DRIVERS – Romain GROSJEAN (Haas), Daniel RICCIARDO (Renault), Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes), Sergio PÉREZ (Racing Point), Robert KUBICA (Williams)
Q: Robert, if we could start with you, please. You finished second here in 2009. Could you just give us your thoughts on being back at Interlagos and your hopes for the weekend ahead?
Robert KUBICA: Yeah, it has been a long time ago actually. It is difficult to say about expectations, you know. We have been struggling all year, so… although 2009 it has been very surprising for me to finish on the podium as it wasn’t a great year with BMW, but I would say it’s nearly impossible this time that we will be able to fight for anything higher than what we have been doing all year. Although, Interlagos is a bit special and anything can happen, but you have to have the pace. The weather is playing quite an important role. There have been many races, thrilling let’s say races here around this track due to the weather but you have to have pace and that is what we are lacking all year.
Q: You say you’ve been lacking that all year but we’re now at race 20 of 21, when you look at the bigger picture can you just reflect on your comeback season for us?
RK: Well, it’s definitely not the easiest season and not the season we were hoping for. I think every member of Williams is not happy with what we have seen this year. The team is working hard but it is not an easy season. There are many things which we could probably handle better. But there are also things which I think that although the season has been difficult we have handled in a good way. I think the guys on track always did a very good job with what we have, especially in the beginning of the season it wasn’t easy and the group stayed strong, united and very, very positive, which is good to see in such a difficult period. But, you know, it’s the kind of situation where the people on track they cannot make your car going one second faster. They can make you car going slower, but not faster. And definitely we need to improve what we get, the pace of the car, and then everything will become easier. And also for the guys on track the work will be more easier; more fun. Of course this will not happen with me, as I’m leaving Williams, but I hope this team will improve their situation for the future, especially because the guys they deserve it. They are really good people and they are working hard, so I hope good times, or better times, will arrive soon for Williams.
Q: And Robert, what about your own performance this year behind the wheel?
RK: I think the general picture is massively hidden by what we went through this season and many things did not help and actually did influence in a negative way what I was able to do. But, you know, coming back to a competition sport, as Formula 1 is, on the highest level of motorsport, after a long time and with my limitations a lot of people did not even think I would be able to race. I heard many stories that in Turn 1 that will not be able to react to situations and probably the opening lap is one of the things, which I managed well this season. I heard rumours that I would not be able to race in Monaco, and probably Monaco was one of my best drives during this year, although I was still far behind. But feeling-wise it was positive. I’m leaving this season, of course not happy with the general performance, but pretty happy with how my body, my mind and my brain reacted to the difficult challenge I had this year.
Q: Thank you Robert and good luck this weekend. Romain, you haven’t finished in the points since Germany. Can you just describe how difficult the season half of the year has been for you and the team?
Romain GROSJEAN: Yeah, good morning all. Well, yes, it’s been a rough season generally. We had a very promising winter testing and got to Australia and things were looking good until the pit stop and that pit stop was kind of a bad curse for the whole season and then we had good quali pace and race pace was more difficult. And yeah, I think we are doing the best we can and honestly on-track and off-track the boys are working very, very hard. And honestly there is not much to say about what we could do better with what we have got but as Robert mentioned I think we’re in a little bit the same position at the minute. The car is just not good enough and everything we do is not reflected on track. Germany, it was good to be in the points. It was a bit of a crazy race and the idea was to finish the race and we did and that was positive but yeah more recently it has been complicated to fight also for the points, but again not the fault of the team – the work is good; it’s just the car we have is not good enough to fight for good points. So I guess the focus was very early on into 2020 and make sure that next year we get a better tool to work with.
Q: So if this year’s car isn’t good enough, what does the team need to do to ensure it doesn’t have a repeat of 2019 next season?
