FIA Thursday press conference - Singapore
DRIVER GROUP 1: Esteban OCON (Alpine), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Alex ALBON (Williams), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
Q: A very warm welcome to you all. Please, can we start with Alex? First up, great to see you back. How are you feeling?
Alex ALBON: Good, thank you. Yeah, it feels good to be back. Yeah, I came here, obviously. I feel ready. I feel as fit as I can be. And we had a good week of training, or two weeks almost, to get back to where we are today. So, you know, we'll see how it goes. Obviously, we are realistic. And we know that we're coming to the most difficult race of the year, so we do have to be mindful of that. But I feel good. I've been karting. It's felt okay, so, yeah…
Q: Are you in pain?
AA: No pain, no pain.
Q: Look, it must have been a very frustrating weekend for you in Monza, you'd been looking forward to that race, knowing the car was going to be competitive. What was it like sitting on the sidelines? And a quick word on the job you thought Nyck de Vries did?
AA: Yeah, well, firstly, I was supposed to be asleep for a few days. And I woke up pretty much 30 minutes before the start of the race. So I could watch it. But as you said, it was it was frustrating to watch, the heart rate went up a little bit, and they were keeping an eye on me and they told me I had to switch it off at some point. But, you know, it's only because we had such a good car on Friday, at least, and when I woke up on Saturday, there was kind of that decision of should you risk it or not, in terms of driving. But we did the right thing. And you know, Nyck did a really good job obviously. We know that Monza was going to be a good one. But he brought home some points, which obviously in the bigger scheme of things is very good for the team.
Q: And what about car performance here? You went well in 2019, qualified sixth, raced to sixth. Do you think the car will be as competitive here as it was in Monza?
AA: I don't believe so. But, you know, we never know. I think we've surprised ourselves a little bit this year with some circuits. So we'll give it a go. This circuit’s a little bit more down towards you know, let's say, downforce and there's a few corners here. So not quite like Monza, but we'll give it a go.
Q: Lando, let's come to you. You've been here for a few days already. How's the acclimatisation to the heat going?
Lando NORRIS: Yeah, well, I think. I've not done too much, just exploring little bits here and there. Yeah, that's it, not too much else. So just having a little look around going to some different restaurants and nice places for dinner and lunch and everything but that’s all.
Q: Now, if the camera just zooms out a little bit there is a bit of strapping on your leg. Any serious issue there?
LN: No, nothing serious. Not ideal, but I should be fine for driving so…
Q: Alright. Well, let's talk about this racetrack. We haven't been here for a few years. You've raced in Singapore once before. Just what are your memories of the track? How excited are you to be back?
LN: I'm very excited. For me, one of the coolest tracks on the calendar. At the same time, one of the most difficult to put together, so rewarding I think come qualifying, especially. You’ll probably talk about Lewis' lap a few years ago, but like, completing a lap here and putting everything together and crossing the line it's definitely one of the most rewarding places. Similar to Monaco in some ways, to nail everything and get that feeling inside the inside the car, so I loved it. It was a decent weekend that I had here back in 2019, so my first season, so yeah, I've missed it. It's just warm and sweaty but it's an enjoyable place to come back to and definitely a fun racetrack.
Q: Damon Hill described this track as Monaco times two recently. Can you relate to that?
LN: It's different. I think there's more say, more slow-speed corners, less kind of medium to high-speed, which I think Monaco has a little bit more of. Of course you’ve got the final corner but that's about it. Monaco, I think is… I feel like you've got to take a few more risks here and there. And judging things is a little bit more difficult for my feeling in Monaco. Singapore is a bit more stop and go consistently. So it's a different challenge. I guess there's a lot of walls and if you get too close on the inside or outside you can easily make mistakes but yeah, a different challenge, more corners at the same time, but still tough. Not a lot of room for error, but very enjoyable.
Q: Thank you, Lando. Best of luck to you. Lewis coming to you. Now, Lando just referenced your pole lap from a few years back. You're a four-time winner here. Just give us your thoughts on being back in Singapore?
Lewis HAMILTON: Well, it's good to be back. Obviously, 2019 feels like a lifetime ago for everyone. So it's great to be back in this beautiful city. And the track is epic to drive. It's a very, very bumpy ride, 23 corners. I think that night, that lap back in… is it 2018? Yeah. I don't remember every single part of it. I've not re-watched it, but it was definitely one of the best laps of my career. So the hope is always that you can one day get to experience something similar. But the feeling of that day was something very unique.
Q: And in terms of performance, there was a time early in the hybrid era when there was at least the perception that Singapore was a bit of a bogey track for Mercedes. Was that how you viewed it back then? And how do you see it now?
