FIA post-race press conference – Spain
1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing), 3 – George RUSSELL (Mercedes)
(Conducted by Pedro de la Rosa)
Q: George, what a race, man! Back on the podium. Can we say that Mercedes is back now?
George RUSSELL: I'd love to say that but today was very tough. I gave it everything I could to hold Max off, he did an amazing job, and we are so proud to be standing here. The guys have worked so hard, so this is for everyone back in Brackley and Brixworth, thank you.
Q: We heard at one point that you were having overheating issues and you couldn't push as much as you wanted. I mean how much did it hamper you?
GR: I heard it was a lot to be honest, but when I had the Red Bulls in my mirrors all I was doing was my maximum to keep them behind and it was an enjoyable, good couple of laps and I’m just pleased to be able to bring it home in P3. A lot of points on the board for us. So yeah, well done to Max, he did a great job.
Q: Well done, man. Tell us about the last few laps? Could you push full or did the car still have overheating issues, because we saw with Lewis that he had to back off.
GR: Yeah it was very difficult in the last few laps. It was a survival race, when we knew we had the gap, and as I said, just proud to bring it home in P3 and thanks to all the fans here, they have been amazing all weekend, and the support… Formula 1, at the moment, is in an incredible place so it's great to be here at the moment.
Q: Well done, you did so well. Max, well done, your first victory again since 2016 here in Spain. We saw you having issues in Turn 14, with the DRS, tell us about it?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I mean of course I went off. I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear, went off and then, of course, I was in the train and I tried to pass, but my DRS was not always working. So, yeah, that made it very tough but we managed, due to the strategy, to get ahead again and do our own race and eventually win the race. So, a difficult beginning but a good end.
Q: And you switched to a three-stopper. I mean without DRS or with a DRS not working that well, I mean, how did you manage to overcome that?
MV: Yeah, I tried to stay focused. Of course, it’s not nice when stuff like that happens. And yet of course very happy to win and also very happy for Checo. It was a great result for the team.
Q: Your pace with soft tyres was amazing. I mean, at one point you were the fastest by a country mile. Did the soft tyres work very well with your car?
MV: Yeah, I think so. I think the behaviour of the car was good on the soft but also on the medium. I think it was working out quite well.
Q: And on the fight with George. I mean, we saw you a bit of frustrated at one point. I mean, he was closing the door he was changing direction a bit too late.
MV: Yeah, it was more for because of my DRS you know, but yeah, at the end, we managed to get ahead.
Q: Checo, you are Mexican but we’re here in Spain. So are you half-Spanish now? Can we say that?
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, definitely. I mean, you already have very two good drivers but I’ve been feeling a lot of support this weekend, so I'm extremely happy to be on the podium for the first time in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Q: A one-two for Red Bull here in Spain. Amazing to be here in the podium. You could have won though.
SP: Yes, I think it was close. But at the end it is a great team result and I'm happy for that.
Q: We heard you on the radio at one point saying ‘let me attack George, I can get through’. I mean were you a bit frustrated at that point?
SP: Yeah, we were on different tyre strategies at the time. I let Max by in the beginning, then I thought at the time that I could I could go by and not lose crucial seconds, you know, to make my strategy work, but anyway, it's a good team result.
Q: Max, many congratulations, Barcelona was the scene of your first Formula 1 win and you've done it again. However, you had to do it the hard way today. Just how satisfying is this victory?
MV: Yeah, a bit of a race with two halves, because the first 30 laps were very frustrating for me, after I went off in Turn 4 first of all, which really caught me by surprise, because I didn't feel like I was actually braking later or throwing more speed into the corner. But it was very gusty out there today. Like, one lap it felt all stable and then the next lap suddenly you could have more oversteer in places. So probably that caught me out, by surprise. So that was not ideal, of course. But then, of course, I dropped back behind George and Checo. Checo was so kind to let me by to try to attack George because I think already we were planning to do two different strategies as a team, at the time. But then as soon as I was attacking George, my DRS stopped working all the time on the main straight. So that was extremely painful. Like, sometimes it would open, like, almost halfway on the straight or not at all. So yeah, that made me stuck behind George for 20 laps solid. So it was a tough one.
Q: Couple of things to pick up on there. Was there any damage after running through the gravel at Turn 4?
MV: Didn't feel like it. I mean, there is, of course, gravel there. But I didn't feel like I damaged the car, because once I was back on the track, the car felt like normal. So I was lucky there, of course.
Q: And the DRS problem? Is there anything you can do in the cockpit to try and improve the situation?
MV: No, because I mean, I'm pressing the button, but the system is not opening. So this is not working. So we really have to fix that.
Q: We haven't seen you and George battle on track wheel-to-wheel in Formula 1. Just how much did you enjoy the fight with him?
