DRIVERS Ė George RUSSELL (Williams), Lance
STROLL (Racing Point), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Lando NORRIS
(McLaren), Pierre GASLY (Toro Rosso)
Q: Gentlemen, you can see the 2021 car sitting in front of you. Iíd like to
start by asking you all about it, the car and the general direction of
Formula 1 in a couple of yearsí time? Max, if we can start with you, please?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Itís a bit small!
Lando NORRIS: I was going to say that! Thatís my joke!
MV: Yeah, also for us itís still early days. I havenít really looked through
all the things Ė I mean itís just announced. At the end of the day, it
doesnít really matter how it looks like or whatever, as long as it gives us
better racing and we can follow better. Of course we want to be within two
seconds, three seconds of what we are doing now, definitely, because if itís
going to be about four or five itís not what we want, because then it feels
a bit too slow. But I think this is just the start of it and Iím sure that
teams will come up with a little bit of a different look as well, so letís
just find out over time how itís going to work out.
Q: Ross Brawn has just said that lap times will be similar to 2016.
MV: Yeah, I guessÖ To be honest I didnít really enjoy driving the cars as
much back then as I do now, but of course you have to find a middle way in
terms of what you want with following and stuff like that. Anyway,
throughout the season the cars will improve.
Q: OK, letís get some other thoughts: George?
George RUSSELL: Yeah, from my side it doesnít really matter how it looks or
the speed of it as long as we have great racing. I think thatís what we all
want. Obviously the weight is heavier which I think is not ideal for any of
us. I mean, even driving like a Formula 3 car it was really fun to drive but
it was much lighter than what these Formula 1 cars are. But as long as it
improves the racing and brings the field together thatís all I care about.
Lance STROLL: Yeah, not much more to add really. I think the main thing is
to focus on the racing. We need to be able to follow closer to one another
and to improve the wheel-to-wheel racing, the show for the fans, and I think
for us drivers, too, it will be very exciting if we can see closer racing.
Hopefully it levels the playing field as well. If we can see the gaps
reduced to the top teams and there are more opportunities for the midfield
teams to score podiums and to fight for positions further up the grid, that
would be exciting.
Lando NORRIS: I think itís pretty much been covered. As they all said as
long as the racingís better and we all have a chance to fight for wins in
different races and as teams we can all fight for being a strong
constructor, I think thatís the key thing. Thatís about it.
Q: Do you like the look?
LN: I would change the paint scheme slightly! Apart from that, I think itís
alright. I mean, Iíve seen the renders our designers are designing and it
looks pretty cool. I donít really mind too much, thatís not what Iím fussed
about. Iím just fussed about the racing and having fun and being able to
follow cars closely and just enjoy racing more than what we do now.
Q: And Pierre?
Pierre GASLY: Well, I agree with all of them, so not much to add.
Q: OK, well Lando, a frustrating race for both McLaren drivers in Mexico.
What did you learn from your various problems in Mexico and do the
temperatures weíre experiencing here in Austin worry you?
LN: Yeah, not a great race for us as a team, especially after our qualifying
position and a good chance to score some more points. I think there are
obvious thingsÖ I think my race was put down fairly quickly with the pit
stop. Thereís something thatís easily known and understood in terms of what
the problem was, but fixing it isnít something that is going to happen
overnight and it doesnít happen often at the same time, so itís not like
weíre worried about pit stops or anything, itís just we can be a bit unlucky
and this time it was the first pit stop that I had where I was a but
unlucky. Iím not so worried about that; the team have got solutions in the
pipeline, which is a good thing for us. We just have to look on to this
weekend. I wouldnít say we are worried about the track temperatures or
anything, itís just how it is. Itís similar to Barcelona in pre-season. It
might be a bit more difficult to get the tyres in the right window and so
one, but Iím hoping it will play a little bit more to our strengths rather
than our weaknesses.
Q: And an opportunity to reflect on your first season in F1. Whatís the
take-home message from this year for you?
MV: You sound like a sheep. I think there is a meme incoming now.
LN: Iím happy with bits of it. There are bits Iím not so happy with. Iíve
not made any huge mistakes. Iíve not crashed a lot, Iíve not done anything
stupid. But as a racing driver, and Iím sure all drivers on the whole grid
would say the same, thereís always room for improvement and things they want
to do better. So, I am happy, I think 90% of the things Iíve done, I think
Iíve done them reasonably well. Itís just the smaller things Ė you mess up a
qualifying lap or you donít progress enough on how you work on the set-up
with the engineers as much as you want. Itís just putting all the small
things together. A bit of it comes with experience, but a bit of I donít
think I did a good enough job in. Iím happy, itís been a good year, a very
enjoyable year, but I want to make sure I come back next year and already in
the next races in slightly stronger form.
