1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Lewis you can see it’s a pretty good reaction you’ve got. I guess it’s the best way you could sign off this season on a Saturday – pole position, the first time since Germany as well.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position in, but we just kept our heads down and just continuing to try... the guys have been doing a great job around me, the other drivers, so it was really juts trying to focus on continuing to do my job. Yesterday was quite wobbly, so I had to really recompose myself last night and come back today focused and managed to really dial in the car with great work from the engineers, mechanics continuing to do a great job and yeah, what a crowd. Every time I come here I seem to get a lot of love here in Abu Dhabi, and also there are a lot of Brits here as well, so a big thank you to everyone.
Q: And how nice is it to get a car that you fully focus on? It’s looked in shape all weekend and I think that’s credit to the team. You do never give up do you?
LH: We never give up. There’s always room to improve. There has been a lot of growth in this whole year, I think for so many people within the team. I can obviously speak for myself, there’s been a lot of growth but also these last couple of races there’s been a lot of growth, from a driver’s perspective, and just constantly looking for those small milliseconds. You know, Valtteri 2.0 has been rapid also this weekend, so I’m glad that we’re in this position. Of course to end the qualifying season with a pole, which has been a while, you know we’ve only had four earlier on this year, so… It’s been a special car and it’s the last time I’ll get to qualify with it so I’m glad I did it proud today.
Q: And Max is obviously lining up alongside you; continue on that battle that you had in Brazil that kept us on the edge of our seat?
LH: Absolutely, yeah. I think we’re in a slightly better position this weekend. Obviously, Max is continuing to drive well, but I’m looking forward to battling with him for sure.
Q: Valtteri, it’s a front row but at the same time you obviously take a grid penalty. I guess nice to be out there and show what Mercedes are capable of but just feel short at the end?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, as a team it’s been a really strong day and we saw yesterday in the qualifying [simulations] that we have a good pace. Didn’t feel quite as good today as it did yesterday with my car, struggling a bit more with sliding, but I think Lewis made some good improvements since yesterday and he put some good laps together in the qualifying, so he was quicker. In any case, I’m going to start last with my 40-place grid penalty or whatever, so we’ll find the fighting spirit for tomorrow.
Q: Surely you must relish that challenge. You’re going to be a nuisance in some people’s mirrors, and you’ll be pushing all the way, you got a little bit of insight yesterday, do you believe that you can come through and get on the podium?
VB: I believe. Anything is possible. We do have a good car and normally Sunday is better than Saturday for us so we’ll give it all I have for sure.
Q: Max, front row start. I know you just came short today, it wasn’t quite there at the end, Mercedes have looked supreme, but a good start and you’re already in the battle with this guy that you were battling with in Brazil.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think today was the best that we could do. I think we all know that. Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could. I think overall pretty happy. Still good to start on the front row. Of course I would have like to actually qualify there. I think still a lot of chances for tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.
Q: How did the car feel yesterday on the long runs? Do you think you are competitive enough to race them?
MV: From our side it felt alright, but we always know that Mercedes are very quick on the long runs. We’ll just wait and see what happens tomorrow.
Q: Lewis, an emphatic performance by you, the car seemed to be performing well, how good was the lap?
LH: Thank you. It definitely was a very good qualifying session for us. It’s not been the easiest in terms of qualifying for us throughout the year. It’s been something we’ve just been chipping away at. Considering we’re not developing the car currently I think we just really tried to see what we could pull out of the car this weekend and it’s well suit to the track and it’s been feeling good. Yesterday was a little bit difficult. I had to re-centre myself for today. Yeah, I think the best thing is when you get to Q3 and you pull out two good laps. I think my first lap it felt special and then the second one obviously was an improvement, so I can’t complain. Just a big thank you to all the team for their continued efforts and even though we have both titles won they continue to push and strive for better and that’s inspiring for me, so I’ve been doing the same thing.
Q: It’s been a while for you, since the German GP your last pole. How much satisfaction does this give you?
LH: Yeah, of course. It feels longer than the German Grand Prix. If I’m really honest I don’t even understand how I got the German Grand Prix pole. But yeah, it’s been really hard, particularly since we have come back from the break. The competition has been spectacular; all drivers have been doing an amazing job. I don’t think my qualifying has been terrible but it’s just not been at my usual standard perhaps, so of course it’s incredibly satisfying to know that we have put the work and to end my last qualifying session with this car, which has been a real incredible journey with this car this year, so to finish it off on the front row, there’s not a better feeling really. Obviously that’s not even half the job done. Tomorrow we’ve got to battle with the Ferraris and the Red Bulls but I think we put ourselves in the best position possible so incredibly happy. Honestly, it’s really strange, you say it’s 88 [poles] but it honestly feels like the first, I don’t know why. It feels super-fresh. Maybe because it’s been so long since earlier on in the season and I’m glad to finish on five poles in the year.
Q: Valtteri, great lap. The car seemed to improve as the session went on.
VB: Yeah, the lap was OK. I think still it felt like Lewis was a bit too quick and I think we were slightly different with set-up as well by the end of the qualifying. Honestly, I felt a bit more comfortable yesterday with the car overall. But obviously for me, anything I was trying to keep in my mind was for the race because, in any case, whatever happens today I knew I’m going to be starting last with my, I don't know how many place, grid penalty, 40, or something. So, I mean, I tried, obviously, as hard as I could. In Q2 I did only one run to save a new tyre set for the race, one set of Softs, if needed. But yeah, Lewis did a very good job, so congrats for the 88th – it’s a big number. Massive respect for that. But yeah, I’m just really already looking forward for tomorrow, because it is going to be compromised.
Q: Valtteri, what is the plan for tomorrow. Can you plan your race, or are you going to have to react to what’s going on around you?
VB: For sure, we’ve tried to make a plan and the whole weekend, trying to optimise for the race because, like I said, qualifying result doesn’t really matter for me today. So, everything we’ve done with the tyre choices, and everything we’ve tried to optimise that. We’ve had many ideas for the strategy, and obviously it’s going to be a challenge, coming up from there – but I do look forward to it. I’m sure it can be fun trying to come up.
Q: Final thought Valtteri. How are you feeling? You’re not sounding great.
VB: Feeling better already than a couple of days ago. I’ve been quite ill this week, I think since Monday night, so when I travelled here it got worse – but in the car it doesn’t matter. The adrenaline kicks in and you feel normal.
Q: Max, at one stage during the session you reported suspension trouble. Was there any problem with the car?
MV: No, it was just to check. Because I hit one of the orange inside – the high ones. So they would have a look at it, not that it would catch us by surprise, or anything.
Q: And just tell us about your Q3 session. How good was the lap? How was the car performing?
MV: I think the lap was really decent. There was not much I could do better, I think. I mean, there is never a perfect lap. It was good. I mean, I was just driving to the limits. We just seemed to lack a bit of grip, compared to them. Especially, they are very quick in the last sector. And there are a lot of off-camber corners. They are always very dominant here on this track, and we tried to be as close as we could and unfortunately we were just lacking a bit too much in that last sector. But overall, I think I’m pretty pleased. To be third in qualifying, second on the grid. Of course, I would have preferred to be there on pure pace but for us I think it was a pretty positive weekend.
Podium here last year. Do you fancy your chances of getting on the top step tomorrow?
