George Russell attended the 2022 Australian Grand Prix Friday Drivers’ Press Conference. Here is the transcript.
Q: Let’s kick things off with all of your thoughts please on being back racing in Melbourne after three years?
George RUSSELL: It’s great to be back here obviously is a long way to travel for sure. But it’s worth it because seeing all the fans, the excitement they have, the passion they have for Formula 1 is pretty incredible, thinking that most of the races that they watch are probably past midnight for them, yet they still stay up and support all of us. So it’s a pleasure to be back.
Q: George, back to you. You’ve spent 61 laps so far this year in fifth position. Is that an accurate reflection of the car’s pace?
GR: I think so. We’re a long way behind Ferrari and Red Bull. I think we were probably further behind them in Jeddah. And we understand why, but obviously, when we had things optimised, or more optimised in Bahrain, we were still half a second, six tenths behind. So we need to obviously close that gap. But there’s nothing substantial this weekend that will do that. It’s going take time and I think we just have to be disciplined and patient because we are so far behind them. Because you know with the cost cap we can’t afford just to throw things at it and trial and error [things] at race weekend. We need to trust the process and bring the upgrades when we have total faith and confidence they will do as we expect, and you know, there’ll be a number of races before we start seeing that.
Q: If you optimise the setup this weekend. Do you think you’ll be closer to Red Bull and Ferrari than you were in Jeddah?
GR: Yeah, I think so. Closer than we were in Jeddah, but obviously, we were probably a second off the pace in Jeddah. So there’s nothing that’s going to really put us in the fight with those guys, we have just got to make sure that we maximise our result, which as a team is being a third fastest team, making sure that none of the midfield cars sneak in between us, and just gather those points where we can. And you know, this is going to be the case for a number of races that come now.
Q: What’s the mood in the camp? Is frustration creeping in?
GR: No, I think it’s more optimism and excitement to be honest, because we do believe there is a solution. And we do believe there’s a lot of lap time on the table once we do optimise that. So we’re not here scratching our heads, not understanding why we’re off the pace. We absolutely know where we’re off the pace and we know what we need to work on to improve that. And having that knowledge, having that understanding of what the issues are, and having the belief that we can solve it, is quite an exciting place to be, because it gives us all something to go for. But we do appreciate that our rivals will be continuously improving and even if we improve, there’s no reason why they won’t be improving, as well. So it’s going to take time for sure.
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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) We had the announcement last week that Las Vegas will be joining the F1 calendar from next season. Can I get your thoughts on that? And how cool is it for F1 to get a third race in the United States?
GR: It is incredible to see the space Formula 1 is in at the moment and the excitement around the sport. I think it’s brilliant for all the teams, for the drivers. And I guess it’s put in Formula 1 and the luxury position that we can almost cherry pick the races we want to go to and whether in the future, there’ll be sort of rotations of races. I think that’s a really great idea. And I think there’s some further races that potentially, you know, could be coming on to the calendar, which I think is great. And we’ll be in Las Vegas. It’s just I mean, it’s going to be mental for everybody there and yeah, just good for the sport. So I’m sure a lot of people in the paddock are happy it’s a Saturday night race. They’ll be hitting the town on Sunday morning.
Q: Have you ever been to Las Vegas?
GR: I went to Las Vegas as a 12-year-old to do a go-kart race. So I definitely didn’t live the Las Vegas lifestyle. But I went there twice. And to be honest, even as a 12-year-old, the atmosphere in the city was amazing. Just walking down the strip, there was music playing and there was just a really cool vibe there. And I’ve already got a feel for the place. So I’m sure with F1 being there, racing on the strip, it’s going to be insane.
Q: (Matt Coch – Speedcafe.com) As the calendar grows with the likes of Las Vegas. Obviously, there’s a logical point at which we can’t have more races. Are you concerned that some of the more historic races will drop off and what are your thoughts on losing some of that in favour of events like Las Vegas and Miami?
GR: Yeah, I think times are changing and sport is evolving. Obviously, you do have to keep some of these historic tracks but I think they’ve got to be worthwhile for everybody. As long as we keep Silverstone. I think as a historic track, that’s probably the one that you can say needs to stay on the calendar, not just from motorsport predominantly being based in the UK and all the teams being there. But obviously, if it were to be a rotational calendar, changing the circuits every two years, you can get the best of both worlds so I think we just need to stay open minded.
Q: (Luke Smith – Autosport) You’ve raced here in Melbourne for the season opener before. Obviously we’ve not done that for the past couple of years but moving forward do you have any preference? Would you rather race in Melbourne or is Bahrain OK as a season opener?
GR: I think Melbourne as a season opener was really cool, because everybody came out here early. And it was a lot of excitement and anticipation, but I think having Melbourne in between races, especially as a standalone is too tough for the teams and everybody. People came out on Saturdays and Sundays to get acclimatised to the conditions, to the time zone change and it’s just too much I think. I think it needs to be thought about more. I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it back-to-back with all one of the Middle Eastern races. But yeah, it feels like another double header for all of the teams with the amount of time they spend in this part of the world. And as the season is getting longer and longer, we need to find a better balance.
Q: (Adam Cooper – motorsport.com) The weight of these cars went up, in part because the FIA beefed up the chassis regulations, mainly in response to the Romain and Antoine accidents. Given the scale of Mick’s crash in Jeddah, sideways into a concrete wall, how encouraged are you that the FAA is continuing this push for safety in conjunction with your teams?
GR: Yeah, it’s pretty incredible to see what the cars can withhold in an incident like that. But equally, you know, this is still motorsport, we’re still travelling at, you know, 300 kilometres an hour plus. Those speeds and those forces you face in an incident, you’ll never truly have a kind of bulletproof car. But it’s great to see that we’re continuously striving for more.
Q: (Michael Lynch – The Age/Sydney Morning Herald) Just referring back to what you said about Melbourne being a standalone race and it being such a way of wearing kind of experience for you and your teams. You obviously still want Bahrain to be the opening race, given the testing schedule, so do you think they should move Melbourne to maybe finish the season and be the last race, like Adelaide used to be all those years before most of you were born??
GR: I think if it’s geographically correct, then there’s no reason why… We’re happy for the race to be at any point in the season. We obviously race very far east with Japan and Singapore, China, [which we] obviously don’t have this year, but I’m sure it will be on the calendar or it is on the calendar from next year onwards. I just think there’s a better compromise to be had, as it can be done. I know there’s a huge amount of limitation involved. But yeah, I think we need to come to Australia, we need to come to this part of the world, but as we said, as a standalone I think it’s just too much for everyone.