French GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference
Today’s press conference with Guanyu Zhou, Nicholas Latifi, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly, Mick Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.
Group 1: Guanyu Zhou, Nicholas Latifi, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.
Q: Sébastien, very warm welcome. So, let’s start by talking about old cars. It was a ’92 Williams for you at Silverstone a few weeks ago, and it’s an Aston Martin ’22 this weekend, isn’t it? Tell us a little more.
Sebastian Vettel: To correct. I don’t think you can age very much. Yeah, it’s gonna be exciting, I’ll go right after that, do some driving on the track. And obviously it’s a very different car but it’s to celebrate the 100th anniversary. And that was the car that raced in the first Grand Prix – not the Formula 1 Grand Prix, because that was in 1950. But the first Grand Prix, I think it could even have been the French Grand Prix, d ‘after what I learned, so…
Q: Let’s bring it a hundred years now, to this weekend’s French Grand Prix. The Paul Ricard hasn’t been the nicest place with you in recent seasons. After a frustrating weekend in Austria. Are you hoping for a more competitive performance this weekend?
VS: Yes I am looking forward. We’ve brought an update to Silverstone that we haven’t fully mastered yet. And maybe this weekend will help us get a few more answers. So exciting. And hopefully we can be a bit more competitive, to get back into midfield and therefore a bit more into the mix. The track is what it is. It’s not the most exciting track in the world, but it’s still quite difficult and technically demanding, and it’s going to be very tough. So we’ll see what the weekend brings.
Q: Sebastian, last for me, silly season in full swing. Can you give us a glimpse of what you think of your future?
VS: Well, I’m running this weekend, and the next. So, yeah, obviously I said at some point we’ll start talking. I talk to the team. I think there is a clear intention to continue. And we’ll soon see where we are.
Q: Charles, to come to you now, you started your career at the Brignoles go-kart track, just down the road. Does it feel a bit like a home race?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah absolutely. I mean, it was only 60 kilometers from here. Very, very good memories. I didn’t come here often before I was a Formula 1 driver. But it’s always nice to be here. And I hope we can have a good weekend.
Q: Did you actually go karting last week, did I read?
CL: Yes. I was. In Brignoles, in fact!
Q: What is happening in Formula 1? Was it an important victory for you the last time in Austria, where Ferrari was faster than Red Bull in the race? Do you think we’ll see something similar this weekend? What are your expectations?
CL: Well, I hope so. It was definitely an important victory, especially for me. I mean, we had five really tough races on my side where everything seemed to go against me. So it was important to have this victory, to bring points to Max. Given this weekend, we have to see, because the last two years have been very, very difficult: tire management has been an issue and we have struggled particularly, so we will focus entirely on that in testing. free, in order to be ready for the race.
Q: Lando, I come to you now. It’s been a solid points pick for you in five of the last six races. Are you happy with the way the team has been doing lately?
Lando Norris: I am satisfied. I think…I guess every race is always what we could have done a little bit better and could we have scored more points? But, in general, I think it was a good race. We’ve been consistent, which is always a good help. I know things like the five second penalty last weekend was I guess a little thing that made it a bit more difficult and maybe we could have fought with Mick for a few more points . But, in general, you know, we did a good job. We have maximized our potential through the car. Lots of other people have made improvements over the last few races and we’ve always managed to stay there in the fight and get the points we need. So, I did a good job, I’m happy and we’ll try to continue like this.
Q: Very close battle with Alpine in the constructors’ championship. You are tied on points. How do you see this battle?
NL: I think it’s going to be very hard. The Alpines, especially since last…I mean all season, I think they’ve been extremely fast. Fernando was always there to fight – sometimes for the posts. So they are fast. They are also consistent and especially now they seem to be on a very good streak with a very solid car. So, it’s going to be difficult to keep them behind and continue the battle. But we are motivated, we know we can do it. I think we’ve shown that we, even with a car that maybe isn’t as strong as them, we can still outrun them and beat them so hopefully especially because it’s their race at residence. We can mount one.
