FIA Thursday press conference - Spain
DRIVER GROUP 1 – Nico HÜLKENBERG (Haas), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Esteban OCON (Alpine), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), George RUSSELL (Mercedes)
Q: Esteban, let's start with you, because it's something of a home Grand Prix for you. Remind us of your Spanish heritage?
Esteban OCON: Yes, I have a lot of family, obviously, that live around the circuit and, yes, my grandparents, you know, are Spanish, so for me it's almost two weekends of home races, or very close. So yeah, it feels good to come here and ready to attack the weekend. Obviously we are coming from a very good one. So yeah, I can't wait to attack this one.
Q: Well, let's throw it back to Monaco quickly. A tremendous weekend by you and Alpine. First up, how wild did the celebrations get on Sunday night?
EO: Thank you. Yeah, it's been pretty wild, for sure. Great to celebrate with my team. We were all out partying and, yeah, it's been awesome to just… You know, everyone got a great reward after all the hard work and a difficult start of season. So yeah, we can be all pleased with what we've achieved. Obviously, feet to the ground coming to this weekend, it's going to be a good test to see where the car is exactly after putting all these upgrades on it. And yeah, it's a track that everyone knows super well. So, looking forward to test that.
Q: Can we just do a compare and contrast? Can we compare your Monaco weekend where you finished third, with your Hungary weekend, a couple of years ago, where you won. Which was the better weekend in terms of what you were doing in the cockpit?
EO: I think they both had a lot of similarities. I think getting a very, very good lap in Qualifying was obviously more key in Monaco than in Budapest. But, you know, I also had a very good weekend in Budapest on the Saturday and we were very competitive. But I would say, you know, it's not a win, so it doesn't taste as good. But obviously, it's been a while since I've been on the podium, and getting it on pure merit that time to have that podium, it's something special.
Q: Final one from me. Was it a Monaco special last weekend or can you reproduce that form here in Spain?
EO: We're going to give it all to be able to reproduce it here, that's for sure. We're not here just to participate. But as I said, feet on the ground. It's going to be a good test for us exactly, to evaluate where we are after putting these updates on the car. And I think there's no better track to see where the car is exactly than here.
Q: Alright. Best of luck with that. Thank you very much. Now, Zhou, let's come to you. Belated Happy Birthday. You turned 24 Just a couple of days ago. How were those celebrations and have the team done anything special this weekend?
Zhou GUANYU: Yeah, obviously not a big celebration because it's a back-to-back and obviously I didn't have the result like Esteban to have a good night in Monaco. But yeah, on my side I just stayed with family back home and then to be ready for this weekend. So actually, as many of you probably know, we have the package already for Monaco but it's not very transparent for a circuit like that, because it's a one-off special track, so it will be great to be seeing where we are and turning up to a track like here, and especially with the last sector changing, and we really can see how this works for us and hopefully that it bring us a little bit one step up, which I think we feel like we needed since the very beginning of the season.
Q: You guys had a filming day before the start of the season here in Barcelona how much of an advantage is that for you?
Zhou GUANYU: I mean obviously it's good to be here but then filming days there's only a [set] amount of laps you can reach and I think you get one or two push laps and that's it. Yeah, in general it’s a track that everybody did 100 laps or 1000 laps in the sim. I'm sure everyone knows the track and it's more about the details and how much confidence you feel on the high-speed tracks but yeah, personally I do like more high speed tracks than the slow technical, a bit more like Monaco, tracks. So yeah, for me, hopefully that can play into the hands of my driving style hopefully and achieve better results than let's say the previous race.
Q: Alright. Best of luck with that. Thank you very much. Nico coming to you now. Go on then, you've had a long career in Formula 1, so how many laps of Barcelona do you think you've driven in your life?
Nico HÜLKENBERG: Too many. Yeah, obviously we came here so much back In the day, winter testing, sometimes still I remember from before my F1 full-on years, testing around here. So a fair few, although I've never done this new sector, two corners different, two quick right handers, so we'll explore them tomorrow, see what it's like. But I haven't been here since 2019…
Max VERSTAPPEN: In the ‘90s they had that layout. Back in the day!
NH: Were you there?
MV: You sound like it! ‘Back in the day’!
NH: It's been four years though that I've been here, so it feels like a fresh new Grand Prix to me.
Q: Look, can we throw it back to Monaco to learn more about how you're going to go this weekend? You had a new front wing there. What impact did that have on performance?
NH: Well, Monaco didn't quite go so well for us. It was a difficult weekend as a team, so we put that behind us. I think coming here, you know, fresh weekend. I think we'll get more of a clue how the update is working out. How the front wing is performing. Obviously also back to a classic or, you know, permanent race track. It feels like you know, pretty street circuit-dominated the last few Grand Prix, so nice to be at a normal track for once. I think it should suit us better, more flowing, more high speeds. You know, if you compare that with Melbourne and Jeddah, hopefully, we will be in a better position here.
Q: Best of luck with that. Thank you, Nico. Max, let's come to you now, before we talk Formula 1, tell us about your morning on the high seas. What have you been up to today?
