FIA post-race press conference - Saudi Arabia
1 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 2- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 3 - Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Max Verstappen, well, what a race; 2022 is go! it wasn't the start you needed in Bahrain but this was a brilliant weekend for you and some really close and respectful racing with Charles.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was really tough, but a good race. I mean, we were battling hard at the front and yeah, we just tried to play the long game. They were really quick through corners, we were quick on the straight. But the tyres were wearing out quite quick around here. You could see at the end, I think we had a little bit more pace, so I just tried to get by. It wasn't easy, playing smart tricks in the last corner, but eventually I managed to get ahead. But even after that he was constantly in the DRS and then with the yellow flags in the last lap, just knowing how much you should lift, whether it was allowed or not. It was tough but I’m really happy that we finally kickstarted the season.
Q: Just put us in the cockpit with, as you say, smart tricks running into the DRS, we're just seeing the lock up, you both locked up going to where the DRS line is, we can see it on the screen behind you, and then coming onto the start/finish for the pass. This strategy you're having to deploy, this is a new form of racing.
MV: Yeah, it seems like once you get quite close, because I think the cars, when you get to within half a second, you actually can have a good exit. And I think that makes a lot more tricky to actually do the pass, let's say in the last corner compared to last year, so it's a lot harder to plan your pass.
Q: OK, well, you are the winner tonight, so congratulations. Charles Leclerc. Well, you did everything in that grand prix right. I take my hat off to you in terms of when you first allowed Max to overtake you into the last corner, the dummy you threw, I thought you had a problem. But you were strategically making sure you had the DRS. That was some smart racing.?
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, it was, but it wasn't enough today. But oh my god, I really enjoyed that race. Again, it's hard racing, but fair. And every race should be like this. So it was fun. I'm of course disappointed. I wanted to win today. We just missed. I mean, we had two very different configurations with Max and Checo and both the Ferraris. We were quite quick in the corners, but quite slow in the straight, because we put more downforce and so it was extremely difficult for me to cover Max in the straights, but it's like this, and he did a great job and it was a fun race.
Q: Did I hear correctly, you were on the radio congratulating Max, acknowledging that this was a great battle. The respect is there.
CL: Oh, yeah. It's always been there, especially when you finish a race like this, honestly. I mean, we are on a street track, we've been pushing like I've rarely pushed before, to the absolute limits and we take risks at the end. So of course there is respect, but I’m a bit disappointed.
Q: Carlos, a little bit of confusion before the safety car start. We heard you on the radio very clearly, the safety car line here a little bit tricky when you come out of the pit lane. Overall your thoughts on your race?
Carlos SAINZ: Yeah it was close call there with Checo but in the end I think he got a bit unlucky with a safety car obviously but the rules are the rules and I think I was just ahead at the safety car line and it was my position then, and since then it was all about holding on to P3. The Red Bulls were super quick in the last 10 laps after the tyres cooled down on the safety car, on the virtual. They were flying and they were putting pressure on us. For me this race was a bit of progress from Bahrain. I think I managed to find a bit more rhythm with the car. Still some tenths to find but I think I will end up getting there.
Q: Many congratulations to the top three finishes of the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in third place, Carlos Sainz. In second place, Charles Leclerc. And taking his first victory of 2022, and the 21st victory of his Formula 1 career, our winner, Max Verstappen. What a race Max, more tremendous racing between you and Charles, crossing the line just half a second apart. What were those closing laps like from your point of view?
MV: Qualifying laps! It was tough. I didn't really feel that happy on the medium. All the time, when you would get close to the car ahead the tyres would die. So there was not much racing going on there. So it was a little bit frustrating to just sit there and wait for the right lap to pit so you could go onto the other tyres, because as soon as we went on to the hard tyre I had a much better feeling. So then I of course tried to stay close with Charles after the safety car restart and, yeah, I was just trying to keep the gap more or less the same. And that was basically it, you know, just trying to match the lap times, trying to get a bit closer, then he was pulling away a bit. I got a bit closer again. And yeah, then of course, we had the VSC at the end. And then it's always a bit of a question mark, you know, what's going to happen after with the tyres, of course, because they cooled down a lot, but it seemed like we had quite a good first few laps on that restart. I had a good feeling with the car and the tyres were still only holding on quite well through the high speed. And of course, I then had a few good opportunities, but Charles really played it smart in the last corner. So it was not easy for me to actually get by. And of course then I had to line myself up again to have another go at it. And eventually I had the go and I got ahead but then once I was ahead it was really like four laps flat out trying to stay ahead because Charles was consistently in my DRS. So yeah, it was quite tough out there.
