Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Solberg keen to go racing at the Circuit of the Americas.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
FIA World Champion, Petter Solberg is raring to go racing on American soil. 

Solberg attended the official launch at the Circuit of the Americas early this year, and had the chance of driving the circuit.  

“I was out there for the launch earlier this year and the track looked really good," said Solberg. "It’s going to be a fast one, which is what the drivers really like and it looked like a real challenge with some interesting corners – hopefully some good places to overtake."

The Circuit of the Americas track is 806m in length, with a mix of 63% asphalt and 37% gravel.

Petter and son Oliver [Solberg] will be visiting Houston to see NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, ahead of the World RX weekend. 

The Norwegian is ready to go racing on the new track in Texas. “There’s always something special about a new track and a new venue, but being there at the first time for the championship and the team to compete in America will be a nice experience," says Solberg. 

"As well as the track layout, I think we should be in for a good atmosphere with the fans as well – it’s nice to be there to introduce America to World Rallycross."

GRX Taneco targets the final at the World RX of America

PHOTO CREDIT: GRX Taneco.
GRX Taneco are feeling positive about their achievements heading into the final stages of the World RX season. This is the first time that the Hyundai i20 Supercars have been entered for a full season while still undergoing development. 

The team has qualified for the semi-finals each time, and are constantly improving, having claimed a place in the final on three occasions and clinched a worthy fourth place in Latvia. 

The World RX of USA is a new step on the learning curve for the Finnish team. Held at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, the tenth round of the season is a highlight on the calendar, and all competitors will have set the bar high. 

“This is a brand new race for all of us, so we’re all on an equal footing. It is also set to be a tough race for the drivers and their cars," said Grönholm. "The circuit is a short 812 metres so we can expect it to be very closely fought with some fierce tussles."

The narrow track is 60% asphalt and 40% dirt, and covers just 812 metres. Temperatures are expected to be high, adding to the difficulty for the drivers and the cars in a race where resilience and consistency will be key to success.  

“The American race is a new challenge for all of us. It’s a very short, narrow, slippery track. Temperatures are going to be high so it’s going to be a very demanding weekend," said Timerzyanov.

Fourth in the Latvian round, Niclas Grönholm is keener than ever to make it onto the podium at the World RX of America. "It promises to be a thrilling weekend and after our performance in Latvia, we feel confident and raring to go," the Finn says. "We’re aiming for another place in the final.”

Timur Timerzyanov reached the semis in Latvia and currently sits ninth in the standings. He is hoping to bag a place in the final this weekend.

"After the contact in the semi-final in Latvia, there was quite a bit of damage to the #7 and the team has been working flat out to get the car ready on time," says Timerzyanov. :"So that’s one more reason to give it our all and reap the rewards from our efforts.”

Ekström believes that COTA should suit their EKS Audi Supercar.

PHOTO CREDIT: Audi Sport
This weekend, EKS Audi Sport heads to Austin (Texas) for the first FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX) round in the United States.

Mattias Ekström knows the Circuit of the Americas primarily as a race track for Formula One and MotoGP events. “So far, I’ve only seen the rallycross track during a Facebook Live Session of the American championship. It appears to be very compact and should suit our small car well. In addition, there seem to be a number of cool jumps,” says Ekström.

In 2010, Ekström raced as a guest in the American NASCAR series twice. Last weekend, he competed in the Nitro World Games in Salt Lake City, in where took second place.

His teammate, Andreas Bakkerud, has contested a rallycross race at the Circuit of the Americas before. “That was in 2014, as part of the X Games,” says Bakkerud. “It was extremely hot and we had unusually high grip at the start. For all the drivers and teams, developing the best strategy at the start will be a new challenge. I’m looking forward to new fans and a couple of barbecue steaks – after all, Texas is famous for them.”

The Circuit of The Americas, World RX circuit is the shortest on the calendar with a length of 812 meters is located in the stadium area of the Formula One circuit between Turns 12 and 15, and features a spectacular jump. 

Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud intend to defend positions two and three in the drivers’ world championship at Austin.

PREVIEW: World RX to break new ground at the Circuit of The Americas.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
The FIA World Rallycross Championship will break new ground this weekend, with Texas’ Circuit of The Americas set to host the first-ever World RX of USA.

Fifteen permanent competitors will take to the track, going door-to-door around the new permanent rallycross circuit that incorporates part of COTA’s Formula 1 layout. The field is headed by defending World Champion Johan Kristoffersson, who will clinch his second consecutive Drivers’ title this weekend should he score 17 points or more.

In World RX, however, nothing can ever be taken for granted, with myriad twists, turns and unexpected dramas all part-and-parcel of what is renowned as one of the world’s most thrilling championships.

Whilst PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Kristoffersson has unquestionably been the class of the field this year, his rivals – a number of them World Champions in other high-profile series – are redoubling their efforts to halt his charge.

Just six points blanket second to fifth in the classification after nine of the 12 rounds, and the drivers filling those spots – Mattias Ekstrom, Sebastien Loeb, Andreas Bakkerud and Petter Solberg – are some of the biggest names in international motorsport.

EKS Audi Sport’s Ekstrom and Team Peugeot Total ace Loeb arrive in the USA buoyed by top three finishes last time out in Latvia, and both have title-winning pedigree in other high-profile series. Ekstrom has made the final in every round bar one this season – meaning the Swede is always a threat – while Loeb has tallied six podiums from nine starts this year, a statistic beaten only by Kristoffersson.

Bakkerud (EKS Audi Sport) and Solberg (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) are guaranteed crowd-pleasers, big personalities and famous rivalry invariably amongst the highlights of World RX events. Both are more than capable of winning – with 16 prior victories between them – and both will be fired-up to break their 2018 duck and etch their name in history as the very first winner of World RX of USA.