LH: I would definitely say that it was a track that we had struggled out quite a lot. And I think it's probably due to some sort of… I don't think it was aero-based, I think it was more probably ride quality, that we just hadn't been as good as some of the others had been. We'll discover if that's a true philosophy this weekend, or a true theory this weekend. But yeah, I think they've resurfaced some parts of the circuit, so hope hopefully it's not as bouncy as before.
Q: And in terms of competitiveness, where do you see yourself? What are your hopes?
LH: We hope that the car works better here. But as I said, it really depends how bumpy it is. And the bumps often set the car off and upset the car in a lot of instances. We do know it's going to be bumpy. Maybe the car will be fine. Maybe it won't. So I have no expectations at all, just going to try and have the best weekend with whatever we're faced with.
Q: Esteban, let's come to you now and before we come on to this weekend, I just want to ask you about a couple of things you got up to during the break. Happy birthday. But also tell me about your love affair, if that's the right expression, with the UFC, because you were doing… you certainly went to a gym, didn't you?
Esteban OCON: Yeah, exactly. So I went to the best training centre basically in France, MMA factory, it's called. I was there with Mick actually, who got to do a bit of sparring. But yeah, I mean, I love the sport, there are some great values and obviously has become legal to fight now, in France, in MMA and the UFC has come to Paris recently. So it was a huge event. And there are some great French athletes and for me, it was important also to bring a friend of mine giving him the opportunity, you know, to meet the best coaches in the world and, you know, to place him there was very important for me, so, you know, now it's up to him to get on there and fight with the best.
Q: Can I just bring in Mick here? Sparring? UFC, MMA sparring? How was that? Was it with Esteban or who you were with?
Mick SCHUMACHER: I wasn't the friend he was just mentioning. I’m not going to UFC! No. But he showed me some moves, which was interesting. So now I can defend myself.
Q: Now, Esteban, back to you. You've raced here three times before, just give us your thoughts on the track and what you think it's going to be like with these stiff 2022 cars?
EO: Yeah, first of all, it's great to be back here and had such a warm welcome since I arrived, a lot of cool presents, cool drawings. You know, we visited a mall this morning for a car launch, for our car launch, the road car. And yeah, there were so many, you know, supporters cheering for us. And that's definitely boosting us for the weekend. But, yeah, I mean, it's a challenging track, really challenging. There's a lot of corners, as we said. It's hard to pull it together, especially with these cars, which are very stiff, you know. There are some curves which are quite sharp, quite hard on the body. So it's going to be an interesting one, but I feel ready.
Q: And you've got a new floor this weekend. What effect do you think that's going to have on the stopwatch?
EO: Yeah, I mean, fantastic job by the team to keep developing the car like we've done since the beginning of the year. We've made huge steps each time something was coming. So I look forward to see what it’s going to give us. You know, it's quite a big upgrade. But again, you know, it's important for us to have a clean weekend and hopefully use it the best we can.
Q: And Mick back to you. You've never raced here before. Just tell us about the challenge ahead? What are you expecting?
MS: Yeah, I mean, I can only refer to what everybody else is saying, as I've never raced here myself. So I guess that the humidity is one of the points that probably everybody talks about, but also the track itself as you know. I've done a few simulator sessions on this track and watched a load of videos on this place, but really excited to go out there and make my own kind of experiences of this place.
Q: And you've been teasing us on Instagram saying that you had something special coming, I think for Singapore. What it's for?
MS: That’s for Japan.
Q: Okay. Well, that's the question for next week. Best of luck to you as well. Let's open this to the floor. And who has our first question, please?
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Alex, for you, a two-part question. First of all, obviously, respiratory failure sounds pretty serious. What sort of physical preparation have you been doing to get ready for here? And how confident are you going to be able to see through the weekend? And secondly, you've had lots of challenges through your career of various kinds. How have you have you been viewing this one?
AA: Yeah, so firstly, I would say it was more kind of bed recovery to begin with. It's quite a tricky one because you're basically waiting for your lungs to recover. And at the same time, your body can't move as well as it normally can. So you can't just jump back into normal training, you have to slowly build into it. So it was kind of starting Monday last week when we really started to push it and see what we can do. I treated it like a nine-to-five job, training and recovery. Of course, recovery is really important. So yeah, basically throwing everything at it. And day by day I was getting better and better. And then obviously, we got to a point where the recovery was going really well. I don't think we truthfully had in mind, Singapore on the cards, but just with the speed of the recovery, it was definitely a possible thing. And as I said, we sat long and hard to think about it. You know, shall we do it or not? And I feel like I am ready. So, you know, of course, we'll have to wait until FP1 and tomorrow to see where it’s at, because driving around here is a bit of a different beast. But yes. And then in terms of, I guess, setbacks? It's a small one really. I've missed out on a race. I've been very lucky. I've had very good doctors around me, who were in Italy, to get me back into a good place. So I feel very fortunate. And yeah, I only missed out on a race. So it's not a big deal.
