DRIVER GROUP 1: Esteban OCON (Alpine), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Daniel RICCIARDO (McLaren), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
Q: Daniel, if we could start with you, please. Good one-lap pace in Barcelona last weekend, but a tough race. Have you got to the bottom of what the struggle was on Sunday?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Yeah, we do. Yes, we understood, let’s say, some issues we faced over the course of the race. And yeah, looking forward to getting out on track here, it’s completely different. And, I was just speaking to Kevin, it’s been a while since he was here and I was kind of judging his excitement. And obviously we were here last year, but it’s always a track you get pumped up for.
Q: You’re a previous winner here: is this the racetrack where you feel you can turn things around?
DR: It’s definitely a track you can have the power in your hands to do so. It’s one that, if you’re at one with the car, and you have that confidence, it can turn into something pretty special around here. So yeah, looking forward to trying to exploit all my potential.
Q: Final one from me, I just want to ask you about a quote from your boss, Zak Brown, made earlier in the week, in which he said that your time with the team hasn’t lived up to expectations. What’s your reaction to that?
DR: Well, it’s not false. It’s pretty true. It’s something that… well, firstly, comments like that I don’t take personally. My skin is tanned, beautiful, and also thick. But it’s… yeah… no one’s going to be harder on me than myself. I know that I don’t want to be racing around in 10th, 12th places. I still believe I can be at the front, and belong at the front. So, it’s been a little bit more, certainly testing at times, in terms of obviously trying to get up and maximise myself in this car. But yeah, we’re working together hard at it. And the team wants it, I want it and we’re just working through it.
Q: Kevin, coming to you, you’ve discussed this already with Daniel – but how much did you miss this race last year when you weren’t racing Formula 1?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: A lot. I mean, when I watched the race here last year, that was when it hurt the first time, you know, not being in those cars at this track. It’s… yeah, it was a bummer. So, so cool to be back and I’m super excited to be here, driving this track again. I think it’s… I agree with Daniel, this track, there’s a special buzz around it. I know, maybe the race on Sunday often isn’t as eventful as usual but for us drivers it’s just such a pleasure to drive.
Q: Now, we never saw what you were capable of last Sunday, due to the clash with Lewis on the opening lap but how good was the car in race trim in Barcelona? Do you think it will translate to the streets of Monaco?
KM: The race pace was good on the car. We got damage, so in the race it actually didn’t show so much, but in practice, it looked very good. And the feelings was also good. So, I think it was good, in qualifying, and good in the race, so hopefully we can be good here as well. It’s obviously a very different track, but we were good in the slow bits in Barcelona – Sector 3 – so hopefully that carries on to here.
Q: Charles, coming to you now, if there’s such a thing as a home advantage, it’s about time you got to result here.
Charles LECLERC: Well, I hope so! It’s been quite a few years now that I come here to race and I actually never finished a race at home. So yeah, hopefully this year is the right one.
Q: Do you think the strengths of the Ferrari lend themselves to this layout?
CL: I think overall, whatever tracks we have been at this year, we’ve been competitive, so I think we have a very strong package overall. In the corners has been our strength against the Red Bull – but as we’ve seen last year, we didn’t have a very competitive car, but we arrived in Monaco and were super quick. So, it could be that we have some good surprises and maybe other the teams, that we don’t expect to be fighting for pole, are actually there at the top. So, I think it will be an exciting weekend and I hope that for ourselves, we will be strong.
Q: It was a very disappointing end to the Spanish Grand Prix for you. What reassurances have you’ve been given by the team regarding reliability?
CL: Well, they understood the issue, and that is the most important now: whenever you have a problem, you just need to analyse and understand what went wrong. We did understand what went wrong; we changed a few things and I’m confident that it won’t happen again.
Q: Final one from me. Football on Tuesday evening: pleased with your performance?
CL: Absolutely not! I’m rubbish, really. It’s not getting any better with years, so it’s quite worrying – but luckily for me, I’m better in cars, so it’s OK.
Q: Esteban, you scored points here last year; we’ve scored points in every race bar one in 2022. So how confident are you of continuing the trend this weekend?
Esteban OCON: It is the goal; it is definitely what we want to achieve again. We need to turn around that qualifying that we had in Barcelona, because you can’t afford to make a comeback in the race in here. So yeah, it was definitely a good one on Sunday in Barcelona, very pleased to have both cars, back in the top 10. It was good points for us and good understanding also. But we’re going to need to focus more on qualifying this weekend.
Q: The 2022 cars are very different compared to last year. How is that going to manifest itself on a lap of this track? Do you think it’s going to be a very different ride? How do you expect them to perform over the kerbs? Can you give us any insight on that?
EO: Yeah, it will probably be more bumpy ride than before, that’s for sure. I think hitting the kerbs and the bumps on the street, even though it’s a very smooth tarmac, it’s going to be a little bit more physical in that respect. Also visibility might be harder, to get closer to the walls, because it hides quite a lot of the vision this week. And braking: that car is quite heavy in general, compared to before. We’re working towards getting the performance compared to last year back, but it is more difficult on a tight circuit, to manoeuvre these big cars now.
Q: And how was the road trip, from Barcelona?
EO: It was good. Thank you. Nice to have a bit of sightseeing, with my crew. And yeah, nice to get some cheap meals on Monday after a race weekend.
Q: How many hours?
EO: It was six hours and a half. So, nice.
Q: Lewis, Toto said, said after the race on Sunday that you could have challenged for victory without the incident of lap one. Do you agree with him?
Lewis HAMILTON: I have no idea. It’s all ifs and buts but we definitely had the pace.
Q: Did your pace on Sunday surprise you and the team?
LH: Yep, we definitely weren’t expecting it. I think we were expecting to hopefully be closer to the Ferraris but I think Charles’ pace was probably ahead of everyone’s but other than that. I mean, yeah, I definitely didn’t expect to come so far behind.
Q: So Lewis, what does this mean looking at the bigger picture? Do you have a car with which you could fight for the world title now?
LH: I don’t know. It’s too early to say. I think honestly, we know that there’s potential in the car and I think we tapped into it in the last race. So, I’m really hoping this… I mean, this is a completely different track, so I’m hoping that is not up and down from weekend-in, weekend-out from now on. But my guess is as good as yours.
Q: What was the car like through Sector 3 in Barcelona? The slow corners.
LH: It wasn’t spectacular. It was good in the race. I don’t really understand why it was good race, but we seemed to be as good as others in a race. But in the single lap, it wasn’t that great.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) Question to Daniel. You’ve had a sluggish run of form since Melbourne. Why do you think you are struggling to gel with this car?
DR: I think it’s still more than I like to be getting out of it, which sometimes I can see and sometimes it’s less clear. I think we’ve also had a few things that have not gone, let’s say, our way interrupted some of the sessions. So it’s a combination of a few things, but I think, even putting that aside, yeah, it’s still been a little bit tricky for me to always like gel 100% with the car and feel like I can pull out these… I’m trying to say spectacular laps, but that sounds like I’m really bigging myself up! But yeah, just to pull out those heaters. I guess. It has been more tricky. For sure. There’s been some races sometimes where it’s been good, but we’re honestly still working on it. I’d love to say I’m going to be half a second quicker and awesome every race from now. I mean, I’d love to, and I’m working to get that but yes, it’s still a bit of a process.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) It’s a question to Kevin, please, given that the Haas operation has changed, since you last raced for the team in 2020, and the base of the operation is now at Maranello, just wondering now you’ve been back with the team for a few months, what do you think of that arrangement? How’s it working for the team? And are you, yourself working any differently away from the races, compared to your previous time?
KM: Yeah, that’s been a nice change in the team. And the year I’ve been away, as you said, they’ve moved. It’s a bigger group now in Maranello, I think that helps communication between the different departments, just being able to go and talk to each other. Our team for all those years have been spread out over the world: in the US; and then two places in Italy and one in England, so very spread out. And I think in terms of communication, it makes it easier when you can just go to mate’s desk and have a chat. So, it’s better, and it’s also grown, and we have more people and it feels better. And, of course, the car shows that too. So it’s in a good place Haas are pointing.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Question for Lewis, please. We understand the jewellery issue has been pushed back to the end of June. The drivers are, we understand, talking to the Medical Commission. Just want to ask, from your point of view, have you actually looked into getting your nose stud taken out? We understand that it wasn’t quite so straightforward. Will you put your earrings back in for this weekend? And are you happy with the direction of travel that the conversation is going in now that there’s a sort of more open dialogue?
LH: Honestly, I feel like there’s just way too much time and energy being given to this. So I’ve said everything I feel I need to say on the last races. And that’s not what my focus is this weekend. I’ve taken out my studs for every time I’ve been in the car, and I will continue to do so. And yeah, the nose ring is not a problem at the moment.
