Full transcript from the FIA hosted drivers’ press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, final round of 21 rounds of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit, featuring: Felipe Massa (Williams), Jenson Button, Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Felipe Nasr (Sauber).
Jenson, if we could start with you: officially you’re on option for 2018 but as there’s a chance this could be your last Formula One grand prix tell us about the adventure of the last 17 years?
Jenson Button: Wow, we could be here for a little while! First of all I go into this thinking it’s going to be my last race. I think that’s the best way to be and at this moment in time I don’t want to be racing Formula One past this race, and that’s the whole idea. Anyway, I think of this as my last race and hopefully everyone else does as well. Yeah, it’s been a long journey. Since eight years old until now I’ve been racing in motorsport and everything before Formula One was work to try and get to Formula One. You get to Formula One with many dreams and you aspire to be something and hopefully you leave the sport with memories. That’s something I definitely do have from my 17 years of racing in Formula One. Lots of amazing memories, lots of life-changing memories – some good, some bad – and also to walk away with the world championship is a very special feeling as well. To race with two of the teams that I dreamt of racing with when I was a kid – Williams and McLaren – and when I did win the world championship it was with a privateer team, which I think is also pretty special. Obviously a very memorable year of my life and in the future it’s something I’ll hopefully be telling my grandchildren all about, how we came from nothing and we ended up winning the world championship. There are so many memories that I can’t put them all out on the table right now, but that’s a small snippet of my career. Over 300 grands prix. I will definitely step away from Formula One happy with what I’ve achieved and knowing that my life really does start now.
Ok, well, huge changes going on at McLaren. Are these changes that will leave the team stronger for the future?
JB: You always hope changes that you make for that reason do work of course. I think there’s still a lot more going on before next year. But of course I will still be working at McLaren-Honda, so yeah you hope that that the change will be positive. New outlook, fresh ideas and certain things that have changed the team definitely needs and hopefully we can put that to good use next year and in the future.
OK, thank you for that. Felipe coming to you: obviously in Brazil incredible emotions in the pit lane, incredible scenes, unprecedented really in Formula One. Rival teams such as Mercedes and Ferrari were coming out to applaud you as you walked back towards the garages. Describe the emotion of that moment?
Felipe Massa: It’s difficult to describe. It was such an amazing feeling. The first moment after I crashed I was not happy because I wanted to finish the race. My last race at home… I even prepared a Brazilian flag in corner one to do the lap and I was so disappointed to finish like that. But then when I started to walk and I started to kind of talk with the grandstand I just had an amazing feeling. I started to cry, I couldn’t hold. That walk I was doing was like forever. It was an amazing feeling; it’s impossible to describe what I was feeling. And then when I get to the pit lane, I saw all the teams out, I couldn’t believe. It is still in the middle of the race and the race just stopped. For that… that feeling is just impossible to describe, how emotional it was and how thankful I am for everything that I pass through this year. The only thing is to say thank you for everybody, including you guys, including everybody that was around me for this period that I was racing Formula One. I really hope Jenson feels the same here in this race, because it’s a very special feeling and a very special emotion and I’m really thankful for everything that I passed through. And as Jenson said, I’m so happy and proud of my career, even if I couldn’t have the title like him, I was missing one point but anyway I’m so proud for everything I passed through, everything I worked with, or friends, incredible and difficult moments… it was really an amazing feeling.
Two hundred and fifty and out then this weekend, you are the only driver to have finished in the points in all of your races in Abu Dhabi? How do you want to sign off on Sunday?
FM: With a good result! That’s what I wanted to finish with also in Brazil! I’m really looking forward that we can have a nice race here. I think a good result is what gives you more happiness. I managed to finish here second two years ago. I know it will be not easy to get the same this race, but if you can take the best out of the car, if you can do a good race that is when you feel happy.
Thank you for that. Coming to you Kimi, how are you feeling: two of your contemporaries are leaving the scene, are you going to miss them?
Kimi Raikkonen: I mean I left once already so I kind of know how it feels. Obviously, it’s their choice and I’m sure they will have a lot of fun and I wish them all the best for whatever they do in their lives. For sure, things will change in F1 in the future and all of us will leave one day and that’s just how it goes. They’ve both had a good long career in it and I’m sure they will have some other things to do now.
