Team Representatives: Andrea Stella, Mario Isola, Frederic Vasseur and Christian Horner.
Fred, can we start with you please. Your first race on Italian soil as team principal of Ferrari. How is this different to anything you've done before?
Frederic Vasseur: From the beginning of the week, I am trying to say that it is not different, to keep everybody calm and focused - but the reality is that it is a bit different. We've had a tonne of guests from the beginning of the weekend, we've had tifosi at the factory every single day of the week. For sure it's different. It's a lot of emotion but we have to try to keep it under control.
What reaction are you getting from the tifosi? What are they saying to you?
FV: They are very enthusiastic and positive and it's a good push and a good motivation for the team and I hope that we will be able to give them something on Sunday.
And Fred, it is, of course, your first race here as Ferrari boss but can you remember the first time you came to Monza?
FV: I think it was for the F3. The Grand Prix della Lotteria di Monza or something like this was 30 years ago - or a bit more.
Tell us about performance then, we've just had FP1. How much confidence do you have in Ferrari's low downforce package?
FV: This morning the FP1 went pretty well. Now it is quite difficult, that we used to have a reference, compared to the other on the usual format. Today it's a bit different, we didn't have the same run plan, we don't know exactly what level of fuel and setup of the engine that everyone is using. We are much more used to the normal format - but it looks OK. The balance was OK and we are focused on ourselves. I think we will have a better picture tonight.
Enrico Cardile told us in the press conference last week that Ferrari is on top of all of the issues with the current car. So, can you solve them in the short-term or are we going to have to wait until 2024?
FV: When you want to improve, you have to do two steps. The first one is to understand where you are weak and the second one is to fix it. I think we have probably a better picture of true weakness today and we are working on it, try to improve before the end of the season but it's not an easy one with the calendar and at least for next year.
Well, let's talk about next year. You have told the media that the car is going to be very different. When you look at the progress made by McLaren, for example...
FV: You are making the question and the answer! Because last time you ask 'will you carry over the car?' I say 'no', and I answer the car will be completely different.
But Fred, knowing the jumps that other teams have made, do you think that you can in one winter join Red Bull at the front?
FV: Honestly, I think it's not the question. Today, the best job is to do the best job that we can. To try to improve on ourselves, to improve on ourselves, to work on ourselves, to fix the weaknesses that we have on the car. Then we will see the outcome - because I am not in the wind tunnel of Christian and I don't know what they are doing. It means that we just have to be focussed on ourselves and not try always to compare with the others - at least during the development. Next year will be another story.
Final one from me then. What is the goal this weekend? Do you think a podium is achievable, as we saw with Charles at Spa, a couple of races ago?
FV: If we did it at Spa, we can imagine to be able to do it in Monza. On the other hand, if you have looked from the beginning of the season, it's so tight and such a big mix. I would say that Max is perhaps in a different situation but between P2 and P11-P12, every single weekend it is a different order. It means that the focus is not to make a forecast and prediction and it is to work on the car that we have and try to get the best from it.
Christian, you've been a thorn in Ferrari's side for many years now. I wanted to start by asking: what kind of reception you get and the team gets from the tifosi?
Christian Horner: Well, to be honest, I mean, they're so enthusiastic and obviously very, very passionate but always also respectful. It's a noisy crowd and a very supportive crowd of anything in red - but we've always had a good rapport and always a fantastic reception whenever we come here.
Fred first came here 30 years ago. When was your first trip?
CH: Well, obviously I'm not quite as old as Fred. I first came here in... I think I drove here in 1997 at a test, in the fog in October. It just struck me just how fast the circuit is. I was scared driving at most circuits in those times, but it was scary because it was so narrow, and so fast. And there's such an atmosphere when you drive into the park and so on here. It's just phenomenal. The Temple of Speed is a very apt name for this place.
Your record-breaking winning streak continued at Zandvoort last weekend. Let's talk about that first of all. How is this run of success affecting the team?
