Australian Grand Prix Drivers' Conference

Australian Grand Prix Drivers' Conference

With: 

DRIVERS – Daniel RICCIARDO (RB), Oscar PIASTRI (McLaren), Esteban OCON (Alpine), Kevin MAGNUSSEN (Haas), Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)


Q: Why don't we start with the home heroes, in fact the hometown hero? Why don't we come to you first Oscar? Great to see you. You used to play footy and cricket just metres from where we're sitting now. Just how special is this race?
Oscar PIASTRI: Yeah, definitely a special race for me. I mean, for any driver, a home race is always good fun and a privilege. But like you said, for me, it's about 10, 15 minutes away from where I grew up. So, yeah, well and truly a home race and excited to be back.


 
Q: Well, good luck. And Daniel, you didn't line up on the grid here last year. Of all the races you missed in the first half of 2023, was this the one that hurt the most?
Daniel RICCIARDO: Yeah, it was. I mean, I remember being on pit wall here. It was my first race attending and I was watching the cars and there was that, yeah, certainly a bit of envy as I saw them all pull out of the garage. I kind of knew already that I wanted to do it again. But yeah, this was where, I felt it most. And then every race I went to after that, I was, ‘OK, I'm ready’.


 
Q: Well, good luck this weekend. And Logan, if we could come to you now, how would you sum up the start of the year, both for you and for Williams?
Logan SARGEANT: Yeah, I mean, we've had some issues to start the year. Luckily, we've been able to iron those things out. I feel like, generally, the car is in a decent place. We have some underlying performance that we can definitely get out of it, but it's going to take a little bit of time. But yeah, I think we're just looking for a smoother, cleaner weekend, and hopefully we can start here.


 
Q: Alright, good luck with that. And talking of a smooth clean weekend, Esteban, do you feel you've got a bit of unfinished business after what happened at the end of this race last year?
Esteban OCON: I think it was a very interesting race. There was a lot of fighting going on. And I think we managed to climb back up almost to the points at some stage. So yeah, it was a clean race. Not enough, unfortunately. We still have to work on the pace of the car and try to get it quicker. But yeah, an interesting race nonetheless. And looking forward to hopefully extract more out of the package here.


 
Q: Good luck with that. Kevin, if we come to you now. The man on your left used to be known as Formula 1's minister for defence, but I feel that title is now yours after what you did in Saudi. Just tell us, how did you get 18 seconds in 12 laps, wasn't it?
Kevin MAGNUSSEN: Yeah, I guess so. I mean, it's not the ideal way to go racing, of course, for any driver, but my race, after the first penalty there, which was my fault, you know, the contact with Alex, it was just bad judgment from my side. You know, the track comes back and I didn't create that extra room for him. So after that happened, it was basically game over for the point. And we saw an opportunity with Nico there, who was on a different strategy, and it worked out. So at the end of the day, mixed feelings about it at the time, but happy we got a point. These days, with the field basically split in half with the five front runners and the five at the back, the point is really valuable. So yeah, good that it worked out.


 
Q: Well done to you. And Checo, what did you make of his defensive performance last time out?
Sergio PÉREZ: Well, it was very, very impressive to see. I think, like Kevin says, I think there were some strategic reasons behind it. As a team, I think they worked well. They worked as a team, and from my point of view, it's not ideal if you are in the other side. But I think it's just, at the end of the day, you have to do the best for your team. And he gets paid by Haas, so he should do the best for them.


 
Q: And Checo, you said at the start of this year that there were two things you wanted to work on, your consistency and your qualifying pace. How do you feel those two things have gone so far?


 
SP: I think we are heading in the right direction. I'm really pleased with the first two races, especially with the progress we made after the first one. I feel like as a team we are in a really good momentum. We are understanding a lot of what's going on on the weekends, the way we review the weekends, how we prepare them. I'm pretty happy with how the season has started and I think there is a lot more to come from our side.