MV: I guess you will always try but you also have to be realistic and I think Mercedes is very quick – but we’ll give it everything we have, tomorrow in the race.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you said that it felt like it’d been longer that Germany since you were on pole. Just wondered if it’s a weight off in any way? If it’s something you’ve thought about through the season, or is it a case of you get the pole now and only then you realise, ‘damn, it’s been however many races’?
LH: No, there wasn’t a worry through the season. Of course, I’m well aware that you can’t win them all. I’ve been extremely fortunate and done a relatively decent job over the years – but yeah, I think just with understanding the car and ultimately just squeezing out the best: not over-driving; not under-driving; trying to find the right balance throughout the year. And plus, obviously we’ve had some great opposition. Opponents that are doing a great job – but yeah, I think Austin was probably the last time the car was able to be on the front row, which Valtteri did but I just wasn’t there, so it’s frustrating when you miss those sessions. I think it was the same in Japan. But, it’s great, as I said, these last two races particularly, I’ve done a lot of experimenting. With my driving style and with the car. Just trying to see if I can eke out a little bit more. And I think I’m closer to it. Not 100 per cent but I’ll apply what I’m like this year into next.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Max. You said you have to be realistic tomorrow. So, you’re starting on the Medium tyre. The gap on the Medium seemed to be a bit bigger than on the soft to Mercedes. It’s probably going to be a one-stop race. The track is not fantastic for overtaking. Do you see any chance of getting first tomorrow?
MV: Sounds positive! No, my lap was not fantastic on the Medium. In Q3 it was almost half a second and on the Medium it was sixth-tenths. So, its not a big deal. It’s going to be hard. I’m not going to lie but like I said, we’ll try everything we can as a team and we’ll see where we end up.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, with this car in this circuit, is it possible to be in the top three tomorrow as well?
VB: Everything is always possible. There’s no point for me to set any limit really for tomorrow. So for sure, we’ll have a good fighting spirit. Take every opportunity there will be tomorrow and for sure there will be some. We’ve seen crazy races this year – look back two weeks in Brazil. So anything is possible. Look forward to coming up and taking those opportunities and most important having fun in the car.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, yesterday Mattia Binotto said that you were an outstanding driver and the fact that you might be available in 2021 to sign can only make him happy, so just your reaction to that, and whether that might give you something to think about over the winter?
LH: Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of that. I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these thirteen years.
MV: It’s because you’re beating them.
LH: I honestly don’t remember them ever mentioning me ever so thank you, I’ll take it, doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all talk but yeah, it’s nice that finally… it’s taken all these years for him to recognise maybe but I’m grateful.
Q: (Andreas Haupt – Auto, Moto und Sport) Lewis and Max, from what you’ve seen so far this weekend, do you see Ferrari as a potential threat or are they just too weak here this weekend and is it all between you tomorrow?
LH: Yeah, I think their long run was good, huh? I think their long run was strong. I don’t actually know where they are.
MV: Charles will start third.
LH: His Q2 run was good on the mediums, wasn’t it, so they’ve obviously got pace. I think it’s going to be close between us all. Not to be negative, but I just wonder if… this track is awesome and this event is awesome but I wonder if it’s time they did a subtle adjustment to it to make it a bit easier for us to overtake, maybe. I don’t know. It’s a hard place for us to follow. We’ve got these great long straights which are good.
MV: Yeah, the atmosphere is great…
LH: I don’t know what they have to change but…
MV: Less off-camber corners.
LH: Yeah, maybe. Banked corners would be good.
Q: Your thoughts on Ferrari, Max. Leclerc fastest in Q2 on the medium tyre?
MV: Yeah, of course he also went for a second go at it but yeah, they will be there. I don’t worry about it too much, you just find out during the race. Go to bed, sleep well and have fun tomorrow.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just following up on Phil’s question to Lewis: it’s all very nice, compliments, but are they wasting their time being nice to you? Are you going to turn them down or are you listening to anything that they have to say, positive, negative? Would you be interested in talking to them about your future with regards to Ferrari?
LH: No, it’s positive. What was the first part, sorry? I think it’s never a waste of time to ever being nice to someone. As I said, it has been a long, long time and a team that I’ve always appreciated over the years, so to earn their respect from someone from there who’s obviously very high up is obviously not a bad thing. I think they’ve got two great drivers as is so who knows what the driver market’s going to be doing over the next year. But if I’m really honest, I’m not really focused on that right this second: trying to make sure I finish off strong. I’ve got this incredible group of people who hire me where I am and I feel like I just continue to owe it to them to give my heart to them and my energy 100 per cent to them, particularly as I’m still in contract and negotiations haven’t started yet. I honestly don’t know how the next phase of the months is going to go when it comes to contract. It’s very odd that you have to do it almost a year before it ends and it can’t be done towards the end but that’s just the way it goes but we shall see.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Fernando Alonso earlier said that he’s going to keep the door open for 2021, so what would your reaction be to a comeback of a driver of his calibre?
LH: I’d be more just happy that I won’t be the oldest here! So welcome an older dude, he can come along. Fernando’s obviously a well-accomplished driver. It’s interesting to see in the past, obviously, with drivers wanting to come back, like Michael, and it’s something you’ve done your whole life so… I haven’t spoken to Fernando so I don’t know how he’s been feeling or how much he’s missed it, but I don’t think it would be bad for the sport. Ultimately, there’s a lot of young kids on their way up and there’s only 20 seats, so he has also had his period of time there, but if there’s no other good youngsters coming through then… there definitely is space for some that are currently here that probably could be replaced. So I would welcome it.
VB: Agree with Lewis, nothing really to add. Same thoughts.
MV: Yeah, absolutely, I mean Fernando’s a great driver but you should only come back…
LH: You said something about him coming back.
LH: Yeah. You said that… come back… with me.
MV: Is that so?
LH: You know, in my first season.
MV: You were equal on points, wasn’t it?
LH: In my first season.
MV: Yeah, that’s right. You did a great job. No, but he’s a great driver, I think you can agree on that, right?
LH: Of course.
MV: And it would be good to see him… if he could come back but only in a competitive car otherwise I think it’s just a waste of time for him. But I think he knows that himself so…
TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Claire WILLIAMS (Williams), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Zak BROWN (McLaren), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault).
Q: Mattia, I’d like to take you back to the last race to start with. You’ve no doubt studied the footage of the crash between your two drivers. What’s your verdict?
Mattia BINOTTO: Hmm… what’s the verdict? I think there may be different versions. If you listen to the drivers, they may have their own version. I think at the end there is one true version, which is that they damaged the interest of the Scuderia Ferrari, and by doing that, damaging themselves. We discussed altogether, we looked again at the video. I think what’s always important when that type of thing happens, there is always something which is triggering it. And more important is to understand what’s triggering it. It's the only way to make sure that in the future it’s not happening again. And that’s something that certainly we discussed – between us.
Q: Charles spoke yesterday, when he was summing up 2019, saying it’s been a weird season. How would you describe it?
