FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain
1 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 2 – Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), 3 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
(Conducted by Martin Brundle)
Q: Charles congratulations pole position, fastest lap, victory, driver of the day, what a dream start to the season.
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, so happy. I mean again I keep repeating myself but the last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team and we knew this was going to be a big opportunity for the team and the guys have done such an incredible job giving us and building this amazing car. So for now it's starting in the best way possible: pole position, victory, fastest lap, one-two today with Carlos, we couldn't hope for better. So yeah, thank you to all of you guys that kept supporting us in the past few years. It hasn't been easy but it's incredible to be back at the top.
Q: Now Max had tremendous straight line speed down the pit straight to overtake you and then you were very aggressively coming back at him. It was really exciting to watch.
CL: Yeah, I was trying to be as clever as possible using the DRS as much as possible so I was trying to break early into Turn 1 just to be behind him at the DRS detection and twice it worked out, so I took back my first position and just incredibly happy that we made it work.
Q: Did your heart sink a little bit when the safety car came out? Were you thinking ‘not now’?
CL: I didn't want it now but then I did a great restart. And then that gave me a little bit of margin to then manage my race until the end.
Q: Carlos, congratulations. Tenacious as ever and you are rewarded with second place and a one-two for Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz: Yeah, well, first of all, congrats to Charles, congrats to Ferrari. Ferrari is back and it is properly back, no, with a one-two and where the team should have been over the last two years but the hard work is paying off and we are there. For me it’s been a very tricky weekend, I'm not going to lie. I didn't have the pace today. But I managed to hold in there and bring the one-two for the team. I have some homework to do over these next few days and I'm sure I will come back stronger.
Q: You are being quite hard on yourself. But when did you realise you might be getting past Max? Did you sense that he was driving a wounded car?
CS: At the restarts, I had a good, strong chance because I had a very clean restart behind Charles and Max. He defended well, to be fair. And then suddenly I started seeing some flashing red lights on the back of his car. And I said ‘okay, this is my chance’ and I went for it. He was unfortunate. I think today he was driving well enough to get P2 but yeah, I had a good run on him and then he had to retire. So it's what it is. And it's good for Ferrari.
Q: Lewis, still you rise. You didn't have the ultimate pace today for you still managed to get up on the podium.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, firstly, a big, big congratulations to Ferrari. So happy to see them doing well again. They are such a historic, epic team. So it's great to see them. It's great to see Carlos and Charles up there as well. So congratulations to them. I think yeah, it was such a difficult race, we struggled throughout practice. This is really the best result we could have got and of course it was unfortunate for the other two drivers. But we did the best we could and we're grateful for these points.
Q: And have you got lots of new parts coming for this Mercedes W13 where you can get up there on that leading pace?
LH: I'm hoping! I know the guys are working really hard back to the factory and it’s not going to be a quick turnaround, but I know that… we all know as a team, I do feel like we've been the best unified team for so long. I know that we all know that just keep your head down, keep working. There's a long, long way to go.
Q: Great damage limitation today so you're going to go to bed satisfied tonight I think.
LH: For sure.
Q: The dream start for your Charles: pole, victory and a Ferrari one-two, just how good does this feel?
CL: It feels amazing. Obviously, after yesterday, it already felt great. But yeah, we had to finish the business today and we did a one-two. So it's the perfect start to the season. And I'm incredibly happy after the last two years that have been very difficult for the team, for myself, for, obviously, Carlos also last year. We had to work extremely hard. And we did work hard and well. And yeah, to finally prove that all the work that we've done in the past two years is paying off, feels amazing.
Q: And does this make up for the disappointment of 2019 at this race?
CL: Yeah. It feels good. I did a bit of a joke on the radio on the last lap, saying that there was something strange with the engine, which gave a heart attack to some of the engineers I'm sure, but everything was fine. So yeah, very happy that this time we brought it home.
Q: Now we saw some great racing between you and Max after the first pit stops. Can you just talk us through it? How enjoyable was it and also how easy was it to follow one another?
