Wednesday 31 July 2019

GRX Taneco confident and ready for challenge the of Trois-Rivières

The GRX Taneco squad are revved up and ready to accept the challenge of Trois-Rivières after a four-week in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

"We’re all excited to go back racing after the first few weeks of the summer break," said Team Manager Jussi Pinomäki. "The race track in Trois-Rivières is really unique and we will need to work hard to reach the result we are lusting for, but I am confident that the team and the cars are ready for the challenge."

The Trois-Rivières street circuit is the longest of the year at 1.37km's in length and features a 400 m long straight, allowing the cars to reach speeds of very 200 km/h. Despite the highspeed nature of the circuit, it's rather easy to make a mistake with walls on either side to penalize the slightest mistake. 

Niclas Grönholm heads to Trois-Rivières fourth in the championship standings, 35 points behind championship leader Kevin Hansen. The Finn is fully charged and ready to hit the ground running in Canada.

"I’m really looking forward to the race in Canada - I think we have a good car for the track," said Grönholm. "I like racing at Trois-Rivières even though it is very tricky in some places and since this is a street circuit, there is no room for errors."

"It’s been a long break from racing now, my ‘batteries’ are fully charged and motivation is high."

Grönholm's team-mate Timur Timerzyanov is confident that despite Rallycross being relatively new to North America, this weekend's action-packed racing can grow more interest in the sport. 

"Rallycross for North America is still a relatively new thing and I am glad that we can show Canadians how exciting it is," said Timerzyanov. "There is always plenty of action and great racing at Trois-Rivières, with sudden weather changes possibly mixing up the field even more."

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Sunday 28 July 2019

FIA Post-Race Press Conference: 2019 German GP.

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
2 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)
3 – Daniil KVYAT (Toro Rosso)

(Conducted by Martin Brundle) 

Q: [Question inaudible]
Max VERSTAPPEN: ….I had a little moment, but I made a nice 360, so that was nice. I enjoyed that. Of courser to come out on top here it was all about trying not to make too many mistakes. Yeah, really tricky conditions but amazing to win.

Q: It’s a day for a wise head. You’re such a young man but you still you’re wise head on young shoulders. You really kept your head in the most treacherous conditions when others didn’t. 

MV: Well you learn, isn’t it, over the years. Of course very happy with the whole performance today.

Q: Congratulations. Sebastian, well done, you must be so pleased with that, 20th to second. 

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, thank you. It was a long race, at some stages it felt like it was never-ending. But it was a lot of fun. It was very tough with the conditions. It was very tough to read what was the smartest move, but yeah, I’m just happy.

Q: Did we hear that you had a little turbo problem early on? You seemed to be struggling for pace and then it really came good. 

SV: It took a while. I don’t think there was a problem but in the beginning with the intermediates I really couldn’t get the hang of it. Eventually then I got going so it was good that the afternoon took so long. Obviously I stayed tidy for most of the race but yeah, it was a long one. I don’t know if I can recap the whole race now but congratulations to Max, I think he drove superbly, but for us it was just go and get the next car and the next car and the next car.

Q: When did you first smell a podium? 

SV: I think before the last safety car, when I realised that I was quite a bit quicker and happy to pass people, it was quite straightforward. I was a little bit faster and could time it right. I saw a lot of people being cautious into the first corner and that’s where I was really giving it everything and it worked to get really into DRS range and I had good moves down the back straight but I don’t know, this race was so long…

Q: You need to watch your back. 
SV: Yeah, exactly.

Q: OK, thanks a lot, Sebastian. Daniil, well done, a podium. Not your first podium but a very enjoyable podium for you. 

Daniil KVYAT: Yes, it is amazing to be back on the podium. Incredible for Toro Rosso after so many years to bring as podium to the team is amazing and the race was crazy. Finally I managed to put everything together to get this podium and I’m really happy.

Q: Any big moments? Any scary things going on out there? 
DK: It was a horror movie with a black comedy. At some point I thought the race was done for me, but then it came alive again, it was an incredible rollercoaster. A bit like my whole career!

Q: And you’re expecting your first child soon as well.
DK: Yeah, she was born last night…

Q: Oh, fantastic, congratulations. 
DK: Thank you very much.


Q: Many congratulations Max, what a bonkers race. How does it feel? How does it compare to the other six wins? 

MV: Are you going to keep asking me that question: ‘how does it feel compared to the other ones’? I don’t know. It’s always different. It’s always a different feeling, but this was really good, because it was very tricky out there. We had to stay very focused; we couldn’t afford too many mistakes. I mean now, after the race, I can say I did that 360 for the crowd, but at the time it was a bit tricky out there with the medium tyre, very low grip. I think the information between myself and the team was crucial today. I think we made the right calls and that gave us the victory also. Once I was ahead of the Mercedes cars you could really see the pace we had, because I was stuck in the dirty air in the4 first few laps behind Valtteri but once you are ahead you can basically save your tyres a bit more and everything was a bit more under control. But yeah, good victory.

Q: Great victory. Congratulations. Sebastian, your 50th podium for Ferrari. It’s been a bit of an emotional weekend for you if you think what happened yesterday and you’ve charged through from the back today. Just describe how it feels? 

SV: Well, obviously after the disappointing day yesterday, where everything was ready: the crowd was ready; I was ready, the team was ready. Obviously we didn’t have qualifying, so starting last today I was very excited about the race in these conditions. Anything can happen. Obviously the racer turned out a lot crazier than I thought beforehand but yeah I’m very happy obviously. I’m very happy for the team first of all. It’s a tough period for us. We are pushing very hard, we are doing mistakes, we are not where we want to be, but we need to keep believing in ourselves, in our abilities, our strengths, and I’m confident that our days will come. Obviously today very happy for myself, at my home race and it was great to see the crowd, especially at the end, every time I passed in the car they were really excited. I really did enjoy that. A crazy race, a lot of decisions to make, a lot of communications between the car and the pit wall, but I think we stayed calm and tried to do the best at the time. Most of the time we were right, sometimes we were wrong but we kept it clean and I think that was the key and in the end I really started to come alive in these mixed conditions on dry tyres, we were quite comfortable and able to make good progress, because I think two safety cars to the end I was still not even in the top 10 and I was thinking ‘what happened?’ But it was a day like that and a race like that, so I’m quite happy.

Q: Well done. Dany, what a huge race for you. The birth of your daughter last night and what a way to celebrate that. At what point in the race did you realise the podium was on?

DK: Yes, thank you. It was an incredible race for myself, a lot of things going on. I guess it was the same for everyone. The beginning of the race was so-so, I think, I was always around the top 10 and I thought some points were possible today. The first when I chose to go on slicks, it was the wrong moment. The second time I think it was the perfect moment and when I saw that others didn’t pit for slicks when I did i thought that’s our moment and I was right and I exited in P3. I had to overtook Stroll forP2 and then from there I just had to hope that quicker cars would take time to catch me at the end of the race. So yeah, I’m very happy with this podium. It’s fantastic also for the team – 11 years since the last podium, which Sebastian did in 2008. I think everyone is very happy today and we have to be happy. From my side of course I would dedicate this podium to my girlfriend Kelly and to my daughter.


Q: (Luke Smith – Dany, your career’s been on a bit of a rollercoaster over the past couple of years. To now have this result and this breakthrough, how good does that feel over everything that’s happened the last couple of years, and repaying that faith Toro Rosso have shown in you. 

DK: Yes, you’re right. It was an incredible few years in my life. A lot of realisations in my life because it was sometimes tough times and I thought maybe Formula 1 was over for me, and maybe I thought, especially podium, I would never ever have it again, but life just proves that if you work hard and never give up, things are possible. I think that’s exactly what happened today. Even the race was tough for everyone, I managed to keep it cool and just… all these three difficult years, just felt like they crashed from my shoulders finally. I lost these chains today. It was hard work to reach this moment and hopefully I can send the message out there that I’m ready now to fight for this kind of moment on a consistent basis – and there is no stronger message than a podium like this.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportswereld) Question for Max. Big drivers, big champs crashed today. Christian Horner just told Sky that under these chaotic, difficult circumstances, you always stand out, don’t lose your head. Can you explain why you are always so talented under these circumstances?

MV: A lot of practice I think, from when I was young, in the wet. Working many hours together with my Dad who, I think, was also pretty decent in the wet. So he always gave me good tips. And not only driving in the wet. It’s also making decisions as well, while driving, and paying attention to what’s happening around you. And, of course, experience. In life, in Formula 1. I think if you do over 90 races, you have experienced a lot already and, based on that, of course, you can also make better decisions, I think.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – To all three guys. I guess this is a special result for each and every one of you – but it’s probably even more special for Dr Marko because, at some point in your careers, you went through his hands. Can you probably remember a couple of stories with him? Tell us what he meant for your careers and sort of give us some thoughts on that. 

Sebastian, why don’t we start with you?
SV: He’s calling on a regular basis. Not any more for me so regular. I don’t miss the early calls at 7am! “How are you?”

