Full transcript from the drivers’ press conference ahead of the the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, Round 19 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autódromo José Carlos Pace (aka Interlagos) in São Paulo.
Press Conference Part 1 featuring: Felipe Massa (Williams), Lance Stroll (Williams) and Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
Felipe, here we are again, and once again we know this is a swansong. Do you mean it this time?
Felipe Massa: Yeah! Actually this is my second retirement race in Brazil, but this time it’s the last one for sure in Formula One, so definitely really looking forward to another amazing feeling to race at home and really enjoying the track that I grew up at here for my last time in a Formula One car. So, really looking forward and really hope that we can have a nice race and a nice result to finish it off.
What’s been the highlight of this bonus season for you in Formula One and how do you see the Williams team going forward from this point?
FM: Not amazing highlights to be honest. So the way we started the season it was not the same way we finished the season. Definitely the car was more competitive at the beginning than at the end, so development-wise it was not great, I would say, this year. But I think I definitely enjoyed driving the car after all these rules were changed from last year to this year. I think it’s a lot of fun to drive these cars, a lot more downforce, I definitely enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, I was a little bit unlucky in some races that I would have scored massive points but I couldn’t, not because of my fault but because of some issues we had in the car. I expect maybe a season that would have been a little bit more competitive than how we were. But I definitely enjoy, having fun by driving the car. I’m happy that I’ve been able to take the best out of this car when I didn’t have any problem. So it was a season that I definitely enjoyed. It would be nice to remember this season, I mean the way you drive this car, for my career some years in front, nice to come back and remember this way you are driving this car.
And the second part of the question about where the Williams team goes forward from here?
FM: I think it’s definitely important to change a little bit some ideas for the car, but I think that’s the way Williams is doing for next year. So having a car that’s a little bit more different – the way they are developing the car, the way they are working the car – so I really hope they can achieve that from next year to the future.
Thank you very much, Felipe. Lance, in the points at four of the last six grands prix and now into the top 10 in the drivers’ standings. Some great runs, lots of great starts, but would it be fair to say that qualifying is where you are going to be putting the bulk of your effort in preparing for 2018?
Lance Stroll: Yeah, it’s been a good run. We’ve scored quite a few points in the last few races. I’m really happy about how that’s gone. For sure, qualifying we still need to adjust a few things. It’s mainly been little mistakes here and there and not being able to capitalise on our full potential. But I think with time and experience and analysing bits and pieces we can improve in that and I believe that with the people I’m working with and the team that we can address some of those issues and definitely improve on them in the future. But definitely when it comes to races and the points we’ve scored, I’m extremely proud of the job we’ve done and we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.
You will have a new team-mate next season. What profile are you looking for: someone young, someone experienced, or should the team take a gamble?
LS: It’s up to the team at the end of the day. My job is to drive my car. I mean I was hoping for Hamilton, but he’s not really available these days. I’m just kidding. It’s completely up to the team. Like I say, my job is to drive my car and they’ll take care of the rest.
Marcus, you’ve out-qualified your team-mate at the last three Grands Prix but you’ve yet to get that breakthrough point. It looked like it could be on in Mexico; you were in positions for many laps until the breakdown. This race worked out pretty well for Sauber last year so have you targeted this weekend for the result?
Marcus Ericsson: Yeah, I mean we always go into a weekend aiming to try and score points. I think Mexico was a really good weekend for us and we’ve had quite a few good weekends now in a row. Very unfortunate I think in Mexico with the Safety Car, it came out with absolutely the worst possible timing for us, before that we were running in the points for the whole first part of the race. It was a good feeling and it was a good opportunity for us but we were just unlucky with the safety car. But then we had the breakdown as well. Hopefully here it’s new opportunity that we can take advantage of. This track should not be worse for us than the last two. We’re looking forward to it. We still need to obviously maximise what we have. It’s still a handicap with the old power unit so it’s going to make it more difficult. But as we’ve shown on the last two weekends, if we get everything right on the car side we can still take the fight to some of the midfield cars, so that’s what we need to do again this weekend and then we see here in Brazil everything can happen with the weather. Usually the races here are very eventful and that’s why we need to take the opportunity.
