DRIVERS Ė Kimi RńIKK÷NEN (Alfa Romeo),
Alexander ALBON (Toro Rosso), Romain GROSJEAN (Haas), Sergio P…REZ (Racing
Gentlemen, Iíd like to start with a moment of reflection, given that this is
Formula 1ís 1000th race. Growing up and watching the sport, what made you
want to become a Formula 1 driver? Romain, if we could start with you,
Romain GROSJEAN: Good afternoon. I started watching with my dad, a long time
ago. It was the time of the Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost fights and that
was pretty exciting to watch. My dad was always passionate about cars and
one day he brought me to a race track Ė not a Formula 1 race Ė and I saw the
cars going and I thought Ďyou know what, thatís what I would like to doí.
Then, eventually, I was lucky enough to go to the Monaco Grand Prix to watch
the Thursday practice and I saw the car and heard the noise of the engine
and it was just something very unique and special, a good memory of my life.
I remember going to the toilet and DC was there and he said, Ďoh, you go
first soní. He still called me son by then! And I said Ďno, no, you goí.
Q: Thank you. Sergio?
Sergio P…REZ: Yeah, for me similar, a similar story. I remember the first
race I watched with my dad was í94 actually, when Aytron had his accident.
That was the first race I ever saw. A shock moment, more for my dad than for
me. At the time I didnít understand well what was happening. Obviously from
Mexico, Formula 1 is not very big so it always seemed too far, too
difficult. Itís been a while since we had a driver, so the history back home
wasnít big. But as a family we always loved the sport and I always wanted to
become a Formula 1 driver. At a very young I went to Europe to fight for it.
I remember watching so many races, always waking up very early in the
morning, because in Mexico the races are very early, six or seven oíclock in
the morning. So always on a weekend, when you donít want to wake up early, I
had to, to watch Formula 1. I actually remember watching Kimi back then, at
a very young age too.
Q: Thank you Sergio. Kimi?
Kimi RńIKK÷NEN: Yeah, I donít know what year it was, but it was a long time
ago, Ď80s, thatís for sure. I think the first memories were somewhere where
Keke was racing when he blew up his tyre or something, maybe Adelaide or
something, with the long straight, maybe the last races that he did. So
anyhow, obviously I was cheering for the Finnish guys, but I didnít think
that IÖ maybe you dream when youíre a kid, but once you start doing go-karts
and everything I didnít really believe that it was going to happen, because
obviously you need a certain amount of money to get from go-karts to racing.
Maybe I believed a bit more when I got my managers helping and then actually
got to race in Formula cars and then obviously it went very quickly. I guess
it was a dream but not very realistic at that point, but it went fast once
it started to go there.
Q: Thank you Kimi. And Alex?
Alexander ALBON: My hero was Michael Schumacher. That was the guy I always
looked up to. I was Ferrari mad actually Ė even if I should say that or not,
I donít know. But I loved Schumacher. I think I was about six. I was a bit
like Romain. I was at Silverstone and there was a competition. You had to
fill out the top three drivers that you thought would win the race, or
finish in that order, so I just put Michael, Rubens and Montoya. For some
reason at that race thatís what happened. I think Barrichello was finishing
last or something. So no one wrote what I wrote down. I think it was in
hospitality at Ferrari. So I won the prize and got to meet Michael and got
to meet Rubens. It stuck with me that. I was always a hardcore fan.
Q: Thanks to all four of you. Alex, if we could stay with you. Going well so
far, youíve outqualified your team-mate in Australia and Bahrain. Can you
describe the learning curve youíve been on so far in Formula 1?
AA: Yeah, itís been steep. Getting in the car in Barcelona, getting up to
speed. The speed bitÖ the cars are so refined now that you do feel quite
comfortable with the cars straight away. Itís more the interaction with the
team and kind of just extracting performance outside the car, which
definitely is a lot about experience. So just being Dany, listening to him
really, listening to his feedback, how he communicates with people, it
really does help me. But yeah, itís been going well. Simulator driving,
thatís helped a lot as well. But itís going well so far.
Q: And are you doing anything different with your helmet this weekend?
AA: Yeah, so Iíve got a Prince Bira tribute. I thought it would be cool to
go back and bring out some of the Thai history in Formula 1. I have a couple
of photos, I have his number, well, my number but in his style, because he
had the blue and yellow racing scheme. So thatís about it.
Q: Thanks. Romain, youíre a man in need of some good fortune this weekend in
China. Just how was last weekís test session in Bahrain? Did you understand
why the carís pace dropped off in the race?
