Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa talk to the press ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
PART TWO: Carlos SAINZ (Toro Rosso), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), Felipe MASSA (Williams)
Q: Felipe, if we start with you. Looking back two weeks to Baku. How much have you agonized about might have been in that race?
Felipe MASSA: Yeah, me and Max actually. What can you do? I think you need to think in a positive way. It was a great race, I was driving well and unfortunately these things can happen in our races. I had a mechanical issue in the car, in the middle of an amazing opportunity, when the victory was totally in the fight. These things can happen and unfortunately we lost the opportunity to win the race or maybe even having a podium with both cars of the team. It would have been amazing, definitely. But we need to think positive, think forward for this weekend and for the next races. I’m happy with the way I’m driving the car. I really enjoy, I understand the car in the right way, you know. That’s what counts and I really hope things come back and we can achieve what we should achieve in the next races.
Q: About the Vettel and Hamilton incident. We’ve just heard from them about what happened in Baku. As someone who had been around for a few years and seen it all, I would love to get your thoughts on how hard it is to keep a cool head in the heat of the moment?
FM: I mean just give my opinion, so definitely I really think he maybe passed a little bit over the limit, what’s happened in the last race. I was behind, but I couldn’t really see well from the car. So I think Seb just passed a little bit over the limit and he lost the opportunity to maybe complain that Lewis maybe slowed down a little bit too much. Maybe Lewis could have been penalised if everything goes in the normal way in the race. We cannot decide for what the stewards will decide so you need to keep your head cool, calm. I think if you just put the car on the side and push into another car is something… you will just lose by doing. I think he didn’t lose a lot. He was a bit lucky for what has happened – he scored even more points than Lewis in the race. For the driver he is. He is amazing driver. He won so many championships, have had an amazing experience already in Formula One, he’s a nice guy outside of the car. You just lose by doing that. So I’m sure maybe he’s learned a little bit for what’s happened this week and everything. Everybody wants to see fighting completely, fire around the championship but maybe not really in this way.
Q: Max, as Felipe has just said, a frustrating race for you as well, but in general your lack of reliability has been an issue for you this year. How do you clear your head when you have such a disappointing end to a race such as in Baku?
Max VERSTAPPEN: That’s actually pretty simple. You call some friends and you have some fun. And then you re-start again the next race and you try to have a good race. It’s really disappointing but what can I do about it. I just have to try to do my best every single weekend and try to finish the race.
Q: Looking on the bright side, are you pleased with the pace of the car at the minute. Do you feel you’re closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari?
MV: We still need to be faster but we are catching up, which is positive. But yeah, we definitely need to make another step because still in Baku it was a second. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a second with all the issues I also had in qualifying but the second sector, where all the corners are, we were second fastest, so I can be a bit positive about that but we are not there yet, so we still need to definitely work hard.
Q: Home race for the team here in Austria. How do you think things will go?
MV: Honestly I have no clue. After my last few races… I don’t know. We’ll find out on Sunday. I prepared myself on Wednesday on the simulator to have the best possible balance to start the weekend and then we work from and hopefully we score some points.
Q: Carlos, another crazy race for you in Baku as well, but you have now had six points finishes in eight races. Is that proof that you are getting the most from the car and yourself?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah I think I have got to a point where I’m very confident with the team and with the car and I think the season is going very positively until now. Every time we finished we have actually been in the points. We have 11 points than last season and all these facts are obviously very positive. Now it’s time to keep working, no? Williams overtook us in the championship last race so we really need to push hard to bring a bit more performance, to score points with both cars and get back into P5 in the championship.
Q: The driver silly season is beginning to wake up now and you have been linked to several other teams for 2018. Given that this is your third season with Toro Rosso, when is crunch time for you on deciding whether to stay with the team or move elsewhere?
CS: Yeah I think it’s still a very long season ahead. Obviously these rumours are always going to come at this stage. As you all know my target number one is to be with Red Bull next year and start fighting for podiums or wins or whatever they are fighting for next year and I’m going to keep pushing for this. If that doesn’t happen obviously a fourth year at Toro Rosso is unlikely so I’m not going to close the door to any opportunity.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Mark Webber has recently suggested that drivers shouldn’t be penalised for technical issues with grid penalties etc. How do you feel about that – can one separate a driver from a team and vice versa?
MV: I don’t know, maybe we should get fines in place but then maybe the team would be bankrupt. I don’t know. In one way that’s how you can win a championship, on reliability, and that’s good for manufacturers, to show who has the best reliability. I don’t know.
FM: I think you need to… otherwise the team would be changing engine all the time, so it’s not really right. If you have the rule that you can use four engines during the year, so the teams need to fight for that or otherwise you pay a little bit by using more. Definitely in some cases it’s a little bit too much. What’s happened to McLaren is a little bit too much because they are really struggling a lot, more than what they are supposed to be, but anyway those are the rules.
