FIA post-race press conference – Bahrain
1. Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 2. Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), 3. Alex ALBON (Red Bull)
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Alex well done, a smile behind the mask there. It’s been a tough weekend after that crash in FP2 but these guys standing behind me you can see they’re getting behind you and your second podium in Formula 1.
Alex ALBON: Yeah, there was obviously a bit of luck involved with Sergio, he had a really good race. But considering Friday, the guys did an amazing job to get the car ready and it just feels good. Feels good obviously, a double podium for us. Yeah, I’m happy.
Q: What’s the plan for the next three days? You have some time to re-set and then we’re back here on a different track, but that’s a confidence boost and that lifts you?
AA: Yeah, I mean I felt like the last three races have been getting better and better but the results just haven’t been showing. It’s a step forward again. I’ll spend the three days doing whatever, hanging by the swimming pool, playing some golf. Yeah, all good.
Q: Max, a pretty solid day at the office. First, I want to touch on what happened at the start. Not nice scenes to happen but thankfully Romain’s walked away from that crash.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was scary, because we saw a red flag. That doesn’t mean it’s immediately a bad thing but I saw a lot of fire and I was like ‘that’s not a good thing’. Luckily, he is OK and hopefully he will recover fast again.
Q: And obviously the fight to Lewis, where exactly was that? You could see just a little bit of pace missing today.
MV: Yeah, we were just lacking a bit. I tried to keep it close, but they always had an answer and besides that also, we weren’t aggressive enough with the strategy and then we had a slow pit stop. It is what it is and second is not bad.
Q: And next week, is that track layout going to suit you a bit better?
MV: Normally not, with the amount of extra straight which is coming in. We’ll see. The car seems to work quite well around here, so hopefully we can find a little bit more pace through the corners which I left on the other track and then we’ll see again.
Q: Lewis, congratulations. Firstly, what we should touch on is how much the FIA, the GPDA put safety first into this sport. And having seen Romain… I’ve seen all the drivers looking at the screen, before you got back in the car to go back out and do that race.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it was such a shocking image to see. The thing is, you know Paul, when we arrive, when I get in the car I know that I am taking a risk. I respect the dangers that are in this sport. I posted about it whilst I was in that break. It was horrifying, His car, the cockpit… I don’t know what Gs he pulled. I’m just so grateful that the Halo worked. I’m grateful that the barrier didn’t slice his head off. It could have been so much worse. It is a reminder to us and hopefully to the people that are watching at home that this is a dangerous sport. That is why we are out there pushing to the limit and playing with that limit. But you also have to respect it. As I said, I think shows the amazing job that Formula 1 has done, the FIA have done over time to able to walk away from that. But of course that will be investigated and they will do a lot of work to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Q: The reaction has been quite incredible when you see it outside the car when the race was going on, with the world, how that’s done. But then textbook performance by you Lewis, seven-time world champion, you went on and dominated the race. It did look easy from outside but you said at the end of the race that it was quite hard. Was Max pushing you all the way?
LH: Yeah, it really was physically demanding. I think with the break we had at the beginning you get into a mind set and you go out and get a good start and then that 45 to an hour wait that we had it is so easy to step out of the zone. So that was quite tricky but then getting back in, they had a lot of speed today. I was flat out the whole way trying to keep them at bay. It’s physical. This track has always been physical. You’ve got lots of high-speed corners, so I was definitely feeling it. I managed to just about reply to him when I needed to. But I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really sure how it would play out at the end, so I’m massively grateful and thankful to my team because at the end of the day they did a great job with the strategy and what a privilege it is to be able to get another result like this.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations on your 95th win and you are now a four-time winner here in Bahrain. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster this evening, given Romain Grosjean’s accident. Please can you just try to sum it for us?
LH: We just had to do it downstairs seven times already, so I don’t want to regurgitate what I had said downstairs. Naturally, it was terrifying to see. I haven’t seen something like that for a long, long time. It really hits home for a driver, because I think while we are all competing with each other and want to beat each other we definitely I would think want safety for everyone and worry about one another when there is an issue, when there is a crash. I’m really grateful that he is safe and was able to get out. But it is a real stark reminder just how dangerous this sport can be – the speeds that we are travelling, the energy that we are carrying when we are travelling at those speeds. The FIA have done an amazing job, but we can’t stop where we are, we’ve got to keep on trying to improve. That’s what also makes this sport great. We are constantly evolving. It is still a dangerous sport. I’m sure there are people who tuned in who have never seen something like that and it just shows that those things can happen. I think we are aware of that as racing drivers, the risks we take. Now everyone else is.
Q: When there is a one and half-hour delay like that, what are you thinking about, and how hard is it to get back into the zone?
LH: It’s definitely not… I’m sure it’s different for each and every one of us. You think about the fact that if everyone else is shocked just imagine how his family is feeling. And then again we’re putting our helmets on and we’re going back out there. Anything can happen with these cars. It definitely wasn’t easy to get back into the zone, into race mode, but the race goes and that’s what we’ve got to do. Head down, otherwise this guy is going to beat me and he very nearly did today.