MB: Should I clarify what he said? I don’t know. Weird… I would say it has been an intense season. Many things happened. If I look from the team perspective or the technical point of view, I think it has been a linear season, somehow. If anything’s weird, I think it’s we were expecting a better performance after the winter testing, and I think that we never really understood what happened from Barcelona to Australia. If anything, those guys certainly made a jump ahead. I think that from our perspective, then we had performance weaknesses in the car that we improved all through the season, as I said, in a linear way – and I think the car in the second half of the season was certainly better, compared to the first part. We are still not the best car in the race. I think that other cars are still faster in the race. We are not certainly the best car in cornering and at least we know our weaknesses, working on it and from that respect it has been a bit linear. Weird, I think, from Charles’ perspective, very first year for him in Ferrari, a lot of emotions, a lot of things, he is the driver that has started most of the time on pole position this season, which is a great achievement. Two victories. Up and down, as well in his performance relative to his team-mate, not always so consistent, if you look from the start to the end. But I think it has been a season where an entire team, the drivers, we learnt and I’m pretty sure it will make us even stronger in the future.
Q: Toto, you miss a race, look what happens! How difficult was it to watch events at Interlagos from afar, and how did you stay in touch with what was going on?
Toto WOLFF: Yeah, it was weird, because it was the first race that I missed since Williams times – Barcelona 2012. I did it because there’s just so much business going on at the moment and I had a Formula E weekend the following weekend and obviously Abu Dhabi and things needed to be done. Normal office work. It was also for me an experiment to see how I would take it. I know the team is perfectly capable in doing that without me. There were voices that it would actually be beneficial for me not distracting anybody around the racetrack. So, what happened, would have happened with me there. I was hoping that it would be a perfect weekend and that I could miss some of the bad ones next year – but at the moment I am off that plan.
Q: It’s been a cracking end to the season with three teams battling for wins. Does that make you nervous for next year? Do you expect it to be the closest battle in the hybrid era?
TW: Yes, I think so. We have always defended the standpoint that by letting the regulations alone, performance convergence would happen – at least there’s a high probability that convergence happens rather than throwing the dice and introducing something new and I think we have seen that. It’s fair to say that there are three teams capable of winning races today and probably winning championships if things are being put together. McLaren has massively caught up, probably the steepest performance slope of all teams and will be there or thereabouts, in my opinion. So, yeah, I see this very much as being a much tougher season. I don’t think we are going to see the kind of 10 race wins or 12 race wins per team for next year any more – but obviously we will be trying everything to optimise our weaknesses and continue to perform well.
Q: Zak, the team has sealed fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. Given where it was a year ago, in P6, and then P9 the year before that. How much of an achievement is that?
Zak BROWN: I think it’s been a big achievement, given where we’ve been the last couple of years. I think the team’s done an excellent job, both at the factory and at the race track. Everyone is contributing. Renault has played a big part in us getting more competitive again. They’ve been a fantastic partner. Drivers are doing a very good job, bringing the car home and in the points often, so it’s certainly been a pleasure racing this year, when I look back to Abu Dhabi last year.
Q: If the past 12 months have been fruitful, can you just tell us a little bit about the next 12 months – because you’ve got a harder split programme than most teams: preparing a Renault-powered 2020 car and then a Mercedes-powered 2021 car.
ZB: Yeah, everyone’s going to be in the same boat, in the sense of the ’21 is going to be such a change from 2020 that everyone’s going to be starting from a clean sheet of paper – but we’re up for it. It’s one of the reasons we made an early decision, to give ourselves as much time as possible. I think ‘21’s going to be exciting for Formula 1 and for the fans because when there’s a big change like that, someone’s going to get it right; someone’s going to get it wrong and, as Toto said, tends to converge over time but I’m excited for the ’21 season – but also excited for ’20, of course.
Q: Claire, if we could talk a little more about that 2020-2021 split from Williams’ point of view. How difficult a juggling act is it when there’s such a huge opportunity in 2021?
Claire WILLIAMS: It’s clearly not easy. I think we’ve all talked about the challenges that we’re all going to face next year. I think everyone in the pit lane is going to have a challenge on their hands. I think it will be slightly easier for the top three teams with bigger budgets. For us, it is a real challenge back at the factory, trying to run those two programmes, for next year, for ’21 – but obviously we’ve been trying to run this year’s programme, when we haven’t let development slide. We’ve got to continue to bring upgrades to the car over the course of this season, which we’ve been doing, and really we’re looking at ’19 and ’20 as one long campaign. So, it is difficult – but we wanted the ’21 regulations to come in. We lobbied hard for them, so we’ve just go to deal with the problem head on and do the best job that we can.
Q: News yesterday on the driver front. Just a word on Nicholas Latifi. Why have you chosen him to partner George Russell next year?
CW: I think it was probably a fairly obvious choice. We’re pleased that we’re able to make an announcement. It’s been a long time coming and probably an obvious choice for us. Nicholas has been with us now this year, as our reserve driver. He’s done six FP1s for us and some test sessions. He’ll run next week at the Abu Dhabi test, and he’s just become a really great part of the team. He’s got a great personality – and from a track performance perspective, he’s done a good job in the F2 campaign this year. He’s obviously hoping to close out P2 this weekend, and I think he’ll be instrumental in driving the team forward. He’s got a very similar personality to George, and George has proved how motivating for everybody in the team, and I think Nicholas will fully mirror that next year.
Q: Cyril, Renault is involved in a very tight battle with Toro Rosso for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship. Just eight points the difference. Given the nature of this circuit, how confident are you in your car’s performance?
Cyril ABITEBOUL: If you really ask me for this circuit, I’m very confident. We were competitive last year. FP1 is not much to say because FP1 is very particular here, given the conditions but no, I think that indeed Toro Rosso with different circumstance that they’ve benefited, and that also managed to make happen in the close fight but I think it’s also fair to say that, on average, we are a clear P5. The target was to be P4 so we have not reached that target but average we deserve that P5. We didn’t benefit of any particular result that have helped in that respect. No podium when it could have been possible again. It’s our own fault, so I’m not blaming anyone in particular. But no, I think we will have a good fight tomorrow and Sunday, but I believe our chances… I want to believe our chances are high to finish P5.
Q: Now, overall it’s been a difficult season for you guys. What have you learnt from the really tough moments – and when were they?
CA: There’s been many tough moments. There’s been good moments also. I think it’s important to take a bit of distance, so if you ask me, it’s really to manage, to learn about the resilience that you need in that sport. Sometimes people believe how difficult it is as a sport, as a business also, given the difficulty and the way that the world is changing. We are on a ramp up. Zak has just mentioned a good trend that they have: P9, P6, P4. It’s exactly the trend that we had also: P9, P6, P4. I think all of that is possible, but the difficulty first is to maintain that P4 position now that McLaren has been able to come back from where they were before and the main difficult will be not to stay P5 or P4 because we should not be content with that, and I’m sure Zak is not content with that – but also to bridge the gap with the top teams. That will be the next difficulty and still the target for us. It’s a target for 2021. Everything in our programme has been built around that long-term target of 2021 because, in accordance to our strategy, that’s really the first opportunity to make that happen. But before 2021, there is ’19, there is ’20. And there is a short-term result and a short term pressure that everyone is putting on all of us. And that’s fine. Again, that’s part of the sport.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Mattia, what guidelines or rules or instructions have you given the drivers in terms of racing going forward from this point to stop what happened in Brazil happening again, if indeed they are allowed to race?
