This Thursday’s press conference ahead of the Spanish GP dished us a great deal of interesting talking points, from car updates to returning new entries (excuse my oxymoron) on the F1 calendar.
Ferrari goes all-in with new components from a new floor to a completely revised power unit, as the Italian team is still chasing its first race win in 2019 to contrast the record-breaking Mercedes duo.
“Obviously we want to make the car faster here and there. I think we were reasonably quick but not quick enough overall to put the cars on the front row at every event. We’re lacking a little bit, but I think overall the package is promising. We know that we have a strong car; we’ve struggled a bit to put it together, so to answer your question, probably a bit of both.”
Vettel insists that the mood within the team is positive, everyone is motivated to work out the perfect combination to take a step forward on the SF90’s development.
“I said, the spirit is good, the team is in good shape, so we’re looking forward to come here, we’re confident about the parts we’ve brought here, we are introducing a new engine as well, so we’ve got some stuff that wee think should help us to be stronger than the last races. And as I said, the spirit is good. Comparing to previous years, at this point last year we were in a better place, we had won some races and overall we’d been more competitive, but nevertheless I think the spirit is as good or better than last year.”
From Barcelona to Barcelona. Ferrari has been on the back foot since the Australian GP, after creating huge expectations following encouraging performance data throughout winter testing. The SF90 actually seemed to be on another level compared to its competition, as it looked driveable and incredibly fast. Although its initial configuration and features suggested that it could eventually become a rather problematic car to develop, everyone regarded the first impression of the 2019 Ferrari race car as extremely satisfying. Vettel believes his team was better than Mercedes during the winter in terms of raw pace.
“I think that first when we were testing we were ahead. -he commented- Second we were going testing I think we were a match. First race we were behind, second race slightly ahead, third, fourth race behind both in qualifying and race so at the moment we are slightly behind but we also know that it’s not a long way and then things could come our way.”
Pierre Gasly also took part in the press conference and first and foremost he dealt with the fact that he faced a tough weekend in Baku. The Frenchman said that Red Bull and Honda are working closely on reliability, in order to avoid disaster results as the one in Azerbaijan. However, he feels that he is getting there on the personal side, as he is becoming more and more familiar with the team and the car itself: “I can feel I’m getting more comfortable inside the car and the direction we are taking is working and making me feel better. I think we saw some progress in Baku. We had penalties and unfortunately I had to retire in the race, but we are going in the right direction.”
Leaving Baku behind, the next crucial topic is very close to Carlos Sainz’s heart. The Circuit of Catalunya and Liberty Media have not reached an agreement yet concerning the future of the Spanish GP and more rumours over a potential Zandvoort comeback.
“Obviously for me it would be a big loss in the calendar – but as far as I know, negotiations are still on-going. -reacted Sainz- I think that’s been confined. From me, wishing that all the institutions are going to do their job, they’re going to agree on something. I think it’s in the benefit of Barcelona, of Spain, of Formula One. I think a Spanish Grand Prix has a lot of history in Formula One. So, hopefully they can agree on something.”
But let’s hear from another driver, George Russell, who sounds quite open to having Zandvoort back on the F1 calendar. “I think it would be a shame to lose this circuit because it’s a great one – but on the other hand, Zandvoort is probably in my top five favourite circuits. I think it’s a really incredible circuit, it’s got so much character. Obviously safety is incredibly important these days in Formula One but I just truly hope we don’t get rid of the gravel runoffs in Zandvoort in the two high-speed corners because that’s what makes the circuit so daunting and so incredible to drive. Like I said, it would be a shame to lose Barcelona but equally I’d be very excited to race in Zandvoort.”
As for the possibility of losing Interlagos, as the Brazilian government announced earlier this week, all drivers share brilliant memories at Sao Paulo. Here is what the winner of the Azerbaijan GP, Valtteri Bottas, had to say on the matter.
“I like Sao Paulo, I like its track, this old school layout, the history it has from the nineties and also the famous title fight there in 2007. I think it brings great memories. I don’t know, I think it depends on the track they build in Rio. If they build a cool track with cool racing, I think the city’s great, from what I’ve heard. Just ask for a cool track with cool racing, good overtaking and a fun track for the drivers then I think we wouldn’t miss Sao Paulo as much as we will if it doesn’t go so well.”