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German GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
25/07/2019

Today's press conference with Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg and Alexander Albon.

A question to the two German drivers, please. Can you just tell us about the build-up to your home race here at Hockenheim and the emotions of racing at home? Nico, can we start with you please?
Nico Hulkenberg: A fairly calm and steady build-up to be honest this year, which is quite nice. No particular events, just the usual day-to-day I would say. No, it's good to come back here. I remember last year, I loved this weekend, it was an amazing atmosphere. Hockenheim was I think packed. Every grandstand ticket was more or less sold, and it was full of people and there was this magic atmosphere all weekend. I really enjoyed it here last year. It happened to be the best race of the season for me as well, so obviously it would be nice to repeat something like that, although sporting-wise we don't seem to be as strong but of course we are going to give it our best shot. But yeah, happy to be back here and looking forward to a hot weekend.

Q: Thank you. Sebastian?
Sebastian Vettel: yeah, it's been pretty calm on the build-up, so pretty straightforward. Obviously I like this place very much, it's pretty close to where I come from. We had a nice dinner together with the team last night, but other than that it's been fairly calm. But like Nico said, very good memories of last year in terms of atmosphere. Obviously the final outcome wasn't great, but overall the weekend was fantastic - the amount of fans, the amount of German flags, the enthusiasm around the track. Hopefully we can have something similar this year.

Q: Your 10th German Grand Prix.
SV: Yeah, here we go.

Q: Here we go indeed. Thank you guys. Alex, turning to you, a frustrating race for you last time out at Silverstone with an electrical problem. Can you tell us about that problem and without it would a points finish have been possible?
Alex Albon: Yeah, it was a bit frustrating. Basically, the car was live, so we couldn't really touch the car. I think the mechanics would have been a bit electrified if they did, so we had to stay out on track. It was frustrating, but it's hard to say if we... I think we would have finished where we were before we had the issue. I think we were running about eighth, around there. Of course, it was just points missed, so that was a frustrating weekend, because we had two tough races before that, and that was kind of the time.... At Silverstone we were back on track and it was an opportunity to score some good points. Fortunately Dany did, so it wasn't too bad at the end of the day.

Q: So, a frustrating race for you at Silverstone, but how do you sum up the season so far, because half distance in the race here will be the halfway point of the 2019 season. So how would sum out how it's gone and what have the team told you about 2020?
AA: It's going well. I would say I've had a few ups and downs. But yeah, I'm quite happy with how it's gone so far. And regarding 2020, who knows? I think that's in other people's hands.

Q: Thank you. Nico, same sort of question to you really. As we reach the halfway point in the season, how are you feeling about the Renault project, how has it evolved during your three years with the team and looking ahead, do you stick, do you twist? What are your plans?
NH: Yeah, I think it's fair to say that so far this season we can't be entirely happy with what we have achieved. I mean, to start with we had a lot of issues and missed out on results. But, a little bit more disappointing is just where we are in terms of pace, the development rate, it's not where we really needed it and wanted it to be. Behind the expectations this year, so probably maybe, all in all, as well, not entirely happy and if you look across the three years we can't be entirely happy with everything we've done. Nevertheless, the outlook is good. We still see light at the end of the tunnel and we still believe we can catch up to some extent, how much is always difficult to say with entire certainty. Yeah, we'll see what happens in the future and what happens to me as well. As for now, there is nothing set in stone, but I think it's quite likely that I will remain with the team.

Q: You're 21 points behind McLaren in the Constructors' Championship now. Do you think that's a fair reflection of the relative performance of the two teams?
NH: Well, it is. That's a fact. It is 21 points but I think we could be right up there with them, if you add up all the complications we had, all the missed results, problems, we should be there or thereabouts, but for sure McLaren are very strong at the moment and are probably one of our main competitors that we will be battling from here until the end.

Q: Ok, good luck this weekend. Carlos, just to ask you about that battle with Renault. When you came into this season, did you expect to be ahead of them at this point?
Carlos Sainz: No. I think the right answer is no. I wouldn't expect to be in front of Renault. There was a good trend going last year in Renault and I think we finished off the season quite strongly but McLaren was at that time in Abu Dhabi more than half a second behind in qualifying, pretty much in every qualifying. Then in the race, also, it was difficult to match, or to see Fernando and Stoffel battling more at the back than Nico and me. It was very difficult to predict that at this stage this year we would be in front. I don't think we are in front. I think we are in front in the championship but we are very equal in performance and it makes the battle good fun, like it was in Silverstone, in Austria, in France, and we are happy to be battling with a team like Renault. I think just the objective of us two is to keep moving forward, both together, towards the top. Not looking too much to what Renault is doing, but keep looking forward, keep looking to Mercedes, keep looking to Red Bull, Ferrari and try to get that gap down.

