FIA Thursday press conference - Mexico City
DRIVER GROUP 1: Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Fernando ALONSO (Alpine)
Q: I think we have to start with the local hero. Sergio, great to see you racing at home. Can we start with what happened early on this week in Guadalajara, where you lit up the city with a show car run. Just tell us about it?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it was a super special moment for me, to be able to drive your own car in your own streets, you know, at home. It was a super day and we did it before I started in F1 but this was very special for the people. Everyone was so emotional about it, so it was a massive day for me.
Q: How many people turned up to watch?
SP: It was like 140,000, which for Mexico is not that much! But still, it was a very emotional day.
Q: And they’ve added more grandstands here at the track. Just how energising do you find the fans?
SP: They are super. They give it all on the grandstands. It's rare to see it, you know, because all around the world, in other places, of course, I see a few Mexican flags all around the world but what I get to experience in Austin and here, it's something super, super special for me.
Q: And for a few more years as well. Can we just get your reaction to the news that Formula 1 will continue racing here in Mexico City until 2025.
SP: This is something great for our country, because this country, we get to show how good that Mexicans are, our Mexican people, our country. So I think Formula 1 gives you that exposure worldwide, so I'm super proud of my country, that we are able to secure another contract with Formula 1. So yeah, super happy for that.
Q: And a quick word on the race. You were on the podium here last year. Have you dared to dream about taking the win on Sunday?
SP: Yeah, I've dreamt a few times already about it. And it will be massive for me. Obviously, that's the target for Sunday. It will not be easy. We need to be perfect throughout the weekend. So yeah, I think all the focus will be now on the racing stuff, to try to maximise a weekend. And yeah, at the end of the day, it's another weekend with the same amount of points – but it's the most special one for me.
Q: Charles, Sunday's race is going to be your 100th Grand Prix. How would you sum up your journey in Formula 1 so far?
Charles LECLERC: Well, it went by very, very quickly. Yeah, it's obviously a special milestone and I hope we can achieve a special result for that. I remember like yesterday when I first arrived in F1, in Australia with Alfa Romeo. And it was a very special moment, a dream come true. And then obviously, already from the second year, I was lucky enough to be chosen as a Ferrari driver. And again, that was another dream come true. I still have many dreams, which obviously one of them is to become a World Champion and I hope this will become reality as soon as possible. We are all working towards that goal. But yeah, I'm just enjoying it. And I'm really, really lucky to be in that position.
Q: What about Sunday, then? What can you do here?
CL: Difficult to know for now. I still believe that Red Bull will be the team to beat on Sunday. They always seem to find something from the Saturday to the Sunday that we didn't quite find it yet. But we are getting there. I don't know whether this track will be better or worse. But anyway, I believe it will be close on Sunday.
Q: And of course, it's close between you and the man on your right, Checo Pérez in the Drivers' Championship. Now drivers often say that the only finishing position that counts is first. There's two points between you two. What would it mean for you to finish second?
CL: Well, obviously, of course we are, I mean with Ferrari, we are working to win the World Championship, but now we know winning the World Championship is not possible any more, we'll try to use these last three races in order to be a better team for next year, to challenge for the World Championship again. Having said that, second is better than third and we'll give everything to beat Checo.
Q: Mick, we'll come to you now. In a way you were a victim of the crash between Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso on Sunday. How much was your race compromised by accident damage?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Yeah, it was unfortunately quite damaged, the car, it affected quite a few different areas on the car, which obviously didn't quite play into our hands, because I think otherwise we were on for a good position in around, I think, P6 or P7 even, so would have been great points for the team having a double points finish. But nonetheless, we know the speed is there. And so hopefully we'll be able to have a bit more luck this weekend.
Q: You know the speed is there. Let's talk about car performance. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? And do you think it'll work well at this altitude?
MS: Yeah, I mean, I don't see a reason why not. I think that our car has been performing well, under the high downforce circumstances that we had across the other tracks up to now, obviously, the high downforce here will perform like a low downforce set-up so it'll be interesting to see and feel how the car behaves. Nonetheless, you know, we're in a tight battle with AlphaTauri. Obviously, we know that Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo aren’t too far away. So, it's just a matter of trying to finish as high as possible and finish with as many points as possible each weekend. So that's really the target right now.
Q: Just a final one for me on the second Haas seat for next year. There's so much speculation about it. Just how hard is it for you to keep out all the noise and just concentrate on the job in hand?
MS: Well, it's not difficult. I'm here to do my job. And I'm here to do it well. So that's what my main focus is on. And that's everything that I'm in control of. So, I'm just trying to do my best and yeah, that's what I'm here for.
Q: Zhou, you were disappointed not to finish in the points in Austin. But what positives can you take out of that weekend? How was the car performing with the upgrades?
