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British GP: FIA Thursday Press Conference

July 6 2018

 FIA Thursday Press Conference

DRIVERS Ė Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Charles LECLERC (Sauber)


Q: Charles, what a season itís turning out to be. Youíve scored in five of the last six races, Q2 in the last six races. Clearly youíve found a sweet-spot with the car. How much confidence do you have coming into this weekend?

Charles LECLERC: Well, as Iíve said before, the confidence is not so high because I'm always looking at the negatives after each grand prix and yeah, thereís still plenty of negatives. I did some mistakes in Paul Ricard, and again in Austria but yeah, weíve been in the points consistently, which is great. We definitely did not expect it. Q2, six times in a row now I think, which is, again, quite crazy. I expect a bit more of a difficult weekend here, especially with high speed corners but weíll try to push and hopefully weíll have a very positive weekend again.

Q: Youíve told us about the negatives but letís just reflect on the positives of the last few races. Youíre clearly getting on very well with the car. Have you surprised yourself at how quickly youíve got up to speed?

CL: To be honest I had very difficult first three weekends this season but then we really did a step in Baku with the approach of the setup especially. I was asking something completely wrong to the engineers in these first three weekends, and then it went a lot better. So, yeah, for now it is going very, very well, and we just need to keep working like that.

Q: Itís not easy to be in a team thatís rebuilding, as is the case with Sauber, yet you seem to be dealing with it very well. How much are you enjoying that process and what are you learning?

CL: Itís great to see the hard work of the team and that it pays off on the track. Itís not like weíre having a revolutionary change and upgrades Ė but any time weíve put something on the car it went in the right direction. And yeah, weíve seen that on track and itís not always a given in Formula One. Sometimes you bring something and itís not doing what itís supposed to do on track. So, yeah, the teamís doing a great job on that, and they are giving me a car that is easy to drive also. So, everything is going good.

Q: Max, a quick momentís reflection on four days ago, that victory for the teamís home race in Austria and those crazy scenes with those Dutch fans after the race. How do you reflect on it all, four days on?

Max VERSTAPPEN: I think it was a little bit of an unexpected victory but, of course, I think theyíre very nice to take, especially after Friday and Saturday where we didnít look fantastic. Then, going into the race, I immediately felt I had a bit better balance in the car, I could at least push it a bit more in the fast corners where we were losing out before. And then yeah, of course, the Mercedes cars in front of me, with Valtteri having a problem, disappearing and then, with the Virtual Safety Car, I think the team did a good job to anticipate that and make the pitstop. And then from there onwards it was all about tyre management and I think we were on top of that. Or course, at the end the Ferrariís same close but we managed it well, with the whole team and yeah, of course weíre happy to win.

Q: One of your best victories?

MV: Yeah. I keep saying that. I think theyíre all nice if you win. This one was very unexpected and I think that makes it a little bit more special.

Q: Youíve had three consecutive podiums now, youíre building some momentum Ė so where do you feel Red Bull Racing sit in the pecking order among those top teams?

MV: Difficult to say. I think it depends on the track. If the straights are pretty long, then we are third. If theyíre not too many straights, I think we have the best chassis, so we are very competitive. But yeah, to make a win in Austria is good because normally weíd expect to lose points on the others Ė and we didn't, so thatís good. Letís see what we can do here.

Q: Letís talk a little bit more about that. There are some long straights here at Silverstone but there are some fast corners as well. How do you see it panning out this weekend?

MV: I think the problem is that some corners now, they became flat-out and then it basically becomes a double straight, and thatís just very painful. Like Turn One, youíve got Copse which is flat. Itís a bit of a shame for us. Iím not expecting us to be, like, super-competitive but weíll there. More or less. So, letís see whatís going to happen during the race.

Q: Lewis, youíre going for record win number six here at Silverstone; your fifth in a row. You know coming into this weekend thereís going to be a huge amount of support in the grandstands for you. Can you give us your thoughts coming into your home grand prix?

Lewis HAMILTON: Itís the same as every year really: the British Grand Prix is obviously the most special, in the sense of all the races that we get to do Ė for me. Itís a real privilege. I was just watching some of the replays of last year, and if you look at the end, and it shows you all of the positions and obviously to see the Union Flag up there is always a great feeling. The fans here are just incredible and the weather is the best itís ever been. Weíre fighting for a World Cup, so I think itís just a really great time for sport.