RG: I think that’s a good question for Guenther. I think the team knows what needs to be done. There have been a lot of discussions; there has been a lot of, how can I say, I don’t find the word in English, but just the way we operate, the race team, it’s great and many races I think we perform better than we should. You know, being in the top 10 in Russia, in qualifying in Suzuka, not far from the top 10 in America, in quali it just shows that we are outperforming when we can, on new tyres. The race always unfortunately brings back the truth. I know that Guenther has been working very hard with all the boys, our chief engineer, Ayao Komatsu, and make sure that we react well for next year. I think everyone sees that – our partners, like Richard Mille just announced that they are going to carry on with us for one year, so everyone believes that the team is going to do good this year.
Q: Would you say that this is your most frustrating season in Formula 1?
RG: It’s been a tough season and obviously when you come to the race and you know that the chances of fighting for a good position is hard, then it’s not easy. But I’ve know that in my career. 2013 was a really good season and then 2014 was very difficult and we didn’t have a good car but then the team, at the time, in Enstone reacted well and 2015 was good again. It’s the same thing as Haas – 2016 was a good start, 2017 a bit more complicated and 2018 really good. So, I’ve got confidence that we can bounce back. Yes, it’s frustrating and I must be a bit crazy, because I’m always looking forward to come to a race and very happy to be in Brazil. Maybe on Sunday when we’ve done 71 laps and we haven’t been able to challenge it’s a bit of a different feeling but it doesn’t matter, we’ll still be happy to go to the next one.
Q: Thanks Romain and good luck this week. Sergio, you’ve scored in six of the last seven races. At the summer break you set the team the target of having the fourth fastest car at the end of the season. How close to that target have you got?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, I don’t think we have achieved what we wanted this year. It’s been a disappointing season in a way. We knew it was not going to be great since the beginning but we kind of expected to be a bit more competitive by now. I think in the second half of the season we’ve been strong, in different circuits, different places, which is always positive. I think McLaren, in that midfield, has been very consistent, very strong, but I think we have been in the mix with all the others and we’ve scored a good amount of points since the summer break, so I think there are a lot positives to take, but the general picture is, yeah, it’s not where we want to be.
Q: You haven’t reached Q3 since the Belgian Grand Prix. How much has the car’s lack of qualifying pace compromised your races?
SP: Yeah, it does. I don’t think we have quite the pace in quali but then come race day we seem to be on the stronger side. Good strategy also from the team. I think the team has been tremendous in that regard. They are always maximizing the maximum, especially in the last couple of races – outsmarting other teams with the strategies, with everything we possibly can. So hopefully we can keep going. There is still tomorrow and a lot to play for. We are in a big battle in the Constructors’ with Toro Rosso at the moment, so hopefully we can finish ahead.
Q: Just one point the gap to Toro Rosso, but you are only 18 behind Renault. Do you have enough in your armoury to challenge Renault for P5?
SP: Well, it’s not over until it’s over, so we’ll try our best!
Q: A knowing nod from Daniel Ricciardo. Sergio, thanks for that. So, Daniel, Renault has hit a bit of form. You’ve scored points in the last couple of races and drove a particularly strong race in Austin. Have you found some consistency in the car?
Daniel RICCIARDO: I think so. Like, on Sundays it certainly seems to show a bit more now. The qualifying – we’ve still had a good run of Q3s but we’re not always there, but comparing to, as Sergio says, comparing to McLaren who have been our midfield target this year after their form, it seems like qualifying most weekends they’ve still got a good buffer but come race day we are able to, if not beat them, then get much closer to their pace. We are starting to get some consistency with the car, which is good. I think as well for me, naturally, the more races I do and the more familiar I am with the car, the more I start, just myself, to get consistent; make fewer errors and this and that. But yeah, it’s been a good run of races for sure. What was it, sixth in Austin? It’s like sixth is a big deal and that was quite exciting. Yeah, we’re not spraying champagne on the podium but there is still a lot of satisfaction to take from a sixth place for us.
Q: You say a good run of races, but what about the season as whole? How do you reflect on year one with Renault? Because there were some people who questioned your move from Red Bull to Renault.
