Q: Sebastian, last year you won here in Budapest. Could that also be possible on Sunday - or are the circumstances completely different to 2015?
Sebastian Vettel: It is always possible to win - that’s why we are here! If we already knew who is going to win it would be a waste of time, effort and money to come here. We are racing to find out who will take the victory.
Q: Christian Horner, a gentleman not unfamiliar to you, suggested that you are not so happy any longer at Ferrari. What is your current ‘happy level’?
SV: Ah, that’s really incredible that he knows all these things without having spoken to me! In the end there are so many whispers and talk in the paddock - and that is good. A whole profession lives from rumours and blowing them up! (laughs) But let me tell you: there is nothing to it. I am pretty happy where I am. I don’t think I’m telling a secret when I say that all at Ferrari are not satisfied with how the 2016 season has started. Our goals are still high - nothing has changed in that. We are all determined to bring Ferrari back to where it belongs: up there on the podium.
Q: One could say that you probably overachieved last season: is that a curse now in hindsight, as everybody thought that there was only one direction that you could go - and that is up? A classic case of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’?
SV: I think the same should be possible this season - so far we’ve simply not been able to do it. There are reasons for it - and I am far away from calling it a failure. Heaven forbid! In general we know the causes, but it is not so easy to react and the others are far from falling into winter sleep. So the suggestion is that the step we’ve made - and we’ve made a step forward compared to last year - is not big enough. I am very convinced that we are on the right path and to run through the paddock with ‘worry lines’ would be the totally wrong thing to do. Last year we finished in P2 and the normal thing then is to attack those in the lead and yes, that we haven’t been able to do - but we are close.
Q: The whole of Italy has high expectations when it comes to Ferrari - and the Italian media are not holding back with their comments. How much does the team feel the pressure of unfulfilled expectations?
SV: That is not a real issue for us. Media everywhere like catchy headlines, but everybody in the team knows that we are moving forward, so you just page down.
Q: So Ferrari have a plan for how to become champions again? One that is not visible from the outside?
SV: There is, of course, a plan. I think I’ve said it many times before: yes, we had hoped to do better - to be competitive right from the start of the season - alas it was not meant to be. The car is getting better since Melbourne and we’ve learned many things in the course of the last couple of months.
Q: How do the rumours about Ferrari’s technical director James Allison fit into that scenario?
SV: He and his team are responsible for the car…
Q: …is he leaving or staying?
SV: You might laugh, but probably you all know more than I do. Let’s wait and see.
Q: So coming back to the car: what and where do you need to get better?
SV: These days the car is more than ever split in two parts: the chassis and the power unit. I would say that in terms of the power unit nobody has made bigger steps forward - but we are not finished yet. For the chassis it’s the same: today everything evolves around aerodynamics, and I think it is fair to say that we are not the strongest in that respect. But we are working our way up. Having said that, it is not a single cause that keeps us from a real breakthrough but many small things - and that is the reason why it still will take a while.
Q: When it is not clear if your technical director goes or stays - a position that is key for the success of the team - do you actively get involved in personnel issues?
SV: This is not actually part of my job description - but, of course, I make suggestions. I’ve been around long enough to know one or the other person and of course things like that happen behind the scenes: you sit, you talk - one or the other name is dropped… But don’t get me wrong: we have an enormous pool of talented young people in Maranello.
Q: Then let’s have a look at today. Ferrari have a history of being ‘Friday champions’ - but not today. What happened?
SV: Well, we lost a bit of time at the beginning as the red flag was not ideal - and we had to come in a couple of times to re-program the car. And the good news is that we’ve been able to fix it. But it ruined a bit the rhythm. The car felt fine, so we have been able to find a good set-up for tomorrow.
Q: Where do you think you have to improve compared to Mercedes?
SV: Ha, in sector one, two and three! I am not completely satisfied with the balance, but I think we will be able to improve overnight - to do better in sector one, two and three!
Q. Do you think that Red Bull Racing will be a threat here?
SV: How would I know? Today is Friday - and I don’t value Friday that much. So let’s see what’s on tomorrow.
Q: What do you make off the new tarmac?
SV: Somehow it’s a shame that most of the bumps are gone. It was a funny roller-coaster ride in the past! (laughs) I hope in a couple of years the bumps will come back! But to be honest: it is very grippy and nice and fast.
Q. What do you make of the news that Nico Rosberg has signed for two more years at Mercedes?
SV: That’s not my problem. I have a ride for next year, so why should I be interested in what others are doing? The thing that is really interesting me is to do well in the race on Sunday - and there it is looking not too bad, take my word.