Thursday’s FIA press conference – part 2

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Part 2 of the Thursday press conference in Melbourne
included Valtteri Bottas and rookie driver Lance
Stroll.

Click HERE for Part 1 of the
press conference.

PART TWO: DRIVERS – Valtteri BOTTAS (MERCEDES), Esteban
OCON (FORCE INDIA), Felipe MASSA (WILLIAMS), Lance STROLL
(WILLIAMS)

Q: It’s been a Mercedes one-two here for the last two
seasons. Presumably, another one would suit you just fine. Is
that why you made this move?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Sure, that would be a good
way to start. Obviously, we do need to see where we are
standing against all the other teams. It’s a completely new
season, a new era of Formula One, a new team for me but that’s
always the ultimate target. I feel in a good place and
definitely it’s always some kind of dream coming true, being
part of a team like this that has pretty much dominated the
last three years in Formula One. I feel very happy but just
keen to get going.

Q: We could see from testing that you settled in during
the first week and then managed to close up a bit to your
teammate Lewis Hamilton’s pace at the second test so are you
more or less where you expected to be at the first
race?

VB: I feel well prepared, I feel definitely
ready to race. I really think we made the most out of the short
period of time I had to prepare with the team and get into
everything perfectly. Obviously it’s been a massive learning
curve for me, since mid-January until today and that is still
going to continue but I felt testing was good. Every single
time I was in the car I felt better and better and I’m sure
that is just going to continue and I’m feeling more and more
part of the team so happy to be here racing.

Q: Lance, welcome to Formula One, at 18-years of age,
the second youngest driver after Max Verstappen to take part in
Formula One. How’s the preparation gone and what would success
look like for you this year?

Lance STROLL: Yeah, thank you. I think
preparation has been going really well so far. We had a good
test in Barcelona, the second week me and Felipe did all the
running which was good. I think just a solid year, a clean
year, obviously still a lot to learn so I don’t think putting a
position or a number would be the right way to approach the
whole thing. I think we’re just going to take it race by race.
It’s still going to be a big learning curve for me, there’s
still a lot for me to understand about everything but listen to
the people around me that are there to help me and take it race
by race. Looking forward to the whole thing.

Q: With all the rule changes that have gone on from
last year to this year, is this a really good year to come in
as a rookie or is it actually quite tough?

LS: I don’t know. It is what it is and I’m
just going to have to make the best of it. I don’t want to look
at it as a negative or a positive, it’s the way it is, it’s a
new regulation and it’s for everyone. It’s my rookie year and I
just have to learn what I have to learn and get on with it.

Q: Felipe, welcome back. Does this mean we get to have
another party? How’s the surprise comeback worked out so
far?

Felipe Massa:  Well, first of all, I
didn’t expect to be here on Thursday. Maybe I was planning to
be somewhere (else), eating more, getting more fat, whatever,
maybe not being here on Thursday which is an amazing day in
Formula One. But things change in life – which actually didn’t
change, to be honest, but for reasons… Yeah, I’m really happy,
motivated, ready for this challenge and I think everything I
hear, when Claire calls me, and I said ‘I think we need to talk
in a proper way’ so then we had a long meeting and everything
that I asked,  that needed to be different, especially on
the technical side, so many different things that didn’t work
in the proper way need to be better and everything she said and
everything Williams is doing I believe is correct. So many new
people arrived and are still arriving, so many things that we
are working hard to make work in a better way so yeah, I’m
staying in Formula One, I think to be racing for a team that I
believe is professional and important, I feel important as
well. Yeah, that’s why I took this decision to carry on. I feel
really happy and yeah, so we will see. I think the real answer
to where we are we will have here on Sunday but also during the
championship. I had some good feelings in the Barcelona test
and I’m really looking forward to having another great,
competitive season and a nice job also, that gives me pleasure,
so I’m really looking forward, really fit and ready for this
challenge.

Q: Just continuing on the theme we spoke of with Lance
a minute ago, the challenge of being a rookie. You made your
debut when you were obviously very young as well back in 2002.
What did you wish that you’d been told then and how did you
handle coming into Formula One?