MB: There are no answers here; it’s something we discussed internally. They are both very good drivers, they know exactly what to do. I think it has been somehow unfortunate what happened but it will not happen anymore.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) Zak, you’re obviously delighted at finishing fourth in the championship, but if you look at it Red Bull finished third with the engine you people rejected. How do you feel about that? Is there any regret? Equally, Cyril, how do you feel about being beaten by your engine customer, given the fact that you both have similar resources?
TW: Such a nice fellow.
ZB: Look, I think, first of all, congratulations to Honda, it’s great that they’re going to be staying in the sport. I think that’s positive for the sport. I think you’ve got to give credit to Helmut Marko for making a good strategic decision to first put Honda into his B team and that works our well, so he puts it into his A team and he’s got two good lieutenants in Christian and Franz running those teams and you know, they’re winning races now and good on them and good for the sport.
CA: Well, you know, we were beaten by our customer, OK, but when I’m not beaten by my customer I’m beaten by McLaren, and McLaren is a great team. McLaren has had its difficulty but I think maybe something that Zak has not mentioned, but he could have mentioned, is the fact that sometimes you need to change some stuff to really understand where you’re at and what needs to be changed and what needs to be made stronger and I think the fact that when they came to Renault we were a benchmark. Not a benchmark in the sense that we were the best but at least McLaren knew what was the Renault engine capable of doing with Red Bull at the time. I think that really put a light on what needed to be changed in their organization and they have done that. They have taken action, based on that information. I think we are doing the same, in fairness, a bit later, but we are still doing the same. We know what our engine is capable of doing. In my opinion it is the engine that most progressed over the winter, right there, probably at the top in race conditions. So that’s good, but obviously it’s not enough. So we had to take action and we have reacted with exactly what we’ve done. We restructured the aerodynamic department. We recruited someone who actually is no stranger to probably the resurrection of McLaren – Pat Fry – and that will not stop there. I think that what matters is being able to constantly assess where we are strong and where we are weak. That’s what McLaren has done and that’s what also we have done and react, that’s also what we are doing.
Q: (Lawrence Edmonson – ESPN) A question for the whole panel: F1 is planning to become carbon neutral by 2030 but when you consider that entire countries have got a similar plan in place, is F1 being ambitious enough and is the whole sport going to face a losing battle over the next 10 years?
CW: I think the very fact that F1 have come out and launched a proposal in this area is the best starting block. I don’t think we have talked about what we do already do. I think there is a lot more that we could communicate in order to demonstrate the very fact that our sport is probably a whole lot more sustainable than the generic perception of it out there at the moment. These new hybrid engines being the perfect example. We have never talked about them being as relevant as there are. But I think that the sport does need to become a whole lot more sustainable. It’s a wider conversation in the rest of the world and it’s a very relevant and important one at the moment and this sport needs to be doing what it should be doing to tackle a whole lot of issues that we haven’t been tackling and there probably is an enormous amount of low-hanging fruit that we can all contribute to as a collective. I think as individual teams we have started down this pathway many, many years ago, but again it’s something that we don’t necessarily talk or shout about. At Williams we have a whole business division, about 350 people, that tackles or that takes some of those issues and uses battery technology in order to address them and again we should probably be doing a better job to talk about it. But I think the very fact that F1 have started this pathway and it is only the very beginning, but I think a 10-year plan is probably the right amount of time in order to tackle it.
TW: Yeah, what Claire said about the engines, we are having the most efficient hybrid power units and we need to, I think, talk more about it. This is a hybrid race series already and how we can see the future going in the automotive world going, hybrid is definitely the next defining step over the next few years. Having said that, Formula 1 was always the pinnacle of motor racing in terms of the engineering and innovation and lots of the things we do have found their way into road cars and continue to find their way into road cars. A big part of that is efficiency of course. I think we have a role to play in order to facilitate innovation at Formula 1 and at the same time be part of that climate movement that is absolutely necessary. We are all living in the same world and we see the air and the oceans getting more polluted every day and I think the more we support the movement, the more we tackle it with the small steps – banning plastic bottles, like the one you have next to your chair, from our hospitality – changing the way we fuel our dynos, not with diesel anymore but with something more sustainable, we are going to better the world. I’ve read something that I liked a lot, which was: ‘what difference does one plastic bottle make to the world said 8 million people’, and this is the kind of mindset we need to embrace.
MB: Nothing more left I would say, as they touch all the points. We are all on the same page. It is certainly a key topic. It is a challenging objective. I think as F1 we have to be, and we can be, an important platform for developing in that respect, on sustainability. I think we have a lot engineering background that we can use as well to somehow develop and improve that situation. I think that is an overall global effort of all the teams, F1, FIA, all together, but it is good. Great, at least, that we set the objectives and I’m pretty sure that for the future of F1 that will be key and important.
ZB: I think as everyone has said before me it’s a very big topic, it’s a very important topic. I think it’s a journey with a never-ending road. You know, all of us are tackling it in different ways, in similar ways, not only as a grand prix team but in our businesses. It’s great to see Formula 1 put such importance on it and I think it will be something that many of us are already doing today and will continue to do and improve upon because it’s an important topic for everybody.
CA: Yeah, not much to add, apart maybe from the fact that if Formula 1, or cars in general, are seen as part of the problem, Formula 1 can also be part of the solution. I’m not aware of any other sport that can contribute in any shape or form to the solution and I think that’s really important to mention. We created lots of expectation with that collective announcement, so we will have to deliver against those expectations. One figure I would mention. We are talking about this engine but to put things in perspective the average increase in power of the F1 engine is 3% per year. If you put that in perspective to UN target figures of CO2 emission in order to reach the COP21 target would be 2.5%, so on the basis that we have stable fuel consumption, it means that we have actually exceeded what the UN is commanding from the world industry in general. I think it’s a good benchmark. Obviously it comes at a huge cost and lots of technology. It can’t be transferred to all cars on the planet but still I think it does represent and element of an answer to the problem.
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Mattia Binotto. So far there hasn’t been a great deal light shed on the incident with your drivers at the last race. There have been a lot of words but not much light. I was wondering whether you fined them, whether you thought one driver was more to blame than the other and a) I’d like a straight answer to that and b) if I don’t, why do you bother showing up at these events?
MB: Is there one driver more to blame than the other? I think it’s even not important, because maybe that time it could have been maybe Seb, next time maybe Charles. They are two drivers, they are fighting, they can both of them make mistakes. I think that at the end what’s important is to make sure that whoever he is, the one in Brazil, or the next time, it’s not happening again. And again, I don’t think there is much to discuss. That’s something that is something that is in between our factory, between us, something we discussed and I’m happy to keep it between us.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, Lewis in Brazil suggested that his future at Mercedes would depend on your future at Mercedes. I just wondered if he has had sought any assurances from you and if whether you have been able to offer those to him? And to Mattia, if Lewis Hamilton is available to sign in 2021 as it stands, would you like to sign him for Ferrari?
TW: Lewis and I have grown close over the last seven years. We ended up in Mercedes at the same time in 2013 and I think we have built up a lot of trust. At the same time, the two of us are part of a wider organization where everybody is playing in their relative field of competence. I think for him to say that is nice. I’d also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future. And we are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us, like between many others that have played an important role within that team. Can I shed more light? No, for me it was important to finish the season in Abu Dhabi. There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter.
MB: Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver. Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it’s too early for any decision, so we are happy with the driver’s we’ve got at the moment and I think certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do.
Q: (Joost Nederpelt – NU.NL) What was your favourite moment or anecdote of the season?
