DRIVERS – Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), Antonio GIOVINAZZI (Alfa Romeo), Pierre GASLY (Toro Rosso), Nico HULKENBERG (Renault)
Q: A question for you all to start with. Confirmation came through last night that the Italian Grand Prix will remain on the Formula 1 calendar for at least another five years. Can we get your reaction to that and can you tell us what this race and this track mean to you? Sebastian, can we start with you?
Sebastian VETTEL: Very happy obviously. I don’t know if I’ll be here for five years. I think it belongs in the calendar, so I’m very happy that it was confirmed. It’s not really necessary to mention the importance of the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari. It’s our biggest race of the season. It belongs here. Obviously for me, a lot of memories. The win in 2008, my first win, for sure was very special. The ones after that people weren’t so happy, but I guess nowadays they would be happy again.
Charles LECLERC: Obviously very happy. There’s nowhere else you can see as many passionate people as there are here. As Seb said, driving for Ferrari it feels very, very special and I definitely hope that I will still be here in five years.
Pierre GASLY: Same comment. The passion you see in Monza is really special. The whole atmosphere during the weekend is really amazing. Plus, the track is really cool and usually good racing, so it’s fantastic news.
Nico HULKENBERG: Yeah, definitely good news. It’s always a good weekend and to secure another iconic European in the long term is very positive.
Q: And Antonio?
Antonio GIOVINAZZI: Of course, really important. For me it’s the home grand prix. My first time here in F1, so really great to have the news yesterday that we’ll be here for at least another five years. Good for Italy, good for Ferrari, good for Italian drivers, so yeah, really grateful.
Q: Antonio, staying with you. You say this is your first time here in F1. You won the GP2 feature race back in 2016, which was a big moment in your career then. Can you compare your emotions now coming into this race, your first Italian Grand Prix?
AG: Yeah, it’s incredible, I would say. This was one of the grands prix I always watched when I was young, of course supporting Ferrari. Back in 2016 it was one of the best races of that season and of my career as well – coming from last and I won the race in front of all the tifosi, my friends, my family, so it was a really great memory. Now I am here in F1, so I’m looking forward, I have a lot of people coming here to support me. I hope to have a good result and just enjoy my first weekend here in Italy.
Q: Now, you’re the first Italian to race in the Italian Grand Prix since 2011. Why do you think it has taken so long for another Italian, you, to come through?
AG: I think in go-kart already when you are young and you start to dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver, I think karting now has become too expensive, so there is not much support in Italy to give to the young drivers. I think we have a lot of good Italian drivers now, from watching now like some races in go-kart but of course it is really difficult to do already the next step from karting to Formula 4. I hope this can change. From my side, I did a lot of sacrifices. I was lucky to find [Ricardo] Gelael to support me until here, but it is not easy. This is one of my points that Italian drivers are not any longer in F1, but I think it’s difficult also for the other countries. But I’m really that Italy is back after a long eight years.
Q: Thanks and good luck this weekend. Pierre, it’s been a very eventful month for you. Can you describe how you were able to re-set head of the race at Spa last week and get that great result?
PG: For sure it’s quite a challenging time for me at the moment that I’m facing. Coming into Spa they were really busy and intense days – to get on top of all the new things with Toro Rosso, being back with the team, also a new crew around my car. It was just really intense ahead of the weekend. I tried to extract the best and deliver the best performance straight away and that’s what we tried to do. Yeah, I think just now I know that I have eight more races coming with Toro Rosso. I’m just trying to focus on myself, improve myself and to deliver the best performance I can for the team. For sure, what happened in Spa, it was really tough before the race on Sunday and it was difficult to keep the focus, especially in this kind of moment, it’s really tricky for everyone. It was tough mentally but it was important to deliver the best race I could for the team and for Anthoine and I think we can be really happy with the two points we scored for our first race back together.
Q: What are you goals for the remainder of the 2019 season?
PG: I think it’s quite clear – just be fast and deliver the maximum points for the team. They are in a good position in the championship and I will do everything I can to offer the maximum points to the guys.
Q: OK, good luck with that and with this weekend. Nico, on the face of last weekend’s announcement regarding Esteban Ocon moving to Renault next year leaves your future uncertain. The 2020 grid still seems quite fluid, however, so are your plans taking shape?
