During Paragon’s Monaco Grand Prix Day Trip, Paul di Resta took part in a Q&A with Vicky Gomersall. Read on to see his thoughts on the Monaco GP and his expectations for the F1 season this year.
Vicky Gomersall: Did Ferrari get it spot on today?
PDR: I think they did. They can predict the race and write the story, but I think ultimately the faster car and driver combination won. I don’t think it would have made any difference when you look at; certainly Vettel – whatever Raikkonen had done he was always going to do the opposite and it made a big difference. To confirm what Daniel Ricciardo did versus Bottas and Verstappen, he was able to get himself a podium position. Today was a bit mixed; it was as good to watch in the grandstands as at some points it got a little dull but at the end it certainly heated up.
Vicky Gomersall: As a watcher of F1, I always feel sorry for people like Raikkonen because I always think, ‘well could he have gone on and won it?’. Is it a shame that team orders rule at times and as a result he’s had to go back and take 2nd place? Could he have won it do you think?
PDR: I don’t think team orders were put in. I think there were 2 combinations that could have done that. Actually, the thing that triggered Kimi’s loss were Red Bull and how early they pitted. They pitted Verstappen which then stopped Mercedes, so to gain track position Ferrari had to alter. They gave Kimi the first choice to come in, and unfortunately he came out into 2 back markers on the 1st lap so he compromised himself out of the pits. This then left Vettel some free air to come in the pits and then gain that track position. It was a combination of things but I think Ferrari played it safe with him which they had to do to protect the lead in the race.
Vicky Gomersall: What about Lewis Hamilton; he came 7th. What that as good as he could have got?
PDR: Yeah, it was. It was better than he predicted as well judging by the post race interviews. Mercedes were predicting no more than 10th so they were happy. There seems to be something amiss, if you watch back the pre race interview they were saying that there was something not right with his car in qualifying. We had a chat with Toto Wolff after the race and he said there’s something mechanically they’re missing. They seem to be able to switch one axle on, either the front or the rears, but not in combination at the moment. Whatever tools Ferrari use to make that car a bit quicker, it’s definitely left them in control… but on to Canada which is another challenge. The Mercedes deployment/engine on paper should be a lot quicker but when you start to take the downforce off these cars the feeling is that Ferrari are going to dominate again. Into Silverstone, I think it’s probably the last upgrade you’re going to see for Mercedes and they really need to start making that car a bit better.
Vicky Gomersall: Is momentum really important in this sport; will Vettel have the edge now?
PDR: He’s got a 25 point lead so that’s one race win. He’s finished 1st and 2nd in every Grand Prix so far this year and when Vettel gets to this position as you saw back in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, that’s when he excelled. Lewis never gives up without a fight so ultimately for the good of the Championship I certainly hope we get the two manufacturers and drivers battling against each other to spice it up. It’s quite clear that Räikkönen and Bottas needs to switch it on. With Valtteri, he qualified ahead of Lewis but when it came down to it, he didn’t quite have the pace whereas at times in the race, Lewis was very fast but just couldn’t make up the difference in position due to qualifying and that yellow flag he got. When you’re out of sync with everyone, you’re just very different.
The audience then ask questions.
Q: Within the first 10 laps, team radio told Lewis Hamilton “our race is later”. Do you think that they were referring to a strategy for this race or the rest of the season?
PDR: For this race, absolutely. Generally with Lewis on any other track you would have stopped early and used the pace of the car, a new set of tyres and you’ve got the speed to overtake. Around here, you’re looking for track position and for the track to clear up in the same way that Ricciardo beat Bottas & Verstappen. As soon as he got clear space he went and Lewis passed 4 cars including Bottas’s. What they were trying to do was to get him to protect his tyres and save his engine and as soon as it clears up, you go.
Q: Lewis Hamilton lost the race yesterday in qualifying. He lost the Championship last year because he seemed to have an inferior car to his partner. How come Lewis had an inferior car to Bottas yesterday; are Mercedes letting Hamilton down?
PDR: I don’t think they’re letting him down and the team confirmed today that both cars have the same setup. It comes down to driver preference and style and as we saw last year sometimes Lewis would go over the top of what the car was capable of doing. Lewis’s style is quite aggressive which generally works 95% of the time – it cost him a few races last year and it kind of got a bit lost but ultimately I would still say the team would be pushing him to continue the way he drives because that will excel at other Grand Prix, whereas the likes of Bottas at the last Grand Prix wasn’t the same as him.
Q: On Daniel Ricciardo, how interesting is it to see other drivers coming through – will we continue to see this dominance from Mercedes or will other cars come through?
PDR: Red Bull seem to be making big upgrades to get into the mix. They lacked a lot in qualifying but Daniel Ricciardo today, as lucky as he was after hitting the wall on turn 1 which actually allowed him to get into a better position with the safety car, got away with it. Even he was a bit shocked at the end of the race.
Q: Who do you see coming through; the likes of Max Verstappen – do you see him taking the place of the likes of Lewis Hamilton?