CA: I guess my favourite moment has been qualifying in Montreal with Daniel in P4, I think it was, something like that. That was, let’s be honest, unexpected, not totally deserved. I think Valtteri had a problem in qualifying so I think it was one position better than what we would have had but clearly finally the demonstration that what we were seeing – I was personally also claiming since a while which was that the engine had made huge steps – and was actually true. So it’s not an anecdote, it’s a story and a very high moment of this season.
ZB: Well, it would have to be Brazil, wouldn’t it, with it being our first podium and clinching fourth in the championship so that and Lando qualifying in Q3 in his first race in Australia and us coming out and being in Q3. You only asked me for one, but I gave you two!
MB: Many moments. Obviously this season we have been celebrating our 90 years of Scuderia Ferrari so I would say at first the event where we celebrated in Milan, Piazza del Duomo, with all our fans and tifosi. And in the same week, let’s say the first row on the grid in Monza.
TW: For me the… I don’t want to talk about the best moment because the overshadowing event was Niki’s death. That is kind of the big theme of the season for us, so I was thinking whilst they were answering when I had a moment which I felt like being the best and I didn’t, of course… we are very grateful to win the championship but this one moment just overshadows everything else.
CW: Mine probably, as you would expect probably, didn’t come on the circuit this year but for me, the real highlight has been our pit stop crew. You probably will track progress… unfortunately Red Bull have just pipped us to the best pit stop and crew for the year but the way that our pit stop team have worked this year has been… gives a capsule of the resilience that our team has shown throughout the entire year. They go out there each and every race and fight for our drivers and for the rest of the team like they’re fighting for podium position and that for me has been a true highlight.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Zak, how would you describe and assess your drivers’ contribution to McLaren’s 2019 improvement?
ZB: I give them a lot of credit, both of them. Early in the season our car wasn’t as competitive and I think it’s the team, the drivers for bringing the car home constantly, not really making any mistakes and then the car’s developed well over the course of the year and we’re able to give them a faster race car but I think credit to both of them. Carlos has definitely shined (sic) this year and I think Lando’s been an excellent rookie that has shown a lot of maturity for a very young driver.
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racingnews365.nl) Toto, what was your impression of Nick de Vries last weekend and in general of the Formula E; is it going to be together the Formula One and Formule E, do you think?
TW: I really enjoyed the experience, I must say. I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia before and launching our Mercedes Formula E journey was very special. The crowds were phenomenal, seeing how this country is opening up – something I didn’t expect in that way. And the racing is very different to Formula One, clearly you can say that. For me it’s Super Mario Kart with real drivers, but it’s absolutely valid to give that a chance. And Nick has already contributed a great deal to the team’s performance. He’s very mature and the way he’s – as a personality and as a racing driver – been able to slot into the team with Stoffel is really nice to see. We have set our ambitions or our expectations on a realistic target, which we have overachieved and both of the drivers contributed to this happening.
Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) To the three engine manufacturers: is engine power convergence really possible given what’s going on around the Ferrari engine now after so many years, given you will have budget caps since 2021 which I guess does not include the engine development?
TW: I think you will see, over the long-term [the] trend on engine performance is that it will stabilise. I think we have seen outliers in engine performance, we have seen very good races with Ferrari, we have seen Renault doing a step up and then the same way that has stretched us so I think, looking over many years’ cycle, these gains will get smaller, like in any mature industry, the marginal gains tend to decrease and I have no doubt that this will happen.
CA: I think that the stability of regulations is showing that actual performance is converging which is good for the sport. I continue to believe that there are some breakthroughs to come that will come with new processes, with new materials, so that’s interesting, so you should watch this space and see what it still has to offer and going back to what I was mentioning before, there is an awful lot of innovation that I wouldn’t… it’s a bit unfortunate that we can’t really talk about because of all the secrets, of all the IP that’s involved and all the investments that are associated. Our engineers keep on having lots of ideas and that’s great to see. We’ve recruited a lot of young guys, coming from university. They are not necessarily passionate about Formula 1 but I can tell you that they are passionate about doing what they are doing in the field of the internal combustion engine and power in general and that’s good and extremely refreshing so I think it’s good that Formula 1 keeps on having this field of innovation for engines in general.
MB: Will convergence happen? I think we are all convinced on that. The reason that we are all convinced is that the rules that we have all accepted are defined. There will be lines of restriction and therefore we believe that there will no longer be the necessity to develop as we are developing today and there will even be some freezing opportunities, also the power unit and the fact that we are starting freezing some of the components is that believe that there is only a very marginal benefit at some stage in developing and it’s good for the sustainability to start freezing and reducing the dyno activity so yes, we are all convinced that it will come to a convergence. I think we are already converging and in the next period that will happen, certainly.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Given the uncertainty of commitment of at least two teams to Formula One after 2020, should Formula One actually actively go out now and try and attract new teams?
CW: I’m not sure I know a whole level of detail about two potential teams leaving this sport but clearly we want a grid of 10 teams. That promotes great racing and we need great racing to ensure that our fans keep tuning in and watching us and clearly we want to be growing that audience as well so whether it’s down to F1 to actively go out and promote that or whether it’s down to those teams to make sure that they secure buyers… all I can say is Williams certainly isn’t one of those teams.
TW: All the numbers that are coming in – from audiences in the conventional TV, digital space, sponsorship – are growing. I think this is a sport that also with the spending cap coming in in 2021 is an area of growth. There will be certain thresholds that will come into the rules about joining the sport, concerning certain franchise value. Leaving the sport now would certainly not be the right thing to do from a commercial perspective when it’s just about to turn into a new opportunity. Should we be looking out for new teams? If there is interest in joining the grid with a solid foundation, big brands why not have the discussion but I think we should all 10 of us be proud of being part of the limited grid, we should be conscious about the opportunity and the possibility that lies ahead and concentrate on making it a good business for everybody.
MB: Not really much to add. I think the first objective should not look around but try to retain what we’ve got and only after, eventually.
ZB: I think it would be great to see another team in the sport. I think that (indistinct) we’ve got a new race market, that creates excitement and so as long as it’s a quality racing team I think it would just add excitement and opportunity so it’s not the teams’ responsibilities to be looking for the next team to join but Formula 1, as Toto said… television’s up, sponsorship’s up, fan appeal is up and therefore the more the sport can grow the better.
CA: I entirely agree. I would just add something that’s not been mentioned which is driver and driver development and access to Formula 1 for young drivers. That’s maybe an area where I think maybe one team ought to provided that they are solid teams project with good backing, not just opportunistic interest because it’s possible that the business model will become better but a good sporting project could be interesting because we all see that sometimes even good drivers should make it to Formula One and we all remember the time of teams like Minardi this type of team which were doing an excellent job in facilitating access to Formula 1 for those kids. We have a young driver programme and right now, even though we’ve got great talents, I’m not totally clear on how we will make it to Formula One. I think Toto experienced the same difficulty without opening something that is still touchy.
TW: We will talk about it.
CA: But we sort it out now. So I think you can see where I’m going at. I think it’s important to have stability of top ten teams for us and for most but think also about the dynamic of accessibility of Formula 1 to drivers.
Part Two: Pierre GASLY (Toro Rosso), Carlos SAINZ (McLaren) Daniil KVYAT (Toro Rosso), Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Alfa Romeo)
Q: Pierre, how’s it been since Interlagos? Have you been home? What’s the reaction been like in Frand?