Q: Alex, what are you most anxious about before getting back in the car?
AA: I'd say it's more Singapore. I think it's the humidity. I think everyone's touched upon it. It is the hardest race of the year, that's for sure. I'm not sure how the others feel about it, but I feel like these cars are quite different, maybe not quicker, but they are physical in their own ways. They are so stiff. It is a different toll on your body. So, you know, in terms of actually the surgery side, I'm not worried about that at all. I know that's fully recovered. It's more just the after effects of being in intensive care, basically, and the toll that has on your body. But like I said, I wouldn't be here if I if I didn't think I could be able to race.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to Lewis, please. Lewis, you just said you don't know how the Mercedes is going to respond when it comes to being on the bumps around a street track. But what about all the work the team has done to improve the package in recent months? Is there anything, particularly knowledge that you've gained that might help you think make things be better compared to how it was in Monaco and Baku?
LH: Oh, 100%. We've learnt a huge amount about the car, which is natural for everyone, but it's definitely a huge help knowing where the working window is, what the working range is. And so we're able to predict pretty much where we're going, whether it will work in one place compared to another. And also the limitations of the car. We know where those limitations are and how to… We just have to try and work around them. So yeah, I think we were very fortunate, we're in a much better place I think, than we've ever been. So I hope that we're not far away.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Alex, another one for you, sorry, about what happened. But can you just give us an insight into what you remember from going into hospital and then you effectively ended up on a on a ventilator. I mean, how harrowing was that experience? Did you fear the worst, basically?
AA: Luckily, I was quite drugged up. So I don't remember much of it. I just remember obviously, going into surgery, and it it's a relatively simple procedure, I think it only takes a couple of hours to be operated on. But obviously you don’t understand time when you're sedated. But obviously, it was more of the impact on the people around me. So when I did wake up, I thought everything was… that was the procedure finished. And it was only then they said, ‘Well, you actually have gone through a little bit more than that’. So yeah, I think in the end, I was supposed to be in, I guess you would call it an induced sedation, for two to three days, but in the end my lungs cleared out within 12 hours, so I was already up pretty much shortly after. And as I said, it wasn't such a big thing for me, it was more seeing… You know, my family came to the race and all that kind of thing. And obviously they were a little bit in shock. So yeah, that was about it.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) Alex, another one for you. You mentioned that, I guess you'll monitor things tomorrow on FP1 and 2, what are the sorts of things that you're looking for to make a decision on whether you can continue in the weekend?
AA: I'd say mainly, we're looking at long runs, I think obviously, the short runs, anyone… It’s quite a comfortable thing to be able to drive these cars. But by FP2 especially you do get a really good idea of how it's going to feel on your body for the race. So like I said, I'm not planning to not race. I'm planning to be there and truthfully I feel pretty confident in my body but of course nothing quite compares it to the actual toll of driving these cars. So yeah, that's really it, you know. I think as a driver, you'll know straightaway what your body can do.
Q: (Laurie Vermeersch – F1only.fr) Alex, we don't know who's going to be your team-mate next year. What is your… It’s going to be your second year there, what is your approach to this new leader role, let's say?
AA: I'd say, you know, I'm not too focused on it, to be honest with you. I feel like in terms of the leader role, I'm already feeling like we're working well together. And the dynamic is not going to change next year. Just keep on going as we are. And then whoever's across the other side of the garage, it is whoever it is, you know. You've can only focus on yourself. And like I said, even for me now, it's more focused on race by race, and that will be the same going into next year.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, I saw you were over in Hollywood this week. I think you were in Hollywood meeting with Jerry Bruckheimer. I presume it's to do with the Formula 1 film that you're involved with, that you're producing. Can you tell us any more details? Has filming started? If there's been any celebs that have been lined up to be cast in it? Where are we up to with it?
LH: No, there's not really much of an update. At the moment we're still working through the script. And so yeah, I've been out in LA. It wasn't this this trip, but the one before, visiting Jerry's office, which was pretty epic, and sitting with Brad (Pitt) and Joe (Kosinski) and just going through the plot and the plan, It was a pretty epic kind of experience. And then this time, I was just hanging with Jerry. Yeah, we were on set of another movie that was being filmed, which was Eddie Murphy's movie, which was very, very cool. Huge fan of Eddie Murphy, so I got the chance to meet him. And yeah, getting to work and spending time with these people. You're just learning more about the industry and the challenges and how they go about making great movies that we've all grown to love throughout our lives. Yeah, I got to hang with some of the guys that do John Wick, just filming John Wick 4 as well. So just having lots of conversations and trying to learn as much as I can from all these great and talented people.
