1 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com|
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: [Question inaudible]
Charles LECLERC: In FP1 I struggled a little bit and then we did some changes and then from FP2 it was quite good. A big pleasure to drive this car on the limit; it just felt great, and very happy to bring the pole position back home. But tomorrow we need to finish the job.
Q: A very different tyres strategy to Mercedes who are going to be your ultimate challenge. You’re starting on the soft; they’re starting on the medium. Do you firmly believe you went the right way?
CL: Yeah, on actually what we tested in FP2 we are pretty happy with the choice we made, so we’ll try tomorrow.
Q: And it’s going to be pretty hot tomorrow. What are the conditions going to be like?
CL: It’s going to be very difficult, physically, first, because it’s very, very warm, but also for the car, so yeah it will be all about management of everything and hopefully a good result tomorrow.
Q: Well done, it was an epic lap. Lewis, that was a nervy session, it looked like everyone was hunting for a slipstream. We heard the team trying to put you in that position, I think you tried to position yourself well for that last run, but Charles did a very good job.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, congratulations to Charles, he’s been quick all weekend. We’ve just not really been able to keep up with them this weekend. Positioning was so difficult out there and I was always at the front so I was never getting a slipstream. Luckily on that last lap I was in an OK position, but it was very tight right at the end. I didn’t know if I was going to get to start the lap or not. I saw three cars behind me trying to start their lap. So, a bit of a panic, but nonetheless I’m grateful. Max has been driving really well all weekend as well. I think it’s cool to see three different teams in the top three positions.
Q: Last Saturday you were keen to get Charles to race. You’re up against it tomorrow, you’re going to have to fight these two for this win aren’t you?
LH: Yeah, I’ll go and fight the young ’uns, man! It’s cool. I’m representing for the more grown men I guess. Nonetheless I’m excited to get out there and race with these guys, they’re both so talented, so fingers crossed we can put on a good show for them tomorrow.
Q: Max, you got the biggest cheer today. Red Bull’s home race, I don’t think you could have asked for much more. Could be a front-row start, as Hamilton is under investigation for a Q1 infringement with infringement, but how strong was that?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I’m actually really happy at the moment. For us, this is an amazing result on this track, which is not easy for us. The whole weekend… I think also again with the upgrades we brought here the car seems to be working again better.
Q: You won this race last year and you’ve put yourself in a strong position. How much does it mean to you to have this support around the track?
MV: It’s great. It puts a big smile on my face and hopefully I can give them a great result tomorrow.
Q: Charles, both of those laps in Q3 were good enough for pole position. Tremendous performance by you and the team, just how satisfying is this for you?
CL: Obviously I’m extremely happy. We have been competitive since FP2 but it’s always difficult to do a lap when you need to in Q3, but we did, so I’m very happy. We changed a little bit the car after the first run in Q3. I knew it would be a compromise a little bit for the first sector but actually it wasn’t that bad and then I improved quite a lot in the third sector, which was nice to see. Very happy for the team for the pole position but it’s a shame for Seb, as I think probably the two cars should be closer to first and second, so yeah, a bit of a shame for the team but very happy for my own performance.
Q: And just looking ahead to the race, how confident are you about the race pace of your car?
CL: Well, on Friday actually it didn’t look bad compared to Mercedes but also Red Bull, so we are pretty happy I think. We are quite competitive this weekend. I think tomorrow the start will be very important. There is a long straight after it, but there is a long straight after it, but normally we are quite fast on the straights so hopefully we can keep first position in the first three corners, but the pace itself looks promising.
Q: Lewis, it’s been a bit of a tricky weekend for Mercedes so far. Great lap from you at the end to get second place but can you just tell us about the performance of you car and how that session was for you?
LH: Well, firstly congratulations to Charles, he did a great job. He’s done a great job all weekend. For us, yeah, we’ve been chipping away at it, but early from the get go we noticed a bit of a deficit to the Ferraris. We thought it would be a bit closer than it was but they eked out some more time in P3 and going into qualifying. We definitely under-estimated how fast they would be, I would say. I think ultimately on the straights, they really kill us on the straights, so they’ve got that extra bit of power that really works well here and I guess they just managed to figure out how to get their car to work around the medium and high-speed corners. I think for us, the car has been feeling good, but as I said, we can’t do much more on the straights and I’m not really quite sure why it is we lose time on the straights but that’s something we’re working towards. The last part was really difficult. I think there were three cars right behind me going into the last corner, everyone was waiting and waiting and waiting and pushing it to the limit. We rarely go out right at the end of qualifying but as you could see it was quite a bit windier today and I think tow was probably important. Nonetheless I’m really happy with the position to get up here and I’m excited to have a race with these two.
Q: You’re under investigation for an incident in Q1 with Kimi Räikkönen, what’s your take on that?
LH: One of the team’s cars came by and I was braking for the hairpin at Turn 3 and I saw the other one coming so I got off the brakes and tried to go straight on to try and go out the way because I didn’t want to meet them in the corner. I don’t think I met them in the corner but I think that probably put him off I would have thought, so it wasn’t ideal. I wasn’t aware that that car was coming so not the easiest.
Q: Max, congratulations on third place. How satisfying is it for you to split the Mercedes this afternoon?
MV: Well, just in general, I think our whole weekend, the performance has been a lot better. Before we came here I was actually not really looking forward to it, to qualifying, because I knew that it was going to be hard – but actually with the new updates we’ve got to the car, I think yeah, we gained a bit of performance and I was really happy with the car throughout qualifying and I think in the corners as well, we looked very competitive. We do know that we are lacking quite a bit of pace to Ferrari and even to Mercedes of course on the straights but knowing this is not a great track for us, it’s still a great result in qualifying.
Q: And there’s a huge amount of support for you this weekend. What’s it like to have a Mexican wave follow you around the race track.
MV: Yeah. It’s a Dutch wave but OK! It’s good. It’s bringing a big smile to my face, of course. I mean, it’s not giving me extra lap-time unfortunately. It’s a good motivation to have and I can’t wait for tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Lewis, just how much to you think the drag is around this track in qualifying and do you think there can even be a benefit for you tomorrow at the start, considering you’re behind Charles?
LH: The drag? Oh, the slipstream. I’ve not really been behind the other cars. In Montreal you saw just how difficult it is to follow a Ferrari, even in the slipstream they tend to pull away. I think the little bit of an advantage they have is a little bit different in qualifying compared to the race – but yeah, I don’t even know if I’ll be starting where I am now, so we’ll wait and see.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Charles, there seems to be something about you and these tracks with big braking points into slow corners. Is there something about your style that helps you in these? You’ve had an advantage over Seb all weekend it seems.
CL: Overall, as I said in Paul Ricard, I’ve changed a little bit the approach from Paul Ricard and I really felt I did a step forward. Then, Austria is also my favourite track, so it might fit a little bit better to my driving style but overall, I think, since Paul Ricard, I did a step forward. And I can feel it in car so, happy with this. Yeah, that’s it.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To Charles and Max. All the attention for Ferrari is often on the straight line speed – but you had a really strong performance in the middle sector and at the end. Have you added a bit more downforce to the set-up this weekend to target the corners? And to Max, you talked about having a little bit updated, stronger car performance here. How much better has it been behind the wheel this weekend?
