FIA Thursday press conference - Monaco
DRIVER GROUP 1 – Oscar PIASTRI (McLaren), Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri)
Q: Yuki, perhaps we can kick things off with you, because before we come on to Monaco, a week ago we were all hoping to be racing in Imola. Of course that race didn't happen because of the devastating floods there. You've been in Faenza, can you just describe what you found when you were there?
Yuki TSUNODA: Yeah, so first of all, I think everyone was excited about the Imola Grand Prix, especially for our home Grand Prix. All the, you know, Faenza and Imola people were excited but at the same time we had a massive storm overnight, well, I would say consistently for three days and most of the town where I live in Faenza was just completely flooded. Just mud everywhere, covered by mud, 70%, or more than that probably. And yeah, I mean, I was just staying safe in the night when the rain was coming but I was also worried because consistently also the electricity got shut down in my house as well. So I was a bit worried, but luckily my house was OK. But at the same time, a day after when I went to town it was just completely mud everywhere. There was water was until two or three metres. Ground floor properties were already covered by mud and water. So it's really been a huge impact on us and yeah, it was really terrible, terrible nights.
Q: Had you seen anything like that in your life before?
YT: No. I saw it only maybe on TV and never expected the things like that, that horrible things will actually happen in front of me. But suddenly it happened in front of me, just this completely different feeling to what I was watching TV, just so scared. You know, just consistently having to worry about, like, the ground floor. Luckily, I have the second floor so I was staying on the second floor all the time. Yeah, just really… because helicopters were also flying around and I could tell that, you know, they were already starting to, you know, help the people from the houses, you know, already got (inaudible) that just consistently knowing it was happening around. Just yeah, it's very scary.
Q: Yeah, very sad scenes, and we wish everybody in the Emilia-Romagna region well. Let's bring it on to Monaco though. What can we expect from you and AlphaTauri here? Are you still bringing the upgrades?
YT: Yeah, I think the upgrades we were planning for Imola will automatically come to this Monaco. To be honest, I think It's hard to feel a difference, because it's not like the same place in [terms of the] downforce required, it’s more towards, like, mechanical grip, so maybe it's hard to see true performance, true gain, but still looking forward to it. And yeah, completely the bodywork changes, so, I haven't seen yet but I'm looking forward to seeing those things.
Q: Final one from me, Yuki. Can we get a word from you on the announcement in Tokyo earlier this week? Honda is coming back to Formula 1 in an official capacity in 2026. What do you think?
YT: Yeah, very excited. As a part of the Honda family, you know, it's good to see them back into the Formula 1 environment. You know, obviously, it was actually a shame you know, two years, three years ago, when they retired after they had such a massive year with Red Bull. So, I would say it's good for them. They like their challenges. And I hope they have another successful season with Aston Martin.
Q: Good for them, good for you? Do you fancy an Aston Martin Honda?
YT: Well, I don't know for now, to be honest. It's still far away to think about. But yeah, interesting two teams, two manufacturers in a collaboration with each other. I heard it's not their first time so maybe they can adapt quickly. But yeah, I mean, it's good to see of course.
Q: Alright, Yuki, thank you. Best of luck this weekend. Fernando, can I bring you in on this? Just get your reaction to the news from Honda?
Fernando ALONSO: Hello. Yeah, I mean, very good news for the team, very exciting. I think, you know, it shows the commitment of Aston Martin to really win races, win championships in the future, being independent, manufacturing their own gearboxes and everything on the car. And, yeah, it’s the only way probably, to really be 100% sure that you are in control of everything in your package, in your car. And it's a great sign for everybody in Aston Martin, you know the desire and the potential to win is there.
Q: To win world titles does a Formula 1 team need its own bespoke power unit?
Q: But you still think this is the right way for the team to go?
FA: I think so, I think so. Especially in 2026, where, you know, the new regulations will come. It is always better if you can develop your power unit, together with the chassis and have everything integrated well in advance, being a works team, I think there are only benefits. I think that doesn't mean that until 2026 Aston Martin will not have a chance to win the championship.
Q: OK, well, let's bring it on to Monaco this weekend. Many people are excited about your chances, including people inside your own team. Just how much confidence do you have coming into the weekend?
FA: I think the same as any other race, to be honest. I think we are not thinking that we are the strongest in Monaco. I don't think that this is going to be a huge change compared to Baku, which is still a street circuit. Miami… I think Ferrari was outstanding in Baku and we could see another great weekend for them here. But then, you know if I tell you that I don't come here thinking that I can win the race, I will lie to you, because this is a one-off opportunity. We know that Monaco, Singapore, there are specific race tracks that you need to gain the confidence on the free practice, get closer and closer to the walls, and yeah, I will attack more than any other weekend, yes.