“It’s going to be a fast one, which is what us drivers really like and it looked like a real challenge with some interesting corners – hopefully some good places to overtake," said Solberg. "There’s always something special about a new track and a new venue, but being the first time for the championship and the team to compete in America will be a great experience. As well as the track layout, I think we should be in for a good atmosphere with the fans as well.”

Timmy Hansen sits sixth in the sister Team Peugeot Total 208 WRX, but a strong result at COTA would vault the Swede firmly into the thick of the second-place scrap, which is set to run right to the end of the campaign.

Beyond the top six in the standings, Niclas Gronholm has been quietly impressive behind the wheel of GRX Taneco Team’s Hyundai i20, currently leading the non-manufacturer battle in seventh position overall. The young Finn has reached the final on three occasions already this season, and came within barely half-a-second of mounting the podium in Riga – motivation to go at least one spot better in the ‘Lone Star State’.

Kevin Hansen in a third Peugeot 208 WRX is next up, the young Swede rivalling his more experienced team-mates on occasion as he continues to prove himself on the World Championship stage, while former Euro RX Supercar Champion Timur Timerzyanov in the second Hyundai can never be ruled out of springing a surprise.

GC Kompetition will field owner/driver Guerlain Chicherit, as 2017 Euro RX Supercar Champion Anton Marklund rejoins the World Championship fray in the sister Renault Megane RS RX, more than three months on from his last appearance. The Swede narrowly pipped Cyril Raymond to the runner-up laurels in the 2018 Euro RX tussle in Latvia, and will be keen to stake his claim to a full-time return to the highest level.

Swedish duo Robin Larsson and Kevin Eriksson are eager to bounce back from a disappointing outing in Riga in Olsbergs MSE’s brace of Ford Fiestas, while Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Gregoire Demoustier (Sebastien Loeb Racing) complete the entries.

ENTRY LIST PROVIDED by FIA World Rallycross Media

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Kristoffersson re-writes the history books in Latvia.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
Super Swede Kristoffersson has re-written the history books having beaten his own record for the number of victories in a year. The defending World RX champion has claimed eight wins from nine races. 


The Swede's latest victory was crafted from an exceptional race weekend where he showed the kind of pace and determination of a world champion. And it’s a race win that takes him – and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden – another step closer towards another title. 

The unstoppable Swede recalls fond memories of claiming his maiden FIA World Rallycross Championship in Latvia last year. “I had some great memories of winning my first world championship here last year and it was nice to be back again," said Kristoffersson. "We did our testing here in the middle of the year, but to see the grandstands full again was really bringing back the memories of last year – it made me want another world championship!"

Kristoffersson beat Frenchman Sebastien Loeb by just 0.009 seconds in Q1, claiming the fastest time and slotted into P1 in the standings. "Q1 was crucial here – it was so tight, but beating Loeb by nine-thousandths of a second was vital to get pole for Q2," explained Kristofferson. "That helped shape the whole weekend."

By claiming pole position for Q2, the Swede was able to keep out of trouble at Turn 1. Turn 1 claimed quite a few victims, including his teammate Petter Solberg in semi-final one.

"Turn one here is so important, we saw a lot of chaos here and I tried my best to keep out of it and succeeded thankfully," says the Swede. "From pole it is, of course, much easier to brake late and keep position."

The semi-final seemed fairly easy for the defending champion, but he reveals that it was not as easy as, it might have appeared. “In the semis, the first couple of laps were actually quite messy and I made a few mistakes; I was more cautious as I knew my pace was good," says Kristoffersson

After a messy semi-final, Johan made a few changes to improve the Volkswagen Polo R Supercar for the final. "We had a great launch off the line, the car was fantastic and I felt comfortable pushing," the PSRX Volkswagen driver said. 

"I have to thank the team for their hard work to improve our starts which was so important here, it's worked well and really made this victory possible."

Solberg touched by support after revealing medical condition.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver and team owner, Petter Solberg was back in Riga for the first time since being involved in a heavy crash last year. The triple FIA world champion admitted he’d been touched by the support he received after revealing his medical condition ahead of the Latvian round. 

But, for the third World RX of Latvia in succession, he failed to emerge with the result he’d hoped for – a collision on lap one of the semi-final lead to him not qualifying for the final.

“I don’t believe in bad luck but that’s three times in a row now in Latvia..." said Solberg. "I feel like I had good pace all weekend but just never had the chance to show it. I was stuck in traffic a lot, some really tough battles but it meant I lost so much time and couldn’t get the results I needed to get a front-row spot for the semi-finals."

The Norwegian lined up on the second row of the grid in semi-final one, and after an incident at Turn 1, he finished in fourth place. “In turn one in the semi I felt a hard hit from behind and was pushed into the wall," explained Solberg. "At that point getting into the final was basically impossible, but our speed in those last five laps was really good and showed what could have been."

Ahead of the Latvian round, Solberg revealed that he was diagnosed with a condition in where his body produces too much iron. The medical condition was only discovered after doctors performed tests, following his crash in Latvia last year. 

“It was a tough decision whether or not to talk about what happened for the last year, but I wanted people to know why I had not really been myself," said Solberg. "Honestly, the support I got has been more than I could ever imagine and I have to say a big, big thank you to everybody for these messages."

World RX and Mettet part ways with immediate effect.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
After five years of successful hosting the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the Mettet's Circuit Jules Tacheny, the promoter IMG and RUMESM have today ended their agreement to host the World RX of Belgium.

The World RX event at Mettet has enjoyed much success, having been a mainstay on the World RX calendar since the series’ inaugural season back in 2014. However all parties have amicably agreed to part ways with immediate effect.

“We are very proud that Mettet’s Circuit Jules Tacheny was able to host the FIA World Rallycross Championship for five years, thanks to an excellent working relationship with IMG,” said Freddy Tacheny, Chairman of RUMESM.

