Full transscript from the drivers’ press conference on the eve of the the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Round 14 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at Monza.
Press Conference Part 1 featuring Romain Grosjean (Haas), Sergio Perez (Force India), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Romain, welcome to Monza, but I would like to take back to last weekend in Spa where you scored for the fourth time in the last five races. It seems that you’re getting some momentum now in that Haas car, so I just wanted to ask what has changed and why are you happier with it now? Romain Grosjean: Good afternoon. I think the car has been quick since Melbourne to be fair. In the first part of the season I made some mistake that I shouldn’t have done and I got some bad luck as well – there were plenty of times where we could have been in the points. Recently the run is going well and I’m hoping that continues, but to be fair the car has been fast since race one. I think the first races were up and down and they shouldn’t have been that way.
Thank you. Sergio, if we could come to you now, please. You were instrumental in saving Force India, so tell us what the result at Spa last weekend meant to you and how it will likely impact on your future with the team? Sergio Perez: It was great to see everyone so happy after the tension that we had, not knowing what was going on with all the jobs, including mine and so on. So it was great to get that kind of result for the team. It just shows the potential my team has and I was very proud of that performance. In terms of my position it doesn’t change. I’ve got a contract and I keep performing and I keep delivering at my best. I try to score as many points as possible for the team, to try to get us further up on the grid. It doesn’t change from that perspective.
Thank you and good luck for the weekend. Kimi, coming to you, a man who is seeking his 100th podium in Formula 1 this weekend. A lot of the tifosi here at Monza will be wondering what you’re doing next year, so the inevitable question: when will know more about your future? Kimi Raikkonen: I don’t know. At some point, that’s for sure. Probably you can expect anything in here, that’s what I’ve learned over the past, so yeah, we’ll see, I don’t know.
Do you want to come back for more, Kimi? Are you still enjoying the challenge of Formula 1? KR: I enjoy the racing; I don’t think that’s a secret. The rest not, but that’s part of the job. Do I want to race? Yes, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today. I don’t see that’s suddenly going to disappear. Who know, it might be, but I doubt it. Like I said, I don’t know, so we’ll see what happens.
Thank you Kimi, good luck this weekend. Sebastian, thanks for waiting, coming to you now. Spa was a dominant performance by you and Ferrari last weekend. Do you think that pace will translate to Monza this weekend, given the high-speed nature of the track? Sebastian Vettel: I don’t know. I think in the end it was less dominant than you might think. In the end, we did well, and it’s good to see that we are able to improve our car. We had some bits and a new engine. So we’ll see. Monza in many ways is a bit similar to Spa, but then again obviously if you look at the track and the actual corners, not just the straights, it’s quite a bit different. We see in the past, I remember some good races here with great podiums but for sure we want more than a podium, but I think we will see what we get starting tomorrow and getting into the rhythm for the weekend.
A question for Kimi and Sebastian. Can you tell us the feeling to be a Ferrari driver at Monza. And another question for Seb, what is the feeling when you win in Monza, even not for Ferrari? KR: Obviously the driving doesn’t change. It’s our home grand prix, so it’s more busy. We have a lot, a lot of support, a lot of tifosi here, so that obviously makes it a lot different. But if you purely talk pure driving, racing, it’s the same job than any other place. It just happens to be our home race. Obviously it’s an important race for us, for the team, as any race, but it’s for sure special. You feel it straight away when you come here, today or yesterday, in the show in Milan, it’s great. Hopefully we get a strong result from the team not just for us but for all the fans and tifosi.
Sebastian winning here at Monza? Of course it’s 10 years since your first ever F1 victory? SV: Yeah, it depends which colour, or which engine you have in the back. I mean the first win was overwhelming in many regards. I didn’t realise at the time that I was obviously racing for an Italian team and had a Ferrari engine in the back, so I guess it was sort of OK for the crowd and they were happy too. I thought they were happy because it was me and it was a good race. But then two or three years after I won again in a different colour, they weren’t very happy, so I was wondering a bit what’s going on, because I hadn’t done anything wrong, quite the opposite. The story of Monza is in the heart of Italy and where all the tifosi are. I think the last podiums I had, in the right colour, were quite amazing and obviously it’s definitely something I want to achieve, to win here with Ferrari. Others have done it before me and I want to join them.