Q: The weather forecast looks mixed. Dry or wet, do you have a preference?
FA: I don’t care.
Q: All right. Best of luck, thank you. Kevin, can we come to you now? So, Haas, 150 races old this weekend. You've driven in more than two thirds of those races for the team – 106, I've counted. Time flies.
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: Yeah, absolutely, time flies. When I think about it, it doesn't seem like that many races and that much time. But it's been a lot of fun. And you know, Haas has been my home in Formula 1. It's the first team that I fully established myself with. I had one season with McLaren and one season with Renault, but you know, very much Haas became my home in Formula 1 and I’m having a great time.
Q: How has the team changed since you joined it in 2017?
KM: It's changed a lot. I mean, basically, the set-up and the structure in the team is the same, with Dallara and Ferrari. But there's been huge growth and change within the team, the staff and just the structure of the personnel, how it's all structured between who works at Ferrari who works at Dallara, and in England, and in the US there's been a lot of change. But I think, you know, Haas is a team that came into Formula 1 as a real new team, you know. They didn't buy an entity. They didn't go in and buy a factory and all those things. It was set up completely from scratch. And I think in a very interesting way, a different way to all the other teams and it's been a big success, I would say, what Gene and Guenther have done.
Q: Pick a highlight for us. Or can we guess what that was?
KM: Yeah, for sure, I mean the only time we got P1 was in qualifying in Brazil last year. And you know, what we are all here to do and what we are all doing about this is getting the best out of it and finishing in front. And certainly pole position is not what I dreamt about as a kid, that wasn't like the end goal, but for sure so far it was a very big surprise, you know. To get pole position in a Haas is not something that I think anyone could expect and that was certainly a highlight.
Q: Let's bring it onto this weekend. It comes on the back of Miami, where you qualified fourth and finished 10th. Just how much confidence do you have coming here?
KM: I think we've been pretty, not consistent in terms of results, but at least in terms of performance. I feel like we've had a pretty good package for all these different tracks we've been to this year. And, you know, that gives some confidence that this track could be OK as well. I don't think our car has any specific weaknesses or specific strengths. I think it’s pretty overall… You know, we’re in the mix in the top 10. We saw in Miami it was a race where everyone finished. There was not even a yellow flag in the race. And, you know, we finished 10th. With everyone finishing and no, sort of, strategic advantage, or like a safety car or anything like that, we were in the top 10 still. So I think you know, that's where we aim to be every race, trying to get into the top 10 and score points.
Q: Alright, well, best of luck this weekend. Checo, coming to you now. Brilliant race here last year to take victory. But this year, how vulnerable does Red Bull feel coming into the weekend?
Sergio Pérez: We certainly know that it’s not our strongest circuit, no? We will struggle a bit to show our strengths, but it's still Monaco and I think, come Saturday, you really need a good warm-up on your tyres, that definitely is a key around here. And yeah, let's say it's not our strongest circuit, but we will see. It's still Monaco and anything can happen.
Q: Who are the main threats? Do you see Fernando as a threat? Is Ferrari a threat?
SP: Certainly. I think Fernando, the Ferraris, I do expect them to be quite strong as well, like they were in Baku. Obviously over one lap around this place they will be strong. So yeah, I do expect them to be quite strong. And also Mercedes can be in the mix.
Q: And as a track, tell us about driving Monaco? Does it require a different approach to other street circuits?
SP: Yeah, probably Monaco, it's one of those that it's a full street circuit, wherever you are in the circuit normally, if you make a mistake, you will end up in the wall. There is no margin for error. Sunday can be quite boring for the fans, but not for the driver. Because at any point, you can make a mistake and finish your race. And I think we all enjoy too much Saturday, when we go to qualify and we know that it's everything that counts.
Q: Now, it's been a great battle between you and Max this year – just 14 points the gap between you. He won last time out in Miami. How important is it that you finish ahead of him here?
SP: Yeah, it’s certainly important, you know. I don't want him to start building that gap on points. So obviously, every weekend it's a new opportunity to reduce the distance.
Q: Oscar, thank you for waiting. Let's throw it back to Miami, a frustrating race for McLaren. Do you understand why the car struggled so much there?
