Friday, 29 November 2019

FIA Team Principals' Press Conference: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.


TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Claire WILLIAMS (Williams), Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Mattia BINOTTO (Ferrari), Zak BROWN (McLaren), Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault).

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Mattia, I’d like to take you back to the last race to start with. You’ve no doubt studied the footage of the crash between your two drivers. What’s your verdict?

Mattia BINOTTO: Hmm… what’s the verdict? I think there may be different versions. If you listen to the drivers, they may have their own version. I think at the end there is one true version, which is that they damaged the interest of the Scuderia Ferrari, and by doing that, damaging themselves. We discussed altogether, we looked again at the video. I think what’s always important when that type of thing happens, there is always something which is triggering it. And more important is to understand what’s triggering it. It's the only way to make sure that in the future it’s not happening again. And that’s something that certainly we discussed – between us.

Q: Charles spoke yesterday, when he was summing up 2019, saying it’s been a weird season. How would you describe it?

MB: Should I clarify what he said? I don’t know. Weird… I would say it has been an intense season. Many things happened. If I look from the team perspective or the technical point of view, I think it has been a linear season, somehow. If anything’s weird, I think it’s we were expecting a better performance after the winter testing, and I think that we never really understood what happened from Barcelona to Australia. If anything, those guys certainly made a jump ahead. I think that from our perspective, then we had performance weaknesses in the car that we improved all through the season, as I said, in a linear way – and I think the car in the second half of the season was certainly better, compared to the first part. We are still not the best car in the race. I think that other cars are still faster in the race. We are not certainly the best car in cornering and at least we know our weaknesses, working on it and from that respect it has been a bit linear. Weird, I think, from Charles’ perspective, very first year for him in Ferrari, a lot of emotions, a lot of things, he is the driver that has started most of the time on pole position this season, which is a great achievement. Two victories. Up and down, as well in his performance relative to his team-mate, not always so consistent, if you look from the start to the end. But I think it has been a season where an entire team, the drivers, we learnt and I’m pretty sure it will make us even stronger in the future.

Q: Toto, you miss a race, look what happens! How difficult was it to watch events at Interlagos from afar, and how did you stay in touch with what was going on?

Toto WOLFF: Yeah, it was weird, because it was the first race that I missed since Williams times – Barcelona 2012. I did it because there’s just so much business going on at the moment and I had a Formula E weekend the following weekend and obviously Abu Dhabi and things needed to be done. Normal office work. It was also for me an experiment to see how I would take it. I know the team is perfectly capable in doing that without me. There were voices that it would actually be beneficial for me not distracting anybody around the racetrack. So, what happened, would have happened with me there. I was hoping that it would be a perfect weekend and that I could miss some of the bad ones next year – but at the moment I am off that plan.

Q: It’s been a cracking end to the season with three teams battling for wins. Does that make you nervous for next year? Do you expect it to be the closest battle in the hybrid era?

TW: Yes, I think so. We have always defended the standpoint that by letting the regulations alone, performance convergence would happen – at least there’s a high probability that convergence happens rather than throwing the dice and introducing something new and I think we have seen that. It’s fair to say that there are three teams capable of winning races today and probably winning championships if things are being put together. McLaren has massively caught up, probably the steepest performance slope of all teams and will be there or thereabouts, in my opinion. So, yeah, I see this very much as being a much tougher season. I don’t think we are going to see the kind of 10 race wins or 12 race wins per team for next year any more – but obviously we will be trying everything to optimise our weaknesses and continue to perform well.

Q: Zak, the team has sealed fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. Given where it was a year ago, in P6, and then P9 the year before that. How much of an achievement is that?

Zak BROWN: I think it’s been a big achievement, given where we’ve been the last couple of years. I think the team’s done an excellent job, both at the factory and at the race track. Everyone is contributing. Renault has played a big part in us getting more competitive again. They’ve been a fantastic partner. Drivers are doing a very good job, bringing the car home and in the points often, so it’s certainly been a pleasure racing this year, when I look back to Abu Dhabi last year.

Q: If the past 12 months have been fruitful, can you just tell us a little bit about the next 12 months – because you’ve got a harder split programme than most teams: preparing a Renault-powered 2020 car and then a Mercedes-powered 2021 car.

ZB: Yeah, everyone’s going to be in the same boat, in the sense of the ’21 is going to be such a change from 2020 that everyone’s going to be starting from a clean sheet of paper – but we’re up for it. It’s one of the reasons we made an early decision, to give ourselves as much time as possible. I think ‘21’s going to be exciting for Formula 1 and for the fans because when there’s a big change like that, someone’s going to get it right; someone’s going to get it wrong and, as Toto said, tends to converge over time but I’m excited for the ’21 season – but also excited for ’20, of course.

Q: Claire, if we could talk a little more about that 2020-2021 split from Williams’ point of view. How difficult a juggling act is it when there’s such a huge opportunity in 2021?

Claire WILLIAMS: It’s clearly not easy. I think we’ve all talked about the challenges that we’re all going to face next year. I think everyone in the pit lane is going to have a challenge on their hands. I think it will be slightly easier for the top three teams with bigger budgets. For us, it is a real challenge back at the factory, trying to run those two programmes, for next year, for ’21 – but obviously we’ve been trying to run this year’s programme, when we haven’t let development slide. We’ve got to continue to bring upgrades to the car over the course of this season, which we’ve been doing, and really we’re looking at ’19 and ’20 as one long campaign. So, it is difficult – but we wanted the ’21 regulations to come in. We lobbied hard for them, so we’ve just go to deal with the problem head on and do the best job that we can.

Q: News yesterday on the driver front. Just a word on Nicholas Latifi. Why have you chosen him to partner George Russell next year?

CW: I think it was probably a fairly obvious choice. We’re pleased that we’re able to make an announcement. It’s been a long time coming and probably an obvious choice for us. Nicholas has been with us now this year, as our reserve driver. He’s done six FP1s for us and some test sessions. He’ll run next week at the Abu Dhabi test, and he’s just become a really great part of the team. He’s got a great personality – and from a track performance perspective, he’s done a good job in the F2 campaign this year. He’s obviously hoping to close out P2 this weekend, and I think he’ll be instrumental in driving the team forward. He’s got a very similar personality to George, and George has proved how motivating for everybody in the team, and I think Nicholas will fully mirror that next year.

Q: Cyril, Renault is involved in a very tight battle with Toro Rosso for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship. Just eight points the difference. Given the nature of this circuit, how confident are you in your car’s performance?

Cyril ABITEBOUL: If you really ask me for this circuit, I’m very confident. We were competitive last year. FP1 is not much to say because FP1 is very particular here, given the conditions but no, I think that indeed Toro Rosso with different circumstance that they’ve benefited, and that also managed to make happen in the close fight but I think it’s also fair to say that, on average, we are a clear P5. The target was to be P4 so we have not reached that target but average we deserve that P5. We didn’t benefit of any particular result that have helped in that respect. No podium when it could have been possible again. It’s our own fault, so I’m not blaming anyone in particular. But no, I think we will have a good fight tomorrow and Sunday, but I believe our chances… I want to believe our chances are high to finish P5.

Q: Now, overall it’s been a difficult season for you guys. What have you learnt from the really tough moments – and when were they?

