PART TWO: DRIVERS – Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Pascal Werhlein (Sauber)
Q: Kimi, you’ve been knocking on the door of a podium at every race this year – but judging by your radio messages, you’re still not happy with the car. What feeling is it giving you and how does that change over the course of a grand prix?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: I’m more happy now that I was probably first race. I think in the last race it was pretty good, I was very happy with it but qualifying not so, but the race itself was good. Then we had pretty average Saturday, so the starting place already was not very good. Then pretty bad first lap so was a bit off. Bad start then couldn’t really get past Felipe in the beginning. Then got past him, we had very good speed but then Safety Car was a bit unfortunate after our pitstop. Then the feeling was pretty good. So, you know, you have to make the Saturday better and then obviously you can use the speed.
Q: How do you see things panning out this weekend between Ferrari and Mercedes?
KR: I don’t know, you tell me. We’ll see tomorrow how it goes. It’s been pretty close between everybody so far, it the first three. You wouldn’t expect it to be a whole lot different here – but who knows.
Q: Can you say that there are still a few things for you to iron-out with the car? But is this still the best Ferrari you have raced in Formula One?
KR: You cannot really compare from the early days but comparing the last few years, then yes. I drove a very good Ferrari when I came first time in Ferrari and, you know, it’s a good car, good package but we have to improve it all the time like anybody who does it but yeah, we just need on my side to put things a bit more better where we want it to be and I’m sure we’ll get the results that we want.
Q: Daniel, I want to start with a technical question. You struggled with tyre temperature in Bahrain, with track temperatures not expected to be that high here, are you worried that the issue will be the same at this grand prix?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Not worried. I think we learned a bit from that. We had the test on Tuesday after the race. We experimented with a few things, so I don’t expect to be in that position again. So yeah, we’ll see. We know that this track is one where you sometimes circulate for a bit and then do a push lap. The tyres maybe aren’t’ there on that first lap for, say, qualifying but I think for the race we should be OK. We’ll be alright.
Q: The team is planning to bring pretty much a new car to the Spanish Grand Prix in a couple of weeks’ time. What do you expect from that car – and what are the major problems with the current car that need addressing?
DR: I expect… I’ll use the word hope, not expect. I hope for a bit of a bullet: something fast. We want to be in a three-way fight with Ferrari and Mercedes. So, that’s what I would hope for: something that puts us in that fight. I look back at least year and think here in qualifying we were over 1.5s off pole and then we went to Barcelona and we were about half a second off pole and we made some gains and then obviously in Monaco we were quick. It’s a time of the year where we should start to see these updates take place and some performance really start to come out of the car. I’m hopeful of that. We just need a bit of everything now. We’ve talked a bit about downforce, feeling a bit in the rear. We’ve had a bit of time to look at Ferrari: they’ve been in front of us for a few races and can study them for a lap or two before they get too far away and yeah, they look strong. Mercedes as well: they’re just carrying a bit more grip in the rear and that’s where all the lap time is in these cars these days.
Q: You say you want a bullet – but the guys next to you aren’t standing still. Are you confident the upgrade in Spain is going to be enough to make it a three-way fight at the front?
DR: I hope so. I’m confident it’s going to be better than what we’ve got now and for now that’s all we can ask for is an improvement. A bit like last year: we made that step and were able to just keep chipping away at it. I think to make that first step is important. I believe we will get that in Barcelona and then let’s see where it puts us. If it puts us within half a second, then I think we’re in striking territory soon after that.
Q: Pascal, great first race back in Bahrain. You then completed 91 laps during testing, so is it safe for us to assume you’re now back to full fitness.
Pascal WERHLEIN: Yes. Really happy to be back, first of all. I think my first weekend was great, P13 in qualifying, P11 in the race, so couldn’t be more happy about my first weekend. Then obviously the test after the race went well. Nearly did 100 laps and just feeling more and more confident with the car, and also with the team and all of the procedures. Just looking forward to start my season finally now.
Q: Looking back, how tough, in hindsight, was your recuperation – physically and mentally – to get yourself back to full racing fitness, how tough was it? You posted a picture of you on social media wearing a neckbrace. Was there ever a moment when you felt your career slipping way or were you confident you’d get back and have the sort of race you had in Bahrain?
PW: No, I fought, of course, very hard to come back and also with the people around me which helped me massively to come back as soon as possible and as quick as possible. We knew that it’s a matter of time but obviously to break a few vertebrae it will take a bit of time and y’know, still it took me only ten weeks to come back to racing and I’m very happy about that. I think, when I posted the picture after Bahrain, people realised more which injury I had, and yeah, as I said, just really happy to be back and to start.
Q: Daniel has just been telling us about the rate of development at the front of the grid. Given that’s the case, how crucial are the next few races for you, to get points? Do you see the next three as the best chance?
