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Brazilian GP: FIA Thursday Press Conference

November 9 2018

 FIA Thursday Press Conference

DRIVERS Ė Brendon HARTLEY (Toro Rosso), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Lance STROLL (Williams), Marcus ERICSSON (Sauber), Stoffel VANDOORNE (McLaren)


Marcus, if we could start with you. Itís been a busy couple of weeks for you since Mexico. Youíve announced your plans for 2019, in IndyCar. Is that farewell to Formula 1 or do you see IndyCar as a stepping stone back to Formula 1?
Marcus ERICSSON: I donít really know the answer to that question; I think thatís what the future will tell. I go to America fully committed to doing a great job over there. I see myself as being there for quite some time. But then in the future you never know what will happen. Iím just super excited to go there. I met the team and it felt really, really good. I think IndyCar, from the outside, looks like a lot of fun, so I canít wait to get started.

Q: So that means your Formula 1 tenure is over, at least for now. How do you reflect on the last five years?
ME: Itís been amazing, Iíve really enjoyed it, but itís also been tough. Most of the time Iíve been running in back-of-the-grid teams and cars and thatís always tough, especially when youíre used to growing up through the junior ranks and you always fight for wins and podiums and you always go in with that mindset to a race weekend, and then the last five years thatís never been realistic and thatís been the tough part of it. Thatís why also Iím so excited about next year, that I can actually be back racing for wins again. I bring a lot of experience and a lot of good memories from these five years, for sure.

Q: Letís just finish by talking about the on-track performance of you and your Sauber. You had your sixth points finish of the year in Mexico. How confident are you of repeating that here at Interlagos?
ME: We are confident that we can be competitive here. Iíve scored points now two weekends in a row and Iím aiming to continue that. I think the car at the moment is competitive. We know itís very tight there in the midfield but weíve done a good job all year to improve all the time and we continue to do that and Iím sure weíre going to be in the fight this weekend as well. I feel really good, feel really confident so Iím sure weíre going to be there and fight for those points on Sunday.

Q: Thank you, Marcus. Stoffel, you're another driver who has announced plans outside of: is it farewell to Formula 1 or do you see Formula E as a stepping stone back into Formula 1?
Stoffel VANDOORNE: Itís a bit hard to tell. Iím starting a new challenge, which Iím really looking forward to, with HWA in Formula E. I donít really have a break this winter, so Iím going straight into that and that will also beÖ my mindset is to do the best job there. So whatever happens in the future, itís difficult to tell at the moment. You know, the driver market this summer has been a little bit crazy and no one could have really expected what has happened. Things like that can happen in the future and who knows what is going to happen. But for now Iím just focusing on Formula E and trying to do the best job there.

Q: So how do you reflect on your couple of seasons with McLaren?
SV: Definitely itís not been the best two seasons. Iíve had a great time with McLaren through the junior series and theyíve supported me a lot to make the step into Formula 1. But the two years Iíve had in Formula 1 have been good in terms of experience but I would have much preferred to fight higher up. The timing was right to get to Formula 1 and I think I was with the right team, the right support, but I think just the competitive weíve had over those two years have not been great. It would have been nice to fight a bit higher up.
Q: Well, we saw you back in the points in Mexico last time out, where you finished eighth. Just talk us through that result: what changed on the car, did you make a breakthrough, because you were more competitive?
SV: Nothing changed. That weekend we just looked a little bit more competitive in general. From my side that weekend went really well from the start. Qualifying wasnít maybe the best for us but we were a little bit closer to the group in front, which usually means on race day we are a little bit better than them. It turned out to be that way. I think the tyre degradation helped us quite a lot there to be a bit more competitive and to make a bit of a difference. It was nice to finish eighth and get some points on the board and also quite important for us for the Constructorsí Championship.

Q: Thank you. Brendon, weíve been speaking to these guys about 2019. Any update on your plans for next year?
Brendon HARTLEY: Pretty much the same stance Iíve had for the last races. Itís probably not worth going into. Iím still very much focused on my own performance, what I can do to get the most out of the weekend, working with the team. Iím focusing on myself and not much has changed, so thereís no real news to give you.

Q: Youíve started ahead of your team-mate Pierre Gasly in two of the last three races, so it feels like youíre getting a bit of momentum behind you. While weíre in reflective mood, can you just talk us through how you feel youíve improved as a driver during 2018.
BH: Yeah, I definitely have improved and there was a lot to learn, being a rookie Ė an old rookie at 28 years old Ė but still a rookie in Formula One. Coming from LMP1 there was a lot of similarities, which Iíve touched on many times before but then also a lot of new things to learn. Tyres is a big one that springs to mind. Maybe the environment in Formula One, the style of racing, and I guess some of the external pressures that are sometimes put on you as a driver. I felt through the seasonÖ yeah, Iíve maybe hardened my approach, Iíve got stronger, Iíve learnt from mistakes, figured out, with the engineers whatís going to get the most out of the weekend for me, in terms of the car, the set-up. I think Iíve bought a lot of experience to the team and in the second half of the season Iíve definitely been stronger. Qualifying, me and Pierre have been quite aligned: sometimes heís been just ahead, sometimes Iíve been just ahead. The races havenít always worked out and I donít think the points on the board is a true reflection. I think sometimes people do forget itís also a team sport, itís not just an individual, it is very much a team sport and Iíve been a team player. I think now the focus is really on making sure weíre ahead of Sauber before the end of the season. Thatís the main focus for Toro Rosso right now and I think weíve got an exciting couple of races ahead. Mexico we had really, really good pace considering we had the older-spec engine. Even with the issue I had on the first lap with the flat spot, I was still in a points position before the penalty and the damage, and I think that, knowing how much performance we can gain from the new engine, and potentially the new aero package that weíll both have this weekend, I think we can be excited and optimistic for the last couple of races for 2018.

