Good morning and welcome to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the team principal’s Thursday press conference ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian V-Prix – bet you never guessed that - round four of the 2019 Formula Virtual World Championship. Joining us today, from left to right, are; Alex Easton of deep breath Ecotricity DS Automobiles Team Phoenix, Adrian Arnello of Arnello Milner and Ronson Autosport, Bradley Downton of Downton FV Team, Jamie Franklin of Franklin and Steve Busce- I mean Rai Miyamoto from Ocelot Japan Racing. Welcome to everyone.
Reporter: So we’ll start with you Bradley seeing as you won in China. Congratulations on your first win this year, for both you and Van Snelheid. How pleased are you to get a win after both Mathershaw and Franklin did in the last two races, and how did it help van Snelheid after his DNF in Japan? Did you at any point have doubts over whether you could win?
Bradley Downton: Thank you, we're delighted to have chalked the first one of the season off, but are disappointed that it took until the third race of the season. We were caught out in qualifying for Australia with the weather which put us on the back foot, and got unlucky last time, so it's nice to finally have a clean weekend - with one driver at least - and that shows what we can do. Mind you, we seem to be lacking race pace - compared to Mathershaw at least - so that's something we need to investigate and sort out. Of course we're pleased with Klaas, he's really come back firing on all cylinders this season after a self-confessed disappointing period last year, so it's nice to see. And yes, we doubted it right until he crossed the line. We thought we'd screwed the strategy and when Klaas rejoined the track behind Adrien and on a slower tyre compound, we thought we were done for, but he pulled some stunning pace and a brilliant overtake from somewhere and won it for us. This one is down to Klaas, it was an impeccable drive.
Reporter: On the flip side Powers didn’t finish the race after his clash with Kangur while the two were fighting for the net lead of the race. Have they talked to each other yet and do you lay the blame on one or the other?
BD: They spoke in the pen after the race. Nathaniel is still confused as to how he let himself end up on the grass and apologised to Allar for that and how he rejoined the track, and likewise Allar acknowledged that he saw it and should have taken a wider line around the corner to avoid Nathaniel's out of control car. They're not the best of friends - Allar very much keeps himself to himself, very quiet, classic Estonian - but they get on, and they both know the other wouldn't take them out maliciously, so they shook hands and moved on. I don't blame either driver more than the other. At the time I felt it was a racing incident and I still hold that view now. We wish it hadn't happened but it did, and we can't change that. As the drivers have done, you just have to move on, it wasn't intentional by either of them.
Reporter: Couldn’t agree more with that. We'll come back to you Bradley, let’s move on to the other race winners Franklin. Jamie, Ruiz took another podium in China, to add to his other two in Japan and Australia with the latter being a win. You still lead both championships, but you seem to lack pure pace to Mathershaw and Downton. Are you hoping to improve to their level over the next few races?
Jamie Franklin: No, we’d actually like to remain stagnant during the course of the season, that’s clearly the best way to stay on top. What a stupid question.
Reporter: Your other driver Kinnumen hasn’t finished yet on the podium and hasn’t really been a match for Ruiz in the last three races. Do you still have faith in him that he can do well or are you looking at alternatives already?
JF: Who has been on par with Enrique? Apart from the first race where he was hampered by the rain in quali, he’s finished directly behind Enrique. I’d say that was sufficient at the moment.
Reporter: Alright, you know more than we do. Moving to you Adrian, you got a 14th place finish in China but considering that people were expecting you to boss Q1 are you disappointed with your pace so far this season? Are you hoping to improve or is this just a season of salvaging what you can?
Adrian Arnello: We were kinda hoping they were right! The field is tighter than ever this year and we’re seeing it in Q1 as well as the race. The new guys all rocked up with a point to prove, which doesn’t help! We’ve got some new goodies coming for the European leg so with that and a bit of luck we'll clear Q1 more often, but yeah, she’s tight!
Reporter: Definitely, the margins have been very find this year. Rai and Alex, both of you are towards the bottom end of the field and are at risk of Q1, indeed Phoenix are in the bottom 6 at the moment. For Rai after nearly scoring points in China do you think you snatch a few at some stage which would pretty much keep you safe from Q1? And Alex do you still think you could sneak out of Q1 or is it something that’s inevitable for you guys?