RG: Well, it started with three wheels, which didnít help, after the contact
in the first corners. No, we had some good testing. It was a bit disrupted
by the rain, which was a surprise to all us in Bahrain on Tuesday, but we
did manage, on Wednesday afternoon, to get some good data and info, some
interesting set-ups that we should have been running during the race. I
think the car is fast and itís good. You donít qualify twice in the top 10
if you donít have a fast car. I think we just missed something in Bahrain
that we found at testing, which is good. I think what we need right now is a
bit of luck on our side, and to make sure we go through the race with no
incident or no issue and we should be able to have a good weekend.
Q: And anything different with your helmet?
RG: Iíve changed the design, using the F1 1000 logo Ė that looks really cool
- just the full white helmet. Nothing really from the past of Formula 1 but
I was not veryÖ I used to throw all my equipment to the bins of the season,
but luckily my wife pushed me to keep at least one thing from every year. I
know Iíve got one overall per year, from all my racing career, from go-karts
to 2019 season, and actually when I look at them now I think itís pretty
cool. Iíve got some helmets back home that mean more than others. My 100th
grand prix helmet and obviously being part of race 1000 in Formula 1 is
going to be something big, so that helmet is going to go on the shelf and I
really like the design that we have produced. It looks pretty classy and
really cool to be driven in China.
Q: Sergio, it hasnít been the easiest of starts for the team in 2019, though
you did finish in the points last time out. Are there any underlying issues
with the car and if there are, what are they?
SP: I think the upgrade that we brought to the start of the season, given
that we didnít have enough to test or to work on it, I think that put us on
the back foot at the moment in the midfield group. We scored points in
Melbourne and now in Bahrain. At the moment we are not fast enough, we are
not where we want to be, but I think we have proven in the past that itís a
very long season. It doesnít matter where you are now, itís where you get to
by Abu Dhabi. We are understanding our issues, we have a lot of work to do
and Iím pretty sure we will meet all of our targets for this season.
Q: And your helmet design for this weekend?
SP: My helmet design didnít change much. I just wanted to put the 1000 race
logo on my helmet just toÖ itís obviously very special as a driver to race
here, at such a special venue for Formula 1, itís a very special weekend
also. I want, as Romain said, to remember this weekend in many years, to
look at this helmet and remember that I was part of the 1000th race in
Q: Kimi, great start to the season for you and Alfa Romeo, points in both of
the opening two races. Can you tell us, what are the strengths of this
yearís car and has the performance so far changed your goals for the season?
Kimi RńIKK÷NEN: No, it hasnít. I didnít really have any goals, so itís
pretty hard to change them. I canít really talk about last yearís car.
Obviously I did a test but itís one track so from my side itís hard to say
what is better on this car than the one they had last year but for sure they
did a good job over the winter from the car that I drove in Abu Dhabi in the
tyre test to the one we have now. Obviously thereís a lot of things to
improve still and itís a never-ending story and an ongoing thing to try to
make it better, holding more downforce and stuff like that Ė but yeah, I
think in general itís quite a good, solid package and we understand it
pretty OK and they seem to have good guys on all areas to bring new stuff.
It never comes fast enough but thatís a normal issue in any team you go to.
Yeah, I think the basis there is to make it faster all the time, so keep it
up and see what weíve got when we get to the end of the year.
Q: Anything different on the helmet design to celebrate 1000 races?
KR: No. I wanted to have an open-face helmet but there were some regulation
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken Ė Racing Lines / racefans.net) Checo, you say your helmet
design hasnít changed much but Iím hearing from an insider that your helmet
has actually changed. Do you have a different brand for this race?
SP: Yeah, in that regard yes. Iíve moved to Bell. Iíve been in a long term
partnership with Schuberth which Iím very thankful for, I think itís a
fantastic helmet. Now I had the opportunity to change and I think Bell is
also a fantastic helmet. Iíve tried it, and itís my first race with them
now. I started my career in Formula One with them and now Iím going back to
Q: (Steven Wade Ė AP) Kimi, we see that this summer youíre going to break an
F1 record for the most races contested, how do you stay motivated? Youíve
had tremendous success already, how do you stay motivated and stay on top of
KR: I donít know really. I donít have any special things that I try to
motivate myself. Itís become more of a hobby for me lately than anything
else and probably thatís why itís more fun again, so, yeah, I always try to
do the best that I can. Some days it goes a bit better than others Ė but
thatís how it goes when you do a lot of racing. Some days itís a bit more
tricky than others. Itís never really been an issue. A lot of people think
so but, yíknow, everybody has the right to say what they think. I just try
to do what I can and hopefullyÖ when I feel myself that itís not what I
expect from myself then obviously I try to find a new hobby after that.
Q: (Michael Butterworth Ė Xinhua News Agency) To all four drivers, keen to
know your thoughts on the Shanghai circuit and if there are any particular
features or characteristics that make it especially challenging or unique?
