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FIA post-race press conference - Qatar

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Podium Qatar Sunday 2023.jpg

DRIVERS

1 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull), 2 – Oscar PIASTRI (McLaren), 3 – Lando NORRIS (McLaren)

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Lando, you’ve just poured the water over your head. That was a tough race physically, but a great result for the team. Second and third. Put us in the cockpit.

Lando NORRIS: Yeah. Just a mega race from start to finish. A good opening lap, I learned from my mistake yesterday of going wide. I told you I’d go tight, and I did and it worked out. So, good start, good pace throughout the whole thing. Probably the best pace out there today, so I’m happy. Stressful, hot sweaty, little bit tired but a great job for the team. Three in a row now. 1.8s pit-stop as well by the boys.

Q: That was very, very impressive indeed. The physicality of this race track, and it was also very busy out there as well with the different pit-stops, the limit of the 18 laps. You had to make some passes as well on track to make it stick.

LN: yeah, I think the three-stop made it a lot harder, just physically. You could push a lot more. Even the last stint, you could pretty much push flat-out. One of the hardest races I’ve done, in a way, but it’s a nice challenge and congrats to Oscar. No mistakes. And, of course, Max once again.

Q: You’re standing, your other buddies are both sitting down on the job. I think highlighting just how tough this race was.

LN: They need it, I guess.

Q: To our Sprint race winner yesterday, Oscar, catching your breathe. I believe you’ve been given Driver of the Day as well, so it’s been a really good weekend for you.

Oscar PIASTRI: I thought you were going to say I got given a five-second penalty again for track limits! Scared the crap out of me! No, very, very happy obviously. Turn one was nice. That was definitely in the game-plan before the race. But yeah, really impressive pace, definitely the hardest race I’ve had in my life. I would say that Lando was just standing because it’s compulsory – but he’s still going.

Q: He’s still standing – but you are a rookie. Just explain to our fans around the world what it feels like. We heard Fernando Alonso, one of the most experienced drivers, talking about the heat in the cockpit – and he was asking ‘pour water over me at the stop’.

OP: Yeah. It was hot. I think also, like Lando said, with the three stops, it was basically flat-out. It was 57 qualifying laps which I definitely feel I have done. Really good race, happy that all the tyres stayed together. It was good, obviously.

Q: For the first time as a three-time World Champion, Max Verstappen, it’s been a great weekend for you in Qatar. We didn't see a lot of you this afternoon. You were controlling the race pace, you obviously slowed it down just in the end there, the McLarens were only a few seconds behind you. A very well executed victory.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, I think what made the race was my first stint. After that I could just manage my pace, making sure that the tyres were always in a good window – but the McLarens were quick again today. I had to push for it. It was definitely a tough race out there.

Q: We just heard from Oscar. He’s young in his grand prix career. He said it’s the toughest race he’s ever done. Where does this rank for you?

MV: One of. Yeah. Top five probably.

Q: It’s been a very strong weekend for you. This is a great way for you now to be able to properly celebrate your third world title. There’s no race tomorrow, so you can go for it.

MV: Yeah, I’m already sweating quite a bit, so I wonder what happened last night – but we’ll enjoy a little bit but y’know there’s still quite a few races out there that we want to win.

Q: We heard from Oscar saying there, with three mandatory pitstops, it meant it was like qualifying laps. Is that something we should be actually be looking at going forward? Was that fun to be in that situation?

MV: I prefer weekends where we push just as long as we can on a tyre and not force pit-stops. We design cars to be good on tyres. Today, we couldn’t optimise that fully, because that’s normally our strong point – but we’ll see what we can improve in the future.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Max, your first victory as a triple world champion, very well done. This seemed to be a pretty untroubled run to the flag. How was it in the cockpit?