Romain, Guenther told us earlier that both you guys will have the new floor, after changing last weekend. Can you just explain what the difference was last weekend between then and how you came to the decision to have it on your car here? RG: Yeah, so last weekend we both had the update on the car and we were not very competitive on Friday, so on Friday night we decided to revert one car to the old spec, just to see the difference and to try to understand and gather a lot of data, which we did. The guys went to the factory and discussed with the aerodynamic department and it was clear that the new package is a good step in a good direction and that we should run it. It does require a bit of adjusting in the set-up, which Kevin did over the weekend using it and which now we know, so I think now we are going to use that new package which should be more competitive.
A question for Checo. After all this emotional rollercoaster, what do you expect this weekend here? SP: Yeah, I think we have a competitive car, we proved that in Belgium. We are coming to a similar track in terms of what you run around here, so I think we should be quite competitive, and the aim is still the same – to try to be the best of the rest and I think we have a good chance of doing that again.
Kimi, your greatest feeling here, is it pole in 2006, as you have not won here? KR: Hard to say. I don’t think it’s been very good over the years, but I always enjoy coming here. First of all, it’s a nice, great circuit, it has a lot of history. It’s close by from home, so easy to come. I had some good races here for sure, not perfect. I’ve been on the podium with Ferrari once or twice. That’s been good. Not exactly what we wanted but important, so yeah…
Kimi, you’ve always struck us, over the last 18 years or whatever you’ve been in F1, as a very private individual, yet you recently authorized a biography. I’ve read some excerpts that have been translated and it seems to be fairly open about your lifestyle etc. Why are you willing to open yourself to the world like that? KR: Probably you had a wrong translation. What about that? No, how is it secret, because I lived through it and there have been an awful lot of stories about it, a lot of things. I don’t know how you think it’s such a secret. I don’t think… it’s something that I decided to do. It’s just a short story until now, it’s not such a big thing in my view. Like I said, I lived through it and it just happens to be now it’s in a book. Probably most of the things a lot of people know, maybe not all, but I don’t feel that there is something different in my view, but obviously probably for you guys it is different
Kimi, as the oldest driver on the grid, what’s your personal feeling, how long can you perform at this level? KR: Hard to know. I don’t feel that I drive any differently than 10 years ago. I think I drive pretty well, in my books at least, and that’s enough for me. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel I can drive as well as I feel that I should. That my tool to measure and decide when it’s enough. Who knows. I don’t know. Maybe I wake up one morning and I just don’t know how to go fast any more. I don’t think there is a time. It’s more feelings and how do you feel yourself doing it – good or bad. People always say that the speed will disappear but until this day I feel that it hasn’t disappeared for me. But maybe there is a morning you wake up and it’s just not there anymore. It could be like that but I don’t think you just put a date, you just turn this old or that and it’s just not there. If you have it, you have it and if not… that’s it.
Seb, do you feel any greater pressure performing in front of the Ferrari fans and how important do you think a win here would be in terms of your championship chances and the momentum that a victory in front of the Ferrari fans would bring? SV: I don’t know. If you win you score more points than others, that always helps. You don’t have to be a genius to make that out. Obviously here for us it’s a different story, so I think it’s a bit isolated from the rest of the year in terms of how special it is for the whole team. There are a lot of friends, a lot of family from all the guys here. We are in Italy, in the home country of Ferrari and I think everybody, not just us drivers, not only the Ferrari drivers, everybody can feel and sense that there is something special going on and I think we have probably the two most special seats this weekend but there are a lot of seats and there will be a lot of people, so to be honesty, looking forward to it. Yesterday was a great way to start the weekend, with the event we had in the city and there were a lot of people and to see how excited they are is definitely different than any other race where I thought people were already excited, but they’re more excited here. So looking forward to getting out in the car and just to look for the same sort of satisfaction and feeling we had last weekend. The car is performing so we hope it stays that way and to make it even better.
A question for Sebastian. Why after your victory in Belgian nobody in your team, neither you nor anybody else, remembers so big a figure like Sergio Marchionne? SV: I don’t think that’s fair from you to say. One is the comments we give in the press but we are aware just how big he has been, not just for our team, but for the whole group behind and obviously knowing him he was a big supporter of Ferrari, of racing, and he was interested in going ahead and at some point you have to let things rest and look forward and I think that’s probably the way he wanted it to be and it’s probably a sign of respect, that you’re not trying to dig something up and especially in times like now, let things rest.
