FIA post-race press conference - 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
1. Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), 2. Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 3. Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
(Conducted by Martin Brundle)
Q: Max Verstappen, great victory, your ninth in Formula 1. You must have enjoyed that so much?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t see it coming but after the first stint it seemed like we were really good on tyres. Of course then there was a question mark over how Mercedes were going to go on the hard tyre. But we had a lot of pace in the car. I didn’t really have a lot of tyre issues at all. Yeah, we just kept pushing. An incredible result of course to win here and yeah we just had a great day. Everything worked out well: we had the right strategy, everything was running smooth. So yeah, of course incredibly happy to win.
Q: Red Bull back in business. There was a pivotal point in the race where you were asked to look after the tyres pretty early on and you said: “no, no, no, I’m not going to drive like grandma.” No disrespect to grandmas, they can be pretty speedy, but “I’m going after these guys to put pressure on them”. That for me was a key moment.
MV: Yeah, we so far didn’t have the opportunity in all the races to push them, and I could see we were pushing them. I tried to put the pressure on, they had to pit and from there onwards I could do my pace and basically build that advantage to the end.
Q: We’re off to Barcelona next week. Do you think you have a Mercedes-beater underneath you now?
MV: I don’t know. I think we do need to use soft tyres, that seems to suit our car, but we’ll see again in Barcelona. For the moment we are just very happy that we just won.
Q: Second placed man Lewis Hamilton. Well, that was a bit of a challenging race with the tyres but you came through in the end to P2.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, a massive challenge. Firstly, congratulations to the Red Bull team and to Max. You look at their tyres they don’t have the problems that obviously we had today. Definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hard core as we experienced it, but I’m really grateful to have progressed and managed to just get my way through the race. I think I had blistering right at the end again, but I had been pushing pretty heavily to catch the guys in the lead.
Q: Is there anything in particular as to why the Mercedes was blistering more than the Red Bull do you think?
LH: Not that I know of at the moment, but I’m sure the team will be working as hard as they can because we’ve not had that before. I would imagine, it’s most likely… Obviously, Pirellis were struggling with tyres failures last week so then weekend on, weekend on, they just put the pressures up and up. They’re balloons now. They’re they highest pressures we’ve ever had at a track like this. I wouldn’t be surprised it was an affect for us but I don’t know if anyone else struggled with blistering we had. But it’s something we’ll look into.
Q: The key for you was that you had to carry a set of tyres that looked horrible. You were clearly worried about them. And then you attacked the pit lane speed limit line as well, absolutely right on the edge. There was a phase there where it was getting quite difficult for you.
LH: That middle stint was… even the first one actually, the first stint was really difficult I started to fall back to Max… And then that second stint I was managing like you couldn’t believe. I was managing to the best of my ability but it didn’t make a single difference to that blistering. At the end I was just driving with half a tyre basically. If you looked in the mirrors, one half is bald and the other side is OK. It held together but I was nervous it was going to explode.
Q: Onwards and upwards. Valtteri, third place, another podium, but probably a race that could have been; a bit frustrating for you?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, very frustrating, starting from pole and finishing third is not ideal. I think as a team we were sleeping at some point, when Max managed to get ahead of us, and my strategy was far, far from ideal, so lots to learn from today I think.
Q: That was the key point I think. You pitted 10 laps earlier than Lewis for the set of hard tyres and then you were nursing some very difficult tyres at the end of the grand prix.
VB: Yeah, of course, I was trying, if there was a chance to keep up with Max. But as soon as I started to push towards the end the tyres just fell apart. Lots of blistering in the tyres today for us and it seems like Red Bull had none so they clearly had an edge over there.
Q: Explain to us what it feels like with those blisters?
VB: The tyre just overheats. It’s basically boiling. You get holes in the tyres and then you just lose grip. Once you start to have those blisters in that particular tyre you just lose cornering griup and you go slower and slower.
Q: Onto Barcelona and better luck next weekend.
VB: We’ll move on. Disappointing day but we’ll move on.
Q: Max, what a race – sensational. You had no tyre issues, but were you surprised at just how easy your car was on its tyres today?
