FIA Friday press conference – Saudi Arabia
DRIVER GROUP 1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo), George RUSSELL (Mercedes), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Alex ALBON (Williams), Lance STROLL (Aston Martin)
Q: Valtteri, great result for you and Alfa Romeo in Bahrain. Just how much pleasure did that P6 give you?
Valtteri BOTTAS: [mic dropout] … starting the season more or less on the right path, and that we have potential with the car. We have potential in the team, within the people. So yeah, it gives me a lot of courage and hope for the for the season ahead. So, yeah, really pleased with the end result at the end.
Q: You say a lot of potential. Did the car’s performance surprise you in any way?
VB: During the practice sessions last weekend, we saw that if we can get everything right, we should be able to fight for top 10. Actually, qualifying sixth was a bit of a positive surprise. In the race… it was not an easy start the race but then afterwards, what we achieved, obviously, with some bad luck from competitors, with the points that we had. Yeah, I think it was slightly beyond expectation, but it's a positive surprise.
Q: Lance, let's come to you next. A slightly more difficult weekend for Aston Martin in Bahrain. What were the issues with the car?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, a few things are just trying to sort out. We have some ideas coming into this weekend, so look forward to see what we can do.
Q: The car seemed much more competitive in race trim. Just tell us how the race unfolded for you.
LS: Yeah, we had a better day on Sunday. But, you know, I still think we have some work to do to catch up to some teams in front of us and you know, really be in a position to fight for some points.
Q: Are you going to give us any more detail on what the issues are just around the lap?
LS: Like I said, it's a few things. We're on top of it. Let's see what we can do to try and sort some of those things out this week.
Q: Okay. And it's another weekend view racing alongside Nico Hülkenberg. Just tell us a little bit about your relationship. How well you worked together in Bahrain.
LS: Yeah, it's been fun. You know, he's a nice guy, obviously. You know, feeling for Seb, I think he's been feeling pretty rough, so I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.
Q: George, let's come to you now. How would you sum up race one for you and for Mercedes last weekend?
George RUSSELL: I think it was probably as we expected, obviously so many people thought we were sandbagging during testing and that would just turn up to race one and turn it up and be fighting for victories. But I think we all knew what our limitations were. Ultimately, we came away with a good result as a team. Probably not on merit with the pace of the car, but we say you gotta be in it to win it. So we'll definitely take that result and keep on working, keep on pushing and see what we can achieve this weekend.
Q: In terms of your own performance, how did the weekend go? Is there more to come?
GR: I think there's always more to come, to be honest. I think the pace was fine, nothing spectacular. Generally looking fine in qualifying until Q3, made a bit of mistake from my side. But I think… for me personally, it feels at the moment in a similar position to what I found myself in the previous years that our competitors ahead of us are so far in front and we do have a bit of a buffer behind so can almost afford to take a few more risks to try to make up that gap. And you know, for me, I qualified ninth and we had the pace to be able to come back through the field and you know, back up to P5, P6, so we're in a bit of an intriguing spot right now, that we can try a few things, But I think ultimately, there's more to come from all of us: myself; Lewis; the whole team, and we just need to keep on working.
Q: Alex, to you now, belated Happy Birthday. Hope you had a nice day.
Alex ALBON: Thank you!
Q: Now, what about your race debut for Williams in Bahrain? Were you pleased with progress?
AA: Yeah, I feel like actually, if you look at where we were during testing, especially during the Bahrain testing, we were a little bit on the backfoot. And to get… we got P13 I believe in the end, obviously, a few DNFs, but a little bit like George said, actually, for us, it was kind of the same story. We optimised what we had and I felt like, as a team, we did a great job to get the most out of the car. And we did a good job over the weekend.
Q: How good is this car? What does the future hold, do you feel?
AA: I feel that we've got a good platform to work with. We know the weaknesses of the car and focus on addressing them. I think there's definitely going to be some circuits that suit us more than others. And obviously, it's trying to make those circuits… well, trying to be competitive in all styles and really get rid of the weaknesses. So, Bahrain was, we believe, was one of our weaker circuits. So, if we can fix that and address those issues, I think we'll be we'll be in a good place.
Q: Well, what about this weekend? Very different track to Bahrain, isn't it?
AA: Yeah, it is. And I don't want to speak too soon in case, in case it's not there but I think, hopefully, we'll see how it goes, and we'll be fighting a bit more towards the mid-pack.
Q: Lando, coming to you. It was a tough opening race for McLaren. No doubt. What were the main issues?
Lando NORRIS: Downforce. Just overall grip. It’s quite a simple thing. Like there's quite a few times when the balance has been in a decent place. And if the balance is in a decent place, but you just slow then it's quite a simple thing of what you need. So there's not loads of problems, it’s just one, I guess, one big problem, which is very costly in the world of Formula 1, because all you need is downforce and that's what we're struggling with a minute. So that’s what we need to work on.
Q: The programme back at the factory. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? When can you expect progress?
LN: There is, there is. It's not a not an easy thing to say exactly when, or the timescale or anything. but I have good faith that we've not come out strong and we've struggled a little bit, definitely, in the first race but there’s hope and there's a good team back in MTC already working on a on a good plan to f put things back together. And I guess just try and understand everything on where it's gone wrong and what we've missed, and so on. And as soon as we figure that out, then then there is. James [Key, technical director] is working hard already and was already as soon as we f realised where we were standing compared to other teams, putting that plan in place of recovering and trying to get back to much higher positions.
Q: Lando, is this the hardest start to a season that you've had during your time at McLaren?
LN: Yeah. II mean, it's, it's weird because we started off in… it's not weird it’s just what confused us a little bit initially is the fact that we were a little bit stronger in Barcelona. And I think we just started off with a, I’d say, a decent car. We just didn't make a lot of progress, because it was a car which just went on to the track very well. And we understood how to optimise the car very quickly. But then we can make much further progress from there. And I think that's where all the other teams were able to take steps forward, continuing to find out about the car and make bigger steps. There was more hope after Barcelona but that slowly went away with time, when everyone else was able to find out more about the car and bring bigger upgrades and we could, then we took some steps back.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lando, we've heard Aston Martin and Mercedes talk about having to run the car in compromised state because of porpoising. So there's potential performance there that just needs to be unlocked. But it sounds like from what you're saying that for the McLaren is more just has a lower ceiling in terms of performance at the moment. Is that a fair assessment of where you're at, and do you see any low-hanging fruit in being able to improve the cost performance in the short term?
LN: We’ve not struggled with porpoising, so I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. In some ways, there’s advantages to having it in a way. And there's some disadvantages. So, it's not necessarily always a bad thing about having it. Some parts of having it mean, certain things are working well. So if that's the reason we don't have it, then that's obviously the bad thing. But we're also not struggling with the issue so we can optimise other areas of the car and gain in other areas, but we're just not getting anywhere near enough, the amount that we that we need. So no, I think there's good things. And I'm hoping that there will be certain tracks, more in line with Barcelona-esque, which is going to favour us a little bit more. I do think but Bahrain was on the tougher side and track, which was more towards the slower speed and so on. In the medium speed corners, we didn't struggle quite as much. So, I'm hoping this weekend can be slightly better. But I don't be too over-optimistic and say we're gonna have a great weekend when it could be pretty similar to last one.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) To the four on the right, are concerned about the Mercedes power unit versus Ferrari, for example, which was the only engine supplier that really made any progress through its teams? And do you think that this race will then be the acid test of power unit performance?
GR: I think there's always room to improve. But I think the Williams with a Mercedes power unit in the back was the fastest car on the straights, I believe, in Bahrain, or one of the fastest cars on the straights. So, I think there's, there's a number of reasons why we were we were struggling. I think we had more wing on compared to the Red Bull and the Ferrari, I think the porpoising issues aren't helping things either, because we're just crashing into the floor, as opposed to skating along the top of a surface. So, we'll have to wait and see, but I don't think it's necessarily purely down to the power unit.
LS: Yeah, I think we’ll understand a lot more this weekend. Just nature of this circuit. Yeah, we’ll have a much better idea.
AA: I think what George said applies to us as well. I mean, we've got to focus on ourselves first and foremost, I think that's really the main priority. We're clearly behind but also we're behind in the corners as well. We'll see where it comes out during the season but for now, at least, we just need to look close by and see what we can do better.
LN: George and Mercedes are our main guys to compare to from a Mercedes point of view, and they're a long way down the road from us. So, before we would ever start to complain about engine or anything, we need a much better car first.
