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Spanish GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1: Nico Hulkenberg, Zhou Guanyu, Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen and George Russell.

Esteban, let's start with you, because it's something of a home Grand Prix for you. Remind us of your Spanish heritage?
Esteban Ocon: Yes, I have a lot of family, obviously, that live around the circuit and, yes, my grandparents, you know, are Spanish, so for me it's almost two weekends of home races, or very close. So yeah, it feels good to come here and ready to attack the weekend. Obviously we are coming from a very good one. So yeah, I can't wait to attack this one.

Well, let's throw it back to Monaco quickly. A tremendous weekend by you and Alpine. First up, how wild did the celebrations get on Sunday night?
EO: Thank you. Yeah, it's been pretty wild, for sure. Great to celebrate with my team. We were all out partying and, yeah, it's been awesome to just... You know, everyone got a great reward after all the hard work and a difficult start of season. So yeah, we can be all pleased with what we've achieved. Obviously, feet to the ground coming to this weekend, it's going to be a good test to see where the car is exactly after putting all these upgrades on it. And yeah, it's a track that everyone knows super well. So, looking forward to test that.

Can we just do a compare and contrast? Can we compare your Monaco weekend where you finished third, with your Hungary weekend, a couple of years ago, where you won. Which was the better weekend in terms of what you were doing in the cockpit?
EO: I think they both had a lot of similarities. I think getting a very, very good lap in Qualifying was obviously more key in Monaco than in Budapest. But, you know, I also had a very good weekend in Budapest on the Saturday and we were very competitive. But I would say, you know, it's not a win, so it doesn't taste as good. But obviously, it's been a while since I've been on the podium, and getting it on pure merit that time to have that podium, it's something special.

Final one from me. Was it a Monaco special last weekend or can you reproduce that form here in Spain?
EO: We're going to give it all to be able to reproduce it here, that's for sure. We're not here just to participate. But as I said, feet on the ground. It's going to be a good test for us exactly, to evaluate where we are after putting these updates on the car. And I think there's no better track to see where the car is exactly than here.

Alright. Best of luck with that. Thank you very much. Now, Zhou, let's come to you. Belated Happy Birthday. You turned 24 Just a couple of days ago. How were those celebrations and have the team done anything special this weekend?
Zhou Guanyu: Yeah, obviously not a big celebration because it's a back-to-back and obviously I didn't have the result like Esteban to have a good night in Monaco. But yeah, on my side I just stayed with family back home and then to be ready for this weekend. So actually, as many of you probably know, we have the package already for Monaco but it's not very transparent for a circuit like that, because it's a one-off special track, so it will be great to be seeing where we are and turning up to a track like here, and especially with the last sector changing, and we really can see how this works for us and hopefully that it bring us a little bit one step up, which I think we feel like we needed since the very beginning of the season.

You guys had a filming day before the start of the season here in Barcelona how much of an advantage is that for you?
ZG: I mean obviously it's good to be here but then filming days there's only a [set] amount of laps you can reach and I think you get one or two push laps and that's it. Yeah, in general it's a track that everybody did 100 laps or 1000 laps in the sim. I'm sure everyone knows the track and it's more about the details and how much confidence you feel on the high-speed tracks but yeah, personally I do like more high speed tracks than the slow technical, a bit more like Monaco, tracks. So yeah, for me, hopefully that can play into the hands of my driving style hopefully and achieve better results than let's say the previous race.

Alright. Best of luck with that. Thank you very much. Nico coming to you now. Go on then, you've had a long career in Formula 1, so how many laps of Barcelona do you think you've driven in your life?
Nico Hulkenberg: Too many. Yeah, obviously we came here so much back In the day, winter testing, sometimes still I remember from before my F1 full-on years, testing around here. So a fair few, although I've never done this new sector, two corners different, two quick right handers, so we'll explore them tomorrow, see what it's like. But I haven't been here since 2019...

Max Verstappen: In the '90s they had that layout. Back in the day!

NH: Were you there?

MV: You sound like it! 'Back in the day'!

NH: It's been four years though that I've been here, so it feels like a fresh new Grand Prix to me.

Look, can we throw it back to Monaco to learn more about how you're going to go this weekend? You had a new front wing there. What impact did that have on performance?
NH: Well, Monaco didn't quite go so well for us. It was a difficult weekend as a team, so we put that behind us. I think coming here, you know, fresh weekend. I think we'll get more of a clue how the update is working out. How the front wing is performing. Obviously also back to a classic or, you know, permanent race track. It feels like you know, pretty street circuit-dominated the last few Grand Prix, so nice to be at a normal track for once. I think it should suit us better, more flowing, more high speeds. You know, if you compare that with Melbourne and Jeddah, hopefully, we will be in a better position here.

Best of luck with that. Thank you, Nico. Max, let's come to you now, before we talk Formula 1, tell us about your morning on the high seas. What have you been up to today?
MV: Yeah, I've been on the water a little bit. Yeah, just getting to experience a bit more like towards the America's Cup, what's going to happen right? And just getting a bit of an insight as well what they have to do on the boat. Eight guys on there, which is a bit different, of course, to us, driving alone in the car, but it's still all about communication and working together, which in a way we also do when we're driving. So yeah, it was a good morning out on the water.

Were you impressed by the tech?
MV: Yeah. It looked great. It was really nice to experience all that.

EO: Were you sick?

MV: No, luckily not. It was good.

EO: You look a bit pale.

MV: That's probably still from Sunday night!

Well, Max, let's talk about Monaco. It was such a tremendous weekend by you, both in qualifying and the race. How do you reflect on it? Was that your best weekend of 2023?
MV: I didn't know. I mean, it was probably a good one. We knew that coming into the weekend, it was probably not going to be our strongest weekend on the calendar. But I think we still managed well. Qualifying was very close. But Monaco is always quite chaotic and hectic in Qualifying. But then in the race, I think we had to do of course, that very long stint on the Medium, which wasn't planned, but we had to, so we just had to stay out there and wait for what Fernando behind me would do. And then, of course, the rain started to come down, it was all very chaotic, and it's not the nicest thing to happen to you when you're in the lead, and it starts raining. You don't want to take too much risk, but you don't want to lose too much time, but yeah, overall, it was a good race but also once I crossed the line, I was like, 'I'm happy the weekend is over'. It's very hectic and quite stressful. So I'm also looking forward to this weekend. It's a proper race track and this is where a Formula 1 car comes alive.

And Helmut Marko says that you're going to be running some upgrades here and that you're going to do something different with the car here. What can you tell us?
MV: I think Helmut got a bit excited as well. So I don't know. I mean, we'll just do our normal programme and nothing crazy.

Do you think this track will suit the car?
MV: It should do.

On paper it looks pretty good.
MV: Normally, yes, but we still need to find a good balance, but I think as long as we have a good balance in the car we can have a good weekend.


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