, say. I think and hopefully it will cause teams to chose more different strategies, basically, which can hopefully lead to more overtaking, more action, which is always a nice thing for a driver. It’s hard to say. I didn’t drive last year so I don’t know much better or worse this aero package is compared to last year. Some people have said it’s better, some people have said it’s the same or worse – not worse but the same as previous years. I think we have to have overtaking and I think Bahrain, as a track, is definitely better than Australia to overtake anyway, even without DRS zones. But I think nowadays it’s so difficult to overtake in general. DRS is one of the few ways to be able to lead to action and overtaking so I think you’re going to have to have it. Three DRS zones is quite a bit so I’m sure you’re going to see a lot of overtaking and action this weekend. It’s not the most natural and the best way to do it but it’s probably what we’ve got to do, I guess.

CL: Yeah, well you can afford to drop back in the standings for an extra stop and have the chance to overtake after again easier. Already in the past I think it was quite an easy track to overtake on with two DRS zones, so with one more it can only be easier. So yeah, it will change the strategy a little bit. That’s it.

VB: Nothing to add really. I think that’s it. It’s going to be a bit easier.

PG: I think they’ve summed it pretty well. Probably you can go with a more aggressive strategy with that extra DRS zone if it’s easier to overtake but I think the more action it can give us the better it is. After all there are other ways to overtake; without DRS would be nice as well if we are able to follow each other and there is more action thanks to that and that will be the best way but I think immediately that’s the only thing we can change, the DRS zones, so if it brings some more show, I think everybody’s going to be happier.

DK: I think there is always good racing in Bahrain so we just wait and see for the race.

Q: (Masahiro Owari – Formula Owari) Question to Pierre and Daniil: you had a problem at the start at Melbourne, you couldn’t see the starting lights. Could you please explain more details; which signal did you see or did you request anything from the FIA?

PG: Basically it was a pretty messy start because maybe it was my position but I think also Russell behind me had the same problem and Kubica as well but basically the lights were right behind Daniil’s rear wing so I couldn’t see the red lights. On the formation lap, they pulled the car back so I could see them and then as I got in my position for the race start, basically I was looking for them and also the lights on the side are really forward on the grid. Basically I had no idea so I just started to release the clutch when I saw the others moving but actually it wasn’t ideal and I think they are planning to raise the starting lights a bit because I think it’s probably going to be an issue on other tracks as well

DK: I could see everything so maybe he should try to look up

PG: Maybe because you’re taller. I think it’s better (not) to start in this position any more and that will be the easiest thing.

Q: (Abdulrahman Al-Saud – University College Bahrain) Valtteri, what advice would you give to an aspiring F1 driver?

VB: Never give up. It’s obviously not one of the easiest sports to get into but it’s possible. As a kid, obviously there were many people who say when your goal is to get into Formula One and be successful in Formula One, they tell you that it’s impossible but seeing the possibility in things, that can be their strength. Obviously there’s many factors to being a driver but you never know. I guess the main thing as a kid, when you’re doing it, is to enjoy it and then normally the rest will sort itself out one way or another.

Q: Could we just open this question to Lando as well? You’re a rookie. Anything you can add?

LN: I would agree with what Valtteri says, to be honest. It’s obviously a long journey, it’s not quick. You can’t just change from… and I’m sure very few can change from one sport to another but I think a lot of hard work and dedication is what I think all drivers here and all drivers on the grid have put into racing but a similar comment in terms of never giving up, because sometimes it can seem quite far out of reach and then all of a sudden you can be in Formula One, you can have a contract with a team. Similar comments: determination, hard work and not giving up. Many other people have done it, although it’s a very tough sport to get into. There’s only twenty in the world who can do it. I think never giving up is probably one of the best ways to describe it.