Rai Miyamoto: It really depends on everything falling into place, so I don’t know if points are possible but we are hopeful.
Alex Easton: It’s looking almost like a foregone conclusion, and has been looking that way since Melbourne, but as ever we’re always up for the challenge. We obviously want to do everything within our power to get a good result on the board as soon as possible, but if we do drop down into Q1 we’ll take it as it comes and relish that new challenge.
Reporter: It’s been tough for many teams to get points but you seem up to it. Let’s get to the fan questions now, starting with you Alex; “If you had a second team, what would you call it?”
AE: Oh that’s a tricky one! Whilst I am a fan of team names taken from their founders surnames - such as Downton, Franklin, Cheema - I don’t think Easton FV sounds quite right somehow! I’d have to go with something like Falcon V-Prix.
Reporter: I quite like Easton FV but Falcon sounds cool. Adrian, erm; “Have you heard of the Great Emu war?”
AA: Us Aussies do not talk about the Great Emu War.
Reporter: Can't blame you! Bradley here's the one for you; “What has been van Snelheid's best win in FV?”
BD: My memory is far from the best but it's difficult to look past China last time out. That race was gone and it was only thanks to Klaas' determination that we won. His first win in Japan in 2017 was good too, as was Belgium last year - especially with how he held on in the final laps!
Reporter: I'm sure you have very good memories of the penultimate lap in Belgium last year. Jamie, this one says; “What are the odds you will win the championship double this year?
JF: What are the odds that any of you idiots are going to come up with an original and interesting question? I’m not capable of predicting the future, we will just focus on the now.
Reporter: I didn’t make up the questions, that’s all I can say. Final one for Rai; “Are the rumours that your car is powered by rabbits true?”
RM: No comment
Reporter: Well thank you for clearing that up. That finishes the fan questions, thanks to all who sent them. So Bradley, I don’t think this is a question you would enjoy, but something that we can’t overlook. Your record around here has been mixed, you won last year but in 2017 you had that double DNF while leading 1-2. Is that something that plays on your mind and leaves you nervous or is it just another track for you?
BD: Ah yes, Malaysia... It's difficult to come here and not remember 2017, but we're two years later on now and have a job to do this weekend. The team are focused and won't let anything distract them. Are we nervous? No. The track does not make a difference to the luck.
Reporter: That’s a good attitude to have. Rai, obviously you’ve had a massive drop off in performance compared to last year when you were fighting for wins. Is the engine letting you down or are you struggling with the aerodynamics? Or is it a mixture of both?
RM: We’d expected this. But we will power through. We cannot comment on what area is lacking.
Reporter: You have also got a new driver for this season - FV2 champion Hunter Ryan. After three races he has finished behind Giodano usually. Given what happened with Yoshida last year, does he need to get a move on if he wants to stay in Ocelot or are you giving him time to settle in?
RM: Ryan still has time to improve, other factors need to be taken into account like this year’s car vs last year’s.
Reporter: Ryan does have a super junior career, so hopefully he gets up to speed. Returning to you Adrian, between your two drivers Schnyder has qualified twice and Kovalenko once. Schnyder has your best result but it was down to attrition. Have either of them impressed you more than the other and if so who?
AA: They’re both doing exactly what we need them to be doing. The field is mighty tight, so we’re not expecting leaps and bounds.
Reporter: After four years using your own engine you swapped to Ford power in a partnership with FIRST and North Star. Have you had any issues with the engines or have they worked we’ll? And are they a step up from manufacturing your own engines?
AA: It’s a big step up! It’s a much better package to integrate into our current chassis so it’s saved a few headaches.
Reporter: Great news! Something we just want to ask about Jamie, last time you were here you were reportedly in sponsorship troubles with Santander and Sony. Have they been resolved yet and will the two companies be staying with you?
JF: There are still ongoing "talks" though I don’t really care for sharing the details.
Reporter: Fair enough, hope it works out for the team. Alex, finally returning to you. Alvarez has been doing pretty well this year, almost taking points in Australia and China. Xylander on the other hand has struggled since his super qualifying performance in Australia. Are you happy with both your driver’s performances or are you hoping one of them will improve?