Q: (Sam De Voogt – NRC Handelsblad) Daniel, I read a quote from you, where you said that you enjoy the race as much as the spectacle of Monaco. And I was wondering, how much do you notice of all the festivities during this weekend?
DR: Oh, yeah, you notice. Some mornings, we’ll come in on a boat, There’s only one circuit that I’ve ever rocked up to the track on a boat, so it’s unique – and you feel like you’re certainly part of the event with little activities like this, or little moments. And you see everything around you. I mean, a lot happens on the water here in Monaco. So you pass one boat, which is huge and then the next one’s bigger and then bigger . It’s literally surreal. And then in terms of ,like we’ll have events through the week and weekend and some evening events but it’s not like… we’re obviously not… you guys will probably go out Saturday night but I doubt you’ll see us out with you Saturday night – but just to know that the whole kind of places is getting into it, and enjoying the event, not only what happens on track but the mornings the evenings, it’s fun, it’s special, it has a unique kind of aura about it. And I mean the circuit itself is… it’s really like no other, So it’s a lot of fun.
Let’s get one more comment. Local hero, what do you think?
CL: Daniel said it all – but for me it is weird because it’s the city which I grew up in, and to see the city just changing completely for the Grand Prix is very, very special. All of my friends, all of my family is here, watching from balconies of apartments of my friends around the track. And yeah, to me feels a bit like a village but obviously on an event like this, it’s a bit bigger than a village and a lot of people are coming to Monaco to watch the race, so it feels special.
Q: (No Name, no publication) Question for Lewis. Last year Ferrari had a difficult year, but performed really well here. Obviously the performance of Mercedes last week worked very well. Do you think you can be the surprise of the weekend with Mercedes, let’s say?
LH: I mean, I hope so. But we’ve not been that quick in low-speed so far this year. So I anticipate… they have a lot of downforce, they’re going to be quick this weekend. I’m just hoping we’re not as far back as we have been.
Q: (Jon Noble – motorsport.com) Daniel, we were always under the impression that you have a firm three-year contract at McLaren. After the last race, you said you need to speak to the team before the summer to discuss next year. Are there some doubts or decisions to be made about you will take the next season, or is everything pushing on as expected?
DR: Yeah, it’s clear, I’ve got a contract ‘til the end of ’23. COVID messed me up. So I just get confused with the years.
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek) Charles, on such an intense weekend in your home town, how do you find moments of peace, of calmness?
CL: I actually changed a little bit my programme this year, compared to the others. Obviously now it’s more normal weekend with the Friday, Saturday, Sunday as we have during the rest of the year. Normally, we had the Thursday for practice. And Friday was full of media for me. And so was the Wednesday – so it was a very busy week. But yeah, this week actually had a bit of media on Tuesday, quite a bit yesterday but nothing too different compared to a normal race weekend, which will probably help for this year. But yeah, the home race is always special. And there’s always more things going on. But it’s up to me to do in the way that I just put myself in the zone, 30-40 minutes before the session and get into the rhythm, just as I do in other races.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question for Lewis. We’re a third of the way through the season now. I just wondered if you could just give us a summary of how you felt your relationship with George is getting along? Obviously, he’s hit the ground running and surprised many of us just how quickly it’s taken to that car. I just wondered if you could just sum up how you’re working with him?
LH: It’s going great and not really much more to say what than what I’ve said before, but he’s doing a great job. He’s very, very consistent, very clear and concise with his feedback. He hasn’t had to gel-in because he was already part of the team. So, it’s been very smooth.
Q: (Seitanidis Panagiottis – Car Magazine Greece) Question for Charles. The football game was mentioned earlier. There is a talk of the Nazionale Piloti coming to Mykonos in August. How do you feel about returned to Greece to play football and how important is the summer break for all of you in such hectic seasons?
CL: I think this can be quite difficult to manage with all of our different holidays. I don’t think we’ll all go to Mykonos. Mykonos is a place I love personally and always love to go there to disconnect a little bit off racing. And obviously I know that the Nazionale Piloti has helped the hospital in Athens for the children who had cancer which was great to play for this cause. But yeah, the summer break is extremely important, and especially on such a long season, seasons get longer and longer so we get more tired every season and it’s very important to just relax and recharge the batteries during this time. I did it last year in Mykonos, this year. I’m not sure whether I will have the time to go to Greece, but Greece is always a good time. So yeah, I’ll see.
Q: Esteban, summer break?
EO: No plans yet. I don’t know. But for sure I need to visit Greece at some point, because I’ve seen pictures of Charles, being there and all that. It looks cool, so maybe.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Lewis, a question for you. Obviously, Monaco is massively about confidence and coming away from Spain with the confidence that you got, I just wondered when mentally you are coming into a race like this, where literally anything can happen on the first lap?
LH: Pretty open-minded, really. But definitely excited. You know, this is one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting race weekend of the year. They changed the format a little bit but the weather has been great this past days, and I know Sunday might be a little bit different but it’s… just the idea that in a couple of hours, we’re going to be out on this track. And there’s only 20 of us that get to do it. It’s such a privileged position to be in. And such an awesome experience. It’s… your emotions are up and down. And then it’s going to be fun out there today. I can’t wait. And of course, since we’ve just made some changes in the last race, it won’t be I don’t think it’ll be as bad as it had been in other races, but I won’t hold my breath.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Daniel, you’re a two-time pole winner here in Monaco. This track obviously it’s so difficult to race, but drivers talk about the qualifying thrill. When you hook up a pole lap around here, is that as good as it gets in Formula 1? And is Saturday in Monaco, one of the highlights of the season – if not the highlight?
DR: It truly is, yeah. Saturday, Monaco, it’s probably the biggest day in F1 over the year, and it’s definitely the biggest day if you get it right. That that feeling of putting it together. And it’s just … like every circuit requires full commitment, it’s obvious, but this is this is another… there’s more variables, there’s more factors, there’s just something else. And you also don’t really have time to think: there’s no real long straights; there’s no fresh air coming through because it’s so tight and twisty through the streets. So, it’s all like you’re just in it and you can’t really get out of it, if you know what I mean. So when you hook the lap up, it’s… yeah, you feed off each corner: every corner you do well, you link the next one up, and it’s a pretty beautiful feeling. Honestly, as Lewis just touched on, it’s a privilege for us to race these cars around here. It’s ridiculous. In the best way possible.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Question for Lewis and any other drivers who’d like to take part. We all know you as drivers like racing on this circuit but realistically, with these current cars, with their width and their weight, do you think you’ll actually be able to race them at all against one-another on Sunday?
LH: We all know what kind of race it is, the actual Sunday. It’s all about qualifying. So Saturday is the day. And then Sunday, it’s most often, generally, unless you luck-in with a bit of strategy. Generally, I mean, there’s not many overtakes here, I think, ever, so… and now the cars are bigger and heavier, and there probably won’t be any more. It’ll be the same.
EO: The emphasis is definitely going to be on qualifying again, as Lewis said. I don’t think the rule change is going to help a lot for this track. Even if you look at the touring car races, it is tricky for them as well. It’s not necessarily the downforce issues or the weight. It’s just that it’s very tight, the track, and if you cover the inside, you don’t have much chance to pass. So yeah, as usual, it’s going to be a big fight on Saturday.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Lewis, I appreciate your comments earlier that you’ve expended too much energy on this particular subject, but is it at least a positive from the drivers perspective that the FIA and its medical commissioner Dr Sean Petherbridge, in particular, has at least listened to the comments of people like yourself and the other drivers and they are happy to work with you on the jewellery subject? Thank you.
LH: It came in in 2005. I think we’ve all worn jewellery our whole careers in Formula 1, it’s not been a problem in the past and there’s no reason for it to be a problem, necessarily, now. There are positives that we’re working with them. And I think they’re accommodating a little bit at the moment. But we shouldn’t have to keep on revisiting this thing every weekend. We’ve definitely got bigger fish to fry. Not literally obviously, but you know what I mean!
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) To Daniel, just a short question to clarify. Is it a three year contract or two-plus-one?
DR: It’s a three-year. So, end of ’23. And then… yeah, there’s, yeah… let’s say that.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport). Quick question to Lewis. We’re now, give or take, a month out from the British Grand Prix, which is a sell-out crowd. But given the narrative around yourself and Mercedes, perhaps a bit different going into this one, I just wondered if you had a message to the fans that will be going?
