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Azerbaijan GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1: Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez.

Yuki, Let's start with you. Are you a fan of the April break? What have you just been getting up to?
Yuki Tsunoda: Yeah, I'm really fond of the April break. I had three weeks, it was really nice. Definitely it felt long in terms of like the race side, but actually I still relaxed a lot and recharged myself. Still definitely did training and also had an extra two days in Australia, which was good after the Melbourne Grand Prix. And yeah, just now, I feel more ready compared to even the last three races. So looking forward to the races ahead.

Before we get into Baku this weekend, I just want to ask you about the impending change at the top of AlphaTauri, because Franz Tost has announced that he's going to be stepping down as team principal at the end of this season. Can we get your thoughts on that?
YT: Yeah, it was really surprising news for me. I had, like, lunch with him, like, five days before the news or something like that. And actually he didn't mention about those things. So yeah, I was surprised. At the same time, kind of, there was already kinds of rumours from the beginning of the season. So it actually it came true that he's stepping down. But still, there's 19 races to go to make him happy. Hopefully we can end the season in a positive way for him. To do that, obviously, we need a lot of development we need to do but yeah, we have an aggressive plan to do it. And looking forward to it. And at the same time feeling really kind of appreciative to him that he trusted my speed the last three years. And he was always supportive next to me. So yeah, I'll try to make it up for him the next races.

Well, what about this weekend? You had points in Australia for the first time this year. How confident are you feeling?
YT: In terms of confidence, quite similar as the last three races. But I would say last two years when we see, based on the last two years with AlphaTauri is always having a quite good performance here. So I think the track itself maybe suits us more compared to the last three races hopefully. So yes, still feeling optimistic. Still will be difficult to score points but anything can happen here, especially with the new sprint qualifying format, so excited.

Expect the unexpected. That is the tagline of this race. Thank you, good luck to you. Kevin, coming to you now. Before we talk racing, Guenther Steiner's book, 'Surviving to Drive' has hit the shelves, just wondering if you've read it yet?
Kevin Magnussen: No, he didn't give me a copy. So, I'll see if I get time to read it.

Maybe the audio version? You could have...
KM: Has he done it?

KM: OK. Himself? With his voice? OK. He has a lot of time. Yeah, cool.

OK, well, what about this weekend for you guys? What can we expect? Just give us a few thoughts on where Haas is at, the performance of the car and whether it'll suit the Baku street circuit?
KM: Well, I mean, last year, we were going pretty well and we didn't have a low downforce configuration for last season. So, we do this year, and hopefully that's going to be making a difference. I think we were pretty quick. But actually I was stuck behind Esteban for quite a while and couldn't get past him, there was no chance. So, hopefully we can at least be a bit more racy and competitive. If we have the pace we can pass people. But it's a very competitive midfield at the moment, very tight. And you know, it's hard to know where you're going to be, but I have a good feeling.

Kevin, what about your own performance this year? Obviously, those points in Saudi Arabia. But are you finding it difficult to get confident in this car? Are you less confident in it than you were last year?
KM: Yeah, I think so. There's been... I think we've found it for qualifying and the race, or all of the three weekends we've had so far, but we haven't started off in in the right place with the set-up and then, you know, you lose, you lack a little bit of confidence, because if you start in FP1 pretty close to what you're going to run in qualifying, you get a lot of laps with that car and that balance and you can optimise your driving style around that and it's never optimum going into qualifying with a different set-up, a new set-up you haven't tried. So I think that's the target for us: to hit the ground running a little closer to what we are going to run in qualifying and the race and hopefully that's going to be a step forward for us.

And with the new format this weekend, you really do need to hit the ground running, don't you? Can we just get your thoughts on the changes to the Sprint format?
KM: I think it's exciting. You know, it will be only FP1 where you're sort of just driving around and then all the other sessions there's pressure on and it's more exciting, I would say. It's going to be even more important to hit the ground running in FP1. You're not going to make big changes from FP1 to Quali. So it's a bigger challenge, but it's the same for everyone. So I feel it's exciting. I'm looking forward to it.