DR: Yes. I knew they would and I knew all this was going to come but I was very, I guess open-minded for the season. Firstly, I was excited to have a fresh start and a change. I’ve made the mistake in the past of setting to high an expectation and left disappointed, so I more came into the season excited for something new and a new challenge. I didn’t really expect the world from this season. I expect a lot from myself but I knew it would take time to get the team to where we want it to go. We’re still not there but I think in the second half of the season we have had a bit more consistency. That’s been more positive. So looking towards what we are really trying to achieve next year it looks better. We’ll start to expect more – not only from myself but also from the team come 2020. But I think we have learned a lot. Personally I have. The results haven always been what we wanted but I definitely don’t see it being a year to forget or anything like that, far from it.
Q: So what are you really trying to achieve in 2020?
DR: Champagne. I mean really, when I signed with the team, 2020 was the target to finish on the podium, at least once. That’s really the target. Yeah, we’re still a little bit away from that but McLaren are proof of the pudding that you can really make a big difference in one season, so I think with a strong off-season it’s not impossible for us to have a chance to fight for that. I think ultimately whether it’s champagne or not we want to closer to the top three and actually be in the fight with those three teams more consistently next year.
Q: Valtteri, there have been a few celebrations in the UK since the last race, talking about Mercedes’ celebrations obviously, how proud are you of your role in the team’s success this year?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, we had nice celebrations at the factory last week. Actually, when you go there and see all the people and all the smiles and all that you actually realise what we’ve done together as a team. So, that’s always a very, very nice moment, with so much good energy and happiness. So, for sure it means a lot to me, to be part of this team, breaking records, being one of the team members of many who make it possible. And yes, it’s been a much better season from my side than last year, so it’s been nice to contribute properly to the achievements we’ve got as a team. So… yeah. One of the many proud team-members, for sure.
Q: You say it’s been a better season than last year. Would you say this has been your best season in Formula 1 from a driving point of view?
VB: I believe if I look at it overall, the season yes, it’s been my best so far in Formula 1 but still not a season that I’m aiming for. Still need a bit more consistency, fewer mistakes but the thing that gives me good feeling and confidence for the future is now actually really starting to see the work we’ve been doing with the engineers and what I’ve been doing with myself and driving-wise, and being really able to target many of the weaknesses I’ve had, and been able to improve my pace in different circumstances quite a lot. So that’s very satisfying to see and makes you want more.
Q: And now that both championships have been sealed and you’re guaranteed second place in the Championship, can we expect a change in approach from you coming into this weekend or Abu Dhabi?
VB: I don’t think so. I think it’s the same approach. There’s still two opportunities to win a race and that should be the only goal for me. There’s very positive momentum for me and I want to keep that going – and then continue from there next year. So, look forward to the last two ones.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to all drivers. What kind of memories do you keep from Ayrton Senna and what kind of legacy do you think he left to Formula 1?
RG: Ayrton has been incredible for the sport. He’s been an icon in Formula 1. I started watching Formula 1, the last few years of Ayrton, fight with Alain Prost. And obviously being French, you wanted to support Alain – but also you couldn’t not support Ayrton, so it was a bit of a hard decision to pick up which one I wanted to support the most. But yeah, Ayrton has been an incredible driver. 25 years later we’re still remembering him as if it were yesterday. We still know what you were doing that day – if you were born – in May ’94. It’s a big, big name in the history of Formula One.
DR: He’s certainly left a legacy bigger than anyone else really, I think, in terms of the name is still so common 25 years on. Our hotel is – and I know we’re in Brazil – but still it’s filled with Senna memorabilia, artwork. They still hold him very close to their heart and it’s nice to see that. And for me as a driver, and as a kid watching him, and I guess following him, my admiration was his ability to be so loved off track and have, not only Brazil but nearly the whole world behind him, but then on track he was as ruthless as they came, y’know? That competitor in him was amazing but then to have that softness off the track. I would say that was pretty admirable.
VB: For sure he left a massive mark and legacy. Time goes pretty quickly but his memory is not getting any weaker, for sure, so he’s always going to be on everyone’s minds. For sure here in Brazil, massively, but also all around the world. I think his career, he’s motivated so many young kids, like me and I think all of us, to be better racing drivers. I’m really out of words, he just left a massive mark and it will always continue like that.