LH: I don’t know if there’s a different narrative. I’m hoping by then, we are where we plan to be. I know everyone back at the factory is working as hard as they can, to continue to make advances with the car and I have no doubts that that we will. And yeah, I’m hoping by Silverstone we have the car where we need it, at least by then, to be able to fight these guys for the win. That’s what I’m working every day for, is so that we can fight on home turf, and give them the best race we can.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafé) Daniel, Tom asked you earlier about the issues you had in Spain. Just picking at that a little bit, can you elaborate? Is it something that is likely to rear its head again? Was it set-up ? Driving style, etc? Can you be more specific with what it was, and if it’ll reoccur elsewhere?
DR: Yeah, so we basically found an issue on the car. It’s rectified. That’s the right word. Basically, it’s been fixed, for people with more simple English, like myself. And yeah, so coming into this weekend we’re all sorted. Fresh start, let’s say.
DRIVER GROUP 2: Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), George RUSSELL (Mercedes), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), Nicholas LATIFI (Williams)
Q: Checo, we’re starting with you. Can we start by talking about the challenges of this race track? It’s one of extremes, and you’ve experienced every emotion going here. You’ve crashed, you finished on the podium. Just can you explain the challenges of this Monaco track? And why those challenges make the rewards that much sweeter?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, I think it’s a track where it’s full of challenges. Until you finish the race, you know you finish it, you know, because at any point you can make a small mistake where in a regular circuit it would not impact at all your result, but here, it makes a huge difference, you know. So, being committed, being patient, being precise, it always pays off here. But you have to build up confidence to the weekend from FP1 already. So track time here is very important. I look forward to it. I think Q3 we are all very excited. We all feel like we can make the difference in Q3. That’s why the drivers love this place.
Q: What about car performance? I mean, is there any reason to think you can’t challenge for the win this weekend?
SP: We’ll see. But we believe Ferrari is going to be particularly strong in this place. They’re very strong in the low speed. Their ride over the curves is very good. So they were already last year and they didn’t have a good car, so I expect them to be very competitive here. But we’ll see. I think after today we will have a bit more of an idea if we are able to challenge them tomorrow.
Q: You said after the race in Barcelona that you wanted to chat to the team about its intra-team tactics, about team orders. Have you managed to do that and what conclusions have been reached?
SP: Yes, we spoke after the race. I felt that during the race that we could have given a very good shot at the two-stop strategy to see if it could work or not, which the team took onboard. At the end of the day, it was clear that the three-stop was the way to go. And yeah it was just we both agree on the same page and we move on. And it’s a great atmosphere here at Red Bull; we have a great momentum. So, at the end of the day, it was a great team result, and they made it clear that I have the full support of the team to see me winning.
Q: Thank you Checo, best of luck this weekend. Yuki, Let’s come to you now. Your second visit to Monaco. How important will your experience from last year be this time around?
Yuki TSUNODA: It’s more, I think more in control, how to approach this track and definitely last year’s experience helps for this year. Yeah. Can’t wait to hit on track. Last year wasn’t a good race, I would say. But still, I showed a couple of good pace in the race. So it’s going to be another race week. So we’ll see how it goes in this week.
Q: How do you approach Q1 with all the ‘traffic paradise’ that you’d like to talk about? Just talk us through the discussions you have with your engineers to ensure that you get a clean run?
YT: Yeah, I mean, I got a little bit too overexcited in Barcelona. Definitely try to… For sure it’s going to be… I’ll expect much worse in this truck, in terms of traffic. So I mean, this kind of expectation or any management, if you have a lot of traffic, I still can maybe control hopefully. But we’ll see. I think I’m more focused on my job, I would say. Also, the car pace here, or car behaviour, I can’t expect anything, so just try to aim to give the feedback as much as possible. It’s definitely good for the team as well to have a kind of new data, like kind of track is really unusual. I’m just going to focus and stick on those places. And try to have more control, to have more control on my side.
Q: Tell us a little bit more about car performance because you said last weekend in Barcelona that you weren’t happy with the car there. So do you think the tight layout of Monaco will suit you better?
YT: Yeah, like I say I think this track is different. We need a specific set-up for here. That will hopefully bring us a little bit of different behaviour compared to Barcelona. Also, Barcelona was one of the tracks we didn’t expect [to be] that bad. Miami was really good with both cars in Q3, we showed a good pace there. But oppositely in Barcelona, we didn’t have like that much of pace. So I can’t expect anything but yeah, this track is very unusual. kind of bumpy, a lot of really slow-speed corners and that will bring us a little bit of a different picture this week, and hopefully that will help us to bring us both cars in the points.
Q: Thank you, best of luck to you. Zhou, let’s come to you, you’re first Monaco Grand Prix. How are you feeling? Nervous, excited, just give us a little insight?
Zhou GUANYU: I’m quite excited to be honest. Because in Jeddah obviously it was my first time on the streets, I was pretty nervous that weekend. But after you know, doing the whole weekend, kissing the walls, and feels like this weekend is a bit more relaxed, and also for myself just doing the normal, you know, progress throughout Friday into Saturday. It’s being a good, let’s say graph so far, just build up my confidence. And like Checo said, the main key, as a rookie, especially for me, is to to to maximise the track time and then just to build up the speed from there. But yeah, Monaco has been quite nice to me in the past. So hopefully, we give away all this bad luck in the last few races and bring it all from here and work onwards.
Q: As you say, Monaco has been good to you in the past, you won in Formula 2 of course. How different do you expect the tract to feel in a Formula 1 car as opposed to a Formula 2 car?
ZG: I think there’s going to be a massive difference, because just the speed difference, going around the section is completely different and also especially, I think, you know, the last section going through the Swimming Pool section is very tough here, I think, with the speed you are travelling, if you just kissing the wall, and you could be, you know, bouncing or jumping on the kerbs and we have to see how this new car, this new generation behaves. Because I think with the car bouncing, maybe let’s say if it’s bouncing more than Formula 2, because Formula 2 is pretty stiff around here, but I think this year Formula 1 will be completely different. And it will be quite a big change for me. But I don’t see, you know, big surprises, because after all these races I feel like I was able to maybe get up to speed a little bit quicker than the first few races that’s for sure.
Q: You touched on your bad luck at the last couple of races: two retirements, both in Miami and Barcelona. What has the team told you about the situation with reliability? How confident do you feel, coming into this one, that there won’t be a recurrence of the problem?
ZG: Yeah, I mean, both were sort of cooling issues. With the reliability of the car of course it’s been quite frustrating for my site. But I mean, the good thing is that what happened in Miami wasn’t the same issue that happened in Barcelona. So the issue in Miami was fixed. But then it obviously surprised us with that different problems we were having. It increased, a huge amount, the water temperature, and I had to retire, to try to save the engine, especially for the coming season. And yeah, it was the right call. But from my side, I think the team has been pushing very hard, especially back the factory. I remember on Sunday night they were already trying to figure it out, looking into it, and everything seems to be working well. And the fingers crossed that we finally have fixed all the issues we have. Apart from that, hopefully we’ll have a clean weekend as that’s the key. And I feel like we always have the potential to fight for points and we have to make sure everything goes into plan and we don’t have all these surprising issues.
Q: Nicholas, coming to you now. It was a pretty good weekend for you here last year. Just tell us what you’re expecting coming into this weekend?
Nicholas LATIFI: Yeah, it’s always exciting to come here to Monaco and I think specifically in qualifying, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable laps of the year for us as drivers, you know, and even in junior categories that’s been the case. So yeah, with these new cars it’s going to be a step trickier for everybody, not only the stiffness and riding the bumps and the kerbs. Obviously, the visibility is slightly worse but I think most of us are pretty used to that now. I think one of the areas that most of us drivers have been pretty vocal about you know, really feeling the, let’s say, negative performance of these cars is the slowest speed relative to the previous years and you know, and what is the track but a lot of very slow speed corner! It’ll definitely probably not feel as nice as last year. Obviously I’ve only been here once in an F1 car. But I think that’s kind of going to be the same for everybody. And hopefully, you know, this track always allows a little bit more for the driver to make a little bit of a difference and it’s maybe not as much reliant on outright car performance. It’s, it’s very likely that that will still be the case, but especially in Q1, you know, we could see 20 cars on this track and it always presents a big challenge, you know, people not getting their tyre prep right, yellow flags, different strategies, traffic. So hopefully we get everything right and we can maybe make a difference in that regard. But, nonetheless, very much looking forward to the weekend.
Q: Let’s talk about your current performance. What are the limitations of the FW 44? And will the nature of Monaco help you to be more competitive than you were last time out?