MV: Yeah, I've been on the water a little bit. Yeah, just getting to experience a bit more like towards the America's Cup, what's going to happen right? And just getting a bit of an insight as well what they have to do on the boat. Eight guys on there, which is a bit different, of course, to us, driving alone in the car, but it's still all about communication and working together, which in a way we also do when we're driving. So yeah, it was a good morning out on the water.
Q: Were you impressed by the tech?
MV: Yeah. It looked great. It was really nice to experience all that.
EO: Were you sick?
MV: No, luckily not. It was good.
EO: You look a bit pale.
MV: That's probably still from Sunday night!
Q: Well, Max, let's talk about Monaco. It was such a tremendous weekend by you, both in qualifying and the race. How do you reflect on it? Was that your best weekend of 2023?
MV: I didn't know. I mean, it was probably a good one. We knew that coming into the weekend, it was probably not going to be our strongest weekend on the calendar. But I think we still managed well. Qualifying was very close. But Monaco is always quite chaotic and hectic in Qualifying. But then in the race, I think we had to do of course, that very long stint on the Medium, which wasn't planned, but we had to, so we just had to stay out there and wait for what Fernando behind me would do. And then, of course, the rain started to come down, it was all very chaotic, and it's not the nicest thing to happen to you when you're in the lead, and it starts raining. You don't want to take too much risk, but you don't want to lose too much time, but yeah, overall, it was a good race but also once I crossed the line, I was like, ‘I'm happy the weekend is over’. It's very hectic and quite stressful. So I'm also looking forward to this weekend. It’s a proper race track and this is where a Formula 1 car comes alive.
Q: And Helmut Marko says that you're going to be running some upgrades here and that you're going to do something different with the car here. What can you tell us?
MV: I think Helmut got a bit excited as well. So I don't know. I mean, we’ll just do our normal programme and nothing crazy.
Q: Do you think this track will suit the car?
MV: It should do.
Q: On paper it looks pretty good.
MV: Normally, yes, but we still need to find a good balance, but I think as long as we have a good balance in the car we can have a good weekend.
Q: Alright, many thanks. Good luck to you. George, can we throw it back to Monaco first of all. You were pretty hard on yourself on Sunday night in Monaco. Eighth on the grid to fifth in the race looked like a decent day's work, yet you wanted more?
George RUSSELL: Yeah, I mean, I was just talking to Esteban about it, because we didn't pit from the Hard onto the Medium we were effectively in P3 and then made a bit of a mistake on the out lap, even under the yellow flag I wasn't even pushing but that's just how challenging the conditions were out there for everybody. And yeah, shame to miss those two extra positions to not be on the podium, but Esteban deserved it that weekend, so we would have been overstretching had we achieved it. Nevertheless, it’s history now, and looking forward to this weekend.
Q: Well, where do you think your car sits in the pecking order now? Because after that good double points finish by you guys in Monaco, you're now just one point behind Aston Martin. Do you think you're the third fastest car, second fastest car?
GR: I think there's a big variety from Saturday to Sunday performance. I think when you look on Saturday performance, we're certainly behind Ferrari and Aston Martin when you look, and sometimes, you know, the Alpine as well. When you look into the Sunday performance, we're probably a little bit closer to Aston Martin. But this weekend will be a good test. We'd like to think we can jump ahead of Ferrari globally, close that gap to Fernando, as he is definitely pretty fast, and try to close the gap to Red Bull and get P2 in the Constructors’.
Q: How did the updates you ran in Monaco feel to drive?
GR: Yeah, I mean, as everybody else is saying, you can't really judge anything in Monaco. But there were certainly no nasty surprises. And considering how much we changed, I guess that was a positive in itself. But this will be a true test.
Q: How much more will you learn here?
GR: I mean, we didn't learn anything from Monaco with regards to the new updates. So yeah, this will be where we take a new baseline and build from there.
Q: And will the lessons learned here shape the remainder of Mercedes’ season?
GR: Yeah, I think so. I think we've made a lot of changes since the Bahrain test. We learned pretty quickly into the season that the car wasn't where we wanted it to be. So this, as I said, should be the new baseline. And we can we can go from here.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Afternoon, gentlemen, I hope you're all well. Max, we return to Spain, scene of your first race for Red Bull. You remember, the time when everyone said you were way too young to get promoted and you went and won the race. You’re now 39 wins for Red Bull, the most for anyone at the team. What are your targets for the future? Now that you're the most successful Red Bull driver, what targets have you set yourself for the future and how confident are you that you'll have the team to be able to give you the success that you're desiring?
MV: Yeah, I mean, I just want to keep on doing what I'm doing. But of course, I need to have a good car for that. But I don't know how long that will last. But hopefully for a while. I constantly want to try and improve myself every single year. Sometimes, of course, that works out a bit better than other races. But I think I've said it many times, my goal was to win a championship and I did that. Now it's about just enjoying the moment you're in. Of course, I try to win as many races as I can, but I've never really been someone who was trying to break records or whatever. It's also important to have a good time. And hopefully, you know, work with the people I'm working with for a very long time as well.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) George, picking up what you said about realising when the car wasn't exactly where you wanted it to be: what was the penny-dropping moment for you that the car still had some of the issues from last year? Shakedown? Was it testing or was it the first Qualifying when you saw where everyone else stood against Mercedes?