Q: Charles said he was a bit nervous after Ferrari’s struggles at this race last year. On the other hand, it was a very good run for McLaren here last year. Does that give you a little confidence going into this weekend?
NL: Always does. I think what we were the opposite of Charles last year, we were very strong on tyres. So of course, we hope that this kind of thing continues. And Paul Ricard, I guess for me, as a driver, has always been one of my best leads. One that I’ve always handled very well and performed well in and been fast in, so yeah let’s just say it’s a bit simple like that, it’s a genre that I enjoy, especially just in qualifying, going around and so on you get: a good mix of high speed and low speed turns. But the race was also exciting, you know? Doing a different strategy, overtaking in the race, always makes your Sunday more entertaining. So hopefully even more this weekend.
Q: Nicholas, I come to you now. You will be using the new parts on the car this weekend. What do you expect from them?
Nicholas Latifi: I guess the simple answer is more lap times. Obviously in the last two rounds Alex ran the upgrades and I didn’t and Silverstone obviously struggled to get any meaningful data on that. Obviously, during wet qualifying, he couldn’t do any race laps. But Austria, there were clear positive signs of what the new package was bringing. So yeah, knowing that I was going to have them this race was kind of just, you know, obviously trying to maximize what we can. But then again, we’re still the… I was still in the slowest car, and that was just to get through this weekend. And ultimately, there were no opportunities that really presented themselves. So it was a bit frustrating, for sure. Especially when you lose the only real reference you have, which is always your teammates. This week, now obviously updates, just curious to see how it goes. I mean, there are comments from the team and from Alex that I’ve heard that might require, you know, a different driving approach; different compromises on the configuration. So I think on my end, I’m just going to try, you know, to get the upper hand as soon as possible. Obviously we have an idea of where we need to launch the car and myself. I listened in quite detail to what the team and Alex had to say about it. Hopefully it’ll just give us those extra few tenths that we’ve been missing at times and that in some situations like Silverstone would probably have been the difference between scoring points and not so, yes, it’s a weekend -end, I’m looking forward to it for sure.
Q: Zhou, coming to you now, Austria was a frustrating race for the team, not just for you. To what extent do you hope for a more competitive competition this weekend at Paul Ricard?
Zhou Guanyu: Last time we struggled as a team; tried to find the right balance for Quali, then in the race it was very difficult to pass, stuck behind AlphaTauris. this weekend, by the way, first with the temperature, the track layout is completely different. And for me, I think I’ve never raced on such a high temperature track and it could affect tire economy a lot, and tire management in the race could play more into our hands in a way, and in the past obviously in these warmer conditions it seems our car is handling a bit better than in cooler conditions, so hopefully we can get back to the rhythm we were missing last time in Austria. Obviously the whole team. I think it was difficult for me, especially at Spielberg, just because I come from Silverstone, and completely new chassis only have one session before the parc ferm qualifying rules. So finding the right balance was not easy and I didn’t understand it right away. This weekend might be a bit easier, just to get into that rhythm and find the right balance for me before qualifying and the race.
Q: You talk about the need to manage the tires in the heat this weekend. What about driver heat? How did you prepare for these high temperatures this weekend?
ZG: I mean coming from the UK last weekend, I was pretty well prepared!
Were you outside all the time during the heat wave?
ZG: Type of! But not, you know, around lunchtime. Fortunately, I have air conditioning at home. People were suffering a little more, but yes, obviously this weekend with the high temperatures, for us as riders, we need to hydrate a lot. And normally I don’t use the drink system in the car and the only races where I used it were Miami and Bahrain. So I think I will definitely put it on for this weekend. But these things, when you drink hot water, on the run is not a good thing to do. But I think the whole weekend, not just for the drivers, for the mechanics in the garage, it will be a very difficult weekend, because I don’t think we often have such a high temperature.
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