NL: I think prior to Barcelona, it was very clear. You know, besides just overall downforce, that’s obviously a key thing, but it was clear to me and to Alex, I think there’s some balance issues we would like to improve that are kind of just inherent with the car. But I think going to Barcelona, it highlighted just the lack of downforce we do have compared to other cars. I mean, it’s a track where you normally put everything you have on it in terms of load. And yeah, we were just missing a lot, a lot in the high-speed corners, based on the GPS data still pretty healthy in a straight line. So yeah, I think it gave us some good directions for the factory and for the longer-term development of the car. Obviously, this is a track as well where you want a lot of downforce on the car. A little bit different from Barcelona, where you have really long, flowing corners, where you could really use that downforce here, you still want it, but it’s just been different because of the nature of the track. So, I mean, I expect it to be a tricky weekend, for sure. But, you know, hopefully we can optimise all the little details, as good as they can be, and hopefully that can make a difference for us.
Q: Okay, best of luck with that. George, coming to you. Thanks for waiting. Tremendous race by you on Sunday. Has Mercedes now found a path in terms of development with this car?
George RUSSELL: Yeah, I think so. I think we’ve definitely turned a corner. And I think our season starts from Barcelona, really. The first five races were problem-solving as such, and I think we’ve solved the problem now we can now focus on development. So we are six races behind. Red Bull I think are the main ones who didn’t seem to have any porpoising issues from day one and they seem to just seemed to get cracking with their development. But I think we’re excited. Because we think we’ve got performance in there that we can unlock again, but it’s pleasing to see we now have a stable race car that we can build upon.
Q: What’s the mood in the camp has a has a sense of optimism returned?
GR: I think there was always optimism, I don’t think the morale was ever lost, because we always believed that we’d be able to find this performance sooner rather than later. And we knew we wasn’t going to be able to achieve it overnight. But I think being able to solve this issue in the space of five races is still incredibly impressive. And, you know, from previous experience, I know just how tough it is sometimes to overcome some inherent difficulties within the car. So six races in we can get cracking now. I think that’s pretty inspiring and really thankful to everybody back at Brackley and Brixworth who have been working relentlessly to find the solutions and as I said, it all starts now.
Q: We all enjoyed your battle with Max Verstappen in the race and you said afterwards that you first raced each other in karting back in 2011. How different does it feel to go wheel-to-wheel with a rival in Formula 1 compared to karting? Same old tricks?
GR: I think all of the youngsters know each other pretty well. We know the style we have, how aggressive each one is and how they like to race, how they like to drive. Equally, I think there’s even more respect as well because we’ve known each other for longer and we’ve battled each other for longer so yeah, definitely enjoyed it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to George, please. We saw you have been in the Mercedes simulator ahead of this weekend’s and I wondered, what can we expect with how the 2022 cars are going to perform around Monaco? They’re designed to be better in high-speed corners and they tend to be worse in slow-speed corners, which pretty much all we have around here. So how will it feel different for you as drivers? And how might it look different to people watching from outside?
GR: Well, it still felt incredibly exhilarating, you know, my heart was pumping, just from the simulator. Probably pumping faster than it is compared to some of the racetracks in the race car itself, comparing to Monaco in the simulator, to put it into perspective of how brutal this circuit is. Clearly, these new cars don’t… A circuit like Monaco doesn’t bring out the best of these new cars because they are heavier, it’s a bit of a slog around these low-speed corners. So you may see a greater variation compared to what we’ve seen in previous years. But to the outside view, I don’t think it’ll be any different.
Q: Checo, can we open this to you as well? You’ve driven so many different iterations of Formula 1 car around this track. What are you expecting from the 2022 cars?
SP: Yeah, I think George is quite right in that regard. I think with this generation of cars, it’s probably the worst track for it, you know, because in the low speed is where we’ve lost the most, compared to last year, for example. But it will be very interesting. I think also, the visibility with these cars in streets courses is quite difficult. And so you might be expecting to see drivers making more mistakes, due to visibility, due to wider cars, wider tyres. Probably the race it will be a bit more difficult to overtake. And through the years, I think that will be the main difference and qualifying will be quite different in that regard.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Another question for you, George, about Alex Albon. I know when you left Williams at the end of last year, you were pushing quite hard for him to get that seat. What have you made of Alex’s start to the season? It seems to have been a really strong start from him?
GR: Yeah, Alex has done an exceptional job. I think there was obviously no secret he had a tough time that Red Bull, but I think all of us, even probably Max included, just knew how talented Alex was. And, you know, we’ve, as I said, we’ve all raced each other since 2011. Alex, was a few years older than us. So he was sort of competing against de Vries at the time, in KF one, I remember and he’s always been there, you know. He’s always been one of the very best, so it’s no surprise to me, and I think happy to see that he’s back in Formula 1, and that he has cemented his position.
Q: Nicky, can I throw this to you? Similarities between Alex and George?
GR: Not the hair!
NL: Similarities? I think it goes without saying they’re both very, extremely quick drivers. And I mean, especially when Alex was announced as the race driver that was going to be my teammate, I had no illusions that he was he was not going to be on the pace straight away, despite him missing out a year. Obviously, I raced against him in 2018, or I raced as his teammate in 2018, and I know just how quick he was. So I think in many ways, the similarities, there are obviously some little differences in driving style here and there, which I kind of knew going into the season as well, just from, again, having been teammates with Alex beforehand. I won’t say the driving style secrets because maybe they don’t want to disclose that. But it’s been great having both them as teammates.
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek). For George. With stiffer cars this year, does that mean you have to tackle certain corners here in a different fashion?
GR: I think potentially you need to maybe in FP1 leave even more margin compared to normal because the cars are very stiff. We are very low to the ground and it is bumpy around here, so I think you can be caught off guard pretty quickly. We always knew that was going to be one of the challenges with these 2022 cars so low to the ground. We’ve seen it with Mick’s crash in Jeddah for example: uou run a bit wide onto the kerb and you bottom out and you’re off. So yeah, there’s been obviously a lot of positives brought with these new regulations but there have been some negatives as well.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Sergio, on the radio, you said during Spain that you thought the move was unfair that Red Bull decided to do. I just wondered if you still stood by that? Whether you’ve had conversations since about it? And whether you were aware that that would have been a tactic, maybe that Red Bull we’re going to do coming into the season?
SP: Not really coming into the season. I think more about the race. Obviously, when you’re in the car, you have certain information. And you know, the team has a wider picture. And in the car, at the time, it felt like we could have done a better job, especially in the second stint, you know, giving a better shot, a better opportunity to the two-stop strategy to see if it could work or not. But it was clear that the three-stop was the way forward. It was better to go the way. We spoke up to the race and it’s all clear. And we all agreed that we could have done a better job in that stint to give a better shot to both strategies, to see which one worked. At the end of the day, for the team it was a great team result. And it’s a great momentum behind Red Bull at the moment.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) A question to both Yuki and Zhou. When you expect to know your 2023 plans and how are contract talks going between your particular teams?
ZG: Yeah, so basically, it’s still the beginning of this season. So I have no plans yet towards the future or what’s the plan yet. But I quite enjoy my moments so far in Formula 1. Of course, it’s been quite up and down, because due to the last few races reasons. But overall, I feel very happy and very nice to be here. And I feel like there’s still plenty of races for me to develop my ability in Formula 1 yet. So I’m not really too worried about the future yet. And I think right now I’ll just try to try to focus on getting myself up to speed and bring the team double points finishes. And then if everything plays out as planned I see no reason what’s the future going to be but I feel quite confident that we can still do the job this season and I’m not too worried about what’s coming up in next year’s plan yet.
YT: I don’t know. Well, I’m just focusing right now to the car, developing the car as much as possible for the team. And we have a clear target for the team championship. So just aiming for those things and other than that I don’t know.
Q: (Carlo Platella – Formulapassion.it) George, any idea on why Lewis was able to express a better race pace in Spain than you?
GR: Yeah, I think what Lewis achieved on Sunday was incredibly impressive. And probably the first time we’ve all seen this season his true pace come alive and unleashed. So, you know, I think nobody was probably surprised by that. And we all know what Lewis is capable of, but I struggled a lot with cooling issues from probably lap five onwards in the race and subsequently got the tyres out of the window from probably doing too much management to cool the engine, cool the brakes, cool the tyres. And it was a bit of a survival race. So I think it gives us optimism as a team when we saw Lewis in the position he was, just going for it and seeing what was possible.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Checo, during your talks with the team following the Spanish Grand Prix, did you ask the question, or has it at least been made clear to you. that you are free to race for wins and even the title this season and that you will not just be Max’s wingman?
SP: It’s fairly clear. They didn’t need to say it, but it’s clear, I think on my side of the garage it’s clear and inside the team. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. So it’s fairly clear.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Checo, on the topic of contracts and futures, in Miami you said you started some loose talks with the team but you’re in no rush about anything and the team seems delighted with how you have been performing so far this season. When do you have in mind about talking properly with the team about next year and getting something set?