CA: There’s been many tough moments. There’s been good moments also. I think it’s important to take a bit of distance, so if you ask me, it’s really to manage, to learn about the resilience that you need in that sport. Sometimes people believe how difficult it is as a sport, as a business also, given the difficulty and the way that the world is changing. We are on a ramp up. Zak has just mentioned a good trend that they have: P9, P6, P4. It’s exactly the trend that we had also: P9, P6, P4. I think all of that is possible, but the difficulty first is to maintain that P4 position now that McLaren has been able to come back from where they were before and the main difficult will be not to stay P5 or P4 because we should not be content with that, and I’m sure Zak is not content with that – but also to bridge the gap with the top teams. That will be the next difficulty and still the target for us. It’s a target for 2021. Everything in our programme has been built around that long-term target of 2021 because, in accordance to our strategy, that’s really the first opportunity to make that happen. But before 2021, there is ’19, there is ’20. And there is a short-term result and a short term pressure that everyone is putting on all of us. And that’s fine. Again, that’s part of the sport.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Mattia, what guidelines or rules or instructions have you given the drivers in terms of racing going forward from this point to stop what happened in Brazil happening again, if indeed they are allowed to race?

MB: There are no answers here; it’s something we discussed internally. They are both very good drivers, they know exactly what to do. I think it has been somehow unfortunate what happened but it will not happen anymore.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/Racefans.net) Zak, you’re obviously delighted at finishing fourth in the championship, but if you look at it Red Bull finished third with the engine you people rejected. How do you feel about that? Is there any regret? Equally, Cyril, how do you feel about being beaten by your engine customer, given the fact that you both have similar resources?

TW: Such a nice fellow.

ZB: Look, I think, first of all, congratulations to Honda, it’s great that they’re going to be staying in the sport. I think that’s positive for the sport. I think you’ve got to give credit to Helmut Marko for making a good strategic decision to first put Honda into his B team and that works our well, so he puts it into his A team and he’s got two good lieutenants in Christian and Franz running those teams and you know, they’re winning races now and good on them and good for the sport.

CA: Well, you know, we were beaten by our customer, OK, but when I’m not beaten by my customer I’m beaten by McLaren, and McLaren is a great team. McLaren has had its difficulty but I think maybe something that Zak has not mentioned, but he could have mentioned, is the fact that sometimes you need to change some stuff to really understand where you’re at and what needs to be changed and what needs to be made stronger and I think the fact that when they came to Renault we were a benchmark. Not a benchmark in the sense that we were the best but at least McLaren knew what was the Renault engine capable of doing with Red Bull at the time. I think that really put a light on what needed to be changed in their organization and they have done that. They have taken action, based on that information. I think we are doing the same, in fairness, a bit later, but we are still doing the same. We know what our engine is capable of doing. In my opinion it is the engine that most progressed over the winter, right there, probably at the top in race conditions. So that’s good, but obviously it’s not enough. So we had to take action and we have reacted with exactly what we’ve done. We restructured the aerodynamic department. We recruited someone who actually is no stranger to probably the resurrection of McLaren – Pat Fry – and that will not stop there. I think that what matters is being able to constantly assess where we are strong and where we are weak. That’s what McLaren has done and that’s what also we have done and react, that’s also what we are doing.

Q: (Lawrence Edmonson – ESPN) A question for the whole panel: F1 is planning to become carbon neutral by 2030 but when you consider that entire countries have got a similar plan in place, is F1 being ambitious enough and is the whole sport going to face a losing battle over the next 10 years?

CW: I think the very fact that F1 have come out and launched a proposal in this area is the best starting block. I don’t think we have talked about what we do already do. I think there is a lot more that we could communicate in order to demonstrate the very fact that our sport is probably a whole lot more sustainable than the generic perception of it out there at the moment. These new hybrid engines being the perfect example. We have never talked about them being as relevant as there are. But I think that the sport does need to become a whole lot more sustainable. It’s a wider conversation in the rest of the world and it’s a very relevant and important one at the moment and this sport needs to be doing what it should be doing to tackle a whole lot of issues that we haven’t been tackling and there probably is an enormous amount of low-hanging fruit that we can all contribute to as a collective. I think as individual teams we have started down this pathway many, many years ago, but again it’s something that we don’t necessarily talk or shout about. At Williams we have a whole business division, about 350 people, that tackles or that takes some of those issues and uses battery technology in order to address them and again we should probably be doing a better job to talk about it. But I think the very fact that F1 have started this pathway and it is only the very beginning, but I think a 10-year plan is probably the right amount of time in order to tackle it.

TW: Yeah, what Claire said about the engines, we are having the most efficient hybrid power units and we need to, I think, talk more about it. This is a hybrid race series already and how we can see the future going in the automotive world going, hybrid is definitely the next defining step over the next few years. Having said that, Formula 1 was always the pinnacle of motor racing in terms of the engineering and innovation and lots of the things we do have found their way into road cars and continue to find their way into road cars. A big part of that is efficiency of course. I think we have a role to play in order to facilitate innovation at Formula 1 and at the same time be part of that climate movement that is absolutely necessary. We are all living in the same world and we see the air and the oceans getting more polluted every day and I think the more we support the movement, the more we tackle it with the small steps – banning plastic bottles, like the one you have next to your chair, from our hospitality – changing the way we fuel our dynos, not with diesel anymore but with something more sustainable, we are going to better the world. I’ve read something that I liked a lot, which was: ‘what difference does one plastic bottle make to the world said 8 million people’, and this is the kind of mindset we need to embrace.

MB: Nothing more left I would say, as they touch all the points. We are all on the same page. It is certainly a key topic. It is a challenging objective. I think as F1 we have to be, and we can be, an important platform for developing in that respect, on sustainability. I think we have a lot engineering background that we can use as well to somehow develop and improve that situation. I think that is an overall global effort of all the teams, F1, FIA, all together, but it is good. Great, at least, that we set the objectives and I’m pretty sure that for the future of F1 that will be key and important.  

ZB: I think as everyone has said before me it’s a very big topic, it’s a very important topic. I think it’s a journey with a never-ending road. You know, all of us are tackling it in different ways, in similar ways, not only as a grand prix team but in our businesses. It’s great to see Formula 1 put such importance on it and I think it will be something that many of us are already doing today and will continue to do and improve upon because it’s an important topic for everybody.

CA: Yeah, not much to add, apart maybe from the fact that if Formula 1, or cars in general, are seen as part of the problem, Formula 1 can also be part of the solution. I’m not aware of any other sport that can contribute in any shape or form to the solution and I think that’s really important to mention. We created lots of expectation with that collective announcement, so we will have to deliver against those expectations. One figure I would mention. We are talking about this engine but to put things in perspective the average increase in power of the F1 engine is 3% per year. If you put that in perspective to UN target figures of CO2 emission in order to reach the COP21 target would be 2.5%, so on the basis that we have stable fuel consumption, it means that we have actually exceeded what the UN is commanding from the world industry in general. I think it’s a good benchmark. Obviously it comes at a huge cost and lots of technology. It can’t be transferred to all cars on the planet but still I think it does represent and element of an answer to the problem.

Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Mattia Binotto. So far there hasn’t been a great deal light shed on the incident with your drivers at the last race. There have been a lot of words but not much light. I was wondering whether you fined them, whether you thought one driver was more to blame than the other and a) I’d like a straight answer to that and b) if I don’t, why do you bother showing up at these events?

MB: Is there one driver more to blame than the other? I think it’s even not important, because maybe that time it could have been maybe Seb, next time maybe Charles. They are two drivers, they are fighting, they can both of them make mistakes. I think that at the end what’s important is to make sure that whoever he is, the one in Brazil, or the next time, it’s not happening again. And again, I don’t think there is much to discuss. That’s something that is something that is in between our factory, between us, something we discussed and I’m happy to keep it between us.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Toto, Lewis in Brazil suggested that his future at Mercedes would depend on your future at Mercedes. I just wondered if he has had sought any assurances from you and if whether you have been able to offer those to him? And to Mattia, if Lewis Hamilton is available to sign in 2021 as it stands, would you like to sign him for Ferrari?

