DRIVER GROUP 1: Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Lando Norris (McLaren), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin),
Q: Sebastian, very warm welcome. So, let’s start by talking about old cars. It was a ‘92 Williams for you at Silverstone a few weeks back, and it’s ‘22 Aston Martin this weekend, right? Tell us a little bit more.
Sebastian Vettel: Correct. I don’t think you can go much older. Yeah, it’s going to be exciting, I’ll go right after this, to do a little bit of driving on the track. And obviously, it’s a very different car but it’s to celebrate the 100th anniversary. And it was the car that was competing in the first Grand Prix – not Formula 1 Grand Prix, because that was in 1950. But first Grand Prix, I think it might even have been the French grand prix, as far as I learned, so…
Q: Let’s bring it on a hundred years now, to this weekend’s French grand prix. Paul Ricard hasn’t been the kindest place to you, in recent seasons. After a frustrating weekend in Austria. Are you hopeful of a more competitive showing this weekend?
SV: Yeah, I am looking forward. We brought an update to Silverstone that we didn’t fully get on top of yet. And maybe this weekend will help us to get a little bit more answers. So, exciting. And I hope we can be a bit more competitive, to get back in the midfield and therefore, a bit more back in the mix. The track’s what it is. It’s not the most exciting track in the world, but still quite challenging and technically demanding, and it’s going to be very hard. So, we’ll see what the weekend brings.
Q: Sebastian, final one for me, silly season in full swing. Can you give us any insight into what you’re thinking about your future?
SV: Well, I’m racing this weekend, and the next one. Then, yeah, obviously I’ve said that at some point, we’ll start to talk. I’m talking to the team. I think there’s a clear intention to keep going. And we’ll see soon where we stand.
Q: Charles, coming to you now, you started your career at the Brignoles kart track, just down the road. So does this feel a bit like a home race?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it was it’s only 60 kilometres away from here. Very, very good memories. I didn’t come to this place very often, before being a Formula 1 driver. But it’s always nice being here. And I hope we can have a good weekend.
Q: Were you actually karting last week, did I read?
CL: Yes. I was. In Brignoles, actually!
Q: What’s going on in Formula 1? It was an important victory for you last time out in Austria, where Ferrari were faster than Red Bull in the race? Do you think we’ll see something similar this weekend? What are your expectations?
CL: Well, I hope so. It was definitely an important victory, especially for me. I mean, we’ve had five very difficult races on my side where everything felt to go against me. So, it was important to have that win, take some points back to Max. Considering for this weekend, we need to see, because the last two years have been very, very difficult: tyre management has been a thing and we’ve been particularly struggling, so we will put our full focus on that in free practices, in order to be ready for the race.
Q: Lando, coming to you now. It’s been a solid haul of points for you in five of the last six races. Are you satisfied with how the team has been going of recent?
Lando Norris: I’m satisfied. I think… I guess every race is always what could we have done a little bit better and could we have scored any more points? But, in general, I think it’s been a good run. We’ve been consistent, which is always a good help. I know things like the five-second penalty last weekend was, I guess, a little thing which made it a bit harder and maybe we could have had a good fight with Mick for a few more points. But, in general, you know, we’ve been doing a good job. We’ve been maximising our potential from the car. A lot of other people brought upgrades over the last few races and we’ve still been managing to stay there in the fight and getting the points that we need. So, been doing a good job, I’m happy and we’ll try continue to that.
Q: Very close fight with Alpine in the Constructors’ Championship. You’re level on points. How do you see that battle?
LN: I think it’s going to be very tough. The Alpines, especially since the last… I mean all season I think they’ve been extremely quick. Fernando’s always been there fighting – for poles sometimes. So, they’re fast. They’re consistent as well and especially now, they seem on a very good run with a very strong car. So, it’s going to be tough to keep them behind and keep the battle going. But we’re motivated, we know we can do it. I think we’ve been showing that we, even with a car which maybe isn’t quite as strong as them, we can still outperform them and outscore them, so hopefully, especially because it’s their home race. We can get one up.
Q: Charles said he’s a little bit nervous after Ferrari struggles at this race last year. On the other hand, it was a very good race for McLaren here last year. Does that give you some confidence going into the weekend?
LN: Always does. I think what we were the opposite of Charles last year, we were very strong on tyres. So of course, we hope that kind of continues. And Paul Ricard, I guess for me, as a driver, has always been one of my better tracks. One I’ve always treated very well and have performed well at and been fast at, so yeah, let’s say it’s kind of simple as it is, it’s one I kind-of enjoy, especially just in qualifying, putting the lap together and so on: a good mixture of high-speed, low-speed corners. But the race was exciting as well, you know? Doing a different strategy, doing the overtaking in the racing, always makes your Sunday more entertaining. So hopefully, more of that again this weekend.
Q: Nicholas, coming to you now. You’re going to be running the new parts on the car this weekend. What are you expecting from them?
