Full transcript from the F1 drivers’ press conference ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Round 6 of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship, featuring: Jolyon Palmer (Renault), Romain Grosjean (Haas), Pascal Wehrlein (Manor), Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Nico Rosberg(Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari),
We’ll start without most recent race winner, the youngest ever Formula One race winner at 18, and Holland’s first grand prix winner. What’s the reaction been like and are we now going to see an army of Dutch fans coming to grands prix? Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was pretty crazy in Holland. Yeah, so the first Dutch winner I think it’s always very special, so I can call myself now the youngest and the oldest – something I’m the oldest in! Luckily, I didn’t go out too much in Holland on the streets, just enjoying my time a bit with family and friend but of course hopefully we’ll see more fans, that’s for sure.
Renault has a new engine update, which their senior engineer has said should be worth somewhere up to half a second a lap. How did you find it in testing last week and what’s the plan for using that engine this weekend and in the coming grands prix? MV: I think it was a very positive step. I felt very comfortable with it. It was very positive that we gained so much, because it’s not so easy to find that out of a car. I’m looking forward to using it in Canada.
So it’s Daniel here and you get it for the first time in Canada? MV: Yeah.
Thank you. Nico, world championship leader, coming to you, you’ve owned this race track for the last three years. Does winning here mean more to you than any other venue? Nico Rosberg: Yeah it does, because it’s my home race. I sleep in my apartment, get out the front door… I’ve lived here all my life, so it’s a very special place. Also, if there’s one race to win then it’s Monaco and the combination of all that makes it the most special race.
Obviously in Spain was the first time in your three-year title battle sequence with your team-mate Lewis Hamilton that you’ve taken each other out and both scored no points. Are you in a position now though, personally, with more experience of these tense situations to just put it behind you and focus on winning this weekend? NR: I don’t know about experience playing into this, but for sure yeah it’s now a thing of the past, not thinking about it anymore. We’ve been through it and now looking forward. Just concentrating on Monaco and I want to try to win here and that’s that.
Romain, coming to you: first race of a double header, if you like, of French-speaking race venues. How excited, though, is the American Haas team about racing in the Monaco Grand Prix? Romain Grosjean: Pretty much excited. It’s one of the races we wanted to do during the year. Of course having the first one… well, coming here for the first time is always a challenge, but on the other hand, it’s as well my home race – almost friends – so it’s great to be here. There’s a lot of support. Doing the track walk this morning was funny, we had cars stopping on the street asking for autographs and it made a mess. But yeah we had good fun and we’re looking forward to driving here.
Well, you had three points scoring results from the first five races, but I understand you’ve got a new chassis after some handling issues. Could you tell us a little bit about that and how you’re feeling about the overall development of your car? RG: Yeah, to be honest we did a great job even though the results haven’t followed. We changed the chassis after the race in Barcelona because we have a big doubt about it and things felt better in the testing, so hopefully we can go back to a good car here and get the best of all the package.
Thanks you for that. Jolyon, a two-time race winner here in GP2 in Monaco. You’ve been finding some consistency in the last couple of races but you’ve not appeared to be all that happy so far. Is that accurate and if so why? Jolyon Palmer: I’m pretty happy. I’m enjoying racing in Formula One. I’m happy to be back here as well, at a track that I love. I think I’ve just missed a little bit in qualifying in the last couple, but it’s been hundredths and a couple of tenths in Barcelona, but we had a lot of problems on Friday. Yeah, we had a very bad race in China and I didn’t race in Bahrain, but since then I think we are finding some consistency and it’s all coming together better.
Obviously you’ve got updates on the engine as we were discussing with max a moment ago, but also updates on the chassis as well, based on last week’s test. It seemed to give you a few tenths; do you feel a move a little bit up the grid is imminent? JP: I think so. I think this track will suit us better already. I think the chassis is not too bad. We’re down on power but obviously Kevin has got the engine upgrade for this weekend, which will help already. The team are working really hard back in the factory to find a few tenths on the car and if we do that and a few tenths on engine then I think we’ll certainly moving up closer to the midfield and looking for points more regularly.
Pascal, coming to you, only driver to do two days of testing last week in Spain, you drove the Mercedes as well as the Manor. Did you pick up anything from that experience that might help you and Manor to progress? Pascal Wehrlein: Of course I could see the differences between the cars. I mean, the day before I just drove the Manor and then the next day the Mercedes. But also last year I drove the Mercedes, so I know the differences between the cars, so that was nothing new for me.