CL: Well, I only followed into Turn 2, because I was always behind only for one corner and would Max back into Turn 4. But it was tricky. It was nice though. It was on the limit, hard racing. But we will always give each other space, which was nice, and following him into Turn 2 was actually a bit more predictable than what I expected or what I had last year. So this was good. But it was always very close. I would always try and brake very early into Turn 1 to get the DRS for Turn 4 and it worked out three times in a row. So then I could keep my lead. And it was always also very tricky because I was struggling quite a lot with my energy and had to manage that too. But then after the third lap, I think I was in a better window with it and could push again and manage to have a bit of margin to manage my race.
Q: Well Charles, it was very entertaining. And well done to you today. Carlos, let's come on to you. Great job by you as well. Your seventh podium in Formula 1 and your best result since Monaco last year. First up, how do you feel?
CS: I feel great. I'm particularly happy for the whole team. It's massive, you know, after two difficult years to be back and be on a one-two, it shows that all the hard work has just paid off and that we are back in the fight, back to where Ferrari should be, and congratulations to Charles because I think he drove a really good race. And he's been on it the whole weekend. So to bring home this one-two means a lot to all of us and to all the tifosi and for sure today, we need to celebrate because it’s a huge day.
Q: Now, how good was your car feeling during that safety car period? Do you think you could have passed Max Verstappen if he hadn't had a problem?
CS: It would have been very tricky. I had a run at him into Turn 1. But they seem to have very good top speed. And I never really quite got ahead of him. But I gave it my best shot. He defended very well to be fair, and then it was going to be tight because I was on the limit of the DRS zone. I think if I would have kept the DRS then I would have given him a run. And then he started facing the problems that we saw. And in that sense, I guess I could be lucky that I could pass him and then finish P2. But he has been driving also very well all weekend so it’s tough to see. But at the same time we've also done a very good job in reliability, it also counts.
Q: Well done Carlos, Lewis, coming to you now. Fifth to third. The 183rd podium of your Formula 1 career. What were your expectations coming into this race?
LH: Well, firstly, big congratulations to these guys. It’s great to see them up here. It's a lot of red. But really happy to see these guys shine and be back up there. It’s you know… With the national anthem, also just the team and the energy that they always bring. It's nice to see. I know they had a difficult year last year but they kept pushing, so it's great to see them back. But I hope that we can get in the battle with them at some stage. I had a moment where I thought for a second that I was going to have a little bit of a battle with Carlos but it was only for five laps and then after that they were gone. I definitely didn't expect to be up here. Of course I woke up this morning and I was hopeful and we did everything we could, praying as hard as we could to get the best results, but ultimately it came down to just really hard work from the whole team both here and back at the factory. We have a lot of work to do. We have quite a big deficit in performance but this is a great start still.
Q: You say you have a lot of work to do. But what did you learn about your car doing a race distance this evening?
LH: Oh, well one, we've got a reliable car and two they're much faster. But we kind of knew that already.
Q: Do you think you'll be more competitive in Jeddah next weekend on a slightly smoother circuit?
LH: No, I don't think so. But of course we've learned a lot from this week. Their straight line speed as well as the Bulls were very quick in a straight line and their performance through corners is quite a bit different to us. So the car was very hard to drive but it could always be worse. So I’m hoping for the next race we manage to find some improvements but it's a fundamental issue that’s going to take a little bit longer I think to fix.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to the Ferrari drivers please, just about the start of the race and your first stint. Charles you started on new soft tyres and Carlos you were on used ones. Just explain what the thinking was there and how did that impact the start of the race for you?
CL: Well, it’s just to have a bit of a different strategy between our two cars and to hopefully put Max in a bit of a difficult situation and for Carlos to try and get him towards the end by having a slightly different strategy. I don't think at the end it was possible for Carlos to do the alternate strategy because… I don't know, I haven't seen the race but I guess it wasn't possible because at the end we did a soft, soft, medium both of us, but the thinking behind was just a slightly different strategy between the two cars.
CS: Yeah that that was, as Charles said, the plan, to make sure that we were running a reverse on Max because they were either going to choose new or used also. We elected for the used and this probably made me fall a bit too behind in the first stint because Charles was pushing very hard at the front and Max was nearly managing to keep up with him on the used and me on the used just reflected a bit the struggles that I've had all weekend that is just I'm not quite there with the car yet. I'm not managing very well the tyres and suffering a bit with the rear and it's just confirmed a bit the deficit that I had going into quali that for some reason in quali disappeared but in the race it came back and it just exposed a bit my limitations and it's something that I need to look at and see where I can gain that lap time back.
