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FIA post-race press conference - Saudi Arabia

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing and

DRIVERS

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

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Sergio Perez, your fifth win in Formula 1, again keeping this amazing record on street circuits. That was a tough one in the end.

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it turned out to be tougher than expected. That Safety Car… We really did the job in the first stint, but that Safety Car again tried to take the victory out of us, again, in Jeddah, but not this time. I was on for the victory last year, so finally I got it. And the team did a fantastic job. I mean, the job they've done, they've worked so hard during the weekend, you know, we have had a lot of mechanical issues and these guys have been on top of that, so I'm really happy for them and it's time to celebrate.

Q: For a brief moment before the end you were leading the world championship by dint of having the fastest lap but Max pulled that from you at the very end, so you are second in the World Championship, but still a great start to this Championship campaign.

SP: Yeah, exactly. So we will keep pushing. We will keep pushing hard. The important thing, I think, is that we were the fastest car out there today. So I'm very pleased with that.

Q: OK, just one brief mention of the start. You didn't seem to get off the line as clean as Fernando. We know he got a penalty for being slightly out of position but what was going on there?

SP: Yeah, I think there is some work to do, we've changed the procedure a bit from our side, so I think we need to do some work to get better starts in the future.

Q: Well, we can see from the sweat on your brow you worked for that one. Congratulations.

SP: Thank you.

Q: It looks like now we have a third-place finisher. A brilliant start to the 2023 campaign for Fernando Alonso and your 100thpodium finish.

Fernando ALONSO: What a start to the season. I mean, yeah, probably unthinkable one month ago when we launched the car. But yeah, these guys, they made a fantastic car, fantastic execution of the race in Bahrain, and here as well, with the strategy, and the two podiums.

Q: Now we know you're not so experienced in Formula 1, so you have to talk us through what you did with the position at the start of the race?

FA: Yeah, I need to review obviously. I made that mistake, so yeah, when they told me the five-second penalty I said ‘OK, I need to drive a bit faster to make those five seconds’ but yeah, I need to review.

Q: You were very, very calm that's for sure. We're seeing the sweat on your brow as well, as your team celebrates your name. This is a hard Grand Prix circuit.

FA: Yeah, it is. It is a hard Grand Prix but yeah, those guys gave me power. Yeah, I pushed all the way through like qualifying laps and yeah, Red Bull is maybe a little bit out of reach but the rest they were behind so happy for that.

Q: And finally, our second place finisher. Still leading the world championship because of that big push at the end there. It has not been an easy weekend for you but you must be satisfied to have come through in second?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, it wasn't very easy to get to the field. I mean through the first sector, trying to follow in the beginning of the race was very difficult, a lot of sliding around. But once I cleared them one by one we got into a good rhythm and of course they are very happy to be here on the podium.

Q: There were some concerns there. We heard you talking about the driveshaft, a vibration. That righted itself or you had that right to the finish?

MV: Yeah, right to the finish but, I mean, I was in second, we had a big gap behind,. so at one point we decided to just, let's say, call it a day and just settle for a second, which I think anyway was a very good recovery you know, so happy with that.

Q: You may have settled for second but you didn't settle for not getting that point for fastest lap.

MV: I gave it a go at the end, so luckily it worked out.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Many congratulations to the top three finishers of the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. In third place, George Russell. In second place, Max Verstappen. And taking win number five of his career, our winner Sergio Pérez. Checo, you described this one as a wicked job over the radio. Of your five wins, where does this one rank?

SP: Well, it's just another word that I learned this week from my engineers.

George RUSSELL: In the UK, when you say wicked, you're meant to do this.

SP: That’s something else. Step by step. I think yeah, just in general, it was looking better, the race. You know, once I got past Fernando, I could do my own race. But once again, when that Safety Car came out, it reminded me all over, Jeddah last year again, and it was like, ‘not again’. But luckily, we didn't pit. We hadn’t pitted at the time. So yeah, it was a new race after the Safety Car, you know. Very early on, Max came back and we were basically, towards the end, just making sure we kept that healthy gap between myself and Max. But that meant we were pushing quite hard and trying to maintain the gap.

Q: Pushing hard and enjoying it or pushing hard and finding it all quite stressful?

SP: No, I did enjoy the race, to be honest. I enjoyed it a lot, especially at the end, just pushing each other with the lap times, knowing that he went a tenth faster, a tenth slower, a tenth faster and it was all pretty intense and then we were told to maintain a certain pace. And I was told again to push them to maintain the pace. So it was just a bit all over the place.

Q: Christian Horner has said since the race that this is your best drive for Red Bull Racing. Would you agree with him?

SP: It's very hard to judge. I mean, the race was strong. It was a strong race, managing it well. I think we did a great job. I don't know if it's my best weekend so far with the team, but I'm sure Melbourne will be even better.

Q: You alluded to it a minute ago, but the only slight hiccup came at the start when Fernando got ahead of you into Turn 1. Can you just talk us through the opening 10 seconds of the Grand Prix?

