FIA Friday press conference – Spain
PART ONE - Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing), Fernando ALONSO (Alpine)
Q: Valtteri, we’ll start with you. Before we come on to the racing, you've already just got back from America. Tell us what you've been doing after Miami.
Valtteri BOTTAS: I think it's already a couple of days ago, I came back. I was planning to come back earlier. But bit of issues with the travels. But yeah, stayed in the US. I love Colorado. So again, just exploring a bit more that area and yeah, had a good week.
Q: Now let's, let's bring it on to performance. You didn't get many laps at this racetrack during pre-season testing. Does that put you at a disadvantage to those that did?
VB: For sure, would love to have more laps in the first test but. you know, every team, every driver has been here for so many times. So I think we got some data from the test. And anyway, I feel like the cars are quite different already now than in the first test, at least in our team. So, no big concerns. I think the main thing for this weekend is to prove that the upgrades we have worked well. And we go from there.
Q: In what areas of performance do you need to feel more performance from the Alfa?
VB: We still need better stability in high-speed corners, which is going to be a good test here because of the entry into Turn Nine. But also, the reliability is not still where it should be. So, hopefully we can have a nice and clean weekend and without any issues. That will be good.,
Q: Let's come on to the hometown hero now. Fernando Alonso. Fernando was back in Barcelona. It's a full house this weekend. Just how excited are you to be racing?
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, it is great. Obviously we have only one opportunity in the year to race at home so ready to maximise it and enjoy every single minute of the weekend. Hopefully we put a clean weekend on our side, Friday Saturday and Sunday with not too many issues and we can score points finally.
Q: What does maximising the weekend mean for you and Alpine at the minute?
FA: Well, at the moment we have been quite fast on Friday and Saturdays but then on Sunday we – for different reasons – our own mistakes, reliability, bad luck, whatever, we didn't score as many points as we wanted. So, we want to change this year from Barcelona and have a good run on consecutive races in the points from now on.
Q: You've been having a bit of fun since Miami as well. Tell us what you've been up to, specifically with Aleix Espargaró.
FA: Well, with both Aprilia guys. Last Tuesday, we had some fun on my hometown in Oviedo, on my circuit. And they came to visit us, together with Castrol, our sponsor. I was riding some mini bikes and they were running also with us and then go-karts and Clios, so it was a fun day.
Q: Now talking of doing something different Mick Schumacher, you certainly did something different after Miami. How was the NASCAR?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Yeah, quite different, actually. I mean, first time I was a passenger. It felt quite scary going through the banking. As it was, I was thinking we're gonna slip down but it was actually fine. And then yeah, I got to drive myself. I was impressed about how much grip you have on the oval itself. But the car just doesn't stop. It feels like they're no brakes. You push as hard as you want, but the car doesn't stop. So yeah, we had a good time. Good to feel something different, good to do something different, so very much thank you for that.
Q: Let's talk about the Miami Grand Prix. Now it was a painful end to your race there. Having watched the incident with Sebastian Vettel back on television. What conclusions have you drawn?
MS: Yeah, well, obviously, I think everything got a bit heated in that situation, for different reasons. And with Sebastian, we spoke about it afterwards. I think we all concluded that, we all could have done something different, something better. You know, it's unfortunate. Obviously, I think we were all in the points of that time. Yeah, hopefully on to better race this weekend.
Q: Well, let's bring it on to this weekend. You had limited running here in pre-season testing. You've got no updates on the car this weekend. Are you expecting a tough one?
MS: No, I don't think so. I mean, the car has so much potential, still to be exploited. I think that we’ll keep focusing on that. Some teams do bring updates, but you never know if they work or not. So, that's also a factor. I think that we're okay. And I'm just excited to get out there.
Q: Charles, coming to you. We're talking upgrades. Ferrari have got some this weekend, what are you expecting from them?
Charles LECLERC: Well, hopefully it will be good ones and enough to be in front of Red Bull again. It's been close since the beginning of the season. And every time they've brought upgrades, they, in the first part, came closer and closer and now I think are a bit in front, especially in terms of race pace. So, I hope it will be enough for us to jump back in front.
Q: Where's the focus? Is it straight-line speed at the minute?
CL: A little bit of everything. Obviously straight-line speed, I think also slow-speed corners, they seemed to be very strong in Miami in slow-speed corners. So, a little bit of this, of both of these areas.
Q: And Charles, Ferrari had a very successful pre-season test here at Barcelona, given that you're running the upgrades as well how confident are you coming into the weekend?
CL: To be honest, I don't know how much it means that we had good winter testing here because it was a long time ago and already from that moment to now, all the teams have done quite a big step forward. I'm pretty sure that we'll see all the steps forward from this weekend onwards, because of the upgrades. So, I think it will be all down to how much we’ll improve the car with what we put on the car this weekend. And how much Red Bull will improve the car with… if they have anything new on the car for this weekend. But I don't think that is going to be a massive difference to what we've seen since the beginning of the season. It has been very close and I hope it will remain the same, but hopefully we will just have the edge for here.
Q: Charles, one final one for me. You've driven two 1970s Ferraris in recent weeks. Niki Lauda’s 1974 car at the Monaco Historic last weekend, and then of course, Gilles Villeneuve’s ’79 car a couple of weeks ago. Which one do you prefer?
CL: Well, Niki's one was amazing, until the failure where it was a bit less amazing there. But to be honest, the one of Gilles, that I that I drove, I had the museum tyres, so I couldn't push at all: they were very, very old tyres. It was difficult to go over 100kph, so I had a lot more fun into Niki's car.
Q: Sergio, can we start by talking about Miami, you finished fourth but of course, you were nursing that technical issue. Without that, do you think you could have challenged and maybe beaten Carlos Sainz, and got on the podium?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, I certainly believe that we had the pace to do so, especially at the end with the when we went for the new tyres, which, by the way, had such a deficit on the straight-line speed that it was really hard to get Carlos and I had to go for it when I had a small opportunity. And I just went deep into it, into Turn One. But I think, definitely without the issue, we could have done a double podium. And it was a shame that it cost us a lot of points, but on the other hand was good that we were able to finish the race because at some point it look really, really bad.
Q: How concerned are you about these lingering reliability issues?
SP: Well, they have… we've lost a lot of points already in these first races with reliability. So, I really hope that we are able to sort them out because, if this keeps happening during the weekend, if we're not able to do all the miles through a weekend, they become very costly. They are able to compromise your weekend. So, we are working really hard and we believe that we are in a good position now.
Q: And Checo, how concerned are you about the upgrades that Ferrari are bringing this weekend and the potential pace that they may have?
SP: They're gonna be strong, we know. And it will be interesting to see how much of a step they're able to take. It's a very long season. And we will just keep, keep pushing.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motosport.com) Question for all of you. Carlos said yesterday, he's concerned about long-term back and neck issues because of the bouncing and generally stiffer suspensions of these cars. He wants to start a debate with F1 and the FIA on it. Any thoughts on that subject? Are you having issues?
SP: I don't particularly have any issues, but certainly, by all the teams, by pushing the cars and pushing the aero, it becomes a problem. We all want to have more load in the car, but then there's a compromise that you have to make, by not having too much porpoising in it. So, at the moment, I think it's really up to the driver and team to decide how much you push it. Or how much you can take with you. But I don't think it's a big concern for us.
Q: Charles, you're driving the same car as Carlos, how much of an issue is it for you?
CL: Yeah, I think I think it also depends on drivers, because Carlos seems to be a bit more sensitive to it, compared to me, where I don't struggle as much – but I definitely agree with him, that it should be something that shouldn't happen with those cars. We got better with it but there are some teams that are still struggling with it much more than we do, but for them, I cannot speak. Looking at onboards, some cars look much worse than others. We were definitely on the bad side at the beginning of the year. We got better, but still, it's definitely something that we should look at.
MS: Yeah, I think I agree with everything said. Personally, I don't have a problem with it but also, I think that we as a sport shouldn't have to deal with that issue. I think the car should be well-engineered to not have that problem. And I'm sure that for the future, we won't have it. Just because now we know that it kind-of created it. I'm pretty sure we'll fix it.
FA: Yeah, more or the same thing. We don't suffer much of that effect. So, for us it’s good. But we are aware that other teams, maybe they have bigger problems, and they will fix it for sure.
VB: Not much to add. I think it's always a compromise, know how, much you're willing to take. But it seems to be a common issue. Some teams more. I think we're not one of the worst ones. It's been reasonable for now. And I think my back is already destroyed since 2015. So I don't know if it makes any difference!
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Question to Fernando. You said in a recent interview that you don't have an immediate desire to go and do the Indy 500 again. Does that mean your triple crown ambition is over? What's changed your mind? And maybe most importantly, what would change your mind so you would go back and do that event?