MV: “I’m in the gym!”
DK: “Running!”

SV: It probably pops up on your phone as a pre-select message: ‘I’m in the gym’. No, I mean, obviously he has a great talent for spotting young drivers early on and certainly he’s very tough and very straightforward – but I think you can learn to cope with that. I’m very grateful for the support that I had throughout my career from his side. I think it’s the same for these two. Yeah. I have too many memories; too many stories. Some to share, some not to share, better not to share. He’s always been very funny and we still keep in contact and I appreciate him now as a friend very much.

Max, Dr Marko?
MV: Yeah, of course, we are dealing with Helmut every day still, so for me, of course he took the gamble of putting me in Toro Rosso when I was still very young. I’m still young  – but back then I was very young.

SV: You’re not very young any more…
MV: Getting old?
SV: Older.
MV: Older, yeah…
DK: You look quite old…
MV: Already? I should retire in five years than I think. I look older than you?
DK: I don’t know.
SV: I look older than you two.
MV: It’s fine. OK, so back to this story. Helmut is a real racer and he has a good eye of what’s happening still, at his age. So, it is quite impressive still, to see that. But it’s also no nonsense. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. If you do a good job, you do a good job. I think he prefers when  you come up to him and tell him honestly if you made a mistake, or like something went wrong, than make a whole story – because that’s what he doesn’t appreciate. Basically I grew up like that because my Dad was the same – or maybe even worse than that. So… yeah. It’s good to have people like that in the team, of course, and in charge as well. For me, he is still very important and yes, of course it’s great to have him around and experienced a lot of stories with him still – and hopefully many more to come.

DK: Helmet yeah, so many rollercoasters he organised for me in my career! Maybe more than them. Yeah, a special person in my life, of course our lives now, I guess. And, well, thanks to him very big time we are who we are and the personal improvement, the professional improvement I made thanks to him is huge – and obviously I appreciate what he’s done for me. And I’m here thanks to him. Obviously stories, like Sebastian said, many to share/not to share. I think the most relevant today, it was raining I think once, again 7am, at a test and I was maybe three or four seconds off in my first wet test in Formula BMW at the time and he said: “So, you’re quite useless in the wet,” and just hung up on me.

MV: You’re imitating him really well!
DK: Lot of practice! Lot of hearing. So yeah, there was that – and many others. He is always tough on you but he’s always – most of the time – he’s right. And maybe at first it’s hard to take but then you analyse and you improve, simple as that. He always give you the opportunity if you deserve it and I’m very thankful for him.

MV: You still picking up the phone at seven?
DK: Yeah! I started to wake up at seven every day now, thanks to him.
MV: I just turn my phone off, pick up after nine… better. Anyway now, you have to wake up at like… well, you wake up every three hours, go to bed, wake up…
DK: Well, now that you’re doing so well, you can even sleep until mid-day.

Q: (Joe van Burik – Racing News 365) Many congrats to all three, especially to Dany with being a father now. Question to Seb and Max though: you’ve shown today that Mercedes can be vulnerable, in their home race in fact. Do you think this has in any way blown open the championship fight again? 
MV: I don’t know, they are so miles ahead in the championship.

Q: You’re 62 points behind. 
MV: Yeah, still quite a lot, isn’t it? It’s more than two victories, and they are still the dominant team, I think. Today was just very tricky out there and it’s easy to make a mistake, as you could see. Yeah, today was not their day. We managed to do a good job but we still have to work very hard to close that gap and actually really fight for the victory every single race so still a lot of work to do. But of course when you can, it’s good to score more points than them.

SV: Not much to add. We still have a lot of races to go, a lot of things can happen but it’s not like we can expect them to score no points for the rest of the season so pretty much the opposite -  they will be up there. We need to make sure we improve and give them a much harder time and naturally if you put people under pressure then things start to move. So it’s up to both of us, I guess, or us as Ferrari and them as Red Bull.

Q: (Daniele Sparisci – Corriera della Sera) Seb, do you consider this second place almost as a victory from what happened yesterday, from what happened today? You did a fantastic job, congratulations.

SV: Well, I know that Max finished first so it’s not a victory but starting last, I think, with the race that we had, I think we can certainly be very happy recovering and I think it was a very tough race, easy to lose focus or momentum but we kept it throughout. I’m very happy, especially also racing here. I hope that we don’t lose this race. I think not only for me and Nico as German drivers, I think for the German crowd that we saw today and yesterday is very passionate, a lot of people turning up. It was sold out today despite the weather. I think we had a great race and it would be a shame to lose it. Obviously I’m not quite sure what’s in the future, whether there’s a chance to keep it but certainly when it comes to passion and effort that people put into this race it’s pretty high up, so I hope that it’s not… People make some decisions on common sense and not based on how much the wallet is opening. I think we have Grands Prix that we just mustn’t lose such as Monza, such as the race at Silverstone in the UK. I think Germany and Spain have a long history of racing so it would be a shame to lose those and instead go to a place where they pay millions for the race to turn up but nobody is sitting in the grandstand. For us it’s dull, as drivers so I think we rather enjoy here, close to the Netherlands with a lot of Dutch people coming…

MV: It was a bit tricky today because it was orange against red, you know those colours don’t really match.

SV: Well, they’re similar. I was taking the orange as well on my side.

MV: When they were going up, right?

SV: No, but I think it’s great to see. Obviously for the Germans and the Dutch in particular it will be difficult to go to… I don’t know… overseas. Anyway, to come back to your question, it’s certainly a tough time for us as Ferrari with days like yesterday because it shows that we have things that we need to sort out, we have things that we need to do better but I think in this period it’s very important that we keep the morale, we keep supporting the team. From the inside that is happening, from the outside I hope it’s happening as well. I know the tifosi are behind us but sometimes the headlines can shift in either way so it’s important that we keep the support because I think things are moving, we are pushing very very hard and when it comes to passion I think we put a lot of effort and a lot of hours in; the people are very determined. I’m as impatient as everyone else to get the results finally but it will take a little while. We know what we can improve and that’s where we are working on but in the meantime I hope that people are a bit patient and give us that freedom in that time. But yeah, so in that regard it feels like a small victory today.

Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – Volksrand) It was pretty spectacular over there all day, where does this race rank in your top five of craziest races? 

DK: I think it was clear enough how crazy it was. I think it was the first wet race in a while – and especially this year, so new tyres for everyone, no one knew how to use them very well at the beginning. The spray in the beginning was very high, then the track started drying, then it was on the borderline with slicks and it was very important not to make any mistakes. It was very easy to lock up the wheels under braking or just go a bit wide in some corners and I think today was just about avoiding those costly mistakes and making the right calls at the right time, so it was all about that but the race, I think, must have been quite spectacular to watch from outside. Lucky you.

MV: Yeah, bit like Brazil 2016 was also quite crazy, all the time switching between extremes and intermediates. Of course we didn’t really get to try slicks, I think. Maybe some tried, I’m not sure but maybe not

SV: Not in Brazil, no.

MV: I don’t think so. So it’s maybe a little bit different to here but it’s definitely been one of the most challenging ones.

SV: Well I’ve had a lot of races, also a lot of great crazy races but it was certainly among the craziest for a while. Max mentioned 2016 in Brazil. Always when the weather is really funny and you have all sorts of conditions it’s very challenging. Today we had between three and five stops for everyone or some even more. Obviously I had a crazy race in 2012 in Brazil as well, Korea 2010.

MV: Malaysia in 2009?

Q: Red flag after 36 laps wasn’t it? 
SV: I had stopped a bit earlier than that, actually! I was out before, I spun out so it wasn’t that crazy. As I said, it’s mostly when the weather is up and down and you have to make those decisions. It’s very tough, you are on the fine edge but it’s also very exciting because you know you can make the difference very quickly. Sometimes you have laps and laps and laps and you’re fighting for half a second that you can make up and other times in these conditions you can gain or lose five seconds and five places.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Seb, a couple of drivers lost it in the stadium section today: Lewis, Nico, Charles as well. Does it make you feel any better one year after that the world kind of sees how quickly that can happen in conditions like this? 
SV: Not really, no. I think that the answer is no. To protect them, I think they know what they’re doing and mistakes happen so I don’t think you should give them a hard time. It was very very tricky out there. I think we all had small mistakes here and there. Obviously some had a bit bigger ones in the wrong places but that’s part of racing so obviously nowadays a lot of people tend to judge everything very quickly but I think as much as they, I am not listening to all of those people. It happens in these conditions, it’s part of racing, as I said.

Saturday 27 July 2019

FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference: 2019 German GP.

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)

(Conducted by Paul Di Resta) 

Q: Congratulations, Lewis, another pole position. I know how important this race is to Mercedes-Benz, the new livery of the 1950s and the celebration of motorsport on this car. And what a day to pull it out… to do it?

