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Spanish GP: Thursday Press Conference


Today's press conference with Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Daniil Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

Fernando, a good result last time out in Russia with sixth place. Do you believe you're closing in on the Williams-Red Bull battle? What development steps can we expect from McLaren-Honda here this weekend?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, I think the car is improving and we are getting more and more competitive in the races. I think the next grand prix will be a good one for us, so here in Barcelona, Monaco, even Canada should be a little bit better than what we did in China and in Russia in terms of layout. Yeah, we have some high hopes for us at the moment to keep this momentum and keep growing together to more competitive positions and yeah, I think we have some updates for this race in terms of aerodynamics, most of them. We'll see how the weekend goes but we are probably much more optimistic than one month ago.

How is the enthusiasm for Formula One here in Spain at the moment - with you and all that you've done and obviously now Carlos coming through?
FA: I think it's still OK. Definitely it's a little bit lower than 2005-6-7 when we had a 45 minutes queue to come into the circuit. It's still quite high and I think the people are still loving the sport - but definitely there is a little bit less enthusiasm about the races because with the television not being available for everyone, just with a pay channel etcetera, probably is a little bit less viewers, a little bit less media attention. But I think we have good days and it's still quite popular.

Lewis, second at the moment in the Drivers' Championship but in four starts in 2016 you're yet to finish the opening lap in a front-running position. It's hard to believe - so is this the weekend when we hit the reset button?
Lewis Hamilton: That's the hope, of course! Who knows? We'll wait and see.

There's still a long way to go, obviously, in terms of your challenge for a fourth drivers' title - but in the battle with Ferrari do you feel that, despite whatever upgrades they bring, you're able to keep them at arms' length. Is that the way it feels to you?
LH: No, I think Ferrari are constantly improving their car. I think this weekend they're obviously going to have some upgrades, as you would expect for Barcelona. I think they've been very, very close up until now. They're going to continue to strive. They want to win; they've very, very hungry - as are we. I think we do have the power as a team to continue to develop, hopefully at a similar, if not the same rate as they are. So, of course we can always try to keep them at arms' length but who knows how it's going to go.

Kevin, breakthrough result in Sochi, 17th to seventh. What's that done for morale - yours and the team's?
Kevin Magnussen: Yeah, for sure it's made everyone happy to finally get some points on the scoreboard but we're not fooling ourselves to think that's our level. It was a little bit lucky with a lot of people having problems on the first laps and one of the Toro Rossos not finishing the race towards the end. So, as I said, we're not fooling ourselves to think that's our level. We need to improve quite a bit before that will be our level - but, as I said, it's nice to get points on the board.

It's clear to see where your challenge lies. Both Renault's have been knocked out in Q1 at the last three races in a row. What have you got in the pipeline to address that?
KM: It seems qualifying is our weak point. It looks like people can turn things up for qualifying that we can't. So that's one thing to work on. It's not the only thing. We are behind on a lot of different areas and we just need to improve overall - because the situation we're in at the moment is that we have a car that hasn't been developed continuously all last year and we're picking up on everything now. We need to be patient but at the same time need to work extremely hard because we need to catch up on people who are also improving. I think this last result shows that it is possible to score points and if anything happens like a first-lap incident, we need to be there and ready to take advantage.

Carlos, coming to you. Obviously, despite optimism that you'd have a reliable package this season with which to get consistent finishes and points, you've yet to really have a properly clean weekend. Tell us about the start to your season.
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, it's been definitely a very tricky start where we definitely had the pace, we definitely had the speed but just because of one thing or another the final result hasn't come together yet - but I am optimistic that, from now on, from Barcelona we can press also a bit the reset button and start getting the results we deserve because definitely the pace, the speed is there.

There have been some significant changes of personnel obviously on the driving and the engineering side at Toro Rosso. Can you give us your perspective on that?
CS: Yeah, I think there have been many changes in the team but I don't get to analyse them much because it's not my job change engineers or to change drivers. I fully trust on what Toro Rosso and Red Bull have decided to do and I think it's for the best of the team, for the best of the engineers, the personnel in there and already you can see some refreshment in the faces. I'm convinced it will just go on better. To have Daniil we can probably fight now for the P5 in the championship that was the main target since the beginning of the season.

