This afternoon, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc took part in their first official press session since Thursday 12 March in Melbourne. But it was a press conference like no other because of the health measures in place at these first few races of the season.
Clean room. It took place via video link in a “clean room” at the Spielberg track, with just an official cameraman and an interviewer, who asked most of the questions, with a few journalists sending in questions by video. The two drivers were on stage together and sat two metres apart from each other and wore the new red team masks throughout.
Restarting. “It's been a long time. The first couple of weeks after Australia, the time went by fairly quickly but then things seemed to slow down and so it’s definitely good to be back at a racetrack,” said Seb. “We had a bit of a teaser two weeks ago when we drove the two year old car in Mugello. It was good to be back in the car and to see the guys at the track. I’m looking forward to tomorrow”. Charles too was happy to be once again in the Formula 1 paddock: “It’s amazing to be back after such a long time. I’ve been quite busy during the lockdown racing virtually, but to be back doing the real thing feels great. It’s quite different to a normal weekend. Unfortunately, there are no fans and quite a lot of procedures in the paddock to try and race in the safest way possible, which is good to see, even if it feels a bit weird. I’m so happy to be getting back in the car tomorrow for a real race weekend. It will be special”.
Performance. The drivers were then asked about the car’s performance that has not exactly lived up to expectations: “I think after the test in Barcelona it was clear we were not where we wanted to be and we were excited to go to Australia to see if that was true or not. Everyone in the factory is flat out trying to get everything we can to the track as soon as possible,” said Sebastian. “At the moment, it looks like we are getting an upgrade for Hungary. So it will be interesting to get an answer and take it from there. At this stage, it’s unclear how long the season will be. So there are a lot of things that are unknown. We will do our best and try and get everything on the car as soon as we can. Hungary is only two weeks away and we have been on a very tight schedule since the factory restarted”.
“After the Corona virus situation closed everything we all stopped,” said Charles. “Then, when we started again in May, we re-analysed the data and we decided to take a step back to see where the issue was coming from and then work on the issues. That’s where are at the moment. I think it’s definitely not going to be an easy season for us.”
Team work. Sebastian and Charles then tackled the topic of their working relationship within the team “As usual we race above all for the team and you expect both drivers to help each other out and that has nothing to do with the fact that my contract expires and I am going to leave the team at the end of the season,” commented Sebastian. “But as I said, you are racing also for yourself and I’m not trying to make Charles’ life easy on track in terms of waving him by. We have been fighting each other in the past and we will continue to do so”. On this topic Charles was pretty much on the same page as his teammate: “I don’t think that will change compared to last season. More than once, we fought on track and sometimes it did not always end the way we wanted, but there was always respect between us. In most cases, we helped each other to get the best possible results. In 2021, I will miss Sebastian’s speed and experience for sure. I’ve learned a massive amount from having Seb as a team-mate and I will continue to do so this season.”
With the engineers. The two drivers today also tackled the usual track walk in order to prepare for free practice. It's a short but exciting track with climbs and drops that make it special. Charles and Sebastian then continued their work with the first engineering meetings of the weekend. Here too, the red masks were mandatory as part of the Covid-19 procedures.