Ten Formula 1 drivers in two groups of 5 met for the Wednesday Press Conference in Las Vegas ahead of the 2023 Las Vegas GP
DRIVER GROUP 1 – Nico HÜLKENBERG (Haas), Zhou GUANYU (Alfa Romeo), Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin), Lando NORRIS (McLaren), Carlos SAINZ (Ferrari)
Q: Carlos, let’s start with you. What a build up to this Grand Prix weekend, That fabulous opening ceremony a minute ago and then that follows on from the inaugural Netflix Cup yesterday, which you won with your teammate, Justin Thomas, how much did you enjoy yesterday?
Carlos SAINZ: I enjoyed it a lot. It’s been a fun week, so far. Especially yesterday. Everyone, I guess, knows by now that I’m a big golf fan, golf freak, golf addict, however you want to call it and yeah, to get to play golf with the pros and to get to do it in a live event for Netflix in such a cool setting like the Wynn Hotel and with all the fans there, a proper set-up like they always do here and to get to win it was a great feeling. Great, great way to start the week. Not so much obviously breaking the trophy but good to actually get the checkered flag jacket, that I actually found even cooler than the trophy and yeah, good way to start winning the week.
Q: What about the racetrack here in Vegas? What are you expecting from it?
CS: Honestly, I haven’t done the track walk, because the timings are just weird this weekend. And I don’t know when the track is fully free. We kindof missed it a bit. But I’ve done plenty of laps on the simulator. And yeah, also looking forward to see a bit the Safety Car going around later this evening to see how much dust there is on track. The bumps. Sometimes when you see a Safety Car, you can actually get a bit of a feeling of how a slippery is going to be out there.
Q: How much hope do you have for Ferrari this weekend?
CS: Better hopes than recently, mainly because the track looks probably a bit more suited to us than recent tracks. Long straights, like in Monza. Tight corners, like in Monza or Singapore. Yeah, maybe there’s the combination of Turns 1 and 2 where we will not be very quick but then the rest of the track, I think our cars should be better suited than recent events. And hopefully that gives us a better opportunity.
Q: Lando, coming to you now. So that Netflix Cup yesterday, beaten by Carlos. Fair result?
Lando NORRIS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, was just, it was a good day out, to be honest. Yeah, nice to meet some of the guys. Obviously, I had Ricky and Ricky was… it was nice to meet him for the first time. You know, I’ve watched a lot of these guys on a lot of weekends over the last couple years. So, it’s always cool to meet someone of all their talent and ability from another sport. So, a nice day out for everyone.
Q: And can you give us your thoughts about racing here in Las Vegas? How different does it feel for the drivers?
LN: I don’t know. I guess it feels a little bit different just night race and a lot of glamour and all of this stuff. But inside it’s just another race weekend. So yeah, concentrated and focussed for the weekend ahead. Opportunities for everyone because it’s so different and a lot of question marks for everyone. So yeah, plenty of things to try and prepare for and be ready for – but also, with FP1, FP2 and FP3 a bit more time than what we’ve had the last few weekends with the Sprint races, to get our heads on things and making sure we’re prepared before Qualifying.
Q: Opportunities and question marks, as you say. Just how confident are you for McLaren?
LN: I don’t like this question anymore. Like, I’m always wrong, whatever I say so…
Q: But four podiums in the last five races, you’ve got some form…
LN: No, absolutely. I think… I’m extremely pleased with how we’ve done the last few weeks, especially Mexico and Brazil were a big a big chunk better than we were expecting. Especially Brazil, you know? To be so far ahead of the majority and close to the Red Bull through a lot of the race was definitely not something we were expecting so it’s a tough one. You know, this will remind you a little bit more of Baku and Monza-type races which weren’t our best, definitely towards the weaker side. You know there’s the long straights and low downforce is not where our priority has been this season with developments and all of those things, because there’s so few races like it. So, maybe not as confident as we have been the last few weekends, but no idea at the same time.
Q: Personal goals for you. You’re just three points behind Fernando in P4 in the Drivers’ Championship…
Q: Can you overhaul him? How much confidence have you got in beating Fernando?
LN: Again, no idea. It depends how we do this weekend. Depends how they do.
Q: How much do you want to?
LN: I don’t know how to answer it. It’s not something I think about, trying to go out and beat one driver. You just go out and do the best job you can, you get the most points you can. Simple as that in my eyes, but if we can race against each other, I think it’ll be something fun, something enjoyable. Obviously he had a good weekend, last time out in Brazil and was our next closest challengers, so always going to be good fight against him. But there’s plenty of other guys who are in the fight. Carlos is there and someone else… who else we racing against? Was it just us three? I don’t know, to be honest, We’ll just go out and have some fun.
Q: Fernando, as Lando says, you had a tremendous last race in São Paulo. How do you reflect on that battle now with Checo Pérez?
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, same as I did in Brazil after the race. I think it was a good weekend for us. But, I think inside the car, felt a little bit different than outside. It was a little bit calmer inside. And yeah, I didn’t feel the pressure that maybe you can see on television. So yeah, it was more spectacular from the outside probably.
