Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez discuss the introduction of team orders at Force India, with Sebastian Vettel playing peace-keeper at Monza.
PART ONE: DRIVERS – Esteban OCON (Force India), Sergio PÉREZ (Force India), Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari).
Q: Sebastian, let’s start with you. There seems to have been a real bounce. If you can fight with Mercedes, especially at Spa, then you can fight them anywhere. Has the success of the updates you brought to Hungary and Spa given you clear belief as far as the Championship is concerned?
Sebastian VETTEL: No. It wasn’t necessary. I think there was always belief. If you’re going to come into the race and you don’t have the feeling, or belief that you can achieve something for one race or many races in succession then there’s not much point. But, to really answer your question, I guess, the form we showed in Spa was real and the speed was there in particular in the race which weeks ago, on a similar type of track, maybe wasn’t the case. So that’s very positive. Obviously, we had a smoother weekend all around but still, I think we’ve made improvements on all fronts. So, I was very, very happy with the performance last week.
Q: It’s been a while since a Ferrari driver came to Monza leading the Drivers’ World Championship. With the new commitment that you’ve just made to Ferrari for three more years, do you feel now the full force of tifosi support and is it worth a tenth or two, do you think?
SV: Well it’s worth something! Obviously, we get out tomorrow and then we see for the first time how many people show up but I guess it ramps up also during the weekend. This morning was fairly quiet but considering – I walked the track – but considering it’s only Thursday there were still a lot of people with flags around the track – definitely more than in other places. So, yeah, difficult to quantify but I guess there’s something there. Obviously, it’s a grand prix that the whole team enjoys and it’s very special to be part of. So, need to make sure we enjoy it.
Q: Sergio, coming to you, your battle with Esteban has been one of the stories, one of the talking points of the season. Things started to get a little tricky in Canada, then obviously in Baku there was a collision, a little bit of contact in Budapest and then obviously, we had Spa last weekend. Why have things escalated and what’s your side the story?
Sergio PÉREZ: We’ve been racing very closely lately. As you say, we’ve had a couple of incidents in the last races. I think, I had a really good conversation with him, personally, between him and me, and I think it’s time to move forwards. Everyone had his opinion of what happened. The engineers have one opinion, the fans, us… have different opinions on what has been happening. The most important thing is that, from now, we move forwards. The main objective as a team is to finish fourth in the Constructors’ and we cannot afford to lose any more points. I think we’ve lost quite a lot of points in those races you’ve just mentioned, so we will move forwards and I’m very sure that these things will not happen again.
Q: Esteban, what’s your side of the story. Why did things escalate, and escalate particularly during the race in Belgium?
Esteban OCON: We’ve been racing really closely, as Sergio was saying, we're always fighting for the last tenths in qualifying, or in the race so, for sure, it’s really close between us. But yeah, what has happened before has happened. Now we can’t change what happened before. We have to move forwards. As Sergio was saying, we had a talk this morning together, just us two. Yeah, it is time we forget all that, that we work hard for the team. It’s important – that’s what they deserve as well – that we behave as professionals and yeah, we want to keep challenging the others, keep pushing them and we have to keep that fourth place until the end.
Q: So, you look forward. Sergio, the team has indicated they won’t let this happen again, that instructions will be given. As the more senior driver, how would you like that to be managed?
SP: I think we are both mature enough. Esteban has been racing for a long time as well and I think we both know how to handle things. Yeah, although there will be some instructions coming out for us, I think we will put everything in place to make sure the interests of the team come first before us.
Q: And Esteban, is it important for your development that you’ll be allowed to push to the maximum at every event – and how will team instructions affect that?
EO: No, I mean, it doesn’t matter if I’m a rookie or if I have experience or not. At the end, what matters at the end is the result for us, the result for the team and yeah, if there is a team instruction, I will follow it. There is no other points.
Q: Sebastian, quick one for you, at your previous team, you experienced a similarly tense battle with your team-mate. Does there come a point in a relationship where a line is crossed that you can’t go back from – and how do you avoid that?
SV: No, I don’t think… I think you can always talk to each other. On track, let’s be fair, you have occasions where things may not turn out the way both want to. I don’t think any driver ever has really bad intentions over his team mate or any other guy but for sure the duel with your team-mate is a bit more intense. You’re driving the same car, you are therefore naturally fighting for the same position around the track. So, yeah, you want to stay ahead. I think inside the car you want to be the one that is in front. At the time maybe you don’t care much about what else is going on, as they both mentioned. Obviously, the team behind, they don’t really care which driver because they see their cars. It’s a tough line in terms of, y’know, you have to be, in a way, egoistic inside a car. Equally, you want to do the best for the team. But there’s never a line, I think, you cross you can never can come back from. They obviously took the opportunity to talk to each other and y’know, if I look now with Mark, obviously, I guess that’s the one you’re talking about, I have a very good relationship with him and we talked also about stuff that happened years ago with a lot of distance and y’know, now we can laugh about it. We both have our views, I think we both have different views, maybe now on some things that we had back but that’s normal as you go forwards. That’s why I think you can also cross a line again.
