FIA Thursday press conference – China

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 18: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari talks in the Drivers Press

DRIVERS – Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Zhou GUANYU (Kick Sauber), Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin), Nico HÜLKENBERG (Haas)

Q: And how confident are you of scoring your first points of the season here at home?

ZG: Of course, two opportunities this weekend. Sprint race format and it sounds very interesting, even though it's not a lot of practice, after obviously missing few years and coming back straight into one session, but I'm sure you know, we have the potential, I think the race craft has been recently OK. And for myself, I think there's parts to be moving. It will get a bit more clear Friday, get prepared, ready for the qualifying sessions and points are definitely there to take. But as we saw, it's very a complex pack, you know, the midfield battle is super tight between all the cars, so we just need to make sure all the details are correct and take the opportunities if they are there.

Q: Fernando, if we could come to you now, many congratulations, signed and sealed with Aston Martin. Just how easy a decision was it for you to remain with the team for 2025 and beyond?

Fernando ALONSO: Well, thanks. First of all, it's never an easy time when you have to make some decisions, especially right now, as for me it’s probably my last contract. So yeah, I wanted to make sure that it was the right decision, first of all, to keep racing in Formula 1, and to have the strength and the motivation to keep racing for a few more years, from my side. And then, after that, just making sure that the team has the targets and the goals for the next few years to be ambitious and to try to keep getting better and better. So yeah. It was, I think, a very happy decision for me. Obviously extremely proud to represent Aston Martin for the next few years. We started the journey last year, and in a very good way and we keep on working. So yeah, extremely proud and happy. Let's see what we can do.

Q: What is it about the team's future that excites you the most?

FA: I think, you know, with the new regulations in 2026, there is going to be a possibility for everyone to mix the cars a little bit and have an opportunity. Obviously, we will be with Honda, we will be the only team with the power unit from Honda, which obviously, it is a little bit different than being a customer engine now with Mercedes. So hopefully we have a little bit of an improvement there. Also, I think with Aramco, the biofuels and sustainability that will come into 2026, maybe we have a little bit of an opportunity there as well. And the team is just getting better and better – new facilities, new campus, new wind tunnel coming this summer. So you have a lot of things in place to be a very powerful team in the future. And I wanted to be part of it.

Q: The timing of the announcement caught some people by surprise. Was it important for you to get the deal done early?

FA: No, not really. I think we just sat together after Japan and yeah, we arrived to a conclusion and an agreement was reached in in one two days. So it was very, very simple. And once we got the agreement we announced it and everything is a little bit more simple than what it looks from the outside, that, you know, there are a lot of rumours, a lot of things going on for different teams and different drivers and deadlines here, deadlines there. But for us, you know, we were just loyal to each other, we just kept our word. And once we sign it, and we agree on something, we announced it. So for us it was much more simple than maybe for other people.

Q: Fernando, thank you very much. Best of luck this weekend. Nico, if we could come to you. Now let's talk performance. Haas are introducing an upgrade here. What are you expecting from it?

Nico HÜLKENBERG: Well, a little bit of improved and enhanced performance, hopefully. It's not, you know, a major, huge update, you know, some little bits and bobs that look good on paper and in theory, but as always, you know, you have to verify them on track, make sure the correlation is good. But, yeah, better to have an upgrade this early in the season in the tight midfield battle than the not to have them.

Q: On paper, do you think Shanghai will suit the car better than Suzuka?

NH: It should. It really should. I hope so. It's a lot more low speed content, I think, which is whether the car feels more at home. Always good memories here. I've raced here nine times and really liked the flow and the layout of the circuit. So yeah, exciting one ahead.

Q: As you say, you have a lot of experience here at the Shanghai International Circuit. How will that help you going into a Sprint weekend?

NH: It’s not just me. I think there are a few drivers who have done a fair few weekends here and years. Some more, some less. But yeah, personally, I'm quite excited. You know, less practice sessions obviously always kind of presents more opportunity maybe, for more chances. But you know, we have to make sure that we get it right ourselves. Obviously. Everyone isn't in the same situation there, but I feel quite OK going into this weekend with just the one hour of practice.

Q: And Nico, in light of Fernando's decision to stay at Aston Martin, do you expect the driver dominoes to fall quite quickly now?

