Italian Grand Prix 2017: Highlights from the drivers’ press conferences
Thursday’s press conference talking points were the collisions between the Force Indias in Spa, Ferrari’s home race in Monza and the tight battle in the midfield.
Answering questions from reporters today were Esteban Ocon (Force India), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) and Sergio Perez (Force India) in the first half, and Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) in the second part.
The Force India incidents
With having both Force India drivers in the press conference it was expected that both Ocon and Perez would have to explain themselves for the accidents in Spa-Francorchamps and how they handle their racing in the future. It was announced quickly after the Belgian GP that they are no longer free to race each other, and team orders will come into play since there have been too many collisions this season already where the Silverstone-based outfit lost a lot of points. Ocon even admitted unprofessional behavior: ‘I think we both crossed the line, that’s for sure. We touched so of course, something was wrong in there.’
Perez summarized the discussions with the team: ‘Let’s forget the past and go forwards together.’ People within the team were having different opinions about the situation, not just both teammates, but the Mexican believes he can sort things out with Ocon: ‘I believe that a new relationship can start from now on and I really hope that from now … can be working as a team.’
Generally, they both explained they will need work better together for the good of the team since they want to secure fourth in the Constructors’ championship, and it’s too risky to put that under even more threat since things can change quite quickly and there are still many races to go.
Vettel motivated for Ferrari’s home race
Even Vettel got a question about handling the rivalry with his teammate Mark Webber back in his Red Bull days, but the German explained that it`s all fine now with his former colleague: ‘I have a very good relationship with him and we talked also about stuff that happened years ago with a lot of distance and y’know, now we can laugh about it. We both have our views, I think we both have different views, maybe now on some things that we had back [then] but that’s normal as you go forwards.’
But the German was mostly asked about how he feels being in Monza with a competitive red car, about previous Ferrari stories and about returning to the place of his first victory in 2008: ‘The whole weekend was magical [in 2008]. Saturday to have the pole, and to win the race on Sunday the way we did. Pretty amazing memories and when I walked the track this morning there are some pictures coming back.’
Vettel also spoke about his relationship with Ferrari in his childhood: ‘I remember I was always racing with toy cars and the red car always won. Don’t know why!’ He went on to say how he had admired Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari back then. At the European GP at the Nurburgring he was even invited by his hero to the garage of the Scuderia – something which sticks in his mind to this day.
Speaking about Ferrari’s performance at the Belgian GP last weekend the German was quite satisfied: ‘The form we showed in Spa was real and the speed was there, in particular in the race, which weeks ago on a similar type of track, maybe wasn’t the case.’ Therefore he is confident to be competitive on any track of the upcoming races and especially for this grand prix: ‘I think going into this weekend we need to be fair and say that the track layout suits Mercedes but the performance that we showed last week gives us hope.’
Battle for 5th in the Constructors’
Interestingly, but for obvious reasons, the second half of the press conference was 12 minutes shorter than the half hour we had with the first three drivers, but the teams battling for fifth in the constructors’ is an interesting topic since it’s really close in the midfield at this stage in the season.
Grosjean, representing Haas, was quite happy with the teams’ performance this year since the American team has already scored more points than in 2016. The main thing which shows Haas’s level this year in Grosjean’s view is that: ‘Last year we scored most of our points in the first two races and then we struggled a little bit to get them, but this year we’ve been a bit more consistent.’
Meanwhile Renault seem to have improved as well: ‘Obviously, we had three races in a row where we were the fourth fastest team so that’s pretty good’ Nico Hulkenberg explained. ‘The updates that we’ve introduced at Silverstone just made the car a lot more competitive … especially the aerodynamics, I think they work a lot better, allows me to brake later, to carry more speed into the corners, to get on the power earlier.’ But with only Hulkenberg scoring the points for Renault the question about his potential teammate for next year also came up, but the German avoided the question.
Carlos Sainz confessed that he learned his lesson when speaking about his future at the press conference in Austria where we claimed that a fourth season with Toro Rosso was ‘unlikely’. Now he just expects to be confirmed for 2018 and trusts in Red Bull. About the current season Sainz hopes they can keep up in the battle in the midfield: ‘We will do our best to keep ourselves in P5, P6, in that area there but I know it’s going to be tough.’ It certainly looks that way, with Renault, Haas and maybe even McLaren catching up at some point…
Who looks in the best shape to win the battle of the midfield this weekend in Italy? And will Mercedes of Ferrari win the race for pole? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!