FIA post-race press conference - Styria
1. Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), 2. Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 3. Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
TRACK INTERVIEWS (Conducted by Mark Webber)
Q: Max, 14th Grand Prix victory. Was there any grand prix that was easier than that, mate? That looked pretty straightforward from where I was sitting?
Max VERSTAPPEN: You never know, of course, how it’s going to end up but straight away I felt a good balance in the car and it was good to manage the tyres basically from the start. I felt like also to the end I always had tyres left. Of course, they pitted one lap earlier than us and we reacted to that and then we just kept on going, trying to hit out lap times, and that worked really well today.
Q: You must be looking forward to… We have two races here in a fortnight. Back-to-back obviously, in seven days’ time you are going to go again at this even so you must seeking some great comfort with that, with this championship battle really coming in your favour now?
MV: Yeah, I mean, that’s very positive, but we have to show it again next week, so we will definitely have a look at what we can do better but yeah, I’m looking forward to next week.
Q: And Sergio did his best to get through but in terms of the Constructors’, reliability, all the momentum is now starting to come Red Bull’s way.
MV: It’s looking really good, so we just have to keep on going, keep pushing really hard and I’m confident we can do a good job again.
Q: Thanks Max. Lewis, well I must say, in the previous grand prix, I’ve never seen you drive as well. That was an extraordinary performance in Ricard to try to fight this battle with Red Bull. But you didn’t really have the answers today. Congratulations on second place, but where did you feel you lost the grand prix today?
Lewis HAMILTON: Thanks. It was a bit of a lonely race really. I was trying to keep up with those guys, but the speed they have, they have obviously made some big improvements over the last couple of race, so it was impossible to keep up. I don’t know where we are losing all the time. Their long runs seem to be a bit better, they seem to be able to continue pulling out those laps and obviously on the straight we lose a lot down the straights or it feels like we lose a lot down the straights. Nonetheless, we got good points as a team today and we’ve got to just keep pushing.
Q: You say you wanted a fight, buddy, with this team, against Red Bull. They are now really laying the gauntlet down in terms of development, in terms of speed. Where do you see this championship going as they have now had some wins on tracks that have traditionally been your home turf in terms of victories? Now that they are getting this momentum, is it starting to become a concern for you?
LH: Well, I try not to concern myself. Naturally… They are faster, they’re just faster, so there is not a lot I can do in that respect. I have just got to keep trying to do the best job I can each weekend. We need to find some performance. We need an upgrade of some sort. We need to push. I don’t know whether it’s just [their] rear wing or whether it’s the upgrade in the engine or whatever it may be, but we have to find some performance from somewhere.
Q: Well done, mate. Valtteri, congratulations on third place. The maximum result was second today. You had the pit lane spin which gave you the grid penalty and it was really recovery mode from then I guess?
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I think from where I started it was the maximum today and it’s good. I think it was important in case they won to be in between their two cars to pick up the points, so a bit of damage limitation. And the good thing is we get to do all this again next week.
Q: That’s right. Sergio got our attention in the last few laps. Red Bull tried a different strategy to put some heat on you at the end, but you felt you had him covered?
VB: Yeah, it was getting pretty close at the end and there was no much margin. It was the best thing they could try and it nearly worked but I’m glad we could defend and it’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium, so it’s good.
Q: Well, you’ve been fast here all weekend so hoping for a smooth weekend next weekend for a better result?
VB: Yeah, exactly. No penalties, a good quali, and then we go.
Q: Max, that looked like the perfect race from you and Red Bull. You must be thrilled by the manner in which you took this victory?
MV: It was of course important to have a good start and I think that first stint was all about managing the tyres a bit and I could see the pace was quite strong while looking after tyres. It has been sometimes a bit different in previous races, so I think we worked quite hard to try to make that better and I think today that was very good. And then as soon as we stopped to go on the hard, honestly that was a really enjoyable stint just to drive. Of course we had to go through a bit of traffic, with like 12 cars in a row, but once we cleared them I could just keep my pace quite consistent to the end and the car was super nice to drive. You know, it’s not always the case like that but today I was really enjoying it.
Q: Would you say this was your most dominant victory of the season so far?
MV: Well, clearly with the gap, yes. But also just the balance of the car was the best of the season?
Q: And Max just a word on a radio message that came two thirds of the way through about your brake pedal. Was there an issue at Turn 9?
MV: Yeah, it quickly just feel a bit to the floor in between 9 and 10 while braking and then it would come back after Turn 10. So we’ll look into that. It happened two times I think.