NH: Not sure, not necessarily. It's always difficult to you know, to foresee that and to predict. For some it might move quite quickly, for some maybe not. But it's definitely a very interesting situation right now, the driver market is very dynamic, very fluid. And I'm sure all the drivers with no contract for 2025 are pretty busy right now having lots of conversations, checking options, and trying to obviously fix the future. Same for me.

Q: Thank you. Best of luck to you, Esteban if we could come over to you now, upgrades on the Haas this weekend, upgrades on the Alpine as well. What are you expecting from the new floor?

Esteban OCON: Yeah, well, first of all, a very good job from the team really to bring, you know, some upgrades early on than what was planned on my car, which is a remarkable effort by the team. So, good that we can test that early and see what it brings to the car. Obviously, we still don't expect massive changes in terms of performance. But we can always have a good surprise and we will see where that leads us onto the track later in the weekend.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about the performance. Q2 in Japan. It all suggests that the car is better over one lap in qualifying than it is in the race. What happens to the performance on a longer run?

EO:I think it depends where. I think in Australia we were looking to be fighting for points. We were fighting with Haas there. It was looking good until that tear-off came in the break duct. Obviously, yes, we've qualified now twice in Q2, in Australia and in Suzuka. But, you know, in Suzuka we also had damage at the start, which didn't help things but we struggled more, definitely, Suzuka. So I think we did a step forward in qualifying recently, but we still need to work on the race pace, and see if we can hold on to the other cars, that’s the main thing.

Q: Do you expect the driver market to move quickly in light of Fernando's decision?

EO: We'll see. I don’t know.

Q: Alright. Thanks, Esteban. Best of luck this weekend, Charles, coming to you now. First up, there's a new member of the family since we last saw you in Japan. Leo, I believe?

Charles LECLERC: Yes, a dog. I've always had dogs within my family, but never had my own. And yeah, he joined last Monday and it's been great.

Q: Who looks after him when you're away?

CL: My girlfriend, but I do take care of him when I'm at home.

Q: Alright. Let's bring it on to this weekend now. Does the team have more confidence coming in to Shanghai than it did going to Suzuka?

CL: I think the level of confidence is quite stable since the beginning of the season. On paper, I think it’s a track where we could be a bit stronger compared to Suzuka. But we'll just approach it in the same way. I still think that Red Bull will have the upper hand this weekend and we'll just have to focus on ourselves, because it can be very easy, as we've seen, especially in qualifying into Suzuka, I didn’t do a good job Saturday and then you don't go from fourth to fifth but you go from fourth to eighth. And so it's going to be very important, especially on a Sprint weekend, we've got two qualifyings these this weekend to extract the maximum out of the car on both qualifyings and then in the race. I think we are we are quite strong this year.

Q: You say Red Bull will still have the advantage. Do you expect to be closer to them here than you were in Japan?

CL: I think in the race we will be yes. But let's see. Obviously it's been a very long time since we drove here, so yeah, I saw the track was painted or there was something strange on it, so also this we'll have to see how our car behaves on that. And what are the main limitations in the race but on paper I think we should be closer to them, yes.

Q: Alright. Charles, thank you. Good luck with that. And Lando, what about your expectations coming into the weekend?

Lando NORRIS: Probably not as high as Suzuka. I think that's our opinion. But still in a good position. I think we've been happy with how the season started. I think we're in a good qualifying battle with Aston, Mercedes, it’s very close and even last weekend ahead of Ferrari, but I think the order is still clear. And I think in the racing we've done a good job. Not as good as Red Bull but and Ferrari, but I'm a head of Aston and Mercedes. So I think we're in a good spot. This wasn't a great circuit for us in 2019 but many things have changed since then. So I'm so optimistic we can have a good weekend.

Q: What is it about this layout that gives you less confidence?

LN: The long corners. Just, like, Turn 1. Yeah, this type of corner is just not good for us. Similar to, say, Zandvoort, that kind of experience for us. So yeah, we've got some things to try. And we're constantly trying to improve these areas. But it's an area we know is one of our biggest weaknesses, and maybe we kind of get away with it in qualifying but especially into the race becomes a bigger problem for us.

Q: There were some race day frustrations for you in Japan, but afterwards, your boss Andrea Stella, said that the team can win this year. How quickly do you think you can do that?

