Today's press conference with Valtteri Bottas, Robert Kubica, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
This week motorsport lost one of its greats when three-time Formula 1 World Champion Niki Lauda passed away. Valtteri, you worked with Niki at Mercedes over the last few years, what did he mean to you?
Valtteri Bottas: Obviously really, really shocking news to start the week. For sure, he meant a lot to me but for every single team member of ours, in the race team and at the factory, and he was a big part of the Mercedes family. He was a massive motivation for everyone, for myself ass well, for sure, as a driver because of everything he achieved and with the difficult career he had, and all the comebacks and everything. But also as a person, it's been great, and never forget many, many good moments, and for sure it's not nice in terms of mindset for the weekend but I'm sure as a team we can turn it into a strength and respect Niki by going flat out on track and bringing a good result.
Thank you. Robert, if I could ask you for your memories of Niki Lauda? You've been around Formula 1 for a long time.
Robert Kubica: As Valtteri said it's shocking news. He wrote a big chunk of the story of this sport, not only as a driver but as a person. I never had the opportunity to work with him but definitely he was a big racer and all of us will miss him. At least my personal hopes were to meet him back in the paddock but unfortunately this will not happen. That's unfortunately part of life.
Thanks. Max, we saw a message from you yesterday on social media. Any thoughts to share about Niki?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, of course. Niki was a legend of the sport. He achieved a lot in his career, but also after his career he was also a very generous and funny guy as well. Of course, I've never really worked with him, but with the chats we had, he's been a great guy and for sure it's a big loss to Formula 1, so all thoughts go out to his family right now.
Thank you. Daniel, Niki was in and out of the Red Bull motorhome a lot when you were there. Any memories of Niki that you have?
Daniel Ricciardo: Only good ones, for sure. Any interaction I had with him, any brief chats, or just pleasantries, just a kind man. Most of the world that follows motorsport knows him as the racer, for sure, and everything he went through, which was astonishing to say the least. But my personal moments with him were always kind. For a few years we were competitors but, yeah, never a bad thing to say. As the guys just touched on, thinking of his family. The legacy he leaves is pretty amazing and for sure we remember these good things.
Thank you. Charles, two of Niki's championships came with Ferrari, what does he mean to you?
Charles Leclerc: Well, I didn't have too many chances to speak to Niki, but the very few times I have been speaking with him he has been extremely nice to me and was always very disponible... is that the right word?
CL: Available, yes, sorry. And also very humble for what he achieved. He's a great example for the sport in general and he will be missed a lot.
Thank you. If we look ahead to this weekend now, Charles we'll stay with you. This is your second time racing at home in Formula 1, but the first time racing here with Ferrari, so it must be a very special weekend for you?
CL: Yeah, a home grand prix is always a special weekend and even more this weekend, obviously, coming here in full red with Ferrari and also with the chance to have a very good result, so we will push. Obviously we've had a difficult start to the season. The low-speed corners weren't great in Barcelona, but normally Monaco is pretty different. We will try to turn things round. It's not going to be easy but we will give it everything.
Valtteri, you've never actually been on the podium, but with the start to the season Mercedes have enjoyed there must be a big opportunity to change that this weekend?
VB: Yeah, I've not had great races here, but targeting to change that. It's been a very promising beginning of the year for us as a team. But we also have to remember that Monaco is a unique circuit and it needs different kinds of things from the car to be quick and in the past few years we have been struggling a little bit and we have not had the quickest car here, even though we have been quick on other tracks. So, for that we are a little bit cautious but also very motivated to change that and to be performing here as well. For me, for sure it's maybe a tiny bit similar feeling to Charles, you know, living here, it's really unique, and it would be an amazing weekend to do well.
Max, Red Bull traditionally have gone well in Monaco. Are you able to threaten both Mercedes and Ferrari this weekend, do you think?
