Kimi Raikkonen headlined part 1 of Thursday’s Azerbaijan press conference, joined by Stoffel Vandoorne and Daniil Kvyat.
Q: Kimi, if we can start with you. We’re back at a street track this weekend. You took pole position in Monaco a couple of races ago — how confident are you of a repeat here?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Unfortunately it doesn’t give you any guarantees. It’s in the past, and a completely different circuit. Not really any similarities than Monaco, but nevertheless I think we have a good car everywhere. We’ll see how it goes, we can only give our best. Hopefully we’ll be at the front again; we’ll see what happens.
Q: Pirelli are turning up this weekend with slightly harder tyre compounds than in Monaco. How do you think that’s going to affect the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes?
KR: I don’t know. It’s been close, more or less every race this year. Obviously, like I said, the circuits are so much different and it’s not a big surprise that the tyres are slightly different here. I don’t know. I’m not really interested in guessing what will happen, but I guess it’s going to be close like it’s been at other races; I’m surprised if it’s only one team is way ahead of another.
Q: You don’t want to guess what’s going to happen this weekend, but after the technical problems you had in Canada last time out, do you feel you’re due a lucky break here?
KR: No, not really! It’s not something you can count on it. I’ve had some not so good luck for quite a few times, but it’s an unfortunate thing to happen, something completely new that we never found out and it’s fixed now. Things usually go wrong when it’s the worst time it could happen, but at least we managed to finish the race and at least score some points. Obviously it was far from ideal, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Q: Thank you Kimi, good luck this weekend. Stoffel, if we could come on to you now. This is your first time in Baku. Can you give us some insight into how you prepare for a track you’ve never races at? Is it more time on the simulator? Has Fernando given you any tips?
Stoffel VANDOORNE: Definitely spend some time in the simulator, like I do before every grand prix. A lot of laps in there. At least our simulator is reliable, so I managed to do a fair amount of laps there! And then also last year; I watched a lot of the races that happened here, GP2, Formula One as well. Some stuff on onboard videos. That’s about everything I did.
Q: Is Fernando generous with his advice?
SV: So far I’ve not had a chance to chat to him, but I’m sure I will do over the weekend.
Q: You were quiet outspoken about the car’s performance in Canada — fuel saving, you referred to being ‘a sitting duck’ on the straights. Given the nature of this track layout, what are your expectations coming into this weekend?
SV: It is a street circuit as well, but like Kimi said it’s very different to a circuit like Monaco — here we reach very very high top speeds, I think similar to Canada. I don’t think we have high hopes, but we’ll try our best from our side. We have some penalties already to start the weekend, which isn’t ideal, but it’s the situation we’re in, so we’ll try our best, focus maybe a bit more on race runs, and hopefully we can play a bit during the race.
Q: Just to be clear on that, we knew about Fernando’s penalty coming into this weekend. Have you had penalties as well?
SV: Yeah, I will have a penalty as well. We’re probably competing to start at the back of the grid.
Q: Good luck this weekend. Daniil, thank you for waiting. Coming on to you, you had a very frustrating race in Canada. Having had time to reflect on what happened, what’s your version of events?
Daniil KVYAT: It was a frustrating race; it brought us zero points. It all started on the formation lap when we couldn’t get away, so we lost a lot of time. Then, trying to recover positions I was already side by side with the cars I had to overtake … had to take the start from the grid, and we got a penalty for that — two, actually — and then, of course we couldn’t with the pit stop, yeah… It was all a bit of a spiral: when it starts to go bad, it goes bad. We did 55 laps on one set and we were on course for a point, but still???
Q: Let’s hope you have better luck this weekend. Talking specifically about Baku, you qualified sixth here last year. Are you confident of being a Q3 contender again in 2017?
DK: I think, once again, last year there are two different stories. Of course we had a good qualy last year, but quite different, you know, circumstances, cars, even though conditions will be similar. Car has been similarly competitive between most of the tracks, so hopefully we’ll be in a similar place to usual. Also here, this is one of the longest straights of the championship; it’s still not our favourite part of the track, but we’ll try to minimise the laptime loss through there and try to be competitive in the other parts of the track and try to really be strong.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Simon Lazenby (Sky Sports) Question to Stoffel. Stoffel, we’ve heard your management, senior management, teammate be very outspoken about the relationship with Honda just now. Perhaps it was the first time in Canada we heard you reiterating the woes. It’s obviously making your first full season in the sport very difficult. Which direction would you like to see McLaren take with any future engine partner?
