Friday, 13 December 2019

Exclusive Interview: Guerlain Chicherit on World RX, Dakar Rally, GCK Academy and his ideal rallycross circuit.

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Guerlain Chicherit, an innovator with a passion for changing the rules. Changing the rules - in what way? Essentially, the GCK brand strives to be unique, thought-provoking, eco-friendly and a game-changer in the World RX paddock. 

Born and raised in Tignes, France, near a skiing resort, Chicherit quickly adopted skiing as a sport and went on to win 4 World titles in Freeskiing, one of the world’s most dangerous and demanding sporting disciplines.

Having won fourth world titles in freeskiing, the Frenchman traded his skis for a steering wheel in 2003 when he entered and won the French Rally Cup. In 2005 Chicherit tried his hand at the Dakar Rally. 

He returned to the Dakar Rally in 2006 with a BMW X3, winning one stage and finishing in 9th place in the general classification. 

At the 2009 Dakar Rally, Chicherit suffered an unfortunate accident while fighting to improve his overall classification and finished in ninth place overall. Later that year, he finished third in the Tunisia Rally, and he went on to win the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. 

2010 saw the Frenchman return to the Dakar Rally where he claimed a stage win and finished fifth overall in the final classification. In 2013, he piloted a SMG buggy at the Dakar Rally and he claimed an eighth-place finish overall. 

In February 2013, Chicherit became the first man in history to complete an unassisted backflip in a car. In 2014, he walked away from a shocking crash following an attempt at the world’s longest car jump. 

Guerlain made his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut in 2015 with a JRM Mini RX Countryman. He returned in 2016 and 2017, entering selected events before committing to a full-time programme with his own two-car GC Kompetition team in 2018.  

The 2019 season saw Chicherit return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship with 2 teams – GC Kompetition and GCK Academy. Swedish Rallycross driver Anton Marklund joined Chicherit in the GC Kompetition team, while two young rallycross talents, Cyril Raymond and Guillaume de Ridder joined the GCK Academy team to compete on the world stage with two Renault Clio R.S. RX Supercars.  

Despite suffering from his fair share of misfortune. The Frenchman claimed a fourth-place finish in Canada, his best result in World Rallycross and ended the season in twelfth place overall. 
Guerlain Chicherit leading Timo Scheider and Guillaume De Ridder (GCK Academy).
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien
Guerlain Chicherit took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us at the World RX of South Africa last month. 

Junaid Samodien: Why did you become a racing driver? 

Guerlain Chicherit: Since I can remember, I really loved motorsport and I’ve always been crazy about the sport, and when I was doing my skii career. I was a professional skiier, but my dream was to become a professional driver. 

When I stopped my skii career, I then decided to become a professional driver and I have been working really hard on that because I am coming from a completely different sport and you have to learn everything from zero, which was really hard for me because I am fighting with guys who have been driving go-karts since they were really young. So, I don’t have the same background it was really hard for me at the beginning and now we are getting there. 

JS: Having competed in the Dakar Rally for a number of years. Would you return to the Rally Raid in the future?

GC: I have competed in 10 Dakar Rallies.

JS: Would you consider returning to the Dakar Rally in the future?

GC: Yes, that is my plan. My cars are ready. They are in the workshop ready to go, but we are not going this year because we decided to change the technology and want to return in 2021 with the Dakar car(s), but with a different energy. It is not going to be a petrol engine anymore.

JS: Electric?

GC: (laughs) MAYBE!

JS: Having successfully completed the first-ever unassisted backflip in a car? Is there anything you are still contemplating doing in a car?

GC: The thing is when I started to drive and really became a professional driver – I always liked to push myself and do something that has never been done before or try and create something. And, when I stopped my skii career I was starting to be a professional driver, and I said: ‘why not try and mix the two sports’ and do something with my race cars. Something that I used to do with my skii’s. So, that is how the project with the backflip started, but it took almost four years to make it work. We started to build the cars in 2008 and we finally made it in 2012 after fifty or sixty crashes. So, it was a pretty long and hard process. 

JS: Based on GCK’s performance this year there appears to be a performance difference between Fors and Prodrive. Have you noticed the difference in performance?

GC: This is good and bad. Prodrive is for sure an amazing brand and they designed these cars, and this car (Megane R.S. RX) is really amazing, but Prodrive is used to working with manufacturers spec, and a big budget which was not really feasible for a private team like us. So, that is why I had to make the decision last year and work with my guys in France, called Fors Performance. 

They are not Prodrive, and they are not as big as Prodrive but on the other hand, they know Rallycross and they have been involved in the sport for 15 years, which is not the case with Prodrive. So, the best we could have done was use both Prodrive and Fors, but I couldn’t make it happen and I had to make the choice.

JS: GCK has made an impressive step from 2018 to 2019, having come incredibly close to a victory this season. What do you think the team needs to make that final step and claim wins on a regular basis?

GC: We are there in terms of performance if you look at statistics (data) at every track. The cars have been quite fast but we had some issues. It’s only the second year of the Megane, and don’t forget we are fighting against the Audi who have been in the championship for four or five seasons already, as well as Peugeot – I think it’s their fifth or sixth season. So, we are fighting against people who know the sport really, really well and those cars have been improved and developed to the top level, and especially in the last few years. 

The Audi’s and Peugeot’s were developed with a big budget, which is not our case and to be at that speed already and fight with them sometimes is really, really amazing, but now the next step is to beat them, which is going to be another big step which will not be easy because the drivers and cars are super fast and super reliable which is our problem at the moment. We have the speed but something always happens and the question is to be able to put everything together which is the biggest issue at the moment, but we have already started working and testing for 2020 – and that is why Rokas was not here [in Cape Town] for the final race because we needed to keep one car in France. We have already started testing the developments for next year. The clear objective for 2020 is to fight for the championship.

JS: How would you assess your performance this season?

