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FIA post-race press conference - Las Vegas

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DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing), 2 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari), 3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Checo Pérez. That was an incredible battle, incredible race. You picked up some damage at the beginning of the Grand Prix but the Safety Car brought you back into it. Take us through your race and of course, that incredible battle with Charles Leclerc.

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, at the start it was really difficult, with a lot of damage initially. We broke the front wing, so we basically went all the way to the back of the grid. And then progressively we were picking [them off] one by one and things were going well. We had really strong pace in that first stint. So we put back ourselves in contention and then with the Safety Car that brought us into the race. I overtook Charles, but I couldn't pull away from him. I was just carrying a little bit too much wing on my in my car, so my straight-line speed was a little bit down, and I just couldn't pull away from him. And then Max came and he passed us both. With Charles he went straight and it was quite difficult out there with a gust of wind that we had a few times. I ended up locking few times. But luckily we kept it on track and then in the end with Charles, I wasn't expecting him. He was point seven but then at the braking zone he was he was there, so well done to him and to Max.

Q: A very exciting Grand Prix for us to watch in commentary. This is one for you to watch back. Are you giving this one a take, Las Vegas. It really delivered some good racing?

SP: Yeah, I think it did, because it was good for racing. It was not easy to basically pull away from the people behind and it's like a little bit like Baku, being the lead car makes life a little bit harder for you out there. So I think it did deliver.

Q: Thank you very much for that. Congratulations on your third place. And now our second place finisher. Charles, what we weekend, another fantastic pole position. Well, where do we start? At the start we saw a very close battle with yourself and Max. We know Max got the five second penalty for that. And then that amazing comeback right at the very end.

Charles LECLERC: I mean, what a race. Honestly, I enjoyed it so much. I'm of course disappointed to only finish second, but at the end, that was the best we could do. At the start it was very tricky because I think Max, on the inside, lost a bit the grip and brought me on the outside. But then we had the pace, we passed him back. And we were really strong overall. So that was a really good race. We got a bit unlucky with the Safety Car. We didn't pit because we didn't know what the others will do and we went for track position and keeping that first place, and that was difficult with the older tyres towards the end. But second place with a lot of fights, honestly, I enjoyed it.

Q: We didn't know coming into this first Grand Prix in Las Vegas just how good the racing would be. The answer is that the racing was absolutely brilliant. It was brilliant entertainment from beginning to end and to get that re-pass to get second place on the final lap. It was non-stop adrenaline.

CL: Yeah, again, I really enjoyed it. I think we needed it. Of course the weekend didn't start the way it had to start. But I'm so happy that it ended that way. It's such an incredible sport. And I think today is… I mean, there was no better race for a first race in Vegas. The energy around the city is incredible. And yeah, just really happy…. I mean, at least, I really enjoyed today.

Q: And finally, just a quick message for all the fans around the streets here – having a Ferrari on pole and then having a podium.

CL: Yeah, well, I'm sorry about the second place! I gave it all. But on the other hand, I'm sure that everybody had an amazing time looking at the race. I really, really enjoyed it. And we should have more races like that, where the racing is like that, because it was really enjoyable.

Q: Charles, congratulations on that second place. And finally, our winner, taking his 53rd victory he's dominating this season and his sixth straight victory in America. Max, what a season you're having, but you had to work very hard for that one?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it was. It was a tough one. I mean, I tried to go for it at the start but yeah, I think we both braked quite late and then I just ran out of grip and we ended up a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that. And then, of course, it put us a little bit on the backfoot. I had to pass quite a few cars and of course the Safety Car again. So, at that point, there was a lot going on in the race. And then once we had the to the end, we could go flat out. I had to pass a few cars to get into the battle with them. But then you could clearly see with the DRS around here it was very powerful. So even when you would take the lead, if the guy behind would stay in the DRS, he would still have an opportunity to come back at you, which I think created quite a lot of good racing here today. So it was definitely a lot of fun.

Q: The racing was exceptional. And it was close at times as well. We saw the contact there with George Russell, your front-wing endplate was damaged. Did that affect the balance of the car? Did they do an offset on your final pit stop to compensate for that?

MV: I think we were happy not to touch it because it looked already quite broken. Of course, the structure was fine, but it's never ideal. Let's say it like that. There was always a bit more understeer in the car. But luckily we could we could still win the race.

Q: Max, for us in the commentary box for the fans around the circuit, that was a really brilliant race. Definitely worth watching back on your 18th victory. There was so much action out there. So we can declare this a very successful circuit and Grand Prix.