FA: Well, I will see, when the time arrives. At the moment, sometimes have to answer questions about what I will do in three or four years’ time, and if I will go back to Indy. Right now, you know, before the Spanish Grand Prix, or Miami, or whatever, my head obviously is totally focused on the race weekend and Formula 1 right now. And I see myself racing here for a few more years. And after that, I don't know. I cannot say yes, I cannot say no to the Indy 500. What is for sure is that now, it is not in my head because I'm fully focused here. So that probably was the answer.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to Fernando, you lost some points in Miami because of a second penalty. And you can comment after that. What do you think about that penalty?
FA: Well, it was unfair. Or, we believe that it was very unfair. It was just incompetence from the stewards. They were not very professional, I think, in Miami. I missed one corner, and then I gave back the time on the lap – but obviously, after you miss one corner, there is the sector time, just after that corner. So they saw the pink colour, and yeah, they took the decision without asking any proofs. So we arrive after the race with all the proofs, and all the time back that we gave, and they were just packing up. They were not even in the room. So here, we came there, we show them all the data. So they said ‘give us five minutes’. And then they found themselves with the hands tied, probably because they issue already the penalty. And they didn’t know how to get back from that document. So it was it was very bad. And honestly, I mean, it's already the past, but it is something that should not happen in in Formula 1, you know, with professionalism, and the standards that Formula 1 has right now.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Fernando, to follow up on that, the FIA has done a lot this year to restructure its stewarding process and with the Race Control operations. Have you seen an improvement year on year compared to what we had last year…
Q: … You still feel there are issues that need to be fixed?
FA: We saw a couple of things already that proves that we still need to improve a lot. Racing is… I mean, you need to have some knowledge about racing, before being a Race Director, or try to monitor a race. And I don't think that that knowledge is in place at the moment. So I know there is a new Race Director here, I think Freitas has a lot more experience, with WEC and with all the categories, I think, at the top level, and I think that will already improve things. But yeah, he was not… I mean, even the accidents that we had in Miami, you know, with Carlos and Esteban. We pushed to have some barriers there and some tyres or TecPro, whatever, and no-one did anything. So, when you don't have that knowledge of racing, it’s difficult to talk.
Q: (Samarth Kanal – F1.com) Charles, yesterday, Carlos said that he didn't want to take the risk of driving a historic F1 car, because you have Championship-contending machinery. Do you feel the same – and maybe has it changed your mind now?
CL: No, it doesn't. Because to be honest, before that, I think all the checks that had to be done, was done. Obviously there was a shakedown of this car the Thursday before. The failure that happened was on a screw of the brake pads. And it's impossible to know. Then, of course, fighting for a Championship like this, I'll think twice before doing it again in the future. But yeah, it's also part of our job. And sometimes we need to go into those cars. And it's always also an honour for me, I'm very happy and very proud to be driving those cars. And always a pleasure too – but yeah, it's always a balance you need to find, and of course, when you're fighting for the Championship… but just overall, to be honest, because it's for safety in general. I had a lot of fun. And this was unfortunate. But again, it was just unlucky.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Race Fans) Fernando, another question for you. Are you worried that safety is being compromised now? You mentioned obviously, nothing was changed after Carlos and Esteban's crash? So, is there a concern for safety if you're out there racing?
FA: No, I don't think so. I think safety has been good, and probably this year we have the safest cars you know and circuits and everything… environment is very safe now in Formula 1. So, we just need to keep improving. We are the only one driving the cars and feeling the crashes and things like that in our bodies. So, when we feel something that is needed. I think we should be listened to. In Miami, or some other examples, we didn't have that because it seems that the focus is in another place.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Marca) Fernando, maybe 20 Spanish Grand Prix for you – or something – 21… 23 for me, OK! Do you feel the same fever on Sunday when you hear the people and all the people is with you?
FA: Yeah, sure. Sure. The feeling is always the same, has been always the same. And it will not be different on Sunday. As I said before, it is very special to race at home. We only can experience once a year and we feel extremely lucky for that. There are other drivers on the grid that they don't have even the home grand prix, so we feel privileged for that and thankful for that. I'm ready to enjoy every second. And on Sunday, when you see the fans and when you hear the national anthem, and everything, it is a special Sunday.
Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Sorry, it's another question for Fernando – but if the other drivers want to add their thoughts afterwards, that'd be great. Fernando, just in general, you've been in F1 a long time. There’s a sell-out here, all three days, we're told, and the interest in the sport seems to be booming every race we now go to. Why do you think we've seen that growth in popularity, especially over the last say, three, four or five years that has come on so rapidly?
FA: I don't know. I think from… yeah, as you said a couple of years ago, especially when Liberty Media took control. I think we saw a few steps as a sport. We open the sport to more people here at the paddock there is more access, we start doing a lot of things outside the track as well. Drivers involved on those. And yeah, I think it was always going on the good direction. Also, we are living in a very different world now, with the digital platforms, giving access to many, many things that were unthinkable 10 years ago, 15 years ago. So, all that I think made the sport a little bit more open and that people can really enjoy now. Before they saw Formula 1, like something unreachable, or something very difficult to understand how to follow.
Q: Let's get some other thoughts on this. Valtteri?
VB: To me, it feels like now, like every race weekend… for sure, it’s all about racing – but there's a bit more into it. Like, just from my side, it feels like the atmosphere is a bit more like an event than a race. There’s other things happening: concerts and there's DJs playing just before the start and stuff like that. I've personally felt much more energy in the last year or so, then than ever before, during my career. So, I think they've done a great job on many things. And like Fernando said, it's so much more accessible nowadays than it used to be. But also, thanks to the technology.
CL: Yeah, I think the access, that's been more and more open throughout the years, I think also Drive To Survive, obviously has been a big help for Formula 1. To help the people to understand a little bit more the sport in a simpler way. And to actually put a face on the people that are in the background and working every day to try and make their car go faster. Also the places that we go in the US, it's becoming bigger and bigger. Thanks again to Netflix. And I think people are just loving the sport. And the title fight last year too, I think helped the sport, so hopefully we can have a similar fight this year until the very last race.
FA: … and good-looking drivers!
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Charles also question about the classic car tests you’ve done recently. I know you appreciate Ferrari’s history, and know the long line of drivers you're following. Can you talk a bit about the connection you've got to – say – to Niki and Gilles. And to be able to drive their cars, it is an emotional thing at all, to be able to sample what they drove?
CL: Of course it is! I mean, it's… they are drivers that I've never seen in real life but obviously you get to see a lot now with social media, you get to see a lot of their fights etc. And you only appreciate how much risk they were taking once you actually get into one of their cars, and see what were the safety that they had at that time. And what it meant to be actually fighting wheels-to-wheels at those speeds, with those cars. I think also it's great to experience what it was like, and what it's like now. It's very different now, it's so much faster – but it's also so much safer. And we don't have that much the safety in mind, as much as they probably did once they were once they were racing. But yeah, I got to meet Niki few times in the paddock in the past. And yeah, they are just legends of our sports. Of course, it's always amazing to be to be driving their cars.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for all drivers. Going back to the topic about the bouncing and the stiffness of the cars, although you're not necessarily too concerned about the physical effects, is this generation of cars harder on your bodies than the previous generation of cars? Not just for those who are porpoising, but purely the stiffness? And are you feeling there's more discomfort, greater recovery time needed? Is it a significant step? Or is it just the case that F1 drivers have always had to go through this? And that's just part of the job and it's normal?
VB: In terms of the ride, yeah, for sure, it's the most difficult car, or more demanding car, that I've had ever in my career. But I still like cornering speeds, if we compare, for example, to last year, some type of corners, we had G-forces last year, but it's not far off now. So overall, I think I would say it's up there. It's difficult to say if there's any big difference, let's say. to last year, but definitely with the bouncing and with the ride, there's been a couple of races that felt a bit more sore than maybe some years before. So yeah, but I think the body will get used to it. And yeah, just a bit more recovery work may be needed to after certain races.
FA: I don't think so. I don't think that they are too strong on the body or, or too physical. I mean, there is this bouncing effect, which is uncomfortable for sure but I'm not sure that, compared to the cars in the past, it’s too different. Or when I started with the Minardi in 2001, that car was not very comfy. And we didn't have power steering or anything like that. So they were very physical, or in IndyCar is 100 times worse. Or in Endurance. You drive with Sebastian Buemi’s seat for 24 hours, you know, because you have to share the seat with a teammate, or in karting, we used to break one or two ribs every winter when we test. So, I think we have a lot of comfort at the moment.
MS: Yeah, well, it's similar to Formula 2, in terms of ride, so yeah, I guess it's not too new for me. But I think obviously, with more races coming now, obviously the time for recovery is a bit less. I think that's also something we'll have to keep in mind, but also I think the mental side for a lot of drivers, and especially the teams, engineers and mechanics, who have a life at home. You have to try and keep it in a minimum of adding races I would say.
CL: Yeah, I don't know in terms of ride, bouncing, kerb-riding, I'm not sensitive at all. I don't know why, I just don't feel those things. I guess it's good with those cars but yeah, apart from that physically it's okay. I mean, it's similar. It's at a similar level to last year for me.
SP: Yeah, very similar to Charles.
