Max Verstappen was grilled on his Austin penalty and was joined in the drivers' press conference by home favourite Sergio Perez and Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein.
Sergio, if we can start with you, you're the home town hero this weekend, just tell us how it feels to be racing in Mexico again?
Sergio PEREZ: It feels great. It's a race that I'm waiting the whole season for. It comes really late in the calendar, but it comes at the right time. Just the atmosphere, the energy I get from the fans is something that is extremely amazing. So much support; from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave it's flat out and yeah, so much looking forward to give the very best to all my fans in the track and off the track, to give the very best to them.
Looking back to Austin last weekend, it was another strong race from Force India. You weren't allowed to overtake your team-mate there but we hear that you will be free to race here in Mexico. Is that true and what can we expect from you guys this weekend?
SP: Yeah, well in Austin and in Japan, for example, we knew that the priority was to secure fourth place in the Constructors', which we are very close to doing so. So that's the main priority. Then I think we have to gain the trust back; to show the bosses that we can race without any trouble. That's the main priority. I think here we should be quite strong actually. We have a couple of upgrades on the car and I think the track should suit the car quite well, so definitely looking forward and to finish our season, which has been good, on a high.
And free to race?
SP: That I haven't heard. You've heard it first. But probably yes, we should be able to race here.
Pascal, there's a lot of talk about 2018 in the F1 paddock at the moment. You've become one of the key players in that game of musical chairs. How close are you to signing a deal?
Pascal WEHRLEIN: No news yet on this side but I hope… there are some discussions going on for next year and I hope we can fix something soon.
Do you have a headline when you expect to hear something?
PW: I have no deadline, no. The last two years it was always quite late. I just hope we can find something and sign a contract for next year and I would be happy.
Your name has been linked to Williams, but are you hedging your bets, are you looking outside Formula One as well as inside?
PW: I'm not looking outside yet.
Well, good luck in that. Max, obviously you are here to discuss events in Austin last weekend. Having had a few days to reflect on what happened, what are your thoughts now?
Max VERSTAPPEN: The thoughts are pretty similar, but I think in general it was a great race. I really enjoyed that. The pace of the car was great again. That's now three times in a row we were really competitive and I just hope to continue that way here in Mexico.
It got pretty heated after the race. Do you regret any of the comments that you made or any of the language you used?
MV: Well, I think after a race the emotions run high, especially you have been taken off a podium, which I think I deserved, because I think the punishment was not correct, because everybody was running off the track in Turn 19, 8 and 9. Even in Turn 6 when you were behind someone you were cutting the inside, a lot of cars were doing it. And then also the fans, I think they loved it. It was a great move and then they tell you that you are gaining an advantage while overtaking someone. Well, if I was really gaining an advantage I would do it every single lap, which you are not, so I don't think it's gaining an advantage. Like I said, a lot of other people did it as well, they were cutting the inside of the corners, and then I'm the only getting penalised, is of course, I think, not correct. And then I think it's quite normal that I get angry. Of course I could have used a few different words but at the end of the day I still think the decision is not correct.
So the sentiment four days on is still the same?
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte.com) Max, you said there is the same marshal that penalised you, I think it was here in marshal. Who is this marshal please… Sorry he's a steward?
MV: I don't want to name any names.
Q: (Helmut Uhl – Bild) Max, how did you digest the disappointment? What did you do the last days?
MV: I had an event on Monday and then I just stayed around Houston, because that's where I had to be and played FIFA. I mean, at the end of the day I still had a great day. Of course I was not happy that they take away my podium, but you also have to look at the positives and that was that it was a great race, for sure. I'm still a happy person, because the speed was good.
Q: (Rik Spekenbrink – Algemeen Dagblad) Max, besides you drove a perfect race, there was also some criticism in the Netherlands, maybe for the first time. What do you make of that? What do you think of that?
MV: As I said, I could have different words, for sure. But, like I also said, I was angry at the time, because I think it was not correct and I already said all the reasons why I think it was not correct. So you also have to understand a bit my point of it, but of course the words were not correct. But I can't change that right now. It was not meant for anyone. I was not trying to offend anyone. Otherwise I would have named them by name if I was trying to offend someone.
Q: (Manuel Franco – Diario As) My question is about Fernando Alonso. He will be competing in the 24 Hours of Daytona next year. What's your opinion about that and would you compete in a similar race outside Formula One?