Oscar PIASTRI: Yeah, I think going into the weekend, we had a feeling that some of the corners might not suit us very well and it turned out to be the case. In the race, for both myself and Lando, we both had some issues. So I think it made it look even worse than it was. But yeah, in saying that, I think we've analysed that quite heavily and hopefully we can make some steps to improve in those kinds of conditions.
Q: Do you think the layout of Monaco will suit the car better?
OP: I hope so. I think, also, it's supposed to be a lot colder than Miami was, which we think was part of our issue as well. So yeah, obviously a very different circuit here to Miami, so hopefully it suits us a bit better. But in saying that, we need to address our weaknesses in other areas too.
Q: Now, you've raced at Monaco before, a couple of podiums in Formula 2. What are you expecting from the track in Formula 1? How different is it going to feel?
OP: Faster – that's for sure. I think the first time I went to Saudi this year was quite an eye-opener, how much quicker Sector 1 is in an F1 car. So I think everywhere around here will feel a lot quicker. But we've got three hours of practice, which is nice compared to the 45 minutes I used to have around here. So, it's a lot of time to get used to it. Obviously, you want to try and start on the front foot and build yourself up from a good starting point, but yeah, we've got time and obviously it could be mixed conditions as well, so I think depending on the session, it could be very different for everyone.
Q: And a great livery by McLaren this weekend, the Triple Crown livery. Do you fancy the Indy 500?
OP: Not particularly, to be honest, when I saw it was 240 something miles an hour into Turn 1. That's, yeah… If you get it wrong, it's going to hurt. Fernando, does it hurt? You didn't crash…
FA: I did crash.
OP: You did crash! Does it hurt?
OP: OK, so there's your answer! Maybe after F1, but not anytime soon.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) A question for Fernando. Honda, 2026. I know it's only three years away, but I think you turn 45 in 2026, so are you still harbouring ambitions to be racing…
FA: Forty-four. I will be 44.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) OK, well worked out. So 44, then, even better than 45. Are you still harbouring ambitions to be racing at that stage in your life? And any issues racing with a Honda engine once again, given what happened the last time?
FA; No, I mean, I don't know what I will do in 2026. I will lie if I tell you that I know right now. For sure, I feel fresh, I feel motivated now. I feel sharp, still fast. And if I keep enjoying it, I would love to keep racing. But I know there is going to be one time, I know that one day I will wake up and I will not feel maybe motivated or happy to keep travelling and all these kinds of things. Or maybe I don't feel fast and I will be the first one to raise my hand and say, you know, maybe it's time. So let's see, I think it's a long way until 2026. I will focus first of all on Monaco now, because I think it's an important weekend and then this season, the next one, hopefully we can make another step and fight for bigger things. And then, racing again with Honda, no it's going to be no problem at all from my side. I know that it didn't work out last time, 2015, ’16, ’17. It was even worse, maybe for some of my teammates, you know, like Stoffel or whatever, coming from dominating F3, F2 and then joining a project that maybe was not fully ready back then. But, you know, I think they proved that they have now a competitive package. They won the championship in ’21. They won a championship in ’22 and most likely will win the championship in ’23. So, I think they have now a very strong package and you know, it's a new set of regulations, but I think it will be a very exciting project for sure.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question for Yuki. Helmut Marko has been quoted in a week clarifying the team's future, that it's not for sale, there'll be a bit more of a base in the UK. How nice is that as a relief and the ability to focus knowing that the future is guaranteed?
YT: Yeah, I mean, as Scuderia AlphaTauri the future is guaranteed but not mine. But I think it's good for AlphaTauri, especially the engineers and mechanics, you know, they now can focus completely to the racing and definitely, you know, most of the mechanics and engineers, they're a little bit concerned about it. So it's good, definitely. And I think it's the right decision for Red Bull, because they had Toro Rosso, they have history, so, like suddenly you can’t just cancel those things, it’s a little bit different so it's good. And obviously for me, at least it’s one thing I don't have to be concerned about, so it's good.
Q: (Pedro Fermín Flores – TheGodFlores) A short question for Fernando. This morning, Mike Krack said it’s up to you to be driving in 2026 with Aston Martin-Honda. I want to ask you is it more that in 2026 you will be in the team in an important role, a technical role?
FA: I don't know. It’s way too far ahead to really have an idea. So, yeah, I have to concentrate and focus on this year. As I said, this is very exciting news, what is happening now to the team, this new partnership with Honda, the new factory. At the end of this month, I think the team is moving to the new building; the new wind tunnel next year. So, there are so many things happening that it is just normal to get excited and want to be part of this team for many, many years. It it's a driver or in a different role, I will be just honoured to be part of it. But so far it’s just Monaco in my head, and this year and next year, so even ’25 I'm not sure what I will do.