MV: Well, yeah, I didn’t expect that. I had a good start first of all, so I was straight away into P3, and that helps. Then I knew that the first few laps maybe it would be a bit more difficult to follow, but then I could see both cars in front of me were both having trouble with their tyres, which of course is quite normal when the tyres are so soft. I closed the gap and then once they pitted I could pick up my pace and do my own laps, and basically until I pitted it just felt really good. I never really had any struggles and I could extend that first stint, which I think was key. My stop was not great, one wheel was a bit slow, so I came out behind Valtteri but then I had the softer compound, so I had a lot more grip, so I got past Valtteri. Then the gap stayed at like 2.5 to 3 seconds after that and then of course we pitted together. Then of course there’s a question mark of who’s going to the fastest to the line. But I think straightaway the car felt good on those tyres again and I never really had any trouble with the tyre today and I think that was the key today.
Q: Is this the first time this year that we’ve seen what you and the car are capable of?
MV: I guess so if you win the race.
Q: Lewis, there was some speculation in the middle of the race that you might try a one-stopper. Was that ever on the cards?
LH: I was trying to go for a one-stop at the end but there was a lot of vibration with the tyres that we had and I didn’t know if the tyre was going to last if I’m being honest. Not just with the rubber but I just a rear tyre blow-out through a corner was too big a risk to take; that would have been end of race, so I think it was a good decision by the team. I was trying to keep going but there were a lot of laps to go and Max, I think at the end, was doing 28s, 29s and I couldn’t do that on the tyre old tyres, so congratulations to him, he did a fantastic job. And it was an exciting race for me with the struggle we had, keeping the car on track and not losing my cool and bringing it home and getting the points, so really happy with it.
Q: Had you got through Q2 on the Hard tyre yesterday, do you think the hard tyre might have been different today?
LH: It’s all hearsay. Hindsight’s always a good thing but I really don’t know. Maybe we wouldn’t have fallen back towards Max but even on the hard tyre we had blistering. A lot of blistering. So even with a lot of management. His tyre didn’t look like it had anything on it so there’s something quite wrong, obviously, with something that we’ve done and we’ll analyse it and try to fix it for next time.
Q: “Analyse it, try to fix it for next time.” But Valtteri, what does the team need to do to improve its performance on the softer tyre at these high tyre pressures?
VB: I don’t know. There’s obviously something that we need to improve compared to Red Bull. I saw Max’s tyres at the end of the race and they looked perfect and mine and Lewis’ were pretty badly blistered, so there’s a difference there that, at least, I don’t know yet what it is. And also we really had to manage in the high-speed corners. We required quite a bit of management and it seemed Max was pretty comfortable in the high speed corners. So, unknown reason for now.
Q: At what point in the race where you thinking: ‘this is going to slip away from us.’
VB: I think when I lost the track position to Max. I was asking if I could go faster, because I was managing the tyres around that time. But then I just got a message that the priority is to keep the tyres in good condition, and then obviously he came out from the pits pretty much side-by-side and got me into Turn Six-Seven. So then I knew, OK, could be tricky, but I was hopeful there would be opportunities. But then the middle stint was quite short. We boxed and I could see Max stopping at the same time, so then, I knew yeah, it’s going to be tricky. And towards the end, the mid-to-end of the last stint, I tried to push flat-out to create opportunities. I was maybe catching slightly but then the tyres gave up completely. So yeah, for me, definitely I should have gone long in the second stint. The last stint was way to long and that’s when I lost the position to Lewis.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Max. Do you think today’s victory was more up to your strength that you catched up to Mercedes or more to Mercedes weakness today?
MV: I mean it’s difficult. I mean to speak for others. From our side, everything was working well with the tyres. I had a good balance in the car, we didn't have any troubles with the tyres. With such soft compounds on this track, with high energies, that can make a big difference – because when you look back at last week, when you are a bit more… driving with tyres that we have basically the whole year everywhere where you only do a one stop, and then of course we’re still lacking pace. Of course I could see the Mercedes cars having a lot of blistering issues. So then you know they are struggling with the tyres. So I think we had a really good day with the tyres and the pace of the car and balance of the car and probably they just struggle on the tyres and then, of course, you can’t push.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to both Mercedes drivers please. At the start of the race and into the first stint, how hard were you guys pushing and were you immediately going slower than you were expecting – or was it just going to plan at that point when Max came up behind you on the hards.