Q: Valtteri, can I just quickly bring you in on this? Have you been pleasantly surprised by the Ferrari power unit?
VB: I've been very happy with my Ferrari engine. It's been good to drive but honestly, they’ve made great progress from last year and we still keep working hard trying to optimise everything and hopefully there's eventually more to come but I think overall in a good place.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – racefans.net) Question for George. Mercedes were six tenths off in Bahrain of pole position. I just wonder over the 23 races we've got this season, obviously, Bahrain already done and dusted, how quickly does that gap need to close for you to be realistically in with a chance of winning the Championship? And how, how much faith do you have that you will be?
GR: I think in Formula 1, things change incredibly quickly. We are very fortunate that the calendar is not, as I said before, it's not very dense at the start of this season. And even if it's a couple of months, we are only six or seven races down and out of a 23 race season. And even if you come out the blocks incredibly fast after the summer break, even as Mercedes and Lewis did last year, you're still in with a shot. So, we need to be in almost damage limitation mode at the moment, pick up the pieces, when there's an opportunity, don't throw away unnecessary points, even though it may just be for fifth or sixth or hopefully, a bit higher, and make sure we were within touching distance always. And then hopefully, when the car does improve, we can come back fighting. It's a very long season, I think we've all got confidence that if we do things right, there's no reason why we can't close the gap and potentially overtake – but we equally appreciate and recognise that Ferrari and Red Bull will continuously improve as well. So, we could close up by six-tenths; there’s no reason why they can't extend by another six-tenths as well. So we need to play it by ear.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Valtteri. You mentioned after the race in Bahrain, the clutch vibration problem at the starts that occurs about 50% of the time. How confident are you that that will be resolved for this weekend? And where's it arising from? Is it a consequence of having a very narrow window for the starts and trying to optimise it, but you end-up sometimes compromising yourself in that situation? What's setting it off?
VB: I think it's been one of the biggest priorities since the first race. And we saw already in testing, there's unfortunately, the no quick fix. I think the lead time is going to be – I don't know – maybe another one or two races, at least for a mechanical fix as such. But there's other things we are trying to try to look into, how we can avoid it, because like I said, like 50% of the starts, it happens. But how do we avoid it, you know, in terms of hold the revs, where you drop the clutch, or the driver inputs, trying to be as consistent as possible. So, we're working in all those areas to try and hopefully have clean starts for both cars and more consistent ones. So, that's where we're at at the moment, and we're working on it.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question for Lando. This is the first time since you've joined the team, and since Andreas Seidel joined the team that there maybe hasn't been an obvious stride forward at the start of the season. So given that, and people talking McLaren up in testing, has there been a noticeable dip in morale that you've observed in the team?
LN: You can't lie. There's always… if you have points and you have success and you have podiums, there's always a rise in morale. So, I don't think it’s got worse, I think there’s expectations, of course, and we want to… as just racing people… we want to have success and do well. We're never going to be as happy P16. compared to if we were P8 or P7 or whatever. So, there's always just a little bit of our happiness gone. But at the same time, I think the key thing is everyone's still very motivated. Like George said, there's still such a long season to go. And, and even if it is two months of struggling, or six, seven, eight races of struggling, I think everyone's quite confident and just motivated within themselves and with other people, that we can make good progress again, and get back to where we should be. So yeah, I don't think we can be happy with where we are. I think that's the point of what I'm trying to say: we can't be happy, and therefore we're not but the important thing is we're all motivated still to get back to where we know we should be.
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsport.com) To all of you. Formula 2 are testing some video screens on the entry to some of the fast kinks here that offer footage of that the corner exit. Is it happening for Formula 1, and do you think it'd be a good solution for helping visibility during the race? Or could it be a distraction?
GR: We'll have to test that and see, and we'll only get the feedback once we go out there. Sometimes solutions like this work really well; sometimes not so well. We know the difficulties of visibility on a circuit like this. And I think the more the FIA can do to help us is only going to be beneficial. So, I can't comment quite at this moment but it could be quite an intriguing implementation and if it works we’ll potentially see it in Baku, Monaco, Singapore maybe and it reduces the danger, risk and improves safety for all of us, then why not?
LN: Yeah, George said it well. I think we have to kind of just wait and see. It's such a quick section – it isn’t like you have a lot of time to look at a TV screen and see what's going on. But we'll see, and if it is good then I'm sure we're trying to implement it more through the rest of the season.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Since we’re limited for time, I’ll ask Valtteri and George. Lewis said that, in the last race that drivers should use their platforms to raise awareness on ongoing human rights issues. Two weeks ago here, there was the biggest mass execution in Saudi Arabian modern history, of 81 people. I just want to ask your reaction to that and if you feel comfortable racing here?
VB: I think the fact is that as drivers, it almost feels like we didn't really have a choice where we race. If we could choose places, maybe we would change the calendar a bit. But we love what we do and I love racing, and we're here to get points. I think we end up going to places and trusting Formula 1, that it is appropriate. And, of course, Formula 1, the big thing is to try to raise the issues, and bring the awareness and go to places and try and do something positive than negative. Already, from last year, I can see a bit of a change in the country. And I've met a couple of local people. And you know, they're all really hyped about Formula 1, so I think it creates positive things in a way. But for the things that is going on behind the scenes, I'm not fully aware of all of those. So yeah, I don't really want to say too much, I just hope that we have positive impact. That's what I'm… I really hope so. Yeah. And I race, wherever if that means I can get points because I'm a driver.
GR: I think it's clearly concerning to see what is going on in some of these places but I do hope that racing in some of these countries, it does raise awareness, and we can have a positive impact. And I think if Formula One can look back in 15, 20, 30, 40 years’ time, and see that the impact of our sport has had a positive change on society in some of these countries we're going to, that's something we should all be incredibly proud about. So, I think you can't ignore these facts. I just hope that with our platform, we are raising the right awareness and we can have a positive change in the long run.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) So George, you're probably the best one to answer from GPDA perspective. There have been a few concerns about safety in the past. I think you called it ‘unnecessarily dangerous’ because of the visibility. This year, the cars are pretty different to drive, especially with the bouncing. Do you think this track could be a dangerous one for this generation of Formula 1 cars?
GR: We have to wait and see. I mean, some teams are experiencing more issues with the porpoising than others. For us last week in Bahrain, it was definitely not pleasant down the straights. The difference here is, there are no straights. The straights are bends and if we experience that, that may be quite… we could find ourselves in a dangerous situation. But we have to wait and see. I can't look into the future. For sure, with these bigger wheels and with the wheel arches, our visibility has reduced, it will be our first street circuit and I think it will be intriguing to hear from all the drivers to see how we get on with the visibility. Some corners are worse than others. It's generally the tighter corners where the bigger wheels are having a negative impact for the visibility. It may not be such an issue here but perhaps when we go to Monaco, Singapore, it will be. So, we have to we have to wait and see.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Lando, your team has changed from the Japanese Akebono brakes to AP, I believed. Do you notice much feel? Could this also be part of the issue?
LN: No, it's not the issue. We just need to go around the corners quicker. We don't need to try and brake any later at the minute. We'll be able to brake later when we have more downforce is just as simple as that, really. So, there are some changes, some different fuel changes and so on, but it's got nothing to do with our pace loss and where we're struggling at the minute.
DRIVER GROUP 2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Daniel RICCIARDO (McLaren), Nicholas LATIFI (Williams)
Q: Lewis you said it was it was a difficult weekend with a good result in Bahrain for you but how much difference can the team make to performance in a week?
Lewis HAMILTON: Hi, everyone. It’s good to see everybody. Well, a huge amount of work has gone on in the past three days. I’m very proud of my team for just keeping their heads down, staying focused, churning through the crazy amounts of data that there is, every time we're basically out in the car, and just trying to understand what are the issues we have. We were aware of the problems we have, but in terms of what's causing it, we're just working through trying to figure that out and how we can rectify it without losing performance and ultimately gaining performance. But three days doesn't… there is such a short time between races there's not a huge difference here this weekend. But hopefully, we'll have some things to try. And from a driver's perspective that that's exciting when you go to come to today when we get in the car for example, just trying something new and hoping that it unlocks a bit of performance. But those are the others are still very strong. And as I said last week, it was great to see Ferrari back up there after a couple of difficult years.
Q: Very different track characteristics here in Jeddah. Does that give you reason to be upbeat?