SP: A tremendous character out of the car. What he did for his country, how proud he was. You can see these days how much they still love him. Not just in Brazil, all around the world, and what he did on track was spectacular. Those races where him, purely as a racing driver, made all the difference. I’ve never seen something like that in my career. He definitely left a big mark in the sport and he’s a big hero for all the generations. Especially our generation.
RK: Yeah, I think as everyone’s said, big name, big historical name. I think it’s impressive that, after 25 years since he passed away, it says everything that we are still talking about his human aspect. We concentrate a lot about the driver but I think he was really a hero of humanity, and that’s why he is still loved and has such respect after 25 years.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action / Speed Sport) Robert, where do things stand now regarding you finalising plans for next year?
RK: They stand pretty well, I would say. Of course, time is running and the clock is going ahead but I’m pretty confident things are looking good. Of course, every week something is happening, in positive and negatives, but it’s moving. So, I’m pretty relaxed and working, as I always said, since Singapore when I was asked. For me, racing is something which I’m looking forward and working on this and probably also combining different programmes.
Q: (Emerson Furkim – Car Magazine) Question to all drivers. With the new regulations for the 2021 season. All the teams have limited budget, they spend less money than they used to. Do you think this is going to be indeed the key point to make Formula 1 more competitive; to bring more teams and driver to fight for the championship?
VB: I think that is one of the good things for the regulations. I think having a bit less of a difference between the budgets of the different teams… obviously there will still budget differences between some teams, but less than in the past. I think there’s lots of other good things as well, that look really interesting with the new regs. If actually, physically, the cars will behave aerodynamically as it says on paper, I think the racing is going to be very close, very tough. Definitively closer between the teams and, also, with quite a few restrictions on the aero side with the design of the cars. Already from that, we’re going see less of the big differences between performance. I think there are lots of good things that I really look forward to finding out. And then eventually getting to drive the car and seeing how it feels and how the racing is going to be. Obviously we’ll find out but I think those are good steps in the right direction and I really hope it will encourage some new teams to arrive in Formula 1, because I always think the more cars we can have on the grid, the more fun we’re going to have racing, so that should be nice.
DR: Yeah, I really agree with everything Valtteri said. The last point he touched on is an important one. It reminded me of 2008, we raced together the first race of the season in Spa. I think there was 48 cars, or something, and the grid only held 42 so not everyone qualified. But to have a grid so big and full of cars and competitors, that in itself was really exciting. If these changes do encourage more cars, more teams to get on the grid, not only does it give more opportunity to other drivers to get a seat in Formula One but yeah, the more competition in the field and as a spectacle, I think that’s pretty cool. Yeah, hopefully it has positive change in many ways.
RG: Yeah, I guess I’m the same line. It’s a first step in a good direction. Is it going to be enough or not? Only the track and the 2021 season will say. I guess some teams wanted less budget cap, some teams wanted a stronger budget cap. I think maybe 2021 is not going to be the first season to judge, because 2020 is where you’re going to develop the car, but 2022 and onwards, let’s see what it brings. I think it can only be positive. As I said, I believe it’s a first step and then maybe fine-tuning can be made. But generally, yes, it’s good and if we can get more people involved in Formula One and more teams and so on, it just would be better. Also to bring the young drivers in and have more competition, and not always seeing the same one winning. Not that they’re complaining about it – but we do a little bit.
SP: Always when there’s a big regulation change it always tends to change a lot the team order, in terms of competition. So that can be very positive for the sport. I think on paper it’s looking a lot more competitive. It’s looking like the field can be very tight and competitive and it’s something I’m looking extremely forward to. When you look at the midfield – how competitive and fun it is to come to a race and you don’t know who is going to come out on top – it’s a feeling that I’m missing a lot. In the whole field, hopefully by 2021 it can be there.