Q: Why is this race different for you?

LH: Just because of the fans.

Q: We talked about last weekend with Max, just to reflect on your race in Austria. What follow-ups have there been in the factory? Is there anything you can tell us about why you retired Ė and are you confident youíre not going to have any problems this weekend?

LH: Obviously, we know it was a difficult weekend and of course we have all wished it wasnít the way it was but what doesnít kill you only makes you stronger. Honestly, the spirit within the team is stronger than itís ever been. These experiences weíve been having and how weíve been handling them, have really united us more than any other year. Thereís a great energy within team. So, while it was a painful experience, it actually brought us closer. I think it made us stronger. I think coming here thereís been some fixes already, immediately after the race, as soon as they got the car back, I think that evening there was a fix that was designed and put into test mode. So, the team was super on it and Iím confident weíve done everything we can to make sure it doesnít happen again.


Q: (Hans Straus Ė Media Group Limburg) Max, how do you feel about the triple-header? Is it business as usual or is it extra-difficult for you?

MV: Itís a little bit busier but I think as a driver, yeah, we donít really feel the issues. I think itís mainly just the mechanics with families and stuff. Itís getting quite busy, for them especially.

Q: (Beatrice Zamuner Ė Motorlat.com) Question to Charles: given the fact Sauber has been on the way up technically and also in terms of competitiveness, would you like to continue being part of this project next year?

CL: Well, itís obviously very interesting to be part of this project, as I was saying. We are growing races after races. They are bringing packages and we keep going more and more to the front, so thatís good to see. Then yeah, weíll have to see for next year. Weíll have to see what other opportunities I get. And then weíll see. For now, Iím really focussing on this year. Trying to develop the car, like we did. I think we areÖ yeah, itís above expectations, what we are doing for now. As a team I donít think we thought we would develop as good as we are now. So, thatís great to see, and then weíll see next year.

Q: (Livio Oricchio Ė Globoesporte.com) Lewis, do you believe in this circuit, the new spec of your car, used first time in Austria, can appear more? Itís a more real circuit than in Spielberg?

LH: I think the two tracks actually hold some similarities in corner speed and corner pace. Like if you look at the middle and last sector of the last race, as opposed to here. But this is a more demanding circuit, particularly with the temperatures we have here. All the high-speed corners. Copse is most-likely going to be flat; Turn One is going to be flat. Itís going to be one of the hardest races on the tyres, I would imagine. But in terms of car performance, yeah, for sure, weíll be able to extendÖ spread the legs of the car more here Ė but thatís the same for everyone. And high-speed is not really a problem in the cars for us nowadays. Weíve got these big wings, massive tyres, so it should beÖ itíll be the fastest weíve ever driver here so itís going to be pretty good fun.

Q: (Dan Knutson Ė Auto Action & Speed Sport) Charles, as you say, the team is improving the car, bringing upgrades. How much better are you, compared to the beginning of the season? You yourself, at just getting more speed out of the car?

CL: As I said earlier. I think itís a combination of what I was asking of the car, that was completely wrong in the first three races, and then you are in quite a negative spiral where the car is very difficult to drive, so you try to push more, and you do more errors, and everything is going quite badly. Then, when I understood which balance I wanted in this car, when I arrived in Baku and went with a much more stable balance, especially for the city track, and then we kept that for the rest of the season. And that went in a good direction, also for me, because I could push the limit. It was easier to feel the limit. And then we worked on that and it made a big step for me also because it was just easier to drive.

Q: (Andrew Benson Ė BBC Sport) Lewis, youíve had an up and down season so far. Youíve had some great weekends and some weekends where you have struggled a bit more. How would you describe the way itís been for you, yourself, and do you have any indication that it might be like last year, where you developed an incredible momentum in the second half of the season, after you had spent time getting used to everything?

LH:I think itís impossible to say how the rest of the season is going to go. What I can say, as I said just a minute ago, from experiences like we had yesterday, the team are very, very reactive. Weíre trying to be proactive, but itís great to be able to be reactive as well. We have been making a lot of improvements in the car, my feeling for the car, my understanding Ė that just naturally grows for a driver throughout the year and for a team as you become more aware of the tyres, the strengths and weaknesses of the package you have. I think everyone is going to continue to shift and get a bit better, but ultimately we want to be improving faster than the others if possible. But it has been an up and down season and I canít really explain it. Part of it is tyres, part of it is that it is a much more competitive year than last year, that weíre fighting two teams. Itís a lot closer, there is a lot more pressure on. Itís how the sport should be, in the sense that youíre squeezing more out of the cars and out of the drivers as well. I think itís not a bad thing.