Zhou GUANYU: Yeah, I mean, it was quite a lot of positive to take. Obviously the end wasn't something we wanted as a team, but let’s say the qualifying performance. Now finally, we were actually able to reach both cars in Q3, but my lap obviously got deleted. And then with the engine penalties, we have to start a bit further down. Always knew it would be a difficult race and somehow I finished P11 after finishing 13th. So yes, somehow I finished P11 after finishing 13th or 14th on track, so I think everything is possible. But for that race, I think we have to maybe work a little bit more on the race pace. But what was quite clear is that one-lap performance. We made a huge step up compared to the last few races, so clearly the upgrade package is working.
Q: What about this battle in the Constructors' Championship between yourselves and Aston Martin? Who do you think's got the better race car?
ZG: In general, I think we always had a little bit better Quali, and they have a bit more advantage on the race – but still was very difficult to predict every team, how they do – but it's quite true that the last three races from Singapore onwards, they’ve being very competitive, and they've been scoring a massive amount points which put us in a position that you know, one point away. So, that's definitely the key or the target which I do aim for: try to finish the Constructors’ ahead of them. I feel like, with the car we’ve got now, we can do that. It’s just a matter of both drivers putting everything together and fighting for that.
Q: This is your first time racing here in Mexico City. Just how excited are you to get on with it?
ZG: Yeah, for sure. Looking at the last few years how slippery the track is, so exciting to be driving out there for sure. Another new circuit for me. And yeah, I think it’ll be a cool experience. Looking at the crowds on Sundays it’s going to be quite particular, and from my side, tomorrow is a day of learning, a day of learning the track, learning braking points and all that. So far, I think we have to just get ready for that Saturday, when it’s important. Make sure we don't have the same as mistake we did in Quali on my Q2 lap, so we get the position we want on Sunday’s starting grid, and then we can move forward on that.
Q: Fernando, thank you for waiting. Can we start by just throwing it back to last weekend? First of all, I hope there are no ill effects from the crash. How are you feeling?
Fernando ALONSO: Good. Thank you.
Q: And have you had a chance to talk to Lance Stroll about what happened? What's your verdict on the cause of the accident?
FA: Yeah, yeah, we talked already after the race in his garage, and then in the stewards’ room, because we had to go there and yeah, my view is was the same after the race and the same in the stewards’ room, and the same now. I think it was an unlucky moment of the race. We move simultaneously, more or less, to the left. We were very close. I took the slipstream until the last moment. There was no DRS on the first laps after the Safety Car goes in, so I have to take the slipstream very aggressively until the very last moment. I moved to the left, he moved to the left in the same moment more or less protecting and we touched. So I think it was a very unlucky moment. In a way, I think his penalty is very harsh. But it’s the way it is.
Q: And what are your thoughts on the post-race protest from Haas?
FA: Let's wait until we have the outcome today. Obviously, I was very disappointed. It was a rollercoaster of emotions for me on Sunday: started at the back, then we were like P6, we had the accident; last again; and then finishing P7, and then in the evening, again out of the point. So it was up and down all day long. And now, let's wait and see. I think I'm very optimistic that we will keep seventh place. The FIA has been very transparent to us this year. I think the new leadership, also with Mohammed I think, doing things a little bit differently than in the past. So I fully trust what they will decide. I think there are a couple of things that are very clear, that they were made wrong from their side. So, as I said, I'm very confident that I will be P7 again in Austin. If I'm not P7 at the end, I'm sure they will explain why and we will see it clearly. So, you know, I am very, very relaxed about that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Fernando, great to see that there's no ill effects from last week. Can you give us an indication of your grounds for optimism? For the protest. It's unusual to see a team protesting a stewards’ decision rather than appealing it. And whilst you weren't shown a black and white flag, it is the team's responsibility to ensure the safety of the car. Why do you think in this case, the FIA will reinstate you to seventh place?
FA: Yeah, well, first of all, you cannot appeal any decision of time penalty. So that's how the rules are written, which is nice, because whatever decision you take, you cannot appeal. I would love to have that one when driving. But yeah, we protest basically because it was out of time. And there were a couple of things that… the FIA was not showing me the black and orange flag. So, they felt that the car was safe to keep driving. The car went to parc fermé, passed all the scrutineering. Green light on parc fermé, and then the protests arrive too late. So, between all, I think there is no doubt that this was not the right decision to take. And if this is the right decision to take, it will open a huge problem for the future in Formula 1. I think fifty, sixty, seventy per cent of the cars will have to retire the car when they have an aerodynamic device that is not properly fixed because it's going to be unsafe, the car. It will open also… if 20 minutes too late is okay to protest, is one month too late? Is one hour too late? Is 10 years too late? When is too late? So that, I think, we cannot afford. So, as I said, this is a very important day for our sport. I don't care about seventh, I'm not fighting for the World Championship, but if this goes ahead, I think we will open a very… we don't want to open that box.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to Fernando. What would be a good outcome for you for the penalty. What would be the right decision for you?
FA: To cancel the protest that has been admitted out of the deadline. Just, it’s simply illegal.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question for Fernando, please. Esteban has said the team measured the impact after you landed after hitting Lance's car at 42-g. How did that feel from your point of view? And also, how did you recover from there for the rest of the race with the adrenaline surging – because it was obviously quite the drive afterwards. Thank you.
