FIA Thursday press conference – 2024 Miami Grand Prix

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Sergio, this one for you. At Red Bull, there’s been a lot of stories this year and what seems like a bit of internal infighting as well. Do you worry that the news of Adrian’s departure this week will lead to more people departing the team and not just in the aero department, not just technical people, but your team-mate Max Verstappen as well?

SP: I don’t think so. I think everyone is fully committed to the team. We’re having a tremendous season once again. The future looks bright in the team, so I think it’s normal that you have this sort of movement with some people. But I think the organisation remains really strong and I don’t see any more changes in that regard.

Q: (Diego Mejia – Fox Sports Mexico) Question for Sergio. As you’ve said, it’s been almost 20 years since the last time Adrian switched teams. With how much has Formula 1 changed over that time, how much of an instant impact would you expect him to have if he was to join a top team?

SP: Well, definitely. Adrian, with the experience he has, obviously he has contributed a lot to the Red Bull philosophy. So, yeah, I assume he will cause an immediate impact wherever he goes, whatever he does. He’s a very clever guy, very hard worker. And with Adrian, working with him, it’s much more than a designer. He can influence even strategies, set-up. He could have that influence on a race weekend, you know? So to have him around on race weekends was great. And yeah, he’s obviously a very strong individual guy that wherever he goes, he will cause immediate impact. But obviously, It’s a whole group of people that he would require to have around him as well.

Q: (Nelson Valkenburg – ViaPlay) A question for Valtteri. Given your body language on the subject of the race engineer of Alex, what does it say about the organisation that clearly you were at least not happy with the situation, that the direct link between the car and the car’s performance for you changes underneath of you?

VB: What was the actual question?

Q: (Nelson Valkenburg – ViaPlay) So what does it say about the organisation as it is growing into the Audi organisation that this clearly has happened to you and you’re not completely happy with it?

VB: I think it says that things are changing. You know, there’s change happening. Obviously, some changes are for the long term. I don’t obviously know all the reasons behind every decision that, like I said, is being made. But it just tells that, yeah, change is happening. People are leaving. People are coming in. That’s about it.

Q: (Roldán Rodriguez – DAZN Spain) A question to Checo Pérez. You are doing a strong season this year. You are second in the World Driver’s Championship. What else do you need to re-sign the contract with Red Bull? And why is it not done yet?

SP: Well, I think like everyone that hasn’t done a contract, that is not signed, until you don’t have that in paper fully signed, then everything remains an option. So right now, it’s not really the main priority. We are in a period of time, obviously the driver’s market is making things to go a lot earlier, with Lewis joining Ferrari early in the year, it meant that everyone is looking for the best possible option they can get. But I believe it’s just a matter of time. And, yeah, obviously right now the priority is on the season, it’s on the races, it’s preparing the races with the team and the race will take care of itself.

Q: (Tim Hauraney – TSN) Question for Lewis. Lewis, obviously you have your obligations with Mercedes, but off track, are you monitoring a lot what’s going on with Ferrari and what they’re doing? Are you in constant communication with the team?

LH: I mean, I continue to have a good relationship with John and Fred, so we speak regularly. But no, I’m not actually in touch with the team. And of course, I observe from afar, but the full focus is on how can we beat them right now. How can we win. So that’s where all my energy is going.

Q: (Margot Lafitte – Canal+) Question for Lewis, but I would be delighted if other drivers want to answer. I don’t know if we have enough time. Lewis, we’re doing some footage on how to deal with celebrity. And I was wondering how it impacted your day-to-day life, your day-to-day activities. Recently, Kylian Mbappé said he was losing spontaneity in his life. Is that something you feel? Is that something that impacts you?

