FIA post-race press conference - Netherlands
1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – George RUSSELL (Mercedes), 3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Max, what a way to win your home Grand Prix. What a difference a week makes. You had to fight, fight, fight all the way.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was not a straightforward race. We had to push the whole race. Of course, with the Safety Car, Virtual Safety Car, making the right calls, it was always bit of a question mark, but it worked out really well. Once we got back to the Soft tyres we had great pace again.
Q: At any point during the race did you ever doubt? Because it looked like Lewis Hamilton, with track position, had Mercedes covered him off, then, you know, it could have been a different story.
MV: Yeah, I mean, before that Safety Car I thought it was OK to the end with the Hard tyres, even though we were a bit slower. But then of course, the Safety Car came out and I said ‘I don't think we're going to keep it up if we just if we don't pit’. So we went for the Soft tyres. But then of course I dropped back to third. Then George pitted as well. I had a good run on the restart. We have a bit more top speed, so that helps to attack into Turn 1. And from there onwards we had a really good balance in the car again.
Q: That restart with the Safety Car was crucial. I didn't expect you to get the pass done at the restart, but that's what your full focus was.
MV: Yeah, we timed it really well out of that last corner into the banking and then you could see the draft was quite strong and we got ahead, so incredible to win again.
Q: Max on the slowing down lap, there are fireworks, there's a sea of orange smoke. Can you put into words just what this victory means in comparison to all others?
MV: It's always special to win your home Grand Prix. It was already last year. This year, I have to say I had to work for it even more. So yeah, an incredible weekend and I'm really happy we got the Dutch Grand Prix.
Q: Quick word for your fans.
MV: Unbelievable support. And I'm really happy that all of you guys came here to support me. So proud to be Dutch.
Q: Congratulations, Max Verstappen, the winner of the Dutch Grand Prix. George Russell, wow! You were a little bit out of place in qualifying but you never lost faith. You said you have a quick race car. Second place. Congratulations.
George RUSSELL: Yeah, firstly a huge thank you to all the crowd here. It's been an incredible reception. It’s a really special feeling for all of us drivers to come racing in Zandvoort and in Holland. So thank you very much.
Q: Now George, you're going to be happy with that second place but your team-mate will feel that he was maybe a little bit out of position. When you passed him, there was there was a little… What was going on there? It almost looks like you are going to hit the back of him?
GR: Yeah, we like to keep it close, you know, always. But you know, I think as a team today we showed incredible pace. I know the team result wasn't quite what we hoped for. But this gives us a lot of confidence and a lot of faith moving forward. So, I think it's incredible see three different teams on the podium and you know we, as Mercedes, are slowly getting closer to that top step so let's keep on pushing.
Q: Yeah, it shows just how competitive Formula 1 is. George, congratulations on your second place. Charles, congratulations. Third place, not, of course, the result you would have looked for today but the race just slipped away. Can you can you talk us through the key moments that saw you find yourself dropped from second to third.
Charles LECLERC: To be to be honest I mean much better was difficult to do. We were a little bit unlucky with the VSC. I don't know if this will have changed anything, Max was too quick today. And then there was the Mercedes that were flying on the Hard tyres. We struggled to find the feeling on those tyres. So we'll analyse that, but yeah, it's P3 for us today.
Q: The battle with Lewis? Fairly straightforward towards the ends?
CL: Yeah, I mean, Lewis was struggling a little bit. He was on a used set. I had a bit more grip. We managed to overtake him, but they were still managing to keep those tyres very well on the last lap. So it wasn't easy, but at the end, we made it stick.
Q: The gap increases in the championship. I know you take one race at a time and you never give up but what is your feeling now in the championship challenge?
CL: Well, as I said in Spa, now the gap is really big. So we'll take it race by race, try to maximise our potential. And let's see what's possible.
Q: A very warm welcome to the top three finishers of the FIA Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix. In third place, Charles Leclerc. In second place, George Russell. And taking his 10th win of this 2022 campaign and his 30th career win in Formula 1, our winner, Max Verstappen. What a weekend for you Max, another win from pole in front of your Dutch fans, just please sum up what this means to you?
MV: Yeah, it was not a straightforward race, you know. So then I think it's extra rewarding to win the race. We couldn't really do our preferred strategy to the end and that I think made it a little bit more difficult for us, up until the last Safety Car, because I think we were just a bit more competitive on the softer compounds. But then, of course, with that late Safety Car, we could switch back to the preferred tyre, the Soft one, and we could get back into lead.
Q: You've explained it all beautifully now, but how difficult was it to stay on top of everything during the race itself?
MV: Yeah, it was just difficult. I think I gave my opinions about what I wanted with tyres. Like, I said, don't use the Hard tyre. But we had to, because of the VSC. It came out a bit unfortunate. And then we went out and we were clearly lacking a little bit of pace on that Hard compared to the Mercedes cars on the Medium. I think the gap was still big enough to manage it to the end. But they would have definitely gotten a lot closer than I think the 11-and-a-half seconds it was at the time. But yeah, then Safety Car came out and then there's no way that you can stay out on a Hard tyre. So we had to box, but I didn't request it. You have to trust your team as well to make the right calls and they did. So they boxed me. We put a Soft tyre on. And of course, then we dropped back. But then also, of course, George also pitted for Softs and then we were back into P2. And yeah, surprisingly, we had a really good restart and then with the extra top speed we have over Mercedes, I could get a run into Turn 1.