LH: It is different, so yeah, it shouldn't be as bumpy as Bahrain obviously. Bahrain is a much older circuit, it’s got more character to it, because it is as old as it is. This track is super fast and but a different surface will behave with the tyres differently. These long, long straights where we might not be too fun with the bouncing if we still have it. But yeah, everyone's… well, those that have the bouncing are in the same boat. And hopefully, we'll try and fix some of it.
Q: Zhou, let's come to you now. Bahrain was a great weekend for you. Just how good did it feel to end your first race in Formula 1 in the points?
Zhou GUANYU: Yeah, it was very good and I was more like very satisfied with the result, just because there's a huge relief from the pressures I was having since last year, as I mentioned before in few interviews. But yeah, overall, I think with the debut, our first weekend, I was able to have no mistakes inside the cockpit, which was very good, and then that was able to give me that confidence try to improve session by session. And of course there's plenty of stuff for me to be still looking at and to improve from myself, but nevertheless, I think especially for the race it was a very good comeback after a difficult start of the opening lap. And then, yeah, I think the team did a very good job to, you know, make a big step of improvements in the car compared to where we were the year before, so that really gives us the boost to be keep working and yeah, it's still a long season to go but it was a very good starting point and then all the team are very happy with you know, we was able to give them the reward or this hard work during the winter so that was very nice.
Q: How much confidence has that result given you?
ZG: It definitely gave me confidence or more like a belief with the car, how much I was able to push, probably more into the limit of the car, but nevertheless I think that was what was missing in qualifying because I think both cars had maybe the ability to be going into Q3 but to be already in Q2 I think was a good first step. But here Saudi is a complete different layout of the circuit, a lot of high speed, a lot of straights and we have to probably be more realistic [about] where we are compared to the others because it could be you know, In Bahrain we were good, could be here we are even better or we struggle more, so we have to find out. But nevertheless it was nice to be able to trust the car more, since day one in Barcelona to Bahrain qualifying I have much more built up the confidence with the car.
Q: Best of luck to you. Kevin coming on to you. Have your achievements in your racing career, where does last weekend rate?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: It's certainly one of the more enjoyable ones, you know, because of the element of surprise also, getting back into Formula 1, and not expecting that, and then going and having such a weekend was just so surprising. And I guess, something that rates very high in the results, although P5 isn't the best result I've had, it was very surprising and satisfying.
Q: You didn't get much time to prepare for last weekend, how much more is there to come from you?
KM: I don't know. I mean, it's not like I felt very rusty. I'm not expecting to get a huge amount better. But everyone is still, I guess, learning about the cars, and there's going to be a race to kind of get fully on top of these cars. But no, I don't feel like there's going to be massive improvements for me. I felt very good in Bahrain and I felt on top of it. Just going to get physically better. I was sore in my neck the day after the race. But it didn't really hold me back. So I'm quite happy.
Q: Daniel, on to you. First of all, how are you physically? How tough was the Bahrain Grand Prix, having so recently recovered from COVID?
Daniel RICCIARDO: I feel OK. Thank you. It was a little a little more physical than it probably should have been. Yeah, it was like that. But yeah, I would say like, each day is kind of just gets better and better. So, I feel OK. Thank you for asking.
Q: Now, what about the car? Difficult weekend for you guys. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
DR: I mean, there has to be, you know. That's what we work towards. And we'll keep working towards it until we get to see the light, if you will. I think it's going to be a bit of a process now. It's not an overnight change. It's not a change that can happen in the space of a week, you know, so maybe here at this circuit maybe it plays more to our car, and we do a little better, but I think we have some kind of bigger changes to address to get us in a, let's say, top five position. But that's what we have to work harder now than ever for to get there. So at some point, we'll get there.
Q: Nicholas, thanks for waiting. Good skydiving earlier in the week, I hope. What about the performance of the Williams in Bahrain?
Nicholas LATIFI: Yeah, I think after the second round of pre-season testing, it was clear we were not going to be where we wanted to be and where we hoped to be before any of the pre-season started. In large part, we had a lot of the same limitations that we had with last year's car, and Bahrain was always one of our weakest tracks last year. So in that respect, I guess it wasn't surprising. Well, it’s not nice to say it wasn't surprising that we were where we were. So I guess coming here it's a completely different track and again, based off these feelings we had last year, it should suit us slightly better. At the same time, I'm under no illusion. I don't expect us to make a massive step up in performance. So yeah, we have a lot of work ahead of us for sure. You have to be quite patient as well, as you know, everything takes a lot of time in F1 and we just have to learn to optimise more what we have right now. As well from my side there is a bunch of things I didn't do correctly last weekend, in both tyre preparation and qualifying as well. Managing these new tyres in the race is a completely different challenge I feel compared to last year's tyres, but still just as sensitive in a way. And yeah, just make steps bit by bit.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Fred Ferret – l’Equipe) Question to Lewis. You're the driver who has won the most night races. Do you have a secret or do you work differently in the night GPs?
LH: Yeah, I pretty much am nocturnal, yeah. I don't think so. I think we probably all do the same. You don't really notice a huge difference from day to night, it's just temperature and track surface difference is probably the only thing. The night races are awesome. And naturally, when the track cools, it makes it a little bit easier for us to do what we do in terms of making these tyres, that struggle to last on the hotter surfaces, last. Hotter tracks are difficult. But no, not really. I think I’ve just probably been fortunate that we've hit the sweet spot on most of the night races.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com.) Another question for Lewis. Just wondering if you had a chance to see the King Richard movie about the Williams sisters and their father and what you thought of it? And even if you haven't seen it, do you see parallels between your career and their career? The challenges you faced and the support the girls had from their family?
LH: Yes, I did see it. And I was really fortunate actually just during the process to be speaking to Serena and Venus about the whole process and how excited they were about the documentary. And of course, I know Will [Smith], so really proud of what he was able to project with this film. I know he's had awards and stuff, but I was really moved by the story, I think ultimately, because I think we all of us have watched both of them rise and see their success and trials and tribulations. But like all of us [we] very much don't always understand what it's taken to get there. People that tune in probably just think that they're just the best and [they are] not understanding the commitment and the time and sacrifice that they have to put in. And so it's amazing that Will was able to highlight that. Behind everyone that's successful there is always somebody and I can relate to it because I have a very amazing family who, without them, I would not be here today. And I hope at some stage, I'll be able to do something similar, to be able to… I think it's inspiring for families out there who… I'm sure anyone in here that has kids wants the best for their kids and wants to create the best opportunity and push them in the right way, but not too much. And I think that was a great showing of how you can do that.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Mainly to Lewis but if any of the other drivers have anything to add, please do. Just on the subject of the porpoising, the bouncing. I wondered how different it is, as a driver and a team, to try to address this problem, because it just doesn't seem to match the conventional handling problems. If you've got a bit of entry understeer or your traction-limited on the exit of the corner, you guys, as teams and drivers, know how to handle this. But this feels like a much more complex issue to get your head around.
LH: Yeah, It is. I don't know if everyone here has the bouncing. But it's something that when I've sat down and spoken to the aerodynamicists and engineers that we've not faced before. So it's new for everyone. I think it's exciting when there's something new, but when it continues and continues and you can't figure out how to fix it of course, that's not always the best. But we will get to the bottom of it. And I think some people been able to fix the bouncing that they have. Of course, we have this downforce and we have these bumpy circuits, so there has always has been a form of bouncing, but nowhere near to this kind of level. So we're just trying to learn as fast as we can in the short space of time that we have between races.
ZG: Well, for us, how we started at the very beginning, first day, put the new car on track compared to now is of course a big improvement. I think it’s the same for the other teams out there. But nevertheless, I think we normally suffer more when the DRS is not open on the straights when the bouncing to be a bit more unnatural for me. But in a way I'm quite used to it because when I drove F2 we normally were suffering very harsh, stiff, bouncing or with the kerb riding. So I'm used to that. But definitely having bouncing [at] high speed is not something nice to have. But I think we can have probably if going to Monaco, tracks like that, bit more bumpy on the straight, maybe we can suffer more because the visibility already is quite low with the new car compared to last year. And then that is definitely not helping. But it's only the very beginning of this development of the new car. So I'm sure everybody can or maybe will find a way of figuring it out.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) The campaign group Reprieve has said 97 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in the past fortnight. They predict that number could reach 500 by the end of the year. I just want to know if any of you guys have reservations about racing here, and whether you would consider not racing here, given those statistics?