MV: Yeah, I think it was, overall a good race. I think what really made my race was that first stint, where I think we were quite strong and good on the tyres. After that, because we had a bit of a tyre offset, compared to the McLaren, I could drive a bit longer on most of the sets, which maybe in some places, then cost me a bit on the out-lap and stuff. So then sometimes the gap looked a bit closer than it should have been. Then on the Hard tyre, I lost quite a bit of time, I think, in the last two, three laps, because I had to get through some traffic. And then I had to slow stop as well to the end. So, then they were very close behind me. But yeah, overall, of course, they have been really quick all weekend. So, I think especially with the fuel coming out, it looked like they were again picking up more and more pace, compared to me. Plus, of course, that three stop that was mandatory, I think was not ideal for us, personally. Because our car is good on tyres. So, when you need to do longer stints because that's the fastest way around here, it would have probably been a bit better. But yeah, it was same for everyone at the end that we had to do those stops. We had to deal with that. And yeah, made it also probably bit harder to drive. We had to push quite hard out there. And yeah, as you could see, after the race, a lot of people are quite tired, I think.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about the rules of engagement today because of the 18-laps limit on the tyres. How different did it make it from a strategic point of view, and more physically as well?

MV: Yeah. So, pushing-wise for sure you could push a little bit more on the tyres, because you were just limited to those laps. And yeah, besides that, it’s of course, a bit of a shame that we had to do that. But yeah, luckily, I think nothing really happened. And I think that was, of course, the most important.

Q: What about the track surface here in Lusail? It's new this year, did it grip up as the race went on?

MV: I think it did grip up a little bit. Probably if we come back next year it will be again a bit better but it depends on how much it will be driven. I think it's important that other kinds of categories come back, or come here and race a little bit more, because you have to take, a bit, that oil out of the tarmac when it's new, and also a bit more like a wider grip line. At the moment, I think it's still too much like one line. But it seemed to really ramp up. I think next time that we get into a situation like this, I don't think F1 should be, like, the first one to drive because it looks a bit silly. And, like, FP1 with cars, you know, sliding around having no grip, I think is important when we go to a track where they’ve put new tarmac, that at least it’s run in a little, y’know? That will then help a lot. Also, for understanding the tyres, for example, what we had now. That's why we had these forced, of course, limited laps. So yeah, a few things I think to learn out of this this weekend as a whole.

Q: And Max, you said after the Sprint yesterday that you feel the chasing pack is getting closer. Was today evidence of that?

MV: Yeah, I do think so. I mean, I mentioned before why I think it was that close. But for sure, yeah, I mean, McLaren is making great steps forward, throughout the whole year. And from our side, yeah, for sure, we’ll try to improve maybe a little bit this year, but of course mainly for next year.

Q: Oscar, let's come to you next, your best result in a Grand Prix following your win in yesterday's Sprint. Can you start by just summing up this whole weekend?

OP: Yeah, it's been pretty exceptional, to be honest. I think Friday was difficult. You know, obviously a bit disappointed after Qualifying on Friday, but yesterday went as close to perfect as it could have. And today, I think second was probably the most we could have done. So, yeah, very, very happy. Exciting weekend, a lot of progress made. And yeah, I think you know, just very proud of that. As a team and also for myself personally, that we've managed to get the most out of what our car's been capable of.

Q: And what was the key for you to get from sixth on the grid to second today?

OP: Hit the brakes at the right time, and watch everyone else go off! Yeah, honestly, it was as simple as that. I don't really know what happened. Obviously, saw some cars spinning and whatever else but, yeah, the heavens kind of just parted way for me and through to second I went.

Q: You spoke after Japan of lacking some pace in the race. Were you happier with how things were today?

OP: A little bit. I think still some improvements to make. I think this race was very different to Japan, obviously with three stops, I think we were basically pushing flat out for the whole race. So, it's a very different kind of race. But, I think, still some work to go.

Q: So a different kind of race means that perhaps you didn't learn as much as you could have done in terms of tyre strategy and looking after tyre deg?

OP: I mean, it was just a different kind of tyre deg. I think it was much more front limited this weekend. I think the front left and trying to protect that was by far the biggest thing. So yeah, just a different learning experience, I guess. But still good to have it in the bank.

Q: Now Oscar, they were team orders at the end. Were you surprised to get them and were you managing your pace thereafter?

