FIA Thursday press conference – Canada
DRIVERS – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Lance STROLL (Racing Point), Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Alfa Romeo), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Daniil KVYAT (Toro Rosso)
Lance, it’s both yours and the team’s home race. Just describe how that feels?
Lance STROLL: Well, it’s obviously a very special weekend; it’s good to be back home. I don’t get to come back often. The week leading up to the race has been great, catching up with friends and family. I enjoyed my time playing hockey with the Montréal Canadiens yesterday, that was fun, and now back to business.
Q: And I think you’ve got your own grandstand this weekend, is that right?
LS: That’s right, yeah, at the hairpin, like last year, so that will be very special, my installation lap tomorrow, all the Canadian flags in the grandstands. It’s one of the best weekends on the calendar and definitely the highlight of my season.
Q: Well, let’s hope that Sunday’s race lasts longer for you than it did last year. Tell us about the car’s potential here at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. What do you think you can achieve?
LS: Well, historically it’s been a track that’s suited our car. I mean of course it’s a new year and the competition in the midfield is very tight. But I think there is an opportunity for us this weekend. It’s been a challenging couple of events, in Spain and in Monaco, not managing to score points, but we’re looking to turn that around this weekend.
Q: Well, you have scored points this year, in Australia and Baku. Qualifying seems to have been quite tough for you so far. How does the car feel on light fuel, is it very tricky?
LS: Yeah, I mean at times I think we have just unfortunately missed out. There are reasons behind why the performance has been poor, but it’s definitely a focus point and we’ll be working on it moving forward.
Q: Thank you and good luck this weekend. Daniil, your best ever result with Toro Rosso in Monaco, where you finished seventh. Fair to say it was one of your best races?
Daniil KVYAT: Yeah, I mean, you know how it is in Monaco – you start and pretty from there the positions are consolidated. It was good to get this kind of way, you know. It was a very good day for myself, for the team and to be honest the whole weekend felt quite good in the car – good qualifying. Lately it’s been getting better and better, so I’m pretty happy with things, how they are going, the way they are moving. Hopefully we’ll carry on the momentum and bring it into here as well.
Q: You say it’s getting better. Is your own performance getting better and better? Are we seeing the best Kvyat we have every seen in Formula 1?
DK: Perhaps, yes. I wanted to come back to F1 as an improved version of myself and I think I’m managing to do that so far and hopefully again it will be getting better and better.
Q: You’re equalling a record this weekend: With your former team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, you’re starting your 58th race for Toro Rosso, which is a record, and you’re only 25. How does that feel and how has the team evolved in that time?
DK: You’ve made me feel very old now. Yeah, I’m happy with where the team is going to be honest. I’ve seen a lot of things in Toro Rosso and now I think I’m happy with the team around me and I’m quite happy there. The guys are doing a very good job this year, I think improving many things that in the past were maybe holding this team back, and I’m happy to contribute, to help the team improve these things.
Q: Good stuff and good luck this weekend. Lando, you first time here in Montréal. What are you expecting from this race track? The walls are pretty close.
Lando NORRIS: It’s pretty difficult to say. I’ve obviously done my share of sim work and preparation and seen onboards and whatever, just what the usual is. It’s a new weekend. Monaco didn’t go quite so well for me but it’s an exciting one. From what I’ve seen in the past it looks a fun track, it’s a fun track to drive, although it’s pretty tricky. I’m just looking to have fun and hopefully some racing on Sunday and I guess our aim for the whole weekend is before we go into more details, let’s say it’s to get into Q3 and have a points finish. But the midfield is very tight, like Lance said, and it’s going to be tough. We just need to make sure we’re at the front of that, and yeah, just give it our best.
Q: The intra-team battle between you and Carlos is proving pretty tight this year, just six points between you? How’s the working relationship between you?