TW: Lewis and I have grown close over the last seven years. We ended up in Mercedes at the same time in 2013 and I think we have built up a lot of trust. At the same time, the two of us are part of a wider organization where everybody is playing in their relative field of competence. I think for him to say that is nice. I’d also like to know where he goes or if he stays in the future. And we are having those discussions about the future and I think it is very important between the two of us, like between many others that have played an important role within that team. Can I shed more light? No, for me it was important to finish the season in Abu Dhabi. There are many things to be decided on and we will see over the winter.

MB: Lewis is certainly an outstanding driver, a fantastic driver. Knowing that he’s available in 2021 can make us only happy, but honestly it’s too early for any decision, so we are happy with the driver’s we’ve got at the moment and I think certainly at one stage next season we will start discussing and understanding what to do.

Q: (Joost Nederpelt – NU.NL) What was your favourite moment or anecdote of the season?

CA: I guess my favourite moment has been qualifying in Montreal with Daniel in P4, I think it was, something like that. That was, let’s be honest, unexpected, not totally deserved. I think Valtteri had a problem in qualifying so I think it was one position better than what we would have had but clearly finally the demonstration that what we were seeing – I was personally also claiming since a while which was that the engine had made huge steps – and was actually true. So it’s not an anecdote, it’s a story and a very high moment of this season.

ZB: Well, it would have to be Brazil, wouldn’t it, with it being our first podium and clinching fourth in the championship so that and Lando qualifying in Q3 in his first race in Australia and us coming out and being in Q3. You only asked me for one, but I gave you two!

MB: Many moments. Obviously this season we have been celebrating our 90 years of Scuderia Ferrari so I would say at first the event where we celebrated in Milan, Piazza del Duomo, with all our fans and tifosi. And in the same week, let’s say the first row on the grid in Monza.

TW: For me the… I don’t want to talk about the best moment because the overshadowing event was Niki’s death. That is kind of the big theme of the season for us, so I was thinking whilst they were answering when I had a moment which I felt like being the best and I didn’t, of course… we are very grateful to win the championship but this one moment just overshadows everything else.

CW: Mine probably, as you would expect probably, didn’t come on the circuit this year but for me, the real highlight has been our pit stop crew. You probably will track progress… unfortunately Red Bull have just pipped us to the best pit stop and crew for the year but the way that our pit stop team have worked this year has been… gives a capsule of the resilience that our team has shown throughout the entire year. They go out there each and every race and fight for our drivers and for the rest of the team like they’re fighting for podium position and that for me has been a true highlight.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Zak, how would you describe and assess your drivers’ contribution to McLaren’s 2019 improvement?

ZB: I give them a lot of credit, both of them. Early in the season our car wasn’t as competitive and I think it’s the team, the drivers for bringing the car home constantly, not really making any mistakes and then the car’s developed well over the course of the year and we’re able to give them a faster race car but I think credit to both of them. Carlos has definitely shined (sic) this year and I think Lando’s been an excellent rookie that has shown a lot of maturity for a very young driver.

Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racingnews365.nl) Toto, what was your impression of Nick de Vries last weekend and in general of the Formula E; is it going to be together the Formula One and Formule E, do you think?

TW: I really enjoyed the experience, I must say. I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia before and launching our Mercedes Formula E journey was very special. The crowds were phenomenal, seeing how this country is opening up – something I didn’t expect in that way. And the racing is very different to Formula One, clearly you can say that. For me it’s Super Mario Kart with real drivers, but it’s absolutely valid to give that a chance. And Nick has already contributed a great deal to the team’s performance. He’s very mature and the way he’s – as a personality and as a racing driver – been able to slot into the team with Stoffel is really nice to see. We have set our ambitions or our expectations on a realistic target, which we have overachieved and both of the drivers contributed to this happening.

Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) To the three engine manufacturers: is engine power convergence really possible given what’s going on around the Ferrari engine now after so many years, given you will have budget caps since 2021 which I guess does not include the engine development?

TW: I think you will see, over the long-term [the] trend on engine performance is that it will stabilise. I think we have seen outliers in engine performance, we have seen very good races with Ferrari, we have seen Renault doing a step up and then the same way that has stretched us so I think, looking over many years’ cycle, these gains will get smaller, like in any mature industry, the marginal gains tend to decrease and I have no doubt that this will happen.

CA: I think that the stability of regulations is showing that actual performance is converging which is good for the sport. I continue to believe that there are some breakthroughs to come that will come with new processes, with new materials, so that’s interesting, so you should watch this space and see what it still has to offer and going back to what I was mentioning before, there is an awful lot of innovation that I wouldn’t… it’s a bit unfortunate that we can’t really talk about because of all the secrets, of all the IP that’s involved and all the investments that are associated. Our engineers keep on having lots of ideas and that’s great to see. We’ve recruited a lot of young guys, coming from university. They are not necessarily passionate about Formula 1 but I can tell you that they are passionate about doing what they are doing in the field of the internal combustion engine and power in general and that’s good and extremely refreshing so I think it’s good that Formula 1 keeps on having this field of innovation for engines in general.

MB: Will convergence happen? I think we are all convinced on that. The reason that we are all convinced is that the rules that we have all accepted are defined. There will be lines of restriction and therefore we believe that there will no longer be the necessity to develop as we are developing today and there will even be some freezing opportunities, also the power unit and the fact that we are starting freezing some of the components is that believe that there is only a very marginal benefit at some stage in developing and it’s good for the sustainability to start freezing and reducing the dyno activity so yes, we are all convinced that it will come to a convergence. I think we are already converging and in the next period that will happen, certainly.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Given the uncertainty of commitment of at least two teams to Formula One after 2020, should Formula One actually actively go out now and try and attract new teams?

CW: I’m not sure I know a whole level of detail about two potential teams leaving this sport but clearly we want a grid of 10 teams. That promotes great racing and we need great racing to ensure that our fans keep tuning in and watching us and clearly we want to be growing that audience as well so whether it’s down to F1 to actively go out and promote that or whether it’s down to those teams to make sure that they secure buyers… all I can say is Williams certainly isn’t one of those teams.

TW: All the numbers that are coming in – from audiences in the conventional TV, digital space, sponsorship – are growing. I think this is a sport that also with the spending cap coming in in 2021 is an area of growth. There will be certain thresholds that will come into the rules about joining the sport, concerning certain franchise value. Leaving the sport now would certainly not be the right thing to do from a commercial perspective when it’s just about to turn into a new opportunity. Should we be looking out for new teams? If there is interest in joining the grid with a solid foundation, big brands why not have the discussion but I think we should all 10 of us be proud of being part of the limited grid, we should be conscious about the opportunity and the possibility that lies ahead and concentrate on making it a good business for everybody.

MB: Not really much to add. I think the first objective should not look around but try to retain what we’ve got and only after, eventually.

ZB: I think it would be great to see another team in the sport. I think that (indistinct) we’ve got a new race market, that creates excitement and so as long as it’s a quality racing team I think it would just add excitement and opportunity so it’s not the teams’ responsibilities to be looking for the next team to join but Formula 1, as Toto said… television’s up, sponsorship’s up, fan appeal is up and therefore the more the sport can grow the better.

CA: I entirely agree. I would just add something that’s not been mentioned which is driver and driver development and access to Formula 1 for young drivers. That’s maybe an area where I think maybe one team ought to provided that they are solid teams project with good backing, not just opportunistic interest because it’s possible that the business model will become better but a good sporting project could be interesting because we all see that sometimes even good drivers should make it to Formula One and we all remember the time of teams like Minardi this type of team which were doing an excellent job in facilitating access to Formula 1 for those kids. We have a young driver programme and right now, even though we’ve got great talents, I’m not totally clear on how we will make it to Formula One. I think Toto experienced the same difficulty without opening something that is still touchy.

TW: We will talk about it.

CA: But we sort it out now. So I think you can see where I’m going at. I think it’s important to have stability of top ten teams for us and for most but think also about the dynamic of accessibility of Formula 1 to drivers.