GR: I think the first time you realise is when you look at the lap times. You drive around the track, the car can sometimes feel great, but the lap times aren't representing the feeling and vice versa. I'm sure there's, even for championship-winning cars, they may not also feel perfect. We're just driving around at a slightly higher pace. So I think it was when we saw that the lap times weren't translating into what we expected. Aston Martin clearly made a big jump. And we hadn't made the jump that we were expecting and needed to make changes quick. So it was literally straight after the very first test in Bahrain. We were already planning towards the changes that are being implemented, last week in Monaco and obviously this weekend.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Max, when you're vying for a world title, as you are again this season, and your nearest challenger for that world title, who happens to be your team-mate, has his worst weekend of the season so far, what are the feelings? Is it double-edged, that the team didn't get the maximum amount out of the weekend? But also delight from a personal perspective, because you've managed to stretch the gap over your nearest rival?
MV: No, I think it's mainly just the team, of course, they want to score more points. But that's Monaco, you know, it can bite you. I've been in that position myself. But from my point of view, it doesn't really change anything. I know that it's a very long championship. You need to be very consistent. You can barely afford mistakes, especially when it's only one team, one opponent, really, because at the moment looks like best case you win, worst case you’re second, so you can't really lose too many points like that. But yeah, from my side, just keep grinding every single weekend. I mean, it's pretty similar, it doesn't really change anything for me. It's not like I came out of Monaco, relieved or whatever. I'm planning to gain seven points every single weekend, so…
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question for Max. We're back here in Spain, where of course you took your first win for Red Bull. I'm sure you're asked about this a lot but considering all you've now achieved, with the world titles, how do you look back on that race in 2016 and your first win, that's an important moment in your career. And also just, again, on becoming Red Bull’s most successful driver, has the team said anything to you? Has it given you any special gift or recognition for achieving that?
MV: Yeah, well, that weekend itself was crazy. I mean, in the week leading up to it, I was in the simulator getting used to all the procedures because, OK, Red Bull might have two teams, but the cars at the time, they were very, very different to drive but also the whole steering wheel was different. So for me to go through all that and then already just sitting in the car, I drove out of the pits, there was so much more rake in the car, I could almost see my own front wing. So yeah, it was a big learning process throughout that whole weekend. And the funny thing was, I think Christian, before I jumped in the car before the race, he said: ‘Well, try to score some good points and have fun’. I definitely had some fun out there and it was really nice to win that race at the time. Of course, after that a lot of things have happened, a lot of positive things. And yeah, to have won the races I've won and, yeah, being on number 39… It's amazing, but it's also a bit like, well, we want to win more. So, it's not like we had a massive celebration, you know, we are in a very busy season and we want to win both championships again as a team. So we just keep on working. And honestly, I also really don't need that recognition. They know that I always give my 100%. And I know that it's also from their side, and I just really enjoy being part of the team and we just keep on working.
Q: Have you had a message from Sebastian Vettel?
MV: No. I know Seb loves his statistics and numbers but again it's… he still has four titles compared to mine. I’m on two. So I think he's alright.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Max, Red Bull have won six races this year, obviously you won tons of races last year as well. Do you think that Red Bull can win every race this season? And do you have any concern from your side that some people might be saying that F1 is becoming too predictable in terms of who's winning every race?
MV: Well, how it looks like at the moment, I think we can, but that's very unlikely to happen. You know, there are always things that go wrong, or you have, you know, a retirement or whatever. But, like purely on pace, I think at the moment, it looks like that. But we will always get to tracks maybe where it doesn't work out exactly, or whatever, bad luck in Qualifying, you make your own mistakes. And about the dominance? I mean, we've always seen this in Formula 1, it’s nothing new. So I think the longer you leave the regulations the same, the closer people will get. So maybe this is something we need to look at. But I don't remember really… I mean, you know, you have the odd year, or maybe two years where there are two teams fighting, maybe potentially a third team, but overall, when you look back at the ‘80s, the ‘90s, the 2000s and the early 2010s, you know, all the way to 2020, you know, it's been pure dominance of certain teams.
Q: George, do you think Red Bull can win every race this season?
GR: Yeah, I think like Max said, on pure pace, for sure, they've got the potential, but certain things can happen. And I'd like to think we'll be able to fight at some point and take advantage of some misfortune, down the order. But yes, it's challenging. I agree with what Max said. There has always been dominance in Formula 1 . And I don't know how we get to a place where you can have multiple drivers and teams fighting for the championship, because I think that would be the best for the sport, best for all of us. And I think the fans would love it. But obviously, you can't always get what you dream for.
Q: (Ronald Vording - Motorsport.com) Another one to Max and George, basically, a follow-up on the previous one. Formula 1 tries to get the field more and more together with the aero handicap system, so reducing wind tunnel time. Do you feel, so far, that has been a good and effective tool? And if not, what do you think is a good way or a better way, and not too artificial a way to get the field more and more together on the long term?