AE: We’ve only had three race weekends so far, but both drivers have so far done pretty much exactly what we outlined as expectations for them prior to the season. Sergio has really stepped up to become the de facto team leader after Carson left us over the winter, his performances have been nothing short of incredible given the clear pace deficit to some of our rivals, unfortunately he’s had no luck whatsoever but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes and I’m sure he’ll get some fortune sooner or later. As for Thierry; while it may look like he’s been struggling slightly in comparison to Sergio, I do feel that the gap is exaggerated slightly by the fact that the midfield is packed like a tin of sardines this year. We’re very happy with the job he’s doing so far and most importantly - as was the same with Sergio at the same point last year - he’s settling into the team and life in FV absolutely brilliantly.
Reporter: Just like AMR, you’ve changed engine suppliers this year, with Phoenix now running DS engines compared to Judd last year. Have the engines been an improvement and has it been better working with an engine partner rather then going solo?
AE: Absolutely. Whilst we’re not where we want to be in terms of pace and championship position - we don’t blame any of that on the power unit provided to us by DS and Downton - we have the exact same power train in the back of our cars as DS Mathershaw do and they’re right up at the sharp end.
As for the actual relationship with the rest of the stable - Downton, Lopez, Lucas and of course DS Mathershaw - things couldn’t be better. It’s a very tight knit group of teams and it seems to be working absolutely brilliantly so far.
Reporter: Nice, great to see a relatively new team in an established partnership. Now, a question for everyone. Last year we hand the most chaoticly chaotic Formula Virtual race in history, with 17 drivers not crossing the line. This year we are seeing a forecast for rain this weekend just like last year. If it’s another crazy race, do you see this as an opportunity to do well, especially for the teams in Q1, or a threat to a good result this weekend?
RM: Could go either way really.
JF: It’s not really mutually exclusive, it’s both. Though those who have been able to be at the front consistently are obviously more at risk, however those are usually also the ones intelligent enough to be able to cope with it better as well.
BD: I think the weather here certainly can play a large part, and we need to make sure we judge it correctly, but it's tricky to do, it can be very random. It's both an opportunity to gain on your rivals, and lose huge ground - but so is every wet session in this series, so it's just about nailing the job on the day. For those battling to get out of - or avoid in the future - Q1, this race - if the predicted rain hits any of the sessions over the weekend - could be vital, it's all about survival.
AA: If we get another wet and wild one, its on us to gain. Rain separates the men from the boys!
AE: One hundred percent. Malaysia weather at this time of year can be absolutely mental and there are plenty of storms about this weekend. It’s great for us in some ways as we have absolutely nothing to lose from a crazy race like last year, although if some teams below us managed to grab points it could well resign us to Q1 for the foreseeable future so we have to get everything absolutely spot on if the opportunity arises.
Reporter: Thanks for the opinions, I imagine some of you might be hoping for something like last year to get out of the bottom six. Final question, as usual to everyone, what are your expectations for this weekend, and which team do you think are the ones to beat?
AE: My personal expectations for this weekend are to just stay out of trouble and pick up the pieces if misfortune creeps up on anyone in front of us - as long as it’s a great race for the fans with plenty of action and fights for the lead then that’s great.
As for the win, I’m gonna back these guys pointing towards Bradley, they deserve a good result here after plenty of bad luck here in the past.
AA: To close to call this year! Umm Downton maybe? We like the orange?
BD: Expectations? A 1-2, as they are every weekend. We at least want a win and a podium or a strong points finish - we need them for the Championship now. As for who I think will win? Mathershaw. They've had far and away the best race pace thus far.
JF: Expectations are to have a clean weekend. After that, we’ll see where we fall.
RM: Downton win. Maybe around 15th in terms where we are expecting.
Reporter: And wraps this up very nicely indeed. Thanks to our five team principals Alex, Adrian, Bradley, Jamie and Rai for coming here today and thanks to everyone here for coming as well. We'll see you tomorrow when the cars hit the track – no not literally, Vocquelin isn’t here anymore – for Friday practice. See you then!
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