CL: I think our main issue in the last few grand prix was the front. We didn’t have enough front. I think this weekend it was quite a bit better. We tried different set-ups also, set-up philosophy, and it seems to be a bit better. So, it doesn’t mean that we’ll do a big step-up for the other races but for here it worked pretty well. I think the most time gained on the second sector is because of a stronger front compared to the last grand prix.
MV: Yeah. I think the things we bought, they just gave me more grip in general. I didn’t really have big problems before with a lot of oversteer or a lot of understeer, just not a lot of overall grip. I think that seems to be improved again. That’s very positive.
Q: (Maria Reyer – motorsport-total.com) Question to Charles, we saw you using the Soft tyre in Q2, so you’re starting on Soft and the Mercedes on the Medium. Why did you use the Soft tyre there?
CL: Well, we did some analysis after FP2, like every team does after the race simulation, and the Soft looked pretty good so we are pretty happy with our strategy. Definitely different than Red Bull and Mercedes but yeah, only tomorrow will tell who as right to so that choice but I’m happy with it.
Q: (Péter Vámosi – Racing Line) Question to Lewis and Max. Silly season 2020 is opened now. Can you imagine that you both can be team-mates next year?
LH: People are always making up stuff. It’s the first I’ve heard of it. I think the team’s pretty happy with Valtteri and me. So I do know Max is definitely interested in opportunities. I don’t know, maybe. If there is, then great. I don’t mind driving with you. I’ll drive against whoever.
MV: I guess there’s people who know more than me!
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speed Sport) Charles, was the team keeping you informed of what was wrong with Seb’s car and were there any concerns about your car?
CL: Yes, I was informed. Not exactly what happened – because I don’t know yet – but I was informed he had some issues with the car. They didn’t feel concern on my side. I don’t think they were – maybe they were behind the computers but they weren’t showing it to me. So no, I don’t think so.
Q: (Carlo Platella – F1ingenerale.com) Charles, this is your second pole position; are you going to approach the race in a different way from Bahrain?
CL: No, I think my approach to the race itself didn’t change much from the beginning of the season. I did a change of approach for qualifying but not so much for the race. And for now I’m pretty happy with it so no.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Slipstreaming is obviously becoming a huge issue in qualifying with these cars with extra drag. It’s kind of funny to hear you talking about it all the time over the radio, particularly you Lewis. Today we heard loads from you. What do you think about that? Do you think slipstreaming should be such an important part of setting the fastest lap time in qualifying?
LH: For us it’s because we’re slow on the straights and they’re fast so we need to regain it somewhere but they do it IndyCar. It’s not everywhere. Most places we don’t use slipstreaming, but there are places like this, Monza with long straights where it’s beneficial. I think that’s just another element that comes into it. I don’t think it should be a problem, personally.
CL: Yeah, same opinion. I think it’s always a compromise. It depends on the track, what you gain on the straight on some tracks you lose even more in the corners but here it’s not the case, we just win more on the straight by taking a slipstream so that’s why there was quite a bit of fight to try and have the best slipstream. Actually the last lap was pretty tricky because there was a train of cars. The only thing is that I feel that some cars - not of the top cars - but in the last lap they were slowing down unnecessarily. They had quite a big gap in front and that creates quite a problem for the cars behind but apart from that I think it’s part of racing.
MV: Yeah, not much more to add.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Charles, you talked about your change of approach in regards to qualifying from Paul Ricard. Could you talk a little bit more about what exactly you have approached with your approach and do you think that adjustment is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far this year with Ferrari?
CL: Well as I’ve explained, just to be a little more step-by-step during the qualifying sessions. I probably over-pushed and then on the set-up side try to anticipate the track evolution which is quite a big factor now in Formula One, so just these two and I certainly found quite a bit of time.
Q: (Peter Hlawicka – F1News.cz) Lewis, how big an advantage is it to start on mediums and how confident are you that you can win tomorrow?
LH: If we get to start the race in the positions… if I get to start the race with those guys I think it will be quite a fun race. This is a track that you can follow a little a bit more but still it will be quite difficult at the top between the few of us. I think the Ferraris are particularly very quick on the long runs, not only on the short runs so it will not be so easy to keep up with Charles but I gave it everything I had. If I can stay in the tow, for example and be there – if we’re on a different tyre, maybe we will be able to offset each other. Them starting on that tyre would tend to think they are going for a two (stop race) most likely unless that tyre goes a lot further than we anticipate. I don’t have the numbers but on the medium tyre hopefully we will able to go longer. I think a one and two (stop race) are very close so how you work them, safety cars and all those different things, it will be interesting but at least it makes it interesting hopefully.
Q: (Daniel Majer – GPHirek.hu) Lewis, now that you are leading the championship, tomorrow there is going to be a head-to-head battle between those other two guys. Will you consider that now you are leading the championship and it’s not necessary to beat them, it would be good if you finish on the podium or you will fight as it would be the first or the last race of the season?
LH: You’ve not been here too long, hunh? You don’t know me. Those of you who know me well, know me slightly better. I would say no, of course. I try to have a balanced approach between aggression and conservative and of course I will be pushing for the win tomorrow, that’s ultimately always the goal and it should be nothing more and nothing less. As I said, it’s not going be easy to get close to be passing the Ferraris. I think they’ve been very very quick all weekend but of course I will be giving it absolutely everything. I don’t like ever settling for anything but first. Have you seen Talladega Nights?
MV: It’s good, I like it.
LH: Very good viewing. So that (inaudible).
CL: Haven’t seen it.
LH: You need to watch it.
Q: (Bart Pooijeweert - Nu.nl) Max, yesterday Helmut Marko confirmed there is an escape clause in your contract. Can you tell the details about it?
MV: What do you think, my friend? Of course not! Why would I? I know, but I don’t care.
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Mario ISOLA (Pirelli), Andrew GREEN (Racing Point), Paul MONAGHAN (Red Bull Racing), Toyoharu TANABE (Honda), Andreas SEIDL (McLaren)
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com|
Q: Mario, if we could start with you please, you had a meeting this morning with the 10 team principals. Please can you explain what that meeting was about and what conclusions were drawn?
Mario ISOLA: It was mainly to understand if there is anything we can do to improve the show. We know the dominance for Mercedes is not helping the show at the moment and we had a discussion of the opportunity to reintroduce the 2018 tyres but after analysing the positive side and the negative side the conclusion was that we want to stay on the current… well, there was a vote from the teams and the decision is to stay on the current tyres. The meeting was quite productive; there were new ideas, new proposals for maybe the end of the season. Obviously we have to analyse that. At the moment they are just ideas. Let’s see. We will continue the discussion in the next days and maybe we come with a proposal for Silverstone or something like that. I don’t know yet because it was discussed two hours ago.
Q: Thank you. Can you also tell us what the plan is for next week’s tyre test here at the Red Bull Ring?