 
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
 
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Checo, I'm going to start with you, if that's OK. We're led to believe that your team-mate has a clause in his contract that means he can leave if Helmut Marko or Christian Horner leaves. Have you got a similar clause? Do you want a similar clause? And if your team-mate was to leave Red Bull, what do you think it would do to the team?
SP: I don't have that clause. I don't know what clause Max has in his contract. I think it's best you ask him. I think Max, as far as I know, has a contract with the team and is fully committed with the team. The rest, I think it's not for me to comment. It's nothing to do with me. I'm focusing on my decisions, on what I have to do. And I think for us to be talking about other drivers when we don't know any facts, I don't see any point to do so.


 
Q: Checo, the second half of David's question, if he were to leave, how would it affect the dynamic of the team?
SP: I think the team is in a very strong position because, I mean, with the results we're currently having, the harmony that there is in the team, I think to achieve that it just takes a lot of years probably. And right now the dynamics, everyone in the team is working really well together. The whole engineering group is really united. And you can see that on track and how efficient we've been in the last year. So I think I don't see any reason to change it. And it will obviously be a blow for the team if Max were to leave.


 
Q: (Chiel Van Koldenhoven – Viaplay) Question for both Aussies. It's good to see you next to each other as well, like brothers. Yeah, who will be the first Aussie on the podium on his home Grand Prix?
DR: Ten years ago, actually, it happened. I stood on it. Actually, Mark stood on it. Mark stood on it as well, didn't he? His first race. We'll have to wait and see. Obviously, it's a dream for us, any driver really, to be on their home podium. So yeah, that would be ideal and an amazing, I would say, career moment for both of us. But yeah, I think for us to get there, it would probably take a little bit of a race like last year. But yeah, we'll do our best.
OP: Yeah, I think we're both going to need some good fortune to end up on the podium. But yeah, it would be very, very special.


 
Q: First points in Formula 1 here last year, Oscar. So first Aussie on the podium this year?
OP: I mean, that took some good fortune. So I need some more for this year to get on the podium, I think.


 
Q: (Roldán Rodriguez – DAZN Spain) One question to Kevin. As we are in year 10 of the hybrid era, and you started that in 2014 with a podium, I think I want to know how you evaluate these 10 years with these engines and how you see the future about that?
KM: I mean it's all I've… Well, I tested with the old naturally aspirated engines and I've driven both v10 and v8 as well. I've driven all of those and I think the performance of these hybrid engines is much more impressive. There's something about the old engines that you know is nostalgic and certainly the sound is something that I grew up loving and still miss to this day. Whenever there's an old car running on track, it's really unique and still something that is beautiful. So there's still part of me that hopes we can get that back somehow. But at the same time, I know that the world has moved on. Technology has moved on. There are new requirements for the technology we have and, you know, for it to be relevant on the market, on the road, for the cars is an important element, too. So, yeah, I don't know. Personally, as a driver, we'd love to go back in time and drive with those beautiful engines of the past.


 
Q: And Kevin, how do you reflect on that 2014 race?
KM: Well, I don't really. It's been so long. It feels like a lifetime ago. A lot has happened since. It's a nice thing. I'm proud of having gotten on the podium in my first race, but at the same time, it’s very frustrating to have done 10 years and not get back on the podium. You know, it's mixed feelings about that, too. But, you know, it was a great weekend. And every time I come here, you know, I get sort of that feeling back. And, you know, in itself, doing your first race in Formula 1 is special, no matter where you finish and then to get on the podium was just insane on that weekend. So a lot of memories, for sure.


 
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Esteban, let's turn to you. I remember talking to you at the back end of last year and you feared that this year's car was not going to be one that you were going to enjoy driving too much. Have your fears been realised or is the situation much, much worse?
EO: Thanks for the question. Yeah, I mean, we obviously where we are. It's not a situation that we are enjoying as a team. I think none of us, you know, in Viry or Enstone is enjoying struggling that much in the weekends. It's a long season and obviously we are working towards, you know, trying to optimise the car, understand where our issues are and to turn things around. Hopefully, you know, it's more simple to say than to make it. So until we make it, you know, it's only words. But this is the aim that we have as a team. And yeah, we are not going to release the pressure on that until we get there. And that's the aim out of everyone. The morale is good inside the team. Everyone's motivated and that's the most important at the moment.