GC: It was up-and-down for many reasons. Sometimes I was upset with the reliability of my cars because I had some problems. Most of the problems were on my car which was a bit difficult for me. I was not 100% concentrated this season because I have some other stuff to do during the week and arriving during the weekend, and the just find a way to be focused 100% on my driving is not always easy for me, but I think for the last 3 or 4 races I have shown some speed and some really interesting speed in the statistics (data) for the last few races. I have always been in the top 5 in terms of speed, which is good because fighting with the fastest guys on earth is not easy, and coming from a completely different sport and saying that I am top five in terms of speed is already pretty good. So, the question for me is: I need to try to be top 5 all weekend and to be able to fight for the final and also fight for a podium. I am not there yet and I still have a long way to go but I will get there. 

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
JS: What are your thoughts on Projekt E? Do you see GCK entering Projekt E?

GC: It’s really interesting for us. We have been talking a lot to STARD and we want to enter. We really want to go because my core business is eco-construction. So, for me, it is really important to turn motorsport into a green sport. 

So, that is why we have also been working on the charging solution on the GCK side. Not only on the race car. When you have green race cars… How are you going to charge them? Is it just going to be plugging them into a normal wall plug because then it will not make the sport green. So, GCK is trying to work on the complete cycle. 

The question that GCK has and it’s not only GCK - all the teams have the same question. Do we invest in Projekt E and then we have to reinvest in 2021 because it’s not the same technology? That is why it is a bit upsetting as a team because I could at least have one of my cars electric in 2020 because it is good to learn, but it is not the same technology and then again in 2021 we need to make another big investment to cover the cost, and then what do we do with the cars converted in 2020 other than just doing Projekt E. That is why at the moment it’s a hard decision because we are talking about big money. The kit is expensive but the conversion - the way you need to convert the cars is also a completely new development. So, it’s a bit confusing – the decision has not been made yet. We want to go (to Projekt E) for sure but we still have to understand where the sport is going first.

JS: How would you assess GCK Academy and the drivers this season? 

GC: We were super proud to have launched the GCK Academy team. We gave good opportunities to two young talented drivers. It was pretty hard for them this year because first of all, it was the first time that they were in the World Championship. So, they have everything to learn – they have the speed that is for sure and we know that. 

The pace that they show on some laps is quite impressive. The question is to be able to repeat it consistently, which is a bit difficult for the moment, but you have to consider that the Megane is new, and Clio is even newer, including the team and engineers. In GCK Academy, everything is new – the drivers, the cars and the staff and engineers. Altogether it’s good because it creates good energy, but they have also made some mistakes and that is why it was a bit difficult and we tried to understand them as much as possible, but we also want them to be quite independent and be able to be efficient but they have learnt a lot and we will see what we will do next year – if we (GCK Academy) come back to World RX or go in Euro (RX). 

To be honest the decision has not been made yet. For sure, we want to continue the Academy team but let’s see how we can do it because motorsport is hard – it’s not like when you do a marathon and you want to run. If you want to run, you take a pair of shoes and you are able to run. But motorsport is much more complicated and we need to convince partners and sponsors, and we have a long way to go to be able to make the decision to come back next year with the GCK Academy.

JS: What are your thoughts on Rokas Baciuska’s performance and does he stand a chance for a full-time seat in 2020?

GC: Rokas [Baciuska] is an amazing driver that is for sure and everybody knows that now. It’s funny because when we decided to take him nobody was really watching him so much and then we decided to give him a chance and clearly he showed the pace and the speed that he has. That is something that I am pretty proud of. To give a chance to young kids like this and he can show the pace that he has and it was pretty good. We really want to keep him with us next year. So, we are working on this. 

JS: What do you think of Killarney Raceway, or of Cape Town and it’s people?

GC: At this race (Cape Town), I have always come with my wife and the family, but this year we decided that we will not take the kids. I only came with my wife this year – because it’s one of the favourite races that we have. We love the people here and everywhere we go the people are so friendly and so nice. I love this place. And, to finish the season in sunny weather is always good because from where I live, it is already snowing and two days ago - I was in 15 cm of snow. I love to come here and I hope that this race will stay for a long time. 

JS: You have raced on a number of World RX circuits in a number of countries? I have a challenge for you. Can you DRAW your ideal World RX circuit, or what would it look like?

GC: This circuit does not exist yet. 


  • The joker lap should be short (faster). 
  • The jump needs to be on a curve (corner) because you will see action when the cars jump sideways. 
A very special 'Thank You' to Guerlain Chicerit for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to Nini Mikolajski, GCK/Roots Management International for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Circuit drawn By - Guerlain Chicherit
Pictures By - GC Kompetition/Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

RallyX on Ice to feature in Sweden's 'Winter Olympics' in 2020.

RallyX on Ice will form part of Sweden’s ‘Winter Olympics’ in 2020, as the annual rallycross season curtain-raiser at an exciting new purpose-built track for a high-speed, high-stakes, winner-takes-all single-day showdown in Luleå on 28 March.

In recent times, RallyX on Ice has graced some of Scandinavia’s premier rallycross tracks and most recently – in spring 2019 – participants tackled three challenging courses laid out over a frozen lake in Åre, Sweden. Along the way, the series has attracted some of the biggest names in motorsport, from FIA World Rallycross Championship superstars Andreas Bakkerud and Timmy Hansen, and Indycar - Josef Newgarden and Hélio Castroneves.

The single-day event will be preceded by official test days and will comprise three competitions – the bill-topping Supercar Lites for identical 310bhp, four-wheel-drive rallycross cars; the spectacular 400bhp+ two-wheel-drive Supernational class; and the always well-supported CrossCar/Crosskart category.

The 2020 event is set to be the highest-profile yet, taking place as it will within the framework of SM-veckan – Sweden’s multi-sport ‘Winter Olympics’, which this year celebrated its tenth anniversary and showcases a wide range of disciplines from biathlon and cross-country skiing to dog-sledding, Alpine slalom, jiu-jitsu and powerlifting.

"We are delighted to unveil the ‘new-look’ RallyX on Ice for 2020, and to be included in Sweden’s high-profile SM-veckan is another endorsement of the growing popularity of our winter motorsport series," said Jan-Erik Steen, CEO of RallyX on Ice promoter, RX Promotion. 