MV: I was a bit frustrated at the time, because I couldn't get him because of the DRS issues. But the fight itself, I think was really cool. Also, I think that lap where I did go on the inside and then George went around the outside, but then I was on the outside of Turn 3 again, I think that was a really cool fight. Yeah, I look back at it and I'll smile now. At the time, of course, I was a little bit frustrated. But it was a really good and tough battle, I think.
Q: Sergio, coming to you. Well done, your third podium of the season. You're first here in Spain. Just how good was it on the podium when so many people were chanting your name?
SP: Yeah, it was great. My first podium here in Spain. They obviously have their two very good drivers, Spanish drivers, but I can say that I'm probably the third one in terms of support here because every year it's been amazing. And to be on the podium for the first time, it’s nice, and great team result as well. We took our opportunities and very pleased with that.
Q: Great team result, as you say, but you did say over the radio on the slowdown lap that you do want to talk to the team about tactics. Did you feel the win was on today?
SP: Well, on the first stint, when I let Max by, I was told that I was going to get it back. And we knew we were on different strategies. So when I was back on it, I felt like I could have gone through and probably given a better shot at my strategy, to make it work. But at the end of the day, it turned out to be the three-stop the way to go today.
Q: Just tell us a little bit about the tyres and deg. How unpredictable was it out there today?
SP: Not very unpredictable. I think we kind of expected it to be this bad. So, it was not a surprise today.
Q: George, second podium of the many congratulations. First up. How good does this result feel?
GR: It feels great to be on the podium and I think it goes to show the hard work and effort that's gone on back at a factory, both in Brackley and Brixworth. We've always said that you got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces, and pick up points and especially on days like today it was incredibly tough out there for the cars, for the drivers. But I feel like we're making progress. And I think we, as a team, have turned a page. I feel like this is probably the start of our season now.
Q: You're on the podium back in Australia. But does this feel closer? Do you feel closer to the guys sat next to you?
GR: Yeah, definitely. I feel like this was more genuine. I think we probably have probably halved the gap to those front runners, compared to the rest of the season. And I think we know there's probably more performance to find. It's been a season of problem solving, as opposed to trying to find more performance and bring more performance to the car. And I think we've now finally solved our issue. And we can now focus on bringing more performance. So yeah, we're six races behind but there's no reason why we can't claw this back.
Q: And George, can we get a word from you on that battle with Max?
GR: Yeah, it was enjoyable. I mean, it's… I think Max and I first raced each other back in 2011. So it was nice to have the opportunity to fight with him. And, you know, I'm here to win, I'm here to fight and I obviously wasn't going to make it easy. I felt bad for him, because he obviously had the DRS issues and he was clearly the faster man today. But still, I think it was hard, fair racing. And that's what we would like to see, and expect, in Formula 1.
Q: How much were you having to manage temperatures throughout the race? Or was it just at the end?
GR: No, it was definitely when I was battling with Max, I was managing tyres, the engine was overheating, then trying to go as fast as possible to keep them behind. You’re juggling so many things. And then in the last five, six laps, it was literally just bring it home, get it to the end of a race, because we were right on the limit throughout the whole race. But the team did a great job to not allow us to go over that limit and have to retire the car. Nobody enjoys these challenging races with really difficult temperatures but that can make a difference. And if you do a better job, you're there to see the rewards, so proud of everybody to bring this home.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) It's a question to Max. Max, today has been a great day for you in the Championship. Congratulations on that. But are you worried in any way by what you've seen from Ferrari, before the Leclerc DNF? They seem to have made a significant step this weekend. And it's not only one-lap pace anymore, but also on tyre deg and race pace.
MV: It's a bit too early to say about the full race. Of course tyre deg, because he did pull away from me a little bit at the time, but there were races also before where this has happened a bit. I mean, I'm not saying that I'm not looking at it, for sure they had a really strong weekend and we definitely need to improve. We need to be better over one-lap performance, especially. But I think we were so early on in the race that it was a bit difficult to tell how big the margin was exactly. Because I don't even know what lap I went off but it was very early on and then we never really had a reference anymore, right. We always have to improve, but for sure, after this weekend, it shows that with all the upgrades they brought I think they definitely took a step forward. So now it's up to us, of course to try and close that gap down again.
Q: (Joost Niederpelt – NU.nl) Max at some point, the team was giving you instructions on how to handle the DRS button. What did they tell you to do? And what did you do before that?