 
Q: Esteban, what is the biggest issue with the car?
EO: There's a lot of small things that are not working the way we would like, but the field is so tight at the moment that details in the end, if you have many that are not right, make a huge difference. I remember being that far off the grid with Manor, but nowadays it's a lot closer to the field. The field is a lot more compact from P1 to where we are and it's a very different way of sorting things out. So, yeah, we will see where and how we progress through the year, but the aim is to progress.


 
Q: (Diego Mejia – Fox Sports Mexico) Checo, you arrive to race three on the back of two consecutive podiums, similar to a year ago. Where do you feel you are with the car relative to a year ago?
SP: I think we are in a much better place in terms of understanding. I think when the weekend is not going your way, getting back and understanding what things work for us and what doesn't, I think we are a lot better in that regard. We've been exploring a lot, especially towards the end of last year. We were exploring so much with the set-up of the car that we got to a point where I think right now we really know which directions, which set-ups work for us. And I think we are in a much better position. Also, we are starting the weekend a lot better. We're making a lot more progress during the weekend. So I think overall, I feel a lot more together with the car, with team for the rest of the year compared to last year.


 
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Daniel, let's turn to you. Coming into the season, there was a lot of talk, a lot of headlines about how this season could be a brilliant run back up towards the senior team once again for you. And whilst you're in a much better position talking today than you were 12 months ago here in Australia, the opening two races haven't been as good, I'm sure, as you would like. How much did you buy into that talk about there being a potential seat at the senior team? Are you still thinking that way? And what do you need to do to persuade the bosses that you could go back once again to Milton Keynes and do the business?

 


DR: I don't buy into any of the stories, if you will. I know, obviously, what my position is in the team. I know, let's say, some potential things that could happen if I do really well. But that's all just... It's like everything you know. I think any team you're with, you know if you have a really strong season it could lead to maybe something different or increase your position where you currently are. I think it's always our objective to do the best we can. And I think whatever happens will happen or can happen. But for us, my objective is to drive this car as good as I can. I think now getting back into a car I'm definitely not looking too far ahead. So am I thinking about the Red Bull seat that you speak of? No. I know if I do some really good results, maybe then that can present itself potentially. It's not something I think about because, yeah, as you said, 12 months ago, I wasn't in this position. I didn't know if I would be back in this position. So I think I just take it weekend after weekend. There will always be some, yeah, whatever going around. But I know my job and what I need to do. And I think the more I get… Look, it's through experience as well. But the more you get caught up in that stuff, then that starts taking focus away from my job and that’s driving as fast as possible. I know we do a lot of other things during the course of a race weekend but that's why we're here ultimately, to push the car to the limit and try to make it as good as it can be. So this weekend it's something I look forward to obviously being here racing at home, but yeah, as you said, after the first two races it hasn't been amazing. but it's not a concern I think it's two races out of 24 and there's a lot of new people in the team. So it's very early, but I do definitely want to have a strong weekend and yeah, do well.
 
 
Q: (Chiel Van Koldenhoven – Viaplay) As a follow-up from my neighbour's question, Daniel, Helmut Mark was quite outspoken last week. Juki's qualifying fantastic, but you need to find a solution. Those kind of things, is that annoying in a weekend in your home race, or does it even motivate you more? Also annoying maybe because you get these kind of questions now.
DR: No, it's not annoying. I think there's always, as a big part of our job… The most important part is the driving, but a big part of it is talking to you guys and obviously hearing when things go well, obviously everyone's talking positively and when they don't, they don't talk so positively. So that's part of it. I think also the more I get into the sport, the more I just know that I'm back here because I believe I can do it. I believe I belong here, and it's really that. When people say, do you have a point to prove or anything, or do you need to keep people happy or please anyone, I'm here for myself. It's honestly that, because I know I can still do it. I do want to make people proud, the people that support me. If someone says something, I know it already, because I've told myself that, or I know what's expected from me. So that's that. Of course, I want to be qualifying Q3. I want to get these results that I believe I can. But it's tight. We're in such a tight midfield. And like Bahrain in quali, I knew I didn't put the lap together I should have. And I put my hand up for that. And that's the difference. That's the difference from maybe P14 to a Q3. I think end of Q1 in Saudi from P9 to P16 was less than a tenth. So you can very quickly look like a hero or not. And that's where every tenth counts. And that's where obviously I look to myself first.


