FIA Friday press conference - Azerbaijan
DRIVER GROUP 1: Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Esteban OCON (Alpine)
Q: Zhou, we'll start with you. Welcome. You've raced here before in Formula 2. Podium, of course, last year, how different do you expect this track to be in a Formula 1 car?
Zhou GUANYU: Yeah, I think it will be different, but there won't be any surprises compared to some other tracks I race, for example, in Bahrain, as tracks, Jeddah, for example. Of course, the speed will be massive difference. And also, you have to adapt a little bit the braking point also, because I think you are braking super-late and it's very easy to make an error – as we saw last year in qualifying. So, it will be different but after experiencing Monaco, I think that just gives me… gained this experience and into these different tracks. I think this track probably more similar to Jeddah in terms of how you have to approach the circuit. I feel like there's nothing special really, but FP1, I think, will be a session just to be adapting again and getting into the rhythm.
Q: And what about performance? Do you think the layout will suit the Alfa Romeo?
ZG: I probably wouldn't say too much here because I think expectation was very high in Monaco, obviously, I think, surprised us as well, as a team, that we didn't really perform as much as we wanted with quite of lot of low speed in Monaco layout. This weekend, of course, the layout is a little bit differently: it’s more like hard braking. I think in terms of the layout, it shouldn't be a big effect. And we have to say we already find the issues we were facing in Monaco that probably hold us a little bit back in terms of qualifying performance. We felt like this weekend we can do a better job than last time, and we have to just see, compared to the others, because here, anything could happen. In qualifying, with a massive slipstream, for example, like that. I think we have a good package and a good weekend.
Q: Kevin, we’ll come to you next. You haven't raced here for several years. What have you missed about Baku?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: I think it's an interesting race always. It's usually quite eventful, with lots of Safety Car chances. In the past, there's been loads of stuff happening. It feels like one of those races where you can hope for some special result. So of course, that's what we do this weekend too. We are hoping that we can race well and then hope for some kind of surprise.
Q: It was a double DNF for the team in Monaco. Is it important to get a clean weekend under your belts here, and get some momentum back?
KM: Yeah, I think so. We've had good pace, at basically every race – maybe Melbourne is the only one that stands out, where we were behind on pace, in terms of being in the mix in the midfield – so I think with, as you said, momentum, we need to kind of just get in there, get the ball rolling and start scoring points regularly, because I think our car has the pace.
Q: And from your own performance point of view, haven't been here for a few years. Is it the sort of place where you need to build up slowly?
KM: A little bit, I guess. It's a street circuit and you kind of approach the street circuits a little different. But it's a cool track. I think it's different, it's challenging. There's some pretty unique parts where the track narrows, and then you're using kerbs. It's quite a cool track, I think: although it's a lot of straights it's still a big challenge.
Q: Lando, coming to you. You've scored points in both of your previous visits to Baku. So do you come here full of confidence?
Lando NORRIS: I would say so. Just off how we've been doing lately, this year. Barcelona was a decent race, could have been a little bit better and Monaco was a strong weekend for us. So, I'm hoping so. We always hope for… In Baku, like Kevin said, many things can happen here. There's always unexpected people on the podium and stuff like that. So, as long as we're in that position, and at the end of the race, to kind-of potentially be in that position, that’s the aim.
Q: What do you need from your car to be quick here?
LN: Good straight-line speed is always a lovely thing. I think you need a car which gives you good confidence, as always, especially with the braking. Braking, there's always good time to find. So, that street circuit vibe, there's less room for error than on normal circuits. So, being able to position the car where you want, being able to brake how you want, you need that confidence in the car to be able to find the limits and to gradually find that… know the walls and things like that, use all the track space. So just a good car with good confidence. Straight-line speed is the actual bonus.
Q: Have you got that confidence in your car?
LN: I would say so. I think Monaco is always a real test of having that confidence. With bumpy braking, especially in this year's car, I would say Monaco was probably a trickier race and trickier lap to deal with that it wasn't in previous years. Maybe a little bit slower but the same time I thought trickier with the braking, with more bumps. So, I think that was maybe more of a test for the car and actually, what we got, and the confidence that it gives me, I was happy with that. So, I want to say that I'm happy coming here. But it's also much lower downforce and things like that. So, it's a new test for us.
Q: And Lando, we're a third of the way through the season now, Where do you see McLaren in the pecking order?
LN: It changes. So most weekends… I think there's been weekends when Alfa Romeo been a long way ahead of us. I think realistically they've been probably a quicker car throughout the whole season. Haas have at times been quicker than us. I think we've just been consistently good, especially since Bahrain – maybe not in Bahrain – but since then, we've just had a package which performs decently at every track, which is always a good thing: to be there every time and to be in the points. I think we were probably ahead of Mercedes in Monaco. So around third, fourth, fifth, maybe sixth area. I think it's a close group. So, as long as we're towards the front of that, I'll be happy.
Q: Esteban, can I put that to you now? The pecking order question Where do you see Alpine?
Esteban OCON: As Lando said, it's difficult to tell, it's a close group. Definitely, when we qualify in the top 10, and, we have the pace in qualifying, but it changes all the time, it's very, very close. And,
probably, we missed on some opportunities to score more with both cars. So, we're probably a bit further away than where we should be, in terms of Championship position for the team. But, there's good expectation for here. You know, there's good opportunities to take every year, we have a very updated car to come here. So, that's giving us confidence. Hopefully that will that will work for us.
Q: And do you think you're closing the gap to the leaders in terms of race pace with these updates?
EO: Well, that's the aim. It's always the aim, to get closer to the top. But we still have a long way to be able to do that. So, to get to the top of that close group is already what we should aim for. Get closer to Ferrari, Red Bull, it's another task. We will push hard; we will try and fight and try to be on the right side of the opportunities this time.
Q: Lando’s already said that you need a car that inspires confidence here in Baku. Do you feel you've got that underneath you?
EO: Yeah, he's right. Yeah, you need definitely good confidence, on the brakes especially. We've seen a lot of mistakes in on the brakes in Monaco, in here last year. To attack all the corner entries after such long straights is what you need to get. So, that will take time. We have three practice session together right before Quali, so the time to push is Quali.
Q: Max, you've yet to finish on the podium here in Baku, but you've come very close, particularly last year, how are you approaching this year's race?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Like any other, to be honest. We just need to see through practice, what we can do with the car, see where we are at. And try to find the best balance and then hopefully, of course, we are going to be quick enough to try and win the race.
Q: And when you have a failure, like you did last year, does that drive you to make a take more of a conservative approach when it comes to strategy this year?
MV: No, because it's not our fault. So, there's nothing we can do. We just have completely different tyres anyway, this year, so the tyres are going to behave anyway very, very different.
Q: Where do you see Red Bulls main challenges coming from this weekend?
MV: Don't know yet, to be honest. I think it's important to just go out there and see what we need from the car and then just work from there.
Q: Final one for me. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has said this week that Ferrari’s goal for 2022 is to be competitive, not specifically to win the World Championship. What are your thoughts on that? Does it give you – Red Bull Racing – a psychological advantage?
MV: No, I mean, we just have to focus on ourselves and they're very competitive. It’s good for the sport, and from our side, we enter every weekend to try and win the race. But it doesn't change if somebody else of another team says something.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) This is to Max and Lando, but if any of the other drivers have anything to say, please do. There's been a bit of talk in recent weeks about the possibility of the driver salary cap, that’s been talked in the background a few times. The two of you did new, long-term deals earlier this year. So, just wondered, first of all, what your thoughts on, theoretically, your value potentially being limited? And second, do you know how it would work in terms of, if a cap came in, after you've introduced long term contracts? It's not really been clear whether anything would have to change? Or if they'd have any way of forcing changes, if there were any way in which the restrictions impacted your new deals? Thank you.
MV: It's still all a bit vague as well, right? I mean, I think no one really knows where it's goping to go. But from my side, it's completely wrong. Because I think at the moment F1 is becoming more and more popular and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams, Formula 1 – everyone is benefiting. So, why should the drivers, with their IP rights and everything, be capped, [drivers] who actually bring the show and put their lives at risk? Because we do, eventually. So, for me, it's completely wrong. But also, not only that, because in all the junior categories, if you see how many of those drivers have a sponsor or backer, who eventually will have a certain percentage of their income in potentially Formula 1 or whatever, I think it's going to limit that a lot, because they will never get there return, in money, if you get a cap. So it will hurt all the junior categories as well. And I don't think you would want that.
