Brazil GP: Thursday Press Conference

Today’s press conference with Romain Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Robert Kubica.

Robert, if we could start with you, please. You finished second here in 2009. Could you just give us your thoughts on being back at Interlagos and your hopes for the weekend ahead?
Robert Kubica: Yeah, it has been a long time ago actually. It is difficult to say about expectations, you know. We have been struggling all year, so… although 2009 it has been very surprising for me to finish on the podium as it wasn’t a great year with BMW, but I would say it’s nearly impossible this time that we will be able to fight for anything higher than what we have been doing all year. Although, Interlagos is a bit special and anything can happen, but you have to have the pace. The weather is playing quite an important role. There have been many races, thrilling let’s say races here around this track due to the weather but you have to have pace and that is what we are lacking all year.

You say you’ve been lacking that all year but we’re now at race 20 of 21, when you look at the bigger picture can you just reflect on your comeback season for us?
RK: Well, it’s definitely not the easiest season and not the season we were hoping for. I think every member of Williams is not happy with what we have seen this year. The team is working hard but it is not an easy season. There are many things which we could probably handle better. But there are also things which I think that although the season has been difficult we have handled in a good way. I think the guys on track always did a very good job with what we have, especially in the beginning of the season it wasn’t easy and the group stayed strong, united and very, very positive, which is good to see in such a difficult period. But, you know, it’s the kind of situation where the people on track they cannot make your car going one second faster. They can make you car going slower, but not faster. And definitely we need to improve what we get, the pace of the car, and then everything will become easier. And also for the guys on track the work will be more easier; more fun. Of course this will not happen with me, as I’m leaving Williams, but I hope this team will improve their situation for the future, especially because the guys they deserve it. They are really good people and they are working hard, so I hope good times, or better times, will arrive soon for Williams.

And Robert, what about your own performance this year behind the wheel?
RK: I think the general picture is massively hidden by what we went through this season and many things did not help and actually did influence in a negative way what I was able to do. But, you know, coming back to a competition sport, as Formula 1 is, on the highest level of motorsport, after a long time and with my limitations a lot of people did not even think I would be able to race. I heard many stories that in Turn 1 that will not be able to react to situations and probably the opening lap is one of the things, which I managed well this season. I heard rumours that I would not be able to race in Monaco, and probably Monaco was one of my best drives during this year, although I was still far behind. But feeling-wise it was positive. I’m leaving this season, of course not happy with the general performance, but pretty happy with how my body, my mind and my brain reacted to the difficult challenge I had this year.

Thank you Robert and good luck this weekend. Romain, you haven’t finished in the points since Germany. Can you just describe how difficult the season half of the year has been for you and the team?
Romain Grosjean: Yeah, good morning all. Well, yes, it’s been a rough season generally. We had a very promising winter testing and got to Australia and things were looking good until the pit stop and that pit stop was kind of a bad curse for the whole season and then we had good quali pace and race pace was more difficult. And yeah, I think we are doing the best we can and honestly on-track and off-track the boys are working very, very hard. And honestly there is not much to say about what we could do better with what we have got but as Robert mentioned I think we’re in a little bit the same position at the minute. The car is just not good enough and everything we do is not reflected on track. Germany, it was good to be in the points. It was a bit of a crazy race and the idea was to finish the race and we did and that was positive but yeah more recently it has been complicated to fight also for the points, but again not the fault of the team – the work is good; it’s just the car we have is not good enough to fight for good points. So I guess the focus was very early on into 2020 and make sure that next year we get a better tool to work with.

So if this year’s car isn’t good enough, what does the team need to do to ensure it doesn’t have a repeat of 2019 next season?
RG: I think that’s a good question for Guenther. I think the team knows what needs to be done. There have been a lot of discussions; there has been a lot of, how can I say, I don’t find the word in English, but just the way we operate, the race team, it’s great and many races I think we perform better than we should. You know, being in the top 10 in Russia, in qualifying in Suzuka, not far from the top 10 in America, in quali it just shows that we are outperforming when we can, on new tyres. The race always unfortunately brings back the truth. I know that Guenther has been working very hard with all the boys, our chief engineer, Ayao Komatsu, and make sure that we react well for next year. I think everyone sees that – our partners, like Richard Mille just announced that they are going to carry on with us for one year, so everyone believes that the team is going to do good this year.