The World RX of Belgium has seen four different race winners over the five years: Toomas Heikkinen, Mattias Ekstrom, Johan Kristoffersson and Sebastian Loeb. 

“The RUMESM and Mettet have been brilliant hosts but both parties agree that the time is right to part ways," said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President, Motorsports at IMG. "We wish the RUMESM and Mettet every success in the future.”

The full 2019 World RX calendar will be announced in due course.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Loeb claims another podium finish but urges Peugeot Total to improve.

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport/Red Bull Content Pool
Sébastien Loeb claimed another podium for Team Peugeot Total, with a third place in Latvia, his 3rd straight podium finish in Riga and 6th of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross season. 

The Frenchman was the second-best points-scorer of the weekend, while Team Peugeot Total scored more points than any other team. 

On Saturday, Loeb did not get off to a clean start, and ended the day in sixth place overall. He came back fighting on Sunday securing second place in both Q3 and Q4. 

“The weekend went quite well: we made a good start right from Q1, then we struggled a bit more in Q2, hitting a barrier, which cost us some time," said Loeb"Q3 and Q4 were especially good: I think we have a solid pace but the problem we have is that the 3 manufacturers here have nearly the same speed, so it’s very hard to make a difference on the track."

The Frenchman believes that there is still a lot of work to be done with race starts, due to its inconsistency. "Quite often I lose a place by the 1st corner, and that’s actually what happened in the Final," says Loeb

In order to be able to challenge for race win, the Frenchman firmly believes that Team Peugeot Total needs to find small improvements. 

"We just need to find a little bit more to be challenging for the victory and that’s going to be our objective between now and the end of the season," he explains. "There aren’t any miracles in this sport, but you just have to work hard to understand how to improve.

The Hansen brothers are pleased with the Latvia RX result.


PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport. 
The 9th round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Latvia was extremely closely-fought: to the extent that the winning margin in one of the Qualifying races (Q1) was just 0.009 seconds – or 23 centimetres.

In the end, Team Peugeot Total secured three positions in the Latvian final, and Sebastien Loeb went on to secure a podium finish. 

The final didn’t entirely go to plan for brothers Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen, who finished 5th and 6th respectively, although it was still a strong team showing, with a useful points haul. 

Despite his fifth place finish in Riga, Timmy Hansen was relatively happy with how his weekend shaped up. “I’m happy with the result of this weekend overall and I think 5th is a fair reflection of what I deserved," says Timmy Hansen.

"My start wasn’t perfect in the Final and I was probably missing a bit to be challenging at the very top, but overall the speed was very, very good and we’ve seen some good progress; especially when we ended up with 3 Peugeot's in the Final," the Swede explained.

Since its introduction, the Peugeot 208 WRX Evo has been competitive, but the team are consistently working to find improvements, in order to achieve their ultimate goal of claiming race wins. 

Hansen believes that with more work, Team Peugeot Total can become race winning contenders: "If we carry on working in this way, I think we can definitely achieve our goals."

Timmy Hansen's younger brother, and Team Peugeot Total's independent World RX entrant, Kevin Hansen claimed a spot in the final and finished in 6th place. The young Swede is happy to have qualified for the final. “I’m actually more than happy: I’m really delighted," said Kevin Hansen. "I got through to the Final, for the 4th time this year, and I raced well all weekend." 

Kevin Hansen was particularly happy with how Team Peugeot Total reacted to setbacks on Saturday. "It was looking really tough but with the help of the team, we dug deep and were able to fight back: it’s really an extraordinary group of people here who never give up," explained Hansen"From my perspective, I feel that I’m learning more all the time with this car and that we’re continuing the learning curve that we embarked on."

"I’m eager to make more progress now!”

Monday, 17 September 2018

Niclas Grönholm claims an impressive fourth place in Latvia.

PHOTO CREDIT: GRX Taneco
GRX Taneco have strengthened its fourth place in the FIA World RX team standings, with an impressive fourth place from Niclas Grönholm in Riga.

On the first day, Niclas Grönholm and Timur Timerzyanov were placed in the top 10 in the two qualifying sessions. Grönholm even secured the sixth-fastest time in Q2.
“Every time, the first two bends were a bit hairy,” Grönholm explained. “It was tough, but we came out of it well and secured a good position quite quickly to qualify for the semi-finals.”

On Sunday, Grönholm again got into the top 10, while Timerzyanov found himself under pressure in the last qualifying slot before Q4. In a final push, the Finn finished seventh in the intermediate rankings, while the Russian squeezed into the semi-finals in eleventh place.

The second semi-final saw the two GRX Taneco drivers up against Johan Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekström and Petter Solberg. Lying fourth and fifth after the first turn, the two drivers opted for different strategies as Timerzyanov went for the joker lap at the start of the race, while Grönholm chose to continue posting respectable lap times. Penalised by a last-lap spin, Timerzyanov finished the semi-final in sixth place. His teammate, meanwhile, clinched third and a golden ticket for the final in the process!

“We knew that something had to happen in the semi-final for us to have a chance of qualifying,” says Grönholm. “For once, the first turn went in our favour and our strategy was effective once again.”

Timerzyanov was frustrated after not progressing any further: “The result is a bit disappointing as I have lost ground on my teammate and the other drivers ahead of me in the championship. We need to find solutions to get nearer the front of the field. I am already looking forward to the United States. It will be a very different track and we’ll see how it pans out.”

In the final, Grönholm emerged from the first turn in third position behind Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström and ahead of the three Peugeot 208s. Under attack from Timmy Hansen and Sébastien Loeb, Niclas managed to hold off Hansen, but Loeb on the joker lap emerging just ahead of Grönholm.

“I wasn’t under any pressure,” Niclas concluded. “I drove far more cleanly than at any other stage of the weekend and managed to get into a good groove."