NH: Not concrete yet, but there are definitely talks going on. But I think it will still be a while. Like I said last week, the situation is what it is now, but it needs to be the right deal, a good sporting perspective, and I’m in no urgency or hurry to sign anything, just to have signed anything. I think there are options out there but nothing to talk about right now.
Q: And looking ahead to this weekend, what can we expect from you and Renault, because it was a difficult one at Spa for you guys?
NH: Yeah, it was a tricky weekend but quite rewarding in the end, getting four points back on the board. That was quite positive and we’re trying to take that momentum here. It’s obviously a new weekend, so a new approach and we’ll see how the car performs here. But there’s no reason to be skeptical about it. We’ll just be pushing and working hard and for me, in terms of my mindset, I just want to get the maximum out of it every weekend, take it weekend by weekend, enjoy it, and maximum attack.
Q: Thanks for that, Nico. I want to come to both Ferrari drivers now. We saw a fantastic celebration at the Duomo in Milan last night. How was it? Sebastian, tell us what went on?
SV: Very busy, packed! I think it’s very difficult to put into words. It’s a very iconic on it’s own, it it’s empty, that place, but with the red sea, or flooded with people dressed in red, it was definitely prettier than I remembered it. Probably I should never go back, because it’s never going to be as pretty. I think it was special for us as current drivers, but there were also a lot of recent drivers, older drivers from the past of the Scuderia, so I think that was a nice thing to get together and have a chat also later on with them. Obviously some of them are very around, but others you don’t see so often, so enjoyed that. A lot of old important cars, important pieces of the team’s history, so for me it was a great day.
CL: yeah, it was unbelievable. I think Seb said nearly everything. For me it was also the first time I arrived here in Italy for the Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver. Obviously I knew it was going to be special, but as a first day I could not expect any more. So many people, so much passion, it was just incredible and very, very impressive to see so many people coming together on a Wednesday for us and for Ferrari of course. It was crazy.
Q: Staying with you, you’re now Ferrari’s youngest ever winner in Formula 1. You said on Sunday you were struggling to process what had just happened, so how do you reflect on that achievement now, a week later?
CL: Obviously it was a very tough weekend for different reasons – obviously with what happened on Saturday, but also because we knew with the performance we had in the race it was going to be difficult because Mercedes were very, very strong with their race pace so it was a tough weekend. But in the end we managed to put everything together. I think there was great teamwork between myself and especially Seb, who did the job of keeping Lewis behind for a few a laps that have been very helpful for me towards the end of the race. Looking back obviously I am very happy that this first win is done. It’s always difficult to do this first step but once you do it, it takes quite a bit of weight off your shoulders and of that I’m very proud. Not much time to actually think about it because we are already four days later here in Italy and we need to focus fully on the job that we have to do here.
Q: Sebastian, Charles made reference to the race pace of Mercedes at Spa, how do you think it’s going to play out here?
SV: I can’t predict but I think it should be… It’s a similar track, very different but in terms of the way the cars are set up similar to last weekend. I hope we can be as competitive as we were there. In relative terms it’s difficult to say. For sure we’ve seen the trend that in qualifying we have a bit of an edge on these types of tracks, whereas in the race everything moves very close together. As Charles said, they were very quick last weekend, so I expect the main challenge to be looking after the tyres, finding the right set-up, the right balance in the car, to feel comfortable to extract the maximum. I can’t give you any predictions but I guess it will be very tight. I hope we have something to say. Obviously Mercedes has been in a position to win nearly every race this season but for us it hasn’t been like that, so the more chances we get the better it is for us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) Question for Sebastian. We saw Charles take his maiden grand prix victory last weekend. He’s made a very strong start to life with Ferrari, only 12 points behind you in the Championship. How impressed have you been with Charles start with the team and has he surprised you at all with how good he’s been this year?
SV: No. I think it’s positive that he’s surprised probably a lot of people outside but inside I think we obviously… he’s been with Ferrari, with the Driver Academy for a while and it was clear to see that he has a lot of potential. I think he had a very strong rookie season with Alfa, so, y’know, it’s good to see that he’s right on the pace straight away and obviously form a team point of view I think the most important is that we work together, not against each other. That seems to work, so that’s important. Otherwise it would be a bit of a waste of energy. So, yeah, I think those are the key things. It’s obviously good, I think it was a big weekend for him last weekend, even though it was shadowed by the circumstances, the passing of Anthoine, so not great but as he said, obviously it was his first one and I’m sure he’ll be around for a while so there will be a lot more.
