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FIA post-race press conference – China

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Lando NORRIS (McLaren), 3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by Nico Rosberg)

Q: Sergio, P3 today, but you got unlucky with the strategy there. Was that where you lost it?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it really cost us quite a bit. Unfortunately, we got the Safety Car and we lost two places. And yeah, effectively that became the race… We did the most of the race on the Hard. And yeah, once you start fighting like that, in the early laps, the life of the tyre just goes off dramatically, but at least we managed to get to the podium, but it would have been good to be one and two.

Q: What about your pace there during the race? Were you satisfied with that or do you think it could have been better? Looking at Max, there was sometimes like five tenths, even more, per lap difference?

SP: Yeah, I think we were definitely lacking some pace, especially on the Medium compound. We did struggle quite happy with the balance. We changed a lot from yesterday to today. So I think, yeah, we didn't read the conditions as perfectly as we could, but overall, I think it was a strong weekend. And we understand the reasons why today the race pace was a little bit down.

Q: You started the race today still pushing for the win. So you're going to do that again for next weekend next race out, yeah?

SP: That would be the target.

Q: Lando, what an awesome drive that was there. You got driver of the day. Well deserved.

Lando NORRIS: Thank You.

Q: How did it feel out there?

LN: Good! Yeah. Surprised, I’m very happy. Very happy for the whole team. They deserved it. Good pit stops. Just today worked out. I don’t know why. I really wasn’t expecting it to be the kind of race we had today but got comfortable, could manage the tyres a lot, which was an easier task that what I had yesterday. And I could just push. The car felt great and I felt comfortable. So, good day, good points and another podium, so I’m very happy.

Q: The race pace was looking, I mean, strong at times. You were even quicker than the second Red Bull of Sergio. Are you surprised by that? It’s really cool to see.

LN: I was surprised by many things. The lack of pace from Ferrari today. Our good pace and, I guess, us comparing to the Red Bull, which was so surprising. I just wasn’t expecting today at all. I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium. So it’s a pleasant surprise but it shows the team have done a good job. We’re working hard and it’s paying off.

Q: Pre-race you were thinking the Ferraris were going to be all over your mirrors but that didn’t materialise?

LN: I made a bet how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds and I was very wrong with that. So yeah, happy to be wrong with myself, my own bets, but a good day for everyone.

Q: Thank you very much. We hope you can challenge those Red Bulls very, very soon. Max, congratulations again. What an unbelievable drive. How did it feel out there?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it felt amazing. I mean, all weekend, I think we were incredibly quick. And yeah, it was just enjoyable to drive, every single compound as well. The restarts I think we all survived that well, and you had a car was basically on rails. And yeah, I could do whatever I wanted to with it. And those kind of weekends are of course amazing to feel and of course then to achieve basically what we did this weekend is fantastic.

Q: You were worried there the end that you had run over some debris? Is that what happens, when you're so far out front that you start to hear things and you start to get worried that the car will not make it?

MV: I mean, you hear always noises a little bit. Of course, I've had it in the past that I've retired quite close to the end. And then, yeah, there was a bit of debris, I think from a car. So I passed it with 300 and when the tyres are getting cold and old, it's very easy to puncture them and I just wanted to double check.

Q: And the next race is Miami. Are you excited about that? You think you're going to be equally strong there?

MV: It should normally be a good race for us. It's normally a little bit more straightforward with the strategy, but it's always quite a difficult track, you know, so I'm excited. You know, it's always quite a crazy weekend there, so it's going to be quite a busy one.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, very well done. A dominant performance by you again following your win in the Sprint yesterday. Just sum up the feeling you get from a weekend like this?

MV: Yeah, obviously, it's a great feeling. Of course, you never know when you enter the weekend, how it's going to go fully. Sprint weekend, normally always a bit more chaotic. So you always want it to go really well. But then it did go really well. So then you are very pleased, but also the performance I think now in the main race, the car was, I think, an improvement compared to the Sprint race even. So it just made my life a bit easier as well. Yeah, it could be a little bit more consistent while driving.

Q: Was it a complicated race from inside the cockpit with all the Safety Car restart?

MV: No, not complicated it was just a bit… Just took a long time, I found, to get the first car cleared. And then I felt like we drove one more lap behind the Safety Car for nothing. So I was like, come on, speed up a bit. Then, of course, we had another Safety Car and for me it felt, again, that they took a long time to clear, because you want to race, right? And actually then I thought that because of the two Safety Cars it made it a little bit less fun, because you would have seen probably more different strategies between the cars. And now everyone was just driving more or less to the end, except I think Fernando was on a Soft, Yeah, made it I guess a little bit more straightforward. So that was a bit of a shame, I guess.

Q: Max, you say your car was an improvement from the Sprint. Were there any dramas at all for you in that race?

