The media assembled to speak to a selection for Formula 1’s finest ahead of the Singapore GP – and there was a shock announcement.
DRIVERS – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Daniel RICCIARDO (Renault), Romain GROSJEAN (Haas), Robert KUBICA (Williams), Lando NORRIS (McLaren)*
Q: Romain, if we could start with you, please. Many congratulations, it’s just been announced that you are staying with the Haas team in 2020. Please can you give us your reaction to this news?
Romain GROSJEAN: Yeah, good evening. It’s great, obviously great news. I will be will be with team for a fifth consecutive season. We’ve built this story since day one and it feels like the story is not yet over, so very, very happy to carry on with the team. Obviously this year has been a challenge but also it’s been a good year in terms of growing up for the team and understanding what went wrong and how can we move on in the future. Looking forward to many more races in, black and gold for now, but under the Haas colours.
Q: You say this year has been a challenge. How confident can you be that 2020 is going to be better?
RG: You never really know but I guess that the team has worked really hard and has made some good understanding this year from the drivers’ feedback and from what we have seen. It’s a bit of a similar situation to 2017 to 2018 where in 2017 the car wasn’t as fast as we wanted and then in 2018 we had a very competitive car. Yeah, I have got confidence that we will bounce back, to which level you never know, but hopefully to a good one where we can fight for some fun races.
Q: Many congratulations Romain. Robert, while we’re on the subject of 2020, is there anything you can tell us about your future?
Robert KUBICA: Yes and not. First of all, we are looking forward to the next year and looking forward to different opportunities but yeah, in order to evaluate our opportunities I have taken the decision that I will not continue more with Williams [after] this year. I will stop at the end of this year with the team. Which is a decision that I took, which opens a bit the opportunities for me for the future in different scenarios and now I will evaluate what is possible.
Q: Do you want to stay in Formula 1 next year?
RK: Well, I always say that I took a lot of energy, a lot of time for me to recover and come back to the sport and since I joined back Formula 1 I would like to stay. I said that this year it would be say a goal to remain in Formula 1. But yeah, of course my answer would be, yes, but not at any cost. And I think I have to first of all do what will bring me back a bit of joy in racing. Of course this season has been very tough from a performance point of view but it has also been very demanding, being back in Formula 1 after a long time is not easy – especially when you are in a difficult situation, as we are. But still nevertheless I have to thank the team for the opportunity and we will see what the future will bring.
Q: Well, thank you and best of luck with that? Lando, it’s been a slightly frustrating period for you since the summer break. How easy has it been to shrug it off, particularly the last-lap retirement at Spa?
Lando NORRIS: It’s not been too bad to be honest. As much as I’ve been annoyed and disappointed… (laughs)… stop it!
Daniel RICCIARDO: I gave him 10 seconds. I knew you’d start laughing within 10 seconds.
LN: I don’t want to! OK, as much as it’s been annoying and disappointing, especially at Spa – last lap and I was on for my best result – and at the moment for us, as a team, we haven’t had the best few weekends in a row, and especially after Monza, Renault caught up quite a bit in the championship, so it’s been tough for me because when you’re on for such a good result – I know it’s fifth and not a win and so on, but for us and for myself it’s still a big achievement – I’m a little bit annoyed. At the end of the day we’ve still been working hard. We’ve shown at points what we can do, we’ve showed it in other areas, but at the end of the day, it happens. It wasn’t in my control. It wasn’t in my engineer’s control. It’s just something that happens in Formula 1, so I just have to move on.
Q: And looking ahead to this weekend, it’s your first experience of the heart and humidity of Singapore and what can we expect from McLaren this weekend?
LN: Personally, I’ve been here, maybe a bit too long, but I’ve been here since last Thursday. Not for any reason in particular apart from getting used to the place. Cycling the track a bit. Getting used to the temperature, the humidity and so on. Everyone says this is the toughest race of the year for the drivers…
DR: You’re sweating already…
LN: I know! Everyone says this is the toughest race for the drivers physically, for the concentration you have to have on the track, and then in combination with the heat and so on, so yeah, I’ve done everything I can training wise, but I’ll find out on Sunday.
