FIA post-race press conference - United States
1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), 3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
PARC FERMÉ INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Charles, that was a great comeback for you. The Safety Car obviously brought you back into the race, but when you had some good battles out there with the Red Bull, the pace just wasn't quite there to keep them behind. But you must be satisfied overall?
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, satisfied in a way because we started P12, so a podium is a good achievement. But looking at the race, it's obviously a little bit disappointing. We had the pace, but then we had a little bit too much deg towards the end of the race. And yeah, but we'll work and at the end, P3, starting on P12, is not that bad.
Q: Yeah, we're seeing behind you on the screen that there was some good overtaking, some good racing out there. You're quite red in the face. So this is one of the tougher races, isn't it?
CL: Yeah, it is, definitely, especially the first sector with so much G forces. And with the tyre deg you keep working with the steering wheel, which makes it even more difficult, but it was quite a nice battle with Checo and then later on with Max. But yeah, we need to keep working in order to challenge them a bit more towards the end of the races.
Q: So we're still waiting for number two and number one to come out and join us. So let's talk a little bit about Ferrari, racing for them in America. You have a huge following here.
CL: Yeah, I'm extremely lucky to be a Ferrari driver and I know it's but we need to keep pushing. It’s great to be here to see so many people and so many red shirts. So yeah, we'll keep working and hopefully next year we'll win.
Q: And you have a short turnaround now before the Mexican Grand Prix. Any upgrades coming for that race? Any upgrades, any more performance coming?
CL: No. It's not planned that way. But yeah, we'll try to maximise our package.
Q: Okay, Charles, thank you very much. Lewis, you have a great following here. For a moment. It looked like the victory was on. You gave it everything. We heard you complimenting the team on the strategy, but just the underlying pace wasn't there.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, firstly, I want to give a huge thank you to the crowd here. We've have such an amazing crowd. This is the biggest crowd we've had here in the whole time we've been here, so a big, big thank you everybody. Secondly, I want to give a big shout out to my team. We came here with upgrades and we closed the gap a little bit. We were so, so close. I did everything I could to try and stay ahead but they were just a little bit too quick today. But great strategy. Great race by Red Bull. And again, my condolences to the team.
Q: Beautiful words Lewis, great respect there. Put us in the cockpit, as you can hear the crowd cheering for you there, this was a tough race. You love this race circuit but how far did you have to dig deep to get yourself into that lead?
LH: I’m shattered. The car was a handful today. It felt amazing, firstly, to be in the lead. That's something we've been working so hard on as a team through the year and I felt so much hope. But it's OK. We'll hold on to that. We'll keep pushing, we’ll try and give it everything we can in these next three [races]. It will come to us at some stage so…
Q: OK, well, enjoy the podium, enjoy the champagne and get a rest before Mexico. Ladies and gentlemen, your race winner, Max Verstappen. Wow, you worked hard for that one. It looked at a certain moment it was slipping away, the pit stop. very uncharacteristic. There was an issue clearly with the wheel gun. But then you got your head down. You had to fight harder with Lewis. How does this victory feel?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was a tough one. I mean, it was all looking good. But then of course the pit stop was a bit longer than we would have liked. So I had to fight my way forward again. But yeah, we gave it everything out there today. And of course it's a very difficult weekend for us. So this one is definitely dedicated to Dietrich himself, what he has done for everyone. The only thing we could do today was win and even though after the pit stop it was not looking great, I gave it everything out there and I pushed to the limit to come back.
Q: So we saw you embracing Helmut Marko as you got out of the car. He has been instrumental obviously in so many drivers’ careers. A great moment on reflection, on the life of Dietrich Mateschitz to win the Constructors’ Championship here as well. So along with Checo, a great team effort this year.
MV: Yeah, of course, we had a big chance to win the Constructors’ here. And of course, you want to do that in style. And I think we did that today.
Q: Yeah, we're seeing behind on the screen the battles that you had, first of all with Charles and the Ferrari, and then of course, Lewis here on the brakes. You had the DRS, you had to make it stick, and the battle continued to the next corner.
MV: Yeah, it was a few corners, but this is a great track anyway for battling, like if you pass one corner, you can come back in the next and it's really enjoyable to drive here.
Q: Does this victory mean more to you, because of the emotion of the weekend, because of the passing of Mr Mateschitz, than other victories?
MV: It definitely means a lot to me, to the team, because he was so important for the whole team. He was so instrumental and, of course, it will continue, but we really wanted to have a good result today and yeah, this is of course amazing.