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, I don’t really know how we did it today. I’m not quite sure what happened to the Ferraris, but it’s such an important race to us, it’s our second home grand prix, so for Mercedes and their 125 years it’s just incredible to celebrate in this way.

Q: Yeah, the Ferraris have obviously looked very strong. I think Charles had a fuel issue and Sebastian a turbo issue – you’ve been up against it this weekend with them.

LH: Yeah, they’ve been really fast all weekend, and we brought some upgrades this weekend as well, so the car’s been feeling good but the Ferraris were just really I think on a slightly other level. But I think the time at the end was good enough to be able to compete at least with Leclerc, if he had done a lap at the end. It would have definitely been close between us.

Q: And were you satisfied with the lap itself, what you did around Hockenheim today?  
LH: Ah, this track, it’s incredible. Every year we come the car’s get faster. Turn 1 is nearly flat, Turn 12 is nearly flat, it’s a real challenge throughout the lap. My first lap was spot on. I think the second lap was a little bit better in some places but still it was good enough.

Q: Well done. Max, I know Valtteri pulled up in the wrong place. The Dutch fans travel quite far don’t they, this orange, you could actually hear at the start of qualifying, cheering, but I don’t think you would have expected more than that today. You’ve got a strong race car, so I guess pretty happy. 

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think I started quite conservative in Q1 but then somehow for my feeling towards Q3 I was just losing a bit of grip, but still of course happy to be in P2 and of course it’s great to see so many Dutch fans still around here. Happy to be on the front row and anything is possible tomorrow.

Q: You could see the lap was developing, you did a very good first sector on that last attempt. But I think it was at Turn 8, you looked like you lost the rear end. Was that the finishing of that lap?

MV: Yeah, we could have been closer. I wouldn’t say we would have got on pole but I went a bit wide, bottomed out, lost the rear, but still, like I said, it’s a good result.

Q: I’m sure you won’t give up tomorrow; we’re expecting some mixed weather in there as well in there. Valtteri, I guess a very good day for the team, they’re celebrating where there are, but you narrowly missed out on the front row but I guess at the same point it’s a very long race tomorrow.

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, for sure it’s going to be, and I think the weather is going to play a big part tomorrow. Obviously a bit disappointed in qualifying, I didn’t really find similar confidence to what I had in practice three. I just struggled and I just need to check everything is all right, but anyways, the race is tomorrow.

Q: This car has looked quite difficult all weekend on track, it’s moved around a lot more than normal. You have brought upgrades but have Ferrari surprised you, how much they pushed you?
VB: Yeah, they’ve been extremely quick here. We knew coming into qualifying it was going to be really difficult to beat them but I don’t know what was their issue in the end but we have a good place for tomorrow and obviously I’ll try to come up from the third place.


Q: Congratulations Lewis, it looked like a pretty smooth session from where we were sitting, what as the reality in the cockpit? 
LH: Yeah, it was a relatively straightforward session. It was very clean, the team did a great job in terms of timings and getting us out at the right times. As we saw both Ferraris drop out, that made it a little bit different in terms of the battle that we had at the end. Nonetheless, I think I had pretty good pace. I think maybe it would have been close between myself and Leclerc, who knows. They were pretty quick all weekend. But I was really, really happy with the laps I had done, particularly from Q2 onwards. The team have worked so hard and it’s really great for Mercedes with the 125 years celebration this weekend. It couldn’t have been a better way to start the weekend.

Q: Where do you see the biggest threats coming from in the grand prix tomorrow? 
LH: I think it’s weather – that can be a threat. There was talks of rain, even today, obviously tomorrow potentially more so tomorrow. I’ve not looked at the long runs, so I don’t know how strong they are on the long runs. It’s not the easiest of tracks to always overtake. But yeah, depending on the temperature, if it was like yesterday that makes it quite a difficult race and probably more stops. If it’s like today, which again actually starting getting hotter towards the end, it’s still going to be a real challenge. I think the real challenge is just making sure we do all our due diligence and make sure we operate at the level we have been operating at today.

Q: Max, this is your seventh front-row start in Formula One. Did you believe that pole was on today?
MV: Difficult to say. I think Q1, you could see Ferrari was quite comfortable, ahead. And then you know anyway the gap in Q3 is going to be even bigger, normally. In a way, of course it was good that they dropped off but yeah, from my side, I think from Q1 to Q3, I felt like I had a loss of grip. In Q1 I felt like… y’know you always take your margins… but somehow in Q3 it never really had the grip like I had in Q1. Of course, it’s getting warmer. It seemed like it was hurting me maybe a bit more at the time. So, still, to be second for this race is, I think, good. So, happy about that.

Q: Was there a technical issue at the start of Q2, and how did that interrupt your flow?
MV: Yes. I tried a different mode for that run but as soon as I crossed the start-finish line somehow it just cut out so I lost a bit of power and then you know your lap is ruined, so I backed off. I went into the box just to check everything and we went out again. Of course, I had to use the other tyres, which was a little bit of a shame because I wanted to try and do the same like the other guys did, but y’know, that’s how it is at the moment and we just have to live with that. The second run in Q2 and then in Q3 there was no problem.

Q: Valtteri, you took your first-ever car racing victories here at Hockenheim back in 2007 but clearly not so happy with your car today. What were the issues?

VB: Obviously overall, I think as a team we had a good result. Lewis did a really good job in the qualifying. Also, we got a little bit lucky with the Ferraris. Who knows how quick they could have been in Q3 but myself, I did feel OK in practice three, there were no worries really, and felt like qualifying should be fun and interesting but all through the quali I struggled on the brakes quite a lot. Turn Two especially; Turn Six; Turn Eight. So, all the big brakings. Turn Two locking up many times, going straight. So, just the confidence under braking and the bite of the brakes was varying from one lap to another. So, that made it difficult and I felt that was maybe two or three tenths I could have improved in Quali 3 by getting everything spot on – but not more than that. So, yeah, it was not the easiest qualifying and keen to have a look why.

Q: And a difficult race for you tomorrow as a result?
VB: Well, I think tomorrow is a new day and also, as Lewis said, it could be raining and it’s always a different today in the wet and everything’s still possible. I’m sure it’s going to be a good fight.


Q: (Stuart Codling – Autosport)  Question for Lewis. Just an enquiry about how you’re feeling, with reports you’re not feeling 100 per cent. Was there any possibility that you felt you might not have been able to do qualifying today?

LH: Yeah, I wasn’t feeling good this morning. A bit of a sore throat. We just prepped, just in case I wasn’t going to be able to do the session. I did the practice and we were prepared to be able to put the second driver in, worst case scenario. I got through it good.

Q: (Lawrence Edmondson – ESPN) To all three drivers, when you were talking to the engineers this morning, where did you think Ferrari would be? Did you think they were really the team to beat for pole position? 

VB: Yeah, we saw in practice they were very quick and, again, as we’ve seen the trend this season is all on the straights. They’re making big gains on the straights. I think to use, seven-tenths in the full lap. We were gaining a bit in the corners but not quite enough, so we knew they’re going to be very difficult to beat in the qualifying. So yeah, it would have been nice to see how they’d have been at the end of the quali – but for sure they’re going to be strong tomorrow. If they get everything fixed with their cars.

Lewis, the threat from Ferrari: did you expect them to be able to challenge for pole?
LH: This weekend you mean? I didn’t know where we’d be. I think last year it was really close between all three teams, so anticipating, I think they were quickest last year as well. So it seems to be a track that they will be good at. But this weekend, Leclerc was rapid. I think he did a good time in Q1, then Q2 – I think it was his second lap, wasn’t it? – so not sure if he had done his first lap, whether or not he would have… but their car sees to working very, very well. So I imaging it would have been very, very close between us at the moment. It is how it is now.

Max, your thoughts on Ferrari?
MV: Yeah, I always expected them to be quite quick here. They have, of course, amazing top speed, but also, I think the layout of the track seems to be quite good for them. But yeah. There’s still a race to go and we’ll see how they will perform there. Of course, they have a bit more work to do but I expect them still to come to the front.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) There’s a distinct lack of red up here. I’m asking for a little bit of honesty from you guys. When you see the monitors and you see Sebastian getting out of the car and then you see Charles doing exactly the same thing, what are the thoughts in your head? Are you secretly pleased to see them out of the running and think ‘that’s good, that’s someone else out of the frame’? Or are you a bit upset for them, do you feel that pain? 

MV: Yeah, it can happen to anyone, you know. I’ve had it before as well, but at the time when you see it on the screen I honestly don’t really care so much about it because you’re focusing on your own job. Of course it’s a shame because it’s a bit of a lack of the tough competition you have with Ferrari but still at the end of the day you want to do well for yourself.

LH: Yeah, the same. It doesn’t make any difference in the sense that you still focus on trying to do the best job you can, so you see it happen. Ultimately, it’s difficult when you do all the practices and then you go into qualifying and something happens as soon as you go out. That’s definitely a horrible feeling for everyone so they will definitely be feeling it. But I think we’ve all been there. Hopefully they will recover tomorrow.