Can I put that question to Pierre as well. Pierre, you’ve known Charles for such a long time. Have you been surprised, impressed by what he’s done with Ferrari this year?
PG: I’m going to say no, because I know he’s like, super-talented and a super-fast guy but it’s the case and we know each other since we were eight years old. He’s been always on top of all the series he’s competed in. So, we’ve been team-mates. I was always surprised and impressed when we were team-mates how fast he was, and all the battles we had, so no, in a way, I’m not surprised but in a way it’s good that he proved it with his first win and I’m sure there will be many more.
Q: (Joe van Burik – racingnews365.nl) Question to Charles, after the race you mentioned you didn’t say a word during the race. Can you describe the state of mind while you were going for that victory?
CL: To be honest, I’ve got no ideas why I didn’t speak but the engineers… they thought there was something wrong on the radio actually because I was not speaking. I had nothing to say. They were giving me the information I needed, and that’s it. I just focused on the job behind the wheel, and that’s it.
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To both Ferrari drivers. I was wondering, in light of the sad events of last week, whether the drivers thought there was any consideration maybe needed be given to the nature of run-off areas. There’s been less and less gravel for reasons that are well-known, but whether that should be examined, whether gravel could actually slow drivers down and make them stick to track limits better. And b) is there anything that the GPDA have discussed about last week that you will now speak to the FIA about?
SV: I think it’s a question for all of us really but I think the answer will probably be the same one – or should be the same one. I think what happened couldn’t be any worse. I think it will be examined in a very detailed way, which is, I think, correct and what everyone would expect – but I think to draw any conclusions now is probably not right. I think we need to have a full picture of a lot of elements. The ones that you mentioned are definitely part of those – but there might be, or there are, also others. Obviously I’m a fan of holding races in Spa, because it’s a great track, has a great history, a lot of the corners are very unique but for sure, we need to have a very close look and take some time to understand exactly what happened before drawing any conclusions.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Slightly following on from that question. There were some comments Jackie Stewart this week, who said that last weekend’s accident might serve as a bit of a wake-up call, and drivers perhaps are taking too many liberties, particularly on the first lap. I was just wondering what your responses would be to that?
NH: I think obviously some of it is true. Tarmac runoff areas do invite us to keep pushing – because it doesn’t have an immediate consequence. I think it needs to be policed. There is always the right balance somewhere. Maybe it’s also a case where we need to have a customised solution for particular corners like Eau Rouge which is quite unique in the way that we don’t really see that corner until we come up on the hill and see what’s going on. But yeah, sometimes things get a bit hectic and out-of-control on lap one. I think more particularly – even though that wasn’t lap one it was lap two, but still, early in the race when everyone is very bunched up – sometimes you see that happening more in the junior series. We’ll see. They’re motivated, maybe a bit too excited but yeah, like I say, maybe there’s a solution for every corner a little bit different.
SV: I think, looking back obviously he was racing at a horrible time where drivers passed away, not regularly but obviously a lot more frequently. So, for sure, you cannot compare his era to our era. Obviously he’s been around at that time, he’s been racing so he knows what it felt like and is able to judge whether it’s different or not. I don’t think we can have that judgement. But yes, again, as far as I understand it, it was a bit of a chain of happenings, of situations that led into the final accident but, yeah, I think we all had our moment on Saturday and obviously Sunday, going to the race track and driving the race but to some extent it’s part of motorsport. It is dangerous, it’s part of the thrill – but certainly obviously the last years have been a wake-up with the passing of Jules and now Anthoine. It shows that there are still things – even if people think it’s too safe and boring – I think there are still things we can do better, we must improve, we must work on, because I’d rather have boring Formula 1 championships to the end of ever and bring him back – so I think there’s no question about that trade.