FA: Well, I didn't speak with a team about that, so I didn’t know that number. It felt not that hard, when I hit the ground, I was just more concerned if I was going to the left to the fence outside the circuit. Obviously the first five minutes when we were running behind the Safety Car, I was concerned that the car was not damaged, you know, somehow because they changed the tyres, the front wing, and apparently there was not damaged when they check on the pitstop. And the car felt good, more or less, behind the Safety Car. So I was amazed, first of all, about that. And then yeah, we were just recovering places up to P7, so it felt very good. It was mentally challenging to go through every lap and make some moves as well. Also, with Kevin at the end, I make a move in the same straight and I brake very late into Turn 12 on the inside, so you always have the accident a little bit in your mind: what could have been. But physically, still young, no problem.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Mick, it’s a question for you about Gary Gannon, your race engineer when you came into F1, working with him, he seemed like a very calming influence over the radio, very good for a rookie. How have you guys worked together over the past couple of years? How much trust have you been able to build up? And yeah, how much do you enjoy working with him as a race engineer?
MS: Gary's always been somebody I could always rely on and he's definitely, as you say, a very calm person. But he does, behind the scenes, like to get angry, like to show some emotions. But no, it's been great. And especially as a rookie coming in, you know, he showed me the ways, he showed me what was important and what not, and I think we really managed to build up a really good understanding when it comes to driving our car. And yeah, it's very much that we work together, to go in the same direction to go forwards.
Q: (José Antonio Cortés – ESPN) For Checo and Charles. There are only two points between you in the championship. You both are very clean drivers but how difficult could it be to keep that cleanness when you are so close in the track always and are fighting for the P2 in the Championship?
SP: I think in general with Charles it has been good, the fighting. It's always, really close, really tight. And you know that Charles will be aggressive, always, but always fair. And it’s something I don't believe he will change, no matter how we get into Abu Dhabi, what difference will it make because he is like that? And I don't see that changing. And I also feel like, from my side, I'm also fair. So I don't expect that to change.
CL: No, I don't think it will change. Obviously, if there's an opportunity, I'll go for it. As Checo will go for it. It’s always been the case. Closer we get to the season, less opportunities, you have to make the difference. But we also know that we are fighting each other, so we can take maybe a bit more risks when we fight each other. But that's what makes it exciting. So yeah, I'm sure we won't give any margin on track but I'm looking forward to it.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Charles, you mentioned after the Austin race how the tyre deg again reared its head for Ferrari. You went from leading Max to about seven seconds behind him. I just wondered how much is that problem down to something the driver could control, or is something that the team needs to fix through car design for next year?
CL: It’s a difficult question to answer but overall I feel like we've had some very good races and some other races where we've been struggling a lot . On my side, it's not like you change a lot from track to track, what you do with the tyre degradation. So I think there are races where we've approached it in the right way and we had the car in the right window, the tyres in the right window, but as we often speak, it is a very fine line with not getting the right window, the tyres and then it has a big consequence on your race and that we just need to get to get better as a team in order to always be in that in that window where everything works.
Q: (Jonas Hüttel – Ektsra Bladet) For Fernando and Checo, and if anybody else wants to chip in, we've seen the black and orange flag three times this year. And you were talking on your Instagram post about the future direction of F1. When will you as drivers like to see the black and orange flag enforced?
FA: Well, when the Race Director feels that the cars are not safe to drive. We inside the car, we don't know sometimes even what damage we have, what aerodynamic devices are, you know, ready to fall behind the next car. So we just rely on the Race Director and we just drive the car as fast as we can. And yeah, we maybe need to use that flag more often, or not, it’s a decision that the FIA and teams they need to check. I think Formula 1 has changed a lot in the last 40, 50 years, there are a lot of aerodynamic devices now they are borderline in the races, so we need to make sure that we have a proper rule on that. And when you see the black and orange flag you have to stop probably and retire the car because I think it's very difficult to fix some of those decisions, maybe the front wing is the easiest one, but apart from that I think it is difficult, but what we cannot allow is, you know, thinking after the race about things, because then you enter, as I said, a wild territory. It’s like penalising a car for an overtaking because there was one car on the gravel or whatever but there was no yellow flag. So he made the overtaking and then a few hours later you said ‘yeah, but he did an overtake and this should be a yellow flag’. Yes, but it was not a yellow flag, so it's, you know, whatever fault of the marshal or the Race Director or whatever it was nothing and the overtake was made.
SP: I think Fernando covered it super well, nothing more to add.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) For Checo. Max has already told us he will not give victory in the last laps to you if you're in P2. Of course, you can win your home race for the first time. He could win his 14th race of the season. Will you be happy to fight him if necessary in the last laps?