Q: Let’s bring it onto this weekend. You’ve been to Las Vegas before. Just how different an experience is it proving so far?
FA: Yeah, I mean, it is different. Because I mean, every time we came here in the past, I think for everybody, was on holidays, and just to enjoy the city. And now we are here for racing. And things become a little bit more professional and serious tomorrow. But, at the same time, we want to have some fun this weekend. Obviously both championships, drivers’ and constructors’, they finished a few races ago with Max and Red Bull winning. So now it’s up to everybody to enjoy this final part of the season. After the three consecutive races, Austin, Mexico and Brazil, it’s good to have, as Lando said, a few free practice to build a little bit, the momentum into the weekend and the confidence, especially needed here in a street circuit. And yeah, looking forward but not too much pressure, let’s say.
Q: Is that third place in São Paulo evidence that you’ve unlocked the pace in the car again?
FA: I think we have to wait and see a few races. I think here and Abu Dhabi will be as important as São Paulo for us in terms of understanding the car. I think Austin and Mexico were very painful but they were also very useful for the team in terms of understanding for next year’s car as well. So yeah, let’s see how it goes here. I think it’s going to be a tough weekend. Maybe for us, with these long straights and so on. But yeah, I think here and Abu Dhabi, we’ll hopefully see better performance.
Q: Zhou, let’s come to you. Fernando has been to Vegas before. Have you or is this your first experience?
Zhou GUANYU: No, actually I’ve been a good boy so haven’t been to Vegas before. First time here. It’s great to see. I feel like the people here, everyday they’re just living the nights.
Q: Are you being a bad boy now you’re here?
ZG: Not yet! I’m here obviously for racing. Try to be concentrated. Maybe you can invite me to something. No, it’s a cool city. Just to explore a little bit. Was here two days ago. My family’s here as well. So, it’s been good to catch up.
Q: Let’s talk about performance because the triple header was a frustrating one for Alfa Romeo. What does that mean coming here?
ZG: It means we have to continue to be working hard. To develop, mainly. All this lack of performance in general, and as we said for next year, we have some other, let’s say, concept of designing of the car and with current year’s car it’s a little bit more suffering – but we do see some highlights as well. You know, the car – especially in one lap pace – what we had in Mexico was quite strong. Austin wasn’t so bad, but then, the race pace I think is where the long distance was overheating, we’ve been struggling a little bit, but we definitely went through a lot of information over the last week, making sure we can you know, finish the season on a high, and we use the next two races to be understanding fully for the future development for next season, so we still can, you know, be fighting with all the guys close up, and I don’t see no reason why we can’t take. But it was definitely a frustrating three races. Especially, looking back to São Paulo, after the drama at the start, we was running well enough, at least one car, both cars in the points in that race but then we had a double-DNF due to some issues.
Q: Tell us more about the battling you’re going to do out there because Alfa Romeo is the meat in an AlphaTauri and Haas sandwich in the Constructors’ Championship. You’re P9. How do you view that? Are you looking ahead? Do you think you can beat AlphaTauri or is a Haas in the rear view mirror?
ZG: If I’m honest – why are you laughing? – I think Nico has some answers as well, he can answer the question after but from my side, I think AlphaTauri has been extremely fast recently and has been racing with the Mercedes, Ferrari the last few race weekends. We are not far – but it’s a difficult one to reach. And then, I don’t want to say we’re looking behind, so we just want to focus on our job and try to grab the opportunities if they’re on the table for us, and see what happens. Being focussed on having a clean weekend, which we haven’t had for many races.
Q: Nico, coming to you now, it seems like you’ve been enjoying yourself in Las Vegas. A bit of Top Golf, I think you’ve been to the Grand Canyon as well. Tell us how much fun you’ve been having.
Nico HÜLKENBERG: Yeah, little bit of fun. I’m a first-timer here, so yeah, exciting. New venues are always exciting, let alone Las Vegas, and to get to know the place a little bit, it’s cool and fun to see the nature around too. Obviously, that’s been fascinating, the Grand Canyon. So yeah. Happy and excited to be here.
Q: And what about car performance this weekend because we’re seeing two different cars in the Haas garage. You, we’re told, are sticking with the old-spec car, the pre-Austin spec – whereas your team-mate is using the new one. Tell us a little bit about why you’ve opted for the old one.
NH: It just comes down to personal preference. We’ve had three races with the new package and whilst there were maybe some small benefits, there were also some not so good aspects with it and it was not the step forward that we needed from a big update, and I think I just felt a little bit more comfortable and confident on the old package. And I think with the two circuits that we have here now, it favours that slightly more, hence that call.
Q: Nico, what does this mean for car development, specifically to do with 2024. If you like one direction and Kevin Magnussen likes the other, where does the team go from here?
NH: It just means we have to reconsider. Both of them aren’t good enough. We need to do a better job. We need to find performance elsewhere and yeah, just reconsider, look harder and deeper.
Q: Final word on the Constructors’ Championship. How do you view the battle with Alfa Romeo in particular?
