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.