Question for the men in red, the first one to Sebastian. If this year you should be World Champion, we should read next year ‘my five titles’ biography? And for Kimi, both Ferraris first row, at the beginning of the first variante, which should be your move if you are side-by-side with Sebastian? SV: I’m not planning to write a book. I’m not sure I can compete with Kimi. I haven’t read it because it’s in Finnish but… yeah… I mean. If that would be an idea for the headline, obviously that would be great if it happens to be like that but there’s a lot of would and should and could. So, not interested at that point. Yeah, as I said, I don’t think my book is as exciting. Maybe need to wait more years. KR: I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously our aim is to be with both cars in the front and then see how it plays out – but obviously we know what we can do. We can race each other and we always try to beat each other but to be fair at the same time. I don’t see anything different on that
Sebastian, given the advantage you enjoyed at Spa, is it something you think Mercedes can come back from – or do you think you’re going to hold that power advantage to the end of the season? SV: Well, first of all, I find it quite nice that we get put in this position. I think people forget that maybe for the last five years, Mercedes has been absolutely dominant, especially in terms of power unit, and obviously, it’s nice from them to put us in that position because it means they believe they are not the strongest any more. So, it’s good to be up there with them and be a match but I don’t think we can take anything for granted. I don’t think we are anywhere near in the place they have been in the last years. So, I think we have to work hard to make things happen, and we are determined to work hard this weekend to put ourselves in the same position again, that we have a great pace in the weekend and especially in the race on Sunday.
To Sebastian and Kimi, it’s more or less in the line of your last answer, Maurizio Arrivabene said that it’s very important for Ferrari to push Mercedes, they are not used to it over the last four years at least – but it’s also true that many people believe you have the best car, and many Italians say Ferrari has a great chance of being World Champion this year. If you go outside you hear this from many Italians. You feel this pressure that will exist? SV: Not really. We know our car best and I think we have a lot of people on board telling us how good our car is on which point of the track, at which point of the year, similar to other teams. I think we know what’s going on. We know we have a great car. I think we have a good car that seems to have worked so far on more or less every track. Some better, some a little but worse but I think we are aware we have a good package but we cannot rest on that. I think we need to make it happen. Kimi and myself in the car, all the engineering crew at the track, everybody back in Maranello to try to put everything together. So, I don’t think you can compare to maybe the position other people have been in years ago. It doesn’t matter, I’m also not keen to compare because we’re looking forwards and we want to do our thing. As I said, looking forward to getting in the car. It’s a great feeling when you step inside the car and you know that you can fight for first position, for the podium, for victory on Sunday. That’s what you want as a driver but for the rest I think it’s healthy not to overthink. KR: I don’t think there’s any more pressure. I think all the pressure is that we want to do well: ourselves; our team. So that’s normal pressure that we put unto ourselves and something that we want to achieve. So, I don’t know. Is our package best? One weekend yes, next might not be. It’s that close that small differences will dictate who’s fastest over that weekend or the race on Sundays. If you don’t get everything right, you might not win. So, it’s very close. Certain conditions; certain circuits, one is a bit better for one team and the next one for the other team. We’re talking small differences in the end result. So, we can only do our best and see what happens, where we end up on Sunday.
Question for the two Ferrari drivers. Everyone’s talking about the engine improvement this year but it has been a collective growth from the team. Maybe not necessarily from last year but especially if you look back to 2016 when there wasn’t the progression from ’15 to ’16. So if you look at the work from 2016, how much has the team changed? Is it as much down to the way the team has reworked its structure as well as obviously improvements on the engine side. SV: Well, I think 2016 was a key year for us. Obviously it wasn’t great in terms of performance, especially after ’15, we finished second in the Constructors’, you naturally want to be closer, a lot closer and we were not. We lost a place. But I think in terms of setting ourselves up for the future ’16 was the most important year so far – at least since I’m with the team. Obviously ’17 we had a rule change that helped us to use that restructuring in general that’s been going on. I think we, since then, have been able to improve on all fronts. Whether it’s the car, the development throughout the season to keep the pace up; whether it’s engine power and its components. So, I think things are going in the right direction but I think the opponent that we had years ago was very , very strong, still is very, very strong but y’know it’s good to see we are getting stronger and, in some areas, maybe caught up. In some other areas maybe have a little bit of an edge. In the end that’s where we want to be – and beyond that. I think that’s our ambition: to be up there and to be at least on the level so we can fight for it and to keep that level throughout the year, and if there’s a gap then to increase that gap. I think that things are looking in the right way but saying that, we still have a lot of things that we can improve, and still have potential that can be unleashed, a lot of processes that I think can be improved, so we have to work and focus on those and go step-by-step.