Alongside the Swedish Winter Rallycross Championship, RallyX on Ice will add a dynamic dimension to SM-veckan, as some of the sport’s finest talents go wheel-to-wheel and doorhandle-to-doorhandle on a purpose-built track on the frozen Lule River, right in the heart of Luleå, the capital of Norrbotten County on Sweden’s northern coast.

"If the interest received so far is any indication, we expect grids to fill up fast, because one thing is for sure – the upcoming RallyX on Ice festival will be the most exciting and compelling yet, both on and off-track!" Steen added.

Written By - Junaid Samodien.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

The 2019 World RX season 'has been the best year in my career developing as a driver' - Kevin Hansen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA
‘Champions are made not born’ - Michael Jordan.

Kevin Hansen is the definition of a champion having won almost every series entered to date. 

Kevin, the younger brother of Timmy Hansen (the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion) and son of 14-time European Rallycross Champion Kenneth Hansen, started his career in karting at the age of seven before becoming World Champion in ROK Junior series in 2010. 

The 21-year-old Swede went on to win the JRX Series in 2012, as well as the Junior Championships in Britain and Sweden before stepping up to RX Lites Cup in 2014 where he finished runner-up.  

In 2015, Hansen won the RX Lites Cup before making the step up to the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the season finale in Argentina. There, he progressed to the final in his first outing in the championship. For 2016, the Swede moved to the FIA European Rallycross Championship and dominated the championship-winning four out of the five events to become the European RX Champion. 

He took the next step up the ladder when he moved up to the FIA World Rallycross Championship as the third entry for Team Peugeot Hansen in 2017. Hansen reached the final in Germany and secured eighth place in the overall standings. He continued to drive a Peugeot 208 in 2018 as an individual entry under the Team Peugeot Total banner, putting in some good performances and finished eighth in the championship.

The 2019 season was an unknown for the Hansen family after Peugeot’s withdrawal from the championship. However, in early 2019 it was announced that the Hansen brothers will join the Titans RX European series run by MJP Racing. In addition to the Titans RX series, Kenneth Hansen and Max J. Pucher joined forces to form Team Hansen MJP and two Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars were acquired from Peugeot for the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship.  

While the Hansen family just about beat the clock to enter the 2019 World RX championship, the season got off to a rocky start after Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud collided in Q3 in Abu Dhabi. While Kevin’s younger brother Timmy sat on the sidelines with a damaged chassis, he progressed to the final and went on to claim victory at the season opener in Abu Dhabi. 

With the pressure of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The Hansen brothers competed in the full Titans RX European Series, where Kevin clinched the title and older brother Timmy Hansen finished in third overall. 

In addition, to racing in World RX and Titans RX. The Hansen family returned to the Nitro World Games where Timmy Hansen claimed the inaugural Nitro Rallycross title in 2018. However, in 2019 Kevin Hansen raised the event winners trophy beating Patrick Sandell across the line, while Timmy Hansen finished in third. 

What more could the Hansen’s possibly do in 2019? Well, add the “Yellow Squad” to the list of achievements. The Yellow Squad was created as a development programme by the Hansen brothers. 

In November, this year the Hansen’s announced that the Yellow Squad will join the RX2 International Series in 2020, after joining forces with Team Färén.

Kevin Hansen leading his brother and Andreas Bakkerud.
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA
The Titans RX and Nitro RX Champion Kevin Hansen took some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us at the Killarney International Raceway. 

Junaid Samodien: With no manufacturer teams in 2019. Reflecting on the season to date, how would you assess the 2019 season? 

Kevin Hansen: It’s been a very good year, and I think it has been the best year in my career developing as a driver and learning a bit more about myself. I think the two years with Peugeot was good and I learnt a lot, but this year I could really bring that knowledge forward and use it. So, overall it's been a good year.

JS: Having competed in multiple series this year (Titans, Nitro RX and managing the Yellow Squad) how do you find the mental strength to handle all these tasks?

KH: Yeah, we have a lot to do, but I think once you are in the flow of things it is easy to get going. I also have the family to do everything together with, so I never feel lonely and I get support when it becomes too much. We try to handle everything together, which I think is the key to our success – we have a lot of things to do but we handle it well.  

JS: Earlier this season in Barcelona, yourself and Timmy become to second ever siblings to finish first and second in an FIA World Championship event. What does it mean to you to be compared to the Schumacher family/brothers?

KH: It’s really cool! I never really seen that before that you can compare yourself to the Schumacher brothers. So, it’s just amazing. We try to do our thing, and we try to do it the best way possible, and to be compared to them is an honor. 

JS: What is it like to compete against your brother in World RX?

KH: It’s the first time that we have had the same car, and it’s the first time that it’s just the two of us in the team. So, we decided beforehand that we will never be competing against each other. We are at our strongest when we are together. So, it’s very nice and very comfortable. He is a safe teammate to have, we always perform very good together. 

JS: Having attended the launch of Projekt E in Riga. What are your thoughts on the concept? Do you think that Projekt E can be a success in drawing fans to electric rallycross or a good promotional tool for the eventual switch to electric rallycross?

KH: I think it’s cool that we are finally going electric, and we have some movement towards that. But I think for our team, we are not interested in Projekt E, as we are more focused on the World Championship where we have the big title as a World Champion and so-on. It’s a big investment and they are trying to make it work, but as I said it’s not something that our team will do, but we look forward to the electric transformation in World Rallycross. 

JS: Do you think fans will embrace Projekt E and Electric Rallycross?

KH: I think the sport is perfect for electric, and it will have a lot of sound. You can compare the sound of an electric car to the sound of a drill you use at home.  I have driven the Extreme E car and there was a lot of sound from the outside. So, that was very nice and I think rallycross would have even more sound, and plus it would be faster which would make it even better. I can’t wait to drive an electric car because they are just better cars. I think in a World Championship, we should have the best possible car and if it is electric then that is really cool. 