Q: Lewis as you learn more about the industry, what impresses you the most?
LH: I think the industry is, I think it's literally the… We arrive at a movie theatre and with no comprehension of how much work goes on in the background, how much preparation there is, how big a team there is in the background. They have similar issues with diversity, for example, in terms of behind the camera. I think what I'm most impressed by is seeing some of the organisations for example, like Disney, the real steps… They're really pushing for diversity. They've got a lot of female leadership throughout the different companies, which is great to see, and you’ve already seen on TV today, for example the new Ariel movie that's coming out. I don't know if any of you saw the video of the young kids that are watching and that she's like… she looks… she's the same colour as me. So there's a lot of work that's been done in the industry and there's so much to learn from these people that have been there, the greats. Still, yet to meet Spielberg… one day.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, Max has got his first chance of winning the title this weekend and given how exciting your battle with him was last year, how much of a shame was it for you that you didn't get to have the rematch this season? And also, I guess for the sport, because it's been quite one-sided season for fans watching.
LH: From my point of view, I'm not really thinking much about it. Yeah, definitely, I feel for the fans because that's for everyone and even for us, last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody and so it's never great when the season finishes early, even when I've experienced having it finish early, in places like Mexico. For you as the one individual it’s great, but for the actual sport is not spectacular. So I'm really grateful to have had it like 2008, right down to the last 17 seconds, and obviously last year pretty much the same thing. So yeah, let's hope for the future that it's a bit better. For me, I'm really still enjoying the… We’ve still got six races, I'm still enjoying the challenge and proud of the strength and the growth within our team, in terms of the relationships, in terms of our focus, just seeing how hard everyone works in a team is, for me, the most inspiring thing. They've gone from the racetrack the next… you know, fly over Sunday night, they're in in the office on Monday, trying to come up with solutions, trying to crack the code and that's really impressive because it's just relentless, the season. I know everyone – I'm sure all of you as well – is looking forward to the break, so I hope everyone's planning ahead to maximise and make it efficient.
Q: Can I just throw this Max question a little bit wider to everybody? I think people are going to want quotes when he seals the title. Mick, can we just get your thoughts on the job that Max has done this year in Red Bull?
MS: Well, without going in too much, I think what he's done was… well, it's quite impressive. He's had a tough start to the season but then turned it around pretty well with Red Bull and definitely it seems to work out for them.
EO: Yeah, very, very impressive season, especially I think the way… you know when Max was starting in the back and just flying through the field I think this has been quite impressive in terms of just like first lap knowing where to place the car and all that. I think he's been on top of his game this year so once he wins the title congratulations.
AA: Yeah, most probably he would also want us to wait ‘till he wins it if we comment about it, but no, it's obviously very, very impressive and I think also you have to give credit to Red Bull as well. I think they've been on been upgrading their car quite a lot through the year and they seem to have made a step and I don’t want to say that they're pulling away from the others, but it seems like they're clearly doing a very good job.
LN: Yeah, similar. Well done to him. He's obviously done an incredible job. The team have given him a very good car in order to do so. But yeah, I think everyone kind of expected it as well, especially after last year. You see the battles that they have and how tough it is to produce a good car and to go out and produce these results every single weekend, especially when he starts last and still wins quite easily. It's even good to watch when you're when in the car yourself. Well done to all of them, for after the weekend.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Lewis, I fear that your answer will be ‘I don't remember’ because your memory is not always perfect but please can you go back to your second title and what it meant, what it felt like? And what made the big difference afterwards?
LH: Long time ago – do you remember back then in your life? What were you doing back then? Playing chess? Yeah, so what was the question? What was I feeling at the time?
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Well, just bring back the memory of your second title. What do you remember? Did it change much in your life, in your tension, your pressure?
LH: It definitely changed a lot in my life, I think, because I've obviously had that kind of dry spell, I would say more so because I’d taken the step and the leap of faith, moving to another team. That went against most of the advice that I had had from people around me, people that you would consider mentors, who all said to stay where I was, stay put. And the kind of the experience that I had in terms of… It was actually after this race, people seemed to think that it was during this race that I made the decision to move. It wasn't and actually this race had no effect on that. When the gearbox failed here in 2012 that had no effect on my decision, because those things happen. It was more… I think the week after, just sitting in Thailand, just managed to be in a very peaceful place and it really came to me that I was going to take this leap. And so to have taken that step and obviously all the backlash makes you question whether or not you really have made the right decision and I'm so proud and grateful to all the members within the team of how they welcomed me into the team and gave me the position to be able to fight for a world title. And so with all the doubts over the years, and the questions that would play in your mind, whether or not it would ever happen again, of which you always overcome, because you have to continue to believe, to finally then got back into that position, it was a very, very special year, and also for the team who had also been on the receiving end of kind of the negativity that they're not going to… perhaps they're not good enough or whatever it may be. So it was it was a huge, huge moment and that really kind of catapulted us into the next years of success and development and what a journey it’s been.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo), Pierre GASLY (AlphaTauri), Lance STROLL (Aston Martin), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull)
Q: Valtteri, we'll start with you. Now, on track it's been a bit of a tough period for Alfa Romeo but the pace of the car was better at Monza. Do you think you can translate that pace to the Marina Bay circuit here in Singapore?