OP: I was a little bit surprised to be honest. I would have accepted it either way. But obviously there was a lot of concerns about tires and track limits and stuff. So yeah, I think getting second and third for the team was the most important thing.

Q: You've said it was an incredibly hard race physically. Can you just describe what it was like in the cockpit?

OP: Just extremely hot. You know, even from the beginning, even before I put my helmet on, before the start of the race, I was sweating. And it definitely didn't get any better once I was driving. So yeah, just very hot. And I think it was a combination of a lot of things, the humidity as well, having three stops meant we're pushing flat out. And just the nature of the track, you know, there are a lot of high speed corners, that just sort of naturally take their toll. Yeah, definitely the hardest race I've done.

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LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - OCTOBER 08: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Lusail International Circuit on October 08, 2023 in Lusail City, Qatar. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: Very well done to you. Great weekend. Lando, if we can come to you now. Tremendous drive from P10 on the grid. Very well done to you. What were your expectations coming into the race, first of all?

LN: I think we knew we had great pace. So it was a bit tough to know – just what you had to do with the pit stops and things. I think it was really hard for anyone to really know how it was all going to play out. But we knew we had great pace, maybe not initially to fight for a win, but to get up to the front at least. And initially, I would say, to fight the Mercedes, but they did a lovely job of making our life a lot easier. So I didn't really need to think of that and could just focus on catching the guys that we were definitely quicker than, which was the Ferrari and the Astons. And yeah, by the time we came through Turn 1, I felt like we could at least fight for the podium straightaway. So from lap one a podium was on the cards and that was my target. But the pace turned out to be probably better than I was expecting, you know, for us to be, at points in the race, probably a bit quicker than Max. Maybe at some points a bit slower. But I think on the whole first to finish P3 was as good as it could have been today. So I'm happy for the whole team, for Oscar, for everyone at McLaren, for us to have two cars on the podium again, for a third time, is fantastic.

Q: We haven't heard you say ‘quicker than Max’, really, at any point this year. Do you feel that you've been closer to him at this race than anywhere else we've been so far?

LN: Yes. Yeah, probably. I don't know how much quicker Max could have gone in qualifying. But I guess if I want to be honest with myself, I should have fought for two pole positions this weekend. And potentially two victories. I know it's a big thing to say, but I think if things went well, if I just did a better job and didn't make the mistakes I did over the last two days, which is why I've been so frustrated, because I knew what was on the cards, what we were able to potentially achieve. And that was victories, both yesterday and today. So I feel like it was a weekend of missed opportunities for myself to take the fight to Max and at least give ourselves that opportunity. Yeah, so I don't know. There’s good things and bad things. I feel like I've missed out and didn't do what I should have done and achieve what I should have achieved but I'm definitely still happy with a P3. I can't take anything away from that. But in the back of my head, I know I should have done more this weekend.

Q: And in your head, do you think it could have been a P2 had you not had the team orders?

LN: I'm not sure. Whenever I got a bit closer towards Oscar, the dirty air was quite a big struggle. Like, even with the backmarkers, as soon as you got within three seconds or something, you immediately lost time. Around a circuit where it's so much about load and these long corners, as soon as you have a bit of dirty air, it's a big struggle. So I think my pace was definitely a bit better. But it's hard to know. And I mean, Oscar has done a very good job this weekend. He's beaten me. He's been extremely quick and he’s made less mistakes, and he's come out on top. So hats off to him too.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question to the two McLaren drivers, please. Lando has just said that he thinks he could have fought for a victory today. Did the mandated stint length and the tyre rules make that more likely or less likely?

LN: Hmm, you should ask Max! Tough to say. I think the Red Bull is normally that step better in the race with degradation. I don't even feel like our degradation was bad today. I feel like we could push, even towards the end of stints I didn’t feel like we were suddenly struggling a lot. Maybe if it was a two-stopper and we had to eke out the tyres that bit more, that's where we would have seen the Red Bull just be more consistent. And like in Japan, that's where he was always a bit better was just that second part of the stint, just keeping the consistency and we would drop off a bit. So maybe we didn't see that today. Nevertheless, for the race today, it was very good. So, it shows that when we can keep the tyres in a good condition we’re closer and we're getting closer to what we need. But we still know at certain tracks… Like, the last few weekends, we’ve not changed anything on the car. This weekend's been a lot better, but it's the same car as the last few weeks. So we still know we have a lot to do in the background.

