Q: Sebastian, let’s start by talking about the car. You’ve told us in the past that it’s tricky to drive. Can you tell us why it’s so hard to find the sweet spot of the SF90?
Sebastian VETTEL: Well, I think we had occasions where things were looking very good and other occasions where it was a bit more difficult but I think that’s also pretty normal throughout the season: you have different tracks with different characteristics and sometimes the car feels more the way you like and other times less – but yeah, I think we have, after the first couple of races we were able to get quite a good picture of what was missing compared to the performance we seemed to have at the beginning of winter testing. With that, I think we’ve made progress. Obviously we are not where we would like to be, not as competitive as we would like to be, but I think overall, the understanding and the direction is going in the right way.
Q: You say you’re not as competitive as you want to be – well, Red Bull have taken a step forward in recent weeks, so how do you see the pecking order at the front of Formula One now?
SV: Well, I think obviously Mercedes does have an edge on everyone else, that’s, I think, pretty clear. Similar to previous years, they seem to struggle on tracks where tyre wear and degradation is a bit higher – like we’ve maybe seen in the last part of the race in France, or in Austria. But in terms of raw speed, they are the benchmark – and I think for myself and for us, that’s the benchmark. I think obviously between ourselves and Red Bull, it’s been sometimes closer, sometimes we were ahead, most of the times I believe we were ahead, sometimes we were behind but y’know, that’s not the objective. The objective is to fight for wins and to do so at the moment you need to be level or better than Mercedes.
Q: And what would a victory here, on home soil, mean to you on Sunday?
SV: I think it’s always special, first of all to have the opportunity to race in your home country; yeah, obviously I was very close last year, let’s see how close we can get this year. I think we are, y’know, a less strong position to start the weekend. Then again, I think we’ve seen some recent races, we’ve been very strong in terms of qualifying – but also race pace. So yeah, I think we’re fairly open minded. I’m fairly open-minded, to be honest. We start the weekend, see where it goes, obviously it’s going to be very hot initially and then probably cool off a little bit.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Stefan Ehlen motorsport-total.com) Question to Sebastian. How badly do you want to win on Sunday, and how badly do you need to win on Sunday?
SV: Not badly. Oddly I want to win, that’s for sure – but as I said, I’m also realistic. So, coming here, I don’t feel as we are the favourites but I feel we have a chance. For me, that’s the point of going racing. You have a chance of do well. So, that’s the objective and we will find out during the weekend. But certainly it’s a special place to me. It’s very close to where I’m from, it’s a lot of family around and friends close by. To find a good way to celebrate, I wouldn’t need to go very far, so that would be quite handy.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, Kimi will be shortly 40 years old, can you see yourself racing as long as that?
SV: I don’t know – I’m not as handsome as Kimi now, so I won’t be as handsome as he is when I’m 40! I don’t know, there’s not much point thinking about it. Imagine if you had asked Kimi when he was 32 if he can imagine to race when he’s 40, I don’t think you would have got an answer. I don’t know, it depends on how the next years go. It depends, I think, on where the sport is going with the big run change that will or will not come for 2021, and then we’ll see what happens after that. I’ll be 40 in 2027, so I don’t know is the answer. Sorry Heikki!
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Question for Sebastian. You’ve said in the past you struggle when you’re not feeling the car. Can you tell us, are you feeling this car and, if not, is it compounding the weaknesses that it already has?
SV: Well, I think it’s not… as I tried to explain earlier, I think it’s normal that sometimes you feel more comfortable and sometimes less. I think for us it was important after the first couple of races to understand what brings this inconsistency, where the strength of the initial feeling with this car has gone and why we’re not able to repeat it the way we would like. But I think we do have a very good understanding by now. I think we are trying a lot of things to obviously make it better, to find a direction. I think a lot of things we tried are very good, other things we tried we went back on but yeah, obviously there are some things that probably this year are different than maybe they have been before – but nothing that you couldn’t adapt to.
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To Sebastian. What’s it like… it’s obviously been a long while since Ferrari won the Drivers’. Do you feel a sort of burden to lead them to victory to lead them after, what 11, 12 years? Does that sort of weigh on you? I mean, the sort of Ferrari dynamic, what it means to the nation. How do you feel bearing that responsibility?
SV: It doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like a privilege, y’know, to go out and race for Ferrari and obviously my mission or my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to get back to, y’know, the – how do you say? – the winning ways. If we do that then we have a much better chance to fight for the Championship. Having said that, I think from when I joined and where we are now, obviously this year hasn’t gone the way we wanted after the last two years, but still, I think things are progressing in the right direction. In the big picture – but naturally the big picture doesn’t interest you if you are not currently where you would like to be. So, I think we all know that Formula One is a world where people are very short-sighted, which is also fair and part of the game. Like I said, overall, even if things look good, we still obviously miss that final step and that’s the most important step.
Q: (Julien Billotte – AutoHebdo) Question to Seb and Nico. How do you see the state of Formula One in Germany. Do you think it’s still as popular as it was 15 or 20 years ago – and in terms of drivers, behind you of course, there is a lot of interest for Mick Schumacher in Formula 2 but beyond him there doesn’t seem to be many German young talents – do you think it is because Formula One is not as inspiring as it was when you guys were growing?