Nicholas Latifi: I guess the simple answer is more lap time. Obviously, the past two rounds, Alex has run with the upgrades and I haven’t and Silverstone was quite obviously tricky to kind of get any meaningful data on it. Obviously, wet qualifying, he didn’t get to do any laps of the race. But Austria, there was some clear positive signs of what the new package was bringing. So yeah, knowing that I was going to be getting them this race was kind of just, you know, obviously try and maximise what we can. But again, we are still the… I was still in the slowest car, and it was just kind of getting through that weekend. And ultimately, there was no opportunities that really presented themselves. So, it was a little bit of a frustrating one, for sure. Especially when you lose the one real reference that you have, which is always your teammates. This week, now obviously getting the upgrades, just curious to see how it’s going to feel. I mean, there is some feedback from the team and from Alex that I’ve been hearing, that might require, you know, a difference in driving approach; different compromises on the setup. So, I think from my side is just going to be trying to, you know, get on top of that, as soon as we can. Obviously, we do have an idea of where we have to pitch the car and myself going into it. I’ve been listening quite in detail to what the team and Alex has been saying about it. Hopefully it’s just going to give us those few extra tenths that sometimes we’ve been missing and that, in some situations, like in Silverstone, probably would’ve made the difference between scoring points and not, So, yeah, it’s a weekend I’m looking forward to for sure.
Q: Zhou, coming to you now, Austria was a frustrating race for the team, not just you. How hopeful are you of a more competitive showing this weekend at Paul Ricard?
Zhou GUANYU: Last time out we struggled as a team; tried to get the balance right for Quali and then in the race it was very difficult to overtake, stuck behind AlphaTauris. this weekend, coming through, firstly with the temperature, the track layout is completely different. And for me, I think I never raced in such a high temp track and that could be affecting a lot tyre saving, and tyre management in the race could be playing more into our hands in a way, and in the past, obviously, in these hotter conditions, it seems to be like our car is performing a little bit better than the cooler conditions, so hopefully, we are able to get back to the pace we were missing last time out in Austria. Obviously the whole team. I think it was a tough one for me, especially in Spielberg, just because coming from Silverstone, and completely new chassis just have one session before the parc fermé qualifying rules. So, to get the balance right wasn’t easy and I didn’t get it right straight away. This weekend could be a bit easier, just to get into that rhythm, and finding the right balance for me ahead of quali and the race.
Q: You talk about the need for tyre management in the heat this weekend. What about driver heat? How have you prepared for these high temperatures this weekend?
ZG: I mean coming from UK last weekend, I’ve been prepared pretty well!
Were you outside the whole time in the heatwave?
ZG: Kind of! But not, you know, around lunchtime. Luckily, I’ve got aircon in my house. People were suffering a bit more, but yeah, coming to obviously this weekend with the high temperatures, for us as a driver, you have to stay hydrated quite a lot. And normally I don’t actually use the drinks system in the car and the only races I used it were Miami and Bahrain. So, I think I’m going to definitely put it on for this weekend. But these things, when you drink hot water, in the race is not a nice thing to do. But still, I think the whole weekend, not just for the drivers, for the mechanics in the garage, that will be very tough weekend, because I don’t think it’s often we have such a high temp.
Q: You talk about the need for tyre management in the heat this weekend, what about driver heat? How have you prepared for these high temperatures this weekend?
ZG: I mean, coming from the UK last weekend, I’ve been prepared pretty well!
Q: Were you outside the whole time in the heatwave?
ZG: Kind of, but not in, you know, lunchtime. But yeah, luckily, I’ve got air con in my house, so other people are suffering a bit more. But yeah, I mean, coming to this weekend, with the high temperature, you know, for us as a driver, you have to stay hydrated quite a lot. And normally, I don’t actually use the drink system in the car. The only race I used it is Miami and Bahrain. So I think I’m going to definitely put it on for this weekend. But yeah, you know, this thing where you drink hot water during the race is not a nice thing to do. But still I think the whole weekend, not just for the drivers, for the mechanics in the garage, that will be a very tough weekend, because I don’t think it’s often we have such a high temp.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) A question to all drivers. Austria, a lot of penalties, a lot of track limit violations, a lot of discussion about it, and thoughts that it might rear its ugly head again, this weekend. And now we’ve got a hard and fast rule in that doesn’t change from racetrack to racetrack. Can you tell us, as racing drivers, why is it so hard to keep within the track limits?
SV: Because we are trying to go as fast as possible. No? Is that not fair?
Q: Why does that make it hard?
SV: Well, because, you know, I think if we were all taking it easy, then it would be easy, but we are going as fast as we can and mistakes can happen or sometimes it’s very difficult to judge, you know, to judge five centimetres or 10 centimetres from the inside of the car where you don’t actually see the lines. So I think given that we can’t see much, we’re doing pretty well. I think if we are out, and if we are really out by a metre or more, then I think it’s something went wrong, but if we’re out by a couple of centimetres still a very good judgement but obviously not good enough.
Q: Charles, is it harder to judge the limit when it’s a line as opposed to a gravel trap for example?
CL: I think the best probably, or me personally what I prefer was the kerb, because the kerb you could actually feel it. Sometimes last year we used the kerb as a reference for the track limits and that you can actually feel it on the steering wheel and also when you are on the limit of the kerb you can also feel it. So it’s much easier to be very, very precise. With the white line we are so low that as Seb said, five centimetres out and you don’t really realise it as a driver. So it makes it tricky. But I might think we just have to deal with it this weekend because there are no real kerbs here. So yeah, it’s going to be tricky.
Q: Lando anything to add?