AA: Well, itís my first time here, so a little bit hard to say but just
coming from watching videos and being on the simulator it just seems like
thereís about a thousand lines you can do here. A lot of corners leading
onto other corners so it seems like thereís a lot of different styles,
pushing entries or pushing exits. So yeah, it seems to be a really technical
track. So, itís interesting for the drivers, thatís for sure.
KR: I think itís a nice track. Itís been the same since I came here the
first time but some good overtaking opportunities and quite good fun to
SP: Itís quite a long circuit: long straights, very long corners, like Turn
One which is quite hard when you first get here. First lap itís always very
hard to reach the apex because itís so late in the corner that it kind of
gets you. Also, the wind is very difficult here. So itís quite a unique
place, Iíd say. Normally good racing and a nice feeling on one lap Ė itís
definitely a circuit I enjoy.
RG: Itís a good circuit. One of the challenges is to get here on time in the
morning. Racing it quite fun, as Kimi said. Qualifying laps are always good
and then in the race the challenge is to look after your tyres, especially
the fronts with those long corners: Turn One, Turn Seven-Eight, 13. That can
really make a huge difference if youíve used your tyres too much or not.
Then you can have some really good racing. Itís a pretty good place to come.
Q: (Stuart Codling Ė Autosport) Question for Alex. The 2021 technical
regulations are currently taking shape and are under discussion. The desired
outcomes are for a more level playing field, for there to be more overtaking
opportunities. Do you think that reducing the amount of data capture would
provide that Ė or would it actively be a problem for drivers, such as you,
who are just coming into the sport? Would it be a disadvantage?
AA: To promote overtaking? I wouldnít say reducing data would effect
overtaking. On my side at least, data is just for getting lap-time, it
wouldnít be a tool to affect passes, no.
Would if make your job harder if there were no data?
AA: In general, yeah, I would say so. I think data now in Formula One is
huge. Especially for me, itís a fast-track to get getting up to speed and
even just about getting performance. Itís definitely something I use a lot,
I compare with Dany quite a lot. I think some drivers look at data more than
others. Iím a driver that looks at data quite a lot. Just to get up to
speed. Iím using it a lot right now. For passing or overtaking, no.
Q: (Velimir Jukic Avto-Focus) Question for Kimi. They say you are slower for
each kid by about one second. How are you compensating for this now that you
have two seconds slower conditions to drive?
KR: Maybe I somehow go faster at the same time to compensate it! I donít
think that kids make any difference. There are an awful lot of stories based
on nothing in F1. I didnít ever feel that thereís something happening on my
driving when our family got bigger Ė but I donít know. I guess it depends
from people to people also. Sometimes it might have an effect but at least
on our side, on my side, I donít feel it. Obviously the life changes a lot
outside of racing but yeah, pure driving they didnít really effect on my
I might just through that to Checo and RomainÖ
SP: Similar to Kimi I think it doesnítÖ. Formula One drivers are all normal,
when weíre driving we donít think we have family, we have kids, we just want
to go as fast as we possibly can. I think outside of racing it changes, you
sleep a lot less looking after your kids! All of a sudden a Formula One race
weekend becomes a holiday, because youíre able to sleep longer, and so on Ė
but itís a lot of fun and it doesnít really affect at all. If it takes one
second it means in the past we were really quick! Because we have a couple
of seconds in th pocket, it means a lot.
Romain, anything to add?
RG: No, no. I think what the boys said is the truth. It changes you as a man
back home. It changes your whole life and perspective and probably helps you
more than it slows you down. When youíve had a tough weekend and you come
back home, it doesnít matter, they love you and you love them more than
anything, so it puts things in perspective. But yeah, with three kids now,
three seconds off the pace, my goodnessÖ quite happy to be qualifying in the
Alex, any children we donít know about?
Q: (Julien Billiotte Ė AutoHebdo) How do you think Formula One will look for
race number 2000 in forty or fifty yearsí time? Will car racing still exist
and what kind of cars could we see on track? Or would you like to see on
RG: Actually I already answered that question. Itís a tough one. Iíve got no
idea what the cars are going to be like in forty, fifty years. The only
thing I would say is that I hope there is still going to be a driver driving
the car because thatís where the emotion goes. If you hold a football game
with just robots itís not going to be much fun so I hope there are going to
be drivers. Technology will be very different, Iím sure, but the sense of
racing has been here since 1950, the first F1 race where the guys driving at
their best, trying to overtake the guy in front of them and going as fast as
they could with what they had and oversteer was oversteer back then and
understeer is back today so I think the feeling was the same so I hope the
guys would have as much fun as we do have today.