SV: I think obviously it’s normal that the biggest hype, I believe was when Michael started winning as he was the first German to win the Championship. Being the first, there is always more momentum and more interest – but as Nico said, I think the atmosphere last year proved that there is still very much an appetite for racing but I also feel that the German crowd is a very fair and direct and honest crowd, so maybe some things that have happened in our sport didn’t help the popularity. For the future, I think you need to draw, a bit, the bigger picture. I think, again, Germans are quite straightforward with the way they spend their money and unfortunately junior racing, starting from karting and through the series after that are – I think – way too expensive. Nico and myself we enjoyed each other in go-karts and racing each other. I think the background is not that dissimilar. I think giving us the same chance today, I think our career would stop fairly soon because we simply wouldn’t have the pocket money to do it. So, I think overall, to allow more kids – boys and girls – to start racing, the sport would need to be a lot cheaper, as currently I think it’s way too expensive and unaffordable for most.
Q: (Phil Duncan – Press Association) Sebastian, just following on from the earlier question about racing for Ferrari, is this a team you would like to see out your career with or do you envisage racing for someone else?
SV: Not at the moment. As I said earlier to Heikki that I don’t know how long I’m going to be here but I love racing, I think they’re the best cars to… the fastest there are. The joy that I get from driving is like it’s ever been and as I said, obviously the motivation is high to get the job done with Ferrari so that’s the two things that are, I guess, dictating whether I’m going to be around for long or not.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Sebastian, sorry to take you back to 12 months ago here. You had your mistake in the race; since then there’s been a few mistakes along the way, all the way through to Silverstone and the last race. How satisfied are you on your performances over the past twelve months? Is it fair to say that you haven’t delivered, given the car that you’ve been given by Ferrari? And do you feel under pressure?
SV: Well, I always put myself under pressure so I can’t be happy, obviously, if things go wrong. I think some of the things, obviously, were bigger than others. I think the main thing is that – as I said previously – that we keep progressing in the right way but for sure if I get something wrong and make a mistake I can’t be happy with that. The pressure I put on myself after that I think is bigger than any external factors. This has been the same as long as I can remember. I think for me it’s the most honest and straightforward way to deal with it myself because I know what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve done right. I know when I had the opportunity to do well or not. I think you’re always your best judge, no matter what you do so that’s the rules by which I play.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Sebastian and Kimi, do you ever miss each other as teammates and can you say what the best qualities were about each other as a teammate?
KR: The meetings are a lot shorter now, now that we’re not in the same meetings any more. Or in the same team. We see each other still. I enjoy it, for sure, it was very good but we were friends before and it never changed and it’s still the same so life goes on. I think it’s always been very honest with Seb so it’s easy, easy going.
Q: His best qualities?
KR: Straightforward, honest.
SV: I can only return. Obviously now the meetings are not as short as they were which is a pity. Yeah, as Kimi said, we’ve sort of got on with each other before, had respect for each other and it’s the same now. Best qualities? Straightforward and honest! Yeah. No, I think the interesting thing is, even if, no, we look very different from the outside in terms of what people think but I think inside, as I said, we got along with each other fairly quickly right from the beginning and it’s probably because we share a lot of the same values and key to that is there were never any games or any attempt to play anything or… just no attempt to waste time, basically.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Seb and Nico, following the earlier question about the future of F1 in Germany, you mentioned Mick Schumacher. How significant do you think the return of the Schumacher name to an F1 race seat in the future could be for F1 in this country and also how important is it that he’s not rushed on that journey?
SV: Yeah, I think it’s crucial that he’s given the time he needs. I think it’s fair to judge him and his racing like every one of us has been judged and will be judged but it’s not right to measure and compare too much to other people and to his father. I don’t think it’s fair. It’s a different time, different racing but for sure, as I tried to explain earlier, Michael was the one who set off a huge hype when we were kids and therefore the name Schumacher is one hundred percent known in Germany due to him. Obviously to have Mick at the doorstep of F1 and one day hopefully joining would be huge and hopefully a big boost for Germany. On top of that, despite the name, he’s a great guy, he’s a nice kid so I think our fingers are crossed for him. There’s been a time when I think we had a lot of Germans in Formula One – like six or seven – and everyone was wondering why and so on. Now we have two we don’t get these questions any more but back then I think there were zero French guys and now you have quite a lot of French guys in Formula One and very close so I think it’s just how it goes around but yeah, hopefully he gets the chance one day and does well and brings some more enthusiasm.
Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Sebastian, a question about the past. I wanted to ask you about one of your most successful cars, the 2011 Red Bull RB7. What do you remember about that car and how challenging was it to get the most out of that, given that there was the exhaust blown downforce and you had to adapt your technique to get the most from it?
SV: Yeah, obviously it was a very experimental phase because back then exhaust blowing was unknown and the effects of it and the logic behind it and so on. It was the first year where we really explored the limits, up to the point where we blew up a tyre on the grid because the plume and the hot air on the tyre obviously was coming at very high speed and made a big difference to how the car felt, made a big difference to how you had to drive the car, made a big difference to how you set up the car but I think we got the hang of it. I think key to one, a very clever way to design the car. Second was Renault’s input back then which I think they’ve been first in class and most extreme and probably the most brave to adapt and come up with solutions to help the demands of our aero department at the time. Obviously then it got banned and the years after, what people have been trying ever since is to find a way to get back because it’s proved to be so powerful. Season-wise it was a great season because I think we as a whole team matured a lot from little hiccoughs in 2010 so it was a lot more straightforward in 2011.