Full transcript from the FIA hosted drivers’ press conferences ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, Round 15 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sepang.
Press Conference 1 featuring: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
Start with a question to all of you. Clearly a painful moment in Singapore, three cars eliminated on the first lap of the grand prix, how do all three of you assess it now and how do you move forward?
Sebastian Vettel: I don’t think there’s much assessment necessary. Obviously on Sunday all three of us were unhappy, but you move on.
Max Verstappen: It happened, you know. You can’t change it any more — it was just a very unfortunate moment. But there’s nothing you can do about it — we just come here and we try again.
Kimi Raikkonen: Not really anything. Obviously moved on since Sunday, since the weekend.
Sebastian, you’re a four time winner here. Since the summer break you’ve gone from a 14 point championship lead to a 28 point deficit to Hamilton. You’ve obviously seen quite a fluctuation throughout this year and in your previous title-winning years. Do you still think it’s possible to get back on terms? Or do you rely on him to have problems?
SV: I don’t know. I think we have a lot of races left. I think we have a strong car. I’m not too fussed about the amount of points. Obviously it’s never good to be behind, I’d like to be in front but we’re not so I’m not thinking about that.
Max, it’s your 20th birthday on Saturday. You’re committed obviously to Red Bull for next year. What kind of progress does the team need to make next year to satisfy you?
MV: I think for next year, the team and I, we want to win, so that’s our priority and we’ll see what happens afterwards.
And Kimi, it’s the 19th and last Malaysian Grand Prix. You’ve raced in most of them, all but three, and you got your first win here. What do you think this event has contributed to the world championship over the years?
KR: I think to start with it’s a very nice circuit, I think there’s been quite good racing over the years here. I think the layout obviously helps that, and conditions have been always tricky. I think everybody has got more used to it since the early days, but nevertheless I think the racing has been good and that’s the main thing. Obviously all the rest, it doesn’t matter because we are here for racing and if that’s good then that’s fine.
Question to Sebastian. A 28 point gap is tough for sure, but in some ways could it help you because there is maybe less pressure and you don’t have anything to lose?
SV: I don’t look at it that way. I think it depends on the points you have at the end of the year or not, so yeah. As I said, if you would choose you want always to be ahead. I would rather not be a little bit behind, but overall it doesn’t change anything for how you tackle the last six races from here.
Leaving aside yourselves, who would you each nominate as the most able driver out there, the best?
MV: I find that one really difficult. I think you can only compare with your teammate, because you don’t know what’s going on in the other teams. Also, the car you know, it can suit you better, so I don’t know to be honest.
SV: I agree with Max, I don’t want to answer.
KR: I think it’s pointless to answer this one. It’s up to you guys, you’re very good on it at least over the years, so do it again and we can obviously read it then.
Question for all three of you. Nineteen years of Malaysian Grand Prix, this is the final one. What have been some of your fondest memories of this race?
SV: Obviously it’s a while ago, but for sure one of the nicest ones was 2015, my first win with Ferrari. It certainly was very special — we came here early in the season, at the very beginning of my time with Ferrari. There’s still a lot of very nice memories coming up, I’m thinking about that day, and how the race happened, what happened after the race. I had a really good time. I think the other races, I’m not sure I remember all of them, but 2013 obviously was a bit of a special one — which came with a bit of noise after the race — but still I think it was a good race.
MV: Well, I haven’t done that many races but I always enjoy coming here. It’s a good track, and I think last year it was good to be second. I would have preferred to win, of course, but still you know for the team it was a great day. That’s my fondest memory. Hopefully this weekend will be better.
KR: Obviously I won my first race here, it was a while ago now, but it obviously meant a lot. Then there was the win in 2008 with Ferrari, I mean it was a good fight with Felipe and obviously good memories, some bad memories over the years, but that’s when you go many times in the same place that will happen — you have some good years and some not so good. But it’s been pretty good.
Question for Sebastian. You seem to have got over Singapore quite quickly, quite easily. How do you put that frustration aside so easily?
