Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon relived events from Brazil. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen laughed throughout.
Q: Esteban and Max, it’s been two weeks since you guys were involved in a collision at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Max, let’s start with you: is that now water under the bridge?
Max VERSTAPPEN: You guys like the drama, don’t you? Like two weeks after. Yeah, no, all good, in the sense that you can’t change the result. It’s of course unfortunate. It’s always a bit weird to crash with a backmarker but that’s how it goes.
Q: Would you do anything differently if the same situation arose?
MV: No, I wouldn’t, because from my point of view, how I look back on it is that I just passed Lewis for the lead and this season, it has been a lot about tyre management so as soon as I got into the lead, I was basically just cruising to save the tyres and somebody comes out of the pits and has fresh supersoft tyres, I think it was at the time… In general, I think this season Force India has been at least a second to a second and a half behind us. For two laps, maybe, you feel like you have decent pace but the guys in the lead are most of the time not pushing flat out to get somewhere, because once you in the lead, what do you want to do? So maybe you want to try and get past and then try and pull away but within two laps your tyres are gone, or at least, the peak has gone and you end up letting us by again so at the end of that whole process, to try and get by you’re anyway also destroying your tyres in a way so I think it’s always better to just stay behind and follow. Clearly that was not the case.
Q: Thank you Max, and Esteban, how do you reflect on it?
Esteban OCON: Yeah, it’s not a great thing, you know, to be involved with a crash with the leader, of course. It’s not a thing you want to see and I’m sorry for Max. It was his race to win, he did a fantastic job during the whole race but yeah, on the other side, I had a slow pit stop so I came out in between Lewis and Max. got the blue flag after a couple of corners. I got away from the blue flag and I was quite fast and behind Max so I was stuck and then the team came onto the radio saying ‘you can unlap yourself if you want and if you are faster’ and as Max said, he was managing the tyres so yeah, I just went for it. It was important for us to get close to the top ten pack. If something happens, you know, a penalty or anything, I could have got in the points. Things that happen, you can’t come back from what has happened but yeah, that’s how it is, we have to move forward.
Q: Max, coming back to you, this is the team’s final race with Renault engines. Just how excited are you about the future with Honda?
MV: I’m very excited but the whole team is. You can really feel it. I think it’s good that the whole team is super-motivated for next year. We know that we can build a great car. Of course we are just waiting to have the whole package together but I definitely feel a difference compared to the last years where… the motivation was there, everybody was always trying to do their best but now they’re just so looking forward to next year that I think next year, to have that extra motivation will definitely help us to be more successful next year.
Q: Esteban, coming back to you; we now know for certain that you won’t be racing in Formula One next season. What does 2019 hold for you?
EO: Yeah, we’ll see what it holds for me. Definitely I will be around in the F1 paddock and trying to get as much mileage as possible in a Formula One car next year. Me and Mercedes, we see great opportunities for me to come back in 2020 so hopefully that will be the case and hopefully I will be back even stronger than I am now.
Q: Have you had any assurances from Mercedes about 2020?
EO: No, assurances, no. You never have but as I said, we seen great opportunities so hopefully there will be.
Q: Coming to the Ferrari drivers now, you both have good memories of racing here in Yas Marina. Sebastian, if we could start with you, how important is it for you and the team to end 2018 on a high?
Sebastian VETTEL: I think it’s what everybody tries to do but certainly after a season with highs but also with lows I think it would great to finish on a high.
Q: And then looking further ahead, what has Ferrari go to do to present a consistent title challenge in 2019?
SV: I think we need a stronger package. We certainly have had our moments this year when we had strong races but we also had races which weren’t very strong, we weren’t quick enough, so I think overall it’s the speed that decides and I think more often than not I think we’re lacking a little bit of speed. I think we’re working very hard and I think the motivation is there to do that final step that is still outstanding.
Q: Kimi, after eight seasons, this is your final race with Ferrari. What does this team mean to you and what will you miss most about it?
Kimi RAIKKONEN: I don’t know. Obviously I had this leaving them once already so it’s not a new thing. I’m not sad because I don’t see why we need to be sad. We will stay as friends. We’re going to see a lot of us anyhow in the paddock so not an awful lot changes. We’ll both go for new things and I think it’s exciting but we’ve had good times with the team, great people. We’ve had some difficult times, but that’s part of business and I think that’s how it should go: sometimes it needs to be a bit hard. No, obviously I won the championship with them, as a driver. We twice won the team (championship) so I’m very happy to be part of it because there’s not many people who have done it. We will happily go different ways. We’re not that far away from each other and we will keep doing what we do.