Q: (Fred Ferret – l’Equipe) A question to Charles. it looks like the first undercut of Max Verstappen looked very fast and the second one not that fast. Did you work differently on your second out lap when you did the second pit stop and were you afraid of losing when you saw that the safety car was coming and you could be passed by Verstappen?
CL: Yes, on the first one I think I did a small mistake on my in lap and also we had a bit of a problem on the front right at the pit stop which cost us a bit of lap time and that puts us in a bit of a tricky situation after the first pit stop. I didn't really know how much grip I will gain from these new tyres and also on the out lap I was not pushing as much as I could and I was probably a bit under the limit and Max was right behind. He had already done one lap with the tyres so he was already pretty much on the limit of the tyres and it was very tricky to keep him behind. But I managed to do so hopefully. And then on the second one, it was just a bit smoother, the in lap was a little bit better. I think I still had some tyres left, so I could push and the pit stop was also better so it was a bit more under control and we probably also took a bit more margin, seeing how the first one went. For the safety car, obviously I wasn't very happy to see the safety car out. I was very happy when I saw the virtual safety car because that would mean that I would have a big gap to the second place but I lost everything with the safety car. But I quickly said to myself that is the way it is, and I had to stay calm and to try and do the best restart possible, which I did, and then manage my race to the end.
Q: (Phil Duncan - PA) Lewis, a few of your fans on social media, saying Red Bull’s double retirement is karma for Abu Dhabi. So, I just wanted to get your response to that and whether you agree with that.
LH: I don't have a response to it. I just focused on our job. Obviously it was unfortunate for them today but, yeah, I just focus on positives.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Charles. You were talking earlier about the Safety Car and the VSC. But before, it looked like Max was a different strategy. Why didn't you cover him? Why didn't you pit the lap afterwards? And were you a bit concerned?
CL: Yeah, I think that they went for a three-stop strategy. I felt quite nice at that point with my tyres, to go to the end, but obviously when I saw that they would pit, I was a bit concerned – and that's why I made my thoughts clear to the team, that maybe it will have been good to just cover him and stay in front and, and have our race like this, a bit on the safer side but yeah, after once they told me that it was… that we had to stay out, I just agreed. They have so much more data than I do in the car. And if they were confident to do so, it gave me the confidence to also just get on with my work, and bring the car home at the end. So yeah, I just wanted to make sure that they questioned all the scenarios before we took a decision.
Q: (Carlos Miquel – Marca) A question for Charles and Carlos. Are you ready to fight for the Championship between the two Ferraris?
CL: I think it's a very good problem to have. I mean, coming into the season we surely knew that we were going to be in a better position compared to the past two years but we didn't really know where, and now we see that we are actually in the mix to fight for the title so it's amazing! I think we are both very, very happy to have a car that is capable of winning. And yeah, we’ll fight for it, for sure.
CS: Yes, same. It’s just great news for Ferrari and for us because it's where Ferrari should be and it’s where Charles and I want to be in our lives, fighting for World Championships. It’s still going to be a long year, we still need to make sure that we develop well this car, because at the moment it is a quick car, as Lewis said, but it also needs to be quick the whole year, to keep us in the fight. And it's a great problem to have, actually. Before the race, Charles and I were working together and the first thing that we said to each other is how good it feels, just to be starting first and third and to finally be fighting for something bigger, and together. And we kind of had that moment of just realising that we are in the fight this year, and it was… between us a good moment to reflect and to realise that we are a lot luckier in that sense that last year, and we have a good fight in our hands.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Diario AS) Carlos, what were you missing this weekend compared to Charles’ pace and do you think you can be back to normal in Jeddah. And also a question to Lewis: when you see Max with no points today, do you feel this could be relevant for a championship fight later on this year if Mercedes gets faster?