LH: No, I’m pretty spontaneous. I think it’s an interesting journey. It’s definitely not all you thought it would be. As a kid, when you see people on TV and you’re like, ‘oh, it must be cool. This must happen and this must happen, having money, and all these different things’. But it’s not all great. And I think over time you just learn how to handle it. And I think ultimately at some stage you realise that it’s not really about you. It’s a platform to do good, and so if you just have the right intentions then you can actually have a real positive impact and I think that’s really what it’s mostly for.

VB: Yeah, I definitely haven’t lost my spontaneity as well, so not so much more to add to Lewis. It’s a journey and some things are good, some maybe not what you thought as a kid. But I think the easiest way is to just be yourself and roll with it and try and enjoy the good and the positive things.

SP: I think it obviously has its hard bits, but there are also a lot of positives with it. You’ve achieved a lot of things that you wanted to achieve when you were a kid, but it comes with a huge responsibility. What I find difficult at times is that it can really apart you from going to places. I have a family and sometimes being with your family, you are not as comfortable as you used to be, because of the attention that you get when you are in different places. But it’s all part of the journey, realising that we have, like Lewis said, a great platform to motivate younger generations to achieve their dreams. It’s obviously like everything in life, you know, it comes with some bad things. But at the end of the day, we have to remember that we are very privileged to be able to be living our dreams.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Lewis, please. The driver you’re replacing next year at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, I just wondered, what do you make of him as a driver, as a person, as a rival on track?

LH: I’ve got a lot of respect for Carlos. And I think it’s been great to see his progress as a driver. I think he’s been doing an amazing job, obviously this year particularly. And yeah, I just continue to see the great bond he has with his dad, which I can relate to. And I mean, from an outside space, he seems like a very straightforward person, quite funny. Yeah, that’s as far as it goes in terms of how much I know him.

Q: (Samuel Pancher – Metropoles) This week, we remember 30 years since the loss of the great Ayrton Senna. I’d like to hear from the drivers how this figure still inspires you, especially those who has this strong connection with Brazil?

LH: I mean, I think it’s a difficult one. I’ve said so much about Ayrton, so I don’t really have any more to say other than that he remains in all of our hearts and within the sport and is still such a role model. And his family, I think, is doing a great job with the foundation, still helping kids. But yeah, there’s nothing else I can really say that I haven’t already said.

LSt: Yeah, I mean, he’s a legend of the sport and someone that changed the sport in many ways. He was a legend on the track and also off the track. He had a voice. He helped Brazil in so many ways and really, I think, took the sport to another level in so many ways. And even from a driver’s side of things, I think really evolved, you know, the work ethic and, how to be at another level as a driver. So, yeah, he’s truly, definitely an incredible legend of the sport.

VB: Very much on the same lines with Lewis and Lance. And I don’t think it matters how many years goes on. The legacy will always live and he’ll always be a legend and never forgotten.

LSa: Yeah, I think similar to what the other drivers have said. And I think another thing just being that he holds a special place in not only most of us drivers, but the team’s heart as well from the history he has with them.

OP: Yeah, I mean, very much along the same lines. I think obviously he’s spent a great deal of his career at McLaren. So I think for us, it’s very, very special to have that legacy going on. For me, I was obviously not born when he was racing, but reading through the stories, watching the documentaries, seeing some of the videos of his qualifying laps, stuff like that, it’s very inspirational. Yeah, I think it’s great that we’re still celebrating him. And I think, like Valtteri said, I don’t think it matters if it’s 30 years, 50 years, 150 years. I think the legacy will still be there. And yeah, I think it’s very special for us all.

SP: Yeah, I think we all follow the sport. And for all of us, it’s super special to have had a figure like him. He was a tremendous racing driver, very brave. But what I admire the most is how he behaved out of the car, what he did for his country, for the kids, for the younger generations. I think that’s the one thing that I really get inspired by Ayrton. And yeah, I think it’s great that the family keeps doing a great job with their foundation and like Ayrton did when he was driving in Formula 1. So yeah, I think he’s a great human being and this is why his legacy is so big in our sport.