LN: It’s going pretty well, actually. I’ve team-mate in other categories of course, but it’s always different when you get to Formula 1, a lot of people… People try to make a lot more of fierce battle between team-mates, a lot of media and everything always look into that kind of things. But we’re have a lot of fun and yeah, we’re friends away from the track. We’ve had a lot of fun so far this season. There has been no conflict. There have not been any points so far where we’ve had different decisions or different opinions on different things; we’ve gelled pretty well. And for the team anyway that has been very positive. We have similar comments. We have different feelings and prefer different things on the car, but we work together, which also helps the team improve, go in a similar direction and that’s a positive thing. Looking ahead to the future, I’m trying to improve the car and become a better team. It’s been good fun and I’m sure it’s going to improve and help things going forward.
Q: You say you are looking to improve the car. Tell us a little bit about the car, as it appears that it tends to fluctuate a little bit from track to track. Is that a fair assessment?
LN: Yeah, I think if you look back…. I don’t know, the one fairly standout one was China and that was just not a good weekend altogether for us, as a tea. But we bounced back fairly well and apart from that we have been fairly strong – top 10 contenders shall we say. I think just because the midfield is close, it’s four teams, five teams, and different teams are better in different areas and at different tracks and it’s hard to make those differences sometimes more than others. Coming into this weekend, it’s just going to be one of those times where we could be very strong or not be strong but we never really know, although we have assumptions on where the car is good or bad. Other teams as well. It’s always a different track when you go out and drive. It’s getting there. It’s improving slowly, but it’s not where we want it to be yet.
Q: Thank you Lando and enjoy yourself this weekend. Kimi, we’ve heard about the performance of the McLaren, tell us a little bit about the Alfa Romeo. The season started very well for you guys but it appears to have dropped off in the last couple of races. Why do you think that is?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Honestly, we were not that fast. I think, definitely not what we wanted but in Monaco if you qualify quite badly that’s pretty much where you are going to race. After Saturday, after the first few laps and the first pit stop you know where you are going to be. But in Barcelona I think we understood some things that were wrong. Those are two separate things but I think those circuits overall were not very good for us. Hopefully we are back here a bit more normal position but we are only going to find out over the weekend, so we’ll see. Nothing major wrong, it’s just that we lack speed.
Q: Now, it’s Lando’s first weekend here. It didn’t go so badly for you back in 2001, your first time here, you finished fourth. Tell us a little bit about the track, the highlights from a driver’s point of view?
KR: It’s quite a tricky track in the end, because obviously… It’s not really a street circuit but it’s very narrow on the exit of the chicanes, so if you get it wrong you have to push over the kerbs and if your car is not very good over the kerbs it’s easy to touch the walls. Plus, there are a lot of brakings (sic) that have to be right. It not an awful lot of corners but it’s not the easiest place to get right.
Q: Thank you, Kimi. Lewis, well, fourth for Kimi on his first outing here in 2001, and of course you won your first ever grand prix here back in 2007. Can you tell us what it’s like to come back to Montréal, a track where you’ve had so much success and what you are looking forward to this weekend?
Lewis HAMILTON: [To Lando Norris] I’m just wondering, how old are you?
LH: Shoot… No, I love coming back to Montréal. The weather is often great here. The circuit is fantastic and it’s a track that I think everyone enjoys. It’s definitely in the top three of the favourite circuits of the year. And I think the city is a big part of that. The city is very vibrant. The people are super welcoming, great food. Even just today, you see the whole bridge is covered with fans, so you already know that you have a massive turnout for this race. From a driver’s perspective the track is awesome. It’s a bit go-kart-esque, with great long straights, so you can overtake, and you’re throwing the car over these big, huge kerbs around the track and there are not massive run-off areas, so it’s a bit of a high-speed street circuit, which is great.
Q: Why do you think you excel here?
LH: Well, I don’t think I’ve really excelled for quite a while here, if I’m really honest. When I was at McLaren it worked quite well. I think our car was quite nimble back then and working really well here. I don’t think I’ve been massively successful as far as I can remember in recent years. But it’s been a bit harder in the hybrid era, especially since we’ve had a longer car, since 2017, so it’s a little bit harder to get turned around some of these corners. But our car is a lot better this year in the slower-speed, medium-speed corners, so I anticipate that this year we will be stronger than we have been in the past. But being that we have these long straights, you k now that the Red Bulls and the Ferraris will be particularly really strong this weekend and I’m excited for that fight.
Q: Can you just elaborate on how you see the balance of power coming into this weekend? Are you more nervous about this weekend than the previous six this year?