Q: Max, what a way to honour Dietrich's memory. It was a thrilling Grand Prix. And this win gives the team the Constructors' Championship. Just how special is this moment for you and for the team?
MV: Yeah, I mean, obviously for us it's been a tough weekend and we really wanted to win today. And I mean, everything was looking great, but with that final stop, that 11-second pitstop that was not the best, after, of course… The field was quite close because of the Safety Cars. So yeah, we had to recover quite a bit . Initially I had a good battle with Charles and once I got ahead I felt like I damaged my tyres a little bit too much in the beginning of that new tyre set, so the first few laps I was not really catching like I wanted to to Lewis. But then I think once I recovered with the tyres then I could close in a bit, step by step. And then of course, yeah, I went for the move into 12. And it was a tough few laps to get him out of the DRS. In general, I think throughout the race, you could see it also when I passed Charles, he could stay in the DRS for a few laps around here. And it seemed like it was quite powerful. So it was not made easy for us, but at the end, of course, extremely happy to win on this difficult weekend for us. I think this was actually a race he would have loved to see. So yeah, of course, I'm sad but I'm also incredibly proud of the whole team and also the way they've operated all weekend. Of course apart from the pit stop but that was a gun failure and these things unfortunately can happen. But yeah, we kept it together and we won also the Constructors’. I'm very proud of everyone also… You know, the people who don't even come to the track, back at the factory, you know, the effort they have put into this car as well this year has been enormous. And I'm very proud of everyone, you know, to secure this.
Q: After that 11-second stop, what was going through your mind?
MV: A lot of swear words. I was very upset. But immediately when you press the pit limiter off you have to keep your head down and go for it. But it wasn't made easy. But luckily this track is amazing to race at as well. So it's not like some other tracks where then your race is over. This is a proper racetrack where you can pass. And also you see the first time I tried on Charles, you know, this Turn 1 is so wide but then, you know, if he opens up, there are different lines to come back at you. And it's quite tough because the corner is so wide that when you go for the move, sometimes you can't even really picture where the other car is going to be again. But that makes great racing because it gives you so many like different opportunities, pass on the inside or open it up, and then maybe have a cut back. It's a good track.
Q: You put on the Medium tyre in the final stint. Was that a clear cut decision for you, or with Lewis being on the Hard tyre did you think ‘oh, have we got the right rubber on?’
MV: They kept asking me throughout the race what I thought between the tyres? And yeah, I think through my feedback I guess they chose the Medium. And I think it was right. I don't think at the end of the day, it would have mattered a lot, because I think we were quick on the Medium and the Hard. But the Medium just lasted long enough to the end.
Q: And Max, this is race win number 13 of the season for you, equalling the record. How does that feel? Do you reckon number 14 is in your sights?
MV: I mean, I’ve said before that we are also doing more races a year. So they are not always justifiable. I mean, I think, yeah, we are having an amazing season, but of course when you have a great car, you can win a lot of races. But of course I'm proud of winning a lot of races, but I don't really look at these kinds of stats. I'm just happy winning races.
Q: Alright. Very well done to you. Many congratulations on the Constructors’ Championship as well. So Lewis, let's come to you next. So close to your first win of the season. Just looking at the bigger picture, how good did it feel to be back out front?
LH: It felt amazing. It felt amazing to even just be in shooting distance of Max for some points of the race. We really didn't know what our pace was going to be like today. I think in the first stint he was controlling the pace and it was very difficult to hold on to him. But in that second phase of the race, where after the safety car I was able to keep up with him and we did such a great job with strategy today. We were aggressive. I really am proud of the team. I think everyone worked so hard to bring upgrades here this weekend. And yeah, for a second I thought maybe we might just be able to hold on to it but I think that extra Medium tyre they had was just a little bit too strong compared to us.
Q: So what about the upgrades? Do you feel that the car has taken a step forward here? And what does it mean going forward for the remaining three races?
LH: Honestly, it's really difficult to say whether or not… I'm sure the team will know whether we've taken a step forward compared to others. It's difficult to say whether it's compared to these guys, but I'm sure it helped. Just because you go to different races, sometimes, you know, from the last race of this race it’s difficult to really feel exactly. But I do think we've taken a step in the right direction. They've been so fast on the straight, I think, under DRS they're like 35km/h faster than us. If we're behind them, we're like, 22k faster, I think it is, with DRS on the back straight. So he came from a long, long way back. But even without the DRS, I think they're still something like 8k up on us, so we've got a lot of time being lost on the straight, probably four tenths at least a lap. And so we've got some improvements to make for next year's car.