Kimi anything to add? KR: No.
To Seb. Lewis made some remarks after the last race about that he couldn’t explain how fast your … how fast you were. Would you… I mean presumably you take this opportunity to say that everything in the Ferrari is above board and legal and b) does that give us a glimpse into Lewis’ mindset that he’s not quite sure how to deal with the Ferrari and the strength of it at the moment? SV: I don’t know. I think you need to ask him but I think he said in the press conference something with tricks – but then I think he said quite many times as well that he doesn’t want it to be interpreted in the wrong way and I think – maybe he did – I’m not so sure but for all us, in terms of is the car legal or not, there’s the FIA responsible for it and I think we have several checks throughout the weekend to prove that. So as long as I don’t hear anything from that front then I believe it’s fine. Same for the others. So, as I said, maybe it’s more a question for him. And for us, it’s to keep out head down. If there’s something like momentum, then to use that momentum to make sure we go forwards.
Question to Seb and Kimi. Given the performance in Belgium from Ferrari, and given the comments that emanated from both Mercedes and Lewis post-race, do you think you have Mercedes worried for the first time in five seasons, for the rest of this season. And, if so, how can you play on that and make it to your advantage. SV: To be very honest with you, I don’t feel anything related to Mercedes. I feel Ferrari, and especially this weekend – and that’s what I want to enjoy. I don’t know in which state or mind they are. I think, y’know, we are obviously up against the best if you fight for the front positions. And Mercedes have proven to be the best over the last years. I think they have been for many reasons. What we want to do, obviously, is to beat them – so we need to be better than them. I think that’s what we need to focus on. In which shape they are, and so on, I think it’s more for them to answer. As I said, this weekend, I don’t feel anything with Mercedes. I feel Ferrari – so looking forwards to that.
Kimi, anything to add? KR: No.
Do you feel you’ve got Mercedes rattled? KR: I don’t know. You need to talk to them. Obviously, I don’t know. I’m not really interested in what their thoughts are. We do our stuff and try to do the best that we can and obviously improve and go forwards.
A question for each driver. Which is, or which are, your favourite Italian Grands Prix during your career. RG: I haven’t had really any good ones here! I try to remind… 2009: no. Where did we end up in ’12 and ’13? ’12 I didn’t race. ’13 I can’t remember. We were not very fast on low downforce. ’14 I’m not talking about… no, nothing outstanding here. SP: For me it was a great race 2012. Making it into the podium. Into the last laps, beating both Ferraris to the podium was a great race that I definitely remember well. Obviously the podium here is very special. It’s a nice experience. The atmosphere from the tifosi was very special, definitely. My biggest memory was 2012. KR: I enjoyed going to Imola also. Good racing. I don’t know. I’ve never had very good races at either places but that was a really nice circuit to race. It’s close by. I call it an Italian Grand Prix. Here, not one that would probably be better than the others. Some decent, let’s say.
Seb, how about you? SV: Personal one, obviously 2008. I don’t think that… well, we’ll see, maybe there is a chance that something better comes up but when it comes to my racing here, I think 2008, the first win ever, it always stands out to be something special. The way it happened as well. Then in memory, or what I’ve heard about I think the ’88 Grand Prix will never be beaten in terms of importance for this country, for the tifosi, for racing here. And I remember, was there a race with three cars finishing close to each other? Was it the tightest finish? Five cars? That must have been a great race. I wasn’t there, obviously. By a long way! None of us what – but I think that must have been a great race to watch and follow. And then, as I said, the ’88, what it meant, obviously for Ferrari.