LN: No, I think they’ve said it well, it’s just judging… Judging the exact position of your car within a few centimetres when you’re going whatever speeds it’s just not an easy thing to do, especially when you have wind involved or you’re following cars and you hit a kerb or something or bump. Judging it so precisely is just a very difficult thing to do. And when you’re sitting centimetres off the ground…. And especially with this year’s car compared to last year’s. Your first judgement is obviously a visual of where you can actually see the line and you can only see the extra racetrack probably like 10, 15 metres in front of you, that’s the first chance you actually get to see the actual track. You use that as a judgement but then you also just use your feeling of where you think you are. And when you’re in the car, when you’re reacting to things, judging things by such a small margin is tough. It’s part of it but it’s tough. It’s frustrating sometimes, like obviously I was one of the guys who got the penalties. It’s nice when you have gravel because there’s a limit there. If you’re in the gravel you’ve made the mistake and you lose a lot of time. You have a sausage kerb at the exit of Turn 1 in Austria and if you go over it you lose time. But like the last few corners if you go off, you go off. So I understand it, it’s just you wish there was just gravel on the exit of every corner and if you go off then you’re in the gravel and that’s your penalty.
NL: I mean, I think the simple answer is like Seb said, because you’re trying to go faster and if you don’t try and push those extra millimetres or centimetres then somebody else will and you might lose a little bit. But yeah, I guess the first thing the driver will use is the kind of visual reference, and it does depend corner to corner, there’s a lot of tracks that you can very easily see the white line from the approach of the entry to the corner. And there’s a lot of tracks where you can’t. I mean, naturally, if there’s a wall at the exit, like on street track, there’s less track limits offenses, because you could see the wall from the entry often. So it is, naturally, as a driver, you’re taking much more margin when there’s a wall at the exit, but you also visually see the wall much better, which in some cases, as we’re saying, you don’t often see the white line, whereas you could feel a kerb. And yeah, I just think there’s some instances, some corners, where there is very natural track limits where, you know, there probably shouldn’t be track limits for specific corners. Like, just in Red Bull Ring, for example, the exit of Turn 6, I think Lando maybe got a warning, was it in qualifying or a lap deleted when he dipped his wheel in the gravel, but he still went off the track. And that’s one corner where I think all the drivers would agree that we don’t really need track limits in that corner. Likewise Turn 12 in Barcelona, I know my team-mate got penalty points for doing that, which is a bit of an extreme consequence for just going a little bit wide in a corner where there’s such a natural track limit anyway. So yeah, it is tougher than it looks. But again, it is kind of black and white now, and it’s just tricky to manage sometimes.
ZG: Yeah, obviously, I was one of the guys that got a penalty as well, like Lando. And it was quite difficult for me in Austria I was just trying to judge where my wheel was, because I was getting, basically, the warnings, even though I was thinking I was inside the track limit. But then yeah, you get stuck behind a car for almost the whole race. It was very tough with the dirty air. Especially in Turn 1, like sometimes I would go onto the sausage kerb. But you know, sometimes when you’re on top of it, or just by clipping it, it is a matter of, you will be over it if you just riding right on top of it, just by clipping it you just get away of it, on the edge. So it’s difficult to judge but I agree with Nick. I mean, it’s kind of black white now. So I don’t think we can change it in a very short term but you know, some corners, maybe they can reduce the restrictions on track limits that you don’t gain that much like a thing. Yeah, I think Turn 7 or something like that. It’s kind of, I mean, everybody takes exactly the same line and you don’t get anything, there’s no danger. So it’s made life more difficult, especially when you do 71 laps in Austria following a car but apart from that I mean we all have to deal with it.
Q: (Tom Kollmar – Bild) Sebastian, there were rumours that you could be an option for McLaren next year, BBC told it. Could you tell us about the rumours?
SV: I think Lando has a contract. No, I know some people there, but I think it’s just rumours.
Q: (Thierry Wilmotte – Le Soir) As you know, maybe both the French and Belgian Grands Prix are under the threat to not be on the calendar next year. If you would have the opportunity to give the world to give your word to the promoter, what would be your choice, Belgium or France? And why? Thank you.
ZG: I mean, because we’re in France, maybe I’ll go for the French grand prix. I mean, it’s really not up to up to me. I mean, I think Formula 1 has their own choice of where to go in the next few years. And it’s also about the track, the contract they’re running. So it’s not really up to me. So I let the others decide which one they want.
NL: Yeah, I mean, like Zhou said, it’s not up to us to decide. I mean, if I’m… let’s say which track I prefer? Me personally, I have a lot of fun driving at Spa, more so than I do here, but that’s a personal preference. But in terms of which one stays on the calendar or if it’s one or both. I mean, again, that’s not for me to decide.
LN: Oh Spa, easy. I mean, my mum’s from Belgium so I’m 50% Flemish. It’s as much a home race for me as it in Silverstone in a way. I personally have a lot more connections to it, of course, and I love the track and so on, I grew up a lot of the time or I grew up for many years going to Belgium and spending a lot of time there with my family. So, Belgium for me.
CL: Yeah, I don’t know, for the character of the track, Spa, also for me. I mean, I prefer Spa as a track. But here I have these connections. I started karting an hour away from here. So yeah, difficult to say.
SV: Spa, because the track is amazing and it would be a shame to lose it. But in fairness, obviously, this track is not so exciting, I don’t think many drivers are huge fan, at least behind the camera. But I think the crowd actually has been a positive surprise. Obviously we had one year where we didn’t come, in 2020, but I think 2019 was amazing. The crowd and hearing the French anthem before the Grand Prix, I remember it as one of the, you know, highlights in a way, because the atmosphere you could really feel is there and the people are very excited and I expect a great race in this regard as well this year. So that would be a shame, but maybe we can move it to another place in France? There are exciting tracks.