OP: Yeah, I think it probably helped us rather than hindered. I think it ended up in a race where we could push flat out the whole time or very close to, which I don't think I've been able to say in an F1 race before. So, I think it probably helped us a bit. Like Lando said, I think the Red Bull normally is a step ahead in terms of tyre degradation maybe we didn't see that as much today with the rules. But I think also our car pace this weekend has been very strong. So I think that's also been another factor.

Q: (Erwin Jaeggi – Motorsport.com) Logan retired because he was not feeling well. I think more drivers struggle towards the end of the race. Do you think F1 is pushing the limits with this race, in these conditions, with these cars, or maybe even going over the limit?

LN: I think today we probably found the limit. I think it's sad we had to find it this way. It's never a nice situation to be in, you know, some people ending up in the medical centre or passing out, things like that. So, pretty dangerous thing to have going on. But it's not a point where you can just go, the drivers need to train more or do any of that, you know. We're in a closed car that gets extremely hot in a very physical race. And it's frustrating. I guess on TV, it probably doesn't look very physical at all, but clearly, when you have people who end up retiring or in such a bad state, it's too much, you know, for the speeds we're doing. It is too dangerous. I know that this race next year is later on in the season, and it will be a lot cooler a few months later, but it's something that needs to be thought of and I'm sure we'll speak about it because it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

MV: Yeah, when I saw the weather before coming here, I was not looking forward to it. It's just too warm, and like Lando said it has nothing to do with more training or whatever. I think some of the guys who were struggling today are extremely fit, probably even fitter than me, but just the whole day it's like you’re walking around in a sauna and, yeah, also then in the night the humidity goes up. The races are quite long. But it's not the only place. There are a few places like that. I think Singapore is almost like a two-hour race. And it's very, very warm. I think it's also quite on the limit of what is what should be allowed. So there are a few things to look at. But this was definitely way too hot.

Q: Was this worse than Singapore?

MV: To drive? Yeah, the feeling in the car was definitely very, very warm. So yeah, I don't think that was good.

OP: Yeah, I'm very glad that we're coming back later next year. I think today is also probably been hotter and more humid than the last couple of days. So that's not helped things. I think Thursday was like four or five degrees hotter than it was today. So in that sense, we're almost a little bit lucky, it wasn't worse. But yeah, definitely the toughest race I've done. And yeah, obviously we need some discussions, I think about a lot of things from this weekend. But, yeah, obviously, it's not a good situation to be in.

Q: (Gerard Bos – Formula 1 Magazine) As a follow up on this, Oscar you said this was the toughest one but for Max and Lando, what was your toughest race in these circumstances? Because Max, you said this is certainly top five, so I was wondering what was the most challenging one?

MV: I think where I felt quite bad was last year in Miami. Yeah, I was completely… Yeah, I don't know why that was… I just felt extremely destroyed. But yeah, today was tough for sure. It also depends a bit where you are on track, how much you have to push to the end of the race, a lot of circumstances. But like I said before, these kind of temperatures are just too extreme, I think.

LN: I crashed out of Miami so I can't use that one. I would say it's probably been the worst one. Maybe it's there and Singapore, definitely just the two worst ones. Singapore is a bit different, just because you need like more concentration and the race last year when it was wet, drying out like the humidity was insane. You needed even more concentration, this is just a different task because you have a lot more high speed corners. Physically, your body's probably taking a bigger hit but you don't have the walls and things like that. So it's a bit of a different challenge. Probably for the first time ever, I've drunk from my bottle during the race. I actually wanted my engineer to remind me to drink; normally I never even use the drinks bottle. Today was probably the first time I actually wanted it and I had it.