MV: Yeah, it was a lot of fun there. Like I said, with the DRS as well, that helped a lot for very good racing here. Also, I think the low degradation with the tarmac you could really push on the tyres, which I think was good. So yeah, like I said, it was a lot of fun out there.

Q: And finally, Max, just quickly, a message to our American friends here in Las Vegas.

MV: A great crowd. I mean, I hope everyone enjoyed it a bit. We definitely did. So, yeah, already excited to come back here next year and hopefully we’ll try to do something similar.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, there was action from start to finish and given everything you had thrown at you today, how did you find a way to win?

MV: That's a very good question. By I just kept on going. I mean, yeah, it was a bit hectic, of course, in the beginning with five-second penalty and then when we stopped because of the deg – I mean, we're not very good on the Medium somehow – I got a bit into traffic, and I had to be patient, you know, going through the traffic ahead of me. And we were on a good track. Then, of course, I had my little get together with George. I think he didn't see me and then damaged my front wing. But luckily, the structure was still in place. So that was, of course, very important. And then, of course, the Safety Car came. So, we pitted again for the second set of Hard tyres. And then it was very fun. I mean, I had a McLaren and an Alpine in between, you know, Checo and Charles but once I cleared them I could join the fight and it was basically flat out to the end. And that was really cool.

Q: Can we just go through it in chronological order, starting with the start and what happened at Turn 1. What was your take on what happened there? And what was your reaction to the five-second penalty?

MV: Well, I mean, the start was good. But then, we braked quite late to defend the position but I was a bit on the inside, on the dirt, I guess. As soon as you’re a bit off-line here, it’s super low grip. And that's what happened. I braked and there was no grip. I didn't mean to push Charles off the track, but I couldn't slow it down and I just kept sliding on four wheels, wide. So that's why we had to go wide. You know, at the time, you’re also full of adrenaline and I was not happy with the decision. But, you know, looking back at it, it was probably the right call. And yeah, after that, with that five seconds it was definitely a bit harder to come back to the front.

Q: You've already said that the car wasn't so good on the Medium tyre. Why was that?

MV: Yeah, I didn't know at the moment. We have to analyse why that was. Because in the long runs on Thursday, they were fine.

Q: While we're talking five second penalties, there was the collision with George, as you say. Do you think he deserved a five-second penalty for that?

MV: That's always a tricky one. I mean, he didn't do that on purpose. I think he just didn't expect me to pass him into that corner. Because that's how it felt like, I put it on the inside and he just turned in like there was no one there, right. So I guess he just didn't see me.

Q: You've already said that you enjoyed that final stint. But tell us a little bit about the circuit? Why do you think it provided such good racing today?

MV: I think low deg on the Hard tyre. A lot of slipstreaming, of course, with the long straights. And probably a bit of a headwind maybe on the straight as well. So yeah, I think, you know, the low-speed corners, I think when you're following you don't really lose that much time, because they are that slow, the corners. And then there's a lot of draught around the track, you know, after Turn 4 to 5, from Turn 9 to 12 and then, yeah, of course, all the way from 12 to 14 and then from 16 to Turn 1 is again, a draft-fest. So that made the racing much better.

Q: Would you say it was the best race of the year for racing?

MV: I have to think about all the other races. It's a bit difficult to comment – but it was a fun race. I enjoyed it.

Q: Final one from me. A few words about the man on your left who has sealed P2 in the Drivers’ Championship today.

MV: Yeah, that's always been the target as a team, so I think yeah, we're very happy about that. Even on the last lap, I tried to give Checo a bit more of a tow but unfortunately the top speed was not enough to keep Charles behind, which of course was unfortunate because I think it would have been, of course, even better to have the one-two here, because I think it was a very fun race and, you know, the three of us, we all led, so it was a good race.

Q: So, Charles, coming to you. What are emotions right now? Is it elation after that move on Checo on the final lap? Or is it frustration after being so close to the win?

CL: Oh, mixed emotions. On one hand, I'm extremely happy with today's performance. I think we didn't leave anything on the table and yeah, until the very last lap, the last corner of the last lap, I gave it all and managed to get that second place. On the other hand, obviously disappointed because I really believe that without the Safety Car, the win was ours, because we had on a really good first stint on the Medium and we had five laps newer Hard than Max. I had a good four, five laps in order to bring them into temperature and we had done a really good job on that. So, I was really confident that the win was ours. Then there was unfortunately the Safety Car. Max and Checo stopped and I stayed on my five laps Used Hard, which is not too much, five laps. But the problem is that then when you cool them down during the Safety Car, to restart a used tyre is incredibly difficult with those temperatures. And there we lost the race. But on the other hand, as Max said, I think the last part of the race was extremely fun. And that gave me a lot of adrenaline inside the car, and I really enjoyed it.