LN: I think Max explained it well, really. Mainly because I've not had to think about it probably as much as him. So, I think what he said is correct, and especially with the investment part into young drivers. It's difficult enough to get into Formula 1 at all, so as soon as you have the backing, where you have an investor, as a driver. They obviously want their money back at some point and you're going to have to do that. If it gets capped, and so on, it's much harder, and will interest people much less to ever invest into young drivers and invest into people having chances to get to Formula 1 in the first place. So, I think that's probably one of the main points. But Max has probably has thought about it much better than me – and therefore his answers is better.
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsport.com) Max, we've heard a lot, in the past few weeks, about Sergio being more comfortable with this year's car, compared to last year. Are you less comfortable with the more neutral handling of this year's cars? Are you chasing a more pointy front end? Or is it hard to do that without compromising kind of tyre wear and the race form?
MV: I definitely see, of course, Checo is a bit more comfortable than last year. For my side, yeah, I would like a bit more front end, that's what we're working at. I don't say like I'm uncomfortable in the car but these cars are so heavy, and long, and wide that, with increased weight as well, you want a car, which turns better, because it just goes faster around a corner. And you can extract a bit more in qualifying when you really push it, which cannot at the moment, but it's not all very dramatic. I mean, I still won four races. So, that's more than I did last year at this time. So, it's not that bad. It's just fine-tuning little things.
Q: Kevin, let's throw that to you. You've had the longer break after a year out what's been the biggest thing for you to get used to with these cars?
KM: I don't know. I think it's different. But getting used to it, I think. I’d agree with Max, that the cars have more understeer mid-corner; that the car doesn't want to rotate as well as the old cars. I haven't struggled with it. It's very stiff and bumpy, of course – that's the main thing that you notice when you drive these cars for the first time. You think, okay, this is different. It's very harsh on every bump and every kerb. But, you know, it's still a Formula 1 car, still good to drive, it's still super-fast. I've been driving prototypes all of last year and coming back to this, probably I feel the difference less, because I came back into a Formula 1 car that is a lot faster than what I just got used to, in sports cars last year. So, it's fun.
Q: And Zhou, is the driving style actually quite similar to Formula 2?
ZG: I have to say, probably not too much, just because obviously, especially, this year’s tyres. In Formula 2, firstly, in the long distance, you have to manage it quite a lot of tyre, they’re pretty much dead after three or four laps, where here you can push a little bit more through. Sometimes in qualifying, like we saw in Monaco, or a track like Jeddah. In general, the downforce difference is a big jump. So, the way you have to approach the corner, and the way you have to prepare yourself, the radius of the corners is completely different, and so, yeah, it takes a bit of time to adapt. Especially in Barcelona, in Bahrain in T-01, T-02 [First pre-season test, second pre-season test]. It takes time to be knowing how to drive these cars fast, faster. And yeah, it's a bit of change but still, the normal driving procedures doesn't really change much. Just to adapting different cars. Of course, you have a power steering wheel that just changes a massive feeling of the tyres. So, that's probably one of the main tasks.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Question for Max, if possible, please, Max, obviously, you were the youngest driver to start in F1, at 17. Then they brought in an age limit. But in Le Mans this weekend there’s a 16 year-old that's racing. I just wondered if there should be an age limit and that sort of thing or if the driver is good enough that there's no need for a limit?
MV: Yeah, if he's capable of driving, and I don't see why not. You know, it shouldn't depend on age. You know, if he's 16 and he's capable of driving and he’s not a danger to others, then I think it's perfectly fine.
Q: Esteban, can we get your thoughts on that?
EO: As Max said, I was asking Lando actually, I don't know who it is exactly. But no, I mean if he's proven that he can, that he's capable. I don't think age should be a limit. I've have arrived early in categories, in karting, arrived early into single seater as well. And everything we are looking at is the performance really, not your age and how mature you have to be, and act to be professional at early age. And that's probably what he's going to face now.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, just wondered, has there been much reflection on Monaco and whether anything could have been done different on your side to win the race. Your father was quite outspoken afterwards, sort of suggesting that maybe the team should have prioritised you as the Championship leader, but you didn't seem too bothered afterwards that Checo had had won the race, you seem to think it was just one of those weekends that didn't work out for you. On reflection, could anything have been done differently for you to win the race?
MV: My race was done on Saturday already after that red flag. Where I had to start fourth. And then that's how it goes. Then in the race, you know, you're the second car. So, you just follow the team's orders. And I think we did extremely well as a team, to get the cars where they ended-up. I think we all got also a bit lucky, you know, with backmarkers holding up Ferraris, and stuff like that. But that's fine. Monaco, you know, crazy things can happen. I was just a bit more disappointed about that Q3 Run where I couldn't finish my lap. But that's also Monaco. I mean, the same happened also, last year, Monaco but also here, in Baku, with a red flag. So, on a street circuit that's really easily done. And it's only one race weekend, we have so many more to go where normally you can overtake even if, let's say, there is a bit of a disappointment in qualifying. So, yeah, Monaco is probably just a bit of an unlucky one, if you're unlucky in qualifying, but it's okay. I mean, we're still leading the Championship. Of course, I retired twice already. So, to be even leading the Championship with the margin I have at the moment, I think is very positive. We just look ahead and a lot of things, good things, are coming, but hopefully it's going to be enough.
Q: Esteban, can we get your reflections on Monaco? Obviously, it ended in a frustrating way for you with the penalty. But do you take positives from the pace of the car?
EO: Yeah, we take positives. Definitely, for sure. The ending was not what we wanted, to be out of the points. But we were on for a very good lap as well, as Max said, when the red flag came, I was going to improve by quite a bit, and that would have changed completely the race weekend. But that's how Monaco goes. Unfortunately. And the pace, you know, for the team. It’s been good. Lando got the fastest lap, but we were just behind. We had good pace. And, you know, we were fighting inside the top 10. So, all in all, it's positive, it doesn't reflect the end result. But, you know, we're trying to make that different here.
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsport.com) To Max. When you had your moment coming out the pits in Monaco, and cross the pit lane exit line, did you know you're allowed now to cross the pit exit line in those circumstances? And do you think that's a good thing in safety terms, that drivers can now flirt and ride this line, whereas opposed to before, you had to stay away from it?
MV: Well, that's the thing. I didn't cross it. I rode on it. It was close, but it was also wet in the corner, so I naturally drifted that way. I think normally, you don't want to, let's say, put yourself in a position but also most of the pit exit lines you don't really need to. I knew it was going to be close. So, you have to, of course, use all the margin you have.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) For Lando. You mentioned earlier that the car is kind of handily competitive in the midfield across a range of circuits. Is the car now a pretty good all-rounder or are there still specific limitations you're trying to work on? Is it just more of everything? Or are there particular corner profiles that are still proving tricky?
LN: I think there are still some slightly tougher areas maybe. I want to believe in general we've probably improve the car like on average through all the tracks. I think there's still a few which we were yet to go to which we struggled at a lot last season. And I think it's different in terms of characteristics to a lot of the ones we've been to – so places like Zandvoort and things like that. So, we’re still yet to explore all of the ranges of types of corners and tracks and so on. But I want to believe, and I think have some confidence in saying, that we've improved the car throughout most of these areas. And what we need now is, in general, just a whole package upgrade. I think it’s handling reasonably well: there's definitely types of characteristics that, personally as a driver, I still want more from the car and it's just hard to go in that direction. It changes: every driver wants something different. I think from what Daniel and I want from the car is quite similar but there's definitely differences in some driving styles and stuff and I sometimes bias my car more one way than what he does, kind of thing. So it changes – but it's also down to personally how I feel I want to drive the car. And I believe there's good lap time in going in that direction. But it's just a hard thing to improve on, especially from one race to the next. But I think over the next races and next months and hopefully when we can bring some more bits to the car, then we can move in that direction.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing), Lance STROLL (Aston Martin), Alex ALBON (Williams), Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), Daniel RICCIARDO (McLaren)
Q: Let's do something a bit different this time. Let's start in the middle. Alex, you won here in Formula 2 in 2018? Just give us your thoughts on the track?
Alex ALBON: Yeah, thank you. I love this track. I feel like it's quite a unique circuit in the way that it's quite repetitive in some ways, you know, you've got 90 degree corners everywhere and to get the lap time out of it, each one's slightly different in its own way, so I like that challenge. Obviously as a street track it’s very quick. And the racing is good. I don't think we've had a normal podium finish here in in a while. So it gives opportunity, which I think for a team like us, we'll take.
Q: So you're going to invite a bit of jeopardy, because it's been a difficult couple of races for you in Barcelona and Monaco. Where is the car at in terms of pace at the minute?