Mattias Ekström claims a podium finish for EKS Audi Sport in Riga.

PHOTO CREDIT: Audi Sport 
EKS Audi Sport claim their sixth podium finish in the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship season. At the ninth round of the season in Riga, Mattias Ekström finished second, only 2.3 seconds behind the racer winner and championship leader Johan Kristoffersson.

Ekström had a smooth road to second place in Riga: by being placed third in the intermediate results. The Swede qualified for the semi-final where he clinched a place in the final after finishing second behind Kristoffersson. In the crucial final, Ekström was again only once again beaten by Kristoffersson and thus claimed the sixth podium finish for EKS Audi Sport in the 2018 season.

“I’m pleased about the solid weekend, we had several good preliminary races and made great starts,” said Ekström. “But I obviously want to win races – and we were very close again here. There are several world championship rounds still ahead of us and we’ll be fighting just as hard.” 

In the drivers’ classification, Ekström moved up to second place ahead of his team mate Andreas Bakkerud, while EKS Audi Sport maintains second place in the teams’ classification.

Nico Müller, contested his first wild card race of the season in Latvia, also qualified for the semi-finals. However, Müller and Bakkerud were both out of luck: in a collision at the start

“As a result, my front suspension was damaged,” reported the Swiss driver. As a consequence, both drivers missed making the cut for the final. “It was one of the hardest weekends that I’ve had this season,” said Bakkerud. “I fought at the beginning with my pace and to find the right set-up. In the semi-final I made a good start, but I got squeezed by the two Peugeots in the first corner and my race was destroyed as a result.”

REPORT: Record breaking Kristoffersson extends World RX points lead with Latvia RX win.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
PSRX Volkwagen Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson has extended his lead in the FIA World Rallycross Championship by winning round nine at the Neste World RX of Latvia.

Kristoffersson continued his record breaking run claiming maximum points, a sixth straight top qualifiers position (a new record) and a record eighth win of the season at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R in Riga. 

Three manufacturers were represented on the Latvia RX podium with EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom finishing as runner-up and Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb completing the podium..

Ekstrom also claimed the Monster Energy Supercharge Award for having the fastest reaction time at the start of the final as he moved to second in the race behind Kristoffersson at the first corner.

In the battle for position at turn one, GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm climbed to third. The Finnish driver had a strong race in his Hyundai i20, in which he challenged Loeb for a place on the podium until the chequered flag, equalling his best result of the season so-far from round one at Catalunya-Barcelona.

All three Team Peugeot Total drivers; Loeb, Timmy and Kevin Hansen started the final and the Hansen brothers ran fifth and sixth after the start. Timmy passed Kevin for fifth on lap one, the pair finishing in the same positions at the end of the six laps.

Mattias (Ekstrom) had a slightly better launch than me in the semi-final but I just braked as late as I could to take the lead and from there on we had a race for the first three laps. I did some mistakes to be honest and after that I was a little but more cautious,” said Kristoffersson. “In the final I had a great launch, we did some small changes on the car between the semi-final and final, it was actually a little bit better so the last one and a half laps of the final reminded me of last year’s win here.” 

Ekstrom was happy with a strong weekend in Riga to finish second in the final. “I’m pleased about the solid weekend, we had several good preliminary races and made great starts,”  said Ekstrom. “But I obviously want to win races – and we were very close again here. There are several World Championship rounds still ahead of us and we’ll be fighting just as hard.”

Sebastien Loeb finished on the podium at the circuit where he won his first World RX final in 2016. “The weekend went quite well. We had a very good Q1, then I struggled a bit in Q2 – I hit a tyre barrier in the fight in the first corner, then after that I had a problem with my front-left suspension so lost quite a bit of time," said Loeb. "Finally, Q3 and Q4 were good today. I think we have good pace, the problem for us is that the three manufacturers have nearly the same pace, it’s very difficult to make a difference on the track. I’m happy to be back on the podium for sure.”

Petter Solberg finished fourth in semi-final one and Andreas Bakkerud was fourth in semi-final two. Both GC Kompetition drivers, Guerlain Chicherit and Liam Doran challenged for a place in the final and finished fifth in their respective semi-finals, but both GRX Taneco’s Timur Timerzyanov and EKS Audi Sport’s Nico Muller were unable to finish their semi-finals after contact. ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider was first reserve for the semi-finals in 13th, ahead of Latvian star Janis Baumanis.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

2018 Singapore GP: FIA Post-Race Press Conference.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com
DRIVERS
1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Congratulations Lewis, you are a serial winner. That’s your 69th victory.

Lewis HAMILTON: I’m spent. That was a tough race. But I have such great support here. We had a great start. The team have just never given up faith and belief in me and in Valtteri and in our ability, and it is a blessing. It was a long race. That felt like the longest race of my life, so I’m glad it’s over. Max put up a good fight as well, but what a day, what a weekend. I feel super blessed.

Q: My knees can’t take this, can we stand? A man of a certain age. It got interesting around lap 38, there was a little bit of traffic there and they were in their own battle. You had to go defensive with Max, tell us about that moment?

LH: Yeah, I was a little bit unlucky with the traffic. These guys were moving around, it was quite difficult to follow. I think Max was a little bit luckier getting by some of the guys in terms of what point on the track and the guys weren’t letting me by. Jeez, it was definitely close and my heart was definitely in my mouth for a minute but once I got clear of them I was able to put the pedal down and pull away.

Q: This has been an incredible September in your life, in all of the Septembers you’ve lived. You’ve won the Italian Grand Prix, you’ve been off launching fashion lines, you’ve come here and you’ve now taken the lead to 40 points over Sebastian Vettel. It doesn’t get much better.

