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FIA Thursday press conference - Mexico City

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DRIVER GROUP 1 - Nico HÜLKENBERG (Hass), Pierre GASLY (Alpine), Alex ALBON (Williams), Esteban OCON (Alpine), Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri)

Q: Nico, let's start with you. It's not your first rodeo, 200 races. It's a hell of a milestone. Just talk us through it.

Nico HÜLKENBERG: Yeah! Yeah, it's been good. It's been fun. Obviously, nice achievement 200 races in the bank. This time last year, I was obviously not in a position where I saw that coming but that's how things are, how quickly things can change in F1. So, end of next year, I’m going to be close to 230s. And, you know, nice, makes me happy. I do what I like, what I'm passionate about and… happy.

Q: Many celebrations this weekend? I know you've got a special helmet.

NH: Yeah, but it's not the time to celebrate. It's a time to work. You know, we're still in the Championship. And, you know, none of the competition will give anything, so the usual grind really.

Q: Can you just reflect for a minute? Let's talk about maybe your best race in the last 199?

NH: Tough one. I felt that drove really well last Sunday, but it was like a P12-13, so, you know! It didn't really surface and show much. There’s been a lot of fun ones, good ones also. Likewise obviously some bad ones and some where I don't like to remember so much back to them, but all-in-all, you know, it's a great industry, F1, really cool environment, fun to be part of it again, especially now the second stint since the comeback this year. I've been really enjoying myself, enjoyed more, enjoyed a lot and happy to continue.

Q: Well, how much did you enjoy your car? Last weekend? You were running the much-anticipated upgrades? What were you feeling?

NH: Yeah, so obviously, Sprint weekend, so not an easy one for us. And then obviously, we decided to do some big set-up changes and opted for the pit-lane start which obviously, made life a bit harder for the race. But in hindsight, it was the right decision. We were more competitive on Sunday. And I think that was the first time and the first day where some positive signs and steps were seen. I think, in terms of tyre management, this was one of the best races in a while for us. So, still exploring, still finding out and learning more about the package. And I hope there's more to come as we go. But it was it was positive, let's say.

Q: What does it mean for this weekend in Mexico?

NH: What does it mean? Hopefully a better performance. I mean, it's obviously a quite different circuit here, different circumstances, you know, the usual Mexico challenges here with cooling, for car, for brakes, the thin air. It's always challenging, every year. But it's just about, you know, maximising our package and putting the best car possible on the track.

Q: Pierre, let's come to you, then. A really strong weekend for you in Austin, last time out. You were seventh in the Sprint, sixth in the Grand Prix on Sunday. What aspects of the whole weekend, pleased you the most?

Pierre GASLY: Well, I will say probably the whole weekend. As a whole. I think we've been executing, and getting the best out of that car every single session. So, whether it was the Qualifying on Friday, whether it was the Sprint on Saturday, or even the race, I feel like we we've left nothing on the table. And that's definitely a satisfying feeling, when you come out of a weekend where you know, you've given everything and that's pretty much the maximum you could get out of it. So, I think that's going to be the target until the end of the year. Obviously we're not fighting for anything in the Championship this season so I think it's going to be the main focus will be to just execute weekend after weekend the highest level, whether it's on the execution or getting everything out of our car.

Q: Pierre, it wasn’t just Austin, your form has skyrocketed since the Summer Break. I think it’s 36 points in the six races since the break, whereas it was only 22 points in the 13 races prior to that. What do you put this turnaround down to?

PG: I will say the first part of the season, I quite rarely got that feeling, which we just had in Austin for example, where it felt everything was optimised and we definitely didn't leave anything on the table. I think there was a bit more unknown and getting to know each other with a team, and understanding what sort of car feedback, kind of building the relationship with the team, and everything seems to click a bit better since we got back from the Summer Break. So, I'm really happy with the progress we're making, in terms of execution, the attitude, the self-reflection on what we do every single weekend, on all areas. And I think overall, we're just making a step forward as a team, which is what we need to aim for before next season.

Q: And in terms of performance, what can we expect from you and Alpine this weekend?

PG: Well, I think pretty much the same we have seen last weekend. We seem to be not quite there with the guys ahead, the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. We are not too far from Aston and we can be right in front of them if they don't get it quite right, like they did in Austin, so I think that’s going to be our main competition. If we can get in a fight with Fernando a couple of times until the end of the year, I think that will definitely be a good performance and, as I said, just maximise the opportunities. There might be a couple of good opportunities until Abu Dhabi and just need to make sure we’re there to grab them.

Q: Last question from me. Can we throw it back to last weekend and, off track, Rory McIlroy was one of the guests of the team. You've obviously got a big golf match coming up in just a couple of weeks now…

PG: … we were just talking about it and how stressed we are about it!

Q: …what advice did Rory give you. I’m sure you talked about it.