NH: Yeah, Zhou’s going to get to feel the heat, for sure.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sam Johnston – Sky Sports) Question for Fernando and Lando. Does the track this weekend and kind-of all the unknowns, do you think, make Max particularly vulnerable. And obviously both of you are looking to kind of… Lando’s looking for his first win and Fernando, you’re looking for your first win in a long time. Would it be particularly special to do it at the first race in Las Vegas, or could, kind of, unforeseen circumstances make it feel less special?
LN: I would just like to win. I don’t really… It doesn’t matter where. But you don’t do anything different, because it’s Vegas, to try and win. I guess I’ve been doing my best, since I started Formula 1. Your time comes eventually but that’s about it. What was the first part of the question? Max. Yeah, maybe. If you look back to Monza he was way quicker than everyone, pretty much so… Could be another Singapore-style type thing but unlikely. So, there’s just a lot of guessing and there’s no point guessing. I know you just want to get us to say things but… could be. There’s always a chance. Some possibilities. Small chances of rain. Things like that maybe always play into your hands at certain points – but it can go any way.
FA: Yeah, not much to add. I mean… it will be nice to win a race and especially the first race in a place like this one, but I think it’s unlikely that happens. I don’t think that this track really is one of our favourites on our package, so yeah, I guess it’s going to be difficult.
Q: Do you think Max is looking more vulnerable here?
FA: Don’t think so.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) The same question to Fernando and to Carlos, please. I just wondered, based on your preparations for this race, are there any particular parts of the track or any particular corners that you think could be particularly important to gain time or maybe even risk losing time? Thank you.
CS: I think Turns 1-2-3, I think it’s a good combination. I think it’s long corners. And there’s two corners that stand out a bit to the rest of the track, that is more like 90° angles, or shorter apex corners. And I think there’s a very long combined braking. I think it’s Turns Six, Seven, that is, in the simulator was actually quite tricky to get right with the braking. And yeah, apart from that, obviously, it’s all going to be about the long straights, the big braking zones, being confident, getting close to the walls. Also, on the exit of the corners. But apart from that, yeah, looks like though, just getting confidence with a low downforce car on such long straights. With high peak braking getting confidence is going to be the key.
FA: Yep. Same thing, a street circuit, very low downforce, just getting that confidence into the car, the braking areas. That will be, I think, very important. And I think with the condition on the track and not having any support races, I think the amount of track evolution during the weekend, it’s going to be bigger than normal. So that, you know, will challenge everyone, I guess we will not have two laps the same on the weekend. Every lap of the track will be a little bit better than the lap before. From P1 to the last lap on the race. So, we will have to adapt to that changeable grip, so it’s going be a challenge for everyone.
Q: Are you concerned about the temperatures, now that we’re here?
FA: I think we have to run first and then see how the car behaves and the tire behaves. I think it could be that with this long straight, the tires, they lose a little bit of temperature. So, we’ve been facing a little bit of tire overheating on the last three events. And maybe here it’s a little bit the opposite. So, maybe some cars that they’re struggling on long run pace, here they are good because they can keep the tires in the window and things like that. So, I think tomorrow we will have some answers.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) This is for Carlos, Lando and Fernando. What do you feel about the balance between sport and the show this weekend? How different do you think it is from normal, and how do you feel about the disruptions to your normal schedule during today, some of the requests that have been made of your time?
CS: Let’s say there are some things that you are looking forward to more than others. That is always the case. I do believe, looking forward and looking into the future, sure we’re going to need to reconsider, a bit, the way we go racing at the weekends, because our schedules are getting busier and busier every year that goes by. The weekend are almost starting earlier, rather than starting later. We are adding races to the calendar and it’s getting to a point where I think, sometimes, everything feels a bit repetitive and everything feels a bit overpacked and we’re trying maybe to overdo it a bit. So yeah, being constructive or trying to be critically constructive. There are things that I actually think they do a lot for the sport and it’s good to put on a show and to make the sport better. Then, on the other hand, there are other things that feel very repetitive and almost they don’t add any more for the weekend. And we need to reconsider the way we just shape the whole weekend. Because yeah, we are at the risk of being too repetitive and too out there, also. I’ll keep the details obviously to myself and my team and F1, but I think that’s my overall opinion.
LN: I don’t have a lot more to add, to be honest. I think Carlos said it pretty well. I mean, it’s definitely more of a show now than what it was a few years ago. To be honest, I just want to come here and drive and come here and race. Never been the biggest fan of doing these types of things like we did earlier. It’s not what I enjoy doing. I know a lot of this stuff is just part of it and I’m not saying anything against it, but yeah, I do this job because I want to come and drive and race cars and things like that. And I don’t simply enjoy… I’ve never been the biggest fan of doing these types of big events and shows and things like that. So yeah, but I guess it’s part of the job and it’s a business and all those things. And that’s how it has to run in the end of the day. So yeah, that’s it.