LH: Definitely not. I mean they put up a good fight this weekend and I’m not really quite sure where their pace disappeared to, but as I said, I’m just grateful for everyone’s hard work, and the fans here. A lot of British flags come out Singapore, so thank you guys, love you, team LH all the way.

Q: Enjoy the moment, congratulations, fantastic moment. Max, come and join me up here. A brilliant result.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was not bad. A shame from the first lap, but you can clearly see we miss top speed. But from there on the team had a great strategy so we could get back into second. Basically we did our own race, tried to follow Lewis a little bit and at the end we knew second was going to be result so you just bring it home.

Q: We saw you have a little stumble as you were coming out of the pit box, it looked like you were between gears, you were in second and then you went down to first. Even with that you still managed to get out in front of Seb.

MV: It was not a perfect getaway, but also behind the safety car it was almost bogging down, false neutrals, so a lot of problems but still, very happy with second.

Q: Well done, Max, great result. Seb, congratulations, but I’m a little bit confused. You were quick all through free practice on a track you’ve been exceptional on in the past, it just didn’t seem that you were in the fight today. Any ideas?

Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, it’s true. I think overall we were not fast enough. We didn’t have the pace in the race. But also I think we tried to be aggressive in the beginning and obviously it didn’t work out. After that I think I had a different race from the other guys, on a different tyre, and I wasn’t very convinced that we could make it to the end, but pitting wasn’t an option because you lose too much time in the pit stop. So we just focused on making it home.

Q: The hopes of the tifosi rest with you. Have you got some light at the end of the tunnel? Lewis has started to open that gap up and time’s running out. How optimistic are you for the future races?

SV: It doesn’t help. Obviously I’m mostly thinking about today’s race. I think today with the way we raced we didn’t have a chance. There might be something extra in the fact that maybe we were not quick enough but I think I said before the weekend we can only beat ourselves and we didn’t get everything out of the package.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-Magazin.com) Seb, you said it was pretty obvious what you have tried with the ultrasoft. But could you explain that a little bit, because even if you had jumped Lewis with the ultrasoft you would probably have been on the worse tyre for the rest of the race?

SV: Well, I mean, obviously the first stint was a cruise for most of it, and then Lewis was picking up the pace. Overall, if you see the gap in the end it is clear that we were not fast enough today in the race. We need to understand why. Obviously it’s largely due to how we decided to race, on which tyres, for how many laps etc. With what we did we tried to get to first position but Lewis was too quick and then… once you are ahead you can control the pace around here but we never got ahead, so it’s a bit pointless to answer.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Sebastian, you said you and the team didn’t get everything out of the car this weekend. Can you just talk through the progression over the weekend, where you went in the wrong direction? And just in general, do you think the team is not necessarily making the right calls and doing the right things with the way they play the weekend to maximise your chances?

SV: No, I will always defend the team. I think the decision we took in the race, the decisions to try to be aggressive, if it works it’s great, today it didn't work. Obviously it didn’t work by quite a bit and we need to look into that. But I believe we saw something and that’s why we go for it. Obviously inside the car it’s difficult to be on top of everything because you cannot see where you come out etc. We were aggressive in trying to get ahead, taking into account that we have to go through traffic, which in the end bit us also, to lose the second place. If it doesn’t work it is always easy to criticise but I will always defend what we did. Overall, we had a very strong package, both Kimi and myself, I think we looked very competitive throughout practice but in the end if you look at the race result we finished third and fifth. Like yesterday, probably not where the speed of our car belongs so that’s what I mean by saying we didn’t get everything out of ourselves.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you said earlier that you didn't expect to leave here adding ten extra points to your championship lead – so how big a boost is it to your title chances, winning here again, given that we always seem to think this is a Ferrari circuit?

LH: Well, we’re really just taking it one race at a time, knowing that Ferrari have had quite good pace for the last few races. Generally, whilst we’ve finished on front foot, we start on the back foot, kinda thing, each weekend – but with a mentality that, if we do a good enough job, maybe we’ll come out ahead. Right this second it definitely feels… it was a tough race. It was a hardcore race. The cars are much quicker than usual, and obviously that moment we had with the backmarkers and the crazy day we had yesterday, with the crazy week that I’ve had… the last two weeks have just been intense. So, I’m looking forward to a couple of days off, these following days – but, of course it feels great but I’ve been here a long, long time so I don’t let… I know I can’t get ahead of myself; we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to continue to remain humble and just keep working as hard as we can. So, right now, I just feel, job done. I’m really happy with it. Still lots of points available but with this performance, and this focus that we have as a team, I truly believe that we can deliver impactful weekends like this for the rest of the season. So that’s the goal.

Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Question for Seb. Looking at the weekend as a whole, how costly were those lost laps in FP2, in understanding the tyres and putting together the race strategy?

SV: Not at all. I mean, I’ve done enough laps around here. Obviously, it’s never great if you miss out but I think Friday and Saturday morning we were first in practice, so I don’t think that made a big difference. And also, late on in the season, you know enough about tyres and you can read from other people, so I think we got all the information and the fact that I think today we made it until the end with the most laps on the tyre you probably least expect to go that far, shows that we didn’t have any problems with the tyres. But obviously, you know we had to manage our race differently than the other guys.

Q: (Julien Billotte – AutoHebdo) Question for Seb again. Did you guys pit earlier than expected because you misheard what Lewis reported on his tyre at the start of the race, in the early phase of the race?

SV: What did he report?

He said “I’ve got a lot left in my tyres,” and your engineer reported the opposite – which you didn’t believe actually. So did you pit earlier than expected?