CH: Everybody is just immensely proud of what we're doing and enjoying this golden moment for the team. So to have won 13 consecutive races this season, and for Max to match that record of consecutive victories for a driver, was a phenomenal achievement in Zandvoort, despite the weather doing its best to upset things. Yeah, it's incredible. Motivation is sky-high in the factory. It was interesting hearing Fred saying he'd like to know what's going on in our wind tunnel - but we're hardly ever in our wind tunnel. It's incredibly, to be honest with you, and testimony to everything going on behind the scenes, because the race team and what you see track-side is the front face, is the shop window of what we do - but what goes on behind the scenes, the long hours, the hard work through all the different department that go into producing these incredible cars.
What emotions do you feel coming into a weekend now. How nervous are you about this winning streak, and do you dread losing it?
CH: Well look, you've just got to take things one step at a time. You guys have been asking about a winning streak since about Race Three. So, you get used to that, and I think from our perspective as a team, we just try to take things one session at a time, one qualifying at a time, one race at a time and stay in the now, rather than project too far into the future.
Max had everything thrown at him last weekend yet he still came out on top. Have you ever worked with a driver so impervious to pressure?
CH: Last week again was insane. The amount of pressure. The noise on the grid, the atmosphere, the demand from the crowd. It's basically like being in a three-day techno-party throughout that weekend. To see how he dealt with that. I mean, Qualifying was the first challenge, then in the race, the rain on the grid, and obviously we pitted at the end of the second lap and that had dropped him down the order. A lot of drivers, it would have got to them at that point, but he kept his head, he kept calm and then his pace from thereafter was absolutely phenomenal and again, another very impressive race, a masterclass from him and under such pressure it's very impressive how he deals with that.
But have you worked with a driver like him before?
CH: No. Sebastian Vettel was a different driver and achieved incredibly impressive results but a very different character to Max. The way he deals with that pressure, when you've got the royal family queuing up at your car to wish you well, just before you step in, and whatever else in his home country, I mean, it's hugely impressive, the way that he's dealt with that expectation and that pressure. The only reason we're racing in Zandvoort is because of him. That's a big burden on his shoulders.
No signs of him tightening up at any point?
CH: No. To be honest, I think in Q1 when he went straight on at the first turn, and then we didn't get a lap, he got baulked and the weather was coming, that was probably the... but it was more on the pitwall that we were conscious of getting a lap in than certainly him on the car. Despite trying circumstances, he copes with it incredibly well.
Mario, home race for Pirelli. Do you do anything differently this weekend?
Mario Isola: No, not really, apart from that we have a different format for the tyre allocation that obviously is impacting our operation. But the rest is the same.
I meant more off-track really. Do you stay at home?
MI: I stay at home, yeah! I can sleep at home. That's good for people travelling as much as we do. It's a good opportunity.
You mentioned the ATA - the Alternative Tyre Allocation - what is your assessment of how it went the last time we trialled it, in Budapest?
MI: I am positive about that. I heard some drivers complaining about the new format. I believe that, with some fine-tuning it could work. In Budapest, we had FP1, that was affected by rain, and so it was decided to stay on the same format in order to understand if it works or if we need - not Pirelli, when I say 'we' it looks like Pirelli, no, it's the sport that wants to go in this direction. Tell your drivers not to complain about the lack of tyres - no, I'm joking. I'm positive we have seen this FP1 with a lot of cars running, different strategies: somebody using the Hard; somebody using the Medium or the Soft, so all the three compounds can be a good option for the race. We decided to go one step softer, this thanks to the format, because they have for the race, at least two sets of Hards; two sets of Medium; two sets of Softs. A good breakdown for the race. The qualifying format is different but in a normal, standard format, obviously all the teams are focusing on keeping as many Soft as possible for Qualifying and this is affecting the race allocation, so I'm still positive on it and I'm sure we can find a good solution for the future.
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