FIA Thursday press conference – Mexico
DRIVERS – Antonio GIOVINAZZI (Alfa Romeo), Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Sergio PEREZ (Racing Point), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Alexander ALBON (Red Bull Racing)
Q: Sergio, home race coming up. How has the build up been? I think you’ve been busy running marathons, a taxi service, all sorts of things?
SERGIO PEREZ: A little one – 8km. Yeah, it’s been a busy one. Basically I’ve been doing everything, every single stuff out there. It’s a pretty special weekend for me. I think it’s the best grand prix on the calendar, but very special for me. Yeah, I’m just looking forward to it. If there’s a weekend I want to be perfect and do very well, it’s this weekend.
Q: Well if you do very well, you might record the 100th points finish of your career this weekend. What would it mean for you to do that in front of your home crowd?
SP: It would be very special. More than that I look forward to giving them a great race. I think last year we were doing a very good race but then we ran out of brakes, so I think in the past we’ve been a bit unlucky in a couple of races – one in 2015 with the safety car that came at the wrong moment – so I hope this weekend… we are in a good run, so hopefully we can do a good one this weekend.
Q: Thanks very much and good luck Checo. Alex, Suzuka two weeks ago was a tremendous weekend for you, culminating in fourth place, the best result of your Formula 1 career to date. Did you change anything going into the Japanese Grand Prix or was it more of a reflection of the general progress you’ve been making?
ALEXANDER ALBON: I think it was more of a reflection. I don’t think anything special went on before Japan. Just getting more comfortable every time. Japan was just a really good track; I love it. I just enjoyed it and it suited me a bit better. It was a good weekend.
Q: You say you’re getting comfortable all the time. How different is the Red Bull to drive compared to the Toro Rosso you did the first half of the season in?
AA: Yeah, I’d say they have their differences, obviously. But it’s like every car. I think you’ve got to learn its little tricks and everything like that. Spending that time with Toro Rosso you kind of develop a bit of a driving style towards it and changing teams you’ve got to almost start blank again and work again, so it does take time but it’s very normal for every time you change to a new car.
Q: Your team-mate has won this grand prix for the last couple of years. How confident are you coming into the weekend that you can get your first podium?
AA: We’ll see. Maybe we’re not as favorites as we were in previous years. We do have our success here but the Ferraris are looking very strong as always, so we’ll see. On my side, just focus on myself. A podium would be nice, obviously, but not too focused on that at the minute. We’ll see.
Q: Thank you Alex, good luck this weekend. Antonio, you’re enjoying a good run at the moment, you’ve outqualified Kimi Räikkönen for the last three races. A question that’s quite similar to the one I asked Alex: have you changed anything in your approach to qualifying in particular?
Antonio GIOVINAZZI: No, I don’t think so. I think already in the first part of the season I was really close to Kimi, always really there. Second part, yeah, the confidence was coming better and better. But I don’t think it’s something we need to talk about – I was in front of Kimi three times. I’m just really happy that my confidence is coming better and better. The speed is better. I think we are struggling a little bit on race pace now. I hope we can find the right way this weekend and come back [into the] points, so we miss from two races already, so we need to get back there.
Q: How confident are you of finding the right way, because both Alfas were in Q3 here last year and raced well, so do you think you are going to have a better weekend than you have had at the last couple?
AG: I hope so. We had an intensive week last weekend and we tried to find something in the car, because I think the car is fast, because in qualifying we are there, almost close to Q3, but in the race we are struggling a lot, so I think we need to find just the last detail and then try to be back in the points soon.
Q: You’re doing a great job at the minute, what have the team told you about next year?
AG: Nothing yet. I think I just need to focus on my job and try to continue like that and then we’ll see for next year.
Q: Are you confident?
AG: Yes, I need to be confident. I think the second part of the season was quite strong from my side. I need to just keep pushing like that and then we’ll see.
Q: Good luck, thank you Antonio. Sebastian, tremendous pole position by you in Japan a couple of weeks ago. How much did you enjoy that moment and how much did you need that moment for your own peace of mind?
Sebastian VETTEL: Not so much. Obviously we had both quali and the race on Sunday, so there was not so much time to enjoy. I think there was nothing wrong before. Obviously, qualifying, maybe some events before that didn’t really go my way but yeah, I enjoyed Suzuka more than that particularly qualifying session. Obviously it was a good day, a near perfect day, the race should have been a little bit better but yeah…
Q: This weekend, are Ferrari favourites coming into this Mexican Grand Prix?
