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…

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).


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.


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/ 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 – 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, 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.


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.