Q: (Francisco Torres – El Gráfico) One question to Checo. I saw the design of your helmet and all the flags of Latin American countries. What can you tell for you to decide to have a representative from Latin America?

SP: Well, I think it’s a massive pleasure and pride to be able to represent all the Latin countries. Obviously, here in Miami, I get a lot of support, not just from the Mexican side, just the whole Latin community. And it’s something that makes me extremely proud. Really hard as a Latin driver to be in this sport. So I really want them to feel the pride and hopefully this helmet can represent something that I feel on them.

Q: (Safid Deen – USA Today) For Lewis, how have you dealt with the awkwardness of this year, answering about your future team maybe more than your present team, telling fans Mercedes caps, not Ferrari caps, and even the awkwardness of today with Newey? How have you dealt with all of this? And it’s going to be a long year, too, for the rest of this year. How do you cope with that?

LH: I’ve never been in this situation before, so it’s a unique scenario. On one side, I’m really excited for turning up and working with my guys, and then I’m excited for the future at the same time. And also, just in terms of how fans have responded, it’s been great, because I’m kind of mingling with fans from both teams. But, you know, right now my heart’s still with Mercedes and I really want to continue to deliver and lift them up. That’s not only my job, but my desire this year. And as difficult as it’s been, we still rally together and I’m really proud of everyone that I’m working with. And I’m really hoping that the year gets better. I don’t want to say it can’t get worse, but I definitely think we will improve.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Good timing, Lewis with the previous question. You’re obviously moving to Ferrari with the hope of capturing the record eighth world title. Does the prospect of Adrian joining you, does that give you renewed hope or greater hope I guess that you can turn that dream into reality?

LH: Right now nothing changes because nothing’s like… I don’t know what’s happening in the future. All I know is that I’m joining a team that’s massively enthusiastic and driven, and as I said, doing a great job now and have amazing history and there’s nothing really changed so far.

Q: (Tom Carey – The Daily Telegraph) Lewis, just on Adrian again, you said any team would be fortunate to work with him. Do you expect that Mercedes will try, or should they try, given the troubles they’ve had the last few years, do you think Adrian might be exactly what they need?

LH: I have no idea if they are trying. I don’t know who is trying. I can’t tell you.

Q: (Jordan Bianchi – The Athletic) This is the first race here in Miami since the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and I’m curious if you guys, anyone up there has seen anything different with the atmosphere diminished in any way with the addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix?

LSt: Diminished? No, I think the sport’s got bigger here. It’s got a lot more awareness. Every city that I go to, people are excited. It’s now a sport here in the States. Before, it was just an event that arrived once a year. Now, we’re kind of a part of the culture here, which is really, really cool. It’s been amazing, and I think all of us are super grateful for the US finally embracing this sport and having the love and passion for it that we all have grown up with.

LSa: I think Lewis answered it well. I mean, it’s definitely not diminished at all, and I’m sure this weekend, as always, is going to be a fun one. So, no, definitely not.

VB: I mean, this weekend will show, but I doubt anything has lost anything, that it wouldn’t be special. I think it’s still going to be a great event and everything is being covered, I agree.

Q: (Ronald Vording – It’s a question to all of you, starting with Logan and with Lance, please, because you were affected in China. Logan, you got two penalty points on your license for what seemed a minor incident with Nico Hülkenberg, with you staying ahead. Do you guys feel that the penalty points are given too easily nowadays and that something needs changing, also with the risk of a ban at the end if you get up to 12? Or do you feel the system is OK as it is?

LSa: It’s a great question. I think mine was extremely frustrating. I think the penalty is one thing. I think to get penalty points for what it was, was a bit of a joke. I think a lot worse things happen throughout the weekend that you just get reprimanded for. I’ve had people in qualifying slow down in front of me, nearly have huge crashes, and nothing happens. But then when I cross the line at the same time as someone else and you can’t even see it, you get two penalty points. And I think it’s not a great direction to be heading in.