PG: I did manage to get a free golf lesson from Rory. We did a putt challenge and somehow managed to beat him. Okay, I had a hole which was pretty much double the size that he had. And yeah, that was the bet on the line: I told him okay, if I beat you, I want to free golf class from Rory and that's going to happen. I'm not sure we'll be able to do it before Vegas. But yeah, we got these big tournament coming up with Alex. I think we are in the in the worst seats at the minute compared to Lando and Carlos. So, we might get some practice together next week. We'll see. But yeah, that's definitely going to be a pretty cool experience to be on the golf course with these pro golfers. And just having Rory and Joshua last weekend in America was definitely an honour for us and great to have these guys’ support.

Q: Alex, unfair advantage, Rory McIlroy giving him a lesson. Who have you got teaching you?

PG: Girlfriend!

Alex ALBON: Pretty much! I think I have a full-time coach, which is my girlfriend, but I don't listen to her… because she's my girlfriend. So, it's going to be tricky, I think. We're trying to find some time. I don't know how Pierre’s doing but obviously a triple-header. And then we've got a week off – but that week off is normally spent travelling and doing simulator work. I'm going to struggle to get the practice in. We’re going to embarrass ourselves quite badly on international television. So, it's a lot of pressure. I think it's becoming on my mind more than the races is coming up. Which is a problem.

Q: Can we talk about one of the races that's just happened? After three point-less races for the team, you get a ninth and 10th in Austin. Just how welcome was that boost for everybody?

AA: Yeah, well, we score points in Qatar in the Sprint race, so we’ve been on, for us, what we call a bit of a run – two races in a row – the cars been feeling okay. Obviously we haven't had many upgrades for a while now. But, as Pierre touched on, a lot of it, in the midfield, because it's so tight, it's more about execution than anything else. And we seem to have a decent car and obviously, a couple of low ride-heights seemed to help us.

Q: Now it was a big moment for Logan, of course, getting his first World Championship point. How vividly do you remember scoring your first points, in Bahrain 2019. And what difference did it make behind the wheel and the confidence that it gave you?

AA: It does make a big difference. I think when you can start off a season – I was quite lucky where I started off the season with points early on – it just settles the nerves. So, it's always that thing, where your first goal is to score points, then it would be to score a podium, and then win races, and then win championships – but you want to get the points first. That's kind-of your first checklist tick that you want to do. I'm sure it happened in a way which is not that normal, on the plane, on the way back, that you get the results given to you, but I'm sure Logan is enjoying it and can use that for some momentum for the rest of the year.

Q: Final one for me, just this weekend in Mexico, what can we expect from you and from Williams?

AA: Let's see, let's see. Should be an interesting weekend. Last year wasn't that good for us: low speed corners don’t tend to too well for us, and this is predominantly third gear king of style, so let's see how it goes. We've seen our car can be unexpected at times and I wouldn't want to say that we can score points this weekend but I think we can be close, and hopefully rely on some drivers and teams not optimising their packages, and then we can take over. So, all to play for.

Q: Esteban, coming to you now. It was another frustrating one for you last time out in Austin. I think, officially, it's your sixth DNF of the season but if we include races like Australia, I think you can almost make that number eight. It's been a difficult run. How frustrated are you feeling right now?

Esteban OCON: Well, I think if you let the frustration get to you, you are not looking ahead, and obviously, that's what I'm looking at, trying to get things back running like they were at the time in the year. And obviously, yes, we had quite a few DNF that cost us this this year. But, you know, it's sometimes like this in motor sport. It happens. And, yeah, we're going to be focusing on the right things this weekend, and hopefully get a good weekend under our belt.

Q: You made a great start in Austin. If you hadn't had the contact with Oscar Piastri, what do you think might have been possible?

EO: Yeah, definitely good points. Obviously, there was a huge opportunity in that race to be scoring well, especially with the few disqualification that there was ahead. But yeah, I mean, that weekend, from the Friday to the Sunday wasn't bad. It's just that things didn't turn out the right way for us. But things will turn around and come back to us.

Q: Well, let's turn the page and focus on this weekend. Knowing the car as you do, do you think it'll be a strong weekend for Alpine here?

EO: It was last year. We had points on my side. Obviously, we were performing quite well. Q3 in Quali and running strongly in the top 10 as well. I almost had a podium, couple years ago here in 2017. And, yeah, it's a track that I really enjoy. So yeah, I look forward to be driving here around.

Q: And Pierre has touched on having the other sports stars join the team for a weekend. I know, you spent time with Rory McIlroy and Anthony Joshua. Do you find it inspiring, having stars from other sports, join you. Do you learn stuff off them?