MI: We continue our development for 2020. As I already said, the main target is to have a wider working window for next year’s compounds. So, both in Austria and after Silverstone we will test new compounds, new philosophy, new types of compounds in order to achieve this target, in order to finalise the new construction for next year – because the current cars are really faster and faster, so that means they are putting more energy into the tyres and we have to cope with this energy and all the modification of the construction is to make them work better, and the compounds to have a wider working range and no issues with the aero map, and no blisters and overheating. Obviously the target is always to reduce overheating because it’s something the tyres don’t like, so I would say the two main targets are keeping that… safety is a target that is always there, we cannot consider a tyre that is not safe for Formula One. The targets are to have a wider working range and less overheating for next year.
Q: Andreas, if we could come onto you. Welcome, your first FIA press conference. You’ve been team principal of McLaren for a couple of months. Can you just tell us how it’s going and what you found when you arrived at the MTC?
Andreas SEIDL: Well, what did I find? Still early days, to be honest. It’s a big organisation. I got a very warm welcome from the team from the beginning. It also helped to get started that, compared to last year, the team has made a huge step forwards with the car. So all the changes that have been initiated last year already are paying off. I’m still in the period of really analysing in detail what’s going on inside the team, to find the strong and the weak points inside the team in order to then work out a clear plan how I want to, let’s say, approach the future with the team. Obviously Zak and the shareholders gave me the clear task to work out, as quickly as possible any deficits I see, also on the infrastructure side. So, I was very happy to announce last week that we got this positive decision on the wind tunnel, which was a quite obvious deficit compared to the top teams. So, very happy, it’s good to see that we are making steps, race by race now at the moment. It’s important for me to keep this positive journey going.
Q: As you say, McLaren is a team on the up at the minute. What is the mood in the camp?
AS: It’s obviously very, very positive. As I said before, results help; it’s good to see that the car is reacting to developments, different to last year. We are still bringing bits also for the next races, so we better and better understand the car. Also, we have a great working environment also together with the drivers. They perform very well on track. They have a great interation in terms of car development, also with the team at the track and the guys at home. All pretty positive. At the same time, the battle in the midfield is very, very tight – so it’s also no reason to get over-excited. It’s just important now to keep our heads down and keep pushing day and night.
Q: You have a great result in France last weekend, sixth and ninth – but how concerned are you about a repeat of the hydraulics issue on one of your cars this weekend?
AS: We obviously disassembled the car afterwards and found an issue on a single part. We think we have identified the root cause of the issue and hopefully it was a one-off.
Q: Paul, can we start by talking about this year’s RB15. What were your expectations coming into the 2019 season and has the car met them?
Paul MONAGHAN: I suppose form a team point of view, no we’re not walking off into the distance and winning every race, so there’s an element of frustration rather than disappointment. Don’t forget, we were the ones that changed power unit and then picked up the bodywork changes, so we probably took more on in the winter than some of the others. These cars don’t stand still. They’re prototypes, aren’t they? So every race it’s changing, sometimes by larger amounts, other times by smaller amounts. Our friends at Honda are upgrading as and when they can. So, as a package we’re trying to move forward. The target is clear and yeah, it’s improving all the time and the rate of improvement relative to our opposition that will see whether we can catch them?
Q: Well, how do you rate your chances of catching the two teams ahead of you? Do you think it’s possible within the current season to do that?
PM: Yes, I think you have to, otherwise you sort-of say ‘we’re going to look at next year’s’. We’ll try and learn and move on at every stage we can and if the closer we get to them, the better off we are for next year, if we catch them, great. It’s really a case of making our own progress. The only thing that’s within our control is the performance of our car. We can’t influence the others, they’ll do what they’re going to do and it’s heads down and get on with it really, isn’t it?
Q: And can we talk about drivers. We’ve seen tremendous consistency from Max Verstappen this year – but it’s been a bit up and down for Pierre Gasly, although he appeared to have a good morning this morning. What have been Pierre’s issues with the car?
PM: Pierre finds it a little bit more difficult to drive in certain sections of the corners – I think – than Max from his comments but he’s a quick, young driver. Let’s not forget that. And he’s up against a very strong team-mate. He’s much happier this weekend, straight away. He’s on the pace, so his confidence is on the up again. He’s part of our team. We’ll support him as best we can with every bit of energy we’ve got and I think he’ll come good.
Q: Tanabe-san, Paul says that you’re bringing upgrades as fast as you can and three of your cars run the new spec-3 power unit in France. All four cars are running it here. Did it perform at Paul Ricard as you expected?
Toyoharu TANABE: Basically yes. We could see some improvement in the data when we ran the lastest spec at the track. And then, we compared to the dyno data and we see improvement trackside as well. But, on the other hand, the improvement is not significant, so as I mentioned before, when we introduced spec-3, there was a reliability and then a performance improvement – but the performance is not huge, which means we still keep pushing to perform well.
Q: You talk about pushing to perform well. It’s quite early in the season to have introduced your third upgrade. Will there be another new spec this season and, if that’s the case, can you tell us when that might be?
TT: Yes, so as you are thinking, just before halfway in the season, we already apply third PU and we are planning to introduce another spec sometime this season – but I don’t tell you exactly when and how much improvement we will have. We will announce later.
Q: You’ve said development of this spec-3 involved working closely with Honda’s jet division. Can you just tell us how that worked?
TT: So, we have a Honda R&D, so the one division is Honda Sakura R&D which takes care of the Formula One racing project. Then we have a big technical centre including many types of technology. The we use that resource and collaborate very closely. Not only jet engines but also other parts. As a result, we introduce at the last race the new turbocharger using… from the collaboration between Honda Racing technology and jet engine technology. So, we tried to make performance better, not only from the small Racing group but also the all the resources of Honda R&D.
Q: Andy, very tight midfield this year. Checo was 12th for the third consecutive race last weekend. Can you tell us about the performance of your car, the RP19, its idiosyncrasies and where do you see your main opportunities in the next couple of months.
Andrew GREEN: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, the midfield is incredibly tight. It only takes very small margins to move you from one end of the field to the other. The car has got some balance issues that we started the season with and really I think that’s a bit of a legacy of where we finished off last year and where we were as a company, position-wise. We’ve got a lot of changes coming ahead in the next few races and beyond, after the break as well. So, I think we’re making progress and, as Paul alluded to, it’s all a relative game really: we’ve got to make more progress than our competition – which is hard to do. It’s very hard to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do but the atmosphere in the team is incredibly buoyant. The team’s future is incredibly bright. We’re looking a long way forward with the team now, that we’ve never been able to do before, and so the fact that we’re in a bit of a tight scrap at the moment is not distracting now from things that we’re looking at much further down the road – so it is an exciting time for the team, it really is, like I’ve never seen before. So, we’re really looking forward to not just fighting this season but, from what we can do and what we can achieve going forward as well into the season beyond. It’s an exciting time.
Q: And what about Lance Stroll? He’s raced well this year – three points finishes – but he’s been struggling in qualifying. What have been his issues and how can his engineers help him find a solution?