Q: (Jérémy Satis – AutoHebdo) Question for Charles, since Imola, Red Bull seem to have the advantage on Sundays, especially with the tyre degradation. Barcelona is a pretty abrasive track in those conditions. So, do you particularly worry about it?
CL: I think… I mean, a particular development only for tyre degradation is very tricky, if not impossible. I think it's all relative to pace. They seem to have a bit more pace enhance into the race, so they can take it a bit more easy in the first laps and then when they start to push then they are just quicker, which was the case for the last two races. And for us, it was the case in Australia, by example. So, yeah. If we gain a bit of pace and hope to be in front, I'm pretty sure that tyre management will come with it, and it will also be better.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Pierre GASLY (AlphaTauri), Esteban OCON (Alpine), Sebastian VETTEL (Aston Martin), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), Nicholas LATIFI (Williams)
Q: We'll start with Pierre. Pierre, let's throw it back a couple of weeks frustrating race for you in Miami, what might have been possible in that race without the contact from Alonzo earlier?
Pierre GASLY: Honestly, I don't really want to think about what could have happened, what would have happened. It was unfortunate because we're on for a potential, good couple of good points and they would have been well needed. It wasn't an easy race we had a problem early on after lap three with our floor, and we were still managing it pretty well, but yeah, unfortunate. I think the good thing is we showed some good pace. Best quali of the year there and we showed some good pace in the race. And then that's what we need to do, keep that momentum and build on it for this weekend.
Q: Well, how confident are you of doing that this weekend?
PG: Well, no upgrade on our side. But still, as I said, we showed some good potential, we know the car can be fast. That midfield is extremely tight. So we can't leave anything on the table. Because one or two tenths move you up, up and down by six or seven places in the ranking. So just, you know, it puts pressure on ourselves to deliver and be at 100% of our potential, which is what we're going to focus on and hopefully have a problem-free weekend, which hasn't really been the case since the start of the year. So we just need to really focus on our job and execute everything perfectly.
Q: One final one for me. You've been busy since Miami. You've been globetrotting a bit just tell us what you've been up to?
PG: I've been up to a lot of things in my personal life. Because you know, I like to do things. I like to explore. I like to travel. So, I've been travelling a bit, surfing a little bit trying to get better. I do need more lessons before I can call it surfing. But, you know, we are getting there. And then yeah, I'm just fully energised for this weekend. Excited, happy, positive and ready to rock.
Q: Nicholas, coming to you. Look, we're back in Barcelona, a track that you and the team both know well. How much do you think the FW44 is going to improve this weekend? What are you expecting?
Nicholas LATIFI: Yeah, I mean, I think from winter testing to now there's naturally been little progressions and small evolutions on the car to add some speed. I mean, I wouldn't say anything in the way of a big upgrade package, but there's definitely stuff on the car that's going to make it quicker than what from what it wasn't winter testing. So I think, yeah, from this weekend we have some little weight saving parts and things like that. So obviously hoping to be a little bit more competitive. It's always interesting coming back here after winter testing and you kind of have that not so much a back-to-back comparison but let's say a kind of for like-for-like, obviously taking the track temperature and all that stuff out of it. So yeah it's going to be interesting to see. I mean, obviously a lot of big changes up and down the pitlane as well with various packages. So yeah, whether the order changes are not or stays similar, I think it's should be an exciting weekend.
Q: And Nicholas, what about your own performance in the car and your own understanding of the car? Do you feel you're on top of it now?
NL: I mean, I feel in Miami there was some good steps made and I mean, to be honest, I'm hoping that this track there will be some bigger steps, just you know, due to the nature of the track. We all know this track very well. And, again, we've had, you know, a few street races in a row, with Imola, a very mixed condition weekend. And obviously the next races are about three street races in a row, as well. So yeah, like I've been saying, when you don't have that, that feeling that you're clicking with a car like you want it's maybe not as easy to build that on, on street tracks. So yeah, I'm hoping this weekend will be another good step in that direction.
Q: Best of luck with that. Thank you. Esteban, coming to you. I feel we have to throw it back a couple of weeks to start with tremendous race from you in Miami. P 20. On the grid to P8. What are your expectations coming into that race?
Esteban OCON: Yeah, thank you. No, it was it was definitely a great race and a great recovery from the crash obviously on Saturday. Yeah, it was a tough one. Very hot. Not feeling obviously 100%. Still very sore from the impact from the day before. But yeah, the team did an awesome job. They made the strategy perfect. And we benefited from that Safety Car pit-stop at the end. So yeah, it was very solid. So I'm pretty pleased with that. Obviously, we're going this weekend on a track that we know a lot better, that we know by heart. We had good performance last year, we qualified fifth. Obviously, very different characteristics this this year, but yeah, I look forward to see what we can do and also to compare with the others, because we've seen some interesting new bits from everywhere around us. We are going to have also a few things but yeah, it's going to be an interesting one.
Q: And just this feel a bit of a home race for you? The paternal side of you family from lives just down the road?
EO: Exactly, yeah. Around the circuit, I have most of my family from my dad's side that live around here. It is a home race for Fernando and half a home race for me. So yeah, I'm very happy to be back in Barcelona.
Q: Best of luck this weekend. Max coming to you now. Can we start off track? I think you've been having a bit of fun since Miami. How much air is it possible to get on a jet ski?
Max VERSTAPPEN: I haven't found that yet. I'm still trying. Depends on the wave you get as well. So I'm trying to find the big ones.
Q: On track this weekend, a lot of your rivals are bringing upgrades here. What's the situation at Red Bull?
MV: Not really updates, just a little weight reduction. I mean, our car is still a bit fat, so trying to slim it down. So that's what we're trying to do.
Q: And when you see what's happening elsewhere on the grid, especially at Ferrari, what are you expecting from them? Where do you think the main challenge is going to come from this weekend?
MV: Well, if you look at the of course, the last few races, it must be them, right? So they're, they're coming with a few upgrades. So it's going to be interesting to see how much that's going to give them but at the end of the day we just have to focus on our package. And I mean, we all know this track quite well. So just need to make sure that, you know, we have a clean weekend starting from today.
Q: Max, what about overtaking? 23 of the 31 races at this track have been won from pole position? Do you expect something similar with these cars? Or do you think we might see more overtaking at the front but also elsewhere?
MV: Well, you might run a bit closer, but it's still a track, which I think is tough to overtake on. But I think the aim is always to not overtake to try and start upfront that that's the goal.
Q: Thanks, Max and Sebastian coming to you now. Milk first or cereal first? That seemed to be the killer question last week when you were in London. Can you just tell us about the day? What was the highlight for you?
Sebastian VETTEL: Yeah, maybe the kids and you know, their honesty? Your asked about milk first or cereal first. And most adults would probably laugh at it. But I think it goes to show that kids don't have, you know, presumptions, they're just happy to explore. And there is no right or wrong. So there's lots of things that we can learn from children. But yeah, I definitely enjoyed the day. And obviously, there was a variety of things that I did but the highlight probably was the kids, the atmosphere as well was very loud. So I enjoyed that.
Q: What about this weekend, Sebastian? It seems like it's a big one for Aston Martin, lots of upgrades on the car. What are you expecting?
SV: Not really having much expectations. We know that it's a very different looking car. We've had a big push in the factory to make the bits for two cars. And it will be very interesting to see how it behaves on track. I think that's what we are looking forward to. I'm very curious to see the performance. We don't expect a massive jump straightaway. But we do believe in the concept and believe that there's more performance to gain down that road. So yeah, it will be interesting to get a feel and get the hands on the car.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) Sebastian, what did you learn from your recent trip to London, considering you did very well on Question Time? And could you explain why is there a bandage on your left knee?
SV: Yeah, I burned myself on the motorbike last week. It's not that bad, but better to cover it. And then I think the trip to London was, as I said, very interesting. Obviously, I visited the boys prison in Feltham, and then the school in Waterloo. And had the evening with Question Time. But I think you know, it's always interesting to meet different people in different circumstances, different ages or different groups of ages. But, you know, it goes to show that… I don't know, what I learned or what I take from it, is that I have been very, very lucky the way I've been brought up. I've had lots of love around me. My parents taking the time and having the opportunity to look after me. Visiting the kids in Waterloo, you know, which is in London, one of the biggest cities in the world, one of the richest cities in the world. But yet you go off the main road, just by a block or two, and you find kids that a lot of their path is already drawn. And they don't have anywhere near the opportunities and possibilities or love that I had and enjoyed. So they might find themselves in a dead-end road and be stuck there. Which is shocking, you know, because as I said, there's so much possibility around in London, so much money around in London. But yet, so much you can still improve. And it's not that different. It's not a London problem. Generally with big cities you have the same, in German cities or other cities around the world. So I find that very inspirational. And, you know, it really kicks off the need that we have to do something. And if we can raise awareness, raise attention, that's a good thing. And ultimately, if we can just help a few of those kids, it's already a big achievement. But ideally, a lot of these children to have a better life than maybe it would look on paper.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Esteban, regarding the crash in Miami, Carlos Sainz said yesterday he wants a proper explanation for why Tecpro wasn't put there, which obviously would have potentially been better news for you. Have you had a proper explanation from the FIA? Has there been any dialogue for why that change wasn't made Friday into Saturday? Are you satisfied with that situation?
