DRIVERS – Pastor MALDONADO (Williams), Jules BIANCHI (Marussia), Paul DI RESTA (Force India), Esteban GUTIERREZ (Sauber), Sergio PEREZ (McLaren)
Sergio, we know that you’re leaving McLaren, because you’ve told us that, and obviously we learned today who will be replacing you, but could you explain how this came about and particularly the timing?
Sergio PEREZ: First of all, hi everyone. As you already said, on the letter I did, and I published that. There is no secret. Everything came really late, which puts me in a very difficult position for my future. But at the end it came. I’m relieved. Obviously, McLaren is a great team, I have nothing bad to say about them. I really want to wish them the best. We have had a very difficult season all year long. It was definitely not what I was expecting and also not what McLaren was expecting, especially as when I signed for them they had such a competitive car and it’s not what we have right now and we didn’t have it all season long. It’s no secret that it has been a disappointing year for both parts. McLaren decided to go another route, I have to find my own route and hopefully I can find the best possible seat available for my career, because I am only 23-years-old, I have a lot to give to the sport and I really hope I find a good seat.
As you say, it’s all happening quite late now. What are your options for next year and do you feel there is still time, because it seems a very fluid driver market at the moment?
SP: There’s no secret, it’s very, very difficult right now. I know there are some options. As I said before, I want to stay in Formula One but I will no stay in F1 just to stay. If I don’t find the right option for myself then I have to look at something else but I’m pretty confident something good will happen and hopefully I find a good seat. I think I have a lot to offer a team. I have been three years in F1, one year with McLaren. A very difficult year but I think I learn a lot. I think this year, although it has been very difficult and probably one of the worst in terms of results for myself, I think I am a good driver and I can do good things out there.
Thank you for that. Moving on to you Esteban. Obviously you’ve been doing pretty well lately, a big score for you in Japan. What’s been the catalyst do you think for you turnaround in the last period?
Esteban GUTIERREZ: Well it’s all related to a balance to between how conservative you want to be and how risky you want to be and how much you want to put yourself in a risky position. It all takes time. In Formula One right now there’s not a lot of testing, I didn’t do a lot of testing at the beginning of the year and a lot of things I took time to adapt [to]. Somehow during the year I was gaining a lot of experience even though the team situation was not the best. There was always quite a lot of distractions around with the economical situation but finally I found myself through a good challenge and to find myself and to find the right balance on every aspect and then decided to do a step into the more aggressive side and it worked out pretty well. This is the rhythm we have been showing lately and this is how I plan to go towards the future.
As we’ve been mentioning, one of the themes of this part of the year is a very fluid driver market for 2014, where do you fit into that?
EG: There are a lot of things happening around, that’s true. At the moment I’m focused on what’s happening right now. Right now we are in Austin, it’s a very important race for us, one of the most special of my career, of our careers, because we are both Mexicans. We are here to do our best and we have great opportunities to do good results in these last two races. So I’m going to try to take advantage of that and then after that see what’s going to happen. Obviously at the same time we have been looking to different options. My idea is to continue with Sauber, obviously, because we have been working on a good relationship for a long time and we’ll see what’s going to happen next year.
Q: Paul, 48 points on the board now in the Drivers’ Championship, big score last time out in Abu Dhabi, points in the last two races. Has this put some momentum into your season at an important moment?
Paul DI RESTA: I think the result in Abu Dhabi was massive and I think very crucial for us to try and do what we did. I think, given on the back of the points we scored in India, we went to Abu Dhabi with a car that was very consistent and achieved in the race something that nobody else did. But I think more importantly, if you have the confidence in the car you can do it. It’s such a crucial point of the year for our championship position over the likes of Sauber. We showed that we didn’t have the speed over one lap but we had the speed over a race and we definitely scored big. Hopefully that’s going to be enough and we can come into the last two races trying to secure the Constructors’ position but equally trying to score points because the vibe in the team is very good. I think that given very little has changed… I think it’s more about team effort and everybody’s lifted their game and the results show that.
Q: Presumably it’s quite important because, as we’ve been discussing, a very fluid situation in terms of the driver market at the moment. Does it feel quite late to you, for this all to be going on now, particularly given that 2014 is all about new technology, the packaging of the driver etc., there’s an awful lot of work to do. It’s quite late for all of these driver options to be up still.
PDR: I think it’s very late, given where it all is at the moment – but what can you do? You need to accept where the team principals and equally the shareholders, where they are. But I suppose in probably less than ten days’ time is when the focus is going to change away from this year and more importantly onto next year’s car. The big task for us as a race team at the moment is to get out there and score points in these two and not take the focus away. That’s what I’ll do this weekend but we need to continue to keep doing that and hopefully it’s enough.
Q: Jules, obviously the only driver sitting here at the moment that has a confirmed seat on the grid for next year. Is that a relief, sitting here right now?
Jules BIANCHI: Well for sure it’s a great thing for a driver to be confirmed for next season, you know? I feel really confident with the team and I am really happy to stay in Marussia and that’s why we’re trying to do our best for the end of this season and I am focussed 100 per cent to finish well these two races. I think it’s great for me.
Q: It’s been a pretty good season for you all-in-all. Marussia still tenth in the championship based on that result you go early in the year. Do you feel you’ve been as consistent as you hoped to be as the year’s gone on.