SP: Of course I want to win this weekend. This is my target. This is a target for everyone that is sitting here and that is coming to this weekend, also for Max. So yeah, we are all very competitive and we all want to get the victory on Sunday. So we're going to give it all we possibly can to achieve that.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) To all five or whoever wants to contribute. We've got the earliest finish to an F1 season in three years this year, without going into December and finishing in November. For you guys and your preparations for next season, how much easier does that make things, giving you a little bit more time, bit more family time as well over the winter and preparing you for the record season of 24 races next year?
FA: I'm happy to finish earlier. Generally, it doesn't matter if next year is 24, it was a shorter calendar [this year] I think. Yeah, I think last year we finished very late, in the middle of December or something like that. It was way too close to Christmas. So yeah, I'm happy now with this year. Next year again we will finish later, unfortunately. But yeah, I think everyone has a different plan for winter. But it's good always to have extra time.
Q: When does work start with Aston Martin for you?
FA: First of January at the factory.
ZG: Yeah, I mean, he covered pretty much everything. It’s good for us. Obviously, I didn't get to go back the last few years, back home. And yeah, with me coming into the season a rookie, of course you need time, so I finished, I think, 24th of December, just one day before Christmas. So it's quite a tight squeeze. Not much time, but it's good to be more relaxed now.
MS: Yeah, obviously, it's nice to have a bit more family time. Obviously preparing for next year, it’s going to be a long season. So you know, preparation might look a bit different. But nonetheless, I think we'll take it and we'll enjoy the time that we have.
CL: Not much to add. Pretty happy when the season finishes early. I prefer a very packed season but starting late and finishing early than a very, very long season starting early and finishing late. So yeah, happy to have a bit more time with family and friends.
SP: Yeah, I think similar to Charles in that regard. Happy to have a bit of time to spend with the family. And yeah, recover, recharge. It has been an intense season as well with a lot of races, so I'm looking forward to a bit of rest.
Q: (Emilio Pineres – El Heraldo de México) This year in Acapulco, the Spanish tennis player Feliciano Lopez said Mexicans and Spaniards are conditioned to love each other, between the culture and history around both countries. What do you think about that sense?
FA: I love Mexico. I think everyone will have their own opinion. But I don't know. I think we have very close cultures. And we have a lot in common. Yeah, and for me, as a driver, you know, when I come here to Mexico, I feel the atmosphere, I feel the enthusiasm about the race from everyone in the country. Obviously, with Checo, we see Mexican flags around the world. I think he's a great ambassador of the country, and I'm super happy when I come here. Mexico, has won the best race of the year for three or four consecutive times. So it's not only my opinion, this is a fantastic event. So you know, I'm happy to be here.
Q: Checo can we get your thoughts on this? Do you get good vibes in the Spanish Grand Prix for example?
SP: Yeah, certainly, I do believe we have a lot in common, the way our cultures are so similar. And yeah, I believe that we love each other, you know, and also, when I go to Spain, I do get a lot of support. You see the passion they have, and it's really similar to what we get, you know, and what they do for Carlos and Fernando, it's something very similar to what I have here.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Charles, please. I'm just going back to the start, you said you think that Ferrari is getting there when it comes to doing better against Red Bull on Sundays? Could you expand on that, please? What exactly have you seen that's encouraging – just in the context that you guys still haven't won a race since Austria?
CL: Yeah, I was mostly speaking about the Sunday execution not the performance in itself. But as I've been mentioning since a few races, we are working a lot on the strategy, also on the communication side of it. And this I felt like we are taking a step in the right direction but of course there is still the gap of performance on the Sunday to the Red Bull that we still need to find and improve. So on that we are working, we haven't found yet the solution but we are working well. And again, once we are focusing on one thing, we normally improve very quickly on it. So I'm confident that the results will come soon.
Q: (Marisol Rojas – El Economista) Today we got the news that we are going to have a Grand Prix until 2025 and I would like to know some opinions. When do you consider the Mexican Grand Prix is most convenient in the Formula 1 schedule.
SP: Ah yeah, most convenient for the calendar. I think it's important we put, when we come to the Americas, a much together the races as possible. I mean, because going to Brazil is still a long way, it's a long way to go. So yeah, I think the most convenient would be doing the more back-to-back races when we are in America. That would be great.
CL: Yeah, I agree. I mean, looking at this year, I don't think it's the most convenient programme we could have imagined. Obviously, I probably would have preferred throughout the race in Brazil next week, just after Mexico and then you have one week to fly to Abu Dhabi. But yeah, apart from that, I think it’s the right time to do so, it’s just Brazil probably would have been better a week earlier.
MS: Yeah, I guess everything has been said in that sense.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Sebastian VETTEL (Aston Martin), Nicholas LATIFI (Williams), Daniel RICCIARDO (McLaren), Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), George RUSSELL (Mercedes)
Q: George, we're going to start with you. Throw it back to Austin, first of all tricky race for you to fifth but what can you tell us about the car’s performance and the upgrades that you had there?