Q: Sebastian, have you tested at Magny-Cours?
SV: Yeah, I have. It’s better than here. But I think it would be nice to go to some older tracks.
Q: Le Mans?
SV: Yeah, I mean, Le Mans has a lot of history. So that would be maybe a unique place. Could be a long lap, could be very exciting. Dijon, exactly. That’s the one I’m thinking of. I have been there, I think in a Formula 3 car. It’s short but it’s quite nice.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – Funoalistitecnica.com) Charles, your team-mate, talking to Spanish media, has actually hinted to an actual problem with a car at the start and in keeping up against the Red Bull in the first lap. Can you tell us something about this issue? Do you share his thoughts? And is it probably tyre-related?
CL: Oh, you mean tyre warm-up, that Red Bull is probably better than us. Yeah, well, looking at Austria, I’m not too unhappy that we didn’t follow in the first laps because it paid off at the end of the race and that’s what counts. But it is true that they have the tendency to be very strong in the first few laps of the stints with the tyres. We know that maybe for us it’s a bit more of a weakness. But at the end, you also need to look at the full picture, and the tyre management has been good in the last races for us, so we need to keep working. It doesn’t mean they will be just the same this weekend. But overall, as a whole, I’m pretty happy in the way we manage the tyres.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Charles, leaving the performance side aside, do you think in the operational area of your team, that’s one area where Ferrari lack compared to Red Bull?
CL: No, I don’t think so. I have full confidence in the team. And I think we’ve shown after ‘20 and 2021 that we have the team to come back at the top then. Of course we’ve done a few mistakes in the last races, in Silverstone in Monaco, but this happens to every team and now we are a bit more in the spotlight because we are fighting for wins. And we always try and work on ourselves to get better. And we, for sure, need to get better. But yeah, I don’t think there’s a particular weakness there.
Q: (Sándor Mészáros – AutoSport ES Formula) To all of you guys: this weekend the focus is obviously on the French grand prix but next week he will race in Hungary and I just wondering, based on the experiences of the first half of the season with this new cars, what kind of racing do you expect on the tight and twisty Hungaroring? Thank you.
SV: Well, I think it’s always exciting to race in Hungary, at least from a drivers point of view. Racing? It’s difficult because it’s not a track where it’s very easy to overtake. I think this year will be the same, maybe we’ll see a little bit more, but I think it will still be very difficult to pass just because of the nature of the track. But it’s a big challenge. Last year was quite warm, the race. and I expect, if Europe stays hot like it is for now, then it’s going to be a very hot and demanding race again.
CL: I don’t think he will change massively in Hungary. I think these cars are much better to follow for high-speed corners especially, but for the low speed it is not that different and Hungary has a lot of low-speed corners so I believe it will be quite tricky.
LN: I agree with Charles
NL: Yeah, I think in the bigger picture it probably won’t change much. I mean, we’ve seen a relative improvement in the ability to follow compared to the previous years, but it has always been very difficult to overtake in Hungary so is that relative improvement going to make a difference? There’s also less of a slipstream effect, less of a DRS effect this year, so it could balance out. But there’s always tended to be quite exciting races there as well in the previous year so we will see.
ZG: Yeah, I mean not much more to add. We race at tighter circuits, more difficult circuits to overtake, so I think probably the trend will stay the same and the following is a bit easier with this year’s car and it should be… overtaking is still possible.
Q: (Jerome Bourret – l’Equipe) Charles, how do you judge your 38-point gap with Max? Can you afford to lose more? Is this race crucial to continue to close the gap after your victory in Austria and to keep the momentum? Thank you.
CL: I mean, the goal is still to win the championship. So yeah, I don’t plan to lose any more points than what we already have. I mean, 38 is quite significant. Doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. Again, I still believe in it as much as I did five races ago. But yeah, we’ve done few mistakes. We’ve had some reliability problems. And now we just need to be perfect until the end of the season. And I’m sure that we can close that gap.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associate Press) Sebastian, a two-part question. First of all, how pleased are you with Mick Schumacher’s form? And do you think that the two top-10 finishes can be the start of a consistent run? And the second part: how concerning was the some of the fan behaviour in Austria? And are you concerned that this is something that could escalate and happen again, during the season?
SV: Well, first question, I’m very, very happy for Mick because, you know, I think he had a, maybe an unlucky start to the season and then, you know, it takes only a couple of races and then you get a lot of criticism and I don’t think it was justified. I know how much effort he’s putting in and how hard he is working. So I think Mick is on the right track. And it’s great to see that he had the results that he deserved. So I’m very, very happy. And I hope for him that, you know, the car will continue to be strong enough for him to show what he’s capable of. Second question: I’m not concerned. I think there has been… I don’t know, obviously, I think there has been a shift in fan base. I think we can all see the excitement for Formula 1. I think we can see a younger audience, on average, coming to the track. And I think the abuse has probably always been there. But I don’t think at any time it was or is correct. But I think maybe you are starting to see a generation coming to the track that actually stands up and complains about it and makes a noise and uses different platforms to communicate. So, I think it’s great to see that people are having the courage to speak up and we are learning about these things going on, because only by doing by doing so we can take action. So I don’t think it will escalate. I think the truth, unfortunately, is probably that it has been going on for a long time at all major sport events or big events. And it’s more than about time that these things are changing, because there’s just no space for those are for such things.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Mick Schumacher (Haas), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull)
Q: We’ll start with the home hero for this weekend, Pierre Gasly. Pierre, your home race, just how excited are you to get going?
