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Belgian GP Thursday Press Conference - Part 1

NEWS STORY
23/08/2018

Part 1 of today's press conference with Fernando Alonso, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz.

Fernando, I'm going to start with you. I've just introduced all four of you with your current teams, but all four of you will be racing elsewhere next year. You've said you won't race in Formula 1 in 2019. Can you just tell us how you came to that decision?
Fernando Alonso: Well, it was a decision that probably I started thinking about last year, probably, and then this year, in 2018, there were a lot of changes into the team, with the engine manufacturer changes and things like that, so I thought it was worth staying one more year. I enjoy driving these cars, with the new regulations, with the big tyres, the big downforce, I was having fun and I think this year it was some kind of joy to keep racing and to have another go. But at the same time I made some changes and some priorities into this year, with the Super Season and the WEC championship and other things also, towards this direction and yeah, this year, a couple of months ago I decided that it was the right time, because I feel strong, I feel I'm driving at a good level and I want to say bye-bye to this sport when I feel strong, not when I feel not competitive or I don't have any place to go and then you say bye-bye. I prefer to take my own decision and find new challenges that maybe Formula 1 cannot offer me at the moment.

Thank you. Daniel, you will also have a new challenge next year, swapping Red Bull for Renault. Tell us how you came to make that decision to move teams next year?
Daniel Ricciardo: Yeah, it was a long thought process, for sure. I guess I've been kind of bombarded with the question already at the end of last year. When Max announced his extension with the team then it kind of turned a bit of spotlight onto me. I obviously took my time with it. By no means an easy decision at all. I guess I got to a point where I felt I was ready for a change. I guess that was the long and short of it. I'm ready for a new challenge and I think just for me personally just some fresh motivation. That sounds easy saying it like that but it wasn't easy. A few sleepless nights, for sure, trying to come up with the best conclusion for myself but once I made that decision and pulled the trigger I felt comfortable with it and it feels right moving forward for next year.

Thank you. Carlos, coming to you, obviously you are going to replace Fernando at McLaren in 2019, but there was a Red Bull seat available at one stage, so can you talk us through the timeline for what happened with your future?
Carlos Sainz: As soon as Daniel was announced in Renault, there was obviously a period of time where I didn't know where I was going to go. I had been preparing my options and McLaren has been one of them for a long time now. I have been in touch with the McLaren management for a year or two now. Because of that I was very calm about the situation. I just had to wait to see what happened and take my own decision. In the end it turned out to be good. I'm about to leave the Red Bull family in a good way. I owe pretty much my Formula 1 career to them. Thanks to them at the moment I am going to McLaren, because they put me into Formula 1 and I have been able to do a career thanks to them. I think I am opening a new chapter next year; my first two-year deal with the team and I just cannot wait.

Thank you. Pierre, you probably had the least stressful break in terms of not having a decision to make, but you will be promoted to Red Bull next year. Twelve months ago you weren't even racing in Formula 1. Can you believe the progress and how quick it's been?
Pierre Gasly: Yeah, it's pretty amazing how quick things go in Formula 1, so for sure super excited about this new challenge. Yeah, pretty much I was surprised, like everyone, when I heard the news about Daniel. I had Helmut on the phone, who told me that they would take their time to make the decision. Difficult to disconnect when you know there is a seat available in Red Bull but I just tried to enjoy my break. I was just waiting for a phone call just to know if I will stay with Toro Rosso or jump into the Red Bull seat and Helmut called me to tell me that they made the decision and they want me to race for the team from 2019 onwards. Just super excited about it and it's a massive step in my career and now I need to stay focused on the coming races, because we are talking about next year but there are still nine races to go with Toro Rosso but for sure it's going to be a massive jump for me in my career.

Questions From The Floor

(Scott Mitchell - Autosport) Daniel, with the decision to leave Red Bull, how much of that is down to maybe doubting the potential of that partnership with Honda. Obviously it's a big change for the team and they obviously needed to do a bit of convincing for you, so how much of a factor was that in the call?
DR: There are a lot of unknowns with everything. Obviously even the move where I am going to be next year. There is still a certain amount of risk or unknowns. Nothing was really that clear cut. Sure, Honda still really need to prove themselves at the front. But honestly there wasn't really one key factor other than really myself and wanting to have a change of scenery I guess. That was probably the biggest, overpowering thing but it wasn't necessarily the engine deal or this or that or the financials or whatever. It was really just me coming to a point... it's been five years with Red Bull Racing, or will be at the end of this year, ten years with the company and obviously it's been amazing and great but it just felt like now is the time to take on something new. So that's pretty much how my decision came.

