Q: Sebastian, you’ve won four times at Suzuka so this track must be pretty dear to you. Can you say what is so special about it that most drivers get dreamy eyed when speaking of it?
Sebastian Vettel: Ha, do they? It is one of the best tracks of the calendar - for me actually the best. Why? It’s an old-school track, meaning it’s fast and furious with many corners that are close to flying. The first sector is fantastic, but also corners 13 and 14, and Spoon. When you go over the finish line you are already craving more.
Q: This is, as you rightfully said, a fast track. How will that work with the not-so-powerful Renault engine. Will your expertise do the trick?
SV: Something is always possible. Much will depend on the conditions. Would I prefer wet conditions? Why not? Could it help us? Yes, I guess so.
Q: Even though today’s conditions were good, the result still looks pretty promising?
SV: I think we still do have something up our sleeves - but yes, it was a relatively good day, even if we lost some time. My hope is that we will find a tenth here and there working on the car overnight. This track takes its toll on all parts of the car, not only on the tyres - it’s a racer’s track. Driving slow would be an answer, but that is not on our schedule this weekend! (laughs) So it is about going as fast as you can with a firm eye on the tyres. Making no mistakes will help: no skidding, no wheelspin, no going off the track.
Q: You have already used five engines this season, and are expected to use a sixth at some point over the remaining races. That means a grid penalty is inevitable for you…
SV: …I think as it looks right now there might lurk more penalties for us around the next corner, as we will probably have to change other parts as well - but as for when that time will arrive, we don’t know right now.
Q: Could that time already be here? That when you see the conditions are in your favour you could make a risky move?
SV: The plan is not to change anything here. We want to use the full potential of having a good result here. Probably Russia or Austin - that will be a different story.
Q: Going back to Singapore, P2 was your best result of your season. Is the downward trend now broken?
SV: There is still much work to do: second is not first! But true, it was one of the better weekends of the season - especially as it started very poorly. The result was bittersweet as it leaves room for improvement, but the good news was that there weren’t any major issues in the race.
Q: Max Verstappen was ‘unleashed’ on Suzuka today, aged just 17. How do you see that? On such a demanding track…
SV: It has no influence on my preparation for the weekend, but I remember very well 2006 when I myself got the Friday morning ride with BMW-Sauber and it was a real adventure going out on this track for the first time. You need a bit of time to find your way around, especially the S’s. But it had a big fun factor - and still has it today.
Q: In recent years you have been battling a team mate for the title, so you know what it’s like. Is what we see at Mercedes already the real thing, or can we expect much more to come?
SV: I hope that I can watch the battle from the first row! (laughs) That’s the goal for the remaining races - to have them in eyesight. That’s all that matters for me. As for what they have or don’t have going on internally, pardon me if I say it so bluntly, but I could not care less. After our turbulent season so far we are happy that there is indication for a bit more of a settled situation - and that’s it for me. Not much else really matters.
Q: Could their rivalry play to your benefit?
SV: It’s very simple. If I am in P3 and they are in front of me and knock each other out then I win! Then I say, ‘Thanks guys’ and I take it. But they are mature and will avoid that.
Q: Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko indicated that you might be behind with the power train until the first race of the European season next year. How do you swallow that?
SV: It’s always difficult to make a truly valid prediction. But, of course, if things were so easy to change we would have done it by now. We have to be patient.