Pierre Gasly: Well, bonjour everyone. I’m extremely happy to be here. It’s obviously I’m very lucky to have a home race, because it hasn’t been always on the calendar over the past 10 years, you know. When I got to Formula 1, I had the chance to have Le Castellet in 2018 and to experience the feeling of having my home crowd on a racetrack and… No, this year is potentially the unfortunately the last time we have a grand prix, it might not be on the calendar next year. So it will be important to enjoy every second of it. And yeah, it’s another sold out weekend. A lot more fans a lot more support for me, and I really hope I can put a strong performance to give it back to all the fans here.
Q: Well, let’s talk about that. You’ve got the updated aero package on the car here. What are you expecting from it?
PG: Hopefully we can fight for pole position, we’ll see about that. I mean, if we can fight with these two guys on my right, I’ll be happy. That’s the target. I don’t think we are missing much. But it’s extremely tight in the midfield and two or three tenths can move you up and down like seven or eight positions at the moment and we’ve just being slowly sliding towards the back of the midfield in the last couple of races and hopefully these upgrades can put us back in the fight and boost this important weekend personally on my side and I’m extremely looking forward to see what it brings in what we were going to be able to achieve.
Q: Since your fifth place in Baku, you’ve had a pretty rough time. Do you think you just need a change of luck as well?
PG: No, it’s not really luck. We just need to be competitive. And we’ve been dead slow in the last couple of races and we’ve just got to be honest with our performance, it hasn’t been strong enough. And we desperately needed this upgrade and now it’s coming this weekend. And hopefully it can turn things around for our season.
Q: Thank you, Pierre, and best of luck. Fernando, let’s go to you next. You’ve had a really decent run of points finishes recently, six in a row. Do you feel that the car is improving race to race?
Fernando Alonso: Yes, yes, definitely. I think so. The car has been faster and faster in the last few months. We are quite happy with the performance. Reliability has probably stopped us a few times to score even more points. But as you said, the last six races we’ve been in the points and let’s keep you know this consistency in the next few events.
Q: How far off a podium are you now?
FA: Obviously, we need some help from the top three teams in front of us but we already see one or two retirements from them. We saw in Austria that Checo had a problem. Few races ago, Carlos had a problem and Checo as well. So there is always that possibility of top five, top six available. And as we saw in Silverstone in the last couple of laps, anything that happened in front of you, the podium is just there. So yeah, I’m feeling positive. The second part of the season is quite optimistic from our point of view in terms of performance. And if we deliver some clean weekends, we will score big points. That’s the aim.
Q: Well, the team is equal on points with McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship. How do you see that battle?
FA: I think it’s going to be interesting. I think we’ve been generally a little bit faster than them this year. But they are very strong on Sundays. They always deliver the maximum available and, you know, especially Lando is scoring points every weekend. So we just need to outscore them with the two cars if possible. And yes, it’s going to be a nice fight, but I feel optimistic that we are a little bit faster than them.
Q: Thank you, Fernando. And best of luck this weekend. Mick we’ll come to you now. Two points finishes in a row. The best of those coming last time out. It’s fantastic to see you going so well. Just how comfortable do you feel in the car now?
Mick Schumacher: Yeah, pretty good. I think we’re doing… Each weekend we are improving our set-up and I think we’re getting closer to the Alpine guys with each weekend and that’s kind of where we are aiming to.
Q: Now your form, at least on paper, has improved since Monaco. Has there been any change from you in terms of your approach?
MS: Approach? No, I wouldn’t say so. I think it’s just a matter of being consistent with what we’re doing. And I think we always pretty much start off with a good set-up, and right away I had a good session so I think that that’s what we’re aiming for here as well, or like for tomorrow, especially just to, you know, build the weekend from scratch well, so that we’re basically able to be consistent, and know what we need to change and know what we have in our car, let’s say.
Q: And knowing the car as you do, do you think this circuit will play to its strengths?
MS: It will be very hot. I think that I can cope with it. So hopefully it will prove me right. And we’ll be able to score some more points and have some battles out there.
Q: All right. Best of luck with that. Sergio, we will come to you now. Throw it back to Austria, the lap-one collision with George Russell. How does a crash like that affect how you go wheel-to-wheel with George in the future?
Sergio PÉREZ: Well, I don’t think it will affect, but certainly there are some drivers that you can raise a lot closer than others. It was anyway lap one and from my point of view he clearly did a mistake. I was clearly ahead. And I think there shouldn’t have been a contact.
Q: Two DNFs in the last three races, it’s been a bit of a rough run for you just how important is it to have a clean weekend here in France?
SP: It is crucial. It’s been really difficult. Like you say, two DNFs in the last three races, it’s really bad for the championship hopes, so hopefully we are able to get in the run and start scoring those big points in the next two weekends before the summer break.
Q: And in terms of race pace, Ferrari had the upper hand in Austria, are you confident that you can pull it back this weekend?
SP: We hope. I think Ferrari was very strong, they have been very strong. I think we are very close between us. But certainly Ferrari was the strongest car in Austria. So hopefully this weekend we are able to be in contention for the victory.
Q: And do you think the guy on your left can join the party at the front? Well,
SP: He’s been really fast the last couple of weekends, and they’re certainly making a lot of ground. Especially in Silverstone, he was the fastest car or driver on that weekend.