Lewis, I asked Max to give his thoughts on the pecking order at the front of Formula 1 at the moment, whatís your take on that?

LH: The pecking order among teams?


LH: I donít really know. [Max] what did you say?

MV:That sometimes I guess we have a good chance and sometimes weíre still third. It depends on the track, for us at least.

Who has the fastest car at the moment?

LH: Like Max says, itís up and down from track to track, but I still feel we are the best team, and I truly believe that we will remain that for the rest of the year.

Q: (Phil Duncan - PA) Lewis, weíve seen your Mercedes team make a few strategy mistakes this year. What do you put that down to and do you think it could end up costing you points and ultimately the title?

LH: I think if you look at the season, itís been like that for other teams, I think all teams. If you look at Ferrari, theyíve lost points, Iím pretty sure the Red Bulls have lost points. The amount of pressure, the amount of simulations that go on, the informationÖ there are a lot of tough calls for each team to make. Some of them for sure are easier than others. Maybe the easier one sometimesÖ it could be one weekend the easier one is the wrong decision and vice versa. Thatís just how it is. I hope itís not a title decider, but, as I said, I canít predict whatís going to happen going forwards. All I know is that we are constantly getting better and improving. What I can say is that I really do feel like I have the best strategist team behind me. I mean look at how many wins Iíve had within this team. Weíve had far, far more success than weíve had failures and nobody is perfect. Itís just the way the sport is. There is no way to be perfect. It would probably be boring if that was the case.

Q: (Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Lewis, you talked about having fixes in place for the problems last weekend. Is there any concern at all that these reliability concerns happened on the second weekend with an upgraded engine, particularly after it had been delayed for reliability reasons in the first place?

LH:Weíre human, so naturally every single individual in the team will have that a little bit at the back of their mind, that nervousness. But as a driver, as an athlete and as a competitor I personally cannot allow that to interfere with my weekend. You go in with the same mentality as the last weekend Ė hoping for the car to be reliable. You can never predict whatís going to happen but thatís not getting in my way and Iím pretty certain that for the majority of people in the team theyíre not letting that get in their way either.

Q: (Giles Richards Ė The Guardian) Lewis, youíre one point behind Seb in the world championship. Would it be particularly satisfying if you could retake the lead in front of your home crowd?

LH: Yes, it would be great. Just taking the lead in general, it doesnít matter where it is, would be good. I think coming into this weekend thereís obviously talk of historic number of wins and all those kind of things. If Iím honest itís been a really incredible journey since 2007, coming here and just to be riding this positive wave every time you come to this grand prix. Iím really grateful to be in the position to fight for a win here at Silverstone for the sixth timeÖ not many drivers get to do that. So Iím very privileged in that respect. And the support is unlike anywhere else. No driverÖ you could say that Max is probably getting close, but we donít have a Dutch Grand Prix. If we did it might get close. But the atmosphere here is just incredible throughout this weekend, particularly when the weather is good. The hope is always that you can deliver, arrive in good form and perform and thatís what Iím going to try and do.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy Ė The Times) Lewis, itís only been four days since Austria. The race wasnít, I think itís fair to say, wasnít a great one for Mercedes. Is four days enough? Is the car reliable again? Have the problems been fixed? For yourself, it sounded like on the radio you were becoming increasingly frustrated. Have you moved on and you just reset and you go again for your home race?

LH: Yeah, I felt OK after the race. I think you probably could see that after. I think ultimately I look at is as a positive. It reminds me how passionate I am. Everyone in the team felt the same thing. We really do win and lose as a team. As I said, whatís really happened over the last few days, with the team reuniting, and seeing the guys here, just how energized everyone is, weíre like Ďweíre backí. Just that confidence, that will to win is still there. There are fixes for everything and the guys have worked really hard over these past days and whatís mind-blowing for me is how quick people can react and produce things and Iím just excited to get in the car tomorrow.

Q: (George Bolton Ė The Sun) Lewis, you mentioned the World Cup. Are you hoping to give more celebrations to your home nation by having a good weekend too?

