Q: A question for you all to start with. Confirmation came through last night that the Italian Grand Prix will remain on the Formula 1 calendar for at least another five years. Can we get your reaction to that and can you tell us what this race and this track mean to you? Sebastian, can we start with you?
Sebastian VETTEL: Very happy obviously. I don’t know if I’ll be here for five years. I think it belongs in the calendar, so I’m very happy that it was confirmed. It’s not really necessary to mention the importance of the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari. It’s our biggest race of the season. It belongs here. Obviously for me, a lot of memories. The win in 2008, my first win, for sure was very special. The ones after that people weren’t so happy, but I guess nowadays they would be happy again.
Q: Thanks for that, Nico. I want to come to both Ferrari drivers now. We saw a fantastic celebration at the Duomo in Milan last night. How was it? Sebastian, tell us what went on?
SV: Very busy, packed! I think it’s very difficult to put into words. It’s a very iconic on it’s own, it it’s empty, that place, but with the red sea, or flooded with people dressed in red, it was definitely prettier than I remembered it. Probably I should never go back, because it’s never going to be as pretty. I think it was special for us as current drivers, but there were also a lot of recent drivers, older drivers from the past of the Scuderia, so I think that was a nice thing to get together and have a chat also later on with them. Obviously some of them are very around, but others you don’t see so often, so enjoyed that. A lot of old important cars, important pieces of the team’s history, so for me it was a great day.
Q: Sebastian, Charles made reference to the race pace of Mercedes at Spa, how do you think it’s going to play out here?
SV: I can’t predict but I think it should be… It’s a similar track, very different but in terms of the way the cars are set up similar to last weekend. I hope we can be as competitive as we were there. In relative terms it’s difficult to say. For sure we’ve seen the trend that in qualifying we have a bit of an edge on these types of tracks, whereas in the race everything moves very close together. As Charles said, they were very quick last weekend, so I expect the main challenge to be looking after the tyres, finding the right set-up, the right balance in the car, to feel comfortable to extract the maximum. I can’t give you any predictions but I guess it will be very tight. I hope we have something to say. Obviously Mercedes has been in a position to win nearly every race this season but for us it hasn’t been like that, so the more chances we get the better it is for us.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) Question for Sebastian. We saw Charles take his maiden grand prix victory last weekend. He’s made a very strong start to life with Ferrari, only 12 points behind you in the Championship. How impressed have you been with Charles start with the team and has he surprised you at all with how good he’s been this year?
SV: No. I think it’s positive that he’s surprised probably a lot of people outside but inside I think we obviously… he’s been with Ferrari, with the Driver Academy for a while and it was clear to see that he has a lot of potential. I think he had a very strong rookie season with Alfa, so, y’know, it’s good to see that he’s right on the pace straight away and obviously form a team point of view I think the most important is that we work together, not against each other. That seems to work, so that’s important. Otherwise it would be a bit of a waste of energy. So, yeah, I think those are the key things. It’s obviously good, I think it was a big weekend for him last weekend, even though it was shadowed by the circumstances, the passing of Anthoine, so not great but as he said, obviously it was his first one and I’m sure he’ll be around for a while so there will be a lot more.
Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – Daily Mail) To both Ferrari drivers. I was wondering, in light of the sad events of last week, whether the drivers thought there was any consideration maybe needed be given to the nature of run-off areas. There’s been less and less gravel for reasons that are well-known, but whether that should be examined, whether gravel could actually slow drivers down and make them stick to track limits better. And b) is there anything that the GPDA have discussed about last week that you will now speak to the FIA about?
SV: I think it’s a question for all of us really but I think the answer will probably be the same one – or should be the same one. I think what happened couldn’t be any worse. I think it will be examined in a very detailed way, which is, I think, correct and what everyone would expect – but I think to draw any conclusions now is probably not right. I think we need to have a full picture of a lot of elements. The ones that you mentioned are definitely part of those – but there might be, or there are, also others. Obviously I’m a fan of holding races in Spa, because it’s a great track, has a great history, a lot of the corners are very unique but for sure, we need to have a very close look and take some time to understand exactly what happened before drawing any conclusions.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Slightly following on from that question. There were some comments Jackie Stewart this week, who said that last weekend’s accident might serve as a bit of a wake-up call, and drivers perhaps are taking too many liberties, particularly on the first lap. I was just wondering what your responses would be to that?
SV: I think, looking back obviously he was racing at a horrible time where drivers passed away, not regularly but obviously a lot more frequently. So, for sure, you cannot compare his era to our era. Obviously he’s been around at that time, he’s been racing so he knows what it felt like and is able to judge whether it’s different or not. I don’t think we can have that judgement. But yes, again, as far as I understand it, it was a bit of a chain of happenings, of situations that led into the final accident but, yeah, I think we all had our moment on Saturday and obviously Sunday, going to the race track and driving the race but to some extent it’s part of motorsport. It is dangerous, it’s part of the thrill – but certainly obviously the last years have been a wake-up with the passing of Jules and now Anthoine. It shows that there are still things – even if people think it’s too safe and boring – I think there are still things we can do better, we must improve, we must work on, because I’d rather have boring Formula 1 championships to the end of ever and bring him back – so I think there’s no question about that trade.
Sebastian, how different is your relationship with Charles to the one you had with Kimi Räikkönen?
SV: More words! That’s it. As Charles touched on, we try to work together. We try to push the team. Our car is not where we want it to be. I said earlier that we didn’t have the car and the ability to win every race so far, and that is our objective, so I think it serves both of us if we push in the same direction because I believe one day we will have that car and then we can fight it out.