SV: Well, I think it would have been more difficult if I had lost the car somewhere in the race and it’s obviously different but with collision at the start like that, I think we all three after the race, that was when we had to go to the stewards. What can you do? The lights went off, obviously, we did our starts, everyone was trying to move at the start and it was the way it happened. It ended up really bad for all three of us and that was it. Obviously I could continue a little bit more, but the damage was so bad that I had to stop anyway. Not much you can do — I think it’s part of racing. It’s also not the first time I’ve been in a situation like this and probably it will not be the last time. Hopefully it won’t happen again, but it’s part of racing. It happened, there’s not much you can do, and therefore not much point in trying to look at it again and again, I think it’s much better if your time and energy is spent looking forward.
This is more or less in line with the last question to Sebastian and Kimi. Sebastian, you are the leader of the championship since the beginning of the season till Monza, and then you lost it and you saw your one race lead to 20 points. What is the psychological impact of that in you and in the team? Will you discuss it so that it does not interfere in the rest of the season?
SV: I don’t think it’s necessary to discuss. As I said, with things like this happening, what can you do? We could have had major problems with the car, or I might have made a mistake, and it might be a different story. There’s something you need to change, some way you need to react quickly to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and it might be a different story. Looking at it now, obviously there’s been one race where we didn’t finish. Certainly didn’t help that Lewis scored a lot of points, but that’s the way it goes. Certainly we would all three love to have had a different race, championship yes or no. We just want to race, and that’s what we set out to do in Singapore. All three of us didn’t get very far.
To Sebastian. At the beginning of this race, will you go about it in any, will you try to protect your lead, maybe be slightly less rash? How will you, what will be going through your mind on lap one of the race? And b, everyone’s saying — all the experts — that the next five races or so all suit the Merc rather than the Ferrari. How do you respond to that? You obviously I guess believe it’s all still alive?
SV: Some might say that in order for them to remain experts we have to prove them wrong every now and then, otherwise they will maybe be out of a job if they are never wrong! The second thing is I wanted to say it was flattering that you said ‘when on Sunday you are starting from the lead’ — providing, obviously, that we qualify on pole, so it’s nice to have you on board as a fan! Not really. Every start is different, and the way Singapore happened you can look at it again and again; it doesn’t matter. First of all it’s done, and second I think it was pretty unfortunate for all three of us so we want to move on. Having said that, I can’t promise you now what will be on my mind on Sunday when I leave the grid, but normally I don’t, I never thought about the last race, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be focussed on seeing what I can do on that race start on Sunday.
Question for Max. It was obviously not your first frustration this season. Do you still expectations for this race or is that already something you completely don’t have before a new race because of all the frustration you have?
MV: I’m here, I always try to do well. It’s not my year in terms of Sunday finishes, but in general you have to try to stay positive, and to look at the positives. I think the speed is there, so we need to try again here in Malaysia, and see how competitive we are. It’s a bit difficult to say. But last year I think was pretty alright, and we’ll just try again.
Question for all three drivers. How do you guys cope with the heat during a race weekend like this? Do you have any tips and tricks during the race? Is the preparation different?
KR: I don’t think it’s an awful lot different, really. It’s obviously a bit more hot than other races, Singapore is quite hot. At least myself, I don’t feel that we do an awful lot different things and it’s probably drink a bit more, but that’s about it. It doesn’t feel too bad in the past, at least in the car, you more feel it in the practice when you keep stopping in the box and all the heat comes from there, but during the driving it’s not too bad.
Sebastian? How much do you need to drink before the race in terms of litres?
SV: I don’t know, I generally try and hydrate, I think everybody does. You’re always thirsty, and you sweat a lot, but you stay hydrated — there are no big secrets. I think at some point you try and not to drink too much because you don’t want to stop during the race doing another stop if you know what I mean, yeah. Once you go normally you sweat so much that it’s not really a big problem. Normally they say you should drink around two litres a day, at least, here I think it’s at least double on race day, maybe a bit more.
Max, any special preparations?
MV: I agree with what Sebastian and Kimi said.
Question for Max. When you say you’re looking at next season, and we’ll see what happens after this, do you have a specific target in mind in terms of race wins? What are you actually aiming for next season?
MV: I want to be able to fight for the championship. If you win one race and you win the championship, that’s wonderful. It’s a bit difficult to say at the moment, when you’re not in that position. Hopefully we are next year, but it’s a bit too early to say so. We just have to wait and see till we go to Melbourne.