You’re in a battle with the Sauber team, which will have big financial consequences for the team that comes out ahead at the end of the season. How does that battle feel from the inside? PW: It’s cool. We are at the back at the moment and there is still a small gap to Sauber, but on some race tracks we manage to be quite close to them or even in front of them. That’s the target for this year, just to improve the care, to improve ourselves and manage to finish in front of them.
Coming to you Sebastian, of course a former Monaco Grand Prix winner, but it’s hard to believe that Ferrari hasn’t won Monaco since 2001, 15 year ago. Do you feel a strong desire within the team to put that right? Sebastian Vettel: Well, I think you could probably apply the statistics to many places. I think we all know that we want to bring Ferrari back to the top. Obviously the challenge is very difficult but the target is there, so then hopefully very, very soon you start having all these bad-sounding statistics and we rock up with a win from the year before.
You were third in Spain but clearly Red Bull had the pace to match Ferrari in Barcelona, and they have a power unit upgrade as we’ve been hearing. So is Ferrari now in danger of being involved in a battle with Red Bull for second in the Constructors’ rather than the stated aim of challenging Mercedes for the title? SV: I think our aim is still looking forward and in that regard our aim is Mercedes. I think in Barcelona we had a bad Saturday, which explained the difficult race on Sunday, I terms of raw speed we should have been ahead but we weren’t. I said on the day well done to them and in particular to Max, but we move on. I think we have a strong package. We do have new bits here and there, so I think we obviously as I said want to make progress and want to make sure we close the gap to Mercedes rather than looking at what’s going on behind.
Nico, how much would it mean to you to win here fourth time in a row, because only Senna has done it and especially after what happened in Barcelona? NR: I’m aware of the statistics of course, but it’s not something I’m concentrating on or even thinking about, because, as I’ve said even in the past couple of races, what I want to do this weekend is try and win this race, just because it’s Monaco and I love winning here and that’s it. That’s only what I’m thinking about. That’s it.
Nico, has it become absolutely clear what happened with you at the start in Barcelona, so you simply made a mistake by no putting the switch in the right place, and could you tell us how easy it is to make a mistake in that mental state in which you all are at the start, which is obviously a very nervous moment, and how do you prepare yourself both mentally and technically before a racing start, during the formation lap? NR: What was the first part?
Has it become clear that you made a mistake by not putting the switch into the ‘Strat 3’ setting, why were you not in the right engine mode? NR: Because it was in the wrong position. It’s my job to put it in the right position and that’s it. Pretty simple. Not much more to say with that. In terms of formation lap and start, it’s the same as always. Of course you need to think about what you’re doing. There’s a lot going on and that’s it. You need to come up with ways of making sure that everything is done properly. That’s it.
Nico, if you were the team principal of Mercedes, what would you tell both your drivers after the incident in Barcelona and before the Monaco race? NR: When am I going to answer that? I’m not the team principal. That’s not my job to even think about that. I have enough to think about myself to try to win this race, with all respect. I don’t know what I should answer to that. What is your opinion? MV: I would say keep going.
Question for Max. From the outside you don’t seem to be feeling any pressure. You seem to take everything in your stride. Does the pressure get to you at all – especially now the spotlight’s on you because you’re the youngest winner of a race? MV: I think every driver has pressure but I turn it into positive pressure. As long as you’re enjoying it and you feel happy then, yeah, I think it’s the most important to have success. At the end I always try to do my best. I think that takes a lot of pressure away as well.
To Nico. Have you a) spoken to Lewis since the race to discuss the events of Spain and b) when you get out to race this week will there be, from you, an obligation to race absolutely full out, not giving Lewis an inch – and if you need to shut the door on Lewis again, that you would do that? NR: So, if we’ve spoken or not, as always that needs to be kept internally. What I can say is that, between the two of us, it’s a thing of the past now, we’re moving on with everything and the relationship is the same as before. Now, going out on track, I’m not going to be thinking about Barcelona. I’ll take the same approach as always – flat out and do what’s necessary to try to win this grand prix, which is what I’ve come here to do.
Sebastian, you rocked the motorsports world as a 21 year-old, could you share with us your thoughts on Max’s achievements as an 18 year-old. SV: I was in Formula Three so I can’t possibly share… but, yeah, in both cases probably the circumstances were very new. It wasn’t an expected win, probably little bit less for me at the time – still I think you’re first grand prix win is something… you’re over the moon. Something very difficult to grasp. I’m sure he felt now how it was and he wants to do it again. That’s how I felt back then. It’s up to all the rest of us to ensure it doesn’t happen too often.