George RUSSELL: I think it was obviously a shame on Sunday with how things panned out, for the obvious reasons at the race start and I completed the race with a bit of a damaged front wing, which didn't help things. So it was, yeah, a little bit annoying to see that race ahead of me and not being able to get involved. But I think Lewis showed what the car was capable of, and [we have] definitely taken a step in the right direction. But I think it's not fair to just judge on one event. I think this is a slightly different circuit now. So hopefully, we can go out here this weekend and try and be in the mix again.
Q: Well, it was a Mercedes front-row lock-out here last year. How do you think it's going to go? How quick will the car be?
GR: I think Mexico is always a bit of a unique one. Tyre prep is really difficult. Obviously, with the lack of air density and oxygen here, it's difficult for the cars and for the engines and I think we just have to wait and see. I think last year, as you said, Mercedes were on the front row, but they weren't competitive at all throughout the whole weekend, but managed to turn it on for qualifying. So hopefully there can be a small repeat of that, but definitely no guarantees.
Q: You mentioned the word preparation. And of course, Nyck de Vries is going to be driving your car in FP1 tomorrow. With the Pirelli test in FP2, how much more complicated does that make your preparations for the race?
GR: It makes it complicated in terms of setting the car up and getting in the groove. But FP2 is always a bit of a tricky session here, because this track isn't used often and it's quite dirty, quite dusty. And for me personally getting the 90 minutes FP2 gives you a good opportunity to sort of catch back up in terms of your driving, but I don’t think it'll be too much of a loss.
Q: Quick word on the battle for P4 in the Drivers’ Championship between you and Carlos. What is it, 16 points between you? How much do you want that, given that your previous best I think is P15?
GR: Yeah, I think you obviously want to finish every season as high as you want. I think I'm probably more focused on just getting back into a good groove and rhythm. I think at the start of this year we had such a consistent run of results and every single time we hit the track we were putting in good performances whether it was on a Saturday or Sunday, and everything seemed to be running quite smoothly. But these last three races, for various reasons, have been very scrappy, most of which on my behalf. So I need to… I'm probably just more focused on trying to have a clean last three weekends and the championship should hopefully sort itself out.
Q: Well, good luck this weekend. Thank you, George. Yuki, we'll come to you now. Now. In Austin, you scored your first point since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. How much of a relief was that result?
Yuki TSUNODA: Yeah, it was such a long time that I didn't score points. I think as a team we struggled compared to last year, but at the same time, yeah a couple of races I couldn't finish in the points. So yeah, I mean, really satisfied, finally, really happy I got back in the points, especially the race how I did, it was pretty good. So quite happy. So I can hopefully continue this momentum until Abu Dhabi. And yeah, I mean, lots of things are going on after Barcelona, lots of issues and penalties. So, in hindsight they are not much races that I complete the race week quite clean. But yeah, definitely happy.
Q: And AlphaTauri are now just one point behind Haas in the Constructors’ Championship. Does your car have the pace to beat them now?
YT: I'm pretty optimistic for this race week, I will say. A little bit different characteristics of the race track, especially compared to the last four tracks we done. So hopefully that brings us a little bit advantage or a better way, positive in terms of pace, and if that's the case, we'll definitely have to maximise this opportunity. But yeah, other than that, just we do normal as usual and hopefully we can score points with both cars and yeah, aiming for definitely P8 or P7 in the teams’ championship.
Q: And what's the message from Franz Tost about this battle in the Constructors’?
YT: Yeah, I mean, you know, other teams, the whole team…. We're not in like, kind of, like last year's mood, I will say, like, kind of the place where we were fighting for P6, P5. But still, we all are focusing to each job. Franz is sometimes a bit stressing but yeah, I think every time when we score points he's happy and I’ll just score points and he'll be happy. So this is on the table, so just either you have to put it all together and take the points or you know… But I think he's okay. And yeah, we'll be okay.
Q: Final one for me. It got a little bit messy for you on the opening lap at this race last year. Just how difficult is it to stay out of trouble here with that long run to the first corner?
YT: Yeah, here it’s quite difficult and a bit risky in Turn 1 in the first lap in the race, what I experienced last year, especially when you start P13, P12, you know, obviously, you have more risk to kind of have a collision. So hopefully I can, you know, end up qualifying forwards, but at the same time it’s true that there's a bit there's a bit of risk. And it's quite difficult, especially with the altitude here and braking zone, you can’t have, like, normal brake performance compared to other tracks. So it's really difficult. So yeah, hopefully it won’t happen like last year, and hopefully I can complete the race. That's the main important thing. Yeah, but I think it's pretty difficult. Yeah.