SP: I think it's good experience. Obviously, Fernando is wanting to experience that route a lot, with Indy, the 24 Hours and probably he might think of Le Mans. I think it's a great, you know. I think it's a great experience. It's one of those races that you would like to do at some point. I went there actually last year to see my brother. He did the race the 24 Hours in Daytona, and it's an amazing race and an amazing venue. It's one race that I definitely want to do at some point in my career.
PW: I've never followed it so far, but I have only heard positive things about it so probably I will follow it next year.
MV: Of course the first priority is to stay as long as possible in F1, but if I like it then maybe I will do it, but I only want to do it with my dad. I think after F1 to get the same sensation is really hard, so I try to do that as long as possible.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte.com ) Max, sorry to come back to the subject but looking at the video your first reaction, looks like to avoid an impact with Kimi, then you look for the run-off area. Is that correct?
MV: Yeah, of course. I think at one point he realised that I was trying to overtake him, so he tried to close the door, so you have avoid it. Then, of course, the Austin track gives a lot of possibility to run on the inside, like you could see the whole weekend. So, yeah, first was to try to avoid an accident and then to try and overtake him.
Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) Sergio, it's great to be home obviously. We know that you've helped put together a lot of money to help repair what's been going on here in Mexico City following the tragedy of the earthquakes. I was wondering what you would have to say to some of your fans and your people who are watching this weekend who are looking to come to race and out behind what has happened recently?
SP: Yeah, it has been a very tough couple of months for my country in general, not just Mexico City, but other cities. What happened was horrible. But it was amazing to see, so united Mexico, but not only Mexico, the whole world, how everyone supported Mexico was pretty special. I think that's one of the reasons that this race is going to very special for the fans. I really hope that the fans that come here will have an amazing time and the ones watching at home, hopefully I give them an amazing race and a lot of happiness that they really deserve to have.
Q: (Carlos Jalife – Fast Mag) Max, I was wondering, the pass was deemed illegal, although everybody liked it in Austin, but what can be done, what deterrent can be used so that this doesn't happen again – for all the drivers. Obviously, there should be some self-discipline, but as this was lacking from everyone, should they use bananas, like they do in the first chicane in Monza? What would be your ideas about using a deterrent to avoid drivers using the extra metres?
MV: It's not self-discipline, I think we know quite well what to do and what not to do. But they never told us anything. Already from lap one in practice one, everyone was running wide. It was all fine. Then, of course, if it's not mentioned, they never tell us anything, then of course we try to go as quick as we can. I think there is a very simple solution. Let's put grass on the inside, or gravel or whatever, that you cannot cut over the kerbs. For example, in Suzuka I don't think we have those issues, do we? So it's quite clear.
SP: I totally agree with Max. Nothing was being said before we didn't have any guidance on that. That incident was very particular. Yeah, it's definitely something that we need to definitely have a guidance on what is allowed and not allowed.
Would you like to see grass on the inside as well, as Max has just suggested?
SP: Yeah, in general I think the tracks have become very boring. If you go off you have 100 metres to go wide. I'm not saying you should put a wall, but I think definitely there should be a lot more gravel and if the driver makes a mistake he should pay more for it.
PW: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of bug runaways or sausage kerbs. Me, I would also prefer gravel or grass, it makes it much easier.
Q: (Simon Lazenby – Sky Sports) Max, I think a few people in the paddock were quite surprised that you decided to take yourself out of the conversation, if you like, with Mercedes and Ferrari, and extend your future with Red Bull until the end of 2020? Can you tell me whether there was interest from both of those parties and why you decided to commit so early?
MV: Well, I don't speak about those things normally, but I feel good at the team and the improvements we made this year I think they have been the most of the whole grid, especially in the last few races, we have been really competitive. And also I think how we are going to start this next year will be better than how we started this year. I believe in the team and what is also very important is that you have people around you who really support you. They are good friends to you as well, and there is just a really good atmosphere in the team, so why would I give that up? At the end of the day, if we can sort out the horsepower deficit then I'm sure we can win races.
Max, you talk about the atmosphere in the team, would you like to see Daniel Ricciardo stay in the team?
MV: That would be good, yes, because the relationship is really good. And also in the team there is not like two sides, it's like one big side. Everybody can be happy for each other if somebody has a good result, so I think that's also very important.