Q: Fernando, how much are you enjoying your racing at the minute?
FA: A lot! Yeah, I do enjoy a lot.
Q: When did you last have as much fun in Formula 1 as you're having this year?
FA: I think the Ferrari time was quite good as well. 2010, ’12 I think we have seven different winners in the first seven races in 2012 and it was quite fun back then. And yeah, outside Formula 1 I had a great time in WEC and in Indy as well. But now it is just phenomenal what this team has done in the last winter, the car is so enjoyable to drive. So easy to drive. So, so fast. And the whole team is a high-class team. Today, for example is the first time that I went to the motorhome because we skipped Imola. So just to in this motorhome, and the room that I have, everything is just mind blowing. I have everything you know? I'm thinking to stay here overnight.
Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) Sergio, as far as you have the chance to win this Championship. Can we expect team orders or do you feel free to win races?
SP: Well, I've won already two races. So certainly, I think it's all open, we have full support from our team. And as long as I'm able to deliver the results on track, weekend by weekend, I do expect to have full support from my team.
Q: (Matt Koch – speedcafe.com) Oscar, since you’re looking lonely. When you came into F1, you said you were looking to learn from this year. With five races under your belt, what have you learned? And what are you still looking to learn?
OP: I think firstly, just getting back up to speed after last year. Not driving anything last year. I think getting used to first laps and race starts again. And being around other cars is always a challenge. So I think that's been nice to get back into that rhythm. I think just, you know, understanding more about the world of F1 and how to structure your weekends properly and, and stuff like that. I think in terms of driving as well, obviously, I've got you know a very good benchmark in Lando. So I've been able to learn a lot about firstly, how to attack my driving but also how to help the team try and move forward as well. And I think we've been working together very well on that. So yeah, I've also had now a race with no BBW on the car, which was an experienced to say the least. But yeah, there's been a lot of learning and I'm sure it’ll only continue.
Q: (Velimir Velko Jukic - Auto Fokus Magazine) I have a question for Fernando. If your old friend Lewis would ask you for advice, should he stay in Mercedes or go to Ferrari. What would you say to him?
FA: I have no idea. But he always said that he wins and he loses together with the team, so if he’s not winning, he should stay.
Q: (David Schneider – Hershey Shiga Global) A question for Yuki. In the official press conference, Koji Watanabe said that it's too early to discuss driver pairing but he wants you to be a candidate at least at that time. Does this put extra pressure on you now in this season? As well as, what is your loyalty then to the Red Bull family – because you had been also with the team for a very long time?
YT: Yeah, first of all, it's a long time story. It’s still three years until 2026. So first of all, I don't feel much pressure from it. Because I have to prove a lot of things anyway until three years. But it's good at the same time he is saying the right things. That is good. You want to be at least, kind of, on the list, which means until then you’re proving your skills, everything. Yeah, he's right, but same time, obviously also Red Bull are supporting me for a long time, a lot of years and I’m part of Red Bull, so obviously we’ll have to see the situation then and how we feel and how with Red Bull as well but… yeah, we’ll have to see. And obviously, always as a driver it’s good to be on a list at any team, have a bit of tension, so we’ll see then.
Q: (Laurie Vermeersch – F1only.fr) A question to Fernando. One of the best scenarios would be to see you between the two Red Bulls in the next weeks, months, maybe? Do you think it's really realistically achievable? Or knowing that the Red Bull is so good now?
FA: You'll never know. I think they are better than everyone else. They did a better job and they are dominating the season, and they deserve it. So, for us, it's just a gift, what we are achieving at the moment. We didn't expect to in this position so we are enjoying every weekend. But yeah, you know, there are a couple of weekends like this one that I come here thinking that I will try to win. And maybe it’s our worst weekend and we are out of the points! You never know. This is a very specific circuit. But, you know, there is this kind of one-off opportunities that you try to maximise. We saw gearbox failure for Max in Saudi, in Q2, we had problems in Checo’s car in Australia, all the free practice and Qualifying. So if one of those things happens on Sunday, automatically, you close the gap massively and it starts to be more interesting. So, Championship is long, we will not give up.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) A question to Sergio and Yuki. What can you reveal from your unique insight about what Aston Martin are getting from Honda? What have you seen about their focus, their work ethic their facilities?