LSt: Yeah, I mean, it is what it is. Penalty points aren’t going away.

SP: I’m leading the championship currently on the penalty points! I think that already the penalties, sometimes you already pay the consequences for that and to add some penalty points, and given that we have now more races, I think it’s something that definitely should be looked at. Every incident if you see of all the points that every driver gets, there are a lot of points that are probably over the line, but the rule is there. But hopefully in the future it’s something that can be reviewed.

Q: (Rosanna Tennant – BBC Radio 5 Live) A question for Lewis. During your negotiations with Ferrari, was Adrian Newey ever mentioned? Was his name ever discussed? Or is it only since the Christian Horner allegations that he’s become a real possibility?

LH: I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you what was in the discussions.

Q: (Dan Lawrence – Motorsport Monday) We only have six Sprints in a year and they’re normally quite spread out in the 24-race calendar, but the first two Sprints of the year are back-to-back. How do you feel about having two Sprint weekends back-to-back? Is it a positive or a negative for you and the teams?

SP: Like I said before, I think it puts a lot of workload on our mechanics. With the current format as it is, definitely I’ve seen some of my boys and it’s definitely a lot of workload to be able to change the car right after the Sprint event, before qualifying, it just puts a lot of workload. I would really like that we will be able to review the format because so we are looking after our people in our sport.

OP: I think for me, having two in a row doesn’t really make much difference. Yeah. For me, it’s very much the same. You attack the weekend in a similar way. So yeah, for me, it’s not a big difference if they’re together or not. I think some circuits are better for Sprints than others. But yeah, having two in a row for me makes no difference.

LSa: I would just prefer 24 normal weekends. Leave it at that.

VB: No, it doesn’t make a difference when they are. I think it’s in the end, it’s six in a year anyway. So yeah, it doesn’t make a difference.

LSt: Two-day events would be nice, because we have so many race weekends now. So many Thursdays. You know, like practice, three hours on a Saturday morning, qualify Saturday afternoon, race Sunday.

LH: I agree.

Q: (Doug Markowitz – Miami New Times) How have you guys all enjoyed being in Miami so far? And how do you plan on spending your time here before or after the race?

LH: I got here two days ago and I love being here. I get to go on the water and the weather, as I said, is great. I came from New York which was beautiful weather on one day but then raining the next day, so it’s nice to have that consistent sun and just in general met so many people and they’re all excited for the weekend which is good.

LSt: Yeah, I got here Monday and I’ve been enjoying the sunshine and the beach and might hang out a bit after the race, so it’s good.
VB: It’s been great. Yeah, so again, some new places I haven’t seen in the previous years, so it’s good to come here and explore a bit more.

LSa: Yeah, being home with family and friends, it’s been great so far.

OP: Yeah, for me, seeing a little bit of Miami, but yeah, nothing more to add really.

SP: For me, it’s great. It’s really close to home, so I get to spend a little bit back home. It’s a two-hour flight, so a lot of friends also here every year. I used to come two or three times a year to Miami, so now having the race, it’s really nice. I get to see some of my friends that are living here. It’s a city that I enjoy a lot, being here.

Q: (Jenna Fryer – Associated Press) Lewis, Angela Cullen has recently resurfaced in the IndyCar garage. She’s working with a second-year Kiwi, a skinny little kid. She’s put some weight on him, some muscle on him. His performance has picked up on track. He’s doing much better than he did last year. I’m just wondering, why do you think Ang wants to be back in that scenario? What drives her and wants to work with drivers?

LH: I think she’s a healer. She’s a positive person. Her purpose is to bring love to everyone that she meets, which she does. And she’s passionate about sports. And I think she’s really enjoying it. a different environment, but still racing. And I think from her time here, she became such a passionate racing fan. And so I think once you catch the bug, it’s hard to get out of it. And why should she? She belongs in the sport. And yeah, she’s definitely very, very happy right now.