Q: Thanks Lando and good luck this weekend. Pierre, howís your health?
PG: Really good. I think thatís about 20 times people asked me since I
arrived in the paddock today. It was a rough time last weekend, but
everythingís perfect now.
Q: How tough was that race? You finished ninth but you really werenítÖ
PG: Yeah, it was probably one of the most challenging race weekends Iíve
MV: The seat [inaudible]Ö
PG: No, the seat was clean Ė nothing wrong with that. It was pretty tough
from Saturday morning onwards, just in terms of energy and trying to keep
the focus. It wasnít an easy one but Iím happy we went through it. We
managed to get the best result we could out of the weekend. Pretty strong
qualifying and race, even though it wasnít easy, but yeah, it was definitely
a challenging one.
Q: You say strong qualifying. Both Toro Rossos got into Q3. How much
progress have you made with the car recently?
PG: To be fair, the car is more or less the same as it was in the last
couple of races, since I rejoined. But I think itís just trying to extract
the maximum from what we have and trying to find the set-up directions that
suit tracks and what I need from the car. I must say Iím really happy with
the way weíre working with the team. They are providing me with everything I
need so we can extract everything from the car. So far we are doing well. We
can always do better and weíll try to keep that form in the next three
Q: You say the team is giving you everything you needs. Confidence looks
high. Are you driving better now than when you were with Red Bull Racing?
PG: Not really. I didnít learn or forget how to drive in a couple of months.
Itís just a matter of putting everything together. As I said, Iím just
focusing on the job to do with Toro Rosso. I think we are doing pretty well.
There are always things we need to focus on and improve and thatís what we
need to focus one.
Q: Lance, if I could come to you now. Belated happy birthday. Turned 21 on
Tuesday. What have you done since Mexico?
Lance STROLL: I mean, just been laying low and enjoyed my birthday. It was
niceÖ I went for dinner and was able to have my first drink in America!
Thatís a real breakthrough. First time ever in the United States. So that
was a lot of fun Ė but in moderation, looking forward to this weekend. Iím a
professional athlete, so Iíve got to be in the best shape I can be for the
weekend Ė and here I am.
Q: Now, it was a competitive showing by both Racing Points in Mexico. Was
that track-specific or are you really starting to add performance to the
LS: A bit of both. I didnít have the best weekend myself. It was really my
team-mate who had a solid weekend. On Saturday and especially Sunday I had a
scruffy qualifying session and then my race was going well until the second
stint where I got a lot of lapping events, graining etcetera. Unfortunately,
it didnít go our way but we definitely had potential again to score points
and itís looking that way over the last five or six races since we brought
the upgrade in Spa. Thatís really positive. Looking good for the next three
Q: George, coming on to you. The team has been introducing new parts in
recent races. How much better is the car to drive now than it was at the
start of the season?
George RUSSELL: I think the upgrades weíve brought to the car recently, itís
more been looking into 2020. We knew that itís not going to necessarily
unlock a lot of performance on the car as it is now Ė but itís definitely
looking promising going into next year. Overall, the car is definitely nicer
to drive. I mean, at the start of the year it was not nice at all, letís
say, and it was pretty tricky just to get around a lap. But weíve done a
good job to fine-tune the balance, just to make it a nicer car to drive Ė
but now we need to rely on the engineers back at the factory to bolt some
more downforce on it.
Q: And what about your own development as a driver this year? You said you
wanted to learn out of the spotlight, which youíve been able to do Ė but
what do you take into year two next year?
GR: Similar to what Lando said. I think thereís things Iíve been happy with,
things I havenít beenÖ just experience really. The little things that you
only improve on, race by race: understanding the tyres; the starts. Itís
pretty tricky starting at the back of the grid, with all the cars around, a
massive lack of downforce. Even less downforce than what weíve got, letís
say. Just little bits and bobs here and there. I think Iíll definitely be a
better driver into next year.
Q: Max, just off the plane from L.A. at the fan festival yesterday. How was
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was good. Good amount of fans and some good donuts
as well. So, thatís always nice to do.
Q: This weekend, believe it or not, is your 100th grand prix.
LN: Same as Carlos!
MV: Yeah, we started together.
LN: Thatís sweet!
Q: What does that stat means to you, Max?
MV: Good beginning! And, of course, it all happened very quick. To realise
and see that you are about to do your 100th grand prix at 22 years old, I
think I would never have expected that Ė but I guess itís a good thing.
Basically, those five years have gone very quickly.
Q: Just looking ahead to this weekend, you had a cracking race here last
year. Onto the podium from 18th. What are your expectations this year?