JS: Timmy and yourself entered Extreme E for the inaugural season in 2020. What were the reasons for entering this new form of motorsport?

KH: It’s a really interesting series that they tried to create. It’s almost like a new discipline in motorsport where we go off-road completely and race on a short stage in places in the world where it is affected by climate change, and that is something that I want to be part of to try to make my little contribution to the environment. It’s a really interesting championship with big goals and targets, so I wanted to sign up for the participation but unfortunately, nothing is signed for the series. 

JS: You are the inaugural Titans RX champion. Would you return to Titans RX in the future to defend your title?

KH: I would hope so! Titans RX has been really nice. It’s one of the series that I have had the most fun in. So, I think that I really want to go back there if I get the opportunity I will go. 

JS: What would you still like to achieve in your motorsport career?

KH: I want to run a team because I really love that side of it. It was a big part of me growing up – not only driving cars, but to run a team, and if that is in a World Championship or the junior category it would be really nice. I want to have a successful team and to win on that side as well because the feeling of winning that side is completely different. Then you really start becoming a professional driver that can lead on what I do full-time. I think that would be my main target – I am still very young, and I think for the next 10 years, I will try to remain in motorsport and then we see what happens. 

JS: What do you think of Killarney International Raceway, or of Cape Town and it’s people?

KH: I love Cape Town! I really love this city and I really enjoy it here. The track is always very nice – it has a good rhythmic feeling. It’s technical and has a big character, which makes it a lot of fun to drive.

JS: Will we see the Hansen family on the grid in 2020?

KH: Yes, somewhere at least! We hope that we can be back in the World Championship. We were really on the limit coming to the series this year and we just made it all the way through the year. So, we will hope to have a little bit more financial support for next year. We have worked hard for it. 

JS: You have raced on a number of World RX circuits in a number of countries? I have a challenge for you. Can you DRAW your ideal World RX circuit, or what would it look like?

KH: I have no idea (laughs). I already have the perfect rallycross track – it’s Nitro World Games. You can’t beat that! 

KH: When I was small I drew a lot of tracks on paper and made curves out of cardboard paper, and I played with my toy cars. So, I recognize this type of drawing.

A very special 'Thank You' to Kevin Hansen for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to Susann Hansen, Team Hansen MJP team manager for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron
Circuit drawn by - Kevin Hansen

Pictures By - Junaid Samodien

FIA selects energy supplier for the electrification of World RX from 2021

GCK Energy will supply the charging power and infrastructure for the FIA World Rallycross Championship from 2021, the World Motor Sport Council has confirmed.

Following the FIA's invitation to tender on 5 July 2019, GCK Energy has been selected as the official energy supplier for the electrification of the FIA World Rallycross and the FIA Junior eRallycross Championship from 2021 to 2024.

GCK partnered with IBS and Socomec earlier this year to create alternative energy solutions and a bespoke solar energy storage system for use in the FIA World RX paddock. GCK Energy will supply the entire paddock with the newly developing charging unit from 2021 

Throughout the 2019 season, the GCK squad operated 100% autonomously on renewable power.  

In October, GCK presented their project e-car in Latvia, as a demonstration of new mobile energy storage solutions. The e’car was a mobile energy storage unit, created in partnership with E’nergys, IBS and Pegasus Racing, which aims to enable the rapid recharging of future electric racing cars, using clean energy storage solutions and without requiring investment in the infrastructure of the automotive circuit.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

FIA approves 2020 World RX calendar with the addition of Russia.

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has approved the 11-round calendar for the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship after a meeting in Paris yesterday. 

Since the release of the provisional calendar by series promotor IMG on 31 October, one of two TBC's on the originally announced calendar was revealed as the Latvian round would remain on the calendar in 2020. 

The World RX championship will return to Germany, but for the first time, the series will visit the Nürburgring, where a section of the Grand Prix circuit will be used. The second new event approved by the WMSC will see the championship head to Russia on 18-19 July (2020) at the brand-new rallycross circuit built inside the Igora Drive motorsport complex, north of Saint Petersburg.

The 2020 FIA World Rallycross calendar is approved as follows:
*Subject to promoter agreement and circuit homologation

Written By - Junaid Samodien


Sunday, 1 December 2019

FIA Post-Race Press Conference: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)

(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Lewis Hamilton, congratulations, your 11th victory of the season and that looked one of your most dominant. You must be very proud?
Lewis HAMILTON: Honestly, I’m proud definitely but I’m just super grateful for this incredible team. To all at Mercedes, who have continued to push this year… who would have thought that at the end of the year we would have this strength in the race and even though we had the championships won we just really wanted to keep our heads down and try to see if we could learn and if we could extend and if we could extract more from this beautiful car that they’ve worked [on]. It’s a piece of art. And I’m also so grateful to team LH. I travel around the world to 21 different countries, probably even more, and I get to see people who continuously inspire me and send me messages and lift me up. So I want to send a big thank you to everyone that’s here, everyone that’s back home. Thank you for watching, thank you for supporting. I feel so happy with today, man.

Q: Now it has been a great season and I know you’re in that moment, but you’ve got on the podium two young guys, two young chargers. They’ve thrown some big races at you this year, but this is a great way for you to end the season, with such a dominant victory. These guys have still got a lot of work to do?
LH: These guys, there are a lot of youngsters coming through. If you look at the grid, for example, from second to like seventh or eighth was all super youngsters, so I’m really proud to be in a period of time where there are such great youngsters coming through. These guys have been doing a phenomenal job and I really privileged to be in the period of time where they’re here and I’m looking forward to hopefully more close battles with us in the future, so I hope it gets close for us next year.

Q: Just before I move on, what have you got planned for the winter?
LH: Oh, just family time, man.