To Seb. How would you feel about Max joining you one day at Ferrari. And to Max, how would you feel joining Ferrari with Seb.
SV: I don’t know. I feel that you need to be prepared to race anyone on the grid, so obvioiusly Max is still quite young and has more years left than we have, but yeah, you never know. Obviously I have a longer contract now than him but Formula One… some things they take time. Other things they tend to change very quickly. So it’s a bit pointless to look too far into the future. For now I think we are pretty calm inside the team: myself; everyone – because we know what’s going on this year, what’s going on next year and then I think it’s more for the team as well…
Max, your side of that…
MV: Yeah, I mean, to be honest I don’t want to look too much in the future. I just want to focus on the job I have now and try to finish it off in a good way this season and then for next season, I know where I am and, well, before we finish next season is still such a long time, so, just have to wait.
Sebastian and Kimi, the last results of the team were not so good: Monza and Singapore. Do you think it’s due to circumstnaces of the competition or maybe again Mercedes did a step forward that Ferrari didn’t and could not follow it, concerning the project of the six rounds to the end of the season?
SV: It’s normal. It’s the way that people look at the races. If you then highlight the last two, certainly they were not good. We’re not proud, not happy with them. Singapore is fairly quickly explained: didn’t make it very far and then in Monza I think we didn’t do our best, Saturday and Sunday, probably a bit of a combination and, equally, Mercedes was very strong. So yeah, it’s been very tight all season. At Monza we didn’t have a very good weekend and lost a little bit, but still, I think we had a very good recovery from the Saturday that we had. So, yeah, I think it you look at those two races you can argue that they were not great – but I think it’s mostly Singapore where we didn’t race. Monza, I think third was not that bad, given that we were just not competitive to fight for the win.
Kimi, your perspective…
KR: Not really different. Singapore, Seb was first in the qualifying, I was fourth. So, if you purely compare to Mercedes, it was better. Obviously the race didn’t go that way but I don’t see why you would look at everything so negative. It’s your question, obviously. It’s up and down: some circuits are better for one guy and others for other guys – but it’s a normal story, every year it’s the same thing: some races go better, others not and there’s so many reasons for those. In the end the whole season is one season and in the end wherever the points are, are the best. It’s pointless to look at one race here, one race there. It’s over the whole year.
A question for the two Ferrari guys and one for Max. The two Ferrari guys, I would like to know if you talked, after the Ferrari race to the president Marchionne. What did he say to you? And the second question, if you think you have the same chance here as Singapore, and for Max, if you lost the last chance to win a race this year, due to the characteristics of the track there in Singapore – or there is some other track that you can stay in front, and fight for the victory? OK, Sebastian, have you spoken to the president?
SV: No, I haven’t. Not spoke but I’ve been in contact. Obviously not a great day, as you can imagine. Fairly quickly, the response also from the whole team has been very positive. It’s been a bad day, no doubt about it but I think by Monday – Tuesday, everybody moved on and there has been a lot of excitement in the factory. We had family days last weekend which obviously is very special for all the team members and all the Ferrari employees, so there has been a lot of positives, to be honest, and yeah, what’s done is done. You have to look at what’s coming. And that’s what we are excited about. The car is strong this year, we know that, we’ve seen that, so there’s plenty of positives to look forward to. And, yeah, I think that partly answers your second question, if the car will be competitive here. I think there’s so many things on paper and you tend to look and you tend to say one way or the other – but we have to go here, and that’s the good thing about racing, the part that I enjoy. You go here and you find out. That’s what you fight for, you fight for every centimetre, every tenth that you can find somewhere, over a lot of laps in the race or over one lap in quali, to make the difference. So, I’m sure that, as a team, we can make that difference.
What’s your feeling Kimi? Is this a track that you think the Ferrari, as you feel it, will go well around, compared to Mercedes?
KR: Very hard to answer. It’s like any weekend when we go we don’t really know our self any more than any of you guys. You are always guessing a bit how it’s going to be and hoping the best – and then we will see tomorrow some ideas. To be honest, some weekends you seem to start a bit better and more straightforward and everything seems to go more easily, and some you have to… you struggle a bit to find the right way and then come Saturday it turns out to be pretty OK, so, it’s impossible to really answer. I’m feeling we should be OK here, but I might be wrong. I might be right. I don’t know.
