Norbert Michelisz, Esteban Guerrieri, Mikel Azcona and Hafizh Syahrin attended the post-Second Qualifying press conference at WTCR Race of Malaysia. A transcript follows.
FIA WTCR Race of Malaysia
WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO 2019
Deciding rounds 28-30 of 30, Sepang International Circuit, 12-15 December
Press Conference Room, Sepang International Circuit, 13 December
Norbert Michelisz, BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, DHL Pole Position
Esteban Guerrieri, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, second position
Mikel Azcoona, PWR Racing, third position
Hafizh Syahrin, Hyundai Team Engstler
Turning first to Norbert Michelisz, you qualified on the DHL Pole Position not once but twice today. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?
It was a perfect day, I mean in the end, we felt that we needed to improve the car after the free practice sessions. I know we spoke [after FP1] and you told me that it looks quite okay considering the classification but the feeling inside was just not, not very good to be honest. We did small things on the set-up and it gave me a lot of confidence, and also because of this I think the key moment was to build the confidence because on this circuit, it’s so easy to do a mistake. So, I managed to do, especially in Q2 and Q3, two very good laps without any mistakes and the same goes for the second run in the First Qualifying and for sure this was the key for my two pole positions today. Of course, a huge thanks to the team; it’s incredible [the] support I receive from Hungary on social media so thanks to all the fans. But I don’t want to get too excited because, yeah, today was perfect, but there are still 75 points on the table, so you cannot take anything for granted and…of course I’ll be a little bit happy today but from tomorrow morning I will focus 100 per cent on the three races on Sunday.
Esteban, a bit of mixed emotions today with a P10 in First Qualifying but a sensational effort in Q3. Talk us through that lap?
Well first of all, congratulations to Norbi, and also to Mikel for the third. For my side, it wasn’t frustrating to be honest, the top 10, it was not the best qualifying but there were still things to improve. I just kept focused on what we can do to get better, and then we went to the night session, this qualifying and the car felt very good at the rear so, I started pushing and yeah, I got a very high level of performance and I was happy, we were always in the top five. I wanted to get into the top five to have a chance to fight for, probably not pole because we saw that Norby was very fast, but for P2 that was my target because I saw that we had the potential and, well, here I am so the target is accomplished in the Second Qualifying and, I am very pleased with the team. They, we all did like all the details, we did right. We extracted everything from what we could so I am really proud of them and yeah, let’s fight on Sunday.
Q:Norbi has taken 10 points today, you have taken four, what’s your take on the title fight heading into the super-finale on Sunday?
It’s still very wide open because I am starting next to him in both Race 2 and Race 3 and probably not so good in Race 1, but still the races are not over until the chequered flag so let’s see. Let’s see with the weather as well because apparently on Sunday there is some rain coming, so there might be something exciting.
This weekend has been something of a transformation compared to last time out in Macau, explain how this transformation has happened and how happy you are with third place.
MA:Thank you very much and congratulations to Michelisz and Esteban. Yes, like you say, from Suzuka and Macau, it was really a tough weekend for us, I didn’t get a lot of points, but here today it has been a really good day for us. We are very happy because in every session we have been in the top positions and it’s really good. I feel really good with the car, with this track. I have never driven here, but since the first Free Practice session, I felt really comfortable, especially with the car. I also feel strong; after Macau it was really difficult for me and yes, I feel really, really good. I trained a lot on the simulator and prepared this race like hell because it is the last round of the year. But I feel really comfortable so let’s see in the races, but I will try to get some points and especially some podiums.
Hafizh, you said you were a bit crazy for attempting the Races of Malaysia weekend on two and four wheels, you’ve finished qualifying now, give us an overview of your sessions.
For me, it was crazy. I don’t have any experience in doing qualifying and I was just doing the best I could. Congratulations for the pole Norbi, and also for the three top drivers here. So, I would like to learn as much as I can for the weekend and for Sunday. I don’t know how to say, but they are crazy fast you know and I try step-by-step to gain confidence and I just missed how to carry the speed in the car in the corners, the brakes are quite good but yeah, I’m also maybe a bit nervous when I was in qualifying, when I was alone and had no slipstream from any driver. So let’s see on the raceday, we’ll fight and we’ll look to see the chequered flag.
These guys next to you have a kind of day off tomorrow, but you have an eight-hour motorbike race ahead of you. How are you going to prepare for that?
Yes, after this press conference, I will go to the hotel and sleep because tomorrow we have a warm-up at nine and then we start from midday, from one o’clock to nine. So, this will be hard for me because, I I [prefer to] race after cars, but it will be tough for me to see how I am physically but I will try to be ready for everything.
Finally, back to Norbi, what do you think of what Hafizh is doing tomorrow?
I mean, he is quite amazing. I’m not sure if I could do two-and-a-half seconds off [the pace] on a motorcycle, so for me I know how limited time he had in the car, and like I said, I know how demanding this circuit is. And yeah, we spoke a bit yesterday, and, I mean I am holding my fingers crossed for him tomorrow because I know how physical it has to be for him. He doesn’t have a day off, he will probably ride about four or five hours tomorrow on a motorcycle and then on Sunday he will do three races, the same distances as us.
Questions from the floor:Question from Jack Cozens (Autosport, UK) to Norbert Michelisz:
Is there a bit of disappointment that your team-mates aren’t higher up to give a bit of protection?
No, I mean to be honest, they were pushing really hard I could see that. But I think both Gabriele and Nicky probably had some small mistakes and these kinds of things can happen. But honestly, there’s not a lot you say about that because, I spoke to them briefly and of course, I saw that they were a bit disappointed but it’s still not the end of the world so, I’m really pleased with the overall team performance because the target of the team was to get all four cars in the top ten and in the end, we managed to do that so, it’s very difficult to hope for more than that.
Question from Chris Underwood (Autotrack FM, Australia) to Norbert Michelisz:
With Supercars when they go onto a Formula One circuit there’s virtually nil tyre degradation and also it’s nose-to-tail racing. Would you expect the same here this weekend?
Sure, I mean it’s not easy here, because with the heat, we have a huge amount of tyre degradation. This evening it was a bit easier just because of the temperatures, the ambient was going down about six, seven degrees but the most important was that the asphalt was a bit cooler so you can make the tyres last for the whole qualifying hour.
And what about the outlook for the racing at Bathurst?
I didn’t hear the news, but if I could wish to race at a circuit, it would be Bathurst but I didn’t hear the news so I am not sure if we will go there next year. Richard [Rodgers, FIA WTCR media delegate] you should probably talk to your boss [François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events] *laughter* because for me it is one of the best circuits in the world because I mean, we are driving Macau, we are driving Nürburgring and for me, if we could combine that with Bathurst, that would for sure be a dream.