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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Group 1: Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen, Oscar Piastri, George Russell and Logan Sargeant.

Daniel, why don't we start with you. So much pace from AlphaTauri in Austin, in Mexico, in Brazil. And then came Vegas. What happened last weekend? Or what goes in Vegas stays in Vegas?
Daniel Ricciardo: I was going to answer it not seriously, but I'll answer it seriously. We just missed a little bit. We took the weekend very seriously. No, there were no extracurricular reasons why we didn't perform. Now, we did some analysis post-race, a little bit more today. I think we know, let's say, the fundamental reasons or things that we maybe got wrong. But yeah, it was tricky. Obviously, it's a new track for everyone, it's a street circuit. It was really the asphalt and the temperatures. I think that was obviously something that was a bit of a challenge, to get on top of it and to get the tyres working and in the right window. And that's ultimately where we struggled. So then, during the race, the race starts, the restarts, I felt like we were just sliding a little more than the others. And that put us on the back foot a lot.

Do you fancy your chances this weekend in Abu Dhabi?
DR: Yeah, one does. I think it's more conventional. Again, hopefully that speed we showed in the triple-header can be put on display again, in a more standard circuit. Yeah, so I'm confident.

Now, Daniel, it's the last race of the season. It's been a shortened campaign for you. But what are your take-homes from 2023?
DR: Some metal in my hand. I think it's really just been... I think when I look back on this year, it's a year I never would have expected in so many ways. I didn't expect to be racing at all this year, let alone kind of going through everything else. So it's something that I'm definitely happy [about]. You know, the place I am and what I feel, let's say inside my heart ultimately, I'm really in a happy place, and I'm happy being here racing again. I'd say like, just fully hungry and motivated. And yeah, it's probably the first off-season that I would not really want an off-season, you know. I want to keep racing and keep a bit of the flow going. But also the thought of having a little bit of a break and getting myself prepared for next year, that excites me as well.

Final one from me, can we get a word from you on Franz Tost, the team principal. He's stepping down after this race. How much will the team and Formula 1 miss him?
DR: I'd say tremendously. I think for the team, he's been everything, you know, obviously starting off in the Toro Rosso days, you know, that's where I started, or my first full season in F1. You know, I remember quite vividly the first meeting I had in his office and, you know, I kind of bounced in with a smile. And I think he looked at me like... Tried to prepare me for what's ahead. You know, it's a serious sport and it's a tough old world. So I think, yeah, he was very honest with me as well, but it made me... A little bit the same as with Helmut, it kind of made me mature a little quicker and ultimately grow up and I think Franz has always been really involved. You know, he's in every debrief, he'll normally speak as well in debriefs and give some analysis or advice or anything he's seen. He's fully involved in it. And it's his passion. It's been everything that's kind of given him drive for so many years. I hope he can enjoy putting his feet up a little bit next year. I'm not sure fully what that's going to entail for him, but I really hope he's able to enjoy some R&R, but yeah, a lot of good memories and actually really nice for me personally to come back to the team and be here for his farewell.

Thank you. Good luck to you this weekend. George coming to you. So Mercedes are P2 in the Constructors' Championship, but just four points ahead of Ferrari. What's the mood in the camp coming into the last one?
George Russell: Yeah, we're excited for the challenge ahead. It's going to be a close fight with Ferrari. They're obviously coming off the back of a strong race, but definitely I'd prefer to be in the position we are in than in their shoes. And I think we just need to go out there, focus on ourselves, try and be as fast as possible. And if we do so, we'll finish ahead.

So try and be as fast as possible. Do you think you will have the faster car here?
GR: They were definitely pretty competitive here last year. But we've been surprised a lot this season about which teams are fast at which races and vice versa. So we're going in with an open mind. Qualifying, I think, they'll have slightly the upper hand as they have tended to do so this season. But come Sunday, I think it'll be a different story and we'll have a good race.