Max, did you feel that was the last, best chance to win a race – or is there another one that you can see that Red Bull might win before the end of the year?
MV: It was definitely a good opportunity of course in Singapore. But never say never. A lot of things can happen. As you can see, the lights go out in Singapore and there are immediately three cars out. So, yeah, you have to stay positive and we’ll see what happens.
Question for Sebastian. I just wanted to get your thoughts on Charles Leclerc who’s going to drive in first practice for Sauber. Quite a promising driver, lot of expectation surrounding him.
SV: Well, I mean, in terms of expectations, I think he has proven enough so I don’t think you need to have high expectations. Obviously he’s helped us a lot developing this year’s car, done a lot of work on the simulator and had a fantastic season so far in GP2, bit up and down at times but the speed I think has been quite incredible. I’m sure he’ll do well. I don’t think he needs a word of advice, or yeah, any sort of expectations. He looks like he loves racing, enjoys that, and that, I think, for me is the key recipe.
For all drivers, what will you miss from Malaysia next year when we are not returning?
MV: I think the track in general. I always enjoyed driving the track, so I think that’s the biggest part we’ll miss. The heat, to be honest, maybe not so much.
SV: I don’t know, I don’t think there’s one specific thing. It’s the mixture of the circuit, the conditions, the element of rain at any time during the day being possible. Yeah, I think it’s provided very good racing. I’m not obviously involved in why we’re not racing here any more but, who knows, maybe we’re back after a year break or two. I don’t know.
KR: To be honest, I don’t know if we’re going to miss it. It’s a nice circuit but the only thing you see is the airport, the hotel next to the airport and the circuit, so you can choose from that what you’re going to miss.
Question for Max again. You already mentioned your birthday. Is there time in a busy race weekend to spend some attention on a birthday, to do something for a birthday – or not?
MV: Well, it’s so humid here and warm, you make a cake but who wants to eat cake on such a warm day?
SV: I do!
MV: I’ll bring it to the garage before quali.
SV: ten to three…
MV: It’s fine. Do I need to serve you as well in the car?
SV: Yeah, five to three.
MV: OK, I’ll wait a bit in Q1 and then go out…
SV: No! Actually the quali’s at five…
MV: OK, that’s a plan then…
Press Conference 1 featuring: Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
Pierre, the moment has finally come, you make your Formula One debut. You’ve had to be patient – how does it feel?
Pierre Gasly: It feels amazing, honestly. Starting my first Formula One race this weekend is just a dream coming true for me. I worked really hard these past few years to make it happen and had to be patient but yeah, it’s worth it and I’m just so excited and really looking forward to this weekend.
So is it your expectation, understanding that this is a prelude to racing a full season next year in 2018 – and what are the plans around trying to finish off and win the Super Formula series this year?
PG: It’s a really good question. At the moment I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, so I’m just focussing, fully focussing on the weekend, trying to do my best, learn as quickly as possible. It’s a great opportunity for me to start next to Carlos who is on top of his game at the moment. So really good benchmark for me and I’ll try to learn as quickly as possible, focus on the weekend and then we’ll see what’s going to happen in the next few weeks a bit later.
Marcus, coming to you, you’ve obviously got very strong connections at Sauber but how does that square with all the initiatives going on around the junior Ferrari drivers? Where does it all leave you?
Marcus Ericsson: Yeah, nothing is done at the moment for me, so yeah, I need to keep pushing and do good, the last couple of races now to show that I deserve to be in F1 next year – so it’s important for me now, even though we are struggling a bit as a team to keep up with the other guys, it’s still very important races for me. So, yeah, big push needed.
The strategy of using the year-old Ferrari engines is clearly beginning to hurt now: everyone else is making real progress. What are you working on at the moment in terms of finding performance.