FM: Well, I am a rookie. I stopped, I retired!
We start the first race, two rookies! No, I’m joking. It’s his
opportunity, he’s allowed to learn, he shows that he has a
talent for that, that all of us had the opportunity at the
start and yeah, I met him when he was eight years old, one year
more than my son which is really painful, to be honest, and
here we are teammates. I have all the happiness to work with
him but also to pass on everything I can. We are working for
the team, together, both drivers so we need to score as many
points as we can. It would be nice to work with him and to have
a great championship together and for the team which is the
most important thing.

Q: Esteban, obviously you were a rookie last year, now
a move up the grid from Manor to Force India. It’s a team
that’s been able to score podiums consistently in the last few
years so easy question: is that the target for 2017 for
you?

Esteban OCON: Well, I think it’s a bit early
to speak about that at the moment. No one has done a race yet
so we see where everyone is. I think in testing everyone had a
little bit left in the pocket so you know it’s early to speak
about that but I think to start the weekend here, the approach
would be to do a strong weekend, to reach the finish line
because in the past you always had problems for the other teams
and for teams and if you arrive at the finish line you always
have a strong result so I think that’s the way to approach it.

Q: You’re obviously part of the Mercedes Junior
programme; do you feel that if you perform now for Force India
there’s a real possibility of getting into a Silver Arrows at
some point in the near future?

EO: I’m obviously a Mercedes Junior driver but
at the moment I’m a Force India driver and I’m fully focused on
this target, to do a strong job this season and I think it’s
still early to speak about being a Mercedes F1 driver in the
future, so no, at the moment I’m very happy to be with Force
India and I’m fully motivated with them.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Esteban, where were
you and what did they tell you about your car would be pink
this year? What were your first thoughts?

EO: I was actually at home, I was just
training when I had the call. No, I think it’s a really good
thing, overall, for the team.  BWT coming into Formula One
is a great thing as well, it also changes the perspective… a
pink car – you don’t see one a lot of times so I think it’s a
good thing but also a good sponsor like BWT makes money coming
into the team and it can only make the car go faster.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, so far you
have been three times on the front row. If this is a winning
car, would P2 be a satisfying or disappointing result for
you?

VB: Well it depends if your teammate is P1 or…
Obviously, the result targets are going to be completely
different now than what they have been in the past few years
but as I said before, we still need to wait and see where we
are, really. We will see on Saturday, we will see on Sunday.
It’s only the very beginning of the year but for sure as a
driver, you always want to be on the front row and in the best
place, P1, but let’s wait and see and go step by step and day
by day.

Q: (Ysef Harding – Xiro Xone News) Felipe, first
question is how did you feel coming back into F1 because it’s
like the Godfather, you tried to get out but they pushed you
right back in again. And what were you doing when Claire did
throw up the W and the symbol and you had to put your super
suit back on and get back in the car?

FM: Well, for sure, things change for a
reason. I had a lot of support from everybody to carry on. I
have a lot of support from my family, a lot of support from my
fans. It was really amazing to see everybody pushing me: carry
on, carry on. We want to see you there and that everything that
happens around the team that… maybe, we will see where we are
now which I believe is correct what is happening so then we
need to work to make it better. Yeah, to be honest, I had an
amazing feeling when I decided to stop in the second part of
the season and I didn’t have a reason to carry on. If I don’t
have what I believe is correct, which maybe I have now. Then
also the feeling that I had in Brazil, also in the last race
which gave a lot of happiness in the way that I’m stopping,
it’s fantastic you know, but also it was not easy for me to
take the decision to carry on because everything was just
beautiful. But maybe something has happened for a reason and
maybe it was not the reason to stop. I’m ready, motivated and
we will see where we are going to be and how the season will
be. I’m really 100 percent ready to do it in the right way.

Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Couple of questions for
Valtteri: now you’ve had some time in the car in testing, do
you feel that you’re at a stage where you’re able to get the
most out of the car now. And second question, I know it’s still
early days but assuming you’re sitting in a title-contending
car, what’s your approach going to be: step by step, get that
first win or do you feel under pressure to mount a fully
fledged title challenge?