MV: There was not… I mean, I could have shouted back on the radio something, but there is nothing you can do because I mean, I'm not stupid, once you get the light and the activation beep, then you press the paddle. If it doesn't open, there's clearly an issue. I've spammed it like 50 times at one point on the straight and it's just not opening, so there was clearly an issue. I mean, I tried all different kinds of things, stay off the kerb, on the kerb, open it a tiny bit later but it was just broken – or like malfunctioning. So yeah, we clearly have an issue there on this wing.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Max, in the cooldown room you're talking to George about what a great battle that was so does it worry you the review that the stewards took note of it and were looking into it to see if there's any foul play, or if you both thought it was it was a really solid battle?
MV: I think maybe they were looking at the moving a bit, the weaving… ah, Turn 3, because of leaving one car width? Yeah, luckily nothing happened. I mean, there was a bit of grip on the outside, so I'm okay with it. I think it was hard racing. And of course, I went around the outside but I'm also in the blind spot of George, so I think he didn't even really notice where I was exactly, right? Well, for sure you knew that I was there, but it's always hard to fully give a car’s width there because it's a fast corner, you’re drifting wide. So if I was in George’s position, I would have probably done the same, so it's just how we are, I think.
GR: Yeah, I think it's important that we are allowing this hard, fair racing and the rule is to give a car’s width and that was what was done and I think there was still a wheel on the track from Max. But yeah, it's a little bit difficult at the moment. I think there's a lot of… We've obviously got the new stewards in and it's very difficult for everybody, and trying to understand each other, what we feel like is required from the driver's side, and what they expect from us as well, and it will just need this open dialogue. But I wasn't even aware they were looking into it, to be honest, I thought it was hard and fair racing.
Q: (Adrian Rodriguez Huber – Agence EFE) Checo, congratulations, you've proven a long time ago that you're a very good driver but you've proven over the last two seasons that you’re a great team player, but I kind of believe you have your own heart and you want to win. When do you think this, your third victory, can come and if you have to put it on a balance, Red Bull gives you a chance to make lots of podiums, but it doesn't look easy to gain victory. So how can you comment on that?
SP: Well, I think today… I think what was clear was that the three-stop was a better race, race time, and the various strategies, so I think if I went in that direction, I would have won the race. And it worked out for Max. I think that was something we discussed. It was good, because we didn't know at the time which strategy was going to be the best one. I only felt that in the first stint when I gave the position to Max, that I was told that I was going to get it back and when I was on the two-stop I felt that I could have gone through Max and George a bit earlier to try and make the strategy work, but probably it wouldn't have been enough. But it still is a great team result, the season is still very young and, yeah, I think the momentum in the team is great. So we just have to discuss a few things internally. But yeah, there's nothing that I'm concerned of. If anything, I can say that the atmosphere in the team, the momentum we're carrying, it is tremendous, like no other team, so I'm pleased with that.
Q: (Carlo Platella – FormulaPassion.it) Max did you expect already this morning with the team that this race would have been on three stops?
MV: We had a lot of options to look at because it was very difficult to judge how the deg was going to be so we were just trying to be very flexible. And yeah, during the race, you make that decision, right? They put me early on, because of being stuck, having my DRS issue, I think we decided to be a little bit on a different, more aggressive strategy, because if I wouldn't have had that DRS issue, I could have cleared George earlier and I would have, let’s say, opened the gap again. And then you're in a different situation where maybe then we do a different strategy, right, but we had to improvise a bit because of that. And it worked out well because the tyres were very difficult. Even in my last stint, like the last few laps. Of course, I had the margin in the back, but the tyres also they didn't feel let's say amazing anymore.
Q: (Ronald Vording - Motorsport.com) Max, in Miami, you said that Red Bull made the weekends too complicated for themselves. This weekend wasn't straightforward, either, if you look at the DRS issue. Is that execution and fighting those small technical issues still a concern for you going forward?
MV: Well, it's just things we can improve, right? That issue with the DRS, of course, was quite costly but at the end, we still won the race, so as a team we are quite flexible. We adapt quickly if we have issues and we try to work around it, even during the race, so that's good. But, yeah, of course, we tried to make sure that that doesn't happen again. But we didn't retire which other teams did. So that's already a good improvement and you can see, it completely swings the championship around again. So from our side, yeah, we just have to try and be really consistent and try not to make too many mistakes. I mean, you're not a robot, I mean mistakes will happen. But yeah, we'll try to minimise it.
Q: (Pilar Celebrovsky – Paddock Magazine) Max, we have seen that Leclerc had to retire. Do you have the feeling that these cars are less reliable than the previous years’ cars?
MV: It shouldn't be really car related because like the engines and stuff are pretty much the same. Of course, the fuel has changed a little bit, but it's a bit weird. Yeah. also from our side, of course, we had already two retirements where before we were always really strong on reliability, so it's a bit difficult to tell. It's also not major issues that we had. I don't know, of course, about Ferrari, but from our side it’s little things and yeah, we are trying to be on top of that, but I don't think it's specifically car related.