Q: Quick question to all three of you: it is Ferrari’s 70th anniversary, as Sebastian’s hat tells us. A quick specific Ferrari memory, either from your childhood or your racing career, any special Ferrari Formula One memory.
SP: I think the one that’s comes to my mind was the first test that I did for Ferrari when I was a member of the Ferrari academy. Was a very special day and that will stick with me forever. Ferrari is the team that we all admire, that we all want to do well as a Formula One fan. So that moment was very special.
EO: Yeah, also, I tested for Ferrari back in 2014, at the end of the year. It was just magical. Testing in Fiorano on that beautiful track, driving a Ferrari, working with Italian engineers, Italian mechanics. I also speak Italian, I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve raced a lot in go-kart in Italy and you know what Ferrari is for motorsport. It’s something massive. I’m also a big fan of Michael and I was watching on TV when I was really young and I will also remember looking at the Ferrari ahead.
And finally Sebastian, you’ve obviously got a pretty decent scrapbook of your own memories of Ferrari – any before that in particular?
SV: Yeah, as another big admirer of Michael, most of my memories as a child of watching Formula One are linked to Michael and in that case linked to Ferrari. So, big admiration for him but for the car he was racing, for the team and obviously the dream came true when I was able to join the team – but yeah, lots of memories. Childhood, I remember I was always racing with toy cars and the red car always won. Don’t know why! It’s sort of what I was taught by the world around me, I guess, is that that car should be in the front, or has to be in front. Yeah, and obviously since then when I had the opportunity through Michael to be in the Ferrari garage for the time, I think Nürburgring 2003 for a short time. Just magical to see the guys moving around, everybody dressed in red. These kind of things really matter to you as a child and make a difference. Now, obviously, I’m there whenever I want to be, which is quite nice. So, lots of very, very special memories.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to both Force India drivers. Can we know when you talked to each other and what was the talking about. What have you said?
SP: It was this morning and it was mainly… I went to Esteban’s room and I had a talk with him. We basically said like… I mean… the engineers have their view, it’s pointless going again through each of the incidents because everyone has their point to say, so let’s just move on together. Let’s forget the past and go forwards together. I believe that a new relationship can start from now on and I really hope that from now on we can be working as a team and we can put the interests of the team first, and we both came to that agreement and it was quite simple.
EO: He said everything.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) To both Force India drivers. Obviously given the fact you’re so closely matched in the same cars it’s inevitable you’re going to be together, whether it’s this year or next year. Is it not possibly time that one of you considered going elsewhere. You’re both in the frame for a Renault drive – who’s going to sign first?
SP: I think that’s not the way I look at things. I want to do the best for the current team that I am with and I want to do the best results. I think we both know that we have done wrong in the past for this team so my main target, I’m not thinking to run away. I believe that working with Esteban is still possible. It can still be a successful partnership and I’m not thinking to move elsewhere.
EO: I think I’m not thinking of that at the moment. There is a big challenge ahead. We have a car and a great team behind us, which we can score points at every race doing a great job, so at the moment I’m focussing to the drive with Force India and not to next year – but I fully trust my management side and I’m sure I will have an opportunity to drive F1 next year.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports) Sorry guys, another question for Esteban and Sergio, who mentioned the points that Force India have lost this year. Esteban you say you need to behave as professionals. Do you both feel that you haven’t behaved as professionals on the track at times this year. Is that a fair comment to make?
EO: I think we both crossed the line, that’s for sure. We touched so of course something was wrong in there. I’m not going to argue because it’s all behind now and we want to move forwards but for sure we crossed the line and we can’t do that in the future for the purpose of the team and even for us.
Q: (Marco Privitera – LiveGP.it) A question for Seb. We have seen a big fight in Spa with Lewis in the final part of the race. If you would be here in Monza in the same situation, would you attack him in a stronger way in order to make a special gift to Ferrari’s tifosi, or would you rather think about your championship hopes?