Question for Kimi. I know you won’t answer me –but I need only to see your expression. In Monza, we have always had a big announcement. So, we have to expect something? Lift the cap! Look at me. KR: Better glasses maybe? You need to talk to the team. It’s not up to me. That’s about it. Not my decision in the end.
Press Conference Part 2 featuring Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) , Charles Leclerc (Sauber), Esteban Ocon (Force India) and Sergey Sirotkin (Williams)
Nico, can we start with you please and take a look back at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix and what happened at the start, specifically talking about the halo because opinion was divided about that prior to the start of the season, even among the drivers? Has your accident with Charles Leclerc changed your mind about the halo? Nico Hulkenberg: For sure. I think it’s proven pretty useful and a good device. Obviously we can only speculate what would have happened without it but it looked pretty clear from the point that the tyre marks were obviously all over the halo and from that point of view it’s done a very good job, to keep the head safe.
And looking ahead to this weekend, Nico, you’re carrying a ten place grid penalty but what do you think you can do in the Renault? NH: Yeah, it’s obviously not going to be an easy weekend, carrying that penalty. Monza, perhaps a difficult track for us but it is what it is. We approach this weekend open-minded and want to deliver a good weekend and specially have a good race on Sunday, regardless of where we start or how difficult it seems. It’s always fun to race around here so just look forward to getting back in the car tomorrow and start this weekend.
Charles, what was your over-riding emotion after the race on Sunday? Charles Leclerc: The frustration to have not finished the race, to be honest. I was just very frustrated because obviously in the last few races we have been quite unlucky. Then looking back at the images (of the accident) we can’t know what will have happened without it (the halo) but obviously I was quite happy to have it over my head and as Nico said, I think it deserves to be in Formula One now, whether it looks good or bad, I don’t think that matters any more.
And we’re at Monza, last European race of the year. There’s quite a lot of talk about next season. Just wondering if there’s any movement on what you’ll be doing in 2019? CL: For now, not really. For now, I didn’t have any information so I’m just waiting and hopefully I’ll be able to say soon.
Esteban, a lot of chat about 2019 this afternoon, so Spa last weekend was a spectacular result for you. Just talk us through your emotions after the race and how you feel it’s going to impact on your job prospects going forward? Esteban Ocon: Well, thank you very much, first of all. Of course it was a fantastic weekend and a fantastic qualifying, obviously. After tough time, we are back in a great way. It brings joy to everyone in the team, the mechanics, the engineers, everybody was pushing hard and had tough times but that’s totally behind, everyone’s happy now and of course then the cherry on the cake, the fifth and sixth in the race. A good start from me as well and a good result in the end with 18 points and we couldn’t come back in a better way and start in a better way.
Sergey, if there are changes at Force India in 2019, there’s a chance they might affect Williams as well so what can you tell us about your job prospects going forward? Sergey Sirotkin: Obviously I can follow on the changes that could probably happen. I’m afraid I don’t know much more than what I can read on the websites but in terms of myself, I think – I’ve said this a couple of times already – I think I quite clearly really know my position in the team. I think I’m quite happy with the job I’m doing for them. They know my position, they know what they can get from me so if you want a concrete answer I’m afraid not right now, right here, but if I have any worries, I’m afraid (inaudible)
But it felt good to run in the points for the first time last weekend though? SS: It’s been good to run in the points but the best thing is that finally we have the pace to be fighting, not just me running there because of whatever happened, but because we had the pace for it. It has been a very good weekend. I think we can take a lot of positives from there.
Nico, if we go back to Spa last year you are quoted as saying that you are totally anti the halo, not only because it looks stupid but the likelihood is minimal that an accident will happen in which a halo is actually helpful. Do you still agree with that statement? NH: I think… whilst I am still not a big fan of halo and the device, I have to see the facts and admit that it does bring something to Formula One, especially the safety that we appreciate in the car. Yeah, divided, mixed feelings about it still but it’s not down to me anyway. It is what it is.
Esteban, the result last weekend, the performance in qualifying and the race, did that do anything for you in terms of settling you down for your short term future or are you now more confident about what’s going to happen to you between now and the end of this season, let alone 2019? EO: Well, I hope it does definitely help. As a driver, the only talk you can do is on the track anyway, so that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment but yeah, still no news, only rumours and talk so as soon as I know more, I will let you know.