VB: Of course we all love a good fight but in the end we are also here for ourselves and as a team we want to be doing the best possible result, so it’s competition, but that’s how it is.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, this has been one of your strongest circuits. How surprised are you with these problems you have had this time? 

VB: Yeah, a little bit surprising. I think yesterday was a bit tricky overall, could easily put it down to temperature, it was quite sensitive and I did quite good clean laps. Practice three I felt good, I was really looking forward to the qualifying and knowing that there was a place where I could improve then it should be all good but like I said earlier, I struggled a lot with braking in the qualifying and just the consistency, it was not there, I was not always sure when I hit the brake pedal what’s going to happen, if I was going to lock the fronts or not so that made it more difficult. It can happen sometimes but we need to figure out why. So yeah, I was definitely hoping for better qualifying result but it’s not a disaster and there’s a long day ahead tomorrow and yeah, if it’s going to be raining, it really doesn’t matter at all where you start, it’s going to be a bit of a mess so should be good fun.

Q: (Joe van Burik – Racing News 365) Max, you mentioned some turbo lag issues in Q1 again. Was it similar to the calibration issues you had at Silverstone? 

MV: I don’t know if it’s exactly the same of course but in the car it feels pretty similar. They are all working hard of course to try and get on top of it. I think in Q3 honestly it was fine, so that’s when it matters of course. I think we did get on top of it.

Q: (Giovanni Messi – ) So Max, you start second tomorrow, do you think tomorrow you can have a great race like in Austria with high temperatures? The Red Bull car is very, very good, so what do you think about tomorrow? You think you can challenge Lewis or Valtteri? 

MV: Unfortunately I think tomorrow’s going to be like 24/25, so it’s not going to be warm enough. Yeah, I believe that normally in the race we are always a little bit more competitive. Of course I’m starting on a different tyre so we have to wait and see how that’s going to work out. Yeah, hopefully we can follow and try to challenge them, that would be good.

Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – Volksrand) Max, on the track you said you could have been closer to Lewis, what does that say about the progress you guys are making with Honda? 

MV: It’s not only the engine, of course. That’s also the car where you’re always constantly trying to improve but it’s not only about bringing updates but also about learning more about the car in terms of set-up, how you can find a bit more time in that as well. Of course sometimes it’s better than on other tracks but I think… today in general has been pretty good but of course we tried to close the gap because there is still a gap but we’re working on it. I’m pretty pleased about today.

Friday 26 July 2019

FIA Team Principals' Press Conference: 2019 German GP.

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Mario ISOLA (Pirelli), Otmar SZAFNAUER (Racing Point), Franz TOST (Toro Rosso), Guenther STEINER (Haas)

 Q: Toto, you’re celebrating Mercedes’ 200th race this weekend, 125 years in motorsport. What do those stats mean to you, the boss, and do you have a favourite moment you can tell us about?

Toto WOLFF:  The stats are not so interesting to me because it’s just numbers and it's the past. But what it reminds you when you see all the photography and films that have been done of the old days is that the responsibility that we carry for the brand. Mercedes started in motorsport 125 years ago, lots of history has been created and that is a responsibility which we are carrying and representing that fantastic, almighty brand.

Q: You say there’s a responsibility, that brings pressure. What would it mean to win this race, given that you also have the title sponsorship of it.

TW: Well, from a calmer perspective, everything speaks against it. We are celebrating 125 years of motorsport; we are having a dedicated livery, we are wearing a different team kit tomorrow, and lots of activities around the track, all board members – or most of the board members present, so when you look at it from the point of car marque, this is one to lose for us. But the reality is different. It’s another race, we want to do particularly well here in Hockenheim because of our home crowd – but on the other side it’s 25 points; as many points as any other given circuit and we just need to add another good race performance in order to make a step towards the Championship.

Q: And talking of good race performance, can I ask you about Valtteri Bottas now. He has four poles this year, so he seems to have made progress in qualifying – yet it doesn’t always translate to Sunday afternoons as well. Why do you think that is?

TW: From my point of view, the performances in qualifying are really strong. Having an almost balanced record against Lewis Hamilton is something to be proud of and shows that he has made a step-up from last year. Racing, again, is a different exercise. I think this year’s theme is all about keeping the car and the tyres in the sweet spot. That means you maybe need to drive the car in a different way. He’s getting there. He’s getting better and better. We have seen a race in Silverstone where, if the Safety Car had come out in a different way, he would have challenged for the race win. But the ifs don’t count. You need to bring it to the end – but I’m sure we will see Valtteri continue to improve and bring in good race performances.

Q: …and continue with Mercedes in 2020?

TW: I knew you were going to ask that question! We want to end the season before the shutdown in a good place and put in two solid performances in Hockenheim and Budapest and then spend some time thinking about driver line-up for 2020 and beyond.

Q: Otmar, an important race for Racing Point this weekend with lots of upgrades coming to the car. After FP1, what are your first impressions of the performance.

Otmar SZAFNAUER: Well, first impressions were positive. We didn’t run the quickest tyre and we looked a bit more competitive than usual in FP1 – but unfortunately this press conference conflicts with our debrief, so I don’t know as much as I normally would. We’ve got to get the drivers’ feedback and then look at the data. We’ll know more tomorrow morning after we run FP2 as well.

…but first impressions

OS: First impressions were very positive, yeah.

Q: It’s been almost a year since the takeover by Lawrence Stoll. Can you take a moment’s reflection for us and just tell us the impact that that has had on the team and the plan going forward with factory, drivers, things like this?

OS: The impact’s been quite positive. Things like bringing a big upgrade here in the past wouldn’t have been possible. So, from a financial perspective, we are on a much better footing and our plans going forward are very good. They’re strategic but it takes some time to implement. Last year, at this time, for example, we were around 405 people. We’re at around 430 now, so not a huge change in personnel, just because it does take time. So there will be a lag between the better financial footing that we’re on, the plans that we have going forwards, and actually the implementation. The immediate impact, like you see today, we have a big upgrade here, and that’s only a good thing.

Q: Franz, it’s a very tight midfield battle this year with rivals like Racing Point bringing performance to their car here in Hockenheim. Can you tell us how you see the pecking order in the midfield, and what plans you’ve got for upgrades for your car?

Franz TOST: Toro Rosso has also some upgrades here on the aerodynamical side and looks not so bad but of course we have to analyse all the data and everything, set up the car in the proper way with these new aero upgrades and then we will see tomorrow in qualifying where we end up. I think that it’s a step forward – but nearly every team comes up with such upgrades and, at the end, in the midfield, which is very close together, it’s very decisive, that you continuously improve the performance of the car, come with upgrades and then we will see at the end of the season who had a higher development speed and the most successful development.

Q: Can I ask you quickly about drivers as well. You took a bit of a gamble with both of them prior to this season and both are doing a good job. Your analysis of their first half of the season and plans for 2020.

FT: We have two really good drivers. Daniil Kvyat we knew from the past that he is fast, he is also matured now and he is showing a very, very good performance. Alex Albon, for me, is the positive surprise of the young drivers, together with Norris. I think that he will have a very strong second half of the season because then he knows the car quite well, he knows what’s going on in Formula 1, and if we provide him with a proper package, I think that he will come up with really good results. I personally hope that we can continue with these two drivers but this in the end is a decision from Red Bull, and I think the decision will not be made before the end of September / the beginning of October.

Q: Guenther, let’s start by looking back, if we can, at Silverstone. I wonder if you could talk to us about the post-race debrief perhaps. What’s the fallout of what happened at the start between your two drivers?

Guenther STEINER: I mean everybody saw it. They crashed into each other, I guess, and both had a puncture, which wasn't correct. I want to move on from that. I talked with both of them yesterday. Our focus now is… I mean we could sit there and discuss it over and over. At some stage you need to live with it. It’s water under the bridge. We need to get out of this one saying I told the guys… I mean, I expressed my opinion after the race. I want that they focus on here, because we are still… we didn't’ get the result we wanted in Silverstone. We again went away with no points. We need to focus to understand better how to get this car to work again – because the car at some point works, and then it doesn’t work any more. We need to get a good understanding so after the summer break we can be stable. That is my aim, to have a clear way to go forward where the car needs to be for the different specs of the car here, so we get a lot of data and hopefully can come to a conclusion after the summer break and move on. There was not a lot more said yesterday about Silverstone because it’s old news.

Q: Well, you say you’ve got the cars in different specs here. Is Grosjean still in the Melbourne-spec car? It seems quite a drastic decision to go back to the start of the season.

GS: Sometimes only drastic decisions work, in my opinion. At some stage, if you continue to discuss, back and forward the same thing over and over again, that means you don’t know what you’re doing, in my opinion. So you need to prove it. It’s drastic, and its very unusual, but sometimes you have to look outside of the box to know what to do to get an understanding, Yeah, he’s again in the Melbourne-spec car because in Silverstone we didn’t get enough data because of the reason you said before, so our aim is now to just understand what we have to do the second half of the season, nothing else. That is our task here and in Hungary.