DR: Yeah, we're aware of some of the situations when we come here, we're informed. But I think by coming here, we also have a chance to create some change or have some positive influence. As opposed to not coming here. I know F1’s doing a lot. 40% of staff are females here this weekend, 600 I think underprivileged kids, orphans and underprivileged kids are here today at the track to be educated be inspired. Is at McLaren, we're working with KAUST, which is the first co-ed university here in Saudi Arabia. So, inspiring, trying to create some opportunities. So I think there is, let's say, a positive impact we can have when coming here. We're still trying to do more and do our best to create that or influence that in a better way. And, of course we're aware of some of the other issues, but we're trying to create a good change or have a good impact from us being here.And for now, that's all we can do. I think.
LH: I don't know what to say, really. My position is still the same as I spoke on last year. There's not really a lot that I can say that's going to make any difference. It's obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories. I've heard that there's a letter been sent to me, for example, from a 14-year-old who is on death row. When you're 14, you don't know what the hell you're doing in life. But we don't decide where we go. And, as Daniel says, I think we do have an opportunity to try… I think we're duty bound to try and do what we can while we're here… It's not necessarily our responsibility, us up here that are brought here, but we try and do what we can. And I think it's important that we just try to educate ourselves. And with the little bit of difference that we can try to make, make sure we are doing something. But ultimately it's the responsibility those of those that are in power to really make the changes. And we're not really seeing enough. So we need to see more.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – racefans.net) Lewis, a question for you. Obviously, in Bahrain, you were quite downbeat, you said you weren't going to be fighting for wins at least at the beginning of the season. Just wondering now that you've been out in the car, and you've been able to get a podium, is there any sort of change from you? Obviously you’ve still got issues with the car but are you feeling more confident? Is there more of a turnaround that we're going to see a bit quicker or are you still really struggling? And how hard is this circuit going to be, considering we saw such drama last around?
LH: Well, I didn't feel downbeat. I was being realistic that we have issues and we’re fighting to fix them. I think there's a lot of potential in our car and we're just trying to work as hard as we can to rectify them as quick as possible. And we've seen the amazing performance of some of the other teams, how close it is between all of us. And so I am hopeful that week on week we will improve. I have no doubt that I've got the best group of people behind me in order to come up with solutions and fix it and extract performance. So I don't currently feel too stressed. But I want to get in the fight as soon as possible. But the last race was an amazing feeling for us. Given where we thought we were going to be, to come out with the result we did. But we can't rely every weekend on that to happen. So we need to move forward as fast as we can.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Just to follow up on Phil’s question and can I ask Lewis and Daniel, as you've spoken about this just now? Obviously, you're trying to use your platforms to raise awareness. Do you think there's potential to go a step further and perhaps ask to meet some of the people in authority here to discuss this directly with them? Is that something that you would be prepared to do as drivers??
LH: I think again, just reflecting on that, it shouldn't be our responsibility to have to do that. But it is obviously a very, very complex situation. But I'm always open to having a discussion, to learning more, to try to understand exactly why the things that are happening are happening and why they're not changing at all. Because, look, it's 2022 and it's easy to make changes. So, but I'm open to doing that. I don't know who I'd have to speak to exactly. But I'd love to see that. I know that Boris has been over here recently. I heard that human rights were raised during that, but what was said, what’s being done, I’ve heard about that?
DR: Yeah, I guess I'm not too sure how to answer it. Again, if we could have positive impact or learn or educate. I mean, even from being here last year until now, it's only a few months, but I feel I've tried to at least understand a bit more and learn a bit more about it. So if speaking to, let's say, a group of people could help them. Why not? But I think for now the best thing is to remain open-minded and to see that we're aware there is room for change here. And if participating in certain things helps, then I think we're very open to do so.
Q: (Matt Kew - Autosport) I know your affiliation with Mercedes stretches from well back before F1, but this weekend will your 180th Grand Prix with the Mercedes team. And the significance of that number is that it surpasses the partnership between Schumacher and Ferrari. I just wondered if you had any sort of reaction to that number?
LH: I didn't know that. That's pretty amazing. I'm grateful for Mercedes’ loyalty to me over the over the years, you know, but I've been with Mercedes since I was 13. So, it’s a long stretch together and I'm very much embedded in the family. And I'm grateful to be a part of that history ansd continuing to work on adding to that in the future.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Predominantly Lewis and Daniel please, with the others as well, if you’ve got some comment. Obviously the bouncing can be compensated for through changes and downforce, tyre pressures, etc. Have you guys got any idea how much you've actually lost? In terms of having to sacrifice performance or comfort?
DR: I can answer quickly from my side. I'll jump in. We haven't had too much of it. Yeah, that's probably as far as my answer goes. I think we've, as a team, have been suffering less with the porpoising. And, yeah, I look at some on boards of the others and I'm sure there's a few sore heads after a long race. Everything is already quite intense with a helmet on, balaclava and everything, so it’s quite easy to end a race dehydrated or with a headache. So yeah, it doesn't always look comfortable for the others but for myself it's been quite, I say myself in Lando, it's been quite chilled for now.
LH: I've not been given exact numbers, but I know they're large. But I think it's the same for everyone. You know, those that have had to raise their car, it's much steeper steps that we've seen compared to previous years. And there's lots of performance when you can reduce some of those steps, obviously, lowering the car, for example. The cars that were ahead of us, for example, have an incredible amount of low-speed downforce. So I don't know what the exact number is, but I know it's, it's nothing. It's not small.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Another one for you Lewis, if you don't mind. Just getting back to the King Richard movie. I was just wondering, you’re only a few years younger than Serena and Venus. I was wondering if you've ever been approached about doing a similar kind of project, a movie about yourself? If not, is it something that you would consider down the line? And finally, as a funny aside, who would you consider to play yourself in that role?
LH: I have no idea who would who would have played me. But as I mentioned the last time I was here, we have this documentary that we're working on and I think you have to just do everything at the right time. The documentary is the current focus. I think stories are there to be told. I think it's important. I think there's lots that can be learned. And as I mentioned, for people, if you can affect and have a positive impact, if your story can have one positive impact even on one person or one family that's could be amazing. So I think, yeah, one day I perhaps will try to do the same maybe. Very inspired by how Will did it with his team. And with those two icons, pretty proud of them. So yeah, maybe one day.
Q: Come on Lewis, who would play you?
LH: I don't know. I have no idea who I get to play me. I don't know who's out there that that are that I would use at the moment. I'd have to do some research. But I'm actually going through a process right now of castings for another project that I have. And that's quite an interesting process to go through. So it's quite exciting, reading up on all these different characters, people that could fit a role that the script… you know, when the script’s written, and they’re writing that character, finding someone that matches that and represents that character is quite an interesting process.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) Predictably for Daniel. Looking beyond this weekend, next up is Australia. Tickets have sold out for Saturday and Sunday. In fact, they've kept attendance because they're struggling to get staff because the interest is so strong. They're expecting one of the biggest crowds and event’s history. How much are you looking forward to getting back to Melbourne? What are your emotions ahead of the return? And what sort of reaction are you expecting when you get back down there?
DR: Yeah, I'm expecting to see more beautiful beards like yours, Matt. It's getting better by the week. I think your camera as well, the quality's better, so we can really see the definition. The real girth on that beard. It's gorgeous. I'm excited to go home. Definitely. You know, it's been a while and yeah, I've heard sales have been nuts and it's going to be an awesome atmosphere. So I cannot wait. Max is cheering. He's excited to go as well. Obviously it's personal to me, because I'm Aussie, and it's a home one and that's a privilege. But every driver I speak to about Melbourne, they love it. They love it as an event. And it's exciting to go through the track changes as well this year, see what kind of racing that produces. So just a big bundle of excitement. Nearly as big as your beard.
DRIVER GROUP 3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing) Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas) , Esteban OCON (Alpine) Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
Q: Max, we'll start with you. A very unfortunate end to your race in Bahrain on Sunday. No doubt about that. But let's just look at some positives from the weekend. Up to the point you retired, how happy were you – with your car, with the race?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Well, not entirely happy, but I was still in second, which would have been, of course, a good amount of points. But unfortunately we couldn't finish the race. But still a lot of things we learned, because we more or less completed the whole race. So we had a lot of information from that. And, yeah, we'll try to implement that here. Of course, the track is a bit different, but it was a good understanding of the first proper race distance on the car.