FA: Yeah, more or less the same thing. I have to say that I think places like this one and with the investment that has been done and the place that we are racing, I think it deserves a little bit different treatment and a little bit of extra show of what we did today. The weekend is going to be I think… I’m OK to do extra for these type of events. But maybe yeah, it could be balanced somehow and reduced maybe, our schedule, somewhere else. We’ve been saying that, yeah especially the media commitments that we have – and it’s nothing against you guys – but it seems like they will repetitive what we have to go through especially on Thursdays. I think you are all very curious to see how the track is and what is our feeling tomorrow when we go in the car. And you will not get that. You will get, today, a lot of hours and interviews and one-to-ones and TV sessions and TV pen and things like that of something that we don’t know what to answer, because we’ve never run on this track. Maybe tomorrow after the free practice we don’t have any time with you guys. And so maybe on Thursday, we can use the time a little bit more wisely and try to help the promoters or whatever in a different way and maybe give you something extra on Fridays after we run.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Carlos, picking up on your point about possible changes and maybe a different way to do things in the future. Do you think from a wellbeing point of view, not only for you guys, but for your team members, the guys working these really long hours, has F1 hit a limit now with the number of races we’ve got, with the commitment, the way we do weekends? Is that also something that we need to consider changing in the future?
CS: Again, I’m not I’m not sure if this is the right place right time to discuss the detail of a weekend and what everyone has to be involved with. I do consider the drivers, we are the privileged ones. We get to travel business or first class or private. We get to go to the best hotels. We get to arrive on Tuesday, Wednesdays rather than on Mondays. We get to leave on Sunday night, rather than on Monday morning. I don’t like speaking from the privileged position that I think drivers are in. Yes, it’s true that then we are under pressure more than ever, then we have a lot of media commitments. But I do feel like inside our teams, or within the 100 people that travel to the races in Ferrari, we are a bit of more in a privileged position. And I don’t like complaining because of that. But I do believe that moving forward, 24 races, I think is the limit with the kind of schedules that we have now. I think a lot of teams are going now into rotational programs with mechanics, engineers, and just speaking to a lot of teams in the paddock, everyone is channelling themselves to do rotational programs. Obviously, I don’t think you can rotate drivers. But yeah, let’s see. Let’s see where the sport goes. I’m curious to see what are the ideas for the future, because I do strongly believe that moving forward there needs to be changes for the weekend format or the way we go around media events and commitments because 24 races I think it’s going to be the limit or on the limit and to keep everyone’s health, not only the drivers, but mechanics and people that travel around is going to be important.
Q: (Kevin Scheuren – Motorsport-total.com) A question to all drivers. Max just ranted about the extreme times zone hopping you have to do for the last double-header of the season. Kevin Magnussen said he has a 24-hour day today, because of the jetlag he couldn’t sleep. Do you think that if not this weekend, then next weekend in Abu Dhabi could jetlag pose a problem for you driving the cars?
NH: I mean, yeah, it’s a fact. It is going to be big time difference, and we’ll probably face jetlag. Some suffer more than others. It’s going to be a challenge, you know, and maybe you’re not going to feel super sharp on Friday or Saturday, but I think it’s same for all of us and we have to manage and cope the best we can.
ZG: Yeah, I mean, not much to add on Nico, to be honest. I think. Definitely. Jet lag is there, especially after you’ve just been through a triple-header, you go home for a week, going back in the factory for the simulator and you’re back here again. I tried to be as early as possible, but it’s the same for everyone. But that’s the whole thing with the busy schedule. I think everybody has to live this way at the moment.
Q: Fernando, jet lag OK?
FA: No, it’s not OK, it’s not OK. But it’s the way it is. It’s a tough sport. This is not football.
LN: I think it’s always been in f1. Of course, it’s a big shift and stuff like that. But I’m alright. I’m still young, thankfully. I’m a bit older now but compared to this guy right here [Fernando]…. Maybe he struggles a little bit more than I do with not getting eight hours in. But yeah, we all have to do the same things.
CS: Yeah, I think once comes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, caffeine shots, espressos or adrenaline that is needed to drive an F1 car normally removes the jetlag. I struggle more these days, on long Thursdays. This is where I start to struggle a bit more,
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) A question for all drivers or whoever wants to answer this one. Not being stakeholders, do you feel at any point limited or handicapped, that you don’t have a say in the sport on the sporting side, or even things that you would want to improve when it comes to race weekends like this?
NH: Yeah, I mean, you know, in the history of the sport drivers have never had a say or weight on making the rules and stuff. But I think going forward, it would be good sometimes to involve the drivers or get our opinions and feedback on stuff because obviously, you have thew Commercial Rights Holders’ view and how they see things, how things are for us. So, I think sometimes it would be quite beneficial for everyone to involve us perhaps a bit more. And going forward in the future, obviously right now we have no seat at the table, no power and it would be a nice thing to be part of it and a stakeholder but yeah, that’s probably a bit unrealistic.
CS: I don’t think we have any power but I think keeping the drivers happy and taking their opinions is important because if then the drivers are going to face the media and we’re not going to be happy about our sport or the way we go, it’s fundamental that the driver agrees and has some kind of opinion going forward. And yes, we might not have a vote but we have a very important voice and we all want to be aligned and in unison with F1 also. I felt a lot of coordination with F1 and FIA recently, a better job on that side. So hopefully moving forward it’s the same case.