Valtteri BOTTAS: As always hard to predict. I do hope so. We don't have any proper upgrades here but small tweaks here and there. It's a very, very different type of circuit to Monza. Now it's back to pretty much maximum downforce so it's hard to predict but I hope so because I haven't really scored in a while, obviously, due to many DNFs and penalties as well. But yeah, I really hope to get back to good form and especially in qualifying, you know, we need to qualify well here if we want some points.
Q: Now, Monaco was a tricky race for the team. Does that make you a little apprehensive going into the weekend?
VB: I think we learned a lot from Monaco and from Baku as well. We've learned huge amounts since so I'm expecting better than in those weekends.
Q: And a little bit of news this week from the team: Zhou Guanyu is going to be your teammate again next year. Can we just get your thoughts on that? And can you describe the job he's done as your teammate this year?
VB: I think it's good news because following him alongside as a teammate, I really can say that he deserves the spot in the team and in Formula 1. He's really mature for his age and experience and he's been learning a lot throughout the year and his pace has been increasing in qualifying and the race throughout the year and he's done very few mistakes. So yeah, I think it's good news and I'm sure he keeps evolving and keeps improving in the future.
Q: What's impressed you the most about Zhou?
VB: How few mistakes he's done, because it's not easy to jump into F1 and for sure, he's got lots of outside pressure as well, being the first Chinese driver and everything but he's dealt with everything in a really good way.
Q: Sergio, we're coming to you now. Now, this is a track where you have a great record: seven consecutive years you've finished in the points from 2011 to 2017. Just tell us about your memories of racing here in Singapore.
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, especially 2014 was a great, great race, coming from the back. I had front wing damage, managed to recover and get into the points. It was a great, great race and yeah, a really good run of results here which I look forward to… I've never been on the podium here so I really hope on Sunday, I can get to know it.
Q: And what sort of a challenge is this racetrack?
SP: I think physically it's one of the biggest challenges of the season, if not the biggest. And also, I think from the level of driving, so many corners and during the race it's so important just to keep the car out of the walls.
Q; Now Checo, let's talk about the battle with Ferrari. Do you expect it to be closer here than it was at Monza?
SP: I think Monza was also close and I do expect the Ferrari to be very strong here, they've been very strong in all the street courses so I do expect them to be particularly strong around this place.
Q: Anyone else you're looking out for? Do you think Mercedes?
SP: I think… yeah, also Mercedes. They've certainly been there in the last few races. With Mercedes, I think they either are very strong or they are a little bit weaker. But if they're strong, they will be in the mix for sure.
Q: Lance, we'll come to you now. You've been travelling the world since we last saw you at Monza. Just tell us where you've been, what you've been up to.
Lance STROLL: Yeah, I went home for a bit, yeah, I went to Canada which was nice, catch up with some friends and stuff. Yeah.
Q: And then give us your thoughts about being back here. You scored points in your first race in Singapore back in 2017.
LS: Yeah, it's a great, great track, really challenging. Physically, it's always a tough one but also just technically, it's a lot of corners. Not much room for error and just a very, very technical track so it's good to be back and looking forward to it.
Q: And performance wise, what can we expect from you guys?
LS: Yeah, I think we should be more competitive than we were in Monza. I think Monza was probably… definitely our worst weekend of the year. We've been a bit better on the higher downforce tracks so yeah, hoping we can step it up this weekend.
Q: Pierre, now before we talk about performance in Singapore, I saw an interesting story about you doing a track day with your brothers. You've done that since Monza, tell us about it.
Pierre GASLY: Yeah, I must say that was a very, very unique experience. My brothers have always been a massive support for me because since I started, they’ve always been behind me through the good and bad times. And I have a big family: four brothers, and three of them raced in karting so they kind of know the basics of driving. We always go karting together, but they never had any formula or single seater experience and at the start of the year it was like, can we get one or two times a year the chance to get all together, which is not enough for me so I found another reason. I was like, I’ve got to find a cool, cool idea to get the whole family together and yeah, I came up with that activity. And it's just amazing to see how competitive we are in the family. Already after the first session, they already had all the driver excuses sorted with the tail wind and the cold tyres, and the brakes were not ready etc. It was just hilarious, just to be part of it and just a very cool, family time and I really enjoyed it.