CL: On my side I think I was always aware it was a dangerous sport because any time you go at that speed it will always be dangerous. On the other hand, ever time I’m getting into the car, I’m going with the same mindset. I think we are all trying to do that. Even with what happened on Saturday, which was obviously extremely sad and I think it has shocked all of us. Especially the new generation, we haven’t known that – or actually the generation that is in Formula 1 like Seb, it’s a much safer sport than a long time ago, so yeah, at the end, once you are going into the car, you are trying to be in your zone, trying to think to what you need to do, and you need to race as hard as you can to finish as high as you can. So yeah, I think I’ve always been aware that there was some risk, but sometimes it’s obviously a shock when something like this happens.
NH: I agree with all the comments.
AG: Me too.
Q: (Davide Russo – newsf1.it) Question for Charles. How would you describe your relationship now with Seb?
CL: I think very good. I think we found the right compromise with Seb between competition and also working together to try and improve the car and to work for the team. I think this is extremely important for team-mates. Any time we are getting into the car I want to beat him as much as he wants to beat me – but whenever we are out of the car, we manage to share information, speak together and, yeah, just try to do our best to help the team to move forwards and to bring the car where it should be. I think it’s a very good relationship.
Sebastian, how different is your relationship with Charles to the one you had with Kimi Räikkönen?
SV: More words! That’s it. As Charles touched on, we try to work together. We try to push the team. Our car is not where we want it to be. I said earlier that we didn’t have the car and the ability to win every race so far, and that is our objective, so I think it serves both of us if we push in the same direction because I believe one day we will have that car and then we can fight it out.
Q: (Umberto Zapelloni – L’Automobile) Can you give yourself a vote from one to ten for the first 13 races of this year?
NH: Eight. That’s too short for you, right? You want more! Why not? It wasn’t a ten because it hasn’t been the best of seasons. I’ve also left out a couple of opportunities hence two away from ten.
AG: I would say, looking back, I lost a lot of opportunities for issues or whatever. I don’t know. Five and a half? 5.5, yes.
SV: I don’t know. We have had a question like that. I don’t remember what I answered so maybe I should say nothing now because otherwise I say something different. No, I don’t remember so I’m not going to go with that.
Q: Five? Same as Hungary.
SV: Well, we’ve had one race since Hungary. Was it after Hungary or before? I don’t know. Yeah, I think the bottom line is that we know we haven’t had the season we wanted so far. Obviously we started off in a good place in the second half and hopefully we can keep that up but we know also, being realistic, that Mercedes is the clear favourite. As I said, they’ve been in a position to win every race this year so yeah, that’s something that we haven’t been in and we need to get there, that’s the point.
CL: Yeah, I also think I’ve answered one of those questions. I might change my answer but probably the six first races weren’t that positive for me so maybe around six. After that, more seven and a half. Bit happier in qualifying, especially and now I’m targeting to move a bit higher for the rest of the season.
PG: I never like these kind of ratings so… It hasn’t been the best start of the year but now the new goal is to raise this mark.
Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1Valag.hu) Sebastian, we have seen some pictures of the new 2021 car in the wind tunnel. How do you like it and how will the new regulations affect your decision regarding the future?
SV: I don’t know, I think we’ve probably also seen renderings from Renault in the past and other teams so I don’t know whether the pictures we’ve seen are actually what it will be because as far as I understand there are no regulations yet for ’21 so it’s a bit pointless to post pictures but maybe that’s what some people would like the cars to look like, I don’t know. I think that there are no rules yet for ’21, no decisions, no hard decisions so it’s a bit pointless to look at pictures. Yeah, I think there’s a great chance to make things better. I think we, as drivers, addressed our main points. Obviously it was very nice and very respectful that we had a sort of say or at least people asked our opinions for the first time ever in this kind of decision, the people who make the decisions asked our opinions. We were definitely pushing to keep things simple. We want closer racing. From our side, I think it’s very clear and then however the cars look, I guess it’s a bit secondary. I think if the racing is great and so on, then the cars will look great as well.
Q: Will the regulations for 2021 have a bearing on your future?
SV: Yeah, for sure. Obviously I don’t know how long the decision to stay with these kind of rules will be but obviously my contract now finishes next year. Everything after that is based on the new rules so for sure you have a look. As I said, I think it’s a huge chance for the sport to position itself in a better… or to be in a better place. Having said, it’s not that now everything is awful so I think we need to remember that. It’s a fine balance but every change is a chance – a chance to do better or worse and hopefully we do better.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) You spoke about the passion you saw from the Ferrari fans yesterday at the event. It’s been nine years since the tifosi have been able to cheer on a Ferrari driver to victory here at Monza. How much will it mean to you to end that drought and take that win and be up on that podium?
