1 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
2 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)
3 – Sergio PÉREZ (Red Bull Racing)
(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Valtteri Bottas, our race winner! Welcome back, we’ve been expecting you.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Thank you. It’s been a while. It feels good. It’s nice.
Q: Over a year since your last win. Now, it wasn’t dominant in terms of the distance to your competitors but it was dominant in the way you appeared to run that race. I saw one little moment on the exit of Turn 1 where you go sideways and we know that can be a difficult corner but otherwise it was textbook.
VB: Yeah, from my side, I have to say, it was probably one of the best races I’ve had, ever. Apart from that one little slide everything was under control but like I said before the race the car has been really good in every condition and I had really good confidence with it and I could really control it. It’s not easy to choose the strategy here with these conditions, when to stop, to which tyres, everything. But I’m glad everything went smooth for once for me. Yeah, it’s nice.
Q: It seemed very much under control, but put us in the cockpit. How difficult are those sorts of conditions for a race driver?
VB: Yeah, when there is only one drying line it doesn’t need much for you to go off so I definitely need to focus all through the race. A difficult one and a well-earned victory.
Q: Now we have our championship leader, Max Verstappen. The crowd appreciates you, even in second place. I know you want to win the race, like all the drivers, but a good damage limitation grand prix for you?
Max VERSTAPPEN: To stay awake!? No, it was all just about managing the tyres, so you were never pushing, to make it to a certain amount of laps and then you box for another set, but yeah, happy to be on the podium.
Q: Well, it may have been a procedural race for you but from my point of view in the comm box it was a really exciting grand prix, watching the different strategies play out. That six-point swing on the championship, are you looking at that race by race or do you now just focus on Austin, Texas?
MV: Yeah, I think it’s been close the whole year, and I’m pretty sure again in Austin it will be a good battle with Mercedes so we just have to keep on pushing, trying to improve and then we will see where we end up at the end, but of course so far this season has been really good.
Q: Finally, a driver this track has been very good to, he had a podium here last year. Checo, great race, congratulations. One of your controlled races again. At the beginning it seemed like you were dropping back, but when it really counted you had the tyres and you had the car to pull off some big passes.
Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, it was quite an intense race that I had in the first stint with Lewis and fighting with Charles. The start was pretty good. It was just one of those races of having to be patient, push at the right times, manage the tyres as well, because I didn’t really know what was going on with the tyres – they were coming back, they were going off. It was pretty hard to manage the tyres out there today.
Q: Well, just behind us on the screen once again, another great pass, you positioned the car on the dry line. That feels good for a race driver doesn’t it?
SP: Yeah, it’s always nice to get a good move. Obviously Charles is a very good driver, so it is nice to fight with him.
Q: Valtteri, huge congratulations to you, you’ve won again. It’s been a while so just how sweet does this one feel?
VB: Very sweet, actually. Overall, I think it was one of my best races in terms of how it went from beginning to the end. To some people it could have looked easy but it’s far from that in these conditions. You can’t do any mistakes and it’s quite easy to do mistakes in the conditions and when it’s drying, when there is only one dry line. Just everything went smoothly which I’m very glad [about]. The car has been good in any conditions this weekend and that makes things easier but I could really control; it and I would say the key thing today was the tyre management and not to kill the tyres at the beginning of the stint and trying to play the long game.
Q: How much pressure did you feel from Max today?
VB: I would say in the beginning of the race, the first few laps, he was definitely trying to keep up and put pressure but then I think he also realised that he needed to manage the tyres but if I’m honest, at the end of the race, in the second stint, I was surprised by the pace difference, so I could really focus on my own thing and in any case always I was just looking ahead and focusing on my thing and trying to avoid mistakes.
Q: You’ve said already that it’s not easy out there in these conditions. Just how tricky were the track conditions today and how difficult was it to make the right strategy calls?
VB: The track, luckily, is quite grippy, even with the wet conditions, the inter conditions, so it makes it a bit better, well, a lot better than last year. It was like night and day to last year. And in terms of my race I had probably the worst race of my career here last year and now one of the best, so a lot better. But yeah, it’s still easy to make mistakes. When you wear down the inter tyres, it’s almost like a slick tyre and it doesn’t behave that well in the wet patches, so you try to avoid the critical bits. Sorry, what was the other question?
Q: Strategy calls.
VB: Yeah, I think it worked well. Obviously Max stopping triggered us stopping but I think it was the right time. If I look at the whole race, I think that was the right point. It was not clear at any point if it’s going to be dry [tyres] or not at some point, so we needed to go pretty long in the first stint and it was good.
Q: And how much confidence does this win give you going forward for the remainder of the season?
VB: Well, I’ve had the confidence always really, but it’s nice to have a win and the reminder that you can win races. It’s been a while, like I said. But, to be honest, after Monza I’ve been feeling very relaxed in any case and been able to just focus only on driving and for sure that helps.
Q: Final one from me. How quick to you think the car will be at COTA? The next race.
VB: I don’t have a crystal ball but I think on paper I think it should be one of the good ones, hopefully. That’s what we hope – but we’ll work hard in the next two weeks to make sure we’re in a position to fight for the win again.
Q: Max, coming to you, quite a lonely race for you out there, but a great one nonetheless. How happy are you with how things went?
