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Abu Dhabi GP: Thursday Press Conference Part 2

NEWS STORY
23/11/2017

Fernando, let's begin with you. Tests in WEC and more recently Daytona 24 Hours cars. How di they feel and how excited are you about the prospect of what you're about to do with them?

Fernando Alonso: They felt OK. They felt great. I'm behind a steering wheel, probably every week with different cars, obviously the last two were public and were probably a little bit bigger series. I was happy, first in Bahrain, I had this opportunity to test the LMP1, obviously different cars, some technologies that we don't get have yet in F1, or that has been banned recently, like traction control and four wheel drive and things like that, that obviously required a different driving style. So limitations on fuel and things like that that were a little bit more frustrating than what we have here - but overall it has been a good experience. With LMP2 in Spain, testing for Daytona, it was also good fun. Cars again very different. More raw, a little bit and more simple and yeah, good fun and ready for next winter in Daytona, and not to have too much free time.

It's been an amazing year really. Have you surprised yourself with how versatile you are as a driver or did you expect that, when you jumped into these different things you would be competitive straight away?
FA: No. I mean obviously, you believe in yourself. You believe that you can can adapt very quickly to things, so has been probably one of my strongest points in my career here in Formula One. Maybe I'm not the fastest in qualifying, not the fastest in the race, not the fastest in the wet but I'm quite good in everything - so I was ready to challenge on different series and compete against the best drivers in that particular series or that particular driving style, learning from them, taking all the advice that I can and that's quite a challenge, so I study some steering wheels.

Final thought. It's the final race with Honda engines for McLaren, next year with Renault. Does that feel like a kind of a homecoming for you, given your history with them - and how much confidence are you drawing from what they're telling you about the 2018 power unit?
FA: I think it's good timing now, to change. I personally had a lot of expectations for the McLaren- Honda project, that was probably the reason I changed from Ferrari because the McLaren-Honda was a very attractive partnership after the success they had in the past, etcetera. We didn't achieve the results we wanted in the last three years. We didn't perform as we expected. So now I think it's time to change for McLaren and join forces with Renault. I'm quite optimistic, seeing what Red Bull is doing right now with a Renault Power Unit. Obviously, it is still missing a little bit on things but overall you fight for podiums, you fight for race wills and that is a very different picture to what we have now in McLaren. So, optimistic for that, no doubts. Your question about Renault, yeah, feeling at home. Coming back a little bit, coming back towards my friends and what I consider my second family, so that will be great and they are a very good company and a very good engine, zero doubts.

Valtteri, coming to you. What's the balance sheet from the 2017 season for you looking like? You became a grand prix winner, you repeated it, you bagged ten other podiums. Do you take satisfaction from this season?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think the balance sheet is a bit up-and-down for me. There was for sure many good moments, and good performances but many disappointments as well. The main think I think from the this season, for me, is the amount I've been able to learn. The amount I've been able to grow as a driver and things I can take for the future. That's what matters, y'know? Lewis won the title, as my team mate, so we had a car to do it and he beat me this year. So, I've learnt a lot and that's why I'm really looking ahead.

Where you've had the more difficult days, what's that been down to, can you give us some ideas - and have you been able to - and have you been able to work with the team to be confident that you'll be able to avoid that next year?
VB: I honestly think I've been through some of those things already quite many times. But you know there are quite many things. This sport is all about details, and yeah, I've learnt a lot from those tough races and just need more consistency in different circumstances, different conditions and I know by working hard, I can do it.

Max, two wins and you're the top scorer in the last five races with 90 points, eight more than Lewis Hamilton's scored. And a new contract in the bag. Is this feeling like the way Formula One should be for you?
Max Verstappen: Not fully because I'm not fighting for the championship. But it's been positive, the last few races. I think Brazil maybe was not perfect but I think we know the reasons for that as well; when you lose performance from the engine as well to keep things alive but hopefully for this weekend we can change that and hopefully we will be a bit closer again. I think if we can be close in qualifying then normally in the race we should be a little bit better so I'm looking forward to that.