AG: Yeah, there’s no denying his Saturday afternoon performance, he’d say the same, he struggles on a Saturday afternoon but we have to put it in perspective. He’s in a very early part of his career and he’s up against a very mature, experienced driver on the other side of the garage and he’s learning a lot. In each race and in each session we give him targets and what to look for and how to improve and it’s small margins every time – but he understands it. He’s an incredibly talented driver. We’ve seen that numerous times – and it’s a case of just getting the experience. And once he gets the experience and gets the confidence, we’ll see him close the gap to Checo and potentially take a leap ahead of him. So, we’ve got every confidence he can do it – it just takes a bit of time.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) To the three team representatives please. We started the press conference talking about changing the tyres mid-season. Can you just give us your thoughts on the decision not to change tyres and the prospect of a change later in the season? Obviously there wasn’t a change now, so why would it change later on?
AG: Really, we listened to the arguments and we especially listened to this man on my left; Pirelli are the experts in this area. And from what we could tell, it wasn’t clear cut at all that a change, reverting to last year’s compound gauge thickness was going to be a positive change. It sounded like a significant risk to us. From our perspective it’s too late for this season and I think the decision to focus on trying to do something and trying to improve the tyres and the show for next season is the right thing to do. And I think to try and not distract from the testing that’s going on post this event and post-Silverstone as well is the right decision and focus on next year, and try to do something for next year, rather than a kneejerk reaction in the middle of this year.
Thank you. Paul, your thoughts?
PM: It’s difficult isn’t it. It puts Pirelli in a slightly difficult position. They’re doing a decent job, they’re going to win every race, the tyres are surviving on the cars, and as Mario points out, they’ve got to maintain their safety record. At the risk of being slightly controversial with regard to Andy’s comments, we would quite happily accept the 2018 tyres to come back. I don’t think the risk is as great as some perceive. But it is about creating a show and I think we almost have to take a step back and take a slightly less team-centric position and turn around and say ‘well, if it would be better for the show, could the teams cope with it’ and our opinion is yes, we could. We accept there has been a majority vote not to do so but we hold a slightly different view to the majority then.
AS: Well, I think first of all it’s important in all fairness to Pirelli to mention that we don’t have a tyre issue in general here. I think Pirelli, the product we have this year is matching all the requirements we set out last year, as Formula One, for what we want to have. I think in the end the reason why we have this discussion at the moment is that we have three top teams with the same resources and one team is doing a significantly better job than the other two. So that’s that situation we are facing. There is nothing we can really influence as McLaren. I think it’s down to the three top teams, with the FIA and Formula One to see if there is anything that can be done short-term to fix that issue. I think in general we have a far bigger issues which is this big gap we have between the top teams and the midfield. That is also where our focus is on. This is something also that cannot be solved in the short term, so we have big hopes for all the changes that are on the table on the financial side, technical side, sporting side, regarding the regulations in ’21 and hopefully F1 and the FIA with all the experts which they now have onboard, which is a unique situation, pull through. We full support the changes that have been sent out some weeks ago and that is our focus to be honest.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Racefans.net) Mario, the vote, 5-5, do you take that as a vote of confidence in your product or a vote of no-confidence in your product? And if your product was in line with the target letter then should the target letter just be scrapped?
MI: No, I don’t think so. The target letter is fixing some parameters in terms of delta lap time and degradation and characteristics of the tyre. That means we can change the target letter for the future and we can put numbers that are better for the show. As Andreas said, we made a product in line with the requests coming from F1. Don’t forget what happened last year: the drivers were complaining about overheating, and if we go back to 2018 tyres we go back to overheating, to blistering, and all the different stuff, where basically we were working on to make a better tyre for this year. So what is clear to us for next year is to develop a wider working range in order to have more teams that are able to use the tyres better. I am very confident that for the second half of the season most of the teams will learn how to use the current tyres, because it’s always a learning curve. Every year it was the same. Going back to last year’s tyres on the technical side was not the right decision and I’m happy that five teams recognised that and voted against the change. On top of that we are very happy to work together with the teams, the driver and FIA and FOM to find a better solution for the sport as we did in the past and as we have always done. Provided that safety and the image of the company are protected we are here to do something good for Formula 1. If this is not the right direction then let’s change the direction, but we need to agree what is the direction, because at the end of the day we make one tyre for everybody, not get customised tyre for any car.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) A question for Andreas. Andreas, you talked about the positivity within McLaren, but you’ve come into the sport at what appears to be quite a negative time, primarily due to the dominance of one team, as you mentioned, Mercedes. Can I just get your thoughts as to what your perceptions were of F1 before you joined McLaren, what your perceptions are now that you have been with the team for a couple of months, and what you would like to see going forward, primarily from 2021 onwards?
AS: Well, I’ve been following Formula One the last 10 years as a fan and I think it hasn’t lost anything. It is still the platform, which works. It does not change compared to 2009 when I left Formula One. Of course there is an issue, as I mentioned before, with this big gap between the top teams and the midfield teams. Simply the resources these teams are having, let’s say, went out of control compared to what we, for example, can do. It’s not possible for us to be competitive and sustainable at the same time. Again, this should not hide that we have, in general, some work to do inside the team, independent of, let’s say, the boundary conditions we are in at the moment. So I think it’s very, very important to get this right for 2021. I think the objectives are clear for everyone involved and there is also huge agreement regarding the objectives. First of all I think the biggest, or most important topic, is to introduce the budget cap, because that is the only guarantee really to have somehow a level playing field between the teams. We would prefer that is even lower than the numbers that are under discussion at the moment. But we also understand that it needs to be a compromise in the end. Then I think it’s simply important to get the technical and sporting regulations right. It’s important to be a bit more restrictive in terms of the freedom on the development side, which then allows to have the field closer together. At the same time we are up for still having some freedom as the better team should still be able to make a difference. I think everything is on the table and it’s just important now that Formula One and the FAI is pulling through and the whole regulations that are in discussion at the moment don’t get softened again by, let’s say, the agendas of the teams, their own agendas.
Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) A question to Tanabe-san and Paul. Max Verstappen said yesterday in this press conference that he is keen to evaluate the updates that are coming on your package over the next few races. How confident are you that you can give him the equipment he needs to continue to trust the Red Bull-Honda project and stay with the team longer term?
PM: To answer your question directly: we are confident that we can give Max a car that enables him to challenger for race wins and beyond. The time scale is not within our control, because you have to catch the others and pass them to achieve this. There are a number of update on both, as Tanabe-san said, with the engine and on the chassis side to improve our performance. We will deploy those as and when they are ready and we know that, or believe that they are right and will make a reasonable difference to the car and if we can make some progress towards that it’s really all on the cars for the start of next season and who rolls out the door fastest then.
TT: Yes, so we both work very hard to achieve our objectives or our target. I understand the feeling from the cockpit, so we try to deliver performance, not only PU but also chassis. So as Paul said we keep working very hard to keep our driver, so Max, in the confident car. That’s our goal anyway. So we are working very hard. We understand there is a space or a gap to achieve that top level also the period to improve our performance.