SP: Well, to me has been really privileged to work with Honda. It's been really impressive to see that, every time you ask for something, things were happening or at least were changing. They were listening very carefully to the feedback of the driver, even through the weekend, how we can tune the engine throughout the shifts, and all of that sort of stuff. To me, that has been really impressive. And I think Aston is a top team that is getting a top manufacturer. So, I think the combination itself is going to be one of the most powerful for 2026.
Q: Yuki before we come to you, Checo, how much of a loss is losing Honda for Red Bull?
SP: Well, we are obviously excited to have Ford at the time, but we don't know what to expect: I've never worked with them. So it's going to be a new challenge. But certainly, from what I've seen so far from Honda, I've been really impressed with: with their work ethic and the amount of detail they put into every single thing that you ask for. As a driver, it has been really impressive for me.
YT: Also, pretty much similar comments as Sergio. The first time I went Honda's factory in Sukura in the last year, how they operate in the factory is just phenomenal. It’s, like really crazy, super detailed. I chatted with everyone, they're really professional, so I think Honda came in five, ten years ago, whatever, and they progressed massively quickly, and now they’re fighting for first and the Championship. So yeah, it's good and also I guess for Aston as well. They are progressing a lot, so those two combined with each other will be definitely threat for competitors. So yeah, interesting matching, and I think, excited to see how they go.
DRIVER GROUP 2 – Alex ALBON (Williams), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Pierre GASLY (Alpine), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo)
Q: Charles, your home race, just how does it feel to be racing again on these streets that you know so well?
Charles LECLERC: I mean, as good as last year and the years before, it's always very special for me, because those are the streets where I've grown up. I know the city by heart, wherever I go on the track I've got some friends living right over the track and can see the race from their apartments. So, it's very, very special for me.
Q: And this race track owes you a dose of luck, doesn't it? Because you've been so unlucky in Formula 1, even in Formula 2.
CL: I do not believe too much in luck, but it's true that when you see the records, it’s not always been easy on race day, but Saturday was good, which I hope we can reproduce a good performance this Saturday, with a better Sunday this time.
Q: Well, let's talk about performance. You took two pole positions in Baku, a couple of races ago. How do you rate your chances this weekend?
CL: I mean, honestly, I think Red Bull is still the team to beat. With a special lap, maybe we can beat them in Qualifying. In the race, they are extremely quick – but again on a track like this, overtaking is very difficult. So yeah. And not only Red Bull is quick: Aston Martin will be in the mix. Mercedes arrived with a very different-looking car, which I'm curious to see how it performs. And yeah, then we need to see where we are and what's possible.
Q: Is this the most unpredictable race of the season so far?
CL: Hmmm… I mean, not really, in a way, because I still believe Red Bull is the fastest.
Q: Okay, one final question from me Charles, there’s been a bit of speculation in the media recently with regards to your future partner at Ferrari. What do you look for in a teammate?
CL: Hello Lewis! I mean, a fast teammate, as everybody. We are in Formula 1, and we love to be fighting against the best. But that's not to say that my teammate is not fast. Carlos is an extremely fast driver. But yeah, considering that, I mean, I'm not the person who makes the choices. So yeah, let's see.
Q: Would you welcome Lewis?
CL: If I say yes, I imagine it being the title of every newspaper. But I mean, Lewis is such an incredible driver, has achieved so much in the sport. So, I think anybody on the grid will love to have Lewis as a teammate, as everybody will learn a lot from him. But yeah, again, I'm happy where I am. And with Carlos, it's a great relationship too.
Q: Lewis, can we bring you in on this. What about these Ferrari stories?
LH: Firstly, thank you for the nice words. Hi everybody. Yeah, I think naturally when you're in contract negotiations, there's always going to be speculation. And I think ultimately that's… unless you hear from me, then that's all it is.
Q: Where do you think these stories have come from?
LH: Well, there’s a certain individual in this room who’s written at least one of them! But yeah, I don't know. I think maybe with last weekend, with the race been cancelled, maybe they just got bored and started to… ha! But I think, as I said, my team’s working closely behind the scenes with Toto, we're almost at the end of having a contract ready. So, having a team focus on that, so I can just do my job, that's a much better position than I was in before, because I remember I used to do all my negotiations on my own, and it was very stressful. So, I don't have to do that anymore.
Q: Let's talk about the job then. You said in Miami that you were counting the days until the upgrades were going to be on your car. Well, that day is pretty much with us now. Can you describe the sense of anticipation in the garage?
