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Bahrain GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Today's press conference with Nyck de Vries, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant, Zhou Guanyu, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Max Verstappen.

Group 1: Nyck de Vries, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg, Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant.

Q: Fernando, let's start with you. Time flies: your 20th season in Formula 1. How are you feeling? Fresh, ready to go?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, feels good. I think it's always the same feeling for race one, where you obviously prepare over the winter, and we have less and less testing these days and you feel maybe not 100% ready with the car, especially if you change team. You need a little bit more time to adapt to many new things. But it's the same for everybody. So let's go.

Q: Let's start by talking about the car. A lot of laps last week for you. What sort of condition you feel you're in? There's some good long-run pace, isn't it?
FA: Yeah. I mean, you never know what the others are doing, so basically you concentrate on your programme. And let's see after this race, basically after Jeddah or Australia, I think very different circuits, where I think you will see more where everybody is. But yeah, I think we aimed to make a step forward compared to last year. Obviously, Aston Martin went through some difficulties with the car and some things that they discovered throughout the 2022, so I think this year we have a better baseline, and we are happy so far.

Q: Fernando, what have you found at Aston Martin? Just tell us a little bit about the team and how you perceive your role inside the team?
FA: I think this is a very ambitious project. What I've found is very talented people, people who want to succeed, want to win in the near future. So that was a very nice surprise and you know everyone is pushing in the same direction, knowing how difficult it is going to be the task. But, as I said, I think ambition is the word.

Q: Fernando, you say it's going to be a difficult task. But can you win a race this year? Mission 33?
FA: I don't know. Difficult to say right now.

Q: OK. Look, final one for me. Can we get a word on the changes to the end of the Barcelona lap? You race those two quick corners back in 2006? Do you welcome that change?
FA: Yes, that's the good thing about experience. I will be the only one. I think I raced on that layout for a few years, but I don't know, with these cars, how it's going to feel. Some of these guys probably they've been testing in winter with old cars there. So maybe they can give you an update on this.

Q: Nico, coming to you now. Great to see you back in Formula 1 on a full-time basis. After three years away, is your approach any different this time around?
Nico Hulkenberg: Not really. I think the approach is similar, but you know, I just feel refreshed, reset, you know, very positive and in a good state of mind, you know, ready to go again. Obviously, I've done a couple of seasons, so I know what's coming. I know what to expect. And just really ready and keen to start the thing.

Q: Now last time we saw you in Formula 1 on a full-time basis you weren't a dad but you are now how's that changed things for you?
NH: I haven't noticed any change so far, to be honest. And I doubt that there will be a big difference in feeling. Yeah, that's all I can say. Awareness now, it's very much the same. So let's see how it goes after a couple of races.

Q: Talking of feeling, what kind of feeling are you getting from the new car?
NH: Firstly, you know in testing it's important for driver to kind of connect with the car, to have a good feeling with it. To build a good foundation and harmony. And I feel that's what I've done and achieved in the limited time, like for us all. That feeling is obviously going to grow better and stronger race by race, because testing was not huge. I think the midfield is very, very competitive and tight once again. We say that every year but it's actually always the case and small things I think can have a big impact and make a big difference. I believe we were somewhere in the midfield as well. It can be very track-dependent if you're the upper end or the lower end, but yeah, it's our job obviously to maximise what we have and score results.

Q: How is it going to feel on Sunday as the lights go out?
NH: It's going to feel great.

Q: And how are you and Kevin rubbing along together?
NH: Oh we are rubbing. Rubbing and tugging and hugging and everything. We actually, you know, sort of broke the ice here 12 months ago when I stepped in for Seb. There's this driver picture on Sunday morning and we happened, you know, to be standing behind each other and I sort of, you know, [thought] it's time to break the ice and reached out with a hand and with a smile and put his words into his face. And that's where our relationship actually started, 12 months ago, and ever since, you know, it's actually been pretty good. We've been hanging out a bit over the winter, in the UK, doing some marketing and media stuff. And yeah, so far, so good. I feel no tension or friction between us. He's a dad, too. So we're both in similar positions in our life. And looking forward to working alongside him.