Pierre GASLY: Yeah, it was a pretty crazy weekend in and, yeah, after the race it was probably the worst celebration I’ve had, because I had to fly straight back home, so 11pm I was in the plane, and landed Monday afternoon back in France. The only thing I really had was a nice dinner with my family, brothers, back in France, in Paris on Monday night, just to celebrate and enjoy the moment altogether. And yeah, it was great to see the reaction back in France. All the news and the support. The messages from everybody after a great race and yeah, my first podium in Formula 1.
And the reaction within the team and within Formula 1 as well.
PG: No, I must say it was quite impressive. The reactions from everyone. Of course it’s been such a rollercoaster for me this season. And just, yeah, to end the season with my first podium in F1, in Toro Rosso, which was their third podium in history, of course, was something really special. So, to celebrate with everyone; mechanics; engineers, it’s also their second podium this year and year, just to see the passion, the excitement that was going on in the paddock in Brazil was something really special.
And of course, 2019’s not over. You’re battling with Carlos Sainz, the man on your right for sixth place…
PG: It’s not the first time we’re battling, is it!
Carlos SAINZ: No!
Q: True, and both tied on 95 points now and, as you say your careers have crossed in the past. How much rests of what happens in that battle this weekend?
PG: I think it makes it really exciting, you know, coming in the last race of the season with something to play in the championship, so really looking forward to that battle. Carlos and McLaren have been fast all year long. Consistent. So, we expect it to be tough but it will be our job to execute the perfect weekend to hold to that sixth place until the end.
Q: Carlos, coming onto you. Let’s start by talking about that sixth place. How confident are you?
CS: I think as confident as we can be but at the same time you’re obviously cautious. You can never know what’s going to happen in the last race but, you know, I already consider it a bit of a success to be fighting for P6. It’s a bit of a bonus because you never expect, when you’re in the midfield, to fight for P6. Maybe you would expect to fight for P7. And now that we have the chance, we’ve created ourselves an opportunity, and we want to take it, obviously. I’m sure it’s not going to be easy. Pierre and Toro Rosso during the last few weekends have been very strong. They’ve executed some really nice races and I’m sure we’re going to have some fun and some tough competition.
Q: And, the podium in Brazil. How do you reflect on it? What was the reaction back home in Spain?
CS: It was good. To see a team celebrate a podium in that way, and to have them in the podium with me was quite special, quite different to what I expected of my first podium but definitely good fun. Then when we went back to the factory. To see a whole factory taking pictures with the trophy, enjoying it with me for a couple of days, was great fun – then I went back home to my family and friends to celebrate a bit – but at the same time, as we have this battle going on for P6, you know I was like, yeah good fun – but at the same time I want to go to go to Abu Dhabi and try to finish off on a high.
Q: Carlos, some people questioned your move to McLaren this year, yet it’s turning into your best season in Formula One. How much satisfaction has it given you?
CS: Obviously quite a lot. I had good feelings when I moved to McLaren, even if things didn’t look very promising at the end of 2018. I did have some conversations with a lot of engineers, a lot of people, Zak. I don’t know, the project itself just gave me good vibes. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the good results but those good vibes. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the good results but those good vibes translated very quickly into results and into a change of approach by McLaren, a very big change in the structure of the team, and all of a sudden we’re here with one race to go, having secured P4 in the standings, the first podium in five years and, all of a sudden, it looks like the right move. I’m very happy, and very pleased to see such a great group of people performing at such a very high level and being so hungry and motivated to move forwards still.
Q: Daniil, coming to you now: you’ve scored a podium, Pierre’s scored a podium, Honda are making good progress. Can you just describe the atmosphere in the team at the minute and how bullish Toro Rosso is about the future?
Daniil KVYAT: Yeah, certainly it was a very strong year for Toro Rosso, perhaps the best in the history you may say, so yeah, it’s obviously great to be able to fight for a very high position in the Constructors’ championship, the highest it has been in recent years. Yeah, so great to be a part of it and the atmosphere in the team this year… I think the team has always performed very well; since the beginning of the year it was quite consistently in the points and always taking the opportunities quite well; with strategy, taking the points which weren’t even there, to still get them was very crucial sometimes and now at the end of the year we find ourselves in a good strong position, so certainly it was also a very good boost for next year.
Q: And what about your own performance this year? You sat out 2018, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a driver in 2019?
DK: I feel very satisfied, to be honest. I would put it in line with one of my best years in F1 so I’m pretty happy. Some races go your way, some races don’t go your way but this is how our midfield works, it’s very tight and some small mistake can cost you some opportunities like myself in Brazil for example. I definitely lost a very big opportunity there which luckily Pierre, for the team, managed to take. Yeah, but these are the parts of our sport that we all know. I think this year I have been a lot more better driver than my last years in F1.
Q: Kimi, coming on to you: it’s been an up and down kind of season for Alfa Romeo. When you reflect on it, what has the team done well and where does it need to improve?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: I think it’s two different halves of the year where the first part of the year was pretty decent and most of the races and also we had some bad races around Barcelona, Monaco but it improved from there and then since the summer break, first we had good speed still but didn’t score any points as a team and then it’s been very difficult apart from the last couple of races where we at least had some speed to fight in the top ten. Only in the last one could we score good points with two cars but it’s a bit too late, looking more as a team halfway through but that’s how it goes. I think we learned some things; last race we brought a new front wing which helped a bit, so we’re still trying to improve so it’s all learning for next year and we try to do a better job as a team.
Q: Kimi, how much have you enjoyed this season, away from the pressure cooker environment of Ferrari?
KR: I don’t think the pressure was any different. Obviously we want to do well and like I said, it’s a shame we’ve kind of fallen down as a team but as a driver, I think everyone puts a lot of pressure on themselves and in the end the work that we do over the race weekend is not really any different whichever team you’re in, it’s just that the meetings are very similar between teams, the driving is there and the racing. Outside of racing it has been less busy so that’s nice part of it plus obviously the team is very close to where I live so I don’t need to travel to different countries, in many ways it helps, I have a bit more time to stay with the family. It’s a nice thing.
Q: And this is race number 312 for you, taking you ahead of Fernando Alonso to second on the all-time list of starts. Are you excited to come back next year and become the all-time most experienced…
KR: On that, not. It gives me nothing but I’m excited now to have another go and we can improve from this year and learn the lessons from what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done good and get a bit closer to the front but time will tell, it’s way too early. Once we start running the cars in the first race next year we will get a good idea.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Pierre, after your latest achievement in Brazil, do you personally feel you needed to go back to Toro Rosso and let some pressure off your shoulders in order to perform at a higher level?
PG: I don’t think so. l think in a way it was a positive chance to show myself as well the right things and the things I needed. Of course I’ve seen in both teams and I know what worked, what didn’t and then on both sides. It obviously was a good experience to see that but I don’t think it was needed to perform at a better level because I don’t feel that I’m performing better, I’m still driving the same way, approaching every weekend the same way. I always try to deliver the best performance I can and give 110 percent of myself every single weekend. It’s not like I feel I’ve changed anything but it was good to get the results in this second part of the season.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Carlos, your Dad is a very great champion. Could you share with us what he told you after your podium?