Q: Thank you, Sergio, best of luck to you. And Lewis. Well, this weekend, do you think you can join the party at the front?
Lewis Hamilton: I hope so. That’s what we’re all working towards.
Q: Big weekend for you in terms of numbers. Many congratulations on what will be your 300th Grand Prix?
LH: I didn’t even know that.
Q: Well, how does that make you feel?
LH: It doesn’t make any difference? I feel great.
Q: It’s a lot of Grands Prix. What? What advice would the Lewis Hamilton have today give the Lewis Hamilton lining up on the grid in Melbourne back in 2007?
LH: I really don’t know if I’m honest. Have a deep conversation, probably. I don’t know. Just enjoy. Just make the most of time. Time is so precious. And I think naturally when you’re a little bit younger, you feel like you’re going to live forever and that you’ve got all the time in the world. And I would just say time is precious so just maximise every moment you get with family with friends, create memories, that’s the most important thing. And don’t stress too much.
Q: Final one from me. Can I just explore your potential this weekend a little bit more, because on paper, people within your team are saying that this could be a little bit better for you guys. Is that what you’re expecting?
LH: Well, every weekend we are hoping to improve for sure. And I really don’t know what to expect this weekend. We have things that we’re trying to… We’re constantly making changes to the car, the aero forces and everything like that. So, the aero surfaces. So I’m hoping that we discover something this weekend that helps us creep a little bit further forward. But in general, this has been a decent race for us. So I hope it’s the same this weekend.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Lewis, it is congratulations, reaching 300. You are the sixth driver in F1 history to do that. On the downside, no driver has gone beyond 300 and won a race, including the chap sat to our left there as well. And you’ve never gone this far into a season without winning a race. And I wondered, do you think about that? Is that something that exercises your mind? Or do you know something about the Mercedes coming up that we don’t? Or is that something that you don’t dwell on, in terms of you being the only driver to have at least one win in every season that you’ve competed in Formula 1?
LH: It doesn’t faze me because I’m working towards getting that win. So I do believe at some stage we’ll be able to compete with these guys. Whether it’s this weekend, or in five races time. So yeah, I don’t really think about that. I think more about the journey. The journey is the important part. I think we started off not where we want it to be, we’ve made progress, we started to reach a patch of a bit of consistency. Not a single person in our team has given up, and we’ve continued to push. So I’m really proud of the process and experience that we’ve had. It’s definitely not the… Entering into season it’s not necessarily the one you would ask for but if anything it’s been a really valuable lesson learned for all of us, and experience. I think we’ve sharpened our tools in lots of other areas. So that when we do get back to where I feel like we deserve to be then I think we will appreciate it that much more.
Q: (Tom Kollmar – Bild) Mick, your father got honoured in his home state yesterday. It was a very emotional day. How emotional was it for you, even though you couldn’t be there? And second question: how are you today because you were sick yesterday?
MS: Yeah, obviously it’s something amazing to see my Dad getting honoured for that. I think it’s the biggest honour you can get in that state so it’s great seeing it and obviously my Mum and my sister have been there. I wasn’t there, I didn’t want to kind of sit there being sick. I’m happy that I’m already better today. But yeah, it’s very amazing to see and I’m so proud of my dad.
Q: (Amanda Irene Curi – Motorlat.com) Lewis, you faced some challenges earlier this season. Now you have three consecutive podiums in the last three races; are you finally feeling more comfortable in the W13? And do you think you and the team can continue to build on this progress and possibly win a race this season?
LH: It’s been really positive to have some consistency come back in, as I was saying earlier, and bit by bit you’re getting a little bit more comfortable in the car. And also with the direction where you set the car up… where you position the car, what the car will accept? Obviously it bit me in the last race with the crash in qualifying but otherwise, as I said, we’re constantly adding performance, we’re constantly progressing forwards and there’s a lot to come in the next races. So I’m excited about that and as I said, in the last race we were only a few tenths off the lead guys in qualifying so I think slowly we’re getting closer. The gap may be bigger in some tracks, who knows, but… in the last race, I was seeing it on TV, as I said, the battle up ahead, I hope that I get to be a bit more in the battle sometime soon.
Q: (Thierry Wilmotte – Le Soir) A question for all of you: as you know probably the French and the Belgian Grands Prix are under threat to not be on the calendar next year. If you would have the word to the promoter, what should be your choice: Belgium or France and why?
PG: Well, I’m biased. You ask a French driver what he wants between his own Grand Prix or Belgian grand prix. I love France, I want to race in my country in front of my fans and my supporters and I will always support that Grand Prix before anyone else. I think what’s sad is that on the other hand, Spa is probably my favourite track on the calendar. I’ve been growing up, watching F1 racing there pretty much every single year and it’s such a beautiful track, great place for racing and I think at the end of the day, it will be a loss, a loss for us as Formula 1 racing drivers. For sure France will be my priority, but we’ll be sad to lose Spa as well.
FA: I would say France as well. I mean, I’m racing for Alpine, a French team and I have a…
PG: That was so genuine!
FA: I have a very strong connection with France anyway. I won the championship with Renault and, yeah, I live in Monaco so it’s much more convenient to come to Paul Ricard than to Spa. So yeah, France. We have very good memories [of Hungary]. Both places give me great memories, even in World Endurance championship and things like that. But as I said, you know, by two or three factors, I would chose always France.
