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Bahrain GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
31/03/2016

Today's press conference with Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen and Pascal Wehrlein.

Fernando, we have to start with you: three times a winner here in Bahrain, but clearly we have to deal with the accident in Melbourne and the aftermath. You aren't racing here this weekend. Tell us the process that led to that decision and how disappointed you feel?
Fernando Alonso: Well, yeah, a little bit disappointed obviously. We want to race. We are competitors, drivers and we like competition, and we love the sport. So when you come here and you cannot even try it's always sad, but it's understandable and I respect the decision. I try until the last moment to be able to race, at least to try in the practice. There has been some painful days, with some pain at home, but I was ready to go through this pain somehow in the car and make sure I could race, because at the end of the day the pain is manageable if you don't think too much probably and [with] the adrenaline of driving, but there are some other risks that the doctors they think. So it's a risk management that I understand, to minimise everything is the logical thing to do, so a little bit sad for that but it's the only way to go.

So, looking forward, how optimistic that it will be fixed and that you will be able to race at the next round in China?
FA: Well, you know, it's not 100 per cent. There will be another test that I need to do in the next eight or ten days and after that test the FIA will evaluate again, as they did now. First of all is the safety and then the performance, so hopefully everything is OK but it's something we need to see with the next test.

Thank you for that. Romain, coming to you, you've had some great days in Formula One, some emotional podiums and so on, including two right here in Bahrain, but where does that sixth place on Haas' debut rank for you?
Romain Grosjean: Well, it was a special race for us. We got a bit lucky with the red flag but we were unlucky on Saturday with the new qualifying format. It was a great debut, better than what we were expecting. It's been one of those races that I will probably always remember, when I'm getting older and I tell the kids of my kids my stories. But I think it was good for everyone. It was good for Formula One. It was good for the team. I think a brand new team coming and showing that it's possible to score points at the first venue, it was a very good thing. And for all my guys and everyone that has been working so hard in the last two months, it was just a good morale boost and a confirmation that the car we are driving is probably one of the best I've ever driven.

Really? Because you did seem to have the pace to comfortably stay ahead of the Force, particularly after the restart. Is that about the level you think the team is at or will it fluctuate depending on circuit?
RG: I think there is a lot we need to learn, there are a lot of things we could do better. We didn't have any practice in Australia because of the rain and then the crash in the pit lane in FP3, so you know we put the car on track with barely any set-up work and guess where we should be, so I'm sure that whenever we get more running, more time in the car, there is more potential to be coming. I'm not saying we're going to be in the top five here this weekend, I'm just saying that it's the beginning for the team. But generally I think we will have up and downs, but the potential is big.

Thank you. Pascal, welcome. You made your long-awaited Formula One debut in Australia, running as high as 13th for a while. Do you feel this car can get among the points this season?
Pascal Wehrlein: I think so. I think it's really depending on the track. Australia was great, especially in the race, my first lap was amazing and also the next few laps at the beginning were great. I could follow the other cars easily, so that was good, definitely, yeah.

It's interesting looking at the tyre selections for each race weekend from Pirelli, once again you've gone for a large quantity of medium tyres. What's the strategy behind that?
PW: I think the first things is that we want to drive a lot in free practice because we still have to learn a lot about the car and you know that's easier with the medium tyres.

OK, thank you. Felipe, coming to you, fifth place in the opening round in Melbourne, behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Is that about where Williams are at at this stage? Do you think you might get ahead of Red Bull this weekend, on this track?
Felipe Massa: Well, I think it was a good start for us. It was more or less where we expected to be. It's also true that Red Bull was quite strong in the race and even the Toro Rosso; they were pretty strong. It was quite a big fight with them, including qualifying. I really hope here we can be in front. I hope we can be more competitive on this track, because we know that we are going to have a big fight with these two teams and maybe some other teams as well. I think we saw that Mercedes and Ferrari they were pretty strong, as expected. I hope this track can be better for us.

Like Fernando, you have a good record here, you are a two-time winner on this racetrack. Tell us what you like about it, tell us about the challenge of this place?
FM: Well, it's a very nice track. I like to drive here. You have some nice corners but also some very tricky corners that you need a good car in terms of braking, in terms of traction as well. But it's a nice track. I had some good races. Always when you have good races on a type of track, you enjoy, so this is what I'm looking forward to have another one on Sunday.

Coming to the championship leader, Nico RosbeRG: celebrating the 10th anniversary of your Formula One debut right here in 2006. Melbourne made it four wins in a row, how big a psychological boots was it to get off to such a good start?
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, of course it was a great start but it's one race out of 21, so it's really early days. But I'm really pleased with the car that we have. The team has done an incredible job to give us such a car again this year. It will be a great couple of races coming up for sure, but of course we are also looking closely at the battle with Ferrari.

Well, one possible weakness appeared to be the race starts. Once again a problem for both Mercedes cars, the Ferraris got ahead. What steps have you and the team taken to address that?
NR: Yeah, for sure we've worked on it, but it's a cha
llenge this year, because it's one clutch lever that we're only allowed to use due to the rule changes. So it has made it more difficult but it's definitely an area we are focusing a lot.

