Today's press conference with Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Rio Haryanto, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel.
Fernando, you were here earlier in the race in your capacity as an ambassador for this race. How much has changed since then?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, a few things have changed then. Obviously the circuit now is ready and all the garage, the pit lane, the grandstands and also the weather! It was quite cold in March and I remember to have two jackets walking on the circuit and now it's quite hot, windy and the race will be different on that aspect. But I think the job they have done is fantastic. Everything is ready. Also the fans are well into F1 and they are very prepared, very enthusiastic for the race on Sunday and everything is ready for a good show.
In terms of the layout, which bit looks most interesting?
FA: A few things that we need to discover in the car. Obviously walking is always different, in the simulator it's different, so let's see. Turn 8, 9 and 10, the narrow section on the uphill will be quite interesting to drive there and see how we can maximise the car limits there. The very unique theme on this circuit is probably the straight-line speed, which will be very high, and to be on a street circuit those kind of speeds will be quite unique. We need to check if it's really flat out from Turn 16 to Turn 1 or if Turn 19 and 20 you need make a lift there. Anyway, it's quite interesting and will be for some teams a little bit more painful, probably for us, in terms of the distance on the straight. I should have made some modifications when I came here in March to make it a little bit slower, but that's the way it is and we will see.
Thank you Fernando. Valtteri, if we could come on to you. Montreal marked your first podium of the year. How much of a sense of relief was there in the Williams team?
Valtteri Bottas: It definitely makes a difference to the team, having a good race by the team, with the strategy and pit stop and everything, it was a good weekend, especially Sunday was a very strong performance by us. It always does give a lot of confidence to every single guy in the race team but also at the factory to push even harder. So yeah it is overall a good positive feeling in the team. We know we can do good results, so it's nice to continue from here.
Was that result track specific or are we witnessing the start of a mid-season resurgence from Williams?
VB: Montreal definitely was one of the good tracks for our car, really its within the strengths of the car, but there are still plenty of good races to come. I don't think this is going to be too bad for us and also the next three races after. I'm pretty sure we can still, with a good weekend, if we keep developing the car, we can fight for the podium and that should be the goal for us as a team.
Thank you. Rio, if we come to you. You've been making steady progress this year. You've outqualified your highly-rate team-mate three times. Are you feeling comfortable in the car now? Just give us a resume of how you feel it's gone so far in 2016?
Rio Haryanto: Yes, I have been progress every time, each race. It feels great to be able to be fighting quite close between the team-mates but our goal is still quite a long way, we wanted to really improve and to get the best results we can for the team.
Just give us a word on how things are back home in Indonesia, the popularity of Formula One there and how it's growing?
RH: I think it's been really good. The popularity has kept increasing and I believe that as they have broadcast the Formula One races on the national channel the popularity is increasing and I think it's good for Formula One.
Thank you. Nico, points finishes at the last two races in Monaco and Montreal. Can we expect to see you continue that rich vein of form here in Baku?
Nico Hulkenberg: Yeah, I hope so. Obviously it's a new venue: no data, no knowledge, no previous laps here, so everybody starts from scratch pretty much, which could be interesting. Obviously the track looks quite exciting, as we've all seen now. I think we've made a massive step since Barcelona with the car. The upgrade there really made a big change to our game. Since then we've really been a points scoring contender on every track, so I feel confident that we can keep it up, yeah.
You say everybody starts from scratch. Just give us a few words on how a driver prepares for a new race like this. Is there much correlation between the simulator and how much will you be relying on those opening laps tomorrow?
NH: I think it's different from team to team. Some teams have a simulator, they have the track already, we don't, so for us it's really going to be starting from scratch, those opening laps are going to be very crucial and important - discovering the track, finding the limit, getting the lines etc. Correlation of simulator, sometimes it's really good, sometimes not so good. I guess at the end we all have to come here, do the real thing, learn and work from there.
Thanks. Carlos, coming to you, 20th to ninth last weekend in Canada, how satisfying was that result?
Carlos Sainz: It was very satisfying, especially after the disappointment on Saturday, as you can imagine. To manage to recover well and come back from 20th to ninth was an achievement not only for me but also for the team. We had a bit of a scrappy Sunday in Monaco with some issues on the pit box and all that side and we managed to arrive to Canada and we managed to put on a very good race from the back, with perfect strategy, perfect pit stops and it was a also relief in those terms. Yeah, to manage to split the two Force Indias coming from all the way back was a huge achievement and now we need to keep working, because we need to keep this up and keep going for it.
How difficult is it going to be to keep it up, because other teams are getting a lot of engine upgrades at the minute? How do you rate the competitiveness of the Toro Rosso now with the year-old Ferrari engine?
CS: It's going to be tough. Already you know... you put an example, in Australia we managed to qualify P5 and P7 and now in places like Canada or Azerbaijan we will struggle to get into Q3, so for sure we are going a bit backwards. We haven't put that many upgrades on the car since Australia, but thanks to the good effort of the team we are not that much falling back, no? And we are still in the game, we are still fighting for P5 in the Constructors', with the same car as in Australia, which is a huge achievement, even though you take into account how many upgrades Force India and McLaren are bringing and we are still there trying to hold on.