MV: I think we can have a good race. Last year, coming from the back and
then still finishing on the podium was a very good result. Of course, it
gave me an opportunity to have a different strategy, which at the end of the
day was not a bad one Ė but now we want to start a bit more upfront and see
what we can do. But I think in Mexico the car was working really well, so we
just try to continue that here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ian Parkes Ė New York Times) Question to Max initially and then
secondary question to Lando and George. Max, it looks like Lewis is going to
wrap up his title very soon Ė potentially here, he only needs four points.
In competing with him these past few years, what makes him the driver he has
become, do you feel, effectively now on the brink of becoming a six time
World Champion. And to Lando and George, what does Lewis mean to you guys as
British drivers growing up, potentially wanting to emulate him as a future
British world champion?
MV: From my side, unfortunately I havenít really had the time to compete
with him that much. I mean, just a few races. Most of the time we didnít
have equal material but he was always clearly the better of the two within
the team. And then, when you have the best car out there, of course you can
win the Championship. Itís amazing, of course, to go for your sixth World
Q: Lando, letís start with you. What does Lewis mean to you?
LN: I guess heís a guy who Iíve always looked up to since I was young. A
driver who Iíve loved to watch. Iíve been very excited to watch a lot of his
races since I started watching F1 when I was six or seven years old. So,
Iíve kind of not been on the journey but Iíve been able to watch a lot of
the races and it gives a bit ofÖ I wouldnít say belief or faith but it gives
a bit of confidence knowing that, or hoping to go into the future and
emulate him in a way Ė but like Max said, the equipmentís very different to
when he joined Formula One, when he was with McLaren. So some things arenít
going to be exactly the same; itís not possible to do the same as other
drivers Ė but there are a lot of things that heís extremely good at and I
would like to improve on and be as good as him on, so yeah, a guy and a
driver whoís inspired me and who Iíve looked up to since I was very young.
GR: Similar to Lando. Definitely somebody who Iíve looked up to for a while,
since Iíve been wanting to become a Formula One driver but especially in the
last couple of years. Iíve gained a huge amount of respect for him, seeing
him within the team. I used to think he just relied on his natural talent to
jump in the car and do the business but he puts a huge amount of effort in
and the attention to detail he goes into is massive. I did learn a lot from
him in the years I spent with Mercedes, so yeah, definitely respect and
admire what heís achieved.
Q: (Phil Duncan Ė PA) For Max. Just on Lewis. He had some comments to say
about you after the last race. Said he affords you more space than other
drivers in fear of being torpedoedÖ
MV: Torpedoed? I didnít hear that one.
Q: Öwell, it was part of what he said. And I think Seb also said that he
copy-and-pasted what Lewis had to say. I was wondering what your feeling is
about those two comments?
MV: Well, looking at Turns One and Two in Mexico, I donít think that
happened. From my side, yeah, it was a bit of a silly comment to make. I
think Iím always a hard racer but fair. I think itís just not correct Ė but
of course itís easy to have a dig at someone. From my side, itís fine. Itís
always positive when the talk about you. That means youíre in their head,
So, for my side, I just focus on my driving and I think thatís enough said.
Q: (Chris Medland Ė Racer) Pierre, Lando and Lance: weíve got the 2021
regulations which are aiming to bring the field closer together but for the
three of you, competing in a very tight midfield this season, do you really
enjoy those battles when the main target really for you is what we call best
of the rest, behind the top three teams, and when you do come up on top of
those, does it really feel like a win in a junior category or is it quite
frustrating to be limited like that?
PG: Well, I do enjoy these tight battles because at the end of the day I
love racing and thatís what you get when youíre right there, like six to
eight cars within three or four tenths. It brings a lot of excitement to the
track on my side actually. I do like it; for sure, knowing that the best you
can achieve is seventh is always a bit disappointing sometimes when you need
to be satisfied with this kind of result because of course as a racer you
want to fight for the top position. When you finish seventh, thatís kind of
the first place you can target; you donít get any trophy, you donít get any
champagne, it doesnít really taste the same. Hopefully this can be improved
for 2021. I donít have the answer at the moment. Of course I think we have
all the common targets with F1 and thatís what all the driver wants so yeah,
hopefully itís going to be achieved by 2021.
LN: I agree with Pierre, to be honest. 2021 regulations are not going to
mean we are going to be winning races or weíre going to be on the podium all
the time. Itís a much better chance for us to achieve those things and as
drivers to achieve those things and experience a podium at one time. Itís
going to just even up the field I hope, make racing better, make it more
enjoyable to watch, more enjoyable to race for us drivers because that is
something we miss. A lot of the drivers who are in Formula One have done
very well in the junior categories since karting, F4, F3, F2, whatever, so
weíve always loved it and itís part of the feeling we enjoy so much as a
team is getting on the podium and knowing weíve been able to beat sometimes
the rest of the field and weíve done a better job because of it. So itís
something I do miss but itís not just me, itís the whole team as well. Yeah,
something I look forward to and hope we can take advantage of.