LH: No, I wouldn’t say I was more nervous about this weekend. You do notice in Monaco that everyone gets a lot closer, or the top teams particularly are a lot closer, but generally everyone is more packed together. A lot of these other teams have got great packages and are getting closer and closer throughout the year, which is great to see. Here, there are not a huge amount of corners and it’s a lot of straight-line speed. Honda have really picked up their pace with their engine this year, so the Red Bulls should be really strong and they’re great through corners. The Ferrari is generally the quickest car in a straight line, all year long. In the past races we’ve been able to catch them up through the corners, but whether or not that will be the case this weekend, time will tell. But I hope there is a close battle between us all.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, when we were in Monaco, you said you expected to have an upgraded engine here. The team’s confirmed that. Because you’ve had six races, the team has won every race despite not having that engine upgrade your rivals have. How much of a step do you expect to take this weekend. And with the improvements to the car, making it better in lower and medium speed this year, do you feel the team’s in its strongest all-round position that it’s been since you’ve been with Mercedes?
LH: Well, on the engine side, the guys back at Brixworth have been working incredibly hard. It’s not been the easiest beginning of the year in terms of preparing an engine. Whilst it’s an evolution of previous years, each time you’re always trying to push the envelope, and there’s so many people working so hard to improve it. As I said, it’s not been the smoothest ride but we’ve had great reliability with the first engine. It’s always great when you have a new engine, being that it’s fresh. This is a power circuit, so it’s come at the perfect time. If you look at the previous years, this is the race we always bring our second engine. It’s Phase II so it will have all-new mods. Slight improvements everywhere: it’s not a massive… it’s not like at the beginning of the hybrid era where you took massive strides forwards – or even last year. It’s just small steps. The biggest difference is that it’s brand new; fresh. The old engine that’s done six races will have degradation etc., But the guys have worked so hard, it’s now small percentages but they’re very much appreciated.
Q: (Andrea Cremonese - La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Lewis. You come from two difficult life periods, not about yourself but we have the funeral of Niki and then there was death on Thursday of the poor kid, Harry [Shaw]. I know that you drew inspiration in Spain from this poor guy. I would like to know if these two things can stimulate you more over this grand prix to honour the memory of Niki and the memory of the young guy? Thank you.
LH: I don’t know if it stimulates more. It’s just that, as you go through life, when you see things happen, or you experience certain things, you naturally grow through it. I think, naturally we continue to race with Niki in our hearts and that’s not going to stop. We always want to continue to make him proud. Of course, devasting to… I can’t understand how… life is so precious and how such a young… how young people can lose their lives so early on. It’s just beyond me. But I have the greatest memories with little Harry. God has another angel. Coming into this weekend we’ve all got to stay positive. I’ve got a lot of people relying on me to continue to do the job. So, it’s just strange how the world continues to move on. The world just continues. What’s really important for each and every single one of us. We all have our own lives and we don’t know how long or short they’re going to be. You just have to maximise every opportunity. Every day that I have, I’m trying to grow, trying to be the best I can be, do what I love, regardless of people’s opinions, and just live life to the fullest.
Q: (Walter Buchignani – Montreal Gazette) I have a very local question for those of you who’ve been here before. Can we have your impressions on the new installations please? DK: They renewed the paddock this year. I think it looks wider but looks good I guess. I don’t know. For me, more important is the track. The room is there where I can sit down and that’s it, that’s all that matters. The track is fine. Some other things stayed old. It’s good, always welcome the renovations.
LH: It looks beautiful. I’ve not really seen much of it – obviously we’re in it now. It’s only taken the 13 years I’ve been here for them to put it together, being it’s one of the most attended races, I’m surprised they didn’t do it sooner but it’s great that they have. It means that they’ve made a real investment, it means this track is going to be here for a long time, as it should be. They’re still working on the road works outside. That bridge! I swear they’ve been working on that since I started in Formula One! I don’t know if it’s every going to get done. Maybe they should hire the same people that did this building because they’ve done a good job.
LS: It’s beautiful. It’s great for the city, great for the grand prix. I hope it sticks around because we all think it’s a great place to come race. It’s awesome to drive around here and there’s great racing as well. Really please for Montreal. Let’s enjoy it.