 
Q: (Roldán Rodriguez – DAZN Spain) A question to Checo. Your team-mate is one of the best drivers of the last years, most probably. I would like to know how you prepare yourself to compete with him. Which specific areas as a driver you are working to do that?
SP: Just maximizing myself in all the areas. I think Max is a very complete driver that is very strong in qualifying, very strong in the race. Very rarely has weaknesses or makes mistakes. He's driving at a very high level. I think when you look back, even in qualifying, the last two qualifying, he's been the only driver that has been able to maximise his full potential come qualifying. So I think just focusing on myself, obviously keeping an eye on what he's doing, how he's getting the maximum out of the car, but at the same time, I think it's just important to focus on myself and get the maximum out of myself. And if I'm able to do that, I know that I'm always going to be very close.


 
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Gentlemen, you've all been rookies in your career, some more recently than others. In Saudi, we saw the 67th driver in Formula 1’s World Championship to score points on their debut, Ollie Bearman. What's your reaction to his performance and what he achieved that weekend?
DR: I'm happy to speak on it. I think he did, obviously, a tremendous job. Probably the way I view it as well is when there's only 20 of us on the grid, there is obviously a lot more talent than just 20. So that's where you see someone like Ollie, who obviously has a lot of talent and, yeah, he had that opportunity to show it and he did really well. And, you know, so I think it just speaks to how tight this sport is and why, yes, there is maybe things and pressure and all that to perform because there is always going to be someone that is coming through the ranks and has obviously a lot of potential and a lot of talent. So yeah, Ollie did great. I think everyone recognised that. And it's not easy because there's… It's like any sport, you can be the best in practice but when it comes to shining under the lights things can change, and he obviously did a really good job under the lights as well.

 


OP: Yeah, I think he did a really good job. Yeah, obviously stepping in on Saturday morning for Ferrari as well, nonetheless. I think he did a great job. We were joking with him on the driver's parade about what his neck strategy was going to be for the race. And looking at some of the onboards, I think he's probably still a bit sore. But no, he did a great job, honestly. And yeah, I think he can be very proud of his performance.


 
Q: (Mat Coch – Speed Café) Daniel and Oscar, one each for you. Oscar, realistically this weekend what's possible? I guess Red Bull and Ferrari are up the road. Is it between you and Mercedes for P5 I guess? And Daniel, after Jeddah you mentioned that the team found something in the car after qualifying. can you put a bit more flesh on those bones for us please?
OP: I think being realistic, yes, being in the fight for the third quickest team is probably where we're at at the moment. I think we were a step closer to being close to Ferrari, at least anyway in Saudi, but we're still... We don't quite have enough at the moment. So I think probably the fight is with Mercedes at the moment for us. Hopefully we can start challenging a bit more later in the year, but for now, yeah I think as much as I don't want to put people's hopes down at home, I think yeah any more than sort of P5 is going to require some good fortune, yes.

 


DR: So, yeah, we found some inconsistencies across cars. And that, I think, was obviously… As I touched on earlier, when it's so tight, you know, especially in our position, you need everything to obviously try and be there. So that was that. And then in the race, you know, early in the Safety Car period, we had a slow stop. So then it put us at the back and yeah, pretty much in a DRS train after that. So then you're out of position and that kind of made it a very long and tough weekend. So ahead of this weekend, I think everything's been addressed. I've been speaking with the team a lot. I was back in the sim as well after Saudi and before heading home. So yeah, I feel like we've done everything we can to come here with our best shot and I'm very, very happy that we're probably 24 hours away from getting in the car.


 
Q: (Fred Ferret – l’Equipe) How proud are you to have your name on the straight line of the Melbourne go-kart track? And what kind of memories do you have from back then? And same question about the Boronia track?
OP: So Boronia is the remote control track. OK, wow, we're really going back! I think I was like seven when I first raced there. I honestly haven't been out to the RC track for years. I probably should make a trip back and have a bit of fun. But yeah, that was where it all began for me, really. Before go-karts, that's sort of what I started with. So yeah, maybe a less orthodox way of getting into racing and yeah, at the go-kart track down at Oakleigh, yeah it's a privilege to have my name on the on the straight. That's where I started in go-karts years ago. I was just chatting with Lando just a few hours ago. He drove there yesterday and I think the club let him know who the track belonged to. But no, we were talking about it and it's one of the toughest tracks in the country. Lando very firmly agreed. I think his ribs agreed as well. But it's a massive privilege to have that sign up there. And yeah, I'll have to try and make a trip back. It's certainly a bumpy place and I need to prepare my ribs for it if I go back. But no, a massive honour to have my name up.