Max, coming to you finally. Positives from Melbourne: you were the first teenager for 55 years to qualify in the top five and also you personally went past the 50 championship points mark. But the negative, obviously, was the dispute over the Toro Rosso pit stop strategy. What lessons did you and the team take from that?
Max Verstappen: First of all, I think we had a great qualifying, so we could be very happy with that. But of course the race didn't pan [out] like we wanted to. But, yeah, we analysed a lot of things and hopefully we can try to come back stronger here even though I think this track hasn't suited us so far in the history but we try to make the most of it that's for sure.

Both the Toro Rossos were right up the front in qualifying in Melbourne. Has the pace of this year's car exceeded your expectations after testing?
MV: Well, I wanted to be there, so yeah, we just kept working hard, we saw the improvements during the winter time of course but you still want to see how it goes on track and in winter testing you don't know exactly where you are. But I think in the end to be P5 in qualifying was definitely a great achievement by the whole team, especially with such a short winter for us.

Questions From The Floor

(David Croft - Sky Sports) Fernando, what are the extent of your injuries that have prevented you from driving this weekend and what are the risks that you mentioned that the doctors brought up about keeping out this weekend?
FA: Well, just to summarise a little bit. Last week I was OK Sunday - some knee pain but not big things. I had the green light from the doctors to leave the track and everything was OK. On Monday, I had a little bit of overall pain but nothing too serious. I flew back. I arrived in Spain and the pain was similar or a little bit more, so we decided to do a proper check - a CT scan. I had a small pneumothorax on the lung. So we took the advice from the doctors to relax at home and make everything come to normal and we repeat the scan last Monday. The pneumothorax is gone more or less but I have some rib fractures, so because of that there are the risks of driving, because Formula One is a very unique sport, a unique position on the car, and the G-Forces that a fracture could move into the lung as well, so yeah, it's not like a broken leg or broken arm, that you can deal with the pain, this is in the chest where some organs are there and we cannot do much more.

(Alex Popov - NTV/Match TV) For all the drivers, about the start in Australia. How much it was different to last year considering it's just one clutch lever and slightly less preparation for a bite point on the starting grid. And for Pascal, if you can compare the start to DTM.
PW: DTM is completely different. We have the clutch pedal with the left foot, so it's different, that one. Starting an F1 race, I only know this system. My start in Melbourne was really, really good and I made up seven positions - so I cannot complain about it!

MV: I think quite similar. I had a good start so I was very happy about it but in general it just asks a bit more practice - but you can deal with it.

RG: I think I prefer the old-style one. Why? Because it was more about the precision of the reaction time and at the end it didn't change much of the procedure. I think some teams have done it better than others. We're a brand new team and still have some work to be done. We didn't have a great start but at the end it won't change much.

FM: I think it's a little bit more difficult to do but I would say that after one or two, three races it will be similar to before.

Nico, you spoke about the single clutch in your previous answer. Anything more to add?
NR: It's a good challenge. It makes it more difficult, there will be a bit more variability in the starts.

Fernando?
FA: The same comments. More challenging, so it's good. There will be some random performance so it's good for the show.

(Abhishek Takle - Mid-Day) Question to Fernando. Fernando, I just want to get your thoughts... every time you step into a Formula One car you take a risk. At what point does the risk outweigh the reward? In terms of the risk you're taking and the performance you're getting back for it. If I could have your thoughts on that. Thank you.
FA: I think we don't think about the risk at any point. Even you see it now, I have broken ribs and I'm here with some pain, not easy to sleep sometimes, depending which movements. I would like to sit in the car and see how is the pain in the car and how to enjoy driving the car. So, you understand that this is motorsport and anything can happen. Everytime you jump in the car. But yeah, you love it so much it's completely transparent, the risk, when you jump in the car.

(Marco Canseco - Marca) For Fernando. You have started last season and this season with two accidents. Are you worried by that?
FA: No, not really. I've been very lucky all my career. This is my sixteenth Formula One year and it's normal that you have accidents here and there. It happened unfortunately in the last two years, two accidents that I miss one race. The last one in Australia that probably you all saw. It was quite a big impact, so I knew that it was risky, my possibility to race in Bahrain because it was only ten days from the big shunt. I tried my best, as I said, the team did a fantastic job preparing the car for this race, so I wanted to try until the last moment. I flew last night, I arrived this morning, I wanted to at least try to practice but I understand also the position. But now, yeah, I want to stay here for the weekend, help Stoffel because it's a good opportunity for him and help the team - because I love what I do. I love Formula One and racing and I will miss this race but I want to learn from the outside also, how the team prepare the race and how are the actions around the new qualifying system, the race itself, the strategy, the pitstop moments. I want to get involved in everything from the outside because it could help me on the inside at the next race. It's a step forward that we need to do together and yeah, hopefully help the team because I'm very thankful for the job they did last week.

Check out our Thursday gallery, here.

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