KR: I haven’t been in the boxes or in a garage, so its hard to say. What I heard is that it’s better for the guys to work, so I think they will appreciate a lot. I think you’ll get the very honest answer from them if you ask after the weekend how was it. I’m sure it’s better for them to work and for everybody here, so that’s a good thing.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Question for Kimi and Dany. Kimi, one-third of the season almost done. How is it to be back in the midfield after 16 seaons fighting at the front. And Daniil, you’re back to where you started in terms of teams. You just mentioned how much the team has changed and improved. How different are you from when you were driving for them the first time around, now that you have the experience?
DK: Yeah, I think, like I said also before, I think the team is moving in a good direction. I think in the winter there was a plan to improve certain areas that in the past weren’t fantastic. It’s important to see that it’s getting better. Also, our car, I think, is showing consistent performance on most kinds of track. Me likewise. I wanted to work on certain things for my comeback in Formula One. There’s been a lot of good work put in behind the scenes and it’s paying off, which I am very pleased to see. Hopefully it will carry on like that. We should never stop, as a team, and I’m happy with the team around me as well. We should never stop developing and just aim to move in the same direction, for me and for the team.
KR: I think the work itself is no different. Basically do the same stuff, it doesn’t matter which team you are in. Racing, I think there has been some good battles. If it’s like Monaco, even in the front, if you’re stuck behind somebody, it’s not the greatest place for racing but there’s been good battles here and there. I wouldn’t say that a lot of things have changed. I think you get more close battles in quite a few races because the midfield teams are more close together. At least there’s been some overtaking this year – but generally the working side hasn’t changed. It’s a bit less busy, so that’s a good thing.
Q: (Philippe Lague – 98.5FM Montreal) I have a question for Lewis. We’ve talked about Niki Lauda and it was quite a loss but here I would like to have for our local audience your personal input. I read somewhere that he made you a better driver. Can you elaborate on that please?
LH: Niki never talked to me about driving. As racing drivers, we don't really do that necessarily. He hired me to do a job. He didn’t hire me to then tell me how to do the job. He was just, for me, a massive part of my journey. Obviously I wouldn't have joined this team if it wasn't for Niki. And then, along the way, just understanding how he was a racer and his approach and how he pushed the people around him to help extract more from the team. I definitely learnt that sort of thing from him. I could see that from him all the time, so I’ve definitely incorporated that in how I manoeuvre throughout my year. In terms of driving, that’s all been trial and error through myself really but as I said, I wouldn’t have had the platform to develop as a driver; I wouldn’t have the platform I currently have without Niki.
Q: (Stu Cowan – Montreal Gazette) Question for Lance. What do you like most about this track and what’s the most challenging and/or fun part of it for a driver?
LS: I think just the technicality of it in general. It’s got a lot of character. Lewis mentioned it earlier. You’re riding the kerbs, there’s not a lot of room for error. Long straights which allow for good overtaking, so there’s a bit of everything. For a racing driver, that makes the weekend in general very exciting. It’s a lot of fun to drive over one lap. You have to be very committed and use all of the race track. On Sunday it’s a proper race, and that’s great for the fans as well.
Q: (Oliver Brown – The Telegraph) Question for Lewis. The programme that you did with David Letterman. There was an interesting section where your Dad was referring to the management breakup back in 2010, and he said that it broke his heart. I just wondered if you could reflect on how difficult that period was and how much more it makes you appreciate the relationship you have with him now.
LH: There’s nothing that hasn't ever really been spoken about before. The relationship is fantastic now and unfortunately it wasn't always great but that happens within families. The great thing is that… actually this year I had the first Christmas with my whole family this year. With my Mum and my Step-Mum and my Dad and sisters together and my brother together. So it was the first united Christmas that I’ve had over the years. So, there’s been massive growth within the family and between me and my Dad, we just went out partying for him birthday the other day until the early hours of the morning in London, which was awesome. Sometimes it just takes people time apart to build and grow within themselves so then they can come back into relationships. But for sure, as you get older you realise how precious time is. I’ve got friends who don't have their dads any longer and some that didn’t speak to their dads for 25-30 years. I never ever want that to happy. My Dad’s someone who I think is the greatest man I know and someone I aspire to be a lot like and for sure want him to be around for a long time. So, that’s why I’m pushing him in the gym to stay fit. Health is everything.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.net) Lewis, you said this was one of the top three tracks in your opinion. Which are the other two?