Q: Mario, thanks for waiting, 2020 tyre testing is ongoing, the latest test taking place after the British Grand Prix. How’s it going and what are you learning?

Mario ISOLA: It’s going well. We are testing different constructions, different compounds. We want to change the product for next year in the direction that was highlighted by the teams, by my friend Guenther here, with a wider working range…

GS: I’m a consultant now.

MI: He’s a consultant… And less overheating, that is, as I’ve said many times, is something that drivers don’t like. So we continue out work. It’s important that we clarify for the future what is required to the 18-inche tyre for 2021, because we will start soon to also test the 2021 tyres and we need to agree the targets for that in order to be all in the same direction, because we have only product.

Well, F2 is testing the 18-inch tyre as well. How transferrable is the data you are getting from the F2 car to the F1?

MI: We will collect important data from the test but the level of energy, the level of stress, the forces are that on the tyres in a Formula 1 car are not comparable to F2. But there are some good indications. We did two sessions; we are ready for the third one. We just finished one. We have a good indication from the new size but again, also the size will be different, because Formula 2 will continue with the 245 front and 325 rear, that is the old Formula 1 size. There are many differences but I believe that having one full year of racing with Formula 2 cars next will be quite important to understand how to develop for some elements the Formula 1 tyres.


Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action and Speedsport) Otmar, following on from the earlier questions, as the team expands and you are building a new factory, you will face some challenges – I don’t know, paying lots of money for land, zoning and planning permission. Where are you with the factory and when will it be online?

OS: We should have all the permissions in place towards the latter half of this year, before Christmas. We are in the design phase now of the factory, trying to ‘right-size’ it for the future. There is also a little bit that we have to wait, to see what the 2021 regulations are going to be, which will have an impact on what we build. Probably before mid-year next year we will be well on the way with building the factory.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Toto, you said in Austria that ideally you would hope to have clarity about Valtteri’s future sooner than last year. Last year I believe the contract was announced on July 20th and now we are at the 26th, so what has changed and what is the reason for that delay?

TW: You’re following those dates better than I do. I guess it’s pretty unusual to announced drivers in July anyway. If you want to take all the time you properly need to assess you can even drag it into the winter, like we have seen in some other teams and which was the standard in the past. For us it’s not only about making the right decision for next year, it’s about looking ahead. And this is why we agreed that we will take the decision in August going forwards. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we will announce it in August. 

Q: (Julien Billotte – Auto Hebdo) A question to Toto. At the start of this century we had a German driver winning everything and the interest for F1 in Germany was sky high. Now we have a German team winning everything and maybe the numbers are not as they used to be. How do you explain this difference? Is it just a case of fans being more interested in drivers than teams or do you think we have changed eras and people are no longer accepting periods of sustained domination like yours?

TW: In my opinion there are two reasons. The only team that is having a full nation behind them is Ferrari. This is historic and it is something we would be aiming for in a best case. But it’s also a situation that has to grow over many years if not decades. You have to stay in the sport for a long time, grow your fanbase and then it becomes less of a factor who drives the car, as long as it is a Ferrari. So I would very much hope that we are building the foundations today that in 20 years from now we can achieve such a status. But of course you have to be realistic and people cheer for drivers – at least in Formula 1. We have had very successful German drivers in Formula 1 that have dominated their eras – Michael in the early 2000s and then Sebastian from 2010 to 2014 – and I think that comes in waves. You can see there was great interest in Formula 1 and Formula 1 drivers in Germany in these 10 or more years in a similar way that there was in tennis around Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, and the interest has faded away. And if you look at Spain, which is another market that gives you some kind of indication, it was not existent before Fernando and it was one of the best markets with the most vivid fans when Fernando could compete for race wins and championships, but once that was over it was one of our weakest markets, and there is not a lot of following. So I think combining those two factors, obviously continue to be in Formula 1, build your fan base as a team, and have a German driver that is a great personality that is fighting for the championship, these are ingredients to revive the German interest.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Guenther and Otmar, last year during the Abu Dhabi, I believe after that, you brought some form of action against Liberty regarding column one monies, that apparently Racing Point are qualifying for and that you felt you should. Could you give us the latest on this situation? Is it still ongoing? Has there been a resolution on it? Where do we stand? And Otmar, how does this affect your team’s plans going forward, given that there is potential $60 million involved?

GS: There is nothing new to report. I think you asked the same question a few months ago, Dieter, and I didn’t report anything there. It’s an ongoing process and I have to leave it at that.

Q: Otmar, anything to add?

OS: No. I don’t think the case is against us, so nothing to add.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, at the start of 2017 the battle between Sebastian and Lewis was billed as the most successful drivers of their generation going head-to-head. However, over the past two years we have seen that Lewis has been the convincing winner, and also during that time Sebastian has made a few uncharacteristic mistakes. Do you think that Lewis’ talent is the main reason that Sebastian has made those mistakes and that Lewis has managed to get under Sebastian’s skin and perhaps dented his confidence?

TW: I think you need to be careful of trying to pinpoint it to one single factor. Undoubtedly, Lewis has a great ability and talent. But one of the strengths that I have been a witness to in those last years is how he continues to develop as a racing driver and how he continues to develop as a human being. He is very self-reflective. I’ve said it a few times, but he is the only driver I have heard coming in after a session and saying ‘you don’t need to look at my data because my driving was not good enough’, and that from a five-time world champion. And I think that self-reflection and that ability to be brutally honest with yourself has certainly made him one of the greats. I know Sebastian, but I have too little insight into how the team works and how Sebastian looks at things. What I can say is that the record speaks for him. He has won four championships and that doesn’t come from anywhere (sic) and I have no reason to believe that he is not going to recover from what looks like a moment of mistakes. But definitely both of these drivers have shaped a generation of drivers and it is excit5ing to see them fighting.

Q: (David Joram – Der Tagesspiegel) To Franz and Toto: tomorrow we will see a small show of Mick Schumacher. What do you think about him and what do you think about his performances in this season?

FT: I think Mick is showing a real good performance. Last year he won the Formula 3 European Championship. This year is the first year in Formula 2. He showed some very good races, in some other races he was involved in incidents, but it is a learning year. I expect that he will do another Formula 2 year. Tomorrow he is in the car that his father drove here and that is a very exciting moment for all the fans and also for Mick. I’m convinced that he will make his way into Formula 1.

TW: Well, Franz knows everything about young drivers and there’s not a lot to add. Maybe from the personal side, he is a great young man with a fantastic character and personality, and a big name that sometimes can have a negative impact in Formula 1 because you are being put under pressure and he copes extremely well with that pressure and now we need to give him time to properly develop as a young man and as a racing driver and I have no doubt that we will see him in Formula 1.

Q: (Stefan Ehlen – Motorsport It seems unlikely that the German GP is returning next year. How much does Formula One need a race in Germany and which track would you prefer: Nürburgring or Hockenheim or even do the Nordschleife?

MI: Nordschleife is a bit aggressive choice I believe. For us, Germany is a very important market, very important car manufacturers are based here so hopefully they will find a solution for Germany. Hockenheim or Nürburgring? I don’t have a strong preference on the two circuits. One or the other is OK, but not the Nordschleife.

GS: I think there should be a race in Germany, it’s a big car manufacturing country and if you don’t come here it’s quite disappointing but it needs work financially like everything in the world, there needs to be some finances but I think we can put a pledge into Toto to help out here if we get a race in Germany. You know we blame it on him if there is no German race here. Hopefully we can get… it’s not off the calendar yet but it looks like it’s not going to happen but sure it would be great to have a race here. Nürburgring or here? I don’t really… I think there should be a race in Germany.

TW: Unusually well said from Guenther! Yeah, there should be a race in Germany. Germany is a historic venue. Both of these tracks have historic context. If we could race on the Nordschleife, that would be great, the drivers would love it but I don’t think it’s technically feasible any more. The track doesn’t allow these kind of speeds but there is a financial reality. In Formula One, the promoters have the duty or FOM has the duty to bring in the best deals and balance with the historic relevance and we are dependent on the income as well and that financial reality is just a fact and they need to make the right choices. If we could vote for a race in Germany we would but we respect the authority of Formula One to chose the right tracks. I like both to be honest, also very traditional and great racing tracks for drivers.

FT: There’s not so much to add. It would be a shame if you do not come back to Germany. Germany should have a Grand Prix being so much involved in the automotive industry but as it looks like the ingredients are not coming together, neither at the Nürburgring or here at the Hockenheimring and therefore drastic end could be that we are not racing any more with Formula One here in Germany.

OZ: With a name like Otmar Szafnauer I feel a certain duty to support the German Grand Prix so it would be a shame if we don’t come back here. We enjoy coming, it’s great racing and massive fan base too with everything that happens at the Nürburgring and DTM and Formula One. I think we should continue to come. Nürburgring or Hockenheim? Both are good.