SV: To be honest, it’s not up to me to take such a decision. Yes, it’s been a difficult start to the season; it’s definitely not an ideal situation for everyone. We’d like to be fighting much higher up the grid, but as McLaren we’re trying to put McLaren’s interest at the top, and that’s what’s the most important for us now. We need to fight back, and I’m pretty sure the team is moving in the right direction. Hopefully at some point we will be competitive again, and hopefully that is sooner rather than later.
Q: (Ben Edwards – Channel 4) Question for Kimi, the situation in the championship between Mercedes and Ferrari is obviously pretty tough; it’s very tight at the moment. Are you in a position where you have to play a support role to Sebastian now in the way that in the past things have happened when you’ve been at Ferrari? Obviously Felipe helped you a bit in 2007, you returned the favour in 2008. Are you in that position now of having to help Sebastian?
KR: I think we have very clear roles in the team — what we’re allowed, what we’re not allowed, and what the team wants us to do. You know, it goes by those rules and, I don’t know. I don’t know if I have any interest of, to do, to tell what we talk inside the team in here. I think Maurizio has said something and nothing has changed and we know exactly when things will go either way. That’s fine, that’s how it’s always been, at least in the teams where I’ve been. When I don’t have a chance mathematically anymore to fight for the championship, for sure I will help him. I have no issues with that, I never had in the past. I think it’s just a very easy decision for all of us, at least in our team, and obviously the first thing is to try to make sure that we can be on the top with Ferrari. That’s the most important thing. And then obviously if Seb can win, then fine. If I don’t have any chance then that’s how it goes. The first thing is to work for Ferrari, to put them in the best possible position.`
Q: (Livio Orrichio – GloboSport.com) Kimi, using the same subject. In your view, what is the reason for the difference in points? You have some difficulty with this car? You were unlucky in some races? Because it’s big difference.
KR: It’s a big difference. When you have bad races, you adapt, and obviously Seb has done very good races so far and has been strong everywhere. I was not starting very well the first races — I was not too bad, but I was not where I want to be. Here and there little problems, we have one DNF, the last race was not ideal. That’s how it goes, unfortunately. When your teammate is on the podium more or less every time, a lot of points quickly. That’s racing.
Q: (Alex Popov – Match TV) For Daniil. You just posted a very special video of your training – close combat training – on social media. It’s a message to somebody, or it’s just a coincidence?
DK: No, it’s not a message! Training for sure, I do it in Monaco, it’s my hobby and I have a very good trainer there for that sport and really interests me a lot and very enjoyable. It’s not easy to find time with the Formula One calendar for some other specific training. Usually it’s either running or cycling and everything else gets quite boring – so tried something else for once and really liked it, so like to do it, so simple as that.
Q: Daniil, for people who haven’t seen the video can you just elaborate what it is you’re doing?
DK: Come to see my video! No, I just like to train, I got to know a very good boxing trainer in Monaco and because in my gym there is a ring, they can put you in to train. I just ask him to help me a bit to learn it. Very interesting. Very interesting sport, very exhausting for 12 rounds to be there. Very interesting.
Q: (Simon Lazenby – Sky Sports) Question to Dany – I suppose that could come in very handy if you have any more disagreements with Carlos? Speaking of which, what happened in Canada with a couple of penalties, the retirement for you and then the disagreement over the towing issue in qualifying. Have you got to the bottom of that? How have you resolved it?
DK: Starting with that double penalty, I think we spoke behind closed doors after it with the correct people. With Charlie Whiting, with Jean Todt. It was all very straightforward, all very simple and everyone said his opinion and everyone understood perfectly and the end of the conversation was very positive and everything has been said on that matter. So everything is clear now. Regarding the other matter which you just mentioned, everything has been told already as well and everything will be tried to keep inside the house. That’s what I hope for, at least, from my side.
Q: (Ben Edwards – Channel 4) Question for Stoffel. You mentioned you’re going to have to carry some engine penalties this weekend. Are the engine bits that are going to be on the car this weekend going to give you any more performance or reliability from the bits that will be on there?
SV: Difficult to say, to be honest. I think it’s probably more a question for Honda. I don’t think there’s many new introductions this weekend, so I don’t think it will be too different.
Q: Just as a follow up to the towing in qualifying that Daniil was asked about, is it something, given the length of the straight here this weekend, that you’re going to work with your team-mates during qualifying to get a tow to improve your lap-time? Kimi, perhaps you could answer that one?
KR: No, we haven’t had any plans. I mean, we haven’t really done it in any place so I don’t see that’s going to happen. Probably the biggest reason is that it’s very difficult to manage with all the cars you get. The most important thing is to try to get the free lap for yourself. When you try to plan it like that it’s actually quite difficult to make it happen every time and it can easily make more harm than good for both of you. So…