MV: I’ll say what I said before, just keep the regulations the same for a longer period of time. Because if you keep on tweaking stuff, people always find something or one particular team will always find something a bit better than the others and then it takes a bit of time for everyone to close up, from my side. GR: I mean, from a technical standpoint, I have no view or idea how that could be achieved. And obviously, we've only been a couple of years now into the aero regulation and the handicap system, but it hasn't drastically changed anything up and down the order. Maybe the only team you can argue is Aston Martin, but I think that's probably via, you know, certain engineers joining to help push in the right direction. And, you know, you could give quadruple the amount of wind tunnel time to the team at the bottom over the one at the top and the the one at the top would probably still come out in the lead.
Q: (Alasdair Reid – The Times) George, I'm just wondering how much you've had Spain ringed in your diary for the last few weeks? You've been on three slightly quirky circuits and you’re coming to a proper circuit, knowing that this is the one that is going to test your upgrades. So, how excited have you been about that prospect and how confident are you that your car is going to do who you want?
GR: I’m excited for this weekend. It's definitely a challenging start to the season. I don't think a lot of people you know appreciate going from Saudi to Miami to Melbourne. You know, Jeddah, they are all very… I said, Saudi and Jeddah, didn’t I? What else am I missing? Baku! Baku, Monaco.
MV: Baku, Azerbaijan…
GR: Yeah, Monaco, Monte Carlo! It's a really challenging start to the season. And I think now these next five races or so you'll get a better picture of where the car truly is. And the order will be in a bit more of a settled position. But, you know, we're not going to judge everything based on this weekend. We know last year we had a really competitive weekend in Barcelona, I think I was on the podium, Lewis was really strong in the race after a puncture, and we came away thinking, you know, all of our problems are solved. And we got to the following couple of races and learned that wasn't the case. So you know, that's Formula 1. I'm sure we'll probably have a slightly more competitive weekend here in Barcelona, but that doesn't mean that we’re necessarily back.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Max, from race win one to number 39, apart from you and your father, who have been the most important people in the team to get this growth, this road to dominance, who deserves the credit?
MV: I cannot name one particular person because there's so many people involved that spend so many hours and days and, you know, they worked hard. I mean, we had tough years where you know, you keep on hoping that you're closing the gap to try and win a championship and then yet another year where it was not working out. But we just kept on believing, kept on trying to put everyone in the right place to work to their best. And yeah, too many people to name because if I will name one person, I'm not giving enough credit to someone else, because at the end of the day it's a whole team effort that has to come together, you know, to achieve what we're doing now.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Total-Motorsport.com) A question to Max. Mario Andretti has said he's going to try and persuade you to come to Indianapolis to do a test in an IndyCar. Would you fancy a go at the 500 if it didn't clash with the Grand Prix weekend?
MV: No, I like watching it. How old is he now, 82?
Q: 80 plus, yeah.
MV: He’ll have to wait until he's 89 or 90 maybe? I don't know. No, I respect them a lot. I have some friends of mine doing it, but not at the moment no.
Q: (Filip Cleeren – Motorsport.com) My question is for Esteban for a change. So there was quite a bit of pressure on the team from Laurent Rossi, both internally and externally. So how desperate were you and the team to get that podium? And then secondly, you said it was the first of many, is there a belief that you can replicate that result on a more normal circuit decision given the competition?
EO: Yeah, I mean, I think it was clear that we were not happy with how the season started. We were struggling and, you know, not scoring as much points as we really needed to. But, you know, we never stopped believing, we never stopped working the way we should, to try and get that car as high as it can go. And nothing has changed from that side and everyone was giving their maximum for it to happen. And yeah, everyone at the team deserves what has happened last weekend. All the hard work has paid off. And it shows that we can be there and, and it gives everyone more hunger to keep that going. Now that we've tasted it, obviously, that's why I'm saying we always need to aim to make it happen again. So I'm hoping is the first of many this season. But, yeah, that's what we need to look at. I'm not saying that's what's going to happen but I'm trusting the plan of Laurent Rossi and Luca de Meo, they are very competitive people and yeah, I'm fully onboard with the 100 races plan they have.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) To George and Zhou. You are both graduates from Formula 2 to Formula 1 in the past five years or so. How well do you feel Formula 2 prepared you for the rigours of racing in F1? And what was the biggest shock in stepping up from F2 to F1?
ZG: Yeah, to be honest, obviously, I drove the firstly, the 18-inch tyres, and obviously going firstly to the old one, with the 13-inch, so the difference between that and coming back to the different Formula 1 cars always in a similar direction, but the downforce, the speed you're travelling is such a big difference between the cars and the way you have to change your driving, adapting quite a lot, the cornering speed, it's quite a lot. So you have to take your time to be learning that. And I think the biggest difference is the procedure. You know, you're in control of many switch changes, during different scenarios. And then yeah, for me, it takes time obviously being up to speed. When you firstly come into F2… Formula 1 is not a car that every driver can just jump in and be so quick at the first day at the office. But in general, let's say, the way like, F2 teaches you how to drive and the way you control and looking after your tyres is the things that you still have to do when you're in Formula 1, so it's a great way to just climb from that series up. And yeah, as we see, you know, many of the drivers finished in the top three and they have the ability, or the skills, the capability to drive an F1 car and to be driving in a fast way as well. So yeah, I'm happy with what I learned from the past and taking onboard, but still plenty of learning to do and still learning day by day.