SP: Yeah, I didn't get a good launch. It’s something I need to work with the engineers to make sure we fix that. Fernando just got a better start and we lost the position. But I knew that it was not the end of the world. It's a 50-lap race. It's a pretty long one. And it was more important to manage my tyres at the time. And I mean, just don't get mad and make sure that I was able to do my own race.

Q: Now, of the three Red Bull cars you have raced, is this the one that you’re most confident with?

SP: I think at the moment, I’m pretty happy with the car. I had a bit of a scrappy weekend leading up to Qualifying – but I think effectively we managed to have a very good race car. More than Quali, so yeah, at the moment I am feeling very comfortable with the car.

Q: Max coming to you now, what an awesome recovery by you today. Did that play out as you envisioned before the race?

MV: I never really think about it. But yeah, I think realistically with or without the Safety Car, I think P2 was the highest possible. The beginning, the first few laps it was really hard to follow cars because of the street circuit, fast corners, the walls all very close, you get kind-of a tail wind effect. And the car's a bit all over the place. So, after a few laps, it all started to settle in a bit better, and I could pick them off one by one. Then the pace was good. The Safety Car, of course, helped me a bit to get back in the race. But even with that and the restart you just lose too much time to Checo, for example. So, once I got into P2, it was quite a decent gap, let's say like that, on a track where there's not a lot of deg. So I tried to, of course, close the gap a bit. But then, at one point, I picked up again, these vibrations on the driveshaft, on the rear. The team couldn't see anything, but I'm fairly sure there was something odd going on with the balance since the vibration started to kick in. So, at one point, I did the calculations, and I wouldn't have been able to close that gap to the end with only 10 laps left. So, at one point it's, I think, more important to just settle for second: not having an issue with the car.

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 19, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about those vibrations? Were you getting a similar feeling, a similar noise yesterday, just prior to the failure?

MV: Yeah, but of course, then yesterday in qualifying it just went. It snapped. Today, luckily, didn't do that but it started to have a similar effect on the feeling of driving and what you could hear

Q: Nervous times – but it was still an incredibly fast race car. You were at least one second per lap faster than any other non-Red Bull. How much longer do you think the team can maintain this gap over the field?

MV:I hope for a long time. But it's not only about the pace of the car: we need to make sure we are reliable without any issues. I mean, my first weekend was not very clean, because of just the big balance shift from testing to the race weekend, some other things which are going on in the background. And now again, after three positive practice sessions, where then of course, I have an issue in Qualifying. Of course, I recovered to second, which is good. And of course in general, the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy but personally, I'm not happy. Because I'm not here to be second, especially when you are working very hard also back at the factory to make sure that you arrive here in a good state, and basically making sure that everything is spot on. And then yeah, you have to do a recovery race, which I like – I mean, I don't mind doing it - but when you're fighting for a Championship and especially, you know, when it looks like it's just between two cars, we have to make sure that also the two cars are reliable.

Q: You were trading blows with Checo at the end there when you were one and two. Can we just get your thoughts on the sort of race Checo drove today? Do you agree with Christian Horner, that it's been his best race for Red Bull Racing?

MV: Yeah, I think it was a very solid race. I mean, of course, it all helps, we both, I think, have a good feeling with the car. And then around here, I think it's quite a cool track if you have a good balance in the car. So that's nice, when you can push. I mean, I prefer that, of course, over a race where you're just pace-managing all the time. So yeah, those laps were enjoyable up until the point I backed off with the vibrations.

Q: George, coming to you now. Great to see you after what's been a really good weekend for you and Mercedes. Just how much of a step forward do you feel you've made here? Compared to Bahrain?

GR: We definitely made a step in the right direction. I think, above all, we just truly maximise the potential of the car. We had a really strong Qualifying yesterday, which was really enjoyable. I'd really pleased to come home in P4 on the road because I felt like that was the maximum that was possible. And I was having fun up there. The car was feeling good. And we know we've got some more performance in the locker, in some races to come. I think it was very harsh what happened to Fernando in all honesty, I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme, what we've seen this weekend for some drivers that we saw in Qualifying yesterday and for what happened to Fernando. But nevertheless, as I said before, I'm happy to pick up the silverware.

Q: At what point in the race. Did you realise that this might be a possibility? That Fernando was going to get a penalty and you could be on the podium?

GR: It was very chaotic for us because I knew he had a five-second for being out of his grid slot. I didn't realise that he served that during his pitstop in the Safety Car. So, after the restart, had Lewis right behind me, trying to overtake me, and I was like, ‘guys, we need to not fight with one another yet, we need to make sure we save the tyre and we have them at the end, so we can both finish ahead of Fernando with his penalty’. They then told me that he'd already served this penalty, so I was a bit confused and frustrated with that news. And then it was only in the last five laps, I found out that he might be getting a penalty. And that's when I pushed like a madman and just trying to close that gap. But to be honest, I think Fernando and Aston just had pace in their pocket, and they look really solid at the moment.