SP: Yeah, I think at the moment is not the not the highest priority. We are in the middle of the season right now and as you know, it’s never easy to get a contract out of Helmut and Christian. But I think we both very happy and we should see that coming soon.
Q: (Seitanidis Panagiottis – Car Magazine Greece) A question for George. You have a great start to the season even though the car is not performing at its best yet. How satisfied are you on a personal note with what you have achieved so far and the performance you had so far?
GR: I think if you told me prior to the season that we’d be seven races in and I wouldn’t have a victory to my name, I would have definitely been a bit disappointed with that. But I think given the pace of the car and given where we’ve been as a team, I’ve been reasonably pleased with how I’ve performed. I think the results have been maximised. I don’t see many races where we could have achieved better results. But definitely got room to improve. You are constantly striving for more when you understand the car more, the tyres more. And you know, I want to fight for this championship. And when we’ve got to go against the likes of Max at Red Bull and obviously Charles is doing an extra extremely good job at the moment with Ferrari. But as a team, we just need to keep on pushing, I need to keep on pushing personally. So, more to come.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Checo, just following up on what you said earlier about the lack of visibility with these new 2022 cars. Could you expand on that? What is it you’ll see less of this year? And why is that a particular concern on a track like this?
SP: Well, I think we all struggle with the wider tyres. So, the reference we used to have, and the one that we grew up with, it’s different now. So just having that reference, that sensitivity. And I always find like you’re not able to look after what’s after the tyre. You just look on top of the tyre at the moment. It doesn’t really matter how high or low you are. You just get to a certain point and that’s it. So I think we’ve got different measurements this season on how we see the visibility from our perspective, but I think by now we are all pretty used to it, but it’s just quite different.
DRIVER GROUP 3 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Alfa Romeo), Lance STROLL (Aston Martin), Sebastian VETTEL (Aston Martin), Alex ALBON (Williams)
Q: Let’s start by talking updates. A lot was new last weekend in Barcelona for you. What were your first impressions?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, we knew it’s going to be a big package. Obviously, it was an incredible effort to get so many pieces out and onto the track for both cars. And yeah, the car, obviously we didn’t see a massive step in performance just yet. But it did feel a bit different. I think we learned a lot during the weekend. Quali we expected a little bit more, so we were disappointed. But in the race, I think we were OK and just missed out on the points. But obviously there’s still a lot of work to do. And like I said, I think the main thing was the laps and the running really helped us to understand where the car now is and where we need to put it in the future.
Q: How much more potential does this car have now?
SV: Well, we think a lot more otherwise there was no point in changing so much. So obviously, it’s a completely different direction. And we believe, we’re confident it’s the right one.
Q: How do you think it’ll translate to Monaco? It’s such a unique circuit.
SV: This I don’t know. I feel it’s a bit difficult to know what to expect. For sure the cars that are upfront, they will be upfront, but I think it could mix things up a little bit. But not sure which way, because the cars are just different this year. So we will see how everybody’s getting on. I think mostly the way everybody’s running these cars, they’re so stiff, it doesn’t really suit Monaco, but it will be the same for all of us.
Q: Sebastian, you said earlier this week that you expect this to be a very physical race, perhaps more physical than in the past?
SV: Did I?
Q: In your preview, yes. why do you think that?
SV: Well, I don’t know why I said it. I think street circuits are always tough on you, because the level of focus is quite high. Obviously, you don’t have high-speed corners and the load on the body is not that big. But yeah, it’s quite warm, not just in here, also in the car it can be. So we’ll see. But yeah, maybe it rains on Sunday, then it will be you know, mentally a very, very tough race. We had some wet races in the past here I think in 2008 and 2016. Yeah. ’15 or ’16. So it can mix things up. And we will see.
Q: Final one for me, Sebastian. Inspector Seb, there was a story going around earlier this week about you chasing a suitcase around Barcelona. What happened there?
SV: Well, I was checking out in the morning from the hotel and had my bag in the car. And when I just quickly went back in and came back out the bag was gone. So after a while, I realised I had my headphones in the bag and I could locate them. I found the headphones but didn’t find the bag. So it was not really a chase. But yeah, obviously a bit disappointed to lose the bag.
Q: Where were the headphones?
SV: They were in the bag, but then once I found them they were in a flowerpot. So I guess the person who stole it, he or she knew exactly that you can be tracked.
Q: All right. Thank you, Sebastian. Best of luck this weekend. Lance, let’s come to you and just get your thoughts on the changes that you’ve made to the car. Andrew Green said last weekend that it provides more set-up possibilities. How are you finding it? Do you feel that there are more options?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, I definitely think that, you know, there’s more opportunity with this direction of development we’ve taken, but it’s early days. We’re still learning a lot about our car. And yeah, I think in looking back at Barcelona, there was a lot we could have done differently. So coming here this weekend, completely different kind of track, but it’s exciting to go into this weekend learning from Barcelona with this new car and we’ll see how we go.
Q: You say you could have done a lot differently in Barcelona. Can you give us any more insight into what you could have done differently and you may apply here in Monaco?
LS: Just in a lot of… Without getting into too much detail just set-up, you know, set-up work. I think there’s always a lot to learn with a new package. How to optimise it. In one weekend with such a new package it’s very difficult to get everything working as you want. So there was definitely a lot we learned from Barcelona. But like I said, coming here, it’s such a different kind of track, that there will definitely be a whole different car here. And hopefully, we’re more competitive than we were last week in Barcelona.
Q: And Lance, just tell us about the challenge of Monaco, you’re in the points last year? Do you enjoy it? Is there a particular section of the track that you find the most enjoyable?
LS: Yeah, I do enjoy it. I mean, it’s, you know, a big challenge for the drivers mentally, physically as well. I think just the fact that you don’t really get a break, you know, during the lap here. The race is always really long, it’s 80 laps, or whatever it is. It’s always a long race here and requires a lot of focus. So it’s a place I always enjoy coming to, and it’s good to good test for the drivers, so I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Best of luck to you. Alex, coming to you bad news. First of all, George Russell told us told us a moment ago that he’s not going to be going red.
Alex ALBON: Very disappointing.
Q: Now, this is something of a home race for you. Just how does it feel coming in?
AA: Yeah, I think a few of us we live quite close to here. It’s a nice place. The circuit itself is really special. I think it’s one of the few circuits that we go to where the focus is more on a Saturday than Sunday, but at the same time, doing those laps on Saturday feels really special.
Q: And what is the secret to surviving 78 laps on Sunday?
AA: Not sure to be honest! I would say keep it away from the guardrails and you’re there. As Seb said, it’s a different kind of circuit in the way that it’s maybe not so physical, but it’s a lot more mental. So it’s a lot more about staying in the zone. And especially if it’s going to be raining on Sunday. I think there’s going to be a real opportunity there for slip-ups to happen. And hopefully, you know, if you keep it clean, you can be fighting in the points.
Q: Okay, and what about car performance? It was disappointing last weekend in Barcelona. You said you couldn’t drive slowly enough. Do you understand why you were suffering so much last weekend?
AA: Yeah, I think, firstly, we had damage, so that was the main thing. We had a pretty hefty floor damage as well on top of it. So it does show that you do need downforce to stop sliding. That’s no secret. And in general, the top teams are also sliding a bit less than the bottom teams, so you get this expansion of pace in the race. Barcelona wasn’t a good one for us, we will have to look back at it. And we have and we know the areas that we’re weak in. So yes, there is a there is a push of course. And we didn’t have updates in Barcelona, unlike most of the other people. They will be coming. And then once they come obviously we will hopefully be fighting a bit more up at the midfield you know, at least short term we’re in Monaco and it’s similar to Miami, that’s what I was trying to say. So hopefully we can get into that rhythm and we were pretty good there. So you never know.
Q: And in the space of a week we’ve gone from Pirelli’s hardest compounds to their softest compounds. What will that mean for Williams?
AA: Hard to say, but I think this year the tyres themselves have been a little bit different to normal. I think we were running the C5s in Melbourne and it wasn’t necessarily a one-lap tyre, which especially around that circuit you would you would say it would be, so I’m not sure how qualifying will pan out if we ended up doing a few laps to get the tyres up to temperature but it’s going to be an interesting one and especially if the race, tyre temps and everything like that is in the wet. It’s going to be challenging.
Q: All right, thank you, Alex. Best of luck to you, Valtteri, let’s start with the home race question. Must feel like a home race to you. Which part of the racetrack do you use most? Just on a normal day in Monaco away from the race weekend.