LH: Yes, I mean, through the whole factory. I was there last week, as we were preparing for the weekend and we got the news, which I think was the right decision, and all of us were really thinking of what was happening there in the region, Emilia-Romagna, and I think it was the right decision. But I'm grateful that we are here. The upgrades, will be difficult to see just how it works at this kind of track, but I'm hopeful that it puts us a little bit closer to these guys, so we can… I don't think we'll be fighting for a win, necessarily, but hopefully it'll be more than a fight.
Q: Pierre. Can you clarify something for all of us, please? Is it true that you tackled Charles in the charity football match, despite being on the same team?
PG: Completely untrue! Not this year! This happened once, but not this year, we were all…
CL: I think it happened again. I have the picture! But I did not know that it was you. And I think you didn't know that it was me – but we were fighting for the ball.
PG: OK, it may have happened. Let’s say our level is still to be improved. I was just giving him support! Most important, we won that game, that’s all that matters.
Q: How are the legs? Did the full 90, didn't you?
PG: Yeah, I did. It was a nice workout and no, honestly, the football was great. Great to team-up with Carlos and Charles, just ahead of the weekend, and taking it slightly easier.
Q: Let's talk about on track performance, now. What can we expect from you and Alpine here in Monaco?
PG: I think it's important for us to build up on Miami. We showed slightly better pace, I think, in the last race in scoring points with both cars. Ultimately we want to do better than what we've been showing since the start of the year and hopefully we can build up from there this weekend.
Q: So it's all about consistency for you guys?
PG: Well, first we need to find consistency and then… I don't think we are miles behind Ferrari and Mercedes right in front of us, so definitely we’ve got some potential. We need to unlock a bit more from the package. We have got small bits coming there weekend after weekend and hopefully that can close the gap with these guys.
Q: There was a bit of criticism from the management over the Miami Grand Prix. What is the vibe like inside Alpine at the minute?
PG: I think we all share the same ambitions inside the team. We all want to see the team performing at the top and fighting for better positions than what we've been doing so far. I wouldn't say it's criticism but more the eagerness and the will and the desire to be right there at the top and everybody is trying their best. I trust the team in the progress they've been showing over the last couple of years and we've had a slightly slower start than what we would have liked and wanted. But now we just need to keep our head down and keep progressing weekend after weekend and just moving forward and find some more performance.
Q: Good luck with that, thank you. Valtteri, if we can come to you. Now, sadly, no Grand Prix last weekend, of course, but you kept yourself busy. Tell us what you got up to?
Valtteri BOTTAS: First of all it's pretty terrible what's happened out there and yeah, I hope the support keeps going. It was a surreal feeling on Wednesday, everything was packed, I was about to leave from here to drive to Imola and I got a call “it's cancelled. Stay home.” And then I was like, what do I do now? And there was this gravel cycling race in Scotland that my girlfriend was doing anyway, she was there so I found a flight and got myself and managed to get an entry to this World series race and… I had to race something because I was so hyped for Imola.
Q: And Olympic triathlete Alistair Brownlee was in the race. Did you beat him?
VB: Yes, I did actually.
Q: Very impressive. Let's talk all things Monaco. You had your first Q3 of the season in Miami last time out. Was that track specific or a genuine step up that's going to help you here?
VB: I think we saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, let's say, in Miami in qualifying. We managed to find good setup, good rhythm and it's shows but it is so close that once you get everything right you can actually achieve much better results than for example the race before so that was good to see and we want to keep that momentum. We were planning upgrades for Imola so now obviously we’re trialling those here and yeah, hopefully gives us an extra boost. But we're working as hard as we can to get where we want to be, which has not been the case so far this year.
Q: Alex, coming to you, thank you for waiting. First up, how was the charity sim race that you contested in aid of the Emilia Romagna region?
Alex ALBON: It was OK. It was good fun. I didn't have the old team-mates back, so it was a little bit lonely, a bit more lonely than it was… what two, three years ago now? But it was for a good cause. We raised good money. And yeah, it was kind of embarrassing, actually, because the e-sports guys, there were seven or eight of them, and they're over a second quicker than you and you don't feel good. You lose your confidence. I'm going into this weekend with less confidence than I started.
Q: And in fact, you were disqualified, weren't you?
AA: I was, for blue flags! Which was good timing from last year. But anyway… No, but last year I got… It was good, it was good fun.