SV: I don’t know. So-so. Obviously people look at the track and they look at the straight line but I think that, yeah, we have obviously been strong on the straight lines in recent races but there are a couple of corners plus here it’s not one of the tracks where efficiency matters so much. We do have quite an efficient car but maybe we can’t use that to our advantage, so we’ll see how we manage around the 'cornery' sections, because some of these type of corners have been our weakness, so we’ll see.
Q: OK, good luck with that. Lewis, we talked about Checo’s busy build-up to this weekend and I see that you have been in the boxing ring with Julio Chávez. Tell us about it?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, I was with Puma yesterday at an event. We had a great turnout. It’s crazy; I started boxing when I was eight. Obviously I was much younger and I wouldn’t say In was particular ever great at it, but it was really quite an honour to be in the ring with such a legend.
Q: Did he teach you anything?
LH: Yeah, yeah, he gave me a few pointers. He said I had a heavy hand, so I don’t know…
SP: Ready for the fight!
Q: Let’s talk about the fight this weekend then. It’s been six races since you last had a pole position. How confident are you of breaking that run this weekend?
LH: Oh, I don’t think a lot has changed. We’re going to go into this weekend knowing that Ferrari are massively quick usually on the straights and obviously straights are a powerful element of this circuit, so I don’t know when we’ll be getting another pole – unless it rains, which can change everything. But as you’ve seen in previous races it’s not necessarily all about qualifying nowadays. It’s about making sure you’ve got the car ready for the race, so we’ll still give it everything. This is a race that bodes well for the Red Bulls and the Ferraris in the past, but we’ve made a lot of improvements in our understanding of the car and how we use it, so maybe this weekend maybe we’ll a better chance than we have in the past.
Q: Looking ahead to Sunday’s race, you will clinch the world championship if you beat Valtteri Bottas by 14 points. What would it mean to you to win it here in Mexico for the third consecutive season?
LH: Well, I don’t remember if in a season I’ve finished 14 points ahead of Valtteri at any point, and if it has it may have been one race maybe. So I anticipate that it will be a difficult weekend. Valtteri has been strong all year and obviously won the last race so I expect him to be strong this weekend too. It doesn’t matter where it’s done, as long as you get it done, and that’s what I’m trying to do. But I’m fully aware that there are still plenty of points on the table and I’ve got to deliver over these next four races.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) For Lewis: you’ve never been afraid to use your profile on social media to raise issues you have outside F1, what you think about the world etc, so you made people take notice in between Japan and here with your comments about the state of the planet and what people can do. I think that led to a few people questioning whether it’s valid to raise concerns about the planet if you’re part of the F1 circus, with all the travelling and stuff. I think even Fernando Alonso was quoted as saying it’s not something you can comment on really, because it’s not fair. I just wondered how you balance using your personal profile to raise stuff like that with the role you have in F1? A second part: Jean-Eric Vergne, the Formula E champion, said Formula E would be a natural move for you, given your eco-friendly status and what the championship is trying to do. Are you interested in doing Formula E after Formula 1?
LH: I have no interest whatsoever to do Formula E, so that’s not something I currently plan to do beyond. And then, lots of people have had opinions about how I utilise my social media, but ultimately it’s my platform and we all have a voice, everyone here and around the world, and it’s how you choose to… how you want to use it. Personally, it’s not the easiest, because yes, we are travelling around the world, we are racing Formula 1 cars and our carbon footprint for sure is higher than the average homeowner who lives in the same city, but that doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be a positive change and I’m always looking at things, and how I can improve the effect that I’m having on the world. I guess it’s something that over time I have become more and more aware of and it takes a while. It’s not a quick-fix thing. It takes time to understand the implications and I think it’s just about education and I’m just trying to highlight areas. Whether people choose to look into those, that’s up to them, but I’d feel like I wasn’t doing anything positive if I didn’t mention it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / racefans.net) I had a very similar question to Lewis, so obviously it’s been answers. So, to the other drivers there, how do you feel about the environmental factors that Lewis has raised on social media. Are you also sort of active about the environment?