 
Q: (Ben Waterworth – TheRoar.com.au) Question to the Aussies. Dan, obviously you touched on [the fact that] you technically got a podium here 10 years ago. Can you ever take... any of that feeling that brought at the time before it got taken away and bottling it for your performance? And for Oscar, I believe you were 13 when that race was on. Do you remember watching that and the disappointment when you later found out that Dan got that taken away from him?
DR: Yeah, on the podium, obviously at the time of standing on the podium and all that, I thought I had it. So I think that's what I still hold on to in terms of, you know, in that moment in time, I stood on a home podium and the crowd all thought I had the podium at the time and the anthem and all of that. Actually, no, I would have got the anthem because it was, yeah, I wasn't first. But in my head, the anthem was playing. The German one would have been playing for Rosberg, but it was playing for me. And yeah, so I felt it and that was all real. You know, obviously hours passed then made it not, but yeah, that was always good and I was happy to get a taste. But of course I'd love it to stick and yeah it's crazy to think that was 10 years ago but we're still here. we're still trying.

 


OP: Yeah, I remember watching the race on TV. And I mean, similar kind of thing as well. When I saw he got disqualified… ‘ah, he finished second, it's all right’. So I kind of went through on a much, much lower scale, the same kind of thing. I saw an Aussie on the podium and that's all I remember from that day. So yeah, pretty wild to be racing around the same track 10 years later with the same guy I was watching on TV. It's pretty cool. So, yeah, hopefully we can both have a good weekend and make the home crowd proud.


 
Q: Oscar, when did you first come to Albert Park to watch the race live?
OP: The year after, actually, 2015. I was a grid kid holding Dany Kvyat's flag, and he broke down on the formation lap. So I was his good luck charm for that weekend. But that was the first F1 race I saw live, and I think the only F1 race I saw live before I went into F3 and saw it from the support paddock. Yeah, that was a very special weekend as well.


 
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Question for Daniel, Esteban, Logan and Kevin, please. Because of the sort of larger gap between the top five teams and the bottom five teams, realistically, you're only fighting for points if one of those teams drops out. So is that kind of mentally stimulating for you guys? you basically have to hold on and wait for somebody to retire or is it something that you can kind of deal with and compartmentalise?
KM: Well, I mean, it's not great. Obviously, the fact that if you execute a really good weekend, then on paper you still don't score points, that's not great, of course. At the same time, it makes it even more competitive in the Constructors' Championship because you've really got to win that B-class race to even have a chance. If you don't win that, then your chances are very small. But, you know, historically, statistically, there will be chances. There will be more than one car at some races in those 10 first cars that will not finish or have problems. And there's going to be races where it's difficult to overtake. And maybe you can be lucky with a Safety Car or anything like that. So it's not like all over, but it's certainly harder.


 
Q: Esteban, what's your mentality entering a Grand Prix weekend at the minute?
EO: Yeah, well, just to respond to the question, obviously, it's the worst feeling you can have. And I honestly hate that, you know, when you do a good weekend and you are not able to enter the scoring points, you know, there's no reward for you in the end. But, you know, it's up to us to try and figure out and get more performance and get closer to these cars. But yeah it is tough to go into a weekend and you know push as hard as you can also mentally you know, to be doing the maximum knowing that there could be no reward in the end. But it's part of the job. You need to do the best you can with what you have in hand and you know that's why you know I'm here.