GR: Yeah, it’s definitely a huge step in terms of speed. But I think the biggest shock for me in getting to Formula 1 was on the technical front, you are dealing so much with all of the data in front of you, understanding the tyres, the tyre prep, you know, the bulk temperature, surface temperature, all of those things that you had no idea about in Formula 2, because the information just purely wasn't there. So, mixed feelings about the lack of data in F2, whether that's a good thing or not. But I think I would like to see those guys get the chance to have some of the sensors that we have in Formula 1 because we know in Formula 1 a driver could be half a second lap quicker, purely by getting the tyres in the right window or not, and in Formula 2, with such limited track time, you're, I wouldn’t say you were necessarily guessing, but you don't really have that chance to learn and know exactly what's needed for each situation. So that’s certainly difficult for F2 drivers.
DRIVER GROUP 2 – Lance STROLL (Aston Martin), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), Logan SARGEANT (Williams), Nyck DE VRIES (AlphaTauri)
Q: Hometown hero, Carlos Sainz. Home race. How special is this one?
Carlos SAINZ: Pretty good, pretty special, as you can imagine. It feels great to be back home. Also, a circuit where in the past it has treated me really well. I think it’s my ninth year here and I think, yeah, a lot of good memories. Even from when I was a kid, you know, when I was 10 years old, and I came here for the first time to meet Fernando. I met Michael [Schumacher]. I saw Ferrari for the first time and 18 years later to be actually driving here as a Ferrari driver, you know, with the option of at least trying to get up a podium or a win, it's something really, really special that I try to think about it and just feel good about it.
Q: When you think about it, is it worth any lap time? Nigel Mansell always used to say it was worth lap time at Silverstone?
CS: I think it's impossible to quantify the lap time. But I do know that it puts me, like, in a better vibe this weekend. Like, I am just in a better mood when I race at home. I do things with more interest. I do things with a bit more energy. I always try to put a smile with the fans, because you just know that they're cheering for you and they're giving you that extra bit of push. How much that is worth is impossible to know. But I do know that actually, Spain is the circuit where I've scored most points in my career – together with Monaco and Austin I think it’s up there – so it must do something good to me.
Q: Now, how competitive are Ferrari going to be this weekend? You've got a big upgrade coming. What are you expecting from it?
CS: We have an upgrade. How good, time will tell, but we have an upgrade coming. It's a bit of a new direction, a bit into what we believe should be the right path, into developing this car and making it a bit more of a driveable car, more consistent, better in the race, that we know is our main weakness. You've seen it hasn't been an easy start to the season and we've been struggling but it is true that with this first step into this direction we try and correct the deficiencies we have. But we also know that this upgrade is not going to change our life from one race to another. It’s still the first step of many steps to come.
Q: Lando, would you agree that he’s in a better mood when he’s at the Spanish Grand Prix?
Lando NORRIS: Err… yes! Apart from when I beat him in Quali here a few years ago.
CS: You did!
LN: I did. I was very happy. No, a home race is always more special, and even being his team-mate it was always good to see how many fans there were here for him and so on. So, yeah, happy.
Q: Let’s throw it back to Monaco quickly, your car really seemed to come alive in the wet part of that race…
LN: Car? Or driver?
Q: Maybe both? Perhaps both – but definitely the car, right? You gained 23 seconds in the wet part of the race – but my question really is, are you doing a rain dance here? Do you think that’s your best opportunity?
LN: More so than in the dry, yes. It’s the same car in the wet, I don't know why it would be any better in the wet and the dry but it was certainly a lot of fun. It's a difficult track in the rain, a lot of risks taken but it's always tough to say. Of course, there's some little things that maybe lead us to believe that it was bit better in the wet than in the dry. But I wouldn't say we were that impressive in the dry. We looked good on Friday, Saturday morning, and qualifying, we didn't look too impressive. But yeah, the rain on Sunday, things definitely came towards us a lot more and the pace was one of the best on track – but we definitely didn’t have one of the best cars. So, it’s a bit confusing, but at the same time, if we can have some rain or something to help us out, then I would definitely be looking forward to it.
Q: Can we talk about a technical signing that the team made. Recently, the news broke in the week, of course, that Rob Marshall is going to be joining from Red Bull. What do you think he's going to bring to McLaren first of all?
LN: Just knowledge, expertise. He’s been at Red Bull for many, many years, he's seen a lot of success with the team. He's been with some of the best minds within Formula 1 and he's definitely part of that group. So yeah, brains and lap-time I guess is the two big things. He’s a big person, a big signing for us as a team, is a big person, a big signing for us as a team so, I think someone that a lot of people within McLaren will look up to, and respect and so on. Yeah, but a good step for us as a team to keep this drive forward, continuing to add performance and expertise to the whole team in our drive to improve, move up the grid.
Q: There have been a lot of technical changes at McLaren over the last six months. How much belief do you have in what Zak Brown is creating at McLaren now?