Q: Were you tempted to pit for new Hards in that second Safety Car period?

CL: I mean, it's always easy to say I had only done five laps. On the other hand, I didn’t know what Max and Checo will do behind me. And if they wouldn't have stopped, then being behind two Red Bulls will have been difficult to pass them. So yeah. Now, I will have stopped but now I know what they have done, so it's too easy to say now.

Q: Max has just given us his thoughts about Turn One, just after the start. Can we get yours?

CL: Yeah, well, I think Max already came to me and explained me the situation. Obviously, it was on the limit, over the limits and I think the five seconds penalty is deserved. It was tight. I still try to push off the track, but it was so low grip, to try and keep that position. But it's the way it is. He has been penalised. He paid a penalty. And I think that was the right penalty to give. So, it's like this, I just think that in those kinds of situations, it will be better for the FIA to ask to give the place back. Because I think there's quite a bit of an advantage to take care of tyres when you have free air. But yeah, it’s the way it is.

Q: Max, how would you have reacted if the FIA had asked you to give the place back rather than giving you a five second penalty? Would you have accepted that? Or would you do you think five seconds was a better penalty?

MV: I think we opted to just stay ahead at that point. So, then you take the five second penalty. Yeah, I don't know what's better at the end. I mean, I paid the penalty, right? So doesn't matter, in a way, you know? Like, if you come if you go back behind, you probably also end up losing, whatever, five seconds. So, it's pretty similar, I guess, at the end.

Q: Charles, just coming back to you quickly, tyre deg hasn't always been a strength of Ferrari. So how encouraged are you by the way you looked after your tyres today?

CL: I'm happy. However, I think this says a lot about our car and we are in conditions that are like nowhere else. It's very, very cold and I think overheating here is not that much of an issue. But it was more graining and trying to keep those tyres in temperatures and on that we are pretty good. But whenever it's warmer, we struggle more. So, it doesn't give me any more confidence for the future because Abu Dhabi is going to be very different compared to here. On the other hand, it's always nice to have a great weekend. And I think we've learned a lot as well for the future. So yeah, it's a good weekend overall.

Q: You said yesterday, how much do you enjoyed this racetrack on light fuel? How much did you enjoy it in racing conditions?

CL: I loved the racing. I did not expect to have that much fun in the race because in FP2 I was following, I think, George and I really struggled to overtake him. Then we went down on the downforce and today was much better. I had a lot more fun. So yeah, it was a really exciting race. And I'm pretty sure it was a really good one to watch. So, I'll make sure I watch that race back.

Q: Checo, coming to you now. Very well done to you as well. Your ninth podium of the year, this one sealing P2 in the Drivers’ Championship. Given your dramas on Lap One, how pleased are you with how it turned out?

SP: Well, it's a bit of mixed feelings, you know, because if you just look at the full picture, I think it's quite tough. Yeah, looking fully back on my race, you know, with so much damage in Lap One, basically, front wing damage. Everyone stopped on the outside, there was no grip on that initial lap. And unfortunately, the first target for me was just not to get any damage, because I knew how low grip conditions was going to be. And I ended-up having that damage, unfortunately. And for me, at that point on, it was all about recovering, trying to get Lewis first because he was the target to seal second in the Championship today. But the pace on that Hard was tremendous and that really brought me back on the race. I was just overtaking cars every lap and we were really, really strong. And it really brought us back into the race. And once the Safety Car came out, that really put us in contention for the victory. And yeah, in the initial laps, went through Charles, relatively easy but then I just couldn't pull away from him. And unfortunately, I think we were just cutting a little bit too much rear wing on my car, and my top speed was quite a bit down. My clipping as well. So once I was on the lead, I just couldn't pull away from Charles. And then we had Max also in the picture. So overall, I think it was a nice comeback. It was really not nice to lose a place to Charles there in the end. He got me back from Turkey 2020. Yeah, it's what it is.

Q: Checo, it seemed like you were driving with a lot of confidence today. Were you happy with the car?

SP: Yeah, I've been saying for the last four or five events, I think we've managed to progress a lot. And we've had a lot of pace. But for some reason we haven't been able to put in a whole weekend. Yesterday in Qualifying, I think we couldn't really show our pace but I think we are definitely heading in the right direction. We made a lot of progress. And still a lot of things that we are tightening-up and there is some more room to keep improving.