EO: Yeah, massively! I mean, to be able to talk with these guys that have been so successful in their sports, that are joining what we want to achieve as a team. They’re basically joining us and yeah, you can talk to them and try to get good things for us as sportsmen and that's what I try to do. I'm like a big sponge when I talk to them, it's just awesome to be to be linked with these guys. And hopefully, there's going to be some awesome stuff coming up with them as well.

Q: Yuki, thank you for waiting. So, such a strong weekend for you in Austin last weekend. You finished in the points, you get your first fastest lap in Formula 1. How sweet was that moment for you?

Yuki TSUNODA: Yeah, was a good moment for us. To be honest, obviously, we got slight luck from the cars ahead. But yeah, it's big points for us, especially as we have only four races to go and we definitely close the gap to the cars in front, which is really good. And yeah, last fastest lap was… I enjoyed a lot with the you know, last fresh tyres on the Soft. Mostly in a race, you're managing the tyres, and now you can go flat out. So yeah, it was a cool moment and I think we got a good motivation for now. Extra motivation from that point. And yeah, I think we ready for the rest of the races.

Q: And how did having Daniel Ricciardo back as your teammate help in terms of using his experience for what was a Sprint weekend.

YT: Yeah, I think that helps a lot. But at the same time, we kind of spread the strategy to try to maximise the race. We knew that it's going to be difficult to the score points in US. Sprint Qualifying, turns out it’s actually quite good race pace – but like Alex and Nico says, it’s all about execution. So didn’t probably maximise that on Saturday, so that's the only things that we have to improve for the future – but every details, every feedback from him, definitely gives us a step forward as a team.

Q: All to play for in the Constructors’ Championship, of course. You're now just two points behind Haas, six points behind Alfa Romeo. How high are you aiming in these last four races? What can you achieve?

YT: Obviously it would be nice if we’re able to be top eight – but it won’t be easy. I think Alpine are consistently in recent races quite fast, so it won’t be easy – but anything can happen, like we saw at previous races. Two points sounds quite small but it’s not actually close. You need to maximise every race week – but we’re feeling optimistic. Looking forwards. I think our package is getting closer and closer towards P10, which is good. We just have to put it all together, every race.

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Nico, question to you. And congratulations on the 200th, mate, it’s a brilliant milestone. You had a stellar junior career, sensational career before F1. Seems inconceivable that you go into a 200 race with no win and no podium, to your name. Why do you think that is? Is it just wrong time, wrong place in terms of the teams you've been with? Or is F1 that much harder? What do you put that down to?

NH: Yeah, F1 is that much harder! Yeah, I had a couple of opportunities where, podium would have been possible in a non-top car. But yeah, the things happened that stopped and prevented that. And, if you're not in top cars, these opportunities don't come around that often. So, I guess I just missed out there. That's the way it is.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to all the drivers, please. Just looking back to the controversy at the end of the Austin weekend, Alex touched on it earlier, finding out on the flight about the results being changed. Only four cars were checked as per the FIA’s long-standard rules – but 50 per cent of those were found to be illegal in terms of the plank-wear on the rules. Do you guys think that maybe those rules need to be changed, so that perhaps at specific events that are really bumpy, like Austin, with these cars that are so low-slung to the floor now, that perhaps every car needs to be checked at events like that? For example, Nico, you ended up 11th. You might have scored a point if there are illegal cars in those results ahead of you.

NH: Or I might have been illegal myself! You never know. Obviously these cars are incredibly sensitive to the ride height. The lower you get, the more downforce you get, that's the constant fight we have, and we need to find the right balance. I think Austin is a bit specific with the bumpiness and also with a lot of apex and exit kerbs where you can run them quite aggressively – but you do use the plank and wear down those shims a lot, so maybe there is something to be to be looked at in a different way. Yeah.

PG: I think there's a couple of things which we could do to improve what's happened in Austin. I think starting with the Sprint weekend when we’ve got only the FP1 session on such a track. You’re doing 15 laps with quite a low amount of fuel in the car. So, to get a gauge of what you're going to get for the next 70 laps, with two Qualifyings, a Sprint race, a complete Grand Prix of 59 laps, with a lot of fuel. You’re going pretty much blind after FP1 with very few informations on where to base yourself. So, I think it's a tricky thing. Probably we can improve that process giving us more time to readjust if needed. I just remember my karting days, where you know, all top three cars were always checked. Whenever you finish on the podium, you should be checked every single time, and then on top of that, there could be random checks as well, running down the order. But yeah, I think it's been always from the past, only in F1, where it's not a standard to check all top three cars. But it was tricky, and I think the Sprint format made it even more even more tricky, considering we have a very short amount of time to set the car up.

AA: Same as Pierre and Nico. I don't think there's too much to add. I think, as Pierre touched on, what the teams have in terms of data and information to set the ride heights for the weekend is very marginal, there's not even really enough time to fill the cars up in FP1, just to get a feel for where they need to be. But on the same side, I do think, maybe you don't need to check every car, every race all the time. But, you know, if there's one, one driver in one team illegal, there's a very, very high chance that the other car, the teammate of that driver, is going to be illegal as well. So I don't know how much it would take to check a couple more cars, but I don't think that would be such an issue. But I don't know, I'm not a scrutineer.

