Sebastian, first thoughts, concerning these new spec, 2017-spec cars really. It’s the first time we’ve used them here at Hockenheim. How much of a different experience will it be, compared to 2016 with the old-spec cars?
Sebastian VETTEL: I think it should be more fun. Cars are faster, faster mostly, or mainly in the corners, so I think it’s always great if the cars are faster. I think here you have some corners, high-speed corners – Turn One and also the entry to the stadium, which, yeah, they should be a lot more fun – but also the medium-speed sections around the track. I think generally the cars are better, more fun to drive, so it should be better, more enjoyable than two years ago. And hopefully we are more competitive – that’s also more enjoyable!
Q: Pole position in 2016 was 1m14.3s. How much do you believe you might be able to shave off that this weekend?
SV: We’ll see. I think it’s not always straightforward to compare. I think the cars are faster, as we mentioned, but we also obviously but a lot of downforce on, so we lose a bit of speed down the straights – but I think we should be faster. We also have the ultrasoft this weekend for qualifying, so yeah, how much I don’t know but by quite a bit. As I said, the faster you go, the more fun it is.
Q: You’re leading the Drivers’ Championship; Ferrari leading the Constructors’ Championship. The development curve at Ferrari this year has been very impressive. Have you noticed a step up in that area compared to last year?
SV: Well, the team is still improving, still growing. Obviously, the team has been around for a long time and I have been now part of the team for three and a half years – but I think we are getting stronger, we have a very, very good group of people, a good mix of people on board. Yeah, you’re trying all the time. Sometimes obviously, there’s also the element of the stuff working better than expected, sometimes it works less than expected but I think overall, I think you can say over the last two years maybe, since the last time we were here, that, yeah, I think by the end of 2016 we had a sort of lock opened, and since then I think there was a certain momentum starting to keep going and to develop. Since then I think we kept it going. Obviously the ’17 regs gave us the chance as a team to catch up, because before we were a bit behind – but since then, also last year, I think we had a great pace, a great car and we were able to develop it. Missed a little bit of performance at the end of the year. I think we learned from that and hopefully we can do it better – which still have to be seen but I think the car has potential.
Q: You’ve won at the Nürburgring but not here. Would winning here on Sunday mean more to you than simply 25 points?
SV: Yeah. Absolutely. I think the fact that racing in Germany, I’m afraid that probably this is the last time for a while, as far as I understand – which would be a shame to lose one of the classic races, and the fact that I’m literally from here – it’s just half an hour away were I was born and grew up – so yeah, the area means a lot to me and it would be great to have a good weekend.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sonja Kreye – Speed News) Question for Sebastian. As far as I remember, Nico Rosberg, when he became World Champion in 2016, he dedicated some of his success to some mental work that he does, like meditation and hypnosis – don’t know what he does – but do you also follow something like this? Do you have a mental routine? Do you do some mental work?
SV: I think it’s a very broad subject: I don’t know what Nico was doing or not but I think we all have our routines. Some of it is conscious, some of it – a lot of it – is probably sub-conscious. I think everybody knows from their own experience that you have some things that you run through before the start, or before a test, or whenever it gets important, we all have some sort of routine that we follow. Something that we do different to other people around us. It’s the same for us. Obviously when it comes to qualifying on Saturday or preparing the race, I think yes, I have certain things that I try to go through, I try to visualise and go through the track and so on. I’m not practising meditation or doing some of things that people maybe think of when they talk about mental preparation. So, as I said, most of it I think is a certain routine. We have the qualifying, it’s always the same things happening, so you know what’s coming and it’s important to be there, to be sharp, to prepare – but yeah, I think we know what to do.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Seb, Lewis’ deal with Mercedes as a two-year extension was announced today. He’s locked in for two years, you’re at Ferrari for two years and Max is at Red Bull for two years. Your thoughts on how the future is lining up?
SV: Well, congrats. I don’t know why it took so long. I think it was pretty clear. Yeah, no reactions. For me it’s clear, that’s what matters to me and what the others are doing doesn’t really matter. I have my place and my mission and what I want to achieve and in all honesty, that’s all that matters.