Q: Any reason to think that you can’t repeat this next weekend?
MV: I don’t know, but of course people will analyse everything now after the race so for sure I think next weekend it will be a bit closer naturally, as you have a bit more understanding of what has been going on. Of course we are using softer compounds so that will be interesting to see, how to manage that and of course we have to wait and see with the weather as well, what’s going to happen. Clearly we had a good car this weekend and of course I hope that we will continue this form into next week.
Q: Lewis, coming to you. A great race by you as well. How was the performance of your car? Do you feel that it was closer to the pace of the Red Bull in race trim?
LH: No! (Laughs.) No, they were way too fast today for us. I think, yeah, I knew that we were going to be somewhat behind, I think, in single-lap pace and then, as I said, there was around a quarter of a second difference lap pace on the long runs. We gave everything we could today but they’ve obviously made some really good steps forward over these last few races, straight-line speed has picked up a lot. We don’t know whether that’s wing, as Max was saying, or whether it’s engine but either way they were too fast today and Max did a great job!
Q: How difficult was your race? Any handling dramas in particular?
LH: The cars on the limit, you know, so just flat out the whole way really. Of course, then it you apply some management then you’re even further off. I think Max was able to manage ahead and still be pulling away. Really strong pace from them today. There’s not really a lot we can probably do over the next four days but we’ll work as hard as we can so see if we can squeeze any more juice out of this car.
Q: You say there’s not much you can do over the next four days – but you told Mark Webber earlier than the car could do with an upgrade. Is there one particular area of performance where you feel you’re lacking to Red Bull?
LH: Straight-line speed. Whether that’s power or wing, it feels draggy but it also feels not that strong on the straights. It could be one or the other or both together.
Q: Valtteri, great recovery drive from fifth on the grid. Just how much pressure were you feeling at the end from Sergio Pérez?
VB: It was actually quite a short time because I was pretty clear of him until the last lap. I could see him in the mirrors and starting the last lap he was 1.5s but at the end of the lap he was like half-a-second so yeah, but you can’t really overtake here in Sector 2 and Sector 3, so once I got clear of Sector 1 without any mistakes, with the poor tyres I had, I kind of knew that I should get it. I think as a team we did a good job to get ahead of him. They had a slow pit stop, I think, and we were quite reactive, stopping at that point even though we were not planning on stopping that early. So, that was good. At least we’ve had some points out of them.
Q: You were slow to pass Daniel Ricciardo at one point in the race. What were the issues getting past him?
VB: My tyres were finished. We had a one-stop race and I think our drop-off with the hard tyre was maybe a bit more than we expected again. There were many cars fighting in front in a DRS train and it’s so hard to get close. I was trying everything I could but it was slow progress getting through them. But yeah, even though, just happy that we managed to keep ahead of Pérez.
Q: And do you agree with Lewis about where the car is lacking at the moment, and the areas to focus on going forward?
VB: I think today it’s really clear that, at least on this track, Red Bull is faster. Also, Checo, he was putting a lot of pressure to me. We can’t do… If we want to keep up with them, we can’t do as much tyre management. I definitely can feel that they are faster on the straight. I think they have a bit more of an efficient package overall, so yeah, we have work to do.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Congratulations Max. After the race Toto Wolff was saying that Mercedes have basically stopped developing but Red Bull are keeping on throwing bits at the car, by means of explaining the progress that Red Bull are making. Is that a fair assessment – and is there any concern on your part that maybe Red Bull are sacrificing a bit of development for next year in order to make gains this year?
MV: Of course, I don't know what’s going on with other teams but I know that of course, from our side, we do improve our car almost every race, which I think is very important – because we have a good opportunity to have a good season and I’m confident with the people we have in the team that also the focus for next year is 100%. So, I think so far I don’t see that compromise – but of course time will tell next year if it’s like that! Yeah, I fully agree with the approach we have for this season.
Q: Lewis, can I bring you in on that please. Max thinks that Red Bull can focus on this year and next year. Toto Wolff said that your resources are now on next year. Would you like to see some resources coming back and focusing on 2021 as well?
LH: Look, I’ve got an incredibly intelligent, strong and amazing group of people working behind me who take all of those decisions. Obviously you have to try to balance out with this new cost-cap. Naturally, we would love to have upgrades and improvements but I don’t think that’s currently on the cards. Of course, when we do a debrief we’ll chat about it but yeah, that’s how it is at the moment.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, congrats on the win today but just picking up on something you said at the very beginning about how you and Red Bull have worked hard to improve when it comes to things like tyre degradation and tyre management – because we saw in Spain it seems like the Mercedes was better at the end of the stint, and we heard your engineer saying at the end of the first stint today that you were better. So, how exactly have you worked hard? Is it just about changing your tactics behind the wheel at this point or have there been specific bits on the car that have been added to help that.