Q: When you look at the race as a whole, were you surprised that it was Mercedes, ultimately challenging you today and not Ferrari?
MV: I was just surprised that they were that quick on the harder compounds. I have to say these tyres are very stiff, you know, the C1, C2. And they just didn't seem to really switch on for us as good as they did for them. That's I think what made it a little bit more complicated for us today. But then, once we were able to switch back to the Soft, we could counter it. But yeah, I expected probably them to be a little bit slower. And I expected Ferrari to be a little bit faster.
Q: Now, Max, this magical season continues for you. And in your seven years at Red Bull. Is this the most at one that you felt with the car and with the team?
MV: Yes, but I think that's normal because of just spending more time with everyone and of course, being part of the team for an even longer period of time. So, I think that's what you hope for, right? Like every year you continue, that you feel even more at one with the team. With the car it’s a tricky one. Because, of course, when the regulations change then maybe sometimes you have to start over. And I have to say that in the beginning of the year it was a bit of adaptation, which is not fully to my liking. But also, like I've explained before, the car was quite heavy. And I think naturally with reducing the weight it all felt a bit more agile.
Q: George coming to you, great job as well. Your best result of the season so far from P6 on the grid. Do you feel you extracted the absolute maximum from it?
GR: Yeah, I think so. I think if you told me before the race, I'd be finishing P2, I'd have definitely been very happy with that. But I think we, as a team, thought we had a shot at victory today. And we roll the dice going with that one-stop strategy from the off. And, you know, the pace of the Mercedes today was just absolute flying. So really proud of the job we've done as a team to keep on improving and show how fast our race car is. But obviously, starting a little bit further down the grid, it's always going to be challenging, but no, for us, as a team, incredible race. Sorry for Lewis that he obviously wasn't on the podium with us because he did an excellent job and deserve to be sat here too.
Q: As Max just said, your pace on the hard tyre was phenomenal. Did that surprise you?
GR: Yes and no. I think the car was really feeling good this weekend from lap one. On Friday, I knew it was going to be a much better weekend than we had in Spa. I think Spa played against us. Zandvoort probably towards us. So, I'm not sure how our Monza performance is going to be I think it'll probably be somewhere between the two. Hopefully closer to what we saw this weekend, but I think it’s really promising we have so much race pace.
Q: Do you feel got the car was back where it was at Hungary?
GR: I think there's no surprises there because these are two very similar circuits: high downforce; a lot of medium speed corners. And that's where the car really comes into its own. So, you know, we go into some very different circuits in the upcoming races. But globally, we're bringing a lot of performance to the car. And, as I said, I think we have a car that's capable of fighting victory, we just need to be able to start a little bit higher up the order.
Q: Charles, coming to you. Well done to you as well, another podium. Is there anything more you could have done today to challenge Max?
CL: Not really, we just didn't have the pace. We didn't… we weren't quick enough. So this is the main focus at the moment, to try and bring back the speed that we had at the beginning of the season. We seem to have lost it, a little bit of pace in the in the long runs especially.
Q: Have you lost it or have the cars around you gained some pace, long run pace?
CL: No-no, I think everybody is obviously improving but in the last races, we've been struggling more a bit more in race pace. Now Mercedes is also in the fight and they are very quick. They were extremely quick today, especially on the Harder compounds. I think our pace on the Soft was really good at the beginning. We had used tyres, Max was on new, so I think the difference was more or less what we expected. But then, on the new Medium, we were slower than expected, for sure.
Q: And were you surprised by the pace of Mercedes today?
CL: Yes, definitely. On the Harder compounds? Yes.
Q: Charles, can you just throw it forward for people who want a preview for Monza next weekend? What can we expect from you and Ferrari there?
CL: On paper, it's not our best track, unfortunately. But anyway, I'm really looking forward to go there. We always have a massive amount of support. And for that, I'm really looking forward to it. But I think the performance on paper will be a bit more difficult than this weekend, unfortunately.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, at what point did you realise that Mercedes was going to be a real threat for the win? Was it when Lewis and George were flying on the Hards? At the same time, George, when you had that Hard tyre on, before the Virtual Safety Car, how hard were you guys pushing to make it to the finish? Thanks.
MV: I have to say, when I swapped to the Medium, of course, I was catching them, which is normal because I had a newer tyre, they were still doing good lap times, I have to say. And then yes, as soon as they swapped to the Hard, I was quite interested to see their pace, because I never really wanted to go to a Hard tyre. But yeah, when I heard the lap times, I was like… ‘that's quite quick’. And I was trying to push up a bit. But they were still a few tenths faster. So yeah, very surprising that they made it work, that tyre around here. But then I knew, of course, it might get close to the end of the race, with the way our strategies were playing out. But then, of course, the gap after the VSC was still getting big enough to manage. But yeah, clearly, they were quick in the race.