Q: Fantastic. Now, Nico, can you remember how you felt at this race back in 2010, ahead of your debut? What advice have you got to the guys on your right?
NH: I think they don't need advice. I think they all know what they're doing. Obviously, they've all done the junior stuff. This is just the biggest stage. But there have been educated to come to this point. But of course, you're going to be probably a bit more nervous than on your usual day. But it's the start of a long journey for most of them. It's a long road. It's a big learning curve, a big process. So yeah, all the best and enjoy.

Q: Well, Nyck, tell us. How are you feeling? How emotional a moment is this for you?
Nyck de Vries: Well, I think it's very obvious that this is a very special moment, obviously I had the opportunity to already kind of experience it and to get a first taste in Monza last year. But now I'm ahead of my first official season in Formula 1 and I'm very much looking forward to it. We had a very long lead-up time and I've been preparing since a long time. So it's time to get started. And it feels good to be here.

Q: Now, you've raced in Formula 1 once before, at Monza last year. How does that experience help you now?
NDV: I mean, I think all my experience in the previous racing I've done helped me to become who I am today, and certainly Monza broke the ice a little bit. But equally, this is a kind of new experience, because this is my first expected Grand Prix whereas Monza was certainly not. So it's just a bit different, but all very exciting. I've been around here for a couple of years. So it feels like home and I know everyone pretty well. So yeah, time to get over racing.

Q: It was difficult to get a read on AlphaTauri's pace last week in testing. What can you tell us?
NDV: I think it's difficult to get a clear read on everyone. I mean, the top group is pretty clearly defined, but everything in the midfield is so close that it's difficult to know where you are in that group. And as Nico already touched on, I think it will shuffle around a little bit from weekend to weekend, depending on the track characteristics. So I guess Saturday night we will know where we are here in Bahrain and perhaps in Saudi we might be in a slightly different place within that group. But I am hopeful that we are competitive. But equally time will tell where we are.

Q: Thank you. Enjoy it. Oscar, coming to you now. Race one just around the corner. I guess this is a moment you've dreamt of for a long time?
Oscar Piastri: Yeah, definitely. It's been about I think 12 years since I started racing. So everything up until that point has led to now. So yeah, to be calling myself a Formula 1 driver and preparing for my first race is a special feeling, definitely.

Q: And how eager are you to get back racing after sitting out last year?
OP: Yeah, I think having that year out I definitely gained a newfound appreciation for how much I enjoy going racing. Even in the bad times it's still better to have those bad times than have no times at all, I learned. So yeah, I think I've come back with probably more hunger, I would say, than previously. And now that we're here on the grid, it's just a great feeling. And I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.

Q: You say no time racing last year. But did you do any karting to keep you keep you sharp or any? I don't know, long-distance racing?
OP: Long-distance racing. I don't know how you do that. Do you mean like sim racing?

Q: What did you do to keep yourself sharp?
OP: Oh, endurance racing! Sorry, I thought you meant like long-distance relationship racing. I was really confused! Anyway, don't worry! I did some testing last year, like quite a lot of testing by myself on track. But it's obviously not the same as having other people around you. It's hard to be in a competitive environment. I did a bit of sim racing here and there, on my sim at home, but it's very hard to replicate the real thing without properly going racing. So, yeah, I tried what I could But yeah, I'm looking forward to going back this weekend.

Q: And where are McLaren do you think? Talk us through the last three days of testing?
OP: I think we're, like Nyck and Nico said, we're probably somewhere amongst them. Obviously, the test wasn't the smoothest. But I think you know, we'll get a better understanding of where we're at come tomorrow. And yeah, I think we're somewhere in the midfield. And we'll see exactly where we are on Saturday night.

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