VB: Yeah, like I said before, I definitely
feel every single time I was stepping into the car and out of
the car in testing, I felt like I’d made progress and between
the two tests as well. I feel I was getting very close to
getting pretty much everything out of the car  and being
absolutely perfect. As always, it requires a lot of work, a lot
of time in the car and a lot of effort, a lot of talent so as
mentioned, I’m sure things will just get better and I will feel
more and more comfortable every single day of the race weekend
and every single race but I feel that I’m ready to race, I’m
ready to bring the car where it should be, what the pace of the
car, what the limits of the car is. I feel comfortable with
that. About the second question, definitely… I always set my
targets very high so from the first race, this race onwards,
immediately, I want to perform where the car can be. That is my
target. Of course, I always go day by day and step by step but
I want to start at a very high level and keep getting better
from that .

Q: (Heath McAlpine – Auto Action) Valtteri, Paddy Lowe
recently made some comments about Williams having some elements
that Mercedes does not. Have you been able to make any
comparisons between the teams, after moving in the opposite
direction?

VB: For sure I see a lot of difference between
the teams. Definitely, there are some things very very good at
Williams, some things have been massively impressive at
Mercedes. Williams have a great facility, a good bunch of
people, a lot of clever engineers so for sure both teams have a
lot of strong points, definitely differences in the way they
work, so it’s difficult to really point out exactly what parts
maybe are better here or better there but overall, as the last
few years have shown, Mercedes is a winning team, it definitely
has this winning mentality at the moment. No one is standing
still, everyone is pushing flat out  – what Williams is
also doing is definitely no bad, worse but you just sense that
at this point, the group of winners know how to win at the
moment and I hope that that can continue but the hunger is
definitely still there at Mercedes. But I definitely agree with
Paddy: Williams is a great team and has massive potential and
it’s a shame that we couldn’t achieve the results together that
I think the team deserves, but hopefully the future is good for
Williams.

Q: (Kathy Watt – Inside Sport) I’m just wondering what
you do in the off-season to prepare: is it on the bike or
running or different other sports to get fit for the
season?

Q: Esteban – you’ve been up a mountain or
something?

EO: Yeah, I was up in the mountains at almost
2000m for almost two months. I felt this was the best way for
me to prepare. When you get high in altitude, when you get down
again it’s easy to breathe so I was training there a lot. It
was about nine hours of cardio per week, ten hours of gym per
week and all the rest was reaction work, co-ordination work,
visual perception work, how the detection is as well, balance
of body as well so it was complete training. It was very tough,
for sure the toughest of my career but I’m happy that I’ve
achieved it now, looking at how the cars are tough to drive.

LS: I was just moving sports, some biking,
some running, some gym work, some strength work, some neck work
but just staying fit in all different areas and just gaining
fitness by increasing the amount of training I was doing. Just
moving and keeping active.

Q: How about you Felipe? You were eating feijoada and
drinking beer and then when the phone call came: stop.
Right?

FM: Which was pretty much straight away
actually so I didn’t have enough time to drink and to eat
feijoada, I would say, so yeah, I was definitely… most of the
drivers didn’t know how the new car was going to be so I was
definitely preparing myself in a much different way to how it
was in the past, even if I was always training very hard but I
took on a new trainer, a guy who is following me everywhere I
go, training every day. I had to train more also, for sure
cardio but also a lot more my muscles to be stronger, for these
loads that we have in the cars now, so I was training in a very
different way, to get a little bit stronger and training my
neck a lot more which I think works pretty well because on one
day in Barcelona I did 168 laps, which was my record in one
test and I feel really good, so yeah, ready to start the season
and really hope I’m totally fit to accept anything different
that we might have this year compared to how it was up to last
year.

Q: (Michael Lamonato – ABC) On a related question: how
different have you found these cars in the sense of that
strength component? What specifically have you changed in your
training and in your first days in the car in testing? Was
there anything in particularly that you felt a bit of pain or a
bit of strain from the new cars?

VB: I think always after the winter, it
doesn’t matter how much training you do and if  you’re the
fittest you’ve ever been starting the year, it’s so unnatural
driving a Formula One car for the human being that the first
reactions are always a bit strange but very quickly you get
used to it, your body gets used to it. Obviously if you have a
new seat as I did for this year, it’s tuning those kind of
things and yeah, you might get some bruises and stuff but
that’s part of the winter testing but specially with the new
cars there’s more G-forces, more load going through your body
which makes more fatigue and means being able to maintain the
same level of focus and alertness – you need to be fitter than
before and like every driver have a good preparation for that
but the main thing is the G-forces, the cornering speed and
that way you maybe need a bit more strength especially the
neck.

