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German GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
19/07/2018

Today's press conference with Brendon Hartley, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel.

Brendon, go back to two weeks ago at Silverstone. That was a horrible-looking crash. How are you now? No lasting effects, I hope.
Brendon Hartley: Actually, waking up on the Sunday, I was ready to go. Almost no knock-on effects, which was a surprise after watching the replay myself and seeing how spectacular that looked. In fact, the impact was smaller than what I had in both Canada and Barcelona. I think I've probably taken the top three crashes of the season all by myself! Hoping something like that doesn't happen again. But no, I was physically ready already on Sunday and felt perfectly fine.

Let's talk to you now about the relationship between Toro Rosso and Honda, if we can. How do you feel that has developed as the season has gone on? Do you feel the development rate has increased as the year has progressed?
BH: It was a really positive start from the first laps in Barcelona testing where I think a lot of people had written us off before the season had even started. I think collecting nice laps on that first test was a really positive start and I think everyone at Toro Rosso saw it as a good opportunity having Honda on board. We've had an update already in Canada and yeah, the progress keeps moving forward every weekend. I think it's only positive, I would say, the relationship between Toro Rosso and Honda.

Do you sense there's pressure to introduce engine upgrades this year, to help prepare Honda for next year when they're going to be with Red Bull Racing as well.
BH: I think there were always updates planned, one of which has already come and I know there's some other stuff in the pipeline - but at least from what I've seen. I haven't seen any added pressure. Of course, we'll welcome all the performance gains that we can - but honestly the way the team's working together and systematically going through it, collectively as a team, Toro Rosso and Honda together. I mean, it's all going in the right direction.

Brendon, this is your first time here since 2009 when you raced in Formula 3. What are your expectations of Hockenheim in a Formula One car?
BH: Yeah, looking forward to it. It's a proper track, it's got history. Obviously not the same one that was raced many years ago through the forest. Yeah, I like it, I'm remaining optimistic. Surprisingly optimistic after the last few races I've had. Most of these bad results over the last few months have been out of my control, and I still feel strong and in good spirits and ready to take on this weekend. As we've all seen from P7, the last of the top three teams, to the very back, it's an extremely tight battle. If we manage to eke two more tenths out of the car, from any area of development, that could mean securing quite a few points - or not securing. It's extremely tight and we just have to bring our A game and get everything together over the next two days.

Nico, Brendon's just giving his thoughts on the German Grand Prix. There was no German Grand Prix last year - just how special is it for you to be racing on home soil this weekend?
Nico Hulkenberg: Yeah, it's definitely good to be back. Hockenheim, which is a place with a lot of memory for me. My first ever race in single seater racing, Formula BMW in 2005 was here; lots of racing in Formula 3, so, I've always had good moments here, the circuits always been treating me well. Good results, even in Formula One, two times seventh. So, it's good to be here, I like the place, like the area. I hear it's pretty sold out for this weekend, which is great news so looking forward to start the weekend here.

We're pretty much at the halfway point of the season. Just wanted to get your assessment of yours and Renault's progress in 2018.
NH: I think it's been OK. Of course, we missed out a few opportunities and results here and there. Sometimes technical issues, sometimes just with having a few difficult weekends. I feel the last two, three, four weekends have not been brilliant for us, we've always had a little hiccup somewhere and we've given away a little bit - but I think that's just how it goes. Over 21 races it's really hard to be perfect all the time. I think in the bigger picture, we're fourth in the Constructors' Championship, which is pretty decent. We have more developments in the pipeline over the next few weeks, which hopefully puts us in a good direction for the rest of the season. Obviously, we want to be more competitive and stay where we are.

Neither car was in Q3 at Silverstone. Did that track reveal the car's shortcoming?
NH: Not necessarily. I think it's a little bit track dependent. We feel Silverstone wasn't great for our car. It was just a little bit difficult. We were boxed in a bit, we felt. Before that we've been to Q3 many times. Not all the time. It's not always the most important in the midfield battle. Sometimes it's actually good to be outside and on a different strategy, to upset a little bit. Of course, we're pushing at Renault, everybody, to make the car more competitive, faster, trying to keep a gap in the midfield battle. But it's really tight and it is track-specific. So one track suits better Haas or Force India, the next weekend the Toro Rosso is faster. I think, on balance, us as Renault, we have been pretty consistent.