AA: Yeah, I think for us the main thing is we haven't had really any major updates. So of course, the majority of the teams have done that in Barcelona. We have some coming a bit later on. So there is the inevitable struggle at this point. That's not to say we can't do a good job here, though. It is a circuit that's a little bit more like Miami or Monaco. On paper, it may look like not a great weekend in Monaco, but the pace was pretty strong. So I think we can we can be opportunistic for this race, at least. And we'll see in Canada until hopefully the updates arrive at some
Q: Alex, you've been at Williams for six months now and you've no doubt started to form an opinion about its strengths and its weaknesses, what insight can you give us into what the team is doing well, and perhaps some of the areas where you think it still needs to improve?
AA: There's no real big secret, I think all the teams operate in a very similar way. Of course, they have their own different styles of working and what have you, but it's not anything obvious. And if the weaknesses were obvious, we wouldn't be struggling so much. So, for us, it's more just about chipping away at it. And I think the mentality and the drive is there it’s just, you know, getting there. So we're working flat out right now to close the gap towards the midfield. I think that's really our prime objective, to get into the points and to be in those battles, getting into those Q2s. And yeah, I think in terms of where we need it's a very boring answer, but it's pace. We need we need a little bit more lap time in it.
Q: Okay, thank you, Alex. Best of luck this week. Let's go to Checo next. Monaco winner what were the celebrations like after the race? And how was the success received back home in Mexico?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it was pretty good celebrations. And it was obviously a lot of excitement back home, because it was a great day for my country. You know to achieve the victory in in Monaco, it's something that as a driver you dream off for your entire career and achieving that is definitely very special.
Q: Now Checo, when you consider where you were this time two years ago, not knowing if you had a drive for the following year, and now you're a Monaco winner. What does that tell you about this sport? There must be a lesson in there somewhere?
SP: Yeah, certainly. Not just for me, I think for everyone, because in this world things change so quickly, literally from one race to the other, you know. You go from hero to zero in a matter of weeks. So, I think it's just important to keep pushing, keep making the most of your opportunities, and you never know when you're going to get the right opportunity in your career.
Q: What about the opportunity this weekend? You won here last year, your confidence is high because you won two weeks ago. Just give us give us a little preview.
SP: I think Baku is all about confidence. It's all about not making mistakes, you know, because here what really can catch you out is making those mistakes and losing track time, starting on the backfoot and you can compromise your weekend fairly easily here. So it's very important to stay out of trouble.
Q: Okay, best of luck this weekend. Thank you. Lance coming to you now, returning to the scene of your first Formula 1 podium, your first shoey. Do you always enjoy coming back here and what do you think you can achieve this weekend?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, I don’t miss the shoey, that's for sure! No, but it was a great day, great memories you know, I love the track. It's always a great challenge coming here. You know, the race on Sunday is always exciting. There's always opportunity to overtake and yeah, it just always makes for an exciting race on Sunday. And, yeah, looking forward to the weekend.
Q: And after the failure you had on your car last year at this at this race. Does that change your approach in any way? Perhaps in terms of strategy?
LS: No, I don't think we were doing anything wrong last year in terms of strategy, I think it was an unexpected tyre failure. And I hope it doesn't happen again. It wasn't fun having a tyre failure at those speed. We had great pace and we were on for a good race and those kinds of things are never fun. So hopefully it doesn't happen again.
Q: You've had the updates on your car for a couple of races. Are you confident that you found a set-up path with it?
LS: Well, I think we're learning every weekend. It's a very different package to what we started the season with. So I think every weekend we're just gaining knowledge, understanding our car. Now this is a very different track to Monaco. So I think we'll see how we go this weekend. But we're definitely learning every weekend about the strengths and weaknesses of this car, the areas we’ve got to work on and I think we're only getting better understanding the car and that's a good thing.
Q: Best of luck. Thank you, Lance. Yuki, coming to you. Great result for you here last year, you qualified eighth and finished the race seventh. Does it make a difference to you returning to a track where you've performed well in the past?
Yuki TSUNODA: Well, I’m always looking forward to every race weekend. Last year I got a good result here, qualifying and the race as well. But I think yeah it’s a bit of a different situation last year. I think the car was really good and it helped me to be able to be in that kind of position. Still, I like this track, it’s a nice street circuit. So I think as a team as well, we are feeling more confident than in the previous races. I think, in general, as a team, we had a good result there [last year] and Pierre got P3 as well. So, yeah, hopefully we can achieve those things in this race weekend as well.
Q: Can we just reflect on Monaco as well, because the team went to Monaco feeling very confident. The result didn't happen for you. What have you learned since the race weekend about what happened in Monaco?
YT: I think we started very good. From FP1 to FP3 we were consistently in the top 10. Qualifying… I think definitely one of the biggest reason was my contacting with the wall and causing the red flag. And made slightly the planning we'd done before the session completely messed up and Pierre couldn't get across the line before the chequered flag. So that was a biggest reason. And also for my side, I got a damage as well in early stages so I couldn't go through to Q3 as well. So definitely there was potential to go through to Q3. So it was a big shame for the team. But I think we learned a lot of things also from the race as well. So hopefully we don't have that kind of situation in the future. And yeah, currently we just have to extract the performance from the car as much as possible and score points.
Q: And how important is it for you to have a clean weekend here?
YT: Yeah, I think first we need a clean race week, to have an exact idea what position we we're fighting for now, and also for the future to develop the car. But I think we have good confidence that we can achieve a clean race week. We learned a lot of things. We did a lot of mistakes already, so as a team we have shown that we can improve from there, and I'm also happy with the team, what we are doing now. Also I’ll try to help as much as possible with my performance to have a clean race week.
Q: Okay, best of luck to you. Thank you, Yuki. Daniel, thank you for waiting. Former winner here back in 2017. How much you're going to relish getting back on track?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Very much so, it’s a great track. Yeah, it's just fun, high speed. We’ve got three street circuits in a row now, which is cool. I think they're all unique in a way. But I think every street circuit kind of poses the same challenges and that risk reward factor is always there, pretty much all the way around the lap. From a set-up point of view is very different to Monaco. You know, you run lower downforce than in Monaco, because the straights and the speeds are much different. But yeah, the kind of the flow and stuff in the middle sector, there are some similarities as well.
Q: And Daniel, would you would you want to clean weekend looking at the bigger picture of the race? Or would you welcome a bit of jeopardy?
DR: I welcome everything. I mean, 2017 was one of the most crazy races I was ever involved in. So I welcome that.
Q: Now, let's go back to Monaco. It was a disappointing weekend ending up 13th. Having been through the weekend with your engineers, would you have done anything differently in terms of set-up, or is there anything you've learned since the weekend?
DR: Yeah, reviewing, I think reviewing a race weekend, especially when it's not, let's say a good result, you'll always kind of look back in hindsight and say ‘well, yeah, OK, maybe this or that’. I think we started on the front foot and I think we were kind of in a good place and then it kind of just got a little away from us, where we understood a bit after that, and a few days after the race, you know, I spoke to the team with an analysis and then I was in the factory on Monday and the sim and a few other bits and pieces there as well with the team. So, we've definitely done our work and we come into today with a few bits and pieces, which we're going to explore on the car just to try to get me kind of back in that place. But, yeah, full confidence moving ahead now.
Q: Daniel, there's an interesting quote from you recently, where you said that you welcome some of the speculation that's out there about your form. Can you explain a little more about what you mean by that? Because with speculation comes increased pressure, surely?
DR: Well, I guess at the end of the day, people care you know. I think it's why I'm probably being talked about finishing 13th, because people know that I can be better. And I guess it speaks to my results in the past. And I guess me, as a driver, people believe in me, simply. I also don't expect an amazing narrative when I cross the line in 13th. But yeah, I like pressure. It's a good platform to perform on. And it's also why I signed up to this. I love it. Success after struggle always tastes a little sweeter. So that's what I look forward to it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Teymur Maksutov – First News Agency) Checo my question is for you. We can say that you have are the most successful driver for these races. What does it mean for you to be here in such a special time in your career? Does it give you maybe inspiration, more power, or you feel maybe pressure?
SP: I think I've always enjoyed Baku. I've had good races here. I've had tough times also here. It can be very hectic. I generally enjoy it. And, yeah, it's certainly one of my favourite places to come in the year. So yeah, I'll tell you after Sunday if it is still as favourite as it is at the moment.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) A question for Sergio. Congratulations on your new contract. I just wondered if you could explain when that was signed and also have you spoken about having equal measure with your team-mate now, in terms of obviously what happened with some of the stuff in the past?
SP: It was signed on Friday before Monaco. We didn't discuss about that, there's nothing in my contract that says that I need to finish second or something like that, you know. So it was not a topic in the contract at all.