EO: Yeah, I’m joining these guys. I think it is an extremely difficult exercise. Just to be guessing, you know, what your ride height has to be. There is a risk and reward, obviously, in that, sort of, exercise – that if you get the car lower you get more performance, but you know, it's at the risk of are you going to be illegal with your plank. Yeah, I mean, we've seen cars changing set-up throughout the weekends because of those things. And yeah, it is just too short in FP1 really to set your car up. So yeah, I'm sure it's not the first time that there were cars illegal like that on such weekends or such a Sprint weekend. I think on normal format, it's a lot less likely to happen. But yeah, I'm sure on the other races there was as well.

YT: Yeah, pretty much aligned to everyone. But we got a prize from the previous race. So, so far, I don't have to change I think.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) The promoter here is working with F1 to cut down on the number of people in the paddock compared to last year. Do you see that as a positive move in terms of being able to do your jobs properly? And have you noticed generally at other circuits? That paddocks are getting busier and harder to move around? I know Pierre has got quite strong views on this. YT: Yeah, for me it is easier and I like it.

EO: I think it's part of what we do, you know, to have fans, supporters and obviously more and more fans, looking at how the sport is going. I think it's a great thing. I remember seeing images of Michael in the past, who couldn't move in the paddock. I don't know how many people there was back then. But you know, that's how it's always been in a way. So I think it's just how it is as a show you know. We bring attention to the people and I think it's just cool to see some atmosphere in the paddock. I mean, if we can't move at all and get to the garage it becomes a problem but I've never seen it like that yet. So I don't think it's an issue.

AA: Yes, it's a tricky one. I do think we do need to make our sport as accessible as possible, so I don't see such a big issue with people being in the paddock, but I do know there's obviously limitations to it. To be honest with you, I don't think the paddock has been that bad. For me it's more been kind of just getting out of the paddock. I don't know how you guys feel, but sometimes you kind of leave the paddock and almost run over people's feet because they're kind of all coming up to your windows and everything. That stuff is maybe a little bit more touching go, but yeah, with the paddock I’m not too worried about it.

PG: It's been good here and happy, like Yuki said, I'm happy with it.

NH: I wasn't here last year, but I think it's more to do with which end of the pit lane you are. And I think where Alex and I are it tends to be quieter so we don't suffer the same issues.

Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) A question to both Pierre and Alex. Here in Mexico, a lot of attention goes out to Sergio Pérez. There's pressure on his shoulders being Max's team-mate. Since you were both in his position, how do you think he's dealing with that? And how hard is it actually to be Max's team mate?

AA: I think it's always tough. I think it's tough to go against one of the best drivers on the grid and call it a generational talent to some extent, so it wasn't easy my year and I'm sure it wasn't easy for Pierre in his year. But we're drivers, you know, we go through tough times and it makes us stronger. And yeah, there's not too much to say. I think he's handling quite well, at least from what I see. So, like I said, I'm not looking over my shoulders too much and seeing see what goes on down the paddock.

PG: Yeah. I think I join Alex on that one. Never easy to go against probably the best driver at the moment, in combination with the best team, and a team that is fully around him. So it’s obviously a tough job. I mean, Checo did very well at the start of the season. Obviously, for some reasons, it's not going as well now – reasons we don't know. But, you know, I just wish him the best. Obviously, it's an important weekend for him in front of his own crowd, and hopefully he can get the best out of it.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Alex, it's a question for you. Las Vegas is pointed out as probably being the next big opportunity for Williams and you've spoken about the track playing to your favour. Can I just get an idea, a sense, of your preparations for that race? What are some of the factors you think will play to your advantage? And how things like the cold temperatures and potential tyre interests that could make it interesting that for you?

AA: What format is it in Vegas? It's normal? OK. Let's see. I've already driven it on the simulator. It's hard to get proper data from there, because obviously, the track is still open to the public, so it's not as accurate as it normally is. But it's clear that it's very high speed. It feels extremely quick when you're driving on the simulator. And a lot of the corners are even flat still. So there's not so many corners, which obviously favours us. Should be four degrees, five degrees I think, which will be interesting. I wonder if we're doing three or four prep laps for qualifying, but it will be a tough one. And then again, is it going to be like Monza, where we do slipstream battles? I don't think so. But no, it should suit our car, but I don't want to put too much emphasis on it in case it doesn't turn out to be that good.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Aame question to Esteban and Nico, please. Can you just explain what's the key to nailing a lap around here – if there are any particular corners where you can really gain or lose a lot of time?