SV: Well, we’ve been on the podium a couple of times but never on the top step, not that it’s a big thing. This is the biggest race for us, no doubt. It’s a big weekend. Obviously we saw the passion that there is yesterday and I’m sure we will see it throughout the weekend.
So hopefully I’m sure it will give us a boost, how much, we will see. I mentioned before, it’s difficult to predict but certainly I think now is the time to sort of over-deliver. Yeah, it’s a big weekend so hopefully we can make it count this time. I think we have a good chance, so we will see. We’re ready, I guess.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just along the same sort of lines: Sebastian does this race offer you your best realistic chance of ending your drought, if we can call it that: twelve months now since your last win. Must it be this weekend?
SV: I don’t think so. I think we have lots of races ahead but I’m not looking to… I don’t know, where I am in ten races time; this is the weekend I’m focused on. As I said, we’re not the clear favourites. Obviously there are signs that we are aware of and put us in a good position but I think we have to be carefully optimistic and realistic. There’s a lot of elements during a Grand Prix that can make a difference. One lap is one thing but then obviously there’s a lot of laps on Sunday, plus the weather, plus, plus, plus. There are a lot of things. I don’t see it that way, I see it as a chance, simple as that, but then again, I think you always have a chance when you’re on the grid no matter where you start from but surely we want to make sure we start from the front which gives you a higher chance and then carry that into the race.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Charles, obviously it was a great day in your life to win your first Formula One race, albeit laden with other emotions but is there anything that you’ve done in the last few days to celebrate or bought yourself anything, and what does it feel like, generally, in your mind to be a Formula One winner?
CL: No, I haven’t done much to celebrate that. Hopefully I will be able to celebrate after this one. As I said earlier, there was not much time to celebrate anything.
SV: He asked what you bought.
CL: I didn’t buy anything.
SV: They tell me you bought a boat!
CL: No, no, that’s not true! Obviously it feels good, it’s something that – until you get it, it feels very far away but once you have it it feels obviously very, very good and it gives you a bit of a confidence boost too, so it’s great. Now it’s done and I can focus on the future and hopefully many more will come.
Q: (Jens Nagler – Bild) Nico, you didn’t always have the best of luck this season but suddenly in Spa that seemed to change. I think Pierre locked up, Antonio crashed out, Lando did not finish. Might that be a turning point for you in that season and do you feel you need a turning point in order to secure a seat for 2020?
NH: If you look across a year, it levels out with luck. Sometimes it’s on your side, sometimes it’s against you. In Spa we did get lucky. We picked up two positions from other people who were unfortunate but yeah, I believe it does somehow, across a year, level out one way or another. I don’t think it needs to change for me to secure a seat. I just need to do my job, for me to focus on it and extract what I can from the car and basically perform. I think then it will all be good.
Q: (Stephane Barbe – L’Equipe) Seb, we’ve seen in Spa a tense game in qualifying with drivers going slowly, looking for a good tow. Do you think you could have the same here in Monza, and what is the importance of the slipstream here in Monza in qualifying and the race?
SV: Yeah, obviously if you look on paper, this is the place where you expect this kind of strange games. Yeah, there’s very little you can do to sort of prepare because it depends on the timing of the session. Here I think the lap is a bit shorter so maybe it buys you a bit more flexibility but yeah, we’ll see on Saturday. I don’t know if it’s going to be dry or wet but obviously in the wet there’s no point, not as much as in the dry. Yeah, it does make a difference, how much it’s difficult to quantify but certainly last year it made a difference and yeah, you need to be on the good side, obviously, and it also depends a bit on tyres, whether it’s easy to prepare them or whether it’s really critical. And then you need to make the trade between tyres being in the right window or being in position for the tow. Could be entertaining but you also hope that obviously you get a nice shot, at least one of the two.
Q: (Silvia Arias – Parabrisas) Pierre, in a way, could it be more relaxing for you, driving for Toro Rosso than for Red Bull?
PG: No. I think as a driver you always need to deliver the best of yourself with the car you have. Targets are exactly the same on my performance side.