Hungarian GP | Press Conference:
Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes), Carlos SAINZ (Renault), Esteban OCON (Force India)
Q: Valtteri, if we could start with you please. New Mercedes contract announced at Hockenheim last weekend. Can we just get your thoughts on that? How much confidence does it give you and what do you feel it says about your performances so far this year?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Thank You. Yes, of course, at this point of the year it’s a very, very good point to know what you’re doing next year. When there’s a contract still to be had for the future. So, yeah, very happy of course, first of all. And really, it also makes me a proud team member again. I think for sure the team, they were evaluating all the options, as always, which is fair enough. I’m really proud also that the team wanted me and no-one else for the seat so, for sure it feels good. Really happy to continue.
Q: Valtteri, we’re at the half-way point in the season. How do you assess how it’s gone so far? And do you feel you’ve stepped-up from last year?
VB: I feel by the end of last year I started to improve quite a bit. I think I’ve been able to carry that performance from the end of last year into this year in general. Obviously where I am in the drivers standing, the amount of points I have, it’s not quite ideal but I know, and the team knows, my performance each weekend and we can see it’s been a step-up from last year. For sure, I just want to keep getting better and keep improving as usual.
Q: Esteban, while we’re talking contracts, perhaps I could come to you and ask you about contracts. It’s a furious silly season this year, particularly in the midfield, what can you tell us about your future?
Esteban OCON: Yeah, I mean of course you know when there are rumours it’s almost good. It means that people are watching you on track and are quite happy with what you are doing. So, it’s always a nice thing. On my side, I’m always focussed on the job I have to do, and I think yeah, if people talk about you there is always plenty of opportunities. So, we’ll see. I’m not worried.
Q: When can we expect any news?
EO: When there will be something, you will be the first to know.
Q: Subject of contracts Carlos, seems only fair that we talk to you about it as well. What can you tell us about your whereabouts for 2019?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah – I thought that was coming after Esteban’s question. Yeah. Pretty much the same: nothing has been announced recently. Nothing has changed from my contractual situation together with Red Bull and Renault. Until those two parties don’t move and they don’t know what Ricciardo is doing etcetera, my situation still doesn't change.
Q: What is your priority for next year?
CS: My priority is to find a place that I’m comfortable with. I’ve already spoken about a two-year deal. First my priority is what Red Bull and Ricciardo are doing and then myself together with my management team will find the solution I'm sure.
Q: Valtteri, coming back to you to talk about this weekend. Very few straights here, some engineers refer to it as ‘Monaco without the Walls’. Do you feel you’re coming into the weekend on the back foot as a team, as a result of that?
VB: I think historically for Mercedes it’s not been the strongest race. It is a fact. And we know the tracks where you need the maximum downforce, normally Red Bull has been really strong and Ferrari for sure as well. I think coming to this weekend we can’t say we’re the favourites. We come to this weekend knowing that we can do pretty well if we can get everything right and that it’s going to be again a close battle between three teams – at least – for the win. We’ve been seeing some really crazy races this year and I think it’s going to be a close fight again. We’re not too confident, in a way, but at the same time if we do a good job, everything is possible.
Q: Something of a home grand prix for you this weekend. A few extra flights from Helsinki laid on I gather.
VB: It is. It’s a race where I think most of the Finns, they come to. It means a lot to see so many Finnish flags. Even the local fans here, there’s big support I feel. I think there’s a lot of fans of mine and I’m really happy to see all of them this weekend.
Q: Coming back to you Esteban. You’re just one point behind your team-mate Sergio Pérez in the world championship now. Can you just talk to us about how this intra-team rivalry with him this year has changed since last year? Is it more intense? How do you feel? What’s the feeling in the team?
EO: It’s always been big. The rivalry we have inside the team. I think it’s good. It pushes us up and pushes us to perform better, I would say. Of course, you know, I’m getting more experience. Towards last year I was happier with the job I was doing with the team, and also this year I feel strong. I feel very good at the moment – but it’s a close fight until the end with Sergio. Of course, we both want to finish ahead of the other one. But, you know, he’s pushing me hard, I’m pushing him hard and I like the rivalry we have inside the team. But the atmosphere is still great and we have a great relationship, so it’s all good.
Q: Carlos, very close battle with team-mate Nico Hülkenberg this year. 7-4 in qualifying so far. Can we get your assessment at this halfway point of the year as to how you feel you’ve done at Renault, how you’ve settled in?
CS: Yeah, I think I’ve settled in pretty nicely, especially, I would point out, since Baku, Barcelona, I’ve managed to what I wanted to do to get the car a bit more to my liking. A bit more towards my comfort. And just when I managed to do that I started to do good qualifyings. Looks like Sundays have gone a bit more complicated for me – not achieving, or not getting all the points I would like to get – but those kind of things have been a bit out of my control recently. I’m particularly happy now where I am with the car and the speed I have with the car.
Q: (Rocio Andreina Romero Navarrete – Motorlat) A question for Carlos. The McLaren opportunity for you: are you ready to beat Fernando Alonso, as until now he has beat all the team-mates?
CS: I don’t know, because I haven’t even though about it, as still it’s not happening. I’m ready to beat anyone in the field. My racing spirit and my competitiveness and my self-confidence tells me that I can take over anyone. Probably Fernando would be the biggest ask that you could have on the grid, that’s for sure, but yeah, I would feel ready for anything.