Q: And just looking at this weekend, you’re in a tight battle with Bottas, just 14 points separating you in the championship. How important is that third place for you?
KR: I don’t think it’s changing my world any way. If I end up third, I think we need to go wherever the prize giving is so it’s a negative thing in the end, you know, more travelling but we’ll see.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Esteban and Max, we all know there’s a bit of history between you two. How do you feel about each other as drivers and as men, and about the prospect of racing together potentially for a long time in Formula One?
MV: OK, with all the other young drivers? Oh. We’ve done that in go-karting so that’s life.
EO: Formula Three.
MV: Formula Three.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) All I’m asking is how do you feel about each other as drivers and as men?
MV: Yeah! Well, I don’t know. It’s like a neutral feeling.
EO: I will respond, if he cannot, I do. We’ve been racing since a long time and it’s been close racing on track. Sometimes there were touches but you know if you’re fighting for championships or stuff it’s always the case. Anyway, it gets close at some points but the important thing is that it stays good racing and good fun for the fans but doesn’t go over it and that’s the important thing, yeah, but it’s been a long time that we know each other and it’s been good so I don’t see why it could change.
MV: I have the same feeling racing Esteban or Seb or Kimi. It’s not because he’s a lot younger than them that changes my feeling or anything.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.Net) Max, Will Buxton, the F1 TV reporter has just tweeted: ‘tell you what, Max ain’t over it. Not one bit. Doubled down on it being intentional on Ocon’s part. Blimey.’ Did you do a TV interview with him where you possibly suggested that Esteban did it intentionally?
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Racefans.Net) This was tweeted in the last ten, fifteen min…
MV: I don’t care about what’s written on twitter so… no.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Max, at the start, you said you guys like the drama but obviously the drama is heightened by what happened after the race where you pushed Esteban three times. If you could go back again, would you have the same response? Do you regret your response?
MV: No, not really because I was after an apology and I got a bit of a different response. We are all emotional, just at the time that I had lost a victory, so I think from my side I was really calm. It could have been much worse. I think pushing, in any sport, it happens. I actually saw it a few days ago in football again. So from my side, I thought it was quite a calm response. What do you expect me to do, like shake his hand, like thank you very much for being second instead of first? I think it’s quite a normal response. OK, I got my two days with the FIA which we will find out what we’re going to do but no, from my side… You guys don’t really hear what’s actually being said at the scales. You just see me pushing. But if you understand the whole conversation, I think it’s a bit different.
Q: Can I just throw this to the Ferrari drivers? Sebastian and Kimi, what are your thoughts on what happened between these two drivers in Brazil?
SV: We can go? Now? I don’t know. I have an opinion. I’m not sure I should say what I think.
KR: Not really. I saw it afterwards. Boys and boys and that’s how it goes. I don’t think anything bad happened in the end it’s probably in many eyes, if you take the whole picture, maybe it’s not the greatest thing in many aspects but it’s not the end of the world. That’s how it goes.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-Magazin.com) Two questions, first to Max: you said you would do the same again, you’ve done nothing wrong. I think most of us agree but if you would be in that championship battle, would you do something differently, even if it wasn’t wrong, but drive a bit more safely in this situation? And Seb, just to follow up on what you said: can you give us your opinion?
MV: I don’t think it really changes if you’re fighting for a championship. It’s easy to say, from other people, yeah, you should have done something differently but I don’t expect to crash with a backmarker. Like I said, if you’re fighting for first or second and you crash like that it’s a different story but if you get hit like that… I honestly don’t understand what I should do differently so, no. For most of the people, also with the emotional side of it, you have not been a racing driver or you have not been in this position where there’s a lot to play for and we are all here to win and then you are in that position and it gets taken from you. It’s not nice and I think emotions can then take over and I think it’s really normal. Like I said, it’s just a normal thing.
SV: I think in the end, it’s very simple. I think we have emotions, we are human beings and emotions go both ways. They go full of joy when something great happens and you’re happy and they probably swing the other way if you’re not happy or upset. I think it’s clear that we’re here to fight something that means the world to us – I don’t know how much it means to you because for you, most of you… you know, for people watching it’s a show they’re watching. For people reporting about the show it’s a job. For us it’s a job but it’s our lives. I think we all started racing when we were small kids in go-karts and to be in a Formula One car is the dream that we all had, to race a Formula One car and then to fight for a win, so there’s something big at stake. It’s not like… you know, you get a piece of cake when you’ve done well and you don’t when you didn’t. So there’s a lot at stake and I think that explains the emotions and as I said, I think emotions are part of sport. I think they always will be. Obviously you have certain situations that give you the opportunity to talk about it a lot afterwards. I’ve been in that situation as well but I think for us it’s very clear that the pendulum swings both ways.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Max and Esteban, I think all of us here would like to report the facts so Max, help us out here: what was said on the weighing scales after the race in Brazil?