Well, you mentioned the weather. It looks like we could have some rain again this weekend. One of the talking points is that the organisers have cut some more groves into the surface. So tell us about this place in the wet and what those grooves might do?
ME: I think it’s a fun track to drive in the wet. Obviously we saw last year that it does get a lot of standing water, so that’s the only problem really. So if that’s helped a bit this year I think it will improve. Like I said, it’s a fun track to drive both in the dry and the wet. I wouldn’t mind a bit of mixed conditions during the weekend, I think that would spice things up
Lance, in this your first year, what you do feel that Formula One has different, that you feel like ‘oh, this is difficult, I have to work on this’, and how you felt about this during the year? And Felipe, if you can say some words about his evolution?
LS: Formula One is very different in many ways from any other category. There is a lot more activity going on off the track and the car itself is very different to drive, so technically, driving the car, working with the engineers, working with the team, the weekends are a lot more loaded than any other category. There is a lot more going on everywhere, so you have to put your attention on so many little details that in other categories you don’t necessarily do as much. And then, like I said, off the track there are so much more going on, so many media activities and commitments that you have to take part in. So I would say just that the weekends are generally very loaded. But it’s becoming easier and easier every single time. The more experience I have and the more weekends I get under my belt it starts to become second nature more and more every single time. It’s just part of the process of learning and settling into Formula One, but those are the main things – the activity off the track and just driving the car and getting used to these kind of cars to drive. They’re quite a handful in a fun way, in a good way. So I would say those are the main things.
And Felipe, your comment on how Lance has developed? He’s been a bit like you were to Michael Schumacher when you were together.
FM: Yeah, I think definitely the way he started until now he had a big development, which is pretty normal. In Formula One everything is different to every other category. You need to learn, you need to understand the car, you need to understand the tyres, when you need to make the perfect lap. Even if we have the sessions on Friday and then on Saturday morning, sometimes it’s not enough because you’re not having new tyres all the time, and then you get to qualifying, you have new tyres and straight away you need to do a very good lap time, otherwise Q1, especially the way you are fighting with three or four teams for a couple of tenths, if you don’t do a lap time straight away maybe you can even not pass into Q2. So that shows the intense battle you have in Formula One. But I think the way he started, the way he is now, he’s just learning and getting better and better and improving. Definitely he understood much quicker the way he needs to drive in the race, because he did many good races and the qualifying for sure is coming. He has a good teacher as well, so… maybe next year he can qualify closer to another driver that he’ll race.
Question for Felipe, going on the farewell tour, what’s your view on the future of Brazilian Formula One racing – because it looks like we have a year without for the first time since 1969…
FM: Yeah. I really hope Formula One stays forever in Brazil. So definitely Brazil is a very important country for Formula One. So many titles, so many drivers, so many Brazilian drivers raced for Formula One since the start, so I really hope Interlagos stays for a very long time in Formula One and anything I can give to help, not racing any more, I can do, so definitely it is a very important race. It is true that we are suffering not an easy moment in Brazil, financially, but I think it’s a very important event for São Paulo, it’s a very important event for Brazil Formula One and y’know, for me it’s very difficult to answer – but I really hope Brazil stays for a very long time in Formula One.
Question for Felipe, this will be your last GP at Brazil as an F1 driver. What is your best memory here in this track?
FM: I think the best memory is my first victory, in 2006. It was like a dream come true for a Brazilian that was always dreaming to be in Formula One, especially in this track, then you get to Formula One and you manage to win. I won two races here, three pole positions, I think it’s the track I’ve been more times in the podium. So… but I definitely… the victory here 2006, it was like a dream come true, that I will never forget. It was definitely the most incredible day that I had in my career, winning the home grand prix for the first time, 2006
Felipe, I would like to know, in the future do you expect to drive in a different category, to compete in a different category – and which one will it be?