Q: Just looking ahead to Melbourne. What does this result here mean, for that grand prix? GR: I think it'll be a similar story in Melbourne. The tarmac is very similar in Melbourne compared to the circuit here: some fast and flowing corners. So, I'd say the order that we've seen this weekend, it'll be very similar. But like we saw in Qualifying, there's only maybe two-tenths splitting three, four or five cars. So, they'll probably be similar in Melbourne too.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Fred Ferret – L’Equipe) To the two Red Bull drivers: how did you choose which one would get the best lap and the point?

MV: With a few laps ago, I asked what the fastest lap was. We were first of all free to race and of course we had a target lap time to the end. It’s a point on the line, it was the same also in Bahrain it got asked so especially when it's just between the two cars, I think it's quite normal that you asked for what the fastest lap is.

SP: Yeah, I asked two laps from the end, while they were telling us… where they told me to keep a certain pace. They told me I had the fastest lap and to keep the pace, a certain pace. So I thought the communication was the same to Max or something. We need to review because I got certainly the different information and I just couldn't push it there.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) George, you spoke about the penalties. There has been a similar penalty in Bahrain with Ocon, and in Fernando's case, there wasn't really an advantage he was gaining from the incorrect starting position. Is this something that will come up in the GPDA – and the other two drivers can add in? How can this be sorted in the future?

GR: Yeah, I understand why these rules are there. At the end of the day, we've got to stick within the guidelines. I think a little bit of common sense needs to be shown and ultimately, I think he was a bit to the left, was that right? He gained nothing from this. Perhaps a five second (penalty) is too much. And then with regards to his pitstop again, I don't know what happened and why he received the further penalty exactly. But a 10 second is too extreme in that case again. So I'm not too sure it's just making it a little bit, I guess, frustrating for everybody. There's a lot of conversations that were going on this weekend about which lines you could touch, which lines you couldn't touch, especially at the pit exit, and on the pit entry. And then as I said, in qualifying yesterday, we saw a number of cars get laps deleted for touching a bit of the red paint, ending their lap. I just thought that was a little bit senseless, really, so I think we all need to come together and just find a common centre ground.

Q: George, how difficult is it to see your grid box from these cars?

GR: It's incredibly difficult. We're sat so low and to put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre so you can't actually see the ground itself. We've got these big long yellow lines pointing out… I can't even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position. It’s really, really tough so that's why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense.

MV: I haven't seen how much he was out of his box. It is painful when it happens but it's a bit the same with the white line with track limits. Sometimes you argue: did you gain anything going wide or not, going outside of it? I think at one point we do need a rule. It looks really silly if people start to take advantage of going really left and right but yeah, I didn't know what we can do better. The visibility is just really poor in the car, that is I think, probably the main issue where you end up sometimes not fully, correctly in your box.

SP: Yeah, it's really difficult just to see where you’ve stopped. I think, in my opinion I just overdid it and I stopped too early, but you have no idea when you are in the car. You don't know if you went too far or from behind or too far forward. So I think it's something… we need better visibility to be able to come up with a better idea than we currently have it. It's good that there is a rule in place, but at the same time, sometimes it's like luck, to be honest, where you position yourself.

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) Sergio, we heard you speaking on the radio during the final 10 laps of the race, talking a little bit about the pace and maybe pushing for kind of nothing? Were you happy with the decision to let you two guys race? Or would you have preferred the team to maybe, let's say, set the result in stone given the problems for both of you?

SP: No, I think it was… obviously they have more information than us and I think the team did a fantastic job in letting us race. I just felt like there was a point where - I don't know - for the last 10 laps or so that we had very similar pace, within a tenth, faster or slower. And I just felt like the gap, it will have been probably a little bit less or a little bit more. But it wouldn't have changed anything. But I was just thinking about the car, just making sure. I was having some strange vibrations and obviously what happened to Max was in the back of my mind today, and I'm sure he was in the back of the mind of the team as well so it was just a matter of making sure both cars finished to maximise maximum points.

Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) To both Red Bull drivers, when it comes to the gearbox issue that you had yesterday, how concerned are you with the reliability issue with the gearbox or the problems Max suffered or the ones which Checo had in free practice? Is this something that can be turned around easily over the next two races or is it going to be a growing concern?

SP: Well, reliability is where it is. We saw it today with Aston Martin. It's going to hit us at some point but obviously we need to keep working on that, we need to have the issue races whenever we can. We were in a lucky position in Bahrain but otherwise if we had to push to the end, we probably wouldn't make the race so there are a lot of reliability concerns at the moment but hopefully they don't hit us anytime soon.

MV: Yeah, we have to do better. Absolutely. But also just have a cleaner weekend. I think that would be nice as well.

Q: (Fred Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to the two Red Bull drivers : if you stay in a league of your own, do you fear that your teammate will be the main opponent for the title? And how would you deal with that?

MV: Well, if that's the case it’s fairly simple, right? We are allowed to race so the best one will finish in front.

SP: If that's the case, then it will be fantastic news for the team, because that means that we are pretty far ahead and it comes down to us so it will mean that we are in a great position.

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