Q: (Jon Noble – Motorsport.com) To Checo again. First one, in terms of your mindset, do you feel you've got the car, the confidence in the car, and the opportunities in Red Bull, to fight for the world championship this year? And having the contract done so early, does it make a difference in terms of kind of clearing your head and it not being a distraction, when you have the uncertainty about your future?
SP: Yeah, I certainly feel that as a driver you want certainty. And you want to get that stress out of the way. So the earlier the better. It takes so much so much energy and so much focus to be at 100% weekend by weekend that you don't need that thinking you know. So it was good that we agreed so early on the contract. And yeah, I feel like I’ve got a good opportunity. So the season is still very young, so anything can still happen from now.
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) Question to Daniel. Obviously you said before that you're going to bring some updates but do you think that just like Mercedes, you can also perform better at getting more out of the package you have at the moment?
DR: Absolutely. I think there's still… Probably, like all of us, there are still ways to perfect these cars and the updates. So yeah, we're certainly still like experimenting and trialling a few bits and pieces. And obviously, personally, I still feel I can get more out of this car. So yes to all the above.
Q: (Jon Noble – Motorsport.com) Checo, we've heard a lot from the team talk about how much you're much more comfortable in the car this year than you were last year? Can you just explain a little about what it is from the handling and stuff that makes you more comfortable? And we hear Max wants more front end from the car. Do you think that can happen independently of kind of where you are, in a good position?
SP: I think last year we obviously came in set-up regulations that had been there for a while. So people that stayed longer in the teams had good and bad advantage in that regard. So coming new to this car, this philosophy of car, it was very difficult for me to adapt and to always extract the maximum. It had a very unique driving style that took me a while to adapt to. At the end of the season it was fine, but it just took me too long throughout the season. And I think it's starting from zero it's a good opportunity for everyone. And especially given that it's my second season with Red Bull, I think that's something that makes it already a lot better, knowing my engineers, knowing the people around me. That's a big step. And yeah, the car, I feel comfortable with it and I'm able to extract the maximum.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafé) Daniel you've spent time in the simulator since Monaco. What did you focus on and what did you learn? Did you feel you've made progress in being more comfortable in the car, and I'm sure he'd appreciate a comment about his beard.
DR: Well, if the mic wasn't on earlier, strong. It’s beautiful. I liked the stroke you did with the beard. It was like a kind of a double brush, which was nice. I look forward to actually seeing you here in person soon so I can touch it myself. I'll sanitise, it's OK. So, sim stuff. I think the sim is one part of the learning, the development, but also just going through analysis of the race and all other bits and pieces, which we will do with the engineers and the team. And also the factory, you know. Not everyone travels to the races, so it's a chance to also speak to some factory-based personnel. And just go through a lot of it. I definitely feel in a good place coming into this weekend. I think that's one thing where a weekend like Monaco. Yeah, it's not the result I want but once we've done the homework then I put it behind me and look forward. Yeah, fully focused and confident ahead of Baku now.
Q: (John Noble – Motorsport.com) Daniel over the Monaco weekend, there was a definite change of tone from Zak about your future and the pressure you're being put under. But he was obviously in America, not in Monaco. Have you spoken to Zak since the weekend to clarify things? Where do you think things are at? And are there any doubts about next year and you're expected to deliver for the team?
DR: You have the opposite. You have no beard at the moment. Visually it's hard to get used to this. It's really extremes. Well, firstly we've spoken. We've had a catch up. But nothing really needed to be kind of elaborated on. I think sometimes I'm guilty of it as well, getting caught up in the media, and not always kind of making total sense of things. I just like to talk. No, the clarity is clear for us moving forward. My contracts clear with the team, until the end of next year I'm fully committed. I’ve certainly voiced that. And it’s obviously now just on track to show it and show these moments and these races that I know I'm capable of. And I do truly believe that I have the full support of the team and we want to do it together.
Q: But Daniel, were you surprised that Zak went public with his thoughts?
DR: I wasn't surprised. I don’t know, maybe I’ve become a little bit immune, if that's the word, to media. I think I’ve been in the sport for so long and I think we actually do more and more as we go through the years. So, I don't I don't really take it probably for its full value or worth all the time. And I know that some things are taken out of context. So I'm not really one to go into it and read too much and try to understand it. At the end of the day, I guess I know the facts between us and know I have with the team, so yeah, simply I don't get caught up. So I guess I'm not surprised with anything these days, beard or no beard.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Recefans.net) Daniel, another question for you. I don't have a beard. My apologies.
DR: Probably a good thing.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Recefans.net) Obviously we talk a lot about the performance in the car and things like that, but for you, have you worked out what it is that maybe you're struggling with? Is it a confidence sort of thing where if you've got a good result that you could be happy with them for the next race, you could build on it? Or how is it for you mentally at the moment?
DR: I mean, certainly it has its challenges. But I think stripping it back to the core, I still know what I can do, I still believe I have it and it's not, you know, it's not like a place of like low confidence or low self-esteem or anything, where I'm like, ‘I don't think it's possible’. I really do. I know I can still do it. I think in this sport everything operates at such a high level and if something's a little bit out of tune, then it can have a bit of a carry-on effect. So it's really just for me to get back into that place where I'm in tune, fully in tune, with the car and then it'll come. I have felt it before, you know, so I think it could come at any circuit and I think from then it will probably start to build again, some nice rhythm. A little bit like the second half of last year, where we started to build some of that. Just get back to that place. It's not as far away as it probably seems. So I've confidence that it can happen quickly.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Another one for Daniel. Obviously you talked about getting into that sweet spot with a car. The narrative last year was trying to adapt to a sort of peculiar McLaren, I guess you'd describe it as. But now we've seen a bigger change in the cars and inherently there are perhaps some characteristics that don't entirely get on with your style. And it seems almost like you’ve kind of got a style that worked really well, that you almost built up going right back to Toro Rosso days. So do you ]feel like almost the rules have just gone against you and made your life harder as well? Because you were really on top probably the last decade’s worth of cars, and then it's kind of moved away from you again?
DR: Yeah, it's a massive sabotage! I mean, even with the changes this year, there are certainly still some things, which, you could kind of say carry over from last year's car and some of the, how do I say…. Like, some things the car did last year, I think it still does this year, if that makes sense. So it's still trying to get on top of that. But it's a place where I didn't really find I'd say these issues, as you said, maybe in the past, and that's why it's something a little bit new or unfamiliar for me. But, as I said, it's taken longer than I would have liked to obviously get the results and the consistency, week in, week out, but it's not far off. I don't want to keep talking about Monza. But there were obviously times last year, where I was able to show that I can make it work with this car. And I do think we're closer this year than last year, funnily enough, so, I’m just going across the line now with less people in front of me and more behind me and everything’s sweet.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Does the contract for another year give you a feeling of complacency rather than fighting for your career?
DR: Absolutely not. No. That's one thing I certainly want to… There is a level of, as Checo said, signing early in a season gives you some comfort, but that comfort shouldn't be… I'm going to use a word here that I don't think is [right]… Is it misconstrued? Yes! [Shouldn’t be] misconstrued with complacency. Absolutely not. And, you know, it's as simple as this: my results, I want them to be better, I know they can be better and I want to enjoy that success with the team. So I'm not going to just sit back in 13th and be complacent or happy about that. Not at all.
DRIVER GROUP 3: Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas), Pierre GASLY (AlphaTauri), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), George Russell (Mercedes)
Q: Valtteri, we'll start with you, please. Now, quietly there were high expectations within the team prior to Monaco. And you finished in the points, but were you expecting more from that weekend?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Definitely I was expecting more. When we came into the weekend, naturally, as our car has been good in slow-speed corners we thought it would be one of the best opportunities this year but it didn't quite happen. And I think it's quite a unique track in terms of the bumpiness, the warps, the cambers on the track, in the corners. So I think mechanically we probably didn't quite get the most out of the car. And I think it was a good lesson. I think we've learned a lot from that weekend that hopefully can possibly help us this weekend.
Q: Well, what about here? Do you think the car strengths will suit this track as well?
VB: Hopefully it's better. I mean, every track except Monaco we've been pretty strong compared to the midfield. So this is slightly more towards normal type of track, although it is a street track, and a bumpy one, but like I said, with the learnings from Monaco, hopefully, we're going to be good.
Q: Now you've had both good and bad luck at this racetrack. What's the secret to a good result?
VB: See the chequered flag, that's the number one thing, because here you just never know. The qualifying position is maybe not a crucial as in other places. But yeah, in the race, stay out of trouble, make the right calls with a strategy. This race is always exciting, and I look forward to it.