Q: The car?
LN: I don’t know. I want to be hopeful and say it’s going to be better than Monza, because Monza I don’t think was the best for us, even though Carlos qualified well, I don’t think it was the easier track compared to some of the others, so I’m hoping that this weekend we can be a bit stronger but at the same time I think we all know it’s going to be quite a difficult one.
Q: OK, well good luck with it. Thank you Lando. Daniel, you scored your best result for Renault at Monza. Was that result the shot in the arm you needed?
DR: I don’t like needles, so normally I don’t like a shot in the arm. It was definitely good for us. I think it had been a while since we had a big result like that – obviously Canada was the standout in the first half of the year. I think Spa was a pretty positive weekend for us up until the start of the race. I think we were on for a decent result there, but then to back it up in Monza, and both cars to do it, was really good; definitely strong from the start of the weekend. Obviously it’s nice as a driver to get the result, but definitely for the team to get that, I think they had been craving a strong result, from both cars as well, and to get us back in the points, or in that points battle we’re in. Obviously McLaren were running away with it but we made some good ground. So yeah, that was good. I think I made an emphasis afterwards to kind of tip my hat to the engine guys, especially the guys working at Renault in Viry. To get a big result like that on power circuit, not many would have predicted that, especially in the last few years, so to come out there and do it in Monza I think was a big pat on the back for them.
Q: And looking at this weekend: you’ve had good results in Singapore, with four podiums, so what about the car? What can expect from you here?
DR: I don’t know. The last few races we seem to perform better on lower downforce circuits, but going back to Monaco that’s the most similar circuit to probably here and we qualified quite well there so. I think we do have the potential to be good on this circuit as well. I don’t think it comes as natural for us or our car at the moment. But I definitely think we can put it together, so we might have to work a little bit harder for it but I think the pace is ultimately there in the car, we just have to find it. But it’s a fun one. As all the boys really said, it’s physical, it’s hot, bumpy but street circuits, they’re a good time.
Q: Thanks. Lewis, you’re gunning for your fifth win here in Singapore and after the battles with Ferrari at Spa and Monza and Red Bull prior to the summer break, how tough are you expecting this race to be?
Lewis HAMILTON: Well, this is one of the toughest races of the year, if not the toughest, physically and mentally and then we come here each year, it shifts between the Ferraris, the Red Bulls and us. Last year the Red Bulls… they’ve particularly been quick over the years and we anticipate that they they’re going to be strong this weekend. And again, I have no idea whether Ferrari will be quick, as they have been in the last races, or not. We’ll just focus on ourselves and try to make sure we extract the most we can. We’ve not really performed that well over the last couple of years but we’ve come out with not such bad results due to other circumstances so I hope that we fare well.
Q: Any concerns about the performance of your car in the heat following the cooling issues you had in Austria earlier in the year?
LH: I’m sure that’s definitely on the radar. It’s not really the hottest that we’ve seen so far, so fingers crossed it stays something similar to this but of course if the rain comes or whatever, if it gets hotter through the weekend it could change.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to all of the drivers. What are your thoughts on the new ways you are dealing with hard racing? Second question, is the haze in Singapore a concern for you as drivers?
LN: I think they’ve dealt with it fine. To be honest, I haven’t seen everything what happened between Lewis and Charles in Monza but I think it’s fine. Compared to some other categories, you get a lot more racing than we have had in Formula 1. Or, let’s say, in the past few years. This year’s maybe a little bit better. But when we get a chance to race, I think it’s better – everyone says it – just let us race. We can have some battles and, if a bit of contact comes every now and then, I don’t think it’s the end of the world. I think that, sometimes, part of it… obviously you do have to look into it and if it’s anyone’s blatant fault or anything’s done intentionally, then that is unfair. I think the chances of us just racing, having fun, I think that’s part of Formula 1, so from my side, that’s fine. The haze… I don’t know. I think it’s fine…
DR: You look a bit funny…
LN: I’ve been here the longest out of anyone, I think, so if anyone was starting to be ill, or not feeling good… I think I’ll let everyone know.
