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FIA post-race press conference - Bahrain

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Bahrain 2023 - Press -

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing), 3 – Fernando ALONSO (Aston Martin)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Nico Rosberg)

Q: Fernando, how awesome was that start to the season. P3 for you there.

Fernando ALONSO: Yeah. Thank you. First of all, I think congrats to Lance, my team-mate, you know, he had the surgery 12 days ago and now he's fighting right with everybody. So yeah, amazing for the team. It was a great weekend and, yeah, finishing on the podium in the first race of the year, this is just amazing, you know, what Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car in race one, this is just unreal.

Q: How did it feel to pass that Ferrari and Sainz, and that Mercedes and Hamilton out on track there? I mean, you were shouting on the radio?

FA: Yeah, obviously, I would love to start in front of them and then use the pace. But yeah, we had not the best start today and we had to pass on track. So yeah, it felt like more exciting, more adrenaline for sure. So people enjoyed it. We did enjoy as well. So let's go into Jeddah.

Q: Great. And you have more wind tunnel time as well. Do you think that's going to play into it, your development rate of the car?

FA: I hope so. But we will not get much next year!

Q: Alright, let's move on to… who’s coming next Sergio or Max. Sergio is coming next. Sergio, that's a dream start for the team, isn't it, with a one-two here in Bahrain?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah it’s a great start. I mean, when we look back at last year, and how we started here, it’s really nice. It's a nice comeback. As a team, you know, we worked really hard over the winter. So it's great to see all the boys enjoying the first race. And yeah, we have a strong package. So yeah, it was important today to get both cars until the end.

Q: But of course you are also fighter and you want to win. Which area is it you still need to like work on most to try and to try and get closer to Max and beat him?

SP: Well, I think today was really that start that really put me out of contention from the race. But it was all about minimising the damage. So finishing second is the maximum I could do today. It's a long season. I think I'm getting closer every single session.

Q: So you're confident you're going to give him a run for his money?

SP: Yeah, certainly. I think I'm feeling comfortable with the car and we have a strong package. So, yeah, I will do my best.

Q: Thank you. We'll move on to Max now. The race winner. Max, what a dream start and what an awesome drive there.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was a very, very good first stint, where I basically made my gap. And from there onwards it was all about just looking after the tyres, because you never really know what's going to happen later on in the race. So we just wanted to make sure that we had the right tyres and in good condition as well. So yeah, of course, very happy to finally also win here in Bahrain.

Q: True, your first win here. Were there any issues during the race? I mean, you were complaining a little bit about downshifts and also the car balance not being so great throughout the whole weekend.

MV: Nothing big, just little things you always want to fine tune so I think they're quite easy to get on top of.

Q: And are you looking forward to Jeddah? Different kind of track.

MV: Very, very different.

Q: But you're very confident now that you can get on top of the balance issues and everything and be just as strong?

MV: I think we have a good race package. I mean, of course it will depend a bit, race to race, but we can definitely fight with this. And yeah, also a big thank you to the team, you know, over the winter what they've done again, to give us such a quick race car again.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, your first win in Bahrain, it was the perfect way to kick off 2023. You delivered what you've been threatening to do in testing. You must be delighted?

MV: Yeah, I mean, it was a really good race. I do think it was important to have that first stint where I could open up a gap a little bit and after that I could look after my tyres quite well. But also the car was working well – a bit like what we've seen in testing and the long runs we've done throughout the weekend. But you still of course need to show that in the race. You never know really what can happen to you throughout the race. But yeah, we were on top of things. And it was quite straightforward. But yeah, I think also, with all the calls and pit stops, we did a good job.

Q: You said yesterday that you weren't that happy with the balance of your car over one lap? Was it much better today in the race?

MV: Yeah, but you know, in the long run, you anyway have quite a different car, and you never really are able to push to the limit. So naturally, that was less of an issue anyway, when I was already not happy in the beginning of the weekend. But I do think that there are still a few things that need to be looked at. But for now, we're happy. And then tomorrow, once we get back home, we'll get on top of everything before we get to Jeddah.

Q: Max, were there any issues for you at all? I mean, you came on the radio at one point, talking about some rear locking. How serious was that? Any other issues?

MV: It happens here and there. I mean, this is not something new. This has happened also in the last year or two years. This is something we are consistently working on and trying to make better. But yeah, I think overall, nothing too big of a concern.