LN: Not anytime soon, that's for sure. I think we can. Right place, right time, if we improve the car how we need to. Honestly, there weren't too many frustrations with Suzuka. I think everything went pretty much as expected. I don't think we did a perfect job and I think we probably should have finished one place higher up, potentially. But I don't think it was far off. We've been the same place all season. We've been behind Red Bull, we've been behind Ferrari and we've been a bit of a step ahead of the other two teams come the race. And that's exactly how last weekend went. So I don't think there's too many frustrations. But we know the issues, we know what we have to improve. And if we can improve them. I think Andrea is right. I think we can win races this year. And we can be competitive with these other two teams ahead of us. But that's an if. And you know, we have to work hard to improve the car in some of these certain areas, which have been a big challenge for us over the last many years, not just for years, but last many years. But if we can, then I'm confident we can have some good races.


Q: (Craig Slater – SkySports) A question for Fernando. You talked about driver rumours. There were obviously rumours, potentially linking you with either Red Bull or maybe Mercedes? Were there any exploratory talks? How serious were they, if there were, and were they working maybe a different timescale for you? Did you want to get your future sorted out before the potentially wanted to get their drivers for next year in place?

FA: Well, as I said, last week, I think there is no point to really talk too much, because now it's done and I'm with Aston, and I would like to talk only about Aston. And as I said last week, you know, there were some talks with everyone, as I think it is normal for everyone in this moment, but they were just light conversation.

Q: (Mariana Becker – TV Bandeirantes) Hi Zhou, yesterday, I was around and then a girl asked me about you. She didn't know much about racing, but she knew everything about you. When did you realise that you became famous here?

ZG: Probably last year. Yeah, every year… Obviously the first time you become an F1 driver of course in our country they see a countrymen racing different sports, especially Formula 1, there's only 20 drivers on the grid and then they start to focus, of course, on their drivers, where their city or their country is from, so it's great to see the fan base is building up quite a lot. And also for me, I think you always have, let’s say the fans have been following motorsport for ages you know, since probably 2020, all these years when we have the Chinese Grand Prix, but then to its great to have maybe fans that have different interests in other topics and then started to follow that because of you. I think, for me, the most important part is just for the history or the background of the sports, that scenario here has not been, let's say, the most popular sport in China, of course, everybody in the country [knows] ping pong, football, basketball, these things are very famous, popular, and for people it’s maybe quite easy to play or to reach, but motorsport for them is always like a higher luxury end of sports. But I think everyone can still get involved, have that as an interest. And that's what why I'm here, for one of the reasons, and it's great to see a lot of people coming, supporting, notice the race track also off track, to see them there when you have activities. It is great to feel this energy.

Q: (Roldan Rodriguez – DAZN, Spain) A question for Alonso. Do you feel that Aston Martin is developing the team, the car, all around you, like the main figure of the team?

FA: I don't think so. I think, you know, Lance and myself, we are trying to help the team as much as we can. I think we have two different driving styles. In some conditions, we have two different feelings with the car. I think Lance is a lot more sensitive to things than what I am, which is, I think, very, very important for the team. I think the analysis that Lance can reach and can feed back to the team is crucial to us and to improve the car. I'm a little bit insensitive to things sometimes. And this is not a good thing. So yeah. I think we are trying to help us learn as much as we can. And I think the direction that we develop the car and how we finalise, normally, the set-ups on a weekend, is exactly the same. So we arrive to the same conclusion, maybe in a different way. And I think those two different styles are just a good thing for us.

Q: Fernando, where do you lack sensitivity?

FA: Well, I think sometimes I drive the car around the problems that we have. And that's sometimes a good thing, because I can drive any car at any moment and extract 90% of it. But to reach the 100% of the potential of the car, sometimes I'm not able to do that without, as I said, sometimes the help from my team-mate on the special details from the set-up or balance problems here and there. So, you know, I think we benefit from each other in many different ways. And this is a good thing at the moment.

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 18: Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber and Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team talk in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images )

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Another question to you, Zhou. Some things in life are worth waiting for and you've been waiting for this moment for a couple of years longer than you first thought. So take us through what your emotions are, what you feel they might be standing on the grid listening to the anthem on Sunday? And it's a two-part question: what are you doing at the moment to make sure this isn't the last time you race in your home Grand Prix?

