Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and the returning Pierre Gasly speak to the press ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix.
Q: Pierre, welcome back to Formula One, Before we talk about this weekend in Mexico, tell us about last weekend and how frustrating it must have been to go all the way to Japan, where you were hoping to wrap-up the Super Formula title but didn't get to race.
Pierre GASLY: Yeah, really strange last weekend in Japan. I went there really excited, really motivated to fight for the title and, in the end with the Typhoon coming in, in the country they cancelled both races, so really weird to finish the weekend on the Saturday night but in the end I keep really good memories from my season in Super Formula. I really enjoyed it out there. It was great finishing second in my rookie year but of course I would have liked to really fight for the title until the end.
Q: Let's talk about Toro Rosso now. You've completed two races for the team in Malaysia and Japan. Can you tell us about those experiences? How did you find the car? How did you find Formula One?
PG: It was amazing. Of course starting in Formula One is always a special moment and for me, Malaysia was crazy. I really enjoyed it, and a lot of things to learn with the team, to come at the end of the year like this is never easy but I really tried to make the best out of it. Yeah, I just feel more comfortable in the car, lap after lap. So, I guess it's going to get better race after race, but yeah, you know, I'm trying my best to make sure we have good races and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of race weekends.
Q: New team-mate this week. I think that makes you the senior driver in the team.
PG: yeah, exactly. A bit weird after only two race weekend. We're both new, it's exciting to be in this position. For me it's a great opportunity and I'm really looking forward to it.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you, Mercedes sealed the Constructors' Championship in Austin. Just how proud of that achievement are you and of the contribution you made.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Definitely really proud. It's amazing feeling, being part of a championship winning team, and also the feeling you get that you've been part of it, you've done something right. We've done this as a team. No other team has done it with such a big regulation change, again winning the title. It's such a strong team and I'm a really proud member of it.
Q: Hard car to drive, hard team-mate. Have you been able to pinpoint where you've been losing out to Lewis Hamilton since the summer break?
VB: Yes, I've been able to pinpoint quite well and there's been some races where I've definitely struggled more than the others. Some have been quite positive. I think there was a lot of positive things, even to take from the last race, even though the end result was far away optimal – but yeah, it's all about details, as always in this sport. Some things with the driving style, some things with setting up the car, which I'm getting, learning all the time. That's why I really believe that I can get to a good level again before the end of the year.
Q: Do you feel that Lewis has raised his game since the summer break?
VB: I think so. I think he's been really on it all year but especially after the summer break. He's been consistently getting everything out of the car and being able to set it up right for each track, for each condition. That comes from experience but also hard work and he definitely deserves all the credit for his results this year.
Q: Sebastian, you've won four titles, you've come close on other occasions. Now, of course it's not over until it's over this year but how do you reflect on 2017. Is there a little bit of you that feels this is the one that got away?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, first of all it's not over, though obviously it's not in our hands as much as we'd like it to be but overall I think it's been a very good year. Obviously, nobody expected us to be that strong to start with, nobody expected us to be that strong midway through the season, towards the end of the season, so I think there's a lot of positives. The pity really is that, y'know, there were a couple of races where we just weren't there to fight. We didn't have a chance to fight. I would have loved to have been on three wheels, even in the race but with a chance to fight. They obviously got away from us and we were just sitting on the sidelines. That was bitter but in the end, made a big difference. Nevertheless, we are now where we are and, as I said, we still have a chance. We want to win the last three races and I think we can. So that's our goal. And then we see what happens. Overall, I think the team has done incredible to be where we are now. Which, again, nobody expected. We've proven probably everybody wrong. There was a lot of talk in the winter, I remember, for sure about Mercedes, who were the favourites going in, but a lot of talk about Red Bull, other people, but no so much about Ferrari. It was good, obviously, to start off strong and keep going that way.
Q: So what's the team got to do to go one place better? You're a man of huge experience. Do you think it's more of the same and just hone a little bit or do you think there needs to be some changes back in Maranello?
SV: No, I think, y'know, we had things breaking and so on but that's part of racing. I think overall I know and I feel there's still a lot we can do, and we have to do better. But we know where to tackle, I think we know our weaknesses. Some things may happen quick, some things will take some time but if we get those things sorted I think we will end up being a much stronger team, able to build a much stronger car and a stronger package, stronger engine, so that's the things that we need to keep working on. We keep growing as a team, growing the culture, that allows us to build a strong package, a strong car, a strong engine. That's where we've made massive steps in the last three years and where we have to continue to make those steps.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Rafael Bolaños – Televisa) Seb, do you think in the future you will be willing to get as a team-mate another top driver for example, like Daniel Ricciardo, that you raced against in Red Bull?