Q: OK, and will this stunning pace that we've seen today translate elsewhere, to Saudi for example?

Max Verstappen: Well, Saudi is quite a different track to this one. You have a lot more like straights, fast corners, and a lot less deg. And I think here we were particularly good on the deg. So I do expect in terms of race pace that everyone is closer in Jeddah.

Q: How much confidence, Max, do you take from this performance this weekend?

MV: It has been a great start for us, for the for the whole team, you know, so this is not something we were used to! So yeah, we are very happy at the moment. But yeah, we always keep working.

Q: Alright, many congratulations to you. Very well done. Checo, coming to you now. We saw great pace from you in that race. But it seemed it all came on done at the start. Is that is that the case?

SP: Yeah, that was really the case, missing out to Charles on that first stint. It was really difficult to get by him. He had the new tyres. So you could see the difference on that first stint. And as soon as I was getting a bit closer to him, trying to attack him earlier on, I will just deg and destroy my tyres. So I had to be really patient and get my way through it. And once he did, I was able to drive some fast laps and, let's say, that my tyres and on the second stint were in better shape than his and I was able to get through. But yeah, it was just too late. It was just a few laps too many, too late, and that put us quite behind Max. Once that happened, we basically just maintained the gap throughout the race. So we had no chance to fight for the win. But today was all about minimising the bad start. And we've got plenty of things to analyse, to try to improve and get this consistency throughout the season.

Q: It must have been an interesting fact finding mission for you being behind the Ferrari in that first and what did you learn about that car?

SP: Yeah, I actually learned a lot about their car, you know: where they are weak, where they're strong, or stronger than us. So yeah, I think I need to make sure that it stays fresh for my engineers later in the briefing.

Q: Go on, share it with us now. And are you happy with where you've got the car? Do you feel confident in the RB19?

SP: Yeah, I'm comfortable. I'm comfortable with the car. I'm happy. I think we’ve got some work to do. I think we, both drivers are pushing the car in the same direction, which is good. And yeah, I think it's been an amazing start to the season. Yeah, our best ever start ever, so very different to last year.

Q: Fernando coming to you, podium number 99 of your career. Your first podium here in Bahrain since you won in 2010. Just how sweet is this moment for you?

FA: It is! Obviously, a perfect start for this project. We didn't expect to be that competitive. I think the aim in 2023 was, you know, getting the mix in the midfield, maybe leading that midfield and get close to the top three teams eventually. But even a podium maybe was not in the radar in 2023. And, and we found ourselves second best car today in Bahrain, or the whole weekend, like just behind Red Bull. So, this is, yeah, a little bit of a surprise. But we are extremely proud, happy with the job done at Silverstone in the factory. So big congratulations to everyone. Let's enjoy this moment and build from here, hopefully a good 2023 campaign and get closer and closer to the top guys.

Q: So, are you having to reset your expectations for the rest of this season? Given what's happened today and this weekend?

FA: Let's see. I think, like, I have the same feeling from testing, like, too good to be true. And you're always expecting that something will get… you will get a step back and you will get back to reality. But it seems real, the performance. Let’s see in Jeddah. I am curious to go to Jeddah and Australia. Very different circuits. I think Max touched on before, high-speed corners, very little degradation. I think in Bahrain, we were strong in things that maybe we don't find in Jeddah, and Australia. So, if we are strong in the next two races, I think we will have a very good 2023.

Q: Final one from me. Can you talk us through those overtakes on Hamilton and Sainz? How much did you enjoy them?

FA: I obviously did enjoy them because I ended-up in front. That’s always the same thing in any battle. But yeah, we say it’s always the same, but when you fight at the front, with these great drivers, great champions, it is more intense, more adrenaline when you are wheel to wheel. So yeah, I didn't want to have any mistake, or any contact because obviously when you are P12, you lose nothing, but today, we were fighting for big things. And yeah, I was happy. And the car was very nice to drive. That was probably our strength, all through testing. And this weekend, even though the race felt very long, the last 10 laps, because I wanted to see the chequered flag and being on the podium, the car was very good to drive and I could have driven for another hour or something, just alone on track.

Q: You mentioned contact there. Was there any contact between you and Lance?