Let's get into that then. Daniil Kvyat, one of those changes obviously involves your return to Toro Rosso, moving from Red Bull. Daniil, we've all seen the statement from Red Bull about why this move was made - but what are you telling yourself about it and where you go from here?
Daniil Kvyat: Well, I think obviously the decision in a way was a bit of a shock also for myself. It is what it is at the moment and I think I've always been giving my answers on the track and I think nothing will change. I will try to give as loud an answer as possible on the track. There are 17 races remaining, I've come back to Toro Rosso, the team for which I raced in 2104, a team I really like a lot, the team that I've felt over the last few days is giving me a very warm welcome, which I'm very grateful for already, now I can feel the atmosphere is very positive in the team. The goals are clear - for the team and for myself - and I'll be pushing absolute limits on the track and I will be giving my answers there.

Looking back, do you feel you moved to Red Bull too soon?
DK: I don't think so, I really don't think so. Like I said, if we look at what happened three weeks ago, or whatever, I was standing on the podium and then suddenly there were a few decisions made around - but like I said, the bosses make them and I have nothing else but to accept them and do my best job possible now in the team I am with - and it is Toro Rosso. It should be OK - but I think I have done everything correctly until now. And nothing will change from my side.

Let's have the other side of the story. Max Verstappen, obviously you're replacing Daniil at Red Bull. A racing driver is always going to accept a chance to race closer to the front - but how to you evaluate both the opportunity and the risks involved in this move so early in your career?
Max Verstappen: To be honest I'm very happy with the chance they have given me. I'm racing for a top team now, so that was always the plan what I wanted to do. And yeah, with the risk, to be honest I think it was a bigger risk to be so young in Formula One but I've handled it pretty well. From now on it's just getting used to a new car, which is not easy in the season, but already with the things I've done in the factory, already they've given me a lot of confidence. Of course, a lot of procedures to learn again but it will come race-by-race and I'm definitely going to enjoy it.

You now have your new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as a benchmark - but you can also learn from him. How do you see that relationship evolving?
MV: For sure he's a great guy. He's very fast on track and has a lot of experience in the team. I will try to learn a lot from him.

Questions From The Floor

(Mike Doodson - Auto Action) Max has been quoted as saying he couldn't sleep for three nights after he got the news of his promotion. My questions for the two world champions here, can they remember races in their career about which they were particularly apprehensive in the days leading up to them?
LH: It's hard to remember back, it's been a long time now, I'm a veteran. For sure the first race, the first race in a new team. Honestly, every season you're a bit apprehensive: you're a bit... you have that nervous buzz of a new car, a new beginning, a new opportunity, so for sure I can imagine how the feeling is for him.

FA: Not really. I don't think that I ever had that kind of stress. Obviously there are some more or less important races and you feel the moment - but normally in my case it would be on Sunday when you do the drivers' parade, when you jump in the car for the practice start - you know it's an important race to deliver. But the week before... no big issues.

(Simon Lazenby - Sky Sports) Question for Max and for Dany. We've heard the statements as James is saying but what reasons were you given by management for the swap and did you both have prior indication that this might have been an option for 2016?
MV: I think it was pretty clear in the comments they have given to you. From now on, I'm just very happy with the chance they have given to me and I'm going to enjoy this season and from there on we'll see for the future.

DK: There was no real explanation to be honest. I think if the bosses want something to happen, they just make it happen. Simple as that.

(Livio Oricchio - Daniil, if you carry out very good work now in Toro Rosso, do you think it's realistic to believe that Marko and Horner could take you back to Red Bull? And also, if you are putting your focus on developing very good work and thinking in other teams?
DK: Well, obviously first things first. I think now it will be important to first make a good work. These remaining 17 races will be very important and I believe then, let's just wait and see. To be honest there would be anyway a lot of thinking I think from anyone. First good work and then we see.

(Sacha Roos - Sky Deutschland) Question for Dany. How difficult is it for you now to look in the eyes of Dr Helmut Marko and Christian Horner - because they're blocking your career.
DK: You know, obviously, first hours after that of course you have been thinking a lot, and then the work started and then I fly to the factory, I see Toro Rosso people, which are very motivated and very hungry. And I'm now extremely hungry, and to be honest I don't see it as blocking. You have to take the most positive moments now because actually there are a lot more positive moments now than anyone can imagine I think. I take it as a golden opportunity with Toro Rosso. And, like I said, I really like the team, I really enjoyed working with them, most of the people are still the same and I believe we can do a really good job. And then once the good job is done, there are more good opportunities to come. I think you always have an opportunity. I think you always have something to fight for.