Q: (Luke Smith – Toto, could we get an update on Esteban Ocon’s plans for next year? Where does he fit into your considerations for Mercedes in 2020? Are you starting to sound out other F1 teams about a seat for the future and would you consider releasing him as a last resort if you’re unable to land him an F1 seat for next year?

TW: We’re very happy with the development of Esteban and equally George. They are our most senior junior drivers and the aim is to make them ready for a seat in a Mercedes. And as we all know, it was an unfortunate situation last year that Esteban fell between the chairs. He could have chosen between two seats and in the end nothing came out so from our perspective everybody knows about his driving capabilities. For Mercedes, for ourselves, Valtteri is showing some very strong performances and merits the seat but equally Esteban has shown that in the past and is a great addition to the team. He contributes a lot behind closed doors. He drives the sim overnight on race weekends, comes in here on Saturday and gives us input and he’s a great kid overall. Putting a Mercedes young driver in the car would be interesting as well. Having said that, there is interest for Esteban among other teams and we need to carefully make a decision for ourselves and with the other interested parties, not only for our own benefit but also for Esteban’s benefit. And if it would mean that we are taking a decision in favour of Valtteri, it clearly also means that somebody else would continue to develop him and would mean that we would lose our hand for a year or two or more on Esteban and these are the consequences of that decision.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Toto, if you could pick anyone you want from the current drivers, what would be your dream team?

TW: Good question, Heikki. I think overall it’s an exciting period because we have strong quality within the Formula One grid and you can say that certainly the most experienced – Lewis and Sebastian – merit their place in Formula One. Lewis is the one to beat, he’s setting the benchmark. Then you have exciting drivers like Max who is coming up, who has shown great ability and has won races and no doubt about his talent. And then there a group of drivers that have shown that they are capable of winning races if they are put in the right car, be it Daniel or Valtteri, who I’m not forgetting anybody, but definitely very strong. And then the fourth group are the exciting young men that are coming up and this is a big group that have definitely come into Formula One on merit and it is Esteban and George, Lando, Lance has won the F3 European championship, Albon is a great surprise and is doing well, so I think these will be the future superstars in Formula One and seeing that panning out between the ones that have been here for a while and these new kids coming up is making Formula One very interesting. So to come back to your question: I have definitely a dream team that I have in my mind but I can’t tell you!

Q: How about the other team principals; have you got a dream team Guenther?

GS: No. After Toto has spoken I just cannot repeat what he said in five minutes, not giving an answer. I’m quicker, I don’t know there’s a lot… I have my dream team but I don’t want to tell you who it is and I cannot get them anyway so why I would I even dream about it? It’s just Toto who can get them because he has got the best car. My dream team is a lot smaller than his one but I still cannot tell you.

FT: Happy with the drivers, no dream.

OZ: It’s nice to dream but we were realistic and we’re happy with the two we have.

Q: (Vall Klausman – Racing Line, Hungary) Otmar, are you happy with the coming budget cap, do you need it or do you wish to have other support regulation side to close the gap to the top teams?

OZ: I think the budget cap’s needed and yes, we’re happy that it’s coming. Is the budget cap low enough? We were hoping that it would be lower but I do have sympathy and understanding for some of the teams that will have to make internal cuts because that’s not easy so as a first step we welcome it. We, as a team, will not be butting up to that budget cap so we will still be below it but I think it’s the right direction for Formula One.

Q: Toto, can we get your thoughts on the budget cap?

TW: I think the budget cap is important because it prevents the big three teams to continuously escalate the costs just to beat each other and it puts a ceiling on that and that is good. It certainly will help to narrow the gap between the smaller teams and the big ones, simply because we will not be able to escalate it any more. Having said that, it’s still above what the small teams spend so for me personally it’s a breakthrough that we actually have accepted the concept of a cost cap for years to come and then one step at a time; the next step could be even maybe lowering the cap from where we are now or finding different tools to stop the spending war that has happened over the last 20/30 years in Formula One.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Motorsport I see how the Nordschleife – as good as it would be – is a long shot probably to realise but in terms of Liberty seeking unique event character race tracks, do you think it was a mistake that Formula One got rid of the old Hockenheimring layout?

OZ: The Nordschleife is probably a step too far – you’re right – and it’s hard to know whether this is better or that’s better because it’s never a controlled experiment. I’m glad we’re here, we like the venue here as is and I think it’s good for the fans.

FT: I think Nordschleife is not for Formula One any more, for the current Formula One cars, safe enough as we all know and therefore they changed the track over there at the Nürburgring and I think that the decision was absolutely right.

TW: Well we tend to be a little bit nostalgic about the old tracks and as Franz and Otmar have said, Nürburgring Nordschleife is not feasible any more, the cars would go too fast and would be too dangerous. I liked the old Hockenheim layout and slipstream battles into the forest but it is what it is. The track is great, the infrastructure is great that we have today and that’s why it makes no sense to dream about the past.

GS: Not a lot more to be said. I don’t know why they got rid of the old Hockenheim, I don’t remember why that was but this is a great venue and the only thing is that they shouldn’t dream about the old one, we should try to deal with the present to get the race here, whatever it is, that’s my opinion on Hockenheim, we should have a race here or at the Nürburgring in Germany.

Thursday 25 July 2019

FIA Drivers' Press Conference: 2019 German GP.

DRIVERS – Carlos SAINZ (McLaren), Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Alfa Romeo), Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Nico HÜLKENBERG (Renault), Alex ALBON (Toro Rosso)


Welcome gentlemen. A question to the two German drivers, please. Can you just tell us about the build-up to your home race here at Hockenheim and the emotions of racing at home? Nico, can we start with you please?

Nico HÜLKENBERG: A fairly calm and steady build-up to be honest this year, which is quite nice. No particular events, just the usual day-to-day I would say. No, it’s good to come back here. I remember last year, I loved this weekend, it was an amazing atmosphere. Hockenheim was I think packed. Every grandstand ticket was more or less sold, and it was full of people and there was this magic atmosphere all weekend. I really enjoyed it here last year. It happened to be the best race of the season for me as well, so obviously it would be nice to repeat something like that, although sporting-wise we don’t seem to be as strong but of course we are going to give it our best shot. But yeah, happy to be back here and looking forward to a hot weekend.

Q: Thank you. Sebastian?

Sebastian VETTEL: yeah, it’s been pretty calm on the build-up, so pretty straightforward. Obviously I like this place very much, it’s pretty close to where I come from. We had a nice dinner together with the team last night, but other than that it’s been fairly calm. But like Nico said, very good memories of last year in terms of atmosphere. Obviously the final outcome wasn’t great, but overall the weekend was fantastic – the amount of fans, the amount of German flags, the enthusiasm around the track. Hopefully we can have something similar this year.

Q: Your 10th German Grand Prix.

SV: Yeah, here we go.

Q: Here we go indeed. Thank you guys. Alex, turning to you, a frustrating race for you last time out at Silverstone with an electrical problem. Can you tell us about that problem and without it would a points finish have been possible?

Alex ALBON: Yeah, it was a bit frustrating. Basically, the car was live, so we couldn’t really touch the car. I think the mechanics would have been a bit electrified if they did, so we had to stay out on track. It was frustrating, but it’s hard to say if we… I think we would have finished where we were before we had the issue. I think we were running about eighth, around there. Of course, it was just points missed, so that was a frustrating weekend, because we had two tough races before that, and that was kind of the time…. At Silverstone we were back on track and it was an opportunity to score some good points. Fortunately Dany did, so it wasn’t too bad at the end of the day.

Q: So, a frustrating race for you at Silverstone, but how do you sum up the season so far, because half distance in the race here will be the halfway point of the 2019 season. So how would sum out how it’s gone and what have the team told you about 2020?

AA: It’s going well. I would say I’ve had a few ups and downs. But yeah, I’m quite happy with how it’s gone so far. And regarding 2020, who knows? I think that’s in other people’s hands.

Q: Thank you. Nico, same sort of question to you really. As we reach the halfway point in the season, how are you feeling about the Renault project, how has it evolved during your three years with the team and looking ahead, do you stick, do you twist? What are your plans?

NH: Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that so far this season we can’t be entirely happy with what we have achieved. I mean, to start with we had a lot of issues and missed out on results. But, a little bit more disappointing is just where we are in terms of pace, the development rate, it’s not where we really needed it and wanted it to be. Behind the expectations this year, so probably maybe, all in all, as well, not entirely happy and if you look across the three years we can’t be entirely happy with everything we’ve done. Nevertheless, the outlook is good. We still see light at the end of the tunnel and we still believe we can catch up to some extent, how much is always difficult to say with entire certainty. Yeah, we’ll see what happens in the future and what happens to me as well. As for now, there is nothing set in stone, but I think it’s quite likely that I will remain with the team.

Q: You’re 21 points behind McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship now. Do you think that’s a fair reflection of the relative performance of the two teams?