DRIVER GROUP 2 – Yuki TSUNODA (AlphaTauri), Pierre GASLY (Alpine), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull), Alex ALBON (Williams)
Q: Lewis, why don’t we start with you? Good to see you. Now, you’ve raced all over the world in your Formula 1 career, just how different does a race in Las Vegas feel?
Lewis HAMILTON: I mean, we’ve not driven yet. Hi everyone. It’s pretty cool. I was mentioning the other day that I’ve seen ‘Casino’ a thousand times – the movie obviously. So it’s amazing to be here. I think it was something we spoke of, dreaming of having a race here, many years ago. And it’s very surreal to be here and it’s exciting. You know, it’s such an incredible place, so many lights. It’s a great energy. Great buzz.
Q: Did you ever do the kart race here, back in the day? Michael Schumacher raced here in 2009.
Q: OK, let’s bring it on to performance. Toto Wolff said that São Paulo was the team’s worst race weekend for 13 years. Do you agree with him?
LH: I’ve got the worst memory so I don’t really remember all of them…
Q: How bad did it feel?
LH: Yeah, it definitely felt like one of the worst. But we just got the car in the wrong place. There is potential, obviously, in the car. We had two really great races before. We just had it in the wrong window, and that’s on all of us. But we’ve learned from it and experiences like that, you learn more than the loss, you know. It’s painful for everybody. But everybody’s recovered. We were back in the factory the next week. Everyone’s massively motivated to finish off strong this season. And I have no doubts that we can.
Q: Do you understand why it was in the wrong window? Does the team understand?
LH: I know exactly what it was. I knew exactly what it was already.
Q: So how confident are you coming into the Vegas week?
LH: Definitely more than the last one. Still, I think it’s going to be a challenge and getting the tires working this weekend and we’re often not necessarily the quickest on the straights, so that’ll be a challenge to see if we can not lose too much on the straights, but keep up with everyone in the corners. But it’s not the most technical of circuits. So hopefully, that makes it a little bit easier.
Q: Lewis, how do you see the battle for P2 with the man down the end, Checo? I think you’re 32 points behind now.
LH: Yeah, I’m coming for you. Not it’s too far away now to be honest.
Q: Do you think that?
LH: Yeah, 30 points in two races, it’s, yeah, he would have to have two disasters and I would have to be second, basically. But for me, honestly it really doesn’t make any difference if I’m second or third. I think we still had an amazing year given the car that we’ve had. We never thought that we would be fighting for second in the Constructors’ and knocking on the door of the most dominant car, probably, of our era. So yeah. I’m grateful for just being where we are and having a half decent season. Much better than last year.
Q: Pierre, let’s come to you now. One of two golfers on the bench. Netflix Cup. I know there was a little bit of practice going in before yesterday. How do you feel it went?
Pierre GASLY: I will say it went as expected. I didn’t kill anyone, which was the first target and I did try my best but I shanked a few balls and a few of them went close to the spectators, so I’m glad everybody stayed safe. I did get a couple of nice shots I was happy about. But no, honestly, it was such a cool event. The place, the course, was the best course I’ve ever played on. It just felt like a carpet all the way. I spent most of my time in the rough, but it was just so nice. Like, the grass was so great, it was a lot of fun. And we played with Alex and against all odds I managed to get to the final. I don’t know how… Well, I know how my partner was just so amazing. Tony Finau is just so good. And yeah, we managed to get to the final, which was pretty cool.
Q: You had a last minute change of team-mate as well?
PG: Yeah. Colin [Morikawa] had back pain. So, the night right before the competition he had to pull out. In the end, Tony was around and managed to come in. It was great. A lot of fun and yeah, definitely a great way to kick off this Vegas week.
Q: Right, well, let’s talk about the on-track stuff now. You’ve had a great run of form in recent races, so what does that mean coming into Vegas? How confident are you?
PG: Yeah, I think it’s been great. The last few races I’ve been really happy with the way we’ve been working with the guys, with the whole team, maximizing the package we have because it’s obviously been a pretty tough season for us. So the main target is really to extract everything we got out of that car and capitalize on any opportunities that come up. So finishing P7 in Interlagos was amazing. Coming here in Vegas, we know it’s a very different track, more similar to Monza with all these long straights, which hasn’t been good at all last time for us. So yeah, we’ll definitely try to do better. We’ll learn from there. And yeah, we’ll hopefully put a better performance this weekend.
Q: And Pierre, how do you sum up the season? Lewis has just said that given the car he’s had underneath him, it hasn’t been a bad season, actually. How do you look back on 2023?
Pierre Gasly: Yeah, I must say it’s tough to say you’re pleased with the season you’ve had when you haven’t scored that many points, but I think it’s been, objectively, slightly disappointing in terms of the overall performance we’ve shown, but personally, I’m definitely happy with the step I’ve made. I came into a new team, there was a lot to learn, a lot to get used to. And yeah, I felt I managed to step in and just deliver, trying to get everything out of the car, weekend after weekend. I obviously wish we would be fighting for better positions. But all in all, I feel like we are working very well with the team. We just need a better package and more speed for next year.