Q: What about this weekend, then? Do you have a reason to believe that this car will go better around Monaco than last year?
AA: Yeah, I do. I feel like every track we've been to this year has been a huge improvement. It's been great to go into FP1s and you're already feeling better than you did in qualifying last year. Half the time we're actually even quicker, already straightaway than we were last year so there's a lot of confidence, a lot of satisfaction as well driving the car, compared to last year. So this track is a bit specific. I would say that a lot of the advantages with our new car is more high-speed related. So when you come to a track like Monaco, it goes away a little bit. But let's see. I think Monaco is a little bit of an outlier to the other circuits we go to and some teams can perform better than others just due to this unique layout.
Q: Is there a sense of frustration inside the team, because you've only got one third of the points that you had at this stage last year?
AA: True. But you know, we're not talking… when you say a third, you think about multiple points but we were in single digits last year and we are this year, and the main thing for us is that the car really is in a better platform. I would actually say the opposite: not frustrated at all, but actually very optimistic and positive about how the season’s gone so far. Of course, we haven't scored as many points, but if you actually look at our true pace, there aren't many teams DNF-ing anymore. There aren't strange races happening. The one race there was, in Melbourne, unfortunately, I had a mistake myself so I actually look at this year very positively and hopefully we can keep building on it through the season.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Lewis, we've had a bit of speculation over the years, I feel we've been here before, but I suppose what's different this time is that your contract’s coming up for renewal at a time where your team isn't doing quite so well. And you've not been afraid of making a bold decision to swap teams in the past. So does the current form that Mercedes are in have any bearing on your ideas of where you want to be for the future? And have Ferrari made any contact at all to either yourself or your representation?
LH: Firstly, no, it doesn't have a bearing, I think, because I don't feel like… we're still a championship-winning team. It's just we've had the wrong car. There have been some decisions that have been made over the past two years that have not been ideal and we're working our way through that. All the energy is going towards… We have a new upgrade this weekend, the team have worked incredibly hard to bring this upgrade. We already, after Bahrain, decided that that's what we're going to do, and so I was a little bit gutted when the last race got cancelled because I was excited to try this new package. And whilst here is not the best platform track-wise to really see those come to fruition we'll hopefully experience that more next week. And otherwise, as I said, my team are chatting, having the discussions with the team in the background and we're almost there so…
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) And have Ferrari been in touch?
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Lewis, the bosses of Silverstone have been quoted in the last couple of weeks saying that Formula 1 has gone to them for advice on how to organise the Las Vegas Grand Prix. What makes the British Grand Prix the right template for other races to follow?
LH: Wasn't expecting that one! I don't know, it’s a much different…. I think Silverstone puts on a great race, but it's a much different race to what you’ll see at Vegas. I don't really know what to say. I think they put on an amazing show in the UK. The organisation is great there. We have a big, huge turnout of fans. I don't know how it relates to Vegas, though, if I'm really honest.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Lewis, you say ‘almost there’ with the contract. What is left to be decided? What was the timeline that you'd like to have it decided by?
LH: It's not really stuff that I can really talk about, to be honest. But as I said, this is the first time I think that I've not been negotiating myself and I've got a great team in the background that are doing all the work so I can just focus fully on the job at hand. I say what I want and that's what we're working towards and so hopefully in the coming weeks.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) There's some rain forecast this weekend. If it is wet, and you use the wet tyres or the new tyres without blankets, firstly, have you driven those tyres? And secondly, do you have any concerns with running them for the first time here?
Q: Pierre, can we start with you? I believe you were at Ricard, recently weren’t you?
PG: You did your homework! Yeah, I did try the latest tyres we're going to have in Ricard, I think like 10 days ago. So I wouldn’t to say there is any concern, there's always work to try to develop the product that we got and I think there are certain areas of the tyres we would like to improve. I don't think it's massively different to what it was last year. So I just expect very similar behaviour to what we had to face and deal with last season.
Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – Motorsport.com) Pierre, there was a threat coming into the season that you might have a race ban if you get involved in another incident. Now that ban has kind of eased, do you feel like you can relax a bit more now and you can really get the Alpine into the top six, fighting with the Astons, Ferraris and Mercedes?
PG: Personally, I don't think this had any impact on my performance or my approach to racing. Obviously, it wasn't an ideal situation to be in. And it’s always in the back of your mind, but I know I'm a respectful driver. I always fight at the limit, but it's not like I go purposely over the limit so I wasn't really concerned about it. But yeah, obviously great to know that I got these two extra points after last weekend and I won't have to think about it that much.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, have you got gold teeth? Ah right, I saw a photo which Mark Sutton had posted and I wanted to quiz you on that. Clearly not.
