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Saudi Arabian GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1 - Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda, Alex Albon, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.

Carlos, you're in the hot seat next to me. Let's start with you. Qualified fourth, finished fourth in Bahrain. How do you reflect on that opening weekend?
Carlos Sainz: It was a tough first weekend for the team but in general, I think we got out of it with a maximum that we could have done. Obviously the penalty of Charles coming into here is not ideal, but it's only the first race. If something told us 2022 that it's not how you start it's how you finish so we're going to try and build up from there on, especially now keep the developments in and try and improve the car as much as possible and try and improve from where we started.

Just before we go any further, you sound like you're misfiring a bit. How are you?
CS: I have a few misfires going on in my voice but I caught that at the weekend, now I'm feeling totally fine. It's just that - I don't know why but my voice decided to leave me yesterday morning and it hasn't come back yet.

Now, you mentioned Charles's DNF in Bahrain. What are the reliability concerns at Ferrari?
CS: For sure we are relatively concerned. It's not the way you want to start a season with a penalty in race two, and break in the battery, the ECU in the first weekend and clearly we are not happy with that and we identified as a weakness but this is the first time we've seen this failure in a very, very long time so it caught us by surprise. We're putting things in place to fix it and I'm pretty sure that we are capable of fixing that in the short term. So yeah, it's a bad, bad situation but now we can only look forward and improve it and make sure that we are also more competitive this weekend.

Were there any issues at the Pirelli tests last week?
CS: No, no.

Okay. Good. Look quickly, both Ferraris on the podium here last year, do you think you've got the pace to get at least one of you up there this year?
CS: I want to think so, yeah. I think the track is completely different to Bahrain: the tarmac, the high speed nature, the wing level that we will run, everything is just a bit different now compared to Bahrain, and I have the feeling that we're going to be a bit more competitive; enough to beat the Red Bulls, given how competitive and how strong they were in Bahrain is going to be extremely difficult. But I want to be more optimistic after Bahrain and feel like this weekend, we have a good chance to get back on the podium.

So Carlos is more optimistic after Bahrain. Lando, coming to you now, how are you feeling coming into this one? Are you more optimistic as well?
Lando Norris: I would say so, I think for what we believe we should have achieved last weekend in Bahrain and absolutely. You know, I believe we should have been in the top 10, scored some points in Bahrain, if we didn't have the issues. So our plan is to limit that, not have any issues and try again and make up for (what) we lost.

So the pace of the car is good enough for points and Q3, do you think?
LN: Q3 not yet, not possible to be in Q3 in Bahrain so we know, in terms of pace we have a lot of work to do. Some cars seem much quicker in qualifying and then struggle in the race and some vice versa. So I think we're just a little bit in the middle there. But I believe we should have at least had a fight with Alex and Alex was just ahead of me before we started having some of the issues, so yeah, tough to say but it's not the track it's a very different layout, different tarmac and many things so hopefully that plays a little bit more into our hands.

You talk about the differences with this track. Can I ask you just to elaborate on that, because there have been many changes from last year: improved sightlines, rumble lines, new kerbs? Just what are your thoughts? Have you managed to walk the track?
LN: Yeah, I walked this morning. It is reasonably different, I guess, from a safety point of view, that's what most of the differences are. And then turn 20/ 23 has been made a reasonable amount tighter, so a bit of a slower corner. Probably from the outside it doesn't look that different. It's just little things here and there that can... especially for safety but not in terms of driving, it's not going to be that different I would say. It's a very fun circuit, exhilarating, fast, street circuit vibes, you know, it's about the risk, taking it closer to the walls and find that limit: the best and the quickest. And apart from that, yeah, qualifying... Saturday's normally a fun afternoon.

Alex, coming to you now, what a difference a year makes. From what we saw from you in Bahrain, Williams have taken great strides. Is that the reality of the situation?
Alex Albon: Yeah, definitely. I would say so. Look at where we were, coming into last year, our first race it was really tricky. And we did struggle out there. We made it into Q2, I believe, last year but that was a bit of a surprise back then. So coming into this year two weeks ago now, to be honest with you, we were slightly on the backfoot going through testing and Friday, but then we turned it around on Saturday and Sunday and to get away with a point. I think it's the first point we've had for our first race in six or so years. That's definitely something to be very proud of and yeah, it's a great way to start the year.

Were you surprised by your competitiveness?
AA: A little bit. In terms of a feeling with a car it feels quite similar to last year but we've definitely made some small steps here and there and as they've added up, it's clearly much better so I'm feeling like we're in a much better place and we know there's room for improvement as well which excites me a lot.

Now, you've just completed your first race weekend with James Vowles at the helm of the team; what sort of an impact has he made so far?
AA: James has definitely got the knowledge from Mercedes. He's obviously a smart guy we need right now. It's something where of course I think we do a lot of things good and there's obviously other areas we can do differently, long term, short term, medium term. There's all aspects to look at so I would say he's only been here for a short while but listening to what he has to say he's bringing a lot to the table and hopefully that will keep on happening and I would say a lot of it is more long term than short term but I'm excited to see the progress.

Yuki coming to you now: the team has made no secret of the fact that the performance is not where you want it to be. Where do you need to improve?
Yuki Tsunoda: Well definitely I think compared last year we made a step, in places that we aimed to improve from last year, but at the same time the way we were kind of strong last year didn't improve much, so actually slightly maybe worse. So it's kind of give and take and the places we are losing is more towards slow-speed rather than higher speed. So yes, we just need more grip in those places. We achieved like the places... the higher-speed corners, we achieved a little bit better grip, but we just have to put it all together more and I think we are planning... yeah, we have to improve those places, so we will see how it goes. So a little bit more positive thinking to this Saudi, rather more than about Bahrain. But we have to see how it goes.

There are fewer slow corners here, only five serious breaking events, as we call them. That gives you confidence coming in? The quicker corners will suit the car?
YT: Yeah, I think so, that's what I'm thinking and I love this track, especially Sector 1. I always enjoy it here and yeah, just looking forward to it definitely. And hopefully the car will suit it more than Bahrain.

Valtteri, thank you for waiting. I've always thought of you as a bit of an outlier. You've got your hat on the right way round compared to everybody else. Well done.
Valtteri Bottas: Thank you. I thought this is the way caps are supposed to be worn.

Now look, Valtteri. Let's throw it back a couple of weeks. You finished eighth in Bahrain, some people have said it was one of your best ever races in Formula 1. Would you agree with that?
VB: It's too hard to compare. I think it was a good solid race for the first race of the of the season. I wouldn't say it was my best but I think it was good, a good solid start. And yeah, especially the race start itself, which was a weak point for us last year. We showed that we probably made some progress, but obviously the consistency is going to be the key going forwards, but yeah, I think we made most out of the Sunday in Bahrain.

Was that the limit of the car's performance or is there more to come from the current spec?
VB: There's always more to come in this sport and also, like Carlos said before, it's such a different track this weekend, it's not easy to predict how the performance is going to be. But at least last year we performed pretty similarly in Bahrain and in Jeddah but every year can be different. So still many, many question marks and see how the car behaves here.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Jeddah here.


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