Q: Okay, best of luck. Thank you Valtteri. Pierre, coming to you. A bit like Valtteri, there were high expectations at AlphaTauri as well, going into Monaco. Just how do you reflect on that whole weekend? What lessons were learned?
Pierre GASLY: Yeah, obviously disappointed, you know. The whole weekend was probably our best weekend of the season so far. And yeah, that one session that we had to make sure not to miss or do any mistakes, unfortunately we got it wrong. And we paid… Pretty big consequences. Because starting from the back in Monaco, it's never going to make your Sunday easy and very hard to recover. Apart from that, a lot of positives to take away from that weekend in terms of performance, the whole Friday, Saturday, we showed some good pace and even on Sunday, you know, in the end, I'm really happy with the performance we showed on Sunday, even though in the end we didn't score points, we still managed to recover a couple of good positions you know. I enjoyed these conditions in Monaco, which were very extreme, and I tried to make a couple of moves on a difficult track, so I think everything was great apart from our terrible qualifying which cost because cost us the lot.
Q: Well, what about this weekend? You were on the podium at this racetrack last year? If everything falls for you can you repeat that?
PG: Why not? Why not? You know, everything can happen in Baku. We saw a lot of drama in the past years. We saw quite unexpected results and podiums, so I want to be optimistic about this weekend and also just the track layout. You know, it's only low-speed corners and we know usually that's where we tend to be the most competitive compared to other tracks with higher-speed corners, so I think it's looking good. Hopefully we can start and kick our season off properly, because since the start of the year it hasn't been the start we would have liked and now I feel Baku can be a definitely a good starting point.
Q: And Pierre, this is our first opportunity to talk to you since Sergio Pérez resigned with Red Bull Racing. What does that mean for your own future? Are you looking outside of the Red Bull family for 2023?
PG: Well, at the moment it’s not a question of looking outside or looking anywhere. I think my contract situation is pretty clear with Red Bull. And yeah, it's just, you know, an ongoing conversation with Helmut and the management to know what's best for all of us. But as I said, you know, to me it’s been very logical to sign Checo who has been competitive since the start of the year. So yeah, I mean, no surprise on that side. Obviously it impacts what's going to happen for my career in the coming years. And based on that, we just need to we just need to have normal conversation on what's best going forward.
Q: Would you look at moving outside of Red Bull, just to clarify that?
PG: At the moment, as I say, these are conversations that are ongoing. I mean, I have nothing more to add. The right decision will be made at the right time. I know why I'm here. I know what I want to achieve in Formula 1. I'm a competitive guy and the only thing that matters to me is performance. You know, we are F1 drivers, here to fight for wins, poles, championships, and that's what drives me every single day. That's why I'm pushing myself beyond my limits every single time. And at the end of the day, that's what will make the difference. But, as I say, for now it's a matter of performing with AlphaTauri and will take the decision at the right time.
Q: Thank you, Pierre. Carlos, coming to you now. You were a Red Bull driver for many years. How difficult was it for you to move away from the Red Bull family, just with a view to the situation Pierre's finding himself in?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, it was not easy, but at the same time thanks to Red Bull, it’s why I made it to Formula 1 way I am a Formula 1 driver right now and I'm enjoying a career, no? It's a difficult trade, but I understand what Pierre is going through. I went through something relatively similar. At the time maybe it caused me a couple of bad situations or bad moments with Red Bull but now I remain good friends with Helmut with Christian and I only have grateful words for them, you know. I can understand both positions. It's a very difficult trade between where you want to be but at the same time being loyal to the ones who have trusted in you. What I can tell you is that Pierre for me is a very good driver that is always performing on track and it’s normal that he has high expectations and wants to go and find a place where he can fight for wins and some poles so I understand, as I said, both positions.
Q: Thank you. Now, let's talk Ferrari. How do you reflect on Monaco? I'm sure you've debriefed with the engineers. Anything you'd have done differently?
CS: For sure, with the benefit of hindsight we would have done a couple of things differently. Not so much on my side but probably more maybe on the other side of the garage. But for me it was a pretty straightforward race. I think we nailed the strategy I was leading before everyone had to go into slicks. I was the race leader at that time. So I think we did the right strategy call and then for details like the pit stop gap to Latifi and then having to be stuck behind him for two sectors then it was what cost me the race win. But on my side could we have done something differently? Looking back at it if I would have pitted one lap earlier I would have more margin with Checo but I had different traffic in my window. If I would have pitted one lap late I would have probably got undercut by Checo. So it's just shows that in Formula 1 for winning everything needs to be on your side. It needs to be extremely detailed and it needs to click you know, that everything goes your way one day, and it wasn't meant to be for me day in Monaco. But I’m confident I drove well and I could have been the race winner with a bit more luck.
Q: And what about car set-up here in Baku? High or low downforce, what's the best solution over one lap and over a race distance?
CS: There's always a trade and I think you can get to a race win or a good result following both directions. You can be a bit quicker in the corners or a bit quicker on the straight. All our simulations are fairly flat in telling you that the lap time is going to be the same going one way or the other you know, so you just need to pick your trade, trust your process, your instinct and make sure you have a car that gives you confidence, because here you need a lot of braking confidence, to brake late and to be close to a wall. So it's a great challenge for us drivers but also for teams in terms of setting up the car and I think it's a great circuit. I enjoy coming here and it's been good for Formula 1, I think, Baku recently.
Q: OK, thank you and best of luck this weekend. Mick coming to you now. Obviously a very harsh end to your race in Monaco. But what positives do you take from the weekend as a whole?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Yeah, I think that the positives are you know, we came through Monaco, well, through the FPs though obviously we missed out on FP1, and then kind of played catch-up until qualifying. But then actually in qualifying, we were all quite close. You know, we weren't expecting to be as close to Valtteri and I think we were, so that's already a good positive. And then yeah, I think in the race, we chose the right strategy direction in terms of going from full wets to intermediates, and then going to slicks quite early on. Well, we were kind of forced to go to slicks due to the front wing being missing. But yeah overall I think we had everything… We have a lot of things which we can take away from there that are positives, but obviously the negatives are especially the ones we have to learn from.
Q: Now, the car was obviously a mess after the crash, how were you physically?
MS: I was fine. Obviously, the impact was, was not actually that harsh and I was kind of surprised to see the car in two pieces.
Q: And after a crash like that, how do you feel coming into another street race this weekend? How important is it for you to have a clean weekend?
MS: Well, it's important for me, but also for the team. Obviously we are kind of tight on spare parts and therefore have to be really cautious on that side. But nonetheless we're still trying to perform and get the points. And that's what we're aiming for here.
Q: OK, best of luck this weekend, thank you. George, thanks for waiting. So, you've said that you expect to be closer to the front runners this weekend. Can you just explain why?
George RUSSELL: I don't remember saying that, to be honest! No, I think there’s no secret, we obviously brought some big changes to the car in Barcelona and it kind of changed our whole philosophy a little bit and where the strengths of our car were and the weaknesses were. And obviously, Monaco is a very unique race weekend altogether. So I think this will be slightly more in line with the performance we saw in Barcelona.
Q: Now, clearly, the team has made great progress with the car. If you took it back to Bahrain now. How much faster would it be?
GR: Hopefully it would be faster. But I think I don't think it's necessarily much faster at the moment but it's given us a direction where we think we can get a lot more out of it, whereas the car we had in Bahrain, that was sort of its maximum potential, and we couldn’t really improve it from there on in. Sometimes you got to take a small step back to take three steps forward. And I think we're in that transitional process at the moment. And I think it'll be a few more races before we started to see us hopefully fighting with the Ferrari and Red Bull.
Q: So if that requires a few more races, are you hoping for a little bit of a typically chaotic race here in Baku?
GR: Yeah, I think, yes, it’s definitely welcome in our position, I don't think it's going to be straightforward. I think we'd love to be straight on the pace here but I think we'll be in our usual position, just sort of behind the front two, and probably just ahead of the midfield group. There's some really fast guys out there in the low speed corners and that could throw up a bit of a surprise. But hopefully, come Sunday we'll be able to recover that. And yeah, let's see. It's definitely welcome. As long as we're on the right side of it, it’s all good.
Q: Now, you said recently that prior to the start of the season you expected to have won a race by this point in the year. Do you take any satisfaction from the fact that you're the only driver to have scored points in every race so far?