SV: I think you are racing to win the race. I think that has priority. Obviously you need to be aware of what you are doing but it wasn't like I was saving myself. I tried everything I had at the time. I stick with him the whole race, so I was battling, I think the whole race with him. Maybe not wheel-to-wheel but it was really close and intense from a driving point of view. So I enjoyed that a lot but obviously he had the upper hand in the end. So there can be only one of the top step of the podium. I think there are some things that I learned from Spa, that we learned as a team but I learned as a driver. Things that I would do a bit different. But at the time it felt like the right thing to do, with hindsight it was a bit more clever. Here I think it’s a different track. Generally it’s possible to overtake. We’ll see where we are in the race. I think going into this weekend we need to be fair and say that the track layout suits Mercedes but the performance that we showed last week gives us hope. So, we tried to do the best. Obviously, yeah, there should be quite a good atmosphere and a lot of support so for sure we try to give all the love and passion that we’ve received so far this year, we try to also give something back from our side.
Q: (Peter Hardy – BMF1) Sorry Sebastian, this is for the two guys. From a psychological point of view, how is it to be called into an interview like this where you know that you will be asked a lot of questions about the incidents that have happened?
EO: It’s part of the job, you know. You know that when you are a Formula One driver that you will be facing a lot of media, it’s not only the driving side, it’s also looking at this that you have to handle yourself and face what the journalists are going to say. At the end, it’s, as I said, part of the job.
SP: Yeah, I think Esteban is doing well.
Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) Seb, if you had the possibility to choose, what would be important to you: to win one championship with Ferrari or two with another team?
SV: Well, I’m not with another team, so I think I prioritise to win here. Obviously I have been very, very fortunate in the past to have the success I have had. It’s like a drug, you want to do it again, you want to get that feeling again, you want to stand on top of the podium and yeah, I think if you manage to achieve your target at the end of the year – talking about the championship – then it makes it very, very special. It’s something that has been a while and I want to do it again. For sure, it always feels a bit different if you are with a different team. How it feels with Ferrari, I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to find out.
Q: (Ralf Bach – Sportbild) A question to Seb. Coming back to Spa, it was the first situation after Baku where you were behind him with the safety car. Do you think he learned from Baku and his behaviour was better? What do you think about what he did?
SV: What, specifically? The re-start?
Q: (Ralf Bach – Sportbild) Braking, not braking?
SV: I don’t know how it felt… I was the first one following, I don’t know how it felt further down
EO: Quite scary.
SV: I tried to react. There have been a couple of re-starts, everybody has his style and you need to obviously try and do your best. I wasn’t thinking about Baku too much to be honest. I was thinking of trying… basically the same things as in Baku, trying to stay as close as possible and have a good re-start. I had a chance and I wanted to make sure I stay with him and use it. All went well, so nothing to think about, but I can understand if further back it was feeling a bit stop and go.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agencia EFE) A question for Checo. I want to know your memories about 2012. I don’t know if that was the greatest moment, or at least one of the greatest, for you in Formula One?
SP: Yeah, it was a very special day that race, beating both Ferraris in Monza and making it to the podium; getting so close to the win actually. It was definitely one of my best races; had incredible pace. So yeah, definitely great memories of that day.
Q: (Lennart Bloemhof – De Volksrant) A question for Sebastian. In Spa you said Ferrari has something that other teams don’t have. Can you tell me what that is and do you think F1 is more important for Ferrari or is it the other way round?
SV: How can I describe? I guess, don’t get me wrong, maybe you have, but I guess you don’t have a Ferrari? No. Have you ever sat in a Ferrari? No. Then I strongly recommend that you do. Just to sit in a Ferrari… there are a lot of great sports cars around the planet, I don’t know all of them, at least that’s the way I feel and that for me is something unique and it’s similar and it probably describes or answers your questions, or tries to at least. It’s the feeling when you step into a Ferrari, when you sit in a Ferrari, I don’t know, you can step into another car but you don’t get the same feeling. When the engine then starts and you have the chance to drive yourself then I think everybody who likes cars and has a passion for racing falls in love with the cars straight away. Maybe you should ask whoever you are writing for to give you the opportunity to sign off a day in a Ferrari. That would be the best way to answer the question.
Q: (Aritz Muno – MotorGP) A question for Sebastian. How does it feel to return to a circuit where you won for the first time?
SV: Yeah, it’s a special place. It’s many years ago, a long time ago, but still a very strong emotion. There are people inside the team now that I have been working with back then. Obviously we had a Ferrari engine in the car with Toro Rosso in those days. The whole weekend was magical. Saturday to have the pole, and to win the race on Sunday the way we did. Pretty amazing memories and when I walked the track this morning there are some pictures coming back. In fact, I’m working with the same race engineer now as I did back then, with Ricardo. It’s a memory we shared together and yeah, it makes this place definitely one of the most special places for me.
Q: (Alex Combralier – Nextgen-Auto) A question for Sebastian. At Mercedes we could see team orders between Hamilton and Bottas this week. Do you think that team orders are now necessary in your team and do you think that Räikkönen would agree with that?