OK, thank you. Sebastian, thank you for waiting, on to you. Now, this is a coastal location, there is probably going to be a lot of seagulls around, so how do you think that is going to affect your race?
Sebastian Vettel: Well, technically I think it's a lake; it's not a sea. I think I read some... before I knew we would be coming here, I read some years ago that it is the biggest lake in the world. So I shouldn't be afraid of any seagulls. There will be some, but hopefully they won't sit in front of the car.
Canada was Ferrari's most competitive showing of the season. Is that the pace that you have been threatening to do all season or did the upgrades make the difference?
SV: For sure, upgrades help. I think everything we brought to Canada - there was a lot of talk about the turbo update - did make a difference, so that was good. But I think it was just a clean weekend in particular, because the weekends before were a bit messy, in particular in qualifying we weren't able to show the pace or release the pace of the car, so in this regard Saturday was strong. I think we qualified where the car belongs and on Sunday we had a trouble-free race. Obviously we were able to put Lewis under a lot of pressure, because simply the speed was. I think you just seem to a nicer and easier Sunday where you can do your thing if Saturday goes well and this has to remains the target. As for here, as we've been through, it's a completely new track, but it looks very, very exciting, so I'm very much looking forward to it.
Would you say that Canada was Ferrari's cleanest weekend of the year so far?
SV: Well, certainly for me it was. I think it's also a track where last year we have been fairly competitive. It's probably right to say the characteristics suit us, but I think we should be strong everywhere to be honest, so yeah, the weekends before weren't entirely clean.
Questions From The Floor
(Christian Nimmervoll - Motorsport-total.com) I realise that this is a hypothetical question but if you put all the drivers in the same car on an average track like Barcelona, what do you think would be the difference between the fast and slowest driver? And Sebastian, after Canada, did you have an offer from the World Wildlife Fund or PETA or similar organisations?
SV: No. I start on the first question. I don't think it would be much, a lot less than what we see now, we know that. I think Formula One has always been like that. I don't know, to give you and idea, I'd probably say half a second.
Would you agree with that Fernando? If you were all in the same car - half a second?
FA: Very difficult question, I don't know... maybe.
(Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, how would you rank this latest podium of yours compared to the eight previous ones and how much that meant for you personally?
VB: I actually think, yeah, that must have been one of my best ones, because it was one of my best races. I think that was the feeling after the race. I managed to get that long stint to work, with consistent lap times, and you just do feel as a driver when you do a good race compared to some of the other races and I had this feeling after. But it's difficult to say exactly which one is the best, but of course I'm not too pleased because I want to win races. I'm not 100% satisfied with being third. That's always the goal. But, of course, it's been a difficult season for us so that's a good result for everyone, for me, but we definitely want more.
(Joe Saward - Auto X) Just a question about this circuit: it's very, very fast, did the drivers get any input on the design? Because Turn Three, for example, you're going in there at very high speed and there's about 50m of run-off area. Do you have any thoughts about the circuit, or were you involved at all?
FA: No, obviously we don't get involved in any of the layout or any of the decisions but, yeah, there are some corners that probably we will talk about. Some others that we need to go on the car first and see how they feel. We saw Singapore also making some small modifications to some corners year after year until we find a good compromise. I guess it's going to be quite similar here. I think next year maybe some tweaks can be done after we go in the car. But yeah, in terms of safety I think FIA, y'know, ran many simulations in terms of how to make the run-off area safe enough. Obviously some of them are more than enough, some of them, maybe they look small but it's always better than Monaco, for example. It cannot be any worse than that.
Does anyone have anything else to add. Nico?
NH: No, perfect answer.
(Oana Popoiou - Fanzone) Rio, could you tell us how much a driver can learn while racing for a team that struggles in terms of performances?
RH: I think as a rookie you can certainly learn a lot on your first year with a team like Manor. I think this year they have made huge progress, a huge step compared to last year and certainly in some occasions we've been able to race with some other teams as well, like Sauber and Renault - so I don't think it's a bad thing.
(Carlos Miguel - Autohebdo sport) A question for Fernando and for Carlos. Question is very simply: who will be the first Spanish driver in the table at the end of the championship?
CS: Hopefully me! I don't know. It looks tough because Honda keeps bringing upgrades, McLaren keep improving and improving so we will not know where they will end up at the end of the year. But obviously I will try to do my best to keep it up there. I think now we are equal? More or less same points. If we've been ahead for seven races and he's still fighting with us - it means it could be a good fight from now on until the end of the year.
Fernando, will you be ahead?
FA: We'll see obviously. I would be happy if Carlos is ahead this year and I'm able to fight for the championship next one. It's not a huge satisfaction to finish ninth or tenth or whatever. Definitely I will be in front of Carlos at the end of the year anyway! I miss two races this year and we are equal so...
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