EO: Yes, I am actually. I had a chat with the Race Director, yesterday. We had a one-hour chat on all of these situations and why it hasn't been explained. They've had a lot of work done and analysis on the trajectory of both my car and Carlos’ car and on what could have been the best solution and there will be changes on the track next year on that regard for safety. And yeah, everything's been listen [to], acknowledged and action will be done. So yeah, I was very reassured with the chat we had and very pleased with the outcome of it.
Q: (Silja Rulle - Bild) Seb, your favourite football team Eintracht Frankfurt won the Europa League? How did you follow that match and how do you feel about that?
SV: I was watching on TV. Obviously. When it went down to the wire and with penalties, it was very exciting and I got very nervous. But yeah, I think we got lucky in the end, like in penalties you always do. But I think it was deserved and an incredible achievement. So, as a fan, obviously, I'm super happy. And yeah, to see the excitement… I've been in the stadium many times and it would have been nice to be there. But also in Frankfurt in the stadium, it was packed, a lot of people watching and following. So yeah, a lot of celebrations going on also yesterday in Frankfurt, so yeah, it was special and like winning… it felt like you know, like winning in a lottery. So, for the club, I think it's amazing, for the players. So something that probably they will remember for forever. For sure, as a fan, we will.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It's a question to Max. In recent weeks, we've heard some comments by Ferrari about the budget cap and the development of the Red Bull Car. First of all, what do you make of it? And secondly, how confident are you that Red Bull can maintain this development speed throughout the season?
MV: Thank you. Well, it's very simple. I mean, it's the same for everyone. So I don't see any issues regarding that.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Nicholas, there was a report last week from a well-known Canadian reporter based in Toronto, about your departure from Williams and your replacement. I wondered what your reaction was to this premature report of your departure. And also I noticed that you haven't been tempted by redhead on this weekend.
NL: Yeah, on the red hair dye, I didn't want it to wash off in the helmet, so I opted not to partake in that. But I think most of the team members had it washed out in the shower. So, no more red hair in the paddock for now. And yeah, the report, when I saw that I just kind of laughed a little bit because obviously it was not the case at all, I'm still here. I mean there are always rumours circulating around. I think that's the nature of the sport. But yeah, I mean, I was definitely a bit surprised to see it from I'd say a well-known reporter, without any real foundation behind it. So yeah, I just kind of laughed a bit at it really.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportwereld) Max for the first time in your career you're not the only Dutchy in a Formula 1 weekend, free practice with Nyck de Vries, you to know each other already for a long time. Can you share your thoughts on his career, the importance of this day for him and maybe his future potential for the sport?
MV: Yeah, Nick and I are good friends, you know, we hang out quite a bit in Monaco, so for him it's a very nice opportunity today. But also the other hand, I mean, it's an FP1 session, there's not much really to win. I think you just have to do your job with the team, you know, and I'm sure he will. So you just needs to enjoy it. And then of course, we will see what happens in the future in terms of opportunities. I mean, who knows what's going to happen for him? Of course, I wish him the very best in an opportunity, possibly in Formula 1, but if not he's doing a great job anyway in Formula E at this time. And also, of course, last year, so it's a bit difficult to tell. But yeah, I hope he has a lot of fun today.
(Q: Luke Smith – Autosport) Seb, you really held your own up against a couple of the UK’s top, prominent politicians? Is there a career in politics? Would that ever interest you for life after F1?
Q: (Adam Cooper, Motorsport.com) A question for all of you, Carlos said yesterday, he's concerned about long-term, neck and back issues because of the bouncing and generally stiff suspensions of these cars. He wants to start a dialogue with F1 and the FIA about that. Have you had any issues? Are these cars harder on your bodies than previous F1 cars you've driven?
PG: Then he's got to work out more. I mean, jokes apart, yeah, for sure. I think long-term, if the car stays like this for 10 years, it could become a concern. But already, I think from what we've seen from the start of the year until now, there has been a lot of progress made on our side – obviously very different from one car to another – but yeah, it can be a conversation, but I believe by the end of the year we won't even have this issue anymore.
NL: Yeah, I think like Pierre said, from the beginning of the year, maybe from for more teams it seemed to be much more of a problem with the bouncing and the stiffness, obviously, other teams still having that and still struggling with it. But, you know, I think irrespective of these cars, the modern generation of cars with the high amounts of G forces and things like that, potentially long-term there is the possibility to have some negative effects, you know, like, spinal disc degeneration and things like that, which I think, irrespective of this year's car, just driving these cars, with such high Gs for so many years, could have negative effects. And even probably for taller drivers that maybe sit a little bit more squished in the car, and potentially more, let's say, not anatomically correct, maybe Esteban can relate to that, as well, maybe some other drivers of my height or similar. So, yeah, maybe something to speak about, but I think it is improving.
EO: Yeah, for sure. They're tougher to drive than the last couple of years. They are, you know, more stiff on the bumps, lower to the ground. It's big hits. But I forgot how tough, you know… I didn't drive any competition go-kart for 10 years or something and I've been back in that for day with Fernando at his go-kart track with the riders, the Aprilia racing riders. And I forgot how tough and how stiff that was, and how much hit I was I was getting when I was younger, basically in go-kart racing. So in comparison, yeah, this is a very comfy ride, I can tell you. So yeah, it's still fine.
MV: I think it's very simple. If you just raise your rear ride height, you will not have it, but you lose performance. So if he just raises his rear ride height, it will be fine. It's just a give and take. I mean, it's not nice, but I know there's more lap time in it by running it lower, so you run it low, even if it's not comfortable.
Q: Are recovery time is longer after each Grand Prix?
MV: Not really, if you have a good massage.
Q: Thank you. Sebastian?
SV: I think every sport is taking its toll on your body, depending on the sport. So…
MV: I mean for us to talk about like our bodies. I mean, if you compare it to some other sports, I think We are very lucky that what we do.
SV: So, surely the loads on the… I mean, that's what Carlos I think was directing to, the loads on the spine. And this between the vertebras is exceptionally high compared to other sports. But then like I said, every sport is particular and probably takes the toll on your body. It's for you to take care of that and try and prevent as much as you can. To a certain point, I think you can, to another degree, you probably cannot. So, yeah, I don't know, time will tell if you see these guys, in 50 years’ time, and their backs. But yeah, I think every sport is developing as well. And yeah, I think the discomfort we have through the due to the porpoising shouldn't last forever. I think teams will figure it out at some point.
Q: (Sam Hall – GPFans) Seb, back to Question Time again. The sport was described as gas guzzling on the programme. Do you regret not mentioning the engines and how efficient they are, the most the most efficient engines in the world, rather than just saying that you would consider leaving the sport?
SV: But the question is, what do these efficient and most efficient engines in the world help or contribute to everyday people commuting in and out to work, to wherever? What does this engine help or bring you, which benefit? That's very questionable. It's very complex. It's a fascinating technology. Don't get me wrong, as a fan and from an engineering point of view it’s fascinating. But how much do you transfer to the road? Other than to stick a hybrid on the on the car, to the road car? Not much. So you have to be true. You have to be true and tell the truth. And I think that's important. So looking forward, obviously F1 is stuck with this engine for a while. And you know, the question that you that you have to raise is: is it enough? Are we doing enough? And considering you know how deep we are in the poo, sorry to say like this, but you know, where the world is going and you look at the climate crisis or breakdown, the answer is we're not doing enough, and especially in… how did they put it, a gas-guzzling sport, which is true, I think we are at the spotlight, and we have to do more than just do what we do. I think we can't do enough. That's the answer.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Nicholas, do you enjoy having a new Dutch kid on the block for one hour in FP1? Or does it create a certain kind of tension?
NL: Yeah, I mean, for me and my job, I find it doesn't really change much. I think for the overall team perspective, I think it's good to get a…it's nice to have a new opinion on the car. Obviously, Nick's been doing some stuff in the simulator as well to prepare. You know, even though it's by no means the same car but he has some comparisons who obviously driving the Mercedes last year, just as George did every now and then. So to see what kind of experience he can bring and knowledge, his opinion on the car, I think it's very useful for the team. But from my perspective, and how I carry out my FP1 session, it doesn't really change much in terms of my preparation for the race weekend.
Q: (Samarth Kanal – F1.com) Sebastian, what's triggered this kind of empathy that you've found and this desire to go on and speak about big issues and stuff? Because, forgive me, you didn't really seem to have that at Red Bull? Is it the fact that you've got world titles? Or is it the fact that you’re at Aston Martin, what's triggered it?