Q: Enjoy your family time. Max Verstappen, it’s been a pretty good season for you – three victories, third in the Drivers’ Championship. Today that was the best you could hope for. You had some issues though didn’t you? We heard you on the radio; you were having to manage some issues.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, a few little things. At the end of the day it wouldn’t have made a difference in terms of position. Yeah, we had to do a bit of a different strategy to Ferrari of course, they pitted quite early and we went long, because they overtook us on the first lap. After that our pace was quite decent, just Mercedes and Lewis today, they were just a bit too quick. As a whole I think it’s been a positive season and of course to be P3 in the championship is a nice ending.

Q: Lewis said he’s going to be spending family time in the winter but I guess you’ve got your sights on the world championship, so you’ll be at the factory, you’ll be on the simulator, you’ll be working hard?

MV: I think we are all working hard but it’s also good to take some time off, be with family and friend and be fully recharged for next year and come back stronger.

Q: Congratulations. We’ve got Charles and Lewis sharing notes here. What are you discussing? They way the race played out?

Charles LECLERC: Yeah, just overall how quick he was during the race. With the hard I think he did a 39.2, so yeah, I was just saying congratulations to him.

Q: Now, third place; it’s another podium. It’s been a great year, first year for you at Ferrari. I know you guys all want to win but you have to be satisfied. You are the first team-mate to have finished in front of Sebastian in the world championship in his time at Ferrari, so it’s been very positive for you.
CL: Yeah, I’m extremely about this year. I’ve learned a huge amount thanks to Seb. Yeah, it’s been a great year. For me a realisation of a dream since childhood. I’ve always dreamed to be in Formula 1 but especially with Ferrari. To be now with this team is unbelievable and now it’s up to me to work, to get better, and hopefully give them the success they deserve.


Q: Lewis, many congratulations, as emphatic a victory as we have seen from you, and in your 250th race as well?

LH: Jeez! That’s a lot of races.
MV: You didn’t celebrate that – 250? No pit board? Two-hundred-and-fifty grands prix, they didn’t celebrate that for you? You didn’t care.
LH: No!
MV: Three hundred? Three-fifty?
LH: No, I don’t want to reminded of the age! No, what an incredible year it has been. What an incredible stretch it’s been with this team. Yeah, after winning the Constructors’ and the Drivers’ Championship I think it was really important for us as a team to continue to push. You know, we hadn’t got absolutely everything from the overall perfect package. So we were just trying to push the limits and push the boundaries and yeah, I think this is the perfect way to end the season, on the right foot. I think it was a great weekend in the sense that there was a Ferrari and a Red Bull and a Mercedes in the top three, obviously in the finishing order but also on the grid, and then a lot of young drivers behind me, making me feel young, which is great. I’m really just grateful to my team who have continued to push all year long and just have never lost sight of the objective. We’ve all had a common goal and inspired each other to continue to push and strive for perfection. So, incredibly grateful to everyone and I hope that everyone at Mercedes and our partners. I’m sure they are pretty happy.

Q: Were you surprised by your dominance today, because you were 13 seconds ahead of Max after 20 laps?
LH: Yeah, I definitely wasn’t expecting to haver the pace advantage to that extent. Our long run pace was quite good and I was told that we might be a tenth or two ahead but then in the race we had a bit more of an advantage in that respect. And once I got out in the clear I was able to manage my pace pretty well in that first stint and manage the tyres. I just had to go as long, basically, as Max was going. Then we got onto that next set of tyres and for this track the tyre was good. The hard tyres is quite resilient to any abrasion and that. It goes a long, long way. I think it can do the whole race stint. I think towards the end of the race I was like ‘I want to have some… I’ve got to push and see if I can extract any more performance from the car’. I do wish that we had some battles. I saw on TV you guys battling…

MV: You could have slowed down!
LH: You guys are too quick on the straights.
MV: Just give it a chance.
LH: I’m sure we are going to have some great races. We had some great races this year, Max and I, so congratulations to them for continuing to rise and I’m excited to be amongst those guys and fight with them next year.

Q: Max, your second consecutive podium here in Abu Dhabi and your ninth podium finish of the season. You didn’t seem happy with the car after your pit stop. Can you just talk us through what the problems were?
MV: Yeah, I just had some torque holes on throttle. There were delays and stuff, so it was not great, and we couldn’t fix it, so we drove around the problem. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t have made a difference in terms of the result.

Q: What does a torque hole mean? In the olden days would we have been talking about a misfire?
MV: No, just when I go on throttle it’s not doing what I want.

Q: Did it cost you lap time?
MV: It did cost me lap-time – but like I said, it wouldn’t have given me the win today.

Q: Apart from that, race was fine?
MV: Yeah, race was fine. Little bit of a shame about the first lap but then I think we had a good first stint, to go long and yeah, I think once we then put the hard tyres on, the pace was decent. I could get by Charles and then I could just do my own race. I mean, Lewis was too quick, so I was just focussing on my own race and lap-times.

Q: And you’ve sealed third in the Championship today. Just how will you reflect on 2019?

MV: Yeah, pretty good. Few victories, poles, so that’s pretty good. I think we improved quite a bit throughout the season. Also, from Honda side. Of course, very happy about that. Now we just need to keep that momentum into the winter break as well and try to improve the car even further, together with the engine and be there from the first race, not from the middle of the season or towards the end. But we know that, so we are working on it.

Q: Charles, it was pretty tight with Valtteri in those closing laps. How worried were you?

CL: Well, Valtteri was very quick towards the end of the race, so yeah, I was pretty worried at one point when he started to catch and I was starting to struggle a little bit – but then, in the last four or five laps, I think he came back a little bit slower: I think he slowed down too, so then I was a bit more hopeful and then I had some traffic, so it was very close towards the end. But yeah, it was a bit of a strange race because in the first stint I was very hopeful, I was behind Lewis. OK, we weren’t as quick as Lewis but I still thought the pace was there – but then we tried to pit pretty early to try to force them to stop early but yeah, then basically I understood I would see Lewis at the end of the race because we were just not quick enough and we never put a challenge to them in front. Yeah, it’s like this. We weren’t quick enough – but overall, I think during the season it’s been more or less the same picture when qualifying, we manage more or less to be there but then in the race we seem to struggle. So we need to work on that for 2020.