FM: Yes, definitely, it’s part of my expectation to keep driving, to keep having fun on the track, so that’s what I have been doing since I was eight years old, and that is my job since a long time as well. So, I think when you’re driving and you’re competing, you really feel the emotion of doing your job, or for enjoying yourself, so yes, definitely I really hope I can find the category that I have fun, like I had in Formula One for very long. So yeah, I will have enough time to think about it, to understand which is a good category to go to, and then we will see.
Felipe, how do you rate your career? You were very close to being a World Champion at one point; you come from a country with great tradition, how do you rate your career? An eight? A ten? How do you see it?
FM: I think when you… ten is when you win a championship or maybe even more than that, y’know? So yeah, I would say I had a very successful career. I have a career I thought I never would achieve, when I was a kid, so first of all, Formula One was a dream, and I managed to get to Formula One, I managed to win many races, I managed to fight for the championship until maybe the last metres, and yeah, maybe I was the driver who gets more close to the championship in the history, so I am very proud of my career. If it’s seven, eight, nine, it doesn’t matter. I am very proud for what I achieved, for what I did and I’m so happy for so many things that I learned, so many people that I met, and also really the most important thing is that people respect me and I think that’s the most important thing: have a great relationship with most of the people that I work, and I pass even a few moments together. Definitely I’m so happy for what I achieved, and yeah, still many things to do in life but really finished with my head up, and I think that’s the most important thing.
Will you do anything different for the public? Because last year after you finished the race… you didn’t finish the race and walked through the pit lane and you could see the people closer. After the race, if you finish, you have anything to do different, maybe walk around the track? Go to the public to say ‘thank you’? Do you have anything in your mind for after the race?
FM: Well, actually I really hope I can finish in a great position. That’s that most important thing,that it didn’t happen last year, so it happens, another thing that I will never forget. So I think the feeling that I have on the human side, after the race, last year it was something really I never thought I will feel that, I will have that in my career. So, I think what I had last year was definitely more than enough, and the only thing I’m looking forward to now is having a good race, having a good result and I never really planned everything, so if I do this, everything, y’know this will be natural, so we’ll see what we invent to do after what I really hope is a good result.
Lance, before pre-season you said Felipe would be a mentor to you and then, after pre-season started you said it wasn’t quite like this. Now a season went by, Felipe has mentored you?
LS: Well, he’s been a great team-mate to have. He has a bunch of experience, he brings a lot of knowledge to the team. I think we’ve understood a lot about the can and how to improve the car throughout the weekends and, for sure, he’s been a great guy to have in the team. I think everyone’s really enjoyed having him at Williams, and he’s had an unbelievable career: many victories, many times on the podium, one point from winning a world championship, so, y’know, definitely an A+ career, that’s for sure.
Press Conference Part 2 featuring: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Esteban Ocon (Force India) and Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso)
Brendon, congratulations, World Endurance Champion, once again, for the second time with Porsche. How did it feel jumping back into a WEC car after the Formula One, and how are you rationalising this very unusual life experience that you’re going through at the moment.
Brendon Hartley: Yeah, it was actually surprisingly tricky to jump back into the car. I thought I was going to feel right at home – it’s been my home for the last four years – but it took a couple of laps for it to feel comfortable again. The seating position’s quite different from Formula One, having a roof over your head, different perspective – but yeah, after five laps I felt back at home. In terms of rationalising things, I guess I’ve tried to not overthink it and I’ve just… yeah… even winning the championship hasn’t really sunk in. I haven’t really had time to reflect. It probably helps that I’m just going from one weekend to the next. I think this is my sixth race in a row. It won’t be until I get home at the end of the year after all the racing’s over that I’ll be able to reflect and fully understand what’s just happened to me. I’m well aware that making my Grand Prix debut and Le Mans victory and World Endurance Championship… I mean they’re all amazing things but at the moment I’m just trying to take one step at a time and try to stay focussed and catch up on as much sleep as I can.