Q: Good luck for next year. But also good luck this weekend. Yuki, coming to you. How’s Vegas been treating you so far?
Yuki TSUNODA: Yeah, so first time for me [here]. So yeah, actually already impressed. After I landed here, I already saw a casino machine in the airport. I mean in the hotel, there’s a casino as well. But I guess I was in check-in. So I’m sure they know that I’m part of the hotel. So I want to go at some point to a bigger one to see… I hope that I don’t have to show my passport but I assume I have to. But yeah, lots of nice things. And I’ve never seen those things in my life yet. So yeah, it’s cool. But I’ll save it until after the race. And it’s a good thing it finishes on Saturday. And on Sunday we know that we’re going to have a fun time there. So yeah, it depends on result but have to beat the guys, especially Alex at Williams, you know, and Logan as well. So let’s see how it goes.
Q: Yuki, you are seven points… You and AlphaTauri are seven points behind Williams in the Constructors’ Championship. You had a great race last time out in São Paulo. Do you feel you’ve got the speed to put some heat on this man and his team?
YT: Yes, I think so. Yeah, I mean, it’s not easy. Seven points sounds really small, but over the next two races it’s not really actually small. So yeah, we’re expecting that Williams is going to pick up the pace quite a lot in this week. Hopefully not! And yeah, also, we have to put it all together again, like we’ve done in the last three races. So yeah, it’s a good rhythm. I think the car is getting better and better. So looking forward to it.
Q: The results would suggest that the car is definitely improving. It’s really come alive since Austin. What has made that difference?
Q: Can you be a little bit more specific. What upgrades? I mean, people are talking about the rear suspension. Is that the biggest thing that’s changed?
YT: I don’t know if I can comment on that. I don’t know much about upgrades. So yeah… I’m sure there’s something I feel bigger, but I don’t know what it is. And I mean, like, I think suspension as well. But also, we are giving a lot of aggressive strategies this year. Every race almost we are bringing, like, a new aero package. So like, especially people who are working in the background in Bicester and also at Faenza, they are pushing like hell. Definitely without their efforts we wouldn’t be here. So with each upgrade we understand something, we collect a lot of data. So without that effort we wouldn’t be here. So I think we finally started, you know, we came all together and just the car seems to behave much better. So, I think that’s the main reason.
Q: Thank you. Best of luck this weekend. Alex, coming to you. I want to talk about golf, but is there much to say? It looked pretty slippery out there. That’s the one thing.
Alex ALBON: Yeah, I did embarrass myself. I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. I have to say, I was up against Pierre. He almost took someone’s head off.
PG: I still won!
AA: He still won, that is very true. But I had a lot of fun. It was different. When you’re not comfortable with performing, I feel like… I don’t know it was for you, Pierre, but I practiced the day before and it didn’t go well at all. And you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of TV. At the same time you just knew you’re on TV being watched by so many people. It was a different kind of feeling. But yeah, shaky legs.
Q: Has your respect for the pros gone up, having been partnered with one?
AA: It is definitely. My girlfriend plays as well so I do know what it’s like, in some ways. But being in front of people, being surrounded by fans was the scariest thing, because I think they’re a bit more in control than we are. But it was quite funny because when the pros were about to hit, you can see everyone was quite relaxed, the people watching around us. And then as soon as we stepped up to the tee box, everyone’s just ready, getting ready to jump down.
Q: What about the Constructors’ championship? Yuki’s just been talking about all the upgrades that AlphaTauri have been bringing. It’s been not so much the case at Williams, has it? So are you starting to feel the heat from AlphaTauri now?
AA: We are, I’d say so. We’re still doing our own thing and the focus is always just to execute the weekend that we’re doing. Obviously, these guys have definitely stepped up their game over the last few races and they’re becoming more and more of a threat, not just for us, but even to the Alpines and to the midfield. So it’s been difficult to fend them off. We’ve got two races left, obviously, I think you said it’s seven points difference. We’re going into this weekend with, we hope , a more competitive car than we’ve had over Mexico and Brazil. So let’s see, but it is going to be a battle of attrition and just about executing everything we can. Because, I think on paper, they are a little bit quicker than us.
Q: Checo, let’s start with this battle for P2. Lewis said a moment ago that it’s looking hard, given that we’ve only got two races left and the gap. How do you see it?
Sergio PÉREZ: I think no different than before. We just have to do our own thing and make sure we maximize our next two weekends. It would be nice to secure it here because it’s the first opportunity we have but other than that, I think it’s more important that we focus on having a strong finish to the season.
Q: Now, you’ve been to Vegas before, haven’t you? What have you been up to since you’ve been here?
SP: What do you mean before?
Q: Before this weekend, of course, you know where to go, you know what to do…
SP: Yeah. I’ve come here many times before, so I know my way well around this place. It’s obviously very different than… especially the time zone. Well, it’s not too dissimilar to when I was here before! But, yeah, I’m finding it a bit crazy to stay awake so long at night. It’s quite a challenge, actually, to stay awake for so long.