SV: No, there's no sort of one experience that kicked it off. I feel I shouldn't be the exception, I feel that we should all feel like this, because it is addressing all of us and it will impact… it is already impacting on all of us today. And it will do more so in the future, the younger you are the more so, and for generations to come even more. I often get the question, why is this important to you? This is not important to me, this is important to all of us. And I don't see why it cannot be. How can you ignore? Even if you don't care, which I can see some people do not, but you don't have that luxury anymore, to not care. Because, you know, it's the foundation of all of what we do. So without drifting away, I see you know, this is extremely important, certainly why? Yeah, looking back, I mean, there was a time where obviously I wasn't as aware. But I think the moment you become more and more aware, the moment I became a father, you're thinking more about the future. So certain things probably do change. But like I said, unfortunately, kids today, kids like Max or the next generation, young drivers or even younger than Max and kids after that, they will not have that luxury of not caring, even if they don't, it will impact them. And I think it's for all of us to think of what we can do to shift change to raise awareness and yeah, it's something we cannot run away from unless you want to race on the moon which I don't think it's as exciting, there's not much downforce on the moon.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) A question to all of you does Formula 1 Need three race directors?
SV: I don't know. I think it's good to have the right variety of personnel. I mean, there's a lot of races, so maybe it's a smart one to split the job but yeah, I think it will only help to share different opinions, different views, so why not? I don't I don't see a problem with it.
MV: I mean, we are trying it out at the moment right, so I guess time will tell what is the best way forward I guess.
EO: I'm not an expert on that topic.
NL: I don't really have much else to add.
PG: Copy, paste. Agree.
GROUP 3 – Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Lance STROLL (Aston Martin), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Alex ALBON (Williams), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo)
Q: We're going to start with you, Kevin. So tell us, have you got a future in NASCAR? How was it?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: It was good fun, you know, great to try something different. I have driven a Cup car before at COTA. But, you know, this was an oval and it's kind of fun to try that bit. We were driving in the infield, too, but just to get a feel for the Cup car on the banking. it's a pretty iconic thing, the sound and everything. So it was good fun.
Q: How hard did you push, particularly when you had Gunther next to you?
KM: As hard as I could? Yeah, he jumped in and I gave it full beans.
Q: Sounds fun. Now, Kevin, let's bring it onto this weekend. You didn't drive here in pre-season testing. So what are you expecting from the car around here?
KM: Hopefully it will be sort of where we've been. On average, I guess, in that midfield battle. Of course we want to try to be at the front of that midfield battle. But, you know, I think it's very tight there. So it's, you know, one weekend, you're at the front of that, one weekend at the back. So it's interesting and it's fun. It's a really fun battle.
Q: Guenther has said there's more to come from this car without putting any upgrades on it. What areas is he referring to?
KM: There's always more you can find in in the set-up. Of course, that's going to be more steady, slow steps than bringing an upgrade. But I think all these cars, most of them have bouncing and you know, there's also a weight problem. Most cars are heavier than the limit. So there's stuff like that you can work on and get more lap time out of and then you know, we'll have an upgrade at some point, later in the year. But we did get a new floor in Miami, that's a small upgrade. So there’s little stuff coming. But the big upgrade, I guess is for a little bit later in the year.
Q: Thank you, Kevin. Lance coming on to you, talking of upgrades. You guys have got a lot coming this weekend. Does it feel like a hugely important weekend for Aston Martin?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, absolutely. It's a massive upgrade. The team have worked incredibly hard for many months to bring this for this weekend. So it's very exciting for us.
Q: The team has notified the FIA of eight changes to the car for this race. Is there one area of performance that you've been focusing on?
LS: No, it's generally just a very different aero package, a different philosophy and we believe that it's the right direction. So hopefully, yeah, it goes well out there.
Q: Tell us what Barcelona is like in one of these 2022 cars. How different does it feel to last year?
LS: Well, I mean, it's like all the other tracks, the car with these regulations behaves a little bit differently. But hopefully we see some better racing around here. You know, in previous years it's have always been a very track-position race here and never the most exciting race to watch. But with these new regulations hopefully we will see some more exciting racing on Sunday.
Q: Okay, and good luck to you as well. Thank you, Lance. Lando coming to you. Let's talk upgrades. McLaren have a decent new package coming here. Just describe the sense of anticipation in the team prior to getting started?
Lando NORRIS: It's always good coming into a weekend, knowing you're going to have some things to help you go quicker. It's always a good feeling. Everyone's positive and so on. I think it is also a different story of how well does it all actually work on the racetrack comparing to the wind tunnel, and so on. But so far this year, things have stacked up well, so we'll see, we'll see how much it brings. You know, it's not as simple as throwing it on the car and then just going quicker. You have to make some changes here and there to adapt to it and to maximise the potential of these different parts and so on. So, yeah, I'm excited. I think everyone in the team is excited. The factory have done an amazing job to get all the parts here for this weekend. Yeah, we just gotta hope that they work well. And we can take some steps forward,
Q: Irrespective of the upgrades, do you come into this weekend with a little bit more confidence anyway, given your pace here in pre-season testing?
LN: For sure. I'm hoping it's going to be a bit more in line with some of the tracks which have suited us more, similar to Saudi, similar to Australia. We still have like the slow-speed last sector, which is maybe not our strength, but because of I guess, of how well we did here in pre-season testing, how comfortable I was with the car and so on, and with the changes we made anyway, but also with different parts for this weekend, yeah, I'm hoping it's gonna be a good one. So we'll see. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. But especially coming off Miami as well, it would be nice to get some points on the board again,
Q: Talking of Miami, you stayed on in America after the race, didn't you? What did you get up to?
LN: Golf I managed to play Augusta.
Q: How did you get on? How'd you get on the course? I mean, I thought you had to be invited?
LN: I mean, Zak, I think Zak got invited. We just know a couple of people who are members there and very kindly they invited us to go out and play. Zak has played before, so he had a bit of an advantage on me. But as a massive golf fan, everyone dreams of going to play Augusta. I don't know what I would compare it to in terms of racing, and Formula 1. You know, everyone probably wants to go and drive Monaco at some point. If you win it, then it's the dream. So I think it's a similar thing, that if you get to go and play Augusta, you'll be happy enough. And I mean, I know a lot of people who have wanted to for years and years and years and never got to play, so I got bragging rights to say that I've managed to play, so I played there and then I went to Phoenix watch the Suns’ game. My first ever basketball game and was courtside so I got to see it for its full potential and so on. And it was amazing. So a lot of fun. And then back home resting for this weekend.
Q: How many shots around Augusta?
LN: I'd rather not say. Too many.
Q: Thank you and best of luck to you this weekend. Coming on to Alex, you've still got the red hair.
Alex ALBON: It's not removable.
Q: It's here to stay. All the other teams have been talking about upgrades or most of them. What is the situation at Williams this weekend?
AA: I'd say it's a little bit more like Haas, we've got a few things coming a little bit later on. We do have upgrades where you could just call them set-ups, different downforce configurations for this weekend. But it looks good. It looks like it's definitely going to make the car quicker than what it was in Miami, for instance. But that's also due to the track characteristics.
Q: Do you think the fast flowing nature of this track will suit the car a little bit more anyway?
AA: Well, to be honest, I would say Miami is quite stop and start and we weren't too bad around there. So we are still discovering where we're strong and where we're weak. And I think if I drove Miami before the weekend, or if you told me we’d be competitive there, I wouldn't have believed you. I myself, I'm not very good at predicting things, so I would rather see how it goes in FP1, FP2 and see from there.
Q: Quick word on the golf. You stayed in America as well. Were you caddying?
AA: Yeah, no, Lando got the privilege of playing. I was watching my girlfriend, so I was on the LPGA Tour, kind of thing. If I was playing in the LPGA tour that wouldn't have been good but yes, I was supporting her. And then I went to New York, which was nice and then came back and actually played some golf with Lando. He loves it, absolutely loves it. You're going to improve when you play five, six days a week.
Q: Okay, Alex, thank you. Good luck to you this weekend. And Zhou, coming to you. So, back where it all started at the beginning of the year. How much more confident do you feel in the car now, compared to when you first arrived in Barcelona?
Zhou GUANYU: Yeah. I mean, it's a big step, because in winter testing, or pre-season testing, where we were always, a lot was sacrificed by all this bouncing issues we had. So we really couldn't firstly run the whole programme of testing, due to several reasons, due to variability issues, but we have to sacrifice a lot the set-up just to make sure we can run on the straights, not bouncing up and down so much. So coming back to this weekend, knowing all these different track we've been through, we've been pretty competitive, and also quite consistently, fighting together with the midfield or being up there with the midfield. So yeah, feeling much better, obviously, coming to this weekend. And yeah, I think the team also did a good job to bring a few updates for my car as well, just to help a little bit in getting a bit more time as well.
Q: Do you have any reliability concerns coming into the weekend?