EO: Yeah, I think if you are confident on braking here, it's usually a good weekend for you. You know, Turn 1 down, Turn 4 as well, there's a lot of time to gain. And it's very tricky, actually, because you are at such high speed with very low downforce that, yeah, that can make your lap gone in a second. So yeah, I think just nailing all the braking points and then not overheating your tyres too much on those braking points leaves you to good grip in the slow speed corners and good exits. So yeah, I think this is the key.

NH: Yeah, I feel it's just a tricky, technical circuit. And you always feel like you have to under-drive a bit. You know, if you want to push too much, you very quickly pay a price and you lose more than you gain, with the sensation of low downforce that you have in the car and this low-grip feeling. So it's just about getting a clean lap in really, and as close to the limit as possible, I guess.

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 26: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Haas F1 attends the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 26, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

DRIVER GROUP 2 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Oscar PIASTRI (McLaren), George RUSSELL (Mercedes)

Q: Checo, let's start with you. It's the big one for you. Just how different is this race to all of the others for you?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it's very different. You know, it's the weekend that you want to be perfect, the weekend that you want to maximise your result. And if there's one particular grand prix that you want to win it’s your home Grand Prix?

Q: How much busier is it? Tell us about the week you've had so far?

SP: Yeah, it's great. I mean, luckily, I had Austin before, so we weren't that busy. Only yesterday, we did have a lot of events. But now it's just a normal weekend, you know, and at the end of the day, it's a weekend that counts the same as any other weekend in terms of points. So yeah, it goes in hand.

Q: Checo, you say it's a normal weekend, but how difficult is it for you to cut out all of the noise and focus on the job in hand?

SP: I think once I'm in the car, it's a lot easier. It's very easy, it comes natural. But when you are out of the car, or even in the paddock, you see the attention is very different, you know. A lot of eyes on you and a lot of support from the crowd.

Q: You’ve finished on the podium for the last two years. Have you dared to dream about the reception you'd get in the Foro Sol if you won your home race?

SP: Ha! It would be insane! That obviously will be my biggest dream, you know, to achieve that this weekend. So now full focus on tomorrow, the practice, and try to get a perfect weekend here.

Q: And are you happy with the car? Just talk us through Austin? Do you feel you're coming here happier than you've been in the last few races?

SP: Yeah, definitely. We made a lot of progress. Unfortunately, we didn't really get to show the full potential we have, you know, with the Sprint event we ended up taking the wrong direction with the car. Like a lot of people did, even Mercedes, Ferrari, you know. It's what happens in those sorts of events. So we ended up just taking the wrong direction with it. And I believe that we made some really good progress.

Q: Well, best of luck this weekend. Enjoy it. Now, Fernando, Checo is the star of the show this weekend here in Mexico, but there was some crazy scenes when you went into the Hugo Boss store in Mexico City yesterday. Just talk us through the reception you've had here?

Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, it was it was a surprise. I mean, they told me before leaving the hotel that they were 4,000 people at the mall. And it was true. I mean, I didn't believe it, but yeah, it was incredible. The enthusiasm about this race here in the city is very nice to see. And we have this incredible welcome from everyone. So we are just enjoying every minute here and we want to put a good show on Sunday and people celebrate hopefully a good result.

SP: Not even in Spain, you get this sort of crowd eh?

FA: There are less people, less people.

SP: You need that your Spanish friend to push it up.

Q: Fernando, you talk about Sunday and the show. Where are you at with your car at the minute, because Austin seemed a confusing race, at least from the outside. Because it started poorly and the car seemed to get better and better as the weekend went on. Where were you finding the gains?

FA: Optimising the set-up. I think on Sprint weekends, you have that risk of, you know, having only one session, where you have to optimise everything on the car. We had a very difficult session in FP1 with a lot of brake problems. And yeah, we opted to change the set-up, optimise a little bit everything, the package, and start from the pit lane. And that was a nice result for us, good information that we got from Austin. And yeah, I think the pace that we saw on Sunday, it was a combination of being optimized on our side and maybe, as Checo said, I think our main opponents were not optimized, having only FP1. So it was the same for everybody and we took the opportunity to have a better Sunday.

Q: And is it clear to you how you need to set up the car here in Mexico?

FA: Not totally clear. I think it is a completely different track with different needs. So I think we will use the full practice this time. After a few Sprint events we are, you know, more relaxed now and happier that we have FP1, FP2, FP3 to optimise things. So it's going to be the same for everybody. But yeah, we really need these three practices that are coming in the next days.

Q: Final one from me, Fernando, you've been out on the paddle court with George yesterday.

FA: Correct.

Q: Were you impressed by George?

FA: I was! I was, because I think I've been playing paddle for, I don't know, 15 years, 12 years or something like that. But I think George is quite new into that and he was strong. And we are unbeatable at the moment! You know, we play once and its 100% dominant wins!