Q: Okay, so that's straight line speed. How was it through Sector 1, through the first sweeps? And also, can you tell us a little bit about the brake drama that was going on prior to the start of the race?
LH: Yeah, well, we've had problems with our brakes all year. Just with separation, basically. When you hit the brake, instead of both fronts doing the same amount of work. Either the left one does more, or the right one does more, because one gains more temperature. And so we had a huge temperature split, which was basically, the left one wasn't really working. So they had to change the brakes. And it's something we've seen a lot through the year with these new bigger drums. And so something we're working on fixing that.
Q: Charles, 12th to third. You had a busy race. How much did you enjoy it?
CL: Yeah, I enjoyed the first part. The very first few laps, it was all about being patient. I had a good start but then I found myself in an unlucky place out of Turn 1, so I basically lost everything that I had gained. And then it was all about being patient, try to keep those tyres to then attack at the end of the first end, which as I did, and everything looked good. We got a bit lucky with the Safety Car at the right time for us, which put us back into the race. But then unfortunately, we suffered a little bit too much tyre degradation to fight for higher. But yeah, it is it is an improvement but we need to do all the steps.
Q: What were your expectations coming into the Grand Prix today?
CL: I was quite confident that a podium was possible if we were doing everything perfect. Looking back, I think communication strategy has been the right one. Tyre management, we still need to do a step as I said, but we are working in the right direction.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the battle with Max, we saw a nice switcheroo after Turn 1. After all the years of you two racing together, can you almost predict what the other guy is going to do?
CL: Well, I think our target is just that: to surprise each other. It's part of the game. So no, you cannot really predict but yeah, it was fun, especially in Turn 1. From Turn 11 to Turn 12 it was less fun, because I just saw Max passing on the left. I could wave at him. And that's it. And then I had another fight with Checo, also into 2012, where I knew I could take a bit more risk because we are fighting together for the second place in the championship, so yeah, it was it was a fun race overall.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Lewis, it is the second time since Zandvoort that you can win. Are you confident that you can do that before the end of the season? And which race would be the best for you and your car?
LH: I think we really need to be realistic. The Red Bull car has been the fastest car by far all year. And it is still the fastest car. So today, we were… you know we're in the position we're in through a lot of the races, through reliability. You know if Charles was there, if Pérez was there, for example, it would have been a different race, because they would have been ahead of us, we would have been on the third row. And so, I think today it was great to have started third and been in position to fight, but out of true pace, they've been ahead of us all weekend. They were today and they will be the next three races. So, unless something drastic happens to any more of them, for example, then it's highly unlikely that we will have the true pace to be able to compete with them. But we'll give it everything we've got. We're working on making a car that can fight with them. But I think today shows that our teamwork was fantastic. I think, as a team, we operated amazing. I mean, he had an 11-second stop, and he was behind Charles, that just shows how much pace they had in hand, to have got past Charles, and to have caught up six seconds, and pulled three seconds ahead of me at least, that shows some serious speed. So, you know… but there's lots of positives, as I’ve said. Honestly, I think this was our best… this one was probably one of our best. Yeah.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, you mentioned struggling initially with the tyres in the final stint after you’d passed Charles, and then you said you were able to recover that a little bit. I wondered, could you explain how you did that? And also, can you talk us through your move on Lewis? It looked like you were placing your car particularly cleverly, even after you got by him? Thanks.
MV: Well, the tyres just run really hot. They’re also new, so they still need to come up to temperature. Then being behind the car in high speed corners, you have to turn always a bit more which is not great for the tyre. So once you're in clean air, then automatically they cool down a bit. So just took a few laps. And yeah, I think it was good. Like I said before, the track really lets you do that as well, because it's quite wide. These kind of corners, you can really brake deep into the corner, and then the other car can come back at you in the exit, especially from 12 to 15. Like one car can go really tight and defend the other one can really open it up. So, I think it was good racing.
Q: (Jeff Gluck – The Athletic) I know you guys get treated like rock stars everywhere you go now pretty much – but is there anything you can say about the American fans and the reception that we got here? Still a record crowd despite the Championship already being decided?