(Edd Straw - Autosport) Another question for Daniel. Was Max Verstappen's presence in the team part of it, in terms of obviously Red Bull have thrown a lot behind him, he's becoming a bit of a focal point, there were various troubles earlier in the year. Do you feel that for your new challenge you needed to get out of an environment where there was a team that seemed to be building up around Max?
DR: No, is the short answer. I think externally around media and maybe some fans' perspective as well that might be seen as the case, but honestly, internally, yeah in Baku and that we had an incident and a couple of on-track things, more round ourselves, but as far as equality went within the team, as I said, probably from the outside sometimes people thought that, but honestly hand on heart there was never any concern with that or any sign of that. So it wasn't, I guess, is the answer.

(Christian Menath - Motorsport-Magazin.com) Daniel, can you talk us through the timing of your decision-making, because there has been some confusion about that? Helmut Marko said he was quite sure you were going to sign the contract with Red Bull but then you didn't.
DR: Yeah, it was all tight with deadlines. It's not something I knew for weeks or months. It was all pretty much... when it got announced right before the break... obviously Renault was part of my considerations for some time; they didn't come out of nowhere at the last hour, but yeah, I was really torn, obviously, with what to do and that process took time. At the end, still on the race weekend in Budapest I wasn't sure what I was going to be doing. Did the test on Tuesday and took some time to think about it over the next 48 hours and then came to my decision. It wasn't easy and there were a lot of factors, variable that I had to try to weigh up, but I think as I said, in my mind the key thing for me personally was that I felt it was time to make a change. This year, particularly the first part of the year, up until Monaco for sure, it was an amazing start to the year for me. There were so many positives. So there was a lot of like good momentum and energy but I guess still at times I was feeling, for whatever reason, I felt personally a little bit frustrated - within myself, not necessarily with things that were happening in the team - and I was just trying to understand why and I guess when I weighed it up a change of setting, a new challenge was probably the answer I need.

(Jerome Pugmire - Associated Press) Fernando, would you at some point in the future consider returning to Formula 1 or is this definitively goodbye?
FA: Right now, I'm thinking it's a goodbye. But, you know, life changes very quickly. Life has also taught me in the past how things may change, in a couple of months' time or in a years' time. As I said in the press release, when we announced the retirement, it's to leave the door open, because I don't have the crystal ball to know what is going to happen in the future. As I said, for me it's a bye-bye, but who knows in the future.

(Jacquelin Magnay - The Australian) Daniel, you've talked about needing a new challenge and wanting a new challenge, what was happening in Red Bull that made you so unloved, and in terms of the contract negotiations, did they have a right of reply at all and did you go back to them?
DR: I never said I was unloved. That wasn't the case. As I said, there was no real highlight other than probably the routine sometimes if you... we don't have a nine-to-five job and we're not going to the same office everyday. But I guess many years of more or less going to the same factory or whatever, that kind of routine, I felt like at time my enjoyment of the sport was becoming a little bit, I don't know, dulled down, a bit numb at times, and I just thought part of the routine was causing that. I'm still... I think Fernando just touched on it, I'm discovering myself in life and it's changing pretty rapidly. How maybe I thought 12 months ago is not how I think now but I guess part of that process and touching a little bit on the routine I think was something that I felt was... I don't want to say getting the best of me, but was having a little effect on me. I think to be clear, and I'm probably going to get asked loads of questions about it, there was no falling out, no bad blood or anything with anyone in the team, with the bosses, or anyone at all. I know the contract stuff, I think people assumed I was pretty much done with Red Bull and ready to sign, but I'm pretty sure I always just said I was close to doing something but I never really said it was going to be 100% with Red Bull, so there wasn't anything that changed overnight that caused this decision and that's pretty much where it was. And there was another part?

(Jacquelin Magnay - The Australian) The right of reply?
DR: There was like back and forth over the last few months. In the end, the deal and that, I think we had all come to a happy place with and it was then just up to me. I knew what was in front of me so...

Check out our Thursday gallery from Spa, here.

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