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Australian GP: Thursday Press Conference Part 1


Let's start with Lewis Hamilton - a two-time Australian Grand Prix winner, record five times pole sitter here at Albert Park? Lewis, you and the other drivers have spoken about how much you enjoy driving this new generation of new cars. Could you perhaps give us an idea from your own point of view of a few areas you particularly like about it?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, firstly, hi everyone, it's good to see you, it's good to be back. I don't know, as racing drivers and in general you want to drive the quickest cars in the world and you always want to go faster and the cars are faster than they were last year. And the challenge of exploiting that speed with your car on track is a great challenge. It's more in the direction of how Formula One should be, in the sense of the physicality side of it. We are athletes, and Formula One should be the most physically demanding sport in terms of all the driving series. In the previous years that's not been the case. To the level we train to it's relatively easy for us to, but now you are going to have to push the boundaries, which I like.

There's a saying in sport - never change a winning team. But you have a new Mercedes technical boss and a new team-mate. How's that all working out?
LH: So far, great. I sat down with James and had a great conversation with him and he's really blended well into the team and super-excited to work with him. It's always great to have great new creative minds and he's one of the smartest people I have ever met, if not the smartest. I'm excited to see what he can bring out of me and the team and all the guys we're working with. Valtteri has, as I said before, Valtteri has been gelling really well into the team, working really hard to be the best he can be, which is all I want.

Sebastian coming to you, of course 2011 Australian Grand Prix winner. You had a good chance to win this race last year and the recent testing would suggest you will be in the hunt again on Sunday. Is there a more solid baseline do you feel to this year's Ferrari attack.
Sebastian Vettel: We'll see. So far we don't know anything. For all of us it will be exciting to find out where we are on Saturday/Sunday, to get a first impression. For us a lot of new things last year didn't really go the way we expected, so I think for this year we have really focused on ourselves. We have tried to do our job back in the factory and in testing… I think testing times, I don't think they are that crucial, I think it matters much more what you show from here onwards. We'll see. I think we are a bit in the dark like everyone else, not knowing what other people have done. For ourselves we can be reasonably happy, we did decent mileage, we didn't have any major issues with the car and hopefully we can carry that momentum into the race.

Well, the car looks pretty competitive but the real question I guess is how it will do in qualifying. Ferrari have only taken five pole positions this decade, since 2010, so how have you addressed that? Have you got a go-faster engine setting for the final part of qualifying?
SV: Not necessarily. I think we worked on all areas, trying to improve. Obviously we all know that qualifying is important to have a good race, so the higher up you qualify the better the chance you have in the race. Statistically it doesn't look that good, so hopefully we can turn that around.

Fernando, coming to you, 2006 winner here of course, there's no hiding the fact that McLaren and Honda are in a very difficulty position at this stage. Do you have any expectations at all for this season?
Fernando Alonso: Well, I think let's wait and see. We have only done the testing period, so I think the first race now will put things a little bit more clear. It's a question mark also for us where we exactly are. We were not able to push the car to anywhere close to the limit at any lap on the testing, due to different problems. Let's see. If we can have a good first weekend, see a little bit more of the potential of the car and hopefully see where we are. But yeah, still a long way to go for us and a lot of work to do.

It's been only three weeks since testing began and the problems came to light. Have you and team been able to put the rescue plan in place yet or is that something that's going to come in the next few weeks?
FA: The team is always working to improve the situation - to word as hard we can, to identify the problems and to improve those areas. I guess everyone did the maximum in the last three weeks and let's see what we can find tomorrow on the track and that's more a question for Eric and Honda.

Daniel, it's a stat they don't care for much around these parts, but no Australian has won the Australian Grand Prix since it became a championship round in 1985, so come on Dan, are you going to put that right this weekend?
Daniel Ricciardo: I'll try. I'll try to. It would be nice. If anyone could win just one race they'd always say their home, so that'd be cool, it would be good.

SV: Didn't Alan Jones win here?

Not since it became a world championship round, no.
SV: So what race did he win in 1980?

DR: That was the world championship. He's here; I'll ask him.

Daniel, do you want to add anything more?
DR: I'd love to. We'll see what happens. I'm prepared. As Lewis touched on, it's more physical this year and I think we've all done our work in the pre-season. I'm sure all of us up here feel like we're coming in as well prepared as possible and it's been fun to put more emphasis on that, on the training. The cars are more enjoyable. They are going to be fast. For the fans here this weekend to see the cars on track, the cornering speeds, I think they'll definitely see that. Hopefully we're cornering quicker than anyone else.

Well, you got a really good look at your team-mate Max Verstappen in the second half of last season. How tough are the battles between you two this year?
DR: Hopefully tough. Hopefully we're fighting for victories, I think that would be something we would welcome. He's obviously fast. It's his third year now and although he's young, he's no longer a rookie anymore so I think we both carry a bit of experience. I think the team is excited to see how we go and I think everyone else is. They're starting to hype it up a little bit. Hopefully it's hyped up by the fact that we're fighting at the front, that's what we both want.

Questions From The Floor

(Ysef Harding - Xiro Xone News) I want to say good afternoon to everyone and I want to wish us good press conferences for the rest of the season and a good, robust conversation. This question is for the entire panel. This year we have some new owners, the sport is owned by Liberty Media and they have a big, bold vision for the future of F1. What would be your top three wishes for the new owners of Formula One?
DR: A race in Vegas.

SV: A race in Germany.

DR: That's it; I've said mine.

LH: Miami race... More ladies in the paddock? More paddock access to some women, there's too many dudes in the paddock.

SV: V12s.

LH: V12s, I agree.

FA: I agree. I agree with everyone… equal engines for everyone.

LH: I don't agree with that one.

DR: But not electric.

LH: And not Honda. I'm kidding…

(Andy Benson - BBC) We had Charlie Whiting in here a couple of hours ago and one of the things he was saying was that the so-called 'Verstappen rule' has been removed, just leaving the general catch-all regulation about potentially dangerous driving. Are you all happy with that situation?
SV: I don't know. I'm not…

You'll be told tomorrow.
DR: We'll be told tomorrow? You know everything before us! Let's see. I think we can… the good part of it is it means less decisions to be made on track. If they leave it up to us I guess the positive is that we sort it out on track. Hopefully we can get redemption if we feel like something has not gone our way. We'll see., I like being able to race. That's the positive from it.

SV: Will I get my trophy back… it makes sense!

DR: I guess he wants his trophy back from Mexico. It was a pretty small one actually. Right, I'll shut up.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Melbourne, here.


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