GR: Yeah, definitely. You got to look at the positives. And you've got to look at things rationally. And we can't be disappointed that we haven't won a race this season with the package we've had. And we're in this development phase and I think it's been pretty well optimised. As a team, I think we've done a great job to maximise the points available to us. So you've got to take that as a positive and try and continue this momentum forward. And hopefully when we have a faster car, we'll be in good shape to fight for those victories.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Open to all five of you really. Next year could have been the introduction of a driver salary cap, 2023 was the time that that was mooted as potentially bringing that in. It looks like if that is going to happen at all, it will be a bit further away. I don't imagine any driver is particularly happy about the idea of their earnings being limited. But when we asked Max about this earlier, and Lando, they both raised the point that it could have a knock-on effect in junior categories, because there are contracts that get done, support from backers who then take a percentage of earnings if a driver ever gets to Formula 1. Is that a slightly charitable interpretation from those two guys? Or do you think that is a serious potential knock-on effect that will put off people potentially investing in young drivers if there is a limit on their earnings in the future?
VB: I think it's a valid point. And that that can happen, because in the end when you come up the different categories you need financial support and eventually the investors who invest in you they are expecting a good payback. And if that is being limited, with already being this big risk for the investor, it will become an even bigger risk. I'm sure no driver is voting for the salary cap, because we feel like we earn a decent amount from doing what we do, risking our life and working as hard as we can and actually being the centre of the show, let's say, F1 is really booming at the moment, you know, we're doing more and more engagement with the fans, more and more work off the track. And, yeah, for me, it doesn't quite make sense that at this time that F1 is going up that the drivers’ salaries should go down,
PG: I completely agree with Valtteri. You know, I think he’s good to two valid points and that's what we said. We know it's an expensive sport. We know to make it today to Formula 1, to finance all your career through, even just through karting and coming through Formula 4, Formula 3, Formula 2, we're talking like big numbers and you need financial support. People need to take risk to invest in yourself if they see potential and it's normal that these people expect returns. And if we start to put this salary cap for sure it's not going to push these people to help young drivers. And I've had a lot of friends unfortunately who would have needed this backing when they were younger and they had the talent to make their way up. And unfortunately they didn't have the chance. And I don't think by moving that direction we're going to give more opportunities to these young talents without financial backing. So, I think we’ve got to be careful on that side. And as Valtteri said, as well, the sport is booming. We have more and more races, more and more interest. I think financially F1 is really growing, which is a very positive thing and very positive for everybody involved in the business. And exactly, it doesn't really make sense to cap us at the time when they asking us for more. But think this is just a side comment. I think this knock-on effect it could have on the younger guys and young talents is not really going in the direction that will be beneficial for the entire sport.
CS: I agree. You just need to see what it costs, you know, to run an F2, an F3 campaign nowadays. We're talking about millions of euros and whose father has one or two millions in the bank to spend for his son to compete in a racing category without knowing that he's going to make it to Formula 1. And if on top of that then you tell them that when he gets to Formula 1, he's going to get capped after wasting two million to run in F2. Who's going to be interested in investing? No, I think it's a very fair point. Also for junior teams like Ferrari and Red Bull, it's a complicated matter. But more than anything, is it the right thing to do nowadays? If you tell me Formula 1 is in crisis because of COVID and the sport is going in a bad direction, the drivers are earning too much for what the sport is generating, then I would tell you, maybe there's a chance or a point where we can all agree that maybe there is something that could be done. But when the sport is booming? You guys were all in Miami. You saw the amount of events, the amount of things we were doing, how busy we've been recently as racing drivers and we just keep hearing that the championship is going to grow to 25 races, even 30 in the future. And now when the sport is booming, you want to cap us, no? I find it a very illogical idea right now. And an idea that makes very little sense for where the sport is at the moment. So yeah, for me, it's more a matter of whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing to do in the specific time for Formula 1.
MS: Yeah, I think I agree with all of them. All of the points are valid, and I think that they're good. I think there's nothing I can add to that, in the sense that I think would definitely be the wrong way. Everybody's happy about the direction of Formula 1 at the moment and I think we, as drivers, obviously not only the younger drivers, but also we as drivers now, we travel the world basically and have nearly no private life at the end. And you know, it's all our life F1. So if we do spend all our time in it, I think, in a sense it would be a shame to not get rewarded for it.
GR: Nothing more to add.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question to George. Just to follow up on the question earlier, you talked about how you're working with a team, but could you please isolate your own performances? Coming into the season maybe there was an expectation of wins. That hasn't happened, so you've maybe just been slightly out of the headlines, but turning in some really good performances from what it looks like. So how do you how do you evaluate your own job?
GR: Yeah, I think it's been not a bad start to the season, personally. I think there’s definitely room to improve in certain areas. And I think, obviously, I’m in a really privileged position, being teammates with Lewis and learning so much from him, how he works, how he goes about his business with his engineers, how he gets the whole team motivated. It's quite inspiring to see. Also, on the technical side he’s pretty impressive, which a lot of people probably wouldn't really recognise or appreciate. So, yeah, definitely room to improve. But I think in terms of results, it's been fine. And yeah, I don't think we could have probably achieved much higher results when I look at the season rationally. I think probably other than Bahrain, we probably finished as high as we could in every single race.
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) George, you mentioned before that in the next races somewhere you expect to go on and be battling with Red Bull and Ferrari. Can you explain more which part of the car you're going to improve, where you're going to get the advantage back, let's say on the Red Bull and Ferrari?
GR: As I said, from Barcelona it was effectively a completely new car for us. So we have basically done two races this season with this iteration of car – one of which was Monaco, where we took little or no learning, because it's such a unique race track. And we think we can now start to build from this foundation. So mainly the aero side of things, making sure we don't go into any of the porpoising issues we faced earlier, but just bringing more performance to the car, which we have confidence we can achieve. But ultimately, it's always relative. We don't know what Red Bull and Ferrari have in the pocket. So, as I said before, if we bring half a second and they bring half a second, we're in the same boat.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Question for George, but if anyone else fancies chipping in feel free. Rotating the Race Directors, do you think it's been working so far, since the beginning of the season? I know there's been talk of maybe even adding a third, I just wondered, if consistency-wise, you think it's working?
GR; Personally, I think it's too early to judge. Obviously, the two Race Directors are new to the role and with any new role you need time to settle in. And obviously it has been shared. So you know, we're seven races in, I think it's five and two races each, I don't know exactly now. I think we need to have this open dialogue between the drivers and the Race Directors, the team managers and the Race Directors. We’re obviously the only 20 drivers within the race cars, who have a feeling of what the race tracks are like, what needs to be done to improve the safety, to improve the racing and whatever. And we need to have this open relationship to push the sport forward in all directions. So I think it will take a few more races. But hopefully we'll all be on the same page sooner than later.
CS: Nothing to add. I agree.
VB: I think one would be better than two or three. That's my feeling, you know. Have same person in each race. You always have the same person to discuss with if he's been in all the races before and taking all the feedback and he kind of knows our view. That’s my opinion. I think one is better.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Mick, since Monaco, Guenther Steiner has made some pretty straightforward comments in the media, about discussions possibly needing to be had and things like that. Just wondering how do you respond to that? Thank you.
MS: Well, I have had the discussions with him. Quite easy. I mean, you know, it's no secret, and we all want to score points and that's what we're what we're here for. And we want to want to do better than previous races. Not saying that the races weren't good, but, you know, there was always something which just didn't quite work out. So I think that we are in a good way.
Q: (Sándor Mészáros – AutoSport ES Formula) Pierre, does your contract allow you to move up on the grid with a team outside the Red Bull family?
PG: Well, when it ends, yes. Before that I don't have much to add on what has been said. So, I think, as I said, my contract situation is quite clear. There are ongoing discussions, but I just don't have anything more to add for now.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) Yes, a question for Carlos. Carlos, do you believe that the track of Baku it could be nice for you and could serve you a good opportunity to fight for the victory because there are no fast corners, it’s very good on brakes, and as we see Monaco you are very fast in the on track in urban circuits?
CS: Honestly, with a guard that we have this year, any track we go to is a good winning opportunity. Then. if there is a track that suits a bit more the Red Bull or the Ferrari then it's on the detail. Also, I think Mercedes, if they perform like they did in Barcelona, I think they're going to join the fight pretty soon. But as a driver I'm lucky enough this year to know that I have a car that wherever I go to the car is going to be there or thereabouts. If the last 10th is in favour of Red Bull because of the straight line we have here or if it's in favour of us because we saw that in Monaco in Quali we had the edge over them over the corners and on slow-speed corners, then it's welcome. So it's going to be tight, but any race that we go to is a good opportunity.