ZG: To be honest, not, because obviously, we had the issue in Miami, due to cooling issues. But then we were able to, knowing the problem straightaway, few days after, the team at the factory also, together with the with the guys on track, were able to find this straightaway. So that's very good. It’s not something that maybe was a struggle to find. So it was quite straightforward what was the issue. So the team already fixed that and hopefully, fingers crossed, that issue doesn't come back again. But yeah, after apart from that, I think everything else seems to be working much better than in the beginning of the season.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Adam Cooper - Motorsport.com) These are big, heavy cars – low ride height, stiff suspensions – what are they going to be like around Monaco next week? And secondly, there was a lot of talk about visibility in the winter. Have you got used to it now? Or is it going to be hard to replace the car and going into the swimming pool chicane and so on?
KM: The visibility is worse in these cars than in the past. I don't think it's going to be a massive issue. It's it's going to be harder to sort of see the apex but I think it's going to be okay.
LS: Yeah, I mean, the visibility is definitely worse. It's one of those things you get used to. So it will be a bit more challenging for sure than previous years. But yeah, I think it's become something gotten used to over the first few races.
LN: I mean, I look forward to it, first of all. I think it's going to be probably one of the biggest challenges so far, with how you're going to have to run the car and so on. But yeah, everyone is in the same boat. So, yeah, we'll see. I mean, it was a good race for me there last year, to score podium and to be P4 and two tenths off in qualifying was much better, a lot, lot better than we expected. So I'm hoping this year we can try and do something similar but we’ll have to wait and see.
AA: I think it’s going to be one of those tracks where we are going to be quite a lot slower than previous years, I imagine. But it'll be interesting. I think it's there'll be a little bit more of knowing how to ride the curves and a bit more of a rhythm and finding where the bumps are. So it will add a bit more character to the circuit. It already has a lot, but yeah.
Q: And from a visibility multi point of view?
AA: Visibility? I think Jeddah was kind of a comparable feeling to it. And Jeddah for me I struggled a little bit with vision, it's not easy, especially when you start porpoising in certain places but we're getting used to it now I think, as drivers, and it's not such a big problem.
Q: Zhou, your first Monaco in Formula 1?
ZG: Yeah, I mean, Monaco is always a special one. Many people told me that winning in Monaco in Formula 1 is completely different to F2 for example. So firstly, very exciting to go there. And yeah, last year for me it was a good year there, even though it was a different car. I think regarding to the question, you know, it was quite a struggle for all the drivers in the beginning of the season, especially like how we parked the car on the grid, like some of the teams couldn't really see the yellow lines. And yeah, since then, you know, we went through Jeddah or Miami, for example, these very tight section kind of street circuits. So I think we all get used to how much margin we have to visualise and to, you know, put the car in the right position, but yeah, let's see.
Q: (Sam Hall – GP Fans) Kevin, perhaps more than any other year in your F1 career, do you think that this year there are more developments to be made in the set-up work, there's more time to found in set-up rather than big developments? Or would you rather have the developments of, say, Aston Martin this weekend?
KM: There’s more to gain in the set-up, because these cars are so new, and especially because they were porpoising so much in the beginning of the year, you know, we had to go away from like, the optimum setup, to not have the bouncing be so bad. So we are slowly moving back towards what we think is more like an optimum set-up, especially with ride heights and stiffness and so on. So, you know, a lot of the modifications and little upgrades have been to address porpoising. And then, as I said, weight has been a big issue also. The cars were pretty heavy and overweight. So there's lap time there, that you know is going to work if you save weight there's no question it's going to work. So stuff like that has been the main focus and would I want to have the upgrade Aston Martin, we'll see. You know, if they go super quick now, then yes. And, you know, I think an upgrade like that, a big one is also a big job to get it to work. So we'll see.
Q: Can I just open this to a couple of the other drivers do you feel, particularly the Aston Martin and McLaren, do you feel that you had maximise the packages you had prior to this weekend? Lando?
LN: Pretty much. I mean, there's always little things that you learned, but nothing that will necessarily bring you tenths and stuff like that. So I mean, I think we started the year with a car that we kind of understood very well. And we kind of knew how to optimise it pretty much. It's just little things then along the way which we've been able to change and find just a little bit more performance. And I think that showed in results. But I think that was one of our strengths this season was how we kind of just put the car on the track and it worked well from the off.
Q: What was the situation at Aston Martin, Lance? Do you feel you maximised what you had, prior to coming here?
LS: I think we've been learning every race. Looking back on some events, there's definitely been weekends where I think we could have done things differently, or run the car differently. I think Miami was probably our best weekend, our most competitive weekend. We took a bit of a different approach with set-up, and we found some more lap time there. So maybe in some of the other races, we missed out a bit and we were not as competitive as we could have been. But I think with these new regulations, it's such a big learning curve for everyone that definitely with the car we had, you know, up until Miami, there are a lot of things we could have potentially done different, earlier in the season, but I think we improved a lot and we understood a lot about our car. And in Miami, we were a lot more competitive than we were in the race before that.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Alex you’ve been on a really good run of form at the moment. Do you feel fully back up to speed in F1 after a year out and how much do you feel you're sort of outstripping the performance of the Williams at the moment by taking advantage of these opportunities coming your way?
AA: Yeah, I would say firstly, that I would say, even in winter testing, I felt pretty, I wouldn't say on top of it, but I felt like I didn't lose too much in the year out. I wasn't fighting for anything in particular, I think the regulation reset helped a lot as well, everyone was trying to learn the cars. It made it a bit more of an even playing field. But I do feel like as time has gone by, I've been improving every weekend. To say that I'm not at my top? No, I still think there's always more, but I'm sure it's the same for every driver as well. I would say as well that, as a team, going through the year, so far, we've we have been improving the car. So I feel like it's been a good year so far. And I feel like the results have reflected that in a way, that, you know, we're going in the right way. But also, I do think, you know, the car is, in certain conditions, in certain races, we do seem to be able to be able to fight with the midfield. And that's something which we're trying to unlock more and more. And I think, for us, it's also a little bit of tyre work that we're struggling with, also myself, trying to find where the sweet spot is, and all that kind of stuff. But it’s been a good start to the year. And I think just looking at it as a global overview, there's still potential there. I know there is potential there. So yeah, hopefully we'll get some more points.
Q: Alex, how much did all the same work you did for Red Bull last year helping you preparations during the run up to this season?
AA: I mean, I did do quite a bit of the Red Bull Car before I came on simulator before I was driving the Williams car. So it there was a little bit of that feeling of knowing how cars can feel, and how the how one car can feel compared to another. But I think the sim can take you to so much. For me what was more important was understanding where lap time is and how to set up the car and talking with the engineers and it was more of like a communication and experience feeling, but I felt like I really gained in my year away more than obviously driving because the driving side, you always have to take a pinch of salt. And I wouldn't say that diving on the simulator necessarily improves your driving on track. So I think on that side, that's really where I felt like I gained as a driver, was being able to understand how to lead and how to do that kind of stuff.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) A question for Lando and Alex and it's about Nyck de Vries. Alex, what can a driver bring in one hour of FP1 to the team? And a question to you both: can you please reflect on your years with Nyck in F2? And the battles?
AA: Yeah, I think like me being at Red Bull, Nyck's obviously had quite a lot of experience with Mercedes. He drives the simulator. He's done, also with a different regulation car, but he’s still got that experience from a different team. So he brings a lot of that knowledge to the team. Something different that I bring and something different obviously, that Nyck can bring just because of him being in Williams for so long. So there is that. In terms of an hour’s session, it's more him getting up to speed. I think it's quite hard to bring something completely new. But at the same time, there's obviously still a run plan that he's doing and that's bringing performance to us for the weekend. And he will do a few things to see where… to help bring the car closer to the optimal package for qualifying and the race this weekend. And as a driver, he's always been quick, you know. I’ve raced him since I was 13 years old. So we go back a long way. And especially in karting, I'm sure Lando knows, he was the hot kid. Both Lando and Nyck. I think it was maybe because they were short and fast. But they were they were always very good. And I raced with Nyck since then, we were teammates in GP3. I think he definitely deserves at least a session in a Formula 1 car.
LN: I mean, I can't speak as much as Alex but, you know, I think I only raced him ever in F2, in the final year. But, but as a driver, you know, he's an extremely good driver and he has been since day one in in karting, he was the guy winning everything until he got into cars and so on. So he's a tough driver and he can be very, very fast at times. You know, I think he had a few pole positions and and so on. So we had some good battles, I think. And, yeah, you know, if he was ever to be in Formula 1, I'm sure we would continue that and so on, but he's also doing well In Formula E at the minute and showing how good a driver he is, so fair play to him.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Lando, a question for you about Mercedes and the step back they've taken this year. We know the struggles they've had with the car. How surprised have you been by that? And is it quite strange seeing a team, and particularly driver like Lewis Hamilton, go from fighting for championships to then sort of in you're ballpark at the top of the midfield. And even at Imola being a step ahead of them on weekends?