PDR: Max is the most competitive driver at Red Bull and is very vocal on the radio too. He thought his team were wrong whereas Daniel was the one slating the team yesterday. I’m interested to see how Christian Horner is going to deal with that because he was very vocal about how Mercedes were handling their 2 drivers last year and he certainly had his hands full when Vettel and Webber were up against each other. The talk around the paddock is that both Red Bull drivers have got their representatives out feeling what other teams’ drivers are available because they’re still not superior enough to be at the front. It’s a hard one to balance – if I was one of them, there are drives opening up; Kimi is turning 38 in October and is coming to the end of his career. Do you take the likes of Ricciardo from Ferrari or do you give one of the young guys coming through from Formula 2 like Charles Leclerc who seems to be doing a pretty good job. Around silly season (September) it all comes together and it’s at the moment it’s starting to hot up a bit. The big teams are grabbing the guys that are available like Fernando who could be getting a bit bored.
Q: Williams, up to Monaco, have been quite strong yet this weekend they seemed weak. Why do you think that is – their engine?
PDR: They’re certainly not underpowered; they’ve got the same as the Mercedes. They have the 4th best Constructors. Since 2014, they haven’t scored points around here so they managed to pick up a few quite fortunately. Mercedes develop a car and it gets better over the course of the year. They are shocked they’ve done so bad. Paddy Lowe kept his mouth fairly shut this weekend and just observed. There will be big changes in how they map the car aerodynamically and mechanically how they build the car next year.
Q: What do you think the new Formula 1 ownership is going to do; will we get the better sounding cars from 5 or 6 years ago? What is going to happen to make it more interesting?
PDR: I agree that the current engine noise is rubbish. I don’t think anyone in the paddock likes it either. Unfortunately, our governments are pushing research and development and Formula 1 is the pinnacle of that so they can justify spending huge amounts of money. This year was a step in the right direction; you’ve seen the cars a lot quicker and they look meaner than what they are. They’re getting better control aerodynamically. Ross Brawn has put a team of technical directors together with the likes of Pat Symonds and these are the guys that have been working in F1 for 25 years trying to bend the rules. Red Bull are the guys have been pushing for change and yet haven’t responded to the change. Adrian Newey has said he’s put more involvement into Red Bull versus his Aston Martin project. The new ownership is very good; they’re coming in and they’re definitely changing it. The feeling inside is very different to what they’ve given the teams and slowly but surely that gets out to the public. At Barcelona, they had a lot more going on in terms of the fanzone, they’re opening up a lot more to the social media aspect and they’re going to try and put more races in the calendar. Fundamentally, it’s all about the fans; without the fans you don’t the support or interest in Formula 1. That is where they’re driving the sport and they’re driving for closer racing. Technically, they’re trying to bring in more things that you don’t see that make the difference that put the cars closer together because they need the manufacturers’ involvement but ultimately you need a better racing series like it was back in the 70s, 80s & 90s. When I look back and see how popular the sport was then compared to where it is today, it seems to just be the big boys that win in the modern era.
Q: Are races like Monaco outdated now?
PDR: It’s a unique challenge; I don’t think that Monaco should be off the calendar. The experience of seeing it here you just don’t get anywhere else. You get as close to it as is possible. Yes, a mistake causing a crash is what makes the difference in a Grand Prix like Monaco. Back in the day, the cars used to leak oil and crash because you could get away with things. They’re probably going to up the calendar to 25 races to make it even harder for the guys and it’s arguable that’s it’s harder on their families. As the pinnacle of the sport, they want to make it more worldwide and generate more global support with it.
Q: There are rumours that Jenson might be returning next year. Any truth to that?
PDR: About 3 or 4 minutes after qualifying I bumped into him on the paddock and asked him if that gave him the intention of coming back. He said “absolutely not!”. He’s enjoying life in America and tonight I’m sure he won’t be in any fit state to drive a car tomorrow by the sounds of it.
Q: When will McLaren come back?
PDR: I don’t see McLaren being able to do anything different to be honest. They rely on the sponsorship now. They’re never going to win with a Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault engine. Their only chance is to ride the wave of this. I was as shocked as anybody when they decided to end the partnership as that was their most successful period. That decision that was made 8 years ago was very much part of their aims of independence. I think Honda will turn it around; there are strong links with other manufacturers trying to help them but at the moment it’s so far out the window you can feel the pain. When you see the likes of what happened to Jenson, that baggage is going to carry on to Fernando for the rest of the year; it’s quite shocking.
Q: Are we going to see you commentating on Sky Sports again next year or are you going to be in one of those cars?
PDR: I would rather be in a car that’s for sure! Standing around the paddock, you just want to eat too much. It comes down to being in the right place at the right time and getting an opportunity. I would certainly like to at least do commentating because I enjoy being part of the Sky team. They’re going exclusive next year for 6 years as well so it’s great and you never know where it could lead to.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jenson’s accident from earlier on?
PDR: The penalty was a bit ridiculous; a 5 second penalty at the end of the race. It effectively wasted what McLaren were trying to do with Jenson as they had a lot more speed. He saw an opportunity and dived in but I know Pascal and he doesn’t really care what’s going on around him and I think it will be seen as a racing incident. Very fortunate for Pascal as he’s racing with a slight injury as well – a broken vertebrate – and that could have affected that again. Jenson said himself he tried a move and it didn’t come off.
Q: Who’s going to win the Championship?
PDR: I couldn’t put it either way. For the good of the sport, Ferrari would be the deserved champions at the moment. There’s a lot more races and tense moments still to get through this season.