Valtteri BOTTAS: I think it’s kind of a home race for many, many drivers on the grid, including me and yeah, I would say the main street that’s my most common route to get to the apartment. So but yeah, obviously the whole track most drivers know pretty well, all the bumps and corners.
Q: Now, you were mixing it at the front just last weekend in Spain, are you confident of doing so again this week?
VB: Yes, I think that we have another good opportunity this weekend. It is really a unique track and always coming here, like Seb said, it’s quite hard to know exactly what to expect, you know how the car is going to behave. But I would say on paper it should be hopefully better than Barcelona, because still the strength we have is the slow-speed corners. So if you look at it that way, it could be good. But we need to wait and see. There are obviously many variables on this track. The qualifying sessions are not necessarily the smoothest and you know, everything just needs to needs to go right.
Q: We’ve seen all of the front-running teams deliver their first round of upgrades and Alfa Romeo is still up there. How much confidence does that give you going forward for the rest of the season?
VB: It is a great motivation for us as a team, you know, even to be able to fight with, let’s say, bigger teams at this point is really encouraging. And I can feel and see the motivation in the team. And it’s same for me. We want to look at every single detail how we can fight more often with them, so it’s good.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek) This is for Sebastian. With an impaired visibility in the 2022 cars, is that a special worry for such a tight track as Monaco?
SV: What do you mean?
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek) That you see less in this year’s cars, out of the car, than in the past? Visibility is not as good.
SV: No, you got bigger the bigger wheels mostly are the bigger tyres. We will see. In the other places we went to it wasn’t that bad. I think most of us we got used to it by now as well, but we will see. I think the critical places are up the hill towards the Casino, then probably just getting close to the armco or the edges of the track. So not much we can do. We don’t have much choice. You can play a little bit with how not really that much with how high you sit. But other than that, you can’t fit smaller wheels or take the fairings off!
Q: Sebastian, do you sit higher in the cockpit at this race than other Grand Prix?
SV: Tiny bit, but there’s very little room you can play with. So whatever room you have, then some tracks you’d like to sit a little bit higher, but we’re talking literally like two or three millimetres so…
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to Sebastian and to Lance as well, please? I wondered what was your reaction to the reaction from some quarters regarding the changes that were made to your car revealed of the Spanish Grand Prix, people calling it a green Red Bull. Some might say that’s an overreaction given that throughout Formula 1’s history, cars have changed to look similar to other cars. And in fact, lots of people over the winter were saying that quite quickly car designs were going to converge and look fairly similar based on what was quick.
LS: We designed the car, the FA said it was OK and legal. They let us compete and yeah, we started designing this car many, many months ago. Parts of it looks similar, I guess, to the Red Bull, but you know, it was it was us back at the factory that designed it and I think the team did an incredible job at getting you know all the bits out to Barcelona because it was flat out for many weeks leading up to the race and very challenging to get all the parts to Barcelona for both cars. So really well done to the whole team and it was an extremely great effort from everyone to do that.
SV: Well, I think it was just at some point not fair, you know, especially towards… First of all, all the effort that went in, like Lance described; second, I think on a personal level to Dan Fallowes, I don’t think it was fair. Some things that were said I think we’re not right. He’s a very good guy. I remember him from my time at Red Bull. And obviously, you know, he’s joined the team, when he’s with us now, so I think some of the things that were said are just not right, and I would like to hear, you know, not an apology… Well you will never hear anything but what I mean is, I think some of the things that were being said, were just not fair.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Sebastian, I’d like to ask you about your time at Ferrari and driving classic cars. Charles has been driving quite a few cars recently. I believe you drove Gerhard Berger’s car when you were at Ferrari. Were there any others?
SV: I was still with Red Bull then.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Wow, OK. So when you drive classic cars, what kind of connection does that give you to the history of the team and I know particularly with Ferrari you were very much invested in their history.
SV: It’s great. It’s great fun as well. I think it’s an unique opportunity when you get to drive some of the old cars. I heard that he had a little bit of an off here. I don’t know what exactly happened. But you know, you need to also remember that these cars are, depending on how old they are, they are really old! They weren’t built to last forever. I think when you drive, you have the temptation of pushing. But you need to be aware of the fact that some of the bits are new, but some are not. But I think it’s a great insight to have the opportunity to… I own some of the old some of the old racing cars as well and I think is a great insight of how life or how driving has been back then.
Q: Do you have a favourite that you’ve driven?
SV: Well, Gerhard’s car was fun, but I’ve driven the McLaren from ’93, which was incredible. And yeah, I also have the ’92. Williams, the red five. So hopefully, I get to drive and enjoy that.
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) Sebastian, how are contract talks going between yourself and the team for 2023 and beyond? And has your personal relationship with Christian Horner have been affected by his recent comments regarding your updated car?
SV: No, I mean, everything that’s been said has not been said to me. I don’t think it’s on that level, so no problems on that side. Like I said earlier, I think just some of the things that were said, especially when it gets towards the person, I don’t think it’s right. And then for the future, we haven’t gotten into any conversations yet. Obviously, it will be time at some point. But I think the main focus now is on really getting the car up and further towards the front of the grid. So all the energy at the moment is going in there. I mean, it was very, very tight to make it to get two packages for Barcelona, which is just a week ago. So the whole factory was busy with other stuff to be honest.
Q: (Taipale Juuso – Iltalehti) This one is for Valtteri. Valtteri, did you watch hockey last night? And do you have any message to the team?
VB: I was desperately trying to watch it. I had some technical problems at home with the TV and I tried to watch it online. But then on this site, it requires VPN, the VPN didn’t work. And I was just following online, you know, all the live updates. And I’m glad to see that Finland proceeded to the semi-finals. Next game. I believe it is against USA on Saturday. Which I’m going to miss that game but hopefully they play well enough to be in the final on Sunday night. And that should be nice to follow. But yeah, definitely rooting for the Leijonat.
Q: Valtteri, how much hockey you still play?
VB: Every winter for sure when I go back to Finland and sometimes there’s been opportunities in some kind of event with some hockey teams around the world. So yeah, still a big fan of hockey, because I used to play like 10 years when I was a kid.
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) Also for Valtteri. Obviously Alfa Romeo shows a very strong pace this year. You are very strong in qualifying. Do you think if everything fails in place, you can go for a podium place this weekend?
VB: It is a weekend that everything needs to fall in place if you want a good result. I’ve had good weekends. I’ve had bad weekends here. So definitely everything starts with a smooth practice session, which we haven’t had as a team for a while, so that would be nice. And then we need to see how well the car behaves here and how fast it is. But if we get everything right, never say never. I think this is a nice target and motivation for the whole team, to know that it could be possible. But obviously everything needs to go perfectly. So yeah, first step is a good qualifying for sure.
Q: (Ian Parkes – New York Times) Just getting back to the theft story. I gather in the bag, there were some valuables, are you’re able to expand? But more importantly, secondly, when you jumped on the scooter, was it spur of the moment? Or did you not give any consideration to your own safety, bearing in mind as to where you could have ended up and who you might have confronted at the end of the day?
SV: I wanted my bag. That was all there was in my mind there was not much valuables. I wasn’t sure at the time whether my passport was in there or not. As it happened, it was in another bag. So I was lucky. But I had like ID and insurance card, driver’s licence, that just boring stuff that takes time to get back and you have to apply and fill out the forms. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Unfortunately, there was no money in there. I had some bandages in there for the knee. So I guess whoever picked the backpack wasn’t a great deal, because the only thing that was valuable maybe was the headphones, which he had to sort of lose, not to be found. But I really liked the backpack, though, that I didn’t think of… I was just going there to see if I could spot somebody and maybe nick it back, you know, just ‘tchoo’ and then jump back on the scooter. But nobody there, so…
Q: (Stuart Codling – GP Racing) For Seb and Lance. Terribly sorry for returning to the subject of your package. What influence did you guys have on the decision making, in terms of going to plan B? Were you lobbying for the move to the alternative concept? Or did the engineers come to you and present it to you as an option?
SV: First I think Andy described this, there’s the opportunity for us to, you know, explore different ways this year. So I think from a design point of view, the team didn’t want to be stuck one way. I think, you know, the time when both cars, in a way, were in the tunnel was very early was right before the season started. And then, you know, for sure there was an uncertainty; which one is the most more promising path? So the decision was taken very early. And yeah, I don’t remember exactly but I think before the first race, around the first race, and from then onwards it has been a big, big push, because it’s basically a new car. But I think with the previous car that we had, we saw that there was some difficulties like other teams are also facing and are struggling with. We didn’t manage to really make big, big progress. So yeah, we believe this is the better direction. It’s not our decision. It’s entirely up to the team, the engineers, mostly aerodynamic department, to lead the way and then for everybody else to have the headache of solving the problems.