RK: Yeah. I think we have to split two things. One is closer racing, or the cars which opens up better racing. I think this is looking promising and I hope really Liberty and the FIA can achieve it, what they show us. I think this will definitely make races more exciting for drivers – but also for the fans. Regarding different teams winning. I have my opinion, which often I think we’ve forgotten about talent of the people who are working within the teams. It’s true that money helps but the talent makes the difference. I hope it will put teams closer together – but I have some doubts about it. As we have seen in Formula 1, there has always been domination, or years where one team was winning – and we also see it in Formula 2, Formula 3: the cars are the same but in the end the talent of the people who are operating the cars is even more powerful. We will have to wait and see – but definitely if the cars will open up better racing, this will be something big and everybody is looking forward to this.
Do you think the driver salaries should have been included in the budget cap?
RG: Of course!
DR: What do you think? Let’s throw it back at you?
Q: Do I think they should have been? Yes! I think they should have been. What do you think?
DR: I haven’t thought that far ahead – 2021. What’s going to happen tomorrow?
Q: (Julien Biliotte – AutoHebdo) Valtteri, you always say that you don’t want to play mind games and cross the yellow line when fighting for the title, but when you look at what Nico Rosberg managed to do in 2016 against Lewis by getting under his skin, would you be ready to be more aggressive or political when it comes to racing your teammate?
VB: Very honest: I’m already slightly bored about that question because every driver is individual. I’m me. I’m not Nico. For sure, I always have plans, finding the different ways how I want to achieve my goal which is ultimately the championship and that obviously requires me to beat my teammate but also many other drivers. I’ve always preferred to do the talking on track and if I can keep up my performances and focus all my energy that I have into my own performance I think that’s going to be the best bet for me. If I start wasting energy elsewhere, it might take my mind off the driving and what really matters, and if I can then perform at the level I want to; normally that tends to upset the other side of the garage a little bit and I know that being on the other side as well, it can lead you to mistakes and so on. I have a plan for next year and I’m not really willing to share it so we will find out.
Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Prezeglad Sportowi) Question to Romain, Daniel and Valtteri, it seems that amongst you guys only Racing Point and Williams are committed to staying in Formula One past 2020, so my question is, are you worried about the future of Formula One and what you will do if one of your teams or all of them quit?
RG: Well, if three of the teams leave, then I guess we’re going to play petanque or boules or bowls or whatever it’s called in Monaco. No, I honestly hope that in 2021… I think 2021 is a good step, good direction and I’m hoping that the teams will stay and we’re more on the positive side, not thinking what about if they leave but can we get more teams joining Formula One. Let’s be positive and think that it’s actually going to attract more people.
DR: Yep, I’m at the positive end of the spectrum. I have faith that everyone will continue in good spirits and keep things going. I won’t think about if not. I like singing but I’m not good enough to make it as a career so yeah, I’ll be struggling.
VB: Yeah, I’m on the positive side as well. I feel the change is in the right direction, as I said before, so I’m not too worried about the future of Formula One at the moment. Obviously we never know and you never know the case of individual teams but if something happens, then you always need to find something else but I’m pretty relaxed and pretty positive about the future.
Q: (Andreas Lopez – Motorlat.com) Daniel, what expectations do you have for these last two races?
DR: I think to keep the momentum going. Until we finally had a few races in a row with good results… you know that was one of the challenging things this year for us. One weekend would go good and we’re ready to go the next weekend and then we don’t get the result that we think we should have got - sometimes through some misfortune, other times maybe we didn’t read the situation as well but yeah, I think now we have some momentum and I think more importantly… I think hopefully… I don’t want to say our position in the championship is secured but we look OK to hold onto the fifth (place) but I think more importantly to bring that momentum through the winter for the factory, for the team who’s going to then put the effort in to get the car on track next year. I think finishing strong has more of an effect than on that part of the championship than the actual position itself for this year, if you know what I mean, so for me personally, to keep going, I prefer finishing sixth than twelfth so I’m going to try and keep finishing well in the points and see where it gets us after Abu Dhabi but as I said, more importantly for everyone to just finish the season with their chin up and a spring in their step and happy to work through the winter with a positive mindset that the following season’s going to be better.