SV: I did not believe it, I said it’s not true – because we were going quite slowly in the beginning, and I think a couple of laps after that, Lewis decided to push, so obviously, when your tyres are fresh you can choose the pace a little bit here and not be under threat because the corners that matter, you still have very good exits and it’s difficult to get close. So yeah, in the end I think we were fine in the first stint. We probably dropped back a little bit too much, so I think, overall, we did not have exactly the pace that we wanted – but also, if you are the first car it is always easier because you have nobody in front, you manage your tyres and then, at some point, you decide to go. Whereas if you are behind, you always need to be sort-of ready. If you drop back too much then you’re too far away, so it’s natural that, being behind, you lose quite a lot. Even if you go slower, being behind, you damage your tyres more than being in front, going slower. So, it was not a big surprise but that’s how the game is played here, and he did it very well, and they executed well. For us, we tried to do something, it didn’t work full stop and from their obviously we were more on the back foot and defence. So, we had a different race after that point.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question to Sebastian. After starting the season so well, still got the fastest car, is there a sense now that you might be losing your grip on this championship?

SV: Well, Lewis said he didn't expect to come here gaining ten points, we probably didn’t come here expecting to lose ten points – but, having had the race that we had, I think there’s a full justification for losing those ten points and we take it. Obviously, there is still a long way to go and a lot of points to score. I never believed that we had the fastest car by a big margin, as people said. I know that we have a very good car. I think we started the season well and then we were about half a second behind in qualifying and it was crucial to get back, which we manage to – and then we had a bit of a rough time but overall I think the speed is there but I think it’s a match in qualifying as much as in the race. Today, if anything, I think we were a little bit slower, which we need to have a look and understand – but also it’s difficult to draw the conclusion because our race, my race was very different. I was on the oldest tyres and probably on the tyre that was not supposed to last that long. You would probably like to go out and do the same stint on the same tyres, just to be able to compare – but that’s not the race that we had today. So, you know, that’s what it was this weekend. Russia, I think, has been getting better the last years for us, so it should suit our car as well. I don’t think we have any tracks to fear that are coming. I think our car is working pretty much everywhere and that’s a strength of our car, so no need to be afraid of what’s coming.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Sebastian, earlier you said you need to look as to why you were third and fifth and yesterday you had some questions about what happened in qualifying. Why is it that you can’t put your finger on what’s going wrong at the moment for Ferrari?

SV: I think first of all we’re not playing a silly game, we’re quite serious and it’s quite tough competition, so the level of competition is very high and if you have the slightest mistake obviously there are people there who are usually there to benefit from it. I think today, you know the race that we had showed that Max was there straightaway to benefit. Maybe sometimes you are lucky and it’s not showing as crucial but today it caught us and what we tried didn’t work and also caught us out so it didn’t help but I’m happy to try, I’m happy to try being aggressive to try and win. That was the ambition and especially on a track where it’s difficult to pass you need to try and figure something out. Yeah, but overall I think it’s not the result that we wanted and it’s a disappointment because we came here thinking that we are very strong. I think we were but not strong enough, not as strong as we probably wanted to be in terms of raw race pace. Yesterday, I still believe we could have had a better day but it’s history so - same as today – we need to look forward. There are a couple of differences that are standing out about yesterday, about today, things that we can learn from the others, because they simply did a better job if they finish ahead of us by half a minute, so clearly they did some things better than us.

Q: (Daan de Geus – Formula 1 Magazine NL) Max…

MV: They are like the Finnish, you know…

Q: (Daan de Geus – Formula 1 Magazine NL) Max, you and Red Bull earmarked this as the best opportunity of the second half of the season. How important is it to deliver with a good result, and does it change your expectations heading into these last six races?

MV: No. I mean. Yeah. Well, it’s quite straightforward. This race was better for us than Monza, for example, so I think we maximised the result with the problems we had with the engine which was a shame, because I was very happy the safety car was gone because I was almost stalling on the track so even my pit stop was not great. Yeah, looking forward to now… I don’t know which track will come up as maybe good again. Maybe Mexico a little bit but we lose a lot on the straight, so I’m not expecting it to be like last year but you never know. You always have to be positive I guess and try to be there if something happens.

Q: (Joost Nederpelt – NU.NL) Max, was there any point in this race – pace-wise – where you thought you could win this race?

MV: Laps to the grid, I think. No, you can’t pass, it’s impossible. You could see that once in the first stint when we were all going quite slowly, even if you wanted to push a bit more you can’t get close so you’re just following a train. Yeah, you just have to do your own race, try to look after the tyres and that’s what we did, that’s why we could do the overcut which of course was great and once I was in second again, I know I would just try to follow Lewis to the end and bring it home.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Sebastian and Max, you had two battles, one on the first lap…

LH: Do you have a question for me?

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) You were just too good.

MV: Oh thanks, mate!

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Sebastian and Max, you had two battles, one on the first lap and one after the pit stop. Could you just talk through those battles and if you could have done anything differently to reverse them? Could you have stayed there first time Max and Seb could you have got ahead second time?

MV: They were fine. I was a disappointed the first one and I guess Seb was a bit disappointed the second one.

SV: That’s a good summary. I had a very good start, I tried in turn one but Max was covering the inside and from there I tried to line things up for the next corner which was successful and I got a bit of a tow from Lewis down the straight so that worked well. The pits it was tight so I lost it again, it was a pity, obviously.

Q: (Kate Walker – New York Times) Lewis, the perceived wisdom for most of this season is that you’ve got the second best car on the grid but you have also got the biggest advantage in the championship. Where are you finding these performances where you are able to outstrip both your car and your competitors’ equipment?

