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Japanese GP: Thursday Press Conference Part 2

NEWS STORY
05/10/2017

Valtteri, if we could start with you, it hasn't been the easiest for you since the summer break and you said on Sunday evening in Malaysia that this might now be the most difficult moment of your career. Can you elaborate on that? Why is that?

Valtteri Bottas: Well, I think the main thing is just because, the only thing I want to do is to perform and to try and meet my goals what I set for me personally. I definitely haven't been achieving those lately, so that's why the feeling wasn't so positive after the race. So, for sure it's tricky because now, y'know, having such a good car and with potential for such good results, I just want to perform. So, that's why.

Has the car become harder to drive than it was earlier in the year when you were winning races, getting pole positions?
VB: I think the compromises we've been needing to do in some circuits to get it into the right window has been quite a challenge sometimes to drive around. I think Lewis has been able to extract a little bit more sometimes with a more tricky setup. Some things with the driving style always makes a difference and to understand those, you always kind of need that bad weekend to learn from it - otherwise you don't know these differences. It's not massive things, it's small things but this sport is all about details and changing some things in your own driving, then it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge and then that way the driving maybe doesn't feel quite natural at times - but that's how it is. I see things positive because I think from all those difficult weekends we've had there's been so much to learn from, so much to get better from. Like the race in Malaysia. I've had so many answers to my questions from that race. We've been trying to work out every single detail with the engineers and trying to understand, so I've learned massively again from last weekend. That's why there's always a positive.

And talking about those details, is there anything when you look at the data that you can learn from a guy like Lewis Hamilton?
VB: Yes, of course. From every team mate you can always learn something. From every single one. From every circuit there's always a thing or two you can pick up, especially from an experienced, extremely quick driver.

Stoffel, tough times for Valtteri at the moment but you've had a cracking couple of races, seventh in Singapore, seventh last weekend in Malaysia. You must be feeling pretty good about things.
Stoffel Vandoorne: Yeah, lately everything has been going very well for me. I think it shows all the work I've been doing with the team - with the engineers, back at the factory as well - is paying off. And yeah, obviously feeling more and more comfortable with the car. It was great to have those two seventh places in Singapore and Malaysia - I don't want to get used to being happy with seventh but I think considering the package we have it was definitely the best result possible, so very pleased with that and, yeah, five races left this year, which is hopefully five opportunities to make something good of it, so shows we have to keep pushing, keep working as hard as we can and who knows what is possible for the last couple of races.

You're now ahead of Fernando Alonso in the World Championship. Can you share with us just some of that work you've just referred to. What have you been doing? What areas of your job have you had to focus on to turn things around?
SV: It's only my first season in Formula One so there were a lot of things I had to get to grips with, learn. I think definitely the troubled start to the season didn't help with that in terms of the amount of track time we missed and, yeah, lately everything has had a much better run. The relationship between my engineers has developed massively as well and yeah, I think we go into every weekend very positive, very comfortable as well, knowing the areas we have to focus on. It's very nice to see the results are paying off as well.

You won a Super Formula race here at Suzuka last year. How important is local knowledge? Is there something you gain from your year in Japan last year that might help you this weekend? Is there a trick to this track that you might know that the others don't?
SV: I think it's always very good to know a circuit. Like you said, I have a lot of experience around this circuit. Done a lot of testing, a lot of racing in Super Formula here, and obviously have a win around here as well - which was a special moment. So looking forward to this weekend again, to discover this circuit in Formula One. I think with these cars especially it will be a very exciting track for everyone to drive around.

Pascal, now unlike these other guys, you don't yet know what you're going to be doing in 2018 yet you've outqualified your teammate, Marcus Ericsson, nine times, you've scored all of Sauber's points this year. Are you confident that that will be enough to keep you in Formula One next season?
Pascal Wehrlein: I hope so. My focus is on driving. This weekend - or every weekend - is another opportunity to show something. The previous races have been quite difficult for us and Malaysia was a bit better so hopefully we learned something from there and can have a better weekend this weekend.

How dependent on Mercedes are you to place you somewhere next season?
PW: I am a Mercedes Young Driver so of course Mercedes is doing all the talks for me.

And looking ahead to next season, specifically with Sauber, obviously it's been a tough time for the team this year but judging by what you've seen of next year's car, how do you rate their prospects going forward?
PW: For Sauber, you mean? So definitely a step forward is the engine, that they are running the current engine next year because now, especially, in the second half of the season we are struggling a bit with the performance there and definitely this is going to be better next year and then also hopefully with the car they are doing some steps forward.

Questions From The Floor

(Tatsuya Otani - Car Graphic) I have two questions for Stoffel. How do you look back at the development of the car during the season, for the chassis and the power unit respectively? And question two is: you raced for Honda last year here in Japan in the Super Formula championship; after your experience in Formula One Grands Prix, your image or your feeling of Honda has been changed or not?
SV: As a team, I think we've progressed a lot since the start of the season. Obviously everyone knows the situation, how it was back in Barcelona during winter testing, when it was obviously a very tough time for everyone, even getting the car out on track was difficult. The first few races were complicated as well and I think every weekend there were positives to take; every week has been going better and better. We're still not at the point where we are happy about our performance. We still know it's a very long way to go but I think lately we've been able to score a couple of points which are definitely very valuable for the team. But like I said, there's still a long way to go to compete with the top guys so plenty of margin.

And Stoffel, the second question, can you relate the two experiences of Honda last year and this year?
SV: Well definitely my year in Super Formula helped me to work with Japanese people. I think the culture especially was very different so to come out here and discover something new, to work in a completely Japanese environment was not the easiest in the beginning, but I think it was a big challenge for me as well to kind of transform a team around me, to teach them some European lessons as well and to guide the team in a certain direction and then seeing the results of that was a nice challenge for me to do.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Suzuka, here.

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