DR: On the racing stuff, actually I think Lando covered it very well. There’s a little bit of touching, and there’s pure dirty driving, or dirty racing – but I think a little bit of… I mean I obviously saw the replays of Monza. It was certainly tight and, yeah, a bit on the edge with giving room…
Q: Are you referring to Lewis and Charles?
DR: I think so! I think that’s where the question came from right? You were looking at Lewis the whole time so I figured it was about that! Yeah, it’s a tough one – but look, I think Lando covered it well. If we remain with a certain level of respect, it’s fine. But if you’re repeating a little bit of dirt too often, either you get payback from the driver or, I guess the stewards should intervene. For now, I think we’re doing OK with controlling it. Obviously at times as well in the car, in the race, your temper and emotions can take over, so maybe your initial feeling is harsher than maybe what you think afterwards once you’ve reflected but generally I think that they’re doing OK. It’s hard. Unless you’re in the car, unless you’re in our position, with our point of view, it’s really hard to get it perfect every time so we have to sympathise with them a little bit. It’s not as easy from the outside.
Q: Haze and pollution?
DR: It’s been OK for now. No further comments.
Q: Lewis, hard racing?
LH: I think they both answered it pretty well, so I don’t really have much more to add to it, to be honest. The haze should be fine. Maybe we’ll see more of it on Sunday. If you ask everyone, we’re going to be here for ever if we all answer it.
Q: But you have no further comment with what happened at Monza with Charles?
LH: No. Moving forwards. Nothing we can do about the past. I’m down for hard racing. We’re good.
RG: No comment! Just the same thing.
RK: Exactly the same. I think what is the most important is consistency – and that’s it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / racefans.net) Robert, you say you took the decision to pursue other career opportunities outside of Williams. Was Orlen involved in this decision? And also, are you looking at simulator positions next year with Formula 1 teams?
RK: Yeah, so first one, it was my decision, so of course I know there are some consequences which then Orlen follows my decision but this is a completely different topic. It has been only, purely, my decision. Regarding simulator, I don’t want to go too much into the details but, as I said, I will evaluate different opportunities. I will be very surprised if I was doing only simulator. I will be very surprised if I will not be racing next year.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Robert, how proud are you of the job that you did to get back into Formula 1? Does that outweigh how this year has gone. And, to the other four, you know how hard it is to be an F1 driver, to be at this level. How impressed are you that Robert got back to here – and what do you think F1 loses by him not being on the grid next season?
RK: I forgot the first bit! How proud? I’m not really the kind of guy that is proud but for sure it has been a long journey. I have repeated this for the last two years. It is always the same story, nothing changes. It has been extremely hard for me but nevertheless I still think I make the right decision. Of course, everybody from Williams, myself, we are on the same boat and we would appreciate better performance and better results this year and an easier life. In the end it is a very difficult and very tough season for everyone from Williams. But I just have to move forward and that’s how it is, and this is the outcome, the reason I took the decision. Yeah, regarding the others, y’know, you make the question to them but I think we can skip it. It will take a long time anyway.
Q: Well, let’s ask Lewis – you’ve raced Robert the longest out of anyone here. The impact he’s made since he’s been back in F1. If he doesn’t find another seat next year, how much will Formula 1 miss him?
LH: That’s definitely put me on the spot. I’ve known Robert probably the longest; we started racing together in go-karts, like 1997? 1998. For me, Robert’s one of the most talented drivers I’ve competed against. As I say, from that beginning I already saw the talent that he had, and when he got to Formula One…
RK: It’s been a long time!
LH: It’s been a long time. What’s remarkable is the strength and determination he’s shown. Particularly through the incident he had. Not a lot of people can come through those circumstances and come back, make it back into the sport and deliver against others who don’t have the same situation that he’s been in. I think it’s been great to have him back. It’s definitely not the same scenario as when he was obviously in a more competitive team back in the day – but I think he’s done great this year. We need the best talent in the sport and we obviously need them to be as high up as possible creating a part of the show. So I hope he stays. I understand his position and I don’t know what’s given him the reason to make the decision but I hope there’s a position for him next year.