LH: Yeah, record crowd here. And we have two Grands Prix here in the States. We have three next year. It's growing here. And it's amazing to… you know, I've been racing here 15 years and I always wondered why it wasn't… people hadn't quite caught on. In terms of… because it's such a great sport, this. There's so much… it's so complex and so exciting. So, it's nice to finally see that we've finally got that reach, we finally tapped into the country and people here in the US are such huge sporting fans, and they bring in such great energy. The show is fantastic. And you know, just going on the drivers’ parade, you can see the crowd and the energy from them, super excited. When we did the Fan Zone is the biggest crowd we've ever had. So big, big Thank You to everyone that took the time to come here this weekend. And, for COTA, for putting on such an amazing, amazing event. I can't wait to come back. This is one of my favourite races. I won here in 2012, the first race. So close again, to have that potentially today. But I look forward to coming back next year.
MV: Yeah, I think Lewis explained that really well. I mean, I guess everyone wondered a bit like, why is it not kickstarting a bit over here? But I think the last few years also, together with Netflix, people had a bit more insight. Because I think, up until a few years ago, the sport was very closed. You couldn't really get close to the teams. I think everything is opening up a little bit more. And then because of Netflix giving a bit more insight, you start to understand a little bit more of what's going on. And you don't just see the cars driving around. I think that's why people are a lot more excited about Formula 1 now. You can clearly see… it's all over the world but especially in the US, the popularity is growing a lot. So I enjoy coming to the US and also, of course, we're going to have three Grands Prix but the three races are completely different, in completely different locations. So, I think that's also really important. And yeah, I'm just looking forward to the coming years to see what's next. And yeah, what's going to happen in the coming years.
CL: It's incredible to see the progression from the first year I've been here, in 2018, to now, the sport has grown massively in the US, so much more people, so much more people in Austin, much more difficult to go around the city easily! But, but it's a good sign. And I think there's a culture in the US also to make the sport a show. And this is really the way I see it now. And there's a challenge of keeping the DNA of the sport, adding the show, and I think this has been done extremely well. I can't wait to see what was going to happen in Vegas next year, which will probably be crazy.
Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm – The Race) For Lewis, please. If you'd won the race today, it feels like it would have been a good reward for the work that's been put in this season by the team but also yourself. It sometimes feels like this season doesn't really reflect the job that that you've done. Without that win, that headline result, where do you take pride in this season? What is it? Is it the way you've led the team on-track, off-track? What do you take away from this year?
LH: I think even though we've not had a win so far, I think it's been the teamwork, I think it's been the team spirit that's stayed strong and intact. I think it's the challenges, the tough conversations we've had. I think we've really had to dig deep, pulling together more than ever, especially after a difficult end of season last year. And with all the challenges that we've faced this year,. I take a lot of pride in the stuff and the steps that finally got Mission 44 up and running and the steps that we're now starting to see and have real impact. I think that's something I'm really proud of. And then just to be… I'm still here, the end of the season still really, really proud of the performance today, collectively as a team. And, you know, through the year, we've made all the mistakes we've needed to make, I think, to build a stronger foundation for next year. So, I think if we can get that car on par with these guys. I think we could have a really exciting year next year.
Q: (Joshua Robinson – Wall Street Journal) Lewis, you in particular spend a lot of time in the States. Following up on what was said before, how has your experience of it in particular changed? And what do you feel made the difference, maybe beyond Netflix?
LH: What made the difference?
Q: (Joshua Robinson – Wall Street Journal) In terms of the popularity here and how the fans respond to the sport and the show that's been presented?
LH: It's a difficult one for me to really answer. I don't really know, apart from the Netflix show, which really gave people a much more in depth insight because if you switch on the TV and just start following, it's very, very hard to understand what is going on. If you turn up for the first time, it's hard if you don't know the details of what's happening within the teams. And within a few shows, obviously, it really highlight open doors and then I think once people have seen that, then they've just gone down a real wormhole of learning more about the technology, that there's a lot of mathematics in the background, there's a huge amount of data, it's the highest technology that's around, that would help develop… that crosses over into road cars. And then at the end of the day, there's 20 drivers that are athletes, that are putting their life on the line, weekend in, weekend out. And unlike the other sports which are also exciting there's a lot of players… in terms of athletes, there's only 20 of us so it's a very, very small group of us that get to drive these rockets basically around so we're as close to NASA I guess, as we can be.
Q: (Joshua Robinson – Wall Street Journal) Have you given any thought to what Vegas will be like?