PW: I don’t think so. Of course we have a disadvantage, especially, I think in the second half of the season with the engine because we have last year’s Ferrari engine but I think we can make bigger progress with the car, then second half of the season, the engine is a disadvantage. Let’s see how the season goes, I will do my best and I’m sure everyone in the team does as well and hopefully we can score a few points.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) The latest information from the FIA says that the cockpit shield has received the nod over the halo for 2018. First of all, which of the two systems do you prefer, what do you think of the shield in any event?
KR: Well, I have seen a bit of the shield, of what they showed to us. Until we try, it’s very hard to say how it is. Is it better than the halo? I don’t know. Look-wise, I don’t think there’s much difference between either of them.
DR: Yep. Like Kimi said, we got a presentation in China, I think, all us drivers, about the new shield. I think yeah, we’ve still got to see a bit more but yeah, first impressions seem OK and I guess we’ll now try and get some development on that and then start to run it in some practices as soon as they can put it on the cars and then get some more feedback on it. It’s good that they’re still obviously looking for this head protection stuff so that’s positive.
PW: I didn’t see the shield yet as I wasn’t in China so I don’t know how it looks. I think it looks similar to the new idea last year, no?
DR: It’s like a middle of the road look. It looks alright actually.
PW: I think the halo looked a bit strange so the version of last year of Red Bull. I liked it quite a lot, it looks like a spaceship and very futuristic. I liked it. If it looks similar, it’s good. If it’s more safe, it’s good for us drivers.
Q: (Simon Lazenby – Sky Sports) Kimi – a similar question that I put to Valtteri – 34 points between yourself and your teammate right now. Have you had a conversation with management about your role in the team this year? Has Sebastian been identified as the number one driver?
KR: No. Obviously we have our talks at the beginning of the year. We know exactly what we are supposed to do between us as drivers and that hasn’t changed. If it comes to that at the end of the year when either one has no chance, purely on points, then obviously things will fall into place but apart from that, I don’t see anything happening until then.
Q: (Kiril Zaytsev – 66.ru) Kimi, can you tell us more about your businesses outside of F1? Is it true that you have a karaoke bar in Helsinki? And how can your fans find it to sing some songs, maybe? And do you sing yourself?
KR: I do some other stuff than F1 in my life but I’ve no interest to tell what I do or where I do. Do I go in bars? Yes, lately less, no time, unfortunately. I’m involved with a few things.
Q: But Kimi, can you sing?
KR: Can I sing? Badly. But I can sing. But I don’t think it’s the point of that. It’s more fun than actually trying to sing.
Q: (Lasse Lehtinen – Ilta Sanomat) Kimi, you’ve been pretty frustrated in the races during this season. What has helped you to handle these disappointments?
KR: No, it’s the normal story I would say. Every year… in any race that you don’t do as well as you hope it’s never going to be fun or easy. It can look either way. I’m lucky that I haven’t been in the position that I have won all the time, so that you get used to these things but on the other hand you would rather be in that position. It’s worse fun. It’s very normal stuff, you know. I want to do better and the fact is that if you don’t do as well as I want then for myself it’s never going to be fun. It’s always more fun when we do have a good result. It’s just go to the next race and try to do better.
Q: (Marco Mensurati – La Repubblica) Kimi, in Shanghai, Marchionne was not so fine with you. We heard him talking not so gently and I would like to know about your relationship with him and with the team? And the second one: how long do you think your career will last?
KR: As far as I’ve spoken to our personnel it has always been fine. I know that there’s some things that have been said and written but for me, you can find so many nonsense stories in newspapers, on the web, that I trust much more how my relationship is personal with the team or with him. For me it’s all fine. Like I said before, I expect a good result from myself; when I don’t get them I’m unhappy with myself so if the people aren’t happy that’s fine because I’m not either so it’s not really a big deal for me. What comes to my future I don’t know. There’s always a lot of talk on that since years. I’m not going to try and I’m not going to do this and that. My first thing is that I want to do well and then we’ll see what happens after this year. It’s definitely not the first thing in my mind right now. My first thing in my mind is to do well and here and then the next race and whatever that brings we will see in the future. I have a good relationship with him, I know him well and it depends on many things.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – La Corriere della Serra) Again for Kimi: can we say that Ferrari is definitely at the same level as Mercedes or is Mercedes still having something more than your team?
KR: I think there are many different ways to look at things. If you look at pure results, if you look at qualifying results. It depends what you look at but I think as a team they have done a very good job for us to bring the car to the level that we have and obviously it’s up to us to make the best out of it. Seb has done good races. As a team I think we’ve come a long way from the last few years. Yes, there are still things that we have to improve all the time and do better but that’s the same with everybody. Are we at the same level as them, Mercedes? I don’t know. It’s not far off, let’s put it that way. In qualifying, I think they’ve been a bit stronger I would say but then in the race it seems to even out. That’s a bit the same trend as it’s been the last few years, that they seem to find something extra on one lap and then it evens out a bit in race conditions. I think it depends a bit on the circuits where we go but we have a good package and we have to make the best out of it.