Q: We want names. Who's the most talented of your brothers?
PG: Well, actually so there were my four brothers and my best friend. Unfortunately, my best friend beat all my four brothers by five tenths. Three of them were pretty impressive and one of them was more like on a Sunday ride, but no, they were all pretty impressive. And just a couple of spins here and there, a couple of lockups. They liked it so much that they are going again next Wednesday without me for another track day. So they really got into it.
Q: Let's bring it on to this weekend now. After a good weekend in Italy, this is obviously a very different challenge. You have an aero update on the car, just what can we expect from you and AlphaTauri?
PG: I will say, well, slightly different to Lance. I think we've been slightly more competitive in low downforce tracks, so Spa was good, Monza was good but all the tracks with high downforce, we seem to struggle a bit more. So hopefully these upgrades we have this weekend can change a bit that picture. We know the McLarens are usually pretty fast in these conditions. Alpine sometimes are really fast, these guys have done as well. So I don't really have any expectations. I just hope that the upgrade brings us more speed and I know if that's the case, then we will have our chances to fight for points.
Q: Now talking of points, you're one point behind Haas in the Constructors’ championship, 19 behind Alfa Romeo. What was the motivational speech from Franz Tost like?
PG: Well, he's been a bit grumpy, not so happy, like all of us, with how the season is going but I think it's just important to stay positive and, you know, still be constructive until the end of the year because it's obviously insignificant for some people when you're fighting for seventh place in the team championship, but you're talking still about a lot of money for next season. No, that's clearly the target, at least to get Haas and you know, Alfa 19 points, considering I think we have only 33 points after 16 races. That's a lot to ask, but nothing is impossible. We've seen it in the past, we just need one really strong result and it will be possible. So definitely Haas, we’re going to get them and then yeah, we'll see coming to Abu Dhabi what we're fighting for.
Q: Pierre, the helmet swap with Fernando Alonso that we saw on Instagram recently: as you can imagine, that's fuelled a lot of speculation about your future. When can we expect news about 2023?
PG: I would expect… Obviously everybody knows the ongoing conversation and discussion but on my side, I think, hopefully in the next two, three weeks, hopefully we should have a clear answer on my future. But yeah, so far, nothing has changed and when there will be something confirmed on my future, I'm sure you guys will know about it.
Q: Carlos, let’s talk about your races here in Singapore in the past. You have a good record, especially your fourth place with Toro Rosso back in 2017. What's the secret of getting a good result here?
Carlos SAINZ: I'm not sure what's the secret, I just know that it’s a great track, it’s a great place to come and race in. Yeah, also the weather, like we saw in 2017, can sometimes play a bit of a part. I saw some rain forecast here and there for the weekend. It’s bumpy, it’s tough, it’s busy. I think both mentally and physically is the toughest race of the season. So yeah, let's see how it feels on these stiff cars. Also, that is going to be another new challenge.
Q: Checo thinks you guys are going to be competitive this weekend. What are your expectations?
CS: I mean, if they think we are going to be competitive, imagine what we think how they're going to be if they won the last five or six races! I don't know. So yeah, I think we can bring the fight definitely, especially in qualifying. And it's a track where in the race, if you're ahead then you can you can stand a bigger chance of winning the race, no? So what we did in Monza or Spa when we were starting ahead of them, so yeah, we're gonna give it our best shot, try nailing the qualifying and see what we can do in the race.
Q: Now, Ferrari are 35 points ahead of Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship. How much are you looking over your shoulders? Are you concerned about their pace?
CS: We are concerned about getting back to winning, more than Mercedes. Honestly, if we know we get back to winning before the end of the season, then the battle with Mercedes should be sorted. I think we have both cars always qualifying in the top three, top four. So yeah, we need to get that race pace back, like we did in Monza: we had a much better race pace and like this we don't get out-raced on Sunday from the Merc. I think we just need to get focusing on trying to be the Red Bull whenever we can, and, and that should sort out the championship battle.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) It's a question to all the drivers. I've been watching on your social media, you all seem to be training rather intensely for this race. And every year you talk about the demands of the Singapore Grand Prix. So, for those that aren't going to be in the cockpit on Sunday, give us an insight into just how tough, physically and mentally, this race is and what you could compare it to that could help people understand and maybe as he's actually got his clothes on for this one, we'll start with Valtteri Bottas on that.