DRIVER GROUP 4: Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Nicholas LATIFI (Williams), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Fernando ALONSO (Alpine), Sebastian VETTEL (Aston Martin)
Q: Sebastian, we will start with you. So let's talk about Monaco. First of all, qualified ninth, finished tenth; in the context of your 18 months with Aston Martin so far, how do you rate that performance?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, obviously, it was very tricky on Sunday with the conditions. I had one mistake that cost me probably ninth position, which was going wide and/or long and deep into turn one. But yeah, other than that I think it was what we could do on that day. So I don't think we had a chance to really score much more than that: as I said, ninth or tenth was probably the maximum on the day. So yeah, I was very pleased. Obviously looking where I'm coming from, from all those years before, ninth or tenth is not what makes you really feel excited about but I guess you could ask the same question to Fernando, or this year probably a little bit to Lewis. So, you know, we are in a way dependent on the package that we have. But nevertheless the work that goes into it from the team’s side, everybody’s side is big and there's a big push in trying to improve our car. We had a big package that basically is a new car which takes some understanding, what we believe is the better direction for the future, the next couple of races, and now we're waiting for - obviously - the next package to arrive to give us more performance.
Q: But was Monaco proof that you're now fully understanding that new package?
SV: Well, it was only two weeks after Barcelona, and it's a street circuit and it was wet so I think we are learning is the answer and also Monaco, you know, with Monaco’s limitations helped us to understand further. But yeah, here we have another chance, Canada… aren't necessarily proper racetracks but still, places where tuning the car to the best possible place can make a difference.
Q: But you finished on the podium here last year; just give us your thoughts on the track and what you think might be possible.
SV: Yeah, I like it. It's a bit of a rhythm-breaker track, a lot of big stops, but yeah, I think it can be a nice track. So yeah, I think it's important to get into the rhythm and feel comfortable with the car. So then I believe it's a place where we can also make a difference.
Q: Thank you, Sebastian. Fernando, coming to you now. Best result of the season so far in Monaco, P7, which makes it two strong Sundays in a row for you. So do you feel that finally you're building some momentum in 2022?
Fernando ALONSO: So I hope so. I think at the beginning of the year, arguably we were more competitive than the last two weekends, but we didn't score points on Sunday: reliability issues, mistakes, bad luck, you know, so yeah, Barcelona, Monaco, we finally scored some good points. And the aim is to have six or seven consecutive races in the points. So let's see on Sunday here.
Q: Is the points enough for you? How far off a podium are you on merit?
FA: I think we were close maybe in Australia. At the beginning of the year we were more competitive than what we are now which I think Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes… they are a little bit too far at the moment. So yeah, we are maybe not in that position on merit to fight for the podium. Now maybe P7 is the first opportunity or the first position we are fighting for but let's see. I think Baku is a very unique race with a lot of things happening on Sunday. It’s a street race, yes, but Saturday maybe is not the priority, it’s more Sunday’s pace and being focused on any opportunities that may come with safety cars or red flags or whatever as we saw last year, so yeah, looking forward.
Q: Now you've got some new bits on the car this weekend. Would you like a dry, straightforward race or the usual Baku jeopardy?
FA: I think we all want some action on Sunday. It is a very unique racetrack as we all said here and very low downforce to be on a street circuit. We are normally full downforce as in Monaco, Singapore, and here we come with a very low downforce car, which is prone to mistakes in qualifying, and the race. So I think it's going to be some action anyway.
Q: Charles, coming to you now, can we throw it back to Monaco to start with? What lessons have been learned in the debriefs since that race?
Charles LECLERC: Loads of them! I think after every race we go through a process where we just try and analyse the race that we've just done and obviously in Monaco, there was plenty to analyse, because we've done some mistakes. But what gives me the confidence for the future is that we found the reasons why we did those mistakes as a team. To go into details now I won’t but overall, I think we've got those answers that we were searching for and this is good news for the future.
Q: So you arrived here this weekend confident that there won't be a repeat.
CL: A repeat of those exact same mistakes? I'm confident, yes. Then we just obviously need to focus on ourselves, don't do any other mistakes and if we do everything perfect, I'm sure that we can have a great result this weekend.
Q: Okay, now you were on pole at this race last year, but you lacked race pace. So in terms of car setup, what's the best solution: high downforce, low downforce?
CL: I'm pretty sure that everybody will be on low downforce. I'll be very surprised if I see a car on high downforce here. I don't know. I think we'll have to see where is our weakness after the first day. I'm pretty sure that we are lacking a little bit of straight-line speed compared to Red Bull. Whether this will be the direction to take after today I'm not sure yet. But last year, I think we qualified a bit out of position and then in the race we came back to the position we deserved really. This year, we have a much more competitive car so I hope that if we do pole on Saturday that we can keep that on Sunday.
Q: Now Nicholas, coming to you, you had a fantastic record here in Formula 2, lots of podiums and a victory. What is it about this place?
Nicholas LATIFI: Yeah, it's been a track I've tended to go quite well at in the past. I mean it's a very unique one, obviously, it has a very repetitive feel to it with the way the lay-out of the corners is kind of very similar, 90 degree-style corners, so I think if you just find that right rhythm with the driving and combined with the car as well - because you’ve just kind of got to set up the car for that sweet spot - then you could be fast, but likewise if you don't quite find that feeling, as all the corners are very similar you can get it wrong. So yeah, I've just tended to - I guess - be on the better side of that and then in the races as well, I guess the approach when there tends to be quite a lot going on, obviously was always the same in Formula 2, as it has been in Formula 1, I think there's only been probably one not so exciting F1 race here in the past. You just kind of got to make sure you see the chequered flag, and hope you're in a good position to capitalise on some stuff at the end.
Q: What about your car? How competitive do you think you're going to be?
NL: Tricky to say. I think on the tracks this year, when we've wanted to be a bit quick in the straight line, we've seemed to be quite competitive so I think that should bode well for us here then at the same time that may be balanced that out. I think the layout of the corners is not one that's going to suit the strengths of the car. So yeah, it'll be tricky to see but yeah, we'll see come qualifying.
Q: Lewis, thanks for waiting. Now there's a feeling that Mercedes are going to be more competitive here. What's your take on it?
Lewis HAMILTON: Where's that feeling coming from?
Q: The mood from the paddock… actually no, George was…
LH: I love that, this collective positive mood from everyone. I hope that's the case! Lots of work is going on. I'm hoping that it's not as bumpy as Monaco but we'll find out when we get out there today. And yeah, like everyone was saying, lower downforce should be better. I hope so.
Q: Does the layout of this track play to the cars’ strengths more than somewhere like Monaco?
LH: Not particularly, but yeah, when you talk about cars’ strengths, it's… I don't know which ones we can align to. We're obviously stronger on a smoother circuit. Barcelona was a lot better for us, for example. So there's more open circuits that aren't as bumpy. This is a bumpier circuit so not necessarily great for the characteristics within our car, but it might be smoother than… as I said might be smooth and might be okay.
Q: Okay, best of luck on track. Just a couple of off track questions from me. There were reports that you're going to co-produce a Formula 1 film starring Brad Pitt. What can you tell us?
LH: Yes. I mean I can't really say too much about it because it's not even… I don't know if it's been properly announced yet but it's something we're working on in the background and a super-exciting project, long time in the waiting. And I can't really say much more, I guess, about it.
Q: Will you feature in it?
LH: I don't plan to be in it, no.
Q: Any idea when filming will begin?
LH: I can't give you that information just yet. But it's a really cool project and we're already working on a script, for example. I'm very much involved in the script, which is fun and spending good time with Brad, which is pretty epic, and seeing his progress. And I guess really from my responsibility and something that I take on is just making sure that the cast and the crew in the background is diverse, is something I'm really highlighting at the beginning. And then just making sure that know… it's been a… it's a very difficult… If you look at all the racing movies… I can't necessarily say that all the recent movies that have been in the past have been spectacular and that's something we want to change. And it's really about showing how great this sport really is to people that maybe have never watched it, but also making sure that we really keep the real heritage and the true racing spirit within the movie, and within the scripts. So that's kind of my… part of my role.
Q: And one final one, you can become an honorary Brazilian citizen after a bill was passed on the subject in Parliament. Can we get your thoughts on that? How does it make you feel?
LH: It’s very surreal and what a huge honour it is. Surprised like everyone else yesterday when I heard about it. No one contacted me and told me. We just heard about it in the news. So I don't think I've ever really heard of anyone else being… I’ve not heard of that happening. I'm sure it maybe does in other places. But Brazil has always been a place that I've loved and admired as a kid. Obviously, following Ayrton you naturally are drawn to the country, but through my life just meeting more and more Brazilian and knowing more about the culture and the community and it's very, very diverse there, there's a lot of energy, music, colour and I've had some… just over the years, just amazing times there. Obviously won my first World Championship in Brazil. And to then 14 years later whatever it is, the epic race that I had there last year, and the moment I had with the Brazilian flag, so I'm really… that's my like biggest following is in Brazil, so I'm very, very honoured and grateful and can't wait to spend more time there.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) A question for Lewis but maybe for Sebastian as well if he's got something to add. The FIA president has recently mentioned some comments about imposing your beliefs in the sport, mentioning about human rights and also mentioning about diversity and things like that. He has clarified some of the comments but I just wondered about your thoughts on it when maybe you saw them yesterday? And if it kind of goes against the fight that you're trying to do when it comes from the top in that sort of way in the sport that you're so passionate about?