Daniel said in the previous press conference that you've improved a lot this year. Would you like to give us some ideas of the way you feel that you've improved, how you've matured as a Grand Prix driver, some areas?
MV: I think I've improved but I think in general it's all about experience and of course if you haven't really raced a lot in lower categories and you make the jump to Formula One you have to learn it in Formula One and of course a lot more people are watching it but I think in general compared to last year, the speed was already there last year. Just sometimes - like qualifying for example, last year, at the beginning - was a bit more tricky but I think that's quite normal when you jump into a new car which is not really made around you, or you didn't really have a lot of time to get used to during the season. And I think this year with the winter tests, that helps a lot, just little details inside the car which makes you feel a bit more comfortable. Yeah, having more experience in qualifying, that helped me to have better starting positions and if you start in a better position, normally your race result is also a bit better, if you have a decent start, so I think all in all that just helps a lot.

And do the dynamics of this 2017-type car - has that played to your strengths, do you feel that has been a good thing for you?
MV: I think in general yes, it's been a bit more positive because it's more like a race car. Last year's was a bit more like a toy car for my feeling, and this year it's a bit more rough and you know it's harder to drive but in general it's also just more enjoyable because you can go a lot faster into the corners without being too worried about locking fronts and stuff and I think that helped me.

Do you both feel the same way, that this type of car suits your driving style more?
VB: It's difficult to say. I obviously changed teams as well and different teammate to compare with. I can't say but I'm enjoying it more for sure.

FA: Yeah, definitely it's more enjoyable.

Questions From The Floor

(Beatrice Zamuner - Motorlat.com) Fernando, so this is the closing chapter for McLaren and Honda and amidst many difficulties you certainly had some positives, so what is your best memory of these past three years?
FA: Ummm. I don't know. Probably on the performance side, in the races, difficult to pick up one race because obviously the performance was never there, even the P5 in Monaco I think last year is still not as fun as it should be. I think what I take from the last three years is the commitment, the spirit in the team which has been amazing. I did have some highs and lows in my career with different teams, with different performance but it was the first time that with the kind of performance we had on Sundays the team was full committed for the next race and the next step and the next aero update. There was not a single person giving up with the performance we had so that was definitely the thing I take in the last three years and the lesson that I will keep for longer.

(Frederic Ferret - L'Equipe) Fernando, what is the most difficult thing you had to adapt to coming from a single seater to an LMP1 car? And were you happy by the first day of testing?
FA: I mean there are many things, you know. It's a very different environment. You first need to sit in a different position and adapt a little bit and make some compromises for the other two guys who are sitting in the same cockpit, so everything is not perfectly made for you and for your comfort, like in Formula One. You share everything, you share the set-up, so even if you would like to change something in the car to make your speed a little bit quicker, it's not helping the overall performance of the car in general for the race distance so there are things that you need to be aware of and you need to learn. I think driving styles are completely different, probably more biased to the most efficient way of driving, like they have there, just for the fuel economy, things like that so yeah, things to learn. I was happy with the first day of testing but I think that I need much more practice and I need much more time to get up to total speed with that driving style.

(Adrian Rodriguez Huber - Agencia EFE) Fernando, whichever your decision is for next year's racing and the competitions in which you're going to race, Daytona will not be a problem but let's imagine you start next year's Formula One World Championship in a very good position. Would that make a change to you or not?
FA: No.

(Angelique Belkopytov - AutoDigest) Valtteri, so he we are, last race of the season, some had some few good moments, others more difficult, so for you what could be your best achievement and your best lessons in 2017?
VB: Well, for sure for me the best achievement was of course my first win. It took for me more than 80 races in Formula One to achieve it so something really unique, something very special that you will remember always but a moment that also makes you more hungry for the future and yeah, I think those difficult races have been the races where I have been able to learn the most so I feel this season in general has given me a lot to work on and that's always positive. I'm always willing to try to improve and trying to be better person to myself as a driver. That's why, like I said, I can't wait for the future.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Yas Island, here.

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