MV: I locked up in the second restart into Turn 6, I think, a little bit. So that was not ideal. Then a threw a tear-off away, which I think I could hear on the intake. It was flapping around hitting my helmet. So I don't know where it ended up. And with two laps ago, I think I drove over a little bit of debris before Turn 14. So that was a little bit scary, because with all the tyres it's easy to have a puncture at high speed when you drive over carbon. That was it I think.

Q: Of all the wins you've had this year, from everything you're saying, do you feel this was the most dominant?

MV: It was a good one, yeah. In terms of just also balance in the car, we did a good job as a team to make it even better than what it was at the start of the weekend.

Q: Any reason why it should be anything but the same in Miami in two weeks’ time?

MV: It’s a completely different track. You know, different tyres, different tarmac, so you never know. We need to be perfect. Need to try and be perfect. We need to always try and find the best set-up on the car, you know, to be able to show performances like we did today. So that's what we'll try to do but also on the other hand I don't want to think about it too much now. First of all to go home, and then we will prepare like we always do and hopefully that's good enough when we get there.

Q: Very well done Max, very impressive. Lando, let's come to you next. Many congratulations, your best result of the year so far. Was this the best the car has felt?

LN: No, probably not. I mean, big improvement today compared to yesterday. So I think that's why we were probably a bit surprised. I'm surprised to be sitting here today, but it's a nice surprise of course. Difficult to say, you know, we've been struggling a little bit. I'm sure everyone does, with certain things throughout the whole season, which have always been limiting us. It probably felt similar-ish to Australia, Australia, I felt comfortable and the car felt pretty good as well. So just much better today, things came alive today, the conditions cooled down, the wind calmed down and both of these things, I think, played into our hands a little bit more. So, you know, that's why yesterday, if you asked me, what do we expect for today, It definitely was nowhere near top three, or even maybe top five, you know. So a pleasant surprise. And yeah, the car felt much better. But obviously, not quick enough to match the Red Bulls.

1 / 5

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 21, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: You say pleasant surprise, Lando. Coming into the weekend, you weren't confident. What changed?

LN: Nothing. I don't know. What did change? We were just quicker than we thought. That's the limitations, the places we expected to struggle, probably a lot more, we didn't struggle as much in. So these longer corners, like Turn 1, have always been a big weakness for us. And part of Turn 1 was probably better than we're expecting. And like the second part was probably as we were expecting. So it's just we're still learning about the car. It's as simple as that. This track is very different. The tarmac is quite odd. Maybe that played into our hands a bit more than we were thinking, maybe with the old tarmac, we would have struggled a bit more. So just little things, you know. We're not making it up. We're giving our honest opinion on where we want to be. I think if we were to go into a weekend, and we knew we're going to be strong, we've said it. So more often than not, we don't feel that optimistic, because all year we’ve been behind Red Bull, all year we've been behind Ferrari, there's no reason for us to suddenly think we should be ahead. But yeah, nothing really pointed to us having an amazing race today, especially the Sprint race yesterday, which was our best kind of version of events of what can go down. But things just went to plan and kind of went very smoothly from that point onwards. You know, I didn't make a mistake in Turn 1 and go off. It's a good start. And got past the Aston and then you can just control the race. And that was very different to yesterday.

Q: Couple of moments I wanted to ask you about. First, what were you thinking in the middle of the race when the VSC came out just after you passed the pit lane entry?

LN: I knew it. Yeah, there was a few f-words and s-words and so on. I knew it because it was obvious it was going to be a VSC. But it just didn't come out. So I was saying to myself, like, ‘I bet it's going to come out as soon as I go around the last corner’, and it literally did. So even my engineer said it. I said it to him. Luckily, it stayed out a long time and then it obviously went to Safety Car. It was good, I think our strategy worked out well. I felt confident in the first stint, so I could go a very long time. If the VSC went out before I got around to the pit lane I would have been a lot more annoyed than I am right now. But yeah, things obviously went our way for sure. Because it made the Red Bulls have to stop again. And that obviously put me out ahead of Checo with the Ferrari in between us. And that probably saved me a little bit.

Q: Talk us through the battle with Checo in those last 17 laps. Were you surprised he didn't get closer?

LN: Hard to say. I think it's a track where when you're in control and you can manage things, it can really be in your favour. And I think that's where the race was so different for us yesterday, you know. I was behind the whole pack. You overheat your tyres, you just struggle. There’s not a lot you can do. And today I could control things on my own. I could break away from Charles very quickly. And then Charles was holding up Checo a lot. And Checo probably had to use a lot of his tyres to try and get past him. So yeah, it depends how you think of it. I probably maybe expected a bit more of a battle but then when I know how much he pushed in the beginning to pass the Ferrari, itt allowed me to be a bit more comfortable, which was a nice thing.

Q: Alright, very well done today. Thank you Lando. Checo can we start with that, those last 17 laps and the battle you had with the Ferrari. Did you think you could take the fight to Lando?

