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United States GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
20/10/2016

Today's press conference with Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel.

Nico, let's begin with you: congratulations on your first works drive in Formula One, with Renault for next season. Tell us, why is this the right move for you now and what was the clincher that made you decide to take it?
Nico Hulkenberg: Yeah, I believe that it's the right step in my career at this point. I feel I have come a long way with Force India - it's my fifth year with them. We've had some good success together. But I felt that it's time for a new challenge. Since I'm in F1 I've always wanted to race for a manufacturer team and this is a really good opportunity. The timing was pretty good too. So I think it was a good decision I think from my side.

You've qualified in the Top 10 at the last nine consecutive races, what has been the secret of the consistency you've been finding recently?
NH: I think a good strong car! That always makes things easier. I feel the team has done a really good job to develop the car. The car has really become an all-rounder. If it's a high downforce, low downforce track or low-speed, high-speed, we're always inside the top 10 somewhere and really [we have] become a strong contender behind the top three teams and it's just the result of some good, hard work.

Kevin, coming to you: So where does this deal leave you? As Nico's team mate or are you likely to pursue other avenues?
Kevin Magnussen: No, I hope I can stay on as his team-mate. That's my target and that's what I hope is going to happen. And hopefully it won't be too long before we will be able to announce what's going to happen - either/or - so we'll just do this race and focus on driving and enjoying my time in the car and we'll see what happens.

You started your F1 career with a podium, then sat out 2015 and came back this year with Renault. What are your thoughts on how your second run at F1 has gone and how the reality of Renault this year matched your expectations?
KM: I would say it has matched the expectation. We knew it was going to be a tough year, because the car that Renault took over from Lotus was very underdeveloped. Renault, at the beginning of the year, was behind on engine power; so going from a Mercedes engine to a Renault was a little bit of a step back. Renault has done a great job to improve the engine. We've got more out of the car but haven't really improved it in terms of getting more downforce, because the focus has been on next year's car back at the factory. It was going to be a transition year, where the focus was on the future and not so much on this year in terms of performance, so I think we've got out of it what we could.

Thanks for that. Valtteri, coming to you: what about your plans? I'm sure you're aware that you have now broken the F1 record of Jim Clark for the longest F1 career spent entirely with a single team. Is it time to stick or twist?
Valtteri Bottas: I understand that stick or twist is meaning if I stay with Williams or not. We're going to still need to wait a little bit to get things confirmed about what's going to happen next year. But, yeah, it's a nice fact. I've had a great time with the time and we've had some good results but I feel like there could be something more still to achieve together but let's wait and see.

You've been in the points at the last two races, including a very strong run in Malaysia, but both races you've qualified outside the top 10. Has that surprised you?
VB: Definitely. We've struggled a bit in the last couple of races with the pure pace and obviously the team has focused a lot on next year's car and we can definitely see that if some other teams are improving then it's more tricky in certain tracks. So hopefully here it's going to be better and I'm sure there are still good races for us this year and we just need to make sure we get everything right.

Coming to Lewis, then: the reigning world champion and four-times US grand prix winner. You've had a pretty busy time of it, pre-Austin, speaking with American TV - the Ellen DeGeneres show - and also the news about you appearing in the new Call of Duty game. Tell us about that and what does that say about your ability as an F1 driver to reach our beyond the sport to new audiences?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, good morning everyone. Yeah, we were fortunate to have been on the Ellen show the other day, which was fantastic. I love being out here in the States, so this was a good opportunity for me to reach a completely new audience that perhaps... I'm pretty sure that most of the people that were in the audience, on the show, hadn't heard of Formula One, so they were all glued to their seats to learn something new. It's a weird thing. I don't think anyone's been on the Ellen show, so I'm pretty proud of it.

And the Call of Duty thing?
LH: Yeah, Call of Duty: I play that game every winter... obviously during the year but particularly in the winter, so to have got the call with the opportunity to be a part of it, I was like - absolutely. I jumped at it. So I can't wait for this winter. A friend of mine that plays with us, he had no idea... well, he might read about it... but I haven't told him yet that I'm in the game, so when I'm playing him in the winter and he sees me on there, he's definitely going to lose it a little bit.

Back to the day job: 100 points available in the remaining races, you trail by 33 - clearly you need some wins to get back into it, so is Austin the ideal place to race next, given your history here. You've won three of the four races that have been held on this race track?
LH: Yeah, Austin has always been... America has always been a good hunting ground for me. I've been out here for a week already, so I'm looking forward to fighting again. This is a fantastic track. They did a very good job with the design. It's one of the few of the newer circuits that really allows good overtaking and following of cars, which is always difficult in Formula One. Yeah, I'm here, I know the weather is going to better this weekend, so particularly for the fans that will be great and yeah, I'm excited.

