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Italian GP: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1: Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc.

Charles, can we start with you. The Scuderia's home race, just how different is this one for you?
Charles Leclerc: Quite different. We are lucky enough that driving for Ferrari we've got support everywhere but when we come to Italy, obviously it's on a different level. So a very busy week, but also a very exciting one. I'm sure it motivates the whole team. So we are really looking to go out on track and hopefully have a great result this weekend.

New colour scheme, new threads as well. Give us your thoughts on that?
CL: I love it. Especially the Ferrari old-style logo here is what I love most. Also on the cap here, you can see it. So, beautiful. I love it.

Before we bring it onto performance this weekend, tell us what lessons were learned at Zandvoort by you and the team?
CL: Many. Not really in the race, as obviously a part of my front wing went under the floor and broke everything, so I had basically very little grip but for the rest of the weekend, we tried quite a few things. Especially in FP1, trying to put the car in very different places, in terms of set-up, to see how it will react. I think we had some confirmation of what we expected, so we've got a lot of work to do now and find solutions to our problems and the weakness of the car - but it's even clearer, compared to before, where we are lacking at the moment.

What is the biggest weakness of the car? Is it its unpredictability?
CL: Yes. The unpredictability, especially on tracks where we have a bit more downforce. It becomes really, extremely tricky to drive, and we've got big changes of balance through the same corner and, as a driver, it's very difficult to get into a corner not really knowing what balance you are going to get. So, that's where we need to work at the moment.

And how hopeful are you for this weekend Charles? You were on the podium at Spa. Does that give you confidence for this weekend?
CL: Let's say it's... well, it's not exactly like Spa but these track characteristics are closer to the ones of Spa than Zandvoort and Budapest, so we should be a bit more competitive here. Then, whether it will be enough to fight for the podium, I don't know but I really hope so and we will do everything for it, for sure.

Lando, let's come to you now. Good to see you. It was a nice moment earlier in the week when you gave Max his Hungarian Grand Prix trophy in its entirety. Talk us through it?
Lando Norris: There's not a lot to say. They didn't let me hold it for long, but it was a nice thing to have done. So yeah, it was good, some of the organisers were there and the people who put it all together again. It was nice to meet some of them and yeah, try to give something bac for what I did.

Before we come onto on-track stuff, you've also been playing padel with Alex, George and Max. Who was your partner? Who won?
LN: My first partner was Alex. We dominated, we thought the teams were unfair, so then I had to go with Max, 'cos he's the newest member to the padel group, and we won again. So the common denominator was I won and George lost. But it was a lot of fun, we had a nice little day. We play every now and again. I played with George already last week and a few other times and it was nice for us all to play. We get quite emotional at times, and think a lot of people were complaining about how loud we were shouting and how angry we were getting - but it was a nice day and a nice way to start the weekend.

How about this weekend then? How much confidence do you have in McLaren's low downforce package?
LN: Tough! Not as much as I would like. I think that's obvious: I think we saw in Spa how much we struggled, even though Spa wasn't where we could have been. I think if we could redo Spa now I think we would be in a better position, and since then we've spent quite a bit of time trying to optimize some of the downforce packages that we have for these kind of circuits: maybe not in as confident a position as we are in, say Zandvoort, Silverstone, Budapest and places like that, but definitely a better position than we were in Spa, and that's definitely given me a bit more hope. We've had good races here in the past, it has been one of our best weekends in the last few years, so I'm hoping that will repeat again.

Lando, final one from me. Lewis Hamilton has just confirmed that he's going to be as Mercedes for two more years at least. Can we get your thoughts on him being on the grid beside you?
LN: It's great. It's always been a pleasure to race against him. Even this year we've had a few more battles and that's a cool thing. To have raced against someone who's one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1, who's created a lot of history, written a lot of history. I think it's a... I guess a pleasure for all of us, someone I looked up to when I was a little kid and still get the chance to race against him now. So, I'm happy and will continue to do so for a couple more years.

Valtteri, coming to you. Can we just pick up on that point. Lewis Hamilton re-signing. Are you surprised that he's coming back for more?
Valtteri Bottas: Actually, not really. He really seems to enjoy racing still. He's still go the fire to get back up there again, so not really surprised.

Belated Happy Birthday to you . Did you have a good day? Get what you wanted?
VB: yeah! I had a pretty easy day - maybe I'm getting old! - but pretty chilled, which was nice after a hectic race on Sunday. So, yeah, had a good day, thank you.

Maybe the new livery this weekend is the team's present to you?
VB: Yeah, it's a very Italian design. I think it looks good and obviously it's the final home race together for Sauber and Alfa Romeo, so it's a big weekend for us, and that's why I hope we can also be competitive.

As you say, it is the team's home race. It's the closest race track that we go to, to Hinwil. What sort of welcome do you get from the tifosi?
VB: A good welcome. Lot of passion around here, lot of energy. We have a big support group over here and also from the factory, some people have the chance to come here this weekend and see the cars in action. So, it's not going to be down to lack of support.

And what about performance then? I think you've got some upgrades on the car this weekend. What are you expecting?
VB: We've got some new stuff for front suspension. Otherwise it's a low downforce package. Always difficult to predict , it's super-close. It's a fast lap so margins will be small - but yeah, we really need some points now. We haven't scored for a while.

There's some speculation about who your team-mate is going to be next year. Would you like to see Zhou stay on?
VB: I think he's made progress from last year. He's made a big step in performance but also confidence and technical knowledge and I think he really deserves a place in Formula 1. And he's a nice guy as well. Really good guy to work with.

Nico, coming to you now. This is something of a home race for Haas, with many of the team-members based in Maranello. Do the tifosi appreciate that? Do you feel like you're driving for a home team?
Nico Hulkenberg: A little bit perhaps - but I feel the tifosi, they obviously love Ferrari the most but they're just very passionate about F1 and cheer for most teams and most drivers I feel, just a lot of love and support. So yeah, always great to feel that here.

Now, the last time you raced at Monza, you finished fifth. What does it take to be quick around here?
NH: A quick car! Be fast on the straights, be good in braking too. Obviously it's a low downforce package, which has been difficult for us this year. I think we haven't been too competitive when it's been low downforce so, frankly, expectations are not too high.

What about the short and the longer term at Haas? You know what the issues are with the car. How confident are you that you can overcome them in the remaining races this year, and perhaps, more importantly, in 2024?
NH: We've just got to keep working, like everyone. Everyone is pushing forwards. In Zandvoort, we raced a new front wing for the first time. I think it's definitely a step forwards. I think it wasn't really visible or didn't come out because of the circumstances of the race. But some progress made - but we need further improvements to be competitive - or to be more competitive within the midfield.

Since your last appearance in the press conference, you've re-signed with the team. Great news. The team has clearly opted for experience over youth. I wanted to ask, how much harder are the cars to drive now, compared to when you came into Formula 1 for the first time in 2010?
NH: It's different but it was challenging and tough back then, but it's the same right now. I feel... it's difficult. I don't know, there are quick cars now, especially the race pace, when we don't have a lot of tyre deg, the pace can be very high compared to five, six years ago. But going back at the very beginning of my career, you know, it was similar too. Cars had less downforce but they were lighter so it's comparable. It's always challenging and tough - we're in Formula 1 and everyone's pushing.


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