 
Q: Thank you. Logan?
LS: Yeah, I think it's similar, of course. You want more, but I think at the end of the day as well, the bottom five teams are so close that you're looking for every hundredth. And at the end of the day, when you're in that position, you have to try and maximise everything to leave yourself in the position for when one of the cars in the top five teams goes out to try and pick that point up. So yeah, at the end of the day, you have to keep working hard, keep trying to find more and more and hopefully your turn and chance will come to score that point.
DR: Also, every weekend, my approach is maybe this track suits us more than the last track. These things can also be very track dependent. You kind of know most of the time where the fast cars are and that but… OK, I mention it a lot, but Mexico last year, we were last in the Constructors’ at the time I qualified fourth. So coming into that weekend, no one would have ever expected that and you know, you can have a good weekend like that and OK, drive well or whatever, but the car obviously worked better at that circuit. So like, there's always this bit of hope that you also hold on to coming into every weekend. And at least I do. So I'm always excited. I know that, yeah, it's probably not going to win this weekend, but maybe we can be in the top 10 and get a little bag of points.


 
Q: (Jacob Polychronis – Fox Sports Australia) Daniel, nice to have you back on the grid here in Australia. Red Bull has obviously been the big talking point kind of week to week and it continues to simmer away. You've spoken about returning to a drive at Red Bull one day being a full circle moment. I just wonder if you watch from afar or not so afar perhaps, and have any sort of concern whether or not what is unfolding there might impact that plan, especially in terms of what personnel may or may not continue there?
DR: Maybe as I touched on a little bit earlier, the focus now, and yes it's something I think maybe it's a possibility long term that I would, as I touched on, yeah it could be a wonderful full circle moment and finish my career there. That would obviously make me happy. But I just approach every weekend now one by one. I think when the sport for me was kind of nearly taken away… You know obviously a year ago there was no guarantee I would be back here. That kind of long vision or long-term way of thinking is just not where I'm at. So right now it's really focused on where I am, Visa Cash App RB. We've got a big task ahead. Try to do what I can there. Try to kick some butt and then see where the wind takes me.
 
Q: (Mat Coch – Speedcafé) Esteban, we've seen Ollie Bearman drop in and do well at Ferrari. Obviously, Liam did pretty well for AlphaTauri last year as well. Do you think Jack could do something similar if the opportunity arose at Alpine? And is he ready for a full-time gig on the F1 grid?
EO: Yeah, I mean, we've seen some good stuff from the F2 guys recently, and obviously Jack has driven with them and won races. No doubt that Jack deserves to drive more in Formula 1, deserves to have a shot at least in F1 in one race. And yeah, I mean he's obviously helping a lot with the simulator work that he's doing with the team and he's a great asset to us and a great character and team player as well. And he's done some really good work when he stepped in in FP1s in Mexico and Abu Dhabi in the last two years and it's a shame not to see him racing definitely and I wish him the best for the future.
 
Q: Has he taught you any Aussie slang?
EO: Well, I had an Aussie team-mate in the past. So, yeah, I know a few things. But, no, I'm not going to be speaking it now.
 
Q: We had Sebastian Vettel do that a few years ago.
EO: He's better than me at doing that.
 
Q: (Ben Waterworth – TheRoar.com.au). For Kevin, similar question just on Ollie. You sort of touched on his performance before, and would you like to see him as a teammate next year in Haas?
KM: Firstly, I think jumping in at a race weekend with a big team like Ferrari, there's got to be quite a lot of pressure. At the same time, when you get thrown in at the deep end like that, It can also kind of go the other way that you feel not a lot of pressure because the job is so big that it's kind of like unknown what the optimum performance should look like in that case. So I guess it was an awesome opportunity that he got, racing in such a cool track with Ferrari. Doing your debut race with Ferrari must be a very special feeling. Would I like him as a team-mate? I think, you know, looking at him as a young guy, you know, racing, I can relate to where he is in his career and in his life. So I hope all the best for him, of course. Nico is a very, very competent team-mate. And, you know, I think we have a very good dynamic in the team. We're working really well together. And I think, you know, the journey that we're on as a team, I think it's helpful having experienced drivers, but it's obviously out of my control. I think we've just got to make the maximum of what we have right now with the two drivers and the car we have, which I think is going alright.


 
Q: Kevin, given Ollie’s association with Haas, did you give him any advice before the weekend or on Friday in Saudi Arabia?
KM: No, I didn't have any talks with him. He was very much part of Ferrari that weekend. I think he's our reserve driver for the races that he's doing FP1 this year, which is quite many. So Ferrari, obviously, really counting on him and putting a lot of effort on him, which is great for him.


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