It could hardly be worse than last year, could it! Thank you for that. Moving on to another former winner of this race here, 2013 US Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel. Sebastian, it seemed that Suzuka summed up Ferrari's season in many ways: the car was fast, but through a variety of reasons wasn't able to convert that into a podium or a shot at victory. Do you see any of the four remaining tracks, including this one obviously, as winnable?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I think there is always a chance. I think obviously in Japan we did some progress, so that was a positive, but as you said, it was probably was a good summary of our season so far. Nevertheless, I think the most important thing is that we fight, we give everything we have, and it could have been a better in Japan, it wasn't and so we're ready for this race.

When we were in Monza, in the press conference, you talked about the feeling of being a Ferrari driver in Monza in front of the tifosi. Of course the US has a long, long history with Ferrari, it's the biggest market for the cars and there is a tremendous fan base here for it, so what does it feel like to be a Ferrari driver in America?
SV: Well, I had a very good race last year. Obviously we had to start a little bit further back. The weather helped us in that regard, to come back and finish on the podium, so it was a great first race with Ferrari here. As you mentioned, a huge fan base also here. Obviously, Italy is really the core, where the foundation lies, but I think everywhere around the world it's amazing to see how much support we get. I think there are always a lot of Ferrari flags, people dressed in red and very passionate fans around the tracks, it's great to be part of that family.

Thank for that and coming to you Romain: your 100th grand prix this weekend, how appropriate, because it's a big weekend, the Haas Formula One team's first home grand prix in the USA. What special arrangements does the team have, to bring workers, families and so on to the race?
Romain Grosjean: Yeah, we arrived Monday in Charlotte and then went to see the factory in North Carolina and went to see the NASCAR factory and did some media. Of course a lot of employees at the North Carolina factory are going to come here, which is great, as they don't get to see us very often - the base is more in Europe - so that's going to be good. Having my 100th grand prix here, home race for the team, is just a great thing.

You've had some special days here in the past as well. You come here off the back of a Japanese GP where both cars qualified in the Top 10 for the first time ever. Can you repeat that here and this time convert it into some points?
RG: Well, if I'm not in Q3 but I score points that would be good as well! In Japan we had a great qualifying and we made some good progress on the car, which is good. We had a new front wing that we could eventually run, which worked well. It's very hard for us every time we go to a track, because we don't have any data from the past and we don't know where to start with the set-up, so we have to guess a little bit and it takes more time than other people to find everything correct. But we definitely will try to qualify well and then scoring points in the race would be good, because we haven't done that for a long time?

Questions From The Floor

(Seff Harding - Zero Zone News) This question's for Lewis: Lewis, you've done some great work with Unicef and recently you posted on your Facebook about the trip you took to Haiti two years ago, and you also noted the aid that's needed for Haiti right now after the devastation of Hurricane Matthew. My question to you is: do you have plans to make another trip to Haiti to visit some of the devastated areas?
LH: Well, it's good to see you again and thank you for the question. I haven't another plan to go to Haiti, but I would love to. The trip that I had there was life-changing. To go to a country that has so much beauty but so much poverty was a huge eye-opener and obviously sad to see. But also to see the smiles on people who have so much less than all of us here. But knowing and seeing the devastation there and they don't have the tools or the means to be able to make change and to recover from the difficult scenario they are in. That's why we have an opportunity, us, as drivers, who have the following we have, not necessarily particularly to have to encourage people, but some people perhaps don't know where to go to help. People are constantly on their phones, and if they see 'oh, I didn't know I could just go online, or by the click of a button help change someone's life', so that's what I try to do. But I am working with Unicef on further plans for the future. I don't know if it's going to be in Haiti. If there's a way I can get there and time for me to get there and help in any way. I don't know what I could do, apart from taking a picture for social media, which is not really that helpful. But my thoughts and prayers are will all the families that are there.

(Flavio Vanetti - Corriere della Sera) Sebastian, we know that you're contract expires at the end of 2017. Do you expect to start soon the negotiations with the team to extend it?
SV: Well, I think we are all fairly busy at this time to focus on the four races that are left and focus in particular to prepare for next year, so I think that's where, honestly, the main focus lies. I don't think it's that important to look into details such as... my contract is all fine for next year, so as I said, with a lot of things happening back at the factory, back in Maranello, I think... I know we're very, very busy and that's where I want also the focus to be.

(Andrew Benson - BBC Sport) Lewis, you've had some great races and pole laps this year - but also a couple of more shaky weekend. How do you look back on this season as a competitor, for you, leaving aside the reliability issues?
LH: Honestly, I don't look back. There's very little point to look back, it's only looking forwards. As I've said, there's obviously the four races but I've still got hopefully some time here in my career for better days. I'm obviously aware that you can't always have great races and it's a long, old season. But no-one's perfect but yeah, all I can do is work as hard as I can with the team, we've got a great car, a great team, there's no reason why we can't have more positive weekends moving forwards.