Your world title win in 2007 is a good example that anything can happen in a Formula One title showdown race. Hamilton needs something similar to what you got to win the title on Sunday. Tell us how you approach an ‘anything can happen’ mentality and what do you think will happen on Sunday?
KR: I don’t know what will happen on Sunday obviously, we’ll see on Sunday and over the weekend. When I was in that situation obviously we had nothing to lose, so we go as any other race. We had a strong weekend and a strong last part of the year so obviously that helped. I don’t think there’s a point in doing anything different than you normally do. You always come to a race and try to do the maximum. Our only chance was to try to win and then see what happens to the other guys. As a team they did a very good job of it and then obviously had some luck involved and all things fell into place, so who knows what will happen on Sunday but whoever wins deserves it.
Thanks for that. Felipe, what story: the pressure on the team, no points for 19 race and then you go and score two of the most valuable points in Formula One history. Describe the emotion of the day and the emotion of the team?
Felipe Nasr: Well, first of all, nice words from these two guys here. I think they both achieved a lot and I definitely… when I was younger I saw them racing and to see them going now is something hard to see. But as I say they both achieved a lot. Talking about Brazil, I wouldn’t imagine a better way of doing it, in my home race, these two points really felt like a victory for us, for the whole team. We have been going through such a difficult year and it was looking like quite an impossible way of achieving those points. But with all the rain, the difficult conditions we had in Brazil, I knew there was going to be an opportunity. It was difficult for everybody. It was a tricky race and when I crossed that finish line and I saw these two points were ours it was an incredible feeling because I know how much we put ourselves in a position… of such hard work to overcome this situation. Saying that, nevertheless we have a last race here to confirm that so we go to keep focused on the weekend and make sure we get away with those points.
Has the result changed anything with respect to our future in Formula One?
FN: I would expect that it does help for sure. If anything that a racing driver can do is to contribute to a team with points and I know how much these points are valuable. Let’s put it this way, we know how much these points mean in terms of the championship the points and the restructuring the team will take for ’17, so it’s the best, the best I could have given them.
Thanks for that. Finally to you Max, you were cast as the bad boy of Formula One not long ago and now you’re being billed, after Interlagos, as the new Senna. How do feel your image and the way you fit in here in Formula One has changed after Brazil?
Max Vesrtappen: Difficult to say. I don’t think that’s up to me. I just try to do the best possible race I can. I was definitely enjoying myself in Brazil but I’m not sure if it has changed something for me personally in terms of my reputation.
Are you and Red Bull feeling fast enough and confident enough to mix it with the Mercedes on Saturday and Sunday and make those title contenders sweat a little bit?
MV: We’ll try. I think they will be very strong in the dry anyway, so it will be difficult to beat them but hopefully we can be very close. That would be very positive for us.
Max, since the Brazilian Grand Prix you’ve been quoted in an interview saying that part of what gave you the skills to perform the banzai drive that we saw in the wet were your years working your way up through karting and Formula 3. Could you elaborate on how the previous racing categories gave you the skills to impress as you did last week?
MV: I think everybody here did go-karting so you always learn from that as well, but it’s just also when you are not in a competition and you are just having fun with friends, for example, you are driving on the snow or whatever. You are always trying something different; you’re sliding and you’re still competing against your friends, trying to have fun in one way but still trying to beat each other in something. That’s what I’ve always done in winter time for example and somehow in a fun way you are still improving your skills. I think that definitely helps a lot. Then, together with my dad we practice a lot in those circumstances, also in the wet, he was helping me a lot, especially when I was six or seven years old. He was even standing on the track showing me where to drive, trying to find different lines and that definitely helped me a lot our there in Brazil a lot.
Jenson you have been pretty unequivocal now about your feelings about this being your last race, but it wasn’t quite presented in the same way initially. Why the change between Monza and here?