Q: (Stewart Bell – Maxim, Australia) Obviously Formula One is talking to Rio, potentially for 2021. What does it mean for you to race here at Interlagos and the quality as a race venue?
RK: I know very little about Rio, I have never ever been there. I think opening up new tracks is something which all drivers look forward to, new challenges and driving on new tracks. Although it’s a short lap here, I still enjoy driving around here and the races have always been quite exciting here for whatever reason. I have no really big thoughts about (Rio).
SP: I’m always happy for new venues, especially if it can be a good circuit where the racing can be good and interesting. As Robert says, here, for any reasons the Sundays are normally very entertaining and always a lot of things tend to happen. Quite open to it and if that happens, then I guess it can be a good venue for Formula One as well.
VB: I think this is a very iconic track. It’s been a part of Formula One for a long time, very legendary races so for sure it would be a shame not race here again but at the same time, at least there would still be a race in Brazil which I think should be a part of the Formula One calendar with all the support and all the passion the fans have for the sport here. Then, on the other hand, a new track would be welcome as well but it would be a shame to leave Interlagos.
DR: I think going to Rio would be cool enough. I’ve never been and a chance to see another part of the world and yeah, I guess to race in another city. I think the important thing is that Brazil keeps a Grand Prix. I think it has such a strong history in the sport so yes, for the locals here it might be a bit upsetting but I think globally for Brazil just to still hold a race I think that holds enough power and Rio is a massive city – never been, but I’ve heard it’s a massive city, I think everyone knows that, and I’d like to check it out and yeah, new challenge, new circuit, that could be fun so I wouldn’t be against it.
RG: Yeah, Interlagos is one of my favourite circuits so I would greatly miss it if we don’t come here any more but you never know what Rio’s going to look like so why not? I guess, as the guys say, the key is that we still come to Brazil.
Q: (Carlos Costa – motorsport.com) Continuing on the topic of the Brazilian Grand Prix, I would like you to rank Interlagos in comparison with other tracks on the calendar that we have in F1?
RG: It’s in the top three. I love it. Suzuka, Spa and Interlagos.
DR: I like it. It’s a lot like my local track in Perth (Barbagallo). I wish it had more corners. It’s a bit short so the lap’s over very quickly. I would have loved an extension – I don’t know if they’ve got the room – but a few more corners would have made it a bit more exciting. I think to have a real high-speed corner; I think that’s what the circuit misses. I think it’s got a lot of technical low speed – turn one, two is fun but even Turn 6, the right hander, it’s actually not that fast so I wouldn’t even classify that as a high speed corner. For me that’s something which it misses is a corner where you can really – I don’t want to say make the difference – but a bit more of a challenging corner because the rest are kind of mostly – well, they’re not all hairpins but anyway… So yeah, it’s somewhere in there.
RG: So what’s the final ranking, then?
DR: It’s alright.
VB: I like the track. Obviously it is short but it makes it super close in qualifying and always makes good races. I think also the local support here makes it a really unique Grand Prix: always a place to look forward to come to race again. It’s difficult to say the exact position on my list but definitely on the better side of the top ten. It’s good fun; I enjoy it.
Q: Daniel, would you say top ten?
RG: Top twenty, he says.
SP: Yeah, it’s a cool track, very small. I would like it to be a bit longer, more corners, the lap is very short. There was a year when Kimi tried an extension of the track – somewhere else! I don’t know that part of the circuit but it’s definitely very enjoyable and the racing tends to be very good. The fans are very enthusiastic so it’s a great place. Top five. Top ten! We have too many good circuits.
DR: Yeah, that’s true.
RK: I think it’s a bit unfair to rank it. I think it’s a good track and good racing and as the guys have said, it’s short but it’s still challenging and it’s good. It’s exactly the same as it was when I was here for the first time in 2001, not a lot of people remember that I was racing here when I was 16. It’s exactly the same, apart from some of the run-off areas but maybe that’s why we still like it because modern tracks sometimes they are too perfect and here is still quite challenging. Ranking? Politically, top ten.