LH: I don't know how we're going to move around Vegas already but I have no doubt they're going to do such an amazing job. It's going to be absolutely incredible. I think without doubt probably going to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest race. The track’s not going to be as great as this race, I can tell you that already. Street circuits aren't as good as the more open circuits and especially the newer circuits generally aren't as great. This is a fantastic circuit here. It’s a track on which you can race. It's nice and wide but the city and the atmosphere is going to be unlike anything probably. With all those night lights it's gonna be huge
Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Lewis and Charles, you were experiencing battling with Max again today. Looking at his dominance this year, how do you feel about that? Do you think we are in the beginning of a Max Verstappen era or do you see opportunities to close the gap towards next year?
CL: Well, I hope not. I will do everything for it to not happen and we are working as a team for it to not happen obviously. I think it is very clear for us where we need to improve. Over one lap, we are really strong and I think we are on the same level as Red Bull; over the course of a race, then we are struggling with tyres. So we are putting our effort into that and I hope that we'll see the result as soon as next year. Looking back at the season, there's been not only tyre degradation but there has been mistakes, strategy, communication and tyre management is one of those things. And, again, we are trying to use these last races in the best way possible in order to challenge Max and Red Bull for the championship next year. But I'm confident we can do that because I know how hard we are working and I'm confident that we are working in the right direction.
LH: It is too early to say. If we get into next year and they're dominating again, then yes, but the Ferraris have been quicker than them throughout qualifying. I think they've every single lap probably had better performance on the majority of a lot of the season. Now, all they need to do is pick up their race pace, and they'll be right with them. I think we've got a much, much bigger step and steeper hill to climb, but hopefully not impossible.
Q: (Stew Myrick – KTXX-FM 104.9 The Horn) Two questions: Max, you were talking about the wind during the race, you talked for a bit about having to fight the wind. And then all three of you 10 years: of F1 racing here in Austin. That seems to be a significant chunk of time, when you look at the history of Formula 1 in the United States. All three of you, but especially you Lewis and Max, reflect on the success that this race has seen here in the ATX?
MV: Yeah, today was a bit tricky with the wind. It makes the car just all a bit more like less predictable and also with that, of course, the higher degradation you have, because of course we were doing quite a few pit stops around here. Yeah, sometimes you get in a nice rhythm and everything just goes and there's not much really happening, just following the tyres around. But around you have to be very focused and really [pay] attention to details, it’s easy to have a lock up or lose the rear so you had to definitely be more on it. But that's a challenge. It's the same for everyone. I wasn't here, of course at the start in 2012 but it's an amazing track. Most of the new tracks are… you lose a little bit of the DNA of an old school circuit but I think this is really close to that because that first sector is just insane. Of course there are a few low speed corners but the track is great for racing and I think most of the drivers love coming here. Also the city is growing a lot. A lot of people are coming over here; big companies as well. I always enjoy coming here and really see the city grow from the first time I was here in 2014 for an FP1 session to now; it's pretty impressive. And yeah, I hope of course we can come here for many more years to come.
LH: It's been an amazing journey coming out here. I've always spend a lot of time in the States. Coming to Austin for the first time in 2012, I had an amazing race here. It was very, very near to the city. Now going into the city, seeing the growth through the city and new buildings, new hotels, just seeing so much growth within it and more and more people here. Got to see a lot more of the city over those years and feel very, very at home here. I would say this has probably been my favourite stay of the time. I stayed a little bit on the edge of the city, overlooking the city every day, and it's definitely a place I think I could live. Whilst New York is my favourite city still, but this is a very, very close second, I would say. Yeah. Ah, awesome. Good to know.
Q: (Stew Myrick – KTXX-FM 104.9 The Horn) Would you like to live here?
LH: Yeah. Awesome. Good to know.
MV: Taxes are good, right?
CL: Yeah, not much to add, to be honest. I just love the track. Obviously, it's such an exciting track. It's really, really good for racing but it's also very, very exciting on the one lap in qualifying and as I was saying before, I've only come here five times, but the five times I’ve come here it is just getting bigger and bigger and more and more people are coming, which is great to see.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just before the second start we heard you complaining about the drivability, things going wrong there, also it sounded like the strat changes weren't helping things. Just explain what was happening and how hard did that make things for you?
MV: Yeah, it was just a rotary change which then influenced a bit the throttle pickup which can happen so we just went back to the other setting and it was a bit better. But it's something… of course we always try to fine tune anything, especially on a track like this where it's a bit bumpy, it probably gets a bit worse so we have to be a bit more precise. But once I went back to my other setting it was not too bad.