FIA hosted drivers press conference on the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Round 2 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Shanghai International Circuit featuring: Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso).

Chinese Grand Prix: Drivers Press Conference 2

FIA hosted drivers press conference on the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Round 2 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Shanghai International Circuit featuring: Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso).

Full transcript from the FIA hosted drivers press conference on the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Round 2 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Shanghai International Circuit featuring: Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso).

Kimi, let’s start with you… you finished fourth in Melbourne despite a few handling problems during the race. How confident are you of challenging at the front this weekend?
Kimi Raikkonen: Well, I think we learned a lot, we understand quite a bit and kind of everything came a bit late. And obviously then you don’t get a very good result. I mean comparing to the last few years it was far from a disaster. Yes, we had some difficulties and we know afterwards that we could have been much faster but still, as a team, we did a pretty solid job and yeah, we got some points – but new place, new circuit, so we’ll see.


Sebastian said a moment ago that he thinks Mercedes are still favourites coming into this weekend. Is that how you see it – or will the rain mix things up?
KR: I don’t know who it will be. We haven’t driven a single lap with the new cars here, so who knows. I think we have had a pretty good package, and feeling with the car whichever place we’ve been but it’s pointless to start guessing who’s going to be in front, who’s not. We will see over the weekend and Sunday we’ll hopefully be a little bit smarter.

You haven’t driven the new cars here but you have driven yours in the wet when the track was artificially watered in the Barcelona test. How was it then?
KR: It wasn’t like proper wet. It’s always hard to make the same conditions if it’s raining outside like it is now or just dumping water on the circuit, so it’s a bit tricky to get the best idea. Plus we have different tyres here for the wet. It’s a bit unknown but the same for everybody. Usually if the car is good on try it’s not too bad in the wet either. We have to wait and see but I think in any condition we should be OK.

Antonio, congratulations on a tremendous first grand prix in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. How do you reflect on it now?
Antonio Giovinazzi: Thank you. It was a special weekend. It was my first F1 grand prix. Dream came true. Since I was a kid the dream was to arrive in F1 and to drive there was a fantastic experience, fantastic weekend. It was a quite late call on Saturday morning but I really enjoyed everything I did from FP3 to quali to race. So, I will never forget – and to be here already, to start from FP1 will be more easy. And also to have the experience from Melbourne will make everything a lot more easy. It will be a different race weekend though. The weather also looks difficult. So, it will be maybe wet and also to have some experience in the wet conditions will be good. What I can do is to do my best and hope the result can be good like Melbourne.

What’s your deal with the Sauber team, how many races are you going to do for them?
AG: I’m the third driver of Ferrari. Now we just think race-by-race. I had the call here on Tuesday and I’m here to race for Sauber but already from next week I will be back in red with the Scuderia Ferrari – but then we will see in the future.

So no news on Bahrain yet?
AG: Not yet.

Physically, how tough was the Australian Grand Prix for you?
AG: Of course I keep training in the winter so I arrive there quite prepared. To be honest at the end of the race was not easy but I expected it to be more difficult. Here I think it will be a little bit tough because the track has a lot longer corners so for the neck it will be not easy – but I was training last week and hope to also be OK here.

Carlos, a good result for Toro Rosso in Melbourne; both cars in the points, yourself eighth. How confident are you of maintaining that form going forward?
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, I think it was a really good weekend for the team after a very tough winter. I think we were the team to only just do more laps than McLaren so it was also an extremely tough winter in Barcelona for us and to turn up to the first race and put both cars in the points, and in Q3, was a success, definitely, so it just shows that the car has a lot of potential and that we can only get better from here. Shanghai will be a bit tougher because it has a bit of a longer straight than Melbourne but I think we can be happy with the first race and we can start from there.

Can you give us your thoughts on the current Renault engine and how it compares to the two-year old Ferrari that the team used last year?
CS: Well, for me it feels great because last year was very painful and all the second half of the season we were something like 15-16-17kph down on the straight compared to our direct competitors. Suddenly, to start the first race and to see yourself 7-8kph back, even six or five in some cases was really good news and something grateful to experience but definitely, as you can see, we are still one step behind the leaders in that regard, or the best engines in that regard, so I have the trust that Renault are working hard on that upgrade package coming to Canada and that can give us the extra 3,4,5 kph that can put us back in a normal, standard top speed deficit.

Kimi, coming back to you, a lot has been made of the physicality of this new breed of Formula One car; how does it compare to the cars that you drove in the mid-noughties, 2005, 2004? Are they more physical than back then?
KR: It’s very hard to compare. It’s a long time ago, I suppose. It depends a lot on the different circuits, conditions and everything and how the tyres will last and obviously these last better and you can push more. I think the key point is that as we do more running, more racing, we get used to it and it’s not a big deal but at the start of the year, when you do the first test, it’s a bit of a surprise but that’s how it usually is after the winter. At least in Melbourne it didn’t feel any different but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to all the things and it feels absolutely normal. I’m sure somewhere it will be more harder than last year but that’s how it is.