Q: It was great to watch and a real game of cat and mouse. Were you having to apply some old karting tactics out there?
MV: Well, in go-karting you can rub a bit, you know, with the sidepods and stuff. That's unfortunately not possible anymore in Formula cars. But we have done that in the past. I think we are okay.
Q: And Max from a performance point of view, how was the car? Do you feel you've taken a step forward since Bahrain?
MV: Difficult to say if it's a step forward, but I think we are always learning and of course every track is different as well, in terms of what you need from the car, so still a lot of things to look at. Because clearly yesterday I wasn't very happy and also in the first stint it still wasn't how I would have liked it to be. But having said that, I think in general, being the car following you just open up your tyre a bit sooner and it's not great out there. Because as soon as I felt like I was in clean air, the car actually did change a bit in balance. So yeah, we'll have a look but still quite a few things of course to get on top of because it's a very new car still.
Q: Charles, coming to you now. It was very close in the end. Did you enjoy the fight, and did the yellow flag on the penultimate lap cost you?
CL: I definitely enjoyed the fight. It's obviously disappointing to lose the win so late in the race but it was a fun fight. It was very difficult because we had two cars that were in a very different place. I was very strong in the first sector, in all the corners, and basically much less strong in the straights. So it was very, very tricky. I tried to have the DRS in the last corner. It worked twice but it didn't the last time and then obviously there was this yellow flag. I don't know if we are speaking about the same yellow flag but I think the one where I could have had a chance to at least be alongside was the one into Turn 1 where I had no DRS there, so this was a little bit of a shame but it's part of the game! We'll try again next race.
Q: Now, you talked earlier about being able to push hard throughout the race. So, tell us about the tyres. How consistent were they tonight?
CL: They were consistent, but the first run was a bit more difficult. I think we did a great job by managing those Mediums, because it wasn’t easy following Checo. But, towards the end we actually had quite a good pace on those Mediums. And then on the Hard, it felt nice whenever I had a little bit of margin I felt like I could keep the gap to Max but then obviously with the Safety Cars with the Virtual Safety Cars as soon as he got within DRS range, everything became a bit trickier there. But yeah, it's like this.
Q: And Charles, tell us about that first pit stop. Lots of radio chat between you and the pit wall. Were you ready to pit or was it all an effort to try and persuade Red Bull to put Pérez in?
CL: No, no. We were ready to pit. I mean, yes we basically went for the opposite to Checo in front, and he boxed that lap, so yeah, I think we did the right choice.
Q: Carlos coming to you, another podium many congratulations. First up, were you happier with the car here than you were seven days ago in Bahrain?
CS: I was happier than in Bahrain, definitely. There's been a bit of progress done from my side of the garage, with the feeling with the car. Also, having the opportunity to come to this track, one hundred days only after we were here with last year's car has given me a much clearer picture of the type of corner and the two or three corners that I'm still lacking with this car – because it’s quite clear for me now, it has given me a great opportunity to understand fully the magnitude of how much I need to adapt and how much I need to get the car bit more to my liking. I felt like today we did a small step in the right direction and you know still… well, while I'm still not 100 per cent with the car, to keep bringing the points and the podiums is important, until I will get back to 100 per cent and it will be time to join these guys at the top for the fights.
Q: Talk us through the start. It seems you made a very good getaway but lost out to Max on the exit of Turn 2. How much did that compromise your race?
CS: Yeah, it's a very narrow start here. So I had a very good launch out of the start. And then I was squeezed a bit in between Checo and Charles, and I had to lift and this gave Max the opportunity to go on the inside, and pass me outside of Two with a better run. I was just basically a bit unlucky because I think I was just boxed in, due to my good start and I had to lift. So yeah, the good thing is that it was a good start and they’re going to be important for this year. Those good starts. And we need to keep them up.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Charles and Max. Two questions in fact. The VSC, it seems that Max, you closed the gap to Charles. Is there a way to be clever under VSC? And second question, how do you manage to fight for the DRS, and be second as a driver?