NH: Well, it is. That’s a fact. It is 21 points but I think we could be right up there with them, if you add up all the complications we had, all the missed results, problems, we should be there or thereabouts, but for sure McLaren are very strong at the moment and are probably one of our main competitors that we will be battling from here until the end.

Q: Ok, good luck this weekend. Carlos, just to ask you about that battle with Renault. When you came into this season, did you expect to be ahead of them at this point?

Carlos SAINZ: No. I think the right answer is no. I wouldn’t expect to be in front of Renault. There was a good trend going last year in Renault and I think we finished off the season quite strongly but McLaren was at that time in Abu Dhabi more than half a second behind in qualifying, pretty much in every qualifying. Then in the race, also, it was difficult to match, or to see Fernando and Stoffel battling more at the back than Nico and me. It was very difficult to predict that at this stage this year we would be in front. I don’t think we are in front. I think we are in front in the championship but we are very equal in performance and it makes the battle good fun, like it was in Silverstone, in Austria, in France, and we are happy to be battling with a team like Renault. I think just the objective of us two is to keep moving forward, both together, towards the top. Not looking too much to what Renault is doing, but keep looking forward, keep looking to Mercedes, keep looking to Red Bull, Ferrari and try to get that gap down.

Q: You mention Austria and Silverstone. You raced very well at those races – 19th to eighth in Austria, 13th to sixth at Silverstone. So clearly you’re racing very well, but progress hasn’t been quite as sweet in qualifying. Why is that?

CS: Yeah, it’s a good point actually. I’m not entirely happy with how things are going in qualifying. If you go race by race, it would be very easy to point out three or four races where obviously I was affected by issues away from my own. But what is important or what I feel is like I have the speed in the car. Every time I jump in the car I feel like I can extract the maximum out of it, I feel like I understand the car, I feel like I am quick every time I jump in, but then circumstances in qualifying they always come down to one lap then you’re whole qualifying picture looks bad, but what is important is that I feel speed, I feel comfortable with the car and I can prove it on race day and race days are going very well.

Q: They are. Thank you. Kimi, coming to you, you’ve scored in seven of the 10 races so far, including the last three. Is that the level of performance and consistency you expected from Alfa Romeo when you joined them?

Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: It’s hard to say, because obviously where they’ve been the last few years it’s not been the greatest. Last year they made good gains from half way through. So, very unknown. I just went into the season to try to do the maximum, to see what we get. We had a bit harder part, three or four races where we were not very fast. But we managed to recover from that a little bit. There is still a long way to go but I think it’s not been too bad, at least in their own book. So we’ll keep trying and try to make the car faster.

Q: How much have you improved the car so far?

KR: For sure we have improved. I don’t know how much. It’s depends on what you compare. Obviously we compare to the guys that are close to us and obviously we are still behind on pure speed but we bring as much as we can new parts and try to improve. At least usually the parts work very well, what we brought. So that’s a good thing. Obviously with a small team like us it takes a bit longer to bring new parts. But I think we are quite happy with how things have gone forward. But like I said, there is still an awful lot of work to be done to get more faster and to try to get closer to McLaren and things like that.

Q: You’re happy with developments but how happy are you this year Kimi? How much are you enjoying Formula 1 in 2019 and how different is your experience now compared to last year?

KR: I don’t think it’s a lot different. Obviously racing a bit more rearwards. But if you don’t count that the big picture hasn’t really changed. It’s a different team, but I’ve worked with some of them before. I think F1 hasn’t changed. We still this press conference, we have the same kind of meetings, interviews. That hasn’t changed, but obviously, outside of racing I have a bit more free time, so that is the nice part, but I don’t think it’s night and day what happened last year to this year.

Q: Sebastian, let’s start by talking about the car. You’ve told us in the past that it’s tricky to drive. Can you tell us why it’s so hard to find the sweet spot of the SF90?

Sebastian VETTEL: Well, I think we had occasions where things were looking very good and other occasions where it was a bit more difficult but I think that’s also pretty normal throughout the season: you have different tracks with different characteristics and sometimes the car feels more the way you like and other times less – but yeah, I think we have, after the first couple of races we were able to get quite a good picture of what was missing compared to the performance we seemed to have at the beginning of winter testing. With that, I think we’ve made progress. Obviously we are not where we would like to be, not as competitive as we would like to be, but I think overall, the understanding and the direction is going in the right way.

Q: You say you’re not as competitive as you want to be – well, Red Bull have taken a step forward in recent weeks, so how do you see the pecking order at the front of Formula One now?

SV: Well, I think obviously Mercedes does have an edge on everyone else, that’s, I think, pretty clear. Similar to previous years, they seem to struggle on tracks where tyre wear and degradation is a bit higher – like we've maybe seen in the last part of the race in France, or in Austria. But in terms of raw speed, they are the benchmark – and I think for myself and for us, that’s the benchmark. I think obviously between ourselves and Red Bull, it’s been sometimes closer, sometimes we were ahead, most of the times I believe we were ahead, sometimes we were behind but y’know, that’s not the objective. The objective is to fight for wins and to do so at the moment you need to be level or better than Mercedes.

Q: And what would a victory here, on home soil, mean to you on Sunday?

SV: I think it’s always special, first of all to have the opportunity to race in your home country; yeah, obviously I was very close last year, let’s see how close we can get this year. I think we are, y’know, a less strong position to start the weekend. Then again, I think we’ve seen some recent races, we’ve been very strong in terms of qualifying – but also race pace. So yeah, I think we’re fairly open minded. I’m fairly open-minded, to be honest. We start the weekend, see where it goes, obviously it’s going to be very hot initially and then probably cool off a little bit.


Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Kimi, you’re back at Sauber – or Alfa Romeo – the first team that you started with in Formula One. Is this full circle for you? Are you going to end your career here or do you consider moving teams?

KR: I have no idea. I mean, obviously, I have a two-year contract, this and next year, and then we see what happens. No plans really. That’s about it really.

Q: (Stefan Ehlen Question to Sebastian. How badly do you want to win on Sunday, and how badly do you need to win on Sunday?

SV: Not badly. Oddly I want to win, that’s for sure – but as I said, I’m also realistic. So, coming here, I don’t feel as we are the favourites but I feel we have a chance. For me, that’s the point of going racing. You have a chance of do well. So, that’s the objective and we will find out during the weekend. But certainly it’s a special place to me. It’s very close to where I’m from, it’s a lot of family around and friends close by. To find a good way to celebrate, I wouldn’t need to go very far, so that would be quite handy.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat)  Sebastian, Kimi will be shortly 40 years old, can you see yourself racing as long as that?

SV: I don’t know – I’m not as handsome as Kimi now, so I won’t be as handsome as he is when I’m 40! I don’t know, there’s not much point thinking about it. Imagine if you had asked Kimi when he was 32 if he can imagine to race when he’s 40, I don’t think you would have got an answer. I don’t know, it depends on how the next years go. It depends, I think, on where the sport is going with the big run change that will or will not come for 2021, and then we’ll see what happens after that. I’ll be 40 in 2027, so I don’t know is the answer. Sorry Heikki!

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Question for Sebastian. You’ve said in the past you struggle when you’re not feeling the car. Can you tell us, are you feeling this car and, if not, is it compounding the weaknesses that it already has?

SV: Well, I think it’s not… as I tried to explain earlier, I think it’s normal that sometimes you feel more comfortable and sometimes less. I think for us it was important after the first couple of races to understand what brings this inconsistency, where the strength of the initial feeling with this car has gone and why we’re not able to repeat it the way we would like. But I think we do have a very good understanding by now. I think we are trying a lot of things to obviously make it better, to find a direction. I think a lot of things we tried are very good, other things we tried we went back on but yeah, obviously there are some things that probably this year are different than maybe they have been before – but nothing that you couldn’t adapt to.

Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Sebastian. What’s it like… it’s obviously been a long while since Ferrari won the Drivers’. Do you feel a sort of burden to lead them to victory to lead them after, what 11, 12 years? Does that sort of weigh on you? I mean, the sort of Ferrari dynamic, what it means to the nation. How do you feel bearing that responsibility?

SV: It doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like a privilege, y’know, to go out and race for Ferrari and obviously my mission or my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to get back to, y’know, the – how do you say? – the winning ways. If we do that then we have a much better chance to fight for the Championship. Having said that, I think from when I joined and where we are now, obviously this year hasn’t gone the way we wanted after the last two years, but still, I think things are progressing in the right direction. In the big picture – but naturally the big picture doesn’t interest you if you are not currently where you would like to be. So, I think we all know that Formula One is a world where people are very short-sighted, which is also fair and part of the game. Like I said, overall, even if things look good, we still obviously miss that final step and that’s the most important step.

Q: (Julien Billotte – AutoHebdo) Question to Seb and Nico. How do you see the state of Formula One in Germany. Do you think it’s still as popular as it was 15 or 20 years ago – and in terms of drivers, behind you of course, there is a lot of interest for Mick Schumacher in Formula 2 but beyond him there doesn’t seem to be many German young talents – do you think it is because Formula One is not as inspiring as it was when you guys were growing?