LS: Iíve loved the midfield competition this year. I think itís been tighter
than itís ever been. You look at the gaps on Saturdays and then on the
Sunday how close the racing is, itís great for the drivers, for the fans.
Unfortunately we are so getting lapped by Mercedes and Ferraris, even Red
Bulls, so hopefully that can change in í21. I agree with what Pierre said:
itís great to fight for the best of the rest but when youíre seventh and
thereís no reward for that. Weíre always trying to score World Championship
points but the podium is realistically out of reach and victories are out of
the question in todayís sport. I really do hope that we can see some changes
in í21, closer racing as well. That is the priority, I think, with the
regulation changes this year, capable of following cars nose to tail but
then on top of that, if we can see the gaps reduced to the top teams the
opportunity to fight for podiums and wins potentially Ė that would be
Q: (John Massengale Ė Speed City) Pierre, we got to go to Houston with you
yesterday to go to NASA. How was it, talking to an astronaut while he was
live in the space station?
PG: This was really amazing. I would have never imagined one day in my life
talking to an astronaut who was actually in space, I donít know how many
kilometres away but that was just incredible to imagine that just from that
fun talking and then getting an answer two seconds later from that same guy
who was in space. It was an amazing experience. We got to visit the whole
NASA control centre, speak with astronauts who have already been a couple of
times in space. Saw some rocket ships Ė no, it was just an incredible
Q: (John Massengale Ė Speed City) Max, going to the festival in Los Angeles
and the talk of a race in Miami, do you think this is important, not only
for the sport but for you as a driver to get this exposure here in the
United States, and what do you think about the possibility of more races
MV: Well, in general I think itís good for the sport, the owners as well,
they want more races I think in the US. I think what weíre doing, at the
moment, is of course trying to make the sport more popular and more well
known in the US. I enjoy being here. It doesnít matter if itís in Austin or
LA or Miami or wherever in America, I think itís just a very cool place to
be. I think a few Ė or one or two more races, they wouldnít hurt, as long as
they are exciting of course and a lot of fans are attending.
Q: Max, what was the atmosphere like in Los Angeles yesterday? Was there a
great atmosphere? What was the reception like from the crowd?
MV: It felt good. They liked the noise as well from the cars, as soon as we
were warming the engines already they loved it. Of course it was all very
limited, we could basically only do a few doughnuts and stuff but I guess
they liked that already but of course it would be even better to show how
quick we can go through corners as well and hopefully with those kind of
regulations coming in also the racing will be really cool to watch.
Q: (Yhacbec Lopez Ė Motorlat) Max, do you think Lewis and Seb are more
aggressive with you than any other driver on the grid?
MV: I donít know. I think you should ask them that question.
Q: (Ben Hunt Ė The Sun) Max, itís for you, unfortunately, againÖ
MV: Itís not a surprise soÖ
Q: (Ben Hunt Ė The Sun) Well, youíre quite topical at the moment. Do you
think youíre being treated fairly by the FIA in the wake of what happened at
the last race, for your honesty, your brutal honesty, about the yellow
flags? And also do you think that youíre getting dug out by Lewis, by
Sebastian? They donít seem to dig anyone else out, it just seems to be you;
you seem to be the centre of attention a lot of time.
MV: No, I think it was very fair from the FIA. We had a good talk in the
stewards and I said ĎI didnít see the yellow flagí but of course thereís a
rule that when there is a yellow flag displayed that you have to slow down
so from my side, there are also no hard feelings about that. Itís just very
unfortunate I didnít see that yellow flag and in hindsight I also didnít
need to go for that lap time because I was already on pole position but what
was going through my head throughout that lap was you donít know what the
other guys in front of you are doing, if they are improving, are they
beating your pole lap time? I didnít see the yellow flag, I improved my lap
time, in hindsight I didnít need to do it but also in hindsight I think next
time Iím anyway going to lift even if they would improve my lap time, just
because they got lucky, they were in front of the accident. It is what it is
but of courseÖ. At the moment we are still not in a position to fight for
pole position all the time so of course I was enjoying the moment as well.
But still, it was a great result for us, it showed that after the few
difficult races weíve had in terms of performance the car was working really
well so that was a big boost even though we didnít start from pole position.
And then your second question, I think from my side it only shows that Iím
in their heads and I guess thatís a good thing but from my side I donít need
to dig in to other people in the press conferences because first of all I
think itís a bit disrespectful as well and I prefer to fight on track which
I love to do and of course I like to fight hard but on the edge. Otherwise,
if they want me to stay behind, itís also better to stay at home. I really
want to take the fight to them because thatís what we are here for. We are
racers, we in Formula One, I think we are the best out there and we do fight
for victories because thatís what I live for.