LN: I would say a lot. Even more now than in the past. I guess I would never want to say that I have no belief, and I never have said it and probably won’t, but definitely since the last few changes, there have been a lot of good things coming from that, both in terms of mood, atmosphere, but at the same time, also performance and things to look forward to in the future. So not everything is purely direct in Formula 1, a lot of things take time, so I guess you have that part of it too, but definitely things have taken a step forward so I can easily confirm that and say it with confidence. But yeah, until we see it, that's the timely part.
Q: Lance, it’s a big week for Aston Martin back at Silverstone because the team has moved into its new factory, just a couple of days ago. Tell us, what is awaiting all of the guys and girls there in the new factory.
Lance STROLL: Yeah, absolutely, it’s really exciting times for us as a team. I think it’s a big upgrade from where we were before for many years. I think it’s just a big opportunity for us to grow as a team and become a stronger team.
Q: And talking of upgrades, you’ve got some upgrades on the car at the front and the back this weekend. What are you expecting from your racing car here in Spain?
LSt: Yeah, we’ll learn more tomorrow – but the idea is that it brings us lap-time and makes the car better to drive and faster, so I think they’re not huge upgrades but every bit counts and looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.
Q: In terms of your own season, it's been a bit of a mixed bag: fourth in Australia, your best results so far, but there have been some retirements. Do you feel you're owed a bit of luck now?
LSt: I don't really think that. I mean, it’s luck, things happen in racing, and we had some tough weekends. We had a retirement in Jeddah and I think we were having a strong weekend last weekend and then some damage in Q2 cost us an opportunity for good points on Sunday – and Monaco is all about Saturday really, so I think it’s just how it goes: there’s good weekends and bad weekends and yeah, like every other weekend I’m just coming into this one trying to get the most out of it. So, yeah, see how it goes.
Q: Logan, coming to you now. After a run of street tracks to start the year, how much are you looking forward to getting your teeth into a permanent circuit this weekend?
Logan SARGEANT: Yeah, it’s nice! I’ve had a lot of fun with it, to be honest, on the street tracks, but happy to get getting back to the tracks I know. I think it just makes my life a little bit easier. Not much, but a little bit and yeah, I think as a team, it’s going to be a bit of a tricky weekend, probably but we’ll do our best to get the most out of it.
Q: In terms of approach, are you going to approach it differently on a permanent circuit, compared to a street track?
LSa: Yeah, I think it just gives me the freedom to push a little bit harder, a little bit sooner and just find where I need to be heading into Saturday a little bit quicker. I think it gives me the freedom to push a little bit harder.
Q: Logan, tell us about the end of the lap. Of course, you’ve won here before, you’ve finished on the podium in Barcelona many times. What’s the sim telling you about the last two corners now?
LSa: Well, I love this track, I’ve been here many, many times in the past, it’s treated me extremely well. As you said, poles, wins and whatnot – and we’ll try to continue the good run of form here but yeah, the last two corners look pretty intense, pretty epic. I think it adds a bit of a twist. I think you’ll start to see both axles deg, rather than just one. So yeah, you’re going to have to manage a lot more in the race, I think, with the more high-speed corners.
Q: Is the last corner going to be flat-out in Qualifying?
LSa: I hope so!
Q: Nyck, you had a really good weekend in Monaco, best qualifying of the season so far, really clean race. Is the aim here just to really build on that and to give yourself some momentum?
Nyck DE VRIES: Yeah, I think so. Monaco was a decent weekend, kept our nose clean in tricky circumstances and it was just a good kind of build-up throughout the whole weekend. And we're looking to continue to focus on ourselves and try to extract the maximum out of the package we have and do the best possible job we can. And then, hopefully we can have another clean weekend.
Q: Helmut Marko said on Sunday evening that you produced the kind of performance he likes to see. Did that come as a relief?
NdV: In all honesty, you're the third journalist that has mentioned this to me because, as I said, in Monaco, prior to the weekend, I haven't really been reading news, so not so much up to date with what everyone is saying. But we live in the present, you're as good as your last race and it's ultimately all about performance. People make mistakes, I make mistakes, we're human, we move forward, and this weekend is a new weekend.
Q: What are we going to see from you and AlphaTauri here? Do you think the car and its upgrades will suit the Barcelona track?
NdV: Frankly speaking, I don't know. We haven't really been able to learn much about our updates in Monaco, for obvious reasons. Obviously, the track is very specific, so hopefully we'll learn more about it on Friday. And I definitely see us moving slowly, closer towards the verge of top 10. So hopefully, we can continue on that route and have a good weekend.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft, Sky Sports F1) I'm going stay with Nyck if that's okay. Forget what the journalists are saying, let's focus on what's happening inside the team and with yourself: you’re a Formula E champion, you’re an F2 champion – but it’s fair to see that your first full season in F1 isn't going quite as smoothly as the one-off drive for Williams last year. So, how much more of a difference has F1 been in your first full season to your successes in the past, and how much extra pressure is on you internally with what the team are expecting and what they're saying to you before a race?