Q: (Péter Vámosi – Racinglines.hu) Andreas, Bernie Ecclestone confirmed yesterday that four years ago he was in talks with Volkswagen Group and Porsche and Audi that they can come to Formula 1. Can you confirm this and could you imagine that in 2021 we can again have a marriage between McLaren and Porsche?
AS: Well, obviously I have a new shirt on, so I can’t comment on what happened at my previous employment. I think in general it’s very difficult for a new engine manufacturer to come in. This is why I think also that from ’21 onwards it makes sense at the moment to really keep the regulations as they are, because we see at the moment already that with keeping the regulations stable all the power trains are coming closer together. And then, I think as far I can see at the moment, we simply have to wait for the next cycle of the regulations and we have to see then also how the automotive industry is going, in which direction, to see if then there is any chance to create any interest for another manufacturer to come into this sport.
Q: (Maria Reyer – Motorsport-Total.com) Mario, Toto Wolff said after the meeting today that we could see at the end of this season already 2020 tyres being used, maybe in practice, to be tested. Do you see this is possible from a protection side and do you think this maybe could be the case at the end of the season?
MI: Yes, it is possible because the current regulations allow us to do that. So we can supply two additional sets of prototype tyres for evaluation during Friday. And there was also the discussion to slightly change the regulations to understand if different tyres can be used during the race weekend, not just in free practice. This is, as I said, a completely new idea and it has to be evaluated and discussed and the FIA should come with a wording to propose but we are open to evaluate that and we will continue our development test for the next weeks, but if we also have the opportunity it is a good opportunity to test the product for next year during the season.
Q: (Sam Collins – RaceCar Engineering) To Andreas and Paul: just following on from one question back, Andreas you’ve worked with a number of technical working groups in different championships and you mentioned that you wanted to see the new engine regulations in future that will attract new manufacturers to the series. What rule changes would it require, what would the new power unit need to be to attract a new manufacturer to the series in your opinion? And Paul, as a team that has relationships with two automotive manufacturers, from Red Bull’s point of view as a team, what do you think is needed from the engine regulations in ’25 to bring new manufacturers into the sport?
AS: First of all, obviously there are a lot of changes ongoing at the moment in the automotive industry with the powertrains, electrification and so on, so I think for the next cycle of regulations you simply have to make the next step of hybridisation, definitely. This is the technical aspect but in order to be attractive as a sport for a manufacturer to enter again, I think it’s also very very important to make sure you can enter this sport with an investment which is a lot smaller compared to what you have to do now with budgets that are a lot smaller, because again, if you want to enter this category at the moment, then the investment you have to do for the infrastructure and the budget you have to use in order to get to the point where the established manufactures are, you have to be realistic. Pretty difficult to imagine that anyone would invest that money at the moment.
PM: It’s an interesting question for 2025. I suppose I will answer it by saying that – if you asked me what would I presently do, I would try not to upset the four that are there at the moment, to find ourselves down to two, one of them being new, just as an example. So if you take that point of view, the four that are currently investing and developing engines are supplying them to all ten teams, you could argue on a complete clean sheet of paper but then it rather negates all the work that they’ve currently done. And taking Andreas’s point that you don’t want the new rules to be intimidating to anybody else wanting to come in, you clearly have to strike a compromise somewhere and where that lies I wouldn’t want to comment at the moment. That’s my thought for 2025.
Q: (Daniel Majet – GPHirek.hu) When there is talk about the spectacle of Formula One, it is often compared to IndyCar. Do you see in it from a technical aspect, chassis, engine, whatever, that can be considered, which is now in IndyCar, for the future of Formula One?
MI: I believe that we should look at any other series that’s providing the show, not just IndyCar. If we look at the other series with an open mind, we can find solutions also for Formula One, keeping in mind the DNA of Formula One because it is clear that we cannot have a Formula One that is a standard series like Formula Two or something like that. There are a lot of dedicated aspects to consider but observing the rest of motorsport with a critical view can only be positive.
AG: I think the regulations moving forward in 2021 do take some of other formulas technology, I think with moving towards more of a ground effect car going forward. I think that definitely comes from the north American series, which, if we’re looking at, trying to have the cars race closer together then I think that’s the right thing to do, that makes complete sense. But I think the same, I think we need to keep Formula One at the pinnacle, it needs to be a technological amazement really. That’s where I think the sport needs to be, it’s not just about having cars that are close, it’s about a bit more of a Wow factor and we need to make sure we don’t lose any of that.
PM: To answer your question directly, yes, I think you can learn from other series. Your specific question of IndyCars Andy has partly answered I think in that the way they generate their downforce is of interest to us. The question becomes can they run closer, can we still maintain differentiation between the cars as opposed to stock bodywork as they would call it over there? So I think you keep an open mind and you look and you learn and you don’t assume that you have perfect knowledge. I think that open-mindedness will serve us well.
AS: Yeah, same from my side. I think we all do - Formula One, FIA and the teams should also currently look at what’s going on in other categories, on the technical side and also on the sporting side which has a big impact as well, the sporting regulations of how the show is actually happening on track. I think some aspects of the ’21 regulations like standardisation and so on, limitation of the freedom regarding the aero development and so on, they’re going in the direction we see already in other categories. There’s a lot of work going in to also to allow this closer racing so I think we are not far off with the proposals that are on the table. As I said before, we just need to pull through now.
TT: Yes, IndyCar and Formula One are sports and also entertainment. I think there is a big differences between the two series and also the spectator characteristics are different. But it’s good to learn from each other or share the idea which enforces the Formula One, which enforces IndyCar and then supplies much more until the spectator is good, I think.
Q: (Carlo Platella – F1ingenerale.com) A double question for Mr Seidl: McLaren introduced a new front suspension in France. Is the introduction of such an important component in the middle of the season a result of the new organisation of the team? And have you noticed a significant improvement in performance thanks to it?
AS: Well, I think with the limited testing which is available in Formula One nowadays, which we all support also, you simply have to use the Fridays also to try let’s say adventurous stuff, which we did in Paul Ricard. It’s nothing we follow up at the moment. It was – let’s say – an engineering exercise, a learning exercise for the engineers and we have to see now what we do now with the conclusions of that test, regarding future developments we want to bring to the car this year or next year.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Andreas, can I just get your thoughts on the season Lando is having so far, his plus points, what he’s done? Well, he’s obviously had a bit of bad luck but his plus points, what he’s done well, where you feel he needs to improve? He needs to learn in his first year, at the end of the day, and also get your thoughts on his obsession with his home simulator and how much that is helping improving him as a driver?
AS: Well, first of all, I was obviously very very impressed, straight from the beginning, even during the first races when I was still watching the races from home, with what Lando was doing on track. If you come into Formula One and you go into your first qualifying in Melbourne with a car that was maybe somewhere between – in terms of performance – ten to 14 and you score P8, it’s an impressive achievement and it was not just a one-off, he did that now several times which is great to see, also how he handles the races, I think it’s great. He had some bad luck in terms of results but I think that’s nothing which is too worrying at the moment, so we are very very happy inside the team, also how he interacts with the engineers regarding the development of the car, with the guys here at the track and also back home so very encouraging to see and I think he will have a great future in Formula One and obviously with the McLaren team as well, long term.