SV: Yeah. I’m not following Lewis. I’m not active on social media but I think the point is very clear. I think you would be ignorant if you wouldn’t look at it and obviously, as Lewis mentioned, it’s very difficult, in a way, to us to get acceptance from outside, because we don’t have the smallest footprint because the races happen around the world. We do have to travel, so it’s part of our jobs. But I think in general, Formula 1 should do more. It’s a worldwide operating platform. I think we should send a much stronger message regarding this subject and I think personally – this is free to everyone – but I think everybody can do something, contribute a little bit and if the whole world would act like that, it would make a huge difference. I think it’s inevitable that change is coming and hopefully rather sooner than later.
AG: I completely agree with Seb, what he says. So nothing to add.
SP: Yeah, I think it’s very important that we raise our voices. A lot of people hear us – especially for someone like Lewis. It’s very important. I see the messages that he sends often on his social media are good. A lot of people are following him, so if we can impact the world, if we can help a bit, I think we are obliged to do so. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
AA: Not to much to add to that. I think what Lewis said was really good and… yeah, just because we’re in Formula 1 doesn’t mean we can’t care about the environment.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, just on those Instagram posts. In one of them you said you feel like giving up on everything and shutting down completely. I was just wondering what provoked you to say that and how your frame of mind is going into this weekend.
LH: Well, I’m only human so, like everyone you have up and down days. I think that’s really what I’ve been trying to convey really, because I think it’s very difficult for people who are watching on social media to be able to relate to certain individuals who live in a celebrity world. A lot of people don’t realise that they’re also humans and they also have feelings and have the ups and downs. Some people do care, some people care less, or whatever. And… I don’t know. It was not the best feeling at the moment but I’ve got great people around me, I’ve had a lot of support from fans, I’ve had a lot of support from around my family. There’s a lot going on in my life at the moment and, I don’t know, I think I was just… well, anyway, coming into this weekend I feel very positive, back to doing what I love doing and… yeah, I think it’s just always trying to stay positive, which is not always easy but I think I’ve done really well in the past to stay positive for the majority of the time – but I think there’s a lot that goes on in our lives and I think it’s important to also be open. And the whole thing’s in… so I’m always very open, very transparent with my feelings, whether people like it or not but I’m super-focused still on these four races and what I can do to get the job done, as the team have done such a great job and I continue. I’ve got lots and lots of positive plans for the future for positive change.
Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – motorsport-total.com) Following up on the environmental issue, are you guys political. And the question is to all drivers – and I’m not asking if you have sentiments for any political party or anything – but do you support a party, not telling us who it is probably, do you care, do you follow the news, would you say you are political persons?
AA: No, not so much. Is that OK?
LH: I don’t think I’m particularly political. I watch the news as much as I can. I find it very interesting to watch what is happening around the world. I think it’s a scary time for all of us. There’s so much talk in all the different governments around the world and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of solutions, or they don’t seem to be coming up with a lot of solutions, so it definitely is a bit worrying but there’s not a lot that we can do individually except for just try to be better within our own bubble. And if you have a platform, try to project some positivity – but I’m not supportive of any particular party.
SP: Nothing more to add to what Lewis said.
SV: I think it’s not so much about knowing which party you want to support. I think, when you talk about the environment, supporting the planet. So, I think politics in a way have failed in the past, and at the moment we have seen, or we see in different areas that is critical and hopefully they will manage to get their act together and succeed in trying to find solutions that will help our planet and will help other problems that we have amongst ourselves, as in human beings, to try and improve the situation. In that regard I’m a supporter of the planet and, again, as I said earlier, I think change is coming. So I think it’s up to us to embrace it rather than ignore it before probably it’s too late.
AG: Nothing too much to add.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, sorry to come back to the Instagram post. It’s already been mentioned about the criticism you received on the back of some of it. I just wondered how you deal with that, because obviously you’re trying to put out a positive message and people then come back with their own views on that. Does it ever get to you and how do you get over it?
LH: I don’t normally spend a lot of time reading comments but of course I’m aware of that people have their own opinions and some people are going to be with it, some people are going to be against it. And that’s just the name of the game. I generally try not to let that kind of thing get to me. I think it’s important for all of us in life to feel good and feel like you’re doing something positive regardless of those that try to knock it down, the stuff that you do do that is positive. And yeah… just staying true to your values and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And, as I said, I’ve got great people around me who are constantly lifting me up. So, there’s no… I’m fortunately not alone. I’ve got a lot of great people around me who, within my team, within my closest friends and family. Not all my family’s vegan but it doesn’t matter. They are also trying to make positive change in the decisions they make in their lives and I think that’s great.
