Q: Well, good luck with that. Sebastian, talking about differences from last year to this year. From the outside winter testing back in Europe looked a little bit inconclusive for Ferrari. What can you tell us about it?
Sebastian VETTEL: I think testing is always inconclusive. You never know where you are and that’s the good thing about coming here and [we can] finally get going and racing. I think testing has, not a lot, but it does have its nice sides, aspects, but really racing is what it’s about, so as I said, it’s nice to come here and finally know where you are.
Q: But like Nicholas and Daniel, can you say that this year’s car is a clear step forward?
SV: It is but I think that’s probably true for everyone. That’s the idea of having a new car, obviously learning from the experiences of the year before, so I think it’s true to say that everybody had got a better car this year, but it always depends on where you are relative to the others. So I think our car is doing what we expected. It is a step forward, it feels better, but ultimately it matters where you are next to all the others.
Q: Well, you’ve always gone well here at Albert Park, you’re going for victory number four this weekend. What is it about your relationship with this track? Why do you go so well here?
SV: I don’t know. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like the track. I think it’s a fun track and generally it feels like the right place to kick it off, great atmosphere. Maybe my biggest advantage is that I’m not Australian. And Lewis as well. I think Lewis has done really well here as well. No, because you opened up by saying that Australians haven’t done really well here!
DR: The irony is my best year was the year you had an Australian, but then that got taken away.
Q: 2014, the year you finished second for a bit.
DR: Yeah. Anyway, I’m still bitter.
SV: I don’t know; I was trying to joke. I know, I’m German, so it’s probably not what you expect. I think everybody just loves the track and that’s myself included. I think it has a nice flow to it, a nice rhythm. It’s good that they didn’t resurface much of the track, keeping some of the bumps, some of the nature of the track. I think it’s quite fast, considering it’s a semi-street circuit. Yeah, I like it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: Sebastian, do you feel like you have taken a step back power-wise?
SV: Well, we’ll see. I don’t know if others… I think we’ve focused on all areas and also on the engine in the winter and as I said we will find out this weekend, probably in qualifying conditions when everybody is trying to get to their maximum, and we finally see where we are, not just on power but also on the car.
Sebastian, anything you’d like to add (about Coronavirus)?
SV: Not really. I think it’s very difficult to have a fair judgement. Of course, you realise that a lot of sport, competitions, big events get postponed and cancelled and, like Lewis said, it’s fair to ask the question: why are you here? Obviously we have to trust the FIA and FOM to take precautions as much as they can, but I think the answer that nobody can give you at the moment is how much you can control what is going on. As a matter of fact, we are here. You just try to take care as much as you can.
Sebastian, if the first couple of races were suspended, postponed… what would your reaction be?
SV: Well, one way or the other, I think you expect and you hope that we take the right decision, or the sensible decision. So, if that’s the case then there’s probably reason for it. If it’s not the case then you rely on the fact that maybe there’s not enough reason for it. As I said, I don’t think I’m the one to judge, and I think, to be completely straight, we are probably in a lucky situation, as in, obviously we are exposed to people, and so on, but I think we can largely control our own situation. Obviously in the car we don’t even have a passenger. What I mean is, you try to control the situation for yourself first, as much as you can. That’s selfish but I think everybody in this regard is selfish. You see some people being more relaxed about handshakes, others less. Now some laugh it off, some take it very serious. I think, as I said before, my stand on it is that it’s very difficult at the moment to really categorise and say that it is great, I don’t know, serious, or not serious – but that’s why you have to ultimately put yourself into other people’s hands and trust them. I think we all did getting down here. The flights weren’t cancelled, we were all allowed to travel, so we trusted whoever we flew with. We are sitting in this room. Within that, I think that you are within your own bubble and you try to control it as much as you can. I think that’s valid for us sitting here on the couch, that’s valid for people sitting opposite us and it’s valid for people outside and around the globe. I think it’s probably right to take care and take precaution. How much is necessary, and who’s responsible and whatever other questions, I think there are a lot of questions at the moment that are very difficult to answer.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) To all drivers. We now understand that at least four team members have been tested for the Coronavirus and up to eight. Now, if one of these comes back with a positive result, given how close-knit, and how closely everyone works together in the paddock, is it not of concern to you that it will probably suggest that the Coronavirus has taken hold in the paddock already?