Would you say that this is your most frustrating season in Formula 1?
RG: It’s been a tough season and obviously when you come to the race and you know that the chances of fighting for a good position is hard, then it’s not easy. But I’ve know that in my career. 2013 was a really good season and then 2014 was very difficult and we didn’t have a good car but then the team, at the time, in Enstone reacted well and 2015 was good again. It’s the same thing as Haas – 2016 was a good start, 2017 a bit more complicated and 2018 really good. So, I’ve got confidence that we can bounce back. Yes, it’s frustrating and I must be a bit crazy, because I’m always looking forward to come to a race and very happy to be in Brazil. Maybe on Sunday when we’ve done 71 laps and we haven’t been able to challenge it’s a bit of a different feeling but it doesn’t matter, we’ll still be happy to go to the next one.

Thanks Romain and good luck this week. Sergio, you’ve scored in six of the last seven races. At the summer break you set the team the target of having the fourth fastest car at the end of the season. How close to that target have you got?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, I don’t think we have achieved what we wanted this year. It’s been a disappointing season in a way. We knew it was not going to be great since the beginning but we kind of expected to be a bit more competitive by now. I think in the second half of the season we’ve been strong, in different circuits, different places, which is always positive. I think McLaren, in that midfield, has been very consistent, very strong, but I think we have been in the mix with all the others and we’ve scored a good amount of points since the summer break, so I think there are a lot positives to take, but the general picture is, yeah, it’s not where we want to be.

You haven’t reached Q3 since the Belgian Grand Prix. How much has the car’s lack of qualifying pace compromised your races?
SP: Yeah, it does. I don’t think we have quite the pace in quali but then come race day we seem to be on the stronger side. Good strategy also from the team. I think the team has been tremendous in that regard. They are always maximizing the maximum, especially in the last couple of races – outsmarting other teams with the strategies, with everything we possibly can. So hopefully we can keep going. There is still tomorrow and a lot to play for. We are in a big battle in the Constructors’ with Toro Rosso at the moment, so hopefully we can finish ahead.

Just one point the gap to Toro Rosso, but you are only 18 behind Renault. Do you have enough in your armoury to challenge Renault for P5?
SP: 18?

SP: Well, it’s not over until it’s over, so we’ll try our best!

A knowing nod from Daniel Ricciardo. Sergio, thanks for that. So, Daniel, Renault has hit a bit of form. You’ve scored points in the last couple of races and drove a particularly strong race in Austin. Have you found some consistency in the car?
Daniel Ricciardo: I think so. Like, on Sundays it certainly seems to show a bit more now. The qualifying – we’ve still had a good run of Q3s but we’re not always there, but comparing to, as Sergio says, comparing to McLaren who have been our midfield target this year after their form, it seems like qualifying most weekends they’ve still got a good buffer but come race day we are able to, if not beat them, then get much closer to their pace. We are starting to get some consistency with the car, which is good. I think as well for me, naturally, the more races I do and the more familiar I am with the car, the more I start, just myself, to get consistent; make fewer errors and this and that. But yeah, it’s been a good run of races for sure. What was it, sixth in Austin? It’s like sixth is a big deal and that was quite exciting. Yeah, we’re not spraying champagne on the podium but there is still a lot of satisfaction to take from a sixth place for us.

You say a good run of races, but what about the season as whole? How do you reflect on year one with Renault? Because there were some people who questioned your move from Red Bull to Renault.
DR: Yes. I knew they would and I knew all this was going to come but I was very, I guess open-minded for the season. Firstly, I was excited to have a fresh start and a change. I’ve made the mistake in the past of setting to high an expectation and left disappointed, so I more came into the season excited for something new and a new challenge. I didn’t really expect the world from this season. I expect a lot from myself but I knew it would take time to get the team to where we want it to go. We’re still not there but I think in the second half of the season we have had a bit more consistency. That’s been more positive. So looking towards what we are really trying to achieve next year it looks better. We’ll start to expect more – not only from myself but also from the team come 2020. But I think we have learned a lot. Personally I have. The results haven always been what we wanted but I definitely don’t see it being a year to forget or anything like that, far from it.