Q: So you were trying to force Mercedes into making another pit stop. How early in the race – if indeed you did – were you regretting that two-stop strategy?

CL: I was not. Because it was pretty clear for me that to get this third place, if I wanted it, it was all about winning because Max was still in the race, so we had to do something. I didn’t want to stay there and that’s it. So, I just tried but to be honest with not much hope but yeah, at least we tried.

Q: And Charles, final thoughts. Are you worried about the fuel discrepancy that was discovered by the FIA prior to the race?

CL: To be honest, I’ve got no idea and no details whatsoever of what’s going on, for now. So, yeah. I’ll speak to the team to understand that better.


Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Question for Max. We’ve heard you over the year discussing over the year that you’ve had a little bit of lag sensitivity with the car. It doesn’t always respond to your throttle inputs. Is the problem today related to that – and how did it feel from your perspective in the car?

MV: Most of the time it’s fine-tuning. Today, I’m not sure yet what happened exactly, because they didn’t want to tell me on the radio, they just said there was nothing they could do from their side, so then it also doesn’t matter what it is, so I’ll have to find out.

Q: (Giovanni Messi – Max, do you think Red Bull is now in front of Ferrari and ready to catch Mercedes next year for a World Championship? And for Charles, I want to ask your opinion about the strategy today: why did you stop so early in the first laps?

MV: I think it’s pretty close. It just depends a little bit on the track layout but I think from our side, throughout the season, we made good improvements so we could actually take the fight a bit more forward and win a few races and yet for next year there is still a lot of work to do of course, to catch up to Mercedes. At the end of the day, they were the dominant team over the year, or at least, the most consistent. Yeah, we will of course try everything to close that gap but of course it’s not going to be easy.

CL: No. At the end, as I said, to be third in the championship we had to win the race, considering where Max was in the race so we gave it all for that and yeah, I just didn’t want to stay there in second place and follow the others’ strategy because it made no sense so we went for a gamble, it didn’t pay off but it’s OK.

Q: (Christian Menath – Lewis, yesterday you said you had to re-centre a bit after Friday. You were a bit behind Valtteri, I don’t know if it was because of the engine, he had a fresh engine, but can you explain how you re-centre yourself? Is that something driving-wise you look completely differently into or is it more personal?

LH: It’s really just about… I don’t know, on Friday, I just had a bit of… I guess, maybe it was slightly erratic, just the balance of…sometimes you over-drive, you under-drive, just not comfortable with the balance of the car and not reacting, there wasn’t synergy between myself and the car. But I would say more so perhaps from my personal side so I don’t know, it’s just about stepping back, taking a breather and kind of realigning your focus, realising what you need to do. As I said, get your heart under control and came back the next day, there was nothing erratic, smooth, calm and collected, so I had my own ways of doing that naturally but I think it’s just the experience over the years, understanding on some days, emotions are heightened and other days it’s more mellow and that was just one of those days.

Q: (Lawrence Edmonson – ESPN) Lewis, I don’t know if you’re aware but there’s been a lot of talk this weekend about you potentially going to Ferrari in 2021. I may as well ask a straight question: is it a consideration and have you met with Ferrari’s president John Elkann?

LH: Well, naturally everything that happens behind closed doors is obviously always private with whoever it is you end up sitting with but I think for many, many years I’ve never ever sat down and considered other options, because we’ve been on a… just driving straight ahead into the path that we’ve been on and the journey that we’ve been on and to be honest, I still think we’re on that path and I think there’s very little that’s going to shift it from that but I think there’s no harm in… I know Toto is also looking at his options in terms of his future and only he will know what is the best thing for him and his family. So I’m waiting to see what he’s doing with that. I love where I am so it’s definitely not a quick decision to do something else, but of course I think it’s only smart and wise for me to sit and think of what I want… if it is the last period or stage in my career. Actually I want to keep winning so I think that’s… I want to keep being able to fight with these guys as well. I can’t really tell you what else is going to happen moving forwards.

Q: Charles, can I just throw that to you as well. If you’re still wearing red in 2021, would you welcome Lewis as a team-mate?

CL: Well of course. At the end, we are in Formula One and we want to fight against the best. I’ve had a big opportunity this year to have Seb next to me who is a four time World Champion and I’ve learned a lot from him and you can always learn from this type of champion so yeah, of course.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.

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

(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)

Q: Lewis you can see it’s a pretty good reaction you’ve got. I guess it’s the best way you could sign off this season on a Saturday – pole position, the first time since Germany as well.

Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it’s been such a long slog trying to get this pole position in, but we just kept our heads down and just continuing to try... the guys have been doing a great job around me, the other drivers, so it was really juts trying to focus on continuing to do my job. Yesterday was quite wobbly, so I had to really recompose myself last night and come back today focused and managed to really dial in the car with great work from the engineers, mechanics continuing to do a great job and yeah, what a crowd. Every time I come here I seem to get a lot of love here in Abu Dhabi, and also there are a lot of Brits here as well, so a big thank you to everyone.

Q: And how nice is it to get a car that you fully focus on? It’s looked in shape all weekend and I think that’s credit to the team. You do never give up do you?

LH: We never give up. There’s always room to improve. There has been a lot of growth in this whole year, I think for so many people within the team. I can obviously speak for myself, there’s been a lot of growth but also these last couple of races there’s been a lot of growth, from a driver’s perspective, and just constantly looking for those small milliseconds. You know, Valtteri 2.0 has been rapid also this weekend, so I’m glad that we’re in this position. Of course to end the qualifying season with a pole, which has been a while, you know we’ve only had four earlier on this year, so… It’s been a special car and it’s the last time I’ll get to qualify with it so I’m glad I did it proud today.

Q: And Max is obviously lining up alongside you; continue on that battle that you had in Brazil that kept us on the edge of our seat?

LH: Absolutely, yeah. I think we’re in a slightly better position this weekend. Obviously, Max is continuing to drive well, but I’m looking forward to battling with him for sure.