LH: Honestly, I don’t have a…
LH: Honestly, don’t really… I’m not bothered either way to be honest. I would say Spa has the history, it has probably in the past has had the bigger crowd but I think they’ve just made amendments there as well so the racing is probably a little bit better there. But they’re both great circuits and this is a beautiful part of the world as well. So I don’t necessarily see a reason to lose either.
SP: I think both of them are great. Maybe they can alternate one year and one year. Maybe that’s a good option. But certainly, they both are very unique in a way. It certainly would be a big shame to lose Spa.
MS: Yeah, I feel like we should bring a German grand prix into it. But yeah, Spa is a lot closer to my home than the French grand prix. Yeah, I would probably pick Spa if I had to, but I would probably put a German grand prix into it. Nordschleife, yeah.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Fernando, I just wanted to reflect on Lewis’s 300th race. Obviously, you were with him at McLaren for race one. So how have you seen him evolve over all those years, all those races? And looking back at 2007, did you think he would then go on to win all those championships and all those races? And just one for Lewis: do you have a standout memory from the previous 299 Grand Prix?
FA: So yeah, what to say? I don’t think that he changed much to be honest. He had the talent, already in 2007 and he still have the talent now with experience and he has been a tremendous driver, and a legend of our sport. So it has been always a pleasure to share all this time with him and back then probably no one thought that someone will be able to win seven titles as Michael. But yeah, the journey has been amazing and the team that they all build at Mercedes over these years, he was outstanding. Yes, congratulations for the 300 and hopefully another win soon.
LH: Thank you for the kind words. Standout? I think it’s difficult to say. Your first Grand Prix is always going to be one and the first win, I would say probably those two, or your homegrown Grand Prix as well. Maybe those three are probably the most standout ones, 2008 and 2007, just because it’s the whole realisation of reaching your dream is a very, very surreal experience and it is always going to be your first – there’s only one first. And so just getting to the first Grand Prix in 2007… the amount of sleepless nights as a family that all of us had had, not knowing whether or not we would actually reach our goal, reach our dream, but never giving up nonetheless and being there so I think that’s probably going to be the real highlight.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sporstkeeda) To all five drivers, we’ve seen a lot of negativity in the fan bases in the last year and a half so as drivers, who are the primary influences of the sport, do you think at some point it will be important that for drivers to intervene?
LH: I mean I am so… I’m doing the most I can. I don’t know what else I can do. But I do think it’s all of our responsibility to do something, not only us, the sport, those that are coming that write and report what is happening here, the sport wouldn’t be what it is without you. And your words are powerful and you have a responsibility also to the readers to make sure that we’re progressing and moving in the right direction. Formula 1 continuously needs to do more, all the teams need to do more. I think we are very close to getting this diversity inclusion charter going and I think it’s still one team – still the same team – is not willing to engage but I’m grateful to see the other teams are willing to step forward and do the work.
SP: I think certainly it’s important. We all do our bit: drivers, teams, media, fans – there are a lot of good fans in Formula 1. Those that… they don’t represent us as a sport, they don’t share our values and they’re not welcome here. As simple as that. So I do agree that we all can do more.
PG: Yeah, fully agree with Lewis and Checo. I think, at the end we can also generalise what happened over the last few weeks, because I think we’ve always had a great community inside our sport and I think it’s all our job, all our responsibilities, all 20 drivers, but as Lewis said as well so the responsibility of the media to forward the right message, share the true values of our sport and what we are trying to give because I think we as drivers are more united than ever, to share a positive message. If we see how many times we got together over the past two, three years, I think it really shows we’re trying to bring positivity in our sport, and we can always do better, we always need to work towards that goal and that’s what we are doing. Obviously, what we saw last weekend is sad, I don’t think it represents the core value of our sport and the true fans and we’ll be ashamed to associate all these real F1 diehard fans to the sad actions we have seen last weekend. So yeah, we need to do better. But I think it’s the responsibility for most drivers, but also for all of you guys to share the right messages.
MS: Yeah, I definitely agree with everything that has been said. I think all kinds of abuses are not welcome in our sport and unfortunately, we still, to this day, find many different kinds of abuses. So I think it’s not only us, but also on social media platforms that have to kind of control that better so that there’s no space to allow that and allow it to happen in any way.
FA: Yes, very similar comments. I mean, and these are very good point on social media, so we all need to be united on that and it’s not just drivers, or promoter or teams. It’s between everybody to make this sport a better place. It’s never enough but I think we’re moving in the right direction for sure.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just going back to this 300 thing that we’re trying to build a piece about: toughest opponent that you came up against during those previous races, if you could name one or two who would you say was the toughest? And I’m just keen to just to follow up: you mentioned that a team hasn’t signed your initiative. I just wondered would you be prepared to name them and say why you think that they haven’t signed the initiative when everyone else has signed it?
LH: I don’t think it’d be appropriate to name the team. We’ve gone back and forth to them and for some reason they don’t want to but all the other nine teams have which is really encouraging. And in terms of… I think it’s difficult to say who’s necessarily been the strongest competitor, I think, because every time you’re with someone you’re in a different place in your life so… I remember the task of being alongside Fernando when I was 22. I was so young mentally and of course, okay in terms of skill but it’s a lot of pressure to go against a great like him so I would say out of pure pace I think… I always say it’s Fernando and ability. We had some good battles, I wish we could have more and hopefully he’s going to continue to race so hopefully we will have more in the future.