To Antonio Giovinazzi: do you think if you score a point this weekend it would change your career?
AG: It’s a good question. Of course it would change but it will be important for me, for my mind. Of course the result we also had in Melbourne, P12, was a good result and yeah, to improve the result from Melbourne is to take… to score a point will be difficult but I will try my best and score a point.

Antonio, how would you describe your driving style?
AG: My driving style? I don’t know. I’m quite calm, I think, normal driving style. My strong part, I think, in GP2 was – in the race – to save the tyres. In Melbourne, I didn’t have much experience so maybe I was too slow in the beginning of the race but of course here I will improve, to already have FP1 and FP2 will be good to see how is the degradation, to have a feeling with the car so I hope I can do a better job in the race here.

To all three of you: there’s a lot being made about the difficulty of overtaking this season. There was maybe only a handful of passing manoeuvres in Australia. Do you think the new regulations will make attempting an overtake maybe a bit more of a braver thing; will you have to put more on the line now to pass a car and will that contribute to the spectacle of racing?
KR: Every circuit is different, obviously. Melbourne has always been difficult to overtake and of course when you maybe have the fastest car and the slowest car you get round it very easily but I think in China here, usually overtaking is easier so I think we have to wait and see how it is here and then see if it’s harder or less easy than we expected but I think when you have two fast cars against each other, it doesn’t matter if it’s last year or this year, it’s always going to be hard to get past. The other factor is that there is less tyre drop-off so obviously after the pit stops there is a much smaller difference between the speed of the cars because of that so there are all those things which in the end make a difference.
CS: I think it’s definitely a bit more difficult compared to last year but I think it’s a price that is worth paying for, having these cars which are a lot faster and these tyres that are allowing you to push a lot more. At least, myself I have been doing a lot more on the race but also if you would put one-stop races last year, I don’t think you would have seen many overtakings so I think it’s more dependent on pit stops than on the cars of this year.

Antonio, how much harder is it to overtake in Formula One compared to GP2?
AG: To be honest it’s quite different, you know. In GP2 we all have similar cars, only one strategy, only one pit stop so I think GP2 was a good category for overtaking but to be honest I think here in Shanghai with the longer straight it will be easier than in Melbourne but to be honest, I didn’t have much experience compared to last year so what I say is not much to take into account so GP2 was good, F1 I don’t have much experience of so after this race I can tell you better.

Kimi, when we look at a race today, how of your concentration is spent on taking care of tyres, on fuel consumption and on pure racing?
KR: Obviously it depends a lot on the conditions and the circuit that we’re on. Some circuits you have to do some fuel saving, some not at all. Obviously it is a big part of those races and it’s the same with the tyres, some circuits are much better for tyres that they don’t degrade so much. You can’t really say that every place is the same. Each place is a special place and it’s different to the previous race and the next race so some days you can go full out for the whole race, some you have to take care of things or maybe if you have an issue then obviously that creates another story. So to really go full out is not an awful lot during the year, it is not often for the whole race. It’s a nice feeling for all of us, I think, when we can really go full speed all the time and not really worry about tyres or fuel, just try and race against it.

Do you have to take care of fuel consumption?
KR: Sometimes, it depends on the circuit, obviously. I think it’s the same for all the cars. Between the engines and the cars there’s small differences but I’m sure the places that we have to fuel save the others will also, it’s the same for them.

Antonio, did you set yourself any specific goals, targets for this weekend? For example, beating Marcus or is it just about relaxing for you?
AG: Just as you say, maybe relaxing and enjoying of course and getting more experience. After one race is not enough to set a target so I need to just drive and take experience and do my best and then we will see the results on Sunday.

Kimi, in Barcelona you seemed to do easily the fastest time. It didn’t work out in Melbourne in the race. Are this year’s cars more difficult to set up?
KR: In the race I did fastest lap. It was only one lap and I was a bit light but… No, I don’t think it’s any more difficult to set up this year than any other year but I don’t also think it’s ever going to be easy to find the best set-up. Sometimes you might end up when you go on a new circuit that just happens to be right and you just fine-tune it a little bit but for many different small reasons we never really got it right and it just makes a big difference, at least on circuits like Melbourne, the corners that there are. If it’s not right you’re going to give an awful lot of lap time. That was really the end story. Obviously with big enough understeer you have a little bit more unknown stories from testing still, you never have time to do everything plus you do testing in one place so you kind of end up being in a similar area with the car all testing long, so going to a new place you have to be much more and obviously they are much more experienced now and I think it should be fine now.

Antonio, it’s rare for a reserve driver to get a racing opportunity. How are you approaching this race compared to the last race in the sense that… are you treating it like a CV for a race drive next year or is it really just about you filling in the race seat and getting the job done for Sauber?
AG: Yeah, I’m the third driver of Ferrari. Now I’m back here in China. Of course I have more time to prepare for the race so already from FP1 compared to Melbourne and yeah, I just need to take experience, do a lot of laps and of course about next year, this year is still too early to speak. I’m really glad to drive here so I need to say thanks to Scuderia Ferrari and Sauber for this opportunity and I need to just drive and gain experience.