Q: You mention Austria and Silverstone. You raced very well at those races - 19th to eighth in Austria, 13th to sixth at Silverstone. So clearly you're racing very well, but progress hasn't been quite as sweet in qualifying. Why is that?
CS: Yeah, it's a good point actually. I'm not entirely happy with how things are going in qualifying. If you go race by race, it would be very easy to point out three or four races where obviously I was affected by issues away from my own. But what is important or what I feel is like I have the speed in the car. Every time I jump in the car I feel like I can extract the maximum out of it, I feel like I understand the car, I feel like I am quick every time I jump in, but then circumstances in qualifying they always come down to one lap then you're whole qualifying picture looks bad, but what is important is that I feel speed, I feel comfortable with the car and I can prove it on race day and race days are going very well.

Q: They are. Thank you. Kimi, coming to you, you've scored in seven of the 10 races so far, including the last three. Is that the level of performance and consistency you expected from Alfa Romeo when you joined them?
Kimi Raikkonen: It's hard to say, because obviously where they've been the last few years it's not been the greatest. Last year they made good gains from half way through. So, very unknown. I just went into the season to try to do the maximum, to see what we get. We had a bit harder part, three or four races where we were not very fast. But we managed to recover from that a little bit. There is still a long way to go but I think it's not been too bad, at least in their own book. So we'll keep trying and try to make the car faster.

Q: How much have you improved the car so far?
KR: For sure we have improved. I don't know how much. It's depends on what you compare. Obviously we compare to the guys that are close to us and obviously we are still behind on pure speed but we bring as much as we can new parts and try to improve. At least usually the parts work very well, what we brought. So that's a good thing. Obviously with a small team like us it takes a bit longer to bring new parts. But I think we are quite happy with how things have gone forward. But like I said, there is still an awful lot of work to be done to get more faster and to try to get closer to McLaren and things like that.

Q: You're happy with developments but how happy are you this year Kimi? How much are you enjoying Formula 1 in 2019 and how different is your experience now compared to last year?
KR: I don't think it's a lot different. Obviously racing a bit more rearwards. But if you don't count that the big picture hasn't really changed. It's a different team, but I've worked with some of them before. I think F1 hasn't changed. We still this press conference, we have the same kind of meetings, interviews. That hasn't changed, but obviously, outside of racing I have a bit more free time, so that is the nice part, but I don't think it's night and day what happened last year to this year.

Q: Sebastian, let's start by talking about the car. You've told us in the past that it's tricky to drive. Can you tell us why it's so hard to find the sweet spot of the SF90?
SV: Well, I think we had occasions where things were looking very good and other occasions where it was a bit more difficult but I think that's also pretty normal throughout the season: you have different tracks with different characteristics and sometimes the car feels more the way you like and other times less - but yeah, I think we have, after the first couple of races we were able to get quite a good picture of what was missing compared to the performance we seemed to have at the beginning of winter testing. With that, I think we've made progress. Obviously we are not where we would like to be, not as competitive as we would like to be, but I think overall, the understanding and the direction is going in the right way.

Q: You say you're not as competitive as you want to be - well, Red Bull have taken a step forward in recent weeks, so how do you see the pecking order at the front of Formula One now?
SV: Well, I think obviously Mercedes does have an edge on everyone else, that's, I think, pretty clear. Similar to previous years, they seem to struggle on tracks where tyre wear and degradation is a bit higher - like we've maybe seen in the last part of the race in France, or in Austria. But in terms of raw speed, they are the benchmark - and I think for myself and for us, that's the benchmark. I think obviously between ourselves and Red Bull, it's been sometimes closer, sometimes we were ahead, most of the times I believe we were ahead, sometimes we were behind but y'know, that's not the objective. The objective is to fight for wins and to do so at the moment you need to be level or better than Mercedes.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Hockenheim, here.

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