Q: Alright. Thank you, Yuki. And best of luck to you this weekend as well. Daniel, coming to you now. It was a difficult, slightly puzzling race for you in Austin on Sunday. What have you learned since then, about that performance?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Quite a bit, I think. After the race, you go through the debrief and that, but also in the days following, also a little bit today as well, just going back through the race limitations and then areas where obviously with hindsight things we could have done differently or if we had another crack at it, what we would try again. So yeah, it's obviously been like, you know, more races than not have certainly been a struggle. But I feel like we certainly took something from it since the race, and hopefully it puts us in better shape this weekend. So yeah, see what happens. But I mean, I knew quite early on in the race that it was going to be tough like it was. Yeah, I've been doing it long enough now to know that when you have it under you when you don't. And so that was I think the tough thing – just trying to try and find a way through the race to make it a more competitive situation for us. But yeah, quite early on, it proved to be a struggle.
Q: And do you take some confidence coming back to a track where you've been quick in the past? And I'm thinking of your pole here, back in 2018?
DR: It always helps, I think. Not much has, let's say, correlated this year in terms of… As I said, it's been a tough season for sure. I don't come into a circuit relying on like previous success, but of course it helps. And I think honestly, what helps is just coming into a race weekend fresh again and with another chance, another opportunity. So that's exciting. I mean, three days ago, after the race, I was pretty down. But three days after, four days after, Thursday it is, I'm pretty motivated and stoked to get back out there.
Q: Daniel, this is the first time we've seen you in this press conference since the death of Dietrich Mateschitz. Can we just get your thoughts on him, his legacy and what he did for your career?
DR: Yeah. I mean, I think there was so much about Dietrich, in terms of the way he carried himself I think also how he was always happy to be out of the limelight, I think, you know, what he did for so many Red Bull athletes was phenomenal, but he never really looked for too much praise, it was just it was just something that he was able to do, I feel like from the goodness of his heart and gave so many of us an opportunity to really achieve our dreams like that was it. I thought about it a lot and there's honestly like really two groups of people in my life that have put me in this position, you know, it's my parents and it's Dietrich and Red Bull, you know. They provided this opportunity for me to really chase this career, chase his dream, so from that, like, forever grateful but I think him as a human as an individual I think just yeah, humble, warm. It’s not often I think someone with such success maintains let's say such behaviour, such… how do I say? Just like an extremely good role model, I think, for someone who had done so much with their life and had that career. And yeah, admirable.
Sebastian VETTEL: I think I echo what Daniel already said. I think it was six of us on Sunday on the grid who shared obviously a story with Red Bull or are still sharing a story with Red Bull, as a brand, as a team, with the Junior Team and there’s probably more Formula 1 drivers, thinking of others as well. I think the impact that Red Bull had on the grid in the last 15 years has been outstanding and probably unprecedented. I think Dietrich, to me, we had a very good relationship and what I really appreciate today is that it was always eye level, even though he was far more experienced and knowledgeable than I was, especially early on. It’s been a real shock, last week, to hear the news and a massive, massive loss. To me he’s been a great inspiration because he’s always been himself. So many things happened and evolved in his life and got so big around him but it is really his creative mind probably shaped that path and shaped that path until the very end, so it will be a huge loss for the Red Bull family, not just for racing, all of us in Formula 1, with the impact of two teams on the grid and the drivers like I said, but I think, speaking for so many other sports where the brand, Red Bull, had such a huge impact and helped kids, girls, boys, men, women along the way and helped them to chase their dreams. It’s all down to Dietrich and the idea that he had in his head, what he wanted to do with this brand and that’s what he created. It is a very, very big loss and everybody who had the privilege to get to know him and be with him again, echoing a lot of what Daniel said, extremely humble, kind and just a good and big heart.
Q: Brilliant race by you in Austin on Sunday, such fun to watch. You lead a race again. Where is the pace of the car now? Do you enter every race weekend expecting to fight for points now?
SV: Well, I hope we can carry the momentum. Obviously the last races have been good for us in terms of overall pace. We were able to be a little stronger and closer to the points positions. Austin, in particular, we’ve been very competitive, been more competitive than Alpine and McLaren for the first time this year which was a very good and positive surprise and we hope to keep that up but we have to be realistic. This is a different track so we will see how we get on but just looking forward to hopefully sense a good car underneath me and enjoy the racing that I have left.
Q: Nicholas, can we start by addressing some talk, some speculation about your future? People are saying that you’ve signed an IndyCar deal for next year; what’s the situation?
Nicholas LATIFI: Like I said in Austin last week, it’s all just rumours. I haven’t decided yet from my future. Of course, I’ve been exploring options and IndyCar is a series I’m considering, for sure but I’ve not decided on anything yet.
Q: Can you just confirm to us that you want to carry on racing and whether it’s endurance, IndyCar, that’s what you want to do?
NL: I think if the right opportunity in the right series which again, at this point of time, I can’t say what the right series is because I haven’t made up my mind yet, then it’s definitely still on the table, but at the same time, if there’s not an option on the table that I feel is the right one for next year then I’m not necessarily ruling out taking a year to then put something better together for the following one.
Q: In terms of performance, where are you guys at Williams at? There were moments of the race last weekend where you were really competitive. What are you expecting here?