SV: No, and I think the second part of your questions is also no. I am a bit surprised by the way things are put. I think Kimi and myself, I can’t speak for other people, but Kimi and myself I think we have been racing each other all year. I read or I heard after the Hungarian Grand Prix that he was protecting me. I think if you speak to him he can make it pretty clear. He was, how can I say, I don’t think he was leaving anything behind. I think if he had the opportunity properly to pass me he would have tried and that’s fair enough. I think it would have been the same the other way round. I think we are racing for the team, we’re both trying to our best, if it happens that you race for the same spot then you might meet yourself on track, as these guys have proven. You’re both fighting for yourself but you’re also fighting for the team, so it’s something you need to keep in the back of your mind. I don’t know what other teams are doing, but for us, I think we both go flat out and see what happens. Normally you can always talk about a lot of things, scenarios and so on, but it always turns out to be a bit different from that.
Q: (Benjamin Vinel – Motorsport.com) A question for Esteban and Sergio. Do you think with the standings currently, with Force India extremely likely to finish fourth, quite far away from Red Bull but quite far ahead of other teams, that the team could afford to let you race until the end of the year?
SP: Well, what we cannot afford, us, is to lose more points. Things change really quickly in Formula One. We see other teams are closing up in terms of pace. We definitely need to score in strong races, such as Spa and Monza, they are probably the two strongest races for us, so we definitely have to make sure that we score as many points as we possibly can. That’s just for the good of the team you know. Everyone works so hard at the track, at the factory, we really need to take the maximum out of both cars every single weekend. It’s not only about finishing fourth; it’s about how we do it and that’s why we definitely have to make sure we do it properly.
EO: Yeah, I agree with Sergio. We have to get the bosses’ trust back and maybe after some races they will let us race again.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto Motor) Sebastian, your car has been pretty reliable this year in general, apart from that hiccup in Hungary with the steering. Have the team discovered what the problem was, was it a mechanical problem, or just an impact? Did you have to take any countermeasures to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
SV: In Hungary? Yeah, we found the issue; it was an issue with the track rod. It was mechanical, we fixed it and it was fine ever after the race. Yeah, I think in terms of reliability, it’s true, things have been going really well. You’re trying to push the limits as hard as possible, but certainly we are not yet where we want to be. We can always improve. There is a lot of work and effort going on but certainly in Hungary it was a bit uncertain, also in the car, how the race would finish, if I would finish at all. I saved the car as much as I could, which turned out to be the right thing before it could have led to a DNF.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Sebastian, the way that Mercedes have played the oil burn regulation: do you believe they have stolen a march over Ferrari, that maybe Ferrari missed a trick after Spa?
SV: No, not really. I don’t know whether that was always the plan for them, or whether they reacted to that and pulled it forward. I think for us we are pretty much on target. Obviously we know the change that is happening from here, on what is it? We don’t have a new engine for this weekend. I think it would be quite silly to miss for that, if that was your purposes, just for one week, so I think we are on plan, but as I said, I don’t know whether that was their sole intention or whether they had other issues.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) A question for Sebastian: the new cars they will be quicker than last year and it is a power circuit but the difference will be in the corners I think. Can you give a description of what it will be like?
SV: Well, here I guess it will be fairly small, the difference, because on paper it’s probably the track that suits the old cars best, meaning that with long straights and more drag this year and because of more downforce naturally the cars will be a bit slower down the straights. They will still be quick because the engines are a bit better and so on, but yeah, I don’t know, the lap time will I guess be similar. I don’t expect it to be faster, like we went in Spa, not by that amount. But I don’t know, generally it’s lower downforce here, so the car is very light, but there are some epic corners on this track – the two Lesmos, especially the first one, it’s one of my favourites, Ascari, Parabolica, so with more grip normally they feel nicer, so they should be quite enjoyable this year.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Can you explain to us the difficulty of towing during qualifying and are you planning to use that on Saturday?
SP: Yeah, it’s a great challenge to get it right. You have to kind of wait around five to six seconds, but it depends a lot what the car in front does. With Kimi, last time, I was close to him, it worked well but he aborted the lap in sector two so I got too close to him and then you lose a lot of downforce. If you can do it without it, it’s just better.
SV: It’s always very difficult to time and you need to be lucky to get the most out of it. It’s one of those things… you can’t plan what other people are doing. You can’t plan ahead and you can only look after yourself. For sure you can position yourself so that it should be helping you or not helping but whether it works out or not is very difficult to time, unless you do something that you agree on before with your teammate or others. Let’s put it this way: the likelihood of getting it wrong is far higher than getting it right.
EO: Yeah, you always want a tow, basically, in a straight line but then the guy to move over before the corner so it’s pretty difficult to get. You are maybe lucky once in every three or four years to get that but as Seb just said, if you can get it without, it’s always the best solution.