You say the team is working hard to put performance on the car - so how much quicker is the car than it was in Melbourne?
NH: It's hard to quantify in terms of lap-time - but for sure we've developed the car since. There's been quite a few new parts since. Here and there, some little things. It's hard to measure - but if you see the gap to the top three teams, then you still think 'that's too big'. We don't like that, but they're doing at the same time, an amazing job and it's really hard to catch-up. Yeah, especially as race drivers you always feel you want more. You want it quicker, you're impatient. This weekend we had some stuff which I'm excited to try tomorrow and see how it goes.

Sergio, coming to you. We're doing a bit of a half-term report. So, tell us, what's your assessment of yours and Force India's season so far?
Sergio Perez: It's been a bit up and down in the first half of the season. We were expecting more, up until now but we're certainly improving; getting closer to the top of the midfield battle. I think we're definitely getting closer and improving there. Still a long way to go and we should be in a good position. We're certainly making good progress. I think the season has started quite slow for us but then we made some good progress and I think right now we are in a good position to start fighting for good points.

So, who do you feel you're battling with at the minute. Can you go, on performance terms, toe-to-toe, with the guy on your left, for example?
SP: I certainly think so. I think there is a good chance. Definitely the midfield battle, as Nico described, is so much track dependent, track-to-track, small margins so everything down to the Sunday y'know? To the Sunday afternoon. There's a lot to gain, even if you don't have a great qualifying, there are still plenty of points that are valuable there. So, I think we should be in a good position. I still think fourth place is possible for us in the Constructors', so that's the main target.

Sebastian, first thoughts, concerning these new spec, 2017-spec cars really. It's the first time we've used them here at Hockenheim. How much of a different experience will it be, compared to 2016 with the old-spec cars?
Sebastian Vettel: I think it should be more fun. Cars are faster, faster mostly, or mainly in the corners, so I think it's always great if the cars are faster. I think here you have some corners, high-speed corners - Turn One and also the entry to the stadium, which, yeah, they should be a lot more fun - but also the medium-speed sections around the track. I think generally the cars are better, more fun to drive, so it should be better, more enjoyable than two years ago. And hopefully we are more competitive - that's also more enjoyable!

Pole position in 2016 was 1m14.3s. How much do you believe you might be able to shave off that this weekend?
SV: We'll see. I think it's not always straightforward to compare. I think the cars are faster, as we mentioned, but we also obviously but a lot of downforce on, so we lose a bit of speed down the straights - but I think we should be faster. We also have the ultrasoft this weekend for qualifying, so yeah, how much I don't know but by quite a bit. As I said, the faster you go, the more fun it is.

You're leading the Drivers' Championship; Ferrari leading the Constructors' Championship. The development curve at Ferrari this year has been very impressive. Have you noticed a step up in that area compared to last year?
SV: Well, the team is still improving, still growing. Obviously, the team has been around for a long time and I have been now part of the team for three and a half years - but I think we are getting stronger, we have a very, very good group of people, a good mix of people on board. Yeah, you're trying all the time. Sometimes obviously, there's also the element of the stuff working better than expected, sometimes it works less than expected but I think overall, I think you can say over the last two years maybe, since the last time we were here, that, yeah, I think by the end of 2016 we had a sort of lock opened, and since then I think there was a certain momentum starting to keep going and to develop. Since then I think we kept it going. Obviously the '17 regs gave us the chance as a team to catch up, because before we were a bit behind - but since then, also last year, I think we had a great pace, a great car and we were able to develop it. Missed a little bit of performance at the end of the year. I think we learned from that and hopefully we can do it better - which still have to be seen but I think the car has potential.

You've won at the Nürburgring but not here. Would winning here on Sunday mean more to you than simply 25 points?
SV: Yeah. Absolutely. I think the fact that racing in Germany, I'm afraid that probably this is the last time for a while, as far as I understand - which would be a shame to lose one of the classic races, and the fact that I'm literally from here - it's just half an hour away were I was born and grew up - so yeah, the area means a lot to me and it would be great to have a good weekend.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Hockenheim, here.

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