(Dieter Rencken - Racing Lines) Question for Lewis. Lewis, you said previously that fans should be asking the questions and not the media. Well, there's a fan who called himself @bigorangepaul on Twitter who's asked, under the hashtag #fanQs4LH How will you feel if Nico wins the world championship this year? And the second question is: Have you considered when you will retire, or take a sabbatical?
LH: Thank you for the question, what's his name? @bigorangepaul. I don't plan on taking any sabbaticals. If I stop, I stop, that will be the plan. And, what was the other one? Oh. Try to take it like a man. It is... you can't win them all. Look at all the world championships in the past who've won championships and lost championships, it is part of the game. I am in the position right now where there are still a lot of points available so I'm going to give it everything I've got and still have the belief that anything is possible - but then I'll move on. Once it's decided and it happens, all I can do about it is shape the future, which is the next year. So, life will move on, we'll go into next season and hopefully come back stronger.

(Livio Oricchio - GloboEsporte.com) Lewis, I'm sorry to come back to this subject because we saw you taking pictures now with your mobile and it was a big discussion at the last grand prix. It's also an opportunity for you to clarify your point of view about this, let's say, behaviour. And also, my personal question is, you think it's fair to go in the drivers' parade using earphones, creating a barrier to the fans, where they want you to hear them say “Lewis, we like you, Lewis we are here for you”, something like that.
LH: Well, on the drivers' parade, you don't realise... at the beginning of my career I would stand and... you know I have respect for every single driver here... we'd stand and we'd talk, just generally shootin', talking about whatever, and often not noticing that there's certain individuals in the crowd who have travelled, probably spent all their money to get to a grand prix. So I actually genuinely often stand at the front of the truck and I often have one ear off so I can generally hear people and I make sure that I connect with the people that have come out to support me, y'know? A lot of the people that have... sometimes there's a Grenadian flag, but there's often people, whatever country we're in, even if it's not their nationality they'll have a British flag there and they'll be waving. And if I'm talking to these guys often you'll miss that. If I was in the grandstand having come to support someone, and I'm waving at the dude and he's not even paying attention, I'd be pretty pissed. So that's what I try to do. I try to connect with every single one. If you look at it, I point out to everyone, let them know that I recognise them and I appreciate it because I never in a million years thought I would ever have fans; people who consciously would decide to follow me and not the dude next to me. We all have that, and I think it's really important that we engage with them, so I do. And then, I just took a picture just now, I waited for everyone to finish their questions and their answers. So respect me, I just took a picture. It's a good picture, you're all in it. So... yeah.

(Daniel Johnson - The Telegraph) Question for Lewis, just going back to, I think the fan's question about Nico. You've been racing against him your whole life. Generally you've beaten him. The last two years you've beaten him for the championship, you've beaten him in karting. Does that make what's happened this year quite hard to take - because it's not something that's really happened to you before?
LH: Not really. I think if you look if all things were... we've always been having close races, close battles. I think in all fairness to all of us here, if all things were equal in whatever our scenarios are, there would be a certain result. Obviously this year it's obviously been a little bit different in terms of how our performances have been, particularly mechanically. And there's nothing you can do about that. But, out of the ten times the car has been good - whatever it is - I've often done the job with it but then there definitely has been a few that, probably in the first few seconds of the race have not gone that well. But that's motor racing.

(Tony Di Zimo - NBC Sports) Question for Lewis, after Japan, Mercedes clinched the third the third consecutive Constructors' Championship. Can you describe what it felt inside the factory when you guys had the celebration and just how difficult that achievement is to accomplish?
LH: Good question. Honestly, it's kind-of daunting when you go back to the two factories because there's so many people. I remember joining the team and having to stand... they're like “we want to introduce you to everyone,” and having to stand in front of 800 people at the first place and then 500 people at the next place and speak to them. That's always a difficult thing. But then, after you've grown to know everyone and you've gone on the journey that I have with this team and reached the success, it's an incredibly proud moment for us to stand up there and show our appreciation - because those guys are not travelling like us but they are working crazy hours to enable us to get off the line, to be up the front and win these championships. And it takes a huge amount of work for these people to come together and every single individual operate at the best they can possibly do. I remember joining this team and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the majority of the people that were in here, said that it wasn't the right decision. I had the belief that this team would really go somewhere and I've been a part of that journey and very proud of it. It was incredible. Everyone was just so happy - and now they're turning all of those energies to next year.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Austin, here.

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