Q: (Angelina Grebtsova – Nation Magazine) To you all: which is your favourite track?
DR: Favourite track? To drive on: Monaco. Yeah. It’s unique. It’s so tight and twisty and the whole weekend is great as a spectacle but for pure driving and as far as adrenalin goes that’s a stand-out above the rest.
KR: I don’t think there’s one bad circuit but I enjoy maybe Spa, Monaco. I guess they’re quite opposites. There’s a lot of nice places but maybe those two.
PW: For me it’s Macau. It was very impressive to be there in Formula Three. I think I was 16 or 17 and driving with a Formula Three car at 280kph on a street circuit was something very impressive and the track is also very nice.
Q: And Pascal, a Formula One track as well?
PW: Maybe it’s becoming a Formula One track in the future. No. I love street circuits so maybe Singapore.
Q: (Angelique Belokopytov – Autodigest) Daniel, your lack of performance, if I can call it that, is it all on your car or is there something missing in the driver and if yes, what is it?
DR: No, nothing’s missing in the driver. I haven’t forgotten anything. I think just with the car – we know that we can do better, I guess. I think we’ll see that in Barcelona. I think the team’s learned a lot from the past, from testing but also the past few races and also with our feedback, myself and Max’s feedback, I think we’ve been targeting the same things and I think now the team has really understood the point on the car to work on, to focus on and that’s why now they’re bringing this update for Barcelona and that’s as soon as it can come. That’s pretty much that, so for everyone asking why isn’t it here for this weekend… it takes time to build the parts, basically, and then to put them on the car. They test them and then it takes time for the development and all the process but from Barcelona we should be good. From a driving point of view I feel good, very good.
Q: (Darya Panova – F1 Only) What is the main feature of Sochi for you?
KR: I think it’s a nice place to come. The circuit is quite good. It’s been a bit tricky over the last three years. It’s just been very slippery – at least for us – but it’s a nice place to come. Everything is new, everything is well done and I enjoy coming here. It’s a beautiful place.
PW: I like the track so I’m looking forward to driving turn three, hopefully flat this year. It wasn’t possible last year in the Manor. I think there are some nice corners also, the one after the back straight, hard braking into a left hander. It’s very easy to lock up the tyres. There are a few nice places as a street circuit but with a bit more space so you can lock up, you can go a bit wide sometimes so it’s a good track.
DR: Yeah, I think the low grip makes it quite tricky, quite unique and a lot of the corners are flat so there’s not really any camber, any positive banking to kind of pull you round the corners so when it’s slippery and you have like a flat corner then it’s a lot more easy to slide and it’s harder to sometimes find the grip so that’s a challenge but quite a fun one. There’s not many tracks we go to now with that feature and yeah, as Pascal said, I guess it’s turn 13 I believe, after the back straight, braking for there is quite tricky. That’s a good one, it can be a passing opportunity as well. If you can pull off a move there it’s normally a nice one.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte.com) Kimi, we saw in the tests in Barcelona, bends number nine, ten that you could brake on the entry, you didn’t have a lot of understeer, and this year you have complained on the radio – we have heard that – that you suffer with understeer. Maybe it’s one of the reasons for a lack of performance between you and Sebastian. What has happened from the winter test to now? And to Daniel, you said about the development of the car; what about the power unit? Is there a development from Renault, from Australia to now?
KR: I think people always look at the lap times in testing and obviously if you’re the fastest they think everything is perfect but I think the problem is also that you do testing in one place, one circuit and any other circuit is usually a chance to set up and we’ve been not far off but off enough to not be 100 percent happy and like I said, last race already we were a lot happy so let’s hope that this weekend we are even better off and go from there. So just small things but they all make a difference.
DR: Yup, power unit – we’ve had a little bit since Australia, so it hasn’t been an upgrade but we’ve been able to squeeze a tenth out of it since then, I would say, and I think around Montreal we’re looking for let’s say that power unit upgrade where we should hopefully find a couple of tenths or something like that. Yeah, we’re obviously still trying to get chassis and power unit stronger but yeah, the big upgrade has not come yet.
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, last week or two weeks ago you were in Holland to see the motocross World Championship because you have a team there. Could it be possible to see you there, managing the team when you finish Formula One? You are 37-years old, you said before you are focused on the season to improve yourself but you are in your mind drawing that line to say OK, now that’s enough for me, I want to change my life?
KR: I don’t want to change my life. I’m happy with my life. I’ve had the World Championship team for many years. I enjoy going there when I have time. Unfortunately I’m quite busy with a lot of stuff so not enough time to go often but it’s good fun, it’s different to here so I enjoy it also on that side but like I said, we will see what happens in the future. I’ve been in the same position for many years. People always question me on many things but I’m not in a hurry to decide anything and whatever the future brings is what I want also and we will see.