CL: For the VSC I mean, I don't know. This is probably more a question for Max. And I'm pretty sure that if there is a way, he won't say it now, in front of everyone. But yeah, I felt at one point that Max was closer, but actually, I think at the actual restart, I don't think it was the case. But we'll look into it anyway. And yeah, I knew that the strength of Max and the Red Bull in general, this weekend was the straight line speed. So I basically knew that if I was leaving Max with a DRS behind for the main straight, I will basically be overtaken very easily. So, I just wanted that, DRS, so on the first lap, I braked very early and I got the DRS and manage to overtake back on the run to Turn One. And then the second one, obviously Max knew that I was going to do that, so we both braked quite early, but I still managed to stay in front at the end. And the third time, it didn't work out for me. But yeah, I just tried to do the best I could to keep the position but it wasn't enough today.
MV: To be honest, I was a little bit surprised myself that it did look a little bit closer, but I don't know how close Charles was, of course to zero, you know, with the delta. That's always a bit of a question mark. But also, sometimes it depends a bit where the restart is: if it's in a corner for somebody in front or not. I think I was still on a bit more of the straight side and had a bit of a better run into Turn Four as well. So, it's a bit tricky. And yeah, I think, like Charles said, you know, you always try to of course have a good run with the DRS into the final zone, where then you have a lot of fast corners where you cannot pass so, of course you know Charles played is very smart there, but also, it seemed like their defence/attack mode is very powerful. So, for me also, even more top speed. It was very hard to nail the overtake, but eventually it worked.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Max and Charles. Max, you already mentioned earlier that it was not fun to drive behind another car. But the battle you had at the end, the other ones being overtaken, having the chance to re-overtake and so on. Do you think we could have seen this kind of battle with last year's cars or only with this year's cars?
MV: I think the cars are better to follow, it just depends on the tyre. Like the hard tyre was capable of following closer, the other compounds – and this depends on the track – but they just fall apart. Like, as soon as you follow for a few laps, they just open up. And I think it's also a little bit of a thing … probably tyres, but also the weight of the car pushes you over the tyre edge. So, this is something we need to look at for the future. Because yeah, we improved the following with the cars, and I think probably the racing, but if the tyres don't let you, due to whatever reason, if it's the weight of the actual car, that’s a bit of a shame, because in the first stint, I think we could have actually raced a bit more if the tyre didn't die. Because everyone was basically struggling with the same thing at one point. So yeah, we need to understand that a bit better.
CL: Yeah, very similar, very similar comments. But it is definitely a step forward compared to last year in terms of following. The balance of the car is much more predictable, compared to last year's car where it was very difficult to understand whether you will lose the front, or the rear being behind. This helps us to have the confidence, to actually push behind someone and to be a bit closer. So, it is a step forward but, as Max said, I think there are other things that we can probably look out for the future to make it even better.
Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – motorsport.com) Question for all three: it has been suggested earlier that one could lose DRS when the new technical regulations prove to be successful. What do you think after this race? Do you think if we should keep DRS because it's a technical aspect as well? Or do you think everyone should scrap DRS when the new technical rules prove to be a success?
MV: Well, if I didn't have DRS today I would have never passed. I think we are still too sensitive for that. And of course, some tracks are easier to pass than others. But for me at the moment, if DRS wouldn't be there, I would have been second today.
CL: Yeah, I think we still need DRS for now.
CS: I agree, I think without DRS passing would be reduced significantly. So I think we are still better off with DRS. What we might need to consider maybe is the speed delta that there is with the DRS might be a bit too much, which gives the car behind maybe too much of a speed delta [so] that sometimes the overtake is done before the braking. And you’d much rather have the two cars battling under braking rather than passing like in the highway. Now, that is sometimes what can happen. So maybe we need to have a look at this but we definitely need DRS nowadays.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Max was this battle with Charles more satisfying after similar circumstances over DRS detection in Bahrain? And was that battle playing on your mind today?