Q: Good understanding, and did the car perform in line with your expectations?
MV: No, it didn't. I expected more, but we have our reasons for that. So that's why we'll try to do better here.
Q: A quick word on that racing. The overtaking was shall those three laps were tremendously exciting to watch. What was it like inside the car? Could you follow him closer than in previous years?
MV: I do think it was a tiny bit better. But I don't think Bahrain is the best example because of tyres overheating, and once you're following for like two laps you just start sliding too much, even if you can follow a little bit better. So, I think there will be some other tracks where the deg of the tyre is a bit lower and then for sure you will be able to follow a bit longer. But it felt like it was a bit better. And that's why I guess we had a fight for like two or three laps instead of only one.
Q: Carlos coming to you now. Great result for you in Bahrain and for Ferrari of course with the one two. You did say after the race that it had been a difficult weekend for you? Do you understand now why that was?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah, maybe I was a bit too negative after a race because still, you know, we managed to finish on the podium and bring home a 1-2, but yeah, it is not a lie that I was probably not very happy with a car and just not driving it the way I should have, and probably just not understanding this new generation of cars 200%. But I'm working on it. And I'm feeling like I also need to bring the car a bit more to my driving style, to my liking. And as soon as I feel a bit more comfortable the results and the pace will come. But still without feeling very confident and comfortable in the car we managed to bring home a P2, it would have been a P2 without Max’s retirement. But yeah, exciting times ahead. And I think some time to find.
Q: Exciting times ahead, let's look even further ahead into the future because there's talk of a new deal for you with Ferrari. Just how close are you to sorting something and how important is it to get to get it sorted out quick?
CS: Yeah, we are getting there. Obviously it is an important contract in my career and I really wanted to make sure that everything was done and both Ferrari and I were happy with what we are signing. And yeah, we are very close to finalising it. It still needs the last details. But yeah, it looks good for the future.
Q: Mick coming to you. So close to scoring your first points. Last weekend, how do you reflect on the race?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Yeah, it was obviously positive. The car feels a lot better than last year, it's a lot more competitive, obviously. We had a car in the top five, which is amazing for the team. So I’m really, really proud of that. And it just shows the potential of the car. So we have everything to play for. And I think we have a good season ahead of us.
Q: Did the clash with the man on your left affect the performance of your car in the race?
MS: I think it wasn't as it was before, that's for sure. But the damage wasn't huge. So you know, obviously we were struggling a bit more than we hoped for after that but nonetheless it's racing. These things happen. You come close to each other and yeah, I came away with a nice 360 there, so that's alright.
Q: It was very well saved. Mick, one final one for me. You've said already that the car is clearly good. Just how different is the atmosphere He has this year compared to last?
MS: It's amazing to see the difference. You know, everybody's super-motivated, everybody's super-happy to be working and to have a car to look forward to and to see the progression, especially from a very poor last year, the poor performance last year in the car. I think that there's more to come. We have upgrades planned and stuff. That's something that I haven't had last year. Definitely, yeah, I'm sure they will keep on growing and keep on improving.
Q: Esteban, coming to you now. Can we just get your thoughts, first of all, on being back here in Jeddah, after such bittersweet memories for you in December, when you came to within one tenth of a second of a podium finish?
Esteban OCON: Yeah, it was very close. It's a bit of a bittersweet memory, of course. But, you know, nevertheless, it was, it was a great race weekend here last year, finishing with 12 points, P4, qualified in the top 10. The car was very competitive and it's a track that I felt comfortable with straightaway, to get my foot in. So, yeah, I can't wait to feel those new cars, the high speed is usually a very strong point for these 2022 cars. And that's most of what you have here. So it's going to be very interesting.
Q: What about the overall performance of your car? Double points, of course, for the team last weekend? Just how encouraged Are you by what you've seen so far?
EO: It's a good start. It was a very positive start to finish with both in the top 10. Of course, we want a little bit more performance to get closer to the cars in front, we're always looking for it. We have a way of working that we think is the right one, and it's going in the right direction. As always, both me and Fernando give very close feedback together. So that's good. And hopefully we can, you know, make that into some good developments in the future for the car.
Q: Pierre, thank you for waiting. Very frustrating for you on Sunday, of course. But what positives do you take from that weekend in terms of car performance?
Pierre GASLY: It was frustrating not to see the chequered flag for the first race of the year. And until we had the issue I think we had a pretty clean race, a well executed strategy. Performance-wise it was great. We were fighting in the points and it was good to see. We expected a pretty tough race, because we saw Haas and Alfa Romeo were pretty strong, we knew it would quite close with Alpine and we still managed to end up in that P8 quite comfortably. So it was a shame, but still it's positive to see we have the performance to fight for some points. I guess it’s the same as everyone, we are still not in a position that we would like with the car, not as comfortable as what we would like and hope for. But it's our job to improve that and find some directions to find more performance.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For Max and Pierre. Both your teams did, not the highest, but a very high number of laps in testing. I wondered now if the teams understand the problems, which I understand were different on the two cars. Are they the sort of things that you're just like, ‘well, that's just unlucky, there was no way of seeing that’. Or do you look at it as in ‘Oh, that's something that should have been spotted during testing’. Thank you.
MV: Yeah, well, we didn't encounter it in testing. So we didn't know about it at all. And I don't know how we would have spotted it. You can say, in a way, it’s unlucky, but it shouldn't happen. It's as simple as that. Because, you know, to retire basically three cars was pretty bad. I mean, there is no way around that. And we have to do better. If we want to fight for the title you cannot have too many races like, like we had in Bahrain.
PG: Similar comments. I think we had the cleanest testing of all the years I've done with that team. So we came into the first race quite confident in terms of reliability. But I must say, motorsport keeps you very humble all the time, because these things happen and it’s obviously painful on our side and there was no sign that this was going to happen. But obviously it should not happen. We lost quite a lot of points. And so it was clearly not the ideal start to the season. It was different problems with Max and Checo. But clearly things that that we need to sort out and can’t have in the future.
Q: Just remind us how much warning did you get?
PG: No warning at all. It was just all on-off out of Turn 1, the whole car switched off. And that was it pretty much.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Finalistitecnica.com) Just a quick reaction from all five drivers on Stefano Domenicali’s decision to cut down on the drama on Drive to Survive for the sake of a more accurate product. Thank you.
PG: I must say, I haven't seen the whole series, so I haven't seen like [more than] pretty much the first two episodes. You can clearly see that some scenes are kind of made up for the show. It's difficult to speak for the drivers, I'm not in their position. I don't know how they [Netflix) get on with other guys. I think on our side with Yuki, which is what I can compare, it was kind of normal. But obviously as a driver you don't want to be portrayed differently than the person you are in reality. I think that's the main thing that we ask for, you know. We're happy to play our part in the show but as long as it kind of reflects who we are personally. On my side, I never had any issue. I never felt like they were kind of changing or adding more drama than we had. I think we had enough drama over the last three years. Didn't need more. But I understand Stefano. I think it makes sense for us as well.
EO: I think I will join Pierre on the comments. I think, of course, it's good to have an opening, you know, from the outside world of Formula 1. I think it has been a big benefit to have Netflix on board. Just to show how it works from the inside as well. But it's important, I think, to stick to how we are in reality. But yeah, for me it has been has been positive.
MS: Obviously, the first part of Drive to Survive, the first seasons, are quite interesting, and quite dramatic. And I think that brings a lot of people to the sport. But I guess as the show progresses it's important to become more accurate with some of the things and maybe don't mix up some of the comments or radio messages and stay true to how it actually was on track. I think that that would make more sense. And maybe chronological order could also make more sense. But again, I’m not the producer of the show, so it's just an opinion.
CS: I agree with all of them. All three have said interesting things, which I actually agree with.
MV: I'm sure we'll talk about it with Stefano. But at the moment, I'm not really interested to take part in it. It's also just taking more time. And we're already doing so many things. And I don't really… I saw the benefit initially, of course, to get more popularity. But for me, now, I think you reach a stage where it's a bit more like keeping up with the Formula 1 world, if you know my reference… I think it shouldn't be like that. It's better just to make a season review by F1 itself. I think that's way nicer to look at. But that's my opinion, nobody needs to share my opinion. I just don't like to be a part of it.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) To all five of you. There have been some safety concerns in the past on this circuit. There have been some minor changes made. But also this year’s cars are different to drive, probably more problematic with the bouncing on these long straights and bends. Are you concerned about the safety here.?