LH: Yeah, we always come into this grand prix with some kind of epic sport surrounding it, be it Wimbledon or whatever, soÖ I was actually going to ask what is the penalty for missing he press conference on Saturday? Is it negotiable? I want to be watching the game soÖ I had to watch on my phone the other day but at least I got to see it.

Q: (Alan Baldwin Ė Reuters) Lewis, thereís been an assumption that you and Valtteri are fighting a Ferrari team whose main focus is Seb. In Austria we saw Kimi finish ahead of Seb, with everyone else lapped. Were you surprised that Seb has in effect missed the chance of getting an extra three points in the battle? I know you gave a place back to Valtteri in the past, but you wouldnít expect Ferrari to have done that.

LH: Am I surprised? There have been scenarios this year, at least one or two, where I though they would have reversed the cars, because thatís the philosophy theyíve had. If Iím really honest Iíve not really put any thought into it. I donít really care. They do what they do. I literally put all of my focus on what we do and make sure that we remain correct and we deliver 100%. And I truly believe that if we do that we will outperform the others. So thatís what I put my energy towards.

Q: (Craig Slater Ė Sky Sports News) One last one on the World Cup for you, Lewis. Is it coming home, do you think? A big psychological barrier crossed by winning a penalty shoot-out; you know how much psychology plays a part in top level sport?

LH: I can only imagine the boys are definitely on a high at the moment, and they just need to continue to try toÖ I hope theyíre sleeping well, I hope theyíre eating well because thatís a large part of it and ultimately just going out there and theyíve got to go and enjoy themselves. Thereís so much pressure on them, obviously, being that it is the World Cup but thereís so much support for them. England is just known asÖ theyíre such excited fans. Thereís so much passion in England for sport, thatís why youíve experienced it here, you see it at the stadiums, particularly in football and even myself, watching just the other day, I donít watch enough football. I played it as a kid and I was massively passionate as a kid and I used to collect all the stickers and stamps, magazines, books that they used to do etc and I used to remember playing with Ashley [Young] at school but just watching on the edge of your seat, the passion is crazy for everyone thatís watching their country play. Itís like itís in your DNA, itís crazy and itís so exciting. Iíve booked my day offÖ is it next Sunday? I think itís next Sunday. Yeah, Iíve booked that day off, like keep it free because I wanna be in Russia for that day, supporting them.

Q: (Livio Oricchio Ė Globoesporte.com) The subject now is tyres: hard, medium and soft and the new kind of tyre with less rubber. Did the director of your team accept this kind of tyre, suits more Mercedes? In a circle where the track is very hard on the tyre, can you all make a comment on the high temperature they also expect here?

CL: I think in Barcelona when we first had them then for the test after the race we tried them and for us it was definitely a good move because we had some problems with the other ones, the normal ones. I believe Pirelli knows what they are doing and if they put these tyres for here, itís because they believe that it might bring issues with the normal ones. For me, itís fine for me with these ones.

MV: Yeah, I tried both but I didnít feel a lot of difference. Iím not too bothered.

Q: Do you think they suit Mercedes more than anyone else?

MV: I donít know. I think if I drive a Mercedes car I can tell you but I donít so itís always a big question mark. Weíll find out.

Q: And Lewis, do you feel the car performs better on these tyres than the other ones?

LH: I honestly donít. I donít really notice the difference, they feel pretty much the exactly same except they are not as easily prone to blistering but we donít suffer from blistering. I think the last race we had thatÖ if you look at last year, other teams, I think you (MV) had a failure on tyres blistering, right?

MV: On a few tracks.

LH: I donít think we had any tyreÖ we donít have tyre problems in general. The last race, obviously, I was pushing the tyre way over the limit, trying to recover position and that was just down to me, not down to our car being worse on that tyre or anything like that. Ultimately thatís an excuse that an engineer would look to if youíre not doing well enough, theyíve got to find something to point at and so in my mind theyíre just using that as an excuse.

Q: (Arjan Schouten Ė AD Sportswereld) Max and Lewis, just to know your opinion: when youíre 53 points down, halfway through the season, do you still have a chance to win the world title, are you still a serious title contender?

LH: If youíre 53 points down? Iíve been 40-something down in the past. Iím pretty sure in Barcelona at one stage I was 40-something down. Did I come back that year, was it that year that I came back? It is possible, it can swing around.