NH: I think, based and judged on last year, people were very interested. Like I said earlier, I’ve never seen that much interested since I’m in Formula One, since my career in Germany, and that was pretty amazing and nice to see. I think generally, Germans, we are known, we are a car country and we love our cars and the interest is still there. I think naturally some years it’s a bit more, some years it’s a bit less but I think yeah, we have a spoilt history in racing, so that’s also one thing to consider – but I think in general, the appetite and the interest of the population is still very much alive. And yeah beyond Mick, to be honest, I’m not really sure entirely what’s coming through the go-kart series and the young formulae, so can’t really comment on it.

SV: I think obviously it’s normal that the biggest hype, I believe was when Michael started winning as he was the first German to win the Championship. Being the first, there is always more momentum and more interest – but as Nico said, I think the atmosphere last year proved that there is still very much an appetite for racing but I also feel that the German crowd is a very fair and direct and honest crowd, so maybe some things that have happened in our sport didn’t help the popularity. For the future, I think you need to draw, a bit, the bigger picture. I think, again, Germans are quite straightforward with the way they spend their money and unfortunately junior racing, starting from karting and through the series after that are – I think – way too expensive. Nico and myself we enjoyed each other in go-karts and racing each other. I think the background is not that dissimilar. I think giving us the same chance today, I think our career would stop fairly soon because we simply wouldn’t have the pocket money to do it. So, I think overall, to allow more kids – boys and girls – to start racing, the sport would need to be a lot cheaper, as currently I think it’s way too expensive and unaffordable for most.

Q: (Manuel Sanchez – Il My question is for Nico Hülkenberg. Renault will be the first team to test the future Pirellis. How much advantage will have Renault with this?

NH: When are we going to test those tyres? Honestly, I don’t know? I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.

This weekend, it’s published that Renault will be the first team to test the new Pirellis…

In October, Nico.

NH: I think it’s very hard to say if that’s an advantage or not. I think all teams in rotation do tyre tests but, as far as I’m aware, you are kept in the dark as to what compounds you are testing and what kind of tyre it is, so it is hard for teams to take conclusions from that and use it for the future. So I don’t think it’s a big player or a big advantage.

Q: (Phil Duncan – Press Association) Sebastian, just following on from the earlier question about racing for Ferrari, is this a team you would like to see out your career with or do you envisage racing for someone else?

SV: Not at the moment. As I said earlier to Heikki that I don’t know how long I’m going to be here but I love racing, I think they’re the best cars to… the fastest there are. The joy that I get from driving is like it’s ever been and as I said, obviously the motivation is high to get the job done with Ferrari so that’s the two things that are, I guess, dictating whether I’m going to be around for long or not.

Q: (Carlos Miguel Gomez – AutoHebdo Sport) Carlos, what is the secret to be the best of the rest?

CS: At the moment there’s no secret. If I find it, I will obviously keep it secret. I think it’s a combination. I think it’s a combination of hard work done by the team and creating a package good enough to do what we are doing on race day. It’s a combination of good strategies come Sunday. It’s a combination of good starts, good pace when you need to have good pace and good development. Nowadays the midfield battle is so tight that you need to be on top of everything and be very good at everything and I think this year we’ve been very good at mostly everything and that’s why we are leading in that battle. We haven’t been the fourth fastest car every race weekend but somehow we’ve managed to score good results when we were not the fourth fastest car and in the midfield I think that’s important but my wish is to separate a bit from this midfield and see if the team can keep improving and keep separating itself from the midfield which I think this year is going to be nearly impossible to do. It’s more thinking in the future.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Sebastian, sorry to take you back to 12 months ago here. You had your mistake in the race; since then there’s been a few mistakes along the way, all the way through to Silverstone and the last race. How satisfied are you on your performances over the past twelve months? Is it fair to say that you haven’t delivered, given the car that you’ve been given by Ferrari? And do you feel under pressure?

SV: Well, I always put myself under pressure so I can’t be happy, obviously, if things go wrong. I think some of the things, obviously, were bigger than others. I think the main thing is that – as I said previously – that we keep progressing in the right way but for sure if I get something wrong and make a mistake I can’t be happy with that. The pressure I put on myself after that I think is bigger than any external factors. This has been the same as long as I can remember. I think for me it’s the most honest and straightforward way to deal with it myself because I know what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve done right. I know when I had the opportunity to do well or not. I think you’re always your best judge, no matter what you do so that’s the rules by which I play.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Sebastian and Kimi, do you ever miss each other as teammates and can you say what the best qualities were about each other as a teammate?

KR: The meetings are a lot shorter now, now that we’re not in the same meetings any more. Or in the same team. We see each other still. I enjoy it, for sure, it was very good but we were friends before and it never changed and it’s still the same so life goes on. I think it’s always been very honest with Seb so it’s easy, easy going.

Q: His best qualities?

KR: Straightforward, honest.

SV: I can only return. Obviously now the meetings are not as short as they were which is a pity. Yeah, as Kimi said, we’ve sort of got on with each other before, had respect for each other and it’s the same now. Best qualities? Straightforward and honest! Yeah. No, I think the interesting thing is, even if, no, we look very different from the outside in terms of what people think but I think inside, as I said, we got along with each other fairly quickly right from the beginning and it’s probably because we share a lot of the same values and key to that is there were never any games or any attempt to play anything or… just no attempt to waste time, basically.

Q: (Luke Smith – Seb and Nico, following the earlier question about the future of F1 in Germany, you mentioned Mick Schumacher. How significant do you think the return of the Schumacher name to an F1 race seat in the future could be for F1 in this country and also how important is it that he’s not rushed on that journey?

SV: Yeah, I think it’s crucial that he’s given the time he needs. I think it’s fair to judge him and his racing like every one of us has been judged and will be judged but it’s not right to measure and compare too much to other people and to his father. I don’t think it’s fair. It’s a different time, different racing but for sure, as I tried to explain earlier, Michael was the one who set off a huge hype when we were kids and therefore the name Schumacher is one hundred percent known in Germany due to him. Obviously to have Mick at the doorstep of F1 and one day hopefully joining would be huge and hopefully a big boost for Germany. On top of that, despite the name, he’s a great guy, he’s a nice kid so I think our fingers are crossed for him. There’s been a time when I think we had a lot of Germans in Formula One - like six or seven - and everyone was wondering why and so on. Now we have two we don’t get these questions any more but back then I think there were zero French guys and now you have quite a lot of French guys in Formula One and very close so I think it’s just how it goes around but yeah, hopefully he gets the chance one day and does well and brings some more enthusiasm.

NH: Yeah, not much to add. I feel and think the same as Seb said. I think he needs his time, of course, also to go through his development but I’m sure he will get his chance. But then for Germany that could be quite… obviously another big ignition to motivate people to go back to a Formula One race to watch so it could play a big part in that and it would be great to see.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Sebastian, a question about the past. I wanted to ask you about one of your most successful cars, the 2011 Red Bull RB7. What do you remember about that car and how challenging was it to get the most out of that, given that there was the exhaust blown downforce and you had to adapt your technique to get the most from it?

SV: Yeah, obviously it was a very experimental phase because back then exhaust blowing was unknown and the effects of it and the logic behind it and so on. It was the first year where we really explored the limits, up to the point where we blew up a tyre on the grid because the plume and the hot air on the tyre obviously was coming at very high speed and made a big difference to how the car felt, made a big difference to how you had to drive the car, made a big difference to how you set up the car but I think we got the hang of it. I think key to one, a very clever way to design the car. Second was Renault’s input back then which I think they’ve been first in class and most extreme and probably the most brave to adapt and come up with solutions to help the demands of our aero department at the time. Obviously then it got banned and the years after, what people have been trying ever since is to find a way to get back because it’s proved to be so powerful. Season-wise it was a great season because I think we as a whole team matured a lot from little hiccoughs in 2010 so it was a lot more straightforward in 2011.

Q: (Rosal Mohedano – Carlos, Andreas Seidl has been in the team for some months now, has he changed a lot in the team to make a midfield car the top midfield car?

CS: I think the credit of this year’s car is mainly due to what happened last year, all the development that happened during that second half of the season, where the team basically decided to stop developing the 2018 to try and understand why the 2018 car was so poor and the job done, obviously in the early months of this winter, going into March, the job of Andreas, what he’s doing very well now is doing a whole analysis of the situation that we are in in the factory, especially back in Woking and he’s just having an overlook and have a very good look into what can be improved and it’s more a midterm to a long term project. I think he’s quite advance and he’s going to start having a very big influence in the upcoming months but you need to give him time. I think when there is an environment of six hundred to eight hundred people like we are in McLaren at the moment, to notice any kind of change you need years, you needs months or even years to feel the change and that’s going to take time for sure.