MV: Visibility will be a bit more tricky. And the bouncing, we'll find out. I don't know my car is going to respond to here. But if you do get it, it's not going to be enjoyable with such high speeds for such a long time. I've read about the changes but I haven't walked the track or anything. So probably on my lap, I’ll just take a bit more of a good look at it. But it's going to be different. But it's the same for everyone, right? So we just have to deal with it and we know that the first sector is not… It’s really cool to drive, don't get me wrong but it is definitely, not the safest when you have to guide through traffic and stuff. But yeah, we'll see how it goes.
CS: I think the steps that have been done are going in the right direction, but are very small. It's not like in 100 days between the last race and here you can do much more to such a big circuit. So yeah, I think for the future, we just need to keep working together to maybe try and improve a bit the visibility of this circuit, because in 100 days… I like what has been done, but it's still on the limit. And we need to be making the circuit maybe a bit more… to have a bit more visibility. Because as Max said, the first sector is super fun to drive, it’s actually one of my favourite sections of the of the calendar, but we need to keep improving it.
MS: I've seen the changes. And probably they are into the right direction. But I think they don't improve visibility and especially in the first section where visibility was an issue and where things did get quite close last year. I just wonder if there's maybe something else we have to do to get the safety up. And I guess, as Max said, also the visibility of the of this year's car is a bit different, a bit more difficult. So I guess we'll just have to try and find out on the fly how it goes.
EO: I think it's very similar to last year, in my opinion. Of course it's very high speed here. It's very enjoyable to drive but I think still the way we were working with engineers from last year, just telling us if there is a slow car in front and all that, it’s still going to be valid this year. So yeah, we'll be as careful as we can.
PG: Not much to add, I mean, at such high speed it's always going to be dangerous. And this year with a bit less visibility than last year. We all know it's a kind of dangerous track. And we all deal with it the best way we can, but I think it just requires definitely more attention from all of us. [you have to] pay more attention than any other track. But the changes have been made are a step in the right direction. Whether it's going to be enough or not, this will we'll find out this weekend.
Q: (Clare Cottingham – Racefans.net) Max, a question for you. Drive to Survive again, I'm sorry. Domenicali was going to have a chat with drivers and you just mentioned that you haven't had a chat yet? Would you be willing to sit down and have a chat and then maybe make some changes to what happens moving forward? And what would persuade you? And was there a scene that you saw, or is it just a collective thing that you weren't really keen on? Was there something that you specifically saw and will actually, no?
MV: I'm always happy to talk. I'm not against that. And you know, Stefano is a great guy and you can talk to him about anything. Well, I watched a few episodes of the last one and I was surprised as I suddenly found myself talking in it. And it's probably stuff from like, 2018 or something they picked up and used again, about fighting and what I like to do. But that already is not correct. I could hear that my voice was a bit different. And I realised also, actually, a lot of times I was saying stuff, and they were with this beam around, and they pick up a lot of stuff. So I have to be a bit more careful with that as well. It's just not my thing. And then of course, they all tried to pick, throughout the whole season, they tried to pick moments and fabricate in a way. And for me personally, what I didn't like and it's not even about me, it was about Lando and Daniel, who I think are two great guys. They're really nice, first of all, and made it look like Lando was a bit of a dick, which he isn't at all. And again, you know, I think… I know Lando and I think many people know Lando as a funny guy, a great guy. He has a great character. And actually when you look at that episode, you really think who is this guy? What the hell is going on? And I think when you're new to the sport you don't like you've never seen a racing car or a Formula 1 car in general, they don't like him. And why should that be? Because he is a great guy. And you just immediately get a wrong picture of a person. And that's exactly what I think happened to me in the beginning. And then I think I'm someone who, when you ruin it from the start, you don't fix it. That's it, you ruined it. So that's my stance. And that's how I'll go forward.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing365) Question for Pierre, please. As you said just now, your retirement was different to the other two Red Bulls? Can you confirm that it was actually a battery fire and that all safety systems worked as they should have? Have you got any concerns about these sort of fires?
PG: Well yeah, it was battery related but yeah, it was all safe. Everything worked. As expected, after that, obviously, when you stop on track, and there was a shortcut, and it was enough to start the fire at the back of the car, and basically the whole thing went into flames. But yeah, in terms of safety, there was no concern at all. And obviously, we have some fixes for this weekend. Can’t guarantee that it won't happen again, but surely we’ll try to do everything we can on our side, at least for now, to make sure we don't face such a situation again, because it wasn't nice. I mean, especially at that part of the track, where it happened. I didn't really realise initially, there was the fire coming out of the car. But it wasn't a nice feeling. At the end was all fine.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) Question for Max. Both cars had their rear brakes changed in parc fermé before the race. You were told from, more-or-less, turn three to manage the brakes. At one point you said it's impossible to race with these brakes. Was that an issue that wasn't apparent in testing? Even in Bahrain, only came up on the race weekend? How challenging was it for you? And also, can you tell us a bit about the steering problem? Christian set after the race the steering was damaged when the car fell off the jacks, came off the jacks.
MV: Yeah, well, during testing, of course, brakes are getting hot and we were trying to make fixes and we thought it would have been just about enough for the race. But of course, when you're fighting and close to a car, they get warmer. That's why I had to lift a lot. After my battle with Charles, basically, the third lap, I had to back out because my brakes are literally on fire. So, I had to be really careful with that. It was not worth it to try and force something when you know you have no brakes. We'll try to make a fix on that, because that's costing lap-time. So, I hope of course, this weekend will be better already. And yeah, with the pitstop, something happened when we dropped the car. My steering got damaged, so it wasn't very enjoyable to drive after that. And also, I had to defend from Carlos on the restart with that. I was not really sure what was going to happen with the balance and the behaviour of the car but in the end, it didn't matter with the retirement, but also there, I think we made a fix, that wouldn't happen again. So yeah, quite a few little things we have to get on top of but the positive overall is that the car is competitive and that's the most important. These things we had, I think they’re are easier fixes than when you have a uncompetitive car.
Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – motorsport.com) Question for Max. The race direction has a new approach this year, when it comes down to drivers leaving the track and gaining an advantage. It's more down to the teams and drivers now to give a position back. What do you think of this approach? And are you confident teams and drivers are making the right decisions?
MV: I think it was quite clear in Bahrain, what we were allowed to do and not. Of course, every track is a bit different, so you have you need to have discussions again about what you think and feel and ad work together with it. But Bahrain was straightforward. And I think that's what we all want, right? We want clear understanding of what's happening.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to the three of you. Who has the fastest car? Do you think?
MS: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We had obviously only one race, one test and stuff in our test go just as planned, so I think we still have a lot of margin in terms of performance that I think we can exploit. Overall, I'm happy about the progression that we made in our car. I can't speak for the other two cars, so I guess that for sure one of them will say that their car’s the fastest but I guess we'll have to see over the year.
EO: I think it will be very close. I think it's gonna be very close the whole year. I mean we've seen in quali, there's not much separating all of us, but I think at the moment the Haas looks the best package.
Q: Pierre please?
PG: Haas! I think so far, I mean we've done only two tracks. I really believe that it might be quite different from track to track, but so far from what we've seen, they look the most competitive but yeah, we'll make sure we give them a hard time as soon as possible.
MS: Then it's good to know that we have the fastest car! Thank you very much!
MV: I think we can all agree that Ferrari has the slowest car that's for sure. It’s all Carlos and Charles!
CS: …and the Red Bull is very reliable too!
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To Carlos and Max, I just wondered how well do you understand your new cars? Obviously a very steep learning curve for the teams but I guess as drivers as well, to work out the nuances of them. Where are you along that progress? Do you now feel like you understand the cars are predictable? You know sort of roughly what you want to change run to run to get a little bit more out of them, like you did at the end of last year?
CS: In all honesty, not yet. Not a lot. I feel like if I compare myself to the end of last year, last year, I knew exactly what I need to do to the car in order to go faster at each track, and what I need from from the suspension, the aero, and everything and I just… every time I went to new track at the end of the year, I knew exactly where to set it up and what would work for each track. With this car, very little. I mean, we've had a good winter testing and we've been consistent and we've been running a very similar car across the test and into the first race; we've developed it, we found our setup direction that seemed to work well in Bahrain– but I have no idea of the setup is going to work in Jeddah, we're going to need to change it much or not. So, I think we need races, we need samples, we need time and on the personal side I just need to keep experimenting, keep trying diections and see ,what the car likes and what I like as a driver also.