Q: And what about the on track bit then? What are your first thoughts of the layout of the circuit? And do you think Red Bull is still the team to beat?
SP: I think it’s a place that we have no idea how it’s going to be. It’s so different to the rest of the year, because first of all the temperatures, then it’s all about keeping the tires in the window, keeping them warm and I think that’s going to be the challenge. So it’s going to be very different to anything else that we’ve done this year. So I don’t think we know how strong we’re going to be so it will be an interesting one.
Q: You won in Baku earlier in the year. Some people have been comparing this track to Baku. Does that give you a little bit of confidence going in?
SP: Not really here now because every weekend… even if we go now to Baku things are different, things have changed. It’s how the years evolve in Formula 1. I feel like we are in a good moment as a group, as a team. We haven’t been able to put the results all together in the last few weekends but I believe that we are on our way and we are getting a lot closer to our performances from earlier in the season.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sam Johnston – SkySports) Lewis, taking you back to Brazil, again, it was obviously quite a contrasting weekend to what it was last year, which provided a lot of optimism at the time, which ultimately didn’t work out as you would have hoped. Is there something to take from this experience, that maybe it can refocus the team in terms of plans for next year and a reminder of how much work still needs to be done?
LH: Yeah. I don’t know if they needed necessarily to be reminded of how much work needs to be done but there’s always good things to take from a difficult weekend like that and it’s definitely, when you have those sorts of kicks, it puts things into perspective. I definitely think with last year, end of season, we had that win. And whilst it was a real big lift for the team, maybe made us think that we were going to be better moving on to the next year. And so I’m actually grateful for the experience because the guys still know that we are still not as close as we would like to think, and meaning that we have to work harder, and we just have to do a better job all round but no one in the team is under any illusions so we realize that we’ve got a steep mountain to climb.
Q: (Oliver Holt – The Daily Mail) Lewis, apart from the echoes of ‘Casino’, which I think we can all agree is a great film, a lot of people would say that F1 coming back to Vegas is a triumph for showbiz over substance and racing maybe. What are the other reasons do you think why it’s a good thing that it’s back?
LH: Well, the sport continues to grow. It is a business ultimately, and I think you’ll still see good racing here. It’s just such a big country. I think to really tap into the market here and really captivate the audience here, I think we needed to have at least two races. The one wasn’t enough. This is one of the most iconic cities there is in the unique cities that they have here amongst the other amazing cities they have in America. All the lights, the show, it is a big show, for sure. And it’s never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in the community here will grow to love the sport, just as we’ve had the privilege of growing up and experiencing. Maybe the track will be good, maybe it’ll be bad. It was so-so on the sim. It’s definitely not Silverstone. I think don’t knock it until you try it. I hear there’s a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano and Liberty have been going but I think they’ve been doing an amazing job. This sport is growing massively, it’s going to grow even more once we get this movie out. I’m on to Stefano because I really want to get the race in South Africa or in Africa, so if it’s not South Africa, it will be somewhere else there hopefully, because we’re on all the other continents. And then we’ve just got to think about the impact that we have in these different places. It’s not just a circus that comes here and then we leave. We should look at how we can positively impact the community here and particularly like the kids, so bringing kids to the… in Austin, I brought 60 young girls to the circuit from local communities that never would have the opportunity to go to the track. And hopefully now they’re inspired to be engineers and have gone back to their school and told all their friends. We’ve got to make sure we’re also doing stuff like that.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) To Lewis and Sergio, please: we’ve just had a triple-header across two continents, we’ve got Vegas, late race, long days and then that’s back-to-back with Abu Dhabi. How much does fatigue play a part at this stage of a long season? Can you really be your best, given that schedule and lack of sleep etc?
SP: I think we all try to. Obviously it’s demanding as it is for all the drivers but not just for the drivers, for our teams, our engineers, our mechanics. It’s an intense part of the season. We try to prepare our best to do this sort of demanding schedule with the travelling, with a lack of training. It’s obviously very hard to keep up with the training, with the training time. So just a little bit harder, and yeah, it’s just a very busy part of the of the year.
LH: I personally have not found it a problem: still managed to keep the training up and I feel great at this point in the year. Saw the drivers in there before, all complaining about the jet lag. Jet lag is something that’s probably can get all of us but I’ve not found it a problem since I’ve been here. It is demanding but we know that, entering the sport. We know what a season entails and those three back-to-backs were definitely tough but if it was easy, everyone would do it. I think I’ve always just tried to be conscious of the mechanics and all the people that work… everyone in this room and everyone in the teams that are moving around and away from their families a lot. That’s probably the hardest thing from their perspective but they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, I’m pretty sure they love what they do, as do I.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, you said at the start that you never thought you’d be in a position to fight for P2, even though it’s looking a little bit unlikely now, given the car situation. Just wondered what do you credit for being able to do so?