JB: Nothing’s changed. I’ve just gone into this last race thinking that it is my last. I don’t want to go into this race thinking that it’s not my last and it is my last. It is true that I have a contract for 2018 but at this moment in time I don’t want to be racing in 2018. But the whole idea about having a contract was that in three months’ time, when I’ve eaten myself stupid and I’m thinking of things to do in the future and I feel like I need Formula One back in my life, but at this moment in time that isn’t the case. So this is my last race, that’s the way I think about it at the moment, but who knows that could change in six months, eight months, one year.
For Felipe and Jenson: as you two get ready to leave the sport there are a lot of changes coming in 2017, what are your hopes for the future of Formula One as you leave the sport?
FM: Well, I hope to be honest what everybody hopes: to see Formula One more competitive; to see more than one team fighting for the championship; to see more drivers winning the races. That’s what everybody has hoped since a long time in Formula One. That’s what I hope to see when I am watching the television, to see these guys fighting, not to see only one guy winning the races or maybe only one team. So that’s what I hope.
JB: Yeah, I totally agree. I think coming up through… starting in 2000 and racing here in 2016 the sport has changed quite a lot – a lot for the positive. There are always going to be negatives, especially when you are trying new trends and technologies and what have you. But the main reason why I think people turn on and watch Formula One is the fighting, seeing different teams and different drivers fight for every race. For sure we’ve had it in the past when the have only been two drivers fighting for the championship but it’s been with different teams. Basically Mercedes are doing too good a job and nobody else is doing a good enough job right now. We are all working hard to catch up but it’s tough, because they are very competitive. I think that is what’s going to attract people more next year, if there are more teams fighting at the front, different drivers winning more races, because at the moment if nothing goes wrong with Mercedes, if they don’t have any issues, they win the race and a bad result is finishing second to your team-mate. That’s something that needs to change but obviously we will see if it does. Hopefully the rule changes, which are very big, will help other teams find a new direction and close the gap, because that’s exactly what we want to watch, as Felipe said, and it’s the only reason I’ll be watching Formula One next year.
Felipe Nasr, you’re the only one up there whose future is not clear at the moment. What is the position? Are you taking to Manor? How\’s it going at Sauber?
FN: There are still negotiations going on. The talks are with Sauber mainly. That’s our priority right now? As I said, I have a great relationship with the team. It’s been two great years. We saw the two sides of the coin. Then first year I had in Formula One I was able to do so much, to achieve so much in a very first year. The second, we had such a difficult time, the car being uncompetitive, but it was nice that we were able to get those two points in Brazil. I’m sure that has given a boost to the team. These two points mean a lot for myself, for the team and hopefully we will know it soon.
Question for Max. Given how well you’ve raced this year, especially the victory that you got and also the performance in Brazil, what are your objectives for next season? What do you see as realistic for you to achieve?
MV: I think maybe that all depends on the package you get around you, you know? So if it’s the fastest car on track, for sure we can win races. So, we’ll see. I think we’re all very positive about next year but I think it’s important to just wait and see when the car gets to the track. Then we’ll know more. At the moment it’s a bit difficult to say what exactly what I want to achieve for next year because you don’t know what the packages are.
To Jenson and to Felipe. With 17 and 15 years of experience in Formula One, what would you do differently to what you did in the past?
JB: It’s a good question but I think for both of us our job is not to look back. It’s to live in the moment right now. This our last race and I think we’re both looking forward to getting out on the track. There’s no point trying to change the past because you can’t. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and move forwards. It’s living in the moment and looking forward to the future.
FM: I think it’s the same. To be honest, you do so many things in this long time of your career. Maybe one or the other you would try to do different now – but I mean, to be honest, I’m really happy for everything I did, really happy for everything I learned. Even with a difficult situation, that it happens, maybe I would do it differently yes, but I was always professional and I gained more by doing that than by doing different, so I’m really happy for everything I passed through and everything I learnt.
Question to Felipe. You spoke about the emotional send-off you got in Brazil. I wanted to ask you, at the end of the day, leaving with that sort of respect and regard, does it count for me than the trophies and the championships?
FM: Definitely. I think that is what you represent in the human side. That’s really than a lot bigger than a simple trophy. That really represents a lot and the respect, how you are, I think that’s really important for me as a person. Definitely. People not just looking at you only as a driver, people looking at you as a person, as a driver, as everything. It really represents me massively for everything that happened.