JB: Well for sure we started really well. We were quicker than the Caterham and then we started to struggle from Barcelona. We tried to catch them back: it was difficult; it was a tight fight but they were in front. A few races ago we were back in front so we were really happy with that, really happy with the work we did but in Abu Dhabi again it was a really difficult race and they showed that their pace was much quicker than us in the race – so we really need to make a good job in these last two races because we know that in Brazil, for example, you will have the possibility to have a crazy race and in that case we have to be in front of them and try to the do the best result possible. So we have to keep pushing.
Q: Coming to you Pastor, obviously two clear areas to discuss with you. First of all, we know that you’re leaving Williams and you said yesterday that you thought it was the best thing for you and for the team. Could you explain a little about that?
Pastor MALDONADO: Yeah, I think for sure it was a tough decision from my side. I spent three years with the team, special years. They gave me the opportunity to become a Formula One driver, we won a race which is quite special as a driver and I think as a team. Even for them, after eight years without winning anything, so I think it was the most special moment for us – but sometimes you need to take some hard decisions. It’s my case at the moment. I’m feeling quite good. Leaving is an important moment for my career, improving every time, doing some solid races, trying to get the maximum from the team, trying to get the maximum from the car. For sure this season has been very, very hard for all the team. We were expecting something more from the car, from the total performance and… yeah, we couldn’t achieve our targets but yeah… sometimes Formula One is like that, sometimes you can, sometimes not. You need to learn from the mistakes and try always to do your best.
Q: Well obviously if you’re leaving a team you must have a pretty good idea where you’re going to. Would it be fair to say that you know where you will be racing next year?
PM: Yeah, for sure I know. I have a couple of options. We are still working on it and I really hope to have a clear answer soon.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR.
Q: (Ben Edwards – BBC Sport) Sergio, just coming back to the decision McLaren have made, do you feel let down by the team at all, not so much in terms of the performance of the car, but in terms of how this has evolved in the last couple of months? As you say, it’s given you very little chance to get into the drivers’ market, so do you feel let down by the team?
SP: No. No, not let down at all. As I said, it’s been a difficult year. People from the outside can think whatever they want, but inside the team, every single person that works in the team knows the amount of pressure we are having, everyone, from Jenson, myself, Martin, everyone, everyone. With McLaren and the year that we have had it was so disappointing for everyone so they have had to make some changes and yeah, they had to change me and that’s racing.
Q: (Karen Crouse – New York Times) Starting with Sergio, could each of you give what you think are one or two keys to the season that Sebastian is having?
SP: Well, Sebastian is a great driver and a great example for all of us. Also, I think the key was that he’s having a great team effort, the team is doing a fantastic job for him, he’s doing a very good job for them, so it’s a combination. This is a sport where you really need the team to be with you, to work together. They have been (together) for a couple of years already so I think they’re pretty strong and they will be hard to beat in the future.
EG: Well, I think that right now he’s doing a good compliment with Red Bull. They have a great team, he’s driving at the peak of his career as well and he’s being very consistent so as Sergio said, he’s a good example for all of us and I think that it will be quite interesting to see how it will change or influence next year on the rule changes. Hopefully it will make everything more competitive and more opportunities for other drivers as well to be at the front, fighting.
Q: Paul, perhaps you know him a bit better than others having raced with him as a teammate back in F3 days. Your thoughts on his season?
PdiR: I don’t think there’s really much more you can say than what Sergio said. I think he’s summed up where he’s been for the last three or four years. They’ve done a very good job, very consistent, driver and car, it’s been on top form. It would just be nice to be up the front racing where you should be.
JB: Yeah, obviously Sebastian and Red Bull are doing a great job. They are just winning everything for three years now so it’s great for them and they’re just the best now. It’s up to the other teams to push harder and try to beat them.
PM: Yeah, I agree with him. I think they are the number one team at the moment. Sebastian has been doing a fantastic job and it’s all about a team job. Maybe this is the most important thing for which team makes the difference. So many people work for a car, so many people work for a driver and everything must be combined to achieve that kind of result.
Q: (Cristobal Rosaleny – Car and Driver) Sergio, when did you start to know, to think that you were not going to be at McLaren next year, because they were talking about a multi-year contract and this is not what you were expecting, nobody was expecting?
SP: No. I found out a couple of days before you found out, so it was a very late decision. I had no idea, it just came as a shock to me because the team was always giving me good feedback, everything was pretty much settled down and I was going to stay with the team but then something happened in the last few weeks so they decided not to… it puts me in a very difficult position now, to look forward for my future.
Q: (James Allen – BBC Sport) I have a question for Sergio and Esteban: how many Mexican fans are you expecting here this weekend? Are you expecting as many as last year or more?
SP: Well, I hope more, now that we have Esteban. Last year there was only myself and we had a lot. This year, also, the results have not been too good for both of us, but I think there will be good Mexicans out there and I really hope to see them, otherwise the grandstands will be empty with no Mexicans.
Q: And Esteban, your home town is five hours away by car, so are you expecting a big crew to come up?
EG: Yeah, it is. I have lots of friends, lots of family coming and also a lot of supporters as well, which we have in the… I think it will be a really special feeling, I’ve not experienced this before in my career so it will be kind of like a new experience and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it gives great energy, great motivation to the weekend.
Q: (Carlos Jalife – Fast Mag Mexico) For Esteban and Sergio: if things turn out in a certain way, you might be teammates next year. What are your thoughts on being a teammate with a Mexican driver?
SP: Well, let’s see, let’s see what happens with my situation. I think it would be good. Why not? The thing is, it will be Esteban’s second year and he will be experienced. I think we can be good in a team. I will then have a problem.
EG: Definitely not! Mexican power.