Q: Well, let’s talk about the race a little bit too. Fabulous starts from you. Just talk us through it.
LH: Yeah, the starts were… the first start was really great and when you get a start like that you always hope that you can just keep going – but then obviously the Safety Car came out, or the red flag came out. And then to go back into it, we were behind the Safety Car and it was quite slow. The Safety Car was driving really slow – not really quite sure what happened, so our tyres would have been at a lower temperature, and so it was definitely a slightly different second start – but the second start was also spot-on. After that it was generally trying to build a gap to Max but he had great pace, so in the early stages it definitely wasn’t particularly easy to do that. I think because he was following me, his tyres would have overheated sooner than mine, and I was able to bridge a little bit of a gap. Then after that he had the two Hard tyres and it was really quite difficult to maintain the speed that he had, the Medium tyre particularly in that middle stint. At the end, we were both on the Hard but he still also had really good pace and I was just trying to manage the tyres, which I struggled with, I think today compared – so it seems – perhaps them, and perhaps Max. A good battle, and also it was physical out there. I think it’s always been a physical circuit and even though it’s cooler, you still have those gee through the corners.
Q: Max, coming to you. Lewis says it was a good battle. How pleased were you with your pace today?
MV: It wasn’t bad. I think we were trying to keep the pressure on, y’know, but I think we didn’t do a good job with the strategy today. We had the tyres to be more aggressive and we didn’t do it. First stop we should have pulled Lewis in, instead of Lewis pulling me in. so, I don’t know what was going on there. And then, yeah, of course, I had the Hard tyre, and then after that first stop… I think it was the right tyre to be on because initially I gained a bit back on Lewis, of course because he was just bringing his tyres up to temperature a bit slower. With the Harder compound you can push a bit harder on them initially, and then you just lose out, with that 1.5-2 seconds you lose over a lap, stopping a lap later and, of course then my second stop wasn’t good. I don’t know exactly what happened there but we’ll look into that – so then you are even further behind but we were always like four seconds behind and with whatever we did wrong today, that’s just very costly. I don’t think we had the better pace but we could have done a better job with putting them a bit more under pressure and, yeah, we didn’t do it. And, of course, I stopped another time, of course, for the fastest lap, is great but basically after the red flag and the Safety Car the three-stop was a no-go and we still did it, so I don’t really get the point of that. Yeah. We’ll look into it. Second, of course, is still OK but I think in the way we were second today it wasn’t very satisfying. I would have liked to have been a bit more aggressive. And then, our course, if it fails being aggressive, so be it. I have nothing to lose. Even if we would fail I would still be second. So, there’s nothing… I don’t get why we were so conservative.
Q: And please can we just get your thoughts on Grosjean’s accident.
MV: Yeah, of course that was a crazy incident. When I saw the flames, that was pretty scary to watch but luckily of course he jumped out of the car himself and that was the most important. You can really see the safety, how much it has improved. I think also the Halo today saved his life. In the beginning when it came onto the cars I was quite critical about it, that it looked ugly but you can’t say anything about the safety because today it definitely saved Romain, so very happy about that. Thoughts are with him and, of course, his family as well because they are watching in front of TV and that’s never nice. So I hope that he will recover very soon and he will be back with us.
Q: Alex, coming to you, your second podium of the season. Give us your reaction – how satisfied are you?
AA: It was a good race. Obviously Sergio had a great race too and he had the blow-up, so partly, let’s say, not fully satisfied but it was still there. We had to be there to capitalise on it. On my side it was a good race. We had a good start – something which we’ve been working on recently – and it’s nice to see it getting better, and then from that point on it was more-or-less being there to capitalise because I didn’t quite have the pace to overtake Sergio – but we were just there behind, waiting for something to happen, and it did, so P3 was a good result and especially a double podium for the team. That’s good for them as well.
Q: Alex, can we also get your reaction to Grosjean’s accident.
AA: Lewis and Max summed it up pretty well. I think there’s not much to add onto it. It’s one of those things where, when you see it, when you come out of Turn Eight and you just see this fireball, it’s really scary. It’s scary because you just want to know if whatever has happened there, that the driver’s got out, and at the time the team didn’t know. It’s one of those things where you’re worried for your fellow driver – but as these two have said as well, I think it just shows how good of a job the FIA are doing. Not just the standards of the car but the marshals, the Medical Car, everyone involved in that. And, of course, there’s always a little bit of luck involved in it as well, but to see Romain walk away, yes, it’s a testament for all the hard work that’s been done behind the scenes.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Max about your tactics after each of your stops today in terms of how aggressive you were being on your pace. Was it always the approach to push from the off on each stint – because you saw that as the only way to pressure Lewis, even if that meant you lost a bit of time towards the end of each stint with the life running out. And also to Lewis, if I may, was it then a case of you taking it easy after each of your stops to save the tyres and then have something to respond to Max later on in the stints?
MV: Yeah, well that’s what you have to do when they stop earlier than you, or you have a bad stop. So, at the end, as I said, I had nothing to lose, so even if it wouldn’t work out, as you could see, I could do another stop, still second.