LH: Good question, thank you, I appreciate it. It’s hard up here because it’s like an anti-climax. Naturally it was a hard race but we need to keep the energy up because this is a special moment for me and for the team. Was it an exciting race, or not really for you guys? That’s probably why. I definitely heard a couple of people snoring here. Honestly, it’s just great teamwork, very very diligent engineering. The guys obviously back at the car, we’re constantly learning about the car and refining it but we’re bring out upgrades every now and then but it’s pretty much the same times as they (Ferrari) bring theirs. But it’s more understanding the tyres, it’s more getting more comfortable with hitting the nail on the head with the balance of the car and really just eking out each little bit and each weekend we’re got incredible communications. The debriefs are really really solid, there’s a lot of direction that comes from the debriefs. I give quite long debriefs nowadays and we work to the point that we leave no stone unturned, there’s not a single stone unturned each weekend that we arrive and so it’s a real collective, it’s just the strongest the team has ever been in terms of how we communicate. We’ve got great people in the team, both at the factory and here and it’s a real privilege to work with everyone and also we’re all so comfortable with each other and there’s a huge confidence within the organisation. And in terms of my driving, as I said, I have these others things that I do outside which are stimulating. I know there were questions at the beginning of the week whether it is distracting and naturally you come here and if I put one foot wrong, people are going to point to the things that I do outside as a result of it. You can see, it doesn’t affect my performance and if anything those things they add to the performance really. Healthwise, I’m super healthy. As I said, I went on a plant-based diet last year - here, actually, I started here last year - and it’s been the best year of my life physically.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

2018 Singapore GP: FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA.com
DRIVERS
1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

Q: Lewis, an astonishing lap – 36.0. Where did that come from?

Lewis HAMILTON: Wow, wow, that was a hardcore qualifying session. That felt like magic. I don’t really know where it came from but it all came together. Naturally I want to say a huge thank you to all the team back at the factory. Everyone is working so hard, really, really so hard to pull out all the extra bits. Today I managed, just for that one lap, just to get it right. The next one obviously I was trying a bit more, but it’s also great to see so many people here. Singapore is a beautiful track and honestly I’m super overwhelmed, absolutely overwhelmed, my heart is racing, I might have an anxiety attack in a second. I’m really happy.

Q: As the laps was unfolding, was it, were you thinking ‘hang on, this is feeling something special’?

LH: Yeah, definitely. Honestly I don’t there was a moment in the lap that we went wide or there were any problems, it was just perfectly to the limit. It felt like one of the best laps I remember feeling. Did you guys enjoy it? They’re happy, so we’re good.

Q: Second, Max. Still can’t quite be the youngest pole sitter ever but you must be so, so satisfied with that lap?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Honestly this feels like a victory. The amount of problems I’ve had today and even in qualifying with the engine, just not having a smooth run, cutting in torque, to be second is unbelievable and that just shows we have an amazing car.

Q: Yeah, ahead of the Ferraris, ahead of one of the Mercedes and your team-mate. Last year you were so unlucky in this position. You’ve got a great chance this weekend?

MV: Absolutely. We just need to make sure that we have a clean start and from there everything is possible. We do have to sort out the engine for tomorrow but at least I’m very happy with the car.

Q: Well done. Sebastian, third on the grid. Take us through qualifying for you?

Sebastian VETTEL: Well, not ideal, obviously we wanted to get pole but we didn’t. I think for us it was a bit of a messy qualifying session but in the end there was too much time missing, so no better than third.

Q: You seemed to need to attack the out lap where the other cars were going very slowly. Did it compromise your approach a little bit?

SV: Yeah, it’s never ideal if you have a mini-race on the out lap, but there were a lot of cars always around. You can’t blame it on that. In the end we had two laps and they were both not good enough. Not what I wanted and not what we wanted today.

Q: Have you got a good race car?

SV: I think so. Obviously it’s a bit more difficult further back, but, yeah, I think we have.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Well Lewis, it looked like we witnessed something pretty special out there tonight. Can you just talk us through it ?

LH: I’ll tell you this track is epic. It’s so difficult this track. It is the most challenging circuit for us in the year. It’s Monaco on steroids really, being that it's a lot longer, a lot more corners. Yesterday was looking really good for us and then we came into today, we made some changes and we didn’t have a good session. Everyone was starting on the hypersofts and they were getting the experience and we were starting on the softs and there is a huge difference compared to the hyper. Then I was a bit nervous going into qualifying because I didn't think we had the pace, we were half a second behind these guys and I was thinking ‘there is no way I’m going to be able to find half a second’. And as we were going through the qualifying session again, it was a really challenge on the ultra. Then we obviously got into that last session and it was just about pulling all the little bits you found through practice and trying to see if you could put it into a perfect puzzle and 99.9% of time it doesn’t go right, but that lap, honestly, I didn’t have a wheel spin, I didn't have a snap anywhere. The car was just underneath me and I managed to maximise on pretty much any corner. I can’t remember one where I thought I could do more. And it’s so physical here, so naturally after the session you’re shaking, your heart’s racing. The second lap I tried to obviously go that little bit more, just half a metre braking later, but it was just too much and the car wasn’t going to have it, so I really do feel I got absolutely everything possible on that first lap. I was definitely nervous when I came in at the end because naturally you want to deliver each time you have an opportunity. But I’m just so grateful; the team have been working so hard. I’m sure that everyone’s team is, but the guys have just been flat out trying to see if we can bring little bits here and there and we knew we would come to this and the Ferrrari’s particularly but also the Red Bulls would be hard to beat, so this is an incredible moment for us to be on pole here considering the circumstances.

Q: Max, your second consecutive front row in Singapore. Given all of the technical issues you had coming into this session…

MV: Have! Still have!

…talk us through, how satisfying is this P2?