Q: Max, please.
MV: Yeah, pretty similar. I think I do know what I want to go faster. It's just I don't have it yet. So yeah, I'm trying to find that balance to go faster. But with these cars, the extra weight and low speed makes it quite a tricky car to set up. But of course, it is also very track dependent. So Bahrain, you have more low speed corners, it's really hard on tyres. So let's say low speed it doesn't feel fantastic, Here, it's completely different: street circuit, so grip is different – but also a lot more high speed corners, so you are definitely chasing something else from the car. I hope it works for us but yeah, we'll find out soon.
Q: (Mat Coch – speedcafe.com) To Carlos, looking back to last year, your adaptation to the Ferrari was comparatively quick, certainly compared to those who change teams elsewhere. With that in mind, are you finding adapting to this year's car more difficult, and can you explain what you're not fully comfortable with and what you're still trying to get on top of?
CS: Oh, I think that's a combination of two things. I think Charles did a very good job in Bahrain and he found his groove with the car and he was very quick straight out of the box and very competitive, while maybe I was lacking a bit of feeling with a car, a bit of fiddling with the setup from testing maybe didn’t set up the car completely to my liking – but I think it's only one race, so I think it's very difficult to tell after one race if I have adapted or not. I think we need more races, we need more samples, as I said before, and maybe Jeddah is a different story – and that's why I think we need to give ourselves a bit of time and see what the tendency is, and keep working on the setup front, put it a bit more to my liking, and as soon as it is there, I know I can be quick with any car – like we showed last year. So, a bit of patience, still 22 races to go, so early days.
DRIVER GROUP 4 – Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), Esteban OCON (Alpine), Nico HÜLKENBERG (Aston Martin), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Alex ALBON (Williams)
Q: Why don't we start with our race winner from Sunday, Charles. Congratulations once again on that great victory. What did it do for the morale in the team after what has been too difficult seasons?
CL: It feels good. A lot more smiles around in the team and you can really feel the extra motivation that it gives to be back fighting for the top positions. I haven't been back in Maranello, but Mattia was there and was telling me that everyone is super motivated and super happy about the first race. So it's great to see that. The last two years again, have been very, very difficult but I think we have prepared in the best way possible this new season. And it’s great to see the results on track so now we need to keep pushing more than ever to keep this position. But it feels nice to be back at least fighting for top positions.
Q: You say you've prepared in the best way possible. Is there one particular aspect of the car's performance that gave you particular satisfaction last weekend?
CL: Not one in particular because obviously the cars are so different compared to the ones of last year so it's very difficult to make any comparison. But overall, I was very happy with the balance, which I think gives the drivers the confidence to push in qualifying, but also in the race and that was a very important aspect. But on the other hand, everything was working very well, I think we have a very solid car for now so it's nice.
Q: You're leading the World Championship, do you think you start as favourite this weekend?
CL: I think will be in the mix for this weekend for sure. Whether we are favourite or not I don't know. I don't think so. I don't want to believe so. I think Red Bull are going to be extremely strong around here. So yeah, let's wait and see. I think we'll have the answer a bit later on today but yeah, I don't want us to feel like favourites at least.
Q: Checo, why don't we come to you and ask you that question: just how strong are you guys going to be around this Jeddah circuit?
SP: It will be interesting to see, first of all, how different it is to… if the team order from Bahrain changes are all in this circuit. You know, it is a very different one. So yeah, it will be interesting. I really hope we are in the mix. I definitely believe that things are going to be really close between a couple of teams, so yeah, like Charles says, you know, we will have more idea later today.
Q: Have you got the car 100% to your liking yet?
SP: I don't think there's anyone in here that has… that is at one with the car yet. You know, I think we are all experimenting on how to drive best with these cars, how to set them in the best shape for your driving and how to take the best out of them. You know, we've gone into a very extreme regulation, very different to what we've been used to. So yeah, I think at the moment all we drivers and teams, we are getting there. But we are far from 100%.
Q: Fernando coming to you now, points both for you and your teammate last weekend. How happy were you with your car's performance?
FA: More or less happy, I have to say. We came to Bahrain with not a clear idea on where we were exactly in terms of performance, and we went into Q3 nearly with both cars and then as you said, double points for the team. So we have to be happy and proud in a way after the difficult winter for us, especially in Barcelona we were struggling a little bit but then in Bahrain we were more happy and the race was good. But let's say the first couple of races it's going to be interesting to see where and how fast we are. I think Jeddah is going to be the first test for us is a completely different circuit than Bahrain, then Australia, Imola and probably by that [time], I think we should know where we are.
Q: This is a much sort of faster track than Bahrain, isn't it? Do you think that'll suit your car?
FA: No one knows that. And we don't know it.
Q: Yuki, let's come to you next. A great result for you on Sunday, P8. Just how important was it for you to start the season with a performance like that?
YT: Yeah. I'm quite happy what the position I ended up, because I didn't expect this race before the race start. But yeah, the performance in long run in the race was quite good and also we are kind of happy for what we achieved with progress through the race week in Bahrain. Yeah, also was possible that we ended up with both cars and points. We got a little bit unfortunate retirement from Pierre, due to the issue. But yeah, in Bahrain I was quite happy what we have achieved.
Q: What did the race tell you about the potential of your car?
YT: It's hard to say. I think, in the race, we were… kind of the conference we had from Bahrain… I mean Barcelona test. We were more like having question mark about performance and we managed… Pierre managed to go Q3 in Bahrain, but I think we're still feeling on the edge. And we have to know the place we want to fight so yeah, hopefully, of course we've focused more developing the car and trying consistently on top, you know, top midfield but currently, I think we're not that position we're fighting so just refocus what we have to do, develop the car and still 22 races to go so hopefully we can have a good development through the year.
Q: And Nico, well, you've had a bit more warning this weekend. What are your first impressions of the track here in Jeddah, but the task ahead?
NH: The task ahead is massive? It's a serious track. It's very intense. It's super-fast and flowing. Definitely spectacular. I've just experienced it in the simulator now on Tuesday so that's a benefit, at least, you know, not having to start at complete plain zero. But yep, definitely respect for the track and what's ahead.
Q: In terms of your own performance, how steep was the learning curve last weekend, and how much more is there to come from you?
NH: I think everyone's learning curve is very steep with these new cars. There's lots to learn, you know, and we'll continue for the months to come. Personally, obviously, it was a very big one. The weekend went well, the race was fun, but you know difficult at the same time, you know, if you haven't raced in a few years, it's just so many things that happen during a race, things change constantly. So to keep up with all that was tough and tricky and also dealing with the car issues, you know, that we have, per se, but I think I did pretty well.
Q: How tough was it physically for you?
NH: It was, yeah, I definitely felt my body on Monday, I was a bit sore in places. Manageable. I think that the bigger physical task is definitely here this weekend.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Charles, you talked a little bit yesterday about the win in Bahrain compared to your first few wins in Formula One. I just wondered, compared to those wins at Spa and Monza, the races themselves were quite similar. Lots of pressures, some key moments. Did you feel more in control in Bahrain last week than you did in the first two wins? And why do you think that is if that is the case?
CL: Yes, I did. Well, I think first because as a driver, I felt like I'm better than what I was in 2019 especially in the race pace. I think it was definitely one of my weakest points in 2019, I was always quite strong in qualifying, always managed to put the lap when it mattered, but then on tyre management especially I was quite weak so I put a lot of work into it. 2020 I got much better. 2021, again much better and actually last year, it was probably my strongest point was the tyre management and the race management so yeah, in Bahrain everything was much more under control. There was obviously moments where it was very tricky with Max pushing massively behind but overall, I had the control of my pace, of my tyres and everything felt good.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Fernando at the end of 2020, you'd said that you'd come back last year to prepare for Formula One's new era. Is it now mission accomplished, is it justified, are you happy you made that decision? And the second part of the question is given the number of team bosses who lost their jobs while you raced for them should Otmar be nervous?