ZG: Firstly, my first race, I watched back in the day in 2004. The man sitting next to me [Alonso] was racing already! Can’t imagine how he is still here, racing at a very high level. But for me, of course, it's been 20 years waiting for this Grand Prix. And, yeah, let's say this journey has been not extremely easy, just because where I'm coming from, and also, you know, trying to win at least a lot of races in feeder series to be here. And then once in F1, every year, of course, when you realise that the home race is not happening, two years in a row, we try to kind of do your best to maintain your seat and then to be here, today… So for me, of course, I'm still focused on my job, like always said, I know this is very, let's say a mix of emotions going to this weekend, especially when we have on Sunday with the national anthem going on and also the memory, you know, quickly reflect on your mind. But as much as I am a race driver, I think the most important, critical thing is to do the right job on track, which is try to score points, give the maximum I have on the package on the car we have, which, I feel like we have potential even though it's not a track I know the best in terms of the layout. I never drove here in a single seater. But I still feel like we have a good opportunity with the format. And for myself, I think we just focus on that. And hopefully, it's not going to be the only one because I'm planning hopefully to stay here as long as I could. And everybody loves to be having a long career in Formula 1 and that's where we dream to be. So yeah, let's get over this weekend in a positive way, hopefully reach some good results on Sunday.

Q: (Diego Mejia – Fox Sports, Mexico) A question to Fernando and if any other driver wants to comment. How will you change your approach with the new format on the Sprint weekend, having a race and three hours later a qualifying session that's going to be decisive for Sunday, if that changes the approach and also the parc fermé rules.

FA: I don't think it’s going to change much the approach to any other Sprint weekend that we had last year. We only have now the opportunity after the Sprint race to change the car. So everything that we may learn on the qualifying and that mini race, we may change things for the rest of the weekend and that will be the only freedom that we have now – and it will be used for sure.

EO: Yeah, I mean, it's not really different to any other Sprint weekend. It's just that here… We haven't been here for a while, for sure, so if FP1 is going to be crucial before you get to that first Sprint qualifying. You know, luckily, if things go wrong in that first stage of the weekend, you can always change the set-up back, which is a new thing. So, yeah, probably a bit more experimental things you can try for that first stage of the weekend, but otherwise, yeah, it's not a huge difference.

Q: (Roldan Rodriguez – DAZN, Spain) Again, a question to Charles. Both drivers in Ferrari are doing a super good job this year. But Carlos has been in front in the three races he has raced. Is he adapting better to the car or what do you think?

CL: No, I think it's as simple as he's doing a better job. Again, I think in Bahrain, it's difficult to compare, because on my side, I was facing issues. And I think it was a very strong weekend apart from that on my side. However, in the last two races, he’s just been stronger. So it's up to me now to work, especially on the qualifying pace, which is normally a strength. I've been struggling to put the lap together. It's a very fine line to get it right or completely wrong on the out lap and putting the tyres in the right window. And for now, I have been struggling more than what Carlos has done. And he's driving at a very high level, which I think is great for the team. It’s great for me as well. And I have been working a lot on that. And normally when I work on points, I'm quite confident on improving pretty quickly. So I'm not worried. But obviously now I need to show that on track, starting from tomorrow in qualifying.

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Just a final question to Fernando. Now that you've signed a two-year deal, what assurances have you had from Honda that they won't be giving you a GP2 engine for 2026 and beyond?

FA: Well, they are winning the championship now, so they are demonstrating that they have the discipline and the work that is needed to succeed in Formula 1. Obviously, new regulations, no one knows what could happen in 2026. But yeah, we are extremely happy to work with Honda. And to be, as I said, a works team for the power unit, I think it makes a huge difference to what we currently have. So that's a plus and that's one of the reasons that I stayed into the new regulations, and to have the opportunity to work with Honda again. And as I said, I feel that we will have an advantage.

Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) I don't know if any of you drivers have had an opportunity to inspect the track as yet. But Charles mentioned it earlier, and a couple of other drivers have mentioned it in their media sessions earlier today, that the track has been painted. What does that means pecifically? Do you know? Does it cause any concerns? What issues are you expecting from such a track?

LN: I have no idea. So I think we have to wait and see honestly, I think that's something new, something we don't think we've seen before, so hard to predict exactly what's going to happen. So I honestly have no idea. So I'll see you tomorrow.