MV: Of course I cannot go into detail but it’s all about, of course, making sure that you have the tyres to the end. And yeah, I do think in Barcelona we just didn’t have… a bit like it was today. They couldn’t keep up with me in terms of pace and if you have that little bit extra in terms of pace you can manage your lap times a bit more, and that just helps these tyres a lot to the end because they’re super-sensitive in terms of sliding, locking, whatever. They overheat super-quick, so it’s all about management at the end.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Lewis, on the straight-line speed deficit you’re seeing, engine performance upgrades aren’t allowed in season, it doesn’t sound there will be new parts on the Mercedes. Can you guys get creative to find a way to run less wing than Red Bull or is that not an option because you just won’t have the performance in the corners?
LH: Yeah, naturally we could have put a smaller wing on this weekend but we would have just been slower through the corners and therefore probably had more degradation and so yeah, we will be looking at things. Naturally they have that really good wing that bends, which they’ve had most of the year. I think they’ve been developing it for, as far as I’m aware or what I’m told, for quite a long time, which we haven’t, so that would definitely be part of it. I don’t know. I’m pushing everyone as hard as possible, putting as much work in as possible to get us performance. I’m generally, actually, really proud of the work that we were able to do this week but we just weren’t quick enough.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, have you accepted that Mercedes won’t be able to catch Red Bull on car development? And if so, how do you look at the championship?
LH: Well, I don’t accept anything. I think we’ve still got many races ahead of us and we’ve got to keep pushing. We’re World Champions and that’s what we can, definitely, improve if we have put our minds to it. If we’re not going to develop and improve our car for the rest of the year, this is the result you’re going to see, because, as I said, they’ve really eked out performance in these last few races, wherever it’s been, whether it’s been in France with the engine or the new wing, whichever it is. But there’s another TD (technical directive) coming out for the wings. I don’t know if they’re stopping the bendiness or not but maybe that will level the playing field. We will see.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, to follow up on that: obviously you want to win this World Championship, that’s obvious, so do you think it’s the right decision from Mercedes not to continue to upgrade the car?
LH: I’m not going to question the team’s logic and how they got through with their process. As I said, I would love to have… Give us an upgrade, we would love an upgrade, but I don’t think it’s in the pipeline at the moment. We’re down on a few areas. It’s been close at the beginning of the season and if we were both – Red Bull and us – had the same performance as we did in those first four races then perhaps it would be a little more exciting, but as I said, they’ve taken a decent step forwards but we will work as hard as we can to manoeuvre around it but in terms of baseline performance this is what we’ve got. I think we did a decent job today but it’s probably going to get harder if Sergio has a better weekend, but we’re going to keep pushing.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, just about a specific part of the race, there was a moment when I think you dipped your left-rear tyre into the gravel coming out of Turn 4, quite a moment there. Just wondered what happened there, was it just you pushing too hard or did you catch a backmarker who was a little bit ahead on the track at that point?
LH: I was just ragging the lights out of the car and that was it – just giving it absolutely everything and every bit of the road possible to try and match Max’s times, but even with that excursion, it wasn’t possible.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) To both drivers in the championship fight: Max, we know that you guys won’t get complacent or carried away with this. Based on the performance you have now, do you see any reason why this can’t be sustained until the end of the year? And Lewis, how different is this situation when you were behind, say, Ferrari in 2017 and 2018, because obviously back then there wasn’t a budget cap and you didn’t have a brand new car to develop for the following season?
MV: We do have a very good package but I want to see it again every single weekend because every track is different and it’s still about finding the perfect set-up on the car because it can be quite sensitive in some areas, to make it work and it’s never good enough, so I always want to try and improve every single weekend because even a weekend like this, of course it looks amazing, we won with a big margin, but it’s never good enough so we just try and look into details of what we can do better and when we go to other tracks again, I don’t expect it to be like it was today, so we have to just keep being very focused in what we have to do. So far, of course, I’m very happy with how it’s been going but, like I said, it’s never good enough.
LH: It’s much, much different. Obviously back then we did have upgrades, we had the great people we had behind us were constantly finding improvements and yeah, it’s obviously now more flat and yeah, it’s just different. It was a great battle back then. Tried to give the best I could. I think most of this season has been really good battle between the two of us with the very, very close performance of the cars but obviously that’s just shifted.