MV: Something I didn’t expect to hear. No, it doesn’t matter what it was at the end of the day, because it clearly pissed me off instead of let’s say, straightway an apology but maybe after the race, you’re still with the adrenaline kicki… it’s still in your body, you maybe don’t get the right answer but like I said, we’re not robots. We have emotions. And like Seb said as well, we will always be, unless you puts robots in the car but I don’t think we want that.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) No, none of us want that. Esteban do you feel like you played your part in what happened as well, then?
EO: Yeah, I think we have to move forwards in what happened. We can’t change the past. I’m sure, even if Max said the opposite, he would like to come back on what he did after the race. Yeah, I think it’s done, we can’t change it and now we have to move forward.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Max, over the last four races, in terms of points, you’ve been neck-and-neck with Lewis Hamilton. There’s one point in it and obviously if the race had gone differently in Brazil you would be ahead by a few points. Does that make you confident that next year you could challenge, we could see a three driver or perhaps more, competition for the title?
MV: Well, I think I had that last year as well. I don’t think it really matters a lot, we just need to make sure that from the start, from next year, that we are a little bit closer so we can actually start fighting with them a bit sooner, because it seems like that throughout the season our car just keeps progressing in a good way. That definitely helped us out at the end of the season again this year and also last year. We just need to be a little bit sooner than at the end of the season.
Q: (Marco Privitera – LiveGP.it) Kimi, after your long experience with Ferrari, what will be the next target for next year and the rest of your career?
KR: I haven’t really thought (about it). We’ll see once we start driving the new cars next year where we are roughly, purely by feeling and then we go from there. Obviously it’s a different challenge but I enjoy also, that’s why I (inaudible). We’ll see. If you ask many people there are lots of different opinions how it’s going to go but we’ll find out next year and we’ll do our best. I think we have a good change to do some great things. Where that’s going to take us, who knows? We’ll find out but we’ll see what happens once we start next year and then after that, I haven’t even thought about it.
Q: (Alexsandar Tobakowski – Derbi.mk) Sebastian, we tend to believe that you have a very friendly relationship with Kimi during these years at Ferrari, so do you expect to have some more pressure from Charles during next season? If yes, the same level of pressure if it was Max joining Ferrari?
SV: I think they’re two different things. I think I tried to beat Kimi. Kimi tried to beat me. I think it doesn’t matter who you are racing in the team, you always try to win and that means you also beat whoever is driving with you in the same team, so I don’t think that changes. Obviously Charles is different to Kimi so we will see how it goes but I think he’s a good kid. One thing for sure that I enjoyed a lot in the last years is the mutual respect that we have to each other. I think we never had to deal with any bullshit between ourselves so that made it easier for me, easier for him I guess and easier for the team. But I’m not expecting anything in that direction from Charles. I think he’s a good kid. Obviously the team knows him very well for a while now, since he’s grown in the Ferrari Drivers Academy and yeah, happy for him and then we’ll see how it works out.
Q: Sebastian, can you name something that you will miss about Kimi next year?
KR: Short meetings from my side.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Mid-Day) Kimi, just to follow up from what you said earlier: like you said, it will be a new challenge next year at Sauber. What do you think you will enjoy most about driving for Sauber next year?
KR: Obviously I don’t know yet because… I’m pretty sure it’s a much smaller team than where I’ve been now, at Ferrari, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be different in many ways but the aim is still the same, do well in the races. I think it’s more pure racing and less the other stuff in there. Hopefully it will turn out to be good for both of us and that’s our aim. I think it’s what we can do, but obviously I might be completely wrong but we’ll find out. I have a good feeling about it and I’m excited to go there. But it’s close to my home which is obviously a bonus.
SV: Didn’t you tell me that you’re really looking forward to the simulator.
KR: Yeah, but I have it at home. I told them don’t spend the money on it because I have on at home.
MV: So you will do the set-up work for them for the Friday, for the first practice?
KR: Yeah. That’s easy. No worries. Do it once well and it should be fine.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – AD Sportwereld) Max, you said nothing is clear yet about your public service punishment. What do you expect for punishment? Do you agree with it and do you see it as a real penalty or more something of a warning not to do it again?
MV: I honestly really don’t know. We’ll discuss, between the team and the FIA, what we’re going to do. If I agree with it, it doesn’t really matter, does it? What can you do about it? I find it a bit harsh but yeah… We’ll find a solution.