CL: Yeah, it's difficult to predict because I think also, it depends a lot on the type of paint they use. And that can cause different issues or have no issues at all, which hope it's the latter that will be the case tomorrow, but for now, it's very difficult to predict. I have only seen pictures, so I haven't gone around the track yet. I don't think it's the same everywhere, which also might not be great. But yeah, before adding further comments, I think we just have to drive and see how it feels. Maybe it's actually a completely fine, so we'll find out tomorrow.

EO: Yeah, I agree with Charles, I mean, I haven't been around it. I just saw pictures for the moment. It could be slippery in the wet, could be very high grip, we can't really tell until we really try. But that's what I was, you know, speaking to Charles about. A long time ago, in our go-kart days, there was sort of paint put on tracks and it used to put down rubber and keep rubber a lot in corners. So that had a lot of grip. I don't expect that to be the case. But, you know, it could do a lot of different things.

ZG: For me, obviously I haven't been really driving here. Last time I drove here was in a road car, so I'm not going to comment much on that.

FA: Yeah, let's wait and see. Until we drive we will not know.

NH: Yep, same. It depends on the type of the paint. We'll get more of an idea once the Safety Car out, maybe in the afternoon. But same for everyone.

Q: (Michael Butterworth – Xinhua News Agency) To all the drivers briefly. It's been a while since we've been to the Shanghai circuit. Just keen to hear your thoughts on it. And any particular features that make it especially challenging or memorable for you?

NH: Personally, I like it. It's got a nice flow to it. Some technical bits, obviously a few really long duration corners. Turn 1. 2, it feels like it's going on forever and then it gets really tight. And then that Turn 14 leading on to the long straight. But yeah, good memories and good vibe around here for me.

FA: Yeah, I love this this place as well. The circuit is very challenging. Turn 1 being the most special corner, very unique in the championship. So yeah, let's see, normally high deg. Lots of overtaking opportunities. So good racing. ZG: Yeah, for me, obviously, you know, trying a few simulators, Turn 1 looks to be the most tricky part of the circuit. And yeah, in general, I think the circuit is more like medium-, high-speed, with a few overtaking spots on the back straight. So yeah, will be fun, I think it definitely won't be a boring race on the weekend.

EO: I look forward to driving on this track. Again, as the other guys said, I think it's very unique to have such long corners at such high speed in the championship. I think it opens up for good racing opportunities as well, just before the long straight for the traction. And, yeah, at the end of the straight is where you have a big braking, so I think it's quite a cool one for racing. So yeah, a long time that we haven't race here, new cars as well. So hopefully we can follow better through the high speed. And yeah, we'll see what that brings us.

CL: I have only race twice here. But it's always been a very, very interesting track. Very nice track to drive on and a track where there are many, many different lines possible, especially in Turns 1, 2, 3. And all those long corners, they are very different ways of taking those corners, which makes it exciting for us. And having only one free practice before qualifying, we'll have to find the best way as quickly as possible. But again, it's an exciting challenge.

LN: I always raced here once, but I didn't finish the race. So not the best memories. But yeah, it was still in my first season. So everything was new back then. But it's always been a cool track to drive. Definitely was not my back then. But excited to give it another crack and see what we can do this weekend.

Q: (Henry Clark – Daily Mail) I was wondering, obviously a lot of tracks that we come to, it's only been a year or so since you've last been here. But for everyone here there has been no race for at least five years. I was wondering what are the unique challenges that brings? Does that make this weekend particularly exciting? Or are there extra worries that come with that?

LN: I guess just excited. Always excited for every weekend, but especially when you haven't been to a place for a while. For me, I didn't get a proper experience of it back in 2019. So things have changed. I'm a very different driver to what I was back then. So I'm excited to see what it brings and how the whole weekend pans out I think anyway being a Sprint race and having two opportunities to try and nail the set-up for the first quali and then the set-up for the second quali. I think also there is plenty of opportunity. So I don't think it’s not going to be exciting for anyone. I think there's a lot of opportunities on the table, there's a lot of things that can go wrong at the same time, so excited for all of it.

CL: Yeah, no particular feelings obviously. As it's Sprint weekend, there's more preparation going into a Sprint and even more so on a track where we haven't been for five years. However, there are also lots of unknown the paint, for example, as well as the track changes because the track changes over time, the bumps are maybe a bit bigger compared to a few years ago when we came here, but this we will only learn, all this new information, tomorrow. So adapting quickly will be very important. But there's been a lot of preparation as it's always the case on Sprint weekends.