ME: Yeah, like you say, with the old power unit it’s always going to be difficult towards the second half of the season. And now we’re really see in the last couple of races that we’ve been lacking quite a lot compared to the competition, so it’s tough – but we need to still, as a team, keep pushing and keep motivated and do the best we can to maximise the performance, and we can see crazy races, like in Singapore, it was an opportunity with a lot of things happening with the rain there – so it’s these types of circumstances that can play into our hands. Here in Malaysia as well, the weather can really play a big part. We need to be there to maximise and try to take the opportunities. I thing that’s the important thing to keep the motivation high and keep pushing as a team.
Carlos, obviously a career-best finish in Singapore on the weekend that your new deal with Renault was confirmed. What part did that good news play in the race outcome, do you think?
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, it was a great weekend all around, first with the news on Friday, then with Q3 on Saturday, fourth place on Sunday, probably one of my best weekends in Formula One, for sure. It didn’t really affect me, to be honest. I did everything that I’ve done this year. It just happened to be my best result in Formula One which is – on the other hand – quite nice to do it on that exciting weekend, no? Very proud of it. We did celebrate a bit on Sunday but at the same time, from one day onwards I was watching videos of previous years in Malaysia and I turned the page pretty quickly.
You’re only seven points, I think it is now, behind Williams in the battle for fifth in the Constructors championship so with the recent form of both teams and the tracks coming up, do you think it’s possible to finish ahead of them?
CS: I think we have our chances but we will need to work hard, very hard to achieve it. We will need to be doing things really right on Sundays. We know that our pace at the moment is not the fastest of the midfield but we also know that on Sundays we have our little chances to score extra points and we need to make sure that whenever there’s a chance – like in Singapore – to score good points we do it because that’s what makes the difference in the midfield, when you have a race where you can score a lot of points. So hopefully, together with Pierre, we can achieve that target, also keeping an eye on Renault, McLaren behind us in the championship who are definitely starting to come on very strong towards the end of the season.
Carlos, you’ve known Pierre for a long time, what are your thoughts on him as a teammate and what kind of advice can you give him?
CS: Well, first of all congratulate him because I remember back to my first Formula One race in 2015, it was a very special day, very special weekend. I think he deserves his chance in Formula One. He has done everything right to be here and I’m also sure Red Bull wouldn’t put anyone into our car that isn’t capable of being on the pace straight away and scoring points and helping the team, no? So extremely happy for him. I’ve raced him in World Series, I know how fast he is, I know the big talent he is so very happy for him.
Carlos, for the second time, you will not be in free practice one for the Grand Prix. What is your opinion about this? Is it a problem for you?
CS: Let’s say that I’m not happiest man, knowing that I will, for the second consecutive time, miss free practice one. Obviously at Singapore it turned out to be good because we still managed to get into Q3 and P4 but in a tougher weekend like Malaysia when I expect to have more to do in FP1, FP2, FP3 but hopefully like in Singapore we can do our best and come back strong like we did there.
Pierre, Esteban Ocon told us the delightful story about how you got into motor sport by testing his go-kart for the very first time. If you could expand on that and also how you felt when you saw him get into Formula One? Have you ever felt that you were going to lose out, because it took you a bit longer to get here eventually?
PG: It’s a pretty long story with Esteban and I think we got to know each other since we were six years old. We are living more or less in the same place and we kind of grew up together in karting. I was happy for him when he got his opportunity in F1. It was first with the Gravity programme and afterwards with Mercedes and then he had the opportunity during his DTM season to go with Manor. It’s great for him but we were in different programmes; I was with Red Bull and I had to wait a bit longer for my opportunity but I never really compared my little career so far with his one. That’s about it.
Pierre, possibly next season there could be four French drivers on the grid. How great is this for you and for French racing: you could be up against Leclerc and Grosjean; how good would that be?
PG: It would be amazing for French people, you know, also with the French GP coming back on the calendar. I think that’s a great opportunity for us as French drivers. It would be amazing to be all together, racing in Formula One. I remember 2005, I think, in karting, I raced together with Esteban and Charles in minikart. To imagine that we might be racing all together again in Formula One is something special. I think it’s good to have many French drivers, especially in 2018 with the French GP.
Pierre, how do you handle this situation? You have two Grands Prix. You must probably do something to show at least the potential to be in Formula One. You’re very young, it’s not so simple to handle this situation, at least emotionally. Technically it may be easier.