Q: (Fernando Alonso – motorlat.com) Sebastian, right now we talk about the things that help Ferrari with the motor upgrades but you already said that you have to focus on the slow corners. You as a team are thinking in balance all the performance in the track or what is the way you will approach this weekend?
SV: Well, obviously for this weekend here it’s quite straightforward. Normally you think about the downforce choice you make – so trying to find the right balance whereas here obviously you put the maximum downforce on the car that you can, because of the difference in altitude and the air being thinner, so, as I said previously, the efficiency around this track is not so important. And yeah, to focus on the low speed corners in particular around here, other than trying to put every single bit of downforce on the car that you have, is trying to find the right set-up, finding the right balance, in terms of obviously extracting grip – but on the other hand, finding the right handling, the confidence in the car, looking after the tyres, getting the tyres in the window and all these small things. They do make a big difference for one lap in quali – but also then how you treat the tyres, especially throughout the race.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis, you are very close to taking your sixth title, largely because you’ve had a such a strong season. Would you just consider how you got to this position? Are you able to identify what has been the most difficult challenges you’ve had to overcome, to be in such a strong position now?
LH: I think every season you’re looking at it… obviously we got to the beginning of the year and people thought we were talking ourselves down and not showing our true performance. In actual fact it was reality. Ferrari had a good car at the beginning, perhaps it just wasn’t working that great earlier on in the season. I think our focus is just always trying to… the biggest challenges are always trying to understand these tyres. I think everyone has been on that case each year and there’s quite a different dynamic to them this season. So if you look at qualifying, for example, I think that’s an area which has probably been my weakest, even though I feel like I’ve been doing good laps but they’ve not been as good as others. I think the races have obviously been stronger and continued, I guess, on from last year but been very, very strong this season. But then I guess it’s also just been the balance of everything you’re doing outside of the sport, the obstacles you come across in the build-up to the races and just remaining consistent. Punching out these performances each weekend in, weekend out for us guys it’s such a hard task and I think people underestimate and undervalue how hard that is. Perhaps other athletes would understand because they go to competition after competition but it’s really hard because people turn on the TV and see a few hours of our weekend but there’s a massive amount of work that goes on obviously in the background, which you guys will know, obviously and I think it’s really just trying to continue to make… keep the team motivated, steering them in the right direction – because they can easily go in the wrong direction quite often with these cars nowadays.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Sorry to go back to the environmental stuff Lewis. You mentioned that your post came as a result of a down, a period that you mentioned highs and lows. Was there a particular moment that you can share with us which was the trigger for putting that statement out? And just as a follow-up; what sort of changes have you made to your day-to-day life to help the environment? I know there’s the diet but diet aside is there anything else which you’re doing which you can tell us?
LH: I was watching a documentary and it was just sad to see the things that we are kind of not aware of. Again, it just inspired me to want to do more and reach out to those who perhaps don’t know some of the things that are happening. In terms of the things that I’m doing in my life, I’m trying to make sure that by the end of the year I’m carbon neutral at the end of the year. I don’t allow anyone in my office but also within my household to buy any plastics. I want everything recyclable down to deodorant, down to toothbrush, all these kind of things so I’m trying to make as much change as I can in my personal space. I told you I sold my plane over a year ago. I fly a lot less now, I’m trying to fly less through the year and mostly flying commercial so that’s been a big change in my habits. I’ve avoided trips as well, if I didn’t need to do it, been in the UK, for example, with family and going up to Bedfordshire and kind of stayed at Soho House for example, with the family instead of going on holiday. What else? Obviously I’ve changed my diet which is quite a drastic difference. I’m also pushing for… so for example I have a new smart electric hybrid at home – it’s not hybrid, it’s electric. I’ve sold several of my cars, some of them I don’t really want to sell because I still love them and I’ve worked hard for them and I don’t drive them a lot if I’m honest. And also, all the cars that I have, so Mercedes, I’m very fortunate that I get quite a few cars around the world, so I have three Mercedes in the States for example. Send them back and get new QCs. I have a Maybach in London for example. I think they’re bring the hybrid out at the end of next year for the Maybachs. However, right now that doesn’t really suit what I’m fighting for so I need to change that also for either an EQC or one of the hybrids they have. I’m constantly making changes. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not something you do over a short period of time, but I feel (Indistinct) that I’m making those changes and I’m encouraging people around me to also… my friends are seeing me doing those and also being more conscious and also looking to do those kind of things. I work with the team who are also really pushing to be carbon neutral, also changing things in their canteen because there’s a lot of plastics which you will see here, for example, we have mostly just water which are biodegradable bottles. I’m working with Mercedes on the future plan with them, for example. Car manufacturers have all leather interiors. There’s no reason why we cannot have for the leather for the suede so I’m pushing to be a part of that change with Mercedes Benz. And what’s the last one? There’s one more. Oh yes, and obviously I work with Tommy Hilfiger, nearly 70 per cent of all the clothes that I’ve done are sustainable and either recycled fabrics of leather, faux suede and the goal is to have that 100 percent and I’m looking at some point that to be 100 per cent sustainable, hopefully in the next year or two. That’s also encouraged Tommy Hilfiger, who work in quite a damaging business or industry to also look into that and push that direction. I don’t know much more I can do at the moment. I still love racing and I want to continue with that. If you look at our sport, it’s shifted from… we use a third less fuel now, there is more I think that Formula One can do and I think they are putting plans together but I think we have to push all the industries, you have to push Formula One to do more and I think that they’re giving us a proposal later on, I think today, of the plans that they have in place and we’ll do whatever we can to support that.
Q: (Yhacbec Lopez – Motorlat) Seb, Ferrari has not won here, the Mexican Grand Prix, since 1990 so is this the biggest chance since F1 came back in 2015 to win the Mexican Grand Prix finally?
SV: I don’t know. I think we can answer on Sunday. If yes, then hopefully we can make it happen; if no then we obviously come back again next year. Yeah, I can’t predict what’s going to happen. I feel confident, I think we have a strong package. There’s part of the track that should be in our favour. Other parts might be a bit more difficult but we will see how it works out. The weather could be a bit of a difficult role this weekend so we will see what happens.
Q: (Arturo Escalona – Compania Periodistica ESTO) I would like to know your opinion about three more years of the Mexican Grand Prix?
SP: Well, those were great news for our country, for Formula One. I think Formula One is looking to have more races like Mexico. We don’t have that many where we go there and the fans are cheering – not just for me but for everyone up there. It’s just something that’s extremely good to have and you see places like Monza, England, those unique places that are, for us, very special so for me especially, it was extremely good to hear that the Mexican Grand Prix is for another three years, especially as it has grown so much in the past. Now can you say Formula One is very big in Mexico so I hope it carries on not just three years, more than that.
LH: Oh great. I love coming to Mexico so it’s good for me. I think Mexico City is… Mexico in general has such a beautiful culture, the people have always been so warm and welcoming. I’ve got friends from when I lived in Switzerland who are still my dear friends today. And also I spend a lot of time in Colorado for example, a lot of the Mexicans are out there skiing with us. But this Grand Prix, it’s very very unique, obviously with the high altitude that we have here, it always put a huge demand on the drivers but also the cars. I didn’t think when we came here for the first time that we would have such a big turn-out consistently each year. I think it’s getting bigger each time they come and the atmosphere is really created by the people that come here, the people who come and support us. I see no reason for this Grand Prix to ever stop. The only thing I hope is that we can try to make sure that when we do come to these Grands Prix and we leave, we will leave a positive (indistinct) on the city in some way, shape or form, whether it’s working with certain foundations. Because I know there’s a lot of people in need within the city and within the country so I think there’s more we can do.
SV: Yeah, I think it’s great to continue going to a Grand Prix where there’s passion for racing. I think that since we’ve come back – I don’t know how it was when Ferrari last won in 1990, how it was before, but certainly since we’ve been coming back since 2015 it’s been very positive, lots of people, full grandstands. It’s not the case everywhere we go so we should be very happy about the fact that we are allowed to come back.
AG: Of course it will be my first time here but I did two FP1 in ’17 and ’18. The track is really nice to drive and we always see a really good race here. Also like the other say, the passion here is quite high, so really happy to continue to race here.
AA: Yeah, first time here so excited. I’ve loved the food already: spicy and excited. Coming into the stadium is supposed to be really special so I’m excited to see that on Sunday.