SV: I don’t know. How can you answer that? You can’t. You don’t know. Maybe yes – and I think as far as, and I’m not an expert, but as far as I understand, some people will have it and you don’t see anything. They show no symptoms. You might have it. Sorry, but who knows. Maybe to some degree you never know and to another degree you will. So, I think the precaution obviously, as far as I understood, that these people got checked. I don’t know how long it takes, if it takes five days or shorter, I have no idea. I think you will probably have to cross that bridge when it comes to it. Then, there’s always an argument that we should have seen this before, we shouldn’t… I think we are all here happy in a way to race because we all love racing. We want to race – but you can’t ignore the fact that something is going on and you have to be aware of the situation – but answering these questions, I think nobody can.
Q: (Craig Slater – Sky Sports) Sebastian, the FIA have had this inquiry into your power unit. They haven’t found the team guilty of any specific wrong-doing. Are you disappointed then that they didn’t clear the team, could this have been handled better in terms of what’s been said in public? And to Lewis: it’s been a friendly rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari; are the gloves off now?
SV: I took the gloves out once to Lewis and it wasn’t the right thing to do so I said it afterwards. Remember Baku!
DR: Well done Baku.
SV: Everyone remembers that race so… who won the race? Anyways, what was the question, sorry?
Q: (Craig Slater – Sky Sports) That the team wasn’t cleared, Sebastian, given that they couldn’t find a specific illegality with the engine.
SV: Um, well, I don’t know. As far as I understand it was cleared so I think… For me it’s very simple. Obviously I trust my team to do the right things, within the regulations, at all time. I think we all trust, all drivers, the governing body as in the FIA, to do their job for all teams on the grid. I think that’s probably the answer, so there’s not much else to add. If you have further detailed questions and so on, then I’m not the one to answer because I think the cars are quite complex now so probably I’m not the best person to give you enough insight. I think the other one, that I would like to add, which I think from your second question, I can smell might be a hint, is that for me it doesn’t change anything in terms of the relationship that I have with other drivers and in this particular (instance) with Lewis. I think the respect that we share we’ve grown over the years is untouched and I don’t think is at threat.
Q: (Roger Barne – Beyond the Racing Line) There’s a bit of talk about having some changes to the track in the next couple of years here in Melbourne. What’s the drivers take on what would you like to see at Albert Park track changed in the next couple of years? Nothing, Seb?
SV: I haven’t heard anything.
Q: (Roger Barne – Beyond the Racing Line) Possibly resurfacing, widening the track, possibly going on at 12 to lengthen that end to add another straight?
SV: I haven’t seen any suggestions. In a way it would be sad to change. I get the point but I don’t know, obviously next year it’s supposed to change a lot in terms of racing, so maybe it’s wise to wait for that before you rebuild the whole track, might also be the cheaper option, let us spend the money on the cars before you spend the money on the track. I think it’s probably best to wait and see what happens next year and then we’ll see. If they make the track even nicer then go ahead but usually with those things they end up doing it not so nice.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Just to go back, obviously a serious subject, the coronavirus, would there be any circumstances if there were more incidence of people getting ill or, God forbid, someone involved in the sport, died, at which you guys would say we’d rather not race? You say we’re already here which we obviously are but there will be 100,000 in on Sunday and the day before and that could be alleviated if there were no race. Would any of you consider lobbying to go down that route?
SV: My stand, and I think I probably… I hope others would agree, we hope it doesn’t get that far. If it were to get that far then for sure you pull the handbrake and I think we are a group of 20 guys and I think we’ve got together over the last years for various circumstances on various topics and I think we share common opinion on big decisions and that, I would qualify, is a very, very big decision and ultimately, as I said before, you look at yourself and we would, I think, be mature enough to look after ourselves and pull the handbrake in that case.