Q: Valtteri, it’s a front row but at the same time you obviously take a grid penalty. I guess nice to be out there and show what Mercedes are capable of but just feel short at the end?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, as a team it’s been a really strong day and we saw yesterday in the qualifying [simulations] that we have a good pace. Didn’t feel quite as good today as it did yesterday with my car, struggling a bit more with sliding, but I think Lewis made some good improvements since yesterday and he put some good laps together in the qualifying, so he was quicker. In any case, I’m going to start last with my 40-place grid penalty or whatever, so we’ll find the fighting spirit for tomorrow.

Q: Surely you must relish that challenge. You’re going to be a nuisance in some people’s mirrors, and you’ll be pushing all the way, you got a little bit of insight yesterday, do you believe that you can come through and get on the podium?

VB: I believe. Anything is possible. We do have a good car and normally Sunday is better than Saturday for us so we’ll give it all I have for sure.

Q: Max, front row start. I know you just came short today, it wasn’t quite there at the end, Mercedes have looked supreme, but a good start and you’re already in the battle with this guy that you were battling with in Brazil.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think today was the best that we could do. I think we all know that. Mercedes is quite dominant here. We tried everything we could. I think overall pretty happy. Still good to start on the front row. Of course I would have like to actually qualify there. I think still a lot of chances for tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.

Q: How did the car feel yesterday on the long runs? Do you think you are competitive enough to race them?

MV: From our side it felt alright, but we always know that Mercedes are very quick on the long runs. We’ll just wait and see what happens tomorrow.


Q: Lewis, an emphatic performance by you, the car seemed to be performing well, how good was the lap?

LH: Thank you. It definitely was a very good qualifying session for us. It’s not been the easiest in terms of qualifying for us throughout the year. It’s been something we’ve just been chipping away at. Considering we’re not developing the car currently I think we just really tried to see what we could pull out of the car this weekend and it’s well suit to the track and it’s been feeling good. Yesterday was a little bit difficult. I had to re-centre myself for today. Yeah, I think the best thing is when you get to Q3 and you pull out two good laps. I think my first lap it felt special and then the second one obviously was an improvement, so I can’t complain. Just a big thank you to all the team for their continued efforts and even though we have both titles won they continue to push and strive for better and that’s inspiring for me, so I’ve been doing the same thing.

Q: It’s been a while for you, since the German GP your last pole. How much satisfaction does this give you?

LH: Yeah, of course. It feels longer than the German Grand Prix. If I’m really honest I don’t even understand how I got the German Grand Prix pole. But yeah, it’s been really hard, particularly since we have come back from the break. The competition has been spectacular; all drivers have been doing an amazing job. I don’t think my qualifying has been terrible but it’s just not been at my usual standard perhaps, so of course it’s incredibly satisfying to know that we have put the work and to end my last qualifying session with this car, which has been a real incredible journey with this car this year, so to finish it off on the front row, there’s not a better feeling really. Obviously that’s not even half the job done. Tomorrow we’ve got to battle with the Ferraris and the Red Bulls but I think we put ourselves in the best position possible so incredibly happy. Honestly, it’s really strange, you say it’s 88 [poles] but it honestly feels like the first, I don’t know why. It feels super-fresh. Maybe because it’s been so long since earlier on in the season and I’m glad to finish on five poles in the year.

Q: Valtteri, great lap. The car seemed to improve as the session went on.

VB: Yeah, the lap was OK. I think still it felt like Lewis was a bit too quick and I think we were slightly different with set-up as well by the end of the qualifying. Honestly, I felt a bit more comfortable yesterday with the car overall. But obviously for me, anything I was trying to keep in my mind was for the race because, in any case, whatever happens today I knew I’m going to be starting last with my, I don't know how many place, grid penalty, 40, or something. So, I mean, I tried, obviously, as hard as I could. In Q2 I did only one run to save a new tyre set for the race, one set of Softs, if needed. But yeah, Lewis did a very good job, so congrats for the 88th – it’s a big number. Massive respect for that. But yeah, I’m just really already looking forward for tomorrow, because it is going to be compromised.

Q: Valtteri, what is the plan for tomorrow. Can you plan your race, or are you going to have to react to what’s going on around you?

VB: For sure, we’ve tried to make a plan and the whole weekend, trying to optimise for the race because, like I said, qualifying result doesn’t really matter for me today. So, everything we’ve done with the tyre choices, and everything we’ve tried to optimise that. We’ve had many ideas for the strategy, and obviously it’s going to be a challenge, coming up from there – but I do look forward to it. I’m sure it can be fun trying to come up.

Q: Final thought Valtteri. How are you feeling? You’re not sounding great.

VB: Feeling better already than a couple of days ago. I’ve been quite ill this week, I think since Monday night, so when I travelled here it got worse – but in the car it doesn’t matter. The adrenaline kicks in and you feel normal.

Q: Max, at one stage during the session you reported suspension trouble. Was there any problem with the car?

MV: No, it was just to check. Because I hit one of the orange inside – the high ones. So they would have a look at it, not that it would catch us by surprise, or anything.

Q: And just tell us about your Q3 session. How good was the lap? How was the car performing?

MV: I think the lap was really decent. There was not much I could do better, I think. I mean, there is never a perfect lap. It was good. I mean, I was just driving to the limits. We just seemed to lack a bit of grip, compared to them. Especially, they are very quick in the last sector. And there are a lot of off-camber corners. They are always very dominant here on this track, and we tried to be as close as we could and unfortunately we were just lacking a bit too much in that last sector. But overall, I think I’m pretty pleased. To be third in qualifying, second on the grid. Of course, I would have preferred to be there on pure pace but for us I think it was a pretty positive weekend.

Podium here last year. Do you fancy your chances of getting on the top step tomorrow?

MV: I guess you will always try but you also have to be realistic and I think Mercedes is very quick – but we’ll give it everything we have, tomorrow in the race.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you said that it felt like it’d been longer that Germany since you were on pole. Just wondered if it’s a weight off in any way? If it’s something you’ve thought about through the season, or is it a case of you get the pole now and only then you realise, ‘damn, it’s been however many races’?