Q: You're welcoming all-comers, roll up, roll up! Now, Zhou, let's come to you. We've seen some fluctuating performances from Alfa Romeo recently – very strong in Qatar, disappointing in Austin. How do you explain that?

Zhou GUANYU: Yeah, actually, it was for example… Austin was actually the best start we have done this season in terms of just Friday with one practice session. We managed to get the car in a very nice window. But then, yeah, we were expecting to pick up a little bit quicker the pace – like the other few races, we've been stronger on Sunday, than maybe Friday or Saturday in quali. But Austin was completely opposite way round. So it was quite surprising, actually, with the amount of lack of speed on Sunday. So we didn't really have the car to be fighting for points, unfortunately, after let's say, a pretty good, P12, P13 start on the grid.

Q: So, from a set-up point of view, where do you start this weekend in Mexico?

ZG: I mean, it's very nice to have a weekend back to normal, finally. I think for everyone. That we really need to understand a bit more with all this package we have and for all the teams and to have the extra two sessions that really helps to understand a lot more, so we can try different sets-ups, making sure that we can optimise everything before the qualifying session. And it's going to be super important also… I feel like, you know, the steps we were able to do throughout the season were in the right direction, but we weren’t able to keep the consistency like some of the other competitors was able to do.

Q: And do you take some confidence from the pace of the car here last year. I think Valtteri qualified P6. And you both were competitive in the race?

ZG: Yeah, actually, it was, last year here I remember it was the best race weekend we had for the second half of the season because we struggled a bit more towards the end of the season. And the car seemed to be quite strong, especially with the low-grip tracks, and also these low-speed conditions. So we really want to work on that and try to focus on being back in the points because I feel like if some race weekends you can be fighting for points quite comfortably, then there's no reason other race weekends you struggle a lot more. So yes it’s about optimizing the set-up before quali and everything will just come.

Q: OK. Best of luck this weekend. Oscar coming to you. It's been a busy week. Tell us what you've been up to since Austin?

Oscar PIASTRI: Yes, I went to New York for a few days. Seeing some of our partners, some of our investors as well, which was nice. You know, obviously, a lot of our partners and investors are based in this part of in this part of the world, so yeah, nice to catch up with them before coming here.

Q: If we talk about performance, it's been a while, Oscar, since you've had a frustrating weekend in Formula 1, and I think Austin was that. How do you reflect on last weekend?

OP: Yeah, you're right. It was a tough weekend. You know, it just took me longer than I wanted to get up to speed. I think as I went through the weekend, I was getting better and better. And Sunday was looking pretty good. Had a good start and then we unfortunately had to retire. But yeah, definitely one of the weekends where I'll learn the most and try and work on that for the next few weekends.

Q: And when you look at the layout of this racetrack – I know you've not raced here before – but do you think it'll suit the McLaren?

OP: Not particularly. Not like some other circuits have. In saying that, I think Austin was maybe better than our expectations in terms of performance. But yeah, we'll have to wait and see. It's a very different circuit here. It's my first time here. So there'll be a lot of learning for myself to do. But yeah, hopefully we can still be in the fight with the teams we’re around.

Q: George, thank you for waiting. Coming to you now. Well, praise indeed from Fernando Alonso about your paddle skills.

George RUSSELL: Yeah, it was OK. Team-mates on the paddle court, 100% record against our competitors. So it’s always nice to do that as a sport, I’ve been getting into it a little bit as this year has progressed, and especially this time of the season, you spend a lot of time away, so it's nice to have a little hobby on the side.

Q: Now let's talk ride heights. There's been a lot of chatter about that since last weekend, do you expect Mercedes to take more of a conservative approach this weekend?

GR: I think it's a very different layout here. Obviously, with the one session in Austin, we did all of the standard checks after FP1 and the plank looked absolutely fine. So there was no reason after the practice session to make any changes, but obviously we got that very wrong. I expect the nature of this circuit to be naturally more conservative and with the three practice sessions, I don't foresee any issues there.

Q: And what about the upgrades to the car over a race distance? What were you feeling?

GR: Yeah, definitely the upgrades were performing really well and I think that was clear with the performance. We had some limitations on my side. I had not enough fuel and was having to manage the fuel for half of the race. That really put me on the back foot but the last stint, we just went for it and the pace was probably the strongest out there which definitely bodes well for the end of the season.

Q: And what about track limits here? You got a five second penalty last time out for your pass on Oscar. I'm sure it’s all good between you now but do you expect track limits to be an issue?

GR: It shouldn't be a problem. I can't think of any corners that are going to be a limitation. I think Turn 2 there was a bit of a problem last year with some drivers cutting it. But it's circuits like this that you want to be racing on where there isn't an opportunity to be pushed off but still take the advantage. So yeah, I think Austin, Austria, I can't think of any others now but these types of circuits lend itself to that.