EO: Yeah, a lot for us to discover on our side, you know, having the upgrades on the car as well on top of having not raced here for four or five years. There's going to be a lot to see, a lot of fine tuning needed, a lot of understanding, going through. So, we don't really have enough time, let's put it that way, before we get into an important session. But it's part of the game. It's a challenge that I like, you know. You need to be ready. You need to nail every little detail before you get to the session that counts and yeah, that's pretty cool as a challenge.

ZG: Yeah, I mean, all the others pretty much covered everything I think. From my side you know, it's really important to have the confidence straightaway on the track and then we can quickly adapt, changing a little bit the driving line to see what we can extract from the set-up, balance and also the circuit come to quali all the teams, drivers are still going to be learning new things for our quali laps.

FA: Not much to say.

NH: It's going to be busy. It's going to be hectic, you know, to process everything very quickly going into a Sprint weekend. It’s a challenge, but also offers opportunities, probably.

Q: (Gustav Theodor – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) two questions for Zhou. The excitement in the city about you driving here is obviously huge. Your face is all over the subway, you had lots of events the past few days. What does this mean for you? Is this pressure? Is this a distraction or a motivational boost? And the second question is, since the last race here in China, the Chinese car industry has caught up big time, as we are witnessing. You also work together with Ziker, I think. But the companies don’t really play a role in Formula 1 yet. Would you want them to step up their game in Formula 1?

ZG: Firstly, I think I've been extremely busy. One of the busiest men probably in Shanghai over the last week and a half after the Japanese Grand Prix. I came straight back, a lot activities done. And also a lot of meet and greets with fans, people like that. It's great to say, for support from the country already. And for me, the pressure, of course, this race is a little bit higher, but I don't think it gets much more than probably my first race, my debut in Formula 1 because by now everything feels a lot more familiar than back in the day. You know, everything was very new. And first day here is completely different to now, third season. So I'm just going to use that, like I already mentioned, this is a normal weekend, as much as I, you know, will enjoy this whole weekend experience. And then yeah, for me, working together with some Chinese brands or car companies, they are based in the Geely group, so, for me, one of the biggest car companies in the whole China. So, one day, hopefully a dream to have manufacturers involved in Formula 1 that can help a lot, not just myself, also other young generations coming from China, Chinese drivers to help them guide their way into Formula 1. Of course, I would love to have more companies like that involved. But now, you know, I'm happy with what I'm driving with Sauber and, you know, focus on the weekend job and try to do the best possible.

Q: (Michael Butterworth – Xingua News Agency) Zhouo, it's been well documented that you're the only Chinese F1 driver that there's ever been and looking at F2 and F3 there are no Chinese drivers in those series. So after you, there's nobody from China who's really close to F1 at the moment. Why do you think that so few Chinese drivers are making it through to the top levels of motorsport and what needs to change In order for more Chinese drivers to get here?

ZG: I think mainly the history, the culture with motorsports only started 20 years ago. So if you're considering, let's say, the European, how much Formula 1, the passion they had, now is, you know, improving this is probably this Grand Prix is being a record in terms of the tickets. It was sold out, always in like 20 or 30 minutes, and, you know, it used to be, you could still always find a few seats, you know, two to three weeks before the race, so, never been like this before. But you really see the country is growing, but also it’s having some high inputs, having more like multiple companies, manufacturers, starting being involved with different Formula 1 teams. But of course, I think to be able to have more drivers on this grid is going to be very difficult for the next 5, 10 years, just because, for example, a perfect example, Honda, they have this Honda dream project, and you have young drivers who get picked up from very young age, and that culture of motorsport in Japan is very high. But for us, we need to build that and it doesn't take you know… Twenty years is not enough. It takes another probably 5, 10 years to build in the similar level, then you can reach out to Europe, hopefully, put them in the feeder series. And yeah, if they can do well, winning races, finishing top there in their championship, and they can, you know, guide their way to Formula 1, but I don't think it's been a very easy job for, you know, for the next few years for any drivers to be here.