LN: Yeah, I think I mean, of course, it's surprising when they've dominated the sport for what the last seven, eight years or something. Maybe not so much last year, but every year before that they've been, you know, one, two, and they're up the road and everyone. So I think it also just shows from the outside, like, how difficult it is, it's not that easy to have done what they've done over the last few years. But they're still strong. I think they've shown that there's a lot of potential in the car still. But it's also nice to have the chance to race against them a little bit more, to not see the same team on top again, in a way, obviously that’s not meant in in a bad way, but I think it gives more people hope and also obviously seeing Ferrari take a step up this year I think it motivates every team that is possible and that we can all do it. So yeah, but of course, like racing George a bit more this season. racing against Louis. I guess from my side, maybe not from theirs is a nice change.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) A question for Lando. We've just been hearing that Fernando has not been particularly happy with the race direction over the last couple of races and was particularly quite harsh maybe on [Niels] Wittich. You've worked in the past with him. I just wanted your thoughts really on him as a race director. And have you kind of enjoyed what's happened over the last couple of races?
LN: In what way there? He's not happy with what?
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) He's not happy with what happened during Miami with the penalties, some of the stewards’ decisions and things like that.
LN: Yeah, I think Fernando is the guy to voice his opinion. I mean, he has experience for so many years. So you know, I can’t maybe say as much what's good and what's bad, because this is still… a lot of things are new for me. But he's the guy who's witnessed so much and knows what is what the potential of Formula 1 is, and what makes good racing. What makes a good race director, all these things. So, yeah, I mean, he's a guy you would maybe not always listen to, because he's also a guy that knows how to play games and play with your mind and so on. But he's a guy you would listen to in terms of the experience he has. The knowledge he has is pretty incredible. And the level he has from this and how he performs in the car and so on is pretty amazing. And something I was honoured to be able to kind of learn from him and be part of in ‘17 and ‘18 when I joined McLaren. I have a lot of respect for him and if he says what he says then he's probably got a bit of a point at least.
GROUP 4 – Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), Daniel RICCIARDO (McLaren), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), George RUSSELL (Mercedes)
Q: Belated happy birthday to you, Yuki. First up, how were the celebrations in Milan?
Yuki TSUNODA: Why do you know I was in Milan? Yes, I was in Milan and I was spending it with friends. Yes, it was nice, kind of relaxed, chilling birthday. Yup, we didn’t bring any updates as a team but I had an update on my side so hopefully that 22-year-old will work well in driving but anyway, it was a good birthday.
Q: Let’s talk about updates on the car. Have you got anything new this weekend here in Barcelona?
YT: No. Yeah, I mean, no, really.
Q: So how confident do you feel coming into this weekend because it was a strong qualifying performance by the team in Miami last time out? Do you think you can carry that through to the Spanish Grand Prix?
YT: Have to see how the other teams’ pace is. Yeah, we went through to Q3 last time in Miami. That was really good as a team. To be honest we didn’t really expect that for that one but yes, it was good qualifying. This time, also a lot of teams going to bring updates so we will see how those updates go. Hopefully that won’t work well as expected but it’s still a new race week in Barcelona, on the tracks that have experience of most so we will see how that works.
Q: Let's come to the local hero now, Carlos Sainz. You were back on the podium in Miami, Carlos, what would it mean to you to do that again here in front of your home fans?
CS: Yeah, it would be for sure a good result just to stand on that podium - new podium that the circuit has done in front of the whole crowd. But we want that bit more than that, you know. I think everyone and myself, we want that first win and we will try and get it, we will try and fight for it. Hopefully, the upgrades give us a bit of a hand against the battle with Red Bull. I’ve been feeling some progress has been done in the last few races so yeah, we're ready for it.
Q: And what about the reception you've received here at home? Has it been different this year to previous seasons?
CS: It's been amazing, I mean, it's a full crowd. We're expecting 300,000 people across the whole weekend, 100,000 on Sunday, It's first time in many years that it’s full, you know, and my homegrown grandstand was sold out in a matter of two hours, so there's a big hype, you know, around the city, the Grand Prix. I think Formula 1 is growing everywhere and Spain is also part of that.
Q: And do you get any crazy gifts? What is it like coming into the track? Can you just give us a bit of background?
CS: No, Spaniards are not… you don't receive crazy gifts. It's more in Japan that this happens, no, but the Spanish, a few Spanish flags, a lot of cheering, a lot of support, a lot of positivity, you know, keep pushing, you know, this kind of thing that puts you in a good mood and puts you… gives you good vibes and puts you in a good mood going into the weekend.
LH: I got some gifts yesterday.
CS: You did? Maybe because you're coming from outside, but for us, locals, we know what we like.
Q: George, coming to you now, another really strong race from you in Miami last time out. You're now the only driver on the grid to have finished every race in the top five. What's your reaction to that stat?
George RUSSELL: That's all we're going for, we're not going for the championship this year, just top five every race, obviously, so it's a meaningless stat. There's only one that matters and that's the championship order. And obviously good to stay consistent but the Ferrari and Red Bulls are sort of clawing away from us at the moment and we need to find some more lap time and find some more pace to try and turn that around.
Q: How confident are you doing that this weekend, finding more lap time?
GR: Yeah, I think we're confident we can find more lap time but obviously every single team are bringing up updates to the car so if we make our car half second quicker and Ferrari make their car half a second quicker, we're in the exact same boat as we were before, so, you know, we're not just racing against a stopwatch we're racing against the competition. And we have to wait and see but I think this weekend will be interesting for us, I don't think we're going to suddenly find that killer switch, which is going to put us on the top step of the podium, but maybe we'll get some good answers to… point us in the right direction.
Q: Well Daniel, McLaren are bringing a lot of upgrades… half a second?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Who told you that?
Q: Using the stat that George used, half a second a lap. What are you expecting from them?
DR: Yeah, I mean, obviously you're expecting to go a little quicker but it's,… I guess, it’s as George touched on, like it's all relative and even if it's a second, you know, if everyone else finds more then it's ‘ah, OK’ so… Well, if it's a second I'll be stoked if it's a second. But yeah, so we'll see today, we'll see how much it gives us and then obviously how much it changes the order. I imagine the whole field or whoever's… I think everyone's probably brought upgrades, it'll like bunch the field up, because we've all learned over the course of the first few races and understood the cars a little better. So I guess everyone's going to trend in in a similar direction.
Q: And Daniel, can we just get your thoughts on being here in Barcelona with this huge crowd? It was here back in 2013 that you scored your first podium…
Q: Of course it was. But just tell us, being back here, that first podium, what does it mean to you?
DR: I mean, it's very familiar place for all of us and because we raced here, pre F1 in junior categories, and then obviously we've been coming here for testing for years so it's a place we know very well but I will say like, even getting into the track this morning, it seems like everyone's out in kind of full force already. Crowds are pretty good big and the paddock’s pretty full and lively so yeah, you know, you can tell like… I guess the sport is growing and has grown since then so if I was on the podium this weekend, then yeah I'd probably be looking down at more fans than I was in 2014.
Q: And Lewis, thanks for waiting, coming to you now, you have an incredible record at this track. Of course, you won here last year. Just talk us through your prospects for the weekend?
Lewis HAMILTON: I really don't know. I'm hoping it's… every time I arrive into the weekend I'm hoping that the prospects are good. We're working as hard as we can as a team to progress. And we have some upgrades it's not a big upgrade like Daniel’s, but it's… You know, I'm really proud of the team for what they’ve put together and I hope that when we get in the car, we noticed it.
Q: The car looked very different when we were here in pre-season testing so will it be useful to-back-to- back what you've got now with what you had?
LH: Yeah, definitely. It's a great test track here in Barcelona and it was the first time we drove the car. We have the data from that and we can remember the feeling that we had during that time as well so… we did have bouncing back then also but it'd be interesting to see the parallels and just see how much we’ve progressed since then.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Claire COTTINGHAM - Racefans) Lewis, both in Melbourne and Miami, the World TV feed showed you expressing that you aren't happy with the team's strategy and that you needed to talk about it afterwards. Do you have any concerns about the team's strategy? And is it a bit unfair when they're showing these messages? Do you think it's unfairly shown, do you think is not quite how you mean it, if you know what I mean?
LH: Well, firstly, we continue to work hard. I don't have any problems with strategy. We learn every weekend, we have great discussions before and afterwards. We’ve been a little bit unfortunate. I definitely feel that…I mean, it's no secret that for those that are watching, and for what is broadcast it’s hard for probably any of you to really truly understand what it's like in the car. Your emotions are higher than ever, your heart rate is very high. And maybe a woman would understand, maybe having to give the answers during some difficult scenarios, but yeah, I mean, it's never the same as you know, when you're cool and chill and just having a normal conversation with someone. But when your heart rate’s as high as it is, you don't always have the best answers to everything. But also there's just… just shows there’s a lot of passion, it's that that desire to do well.
Q: (Sam Hall – GP Fans) Lewis, talking to Pierre yesterday, he was after a common sense conclusion to the jewellery saga and the questions about whether you should be allowed to wear jewellery or not? Have you had any continuing conversations with the FIA or Mohammed? And what has been the outcome of those discussions?