LS: Nothing more to add.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Valtteri, we’ve been talking to a couple of drivers about the gap between the front three teams and the midfield this year, and a lot of drivers have been saying that the only person who seems really capable of fighting the top three is you at the moment. How pleased are you with your start to the season? Fred has spoken a few times about you sort of stepping out the shadows at Mercedes and really, I guess seizing the moment and being the team leader at Alfa Romeo. Are you proud of what you’ve done so far this season?
VB: I think it’s been a good, good start to the season, like the qualifying and race performances, you know, I’ve been I’ve been in a happy place, in a way that you know, I can really try and be the best version of myself and drive the way I want to drive. But like I said earlier, the atmosphere in the team is so motivating, like, you know, the people, how much they’re now trying and it’s really inspiring for me as well. And, you know, maybe that pushes you to even more but yeah, it’s been a good start to the season. Obviously, things still are there that need to be better. We are still working on the race starts, which haven’t been great. We’re still working on the high-speed stability with the car, so that’s not the limit for us, there’s more to come, but on a personal level. It’s been good, but always can be better.
DRIVER GROUP 4 – Pierre GASLY (AlphaTauri), Fernando ALONSO (Alpine), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari), Mick SCHUMACHER (Haas), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull)
Q: Pierre, we’ll start with you, please. Now, you wanted your first clean weekend of the year in Spain and you ended up missing out on FP3. How frustrating was that? And how important is it to be a clean weekend here in Monaco?
Pierre GASLY: Yeah, it wasn’t the ideal weekend in Barcelona for the different reasons but you know, it’s part, unfortunately, it’s part of the game, sometimes things don’t always go as planned, especially recently. We seem to struggle to put things together but no, you know, here is a different weekend. Monaco is very unique. Usually we’ve always been very successful with the team here. So yeah, we come with good ambitions, keep our head down and just focusing on ourselves because at the moment we’ve got quite a lot of work to do to catch up in terms of performance and hopefully we can turn things around here in Monaco.
Q: Well, as you say, the team has always gone well here, you’ve gone well here in the past what is possible with this car this weekend, if you get a clean weekend,
PG: Everything is possible in Monaco. We’ve seen in the past, sometimes it doesn’t always matter which car you have, and especially with the conditions we will face this weekend. So at the end of the day, I just think it’s really important to take session after session, feeling comfortable around this this track, playing with the limits, kissing the limits, not too much hopefully, but you know, just trying to put the lap together and especially set ourself up for qualifying afternoon, Saturday afternoon, which will be the most important day of the weekend.
Q: Thank you final one for me. Football, Tuesday night?
PG: Well, he’s the man to ask because he scored… Carlos score two goals so he got the golden boots. I was just there to assist him, to run but he finished the job. I must say it was really cool, especially to play with Fernando, Carlos, Charles was there and just to team up together. It’s usually very different. Usually when we get on track, we are not so friendly with each other. But now we are to play with each other and now especially to do it in such a way, helping the kids, a lot of people I think was a really good way to start our weekend.
Q: Excuse me, Max but should we come on to the Golden Boot, then? How was it?
Carlos SAINZ: MVP… I wish! It was good it was great fun as Pierre said, just to play, all of us together, you know and team up was great experience in minute sixty I was really tired and I was like okay, Pierre, shall we just stop, you know, and save our legs for the weekend? Oh, let’s keep going. We were losing three-one and I say Okay, let’s go and suddenly we switch positions, I started scoring and I started feeling a bit like Real Madrid coming back, you know, like three-two, three-three. Minute eighty, Okay, let’s do the four- three. In the end we ended up playing 90 minutes and the last two days I’ve been walking around like, like a mummy, you know, I couldn’t even walk but I’ve recovered now.
Q: Well, let’s look ahead to the weekend. Great record here. You got your first podium for Ferrari just 12 months ago. What can we expect from you and the team this year?
CS: Oh, hopefully more of the same or even better. And I think as a team we come well prepared or we come high in confidence after some strong showing so now it’s time to put the weekend together. I always go into Monaco very open minded because cars that might not be in the fight normally can get in the fight this weekend and vice versa. Cars that are sometimes in the fight like we’ve seen Merc in the past, you can have a bad weekend in Monaco. So you need to stay calm, stay focused through the weekend and peak when it matters.
Q: Let’s come on to our final footballer. Fernando, how would you rate Carlos’ on his performance on Tuesday?
Fernando ALONSO: I only play on the first half and then I left.
CS: You did well.
FA: So the first half I would rate quite low. The whole thing, we were very, very bad.
CS: I mean, it would have held that Pierre would have scored one of his.
FA: We missed a lot of opportunities. But then on the second half I left and they played much better so maybe it was my fault.
Q: Now Fernando, does this feel like a second consecutive home Grand Prix for you? Because of course you’re now living in Monaco.
FA: Yeah, probably. I mean, I raced here many years: 18 or 19 Monaco Grands Prix so yeah, it feels quite familiar, everything around and this place doesn’t change much from year to year. Every thing is more or less the same so that’s an advantage probably. And yeah, it feels good to be back here and hopefully with this generation of cars we will face different challenges for sure. The cars are heavier, not so performing in the slow speed corners, maybe a little bit lazy in the change of direction. So everything you need in Monaco, they don’t have it so it could be a challenge for everyone.
Q: But it’s the same for everybody so what are we going to expect from Alpine?
FA: I think we are curious to see where we are, to be honest. I don’t think we have a clear answer on that – any team has a clear answer on where we stand at the moment. In a place like this you need to build the confidence, you need to have a car that allows you to push and at the moment I think no one knows, you know, if we have that car, but we have free practice today, we don’t have the day off like we used to have so tomorrow is qualifying and we need to start the weekend on the right foot for sure.
Q: How different does it feel with the change in format? Are you missing the rest day?
FA: I will tell you after the weekend. At the moment it feels more logical, like what we have this year, to have a normal weekend. But it is true that normally, in Monaco, you have that Friday off and you think a little bit of the car and the setup. The track evolves so much with all the categories during Friday and then you come into Saturday, and it’s a new track. So we will miss that challenge as well.
Q: All right, best of luck to you. Thank you, Fernando. Mick, let’s come to you next. Your first Q3 last time out in Spain. Tell us about the progress you’ve made with the car in recent races?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Yeah, I think we chose a different direction compared to the weekends before. I think it felt a lot better, it felt a lot smoother to what I want the car to be like. And I think that definitely showed in the results in Barcelona. I think that still there’s some stuff we can improve and I think that’s always the case but nonetheless, yeah, definitely a better weekend compared to the weekend before.
Q: Now you didn’t get as many laps as you would have hoped at this race last year. Are you coming into this year with a slightly different approach?
MS: I guess I know more what it is all about, you know, building up the weekend, getting to a decent pace, maybe not just before qualifying, but at qualifying, let’s say and then just, you know, again, build up smoothly and then have a good qualifying, I think that’s pretty much what it’s all about? Obviously this racetrack is mainly only qualifying direction, let’s say, and the racing is obviously quite poor here. But yeah, so therefore we were even more focused on qualifying.
Q: Max, thank you for waiting. We’ve seen an incredible comeback by you in recent races. You’ve turned a 46 point deficit into a six point lead in just three races. Do you feel the momentum is with you now?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Not really. Need a bit of luck for that as well and besides that, I think the Grand Prix in Spain was very hectic and we didn’t really have the pace over one lap especially. And in the race, initially, it looked like Charles was actually pulling away from me a little bit before of course, I went off the track and then got in all sorts of trouble in the first 30 laps. But yeah, we just take it, you know, race by race. Monaco in general is a bit tricky to really judge proper performances but again, it’s very important of course to maximise the points.
Q: Now you say you didn’t have the pace over one lap last weekend. What does that mean for you coming into Monaco which is so focused on Saturday?
MV: You need it, you need the one lap performance I think. So far it’s been a bit more tricky for us this year over one lap. I think also, looking at where, for example, Ferrari was strong, it should be good around here, low speed, kerb riding and stuff. But you never know. We just need to focus on ourselves. We need to try and get a good balance and then we’ll see
Q: And Max, it’s kind of the first of two home races for you this year. Just which part of the track do you use most on a daily basis away from the Grand Prix?
MV: Probably the casino area. Depends a bit, the tunnel or the main straight. Depends where I’m going.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Spencer – Motorlat) Question to all of you, bar Pierre. Does Monaco, – no offence, I think you’ve answered my question already – does Monaco still warrant a place on the F1 calendar? And how disappointed or happy would you be not to race here?