FA: Yeah, apparently into Turn 4. I thought it was George. But I saw the replay on TV later on, and it was Lance. So yeah, he had a very good start because, you know, he was alongside me into Turn 4. We got lucky. Obviously the two cars, they didn't have any problems and we could continue. It was our lucky day. For many things, you know, for this contact, and also to be both cars with strong points. So, I'm very happy for the team because they deserve it.

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 05: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing attend the press conference after the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Frédéric Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Fernando. Is there any weakness in your car that you already can make it better? And we heard you were speaking about something on your car at the end, avoiding the kerb. Did you have any concern about it?

FA: No. But, you know, we had a very comfortable position. So, I slowed down the pace and I informed the team that you know, I could go faster, but I was avoiding the kerbs and just bringing the car home. So yeah, I mean, there are a couple of areas that we have to improve that I will not share. But I think the most important point is that the new Aston Martin is just a new car, a new project. This is just the beginning. You know, this is not the final car, this is just the starting car of this concept that we changed over winter. I think some of the top teams they just kept the philosophy that they had last year. Red Bull or Ferrari they kept more of the same shapes. Just, fine-tuning things and making perfection of that good baseline that they had. For us, it was much more difficult. We have to change 95% of the car. So, I guess there is more to learn from the car, and there is more to come on our side. So full trust in our team, obviously they know what they do. So let’s hopefully improve soon.

Q: (Jesús Balseiro – Diario AS) Question to Fernando, could you elaborate how was your move over Lewis on Turn 10?

FA: Yeah, I think we were not very fast on the straight. So, eventually you normally pass into Turn 1 or into Turn 4. And I think I pass Lewis into Turn 10 and Carlos into Turn 11. So not the normal places, because we could not match their straight-line speed. So, yeah, we had to make some moves in the corners before Turn 10 and Turn 11 and change trajectory, and then get the overtake done, I think to Lewis was more playing a surprise move there, because no one overtakes into Turn 10, let's say. And then with Carlos, it was close into Turn 10 again, he closed the door, and then I have a better exit into Turn 11. But, yeah, we need to see that because obviously, we will love to pass just on the main straight like everyone does.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Question to Fernando. Yesterday, Checo mentioned that the strong point of your team is tyre management, and that your team banks on that on race day. So how much did that play into effect, compared to other areas in performance, and also, when it comes to your race pace, at some point in this race, you will almost matching the two drivers next to you. If it weren't for the start, do you think you could have been slightly closer to them within the race?

FA: I think on the tyres, yes. It seems that this is one is strength of our car, some legacy from last year as well, because Aston Martin was very strong on Sundays last year as well. So yeah, let's try to keep that theme on the car and just improve the Saturdays, which was maybe the weak point of last year for the team. And also yesterday, we were not mega-competitive. So let's work on that. And yeah, on the race pace, obviously we lost time in the first stint. I just sat behind the Mercedes. In the middle stint I have to pass George and Valtteri. And then on the final stint I had to pass Lewis and Carlos. So, all in all, I'm sure that you lose 10 or 15 seconds on all those battles. So if we are 40 seconds behind the leader, we could have been maybe 20 seconds, or 30 seconds. Yeah, not real fight – yet – to Red Bull.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Another question to Fernando, please. In both your battles with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, you had big moments at Turn 4. It looked like the car suddenly snapped left on you. Can you just talk through the two incidents there and what was causing that? Thanks.

FA: I think we know what is causing that, but I will keep it for me. We're still working. As I said, the car is very new. We need to learn more from the car, I need to get used to the car. So those moments were more coming from me getting used to the car, getting used to the driving input, feedback from the steering wheel and power assistance. So things that they are not 100% tailormade yet.

Q: (Ronald Vording – motorsport.com) Max, but Checo can add if he wants to. Given the balance issues that we talked about on Friday and Saturday are you surprised to see how big the gap actually is in the first race compared to the first non-Red Bull car? And secondly, you talked about Jeddah a little bit; we can see the data that Ferrari at least made a step in their top speed so what do you expect from Ferrari in Jeddah?

