Group 1: Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu.
Q: Nico, let's start with you. I want to start with a former winner here in Lusail. Of course it was back in 2009 in the GP2 Championship, but what are your memories from back then?
Nico Hulkenberg: Good memories! The result was good. But I remember the track was fun. Very fast, very flowing. Good kerb riding. And yeah, I enjoyed it back then, so looking forward to obviously getting out there this time round. A little bit more hot and in a faster car but happy to be here.
Q: How will that previous experience help you? Because of course you weren't racing in 2021?
NH: Yeah, it's always good to have a little bit of track knowledge, rather than you know, from zero. So definitely, it's a better place to start from. It's obviously a few years ago, so I have to refresh it quickly with the Sprint weekend. Obviously, only one practice session. So yeah, challenging. A hectic weekend ahead for everyone.
Q: Now that you've been on the sim, I don't know whether you've walked the track yet, but give us your first impressions of the track today. And what do you think you're going to need from your car to be quick?
NH: I think the track hasn't really changed since back then. What happened around, obviously the paddock, grandstands and infrastructure around has been upgraded as you can see, so that's nice, that they made a good effort and, and helped the infrastructure. Car-wise, you need a lot of downforce, good balance, the usual things.
Q: If you were quick at Suzuka, two weeks ago, will you be quick here?
NH: I think there's a good chance for that. Yep. Unfortunately, we weren't too quick!
Q: Not long to go though, Nico, because of course, you've got some upgrades coming at the next race in Austin. I guess they can't come soon enough?
NH: Yeah, exactly. We're obviously anticipating those ones and it's been a long time coming and looking forward to that a lot. So, this is the last weekend with the old package and car so we try to survive as good as we can. And then, all eyes on Austin and the rest.
Q: Final one from me. It's your teammates birthday today, giving him a present? Nice welcome?
NH: Yeah, he got a cake and another special gift later. It's a personal one.
Q: You going to share it with us?
NH: It's a toilet brush.
Q: Is that an in-Haas joke?
NH: Exactly! Not sure you want more details!
Q: Checo, can we come to you now. You were also in that GP2 race back in 2009, which Nico won...
Sergio Perez: I won the day after!
Q: Split the honours! And, of course, you were racing here two years ago as well. Just give us your thoughts coming into the weekend. The car was quick in Suzuka, as Nico says, means it should be quick here as well.
SP: Yeah, I think so. I do believe that it's going to be a similar trend in high speed, with a lot of high speed content. Obviously, conditions of the track are going to be very different and it's going to be an interesting weekend, with FP1 and then straight into qualifying. We will probably find three seconds slower track in FP1 with all the sand on it. So, it will be an interesting one, also going into the night for Quali. I do expect a very interesting weekend overall.
Q: Checo, what is your mind-set coming into this weekend, because it's been a difficult couple of races for you in Asia. So, how are you feeling coming into this?
SP: Yeah, Asia wasn't good for me at all. Singapore and obviously Suzuka. But I think we've learned a lot what went wrong in Suzuka. So, I do expect to be in a much better position this weekend.
Q: Tell us a little more. What have you learned through your discussions with the team since Suzuka?
SP: Yeah, it's mainly the direction we took with the set-up of the car. We over-planned a few things, and now looking back at it, we do understand where it went wrong. And yeah, I really hope that we are able to have a much straightforward weekend here.
Q: And this is the first time we've had you in the press conference since Red Bull won the Constructors' Championship. How different does this title success feel, compared to last year?
SP: Well, no difference at the end of the day. It's great to keep that momentum going in the team. I think that has been something incredible as a team to achieve because... I'll say that last year it was harder to get it because certainly Ferrari had a faster car than us, at least for more than half of the season. And we still managed to get it. But the way we got this one, I think with a more dominant car, they're just different. But at the end of the day, they mean the same.
Q: And Max can win the Drivers' Championship this weekend. How important is P2 for you?
SP: Well, it's important because that's the best I can get now. So, I think all the drivers in here want to get the best possible season. And more than that, to me, it's very important to finish the season on a high. Because that only helps the start of next year. So, to me, it's very important to get on top of it and make sure that we are able to deliver in the next six races.
Q: Pierre, coming to you now if we could. You've been back in Qatar since we last raced. Of course, you were here for the World Cup final at the end of last year. Apart from the result, was it happy memories...
Pierre Gasly: You're turning the knife inside right now! No, I must say, it was an incredible sporting evening - probably the most beautiful sporting event I've been to. It was such an intense game. A World Cup at stake, ups and downs throughout the whole game. I really believed at some point we were going to get it - and unfortunately it didn't come our way in the end. But no, it was a great time in Qatar and I'm definitely happy to be back.
Q: Talking of intense games, you were playing Padel yesterday, I understand. The Padel bug seems to be spreading along the pit lane. How was it? Who won?
PG: Well, we had our neighbour, Nico was playing on the courts next to us. There was quite a few drivers actually. Singapore as well, there were quite a few drivers to play. So yeah, we decided to go for a game, which turned out to be pretty good for me. Nice wins. And that was definitely good fun. And also, just to get some time out, getting some workouts. And yeah, definitely, it's going to be tough physically this weekend. So I think in the end, I ended up spending two and a half hours on the court. I loved it so much. So it was a good exercise.
Q: In 33 degrees C heat as well...
PG: Yeah, exactly. I mean, just want to get the body used to the temperature. So it's very intense and probably didn't expect it to be as warm as it is, so it was good to get some early exercise in.
Q: Now, Pierre, can we throw it back two weeks to that last lap in Suzuka, when you were asked to give a position back to your team-mate. You seemed unhappy about that after the race. Having debriefed with the team, do you still feel unhappy?
PG: Everything has been discussed and yeah, I'll leave it there.
Q: What are the rules of engagement now within Alpine?
PG: As I said, everything has been discussed and I have no further comment on that.
Q: OK, I'm going to move on. Let's go to Enstone. You get back from Suzuka and Renault boss, Luca de Meo came to Enstone in the UK to give a speech to the team. You and Esteban were there. How inspiring was that?
PG: Yeah, I was at the simulator on that day. And no, I think it was definitely very inspiring, keep to push the team forward and pushing for change and improvement. So no, I think it was very positive. And yeah, it was great to be there, all united as a team.
Q: And final one for me. Let's talk about this weekend, performance of the car. And also, you were one of quite a few drivers who had a puncture here last time. Are you concerned about that coming into the weekend?
PG: Yeah. I mean, it was definitely a challenge last time out in 2021. So, I think we'll have to keep an eye on this quite aggressive, aggressive kerbs. I think some of them have been changed, so it's not really something we are too worried about. But obviously it stood out on that particular track compared to others. So, we'll keep a close eye but yeah, last time out. I started in second, we have a great qualifying. It was a definitely a positive weekend and, you know, Alpine had a very good race with Fernando finishing on the podium and Esteban in the top five. So, I think we know the team has a good record here on this track and hopefully it can still be the case this year.