MV; Left to right and start with me? Let’s say like this, I think if they would propose the plans nowadays with how the track layout is, probably it would not be on the calendar. But I think because of the historic value to it, and I mean… well, I think the amazing weekends we’ve had, you know, throughout the years, I think it belongs on the calendar. And of course, with the cars we have now, they’re a bit too big, a bit too long, a bit too heavy for the track layout, but it is something special. And I do think yeah, we should continue.
CS: Agree. I think Monaco deserves anyhow to be on the F1 calendar. I think it’s a great place to come to. When you think about Formula 1, a lot of people think about Monaco. So yeah, it would be nice to put an overtaking place, I’m not going to lie. Like this the show could be a bit better on Sunday but even if not, I still think everyone knows a weekend here is about qualifying, around the pitstops. And everyone is already expecting that. So it’s not like we’re missing out in much.
MS: Yeah, I think it definitely deserves to stay on the calendar. It’s a historical event. On the other hand, if we would exchange it for a German Grand Prix, obviously, I think we would take the German Grand Prix; at least, I would. But yeah, I think if you had both that would be great.
FA: The same comments, but I think it has to be in the calendar. And I don’t see any reason why it should not be in the calendar. Because overtaking is difficult, it is difficult, it is difficult also in Singapore. It has been difficult in Barcelona, it has been difficult in Budapest, before DRS, you know, before 2011 or whatever, there were not overtakings in Budapest or in Barcelona or in Monaco, in Singapore, and they were not talks about, you know, removing those races in the calendar. So now there is a lot of talks, you know, with social media, how the world is, you need to talk constantly about things, you know, and random things and this is one thing that doesn’t make sense.
Max in Barcelona you had problems with the DRS, of course, and afterwards, you said it was specific for the wing you were using over there. Are you using the same wing this weekend and do you expect a problem to be solved?
MV: Yeah, normally same wing and I expect it to be solved, I hope. Luckily, of course around here the DRS is not so important. But yeah, I think we understood and hopefully of course, we put the fixes in place.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Fernando, you’ve mentioned you’ve raced at Monaco, 18/19 time something like that. You’ve done a lot else in motorsport race: at the Indy 500 race, and you’ve raced at Le Mans as well. Monaco Q3, when you hook up a pole lap, everyone knows how exciting those qualifying laps are. How does that rank among everything else you’ve done in motorsport?
FA: I feel it’s very special for sure. You need a level of commitment into the corner that is quite unique in the calendar or any other circuits so yeah, the level of risk and reward here is one-off in the year and you really enjoy when you nail everything, but from this 18th time here in Monaco maybe I nail four or five and maybe the ones when I did pole position I didn’t, because you know the car performance is still more important than the driver input here even if it’s a little bit better for the driver input, this place still… the car dominates the performance. So as I said, from all 18 years, the two pole positions that I have here maybe they were not perfect laps, but the car allows me to be one pole.
Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) To all drivers, there are some predictions for rain on Sunday. Are you looking forward to racing here in the rain?
FA: That’s a good question for Saturday night. Depends on your qualified position, we will change our answer, you know, if you’re in a comfortable position and your goal for the weekend is probably done by Saturday qualifying lap, maybe you will hope for a dry race and just consolidate those positions. But if you have a bad qualifying, you will pray for rain on Sunday. So let’s see.
MS: I think the answer Fernando gave is pretty accurate.
CS: I always enjoy rain but it’s true that around Monaco anything can happen with rain. So yeah, depends. Could go really well or really bad, depends on how you feel. But still, even if it rains, I think overtaking would be tricky, just because how wide the cars are. So I don’t think it would add a lot more to the show.
MV: Yeah, I mean, it really depends on your qualifying. I mean, if you have a good qualifying, you just want it to be dry and straight. Straightforward. Boring. But if of course you don’t really have a good qualifying, then… I don’t know: big storm, rain, very slippery out there of course with the tarmac being so new as well. So then of course a lot of things can happen. But of course I mean even with that, right, it can also be bad for you because I mean, when it’s that slippery you can send it up into a wall as well. So it’s just very tricky.
PG: I would not mind it. I think it’s been a while since we had a wet race in Monaco. So based on our performance the last few races I think it will give bring us more opportunities. So let’s see how it goes. Obviously I completely agree with what they say: depends on your qualifying position but to spice things up for Sunday.
(Seitanidis Panagiottis – Car Magazine Greece) Max, you came back from a deficit of 46 points and now you’re leading the championship battle. Regarding your battle Charles, how much does this change the pressure? How much does it change pressure-wise and confidence-wise not only for you but also for him? Because you have experience from last year but for the championship, he doesn’t.
MV: I think it doesn’t really matter where you are in the championship, first or second, it’s more about what you have as a car, right, your package. If your car is good and you know that you can win races in the future then there’s not so much pressure because I think as Formula 1 drivers now, you know, we’ve been in the sport for a while and we know what we can do so at least you know from my experience it doesn’t really make a difference. I just want to have a good car because that gives you the confidence to do well.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Marca) Carlos and Fernando, this is the weekend of the Champions League. Are you confident in the victory of Madrid and do you believe that Real Madrid is a good example about your year in Formula 1, to come back and earn more points in the championship?
CS: You are Barcelona, you made a very bad choice there but… So Real Madrid final, yeah, I think Real has done very well already season. I don’t think Real needs to win because I think as a team, I think they’ve done a great season. But Real normally tends to win the finals because it’s Real and they have a lot of experience, especially these players that they have now, they’ve played a lot of finals together and they know what they need to do to win. But yeah, it’s a great example of how sport works. I think as a team, as a sport, I think Real has proved so many times now that until the end everything is possible and anything can happen. And it is a good example. I don’t need Real Madrid to teach me this. But it’s further proof that anything can happen when there’s 10 minutes left, when there’s 16 races or I don’t know how many there are left.
Q: Tempted to go to Paris on Saturday night.
CS: I was tempted but is the typical thing: you go to Paris, you come back, obviously is not ideal preparation but I still think you can do it but then everyone knows that you’ve been In Paris and if something goes wrong on Sunday, it’s because you went to Paris, you know, so it’s the typical thing that you would never do as a racing driver but I still believe it would be doable.
FA: Yeah, I mean, I wish Madrid the best and it has been an amazing season for them so as a supporter, I enjoy it so much and now the final, I will try to enjoy whatever the result is, you know, when we are proud of them.
Q: Are you tempted to go to Paris?
FA: No. Television, I think normally you watch better, the games.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) Carlos, you’ve been quite open about your struggles being at one with the Ferrari car through the early part of this season. Can you talk a bit about the work you’re doing to get on top of that? Is it more time in the simulator, more time with the engineers, and how much would a big result around Monaco this weekend, the ultimate confidence track be to act as a boost?
CS: We’re starting with the last, I think Monaco is a very special one and you cannot take examples of the last few races to know if you’re going to be quick or not in Monaco. I think Monaco was is a one-off, the car is very different set-up wise and feeling-wise here. So I’m going into a weekend without expectations of it being difficult or great. I always love this track and I’m going to do my best to be as competitive as I’ve been every year here that I come to. On the other hand, yes, simulator but specially time with the engineers, with a calendar that we have nowadays, is difficult, not to keep going back to a simulator and spending hours there is not easy. But yeah, I’m doing the best I can and I’m pretty sure it will come sooner or later. I just need to probably stay patient, realise that there’s years in Formula 1 that some cars are gonna suit you better than others. And probably this year is a tricky year in that regard but I’m gonna stay patient and hope that it comes earlier.
Q: (Aaron – Racing News 365) Max, last weekend you had a great fight, of course, with George Russell. At that moment, you had some struggles with DRS. Do you think that battle shows DRS is properly needed with these cars? Or do you think it should not be there anymore for the sport?
MV: Yeah, well, if it’s not any more than we just driving in a train, so I think I demonstrated that it’s really frustrating. So you need DRS at the moment with the cars. We can follow a little bit easier but once you’re behind, I do think the drag is a little bit less, like you don’t have that slipstream effect, if, like last year, for example. And then yeah, you still need a DRS to be able to have a go into turn one.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Yeah, question to Max. So far this year, Ferrari had the upper hand in qualifying and you guys were better in the race pace. But we all know that in Monaco, it’s mainly about qualifying. So is that a concern in any way? And secondly, do you feel the differences in qualifying so far have been mainly down to different set-ups or just the characteristics of the car?
MV: Well, we all know, of course, in Monaco that’s very important so we have to try and nail the one lap performance. So that’s what we all of course, like everyone else, will go after. But I don’t know if it’s set up or whatever. I mean, if we knew then we would have of course, made it better. Right?