SP: At that point the gap was already quite big and given how good his pace was on first stint in terms of degradation I knew it was going to be close but once we basically had the same pace and once you go by the car ahead and you stop fighting for I don't know how many laps we ended up fighting between Charles and myself, then it's really game over. You use so much of your tyre. You put so much energy into them that they never really come back. It's quite a high deg place and I paid the price, you know, but that was the only way I could get by Charles, because we were obviously at the same age tyres and he was really difficult to get by Charles.

Q: It seemed that you were on the back foot throughout this Grand Prix, right from the start when Fernando Alonso got past?

SP: I obviously was on the inside of Max and had to break earlier. And Fernando was on the outside. My start wasn't that good. So yeah, that meant that I lost the place to Fernando. And again, I had to fight quite hard to get by him. Probably used a little bit too much my tyres. And that put me definitely on the back foot for the first stint. So yeah, it wasn’t a straightforward race. But I also felt like we went in the opposite way with the changes we made from the Sprint event into the race. I felt like we probably took a little bit of backwards step.

Q: Except you weren't that happy with the performance of the car in the Sprint either?

SP: Well, I think I was just basically fighting you know in the pack, you know. Once you are in the pack it's so hard to get a read from what the balance actually does. You know, when you have two, three cars ahead of you, you have a lot less load in your car, so it's really hard to know where your balance is at. It’s just a limitation that I had today. That probably is something we’ve got to review to see the directions we've taken, to see what we could have done better.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jérôme Bourret - L'Equipe) To all of you, may I ask who you your general opinion about the race returning in China? What about the track? What about the atmosphere? And what about the new Sprint format? Positive any negative? What is your general opinion?

MV: Yeah, I mean, this track has always been nice. You know, I've always enjoyed driving here. It's quite technical, deg involved also. It does make it a special Grand Prix, a fun Grand Prix. The fans are great, you know, big grandstand, so the atmosphere is great. So it's always very nice to be here. The Sprint format was better, I think. A bit more straightforward, I would say. But yeah, let's not overdo it as well, you know, because we are already doing 24 races a year, six of these Sprint events as well. I get it. I guess it sells better and better numbers on TV, but it's also more stress on the mechanics and everything, to get everything every time tiptop, so yeah, we take it, I mean you have to deal with it, but let's not think that now we need 12 of those because it will take its toll on people as well.

LN: Not a lot more to add. Probably a better layout than last year for sure. The track… it was my first time finishing a race here, so it feels good. But I agree with Max. To be honest, I'd always prefer the old, original race format. This is what I've grown up watching, it's what I've always liked the most. I do like just going in and having the pressure straightaway. So the fact of having one practice straight into qualifying I do like it. I think it gives people less chance to just get the car perfect and I think that's when you just start to see team, team, team, team rather than a mix. So I do think it works from that perspective. But the main point is just the toll it has on mechanics and engineers. I don't think it's too bad for us as drivers, honestly. I don't think we can be the ones to complain at all. It’s the hundreds of mechanics and engineers that we have here that have to travel so much. It's not healthy for them. It is not sustainable. So yeah, the problem is not with us. So, it's not something you should be asking us. It’s something that people should look out more for the rest of the team. And I think that's a limiting factor, not the fact of can we go in the car every day, because I think we can but not doing too much for them I think is the priority.

Q: What about the fans Lando? Were there many Lando Norris banners in the grandstand?

LN: There were a couple.

MV: Lots of a girls. Load of girls were really supporting Lando, you know. Lando! Lando!

LN: I’m not surprised. I didn't notice that to be honest with you, so you’ve got a good eye, Max. I was looking at the track! The fans are always good here. They're passionate. There's was a lot of them obviously. Like, the support Zhou gets here is beautiful to see at the same time. So yeah, hopefully after this year I've got a few more and it’s only my second time here, so again next year maybe even more.

SP: I think it's a good point from Lando and Max, you know, we really have to look after, with 24 races and the amount of stress, it puts, these Sprint events to our mechanics is quite large. And I think as a sport we really have to look after our people, our mechanics. Because yeah, we are definitely on the limit. I think that's a point to consider. I think the atmosphere has been great. It's been great to be back in China after so many years and see all the fans so excited and obviously with Zhou up there it was really nice to see the first Chinese driver on the grid. So yeah, the support he got was really nice to see.

Q: (Hengbo Fang – Cailian Press) I have a question for Max. This is your first time winning the Chinese Grand Prix? How's your feeling now? And were there any particular tense or exciting moments for you during today's race that you could share with us?

MV: Yeah, this was definitely one that I wanted to win. I've been on the podium here, but I haven’t won here before, so that was great, for sure. And yeah, I mean, I definitely just enjoyed the whole weekend. It's been really nice with a great car. Throughout the race, I mean, with the Safety Car and stuff, as always, things that you have to do well, the restarts and stuff. I guess they're tense moments. The actual start, of course, and after that, just a management race, looking after your tyes, trying to extend the gap. So yeah, busy enough, but also enjoyable.

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