It sounds like you’re set for a full season of Formula One next year, although obviously not official yet, but now you know a bit more about it, will your experience of working with a major motor manufacture like Porsche, do you think it will help Honda developing with Toro Rosso, taking that whole relationship forward?
BH: I don’t know. What I do know is, from working with Porsche the last years, it made my transition quite smooth to Formula One because it’s a similar amount of people involved; very similar structure in terms of engineering; pressure – I mean driving at Le Mans for Porsche, there’s a big amount of pressure on your shoulders, so I guess all of those things I’ve learnt to deal with, so that was obviously very helpful going to Austin. Obviously there were a lot of other things to learn in Formula One and I’m well-aware that there’s still a lot to learn but yeah, I think the good thing for me is that I’ve been involved in the past also with other Formula One teams and development and the project at Porsche, I was very heavily involved in the development on every level, so at least I have some experience from that point of view, yeah.
Esteban, Force India confirmed fourth in the constructors’ championship, it’s your first full season but you’ve obviously played a key part in that. What does it mean for you, given the quality of the opposition you’ve faced this year?
Esteban Ocon: It’s been a great season for us. Of course securing the fourth place, it’s an amazing achievement with two races to go. Thanks to the team, I would like to thank everyone. I can’t thank everyone in here but a few key people: Andy Stevenson, Andrew Green, Tom McCullough, Otmar, I would like to thank everyone there for the great season we’ve had. Hopefully we can finish the last two races very well like we did before and start the next one as high.
Some interesting numbers about you: you’ve out-qualified Pérez at the last four races in a row; you’re the only non-Mercedes driver to start in the top six for the past four races, and you’ve led Pérez for 137 of the last 138 racing laps. So, is that in line with your expectations of yourself at this stage of the season, and how do you move forward from here in 2018?
EO: Yeah, I’m here to push. I’m here to challenge Sergio for sure, it’s been a very close season with him, fighting with really little margin, that’s what we have been doing so far this season – but arriving a second time on the tracks where I’ve driven before, with the Manor, helps me a lot with my experience, and also finishing all the races has helped me and I feel much more comfortable now than I’ve been feeling at the beginning of the season, so it’s great.
Kimi, ten years on – we all remember it very, very well from that dramatic day when you won the World Championship here in Brazil, probably the widest smile you’ve had as a sportsman at least. Can you share some special memories of that day?
Kimi Raikkonen: It’s a long time ago. Obviously it was a great day but it wasn’t just about the day, it was the whole year. Obviously it ended on that day but there were some great moments, some not very nice moments but in the end it worked out OK and I was very happy with it but – I don’t know – I haven’t really thought about it too much; obviously after that, yes, but not for a while because it doesn’t really change my life today, thinking about it. I don’t really try and make a big story out of it.
This year, you’ve had a very good car and kept developing it very effectively so where does it go from here for Ferrari? You’ve talked a lot this season about a few fine details here and there which have been the things that have stopped you but tell us a bit about that, where the team goes forward next year and what your personal ambition is in 2018?
KR: Obviously I want to be fighting at the front every weekend, to be able to fight for the championship next year. I think we started pretty badly – we were not really where we should have been – a personal feeling on my side – we’re not really happy where the setup was and it took quite a long time to figure it out and then since then it’s been better but then we had too many DNFs for many different reasons but I think, as a team, we’ve come a long way from year to year and also from last year, made a good step, obviously not enough for what we want but as Ferrari we want to win both championships. But I think we had all the tools this year, we just need to tidy up things and not make mistakes nor have issues on any side, not from our side as drivers or from the team side. These are just small things which in the end played a big part this year, who won the championship and which way it went but I think we have all the people, we have the tools and we have a great car. There are still two races to go and even though the championships are done we try to do the same work we always do and try to win races and then, obviously, we start from zero next year so hopefully we will be up there.