Q: (Trent Price – SEN Radio) A question for Felipe and
Lance. Paddy Lowe has already identified a few areas where
Williams are stronger than Mercedes. What’s your first
impressions of Paddy coming into the team. What has he brought
in already and how is the relationship building?

FM: Well, as Valtteri said, Williams has many
areas that work pretty well. Definitely, we have some other
areas that we need to improve, which is what I was saying
before, things didn’t work in the proper way, as even Valtteri
said. This are the points we need to make better, improving, as
quick as we can, because it means results, it means
performance, it means everything. But I am sure he is a very
important engineer, manager, that he can help to improve things
in the right way. Bringing some good ideas from other areas
that we were not so strong as a team like Mercedes where he won
the last three years the championship – they are really strong.
Not only him, but so many people, engineers, people that are
working in different areas. That is something we are working
very hard on, so he has just arrived, but I’m sure he
understands things pretty quick. We are the beginning of a very
important work but I believe we can do it in the right way. I
really hope that the car is helping, because the car is there;
it’s ready. If you have a good car it’s helping the job in so
many areas that it needs to be better, it needs to improve.
That’s the way I believe it is. I was talking already with
Paddy and I’m sure with all the important and very good
engineers we have I believe and I hope we can do a very good
job.

Q: Lance I believe you signed before it was clear that
Paddy was going to Williams, so what did you feel when you
found out?

LS: Yeah, Felipe said most of it. I’m
obviously new this year, so I don’t have the experience that
Felipe and also even Valtteri have of Williams, so a lot of it
is just new for me. Starting with winter testing, I obviously
went to a couple of races last year and I got to know some of
the people but really, until you’re a driver and properly
involved in everything that’s going on, you don’t pick up on
everything. But for sure I think having Paddy in the team is
positive for everyone. He’s obviously had great success in
recent years and I think it’s just positive energy for the
team. I think we have a great group of people at Williams and I
think everyone is aiming for the same thing, which is achieve
the best possible results we can achieve and Paddy’s here to
help us do that. I think it’s all good.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Felipe, how tough an
opponent was Valtteri in qualifying and in racing and how was
it compared to your time with Kimi at Ferrari?

FM: Definitely different times. Different cars
and everything. I think Valtteri shows his talent. He really
improved year by year since he started. I think it’s a great
opportunity for him to race for a team like Mercedes. I believe
he’s ready for his job, he’s ready to show what he can do and
definitely he has an incredible team to work with, very strong
team-mate – but I think he’s ready to do a great job. I really
hope the best for him. It’ll be nice if he’s behind me – but we
will see.

Q: (Alex Popov – Match TV) A couple of questions for
the young drivers. But different questions. Esteban, first of
all, your target before the training was to gain 5kg of muscle,
and you achieve it. And now I heard – I don’t know if it’s true
or not – you have to go back 2kg. If it’s true, how difficult
it will be now?

EO: Yes, it’s true I gained 5kg over the
training course, which was very hard but I achieved it and feel
good in the car. But then you know, all the teams are quite
conservative with parts on testing, and they got heavy parts,
and then once they see reliability is good they start to put
lighter parts on the car. I think that’s what’s going to happen
this race. On myself, I didn’t lose any weight and I kept my
weight to feel fresh in the car.

Q: (Alex Popov – Match TV) For Lance, it’s more about a
performance target. Another young driver will fight the
team-mate from race one. You’re in the position of having like
a coach in the team, like an elder brother. Will you try to not
to lose too much or beat your team-mate from race one?

LS: Felipe’s not here to be a coach. He’s a
competitor like everyone else and he has his helmet on racing
like everyone else. Everyone sets their targets differently and
everyone is in a different situation – but all the teams have
two drivers competing for the same thing, which is to try and
finish as far up the grid as possible. That doesn’t change –
but my targets are obviously different to some other young
drivers. Everyone’s in their own situation: I’m just going to
focus on my stuff and do the best I can – which is what I
always do. That doesn’t change. 

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