SP: Yeah, same. Technology these days is developing scarily so I really hope
that in the future we still have the drivers and that they are able to have
as much fun as we do or because I think things are going to change
massively. I really hope that things change the same, at least. Obviously
they were will be very different, I think, probably they might be electric
in a couple of years - I hope in many more years. For the drivers, they will
still be important. I donít know if it was in the past but these days the
driver is less important, the driver can make less of a difference and itís
now all related to the team so I think for the future and for the time that
Iím here I can see a different Formula One where the driver can make the
difference instead of the team.
KR: Yeah, itís impossible to know what will happen. Probably there will be
racing, some sort of racing, who knows what? Itís been 1000 races so I donít
think itís going to disappear suddenly somehow but who knows? Weíll find
AA: Yeah, same as them. As long as we have a job or the future racing
drivers have a job then Iím happy.
Q: (Zoran Zivkov Ė Top Speed Magazine) When you look at the past and
history, if youíd had a time machine, in which period, in which era, would
you like to come back?
AA: I havenít really thought about that. Iíd say old school, 1950s. I want
to see how the sport was back then. I know itís dangerous so maybe I will
bring my HANS device with me and we will see but I think that kind of racing
is cool and Iíd like to try it out.
KR: Iíve gone back for the second one any more. I guess in the past, I would
look at seventies, sixties, late sixties, seventies. For sure it would have
been more fun, more relaxed, more pure racing but obviously much more
dangerous but thatís normal at that time.
Q: We saw you with a James Hunt helmet a few years ago, didnít we?
KR: Bit more than a few years but yeah.
SP: Yeah, I think that 1960s, 70s, those times were good fun. The driving
looked very dangerous of course; for the driver, it depended on the risk you
took that maybe made the difference. I think itís something that all my
career I have missed. Always the difference is made by the cars and not so
much by the drivers. I think back then it was good fun. It looked really
good. Also the atmosphere was really relaxed. I think these days Formula One
is too posed. I wish it was a bit more relaxed and people enjoying
RG: Yeah, not going that far (back). Iím really in love with í93, í94 and
then 2005 and 2006. I wish that Kimi was back then: yeah, you were racing. I
love the cars around that time and they looked amazing and there was a tyre
war as well which was quite fun to watch from outside, I thought, and
refuelling and the cars looked really really cool in mid-2000. I drove a
2007 car, it was quite good then.
Q: (Duan Yiyi Ė Titan Sports) Kimi, no matter which team you are in you
always seem to be the fansí favourite here in China, so from your
perspective what characteristics do you have to attract so many fans in
KR: I have no idea. You should go and ask them. I think generally in Japan,
China we Finnish people seem to have a lot of fans. Itís great, especially
here. I cannot go anywhere but thatís a part ofÖ the other side of the fans.
Iíve always had a lot of fans here, since the first time we came here so Iím
happy about it. I donít know the reason. I guess you would probably get the
answer if you go and ask some in front of our hotel, you can ask them there.
Or at the airport.
Q: (Dieter Rencken Ė Racing Lines, RaceFans.net) You may have noticed that
in Bahrain McLaren was sponsored by an e-cigarette brand, Vipe. Particularly
the three fathers there, how do you feel about this? Do you feel it sets the
right sort of example for your children?
RG: Oh dear. Iím going to dig my own oar. Right. I think you want to watch
on Netflix, because they are our friends now, whatever content you can. I am
the first one to tell my friends to stop smoking and Iíve actually achieved
that a few times and Iím quite proud of that. I think e-cigarettes are maybe
less bad. I think if they want to sponsor Formula One why not. Iíve been
with Total for many many years which is an oil company in France or
worldwide and weíve actually done some amazing experiences together and you
could say that oil is actually not good for the environment and so on but I
think companies like Total are trying to do a lot for the environment and
just producing oil. So I think, in the end, I donít know much about
e-cigarettes to be fair, but if itís better for health reasons, if itís less
smelly as wellÖ You know, we just came up the stairs and it smelled of
cigarettes like hell. Same when you leave an airport. First thing you do
when you go out of an airport, everyone is smoking his first cigarette and
it stinks. If this year it can be better somehow then great. If itís better
then why not and if it helps our sport then great.
SP: Yeah, Romain did a good job with that one.
KR: No, I have no issue. I donít see the connection that if my son sees
advertising on any of theÖ doesnít matter if itís alcohol or cigarettes,
something, I donít believe that that affects his choices whatsoever. Thatís
my belief on that. Did it affect my choices when I have seen them in the
past? Rules are rules, whether you can do it or not, thatís not my business
but I have no worries.
RG: Ö point that Kimiís bringing in, because we watched Formula One when
there was a lot of cigarette advertising on the cars: Williams, Jordan,
Ferrari, McLaren. Iíve never smoked all my life but Iíve been watching a lot
of races so I donít think thereís any connection there.