Let's look back on the year. When you do that, what conclusions do you draw in 2023?
GR: It's been a very, very strange season. It's been a season where we've had a lot of pace at times, but never achieved the results that I felt were deserved, or were possible. So we definitely need to try and understand why that was. There's been a huge amount of missed opportunities, in many regards. It really hasn't been a smooth season. But I think when everything's flowing, when everything's working, right, luck tends to be on your side. But when, you know, you're on the back foot, you tend to have bad luck. I'm not one for believing in luck. I think you make your own luck. So we just need to be faster. And Lady Luck will be with us.

George, can you compare the job you think you've done this year compared to last year when you won a race and had so much momentum going?
GR: It's definitely something I'm going to look at over the winter, because the results were so smooth-flowing last year, I think we finished in the top five more than any other driver. And this year, I feel that I've upped my game in my quali pace and upped my game in my race pace. And we've definitely been on the back foot. But we definitely have more competition this year, with McLaren joining the fight in the second half, Aston being there at the start of the season. But ultimately, we're looking forward to getting through this weekend, trying to cement that P2 in the championship and then eyes on next year.

Final word on next year, can you just describe the scale of the task over the winter? It's 100 days today until the Bahrain Grand Prix, what have you got to do in that time?
GR: I think the task for everybody is massive. We're all trying to catch up to the most dominant car in F1 history. So that's no short task, and everybody's going to have to come together, really focused, really put everything into it and time will tell. But I think we're going into this winter in a much better place than we were 12 months ago and two years ago. So we hope we're not going to stumble over anything. But as I said, time will tell.

George, thank you best of luck to you this weekend. Oscar. Let's come to you now. You must have great memories of Abu Dhabi. You won the F2 championship here. You drove a McLaren for the first time here last year. Do you like the place?
Oscar Piastri: Yeah, it's a nice place to finish the year. I've got good memories here, winning F2. So nice to be back, racing around here this time. But yeah, it's always a nice place to kind of end the year. You know, nice and warm. It's halfway back to Australia. So that's nice. I enjoy it here.

Are you going straight on to Oz from here?
OP: I wish but no I have still got some work to do. But yeah, it's teasing me to go all the way back.

So, Vegas was a bit of a topsy turvy weekend for McLaren. How confident are you of righting any wrongs that happened there and being more competitive this weekend?
OP: I think we should be much more competitive. I think being a new circuit at a drag range that we've struggled at through the year. We knew it would be a tough one for us. I think the pace that we had in the race was much more representative of what we had available through the whole weekend. We just got a few things wrong in qualifying in particular. So you know, that was a decent way to end the weekend. I think we should be more competitive here than that hopefully, and hopefully we can be fighting back at the front properly.

Let's talk about the Constructors' Championship. It's not as close between yourselves and Aston Martin as it is between Ferrari and Mercedes. Eleven points, the gap between you and Aston. Are you confident that you've got enough in your armoury to stay ahead?
OP: Yeah, I think definitely I think we've got the pace to be able to do it. You know, I think the sentiment is quite similar to what George was saying: that if we go out and do what we're capable of and what the car's potential is, then we should be OK. But you know, we still have to go out there and do our job to get the most out of what we've got. So hopefully we can be quick, fighting well and truly at the front and then the result will take care of itself.

Oscar, it's the end of your rookie season in Formula 1. I'm sure you've enjoyed it. But what has been the biggest lesson you've learned over the last 12 months?
OP: A good question. I mean, there's been a lot of lessons, I think, for me, you can't rest, making a mistake in Formula 1 costs you a lot more than it might do otherwise. You know, all the drivers are extremely competitive. All the teams are now extremely competitive. And if you take it a little bit easy you can suddenly lose a lot of time, a lot of positions. So that's probably the biggest one. I mean, there's been specifics on driving and energy management as well. It's been a busy year. But yeah, just how competitive everything's been, that you can't rest on your laurels.

Your energy management or the car's?
OP: I mean, both! It's been a busy year. I think this double-header has been a tough one for most of us, I would say. But yeah, definitely just having a lot less spare time to relax and stuff like that. It's definitely been the busiest year of my life, but I'm loving it, so I wouldn't change it.

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