Q: Would anyone else like to say anything?
RG: He’s an inspiration for anyone that had a bad experience. First time I spoke to Robert was 2009 in Abu Dhabi, I think. We were supposed to be team-mates in 2010. I was very, very much looking forward to it. It didn’t happen. Then obviously I followed Robert as the third, or reserve driver at Lotus when he had his accident and then the way he came back. In motorsport he is an example, but also in life generally, to come back to the highest level and, as you say, fight the way he fought back is very impressive.
Q: (David Coath – Motorlat.com) Lewis, your pole position lap last year is still being talked about today. What does it take to get into a zone like that on a street circuit of all places?
LH: To be honest, it’s a bit of a blur, the whole lap. I don’t know who was driving… It was obviously a special lap from our side. I’ve been to this track since 2008, obviously, tyre temperatures are a huge issue. You get to the last sector and the tyres are dropping off, it gets a little bit trickier, it’s obviously such a long lap. I think it was just a combination of everything. The previous sessions had been up and down, probably hadn’t put a good lap together all weekend and it just happened to be right lap at the right moment. The chances of that happening are quite slim but it just happened at the right time where the stars were aligned, I guess. But more so the temperatures and just the flow ended up right but the focus that you need here, as all these drivers will know, is just very intense, positioning is everything and timing, really getting yourself into a rhythm is really key here to maximising the width of the circuit and the potential that’s in your car.
Q: (Wojciech Paprota – SwiatWscigow.pl) Lewis, some days ago you unfollowed everyone on your Instagram and now you basically don’t follow anybody including myself, unfortunately. Does it mean that social media has been some sort of a distraction for you?
LH: I don’t think I was following you before, anyway, so it shouldn’t really affect you. No, I think I just wanted kind of a fresh slate. I feel like social media is such an incredible platform naturally. I just noticed that for me – I don’t know how it is for you guys – but you wake up and the first thing you do is turn on your Instagram and check what’s happening. You’re always catching up and I just decided to change… I wake up now and I have a bit of a read, I start my day differently and I’m hardly ever on it and this has made a big difference to my life, personally. I do sometimes miss not being able to see what my friends are doing, particularly. And then sometimes obviously people come up and say ‘hey, you’re not following me but you follow that person’ so now I don’t follow anybody and no one can complain. But if I want to see what my friends are up to I have to go and type their name in now and it’s not so easy to go back to follow everyone because I was following like six hundred people or something before so…
DR: He wasn’t one of them!
LH: No. But I still follow everyone closely, like I look at everyone’s Instagram particularly within my sport just to see what they’re up to and I still support people. I just don’t feel like you should be forced to have to follow people to show that you support them.
Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przeglad Sportowy) Robert, you’ve been here for a while so I would like to ask you what was maybe your biggest challenge in motor sport, the thing that you are most proud of, that you’ve done so far?
RK: I think honestly, if you take out the results which for sure in motor sport, they have a big influence, probably it is the last seven, eight years, put it together. Not one single moment but it has definitely been the biggest achievement of my life, probably, to come back to achieve what I have managed to go through, what happened and still managed to race. Being back on an F1 grid was definitely the best end of period, the best final which I could deserve and which I could imagine.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, can we talk about the haze? I know that everyone has brushed it under the carpet a little bit but what sort of measures are in place for feedback to you, just how important that air quality is? When you’ve got locals saying it’s approaching dangerous levels and it’s quite significant for them, as athletes, I just wondered how you safeguard yourself? Do you have special filters on your masks or is there anything you can do or do you just put your faith in the FIA and just assume that everything’s going to be OK?
LH: Honestly, I’ve not… we all have doctors on hand. It’s not been brought up as an issue for us but I am conscious of it. Naturally, I don’t know how it is for the drivers but you blow your nose after a race, dirt, soot comes out of your nose. You’ve got the carbon that you’re breathing in. Clean air is naturally an important part. I’ve been told not to go for a run outside, for example, because it won’t be great for me but I don’t know how it’s going to impact us in the race but I think tonight and tomorrow I will be speaking to my team. There’s not really a lot we can do, we can’t have anything else in our helmets so it is what it is, I guess.