Q: (Michael Hill – F1 Fan TV/Lusail Circuit) To the McLaren drivers: with double podiums coming in the last two Grand Prix, closing the gap in the points quite considerably now to Aston Martin and Ferrari, is now P3 in the championship a reality for you guys? And for Max, obviously with mistakes quite recently in races for both Mercedes drivers and obviously technical issues with Ferrari, are the two guys on either side of you now your toughest competition for the final races of the season?

LN: I don't know how far we are by behind P3?

Q: Seventy-nine points.

OP: That’s a lot.

LN: It’s doable. I think so. A couple of races ago it was, 70-something to Aston. I don't know what it is now? Seventeen? I mean, Fernando said we were overconfident as well! I think we're just doing a good job, not just in terms of pace but today we had a 1.8 second pit stop which is pretty impressive from the guys. They've been working extremely hard so to reward the whole team consistently is only more motivating and a bigger boost every weekend. They like the taste of success. It's the first time they're getting it consistently and I think that only makes them want it more and more and more every weekend that we're doing so the guys are doing a great job. I think we’re both doing a decent job too, so we'll keep it up. We know that Mercedes are very quick, probably as almost as quick as us today, just they keep making mistakes. So I'm sure if they have a clean weekend they will maybe make our life a bit more tricky and therefore I'm not as confident in saying it. But like I was comparing to Ferrari, it was only three weekends ago that Ferrari were close to… were on pole and almost winning races and nothing has really changed, it's just a different track. We're looking better, they’re looking a bit worse. I think we're definitely not overconfident. We're confident, I think we need to be, but we know there's still going to be some races where we're not going to be quite as strong.

OP: Yeah, I think Suzuka and here have probably been tracks we've been looking at for quite a while in terms of what's going to favour us. I think there's going to be some races that are going to be more difficult than here and probably will suit other teams a bit better. I think 79 points in what, five races and a couple of Sprints? It's a big challenge but yeah, we'll give it a go. I think obviously the gap to Aston now is very achievable. But yeah, hopefully we can do it.

Q: And Max, do you see these guys as your closest rival?

MV: I do think that as a team they are probably the most consistent, compared to the others behind us. And I do think they have the best driver line-up out of all of them. So yeah, they are operating really well. And, yeah, it's going to be interesting to the end of the year, but also I think the start of next year to see where everyone is at.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Couple of questions to you, Max, please. Oscar said that the mandated stint length and the three stops meant it felt like 57 laps of qualifying, pushing. I wondered, was it a similar story for you? And also, we were heard at one stage your engineer complimenting you on maintaining your front left tyre? How did you go about doing that?

MV: Yeah, I think that was on the first stint when most of the drivers boxed, my front left still looked quite good. Yeah, I do think that today didn't help us in terms of like… our trend is normally long stints and looking after our tyres. This didn't work for us today, of course, they were too limited, the stints, but I do think at one point, my engineer told me to speed up a bit and we always had the pace to speed up. I just have to re-watch the race a little bit to understand a bit more what was going on behind me. I do think we had a bit more pace in hand if we really needed it but nevertheless, I don't want to take anything away from McLaren. They've been doing a great job and from us, we see that they are getting closer and closer. So we have to try and of course maintain a bit of a gap.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) I know it's a bit too early to ask you this but with three titles under your belt, have you thought of your legacy and what it would be like in this sport? Are you even thinking on those lines yet? And how you pictured it? In terms of your legacy in this sport, as in Seb or Lewis, they have their social causes, Fernando is giving back to the sport in that he does his karting thing. How do you think your legacy would look like at some point?

MV: I have a lot of plans racing-related and trying to help young talent. So far, all of us or probably most of us have come through the karting ranks but that's also very, very expensive nowadays. So as I have my own Sim team, I do believe that there is a possibility to get back to Sim racing and I do see a lot of potential in some of these guys, that they can make it in the real world as well. So hopefully in a few years’ time, I can have a way of sim racers making it into a real car. This doesn't mean progressing all the way to F1 but it can be to an endurance seat or whatever. That's something that I'm very passionate about and hopefully I can make it happen very soon.

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