Answering questions for reporters today were Romain Grosjean (Haas), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Jolyon Palmer (Renault), and Lance Stroll (Williams) in part 1, with Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) in part 2.
'F1 Live' in London a success
Given the close proximity of the ‘F1 live’ event held a day earlier in the British capital, all drivers faced questions about how they felt the event went, its impact, and how they personally found it. Lewis Hamilton’s absence also led to several quite awkward lines of questioning (more on this below).
On the whole, the drivers who attended the event were very enthusiastic about it. Local boy Jolyon Palmer clearly had a great time, remarking how cool it was to see so many people turn out to see the cars and drivers. Being with Renault as well, he got to sample some classic F1 machinery, which also left a massive smile on his face. Most of the drivers agreed with Palmer’s assessment, with even Romain Grosjean, who didn’t actually have a car to drive, agreeing that it was a great opportunity to see a lot of different cars, and expressing amazement at just how many people turned out for it.
All drivers also agreed it was a great opportunity for F1 to grow its fan base, especially among the next generation. Valtteri Bottas, while admitting himself the first time he saw an F1 car in person was 2010, believes that events like these will only serve to inspire and motivate kids to get involved in the sport. Jolyon Palmer agreed, adding that seeing events like this doesn’t just inspire kids to drive, but to get involved in all aspects of the sports, from engineering to marketing.
When asked if they would attend another, and where it should be held, drivers were pretty unanimous in their willingness to do it again, but rather partisan on where they’d want to see the next event. Lance Stroll predictably went for Montreal, and Grosjean Paris, especially with the return of the French GP. Valtteri Bottas suggested his home town of Nastola in Finland (good luck with that one), which Daniil Kvyat suggested Moscow, although urged F1 to wait until summer for a visit!
Hamilton’s London absence
Throughout the questions regarding London, especially in the second part where Lewis Hamilton was present, many questions turned to Lewis’s conspicuous absence from the event, him being the only active F1 driver not to attend. In the first part this wasn’t too bad, but even at this early stage drivers were not being drawn in to criticising Hamilton, with Bottas saying that he was OK with Lewis’s decision. When Lewis himself was present though, things got decidedly more intense although again the rest of the drivers refused to really get involved.
Initially Lewis brushed off questions of where he has been by stating that he was preparing for this weekend as best he can, and that he felt relaxed coming into the weekend. He repeated this later on when questioned by the Sun, saying all the drivers can make the decision for themselves, and that he took the decision to give himself the best preparation for the weekend. He also brushed off reports of being booed by fans yesterday, saying he gets a massive amount of love from the British fans at Silverstone each year, and was looking forward to it again this year.
Both sides have good points to make really. While the event wasn’t mandatory, and drivers were free to opt out, the fact that Lewis was the only one that didn’t attend looks bad whatever way you spin it. On the other hand, if Lewis genuinely feel this will affect his preparation heading into one of the most important weekends of the year for him, then so be it. Every person, especially in the top level of sport, reacts to pressure and stress in different ways, so who are we to say Hamilton is wrong for taking this approach?
Bottas’s lightning start
With Valtteri Bottas present in the first part of the press conference, questions invariably turned to his lightning start in Austria, and the debate that has been raging ever since about what constitutes a jump start.
With David Croft initially asking the other 3 drivers if they thought Bottas had jumped the start (Jolyon and Lance certainly believed he had ‘got away with it’), Bottas made an interesting comment. He thought it was the best start of his life (understandable) he also said that you can always tell “more or less” when the lights will go out, and that his Austria start was “risky” but worth it.
Peter Windsor followed up on this later in the session, asking about Bottas’s use of the word ‘risky’. The Finn replied that a start like Austria is a bit of a gamble, that if you’re moving at the same time the lights go out then you are risking a jump start. He also added that everyone is free to guess! Whether Valtteri was just trolling the press at this point is unclear, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
With the seismic news earlier in the week that the
to host the British Grand Prix beyond 2019, drivers were questioned about the potential loss of Silverstone.
Jolyon Palmer led the defence of the track in the first part of the session, saying that as his ‘home circuit’, Silverstone was the place his passion for F1 began and grew, and that while a potential London race would be cool, Silverstone is more important. These views were echoed by the others, while also expressing just what a fun circuit it is to drive in F1 machinery, with Romain Grosjean calling it “driving wise one of the most enjoyable.” Bottas and Stroll also highlighted the special atmosphere at Silverstone, and praising the fans who make it that way year after year.
The Silverstone related questions also came in the form of how 2017’s new F1 cars would handle famous corners like Copse and Maggots/Becketts this year. Would the famous Copse actually be flat this year?
The first part, drivers were a bit coy with their answers, with Bottas saying it was difficult to say, and Grosjean joining him in a discussion about which gear you would use. In the second however, Lewis Hamilton was of the belief it would be an easy flat in 8
, but that either way it will be rapid and a lot of fun, especially stringing that whole section from the old start/finish line together.
Danny Ric the joker
Never one to take things massively seriously, especially in situations like these, Daniel Ricciardo was on fire in today’s press conference, bringing a much needed lighter tone to proceedings at times.
Firstly he was questioned about his ‘shoey’ habits, and how he could get more drivers involved after Valtteri Bottas was less than impressed with the offer in Austria. Ricciardo replied that it’s in fact the interviewers on the podium who are keeping him constantly in need of new footwear. We all remember Patrick Stewart’s participation in Canada, followed by David Coulthard in Baku and Martin Brundle in Austria. Ricciardo joked that Brundle was “frothing for it” in Austria, commenting that there were some “sick b@$tards” in the paddock. He finally suggested that the famous shoey may have run its course, and that it might even pose a health risk to drivers with back to back races!
Another classic Danny Ric moment came when a reporter asked the somewhat ridiculed question of reading meaning into Toto Wolff attending Sebastian Vettel’s birthday party, and what the other drivers thought of it. While Hamilton called it “the dumbest question I’ve probably ever heard”, Ricciardo was still on form, instantly explaining Wolff's presence. "Free alcohol, doesn't matter how much money you make you don't turn that down!"
Daniil Kvyat answered this question with a fairly standard “no answer” response, to which Ricciardo remarked that he was sure he'd seen an invite for “the torpedo” (an unfortunate nickname Kvyat garnered last year when he crashed into Vettel in Russia) somewhere. Kvyat laughed along but seemed like he might not have appreciated that particular remark, commenting on the Australian's good memory for details!
Sounds like Sebastian Vettel's birthday party was the hottest ticket in town ?#BritishGP#F1pic.twitter.com/OpTcNc5PN1
— Formula 1 (@F1)
more Danny Ric in press conferences please!