SV: Yeah, I don't mind. I like Daniel. Obviously for next year things are sorted, and then, y'know, things can change quick. Things cannot change that quick, it depends always on what's going on but yeah, in the end it's not my choice, it's the team's choice and in the end if you're not prepared to race whoever it is, then what's the point of racing? That's the way I think. I don't know what happens but to be honest it's not what I'm thinking about now because it's still quite far away.
Q: (Manuel Franco – Diario As) For all three: Fernando Alonso will be in the Daytona 24 hours next year. What is your opinion about that and would you like to compete in a similar race in the future, out of Formula One, like Daytona, Le Mans?
VB: I never really thought about much elsewhere. I'm loving driving Formula One, competing with all the best drivers around and with such cool cars, so at the moment I'm just focusing on this, so no thoughts on the other categories at the moment. Of course it's good for Fernando if he can do it and if he wants to do it, why not?
PG: Exactly, for me at the moment my only target is on F1 and that's the only thing I'm excited about at the moment but yeah, I'm still 21, I still have many years ahead of me. I think Fernando looks to like America at the moment so if he's happy about it then it's going to be a great experience for him. That's about it.
SV: Well, all the best. I don't even know which cars they really race there; I think it's GT3 mostly in Daytona. LMP2. The way I look at it, in the past, if you look back a long way, not the last twenty years probably, but a long way, drivers used to race a lot more in different cars which I generally find pretty cool. The fact that they had to adapt to different cars, work with different people, with different mechanics, setting up the cars differently but mostly drive and adapt. Obviously where the sport has gone has been very very professional, there's not that much time to do many other things, if you commit properly to Formula One but overall we are racing drivers and I quite like the idea to drive more in different cars. I don't know if that will ever change in the future but if they had different categories in the same weekend where Formula One drivers were… I don't know, with the Procar series many years ago, for example, with the BMW M1s, where they did a race before the Grand Prix. Stuff like that I think would be cool but for sure you can see the difficulties these days in terms of the paperwork and all that. But for raw racing, it's very nice to race different cars, why not, every weekend.
Q: Max Verstappen told us in the first session that he'd like to do Daytona with his father, Jos. Is there anyone you'd like to race with, Sebastian?
SV: Well if I raced with my father I'd probably compete in a hillclimb race and he would probably show me my limits, still, but yeah, I think there's a lot of different categories. Even if you go back, down in a way, the level of competition is very high in karting. That would be really cool to do more of that and then there are so many cars to explore. The question is obviously who pays for it but yeah, I think overall it would be nice to explore a lot more and drive different cars.
Q: (Carlo Felipe – Fast Mag) Last year, Valtteri, you almost broke the record for straightline speed in Formula One. You came within a tenth of a kilometre short of Montoya's record at Monza. Do you think this year, with the faster cars, you can break that record? Well, you or any of the twenty drivers?
VB: Honestly, I doubt it a little bit because the cars are definitely faster around the lap but they are not quicker on a straightline, they are quite a bit slower on a straightline than years before, so I doubt it.
Q: (Jack Lopez – Moment GP) Valtteri you seem to have had some problems in the last races against the rhythm of Lewis. Can you say why? Obviously, he's so fast but you know, in the first part of the season, you always were there, but in the second part, it seems like some lack of pace or something. Can you tell us what?
VB: I think… when we started this press conference, I already listed quite a few things that I think Lewis has been really on it in the second half. I've been struggling to find the optimal set-up many times, sometimes going in the wrong direction, myself. Some tracks, with this car we have, the way it needs to be driven has been arguing with my natural driving style so I've had to change some things with my driving style and that doesn't happen overnight. If you think about it, if you need to change your golf swing, you just can't do it like that and be natural about it and not to think about it too much. So yeah, there are multiple things: how to manage the tyres, preparing for qualifying laps and especially during the race I've been struggling a little bit more with overheating the tyres. But we have been working on every single issue we've spotted, always managed to improve those, step by step, been getting stronger. I think my pace in the last race was actually very similar to Lewis before I struggled in the second stint with… various reasons for that so that was positive. So like I said, aim to continue the hard work and to continue to get better and better and quicker and hopefully can finish the season strongly.
Q: Has the momentum swing within the garage affected your relationship with Lewis?
VB: No. Not at all.
Q: (Marius Salvini – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, the last two times here have been difficult races for you. Do you think there is a particular reason for that, maybe about the track or something else?