Brendon, you are used to winning races and championships as an endurance driver and you come to Formula One to race in a car that is not so good and mentally for you, how hard is it for you to come to Formula One and you know that you’re not going to be able to win races and just fight for the midfield?
BH: I think as a driver you try and get the most out of whatever the situation is and I know for this weekend I have a firm goal of scoring my first point in Formula One. That would be celebrated, so I think so far from my experience in my two Grands Prix I had a lot to learn and a lot of small goals along the way and from my point of view it doesn’t change much on how I approach the weekend and the team. I can guarantee every single person in Toro Rosso is working their utmost to get the most out of the weekend, whatever is possible, so that doesn’t really change too much.
Kimi, Felipe Massa is retiring; you were his teammate for quite a while. What can you say about him? How was your relationship and do you feel like he helped you win your title ten years ago?
KR: He’s retiring again, so let’s see if it actually happens or we will see him in the first race next year. I always had a good relationship with him, great atmosphere when we were at Ferrari together. We won two championships for the team as teammates and I think it was a great time. Obviously it was very fast, very good but I wish him all the best if he ends up (not) racing in F1 anymore. We will see what comes in his life in the future.
Kimi, there are only two races left this season; what is the summary you can make of your season this year?
KR: I think it’s very simple that we are in the championship, that’s how good or bad it’s been. That’s how it is this year and obviously we need to learn and make better things next year but we all start from zero next year and it depends on many things over the winter and over the testing at the beginning of the year. We will then get some idea of where we are going to be and then we see in the first races what will happen, but obviously the aim is to do better, to fight for wins and championships – that’s, as a team, what we want to do and as a driver I want to do that. This year, for sure, in many ways could have been better but I guess it can always be worse also.
Brendon, you talk about how your work with Porsche helped you to approach the Formula One weekend, but what surprised you like ‘this is very difficult, I have to work on this’ and if Esteban can comment about his experience when he came in too last year?
BH: Sorry, I’m just trying to think what surprised me the most – probably a lot of things. I’d been in the Formula One paddock before, 2008, 2009 – oh, sorry, 2009, 2010, OK. I didn’t make a Grand Prix start but at least I had been in the paddock so there were a few familiar faces already. I guess at Austin, a big shock was the high speed, just in terms of a driving the car, it was quite amazing, these modern Formula One cars, how quick they are in the first sector in Austin, so that was pretty mind-blowing and it took some time to get confident. For the drivers who are driving weekend in and weekend out, they are probably… you always want more grip, you always want more power but coming straight in… that was quite a shock to the system. And other than that, I don’t think there were any huge surprises in terms of difficulties. I knew it was going to be a challenge, I knew putting a Formula One weekend together is tough and I know that the level in Formula One of drivers and teams and everyone – there are some of the highest you can find so I guess in some ways there were no big surprises as I kind of expected that.
EO: I was very well prepared before arriving in Formula One. I was around in the paddock since 2014 so that has helped me a lot. I have been driving with many different teams in testing and then I went into DTM with Mercedes and I think like Brendon it’s a bit the same way of working, with engineers, sponsors and then going back into the racing. It’s a bit the same level of professionalism. It’s just the specification of the category. I think you have to learn all the details and then be sure you are there when it’s needed.
Esteban, there are quite some discussions about the future of Formula One, including a budget cap. Do you think a small team like Force India, assuming you work like you did this year, could have an extra shot at the title with such a budget cap?
EO: I think that’s a very good question but honestly if everyone had the same budget I think some people would be surprised what Force India can achieve. At the moment, with the budget we have, what we are achieving is amazing, the level of work we are putting in is a lot but at the end the level is there and the performance is on track, so yeah, it would be nice.