Max, you did a great performance in the last race, no question, but most impressive was the way you controlled the pressure from Kimi and all the pressure from the crowd, from the media also. Did you make a special preparation for that or is it something natural? It’s inside you? MV: To be honest I didn’t expect that so I didn’t do any special preparation I just put my helmet on, jumped in the car and suddenly I was leading the race. From there on you just try to do the best thing you can from the experiences you had before. The car was performing good as well, otherwise you can’t do those things. We had good traction out of the last chicane and I knew that was a strong point, so I was always trying to get a good exit and that gave me the race win.
To Sebastian, is this the toughest place where to show the improvements of Ferrari? SV: I think it’s one of the places where it’s difficult to read the strength of the car or weakness of the car. I think it’s a place where a driver can make more of a difference, a place where you need to have the confidence, as a driver in order to be able to make the difference, so of course it’s important which car you have, how confident you are but it’s probably more important here, the level of confidence, just going around, the trust in the circuit, because that allows you, compared to other tracks, let’s say, more normal race tracks, to extract a little bit more. So, I think the car is not as important maybe, as it is in Barcelona for example – or a normal race track.
Question for Seb. If I can take you back to 2010. You’ve been in a position yourself where you and your team-mate have collided on track and it’s had difficult consequences. Can you give us a bit of an insight into what that was like in the immediate aftermath and any words of advice to Nico on how to deal with it going forwards? SV: I think everybody needs to decide himself what he wants to do – or not. I had a word with Mark back then, I always found that, yeah, if you collide none of the two is doing it on purpose because especially when your race stops. Yeah, I think it’s for everyone to handle and to decide how to handle. We had a very close fight until the end, we were talking about team orders during that year. Mostly for Mark because he was in a better place looking at the Championship. I was obviously not so keen to move over because I said I still have a chance to win – and then as it turned out obviously it was important – but all these things you never know in advance. I think it was also a different situation going into the last race with four drivers still being able to win the championship. Now it’s race [five]. They’re old and mature enough, Nico and Lewis. Whether they talked about it or not I don’t know, I don’t really care but it’s for them to manage.
Nico, what’s the big secret about whether you and Lewis have even talked? I could understand data being secret or car settings or engine changes – but the fact you guys have talked, that’s open information isn’t it? NR: Because… of course I’ll try to give you as much information as I can because you’re writing for all of our supporters out there to have a good time and read some cool stuff – but there comes a point where at the same time we’re trying to keep a good spirit in the team and win lots of races. There’s a balance and some things are just better not to share. I didn’t say it’s no comment. I just said it’s better to keep it internal, that part, and then I tried to elaborate on everything else.
Question for Seb. Comparing this Ferrari to last year’s one, have you got the same level of confidence in the car? I mean the car speaks to you the same way as last year’s one? SV: Yeah, I think we’ve made a step forwards. It’s what we said from day one. It feels simply more grip, we have increase the downforce, we’ve worked a lot of the kinematics of the car. I think we’ve done a very big step forwards. It is a lot better than last year but equally you need to accept the challenge, that other people have improved their cars as well. I’m sure if we would race with this year’s car last year we could win the Championship by a country mile – but it’s not the case. Equally, everybody else in the pitlane is probably telling you probably the same story. You need to be there when it matters. At the moment we’re still a little bit behind. But, as I said, our target and all of focus, here at the track and back in Maranello, everyone is to make sure we improve our car and we close the gap. That’s it really. Does it suit my driving style? I think so, yes. Does it suit us? I think yes. Are we quick enough yet? Not yet.
I actually had my hand up to ask before Byron made his remarks and I was going to ask something very similar. Maybe I can go about it another way. Given that it’s a media event – and I understand you normally answer everything very fully – but I don’t understand the reluctance to answer that. If we’re going to ask you things, that you could give us the answer when we’re not delving, I don’t think, into stuff that normally would be off limits. So I was wondering if you’re under instruction or whether you’ve had orders from above not to discuss that? That you’ve been briefed, in other words, not to do that? NR: As you know, I always try to answer your questions and yes, of course, we’ve spoken together, as a team also. How to we approach these happenings and everything. But actually now, with respect to this exact answer now, no there’s been no discussions at all. I just feel like not discussing that, and that’s it. It’s pretty simple.
Pascal, last Tuesday evening, what did the Mercedes team tell you why you should test the car on Wednesday, what were the reasons? PW: Because they couldn’t finish their test programme on Tuesday.