LH: No, there wasn’t a worry through the season. Of course, I’m well aware that you can’t win them all. I’ve been extremely fortunate and done a relatively decent job over the years – but yeah, I think just with understanding the car and ultimately just squeezing out the best: not over-driving; not under-driving; trying to find the right balance throughout the year. And plus, obviously we’ve had some great opposition. Opponents that are doing a great job – but yeah, I think Austin was probably the last time the car was able to be on the front row, which Valtteri did but I just wasn’t there, so it’s frustrating when you miss those sessions. I think it was the same in Japan. But, it’s great, as I said, these last two races particularly, I’ve done a lot of experimenting. With my driving style and with the car. Just trying to see if I can eke out a little bit more. And I think I’m closer to it. Not 100 per cent but I’ll apply what I’m like this year into next.

Q: (Christian Menath – Question for you Max. You said you have to be realistic tomorrow. So, you’re starting on the Medium tyre. The gap on the Medium seemed to be a bit bigger than on the soft to Mercedes. It’s probably going to be a one-stop race. The track is not fantastic for overtaking. Do you see any chance of getting first tomorrow?

MV: Sounds positive! No, my lap was not fantastic on the Medium. In Q3 it was almost half a second and on the Medium it was sixth-tenths. So, its not a big deal. It’s going to be hard. I’m not going to lie but like I said, we’ll try everything we can as a team and we’ll see where we end up.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, with this car in this circuit, is it possible to be in the top three tomorrow as well?

VB: Everything is always possible. There’s no point for me to set any limit really for tomorrow. So for sure, we’ll have a good fighting spirit. Take every opportunity there will be tomorrow and for sure there will be some. We’ve seen crazy races this year – look back two weeks in Brazil. So anything is possible. Look forward to coming up and taking those opportunities and most important having fun in the car.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, yesterday Mattia Binotto said that you were an outstanding driver and the fact that you might be available in 2021 to sign can only make him happy, so just your reaction to that, and whether that might give you something to think about over the winter?

LH: Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of that. I think that’s the first compliment I’ve had from Ferrari in these thirteen years.

MV: It’s because you’re beating them.

LH: I honestly don’t remember them ever mentioning me ever so thank you, I’ll take it, doesn’t really mean anything, it’s all talk but yeah, it’s nice that finally… it’s taken all these years for him to recognise maybe but I’m grateful.

Q: (Andreas Haupt – Auto, Moto und Sport) Lewis and Max, from what you’ve seen so far this weekend, do you see Ferrari as a potential threat or are they just too weak here this weekend and is it all between you tomorrow?

LH: Yeah, I think their long run was good, huh? I think their long run was strong. I don’t actually know where they are.

MV: Charles will start third.

LH: His Q2 run was good on the mediums, wasn’t it, so they’ve obviously got pace. I think it’s going to be close between us all. Not to be negative, but I just wonder if… this track is awesome and this event is awesome but I wonder if it’s time they did a subtle adjustment to it to make it a bit easier for us to overtake, maybe. I don’t know. It’s a hard place for us to follow. We’ve got these great long straights which are good.

MV: Yeah, the atmosphere is great…

LH: I don’t know what they have to change but…

MV: Less off-camber corners.

LH: Yeah, maybe. Banked corners would be good.

MV: Yeah.

Q: Your thoughts on Ferrari, Max. Leclerc fastest in Q2 on the medium tyre?
MV: Yeah, of course he also went for a second go at it but yeah, they will be there. I don’t worry about it too much, you just find out during the race. Go to bed, sleep well and have fun tomorrow.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just following up on Phil’s question to Lewis: it’s all very nice,  compliments, but are they wasting their time being nice to you? Are you going to turn them down or are you listening to anything that they have to say, positive, negative? Would you be interested in talking to them about your future with regards to Ferrari?

LH: No, it’s positive. What was the first part, sorry? I think it’s never a waste of time to ever being nice to someone. As I said, it has been a long, long time and a team that I’ve always appreciated over the years, so to earn their respect from someone from there who’s obviously very high up is obviously not a bad thing. I think they’ve got two great drivers as is so who knows what the driver market’s going to be doing over the next year. But if I’m really honest, I’m not really focused on that right this second: trying to make sure I finish off strong. I’ve got this incredible group of people who hire me where I am and I feel like I just continue to owe it to them to give my heart to them and my energy 100 per cent to them, particularly as I’m still in contract and negotiations haven’t started yet. I honestly don’t know how the next phase of the months is going to go when it comes to contract. It’s very odd that you have to do it almost a year before it ends and it can’t be done towards the end but that’s just the way it goes but we shall see.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Fernando Alonso earlier said that he’s going to keep the door open for 2021, so what would your reaction be to a comeback of a driver of his calibre?

LH: I’d be more just happy that I won’t be the oldest here! So welcome an older dude, he can come along. Fernando’s obviously a well-accomplished driver. It’s interesting to see in the past, obviously, with drivers wanting to come back, like Michael, and it’s something you’ve done your whole life so… I haven’t spoken to Fernando so I don’t know how he’s been feeling or how much he’s missed it, but I don’t think it would be bad for the sport. Ultimately, there’s a lot of young kids on their way up and there’s only 20 seats, so he has also had his period of time there, but if there’s no other good youngsters coming through then… there definitely is space for some that are currently here that probably could be replaced. So I would welcome it.

VB: Agree with Lewis, nothing really to add. Same thoughts.
MV: Yeah, absolutely, I mean Fernando’s a great driver but you should only come back…
LH: You said something about him coming back.
MV: Me?
LH: Yeah. You said that… come back… with me.
MV: Is that so?
LH: You know, in my first season.
MV: You were equal on points, wasn’t it?
LH: In my first season.
MV: Yeah, that’s right. You did a great job. No, but he’s a great driver, I think you can agree on that, right?
LH: Of course.
MV: And it would be good to see him… if he could come back but only in a competitive car otherwise I think it’s just a waste of time for him. But I think he knows that himself so…