LH: Yeah, when I first drove the car in February I knew immediately that it wasn’t a championship-winning car. It felt identical to the previous year’s car so that was definitely a concern. The credit I give to just us as a team coming together, the focus on just maximizing with what we have. And a huge amount of work that we’ve done in the background to just try to maximize each weekend. I think on my side, I think I’ve been very, very consistent generally, apart from one race probably this year; generally been another good, consistent year for me. But there’s also lots of areas that I can continue to improve. But when we’re on the podium in Austin and in Mexico, that’s down to the amazing people that I get to work with who have just not given up in the year and continue to push. And we have improved the car, ultimately not as much as we want but I think we really have. I feel like more than ever we have a North star, we know where we’re going and know where we need to get to. And so now it’s just all hands on deck we just all need to be rowing at the same pace.
Q: (Kevin Scheuren – Motorsport-total.com) To basically everybody except Lewis because he doesn’t have a problem with the jet lag. Max ranted about the extreme time-hopping you have to do over the next two weekends. And Kevin Magnussen wasn’t able to sleep for basically 24 hours to get used to the time zone here. Do you see if not this weekend, next weekend jetlag could pose a problem for you?
PG: Well, so far I don’t have any problem with jetlag, I fell asleep at 6am last night and woke up at two this morning, I mean 2pm, so that was fine. But I think next week is going to be a big challenge. So try to follow my jetlag plan as much as we can. We’re supported by doctors, performance coach etc. So everyone’s trying their best to give us the best preparation and you don’t tackle the jetlag the day you’re moving here. It’s a work that already… last week when I was in Paris, I was already setting myself up for this week. So this week is fine. I’ve never… yeah, in my life it’s going to be the first time I’m moving from one side of the globe to the complete opposite side within a few days, so I don’t really know how I’m going to be feeling, but I know I’ve got my strategy in place and I’ll try to stick to it as much as I can. It’s the last run of the year, so I know what’s the personal target for me. I know I’ll enjoy the last bit of racing in Abu Dhabi and I’ll miss it for the next two months. So I’m sure with the adrenaline, I’ll be fine.
YT: Yeah, I’m currently quite sleepy. So, for me it’s hitting a little bit. But yeah, I mean, jetlag… from the last three years for me, you get used to it. The last three grands prix were definitely tough for me. And Abu Dhabi, I don’t know how much difference, but yeah, should get used to it. I mean, as soon as I drive, it should be OK.
Q: Alex, get out on the golf course, is that your plan?
AA: Yeah, that keeps you awake. Generally, I would say the same as Pierre and Yuki. It’s not easy, it’s also not easy, just because it’s America, it’s a lot of interest so you tend to be a little bit busier than most race weekends and you get pulled around a fair bit. So yeah, we do the work. We’re not as gifted as Lewis with the sleep. I do struggle a little bit. It’ll be interesting, I think, next year though. Next year is going to be really tough because I think we got Vegas, Qatar, Abu Dhabi. We already saw how difficult Qatar was physically this year and we’re going to be jumping the time zone and driving around there. So yeah, it’ll be tough.
SP: Yeah, I will ask Lewis for some of his pills. He seems to be the only one not suffering with it. But no, for me, I’m also used to it. I come from Mexico so I spend so much time on the jetlag. So I’m used to it.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis, just following up on something you said earlier. This race, F1 expects it to be a showcase for the sport and to be successful. And I was just wondering what you would consider would make the race successful? Is it just exposure and numbers? Or is it other factors such as the impression it leaves on the people who live and work here?
LH: That’s a question, I don’t really know how to answer. From a racer’s perspective, you want to have the best show, you want to have the race track that provides a race like for example Baku, which in terms of racing, is one of the best races, with lots of overtaking. That would be amazing, rather than just one car disappearing, and cars not overtaking, for example. Yeah, I don’t really know what else to say. There’s everybody I know in Hollywood is coming, there’s a lot of high net-worth people coming, there’s going to be a lot of business going on this weekend and hopefully a good spectacle for people to watch, even for those back home who have maybe never been to Vegas, they’ll still get to see what Vegas is about. And in terms of the community here, I don’t know what sort of impact we will have. I know, there’s been lots of complaints with how it’s interrupted people’s daily lives, but hopefully it’s just short term; maybe in future we’ll be able to do things better so people aren’t affected as much. And I’m really proud of my team that we just had 15 kids from local communities come in today from underprivileged schools to see the garage and again that’s stuff that we need to be doing more of and I think every team and the sport should be doing more of that stuff.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis picking up on the movie, now the strike is over, are you guys back fully up and running in terms of all the writing and filming and everything like that, and just a general update going into the winter: how much of your time is that going to be taking up through the off-season?
LH: Off-season won’t take a huge amount of my time. In December, I’ll probably spend a day or so with Joe and Jerry just going over the script and obviously now we can continue on with the writers and now Brad and Damson will be back in training getting ready to get back in the car. Unfortunately, we were supposed to be filming this weekend… If there wasn’t a strike we would be filming one of the really cool scenes here this weekend. But we’ll continue on filming next year so you’ll see them around more. We’ve already got great footage with the demo drivers who have done a great job as all the drivers got to see in Austin. And yeah, we’ll keep pushing along. It’s still going to be great, might cost a little bit more but I’m really confident in what Jerry is going to produce.