PART 2: FIA Drivers' Press Conference: Abu Dhabi GP.


Part Two: Pierre GASLY (Toro Rosso), Carlos SAINZ (McLaren) Daniil KVYAT (Toro Rosso), Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Alfa Romeo)

Q: Pierre, how’s it been since Interlagos? Have you been home? What’s the reaction been like in Frand?

Pierre GASLY: Yeah, it was a pretty crazy weekend in and, yeah, after the race it was probably the worst celebration I’ve had, because I had to fly straight back home, so 11pm I was in the plane, and landed Monday afternoon back in France. The only thing I really had was a nice dinner with my family, brothers, back in France, in Paris on Monday night, just to celebrate and enjoy the moment altogether. And yeah, it was great to see the reaction back in France. All the news and the support. The messages from everybody after a great race and yeah, my first podium in Formula 1.

And the reaction within the team and within Formula 1 as well.

PG: No, I must say it was quite impressive. The reactions from everyone. Of course it’s been such a rollercoaster for me this season. And just, yeah, to end the season with my first podium in F1, in Toro Rosso, which was their third podium in history, of course, was something really special. So, to celebrate with everyone; mechanics; engineers, it’s also their second podium this year and year, just to see the passion, the excitement that was going on in the paddock in Brazil was something really special.

And of course, 2019’s not over. You’re battling with Carlos Sainz, the man on your right for sixth place…

PG: It’s not the first time we’re battling, is it!

Carlos SAINZ: No!

Q: True, and both tied on 95 points now and, as you say your careers have crossed in the past. How much rests of what happens in that battle this weekend?

PG: I think it makes it really exciting, you know, coming in the last race of the season with something to play in the championship, so really looking forward to that battle. Carlos and McLaren have been fast all year long. Consistent. So, we expect it to be tough but it will be our job to execute the perfect weekend to hold to that sixth place until the end.

Q: Carlos, coming onto you. Let’s start by talking about that sixth place. How confident are you?

CS: I think as confident as we can be but at the same time you’re obviously cautious. You can never know what’s going to happen in the last race but, you know, I already consider it a bit of a success to be fighting for P6. It’s a bit of a bonus because you never expect, when you’re in the midfield, to fight for P6. Maybe you would expect to fight for P7. And now that we have the chance, we’ve created ourselves an opportunity, and we want to take it, obviously. I’m sure it’s not going to be easy. Pierre and Toro Rosso during the last few weekends have been very strong. They’ve executed some really nice races and I’m sure we’re going to have some fun and some tough competition.

Q: And, the podium in Brazil. How do you reflect on it? What was the reaction back home in Spain?

CS: It was good. To see a team celebrate a podium in that way, and to have them in the podium with me was quite special, quite different to what I expected of my first podium but definitely good fun. Then when we went back to the factory. To see a whole factory taking pictures with the trophy, enjoying it with me for a couple of days, was great fun – then I went back home to my family and friends to celebrate a bit – but at the same time, as we have this battle going on for P6, you know I was like, yeah good fun – but at the same time I want to go to go to Abu Dhabi and try to finish off on a high.

Q: Carlos, some people questioned your move to McLaren this year, yet it’s turning into your best season in Formula One. How much satisfaction has it given you?

CS: Obviously quite a lot. I had good feelings when I moved to McLaren, even if things didn’t look very promising at the end of 2018. I did have some conversations with a lot of engineers, a lot of people, Zak. I don’t know, the project itself just gave me good vibes. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the good results but those good vibes. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the good results but those good vibes translated very quickly into results and into a change of approach by McLaren, a very big change in the structure of the team, and all of a sudden we’re here with one race to go, having secured P4 in the standings, the first podium in five years and, all of a sudden, it looks like the right move. I’m very happy, and very pleased to see such a great group of people performing at such a very high level and being so hungry and motivated to move forwards still.

Q: Daniil, coming to you now: you’ve scored a podium, Pierre’s scored a podium, Honda are making good progress. Can you just describe the atmosphere in the team at the minute and how bullish Toro Rosso is about the future?

Daniil KVYAT: Yeah, certainly it was a very strong year for Toro Rosso, perhaps the best in the history you may say, so yeah, it’s obviously great to be able to fight for a very high position in the Constructors’ championship, the highest it has been in recent years. Yeah, so great to be a part of it and the atmosphere in the team this year… I think the team has always performed very well; since the beginning of the year it was quite consistently in the points and always taking the opportunities quite well; with strategy, taking the points which weren’t even there, to still get them was very crucial sometimes and now at the end of the year we find ourselves in a good strong position, so certainly it was also a very good boost for next year.

Q: And what about your own performance this year? You sat out 2018, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a driver in 2019?

DK: I feel very satisfied, to be honest. I would put it in line with one of my best years in F1 so I’m pretty happy. Some races go your way, some races don’t go your way but this is how our midfield works, it’s very tight and some small mistake can cost you some opportunities like myself in Brazil for example. I definitely lost a very big opportunity there which luckily Pierre, for the team, managed to take. Yeah, but these are the parts of our sport that we all know. I think this year I have been a lot more better driver than my last years in F1.

Q: Kimi, coming on to you: it’s been an up and down kind of season for Alfa Romeo. When you reflect on it, what has the team done well and where does it need to improve?

Kimi RAIKKONEN: I think it’s two different halves of the year where the first part of the year was pretty decent and most of the races and also we had some bad races around Barcelona, Monaco but it improved from there and then since the summer break, first we had good speed still but didn’t score any points as a team and then it’s been very difficult apart from the last couple of races where we at least had some speed to fight in the top ten. Only in the last one could we score good points with two cars but it’s a bit too late, looking more as a team halfway through but that’s how it goes. I think we learned some things; last race we brought a new front wing which helped a bit, so we’re still trying to improve so it’s all learning for next year and we try to do a better job as a team.

Q: Kimi, how much have you enjoyed this season, away from the pressure cooker environment of Ferrari?

KR: I don’t think the pressure was any different. Obviously we want to do well and like I said, it’s a shame we’ve kind of fallen down as a team but as a driver, I think everyone puts a lot of pressure on themselves and in the end the work that we do over the race weekend is not really any different whichever team you’re in, it’s just that the meetings are very similar between teams, the driving is there and the racing. Outside of racing it has been less busy so that’s nice part of it plus obviously the team is very close to where I live so I don’t need to travel to different countries, in many ways it helps, I have a bit more time to stay with the family. It’s a nice thing.

Q: And this is race number 312 for you, taking you ahead of Fernando Alonso to second on the all-time list of starts. Are you excited to come back next year and become the all-time most experienced…

KR: On that, not. It gives me nothing but I’m excited now to have another go and we can improve from this year and learn the lessons from what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done good and get a bit closer to the front but time will tell, it’s way too early. Once we start running the cars in the first race next year we will get a good idea.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Motorlat) Pierre, after your latest achievement in Brazil, do you personally feel you needed to go back to Toro Rosso and let some pressure off your shoulders in order to perform at a higher level?

PG: I don’t think so. l think in a way it was a positive chance to show myself as well the right things and the things I needed. Of course I’ve seen in both teams and I know what worked, what didn’t and then on both sides. It obviously was a good experience to see that but I don’t think it was needed to perform at a better level because I don’t feel that I’m performing better, I’m still driving the same way, approaching every weekend the same way. I always try to deliver the best performance I can and give 110 percent of myself every single weekend. It’s not like I feel I’ve changed anything but it was good to get the results in this second part of the season.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Carlos, your Dad is a very great champion. Could you share with us what he told you after your podium?