MV: Every battle is different but yeah, well, it's just smart racing and good racing, you know, so just have to deal with it, adjust to it. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was not easy but a lot of fun.
Q: (Jesus Balseiro – Dairio AS) Carlos, you're not entirely happy with your feel of the car but it is still two podiums in two races, so what are the good things you're taking from this start of the season with Ferrari?
CS: Well, the fact is that as you say you I'm not feeling 100% but I felt like this weekend we already did a step in the right direction and this gives me hope that if we keep working like this then I should just keep getting better and better every race. It might need a bit of more trial and error, try in one direction, maybe not getting it right and coming back. But yeah, as I said before, I was here 100 days ago with a car that gave me a lot of confidence and I was super quick around here with last year’s car, and coming to this track and doing the same lap 100 days later with a car that doesn't give me exactly what I need or, or the way I feel, makes me realise exactly what I need to work on and where I need to put the car for the future. So it's going to be a… it has given me a greater overview of the situation, and I know exactly what to do for future races and in which type of corner I need to work on.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) To both Max and Charles, initially, in the middle stint of the race, it looked like Charles kind of had things under control. But then after the VSC, Max, you were all over the back of him. Charles were you struggling with tyres at that point? We saw you have a couple of snaps at the last corner. And Max, we heard you being asked to manage through the high speed. Do you both feel that tyre management or tyre usage was the decisive point in the race? And Max just to you, because we didn't hear from you yesterday, after all the events of the weekend and the drivers nearly strike and so on. Are you comfortable racing in Saudi Arabia?
CL: Yeah so for the tyre management, I don't think we did anything wrong, there. Yeah, I don't think it is the reason why we lost a win today. I forgot what I wanted to say. Alright, go ahead. Oh, yeah. All right. Yeah.
MV: Yeah, that middle bit. I was just trying to stay with Charles without hurting the tyres too much because that was a bit my problem in the first stint, to see what would happen in the last 10 laps or 15 laps. And yeah, then of course, that VSC happens so the tyres also cooled down quite a bit. But then yeah, when I started to fully push, seemed like we had good pace. So that's why I think I could actually push up to Charles a little bit. So yeah, a lot happier on the hard tyre in general with degradation. And about the race here, well, we had a lot of guarantees that of course, we would be safe but I think after this weekend, all the drivers also together, we will speak with F1 and of course also the team bosses to see what's happening for the future.
CL: I'm back. So yeah, I think the point where we struggled the most is whenever Max got the DRS basically, because our weaknesses were just bigger, the straight-line speed difference was much bigger. We were still quick in the corners, but not enough to have that margin to cover. So from that moment onwards, it was a bit more difficult for us.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner – F1analisitechnica.com) Carlos, can you just explain the nature of the problem you had on your car before the race? And did you fear you could not take part in the race at any point?
CS: I am not sure if I'm allowed to go into detail about the problem. I think it's better you ask the team exactly what happened. What I know is that there was a bit of tension there because we were obviously about to go to the grid and the mechanics and everyone just did a great job to put everything back together to have the chance to race today. So a big thank-you to them. These things happen and it was important, you know, to get out there to score the points today. So good job.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazine.com) Carlos, do you think it was a bit unfair that you got the position back after the restart or not before, that you had no chance to attack Max?
CS: It definitely was very strange. I think as a sport we need to keep analysing these things because we could simplify things so much more if Checo would have just given me the position during the safety car which basically would have given me an opportunity to fight Max at the restart and would have given Checo on opportunity to fight me to get the position but what happened is that I was obviously fighting Checo, but I knew that Checo was going to give me a position quickly and he couldn't fight me because he was going to give me a position back so in the end, we created a mess that for me is unnecessary, given the fact that we did six laps behind the safety car and there were
millions of opportunities for Checo to let me by and have a good fight at the restart. If I would have get passed by Russell for example, what would we have done and would Checo have had to let by Russell and me, which would have been tremendously unfair for him too or then Checo doesn’t give me back the position because there's Russell in between me and him and it's tremendously unfair for me. So I don't know, it's just these kind of things that as a sport we need to keep getting better at because I think we need to simplify things and just make it more quicker and easier for everyone to understand and even for the drivers to go racing with a much clearer mind.