Q: (Jim Vertuno – Associated Press) Sergio, how would you describe your relationship with your team-mate at this point in the season? And do you suspect that given your popularity here that Mexican fans will be cheering for you and against him this weekend?
SP: I think we obviously had a bad relationship since Baku and especially we hit a very low point in Belgium. But afterwards we had a good conversation between us only, no one was involved there in the team. I think since that point everything has changed you know, the atmosphere, not only between us, also the engineers and everyone, is really good. Having both sides working together has made a big difference. And especially going into next year it's really important. It's a massive challenge. We have to work together for the benefit of the team. It's very important that in a team that both drivers are united. Obviously, you want to beat each other but it's important to have that respect. I think that respect is in place now. It's something that makes me happy and the atmosphere is good. I don't think the fans will be bad to Esteban. Obviously they will support me a lot here but I see no reason why they should be bad to him. If anything, every event we have done so far they have been very good to him, not only to him but to everybody else. They really like the sport and at the end of the day it's just a sport and it's how it should be.
Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for Max. Max, how much is it important for you to have the freedom to express your opinion, to be yourself, to have your own personality in Formula One?
MV: I think it's very important but that's the way I am. I'm not going to hold back or lie. I'm just straightforward.
Q: (Rik Spekenbrink – Ad Sportwereld) Again for Max, you said you were hoping teams would gather around and talk about this issue, so maybe things could change by being discussed. Did that happen, as far as you know?
MV: I think not for the moment, but it will happen, yeah.
Q: (Rachel Brookes – Sky Sports) Checo, how happy were you to hear that Max was staying with Red Bull until 2020, with the possibility of a Mercedes or Ferrari seat opening up in 2019. And have you spoken to either team? Does that interest you?
SP: Well, going that far forward doesn't really change anything.
MV: I did it for Checo!
SP: As a special favour for me? I hope that works in my advantage. No, seriously, it doesn't change anything, it's too far away. Let's see how the season starts next year and we'll see what opportunity comes up in the future. I expect there will be some changes next year. A lot of movement, so it's good Max is staying there. I hope he stays a lot longer!
Q: Pascal, we should probably throw that to you as well, you're a Mercedes junior driver. The ramifications of Max staying at Red Bull. Do you think they could play to your advantage as well?
PW: In my case we need to fix next year first and then think about 2019.
Q: (Rafael Bolaños – Televisa) Checo, based on what you have done for the team in the past years, do you think you deserve to be the number one driver in the team?
SP: No, I think it's fair that there is no number one driver in the team. I think both drivers in any team should be treated equally, with the updates you get etc. At the end of the day the number one driver is always the one that scores the most points or can deliver the most for the team. And that's my priority, to try to deliver the most for the team but, at the same time, help with the development, work together with Esteban to help the team, and move forwards – because considering the tight budget we have, and we're fighting forces like Red Bull or Ferrari, it's really difficult for us. We really have to work, all of us together, to try to move the team forwards, and I'm trying to improve that.
Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) To all three drivers. Last week there was a lot of talk on social media about the intro of last week's race and how spectacular it was. It was very American. There were a lot of mixed view on that intro. I would like to get your take on what you guys thought of that intro. And for Sergio, do you think something like that could work here in Mexico?
SP: I think if there's a race that doesn't need anything like that it's especially Mexico. Mexico has been the greatest grand prix for the last two years and I believe that it will be the same. Personally, I like it for the sport. Having all the time the same… I think probably every race should have their own signature – because when you go to China or Brazil it's the same: you have the same Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Everything is very similar. I think those things definitely help the sport. Personally, sitting there and waiting so long is not the best thing, especially before the race – but I think it was good for the sport and is good that some races think on something like this.
Pascal, your thoughts?
PW: I really liked it. Probably not for every race – it would be a bit too much – but, for example, some special races, I think, like Monaco, Singapore, something like this. I think it would be very nice.
MV: Yeah, I think it was a good thing to do, but of course it was very American, so it will not work on every single track. We just need to see where it's going to work – or not. Some fine tuning is always good but I think for the first time it was actually pretty well done.
Q: (Septime Meunier – AFP) How would you rate Exxon Mobil's work this season for Red Bull?
MV: It's been great, I think they have given us the biggest engine upgrade, so that's always very, very positive. There are a lot of things still coming so I am looking forward to that.