Good morning and welcome to Sao Paulo ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian V-Prix, round eighteen, and the final race of the 2018 Formula Virtual season. Joining us for today’s Thursday press conference; on the back row we have Dylan Lopez of Lopez FV Team and Bradley Downton of Downton FV Team. On the front row are; Will Ingram from Ingram Grand Prix, Arthur Lapierre from DS Automobiles Team Mathershaw, and Rai Miyamoto of Ocelot Japan Racing. Welcome gentlemen.
Reporter: We’ll start with you, Arthur. Congratulations on mathematically winning the constructors’ championship last time out – becoming the second team to win multiple titles. How does this compare to 2016 and how do you plan on defending your title in 2019 – a feat that hasn’t been achieved since Franklin in 2015?
Arthur Lapierre: Merci beaucoup! This title feels just as special as 2016, possibly more so due to the fight we have had with the other guys at the front of the field. We’ve got our development plan well and truly underway for 2019, but I think we’ve been very open that defending our title is going to be a tough ask. However, never say never, and we’re certainly going to give it our best shot!
Reporter: Adrien was involved in an incident with Giodano in Mexico, which led to Simon retiring. How is his confidence going into the final round - level on points with Allar?
AL: Adrien is an awesome driver, and his confidence is still very high. Both drivers have been given exactly the same support for this race, just like every other, and both were agreed that the best possible strategy is to treat this like any other race and go into it aiming for victory.
Reporter: Excellent, I’m sure that’s exactly what the fans want to see. Bradley, you solidified second place in the championship in Mexico, does it feel like the team has at times punched above their weight this season?
Bradley Downton: It’s weird to say it, but in a way yes. Let’s not kid ourselves, we’ve had pace in the car a few times – the one-two in Britain, the front row lockout in Canada – but for the majority of the season – especially in this second half – we’ve felt like quite a distant third fastest. Obviously overall we wanted to win, but that wasn’t possible this season, so second and the prize money that comes with it is a reasonable consolation.
Reporter: It’s quite incredible that Nathaniel is still in contention for the title going into the final race – what’s his mood been like this past week or so, knowing that he could become a triple World Champion if luck is on his side?
BD: Nathaniel is so laid back about things, as the team are. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll fight until the end – but we all know in the team – Nathaniel too – that we don’t have the pace to win outright without some bad luck for DS Mathershaw. As you say, the fact we’re still in contention is a phenomenal achievement from Nathaniel’s side, and the fact that he could end up a triple World Champion is stunning. If he somehow pulls it off, it will be far and away his best title in my eyes. But he has no pressure, he’s the hunter. If he wins it’s stunning, if he doesn’t – it was never expected. We’re going to go and do the best job we can – as always – and see how everything shakes out on Sunday afternoon.
Reporter: Great stuff. Okay Rai, coming to you now; you suffered a double retirement for the first time this season last time out, which allowed Franklin to close the gap slightly. Are you confident you can hold third, and how much would a top three finish mean to the team after three years at the back?
Rai Miyamoto: It’s been a tough few years but I’m glad that we’ve done so well this year! It’s been a journey and we will aim for my success. As for third it’s so key that we can keep it but it’ll be tough and I worry dropping points has given this to Franklin.
Reporter: It would require quite a large swing though, Franklin would need to get twenty-three more points than you if I remember rightly! Anyway, Kinnumen has now finished second twice and lead the other two races, including Mexico where he retired from the lead. You’ve made it clear he’s been a huge asset to the team, how sad will you be when he leaves for Franklin?
RM: It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see what happened in Mexico as it’s another missed opportunity. That being said Kinn has impressed us very much and we hope to see him come back one day. He’s got serious pace.
Reporter: Dylan, Viktor has had a decent debut season in Formula Virtual, do you see him as a potential team leader in the future?
Dylan Lopez: We wouldn’t’ be driving him for no reason. We’ve been supporting him since 2015, and pairing him up with a World Champion in at least his first two seasons in the sport we hope will give him the qualities to be a future team leader.
Reporter: He certainly couldn’t have had many tougher teammates! You’ve now spent three years as solid midfield runners, do you expect to challenge the big teams for podiums and wins any time soon?
DL: I don’t think wins and podiums, albeit to a lesser extent are at the forefront of our expectations in 2019. We’re aiming to build a car that’ll score more points more often next year, building a base to start achieving those wins and podiums further down the track.
Reporter: Alright, we’ll come to you Will before we get onto the fan questions. It’s been another solid season for Jean, scoring consistently and doing, well, what Jean does really! But that podium with Ingram still eludes him. How would you assess his performance this season against James?
Will Ingram: Yes we all know what Jean can do! Despite our significantly faster car this year I don’t think we can hold it against him. James scored a brilliant podium in Malaysia but that was aided by mass misfortune in front of us.
I think Jean has led the team well this year, his first true year of being a team leader. He hasn’t got the headlines but he delivers race after race after race.
Reporter: He absolutely does. Ingram have proven time and time again that you can bounce back from tough times and really turn your fortunes around, what’s the best advice you would give to the new teams entering in 2019?
WI: That also suggests we’ve had tough times time and time again so maybe I’m not the best person to ask!
From a morale point of view I think team bosses need to let their staff know where they’re headed, our heads didn’t drop last year as we knew we’d be back in the points this year, if you’re expecting to struggle next year be honest with your team.
I think all the new team bosses have their heads screwed on so I don’t think they’ll struggle long term.
Reporter: Good advice there regarding the team morale! Okay, we’ll do the fan questions for the final time this season now. First one we have here is for Bradley, oh dear.. “Will you sue someone if they ever enter this series with the team name ‘Upton’?”
BD: groans No.