Q: And his home simulator?
AS: Yeah, I think that even here in the motorhome there’s a big competition going on between Carlos and him each day, battling each other on the simulator so he’s obsessed with that, he’s convinced and we can see that also that it helps him to prepare the races, to be sharp when he’s arriving here, in addition to the simulator work he’s also doing with the guys back home in Woking. It’s great to see, this new generation also how they prepare themselves for this challenge in Formula One, and again, very excited to work together with him and the same for Carlos, I think we have a great driver line-up and they will be the future for this team.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Racefans.net) To Mario and the three team representatives: if one has a single tyre supplier, surely it’s inevitable that some teams are going to be marginalised by this. If we are looking at tyres to improve the show, should we not be looking at multiple tyre suppliers in Formula One in future when the current contract expires?
MI: You know everybody is talking about the budget cap and multiple tyre supplier means a lot of cost more. Don’t forget when we had the multiple tyre supplier, the top teams had a specific test team just for tyres and introduction of new tyres, new prototypes every race so it’s a bit against the philosophy of having a cap on the budget. But if this is the decision of the sport, we will evaluate that as we told you in the past and obviously with a different approach, it’s a lot more about the performance and other stuff rather than the same product to everybody and with the characteristics which are decided by the famous target letter. Or we can try to find different values in that document to enhance the show. Maybe it is possible. We are working with the FIA and FOM in order to have different numbers for the future.
AG: Yeah, I think multiple tyre suppliers goes against the whole ethos of trying to compress the grid and improve the show. You are going to end up with the haves and have-nots with respect to tyres. Currently we all have the same tyre and we can all do the same job, up and down the grid. I think the team that does the best job with the tyres should be rewarded for that so I don’t think that’s the right way to go for the show, to be honest.
PM: In the current generation of Formula One then multiple tyre suppliers don’t really fit with the model. We don’t go tyre testing every week and tyres per se are not a prime performance differentiator so at the moment our current working philosophy, if you like, is to have a single supplier. It would change everything that is on the table now and I believe plans for the future if we were to bring in multiple suppliers and I don’t if you would close the field up or spread it out in that circumstance. At the moment, we’re not really equipped to go down that route.
AS: Well, I think we should also not forget that even in the years of the biggest tyre war, sometimes we had a total dominance of one team throughout the entire season so I’m not convinced that this is the solution. I think it’s simply important now that between the teams, together with the FIA and FOM that we have, let’s say that we take our time to really define clearly what is the target letter for the tyres for next year and for ’21 and I think that’s the way to go, to be honest.
DRIVERS – Sergio PÉREZ (Racing Point), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Alexander ALBON (Toro Rosso), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas)
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com|
Alex, if we could start with you. Let’s start by talking about the frustrations of entering a race weekend when you have an engine penalty. How does that affect your mindset?
Alexander ALBON: Yeah, obviously it’s not the same as a normal weekend when you have to focus on long runs. I think it opens the margin, as a team we can focus a bit on the long-run pace, which maybe we struggled a bit in Paul Ricard with that. It’s not too bad, because it just means we can almost treat it like a test day, the first three free practice sessions and do stuff maybe we wouldn’t risk on another weekend. So yeah, it’s OK.
Q: I guess you take heart from what happened in China, pit lane to the points?
AA: Yeah, you could say that.
Q: Now, Alex, we’re one third of the way through the season or just over. How do you reflect on the early races and the whirlwind existence that is being a Formula One driver?
AA: Yeah, I think the beginning was quite a shock. I think it’s like everything: you start to get used to it. The circus seems a bit more normal the more you do it. By this point now you’re in the rhythm, it’s not so daunting all the press stuff. It’s OK.
Q: What about the car? How long did it take you to get comfortable in the car?
AA: Car-wise, relatively comfortable was straight away to be honest. These cars now they are so fine-tuned that you can get up to speed relatively quickly but then to find the extra bit does take a bit more time. But on top of that it’s more about how you speak with the team, how you extract performance with the engineers, that kind of thing. That takes a while, and that’s something that I’m always learning really – what does the car need to get an extra couple of tenths on qualifying.
Q: And in terms of performance, what can you tell us about the development of the car?
AA: Yeah, I think like everything we are always improving and then it’s a fight against the other teams. Obviously McLaren and Renault were very strong in Paul Ricard and we’re hoping to bounce back strong here at our home race weekend. Of course everyone is getting upgrades, so it feels like an upgrade chase at the moment. So we’ll see.
Q: Sergio, in France you finished 12th for the third race in a row. You seem always on the edge of the points, just how frustrating is it getting?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it’s obviously very frustrating when you are not scoring points. It’s what you come here for and going home with no points hurts a lot. I think we have been going through a very difficult couple of races, the last three especially. But especially in the midfield it’s so tight, so a little improvement will be a big jump. I know the season is very long and we are still there or thereabouts in the midfield, so I’m still confident that we can turn around the season.
Q: Do you feel the team is paying the price for the uncertainty of last season?
SP: In a way yes, because you know, these days every team is so strong in the midfield. There are not bad teams anymore or teams that are too far away. Everyone is really there. When you have such tight margins having an upgrade one or two races late hurts a lot. So, yeah, I think we are. But as I say, I’m still very hopeful that we can turn the season around.
Q: And what’s this year’s Racing Point like to drive?
SP: We’re struggling a bit to try to pick up the best bits we have at the moment with the package that we have. It can be quite inconsistent, the car, at time, but nothing unusual, just normal stuff.
Q: Kevin, it’s your 50th race for Haas this weekend and probably hoping for a better one that in France last weekend, which was described by your boss Guenther Steiner as the worst in the team’s history in Formula One. Is that a description you would agree with?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: It was certainly very disappointing and I think it’s because we have had very high expectations for this year. I think all the way from winter testing the car felt so good and looked so competitive. And also, at quite a few races we’ve had a great car in qualifying and qualified easily best-of-the-rest but then we’ve struggled a lot in the race. So I think in terms of it being the worst race in the history of Haas F1, I don’t know. I think if you ask him now he may see it differently. I think we have had some tough races in Mexico. I remember Mexico is like a bad race for us historically and we’ve had some really rough races there – qualifying on the back row and finishing almost the same. I wouldn’t say it was the worst race but maybe in terms of feeling. It felt very bad, because two races ago we qualified sixth in Monaco and looked very good for a very strong best-of-the-rest position there and then suddenly you find yourself in a tough position – hard to get out of Q1 and struggling massively in the race as well. Yeah, I would say very disappointing and I can see where he is coming from.
Q: What is the mood in the camp coming into this Austrian Grand Prix? Is there a sense of frustration building within the team, both among the engineers and the drivers?