Q: You were very competitive last year; started on the front row finished fourth. What can we expect from Mercedes?

GR: Yeah, the car was performing really well last year on paper. I'd say this circuit suits us better than the likes of Austin and Qatar and Japan, on which we were still pretty competitive too so I wouldn't say we have high hopes here but I think it should suit a slightly better. Bit of an unknown going to the C5 compound this year compared to the C4 last year but we're feeling optimistic going into these two races.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (David Croft - Sky Sports F1) Checo, lots of billboards I saw on the way to the track today with photos of you and Max in an embrace, the hashtag respect has been seen around the circuit. We have the interesting headline from a local newspaper about Max and Helmut: race and then get out of town. Rivalry is great and we love sporting rivalry. Do you feel that sometime, and potentially this weekend, rivalry could spill over to something a little more unsavoury?

SP: No, not at all. And I think it's important that we give this message, because I think media likes to create this sort of rivalry outside the track and I think we are a great sport. We are a great example for a lot of young generations and we should just be focused on the sport side. And whatever happens on track should always stay there and that's the best message we, as a country, want to give to the rest of the world. And yeah, there is nothing else going on. The most important thing is that everything stays on track.

Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Sergio, to follow up on the last remark, do you think the Mexican people, the fans, see you as a teammate or as a rival compared to Max?

SP: Well, I think obviously, we are all rivals but at the same time we are all sports athletes, and we all want to do the best for ourselves. Max and myself, we are in the same team so we both want to win and we are all giving our best so I don't think that there should be any rivalry. For example, if I'm fighting in the race with Fernando, he's not my rival out of the track, it's just that we are just fighting on track. But like I say, the media likes to create this rivalry out of the track which I don't think is right and it's important for the fans to understand that.

Q: (Victor Galvan – La Cronica) Checo, with too many sponsors events, all the people around you, the time that goes into each event, with the pressure and attention of this race requires because of the timing of the season and you fight for runner-up. Would you prefer this race to have been in a different than Mexico?

SP: No, I'm happy that I'm here. And you know, every race is a different sort of challenge. But at the end of the day, I'm really happy, I'm really happy to be in my country and I'm prepared to give my very best this weekend.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autopsort) Fernando, could you please sum up your nearly one full season in Aston Martin. From outside, results-wise, early on lots of podiums, champagne moments. Those have been harder to come by since the summer break other than your performance in Zandvoort. So is that reflected your experience on the inside?

FA: No, I think it has been more consistent feeling and season than what maybe the results are showing. I think we've been balancing always the ups and also the downs. We've been always very focused on the performance of the car and tried to get better as a team. Two years ago, this organisation was 250 people and now we are just a few points away from the very top teams in the Constructors’ championship and as you said, tasting the podium for a few times already this year. We have this new factory as well, a lot of new people that came to the team. I think around 200 points more than last year. So it has been an incredible 2023 campaign for Aston Martin. I know that we are more and more like football here and only the last result seems to count but we cannot forget where we come from and what the project is about so very proud of this season so far. Hopefully we can finish on a high; in the remaining races we can taste the podium one more time at least and then go into 2024 I think with a lot more confident than this year. I think we started the winter just hoping that the project was taking the right direction after a difficult 2022. We learn a lot of things throughout the season, a lot of things also off-track, development on the car during the season, direction of development. So it has been a very important championship not only for the results itself, also for the team to get a contender for the future. So it has been a very important season and I'm very proud and happy

Q: (Carolina Figueroa – Mas Por Mas) For Oscar Piastri: the first time in Mexico, what do you find will be the most challenging in the circuit?

OP: So which corner will be the most challenging? OK. I think here there's a lot of the challenging parts. I think obviously the run to turn one is extremely long and getting the braking point right will be difficult. The stadium section is very, very slow and easy to make a mistake there. I think that the whole track is difficult and obviously the altitude is very high here so the grip is quite low. So it just makes everything difficult but I'll have a better answer for you tomorrow.

Q: (Alejandra Chavez – Revista Central) Checo, tell us about your passion for speed. Have you ever had an experience like to these outside the track?

SP: Speed-wise? Well, sometimes when we do some activations with a sponsor and we got to off-road, I enjoy that, going off-road in big cars, that’s a very different sort of speed, but it's also very enjoyable.

Q: Are we going to see you do Dakar one day, Checo?

SP: No, I think that's for Fernando. No, I don't think I go for that.

Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) The local promoter here is working with F1 to cut down on the number of people in the paddock this weekend after what happened last year. How difficult is it to find that balance between giving people access and you guys being allowed to move around safely and be able to do your jobs?

SP: I think we’ve got to appreciate, obviously, the Mexican fans are really enthusiastic. But at the same time, we have to make sure that the drivers are comfortably going around the paddock, and I think that that should be a nice balance. And I just want everyone to have a great time in my country and I think that's something that went over the limit last year, that hopefully this year can be improved, because overall, it's in my opinion, like the best reception for all the drivers in the world.