Reporter: That was terrible, who regulates these?! Anyway, err Will, hopefully this one’s a little better; “Your young driver, di Stefano, hasn’t been re-signed as far as we’re aware. Is he leaving or is there behind the scenes stuff going on?”
WI: Unfortunately for Gianluca our interests didn’t quite align. Zander [Brynildson] will be running his third year in 2019 and after Urmo’s [Kruuda] impressive run last year we are promoting him to VWRS. Gianluca understandably doesn’t want to step down again so he will leave Ingram Fledglings.
We have had informal discussions about getting him a seat in VWRS next season as a stand alone driver and hopefully his career can improve.
Reporter: Ingram Fledglings, I absolutely love that name. Oh, we’ve got a second one for you actually; “With more teams and pre-qualifying in 2019, how will this change the focus on R&D in the future?”
WI: We could see more teams taking the Phoenix approach to their first season where they have established themselves as seventh fastest – just about!
Personally though I’d like to hear Arthur and Bradley tell us their plans…?
Reporter: Well, Bradley, Arthur.. what are your plans?
BD: Our plan is to avoid ever ending up in Q1!
AL: This conference isn’t the time to discuss our R&D plans, but I can assure you we won’t be in Qualifying 1 any time soon.
Reporter: We’ll stick with you actually Arthur, this one’s for you; “How disappointed would you be if neither of your drivers win the title to Powers on Sunday, given they’ve won eleven races between them in 2018, compared to just one for Powers?”
AL: Exceptionally so – either one of our guys deserves that trophy. However, while it would be a bitter pill to swallow, Nathaniel has been super consistent, so he’d be a worthy champion.
Reporter: Another one here; “Who has more influence in the team, yourself or Robert?”
AL: It depends what aspect of the team you’re talking about. Commercial and general operational concerns fall to me, Rob is in charge of the engineering side of things as well as the trackside support, then we both constantly assess the driver market and come to joint decisions regarding who we put in the car.
Reporter: Only a couple left guys – one here for Dylan; “Is 2019 Meteor driver Lopez related to you in any way?”
DL: Nope. Just the same last name. We hope he’ll represent the name well in the Meteor though. And to be fair this year’s precedent of driver quality isn’t too hard to beat, right Bradley?
Reporter: We won’t get Bradley started on that… alright, I can tell this one’s for Rai without reading the top bit; “Are you still fifth fastest?”
RM: I’d probs say fourth fastest to be fair.
Reporter: I hope you’re joking! Alright we’ve got two more, both to Arthur and Bradley. First one; “Ocelot have shown strong form with little-to-no luck in the final races of the year. Are they a threat to any of your drivers chances of taking the title?”
BD: “Little-to-no luck”? Until Mexico they had a run of six consecutive podiums! Are they a threat? Well, they’re right up at the front of the field and quicker than us, so in a way yes. But our fight is with the DS Mathershaw cars, if they beat us it makes no difference. It could well happen that Ocelot aid us by getting in between ourselves and DS Mathershaw, but that only helps if we’re somehow the ones out front!
AL: Only if they take one of them out again.
Reporter: Final one guys; “As well as this being the title decider, it’s also the final race that you’ll be running the same engines, an end of an era in a way. Is there an added emotion in both teams because of this?
AL: Very much so, but it’s important to stress that this is far from the end of the partnership. While the certain is falling on the engine partnership, a new era of cooperation is upon us, and I think it’s going to benefit both of us greatly.
BD: Not really. The way we work together next season will not change in any way from the way it has previously, it’ll simply be a case that we’ll have slightly different donkeys in the back.
Reporter: Okay, thank you guys. Just a couple more questions now then we’ll finish up. Rai – it’s been a great season for Ocelot, what are your emotions like going into this weekend? A lot of people throughout the paddock seem to think it may be some time before we see another Ocelot win after this season?
RM: It’s been amazing and a fantastic morale boost for us around here. I’m proud of the entire team, a collective amazing effort. We don’t know what future holds for us but all I can say is “We’ll be back with a vengeance”.
Reporter: Let’s hope so! Question to Will and Dylan, do you both feel like you can sit back a little and enjoy whatever happens this weekend, knowing that your respective teams aren’t really involved in any battles, unless of course something crazy happens and Lopez score a large haul of points?
DL: The last couple of races have been anything but what we’ve come to expect. We’re still remaining positive of our chances but we’re well aware the luck needs to fall on our side of the court to get seventh back in the constructors.
WI: Well I thought we could relax earlier and then Holmqvist scored two quick podiums! I do hope that the race is an exciting one but James and Jean are too competitive to relax - so we will still be pushing for the best we can.
Reporter: Alright, as usual, what are everyone’s hopes and expectations for the weekend, and who do you think will win the title? Starting with you Dylan please.
DL: Like I briefly outlines before, seventh in the constructors would be a dream come true from our current situation. But scoring points alone would be a good way to cap off the year no matter where we finish.
WI: Ninth and tenth? Hoping to pick up the pieces.
I think Kangur will win the title – he’s got the run at the moment and I think DS will be too strong for Powers. If one car suffers the other will pick up the pieces.
RM: A final podium or something special would be fantastic but mainly just pick up enough points to beat Franklin. I’d like to see Kangur win the title.
BD: We just want to perform as well as possible in the final race of the season. Our hope is obviously for Nathaniel to return to the garage on Sunday as a triple World Champion, but we expect the DS Mathershaw’s to be too strong. In terms of the title, I think it might go to Allar. He’s put in some stunning performances of late and really seems to have the bit between his teeth.
AL: A DS Mathershaw driver.
Reporter: Brilliant, thank you very much to you all. That’s that for the press conferences in 2018, thank you to everyone who’s played some part in them throughout the year, we’ll be back in the spring! As for this weekend, be sure to not miss practice tomorrow ahead of the grand finale – and three way title decider – from Brazil!