NdV: Yeah, it's fair to say that I've made… well, I personally believe that I made a little bit too many mistakes. I do think there were moments that I was competitive and showing good potential, but I didn't quite turn it into a result, or execute a result at the end of the weekend. At the same time, we only completed five races up to Monaco and it was still early in the season. When it comes to pressure, I think as a driver, you can always fight for your survival. Because throughout your career, you always need to perform and deliver to continue your career forward successfully. So, I don't really think that it’s different now than at any other time in my career. But I can acknowledge that Formula 1 has been very different to any other championship I've been racing. I think that the most challenging bit is, first of all, the midfield is extremely tight and competitive and the margins are just very, very fine. I think in Formula 2, Formula 3, you have one free practice session, you start with full fuel, one compound, and then you go into Quali with less fuel, but you still need to run the fuel throughout the session, and a different compound. So, actually, in F2 and F3, you only have two laps, which are actually counting. So, you can imagine that if you’re within 85 or 90 per cent in those two laps, then you kind-of put yourself there or thereabout. Whereas in Formula 1, I feel like everything is pushed so much towards the limit, and everything is developed and improved, both the package and the driver throughout the weekend until there is nothing left on the table. And that approach is different.
Q: (Rodrigo Franca – Car Magazine, Brazil) Question for all drivers. Fernando Alonso is racing in Formula 1 for more than 20 years and he still fights for podiums and wins. How do you see his performance in 2023 – and do you think you’ll manage to be as competitive when you’re 40 years old or more?
LSt: Yeah, he’s a pretty impressive for an old guy, that’s for sure. No, he’s been doing very well. I mean, everyone, you know, the results speak for themselves. He’s on top of his game and he’s enjoying driving the car. He’s physically fit, mentally in a great place and yeah, it goes to show, if you look after yourself, you can go for a long time, that's for sure.
LN: I hope so. It's tough to know now. It’s always almost double my age, so it's like another whole life for me. Just in Formula 1 it’s a long time. I want to believe it, I guess. I’m not looking that far ahead of my career. But he is unique and I think he's shown that himself so good inspiration for anyone who wants to believe in that. So ask me again in 20 years and we’ll see.
CS: Yeah, I think it's also the power of the brain, no, whatever motivates you in life, whatever makes you happy in life. If you do it with the power and you put… all invest everything into it like he's doing, you can be successful at an age that I believe is still reasonable. Yeah, I have a very good example also at home with my dad, 61 years old and going in Dakar in that car every year, risking his life, and you can just tell, he just loves it. He wants it. He puts all the effort, time and passion into it. And if that's the thing you like, normally the age comes into a second plane, no, and it's just all about how much you want it and of course, if you have the reflexes and the talent left, that takes care of itself.
LSa: I think I'm only six races in. I think it is truly remarkable and impressive what he's doing and it just shows the obsession to stay at a high level and compete with the best. So it's definitely admirable.
NdV: I think everything has been said. But yeah, personally I just really respect. I mean, I've watched Fernando also in endurance racing and it's just very impressive to see that after all those years, how much hunger he still has to continue to push and to be here and to be competitive. It almost seems like his hunger hasn't decreased whatsoever. So that's really impressive and it tells something about him.
Q: (Mat Coch – speedcafe.com) Carlos, there's talk of this race potentially moving to a street circuit in Madrid, a place close to your home, I guess, or heart rather? What are your thoughts on that? Or perhaps that event staying here in future? Which would you prefer?
CS: Yeah, I've heard of the project and everything. I just can say that I will do my maximum and just to ensure that there's still a Spanish Grand Prix, independently of where. I think Barcelona now is doing a great job and I've been enjoying coming to Barcelona many years. Obviously, I still need to go a bit more into the detail of what's going on in Madrid and what they're planning to do there but I will just support the Spanish Grand Prix independently of where it is and I will just help and offer my help for whatever they need, doesn’t matter if it's track design, or whatever and support it.
Q: (Filip Cleeren – motorsport.com) Carlos, if you can take us back to the first pit stop in Monaco, from the outside, it seemed like you and the team had a different approach there, in terms of the team being more concerned about keeping the position whereas you seemed to be willing to be more aggressive and forward looking, trying to get Ocon. Is that a fair assessment that is like a different mindset there. And then secondly, Ferrari’s made some changes to the strategy during the offseason. Do you feel like that department has improved this year.
CS: I'm answering first to your second question: I would say that department is in constant progress and we're doing, I think, a lot of progress. It just hasn't been an easy year for us. When you spend the whole year starting further up on the grid from where you are actually… [where] your normal race pace is, which is normally… Our race pace this year has been a bit worse than our qualifying pace, then there's always going to be doubts and criticism about our race execution , because you're always kind of, because of the pace of the car, going a bit backwards, and I think that makes this first six races a bit more difficult to assess and judge. I do feel the team is doing everything they can and we can to be as strong as possible on that department but I… like always in everything in every aspect there's margin of improvement and we're doing it. Answering to the first bit, Monaco. I think it's a fair assessment. I think I was honestly quite a vocal about wanting to go and get that podium and maybe risking on staying on the hard but I also fully understand the team perspective that we are fighting the team championship with Mercedes. There's Lewis behind that just a very quick out lap on the Hards and we have to protect from him and we have to go at a position which at that space in time when I left the pits behind Esteban, I was quite frustrated about but then once they explain it to you and they explain the rationale and the reasons they do it, I perfectly understand it. It's just that I probably wasn't at the time in the same mindset and I was just focusing a lot more in extending the hard, trying maybe to catch the rain, trying to catch a safety car, trying to catch anything that would allow me to finish on that podium. And in the end, we will never know.