KM: There is a little bit of a sense of uncertainty, because we don’t know what to expect. We know we have got a good car aerodynamically and a car that can perform well sometimes but then we’ve found ourselves in situations where the car isn’t performing at all and we can’t really point at the problem. It’s very confusing. We all talk about tyres and stuff but it is a bit confusing as to why we are so strong sometimes and even on tracks that look the same as, you know say Barcelona, where we were strong, we struggle sometimes. It’s not like you can find a trend and zoom in on the problem. It’s a little bit confusing but we are working very hard to locate the problem and take a direction of where to look. It’s easy to say that the tyres aren’t working but there’s got to be more to it than just temperatures and stuff. There are a lot of things to look at on a Formula One car so it is a bit difficult at the moment but this track has been good to us in the past, so fingers crossed it’s the same this year.
Q: What’s your gut feeling about this year, because you were fourth and fifth last year?
KM: The gut feeling is good. It’s been strong for us in all years I think. Even when I wasn’t here they were strong so… I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if there’s something in the track that suits the way we design our car. It’s a bit difficult to say. But at least it’s exciting to come here knowing that we’ve had strong races here in the past.
Q: Charles, do you expect to give Mercedes a harder time here than you did last weekend in Paul Ricard.
Charles LECLERC: Oof, I think at the moment it’s quite difficult. They seem very, very quick. They were extremely quick in Paul Ricard, especially on race pace. I think we are focusing on ourselves, trying to do the best job possible but to be honest it’s quite difficult to be at their level.
Q: How much of a boost was it for you to finish less than a second behind Valtteri Bottas last weekend?
CL: I think he was struggling quite a bit on the second set of tyres with some blistering. We weren’t, I think we managed quite well our race. So it shows that still everything is possible but it’s just very difficult and if they don’t run into issues it is a struggle for us to challenge them. So we are just trying to do our best in our races every time. On my personal side it was good to have a good weekend after a few where I have been struggling a bit more. So yeah, it was nice but now I just need to keep working and keep doing that.
Q: You said in France that you changed your approach to qualifying. Are you confident that whatever you changed will work here?
CL: Oh yeah, I think it’s just a general approach. I don’t think it’s something that I only changed in Paul Ricard and I will probably change it for here. I’m pretty sure it’s positive, so hopefully I can show it here too.
Q: And when you are at a track like this, which is the shortest of the year in terms of lap time. How does that change your approach? Does it put more pressure on you during qualifying because the grid is that much closer in terms of time?
CL: I love it. It’s one of my favourite tracks actually. I really enjoy having the short track, it really reminds me of the karting days, but no it doesn’t put any more pressure for qualifying or less, I just enjoy racing here.
Q: Max, you won this race last year, what chance a repeat in 2019?
Max VERSTAPPEN: erm… not that much, I think. Yeah. It’s a bit difficult, I think. We need quite a bit of luck for that.
Q: Just tell us a little bit about the performance of the car – because you’ve now had five fourth place finishes…
…how frustrating is that for you?
MV: I wouldn't call it frustrating. It’s not that I’m miles off. I always have… I don’t know if it’s a Ferrari in front or a Mercedes but they’re not that far away. We just need to keep pushing hard to try to get more performance out of the car but also out of the engine at the moment. We are clearly lacking a bit of pace from both sides. But still, I always try to get the best out of it. And, of course, I’m not here to be fourth. I want to win races. It’s not nice to drive around at this fourth spot, always just missing out – but that’s how it is at the moment.
Q: Does the RB15 have a particular weakness – or is it just not quick enough everywhere?
MV: No, it’s not that it’s not quick enough everywhere. When you look to Paul Ricard, yeah, clearly lacking top speed – but also maybe two or three corners where, compared to Mercedes, we are lacking just cornering speed. If you compare to Ferrari, they are like a rocket on the straight but in the corners we are a bit more competitive. So, yeah, like I said, we just need to work on both sides to try to get back on to that podium.
Q: And you’re expecting a large Dutch contingent in the grandstands this weekend?
MV: yeah, there will be a lot of orange. Of course, it’s always great to see and it always brings a smile to my face while driving – so hopefully I can give them a good result on Sunday.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To all five drivers. Today the mayor of London said that he would like a race on London’s streets. How would you like a race on London streets – or would you rather stay at Silverstone if it was one or the other?
KM: I think generally I’m a fan of street circuits, but y’know, I guess it depends on how it’s going to look. Street circuit, to me, sounds like a good idea.
Better than Silverstone?
KM: Silverstone’s pretty cool, so it would need to be very, very good.
AA: I think I’d like to stay at Silverstone. I think it’s one of the best, if not the best track of the year. So, yeah, I’d like to stay there.
MV: Yeah. I mean Silverstone is a great track, so, if they want a street circuit it needs to be an extra grand prix then.
Charles, your thoughts?
CL: yeah, city tracks are my favourites but Silverstone is one of those tracks where it’s so enjoyable to drive in a Formula One car that I would not like to not see it on the calendar – so probably Silverstone.
SP: Yeah, Silverstone is a fantastic venue – but at the same time, racing on the streets will be very nice, especially in London. It will have to be a very nice street circuit to put it in instead of Silverstone.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere Della Sera) Charles, I just read the quote of Nico Rosberg, he says that Ferrari has no chance at all to recover the gap, looking at the Championship. Is it the case with 13 races left – or not?
CL: Well, we’ll believe it until the end, of course. We are all aware that the gap is quite big and it’s going to be very difficult to catch up – but we won’t give up until it’s mathematically impossible. So, we’ll give everything – but of course the gap is big.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Max, you say you’re not here to finish fourth – so how long before you run out of patience and start considering options outside of Red Bull? Basically, could you drive somewhere else as early as next year?
MV: To be honest, I think it’s more important to see what the team also will bring in upcoming races. I’m not too worried about what’s going to happen next year or even beyond that. At the moment I just want to focus on this project because I think there is still a lot of potential and we are just getting started. But like I said, of course, I don’t want to keep driving until I’m 35 or 40, y’know? So we’ll see.
Q: (Péter Vámosi – Racing Line) Question to all the drivers. There were now some decisions from FIA which were really controversial and some part of the drivers said it’s OK, some said not. How do you like the idea to have only ex-Formula One drivers as stewards – maybe even with always one ex-World Champion?
SP: I think that would be great. We’ve been talking about it for many years, to have the same stewards, to have that consistency throughout the races – but it’s very hard. It’s been very difficult for the past years to make it happen. Hopefully in the near future it’s something that will be in the sport because it will make it just more consistent and not rely so much on the stewards’ decision.
CL: Nothing to add.
MV: For me, I think it’s not good to have the same stewards all the time – because it’s the same in football: if you have a referee who doesn’t like you, and you always have to play with that same referee, I don’t think it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s the same in Formula One: if you always have the same stewards, it’s not going to work out. I think the change of stewards is not too bad. But most of the time, it’s a problem of the rulebook, where you’re sitting at the stewards and they have a view of things but they can’t give a different penalty because it’s written in the rules that they have to give this certain penalty. Then by just adding old – not old – ex-Formula One drivers. I don’t think it’s going to change a lot because, at the end of the day, they have to give the same penalty.