CS: Oof. He was probably happier than me. My Dad has been there with me since I’m three years old, travelling the world, travelling, sacrificing a lot of stuff for me and to become a successful driver, teaching me a lot of things. And once the podium happened, he knew all the effort that I had put into this year in the change of environment, going to live in UK etc, so he’s been very close to that change and yeah, as I said, I think he was happier than I was. Probably the only guy but yeah, happier.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro - Diario AS) Carlos, last season you were dropped by Red Bull and Renault but this season you have scored more points than both Renault drivers and you’re fighting in the championship against two Red Bull drivers. Which message do you think you’re sending this season and also is there any kind of feelings of revenge?
CS: No. Obviously I didn’t go into this season with willing revenge or anything like that. I have a lot of friends in Renault and in Red Bull who I still feel are happy for me to do well now at McLaren. I got a lot of messages from people, congratulating me and at the same time you go into a Formula One season just wanting to perform at your best, the same way I went into 2017, ’18 and this year I’ve just got the results on board and I’m just very proud of it.
Q: (Heikki Kulta -Turun Sanomat) Kimi, your first season without a podium since 2014. Which one was more difficult to go through, this season or the first season with Ferrari?
KR: I think the expectation at the start of the year is completely different in those two different teams. For sure this year has generally been much better than if you have such a difficult year in Ferrari as a team or as a driver.
Q: (Daria Panova – Motorlat) Next season [sic, 2021] we will have three-day race weekends; what do you think about it? Isn’t it too much to have so many activities in one day for you?
KR: It should happen next year, already. I mean today is an absolutely useless day. Honestly, we’re going to talk the same things, half of the things we talk at least on Sunday after the last race and tomorrow again. I think it will be a good step because people don’t need to be away that many days and there’s no cost and hotels and (indistinct) that much and all things will be better for the team… so stop wasting time.
CS: I have a bit of mixed feelings. Personally I like when Formula One goes to a place it makes a big impact so it becomes a week of having Formula One there. I think it still involves too much travelling and too much effort from the mechanics but I think this is a way of preparing for a bigger calendar which is something I’m totally against. I mean 22/21 races already feels too much. I think that last extra day that we take off doesn’t fully compensate those 22/25 races that we want to have in the future.
PG: I think everyone in this room is happy about it: more days at home, more days with the family. I think it’s needed, clearly I agree with what Kimi says, that not so much for us, because I would say we almost have the easy life, easiest life in the paddock but for all the guys – mechanics, engineers – well, you can see, talking with them, that to have a personal life in that world, working in that environment is really difficult. No, I think it’s a good thing but then after, I join the point of Carlos, that if we increase the number of races as well, it’s never going to balance it, so I think it’s a good step for ’21 but hopefully they don’t increase the number of races too much. That’s about it.
DK: Not much left to say but yeah, I agree with that, that more races will… it will become more races but we obviously need to shorten the weekend, which is good. Maybe more real car driving, also some more testing and less simulator for example, from my side, I think because we also need… we don’t need to forget that with the racing we also do a lot of simulator, a lot of PR events, so it becomes a very difficult calendar. Some guys have families within the team including myself and yeah, so I agree with what’s been said.
PART ONE: DRIVERS – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas)
Q: Charles, if we could start with you, please. We’re going to take a look back at the last race in Brazil, to begin with. Having had time to review the video footage, what’s you analysis of what happened in the incident between you and Sebastian?
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, we looked at it and I particularly looked at it, obviously, to try to understand how we could have made the things better. I think it was very unfortunate, first of all, because the touch was extremely small and it had a big drama after that, and that was a bit unlucky. But as a team we should probably try to be a bit less aggressive in between each other, for these things to not happen again. For the team it’s not good. For everyone supporting us it’s not good, so we will try for it to not happen again.
Q: What has happened since the Brazilian Grand Prix? Have you guys all met up in Maranello and had a chat?
CL: Yeah, I was there for the simulator, so on this occasion we also took the day to discuss a little bit and yeah, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen again.
Q: Seb is still on your Christmas card list?
Q: I was joking: Seb is still on your Christmas card list.
CL: Oh yeah!
Q: Charles, if we can look back at the season as a whole now. Your first with Ferrari. A lot of headlines that you can very satisfied with on a personal level – the wins, the seven poles, including being the youngest ever Ferrari pole sitter. But in terms of the team’s performance it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. How would you sum it up?
CL: It’s been a bit of a weird season. We started definitely not where we thought we would start after winter testing. Winter testing was very positive and we arrive at the first race and we have been struggling quite a lot. After that I think the progression was very good. Austin was a little bit weird too; we still don’t really understand why we were so off the pace. Brazil we were back to where we wanted. But overall we progressed quite a lot, which I think is the most important [thing]. Now I’m really looking forward to keeping this momentum for next year. It’s the first time in my single-seater where I stay in the same team from one year to another, which also should be an interesting challenge to develop a car. Let’s see, but overall I think it has been a positive season, apart from the first race, which has been very negative.
Q: Thank you Charles and good luck this weekend. Max, a question about this year for you too. It’s the team’s first season with Honda. Has it exceeded your expectations?
Max VERSTAPPEN: I don’t know. It’s been very promising and I think also we had some good results. For me, what was more important was reliability. That has been very strong throughout the whole year and also the progression we made with the engine itself. Yeah, that has all been going really well. But we always want more, so we will never be satisfied with what we are doing. It’s been good and I think it is a good, let’s say, basis for next year as well. We learned a lot throughout the whole year and I feel confident that we can have a positive to next season.
Q: Dominant win for you last time out in Brazil. Which team comes into the Abu Dhabi with the fastest car?
MV: I don’t know; we’ll find out. Still, looking at the season, you’d have to say Mercedes. We’ll see how the weekend will progress. It’s still also a lot about just finding the right set-up. I think the last few races the three teams, the three top teams have been really close to each other and I hope it’s going to be the same here.
Q: Thank you Max. Kevin, for your 2019 started strongly, but it tailed off quite dramatically. Why did it go wrong?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: I think there are a few different reasons, but it became very clear in Bahrain that we had a problem, which was really strange because in winter testing and in the first race the car was really good. Even in Bahrain in qualifying we qualified… I can’t remember, sixth of something, up there. Then in the race it just completely fell apart. So from there on it was a little bit of panic in the team. We couldn’t really focus on… kind of find the real root of the problem. We were looking a lot at tyres and blaming the problem on tyres issues whereas in fact it was a little more simple, I think, just aero issues, unstable aero and the whole platform just not being strong enough and consistent, stable enough. It’s a very, I would say, frustrating problem, because we have able to qualify well but in the race we just have not had any strength. That’s very frustrating as a driver, where you start in a position and then you’re just fighting to try to hang on to your position rather than attacking the guy in front. In that way it’s been pretty frustrating, but on the other hand, we are a very young team, it’s only our fourth year. Last year we got P5 in the Constructors’ Championship. I think that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think many teams have done that in their third year. So we’ve got to take some confidence from that as well and just build on the experience that we have had this year and the learning that we have done and then just come back stronger next year.
Q: You say it’s been frustrating for the drivers, but how have you progressed as a driver this year?