Q: (Udo Döring – Darmstädter Echo) As you mentioned, Sebastian, it could be the last German GP maybe, so another question to both of you who are from Germany, what are you thinking about this and why do you think it’s so difficult to keep the grand prix in Germany in these times?
SV: I think it would be a shame to lose the German Grand Prix because it has so much history. As Nico said, for car manufacturers Germany is well known. We are a car nation. I think probably it’s to do with the fact that generally you have to pay money to get a grand prix. Other nations are prepared to pay money. Other countries are prepared to fund the grand prix and I think that’s where the main problem is; Germany is not ready to spend money on having the grand prix, to advertise Formula 1, to advertise racing, to advertise Germany, to attract people coming here. So I think the view on that is different to other countries and that’s where probably the problem is. I mean, I know the track well here, I know the people that work for it and they are working very hard for the event to get people coming here and it’s tough for them to actually make some money, because simply they have no funds backing them up from the county or state or I don’t know the country, supporting them financially.
Q: (Jo van Burik – Autocar.nl) To follow up on Alan’s question regarding Lewis’ contract, a question to Seb. The battle between you and Lewis’ has seemed to bring a lot to Formula 1 over the past few years and this season most notably. Do you look forward to maybe continuing that for another two years?
SV: Yeah, with the result the other way round, yeah, I look forward to that. I think any battle is good. Obviously it’s always great if it’s tight at the top, it’s always great if you have a lot of cars fighting for podiums, for wins. Now this year already we have six cars, which is already a lot better, also being part of it, than the previous years I think some years ago we had even more cars on the podium, fighting for race wins and so on, so that would be great to see the gap closing. Normally that’s something that happens naturally if you just let things be. I don’t know what… obviously for ’19 we have a small change and ’20 should be fairly stable and then we see what happens in ’21, but that’s quite far away. But in general it’s always exciting as a driver if you can fight for points and fight for podiums and then fight for wins and you want to fight the best and Lewis has been one of the best since he entered Formula 1, so it’s good to be there.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Seb, how different would it be for you if Charles would be your team-mate instead of Kimi?
SV: I don’t know. I don’t know Charles much. I know him a little bit through the programme. Kimi is Finnish, Charles is French; I think they are quite different… or Monegasque. Sorry, sorry… sorry. I like Kimi. I think we get along. We have never any issue. Sometimes on track. I remember I drove into him, crashed into him. But I think the way we handle things is very similar, very straightforward, so I think it’s great to work with and great for the team, but it’s not my decision so we’ll see what happens.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Seb, we saw after the last race some comments from Lewis and from Mercedes about the events that happened on the first lap. I know Lewis has since retracted those comments but do you think, in a way, that you and Ferrari are getting under Lewis’ and Mercedes’ skin this season?
SV: I’m not a big fan of getting more out of it than there seems to be. I think it’s fine, you know. Obviously it was silly to say it but we are racing and we’ve all been there, it’s never great if you get hit without doing anything wrong, then it’s also fine to express your opinion, even it’s not right or reasonable, but it’s human. I think it’s fine, so we shouldn’t… it’s two weeks ago, we move on.
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – l’Equipe) Seb, if you win on Sunday, do you think it could change the future of the German Grand Prix? And do you feel more pressure than usual?
SV: No, more excitement. I hope since we had a bad World Cup that people didn’t put their flags away and they turn up at the weekend and wave them for Nico and myself. We get a lot of support. From what I hear it should be packed, so I’m looking forward to that. Obviously if there is a chance to win, I want to win and if that helps to keep the grand prix, that’s a bonus. As I say, it would be a shame to lose it. It would be great to come back next year, or the year after.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Sebastian, following up on Heikki’s question: do you have a strong preference for Ferrari to keep Kimi for next year or are you more open-minded than in previous years about your team-mate?