AA: Not really too much to say. Just, I think the experience of a racing driver always helps with regards to… they know when a driver is trying to do something or not, if it’s on purpose or not. And yeah, in general I think it would be a… maybe not all of them but I do think the experience does help for tricky calls when it’s always 50:50.
KM: Nothing to add. I agree with Max. On everything.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max, after the last race Lewis Hamilton was quite critical of Formula One, saying the set-up was in a bit of a mess and called the last race ‘boring’. Leading the new school of drivers, how would you sum up the sport and what do you think needs to change?
MV: I think… of course it’s great to set lap records and stuff – but maybe if we are only going one or two seconds slower but we can at least follow each other a bit closer, that would be great – but I think that’s also not just purely car related, because I think also the tyres, if you are really close to someone for two or three laps, they overheat too much and you start sliding too much. So most of the time you also just back out because anyway, you know that if you stay there, you have to pit earlier and stuff. So, then it compromises your whole race. So, it’s a combination of both the car where we need to find a different way of creating the downforce – but then running closer to each other. And then yeah, the tyres. I think we can do a better job on that. So, hopefully we can support Pirelli in that. And then, still the differences between the engines are still too big, so if you also close that up a little bit by making it not that complex. I mean, I understand we have to stay with hybrid engines but I think it can be done in a better way.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportwatch) After the not-so-spectacular race in France, Ross Brawn was very clear when he said he hoped for some input from the drivers. Max already gave some input, but what do you think of the idea to involve all drivers in this and what will would you guys suggest right away when there will be some sort of meeting?
KM: I didn’t… I wasn’t listening. Sorry. (Question repeated) I think it’s good. We have opinions and obviously good experience also. I think we could contribute in a good way so I think that’s positive. And I think generally we want to.
AA: Yeah, not too much to add to Kevin. I think we all sit in the same boat while we all want the racing to be more interesting so yeah…
MV: In the GPDA now, where all the drivers are together anyway, we do talk about it already and I think it’s not necessary that all 20 drivers go in there, because at the end of the day, if we all share the same ideas, maybe we only need two or three to be there but yeah, like also Ross said with Lewis, of course, yeah, if he can represent all 20 drivers together maybe with two other drivers together then it’s a good thing because at the end of the day we are driving the cars, so we actually really feel what’s going on while racing. The engineers, of course, they design everything but they don’t get to feel what we feel while driving.
CL: Yeah, exactly. As Max said, we are in the cars so I think we have a pretty strong opinion on what’s to do and I think we have a few points that we are all agreed on which will be heard and I think that’s the point of us being there and I think it’s a good thing.
SP: Yeah, as Charles said, I think we have a couple of points in the GPDA that we all agree – all drivers – and I think we are the ones who can give the best feedback because we are the ones racing the cars. It would be good if at least a couple of those points – they are not many – but if they can listen to us a bit more that would be great, to make the sport better.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) As was mentioned previously, Lewis was quite critical but he wasn’t the only one, there was quite a considerable amount of criticism that followed the French Grand Prix, given that it was effectively, for anybody watching, quite a boring race. It’s also been suggested that the sport now is somewhat in crisis given that Mercedes, once again, are completely dominating, in particular this season especially with all their one-twos. As drivers, do you feel the sport’s in crisis? And I know, Max, you’ve kind of answered previously but what would be your answers and not just for 2021 but for anything early doors going forward?
SP: I wouldn’t say the sport is in crisis but it’s certainly losing interest from a lot of people. You have some races that are incredibly boring at the front of field but when you look at the midfield, I mean when you look at the last race, what happened at the midfield until the last lap, they decided who won the battle, so I think that was incredible. I think the problem is more with the top teams, the difference that there is. I think the whole pack has to be a lot closer together, give equal opportunity to everyone and have more teams capable of winning. The way you do that is by making the rules a bit more complex and not so much gap between teams. That will be the best way to create interesting races.
CL: Yeah, as I said, certainly the sport is probably is not in the best shape, there are a few things we can do to improve it quite significantly. As Checo said, already from having a closer field would help, cars that can follow closer to each other will help also for overtaking and these are done by a few things and these other points agreed inside the… FDA!? No?!
MV: Ferrari driver academy?
CL: … the GPDA and that’s exactly what we want to make here, to the guys at the top of Formula One.
MV: I agree it’s not great but I think Formula One has always been like this because before this Red Bull was dominating the sport. Before that you had Ferrari dominating the sport. Before that, what was it? You got Williams, before that it was McLaren again. You always have those years of domination unfortunately. I don’t agree with it but it’s like it is, there’s always one team which gets the rules… understands the rules better than others and does a better job so it’s up to us, now, I guess, to find a way where not every team starts speaking for their own advantage, because at the end of the day, even with the new rules coming at the moment, everybody is just speaking for their own advantage. Maybe it’s just better to leave out all the teams from the discussions and just say these are the rules and you deal with it.
AA: Very much what Checo said. I think the midfield has been quite good this year, it’s just the top six drivers are quite routine and there’s quite a lot of consistency with us all. If there was a bit more unpredictability with it, it would definitely make for a bit better racing.
KM: Nothing to add.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia EFE) Checo, scoring points again, would that make you happy enough or can you look further ahead? Or do you just not know where you are standing at this point?
SP: No, definitely scoring points this weekend would be a good step. We’re finding issues with the car every weekend so we are getting… I think in Paul Ricard we were closer to the points. I think without my penalty we should have just been getting into the points so we’re definitely making progress but I think that if we are able to score points this weekend it would put us back on track. We’ve got some bits coming for the coming races so it should be a good step forward.
Q: (Erik van Haren – De Telegraaf) Max, I believe you’re not the only Verstappen who is racing here this weekend. What do you expect from your father? Do you think he’ll still be quick?
MV: Well I don’t know if you can call it a race but it’s good to have fun, isn’t it?
Q: Max, can you just tell us what your father, Jos, is driving?
MV: He’s driving in… is it called the Legends’ parade? Yeah. So, many cars on track. They’ve hired my Dad to drive as well. He likes driving. Like I said, a bit of fun. Won’t hurt.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Max, last weekend you obviously had the full experience of running Honda’s upgraded engine through qualifying and the race. Before the weekend, you and Honda had made it clear that it wouldn’t be a massive out-and-out performance step but where do you see your deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes at the moment? Is it more skewed to qualifying than the race and is it still that balance of car and engine that’s holding you back?
MV: I think I explained that in the beginning of the press conference where I see I’m losing, compared to Mercedes and Ferrari. Probably somebody recorded it so you can look back at it.
Q: (Maria Reyer – Motorsport-Total.com) Charles, you were talking about your qualifying performance and that you were working on Q3. Could you maybe elaborate a bit more on what you’re working on and do you feel more confident coming into this race weekend?
CL: Yeah, overall on the approach for the set-up, to try and anticipate the track evolution. On some tracks it’s bigger than others and I think most of the times when the track evolution was quite big, I was not in the best place or not in the place I wanted to (be) for Q3. I felt quite good in Q1, Q2 was worse, Q3 was even worse so now I’ve just tried and analysed that, to understand what did I have to live with in Q1 to have the car I wanted in Q3 and it worked.