Q: And Checo, what does this P2 in the Drivers’ Championship mean to you?

SP: Well, I think it just makes me look back at the whole season. You know, it's been really challenging year. It started really well, fighting for the Championship. But then, I think in Barcelona, we had such a dominant car, but I just couldn't set it up properly. It was just getting out of my hands, the confidence was going down. So just to manage to come back and really put together a strong result and later in the year, I think to be able to constantly be fighting at the top. I think that really is the highlight of my year.

1 / 5

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 18: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Second placed Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari and Third placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Two questions, one to Max, one to Charles on a similar thing, please. Max, you talked about your struggles on the Mediums. I wondered, how was the car on the Hards? It looked like you had good pace, even with that wing damage. And Charles were you able to re-start the Hard tyre because it looked like you had, again, good pace to fight both Red Bulls?

MV: Yeah, I think the Hard tyre was just a bit more robust against the graining, because that was my problem on the Medium. The tyre just started to open up and then you lose a lot of grip. So that's what happened. And then on the Hard tyre I didn't really have that problem for a long time. So that was definitely helping me.

CL: I think we did the best job we could have re-starting the Hard, but I really believe that we lost quite a bit of performance with this cool down and then go again, and especially because Checo was pushing quite a bit with new tyres, which were up to temperatures after the Safety Car, and I had to put the temperatures back into the tyre after that. And I slid quite a bit on those tyres, and that's not great. So yeah, we lost quite a bit and I think there was more performance on this tyre if there was no Safety Car.

Q: (Phil Duncan – AP) Max, you've obviously been quite critical about this event in the build up - 99% show, 1% sport - comparing it to the National League but now you've won probably one of the best races of the year if not the best. You were singing Viva Las Vegas in the cockpit on the way back to the pits. Do you stand by those comments earlier in the week or has Vegas won you over?

MV: Well, I always expected it to be a good race today. It was just - like I said before – four long straights, low speed corners, you don't lose a lot of downforce. So that has never been my issue. But yeah, today was fun. That's the only thing I want to say about it; I think today was fun. I hope everyone enjoyed it. I think the DRS effect was strong but good. I mean it made for fun racing out there. Christian put me on the spot so I cannot leave them hanging so I have to sing. But I definitely need some lessons, so I need to go to Jerry and book an appointment I guess.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Two questions: Max, you had a massive oil slick ahead of you from the car before. How did you manage dodging that? Max and Charles: you had an incident with each other, you raced each other hard but you often come out debriefing and talking even more. Is that a testimony to the bond over the years of racing you've done with each other?

MV: Yeah, the oil spill was not ideal. It was from the classic cars, from the drivers’ parade so that's maybe something that we have to look into because that's a bit of a shame that that happens. So I had to steer a bit left of it at the start. And yeah, after that of course we had that little moment. I explained to Charles what happened and also with the debriefing, I think that's something we do naturally. We did that already back in the day in go-karting and stuff. It's nice, especially when you have a fun race together, everyone, and you had some battles. There's always something to talk about.

CL: Yeah, exactly. However, I think the debriefs we had back in the day were a bit more tense.

MV: It was just an incident.

CL: But now we are a bit calmer and obviously we grew up together. I know Max very, very well as a driver. And yeah, I knew that he would go for it and also in the moment, Max has won the Drivers championship, they won the Constructors’ championship and he also knows that he's going to go for it and give it all in lap one, turn one and I knew that. Yeah, I gave a bit of margin because I had more to lose and especially with the Constructors’ championship fight we have with Mercedes. But it was fun and then we spoke about it, he explained to me the situation and it's like this, it's fine.

Q: (Tim Hauranay – TSN) Charles, can you just take us through the final pass on Sergio towards the end of the race there? It's a very big braking event that you have to go through to get that pass done. When you sent it, were you pretty confident that it was going to stick?

CL: Yeah, once I went for it I was pretty confident it would work out. It was basically the only opportunity I had. It's the only place where you can really go for an overtake. And I also had in mind that Checo had done a small mistake four or five laps before so I knew he was being cautious a little bit on braking. And in the second to last lap, I started to recharge the batteries in order to get ready for that last lap and it worked out. So it was obviously very, very tight but I was really happy and I really enjoyed the fight.