VB: I think we were both managing quite a lot in the most efficient places that we think. So, yeah, from the very beginning we were managing because we knew that, for us, starting with the Medium tyre, the best thing is to go pretty long and not to leave a massive difference to Max in terms of stopping laps. So, yeah, even though we started to have some blistered pretty early on, we could still carry on with half-decent pace. So yes, we were managing, to be honest, all the race. At the end with the hard tyre I was pushing a bit and then you saw what happens.
Lewis, that first stint, how hard were you pushing?
LH: Like Valtteri said, I was trying to manage but I was trying to keep up with Valtteri, to be honest, and I was struggling, like, within three laps with the rears, and so yes, managing also but it wasn't doing anything to help the issue. So then I started to lose ground to Valtteri and yeah, I’ve got to look into that because it’s rare also for me to have as bad as I’d had. Usually I’m on the slightly better end of bad day but today was worse.
Q: Was the deg today worse than on your long runs during Friday practice, for example?
LH: Yep, we haven’t had deg like this before. So, it’s big. I don’t know what happened today. We’ve come here with the softer tyres which, I think, has made the race even more exciting as we set about a two stop. Part of me doesn’t want to propose that we go with softer tyres moving forwards because maybe we’ll be in this position again, but ultimately, one-stop sucks. We should never be doing one-stops, I think in this sport. It’s never been good watching as a fan. It makes it more exciting when there’s more.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for Max. Max, we’ve heard you on the radio in the first stint, responding to GPs message to save your tyres and you didn’t want to just sit there like a grandma. At that point, being so close to the Mercedes, was that just about having an opportunity to run close to them and see where it goes – or at that point did you think you were in contention to win the race?
MV: No, I was already managing but, you know, of course their tyres were like, completely gone. I could see the tyres opening up. It was also very expected with these tyres, especially on high fuel, when the car is very heavy. But I didn’t just want to sit behind, like I’ve been doing at the previous races all the time, so once I had the opportunity to put a bit of pressure on, I want to do that. So, I tried. I had a big moment once, when I was close to Lewis in Turn 13, because it’s really hard to follow, even when I have the grip advantage with these cars – but of course then it was just impossible for them to continue, so they boxed. And that’s where my race started. But I hate sitting back, especially when you see that the car is actually pretty decent. Sometimes it can be a bit of suicide, killing your tyres, trying to hang on desperately but I don’t think that was the case today.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for both Mercedes drivers. Lewis, as you have mentioned, the problems today with the blistering came out of the blue. Did you change anything dramatically from Friday on the car?
LH: Nope, the car’s pretty much the same. Pretty much as last week. We made some small improvements to the balance but generally the same.
Any changes on your car Valtteri?
VB: From last weekend yes, but since Friday nothing – and Friday was actually feeling okay, so I think just the track temp today was the biggest difference.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) To the Mercedes drivers: you’ve traditionally gone very well at Spain which is next week but is going to be in August this time, not may so potentially much hotter temperatures. Given what’s happened today, are you fearful of the heat and to Max, will you be pushing F1 and Pirelli to bring softer tyres at every available opportunity now?
LH: I expect that track, we will probably have similar problems to what we had here, maybe last week, maybe, especially if it’s hot conditions, probably… maybe won’t be as bad as today but still going to be a challenge. It’s (the tyre selection) going to be the same as last week? So still going to be a serious challenge for us.
VB: I agree, so I think it’s going to be a challenge. I haven’t seen the forecast but I guess it’s going to be warm. As least today, it seems like Red Bull, they are pretty strong when it’s hot.