LH: I only heard about it this morning. I've not read it so I don't really know all that there has been said. I'm also aware that sometimes I've been take… things that I've said have been taken out of context and so I want to give that… that maybe has happened, I don't know. But it's… I heard that he clarified things on social media which is positive. And that doesn't stop us from doing what we're doing. The sport is continuously growing. We have a bigger audience than ever before. I think it's gone up like 9 percent I think it is this year or something. And it continues to be an important platform to use our voices, every single one of us here within the industry, within our companies to do more to speak out more on things, to spark more conversations and just look now for example, I'm really proud of what we're doing and Mercedes with our pride month, our pride star on the car, which is like the first time I've seen that during my time at Mercedes which is amazing. Just shows up… you know, we have over 100,000 people within Mercedes Benz and creating a more inclusive environment is so important and focusing on creating better diversity within your organisation, but also so important within the sport. It's moving at a very slow pace and we need more people to utilise their platform. So I encourage all the drivers to be more outspoken in future and speak about things they care about. And I'm proud to see what Seb does and to be an ally of his.
SV: Yeah, I think Lewis summed it up really well. I don't think there's much point going into what has been said but I think what I would like to say is that the topics that Lewis is continuing to raise, the issues Lando has been talking about, and I think stuff that I've been mentioning, I believe… I feel they are topics that are very important to be addressed. And they are bigger than us, bigger than a sport can ever be, so I think, yeah, it is important to mention those, to express those and to raise awareness, to make people aware that there's still lots of things that we can improve on.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Lewis, George, in a previous press conference talked about how the updates of this car give it a lot more potential than perhaps in Bahrain, where the car was maxed out. Obviously, you want those good results to come. But are you excited by the journey, the process of getting there as much as what might lie on the horizon?
LH: I mean, the car wasn’t maxed out in Bahrain but we were very limited with what we could do, in a sense of not knowing what was causing the problem and therefore you can't manoeuvre into a direction if you don't know where it's coming from. So yes, our new… the new direction that we've got to in Barcelona has given us a more of a direction to go in and it's been positive, I would say, so far. It's not working everywhere but it's.. can I say it's the best process… most exciting journey? No, but it is an experience, it’s bringing the team closer, it's making us all having to sharpen our tools. The technology is advancing a lot, to be able to understand it. And so it's… and we're pulling closer than ever before so I think we're a more tight unit team than we've ever been. And I guess that's what happens when you're faced with adversity. And so there's lots and lots of positives from it.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question for all drivers actually. I just wanted to get your honest assessment please. How satisfied and how much trust do you currently have in the FIA President and the Race Stewards and Race Director to keep making the correct decisions if indeed they are making the right decision? Just your assessment on how well this sport is run at the moment with regards to the FIA?
SV: I would like Fernando to start.
Q: Seb, silence is never a great thing. Why don't you start? Fernando, please get us out of this hole. Lewis, can you? Fernando as the most experienced driver here perhaps you could start?
FA: OK. You know, I have full trust in the FIA President. Yes, that will be my answer. So if things are, at the moment, maybe a little bit rough and we saw a few things that maybe at the beginning of the year that they were not consistent, as we wished or as we asked for but I think there is room to improve, yes, but as I said I have full trust in the FIA President, so he will fix the things that need to be fixed.
CL: Yeah, I mean I will comment mostly on the sporting side but speaking about sporting I think I would like to see a bit more consistency. This is where we need to improve, whether it will be improved or not I don't know, but I think, yeah, as Fernando said, there's room for improvement. Now we just need to make things better.
NL: Yeah, I mean I guess speaking on the sporting side, I mean, I think, obviously, at the beginning of this year there were some structural changes and obviously, we have two new Race Directors as well. So, I mean, I think I would echo the opinion of most drivers that I think we want most is consistency. But I do think we just need to give some time for this new structure, for everyone to feel comfortable in it, and then obviously once maybe that happens there will be some more consistency. But yeah, there has been some things that could definitely be improved. So yeah, I think we just need to give everyone a bit of time to sort that out.
LH: Yeah, I really don't have much to say. I would just listen to what people are saying. Yeah, we have to have confidence that they're… that they will continue to make progress. I think it's about collaboration, so I generally think that there's been… that a good job has been done so far. I think it will get better with… particularly, you know, we are trying to work with the FIA and I think for Mohammed, I think it's a huge role, big shoes to fill, and I think we just need to give him time. There's a lot that he wants to do, and lots of things that he wants to change and I believe, from what he's told us. that he will do those.
SV: Nothing to add.
Q: A little bit of gold dust from you at the end just to answer Ben's question. How satisfied are you?
SV; Well, I think you heard that there's, you know - from all the other drivers - that there's room for improvement. So I think, you know, it's always difficult, you know. Sometimes you have to deal with decisions that you understand and you agree with and other times you don't, but it's also a bit the nature of the sport. It's not always a black and white decision. But yeah, as for us, that you can always improve and there's always stuff you can learn.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) It's a question for Lewis, Sebastian and Fernando, please as the three more experienced drivers on the grid. Next year was the suggested implementation for a potential driver salary cap. It looks like if that's going to happen, it's going to be pushed down the road a little bit further. It sounds like a really complex issue. One of the issues, in addition to obviously, you guys and your earnings, is something that Lando, Max and Valtteri and a few others have talked about, which is that there could be a knock-on effect for younger drivers, lower in junior categories because if there's a potential salary cap, then the people that would invest money in these drivers’ careers might be put off investing if they're worried that there's going to be a limit on the returns that they will get at the end, if they're going to take a percentage from drivers’ earnings. Do you think that's a legitimate point to make when a driver salary cap is being discussed?
LH: It's a difficult question to answer. I don't really have all the facts. And I don't really… have not really spent time thinking too much about it. So I can't give you a factual answer on what is right or wrong. I think there is some merit in what Geroge [sic] has expressed. I think there's many of us that have been here who have had been heavily invested in as youngsters and have had to pay that back which you would naturally want to do anyway. And so that, for sure, could be impacted in the future for the younger generation. Also, we have to remember that this sport has gone from what is it, like a $4-$6 billion business to a $14 billion dollar business. It’s consistently growing, the teams are earning more money than ever before. So… and we are a huge part of that. And so… look, I won't be here for like a huge amount longer but I do think about the next the younger generation and I don't feel that they should be kept.
SV: I think it's wrong to have a salary cap for, you know, the reasons that Lewis mentioned. I think it's interesting if you follow up where it is coming from, this proposal. Obviously we have a budget cap now which, you know, pushes the model towards earnings for all the teams. And yeah, I think maybe they should be capped in terms of having certain fixed earnings and everything beyond that should, I don't know, go to a certain pool to do great things with it and have positive impact. And I think there's… as it is a suggestion I can imagine that the response will be that it’s a topic will disappear. So I’ll leave it to you.
FA: That's why I wanted Seb to answer.
Q: Would a salary cap affect your desire to race in Formula 1?
FA: No, no. Well, it depends how… what is the cap? But I don't think so. I think we all love, you know, to race and…but it is true also what Lewis said, you know, and I think we do more things than ever before now and there are 23 or 25 races, there are events everywhere. Sponsors are coming back to F1, to all the teams, FOM, I mean we're doing more things than ever before. So, yeah, we will all have to work together, you know, and…
SV: Isn't it a funny coincidence that it’s the first time that teams can actually make money with racing in Formula 1 and something like the salary cap for drivers pops up? Just thinking… isn't that funny?
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Question to Lewis and the other drivers. Lewis, would you consider inviting any of your fellow colleagues to appear in your movie, and to the other drivers would you be up for trying out your acting skills?
LH: I don't know. We're going to need drivers, I'm sure, at some stage so I was, I think… what’s really important is that it's not my movie, it's Formula 1 so it's for all of us. And so there's lots of people within the sport who are being a part of this, helping educate those who are trying to create this movie. So it's going include lots and lots of people. And there's always this talk of already how are we going to capture some of the footage and it's going to take us drivers to be involved in that. But we're not actors so we don't want this movie to be crap. So it wasn't putting bad actors in, so yeah, which is probably why I'm not going be a part of it also. We need some good actors.