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Japanese Grand Prix: FIA Drivers Press Conference


Today's press conference with Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, Max Verstappen, Alexander Albon, George Russell and Pierre Gasly.

Yuki, please, can we start with you? Home race. Just how special is this one for you?
Yuki Tsunoda: Yeah, very special. I already felt... I saw a lot of fans in front of the traffic lights, in front of my garage. Yeah, it's good to come back here. Very energetic and hopefully I can have a good race in front of them... In front of the cherry blossoms as well, you know, it's very beautiful. So, yeah, so far it's been a very good condition.

Any crazy gifts this year?
YT: I saw like a mini, mini, tiny myself, I don't know, with helmet, racing suit.

Max Verstappen: Maybe it was yourself.

YT: Maybe myself, yeah!

Carlos Sainz: You just saw yourself in the mirror.

YT: Maybe, yeah. Actually, the size wasn't like that big.

MV: How big? How big was it?

YT: Yeah, it's literally like me. So, very cute. Maybe I put something in a bag or, you know, something like that, a lucky charm.

And Yuki, what can the fans expect from you and RB this weekend after what was a very strong weekend in Australia for you?
YT: Yeah, so far it's very consistent for us. At the last three tracks, we are consistently performing well, around P10 and feeling confident. We had a bit of upgrades as well, so hopefully that works well, but it's probably more towards the other tracks these upgrades, so I'm not sure it will work massively well, but yeah, still feeling optimistic, and yeah, points will be the main target.

Alright, best of luck with that. Thank you. Carlos, can we come to you now? Quick health update. Are you back to 100% fitness now?
CS: Yeah, I think so, yeah. I've been riding my bike this week. I stayed in Australia for a week and started going back to the gym. Still obviously not lifting heavy numbers like I used to do in the past, but at least I can get my training done and I'm feeling back to 100%, yeah.

And what about performance? Great weekend in Melbourne, obviously. Can you maintain that here at Suzuka?
CS: I will see. I think it's important, like I always say in the past, to turn the page quickly - in the good and in the bad. I think obviously coming from a good it's more difficult to turn the page because you want to stay enjoying the moment, but I turned it on Monday, started focusing my training and being back as fit as possible for Japan. Also, because it's going to be a challenging track for us. I think last year was one of our most challenging ones in reference to a Red Bull. We were, I think, seven or eight tenths off four or five months ago here. So it's time to see where we are this year and see if we can be at least closer and enjoy a bit more this amazing track than what we enjoyed it last year, because for me, it's one of my favourite ones, if not my favourite.

Alright. Best of luck with that. Thank you. Max, can we come to you now? Can we talk about Honda first of all? They're celebrating 60 years in Formula 1 this year. It's been a busy week for you this week as a result. What's been the highlight so far?
MV: The highlights so far with me and Honda or being here?

Both, either!
MV: Well, I guess winning races and championships together that for sure is my highlight with Honda and just being able to work with their with their people, you know. Yeah, a lot of yeah great things that we have done already and things to come. For me, being here in Japan is always very nice. Did a bit of skiing as well. I've been around already for a couple of days. It's always good to be back here. Actually, I think I enjoyed even more around this time of the year, early on in the year. When you're traveling quite far, Australia, and then when you can go straight to Japan, I think it works out quite well.

Now, for the second Japanese Grand Prix in a row, you come here on the back of a tough weekend. Singapore last year, Melbourne last week. Just how much confidence have you got coming into this weekend?
MV: Every year is different, but also, you know, last year we had a bit of a difficult weekend in Singapore. I think if you look at Melbourne performance-wise, I think we were quick, but we didn't finish the race. So that's not ideal, but our car normally likes you know the higher speed corners, so hopefully that you know we can show that again this weekend.

Best of luck with that. Thank you Max. Alex, coming to you now can we talk spare cars, because after what happened in Melbourne how is the lack of a spare car this weekend going to change your approach to the weekend?
Alex Albon: No, not at all. I think we've been like that since Bahrain and it doesn't really change anything. So for us, obviously, it will be this weekend and China that we don't have a spare car. But as I said, the mindset's the same as it was from race one.

And in terms of performance, you guys struggled a little bit with tyres in Melbourne. Do you think the return to harder compounds this weekend will help Williams?
AA: I think it was more degrading that caught us out, obviously, with the limited track time. We would have most probably done things a little bit different come Sunday. What we've seen so far, actually, is the car's been behaving pretty well over the races, better than last year, race one, race two. I think Melbourne was maybe a little bit more like it was last year, but... I think we've made a step in race pace generally. So hopefully more of the same here this weekend.

Alright, best of luck with that. Thank you. George, coming to you now. First of all, any ill effects from your crash in Melbourne? How are you feeling?
George Russell: I'm feeling all good.

Look, let's talk about this weekend and the performance of your car. It seems to fluctuate from race to race, sometimes session to session. So how confident can you be coming to Suzuka?
GR: It's still obviously early days in the season. I think there's a clear trend, where we know our strengths in the car, our weaknesses. Definitely performing stronger in the low-speed corners, struggling a bit in the high-speed corners, of which there's more of in Jeddah, more of in Melbourne, more of in Suzuka, you know, these are the faster circuits of the season. There's still plenty to understand. So as I said, still early days, we know we're not where we want to be, but everybody's working really hard to, you know, improve the correlation, get a bit closer to what we're seeing at the factory on the simulator and find some performance.

You've been back at the sim, driving the sim back in Brackley since Melbourne. Did you make any breakthroughs there?
GR: I think every time you're back, you are understanding things further. There's never going to be a silver bullet for any team. You're chipping away at it. You want to find big breakthroughs. You want to find big gains. It's rare that these happen these days in Formula 1. The level is so, so high. Everybody's moving forward, but we're confident that we're going to make another step in the right direction. Will it be enough is another question, but as we said, it's still early days in the season.

Alright. Thank you, George. Good luck this weekend. And finally, Pierre, thank you for waiting. Look, first updates of the season for Alpine here. What are you expecting?
Pierre Gasly: Well, that's nice to have this first upgrade on the car. It was planned already before the season started, so it's sort of, you know, following the sort of development plan that we had already in place. We don't expect it to be major. We know it's not going to, you know, bring us where we want to be, but it's a first step in the right direction, so definitely looking forward to see what it brings.

But can you hope for Q2, for example, on Saturday?
PG: I don't want to give any specific targets. We know it should be a small step of performance on the car, which we obviously need from where we are today. But, you know, it's... We need more and will need more, but definitely it's positive to see that these first upgrades are coming on the car and more should follow in the next few months.

Questions From The Floor

(David Croft - Sky Sports F1) Let's start with Carlos. Congratulations on the win in Australia. Another win. always that's good on the CV. So how are the job negotiations going for next season? How many teams have you spoken to? And what's your mindset? And are you anywhere near a resolution?
CS: Yeah, good, thank you. I mean, talking obviously to a few because that's what my management team and myself should do when I don't have a job for next year yet. So, yeah, talking, we're talking to pretty much all of them. It's just a matter of obviously going more into detail and seeing the more realistic options and what are the best options for me and for my future, which I don't have any news for you or nothing to say here today. The only thing I would say is that, yeah, obviously it's time now to speed up a bit everything and hopefully we can get it sorted sooner rather than later.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Suzuka here.


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