MV: I think we get into this weekend seeing Mercedes clearly as the favourite. I don't think we are as good as we were last year. But we will find out. I'm confident that we can fight for a podium, but we have to find out what step of the podium.
Daniel, Max mentioned last year. You won that race and you obviously have great memories of that but what is realistic for you to target this season?
DR: I don't know yet. I'm certainly still coming as excited as I always do. When I say coming here, I also live here, but it's still different coming here for the race or being here for the race. The circuit transforms and there's a different feeling in the air. I don't know, the whole atmosphere is pretty unreal. So yeah, I'll see where we're at tomorrow... Yeah, tomorrow's practice. It's Thursday here; that's a bit different as well. But yeah, obviously quietly confident and excited and optimistic that we can do something good.
Thank you. Robert, Williams has had quite a tricky car so far this season, but is Monaco still a race you look forward to as a driver?
RK: Oh yeah. Monaco has always been very special and approaching... coming back here after a long break the feeling in the past was that the track was pretty narrow but with current F1 cars it will be even more narrow than it was in the past, because the cars are much bigger, much wider. So looking forward, it's always a special feeling going through those streets and driving an F1 car. But definitely our car is struggling and normally here whenever you struggle, you struggle even more. But there's always something; this track is different; it's unique, so hopefully it will suit better our car.
Thank you. Just a final topic before we open this to the floor. This weekend is the third FIA Volunteers Weekend, celebrating those who give up their time to support motorsport events. Just wondered if I could get a message from each of you about the importance of volunteers in motorsport. Robert if we can start with you?
RK: Yeah, definitely. I think most us don't realize how many people are involved to organize this show, in every single aspect, not only on track but off track to help. Definitely we need those people and I would like to thank them. They are normally very passionate people and we need those people more than anyone else.
MV: Yeah, it's great to see that there are so many people out there who are so passionate about the sport and actually willing to risk their lives as well for us. I think it's great and I just hope that we all have a great and safe weekend.
CL: Yeah, as Max said, it's great to see so many people that are passionate about the sport and what they are doing for the sport. I came to see them, especially the marshals training for this grand prix, which was very impressive. They are putting a lot of time into it and they are doing these things extremely seriously, so it was a great experience to see them preparing the grand prix and hopefully we'll have a safe and good weekend.
Thank you. And Valtteri?
VB: Yeah, for sure, without them the event would not be possible. I'm lucky to know a couple of them and they have explained to me what it includes and how much actually they work for it and all the training and everything and they are so passionate about racing, so from my side, hat's off to them.
Thank you. And finally, Daniel?
DR: This is a race where I feel they always stand out - how quick they are able to collect a car or move on, so that our session can be as little or less disrupted as possible, if that's the right English, I don't know. They're pretty awesome. They do have pretty good here seats as well, probably the best seats in the house! But all jokes aside, it's good that they get the recognition as well, because it's easily dismissed at times, so hat's off the them and we appreciate it.
Questions From The Floor
(Dan Knutson - Auto Action / Speed Sport) Charles, the drivers that live here say when it's not the race week, they can walk around, nobody stops them. Now you're a famous Ferrari driver, I see your photo and poster all over time. How is it now, going around town, not on the race weekend?
CL: To be honest, I think there are drivers more famous than me living in Monaco. For sure, I'm Monegasque, so it's a little bit different. Also, in Monaco, they are quite used to it, so all year around, they don't stop you that much in the city. When it comes to grand prix time, it's a bit harder to go around Monaco because there's a lot of strangers coming here for the grand prix and obviously they want to have pictures, etc., During the year it's quite OK. But yeah, it's great to have a weekend at home. It's a city that I've been growing up in and yeah, it's a huge honour for me to be driving in these streets. It's actually pretty weird because these are the same streets - I've said this story quite a lot of times - but it's the same streets I've taken on the bus going to school when I was five or six years old. To take them in a Formula One car feels special.
Check out our Wednesday gallery from Monaco, here.