Q: (Joe Cash – Reuters) Zhou, I'm curious, because Formula 1 has finally come back to China after such a long time. But it's come at a point where the economy is not doing well. Politically, people don't want to look too extravagant. Do you think that it's feasible that this young generation can come up given that karting classes in this country are so expensive, and families are watching what they're spending? Do you think there needs to be more support from government? Or how does the pipeline come after yourself?

ZG: Yeah, I mean, for me, I obviously don't want to get into too much on the politics side and things in government. But let's say the biggest difference in motorsports, Formula 1 is that you don't get too much of a country’s support behind. And of course, to being an F1 driver, you need some financial support. That's clear. But I don't think in China we have enough families, people that have the budget, and also, hopefully, the interests that they can get involved in Formula 1. But it takes a lot. It's easy to be a racing driver as a hobby. But to take this professional journey, only 20 of us drivers to be here, it's not an easy one. The amount of sacrifice and also the hard work behind the scenes for every individual drivers to be there, it's very complex. And also, it takes a lot of time. And for me, happy to be kind of the role model in this country. But still, I think you need to put effort into that. And also, having a lot companies, manufacturer involved in helping the young generation, to guide them forward. And yeah, let's see what I can do. Maybe when I retire from racing to help more, but at the moment, I'm just hoping to inspire some young people, and they can come a long way.

Q: (Henry Clark – Daily Mail) With all due respect to some of the more senior drivers, a question to a couple of the younger guys on the panel. When you see Fernando committing his future to racing well into his 40s, how impressive is that dedication? How much does it take to keep doing that? And also, do you see yourselves wanting to race for as long as that in your own careers?

LN: I’d better be careful what I say. I think it takes a lot of dedication. I don't think anyone thinks Fernando lacks that in any way. I think he shows that with everything that he does in life. Whether it's at the track or away from the track, you know, in different sports or whatever. So it depends what you want to do. Everyone is different. It's rare that you see someone commit for so long in any sport, you know, he's probably one of the oldest guys competing at the top of any sport in the world and I think to be able to do that at the level that he has done and continues to do, you're probably never going to potentially see it again, you know within Formula 1 and if you do, it's going be extremely rare. So yeah, I think a lot of lot of respect for that kind of thing. I have no idea if I want to do it in 20 years’ time, if I'm still going strong, but I love where I am now and I continue to do such a thing. Yeah, we'll see.

CL: Yeah, it's difficult to imagine myself in 15 or 18 years’ time still in Formula 1. However, we can definitely see how motivated Fernando still is and how high of a level he's still performing at the moment and this is what matters at the end. Age is a number but what he's showing on track is still at a very, very high level. On my side, I would love to be racing still for many years. However, I'm not so sure whether in Formula 1. I would like to experience other things like Le Mans, that’s definitely a place where I will see myself race one day. But yeah, I mean as long as I am fully motivated then I will race and I love what I do,. so for now that's what I want to do for the longest time possible.

EO: Huge respect for Fernando. Since I've been very little I've been watching him competing, against Michael and you know, these two guys are the guys that gave me the love for the sport. So, to still be racing with Fernando now it's very incredible. And just to see the career he has done, he’s won in everything, basically. He’s won in karting, he’s won in Le Mans, in the States in sports cars, everything he’s competed in he has almost won. And that's more than remarkable. And it's a dream carrier for any athlete or racing driver. So yeah, I don't know if I would still be racing at his age. But truly, his dedication is something that is an example for all of us.

ZG: Yeah, for myself, I think it's an incredible journey that Fernando has done. And, of course, it's a lot easier to say than to do. I would love to be racing in Formula 1 for many more years, that's for sure. That's what I’m most passionate about and driving these cars as well. And from my side, of course, back in the day, he was kind of my racing role model that I was looking for and it's great to be seeing him still performing a very high level. And yeah, just really enjoy it. Hopefully we can sooner battle for some positions on track and having some fun.

Q: Fernando? They summed it up well?

Fernando Alonso: To good, yes? Let's see tomorrow on track.

Q: Nico, a few words from you to end the press conference?

NH: It was for the young ones? Yeah, I mean, all of what they said. Obviously, I'm not as far away as these guys. It’s always difficult to predict the future, how long you want to do something. I think a couple more years. Forty? It's not that crazy far away from me personally. Let's see.


Coming Up

Coming Up


‘These drivers take it right to the edge’ – Producer Jerry Bruckheimer on why he was so keen to make ‘F1’ movie