ZG: Yeah, last year was pretty chaotic in the paddock in general. And can you imagine if you are Fernando or Checo and it's going to be fully packed and I think today's actually being not too bad so let's say the weekend but it's great to have let's say, all the passion that they have as a Mexican fans, but also in the other time you have to give drivers some room, especially we’re to try to give them a very good show, trying to work as hard as we could.

GR: Yeah, I think for me, the more the merrier is great but at the end of the day, we're all here to do a job. And last year, we were struggling just to get from our engineers’ office to the garage without people jumping on us and sticking cameras right in our face. It was a bit of a strange environment. So yeah, I'm happy for the paddock to be packed as long as we've all got a sensible way through to get to where we’ve got to be.

Q: (Gabriel Martinez - TV Azteca) Checo, one of the most important things in Austin for you was to gain that security before coming to Mexico. And it seems to me that it was achieved. However, after some up and downs in the season, how nearby do you see that you can access to the victory this weekend?

SP: I think that the gap in Austin was a lot smaller than it really showed, finishing the fight on the race. I think we were all within a tenth, maximum two tenths, the top five, top six cars. So I think we just lost some direction with the sprint event but we definitely made some good progress. And we understood… I said that after Qatar that we had a very good few days back in the factory, that we went really deep on the detail and we understood a lot of things that we were trying to compensate for our issues that actually were making the basically the result worse. So I believe that we are back in contention.

Q: (Luke Smith - The Athletic) Fernando, over the course of your career we've seen F1 shift away from being chiefly a traditional circuit, let's say, championship to more and more street tracks. We've got Vegas coming up as well. Do you think that shift from F1, has it moved away from its roots? Is that a good or a bad thing? Do you understand why it's going to more of these glamorous cities such as Las Vegas?

FA: I don't think it does change too many things to be honest. On the championship, or as a sport, it's just the number of races that they just increased. So some of those extra races now are held on street circuits for basically different interest and try to grow as a sport. So we embrace that change as well and we try to help this sport as much as I can and everyone is doing the same.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) George, you mentioned having to save fuel in the last race. I just wondered the specific challenges around here in terms of cooling the engine, cooling the brakes, how does that work from a driver’s point of view? What are you asked to do by the team? I know you won't go into specifics for Mercedes but just generally how can you help the team?

GR: It's a very difficult scenario to find yourself in because as racing drivers you want to drive as fast as possible, every single lap and that's why often qualifying is quite straightforward because you don't need to overthink it. You're just pedal to the metal and you go for it whereas, now you're going into turn one, if you've got a bit of traffic, you probably can't hit the brakes as hard as you'd like to because the brakes will go through the roof. You can't probably follow cars for a number of laps in a row because of the engine overheating, so having to lift off the throttle maybe 100 metres before every single braking zone makes it feel quite unnatural to drive. Because when you grew up as a kid, eight years old driving a go-kart, these are techniques that you'd never use and the same, to be honest, in Formula 3, Formula 2, you'd never find yourself implementing these techniques to cool the engine down, to cool the tyres down, to cool the brakes down because those race cars aren't probably pushed to the limit as a Formula 1 car is so it's definitely a bit strange, but it's what you have to do to find the best compromise.

Q: (Jose Gabriel – Soy Referee) Checo, how are you feeling here at home after, obviously, a few bad weekends with bad results and the incidents with Albon, Magnussen. So how do you feel to be the best driver here and to win in Mexico because you say it is your dream, so how you want to achieve that?

SP: Yeah, it will be my biggest dream to manage to get the victory at home. And then like I said before, it's great to be at home, especially towards the end of the season. You don't get the opportunity to see your friends that often, a lot of your fans so it's a weekend where I get to see them all. And I'm just ready to give it all and hopefully it works out.

Q: (Michel Ruiz – Milenio Diario) Checo, how difficult is it to run here in Mexico in terms of passing or team strategies?

SP: It's really difficult, like George just mentioned. I think if he was saving some fuel and brakes in Austin, here, it's even more intense, especially if you're in traffic on Sunday with the altitude, there's a lot of management that we’re going to have to do on Sunday, just to see the finish line. So yeah, it's not so easy also to fight, to overtake and strategy, it's very likely that it will be a one stop so in that regard, qualifying is really important.

Q: (Marisol Rojas – El Economista) Checo and Fernando, the joy of Mexican fans and commercialization is similar to other Grand Prix venues?

SP: For me, personally, no. Nothing compares to being in Mexico. Being in the States gets close but no, not even. The reception and the passion of the fans that I have here doesn't compare to anywhere else in the world. FA: Yeah, Spain is not bad but Mexico is up there on the podium.

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