Obviously Monza is all about speed and you were not racing under the V10 regulations but at that time, speed records were broken here. If you would chose just for this particular Grand Prix to switch to cars that are much faster in a straightline, would you do that or are the current ones OK? SS: Honestly, I didn’t know the cars and how they’ve been in those times but I think this year’s cars are quite quick in a straightline. Obviously they’re missing a lot of engine sound but from the pure speed-wise I don’t think they’re any slower than what they’ve been in whatever year you say with the V10s. So yeah, I wish I could try them a couple of times, but if I would swap them for the weekend I’m not sure. EO: For sure, the sound was amazing back in the days of the V10s, V12s, also V8s were very nice but the cars we are running now, they are breaking all the track records so I think they’re quick enough, 1000 horsepower, amazing speed, so yeah, it’s quite enough. CL: I think in the same way as Esteban. I think a bit more sound would be nice but again, I’m extremely happy about driving these cars. As you said, we’ve broken quite a lot of records this year; I think it’s one of the fastest cars – probably the fastest car – in F1’s history so very happy to be in this. NH: Yeah, nothing more to add. Mid-2000s, V10s?
Charles, as an Alfa Romeo driver and member of the Ferrari Academy, what is your feeling driving in Monza this weekend? CL: It’s absolutely amazing. Also in the past few years, Monza has always been a track where I’ve always had a lot of support, first being part of the Ferrari Academy of course and yeah, also this year arriving at the track this morning, you can really see that with the return of Alfa Romeo, an Italian brand, that there’s a lot of interest in us and a lot of people are here for us which is great to see. I actually had more support this morning here than I had the Thursday in Monaco so it feels a little bit like a home race and it definitely gives a big boost to the whole team.
Charles, you have a strong Italian side and spent so much time in this country. So which are your best and your worst memories of your Italian period? CL: My best memory, it’s probably my first ever car win that I’ve had in Italy, in Monza actually, here, in 2014. I can remember I had quite tough first races in car racing and finally I could manage to win my first race here in Monza, so that’s probably my best memory. My worst memory? I don’t have much, to be honest. Probably when my tyre went flat on the motorway next to Maranello, that wasn’t a great memory.
Charles, following the halo debate that’s gone on after Spa, I was wondering to get your thoughts if you’re more aware of driver safety in F1 following the accident of your friend Jules Bianchi? CL: Obviously it has been a big shock when I… when we all lost Jules. It was very sudden. I don’t really get the question. Can you repeat it? What do you want me to…?
Just wondering if you’re more aware of safety maybe added by the halo device, following that accident? CL: Speaking for Jules, it wouldn’t have helped anything because the cause was not… it was just a shock and the shock was too big. Then I believe that in certain circumstances it can help. If it helped or not at Spa I have no idea but in some circumstances it can help so I think it’s a good thing to have.
Charles, what about your future, when can we expect some news? CL: I have no news for now. As I said earlier I’m just waiting for some information and as soon as I know, I will let you know but for now I don’t know.
Esteban, can you explain why Monza is a special GP and how it’s different from the other ones? EO: I think for a few reasons it’s the temple of speed so the speeds we are achieving are massive. Racing is good because of the long straight, the slipstream. We run low downforce and yeah, it makes great racing overall so that’s the technical part. And then the atmosphere is just very much different to anywhere and the tifosi are amazing fans and they give us a lot of support and they are here, then they are massively here, waiting for us when we arrive at the entrance. It’s such a happy and joyous… everyone’s happy to be here and you don’t live those moments at a Grand Prix everywhere like that and it’s very special.
Charles, can you explain to normal people like us how your body and mind reacts to a big shunt like the one we saw in Spa last week? CL: To be honest, I think it looked a lot bigger on TV than it actually was. I felt, obviously, Fernando going over me but it was not like it was a big big shock. So yeah, the only thing I had in my mind is that I was just hoping for some miracle that the car was not damaged enough to go back to the pits but obviously when I looked in the mirrors again I saw that everything was gone so I couldn’t… I just found a way to stop the car and that’s it. But yeah, the images look very spectacular but from inside the car it was not such a big shunt.