Max, two wins a row, how realistic is that and can you even be happy finishing sixth on Sunday? MV: I will see. I’m going about it the same way as I did in Barcelona and we’ll see where that ends up. I think at the moment Mercedes still look very strong but we’ll try to find a really good set-up in the car and try to get very comfortable on this track because in the end that’s very important to go fast and we’ll see where it ends up.
To all of you, for the first time we have the ultra-soft tyre for this race. What scenario do you predict for the weekend? RG: It looks nice! I like the colour. I tried them in Barcelona on a test day after the Spanish Grand Prix. They looked alright and I think it’s going to be interesting this year how they perform here. We know Pirelli has been going for harder compounds from the previous years when they came in so we will probably be closer to something we knew back in the past but here again, Monaco is a special track and we really have to see how they behave here and then I guess Canada is going to be a different story again. JP: We’ve never run them so it’s going to be the first chance for us but I think the supersoft was lasting well here, it’s very easy on the tyres so I expect a good step in grip, more degradation, the usual thing from a softer tyre. Something new for us. PW: I’m looking forward to driving the ultrasoft here. We drove it in Barcelona in winter testing and I had a lot of degradation so it should be better here and of course, more grip, so I’m looking forward to it. SV: Well we found out about the tyre in general. I think it’s a bit like asking a rabbit how his first date went, if it went well? Probably he will tell you it was great but didn’t last very long. I think that’s a little bit how the tyre felt in Barcelona which is always great if you have more grip but we will see how long it lasts. NR: Just excited to have extra grip in qualifying. That’s it. MV: Yes, I think it’s good to go a bit more aggressive on the tyre choice, especially here for Monaco. I think last year the soft was just too hard so yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Bit more grip, I don’t think it will be as big between the soft and the supersoft but at least you gain a bit more grip. We will see in the race.
Nico, what did you and Lewis talk about? No, I know you can’t go there. Could you tell me the psychological value of a victory here in Monte Carlo because both you and Lewis like this race and you’re ahead in wins at the moment? NR: It’s a great race to win. That’s it. It always gives a positive boost to win this race, for sure, but like any other race but this is just a little bit extra. I love racing here and I would love to win on Sunday.
Jolyon, you had your own teammate coming together in Barcelona. We didn’t really see much of it on the television. Can you talk us through what happened from your point of view and just secondly, are you fairly annoyed not to have been given the new engine here, because that’s going to hamper you quite a bit? JP: Firstly, the incident was just turn 13 in Barcelona before the chicane and Kevin was coming on fresh soft tyres and he came from a little bit back and lobbed up the inside. It was quite an aggressive move so I ended up being forced off the track, cut the corner and kept the place but we’re fine. He apologised straight afterwards and it’s fine. We went to the stewards but already there was no real need to do anything about it. And the engine? I would rather have the new engine of course but I didn’t test last week and I’m behind in the championship, so I think it’s normal that Kevin would get it for this one. I’ll get it for next time so I hope it’s good.
Nico, just want to ask you what impression Max has made on you as a driver, from your perspective, what you can see, what impression he’s made on you? NR: I congratulated him on the win of course, it was awesome and a great job, especially coming for the first time in the car. It’s not to be underestimated, with all the things you need to do, and different steering wheels and everything. For sure that wasn’t easy. And great for F1 also of course, lots of news about that.
Max, I don’t want to suggest that from here it can only get worse as you are 18, but after that spectacular win, what can be your realistic target for this season in particular? And how did you see the situation pace-wise between you and Daniel during the last weekend? In Q1 and Q2 you were quicker. In Q3 he has produced that surprisingly good lap but then in the first two stints you were quite on the same pace with him so how do you see it? Is he quicker than you thought, is he as quick or are you quicker than you thought? MV: What do you want me to say? I think as a driver you always feel that you are the faster one, no? Daniel is a great driver, you can clearly see that and from my side, I was still getting used to the car, even in the race I was still getting used to the car because it was the first time I was doing a race in the car. We’ll see. I was feeling good. In the test, after the race, I again learned some very important things about the car, how to get it better for me in qualifying terms. But that’s all a process and it will only start to get better. Even here I will learn again and it will take a few races before you are fully comfortable with all the systems. And yeah, about the race, I won the race, we’ll see what happens now in the next few races. I just stay calm, try to do the best I can and from there on we’ll see what position that is. Of course Mercedes is still very strong so it will be difficult to beat them at the moment but we’ll do our best.