CS: Oof. He was probably happier than me. My Dad has been there with me since I’m three years old, travelling the world, travelling, sacrificing a lot of stuff for me and to become a successful driver, teaching me a lot of things. And once the podium happened, he knew all the effort that I had put into this year in the change of environment, going to live in UK etc, so he’s been very close to that change and yeah, as I said, I think he was happier than I was. Probably the only guy but yeah, happier.

Q: (Jesus Balseiro - Diario AS) Carlos, last season you were dropped by Red Bull and Renault but this season you have scored more points than both Renault drivers and you’re fighting in the championship against two Red Bull drivers. Which message do you think you’re sending this season and also is there any kind of feelings of revenge?

CS: No. Obviously I didn’t go into this season with willing revenge or anything like that. I have a lot of friends in Renault and in Red Bull who I still feel are happy for me to do well now at McLaren. I got a lot of messages from people, congratulating me and at the same time you go into a Formula One season just wanting to perform at your best, the same way I went into 2017, ’18 and this year I’ve just got the results on board and I’m just very proud of it.

Q: (Heikki Kulta -Turun Sanomat) Kimi, your first season without a podium since 2014. Which one was more difficult to go through, this season or the first season with Ferrari?

KR: I think the expectation at the start of the year is completely different in those two different teams. For sure this year has generally been much better than if you have such a difficult year in Ferrari as a team or as a driver.

Q: (Daria Panova – Motorlat) Next season [sic, 2021] we will have three-day race weekends; what do you think about it? Isn’t it too much to have so many activities in one day for you?

KR: It should happen next year, already. I mean today is an absolutely useless day. Honestly, we’re going to talk the same things, half of the things we talk at least on Sunday after the last race and tomorrow again. I think it will be a good step because people don’t need to be away that many days and there’s no cost and hotels and  (indistinct) that much and all things will be better for the team… so stop wasting time.

CS: I have a bit of mixed feelings. Personally I like when Formula One goes to a place it makes a big impact so it becomes a week of having Formula One there. I think it still involves too much travelling and too much effort from the mechanics but I think this is a way of preparing for a bigger calendar which is something I’m totally against. I mean 22/21 races already feels too much. I think that last extra day that we take off doesn’t fully compensate those 22/25 races that we want to have in the future.

PG: I think everyone in this room is happy about it: more days at home, more days with the family. I think it’s needed, clearly I agree with what Kimi says, that not so much for us, because I would say we almost have the easy life, easiest life in the paddock but for all the guys – mechanics, engineers – well, you can see, talking with them, that to have a personal life in that world, working in that environment is really difficult. No, I think it’s a good thing but then after, I join the point of Carlos, that if we increase the number of races as well, it’s never going to balance it, so I think it’s a good step for ’21 but hopefully they don’t increase the number of races too much. That’s about it.

DK: Not much left to say but yeah, I agree with that, that more races will… it will become more races but we obviously need to shorten the weekend, which is good. Maybe more real car driving, also some more testing and less simulator for example, from my side, I think because we also need… we don’t need to forget that with the racing we also do a lot of simulator, a lot of PR events, so it becomes a very difficult calendar. Some guys have families within the team including myself and yeah, so I agree with what’s been said.

PART 1: FIA Drivers' Press Conference: Abu Dhabi GP.


PART ONE: DRIVERS – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas)

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Charles, if we could start with you, please. We’re going to take a look back at the last race in Brazil, to begin with. Having had time to review the video footage, what’s you analysis of what happened in the incident between you and Sebastian?

Charles LECLERC: Yeah, we looked at it and I particularly looked at it, obviously, to try to understand how we could have made the things better. I think it was very unfortunate, first of all, because the touch was extremely small and it had a big drama after that, and that was a bit unlucky. But as a team we should probably try to be a bit less aggressive in between each other, for these things to not happen again. For the team it’s not good. For everyone supporting us it’s not good, so we will try for it to not happen again.

Q: What has happened since the Brazilian Grand Prix? Have you guys all met up in Maranello and had a chat?

CL: Yeah, I was there for the simulator, so on this occasion we also took the day to discuss a little bit and yeah, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen again.

Q: Seb is still on your Christmas card list?

CL: Sorry?

Q: I was joking: Seb is still on your Christmas card list.

CL: Oh yeah!

Q: Charles, if we can look back at the season as a whole now. Your first with Ferrari. A lot of headlines that you can very satisfied with on a personal level – the wins, the seven poles, including being the youngest ever Ferrari pole sitter. But in terms of the team’s performance it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. How would you sum it up?

CL: It’s been a bit of a weird season. We started definitely not where we thought we would start after winter testing. Winter testing was very positive and we arrive at the first race and we have been struggling quite a lot. After that I think the progression was very good. Austin was a little bit weird too; we still don’t really understand why we were so off the pace. Brazil we were back to where we wanted. But overall we progressed quite a lot, which I think is the most important [thing]. Now I’m really looking forward to keeping this momentum for next year. It’s the first time in my single-seater where I stay in the same team from one year to another, which also should be an interesting challenge to develop a car. Let’s see, but overall I think it has been a positive season, apart from the first race, which has been very negative.

Q: Thank you Charles and good luck this weekend. Max, a question about this year for you too. It’s the team’s first season with Honda. Has it exceeded your expectations?

Max VERSTAPPEN: I don’t know. It’s been very promising and I think also we had some good results. For me, what was more important was reliability. That has been very strong throughout the whole year and also the progression we made with the engine itself. Yeah, that has all been going really well. But we always want more, so we will never be satisfied with what we are doing. It’s been good and I think it is a good, let’s say, basis for next year as well. We learned a lot throughout the whole year and I feel confident that we can have a positive to next season.

Q: Dominant win for you last time out in Brazil. Which team comes into the Abu Dhabi with the fastest car?

MV: I don’t know; we’ll find out. Still, looking at the season, you’d have to say Mercedes. We’ll see how the weekend will progress. It’s still also a lot about just finding the right set-up. I think the last few races the three teams, the three top teams have been really close to each other and I hope it’s going to be the same here.

Q: Thank you Max. Kevin, for your 2019 started strongly, but it tailed off quite dramatically. Why did it go wrong?

Kevin MAGNUSSEN: I think there are a few different reasons, but it became very clear in Bahrain that we had a problem, which was really strange because in winter testing and in the first race the car was really good. Even in Bahrain in qualifying we qualified… I can’t remember, sixth of something, up there. Then in the race it just completely fell apart. So from there on it was a little bit of panic in the team. We couldn’t really focus on… kind of find the real root of the problem. We were looking a lot at tyres and blaming the problem on tyres issues whereas in fact it was a little more simple, I think, just aero issues, unstable aero and the whole platform just not being strong enough and consistent, stable enough. It’s a very, I would say, frustrating problem, because we have able to qualify well but in the race we just have not had any strength. That’s very frustrating as a driver, where you start in a position and then you’re just fighting to try to hang on to your position rather than attacking the guy in front. In that way it’s been pretty frustrating, but on the other hand, we are a very young team, it’s only our fourth year. Last year we got P5 in the Constructors’ Championship. I think that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think many teams have done that in their third year. So we’ve got to take some confidence from that as well and just build on the experience that we have had this year and the learning that we have done and then just come back stronger next year.

Q: You say it’s been frustrating for the drivers, but how have you progressed as a driver this year?

KM: Well, you always learn in any situation but especially when it’s difficult you learn different things and you just have to approach your problems in a different way and I think that gives you strength and some experience that you wouldn’t necessarily have gotten if you were just cruising and driving in a perfect car. So in many ways it’s also been positive, both for me, as a driver, and for the team as well.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Question for Charles. You say you are pretty sure that an incident like that won’t happen again, but how can you be so sure. Was blame apportioned by the team in the meetings you had? What guidelines and rules have been laid down about racing together in the future and are you even allowed to race together in the future?