Q( Luke Smith – The Athletic) For all three of you: you obviously delivered a really exciting race at the end of a week when there's been so much hype going into it. But what would you like to see changed for next year's Las Vegas Grand Prix? Would an earlier start time help things like tyre temperatures and just the toll it’s taken on everyone this weekend? What would you like to see differently next year?

CL: I think mostly that's the fact that we have been driving so late. I can see the point, obviously with the audience in Europe. I don't know if that's even the point or why we have been racing so late, but I felt like it was a bit on the limit. And also for the temperatures, it was very, very tricky so this is definitely one thing I would like to change for next year. On the other hand, as I've said, since the beginning of the weekend I’ve really enjoyed it. And I am especially happy to see that we finished this weekend on a high note because it was hurting me to see the sport that I love so much starting from the wrong foot on Thursday. But the fact that we had an amazing race, I think, makes it all up and I'm happy with that. So yeah, not much more to change apart from the timing.

MV: Yeah, maybe the timing for sure. But I think the other thing, for sure, for next year, maybe that is not possible but to maybe make it a bit better travelling also to Abu Dhabi, because at the moment it's such a big time shift that, especially at the end of the season when everyone is already a bit tired, I think it's a little bit much. So maybe it would be ideal to find a different kind of date because I find that maybe we need to do more of an American tour. I know, of course, maybe for ticket sales, I don't know if that's ideal. So maybe we can find a bit of a solution there. I think the 12 hour time zone shifts and also completely different timings for racing also is… I find that a bit much.

SP: For me, I think it was a great first event but I would change, like Max says, the… just to think about that we have to go now to Abu Dhabi, probably the longest distance that we have to travel in the whole year. So yeah, probably look at it and probably make Vegas the final race. That will be also very nice for me; I'm only two hours away from Guadalajara so that would be a nice end.

Q: (Rebecca Clancy - The Times) Max, and if either of the others would like to join in, please do. You mentioned about going to Abu Dhabi. It's obviously quite brutal for all of us heading there. What are your plans? How do you plan to get on Abu Dhabi time versus whatever we're currently on at the moment?

MV: Yeah, good question. I'll try to sleep on the flight.

SP: That would be a good preparation.

MV: Leaving tomorrow, well, today. And then just try to follow the schedule. I will be completely lost in the time zone because we have been living on Japanese time zone almost. I don't know, try to play a bit of sports, just try to keep yourself busy and just try to ease into it.

Q: (Peter Habicht - GrandPrix.com) Charles and for the other drivers as well. Charles, growing up in Monaco, you saw first-hand what it would take to put together a street race year after year. Do you have any thoughts towards what you've seen growing up and what you've seen here? Do you have any thoughts for the city, the organisers, all the people it takes to put on an event like this?

CL: I know how much time it takes and even more so here, because we've got, obviously, the whole pit building that is now built so it will stay there. But in Monaco, I can definitely see since I'm very young, the whole organisation to get to the race day and for it to be everything ready and how much effort is put into. But we have that since such a long time in Monaco that I feel like everybody got used to this preparation and also kind of enjoy now the moment and obviously the event as a whole. It's obviously very new for Vegas and for the people in Vegas so I can understand that it's difficult to accept at first, but I really hope that they saw the benefits of having so many people coming to the event. And now I think also that the biggest part of building the new building is done and also it will only get better from now onwards, because people will get up to speed to understand what has to be done and for saving a bit of time. So yeah, it's been a great first event and I can't wait to be back here next year.

Q: (Jordan Bianchi - The Athletic) Anything about the track that kind of surprised you or that you thought was going to be one thing that ended up being something different?

SP: The low grip, I think that was something that really caught us out, how the asphalt, basically, how low it was, how we started with it but really how we finished it was really, I think, on the low side. And it's always going to be like that because we didn't have any support events. So maybe it's something that also can be improved, to have more categories in the weekend.

MV: Yep, like Checo said

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, how important was it to go to that lower downforce rear wing to beat Charles? The Ferraris have got rather a special low downforce package. And also, how much did you have to adjust to it? You mentioned in qualifying it took a little bit of getting used to.

MV: Yeah, it was a bit of give and take, I think. I tried it, of course, already on the simulator and it was very similar in lap time. You just achieve it in a different way but yeah, we don't really have a fantastic low downforce wing. It's a bit of a compromise. It's not, let's say, the most efficient way of driving it but that's just for cost saving. We don't really use that wing that often. And yeah, I went for it into qualifying, I thought it was okay. But of course also today, yeah, for sure, it's quick on the straight but it was also then a little bit more loose in the corners, so I had to just try and manage that.

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