LH: I got them in my pocket actually.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) They're not permanent, right?
LH: I thought about it. No, I'm kidding.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis, another one for you on the upgrades coming this week. And I know it's been quite a painful period, as you touched on, over the past 18 months or so with the car. How much have you seen the team come together through this sort of rough patch though? Do you learn more from your defeats than you do from your victories sometimes? Did it feel like that at Mercedes?
LH: 100% yeah. As the sport continues to grow, there's more and more people coming onto the team. There's a lot of people on the team that have had all the success that we've had in the past. And there's a lot of people that haven't had that success yet and are super hungry. I'm really encouraged when I do go back to the factory and see just how hard everyone's working. Last year we were a little bit lost in terms of how to fix the issue that we had. I feel like the team now have a much… they have a north star, they know exactly where they need to go and we’re working on how to get there. But yeah, the amount of work has gone in is incredible and I'm very, very grateful for the hard work. I've been so excited to get in the car and feel these changes and I feel that hopefully puts us on the right path now to progress forward and try and catch the guys ahead.
Q: (Velimir Velko Jukic – Avto Fokus)You are in a high speed, high risk sport and maybe Monte Carlo is the most representative to feel this speed and this risk. How do you manage to control it and how do you survive every corner, every attempt to attack on the fast lap?
VB: It is true. It's quite a challenging track, narrow, no room for any mistakes. I think in the end it’s lots of practice. We practise a lot obviously and you have simulators nowadays which can help you to get your eye in already for practice one. For sure, there are some more challenging tracks than some others but in the end it’s focus. Focus is the key issue and if you keep the concentration for each corner, each lap then you won't make a mistake. So that's the key.
CL: Yeah, other than what Valtteri said, it's also a very different approach to a normal weekend. Whenever we get to this track it’s all about going step by step to the limit until qualifying when you go all out and that's such an incredible feeling. Just the excitement and the adrenaline that you get around this track is amazing. It reminds me a little bit of my karting days where you don't really have time to think because there are no straights, so it's corners after corners. And yeah, it's just really exciting and probably it’s the best qualifying of the year for sure.
PG: Yeah, I completely agree with Valtteri and Charles and I will say it's a lot about precision at Monaco, it's all about being very precise with your lines, being millimetres away from the rails everywhere, really nailing the braking points and you have this risk which brings more adrenaline to it. You’ll seem when you go for one push lap in qualifying three, and you need to make it work, there's pressure and butterflies you create inside the stomach, it’s just a very unique feeling to qualifying in Monaco, so definitely my favourite of the year.
LH: Not much more to add to it, but most often it's just sheer luck. You throw it into the corner and come out with your eyes open and hopefully you've made it round. So it's awesome, it's an amazing place to race and we're so privileged to be able to do what we do and being one of the only 20 to do it here at the peak of the sport. So epic.
AA: Yeah, only thing to add is I remember my first year it was a bit of a shock to the system to come here. I remember just because the walls are so narrow here as well that the emotion of speed is even higher than normal. So I remember my first test in Barcelona I was shocked by the speed of the Formula 1 cars and then after that you get used to it very quickly, almost straight afterwards you get used to it. But then when I came back to what… when I came to Monaco for the first time it was… yeah, as soon as you start going up the hill flat out… yeah, wet pants!
Q: (Pedro Fermín Flores – TheGodFlores) Charles, this week also everybody was talking about a possible new contract with Ferrari, new extension, 2024 and more and John Elkann involved in your new contract. And second one for Lewis, not about Ferrari. Are you drinking Mate? What are you drinking? Because it seems it’s like Mate. It is a special drink…
LH: It’s tequila on the rocks!
Q: (Pedro Fermín Flores – TheGodFlores) I asked because Mate is an Argentinian drink, a relaxing Argentinian drink…
LH: Oh, no. If you can provide me some I’ll try it. I've never had it before.
CL: No, no talks has been started on my renewal for now. I speak with John regularly about the season and the vision for the future but not yet about my contract situation. There's still a year and a half before the end of my contract, so still a lot of time.
Q: Charles, can we just end with this? How long did it take after you passed your driving test for you to drive a lap of the Monaco Grand Prix track? Day one?
CL: Oh, okay. With my road car you mean? I don't think I tried it until I actually drove it with a Formula 2 car. So yeah, a year after.