PG: At the moment, I don’t know how many races I’m going to do in F1 so there is nothing confirmed. The team told me to focus on this weekend and try to do my best. I’ve been competitive in lower series, I’ve won the EuroCup in two litres, finished second behind Carlos in 3.5, I won the GP2 and they sent me to Japan this year and I’m fighting for the championship with one race to go. The pace will come. I think Formula One is brand new for me, it’s my first GP but there is no real target. Of course I’m here to learn as quickly as possible and to perform and perform with the team but at the moment, I think I need to take each session at a time, learn as quickly as possible next to Carlos and then we will see where we are. For me, I’m really excited about it, I’ve been dreaming about this weekend so many times and it’s finally happening so I’m just excited, I’m also a big competitor so of course I want to do well but then I also need to be objective, coming in with six races to go. For me, there will be many things to learn and I’m just going to try to do my best to learn as quickly as possible.
Pierre, when did you find out that you would be racing this weekend, because we only found out this week; and how difficult is it to prepare when you have such short notice that you’re going to be racing?
PG: Of course I knew there were things going on with Red Bull but I didn’t know exactly what and then I travelled from Japan on Monday, I was racing last weekend in Super Formula in Sugo and then I travelled from Tokyo to Malaysia on Monday and then when I got here I received a text saying that I might be driving this weekend. I got really excited about it. Of course, tried to sleep Monday night, even though it was a bit difficult with all the excitement and then Tuesday morning I had the confirmation that it was confirmed and official and I was going to drive; amazing moment and great news.
Carlos, you’re effectively on loan to Renault next year, so you don’t belong to Renault, you actually still belong to Red Bull. Where will your loyalties lie; will you be driving a hundred percent for Renault or will you have your eye more on the following season with Red Bull for example?
CS: No, not at all. I think I will be obviously in my head a Renault driver and I will give everything I can to that team, to that manufacturer and in the future we will see but it’s not something I will think about during my 2018 season because my full focus needs to be in 2018 with Renault, no, although at the moment my focus is with Malaysia, Toro Rosso.
Pierre, you’re living the dream now, you’re here and you’re doing this on the last Malaysian Grand Prix. What are your thoughts and feelings on that?
PG: For me, as you say, I’m living the dream at the moment. It’s pretty hectic since Tuesday. Everything’s going on and I’m just really excited about this last race. For me, I’m sure I will remember this weekend for the rest of my life. When you have such a dream coming true, to do it on the last Malaysian GP… I don’t know if we’re going to come back one day, probably on this track but for sure it’s a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.
And to Carlos and Marcus, what are your thoughts on this final Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend?
ME: It’s a bit sad seeing Malaysia go. I think it’s a track that has a good mix of everything and also there have been some really good races here in the past in Formula One so yeah, in that way it’s a bit sad seeing it go.
CS: From my side, I rate the Malaysian Grand Prix very highly. It’s probably one of the best track layouts we get to race on over the whole year with the fast corners, high grip tarmac like last year. On top of that, it is the most physically demanding track, or one of the most physically demanding, which makes it also quite special and quite a challenge for us so to miss it, yes, we will definitely miss it. Never say never, it can always come back hopefully.
Carlos and Pierre, obviously you’ve got the drive, Pierre that Daniil Kvyat is being kind of nerfed aside. Do you feel sorry for him at all, or isn’t there any room for this kind of feeling in Formula One?
CS: Let’s say that in the middle of a season when you are so focused on your driving in 2017 you cannot really be affected by what’s going on in the other side of the garage. I’ve switched teammates in Formula One a few times now and I remain focused on my own job, trying not to think what goes on the other side, also because with Red Bull it just works like that. You need to be ready for that. I haven’t had the chance to speak with Daniil yet because I’ve been focused on this weekend but I’m sure I will.
PG: For me, I didn’t have the chance to talk with him yet but of course unfortunately that’s how it works in this sport and being in my position, before I came to F1, I was waiting for this chance and then I had to take the seat of someone else. Of course I feel sorry for him, I think he’s a really good driver, talented and unfortunately it’s happening and I’m going to take his seat but I’m pretty sure we will see him back on the grid at some point maybe. We will see what’s going to happen in the near future.