Q: You mentioned the upgraded Honda engine there. How much of an improvement is that? Is it something you can actually feel in the cockpit?
BH: Itís a tricky one to answer because these Formula One cars are very light and you have close to 1,000hp Ė I donít know the exact number Ė and the objective from the drivetrain, which is massively complicated with three different engines and all sorts of calculations going on to make it all work but in theory you get power when you put down the throttle pedal andÖ I guess the point Iím trying to make is that every track we go to, we have different downforce levels, different altitude in Mexico, for example, so to feel a power increase is tricky for a driver but the lap time shows a story and thereís no question from everybody in the team and from all the data that thereís a really big step. I think we suffered a little bit in Mexico, especially in the racing environments and off the start line not having it Ė but we have it onboard again for the next two races and yeah, it gives us something to be optimistic about.

Q: Lance, weíve spoken to everyone else about 2019, so I feel itís only right that I should ask you the same question. When are you going to tell us what your plans are?
Lance STROLL: Yeah, well, right now Iím still focussed on the remainder of this season. Thereís two races left, thatís where my heads at. Weíll see what the future holds.

Q: Can we expect an announcement about your future within this season or do you think itíll be a winter announcement?
LS: I believe so. Time will tell. Thatís all I can say right now.

Q: I think thatís you telling us to move on. Weíre in reflective mood here. Youíre coming towards the end of your second season in Formula One. Talk us through your ambitions in the sport now. Youíve been able to observe all the other drivers around you, including the world champions. What do you think you can achieve in Formula One?
LS: Thatís dependent on a lot of things. I mean, right now Iím just taking it day by day, year by year. Weíll see Ė but there are so many factors in Formula One that are important. You need to be in a good car first of all Ė this year has been a good example: itís been a very challenging year with the car. The performance really hasnít been there and therefore we couldnít score many points. So thatís a bit part of it Ė but yeah, Iím not looking too far down the line right now, Iím really just trying to, yíknow, focus on the present, make the most of where I am currently and weíll see down the line what happens. Itís too hard to tell, sitting here today.

Q: How difficult has it been for you to make the most of where you are currently, because itís been a difficult season? What do you feel youíve learned during 2018?
LS: Yeah, it has been very challenging. The car just hasnít been there so weíve just been surviving every weekend rather than actually competing. Been getting knocked out in Q1 a lot, most of the races Iíve had good starts and Iíve been in a points-scoring position, weíve just fell back down the order so itís kind of always been the case, weíve just been on the back foot throughout the whole year. We havenít really developed the car at all since Australia, I donít think weíve really improved the car at all. Itís been tough to see some of our competitors early on, like Sauber, for example, who were neck and neck with us at the beginning, make big steps in the right direction, compared to us. Yeah, itís been a survival year, thatís all I can say. But Iíve still developed as a driver, Iíve matured as a driver. The second year in Formula One, more seat time, more experience. Iíve absorbed a lot of information, even though itís been a very challenging year compared to last year but thatís the nature of the sport. As a driver, you have to accept that some years are more challenging than others and thatís part of the game.

Q: Kevin, weíre talking about 2018, so how do you reflect on the season thatís just been? Itís been a good year for you. You can clinch your qualifying head-to-head against Romain Grosjean this weekend in Brazil.
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: Yeah, it has been a pretty good year, I think. It has shown that we are making progress with the team, year by year, and I think our aim should be to keep that up in the next season. I think this year it looks like weíre probably going to finish fifth in the Constructors unless we get some very good weekends in the next two weekends. That leaves us at least one realistic target for next year, to take another step forward. I think this year weíve had a very fast car. We havenít always scored the points that we should have for different reasons but the good thing about that is that we can go into next season and know that we can do better, because the performance is there.

Q: Well, Mexico really hurt the teamís chances of getting P4 in the championship, didnít it? Both cars knocked out in Q1 for the first time this year; do you understand what the problems were in Mexico?
KM: Not quite, but I think we understand that itís probably to do with tyres as we hadnít changed the car so the only thing that really can be such a big factor is the tyres and I think in Mexico you have these factors like you have very little downforce because of the altitude and that has a lot of knock-on effects on different things so cooling as well and you run the car in a different window in Mexico. I think we got the tyre performance a little bit wrong so we suffered a lot in Mexico and that was a weekend to forget, definitely, but also at the same time we of course are trying to learn from it because last year and the year before the team also had a bad weekend in Mexico, so hopefully next year we can learn a bit more and get there a little bit more prepared, to not have such a big off weekend.


Q: (Ian Parks Ė New York Times) Stoffel and Kevin; Stoff you touched on your two years at McLaren, can you just expand a little on your relationship with Fernando, what you might take forward from those two years, having worked alongside an experienced double World Champion? And Kevin, could you just give me your thoughts on Fernando as a driver? I know youíve expressed some disagreements in the past. Does that still hold true and what positives can you say about him?
SV: Yeah, for me itís definitely been a good experience to go alongside Fernando, letís say. The way he prepares a weekend Ė obviously Fernandoís one of the most experienced drivers on the grid. I think as a rookie it was very valuable for me to learn from that, especially the way he prepares his weekend, through the practice sessions, how heís building up to the race on Sunday, how heís trying to extract the most so thereís a definitely a lot Iíve learned over the past two years which I can carry forward.
KM: My respect for Fernando as a driver is very big. Thereís no doubt heís definitely one of the best drivers on the grid. Even though weíve had some tough fights and a few arguments, thereís no damage to my respect for him as a driver. I think thatís it.


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