GR: Yeah, I think we had nothing to lose; we were pushing absolutely flat out and we knew that was our only opportunity to fight for victory. And, you know, pre-race, in our strategy meetings, we said, we need to be bold in our decisions to be able to fight for victory. And I think, starting on that Medium, it was clear that the others were going to be doing a two-stop. And, as I said, we just absolutely went for it. And when we saw Max in our sights, that was really exciting. It was probably, for me personally, the most enjoyable race I've ever had in Formula 1, just being able to push so hard for so long on such an exceptional circuit as well. I think it was really quite fun.
Q: George after the performance of the car today, do you remain even more convinced that this car can win this season?
GR: There's no doubt we've got the race pace to be able to win. Absolutely sure of that. And had we been starting P2/3/4 we probably could have won the race today. And, ultimately it’s going to come down to our qualifying performance on a Saturday. If we continue to qualify P6 and P8 as we have done in the last two race weekends, we're going to really struggle to win a race. But we need to find a bit more magic in qualifying as we showed in Budapest.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, when you pitted during the Safety Car it seemed that you had to overtake two Mercedes car on track for the win. Personally, were you surprised by their decision to pit one car and to take the buffer away and did it make things a bit more straightforward at the end of the race for you?
MV: It’s always easy to speak afterwards, but I think the call George made was the right one at the end because I think with the pace we had on the Soft, I would have overtaken both of them because the grip difference was quite big at the end – it turned out to be.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade - Sportskeeda) Max, Lewis suggested that your dominance this year is credited to Adrian Newey and to Red Bull. Do you think that’s valid, and also do you think anybody else in your car, any other driver, could have been as dominant as you are?
MV: There’s a lot of that is down to the team, of course, as also how Lewis won his championships. That’s how it goes in Formula 1. Your car is super-important, but I think when you’re an exceptional driver like of course Lewis is as well, you make a difference over your team-mate at the time, because in very crucial races as well. For example, for me, I think one that stood out as well for him, was Turkey, when it was very slippery – just staying calm, not making mistakes. You end up winning a race like that and that’s what, at the end of the day, what good drivers do. They do make the difference compared to other fast drivers but not as good. So, yeah, the car is very dominant in Formula 1 but of course between team-mates, only one can win, and that’s where you have to make the difference.
Q: (Jaap de Groot – Masters Magazine) Continuing from the last question, Max, when you won your first world title, you wondered if you ever could produce the same intensity and your will to win. But it seems now instead that you're bringing winning to a next level.
MV: It's a whole team effort, you know, and the intensity is different. It's also a completely different season. But I think I don't need to tell anyone in the team, the motivation we have, to always try to improve and to win races, even when we win races, we still want to do better. And also, today we will look at a lot of things that we can do better but I think that's what you always need to have, that kind of approach, always wanting to do more, wanting to do better, because that's how you stay on top because if you stand still, of course, people at the end will overtake you.
Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Max, Helmut Marko just told us how impressed he is with you, with your ability to stay calm and extremely focused, even in circumstances like this, these chaotic circumstances. Do you have moments of realisation that you think: ‘well, how special is this? What is going on in my world at the moment?’
MV : When you're on the grid, you're not thinking about how special everything is. I'm focused on what I have to do in the car. You go through all the procedures so it's nice, of course, to see all the crowd and the craziness and I appreciate it a lot but I think also, as a sportsman, you focus on your job, right? And that's what you do throughout the race. And then of course, after the race, you take it all in and of course, this was a very special weekend for me, to see, all of these fans come out and support me. It's been incredible but of course for those one and a half hours, you are fully focused on the job.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) George, with what happened to Lewis after the safety car restart, what you feared would happen to you as well, if you've been left out on those mediums? And also when you came by him, how close were you to making contact? It like you had to check up a little bit.
GR: I think as a team it was an incredibly difficult decision because had we both pitted, we would have conceded the position to Max. Had we both stayed out, we probably both would have lost out to Max as well so the best chance we as a team had of victory was splitting the cars, one to stay ahead of Max, one to stay behind and see what happened. If you could have just got those tyres restarted, it could have been different but it was always going to be very, very challenging for him, but I'm sure Lewis… he wanted to go for it. As a racing driver and where we are at the moment as a team, we want to win. And we're obviously really happy with the points, just being consistent, getting them on the board but ultimately no one remembers who finishes second in a championship. So we want to we want to win a race. And yeah, I think obviously with that overtake with Lewis, just a bit of confusion and I came out just as he defended, and yeah, it could a bit nasty, but it's nothing but respect between the two of us. So yeah, all good.
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) Max, last week you said that Spa-Francorchamps tracks suits your car perfectly well, and that it would be more tricky on a high downforce circuit. Today was more tricky but still you won at the Hungaroring, you’ve won here, so is it fair to say that the Red Bull car does not have any real weakness anymore at this stage of the season?
MV: Not real weaknesses but we know at some places where we are stronger than others, we know on a high downforce track that it's a bit of a more difficult situation to get the best out of our package. But I think if you look at the whole season, of course, you have more tracks with kind of medium downforce levels and I think our car is very efficient. So that's why I think we're all looking forward to Monza.