CS: I think Mark has a point there, definitely. Something to look into, it’s just very difficult to find the right compromise, as Max said, between giving the advantage to the teams that have good reliability versus those who don’t. But Mark has a point. I just don’t know how people are going to come up with a solution for it, come up a good compromise but he definitely has a point.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Max, there’s been suggestions since Baku that Sebastian Vettel has a problem with this temperament – controlling his temper. You had some incidents with him last season, would you say that he does have a problem controlling his temper
MV: I don’t think so. I don’t know. I think Sebastian thought he (Hamilton) brake tested him. That’s a different thing. Otherwise he would never have done it, I guess. I don’t think he has a real problem, because when you talk to him it’s always good. You can feel somebody has issues with that… We are emotional as well. Yes, sometimes you can hear it on the radio, sometimes you can actually see it but I think that’s how a human being is, otherwise it would be boring, wouldn’t it? Otherwise you would have nothing to write about!
Q: (Peter Vamosi – Vas Népe) To all drivers: Robert Kubica is talking now about the opportunity that maybe he can make a comeback to Formula One, 80-90 per cent, he thinks. What do you think about his opportunities to make a comeback to Formula One and what do you think of his performance, what he did in Valencia in the private Renault test?
FM: Well, he’s a great driver. He shows the talent he has, he shows that he’s maybe supposed to be in a big team now, fight for victories or even championships, you know? For sure it’s very difficult to answer because we don’t know exactly how he is and how is his arm, how strong it is, he needs to accept the full season. I have seen Robert maybe two times in the last months, since he had his accident, so for me it’s very difficult to say. It would be fantastic for Formula One to have him back but I really hope he’s really in the position to be back on the right way and strong enough to accept the whole season.
MV: Absolutely. He was a great driver and I think he still is, even though the injury he’s had. And I think he’s also a very nice personality as well so like Felipe said, he could have had a great career if he didn’t have the injury. It would always be good to have him back, absolutely.
CS: I have nothing to add really to what they both said. I think he’s a great talent and it was a big shame what happened to him and if he manages to come back in good form it could only be good news for Formula One.
Q: (Petr Hlawiczka – F1News . cz ) Max, do you think Red Bull is now on the Ferrari or Mercedes level in terms of chassis, after sorting out some correlation issues and the latest upgrades?
MV: I think it’s always difficult to say. I think Mercedes is still ahead, that’s one thing. With Ferrari, it’s a bit complicated to judge that because in Baku I think we were definitely ahead but we have to wait and see again here. I think we need a few races to see where we are. The teams are not standing still so it’s a development process and I think we definitely did a good job on that but we still need to improve, we still need to work harder than the others to definitely catch up to Mercedes.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Max, a bit about the last question; is realistically P5 or P6 where the team is on Saturday, Sunday, or are you getting a little higher already, more chances?
MV: On Sunday. No, even on Saturday I think we should be around that position. Like I said, we are getting closer but we are not in the fight yet to really beat them. I think in Baku we… well, I was stuck behind Perez but I think we were faster than the Ferraris but the Mercedes are still at another level.
Q: (Raphaelle Peltier – AFP) For all three: we’ve heard from Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll that even though they might not have raced the tracks, they know them already because they played on video games. Do you think it makes a difference to how fast the younger drivers become efficient on the tracks?
CS: I don’t know video games. I don’t really believe so much in video games. I believe in a proper simulator like we have in Red Bull, this definitely helps. A video game? Not so sure but a good simulator like Red Bull has… for me in my first year in Formula One in 2015 it definitely helped to get to know the tracks. I arrived on Friday for FP1 with a bit more information.
MV: It’s good fun and it’s actually getting a lot better the last few years, but once you have a simulator like Red Bull has it cannot (be beaten by) a video game, which is quite logical, I guess. But I think for all the people out there to at least have a little bit of a glimpse of it, I think a video game is actually (a good thing) to buy because the tracks, they are mainly laser scanned, so I think that’s good. But for us, the most important thing is still with the team and like Carlos said, especially in 2015 it was good for us because some tracks were new to us and it helps us a bit to start in FP1 but now, after three years, it’s just mainly to set up the car because you know the track.
Q: Felipe, did you rely on video games back in the day when you started out?
FM: No, for sure…
MV: Were they there?
FM: I’m not so old as you think! I saw so many things: I saw drivers learning on the Playstation… on even simulators and getting there, not really understanding the track in the right way. I saw drivers not doing anything, getting there, learning the track really quickly. To be honest, I never drove the Red Bull simulator but all the simulators I drove, if you don’t know the track, it helps a little bit, just to know more or less where to go. To be like reality, it would take for sure a lot more time to be exactly like we feel in reality.
Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) To follow up on that question, Max, I know you recently shot a promo for F1 2017 by Codemasters and it’s coming out this fall. What are your impressions of this year’s game, given the hard work that they put into it to really try to bring that experience to gamers out there?