LH: Silverstone and Austin, they are my… Why? Literally because… look, we’ve got Monaco which is spectacular. I live there, I love it but you all know how the race is from the day before. It’s not a race that… I personally don’t enjoy driving the race because you can make your car as wide as you want, you can’t actually entertain. You don’t turn passes in, for example. Austin, you can overtake, it’s a brand new circuit but it’s got a lot of great character, you can actually follow. Same with here, it’s a race track where you can get quite close. It is a street circuit on this incredible little island in this big city and it’s just very unique in its own way. It’s very high speed braking, big stops and there are some big curves. And then the Silverstone Grand Prix, that track has history galore, the layout is just incredible. It’s all high speed and medium speed and it’s the ultimate test… probably of all the tracks the ultimate test of the downforce of a car and you’ve got some of the coolest sections: Copse, Maggotts, Becketts, Stowe. Those sectors, that whole combination is not… I don’t think there’s many tracks in the world that have a better combination of corners in my personal opinion. But also there, you can, being that it’s wide enough, you can naturally follow and there is some really good racing there so that’s why it’s my personal favourite.
Q: (Phil Duncan – Press Association) Just on that Letterman interview, Lewis, you spoke about dealing with mental issues and instabilities. Is that something you still sort of not struggle with but contend with during your career now and is it easier to manage that aspect of your career now than it was perhaps in the earlier days?
LH: Yeah, it’s definitely better when you’re… I think probably the older you get, the more you understand about the world and yourself and about your health. I think a bit step for me was when I decided to go to a plant-based diet, that really changed a huge amount for me and the positive impact that’s had, mentally and physically, means I just wish I did it a lot earlier. Unfortunately, the education (about it) is pretty poor so for kids that are at school, and obviously parents aren’t probably educating their kids because they also don’t know of the positive effects it can have. Not every day is easy, you still come across humps but ever year I’m getting new tools to be able to handle and deal with them and learning new things all the time, so (I’m) definitely in the best place I’ve ever been but you’ve really seen that shift over the past years and I don’t think that’s ever going to stop, I think that continues to learn and grow and improve.
Q: (Bob Fouaur – The Correspondent) I have a question for Lewis and Lance. The rules are being considered for revision and right now we’ve got a pretty substantial gap between the top three and the midfield. I’m wondering what you, as drivers, think should happen to the rules?
LH: Regulations or rules? Which one? Regulations. In my personal opinion if you look over the last 12 years and beyond that, they always shift and change the regulations for the car, trying to improve costs, trying to improve overtaking and I think in general the decisions have not been great in all those years. You’ve got Liberty that’s taken over now and you still have the same issues, people are not so excited, you still have that separation between all the top wealthier teams and the lower teams. I think there’s more to it than just changing the regulations of the car. That continues to be a fundamental issue but there’s also the entertainment aspect. If you look, every weekend is the same four days for 21 weekends in a year and that format’s never changed, so I think there’s also the entertainment aspect of it that probably has to shift, to suit different tracks. You’ve got Monaco on which you can’t overtake – maybe you have two races there, I don’t know what it is but I don’t have the answers for it but I think that element also needs to have a real look into it because the fans are the reason that we continue to be able to do what we do and I see that whilst there’s a lot of people here, there are races where there are not big attendances, promotion is perhaps not always the best in some places. People do continue to comment that it’s boring because you still have a period of time where Ferrari wins for a period of time, McLaren wins for a period of time, Mercedes, Red Bull. How you stop that, that is definitely a part of the regulations but I think on a more global scale, I think there needs to be some more changes even outside of the regulations in my opinion. I think Ross and that (team) are hopefully thinking about that for 2021 but ultimately we… if I had the choice I would go back to V12s, naturally aspirated engines, I would have manual gearboxes, I’d make it harder for the drivers, take away all these big run-off areas that you have everywhere, should not have steering assistance or even if you do have steering assistance you’ve got to have it low. I like it having low so it’s harder for me. You should be just so physically exhausted after the race, to the point… like a marathon. Sometimes you do these races and you can get up and… I could do a race… I could probably do two or three races in a row and Formula One should not be like that. Also it’s a man’s sport, you know, and a lot of youngsters come in and it’s quite easy for them to get straight into it but I do think it should be the most physically challenging and probably why a lot of us drivers are able to go on for a long period in time is because we can handle it. There’s a bunch of different things I have.
