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Belgian GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1: Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

Now, Esteban, you're closest, let's start with you. How are you physically after breaking your seat in that Turn 1 crash last weekend?
Esteban Ocon: Recovering, thank you. It's obviously been quite a short period between the incident and going back on track quite soon but I will be okay to race this weekend which is the most important and, yeah, ready to race.

And when we look at the last couple of races for Alpine, if you guys haven't had bad luck, you've have no luck at all. What is your message to the team? What is the mood in the camp after two such frustrating races - two DNFs?
EO: I don't think we can call it on luck for two instances. I think obviously we are not where we want to be exactly. We know what we have to do. We know where we have to progress and we are obviously bringing some new parts to the car this weekend. Hopefully, that's going to bring us closer to the top ten, to be able to score. But yes, it's going to be important for us to have a good one before the summer break so we can all go on the holidays with a clear mind.

What are you expecting from the new floor in particular this weekend?
EO: Feet on the ground at the moment, seeing what it's going to bring. Obviously it's going to be the important... understanding it as well. It's going to be tricky with this format this weekend, especially how very few tyres we have on the wets or in general for the weekend. So yeah, just want to see if it brings us closer to the points so we are going to be able to score again. That's what we want to be achieving.

Kevin, since you were last in the FIA press conference you've become a Dad for the second time. How is little Agnes? And how are you feeling? Are you knackered? Are you coming to the races for a break?
Kevin Magnussen: No, not at all. It's just been super good. And everything's been fine. So I'm fresh as always and ready to go again.

What about the on-track performance? I felt you seemed a little disheartened in Hungary last weekend, is that fair?
KM: Well, I don't know. I think it's frustration. It's of course building when you see other teams developing and making big gains and we haven't seemed to make that big step yet. But I still have all the faith in the team that we can turn it around eventually. It's not going to be immediate but I think we're doing the groundwork to be able to bring that step later on in the year. It's of course frustrating when you don't have it and we want to be up there scoring points and doing well and at the moment it's a bit hard.

Is the car better in race conditions than it was earlier in the year? Is the tyre wear, the tyre deg, better?
KM: I think we have made some progress. It's just that overall our performances have dropped compared to our main competitors. But Qualifying versus Race, I think that that has improved. Unfortunately, some of the cars that we used to be racing in the beginning of the year have just become much faster overall and that's why we don't see that gain so much. But yeah, as I said, we're working super hard. The whole team is really working hard and I think there's still reason to be optimistic for the remaining of the year.

Driver silly season, Kevin. Gene Haas, your boss, is here this weekend. Are you hoping to sit down with him and nail out a new contract for 2024?
KM: We'll see when it happens and how that pans out. I think at the moment there's not any news to bring and eventually we'll come around to it. I don't really know what's going on. I feel like the team is pretty happy but you never know with these things and I'll take it one day at a time.

Lewis, such contrasting fortunes in Hungary last weekend, it felt. Brilliant Saturday, a slightly more difficult race. Where does that leave you and Mercedes coming into Spa this weekend? What can we expect from you?
Lewis Hamilton: I think it leaves us optimistic. I think it was amazing to have that experience on Saturday. It shows that there's potential in the car and everyone's working incredibly hard to bring performance. And I think our race pace was very good, we just have to work on what was... we've understood what the issue was at the beginning and we've got some upgrades here this weekend. The weather's going to be interesting.

You mentioned performance there. How much are you still firefighting with the W14? And how much are you actually working on performance?
LH: Well, as a driver you're constantly battling the inconsistencies with balance but we are flat out trying to improve. Just as Kevin says, we're working a lot to analyse where we are and what we can do to try and make those big steps that some of the others potentially have, like McLaren and Red Bull often make so hopeful and I have all the faith in the world that we will eventually get there too.

And Lewis, we're just over the halfway point in the season, can you just give us a brief summary of how you think it's gone for you and Mercedes so far?
LH: I think it's been decent. We didn't start where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year, but we just made a lot of progress. It's been a huge amount of progress over the season so far, and hoping that there'll be a lot more in the second phase.

What were your expectations coming into this year?
LH: To be fighting for a World Championship. That's always the expectation... No, it was just to be in a much better position than we were last year and I think that wasn't the case. With all the amazing work that goes on through winter, we kind of started further behind and so it's been a big, steep, uphill climb. But really proud of the team. We're fighting for second in the Constructors' Championship which is definitely something we didn't expect after what we felt at the first test and that's really down to the great teamwork that's happening in the background.

And the goals for the second half of the season?
LH: My full focus is on to try and secure second for the team. I think for everyone back in the factory it means a huge amount for them and whilst we can't currently catch the Red Bulls, I think that puts us in a good position for next year.

Can you win a race?
LH: At the moment, I'm not quite sure we can currently compete with them on race pace. I think there were times in the last race Max was around eight tenths faster than everyone on a single lap. But never say never.

Checo, a great race by you on Sunday in Hungary. Do you feel you made the one-lap progress on Saturday that you wanted to last weekend?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, it certainly feels like we were a lot stronger in the qualifying. But obviously, it was a different Qualifying and we were caught out, I think, going onto the soft and the margins were extremely close. So just being on the wrong tenth of it meant that I started P9 rather than being inside the top four, top five. So I think in that regard, it was positive.

You said on Sunday night that it's all about consistency for you now. Has the sprint come at a good time for you or would you rather have more than just the one practice session at the start of the weekend?
SP: We've done a lot of races and practices, it's the same for everyone. So it doesn't change anything. But we've seen it before. The margins in Qualifying are very small so if you don't already get Q1 right, it could be very easily (be) out. We saw it last weekend, I think, with George, he was out in Q1 and Lewis was on pole. So it can just happen to anyone out there.

Do you think the margins in qualifying, if it's dry - unlikely -- but if it's dry, do you think the margins in qualifying will be very small here?
SP: I think so. I think with the new tyre, it's extremely close with everyone. And yeah, I see no reason why this should be any different.

And Checo, can you just sum up the first half of the season as well please? How do you feel it's gone?
SP: I think for the team it has been a great first half of the year. It will be great to keep it the same for that second half of the year. On my side, I think I had four or five weekends where I didn't maximise the full result that I had on the table and that has cost me a lot of points, but I had a very strong start to the season. And I just think on the second half of the year I just want to be bring my form back and be able to score as many points as possible in the coming races.

Is it just form on your side or is it the fact that the car is not where you want it now compared to where it was at the start of the year?
SP: It has changed a bit in that regard. I think when we went to Barcelona I found a bit of a different balance compared to what I wanted. But I think now we've come on top of that, we've made some good progress, we've had some good race pace in the last few races but qualifying hasn't been going on our way. So I think it's just how it is; through the year sometimes you'll have a bit of bad races, but it's important where we finish in Abu Dhabi, I think.


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