LH: I think… I mean I had to make sure I looked after my tyres the best way that I could. So, there are certain ways I try to do that. Max was really quick, particularly at the get-go from every time he had a pitstop and I had a slightly… tyre-wise not as good in the sense that he had the two Hards which can push more and go further, and so I was definitely, particularly in the second stint, quite conscious of trying to match the tyre life – and that’s not necessarily having to do the same speed early on. I didn’t want to tail off too much at the end and then him close the gap and undercut me. So, yeah. Tried to be as tactical as I could be.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Max, you were talking about the strategy not being aggressive enough etc. First of all, how does it work within your team, who decides on the strategy because you said you didn’t get the point of it? Do you have much input into it? How does it work?
MV: Yeah, but I think it doesn’t make sense to talk about it now. I will talk with them. There’s also no point to argue a lot during the race. Wait ‘til the end of the season then everything is anyway a bit done, right, so we just have to learn from it, try to understand why. I will, of course, talk to them about it and of course I will hear their reasons behind it. Yeah, it’s what it is. You just continue.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question to perhaps Lewis and Max: given what happened and obviously thankfully Romain is fine or relatively fine, but given what happened and the shock of seeing that, do you think drivers should be given the option whether they want to continue that race?
LH: I don’t think so. We’re not the safety regulators. We’re here to do a job and we rely on the FIA who are aware of safety and we trust them implicitly so no, I do not think so.
MV: Yeah, they get why you win the race. We’d be the team boss, I would kick him out of the seat.
MV: If the guy wouldn’t race and I would be the team boss, I would tell him then you never sit in the seat again. Yeah.
LH: I hope you’re not my team boss.
MV: I hope I will never be a team boss anyway.
LH: I feel sorry for anyone who is going to be your driver in the future.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Alex, as you said, P3, a good result but you weren’t fully satisfied because of Perez’s pace. What kind of level would fully satisfy you? Would being just the right side of Perez had he not retired being just ahead or is that gap to Max that you’re gauging yourself against? And how do you see the reasons for why you weren’t able to be closer to Max’s level through that race?
AA: Well, I’m not saying I’m not satisfied. It’s not like 50%, it’s like I’m 95% satisfied. It’s still a good race, just little things, fine tuning. I know I was struggling a little bit with tyre deg through the stint but we were on a similar strategy to Lewis we had two mediums so it was quite hard to push on the second stint but saying that, yeah, of course I want to be better, I want to be faster and challenging more often for podiums.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, in terms of the accident, what would you say were the main concerns that you have about safety having looked at the replays with things like the fire and the barrier splitting and cars getting caught in it and what have you? What are your main issues?
LH: At the end of the day, the armco did its job but it… you know, the idea of the car being on fire and the driver not being able to get out in the armco. Obviously we’ve got this halo which I think for sure would have definitely have helped in saving his life today but then you’re not going to effect… that could be that… perhaps not as easy to get out. I think the flames, the car breaking in two and then not knowing where the driver is and him all of a sudden popping out in those flames. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. It’s only something I’ve ever seen in those old historic races, back when Benetton was on fire many many years ago.
MV: That was my Dad.
LH: Yeah, exactly, it was and what Niki experienced. That’s definitely a major concern. But I know our fireproof overalls… they’ve already taken a step up this year. I was a little bit blasé about it in the sense that I thought our suits were good enough and this year they’ve made them bigger and bulkier and they’re heavier kit, like we’re already so hot in the car but I think today they had the foresight perhaps and I think that was a good move.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, we heard you on the radio earlier in the race saying that the car was jumping around like a kangaroo early on. Can you explain what that was like, what was going on there and did it last for the whole race?
MV: Yeah, I don’t know. It was just hopping around a lot on throttle, on low speed and medium speed.
LH: At the front? Or the rear?
MV: On the rear. I don’t know. It was very odd. It did get better throughout the race but yeah, it didn’t feel so nice at the beginning.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, I know it’s your job to get into a car and just race but is there any part of you that, when you see an incident like Grosjean’s, and you think I’m late thirties, won X amount of races, seven World Championships, do I really need to do this any more? Because an accident like this could happen.
LH: I’d be lying if I was to say no, of course, you think it’s so important to continue to respect the sport and the dangers that are there. I’ve been racing 27 years and I’ve seen from a young kid to Jules, his experience. When I was nine, I saw a kid die on the same day that I won a race and so I’ve always been aware of the dangers and the risks that I take and for sure, as you get later on in life I would say you would probably question it more than perhaps when I was in my early twenties. So yeah, today, definitely, I was that and I… and I’m also thinking for Romain, I was thinking Jeez, he’s got a wife and kids and that must be something he will for sure have to think heavily on because it’s a privilege to be able to do what we do but there’s so much life also and so many other things to do beyond. But as I say, we’ve seen something that was pretty… it was huge that crash and the safety definitely reminds us of the great job that has been done but more needs to be done so we will continue to work on it. I don’t have any fears so I’m sure for all of us we just get back in and do what we do but yeah. I’m not thinking of stopping because of that, no.