CL: No, I think this doesn’t change. We will be able to race together. Obviously, Seb and myself are very competitive, we both want to win, but we also need to find the right compromise. We are also racing for the same team. As I said earlier, we need to be lees aggressive towards each other and give us a little bit more space for these things to not happen again. Of what I know, that’s the only thing that will happen for the next races, but maybe Mattia can go a bit further into that. Apart from that, I don’t think there is much we can do. Obviously, as I said, the consequences were huge in the last race but if you look back at the contact it was very, very small. It was unfortunate but we will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Charles, just to go back to what Andrew asked before. Did either driver do as was suggested and say “I was to blame for that”, you or Seb? And b, are there now sort of new arrangement that if you do have an accident for example that you might be fined or banned or sacked or is it just sort of idle hope?

CL: On the second question there’s been nothing said on that. We called with Seb and we tried to understand both of our situations. I think probably Seb shouldn’t have gone to the left and he knows it and I probably could have done a better job of avoiding him going to the left. So yeah, both of us have a bit of responsibility, but the most important thing is that everything is clear with Seb and we move forward.

Q: (Walter Koster – Saarbrücker Zeitung) Charles, before I start my question, I have to remind you of high praises – no doubt you have had more good races than bad ones, but if we stick to the less good races with bad luck and mishaps, such as Baku, where the Ferrari hit the barriers, in Bahrain where you lost the lead due to an engine problem, in Austria where you were caught by Max and Monaco, your first home race, was very disappointing with last place and probably the low point, in Hockenheim, it was a mistake of the driver and last in Brazil, the finish after a hard battle with your team-mate. Now, my question to the pop star of Formula 1: what was your best race among your worst races? Can you give us, please, a ranking regarding your five not so good races, starting with the worst? I’m a polite person or man, please excuse this question, but I still hope for an answer.

MV: Wow!

CL: That was a long question. Congratulations. Kevin, you can start.

KM: I’m in a trance.

MV: Well [Charles] you are the pop star, so first of all, can you sing?

CL: Yeah, I can sing. I won’t sing now, but I can sing. I don’t know…

MV: I lost you after a few sentences.

KM: You have to rank your five worst races.

CL: Worst races? Five worst? OK, that was a simple question. So…

Q: (Walter Koster – Saarbrücker Zeitung) What was the best race among the worst?

CL: So the top five best and the top five worst?

MV: Wow.

KM: Take your time.

MV: We’ve got a lot time.

Q: Your five worst races, please?

MV: Are we going to make it more complicated? Like, this year or in his career?

CL: My worst race this year was probably Brazil, second one Monaco, third one… Third one? That’s two. That’s good. No?

KM: He’s had a good question.

CL: That was a question only for me? OK, thank you!

Q: Unless, Max, you’d like to offer your worst of the season, or Kevin?

MV: Er, no – save the time.

Q: (Joost Nederpelt   - NU.NL) Question to all drivers. If you were the director of the Drive to Survive documentary on Netflix, what moment of the season would you definitely put in?

KM: I don’t know. I don’t know what… I have a thing in mind but we’ll see if it’s made it into it. It’s a surprise. Watching the next Netflix season two and you’ll find out.

Q: Nothing else you can offer us now?

KM: No, it hasn’t been that exciting from our side, so…

Q: Max?

MV: Hockenheim.

Q: What bit of Hockeheim exactly?

MV: I think they were following Mercedes closely in Hockenheim? I would like to see that episode. It’s a bit of fun, right? I mean, they can laugh about it as well: they still won the Championship, so a bit of drama involved in the series is good. If I would be the director – because you have to create the hits.

Q: Charles?

CL: yeah… I would not choose the last race but probably the Monza victory is the one I would like to see on the documentary.

Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia EFE) Question both for Charles and Max. I can imagine you being young and very talented drivers, you’re focussing on winning your first world title but do you every focus yourself like looking at Lewis, maybe winning six?

MV: I was thinking about ten. No. You don’t need to think like that. It just happens or doesn’t. It’s 50:50. You just try to do the best you can, personally. You also need a bit of luck. You need to get into the right car at the right time and you need a dominant team as well for a few more years in a row. At least… it depends on how long your career is lasting. No, personally I don’t think about it too much because, as I’ve just said, it happens or it doesn’t. At the end of the day, I think already winning one title would be a great achievement.

CL: Yeah, I personally don’t think about it too much. I believe that with work, anything is achievable, so I mostly think about how I can do my job in the proper way. Then, of course, the choice you make in a career are very important. It not only depends on yourself but it also depends on luck but I’m mostly focussing on work more than thinking about the title.

Q: Kevin, I feel we should ask you as well.

KM: I need to try to win a race first and then I can start thinking about championships after that. So, y’know… the ambition has always been there. That’s always been the dream since I was a little kid: to be Formula 1 World Champion and y’know, that ambition and that dream is still there but obviously I’m in a slightly different position to those two guys.

Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportswereld) Two questions for Max. What’s the importance of the third place in the Drivers’ Championships, and again, you’re on the long list for Dutch sportsman of the year election, together with six cyclists, three speed-skaters, a darts player, a world champion in chequers, a windsurfer, judoka, and the Champions’ League winner Virgil van Dijk, so I presume you’re going to win this one – what do you think?

MV: First one, I think it’s always nicer than finishing fourth or fifth – but yeah, looking back in 20 years’ time and seeing that you were third in the Championship wouldn’t really make me very happy. I think we’re all here to win and, of course, fight for the title. So yeah, I think it would be nice after this weekend to be third but in 20 years’ time, I don’t think it will do much. And the second one, honestly, yeah, I have my own opinion about being nominated but I prefer not to comment on it.

Q: Charles, can we get your thoughts on third place in the Championship?

CL: It’s always nice to finish a season on the podium. I’ll give it all. Now, 11 points are quite a bit to recover in one race, but we’ll give it all and it will be a nice thing to finish my first season with Ferrari on the podium – but yeah, we’ll see what will happen.

Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – Volksrant) Question for Max, you’re nearing the end of your fourth season at Red Bull. Regarding your dominant win in Brazil, and you’re fighting for pole positions now, do you believe you’re closer to having a Championship-winning car more than ever at the team right now?

MV: Yeah. I think we do. Also, looking at the plans for next year – but of course you still have to wait and see what the others come up with. But we are of course… we want to fight for the title, so we’re going to give it everything we have to be competitive from the start next year.

Q: (Milan Klemenc – Avtomanija) I have one question for all three: what are expectations for next year. We know new tyres 2020. I know you were interested after the last race. What’s your opinion?

KM: I don’t even think the tyres have been chosen yet, have they? And then the aero is the same. So, on personal side, I’m hoping we will get a better car – but in terms of regulations and the racing itself, I don’t see it changing too much. It’s more 2021 I’m looking forward to: to see how that performs.

Max, do you see it changing much next year?

MV: Well, I hope we can fight for the title. That’s it.

Charles?

CL: Yeah, not much. I think we’ve been working pretty well, as I was mentioning earlier, with the car, so hopefully we can continue with the progression and start from a better place, the season, to be fighting for the title.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Mercedes-AMG F1: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Preview.


Toto Wolff Talks Abu Dhabi
Brazil was a disappointing race for us; we did not have the fastest car on track and we lost a lot of points owing to our own mistakes. We analysed what went wrong, both in terms of our reliability and our decisions during the race, to make sure we don't repeat them. It was a good learning experience for the entire team and something that will make us stronger in the long run.

The underperformance in Brazil means we head to Abu Dhabi with a point to prove. Yas Marina has been a good circuit for us in the last years and we'll push hard to continue in the same way. The race is one last opportunity for us to add another victory to the record of the W10 and it's one more chance to put on a great show for the fans before the winter break. We're looking forward to the fight because we know that in Formula One, you're only as good as your last result.