NL: Last weekend was a tricky one, I think, particularly on the option tyre we seemed more competitive and then once we put the prime tyre on, then we struggled a little bit more and just got caught up with… at the safety car restart, I was that first car when all the midfield cars started pitting, I’m that block in the road, let’s say and kind of getting caught up in battles that, let’s say, for the sake of my own race was maybe not the best way to go about it but obviously it was beneficial for the team to just put up as big a fight as possible and we almost got some points in the end with Alex. But coming into this weekend, I think, on paper, this is going to be a very difficult track for us. The only thing going for us this weekend here is the straightline speed but again, we’re fast in the straight because we don’t make a lot of downforce, not because we are extremely efficient in a straight line so it’s obviously the one thing you really need here is the downforce because the produces so little of it to begin with and whenever we’ve needed to put on maximum downforce this year we’ve struggled compared to our competitors so even going off the experiences of last year which tend to be a good correlation of tracks we were more competitive at last year versus this year and whatnot, and this one was a struggle. I guess the good thing is that that brings a kind of optimism for trying to do a bit of a better job as there is a lot of other factors here: reliability issues whether it’s people managing PU tenths and what not, brake temperatures, so there’s a lot of other things that even quicker cars can get wrong so still, we’ve got to be there to take any opportunities that come.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports) Seb, it's all a bit different, isn't it, at the moment compared to the middle part of the season? You've scored points in the last three races, great performance in Austin, especially on the last lap with Kevin Magnussen, driver of the day, last two races, leading races? Are you stopping too quickly? Do you think you might want to stay around for a bit longer the way it's going?
SV: No. It's funny you say that? I think it's maybe… I don't know if it's a thing in Formula 1 or is it a general thing in our lives nowadays that we… to answer your question: no. I thought about this decision long and hard and from a lot of angles. But yeah, I don't know if… I find it's a bit sad that we tend to swing so much now. I see the benefits of having emotions running high and low rather than just being flat but I think the judging in general, it's a bit too quick. We create a hype and too quickly we create like a massive – I don't want to say disappointment and not because of my situation now, the last races versus maybe the mid part of the season – so it's more of a general thing. But yeah, I obviously enjoyed the last two races, last couple of races more than I did maybe some in the mid-part of the season, but they have no impact on the decision. And if anything it’s a great reminder of why I love this sport so much, why I love racing so much. I had great races and I really enjoyed them but I also had races that I didn't enjoy so much and I was wishing after five laps to see the chequered flag and it didn't come out. So you still have to find the motivation in that and hang in there. But yeah, I wish that sometimes it just wouldn't swing as high and as low.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – RacingNews365) George last week after the Turn 1 incident on the opening lap, you said ‘he turned into me’ or ‘he crashed into me’ or something like that. And then later on you said that ‘apologies to Carlos, and I've been to go and see him, etc’. When I asked you whether the difference in your statements was politicking or for the Stewards or sportsmanship or what it was, you said, you’d tell me in Mexico, so you've had five days to think about your answer, what is it?
GR: I think, when you're in the car, you want to get the best result possible regardless of what may have just happened. You're always going to try and defend your case to the best of your ability. Obviously, when you get the opportunity to see that incident afterwards, maybe your views are slightly different. My views weren't different. I thought I was at fault for that crash with Carlos but I'm not going to come on the radio during the middle of the race before the FIA have made a decision to say ‘I'm so sorry, that was my fault and give me a big penalty’. So I think that's just the racing driver mentality. Once the decision has been made, and the penalty has been taken, that's when the apologies came out. So yeah, I think that's really the same for all of us in that regard.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) George, Lewis has said this week that he plans to stay on beyond his current contract. I just want to get your thoughts really on him staying on as your teammate for the foreseeable future please?
GR: Yeah, it's really exciting to have that potential of Lewis staying on for a number of years to come. I think he has proven that he's definitely not lifted his foot off the throttle pedal, and he's definitely the last few races performing probably better than ever. And that’s really exciting for me to have the opportunity to be his teammate, to go directly head-to-head with him and grow on this journey that we're on together because it really does feel like a journey that the two of us are on, along with the rest of the team, in trying to bring Mercedes back to winning ways. So yeah, I think we've got a really, really great relationship, transparent relationship and yeah, be great to be teammates for a number of years to come.
Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Sebastian, well, with the end of your career coming closer, you once were as uncompromising as Max Verstappen is now. Where do you think the view on the world you have at the moment got the upper hand and do you think the young guys and Max in particular, have that change in mind in their future as well?