VB: For now! I think, speaking of saunas, I think good comparison is actually it's like a mild, humid sauna. Because that's how it does feel in the car and obviously we're wearing the fireproofs with the underlayer, which are not the most breathable things and also the airflow in the car is actuall,y in the cockpit, is not really much, if any, so for sure that temperature already and how much you lose fluids, that's a big thing. But on top of that, the track is like intense, you know, there's not much time to rest and somebody mentioned before, it's bumpy as well and that drains your body even more. So just the whole race distance, which is up to two hours, towards the end you definitely feel fatigued. It's hard work. That's the best I can describe it.
SP: There is a point in the race where it just keeps getting hotter and hotter. The more laps you do, the worse it gets. There is a time where you’re actually praying for a Safety Car, a bit of cool down because it's really demanding, the last 20 laps or so. It's mentally really tough. And, as I say, it just keeps getting worse and worse. I think after lap 15, it's already pretty warm. And it just gets worse from there.
Q: As someone who raced in Malaysia, how does this compare?
SP: I find this one tougher because of the amount of cornering you have. You know, I think in Malaysia, it gets really warm – I remember one year there, 2016, was super-hot – but still you have some straights where at least you can relax your body. And here, even if you’re on the straight, you’re bouncing around and there is not much time before you can brake, so I find Singapore the toughest. I think Miami, we all got caught out with how demanding it was, we were not expecting – but once we got there with the weather, I think we were all surprised how how demanding it was. But I think yeah, Singapore is the toughest this year.
LS: Yeah, I mean, not much more to add. It's, you know, cognitively very challenging: 23-24 corners, whatever it is, the race generally goes over two hours. It's really hot. So yeah, it's a challenge for sure.
PG: Yeah, just agree with the guys. I mean, it's definitely the hardest one of the season but it's actually difficult to compare it with anything else, because you know, these conditions, we face it only once or twice a year. I mean, having such humidity, already when I see how many sweaty people there are in the paddock just walking around. You can imagine how we how we feel inside the race car with the all the fireproofs, balaclava, race suits… So, I will say one of the biggest challenge I find on my side is we lose so much fluid. We lose up to 2.5kg – or 2.5l because it's mainly fluids from our body – so does the impact it has on our focus and concentration. There is the physical demand but there's also the challenge on the focus where you got to stay super alert because you're driving full speed between the walls, need to be extremely precise where you put the car and that's usually when it gets tough where you got to be still really at the limit of the car, playing with centimetres. Having lost quite a quite a few pounds or litres inside your body. So yeah, that's definitely the biggest challenge of the year.
CS: It's easy for me, I've never struggled here!
PG: Look at this physique! Like, that's impressive!
CS: No, I remember when I was here in 2015-2016, warning Pierre and Charles, ‘did you train for Singapore?’ and they came back like ‘why?’ So you will see why.
PG: I remember that actually!
CS: Since then, I think it’s no secret that this place, it’s a bit of an oven for all of us. I find what Pierre said very interesting. To keep mentally sharp is the most difficult because the heat, you'll leave me in the car for another half an hour, driving at a certain speed I could survive but if you want those last three-tenths of performance or focus. It's really mentally challenging to keep them because of how draining it is. And the vibrations of the car is difficult to keep the eye-line. And it's anti clockwise, so also the neck is sometimes suffering. You know, when I’m training in pre-season, January and February, I'm thinking about Singapore. I'm not thinking about the first race or, the others. For me it’s if you survive Singapore, then you're fit for anything else in in Formula 1.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lance, it's been nearly two years the team has been Aston Martin. Since obviously, your father took over his consortium and made it Racing Point. The results haven't been great, other than a few podiums for Sebastian, but clearly there's enough potential to attract a two-times World Champion. So I wondered, what is your assessment the current state of the team? Thanks.
LS: Yeah, I think we've had a couple of difficult years since 2020. Just circumstances and yeah, you know, there's, I think we know the reasons why. I think we're in a rebuilding phase, I think there's a lot of talented people that have already been in the team for a long time. And, you know, there's a lot of talented people that are joining the team. And I think that process takes a little bit of time. Yeah, and, you know, I'm definitely confident, you know, looking at the future, the direction we're heading. But it just, like I said, takes a bit of time. And regarding Fernando, I think it's really exciting. He's, you know, obviously a really talented driver, has a lot of experience. So, yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to working alongside him.
Q: Lance, how different are you expecting Fernando to be compared to Sebastian?
SV: Well, I think every teammate you have is different. Everyone has different driving styles, everyone wants something different from the car and works with the team in a different way. So I have no clue. I've never worked with him before. I've never been teammates with him. So, yeah, I'm sure he will be different. But like I said, every teammate is unique in their own way.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Carlos, what can you expect to be happy with the last six races of the season, in terms of results and in terms of self approach?