FA: On the first question, yeah, I'm happy, I’m happy to be here. I came to the sport here for these regulations and the hope that it gives to everyone to have a closer competition between teams and the budget cap and try to reduce the differences between the teams. And on the other question, I think they should be quite relaxed. You know, I guess. I've been 20 years here and keep… they changed, you know, some bosses on the teams that I was and in the teams that I was not there, they changed as well. But, you know, this is the nature of Formula 1.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – racefans.net) Nico, your team was saying they were very concerned with the cooling in the race and you were told it was critical. I was just wondering, were you close to retiring? And are there any issues that are coming into this weekend? Have you sort of look through it all?
NH: I think we have it under control? We understood what went wrong. And I think it was just kind of like a bad call on the cooling side. I think so it is manageable but it was quite compromising in the race in Bahrain. But I think nothing that concerns us going forward.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade - Sportskeeda) Fernando, given your performances in Bahrain, is there any particular area in your car where your car lacks compared to your rivals?
FA: I guess so. We were 1.2 seconds from pole position so we tried to understand where are the strengths of the car and the weaknesses and try to attack those as soon as possible on the next few races and some developments that are coming. But yeah, I think there's still some work to do for sure in the car. Everyone will improve massively in the next two or three months and we know that we need to make an extra step if we want to compete for higher things
Q: Fernando, what are its strengths?
FA: Will not share here, probably.
Q: (Christian Menath - motorsport magazine.com) Nico, you said this track is a massive task, is this the circuit in your whole racing career you've got the most respect for going out for the first time?
NH: Not really, Street circuits, naturally, you have more respect for because obviously, there's much less room for error, and you have to drive within yourself a bit more, and you need to… you have to take some time to really build up to it and find your limit, find your feet. You know, I just said that base going off, you know, the simulate your comments, the cornering speeds are extremely high. It's very narrow in most of the places, but in many, many ways it reminds me a bit of Baku, so similar approach to today.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) A question to the drivers that raced here last year. Charles, I think you spoke a bit yesterday about the changes that were made to the track and were not really going far enough. Just for all of you that race on this circuit and maybe raised concerns last year in terms of visibility and sightlines, do you feel like you were listened to enough and that your safety concerns were taken seriously, if the changes haven't proven big enough this year?
SP: Well, I think in the short period of time, it was nice to see that they managed to do something. To be honest, I have to wait until I drive to make a comparison to last year and see what else we can do to make it even better. I think last year, it was something that was nice, you know, that nothing happened in the race but it was really on the limit of safety and yeah, I think I only can wait until I drive the car to see how much we have improved that.
FA: Yeah, I think tonight we will have a better opinion. I only did the trial walk yesterday, seems not to big a change but maybe in the car it makes a big difference. So let's wait and see.
CL: Yes, same, as I said yesterday I did a track walk before yesterday and there was slight changes especially in the last part of the of the track which might be a bit better for traffic but there was also this first part of the track that was quite tricky and there I don't think there was any change. But let's wait and see. Again maybe from the cars it looks better than what it is.
YT: It's early to say how is the feedback for the modifications but yeah, we'll see after free practice one and hopefully the visibility issue gets better.
Q: (Michel Milewski – Bild) This question is for Nico. You drove the car in Bahrain, you will drive it here. How hard will it be for Seb to catch up the gap of knowledge when he takes over in Melbourne?
NH: Yeah, there's definitely… obviously he's lacking those two races so he will start a little bit on the backfoot. But I think you know, he's very skilled, very talented. I think he's capable of catching up but for sure he has a bit more work to do and he needs to dig a little bit deeper to try and make up for it.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For Fernando and Charles: Mercedes has been the benchmark on the power unit side for a while. Your two organisations in particular did a huge engine project to try and close the gap. Just wondered, I know we've got a pretty limited data set at the moment but what's your initial feedback on what Ferrari and Alpine and Renault have done to improve on the power unit side?
CL: Well, first of all, I can feel the difference from the car, the progress that's been made from last year to this year and this is nice, it's the result of all the work of the guys back in Maranello and it's also a reason why we are much more competitive this year so it's great to see that. On the other hand, I don't think we have any advantage. I think we are very similar to where Red Bull is at the moment which they seem to be very strong, power unit-wise and we need to keep pushing but yeah, it is definitely a big step from last year.
FA: For us, definitely a step on our side as well, not only on power, pure power, also the concept of the engine is completely different, and, you know, it was a lot of work on this project for already one year and a half or something. So, you know, I think they did a very good job in Paris and we happy with our power unit now, progress everyone… we are very similar. I don't think that we have a huge disadvantage or huge advantage. And that was maybe not the case last year so we’re happy with this step forward.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing 365) Whoever wants to answer: from a visibility perspective, what's the biggest impediment, the bigger wheels or those funny fender type wings?
CL: The side pods. For a start, definitely the side pods. For us, we cannot see the yellow line at all when we are parking to start the race. But then for the actual visibility I don’t have any problems. How do you call it the arcs, yeah, whatever. This I don’t have any problems and actually the visibility is fine for us.
Q: Fernando, how did you find the wheel-to-wheel racing?
FA: It was okay. I didn't find any big issue in Bahrain. I think it's more the tyres. It is different, compared last year, they are bigger. But you get used them to very, very fast like with the halo but no, no problem.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – racefans.net) A question to Charles, Fernando and Sergio, if possible, please. We've just seen two red flags in the session for F2 and a shortened session. Just going on from the safety concerns obviously at this track, is that quite nerve-racking to see and you know, you've already mentioned, Charles, that there could be more to be done. Is this one of F1’s most dangerous circuits do you think?
CL: Again, I think we should wait and see. On a straight track it's normal to see red flags and I don't think that because we've seen two red flags it's more concerning than anywhere else. I think it's expected on a track that is so challenging and on a city track so yeah let's wait and see and maybe I'll go a bit more into details after the first few laps this afternoon.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – Diario Marca) Fernando, did your car have much more degradation than Esteban Ocon’s car in Bahrain, maybe another set-up or anything you found in the car during the days?
FA: I think we went into the race – obviously the details we will not share here – there are a couple of points that maybe we identify that we were doing differently between the two cars. Also, we had different tyre age in different moments of the race. Some of the teams had new tyres, Esteban had new tyres and maybe that also was it was a difference but nevertheless, we ended up both cars in the points and that was the goal at the beginning.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) Nico, Kevin Magnussen had an unexpected call up to make a full-time return. You've had one race in Bahrain, you've got another this weekend and a couple in recent years as cameos. Do you still harbour a return, a hope of making a full-time return to the grid?
Q: If I still harbour a return, what was that? I mean, yes, of course, if there is a good opportunity, definitely I'm up for it. Now having been away and having done Bahrain, the rush of qualifying, the excitement of the race, the battling on lap one, there is a lot of great things that happen in Formula 1, and it's a lot of fun. So, if the right opportunity is there, of course, but that's not going to be an easy, easy task.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) Checo, although comments from the team indicate that you and Max both had the same issues with your cars, the symptoms seem to be different. I mean, Max got back to the garage, you didn't, yours cut out mid corner. Are you convinced that they've been able to sort out the full cures on this?
SP: Yeah, we're pretty convinced that we managed to get on top of it. And it was the same issue with both cars. But there was always different… and at different points. But then, at the end of the day, it was the same cause and we believe that we have the problem sorted.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Fernando, Laurent Rossi said towards the end of last year that one of his sort of learnings in his first year at Alpine was the sort of sense that there was maybe a little bit too much, I guess, conservatism with some design choices, that kind of thing, maybe needed to break free of a bit of a fear of failure, be bolder, be a bit braver with things. Have you sensed any of that changing and if that is the case is that a sort of long term thing that needs to change because I guess the working culture of a team does take a little bit of time to have an impact on.
FA: I'm not sure that's a question for me, I only drive cars as fast as I can and you know, I try to feed back the team you know, with what I feel is necessary on the behaviour of the car but the way and you know, we go into design production and creativity and things I think we have the right people in charge of it. Laurent made a few changes over the last two years on the management side as well so I guess everything is going in the right direction. So we trust those changes.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) A question to Charles, given over the course of the season, how aggressively can you and Max battle each other knowing that there's going to be a constant threat from Lewis at the back?
CL: Well, yeah, I think that it is quite clear what we are allowed to do in the in a race, battling with each other now and yeah, we will be right at the limit of the rules as it's always been the case and that's the way I enjoy racing when it's hard but fair and when the limits are very clear, and I think it is, so whether there's Lewis at the back or not this… I will be racing the same way and yeah, but hopefully we'll also be as competitive as we were in Bahrain for the rest of the season for these fights to happen.