SV: Well, I think first of all, everybody is different. But we all live our lives and I think it's probably also part of growing up, I think. Turning 30 does change some things. Obviously. I'm a father of three children, which not many drivers on the grid are. It changes your perspective on life, how to explain or explain to you now in an answer why, I don't know if you have children or not, but probably have friends who maybe have children already. So yeah, I think whatever you decide to do with your life has an impact on the person you become. I think I still have the same person in me that was in there 15 years ago, 10 years ago but for sure, I have changed in a way that I've learned a lot of things, got to know new people, maybe you start to see things differently. I don't have any major regrets looking back. But I think I'm very grateful for the opportunity that I was given or had in Formula 1 to race, obviously, and compete on the highest level, but also to travel the world, to see so many different places, see different cultures, meet different people. I think it does something to you, and especially realising that the privilege that we have is not a given. And maybe I have a talent in what I do. Maybe we all have different levels of talents, but I could be born in a different place and the talent would never come out and would never shine. Yeah, I think everybody's free to do what they want and especially I think at a younger age, you're probably more focused on yourself, your ambitions and so on. But provided you're looking, I think life is there to teach you many lessons so I'm sure I could have learned a lot more and I'm looking forward to having more time to learn even more in the future. But yeah, again, it's everybody's choice.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Sebastian, you've won 13 races in a season and I'm just wondering what happens in your head when you reached 13? Is the only thing you think: now I want 14 or is there some kind of self-fulfilment? And maybe you think Formula 1 is less important then?
SV: I don't remember, it’s so long ago plus the season was over when I won 13 races. So Max is obviously in a different position, because the season still goes on. So I hope in his head, he's just looking forward to racing and doing the best he can. He has a great team, great car underneath him, he has a high chance of winning the next one, the next three, so better to ask him, but for me the season was over so I didn't have to think about that. But when I had 12, I just wanted to win another one.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) For Seb and George as senior GPDA figures. We know you've got the meeting tomorrow with the drivers about the Suzuka report that was postponed a week. I just wondered, have you guys had a chance to look at the initial FIA findings, though? What are your thoughts from it? And what kind of clarity or more information are you looking for in tomorrow's meeting?
GR: Yeah, I've read the report and I’m definitely interested to see how our conversation goes tomorrow and how we can continue to evolve the sport. I think the report was very factual, and didn't really state anything that we didn't really know. There was a lot of talk about Pierre within the report… okay, he was the culprit, let's say, of overspeeding. I guess we want some answers about the double waved flag. You’ve got to lift off significantly and be prepared to stop but if there's a double waved flag at the end of the straight in Mexico and you're doing 350, you could lift off significantly but you're still doing 280. Pierre was doing 180 I believe in Suzuka. I guess we need a little bit of clarity on that and it's never straightforward, but we just need to continue to improve the sport and hopefully somehow find a way that we're not ever in a situation like that again, where maybe a car doesn't rebound on to the track or… I don't know. But let's see what the conversation is tomorrow.
SV: Yeah, I’m looking forward to the briefing tomorrow but I think the key is we remind ourselves that it's about looking forward. Racing is dangerous but in these situations, the question is, is it avoidable and therefore unnecessarily dangerous? I think we need to come out tomorrow and all agree on the fact that going forward we've learned something because clearly not everything was correct.
Q: (Jenna Fryer – Associated Press) George, you talked about working with Lewis; three races left, he may have a winless season. How is he handling that?
GR: I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him. I think there's a win in all of us when the right opportunity arises and I think it is exciting for us as a team that we've had a couple of opportunities this year to fight but I think we have to have our very, very best day and execute everything perfectly and our rivals need to have mishaps and mistakes to give us that half a chance so I think we know where we lie in terms of overall performance. I think we're all just going out there for these final last three races to really do the best job possible and see what comes from that.
Q: (Mat Coch – Speedcafe.com) Daniel, a two parter for you: firstly, after last weekend, you were quite downbeat speaking to the press. How have you recovered this week? How's your mental state entering this weekend? And also, given that Lewis is likely to hang around next year and you're targeting a race return does that change anything for you, looking at ‘24?
DR: Look it's always… fresh off a race it's always… you haven't debriefed, you haven't had much time to really assess anything other than what you were just involved in. Obviously, from my point of view of the race, and as I said earlier, like I knew from early in the race that it was going to be a struggle. I could just feel that the car wasn't underneath me and also battling with others, comparing to the others, I could feel where they were stronger and where I simply couldn't compete with them. So yeah, of course it's not the race or the competition I want to be involved in, where you feel a little bit, let's say, helpless in battle. Certainly, let's say, it's normal and natural to feel the way I did. And I think a few days removed after also a little bit of debriefs and all the rest of it… Yeah, like coming to this race, spring in my step, another chance to let's say, get it right and, let's say, fix it. So that's cool. I was pretty low key. I stayed in Austin, that was fun. Chilled. Hi Russell George. And then on Lewis, sorry. The truth is I want him to stay in the sport. He's one of the greatest ever to do it and I think competing with him, going wheel to wheel with him is fun, it's awesome, it's normally at the pointy end so I certainly wish to do that more in the future. And that's where it currently lies. So I think my future will be, let's say, I don't think it's relative to what others do. I think it's, how do I say it, like opportunities will arise when they do, but I'm not banking on anyone doing something so I can find my way. I want to take the time necessary, let's say, keep a little bit of distance to the sport and let's say rebuild myself, but then yeah, if something makes sense in ‘24, come back with a vengeance and have some fun and hopefully race at the front.