SV: What do you mean ‘previous years’? Well, I like Kimi. As I said, I’d be happy to continue like that, but it’s not for me to mention, to decide. Charles, one way or the other, will have a great career. He’s a great guy, he’s fast, he’s got everything, so yeah, definitely, he has no rush. He’s young, but if you’re young you’re always in a rush with everything. I don’t know. I don’t know when, what and ultimately who but as I said it really doesn’t matter to me. For me it’s clear where I am next but I think both of them would suit into the team.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport-magazin.com) Seb, on paper, at least two of the three last races of the triple header we’ve had were a bit more in favour of the Mercedes. Mercedes said they had the strongest car the last three races. Do you have the feeling you survived the worst part of the season now?
SV: No, generally I would agree. I think they had the fastest car in the last couple of races. I think in Silverstone we were a match. Obviously in quali we just missed out by a little bit. If it’s within the same tenths I don’t think you can say one is stronger than the other. I think in the race also we had good pace, which was great for us, because Silverstone has been a place where we were weak. The places before they were a bit stronger. We’ll see how things evolve here. We brought some stuff to Silverstone, which should also work here. I think it’s a constant chase to find the advantage and then one track suit you more than others but I think we have a great car and we still have great potential to make it better.
Q: (Walter Koster – Saabrucker Zeitung) Seb, during the last race at Silverstone your teammate Kimi asked for more power but his engineer refused his wish. Kimi answered indignantly ‘It’s not permitted for me to think for myself?’ To what extent can you make your own decisions on track and how much is decided remotely on your behalf by the team? I can tell you all that I know a lot of people who don’t watch Formula One because the technology is too complicated and they feel the races are manipulated. Formula One seems to be more removed from the fans than before. Do you agree with this, and please remember my first question?
SV: I don’t remember the question! Yeah, I do remember the question. What was the question now? I think that what happened in Kimi’s race as far as I remember was more about strategy, not about engine power or energy so it was more about strategy. In that situation I think it’s fairly simple, you drive your car and you have a feeling about your tyres, of where you are in the race. You’re racing the others around you but you can’t see everything that’s going on around you which obviously the team on the pit wall can see, all the cars, all the lap times and if you were going to pit, then they know where you’re going to come out, which is something which we can’t see because we can’t see 20 seconds behind us. So I think that was the argument or misunderstanding at the time. I think yes, I agree with your view that people get the impression from outside that a lot of it is remotely controlled but that’s not fair. The cars are very complex, the technology inside the cars is very complex and it needs more than one or two, three mechanics which maybe Formula One had 40/50 years ago to run a car. You need a lot of people. Obviously in terms of technology it’s also very impressive but my view is also that from outside the engine… most of the car is covered anyway so you can’t see. Some people… if you’re a tech nerd it’s great but not everybody is and from the outside you want to see cars fighting, you want to see cars race and are driven by us to the limit and that’s what matters. I think there’s always been an interaction between technology and racecraft, driving the cars, in the past. I think the driver is the key element to driving the car, even though the technology behind it is complicated to run but equally it’s not our fault and for the future, I would love to simplify things so that people get a better impression. But I can understand why they get the impression. Do I think it’s fair? No it’s not, because I know I’m driving the car and I know these guys are driving the cars.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS.nl) For all drivers: if you would change something in Formula One or you could say let’s keep it more or less the same, what would you do? Would you be open to reverse grids? Two races in one weekend for instance?
SV: I think they’re all valid points. Probably the first action: double the cylinders, take the batteries out, maybe we need one to start the car, that’s enough usually.
Q: Sebastian, your reaction to two races in a weekend?
SV: No, no, I think the format is fine. I think it’s wrong to look at changing the format. It’s not my decision so it’s a bit pointless to talk about it but I wouldn’t be a fan. I think it has been like that for a long time for a reason. I think the 300 kilometer Grand Prix is a Grand Prix. If you should make it half, then maybe for some people then a boring race is only half as boring but that’s not the way I look it. I think it’s a challenge, it’s a Grand Prix distance and it’s something that… you do your first race and you’re surprised by how long the race can be and that’s a physical and mental challenge for that duration and I think it would be… yeah, if it becomes a sprint race, I think it would be a different sport in a way and I wouldn’t mess with the format. I think we need to find other ways to get excitement and get the grid together and whatever but not the format.