MV: Yeah, I think I already said before that the one lap performance to the race is very different in balance requirements anyway. So even like I said before, on Friday, I was unhappy with the one lap performance, my long runs were still okay, so not really surprised. I'm just, of course, happy that it worked out like this but Jeddah is going to be quite different again. Our car seems quite strong in high speed but you're right, I think Ferrari is quite quick on the straight which in Jeddah, of course, is very nice to have, let's say like that. But yeah, time will tell. It's really hard to know. We've only really driven these cars here in Bahrain so we just have to wait and see. We’ll, of course, try and get there in the best shape possible and then we'll find out throughout practice where we are exactly.

SP: Oh, it's nice to see three Red Bull cars on the podium!

Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) Fernando and the Red Bull drivers: for Alonso…

SP: We are all Red Bull drivers.

Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) Fernando, after that podium, do you think of the 33rd victory? And I ask after to the Red Bull drivers.

FA: Yep. I would say yes because when you are P3 in race one, there are 22 opportunities this season. And even last year, I remember in Canada, wet qualifying, we were in the first row of the grid. You know, anything can happen in 22 races with different conditions. And, you know I will try my best to do have the opportunity. Maybe we need some help. Last year, we needed some help from the top teams just to get the podium. Maybe this year, if there is this help or there is some retirements in front of us or some problems maybe it's more than a podium. So let's hope for that.

Q: (Carlos Miguel – Marca) Question for Max and Checo, do you read that Fernando could be a contender for the championship this year?

MV: I hope so for Fernando as well because he has had a few years where there was not really a possibility to fight at the front so I'm happy to see him sitting here already in race one. I think also again, I mentioned it before, but at Aston Martin they really have the spirit and drive, they want to win and they've hired a lot of good people. So I guess it can only get better for them. And I think for this year, difficult to say if they're going to challenge for the championship, but race wins are definitely on the table. I've been in the same position where some races I'm finishing 20 to 40 seconds behind the winners and you still win two or three races a year because sometimes they are some tracks which really suit your car and everything just comes together and you can win a race with maybe sometimes a bit of help or luck. But for sure they have a really strong package. And now of course it's all about developing it further.

SP: I'm first of all very happy to see Aston and Fernando up here. I think it's been a tremendous effort and it’s great to see Fernando in his first race for the team on the podium. I think they certainly have a very good car. They will be a contender for sure in a few tracks. You know that the seasons in Formula 1 are extremely long, so anything can happen. So yeah, it's just nice to see Fernando and Aston.

Q: Fernando, when did you last feel this positive? This upbeat after race one of a season?

FA: I think 2013. Yeah, we were leading the championship, I think, after Barcelona. So we had a contender package but after that I think I didn't feel as good as now.

Q: (Aaron Deckers – Racing News 365) Last year, Aston Martin ended up seventh in the constructor championship. Obviously, with the new rules, is this the ultimate proof that now Aston Martin is fighting for the podium, that the rules are working since last year?

FA: I don't think so. No. I think you need to have the vision and the ambition of Lawrence Stroll, or our leadership and our management because the opportunities are there for everybody but it seems that only one team is willing to do whatever it takes to win. And you know, I'm proud to be part of this organisation.

MV: Yeah, Fernando's absolutely right. I think you mentioned all of it and I think it doesn't matter if it was the previous generation or this one. I think if you have the right people in charge, and they really want to win and they hire the right people, anything is possible.

SP: Nothing more to add.

Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Max, this is the first time in 12 years that Red Bull have won the opening race of the F1 season, how different do things feel at the team, compared to say this time last year when there was the double DNF start? And what does that say about the rest of the season, the strength that you can carry through the year ?

FA: A double DNF would be nice.

MV: Well, last year was very disappointing, of course. That normally was a P2. I do think our mentality also has changed a bit compared to a few years ago, in terms of how we are operating and how we are developing a car. And yeah, it's great to finally have a car which is able to win from the start. And it also helps the car's not so overweight. It's perfectly fine now. But yeah, this is a great start but we also know that throughout the season you have to keep on developing. Of course, we are on that, but we hope of course that's going to be more than the other teams because you have to try and keep that advantage going.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Checo, just going back to the very start of the race what happened there? How come you weren't able to follow Max from second?

SP: Yeah, I basically lost the position to Charles and that very much defined my race. As I say, he was very strong on that first stint and every time I could get close to him, I was just taking off my tyres so it was very important for me to get to lap 15/16 and still having a good tyre which I could push and make a bit of a tyre delta so I could get by him and once that happened, Max was just too far down the line.

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