Q: (Umberto Zapelloni – L’Automobile) Can you give yourself a vote from one to ten for the first 13 races of this year?
SV: I don’t know. We have had a question like that. I don’t remember what I answered so maybe I should say nothing now because otherwise I say something different. No, I don’t remember so I’m not going to go with that.
Q: Five? Same as Hungary.
SV: Well, we’ve had one race since Hungary. Was it after Hungary or before? I don’t know. Yeah, I think the bottom line is that we know we haven’t had the season we wanted so far. Obviously we started off in a good place in the second half and hopefully we can keep that up but we know also, being realistic, that Mercedes is the clear favourite. As I said, they’ve been in a position to win every race this year so yeah, that’s something that we haven’t been in and we need to get there, that’s the point.
Q: (Zsolt Godina – F1Vilag.hu) Sebastian, we have seen some pictures of the new 2021 car in the wind tunnel. How do you like it and how will the new regulations affect your decision regarding the future?
SV: I don’t know, I think we’ve probably also seen renderings from Renault in the past and other teams so I don’t know whether the pictures we’ve seen are actually what it will be because as far as I understand there are no regulations yet for ’21 so it’s a bit pointless to post pictures but maybe that’s what some people would like the cars to look like, I don’t know. I think that there are no rules yet for ’21, no decisions, no hard decisions so it’s a bit pointless to look at pictures. Yeah, I think there’s a great chance to make things better. I think we, as drivers, addressed our main points. Obviously it was very nice and very respectful that we had a sort of say or at least people asked our opinions for the first time ever in this kind of decision, the people who make the decisions asked our opinions. We were definitely pushing to keep things simple. We want closer racing. From our side, I think it’s very clear and then however the cars look, I guess it’s a bit secondary. I think if the racing is great and so on, then the cars will look great as well.
Q: Will the regulations for 2021 have a bearing on your future?
SV: Yeah, for sure. Obviously I don’t know how long the decision to stay with these kind of rules will be but obviously my contract now finishes next year. Everything after that is based on the new rules so for sure you have a look. As I said, I think it’s a huge chance for the sport to position itself in a better… or to be in a better place. Having said, it’s not that now everything is awful so I think we need to remember that. It’s a fine balance but every change is a chance – a chance to do better or worse and hopefully we do better.
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) You spoke about the passion you saw from the Ferrari fans yesterday at the event. It’s been nine years since the tifosi have been able to cheer on a Ferrari driver to victory here at Monza. How much will it mean to you to end that drought and take that win and be up on that podium?
SV: Well, we’ve been on the podium a couple of times but never on the top step, not that it’s a big thing. This is the biggest race for us, no doubt. It’s a big weekend. Obviously we saw the passion that there is yesterday and I’m sure we will see it throughout the weekend. So hopefully I’m sure it will give us a boost, how much, we will see. I mentioned before, it’s difficult to predict but certainly I think now is the time to sort of over-deliver. Yeah, it’s a big weekend so hopefully we can make it count this time. I think we have a good chance, so we will see. We’re ready, I guess.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Just along the same sort of lines: Sebastian does this race offer you your best realistic chance of ending your drought, if we can call it that: twelve months now since your last win. Must it be this weekend?
SV: I don’t think so. I think we have lots of races ahead but I’m not looking to… I don’t know, where I am in ten races time; this is the weekend I’m focused on. As I said, we’re not the clear favourites. Obviously there are signs that we are aware of and put us in a good position but I think we have to be carefully optimistic and realistic. There’s a lot of elements during a Grand Prix that can make a difference. One lap is one thing but then obviously there’s a lot of laps on Sunday, plus the weather, plus, plus, plus. There are a lot of things. I don’t see it that way, I see it as a chance, simple as that, but then again, I think you always have a chance when you’re on the grid no matter where you start from but surely we want to make sure we start from the front which gives you a higher chance and then carry that into the race.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Charles, obviously it was a great day in your life to win your first Formula One race, albeit laden with other emotions but is there anything that you’ve done in the last few days to celebrate or bought yourself anything, and what does it feel like, generally, in your mind to be a Formula One winner?
CL: No, I haven’t done much to celebrate that. Hopefully I will be able to celebrate after this one. As I said earlier, there was not much time to celebrate anything.
SV: He asked what you bought.
CL: I didn’t buy anything.
SV: They tell me you bought a boat!
CL: No, no, that’s not true! Obviously it feels good, it’s something that – until you get it, it feels very far away but once you have it it feels obviously very, very good and it gives you a bit of a confidence boost too, so it’s great. Now it’s done and I can focus on the future and hopefully many more will come.
Q: (Stephane Barbe – L’Equipe) Seb, we’ve seen in Spa a tense game in qualifying with drivers going slowly, looking for a good tow. Do you think you could have the same here in Monza, and what is the importance of the slipstream here in Monza in qualifying and the race?
SV: Yeah, obviously if you look on paper, this is the place where you expect this kind of strange games. Yeah, there’s very little you can do to sort of prepare because it depends on the timing of the session. Here I think the lap is a bit shorter so maybe it buys you a bit more flexibility but yeah, we’ll see on Saturday. I don’t know if it’s going to be dry or wet but obviously in the wet there’s no point, not as much as in the dry. Yeah, it does make a difference, how much it’s difficult to quantify but certainly last year it made a difference and yeah, you need to be on the good side, obviously, and it also depends a bit on tyres, whether it’s easy to prepare them or whether it’s really critical. And then you need to make the trade between tyres being in the right window or being in position for the tow. Could be entertaining but you also hope that obviously you get a nice shot, at least one of the two.