Q: (Michael Butterworth – Xinhuan News Agency) To Romain, in particular, next year Formula One goes to Vietnam which is not a country with a long history or tradition of motor sport. Do you feel that Formula One should continue to go and expand in new destinations like this, where they perhaps don’t have a history of motor sport or should the sport continue to focus on the traditional heartland in places like western Europe, for example?
RG: It’s a good question and I don’t have the answer. There are definitely tracks which you want to keep racing on, that have a lot of history, but also some tracks now that have history, didn’t have any ten years ago like Singapore. Now everyone thinks that Singapore is a normal race but it only started in 2008. I don’t know. Obviously the number of races is limited by the human factor: should we do one year more in Europe, one year more outside Europe and mix. Obviously there are tracks where you want to race and there are other tracks where you want to race also. I don’t know the answer.
LH: It doesn’t really matter what I think. I think it’s been great to have new circuits. I think keeping the historic ones, where we had the biggest following because those are the people who really… that crowd that really makes the atmosphere, if you go to the UK for example. We’ve got to keep those. Losing Germany I think is a bit of a painful one for example. But I think adding new circuits… I think it’s good to go to new territories for sure, to expand our reach as a sport. I prefer that they do a street circuit that can maybe be taken down, it’s only temporary rather than, for example, India where they built that beautiful circuit and we don’t get to race there any more.
DR: Selfishly, it’s nice to go to new destinations, it’s a chance to… I think we’re quite privileged to have this job and to be able to see new parts of the world. It’s sometimes an excuse to go and check out another place so from that point of view it’s actually always exciting for me because I know that I probably wouldn’t have travelled to all these places as a holiday destination if F1 didn’t take me there. I’ve discovered some pretty awesome places around the world through the calendar. I’ve never been to Vietnam so yeah, I’m excited to go there. And yeah, it’s a chance to open new fans up to the sport and I guess give a new crowd an opportunity to see what it’s like. Right now, I don’t see the downside of it, not at all.
LR: I think that covers it all.
RK: Yeah, I think everything has been said.
Q: (Joost Nederpelt – NU.NL) Sebastian Vettel is under a bit of pressure right now at Ferrari with a strong teammate. Do you think he can bounce back and should we not write him off too soon?
DR: I’m probably a decent one to answer for it because in times he’s maybe in a similar position to where he was in 2014 and he bounced back, I think, second race in 2015, I think he won in Malaysia from memory. He definitely has the ability to bounce back. All that’s going to take is one race. I think it’s just been a bit of an effect as well. Obviously it probably started – trying not to speak for him but at least from the outside – it probably started in Canada, obviously, the controversy there. It could have been his first win of the year and if that got done differently that might have changed the whole outcome of these next few races. You never know. In the past, he’s always been strong here in Singapore, so this could be the weekend for him, where he does turn it around but yeah, I think it’s just one… he’s one race away from turning it around. Obviously there’s a lot of things to deal with in this sport, especially when you’re at the top, it’s not just talent any more, it’s pressure, it’s head space, it’s where you’re at in your personal life and all this but you don’t lose your talent so can he still drive very fast? Absolutely. I think he’s just waiting for that weekend to put it all together and get himself back. It could very well happen this weekend.
LH: I think Daniel answered it really well to be honest.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Lewis, Daniel spoke about the importance of headspace and off track pursuits. You obviously have a very active off track life. How important are things such as your fashion line and things like that to energizing you on track as well and contributing to your performances?
LH: If I didn’t have those I would still be driving the way I do. I think they are just other outlets that for me personally work well for me and ones that I enjoy and give me energy, I guess, to continue on doing the other things that I love such as this job, which is not really a job, it’s a hobby really. But to each their own, we all do it differently, we all prepare in a different way, but it’s only been a positive for me.