This season has been a real rollercoaster for us. We've seen great on-track battles and we've loved the competition. We are very proud that we came out on top and managed to put the Mercedes name in the history books of Formula One with our sixth consecutive double title. On the other hand, it's been an incredibly hard year where we had to say goodbye to too many friends. We were hit hard by the passing of Charlie, Niki and Anthoine, as well as important members from our team who we have tragically lost this year. At Mercedes, Niki left a void that we will never be able to replace - as a source of inspiration, as a voice of reason, but most importantly as a great friend. We hope we did you proud, Niki.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Fact File

  • The first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009 was also the first twilight race in Formula One, starting at sunset and finishing under the dark skies of night time. Around 4,700 light fixtures illuminate the Yas Marina Circuit for the twilight race.
  • The 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was held on the 1st November. Due to the increased number of races, this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place exactly one month later - on the 1st December.
  • Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole for the first race in 2009 with a 1:40.948, while his 2018 pole position was a 1:34.794 - over six seconds quicker.
  • The Yas Marina Circuit has the second-highest number of corners on the F1 calendar, with 21, split between 12 left-handers and nine right-handers. Only the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore has more corners (23).
  • In Qualifying, the fastest corners on the circuit are taken flat-out. Drivers can reach 275 km/h and up to 5G through the high-speed Turns 2 and 3. The fastest corner where the driver has to come off the throttle is Turn 20, which is taken at 210 km/h.
  • The pit lane at the Yas Marina Circuit has a very unusual layout, featuring a unique pit lane exit with a tunnel passing under the track and a tight left-hand corner. This left-hand corner is actually the slowest turn of the track, taken at 60 km/h. That's around 5 km/h slower than Turn 7, which is the slowest turn on the actual circuit.
  • A lap around the Yas Marina Circuit is one of the busiest ones for gear changes. On average, a driver has to make about 54 over the course of a lap.
  • Abu Dhabi is one of the most predictable races on the calendar when it comes to the weather. Ambient temperature is generally between 25 and 30°C and the track tends to start at around 33°C during the race and falls to 28°C when the sun sets.
  • The stones used in the tarmac are very light in colour, which keeps peak track temperatures relatively low. FP1 is the hottest session, where track temperature can peak at around 45°C. This is still relatively low compared to a race like Mexico where it can exceed 60°C.
  • The two DRS zones are located on consecutive straights, separated by a chicane and with their own individual detection points. This can produce interesting battles, with the driver overtaken into Turn 8 being given a chance to regain the place on the following straight with DRS.

PREVIEW PROVIDED BY - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Alfa Romeo Racing: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Preview.


One last race in 2019. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the final chapter in what has been an incredibly long season, one that gifted us moments of elation and lessons to learn, results to celebrate and memories to put in our team’s history books. It is a final chapter, however, that still needs to be written.

We come to Yas Marina on a high. The Brazilian Grand Prix marked the best result of our team – not just for this season, but since 2009. It was a sweet reward after the hard work all team produced, but we will not rest on our laurels. We will build on the Interlagos result, wanting to go even better, aiming to finish the season in style ahead of a busy winter of work.

We also come to Yas Marina on a mission. A fight that seemed impossible just weeks ago is now open: seventh place in the constructors’ standings remains far, but still an achievable objective. We will go all out for it: and were we to fall short, at least we will know we have given everything we could.

Do not discount a surprise, however. After all, as in every show, the final act is when incredible things really happen.

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG
“We arrive in Abu Dhabi still buzzing from the great result from the last race. It will be important to channel these good spirits into a positive energy for this final event of the season, one where there is so much at stake. Battle for seventh place in the championship aside, we still need to aim for a good result this weekend. It will be important to finish the season well to carry this momentum into the winter months and onto 2020.”
  
Kimi Räikkönen
“I am looking forward to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. The result in Brazil was a big confidence boost for everyone in the team and we want to build on that to finish the season well. Of course I am looking forward to some time off afterwards, but right now the focus is firmly on this weekend’s race: we know we can have a good result and we will give all we have to get it.”

Antonio Giovinazzi 
“This weekend marks the end of my first full season in Formula One, but I am not looking at making a balance of the year yet. We still have one very important race ahead of us and we are fully committed to doing the best possible job there. Abu Dhabi is another track where we can aim for a good result and we have showed last time out that we can fight with those at the front of the midfield, so let’s hope we can finish the season with another strong race.”

PREVIEW PROVIDED BY Alfa Romeo Racing. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Renault F1 Team: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Preview.


Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
"The last race of the season is a time for us to reflect on a difficult 2019. We have had high points: a double score in Italy and strong results in Mexico, USA and Brazil, but a disappointing start of the season marked by many issues where we have had to dig deep and discover new resourcefulness. 

We enter the final race in Abu Dhabi with the pressure still firmly on. Fifth place is up for grabs in the Constructors’ Championship and we face stiff competition to maintain our current position. We’re confident in our ability to deliver the results we need over the weekend, but we have learned that the field is close and races are very open.

"We also say goodbye to Nico after three seasons with the team. His contribution has been instrumental in our reconstruction and progression. We have harnessed his experience and ability to deliver strong results and he has played an important role in Renault’s Formula 1 journey. We want to ensure we end our time together with the best result possible."

Nico Hülkenberg
"It’s been three memorable years for me at Renault. There have been highs and lows, but I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver here. We’ve had some great results and some ‘nearly’ moments, all of which I’ll remember for a very long time. I’d like to thank everyone at the team including my engineers and mechanics for all their effort over the last 61 races. We have one more to go and we’ll be giving it our all for the best possible result."

Ahead of the last race this season, how would you sum up 2019?
This season has admittedly had its fair share of ups and downs. Obviously, my seventh-place finish in Australia was a positive way to kick start the season for us, and the results we delivered in Canada, and later Monza, shows the progress we’ve made on tracks where a strong power unit is essential. Overall, I would say we’ve learnt a lot and can be confident of finishing the season well in Abu Dhabi.

How challenging is the Yas Marina Circuit?
Yas Marina is an interesting circuit. It’s a long lap with three contrasting sectors, which makes it difficult to find a rhythm. You aim to get comfortable straight away there and find a smooth balance on the car. There’s a sweet spot on set-up to find with a couple ofstraights and also some medium to highspeed corners, especially in the last sector. As always, we’ll be aiming for a good start on Friday to ensure we’re in the best position for the rest of the weekend.

Is it a fun place to conclude the Formula 1 season?
I enjoy finishing the season off in Abu Dhabi. The facilities there are excellent and it’s a good place to celebrate a busy year. There’s plenty to play for in the Constructors’ Championship as we aim to secure fifth place. There’s a task at hand, I’m ready for it, and I’ll be targeting a strong result for the team.

What’s the feeling heading into your final race with the team?
It’s been three memorable years for me at Renault. There have been highs and lows, but I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver here. We’ve had some great results and some ‘nearly’ moments, all of which I’ll remember for a very long time. I’d like to thank everyone at the team including my engineers and mechanics for all their effort over the last 61 races. We have one more to go and we’ll be giving it our all for the best possible result.

Daniel Ricciardo
"It’s always a special weekend with it being the final race of the season. It would be nice to continue the momentum we’ve had during the last part of the season through to the end and secure another points finish. Abu Dhabi has always been a pretty good track for me and it’s an enjoyable race, so I’m really looking forward to getting out on track to end the season on a high. We have a bit of pressure on us in the race for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, but it means we have something to fight for and I like that feeling."

As we approach the season finale, how do you rate your first season with the team?
It’s been an interesting year for sure starting with a new team, and I think it’s fair to say there have been some good times, as well as some difficult periods. I think the results we achieved in Canada, the fourth place in Monza, and good performances recently in Brazil and the US, are proof that we’ve had more consistency throughout the year. It bodes well for us and puts us in a good direction for next season.