(Cristobal Rosaleny - Car & Driver) Carlos, after one year and almost a half with Max with more or less the same performance level, although points have not shown the same, what do you that they have put Max and not you in Red Bull?
CS: I don't get to evaluate the performance of each driver so easily. That is done by my bosses at Red Bull. Now my time... I appreciate what Red Bull is going quite a lot, that is to put young talent into a Formula One team. As soon as you do a good job they show you the confidence, they give you the chance and now it's my time to fight more than ever for that. I have, as Dany said, 17 races ahead to give the maximum out of myself, to fight for my chance as much as I can. I'm sure that if I show the same speed I have now with a bit better results my chance can come.

(Jonathan McEvoy - Daily Mail) Daniil, I was wondering what you believe is the real reason why you were dropped? Do you feel they looked for an excuse to drop you or do you feel that there was genuine reason enough to do it? What is your understanding and what explanation was given to you as to the reasons why you were dropped?
DK: First of all, I think the word ‘dropped' still a bit heavy because I still get quite a good chance from Red Bull with Toro Rosso. So, I think it's a positive thing. Secondly, like I said, I feel like I've done everything for the team. I feel like I've been bringing the points, I've been bringing all the development work. We've been working well together. So, to be honest, I don't really think so. It's a question for other people who made the decision. I think they can give a better answer to that. I really don't see any reason. It's for them. A question for them.

(Daniel Johnson - Daily Telegraph) Questions to Daniil and Max. Daniil, given what's happened to you, do you think that Max deserves your old seat and Max, do you think Daniil deserved to lose his seat?
MV: I think that's not up to me to say who deserved it or not. I'm happy with the chance they've given to me and I will try to make the best of it. We'll see where it ends up.

DK: Well, there's no point discussing this, especially from my side. I think now what's ahead, in front of both of us, is a lot of hard work because we've both changed the team and I think the people around us will also be able to evaluate how good a job we are both capable of doing in these circumstances. It will be interesting to see who will be able to work better and harder to bring in the results to both teams we are now with. Let's just wait and see. The season is very long.

(Giorgio Terruzzi - Il Corriere della Sera) Question for Lewis and Fernando. What do you think about the Red Bull decision to change the drivers?
FA: They changed the drivers? [to Lewis] You knew it?

LH: No!

FA: I guess it's up to them. It's definitely a surprise after Race Four. They've been doing very good job promoting drivers and discovering new talents and giving the opportunity. So, it's the way they do it, and they've been doing a very good job in the past, so we'll see.

LH: erm... yeah... I think obviously ultimately it's a good opportunity for one and for the other very unfortunate. Red Bull has done well in bringing young talent forwards but I think they need to be aware that young drivers need time to progress. Mistakes do happen, there's so much pressure on drivers, particularly at a young age. Especially when you've not done a lot of years in the lower classes, you've come quite early in, there's so much to learn. A lot of pressure on the shoulders I think to take a driver out of a role with a team where he's comfortable and move into another one. It's a difficult position to be in. Do I agree with it? It doesn't really matter - but it's definitely not something I would particularly do.

(Alan Baldwin - Reuters) Carlos, one of the reasons Dr Marko gave for the switch between Max and Daniil was that it also sorted out the relationship in Toro Rosso between you and Max. Could you perhaps give us more details about why that relationship between you and Max wasn't working?
CS: I think the personal relationship Max and I have is not a big issue honestly. I think we both always maintain the respect off the track and I think we showed it at every moment. I think it's more a matter of a team perspective of how the team was working and that's where Franz Tost and Helmut Marko take the decision. But from Max and myself there was always respect, there was always good vibes with each other. Obviously we were fighting a lot on track, we were always very very close to each other and there were always some battles going on but they stayed at the track and out there it was just a matter of engineering, of just not being a comfortable team and that's why they decided to take this decision internally.

MV: I think we still need to plan when we're going go-karting together.

CS: We were just talking - before coming in here - about that we were going to go go-karting in one week together so that shows that it really stays on track.

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