CS: Personally, I would like six consistent races, a bit of gathering momentum before next year. Because this year, for me, has been characterised by never getting more than two or three consecutive good races, always have a reliability issue, bad pit-stop, a strategy issue that comes into play. When you're about to get in a good run of races, you know, that is so important in Formula 1 to gather a bit of momentum and get the confidence for the team and for myself building. So, we come from Monza, which was a pretty strong race for me and a good comeback. Also, fighting for pole position, even with a penalty. So yeah, hopefully from now on a bit more of that and just more podium finishes, and, more importantly, a win. That I think would be ideal to break the Red Bull record and try to keep ourselves winning and keeping having that good momentum into next year.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to Carlos, but the same question also to Checo please. Two races on from Zandvoort, F1 has come back to another track with quite a tight pit lane. Just wondered have your pit crews made any changes to any of their procedures after what happened with the wheel guns ending up in the path of other cars? Thanks.
CS: Yeah, for me is not the pit crews or the F1 teams really that need to make changes, it's the FIA and Formula 1 organisation, they need to make sure this… They need to find a solution to these tight pit-lanes because, I said it once and I say it again, one day there's going to be an accident and one day there's going to be a human involved that’s hurt because of how tight everything is when there's a Safety Car and we're all pitting at the same time. Like in Budapest a year ago when we pitted in the formation lap. In Zandvoort when the Safety Car came out, it was chaos and we need to find a solution, because I feel like we are putting someone's own health at risk you know? We need to… circuits get homologated and if, in order to get homologated, we need a wider pit lane and a longer pit lane to have spacing between cars, we need to make sure that happens. But I know logistically and technically is not easy for the circuits but I was in a pretty scary situation in Zandvoort and it could happen anytime soon. So yeah, it's something that is a matter that we need to raise between FIA, Formula 1, who usually F1 teams can help to come up with solutions. So let's see.
Q: Checo, anything you can add?
SP: Not really, I think Carlos covered it well. But yeah, we were put in the situation by the circuits basically, so it's something that has to be reviewed. And hopefully, we can make it better, because simply, there is so much space we can have and that is not enough. If something goes wrong at the pit-stop from another team, then there is just no room for it to be avoidable.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Checo, considering the mathematics, you can still be possibly champion but being realistic, is it better for you, the sooner this gets resolved, in order that you have maybe more liberty to fight for wins this season?
SP: I don't think it changes from my side. I think we have to do our own thing. Certainly I think it's a matter of time before Max becomes a champion. So, from our side, it's important to focus on our side and try to deliver the maximum results we possibly can and finish our season on a high these next six races.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to all five drivers, please. I wonder, is it harder or more complicated getting these 18-inch tires into the right window for the ultra-fast laps when it comes to in qualifying compared to how it was last year? And if it is different, what are your procedures? How are they different in 2022?
CS: I think it is more difficult, but only because we have less years of experience with them, I think we will get to a point where we will understand them better, but it's only the first year. Every time we go to a track, it's the first time we are with those tyres at that track. So, we are always hit with surprises for each track, what is the right window for these compounds of this year. But I'm convinced that with the experience that we have this year, whenever we come back next year, if Pirelli doesn't change massively, the tyre compounds and the construction, then it will be a lot easier to hit the targets. I think it's just a matter of experience with this new set of tyres.
PG: I will say on our side, I will say it has been easier. I think the fact that.. So, the blankets are lower, it makes it quite straightforward. Most of the tracks we’re going to be pushing harder in the out lap compared to last year, where sometimes we ended up going extremely slow on the out lap and not working on the side of the tyre. And I feel clearly last year there was a lot more focus in terms of procedure and a lot more varieties of out laps through the season compared to this year. And yeah, struggled more last year with getting the front tyres ready coming into Turn 1, getting front locks. So I will say on that side, with the car that we have, it's been easier. Not completely easy, you still get it wrong Sometimes, but at least it's a more straightforward picture in our approach to out laps.
LS: Yeah, I think the tyres are more like low working range. So just harder pushing on the out laps generally. I don't think it's more difficult, I just think it's different. You know, it's different, the front tyre seems a lot weaker, so it just behaves quite differently. And it just takes some getting used to, but I think yeah, we're just going to get better every race with understanding the tyres.
SP: I think for me, the only concern is the warm-up. Sometimes when you're behind the Safety Car with these low blanket temperatures that we are we running. I think already for next year, they're trying to go even lower, which I feel like they're putting the driver at risk. Because there are some situations, some scenarios, where it can become quite dangerous, you know, cold track temperatures and Safety Cars and so on. It can be a bit of a risk for some drivers. So I think that's the only real concern I have with this tyres at the moment
VB: I'm pretty much with Carlos. I feel like it’s same, same. It is a learning process always with the new type of tyres and every weekend we keep learning more so yeah, it's a bit variable but I think the same.