CS: Yeah, to be fair, I mean in FP1, FP2 and FP3 I was very far behind, the most far that I've been ever in Ferrari and that's why even with a one-two that we scored I'm not entirely happy with the weekend because as a Ferrari driver it’s been my most difficult weekend and it just shows that I need to put my head down, understand this car, understand where is Charles making the difference with his driving and the way that he's approaching the corners and driving the tyres, also in the race. And I need to improve if I want to fight for a win and I will put my head down and try to do some steps coming into Jeddah. Can I improve it from one weekend to another? I think I can improve it. Can I cut down the deficit completely? It’s a very good question. I wish I can and I will be working hard for it but I still need to understand everything and I still need to analyse everything with my with my engineers to come back stronger and yeah, in the end later let the bad weekends as a Ferrari driver be a P2 and I'll take it and move on.
LH: Look it's such early days. Reliability of course is always a key player, but with the performance they have, they look strong. To be able to come back strong in the next races I think for us, we just keep our head down. We've got a lot of work to do, we're not currently fighting them necessarily on track. So that's what we'll focus on.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lewis, even as early as Friday the team were talking about this being a bit of a damage limitation job this weekend. I just wondered on the quality of that damage limitation job, how much of a lift do you think it is for the team to come away from a podium as a reward for that perseverance and focus in the circumstances?
LH: Yeah, huge, honestly. I think incredibly motivating probably for the whole team. Given that we have been faced with these challenges which we were not expecting, and but just no one's been down during this phase where we've been struggling through practice. Everyone’s stayed positive, everyone's just kept their head down and kept working. No one's moaned. And that's great to see. And so whilst we don't have the performance of these other guys, I think, in terms of our processes, in terms of squeezing absolutely everything out of the car, I think that's what we did today and for both drivers, and I think that's a true showing of strength within.
Q: (Andy Dunn - The Daily Mirror) You've been on that top step over 100 times. I just wondered, obviously, it might have been a little bit fortunate, but how does it feel to get a third place against the odds? And how important can that sort of result, when you when you somehow get a third spot, not expecting to, how important can that sort of result be when the whole season plays out?
LH: Of course, it can. Every point can make a difference. I've lost world titles with just one point. Whilst we're currently not necessarily performance-wise fighting with these guys, as I mentioned, this is you know, not damage limitations, but just really, it's a really, really great result. Of course we were fortunate but ultimately we've done a better job, we have better reliability. So I don't necessarily count that all… I wouldn’t say that's luck, I think this is the hard work of everyone. But it is such a long season. It's going to be such a hard battle but we love a challenge. I really do enjoy a challenge. And it is a privilege to work with.. for all of us to be able to work with large teams of people who are hungry, who are focused on a common goal. There's no greater feeling when you all come together and you get a result like this. So yeah.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, but maybe the Ferrari drivers would like to comment as well: how was the porpoising problem, the bouncing, over a race distance? Lewis, we saw you rubbing your neck there. Was it particularly uncomfortable in the car?
LH: Our’s was a lot better than it had been. Through testing it was killer, you could see for many of us jumping up and down but I think I was probably a little bit worse than perhaps some of the others but yeah, it's a long race to be bouncing up and down. But I'll take it with the performance that we managed to squeeze out. I hope in the next races we can try to reduce that.
CL: Yeah, it wasn't the smoothest ride I had in a Formula 1 car but it was definitely a fast one so it's OK like this, but we need to keep working on that because I'm pretty sure that on some tracks it might be more of an issue compared to this one where we had the porpoising problem, it was for a straight line braking. In Jeddah I see some places where it might be coming in a place where, I can't remember, there are way too many corners in Jeddah, but the fast left where I crashed last year. This one, with porpoising, might be quite tricky, so yeah, it is definitely something that we need to keep in our mind and work on. But I think it's clear for everyone in the team. But it hasn't been too bad and I think we have improved massively compared to the first test. And again, from the test to the race here, we improved another step. So yeah, we just need to keep working in that direction.
CS: Same not the smoothest of rides, but you definitely can complete a race distance with the amount of porpoising that we had, that we actually had a bit, both in qualifying and in the race, but I see some other tracks that could bring the issue. Best example is Jeddah and we need to see how much progress we've actually done since Barcelona because the tarmac there is a lot closer and the type of bouncing could be closer to Barcelona that we struggle a lot more and we need to analyse how much we’ve moved on since then. But full trust the team is doing everything they can because they know there's performance on it. And we are trying to solve it completely.