MV: Totally unexpected. From FP3 onwards I was shaking with anger but now I’m just shaking with happiness. FP3, so many problems. I mean I was going into false neutral; car was stopping on the track; while driving in my fast laps just bogging down, and qualifying was exactly the same story, so we had to detune the engine – lost a bit of time there – to try and make the driveability better but it still didn’t work like it should do. So, when I was going into Q3 I felt the car was working really well. I didn’t really have anything to complain. So, when I saw second on the board I was actually quite surprised. With the problems I had. And then on my final run I tried to push a bit more, and I was another two-tenths up and then I arrived to 16-17, and when I had to short-shift again, the engine just cut out, so I had to abort. If it was going to be enough for pole, I’m not so sure – but at least it would have been closer than three-tenths. I’m already surprised to be second with all the issues I'm having. The only thing I can say is that it was a great qualifying. I think the best I’ve ever done and the car was also working really well. That definitely put us second today.

Q: Sebastian, a frustrating session for you, can you just talk us through it, and also talk about your prospects in the race and how competitive you think the Ferrari will be on Sunday.

SV: The race is a different story so I think by tomorrow things will look different but for sure not happy with how today went. I think qualifying today wasn’t as smooth as it should have been, so yeah, I think other people obviously did better than us, and that’s why we are third.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Stuart Codling – Autosport) Sebastian, just to pick up on your previous comment, we saw in Q2 you tried to run on ultrasofts, it didn’t work. How damaging is it for your prospects, given that looked like you were going to go for a one stop strategy, how damaging is it for you to have to abandon that and then to qualify third on the grid?

SV: Well, one doesn’t have to do anything with the other. So obviously in Q3 is when you qualify your position and Q2 is when you qualify your tyre. So obviously it was clear what we tried to do. It didn’t work, so… but overall I think qualifying for us today wasn’t as smooth as it should have been so, difficult to get a rhythm, difficult to get a feel for the car and in the end the gap is quite big. I’m not worried about the gap because I don’t think that shows how strong we are. Just disappointing obviously today that we didn’t get the maximum out of our package.

Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-Magazin.com) Questions for Seb. Can you talk us through your problems? Obviously there were some problems on the car just before the start of the qualifying.

SV: No.

No problems? Because we’ve seen the floor was taken off…

SV: No problems, just final checks but no problems with the car.

And then in Q3, I think after the first try, you said you were in a ‘nasty spot’. Can you explain how you prepared the car or the tyres, for the first and the second attempt in Q3?

SV: Erm… no! Well, I think, as I tried to explain, for us the qualifying didn’t go the way I think we planned it to be. Not just in terms of result – obviously we were hoping for more than third on the grid – but I think that’s one thing. I think obviously the gap is quite big, which is one. I think Lewis had a really good lap, so congrats to him for the lap. I’m sure it was a good one. But I don’t think he was unbeatable but for us today, the way we composed qualifying, I think it was difficult to get a rhythm. I was struggling in Q1, Q2, Q3. As I said before, I think other people did a better job. That’s including Lewis’ lap as an individual but also them as a team. And obviously it’s not what we wanted today to get third.

Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Lewis, we saw Ferrari try and fail to get through Q2 on the ultrasofts. You did the same thing in Q1 but you managed to get through. Were you ever concerned that you might drop out in that session or were you always confident you would be able to get through?

LH: Yeah, I definitely was a little bit concerned but we were aware that we came here with the wrong tyre strategy in the sense that others had more hypers than us so we needed to get rid of a soft in P3 I think it was. Already from practice we weren’t best prepared. Others started on softer tyres in P1 and also in P2 and P3 is where we had that. So we definitely lost some running because the tyres are massive, massive… you could see it’s two or three seconds or whatever it was between the tyres. Then we got into qualifying and we had to start on the… We believed that in order to give us hypersofts in Q2 and Q3, that’s the tyre we went out on and we definitely didn’t expect to be on the pace that we were but the delta between the tyres was even bigger, once we got to qualifying. So yeah, and I couldn’t go quicker so I was definitely a little bit nervous, but then we went back out and I’m not quite sure why the Ferraris did the run on that tyre – I don’t know if they had four new sets of hypers, probably unlikely, so that’s probably why they had to take another tyre, probably, but you could already have seen from our run that you were not going to get through there, so that just leaves me to believe that they probably just didn’t have an extra tyre. But the Q2 was good and once we got to Q3 it was nice but the extra run that others got, I think they had an advantage going into qualifying just by having the extra run on the hypersoft.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Sebastian, you said other people did a better job, including Lewis’s lap as an individual, but also them as a team. In which area or areas do you think your team should have done better?

SV: As I tried to explain, obviously I don’t want to take anything from Lewis’s lap and their efforts as a team -  they did great and that’s why they are on pole by quite a margin so that is not for debate. I think for us, it’s clear that we could have done better and therefore we can’t be happy. Now, going into detail I don’t think there’s much point. For sure here and there we could have done better, maybe preparing the lap, the qualifying but in the end I had the laps and they obviously weren’t strong enough and good enough to be near.

Q: (Joe Klausmann – Racingline.hu) Lewis, are you comfortable with the outside line into turn one tomorrow?

LH: The racing line, you mean? Pretty happy with it. I’ll see where it goes tomorrow but it’s the racing line. Obviously starts are always a difficult one but being on the racing line that we drive past hopefully it’s equally as good as the inside starting line. You would normally chose to be on the outside for turn one.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD) Max, we heard a lot of complaints about the engine on the radio. You also said already there are still some issues to fix. Will you go to bed as a happy man because of this surprise or also as a worried man because of the engine?

MV: I think normally in the race you have to turn down the power anyway. It’s just when you go to the limit of the engine where we seem to struggle this weekend with it, with driveability and torque mapping and stuff. For example yesterday in the long runs I didn’t have the problem. And if it breaks it breaks. You can’t really change that so we will find out tomorrow.

Q: (Erik van Haren - De Telegraaf) Max, with all the problems in mind today and yesterday, when you look at yourself as a driver, does it look like a perfect lap today?

MV: Well, like I said before, I think I feel like I’ve done my best qualifying ever in F1 so far. I think it was definitely a good lap which I can be very happy with.