Thank you. Esteban, coming to you now. Now, it was a very frustrating end, not only for you, but also for your team-mate in Australia. Have you and Pierre talked it through? And does this one come under the heading of a racing accident?
Esteban Ocon: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely a racing incident. It was a tricky restart I think for everyone. But yeah, as I said, I think we debriefed it completely and, you know, there's no issues or kind of things of that sort. So, you know, it could have been anyone, really, in that incident, looking at that Turn 2 in Australia. But yeah, just looking at what could have been. It could have been definitely a good result for the team. We had good pace in the race. And, yeah, that's obviously very encouraging. So, we've got some updates here. Some new bits. The guys have been working flat out. First, to repair the cars during these three weeks' break, so yeah, big, big thanks to them for doing all that. And obviously, they were coming with some new parts. So yeah, it's exciting.

What are you expecting from these new parts? And the new floor in particular?
EO: Yeah, it's always great to have new parts on the car. And last year it was one of our strengths. Each time we were putting something new we were gaining, definitely, a good chunk of performance. So, you know, it's exciting times. There's a lot more stuff coming as well, later on. And, especially on a week like that, where we're racing constantly and it's a big weekend for points, hopefully, it's going to deliver and I'm looking forward to it, can't wait to see what it gives us.

Well, big weekend for points, maybe this weekend as well. Are you confident that you can go better than you went in, I think 2017 was your best result here, P6.
EO: Yeah, I mean, we'll see. But obviously, you know, there are more opportunities than in 2017, so, I think we always had a car to be able to score points here. And we've always been, you know, quite fast in some areas, and we had... We know where the weaknesses were in the last couple years. So, you know, hopefully we'll start in FP1 and we'll have great surprises. So let's see.

Lando coming to you now. You're looking refreshed. How was the break? Did you watch the Masters? Did you go to the Masters?
Lando Norris: Yes and no, no. Nope. Of course, I watched it. Silly question. But yeah, just enjoyed a nice few weeks away. Went back for Easter to see my family in Glastonbury and just the rest was spending some time with some friends between the UK and Monaco but yes, I watched the Masters. Watched the whole thing. Of course it could be Tiger's last one, so cool to see him. Sad to see him withdraw, but hats off to John, to take it away as well. But yeah, apart from that, just enjoying the time away, some sunshine and making sure we're ready for the next decent amount of races.

Yeah, it's getting busy now isn't it. And you enter this busy period on the back of two points finishes for McLaren in Melbourne. Given that you were in the points there, you've got a significant upgrade on the car this weekend, do you feel like the team is starting to build some momentum now?
LN: I don't want to get ahead of myself. I think Australia was definitely a better weekend for us, things definitely went our way a little bit more. I think we were unlucky, which made things look worse than they were in the first few races. We do have the upgrade. I think that was made clear and obvious very early on in the season. But what we have now is where we wanted to start the year, you know. It's what we should have started the year with. So, like, Esteban said, a lot of upgrades and a lot of other teams also have upgrades. So our job is to try and bring slightly bigger things and try to play a little bit of catch-up. I think what we have this weekend is just the baseline we should have started the year with, and it's about understanding what we have now. It's a better baseline. There's more room for opportunities and more room for improvements with what we have. So yeah, it's definitely going to make us take a small step forward. But to other people also bringing upgrades it's going to be slightly smaller. So, yeah, I'm excited. The team did a very good job to bring these things through and to get them ready. But it's about maximising what we have now.

Quick word on the Sprint. Now that the Sprint has no bearing on the Grand Prix on Sunday, can we expect drivers to be more aggressive in the Sprint?
LN: I would expect so. You know, there's still a budget cap. So you know, you want to damage the car in any way. You don't do anything silly. Especially for us, when we're wanting to improve the car as much as possible, the least amount of damage we can cause, the better. But I'm excited. I think it's a better format. I prefer it a long way compared to what we had before. So you have more room, more opportunities for everyone. I like the fact that you have two qualifyings. I love the format of practice, qualifying on Friday. So the pressure is definitely higher. But yeah, I enjoy it more.


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