LH: I haven't had any discussions with anybody since the last time I spoke on Sunday at the last race. So what I'm aware of is that those who are married are allowed to wear their wedding ring. So… yeah,
GR: You just need to get married then. You just need to get married then.
LH: No, no. You first.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Lewis, we've got a new race director this weekend and it was an interview given last week with Mohammed Ben Sulayem in a British newspaper suggesting that Michael Masi might not be out of the frame for the race directorship at some point in the future. And there's a follow-up suggesting that you were very annoyed at the suggestion. Can you just clarify what your thoughts are on that whether Michael Masi – if he were to come back – whether you would find that acceptable?
LH: I only heard of that story like a couple of days ago firstly, and I haven't spoken to anyone and particularly I've actually not done an interview for that newspaper for at least probably 10 years, something like that. So it's inaccurate as are some of the… most of the stories, but I don't really have a particular feeling about it. I mean, yeah, not given it any thought, I don't know what Mohammed has said, I've not read his story, I don't know what he is… I don't know what his agenda is.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Lewis question for you, it's been a tricky start to the season but it's often in these bits of adversity where teams and drivers, they can learn a lot about themselves and make big steps. What have you learned about yourself through this early part of the year? And George, what qualities have you seen in Lewis as a leader trying to help turn the team around as we get into the rest of the season?
LH: Well firstly, I wouldn't say that I'm the leader. George and I work equally as hard together, I would say, to help drive the team and be a part… row just as hard as everyone else in the team. But yeah, I mean, just always through adversity and challenging times, you always learn more about yourself, how you deal with things, how you reflect on things, how you are able to turn negatives into positives. And I wouldn't say I've learned particularly much more that I knew most of the stuff so I will say that past experiences have helped during this phase. And, yeah, I would say to just reassuring just the strength that I know I have mentally, and also just reassuring us that I still love my job, I still love the challenge even if it's not fighting for wins, I'm still enjoying this battle that we're having internally in terms of trying to… with the car, I mean, and trying to chase down these other guys.
GR: Yeah, it's been inspiring to see how Lewis works and gets the most out of the whole team. And I think that's been one of the big things I've seen with joining Mercedes, seeing how Lewis does things, how Toto does things, the culture that is ingrained within everybody. It’s sort of relentless, they're always striving for more, never being complacent and seeing how everybody's pulling together at the moment to try and resolve these issues we're facing, as I said, it inspires and it's also motivating for myself as well, because you learn how the best in the business do it and you need to continuously push yourself for more. So I think I'm in a really privileged position to be teammates with Lewis and be part of Mercedes.
Q: (Giles Richards -The Guardian) Lewis and George as well. Toto said this weekend is going to be the decision-making time for whether they - Mercedes - admits they made a mistake with the concept of the car this year. You've been driving it, I'm just wondering what your feelings are about the design of the car, and how it would feel if the team did say, actually, we hold hands up, we got it wrong?
GR: I think this weekend is for sure going to be important as most weekends are, but I think, you know, Rome wasn't built in a day and it's taken time to firstly recognise what the problems are, develop things back at the factory to try and resolve these problems, and then try and implement them and obviously we don't get much track time. And Miami was a first taste of the direction we need to take and this weekend will be the second taste and I think we'll have a good conclusion after this weekend, if we can continue down the path that we've chosen, or we need to go down a different path. So yes, that's exciting but I think if this is the path, we're not going to suddenly see us, as I said before, on the top step of the podium, but either way, we will have a positive outcome from this weekend.
LH: Yeah, not really, a huge amount to add to what George has said, I'm not a designer so I can’t… I don't want to say that I have an opinion on whether design is right or wrong. It looks a little bit different to some others but I think it looks unique and that's what we stand for, as a team, just always innovating and coming up with interesting concepts. But I think as Toto said, you know, we will understand from this weekend whether where we are is the right direction, and if not, we'll band up and we'll move in another direction. But I think it won't mean that we have to start from scratch, I don't think, it will just probably be a side step in another direction.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Lewis and George, it's about your colleague Nyck de Vries, I wonder what can a driver bring to a new team in one hour of free practice? And can you tell me something about his role in your team?
GR: I think slightly counter-intuitively. I personally don't think it's correct to be getting drivers in for FP1, to showcase what they can do in front of the world in 60 minutes, in 10 laps in a car they've barely driven and be judged off this. And this is, you know, speaking from my own experience of the number of FP1 sessions. And you know the pressure is going to be immense now we're putting even more pressure on these guys to go out there and try and prove them are… they always going to be judged how they get on, but that's just the way the game is at the moment and I'm sure he’ll do a great job and to be honest, Nyck's been very useful for me personally, at the races. He's always watching the on-board videos and looking at the data and telling me to look at this, that or the other if he notices anything. So having somebody like Nyck, who is pretty on it, he's got his head screwed on, and he knows what he's talking about, has been beneficial for us as a team.
LH: He’s a great guy. Great lad. And…
Q: Are you pleased to see him getting his…
LH: No, I agree with George in that sense of that, yeah, I mean, you look at sometimes further down the order that they just send a driver out on light fuel, and it's not a lot of laps, I mean, maybe 20 or so laps, it's a lot of pressure. But it can be a fun opportunity but I don't think they should be judged on that for sure. But Nyck, I don't think we'll be judged on it. I think it's more for him to get a good feel. Hopefully his feeling can have… then he can have a bigger impact on simulation tools but he's an integral part of our team and works closely with us all in the background. He always comes with a great smile and positive energy.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Just following on from something that Carlos said yesterday about these new cars having an impact - a long term impact on drivers’ health. I just want to ask Lewis and George for their opinions on that, particularly because you guys have had a lot of the porpoising. And whether you think it's, you know, bad for the back, for the neck, the heads, is it dangerous, are these cars dangerous do you think in that aspect?
LH: I think it probably applies more to the younger ones. For me, I’m a lot older and my back's in good health.
GR: I thought it'd be the opposite.
LH: Yeah, I don't know. Carlos can't even touch his toes.
GR: He walked in on a zimmer frame.
CS: I didn’t understand, sorry. I’m a bit switched off. But I didn't say… I heard him saying that the cars were dangerous and I've never said that. I just said that the cars, with the technology that we have nowadays, maybe to have us bouncing like crazy out there and suffering from this phenomenon is for the long term - maybe I open a debate, you know, to see if we can do something different with these regulations that, by the way I'm a big fan of because they've improved the racing and all that. But maybe there's something a bit softer that we can find for the future.
LH: Definitely, when you have it, when it's hardcore when you've had it, it's when we're having to lift off down the straight, halfway down the straight, or even earlier than halfway down the straight, yeah, there's potential long term consequences. But I think we’re OK now,
GR: I'd love to… It would be quite cool if we were able to share some sort of numbers with you guys and probably confidential so ask the team what's possible but, you know, when you’re going down the straight at over 200 miles an hour and you're smashing up and down on the ground, sure, you wouldn't choose to have it that way. And the cars are obviously extremely rigid, and they're not meant to be a comfortable ride and I guess you can almost compare it to like the footballers - I don't know what era it was in 60s, 70s, 80s when they had the massively heavy footballs and there was research done and analysis done that there were health consequences for these chaps who were heading the ball and things were changed. So, you know, Formula 1 is the centre of innovation, there's no reason why we can't find a scientific solution for this.
Q: Daniel, you've got lots of experiences What's your thoughts on it?
DR: I’m one of the lucky ones, but I watch their on-boards and jaw’s wide open like, yeah, I'm also…
There's the discomfort, but even from a visibility like I'm like, how can they see their turning point?
CS: We don't.
DR: Yeah, it's, it's pretty gnarly. So I don't wish to be in that position.
Q: Throwing it forward a week to Monaco, is it going to be that much harder?
LH: It's slower. We're much slower in Monaco in a straight line so it shouldn't be a problem.
Q: And in terms of visibility and seeing turn in points?
LH: We're going slower on the straight so hopefully we won't have bouncing there but yeah, I mean, if it was bouncing we're not going to be seeing much.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Lewis, on the jewellery subject. Can you just give us an update on whether you've got to get your piercings removed from Monaco? I mean, there were some comments you made in Miami suggesting that you’re minded not to but I just wondered if there's been any change of thought on that.
LH: I haven't, there’s no news update.
Q: (Edward Spencer – Motorlat) Carlos, you're qualifying record compared to Charles is currently 0 for five. How much pressure have you got on your shoulders this weekend knowing that you could really do with out-qualifying him for the first time this season?
CS: Yeah, the target is not only to out-qualify Charles but to out-qualify everyone who is with a competitive car but so far this season – it is not a secret that he found his groove very quickly with this new car. I'm struggling to get on top of it. Even if I'm struggling you know I'm a tenth off in pretty much every qualifying so it's not like I'm miles away. I feel like I'm within reach and that it could change any weekend as soon as I figure a bit my head around the exact way that I need to drive the car and the exact way I need to set it up for my liking. So the record might not be great and I'm not particularly proud about it. But we are about… yeah, the last few qualifyings have been fighting for pole position, so it's not that I'm lacking a lot.