MV: We donít have the package to fight on every track. For example in Monza itís just going to be difficult so it depends in what position you are. If itís compared to your teammate then I think you still have a chance to come back but I donít think we are in a position to do that. For sure, there are some tracks where we will be really competitive and we can definitely challenge for victory but not on every single track so to come back like that, you need to be winning almost every weekend.

Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) Youíve got the opportunity this weekend to have the DRS open through turn one. What are your thoughts on that and do you think itís going to be possible in qualifying?

LH: I doubt it but probably everyone will try. Max will be the first to try, Iím sure! Weíll all follow Max and see what happens with him! But itís usually quite bumpy into turn one. I think itís highly unlikely. But itís going to be even quicker anyway so these tyresÖ you just slideÖ itís quite a quick corner and a lot of pressure and a lot of energy goes into the tyres so I donít even know if itís going to be better anyways but we will find out.

Q: So Max, flat through turn one, DRS open?

MV: I think not every team. I will definitely try it but weíll find out. I donít think you will gain massively after that corner and like Lewis said, probably you will use the rear tyres a bit more as well but we will find out, I think. And also it depends a bit on what kind of wing level you are using.

CL: From what Iíve heard, it was already quite difficult last year without DRS so yeah, we will try to make it flat out first and then we will see but I donít think it will be flat out with DRS.

LH: Actually I have a question for you guys. How am I doing? I notice Iíve got two 20-year olds next to me. The oldest driver here by a long way. Iím nearly one of the older drivers here.

MV: I think itís alright. Youíre doing fine.

LH: Thanks, man. Appreciate it!

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi Ė La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Max and one for Charles. For Max, I would like to ask you if now you are sometimes fighting for victory, I would like to know if with the performance all is showing now, if you are confident for next season to fight for the victories, or do you believe that next year you have to have a harder life?

MV: Itís difficult to say at the moment. Itís quite a long way away and they are in a good way, they are progressing. Iím honestly not thinking about that yet. Of course, it gives a lot of motivation for the team for next year but we have to wait and see how itís going to be until pre-season testing.

Q: Did the team consult you prior to making the decision to go with Honda?

MV: Itís something for my career as well, the steps, so we definitely talked about it but at the end of the day Iím not deciding that. I think itís a positive move.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi Ė La Gazzetta dello Sport) And for Charles, if you aware that this is the track where Alfa Romeo won the first ever Grand Prix, so what does it mean for a guy like you, that you have the brand of Alfa Romeo on your overalls?

Q: Charles, Alfa Romeo won the first Grand Prix here at Silverstone, May 13, 1950. Are you a man who appreciates the history of the sport? How does that make you feel given your association with Alfa?

CL: Yeah, definitely. I learned this news from the team this morning, I didnít know it from myself only but itís a special Grand Prix for the team, then on the other hand we are not in a space at the moment to fight for the win yet but yeah, I hope to bring a very good result to the team, hopefully again in the points. But we will not bring a win this weekend.

Q: (Phil Duncan Ė PA) Lewis, weíve seen you crowd surf after your victories over the last couple of years. Have you got anything up your sleeve this year which may triumph that or go even better?

LH: Honestly, those are all kind of spur of the moment things. I definitely think ifÖfor anybody to pre-plan something, youíre allowing karma toÖ not karma but negative things to potentially happen. Itís like if England starts celebrating before they get to the actual game itís probably not a good idea. No, those experiences were just incredible and I was just watching some footage of the experience in the past. I think the best picture Iíve ever seen was when Kimi and I thinkÖ was it Kimi? A couple of drivers were sitting here and I was outside. I need to re-post that, because that was pretty cool. Just engaging with the fans here is just electric. So I hope to get to do that all weekend and naturally you want to make everyone proud, you want to complete the weekend. Theyíre going to have a great weekend regardless. It will be the cherry on the top of the cake if youíre able to pull something special out of the bag.

Q: Lewis, how much do you feel your support here at Silverstone has grown since 2007 or has it been huge since the outset?

LH: No, I think itís continued to grow. I think itísÖ and as years go on, you appreciate it more and more but 2007 was already pretty cool, I think from that qualifying lap. And then 2008 was justÖ I really will never forget that day. And then itís just been growing ever since really. I hope that continues. Whoís the next Brit thatís coming? After me? I wonít be here for ever.

CL: Russell probably.

LH: Yeah, well. I hope I can wave the flag for a little bit longer.


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