MV: Well, I don’t think it’s up to me to push that. I don’t think I can do that. Today we had a good race. Who knows, maybe it’s the tyres? We had a good day so we just need to be happy about today but we can also be realistic; we are still lacking pace in qualifying, quite a bit, so we need to solve that first as well and of course we go back to harder tyres in Barcelona. Of course we saw last week that on those harder tyres we are still quite a bit off so I don’t expect any miracles there. I know it’s a hard track on tyres but with these hard tyres you can push quite a bit, harder than what we’ve done today. But yeah, I think in general, it’s more about doing a one stop is not very exciting so if you find a way of doing two stops which of course, nice tyres as well. I mean, I hate… I think in general nobody likes managing tyres throughout the race. We want to push, that would be good.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you said you hoped Red Bull would raise their game so they would bring the temperature challenge to you. Obviously you don’t want to lose but do you think it’s good that Max has won today breathes new life into the sport and do you see him as a challenger this season?
LH: I think it’s great for… as I said before, I want to have races where they’re challenging like today so I’m excited to watch this race. Obviously the Red Bull seems to be quite close in race conditions to us and obviously today is stronger so it shows they don’t have as bad a package as perhaps people had said in the past but I think it’s good. It will be interesting to see the progression through the rest of the year and I definitely will not overlook them. I think we’ve got to keep a close eye on them and keep working to push forwards because I don’t think it’s going to be easy by any means. But I don’t think my team has that mentality anyway so we just keep our heads down. I was hopeful today that maybe we would have that – wishful thinking, but hoping to have some sort of race towards the end, but maybe in the future we will get to have some, a bit more.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Max, you mentioned that obviously you have to be realistic and that there’s still performance to be found. You will have a reasonable idea of where the team has an understanding of the car and what’s coming up in terms of upgrades. Do you think it’s realistic to expect, in the time you’ve got available this season – obviously a few more months of racing – that you will be able to have a car that week in, week out can do this kind of thing, or do you think it’s going to be relying on slightly unusual circumstances like today to be able to get wins?
MV: I think that to fully close that gap will be very hard. I think today we were just very good on tyres and then of course you can push a lot harder on them, especially when we go back to conservative tyres everywhere – because basically most of the tracks we go to we are just doing a one stop – yeah, I think it will be a bit harder for us because then nobody really has blistering that severe, and you don’t need to manage as much as we did today. We will see. Like I’ve said before, let’s just enjoy today and then we’ll see again in Barcelona where we are.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Two questions: to Lewis, during the race you mentioned Max’s tyres pressures, that maybe they weren’t right. Do you still hold that opinion or do you think that they were able to handle it better? Second question to all three with regards to travelling to Spain for the next race; UK government advice is obviously against going to Spain due to the corona virus; what sort of measures do you have in place; will you be staying in motorhomes at the track, just looking after yourselves and making sure that you don’t fall foul in the same way that Sergio Perez is?
LH: So the first question… when we go out and we start the race we have minimal pressures and then during the race they increase. With more laps, they go on a steep rise and I assume that we just went on a much steeper rise and increase in pressures than… In general, to look after your tyres, you need to keep the temperatures down and hence the pressures, so that wasn’t really my thought processes when I was out there. They must be able to keep their pressures lower than ours and that’s why ours were blistering and that was just a theory that I had. I wasn’t saying that they have different settings to us, because we all have the same minimum but if you can keep your pressures lower then you can go further and make the tyres last longer, so I think that that’s probably – I’ll find out later but I’m sure that’s part of the issue that we had probably.
I don’t really know a lot of what’s happening there (in Spain) but I stay at the track always, so nothing changes for me. I stay in my bubble, I’m only around a couple of people and so I will get to the airport and then go straight to my motorhome and stay at the track for the three/four days. Same as I have done this weekend.
MV: Yeah, I just keep doing what I have been doing. You minimise contact, you stay in your bubble. I don’t expect any trouble. It’s not only in Barcelona or in Spain there is corona, you know, so you just have to be careful.
VB: Yeah, same as normal race weekend so land in Spain, go directly to the motorhome, to the track. I will only be with the people who are included in the bubble, that’s it. Then after the race weekend leave with the same people to the next place. That’s it, so should be safe.