MV: Well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about it, because otherwise… It looks good, it’s an improvement again from last year’s game and I think it’s cool that they’re bringing some classic cars into it as well. Any other things, I don’t think I can speak about. But it will be good.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte) Max, you’ve had reliability problems in Canada and in Baku, while it’s also true your teammate had three podium finishes and won the last one. Is it possible to establish any relationship between your style and the problems you have, or in Formula One today is that not possible any more?
MV: No, I don’t think so. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, so no. It’s always pretty clear what’s happening, there’s always an explanation what the issue is, why I stop on track, so I don’t think so.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Carlos, you mentioned next season, if you don’t get a seat at Red Bull, where do you situate your ambitions and how confident are you that you can race at the very highest level?
CS: I think it’s a bit too early now to talk about it. I think we have a very long season ahead…
FM: Mercedes, huh? Mercedes.
CS: In a Renault! But seriously speaking, you never know what can happen in such a long season. We are still on race eight or nine, I don’t know, but I’m definitely ready to take a step forward in my career. I’m looking forward to it, I’m ready so as I said before, not closing any doors and we will see what happens.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – A.D.) Max, can you take us one more time back to Baku. Right after you went out of the race, you went straight to the hotel room. Was it the best decision not to talk with the media then and what happened in that hotel room, is everything still in place?
MV: Yeah. I was alone!
CS: You called your friend.
MV: I was on my phone but that’s it. No. I was very disappointed. It took me ten minutes to find the F1 channel to follow the race. I was very disappointed and I know myself and when I’m very disappointed I know it’s better not to speak so that’s why I decided not to talk to the media because then I will say things which I think later on I will regret and then a lot of stories will get in the media which is not necessary so that’s why I went back.
Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Sorry Max, one more question: what will you do, then, on Sunday – we don’t hope that there’s a problem – but if there’s a problem at the end, will you go to the camera crews or go to the hotel?
MV: First I will do the Dap and then… I have to change my ones… I mean I’m jumping around and I’m slowly getting out. I don’t know. It depends on the situation but normally I will try to speak.
Q: (Carlos Miguel – Auto Motor Sport) Carlos, how many teams have knocked on your door or the Red Bull door for 2018?
MV: Well, there are the two Red Bull teams, so that leaves eight.
CS: How many teams are there in Formula One?
MV: Eight other teams.
CS: Something like that, yeah. No, seriously, again, with Max’s joke, let’s put it like this: it’s still very early. I don’t really know what is going to happen next year. There is obviously rumours going around the paddock now, I heard, which obviously… silly season, as you all know and it’s good fun but for me the good fun is actually on track, not to… to keep performing as I’m performing up until now, which has been a really good season. I will see. I leave that to other people in my team to judge and to see; for me I have a job that is to drive a car and do it as fast as possible.
Q: (Peter Vamosi – Vas Népe) Max, how can you read now Harrison Newey’s performance in European Formula Three championship. Adrian is forcing you to (give) a little bit help or you are doing only your own job?
MV: About his son? Ah. We do speak a bit about it a few times but times change, so what maybe worked back in the day now they find better solutions. If he has questions, I’m always there because he’s racing for the same team as I did so I think I know the guys quite well, but it’s not really to advise or anything, just to share my expressions of back in the day, you know, what I was doing with the team.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Felipe, how impressed were you with Lance Stroll’s performance in Baku and do you think that he’s answered a few – perhaps – unfair critics?
FM: I know the media, I know that he was struggling a little bit at the beginning of the season and especially you guys were also talking a lot about him. I think he did a really good job in the last race, the whole weekend, so he was competitive a lot. He didn’t make a single mistake and even in Canada he was struggling until the qualifying but then suddenly on Sunday he did a much better race and then in Baku he just kept improving and understanding. For sure, he’s young, he has a lot to learn but he proved that he’s growing, he proved that he shows much better performance than you guys were expecting. I’m also happy that maybe now he can start thinking about scoring points with both cars every race which is quite important for the team, and he’s a lot more confident. As I said before, I met him when he was seven or eight years old so I really have no problem to pass everything I can on to help him and really to see him improving, growing and I do it with pleasure, and it’s nice to see that from now on he can be in a much more strong way and competitive which will definitely be better for the team.
Q: (Arjan Schouten – A.D.) Max, some weather predictions say that there might be some rain on Sunday, any opinion about that? What do you hope?
MV: It’s nice. Yeah, it would maybe help but the first priority is to finish the race.
Q: (Marika Laselva – News F1) Max and Carlos: you were teammates in your first year at Toro Rosso and the goal for Carlos is to get to Red Bull. So what would it feel for you both to be teammates again, because you pushed each other a lot when you were teammates? It was because it was your first year and you were younger, or do you think that maybe you were able to push each other as drivers?
CS: It was good fun, definitely. I wouldn’t mind repeating it.
MV: Sure, but maybe we should ask for three cars.
Q: Max, would you welcome Carlos back as a teammate?
MV: Well, we had good competition, absolutely, and I like competition but I don’t know how it’s with the other contracts and stuff so we need to wait and see. I’m pretty sure, sooner or later, I think… anyway we are both racing in competitive cars together. I don’t know which team…