LS: I think closer racing, to start off with is the main thing. There’s a bunch of other factors which could use change but I think closer racing, budget caps to make the field more equal would be much more exciting. You look at the NHL, the NFL, the NBA, the teams are so close. On any given Sunday in the NFL any team can win. That’s because it’s capped properly, it’s managed properly and that allows for exciting competitions and it would be great to see the same thing in Formula One where instead of a second and a half, two seconds between the field, it comes down to tenths. I think that would really spice things up and then of course, closer racing, regulation changes to allow us to race wheel to wheel which I know is definitely a focus point so really all these things.
LH: We need better tyres. We need better tyres.
Q: (Yhacbec Lopez – Motorlat) Lance, this year you have had some trouble in qualifying. It’s for a particular reason with the car or set-up or what is the problem exactly?
LS: I think there’s always reason. I think we’ve been unfortunate a couple of times: traffic here and there, there’s always things but the last couple of races the car hasn’t been very competitive which is the main reason really. In order to qualify well, you need a quick car under you and the midfield being so tight, we see from track to track the strengths and weaknesses of different teams on different types of tracks. The last couple of events haven’t suited our car and then yeah, there’s definitely things on my side that I definitely need to work on, get to grips with the car. It’s a new car, new environment for me and I need to work on my weaknesses and build on my strengths. On a positive side, the race pace has been very good. We’ve managed to score points in a couple of events but we definitely want to be consistently in the points more often and fighting up at the front, that’s the goal.
Q: (Maxime Sarasin – 98.5 FM) Lewis, we were talking about possible changes to the rules. Do you think personally that drivers should have a louder say in all those changes, for the future? And what is the legacy you really want to leave as a driver, personally?
LH: Well, all the drivers are united for the first time. We are all part of the GPDA so we are all united, we are all working together, we all communicate. Unfortunately, the technical regulations are done by the people with power, with money and we generally have a little say, if any, as to what changes will take place. Ultimately we know what it’s like to race, we know what the challenges are and so we’re very open to being a part of it and contributing any of our ideas because we all naturally do have ideas and we all know where the limits are. One of the guys who works with us, Alex Wurz, for example, an ex-driver, he also knows and understands – because it’s pretty similar to when he was racing in terms of issues. So we do want to be a part of the conversation because ultimately we can help for the future. Also, a lot of the things that we push for are for the younger generation of drivers, things that we change in the rules for the drivers’ side of things is so that the younger drivers that come through will benefit from those things.
In terms of my legacy, it’s difficult to say, really. I think there are so many elements that are to be worked on. Ultimately, I want to somehow find some more… help pave the way for some younger drivers to come through from a similar background to myself for example. That means getting involved in go-karting from the early phases of motor racing. It’s so expensive now, to race go-karts. I think when I started, I think me and my Dad told me we spent £20,000 in the first year which was a huge amount of money from where we come from on a council estate in the UK. But today, to do a professional season of karting, it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, like two or three hundred thousand dollars or something to be professional. Now that’s a lot of money to spend in a year. I want to be a part of somehow shifting that, also helping shift the diversity a little bit because there really is the most minimal diversity within this sport and I really somehow want to be a part of shape-shifting that with Formula One, working in co-operation with Formula One and the FIA. I don’t know why there’s not enough university students, engineers, mechanics and even within the media, coming through from more diverse backgrounds. I don’t know that’s always been the way it is today but I see a real opportunity there to be a part of shape-shifting that. So that’s ultimately, in 20 years’ time, I want to look back or if I ever hear someone whispering they would say that I was a part of shifting that.