What are your expectations for Abu Dhabi?
It’s always a special weekend with it being the final race of the season. It would be nice to continue the momentum we’ve had during the last part of the season throughnto the end and secure another points finish.nAbu Dhabi has always been a pretty good track for me and it’s an enjoyable race, so I’m really looking forward to getting out on track to end the season on a high. We have a bit of pressure on us in the race for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, but it means we have something to fight for and I like that feeling.

What’s special about the Yas Marina Circuit?
Having a race that goes from dusk to night is always cool. The weather is good too, so there’s a lot to like about the track and the place. It’s a fun circuit to race on, but I would say my favourite part is the third sector - how it weaves through the hotel section is always great and a nice way to complete the lap.

How do you reflect on the Brazilian Grand Prix?
There was a lot going on in the race and it was really exciting! At one stage, it looked like we could finish anywhere. Ultimately, though, when the dust settled, it was great to score points again for the team, making it three points-scoring finishes in a row which is a real positive for us heading into Abu Dhabi.

PREVIEW PROVIDED BY: Renault F1 Team

Scuderia Ferrari: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Preview.



This Sunday’s race will be the eleventh Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It has always been held on the 5.554 kilometre-long Yas Marina Circuit over a distance of 55 laps. The first time Formula 1 cars raced in Abu Dhabi dates back to 2009, when Sebastian Vettel won for Red Bull.

Unlucky track. Over the years, Yas Marina has never been a propitious track for Scuderia Ferrari, the team never having won here, although it has finished second and third three times. There’s a particularly bitter memory of 2010 when the Maranello team arrived in Abu Dhabi with Fernando Alonso leading the world championship, 8 points ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber and 15 points ahead of the Australian’s team-mate, Sebastian Vettel. A strategic error left the Spaniard down the back of the field, so that the German took the title, beating Alonso by four points.

In other years. As for the aforementioned second places, two of them came courtesy of Alonso, in 2011 behind Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren, in 2012 behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus and last year Vettel was second to Hamilton’s Mercedes. The three third places were down to Kimi in 2015 and Sebastian in 2016 and 2017.

Double points. In 2014, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the season, became the only Formula 1 championship race at which double points were on offer. It was a device aimed at keeping the championship battle as open as possible right down the very end. The idea was scrubbed as from the following year.

Charles. While Sebastian has three Abu Dhabi wins to his name, Charles has only raced here once, when he finished in a great seventh place for Sauber-Ferrari last year. It was a strong finish to the season and it was followed by the best possible start to his preparations for joining Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, as he drove the Ferrari at Yas Marina in the test that usually follows the final race of the year.

FERRARI STATS ABU DHABI GP
GP contested 10
Debut 2009 (Kimi Raikkonen 12th; Giancarlo Fisichella 16th)
Wins 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 3 (30%)
Podiums 6 (60%)

Charles Leclerc 
“Abu Dhabi, the last grand prix of the season. Most of the paddock is probably looking forward to enjoying their holidays. From my perspective, I am actually pretty sad that I won’t be feeling that adrenalin rush behind the wheel for the next few months. At this race, everyone is pushing to the maximum as, for most drivers, there’s nothing to lose.
The race starts in daylight and ends at night, which is something pretty special that we don’t experience anywhere else. Another aspect that is different here is tyre degradation, which is something we have to get accustomed to and anticipate.
It always makes for an interesting race and I am very much looking forward to my last outing of the season with Scuderia Ferrari.”

Sebastian Vettel 
“As well as being the last race of 2019, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the start of the 2020 season in many ways, with most teams trying out ideas for next year during Friday free practice. Then, as usual on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race, there’s the test session when we will able to evaluate the tyres for next year and those for 2021.

Focussing on work for next year is not a problem during the morning sessions on Friday and Saturday as conditions then are so much hotter than those experienced during qualifying and the race that they are less useful in terms of working on set-up and race configuration.

Yas Marina features a lot of slow and medium speed corners. In contrast to Sao Paolo, Pirelli has brought its three softest compound tyres to this race. Nevertheless, it is likely to be a one-stop race, because overtaking is very difficult despite the fact there are two DRS zones. It means qualifying well is very important.

It is an opportunity for us to finish the season on a high but we know the competition is strong, so it should be an exciting race.”

Mattia Binotto Team Principal
“Abu Dhabi is the last race of what has been a long season for everyone. For us at Scuderia Ferrari, it was a year of new beginnings, with team members taking on new roles and Charles in his first year with us and our aim was to build the foundations for the future.
Of course there were highs and lows: the first part of the season did not go the way we wanted, but I certainly value the way we all stood together, rolled up our sleeves and fought back.

Particularly noteworthy was the way we reacted after the summer break, with three race wins in a row and a run of six consecutive poles positions, as well as our win in Monza, just days after the incredible celebration of the 90 years of the Scuderia, in Milan, in front of a huge crowd.

Of course finishing second will never be good enough for Ferrari and we are looking ahead to a very intense winter to keep building as a group. The aim is to come back stronger to be up to the challenges that await us.

As the season draws to an end, I would like to say thank you to our tifosi all over the world for their passionate support all year long. This weekend, we will try to give them the best possible result with which to finish the season.”

PREVIEW PROVIDED BY - Scuderia Ferrari

McLaren Racing: 2019 Abu Dhabi GP Preview.


Yas Marina circuit is the central focus of Abu Dhabi’s man-made Yas Island, which also features seven hotels, a golf course and a concert arena. Construction of the 5.554km/3.451-mile anti-clockwise track began in 2007 and it hosted the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November 2009.

The track has several unique features, including air-conditioned pit garages, a pit-lane exit that passes underneath Turn One and grandstands that overhang the run-off area at Turn Seven. Even the timing of the race is special because it’s the only twilight race of the season, getting underway at 1710hrs local time, 30 minutes before sunset. The 55-lap race ends after dark, under the glare of the world’s largest permanent lighting system.

Carlos Sainz 
“After an incredible race and result in Brazil, it was amazing to take the trophy back to the factory and share the achievement with the whole team. I’m aiming to end the season on a high and there is still a lot to fight for in the last race. I’m fighting to finish sixth in the Drivers’ Championship and, even though it’s not going to be easy, we have prepared thoroughly for the weekend and I have confidence we can have a good race.

“Abu Dhabi is a fantastic venue and the perfect place to celebrate the close of the season. Starting the race in the evening and finishing it under the floodlights is always an interesting challenge. Although our P4 in the Constructors’ Championship is secured, I hope we can score some good points with both cars to round out a positive season.”

Lando Norris
“My first year in Formula 1 has been an amazing experience and I feel that I’ve gained a lot of experience since lights out in Melbourne. I’m pleased to be finishing the season at a circuit I know well, having scored a podium here in F2 last year, as well as completing the 2018 post-season test. It’s an interesting circuit with a few unique features that keep the racing interesting. I’m looking forward to another exciting weekend and to giving it my all one last time this year.”

Andreas Seidl - Team Principal
“After the great result at Interlagos, it’s time to go racing again. We took time last week to celebrate Carlos’ podium and our confirmed P4 in the Constructors’ with the whole team back at the factory. But now, we have our heads down again and are focused on the task at hand. We know that we need to keep pushing at every opportunity if we want to earn more podiums, and the Brazilian Grand Prix provided all the motivation we need to achieve this goal.  

“We now turn all our attention to the final race of the season, where we will aim to end the year on a high. We’ve made good progress over the season and we want to carry that into the final race. With our Constructors’ position confirmed, we are now targeting the best possible positions in the Drivers’ Championship. Carlos is well placed to fight for sixth and Lando can also climb positions this weekend. Our passion and motivation remain strong and we’re looking forward to fighting until the very last lap of the season.” 

PREVIEW PROVIDED BY - McLaren Racing.