KM: Well, you always learn in any situation but especially when it’s difficult you learn different things and you just have to approach your problems in a different way and I think that gives you strength and some experience that you wouldn’t necessarily have gotten if you were just cruising and driving in a perfect car. So in many ways it’s also been positive, both for me, as a driver, and for the team as well.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Question for Charles. You say you are pretty sure that an incident like that won’t happen again, but how can you be so sure. Was blame apportioned by the team in the meetings you had? What guidelines and rules have been laid down about racing together in the future and are you even allowed to race together in the future?
CL: No, I think this doesn’t change. We will be able to race together. Obviously, Seb and myself are very competitive, we both want to win, but we also need to find the right compromise. We are also racing for the same team. As I said earlier, we need to be lees aggressive towards each other and give us a little bit more space for these things to not happen again. Of what I know, that’s the only thing that will happen for the next races, but maybe Mattia can go a bit further into that. Apart from that, I don’t think there is much we can do. Obviously, as I said, the consequences were huge in the last race but if you look back at the contact it was very, very small. It was unfortunate but we will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Charles, just to go back to what Andrew asked before. Did either driver do as was suggested and say “I was to blame for that”, you or Seb? And b, are there now sort of new arrangement that if you do have an accident for example that you might be fined or banned or sacked or is it just sort of idle hope?
CL: On the second question there’s been nothing said on that. We called with Seb and we tried to understand both of our situations. I think probably Seb shouldn’t have gone to the left and he knows it and I probably could have done a better job of avoiding him going to the left. So yeah, both of us have a bit of responsibility, but the most important thing is that everything is clear with Seb and we move forward.
Q: (Walter Koster – Saarbrücker Zeitung) Charles, before I start my question, I have to remind you of high praises – no doubt you have had more good races than bad ones, but if we stick to the less good races with bad luck and mishaps, such as Baku, where the Ferrari hit the barriers, in Bahrain where you lost the lead due to an engine problem, in Austria where you were caught by Max and Monaco, your first home race, was very disappointing with last place and probably the low point, in Hockenheim, it was a mistake of the driver and last in Brazil, the finish after a hard battle with your team-mate. Now, my question to the pop star of Formula 1: what was your best race among your worst races? Can you give us, please, a ranking regarding your five not so good races, starting with the worst? I’m a polite person or man, please excuse this question, but I still hope for an answer.
CL: That was a long question. Congratulations. Kevin, you can start.
KM: I’m in a trance.
MV: Well [Charles] you are the pop star, so first of all, can you sing?
CL: Yeah, I can sing. I won’t sing now, but I can sing. I don’t know…
MV: I lost you after a few sentences.
KM: You have to rank your five worst races.
CL: Worst races? Five worst? OK, that was a simple question. So…
Q: (Walter Koster – Saarbrücker Zeitung) What was the best race among the worst?
CL: So the top five best and the top five worst?
KM: Take your time.
MV: We’ve got a lot time.
Q: Your five worst races, please?
MV: Are we going to make it more complicated? Like, this year or in his career?
CL: My worst race this year was probably Brazil, second one Monaco, third one… Third one? That’s two. That’s good. No?
KM: He’s had a good question.
CL: That was a question only for me? OK, thank you!
Q: Unless, Max, you’d like to offer your worst of the season, or Kevin?
MV: Er, no – save the time.
Q: (Joost Nederpelt - NU.NL) Question to all drivers. If you were the director of the Drive to Survive documentary on Netflix, what moment of the season would you definitely put in?
KM: I don’t know. I don’t know what… I have a thing in mind but we’ll see if it’s made it into it. It’s a surprise. Watching the next Netflix season two and you’ll find out.
Q: Nothing else you can offer us now?
KM: No, it hasn’t been that exciting from our side, so…
Q: What bit of Hockeheim exactly?
MV: I think they were following Mercedes closely in Hockenheim? I would like to see that episode. It’s a bit of fun, right? I mean, they can laugh about it as well: they still won the Championship, so a bit of drama involved in the series is good. If I would be the director – because you have to create the hits.
CL: yeah… I would not choose the last race but probably the Monza victory is the one I would like to see on the documentary.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia EFE) Question both for Charles and Max. I can imagine you being young and very talented drivers, you’re focussing on winning your first world title but do you every focus yourself like looking at Lewis, maybe winning six?
MV: I was thinking about ten. No. You don’t need to think like that. It just happens or doesn’t. It’s 50:50. You just try to do the best you can, personally. You also need a bit of luck. You need to get into the right car at the right time and you need a dominant team as well for a few more years in a row. At least… it depends on how long your career is lasting. No, personally I don’t think about it too much because, as I’ve just said, it happens or it doesn’t. At the end of the day, I think already winning one title would be a great achievement.
CL: Yeah, I personally don’t think about it too much. I believe that with work, anything is achievable, so I mostly think about how I can do my job in the proper way. Then, of course, the choice you make in a career are very important. It not only depends on yourself but it also depends on luck but I’m mostly focussing on work more than thinking about the title.
Q: Kevin, I feel we should ask you as well.
KM: I need to try to win a race first and then I can start thinking about championships after that. So, y’know… the ambition has always been there. That’s always been the dream since I was a little kid: to be Formula 1 World Champion and y’know, that ambition and that dream is still there but obviously I’m in a slightly different position to those two guys.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportswereld) Two questions for Max. What’s the importance of the third place in the Drivers’ Championships, and again, you’re on the long list for Dutch sportsman of the year election, together with six cyclists, three speed-skaters, a darts player, a world champion in chequers, a windsurfer, judoka, and the Champions’ League winner Virgil van Dijk, so I presume you’re going to win this one – what do you think?
MV: First one, I think it’s always nicer than finishing fourth or fifth – but yeah, looking back in 20 years’ time and seeing that you were third in the Championship wouldn’t really make me very happy. I think we’re all here to win and, of course, fight for the title. So yeah, I think it would be nice after this weekend to be third but in 20 years’ time, I don’t think it will do much. And the second one, honestly, yeah, I have my own opinion about being nominated but I prefer not to comment on it.
Q: Charles, can we get your thoughts on third place in the Championship?
CL: It’s always nice to finish a season on the podium. I’ll give it all. Now, 11 points are quite a bit to recover in one race, but we’ll give it all and it will be a nice thing to finish my first season with Ferrari on the podium – but yeah, we’ll see what will happen.
Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – Volksrant) Question for Max, you’re nearing the end of your fourth season at Red Bull. Regarding your dominant win in Brazil, and you’re fighting for pole positions now, do you believe you’re closer to having a Championship-winning car more than ever at the team right now?
MV: Yeah. I think we do. Also, looking at the plans for next year – but of course you still have to wait and see what the others come up with. But we are of course… we want to fight for the title, so we’re going to give it everything we have to be competitive from the start next year.
Q: (Milan Klemenc – Avtomanija) I have one question for all three: what are expectations for next year. We know new tyres 2020. I know you were interested after the last race. What’s your opinion?
KM: I don’t even think the tyres have been chosen yet, have they? And then the aero is the same. So, on personal side, I’m hoping we will get a better car – but in terms of regulations and the racing itself, I don’t see it changing too much. It’s more 2021 I’m looking forward to: to see how that performs.
Max, do you see it changing much next year?
MV: Well, I hope we can fight for the title. That’s it.
CL: Yeah, not much. I think we’ve been working pretty well, as I was mentioning earlier, with the car, so hopefully we can continue with the progression and start from a better place, the season, to be fighting for the title.