SV: Not really. I think two years ago I crashed. Last year, obviously we had that fight for the podium and then podium, no podium so… Generally I think we've been quick. I like the track, it's obviously not easy to get everything right. The cars, despite maximum downforce, are quite difficult to drive and a bit – in a way – similar to Monza but you've got more corners, different nature of corners. But we will see. But I hope for a smooth race this time without any issues and hopefully at the end a deserved podium.
Q: (Simon Lazenby – Sky Sports) Sebastian, in the past, when championships have got away from Ferrari, the poor old team principal seems to be the one that gets it in the neck. If this one gets away from you guys, would you like to see Mr Arrivabene stay in that position? Is continuity in that position really important to you guys? And what are his strengths, as a team principal, that you've enjoyed this year?
SV: Absolutely. What are his strengths? Look at the results. Look at where Ferrari was after 2014, how competitive Ferrari was in 2014 and how – sorry to say – what miserable shape it was. The spirit was down so I think he's the key person responsible for bringing most of that back and to make the team grow, to open things up, to change things that have been set like that for 20 years before that, just because they used to be like that. So I think he has a very innovative and creative way of thinking. So I think he's the right man, he's a very strong leader, I think he's well respected – I know he's well respected by all the people, no matter… I don't know… if you look at a hierarchical way, no matter which level of the company, so absolutely I'm a fan. As I said, the most important thing is that if you look at the result, it's coming. Obviously this year we would like it to be a bit different, especially towards the end but these things happen, we're still growing and we set ourselves the target at the very beginning to grow and to do something new, something different and we're still on that journey. Obviously the expectations are always high, you finish second in the championship, the year after you want to win, you don't manage to do that but I think where we've gone, '15 to '16, especially through '16 and then for '17, things are going and heading the right way and he's a key person in that.
Q: (Christoph Becker – Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung) Valtteri, just to stick to the point of the relationship with Lewis; Toto and Lewis have both markedly talked about the atmosphere in the team and how much it has improved since last year, so my question to you is have you been too nice and if your answer is No, then can you elaborate a little bit why it is important to have such a good relationship with your teammate?
VB: I think, personally, maybe it's important to have a good relationship with your teammate, such that you can work well as a team, that you don't need to hide anything within the team, that you have two cars, two drivers producing data and producing points that can be improved. Obviously always it's better the closer the teammates are, you can always pick up things better and better. And also everyone is having more fun when the spirit is good. Obviously I have no idea how it's been before with the team. I only joined in January but since January everything has been very good and to work as two teammates together I think just pushing the team forward together for a long term that will bring results.
Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) To go back last week to what the new owners have been doing, especially all season with some of the changes that have been made, we saw that at the US Grand Prix with the intros for the drivers. Generally some sports have an end-of-season event like an all-star game. Would you guys be up for something like that, like an all-star kart race, get all of you together in the same karts, everyone get a chance to really show and shine and just have fun at the end of the season?
SV: It's called Race of Champions, so I think we have something in place. I like it, I join it every year that I can and we race in different cars. Obviously it's mostly fun and the track is a different track, it's in a stadium and there's a lot of show as well but overall I think it's a great idea as well. I don't know why other people are not joining, I think mostly because they prefer to spend their holidays somewhere else. I think it would be great to meet up for a race in the same car and just race for fun.
On the Austin thing, it's not my cup of tea to be honest but I think for the people if they enjoyed it then that was obviously nice.
VB: I think it was a good idea. I think if they're planning when it's going to be important so everyone can make it but yeah, good idea. I kind of like the direction things have been taken within Formula One now, a bit more relaxed, like the thing in Austin before the race. Of course for us it was a bit more extra things to do before the race and a bit more busy than normal, less time to focus on our performance with the engineers and so on but if people like it then it's good.
Q: Pierre, you weren't in Austin but what was your take on what we saw there before the start and would you like to see an all-stars race?
PG: Yeah, I think in Austin it was pretty cool. I wasn't there but from what I heard from close people they seem to have liked it so it's different than what it was before but if the people liked it then that was the main thing. It's a pretty cool show and I will be happy if I can discover it properly. Yeah, on the kind of Race of Champions or stuff like this I think it's a really cool idea, at least to give me the proper chance to race with Seb and Valtteri because of the same equipment and yeah, I think it's cool, as a driver you want to be able to fight with the same cars, same karts, stuff like this, so I think it would be really cool. I have never been to the Race of Champions but always watched it and it's a really great event with drivers coming from different series, more or less the best drivers of all these series and yeah, it's really exciting and really cool, so if we can make something like this in Formula One I will be more than happy.