Q: (Sándor Mészáros – AutoSport ES Formula) To all of you guys: next weekend, you will come to race in Hungary and I’m just wondering that based on the experiences of the first half of the season with these new cars, what kind of racing do you expect on the tight and twisty and very technical Hungaroring?
FA: Who knows? I think is going be nice to go there. Budapest always is a nice circuit, used to be a very slow speed circuit but it’s not anymore I think. In the last five or six years, we see that all corners, they are quite a medium speed corners and there are not any more corners where the car is struggling that much. So I think it’s going to be fun. Maybe this year, we are able to follow a little bit closer so the race action will be maybe greater than in the past on Sunday. So yeah, I’m looking forward so much to next weekend.
MS: Yeah, we saw a lot of action in the past so I’m excited going back there. It’s always a nice track to go to. It’s usually quite warm and it’s a track where I feel there’s a very low time to rest. It’s a very continuous track, very continuous in terms of corners so the concentration level has to be very high for the whole part of the race. So yeah, it’s I think it’s a very tough race but very enjoyable.
PG: I don’t think I could have answered it better than Fernando and Mick. I must say I love the track. Driving-wise it’s probably one of my favourites, not a big fan of straight line because as a driver, you put a monkey in the car, you’ll be able to do the same thing as you and at least in Budapest you really feel you’re working, it’s really flowing, there’s a very intense reason so probably one of my favourite tracks and last year was pretty hilarious to see Lewis lining up on the grid on his own, and a very different, pretty crazy race with the start and everything that happened. So hopefully this year, we can have another update entertaining race weekend there.
SP: No, I think it will be, I think, definitely a much better race than before certainly, so I hope the fans get to enjoy it.
LH: Can we make sure that we don’t have a question for all five? Every time it’s so long. I love Budapest, it’s a great city. I say it every year. It’s a fantastic city, architecture is incredible. Good food, and we have a massive turnout of fans there. I’ve got a great… some of the most loving fan base there that from the moment you touch the ground to the moment you leave they’re with you all the way.
Q: And do you think the racing with the ‘22 cars will be closer there, better there?
LH: We’ve seen that so far this year, so I hope so. Yeah. It’s a great surface, it’s such a wicked track.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Yeah, just to follow up on a question about fan abuse. And I’m going to ask it to all five because of the seriousness of the subject. So drivers are doing their part, the media can do their part. What do you hope that Formula 1 can do more? Should there for example, be announcements before races, like they do in football stadiums, for example, asking fans to show respect? Is that something that can be done do you think?
LH: Well, firstly, I don’t think we should just be saying this is Formula 1’s problem, I think it’s all of us. And going back to when I mentioned that Silverstone, just amplifying voices that are not aligned with ours, who have undertones of discrimination, we should not be amplifying those voices. Because, they like to create a divide, just to be able to get their names in the papers so that’s just a pointless exercise. I think Formula 1 100% should continue to do more. In the previous years we had the whole We Race As One thing, but that really was just a lip service that we’re not… we need to do more. And I know Formula 1 and Stefano are really focused on doing more and definitely taking it seriously this year, with the last race. But we can always do more, everyone can do more. Every team, every company here can do more. It’s about accountability. God knows, there must be a thousand partners, I guess, within the Formula 1 organisation probably, or hundreds maybe and it’s about accountability with all those. What are they doing in their space in terms of… everyone should be pushing for diversity, inclusion and the messaging that we all use with our platforms. We can all do more. I think football has done some positive things in terms of the announcements that are made before.. we just need to continue to take a stand and I think the more we project the direction that we want to go, hopefully, slowly, people will navigate on that route.
SP: I think it’s very important we don’t generalise because it’s very rare from our fans that follow our sport to hear something like that. So we definitely should, hopefully, ban them for life. Don’t welcome them again, because they don’t represent who we are as a sport, and they don’t share our values at all so… but at the same time we have great fans out there and with great values and I think a few fans shouldn’t be able to even embarrass our sport like that.
PG: Definitely agree with the guys and yeah, I think Lewis said it all pretty much. Everyone can do more and there should be accountability for such abuses. These things, I think, goes back to education and no one’s kind of been educated to behave like that or treat people in that way. And it’s not only in our sport in Formula 1, but I think it goes beyond that. As Sergio said, it’s not like it’s happening every weekend, and there is a trend going in that direction but these things, this obviously should never happen on track and if you behave like that you should be banned and not come back and simple as that. I think again put more people, more security, trying to bring more safety and make sure that everyone is safe around the racetrack and for any sort of misbehaviour or abuses that occur you should be banned for life. I think there’s no black and white and it should be like this going forward. But then afterwards, using the platform that we have nowadays with social media, as racing drivers with the exposure that we have, the exposure of Formula 1, the exposure of all of you, all of you guys to use it in a positive way, to just share the values that we all have and the mentality and the sort of behaviour you should have for these sort of events.
MS: I think everything has pretty much been said but I agree with the fact that this should be done more like more security in the way that you’re able to address it as soon as that happens. And I think that what has been said also is that this is something which should be unacceptable anywhere, not only in our sport but anywhere in society today. You would think everybody is educated enough to be above that behaviour because I think it’s just disrespectful towards everybody out there. And I think we’re in 2022 and we still have those issues so yeah, it’s definitely concerning, and definitely something that we all can do more and address more and kind of protect everybody more.
FA: Nothing more to add. Honestly, we’ve been answering this question now two times so I don’t want to be repetitive but I agree with every comment and you know, hopefully things will get better.
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