Q: (Joost Smedema – NOS) Nyck, last year here in Spain, you got your first opportunity in a free practice on Friday. How do you look back on that weekend, on that session? And do you think it does give you any advantage knowing this track already in a Formula 1 car?
NdV: Yeah, it was a great experience. I generally love coming to Barcelona. I think every driver knows this track very well. It's been used a lot throughout many different series and also in the simulator so I enjoy coming here. For sure it helps that I know the track. Not sure whether those two runs will give me an edge over competition, but it's definitely nice to come to European ground and to tracks that I know.
Q: (Ronald Vording - motorsport.com) Nyck, two parts. The first one: I was the guy talking to Dr Marko after the race in Monaco when he was quite positive about you. I won't bore you again with the quotes but just wanted to know, did he share the same positive feedback with you also afterwards, maybe in one of his early phone calls, he always makes? And secondly, it was quite difficult to get a good read on the updates in Monaco but do you still feel with a new floor that the team is moving into the right direction?
NdV: We haven't seen each other yet. And concerning the floor, we don't know. It was difficult to get a proper read on it in Monaco. So hopefully we'll find out more Friday.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Carlos, touching on what you're saying about the Spanish Grand Prix a few years ago, maybe the future of F1 in Spain was uncertain and now it’s a massive moment you at Ferrari, Fernando being so successful as well. A sell-out crowd here last year as well. Does it feel like F1 in Spain is having a real moment and I guess this global boom as well?
CS: Yeah, there's definitely, I think, F1, since Fernando arrived with the World Championships in 2005, has never stopped from being one of the most followed sports in the country. But I do feel like recent years for… doesn't matter if it's Netflix, me moving to Ferrari, Fernando being successful with Aston, there's another bit of a boom, and we need to maximise it and having this Grand Prix sold out is amazing. And I think also, my grandstand, 3000 tickets sold in less than eight minutes once I sold them just shows the passion and the emotion that there is for this Grand Prix and for the sport. And I also see a lot more of a younger audience. Yesterday, I was in an event in Barcelona promoting the Grand Prix together with the circuit. They've done a fan forum in the middle of Barcelona and we were… pretty much all the audience was young. They were all between 15 to 30 years old and you can just tell how much passion, how much love there is for the sport. And it's something that I see also in other countries, but it's obviously nice to see in my own country too.
Q: Do you think Spain could support two Grands Prix, one in Madrid and Barcelona?
CS: I don't think it’s the intention of everyone, especially when you look at where they are going with the races and the new horizons they have in the States and everywhere so I don't believe two Grands Prix in Spain is feasible right now. But I do feel like yeah, out of the Europe circuits or places that F1 is wanting to stay and is wanting to make sure we keep a base in Europe like we've seen in recent years, I do think Spain is the right place to keep a yearly Grand Prix and I'm sure Spain is going to do everything they can do to keep it, and I think it’s the right move.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Carlos, the dominance of Red Bull is so huge that it might be impossible to have two Spanish drivers on the podium. So what do you need? Rain? A miracle? Or is it just impossible?
CS: No, I don't think it's impossible. I think there's a space in the podium in case the two Red Bulls are dominating. There’s still that one space that we're fighting every weekend with, both Charles and me with Fernando, Lance and the two Mercedes, it’s a constant fight. Yes, Aston has the upper hand and normally are the strongest package come race day, but that's why we are trying to upgrade our car and trying to become quicker. And also, there's been circuits where we've managed to bother a bit Red Bull in qualifying but I do think Red Bull are going to stay ahead for some more races before someone can really make them tumble a bit because they are on a very, very high level and good job to them because they've done a very strong car this season.
Q: What would it mean to you to share the podium in Barcelona with Fernando Alonso?
CS: I think it would be huge, especially one of us is on the top step. I think it would be even more no? If we finished P2, P3 or P3, P2 would be cool but I think even more that people will just go wild if either one of us is on the top step of that podium no? But yeah, independently even a podium for both, I would take it as a strong day for Spain in home soil, so yeah, that would already be really, really good.
Q: (Joost Smedema – NOS) Carlos, to that, because of the success of Fernando and Aston Martin, you're not alone at this moment, not like the top Spanish driver in the World Championships classification.
CS: Not much really. I cannot complain about life really. I'm a Ferrari driver living the dream. Yes, it's been a tough start to the season and I'd much rather be fighting for poles and wins like we were last year rather than struggling like we are. But we still have a chance at a podium pretty much every weekend, which is not that bad. I think I cannot complain about it. We're bringing a package here. You cannot imagine the effort Maranello has been trying to bring this package forward. It was supposed to come a lot later in the season and the whole factory was just flat out these last few months because of the situation to try and bring it earlier. And when I go everyday back to Maranello, I see what's going on there and I wake up every morning and I realise that I'm a Ferrari driver, that I'm still having a chance for the podium and that life is good, then there's nothing really that can bother you. And yeah, it's a long season and also we'll see where everyone is in in a couple of races or in the future.