MV: Yeah, considering our whole weekend being a bit off the pace compared to Mercedes I think we had quite a decent race. I mean in the beginning I just tried to follow Valtteri but of course we had to manage the tyres so I just dropped back a bit and at one point we started to pick-up the pace a little bit, also because the track was drying a bit but yeah, there was no point where I would attack Valtteri and he was just managing his race of course also very well and looking after his tyres and of course I had Charles quite close behind me in the first stint. He had very good pace as well. At one point I said the tyres are pretty good, like they were completely worn to slicks, so it was very tricky out there of course, when the track is like it was, so we decided to box, and then after the stop, with like 20 laps to go, I think, just decided to bring it home. I anyway didn’t have the pace to fight Valtteri, so there was also no need to try to be within two, three tenths, to try and just follow him. Just save the tyres to the end, basically.
Q: And Max, what about the start? You were a bit nervous about being in P2 yesterday.
MV: yeah, I still think the inside is not as grippy as the outside but at least I didn’t lose a position. I think in a way it was better that it was a wet start than a dry start.
Q: And we did hear a few issues being reported over the radio by you. I think we heard about a gearshift at one point and then an issue with the steering wheel perhaps. Did any of that hold you back?
MV: No. It was not the gear shift. There was a word next to the number where I can see the gears which was not disappearing, so I had to change one rotary and it was fine. So it was not performance limited. The steering was a bit left-hand-down, but also of course the tyres are wearing so you get a bit of an uneven platform but I could feel this already from the start. But, again, this is not performance limiting – but it’s better to say it than say nothing.
Q: Max, it’s a double podium from Red Bull in Honda’s own livery. Significant moment for them.
MV: Yeah, it’s been good. I think it’s very nice to be up here, both of us, especially after a weekend where I think we were struggling a bit for pace, so to still, let’s say, maximise the outcome with two cars is, of course, a really good result for us.
Q: Checo, coming to you, well done. That was a very exciting race by you, you certainly had your elbows out. First up, talk us through the battle with Lewis Hamilton, I think it was lap 35, wheel-to-wheel, side-by-side, corner after corner.
SP: Yeah, it was pretty intense at that point because Lewis really got me at the worst time of my race today because I was struggling so much with my tyres at that point. That first stint was so difficult for me, especially towards the end and Lewis was pretty fast. I think at the time he was the fastest car on track, so to hold him back at that point was pretty challenging. We had a good fight. Had to even avoid the pit bollard on pit entry, but it was a good fight overall, and managed to stay ahead. Yeah, I think we were all very nervous today about boxing for new tyres, because of what happened last year. I think it was the right call when we boxed, because I had the time to really introduce my tyres and learn what went wrong on my first stint to try to apply it for my second stint, which really made my race, you know? I think we took a good advantage on that second stint.
Q: Checo, this is your first podium since Paul Ricard, nine races ago. How did it feel to be back up there again? Was it a bit of a relief?
SP: Honestly, the last few races have been so unlucky. In Monza I finished on the podium but I had the penalty; Russia, three laps to go I was on the podium. It’s been like coming already for many races but certainly it’s nice, especially like today where I felt so uncomfortable with the car and we didn’t have quite the pace to match the Mercs, and I feel like we maximised our result today and I’m sure if we are able to do that for the next six races, we can still win the Championship.
Q: And Checo, how confident were you prior to the start today? Christian Horner said ‘you will finish on the podium Checo’. Did you share his confidence?
SP: Yeah, he was pretty sure about it. I’ll tell Christian to tell me that every race weekend. He certainly was pretty sure about it.
Q: And performance-wise, do you feel you’ve turned a bit of a corner?
SP: Yeah, definitely. The whole weekend has been a lot more competitive. Yesterday in qualifying we didn’t get to show that because we were very aggressive with our strategy, so that put us on the backfoot with the Soft tyres into qualifying. I think we just miss that couple of tenths that we had in hand, because we’ve shown good pace throughout the weekend and I’m sure we could have had a much better qualifying. So yeah, certainly I can see that understanding I am getting more together with the car.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A couple of questions to Valtteri, please. First of all, congratulations on the victory. I just wondered did you and Mercedes ever consider trying to get through the race without stopping for fresh inters? And when you did and you came out behind the Ferrari, how concerned were you that you might not be able to get back by and how was that battle with Leclerc at Turn 1?
VB: Thank you. I don’t think… Well, at least from my side I didn’t consider going through the whole race with one set, because at some point I started to feel a bit of vibration from the tyres and they were like slicks and eventually you would get the canvas, so I always had it in my mind that we would be stopping at some point, but I don’t know about the team yet, what they were thinking about. But I’m glad we stopped. Obviously Max stopped first and we covered him. And then when I was gaining to Charles, he was still on his first set of tyres. He was really quick on the parts that were a bit drier and I was quicker on the parts that were a bit wetter because I had fresh tyres and just when I was closing onto him my tyres started to grain quite a bit, but I was still catching him obviously and then obviously my tyres grained to the point that they were slicks again and then they were fine. There was a bit of a pace difference and he had a couple of lock-ups and when I got him he had a bit of a snap in the last corner and that helped.
Q: How close to slick tyres were we at the end of the race?
VB: At the very end of the race it was definitely getting closer. At any point of the race I never thought it would be slicks. I still think the last lap would have been tricky to be on slicks. It’s tricky here; it’s drying very slowly.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Valtteri, you were talking about the fact that these conditions are really tricky and I think earlier, immediately out of the car, you said it was one of your best races ever. I just wondered how satisfying is it to get a win, such an emphatic win in conditions like this, especially, here, in conditions like this when I guess 12 months ago would have been one of the least satisfying races that you’d experienced?
VB: It’s satisfying, of course, winning and having a good race, that’s for sure. And like I said earlier, last time around here, I lost count how many spins I had in the race, I think it was five or six, so at least I didn’t spin today, so that’s a step forward.
MV: You could have done a spin. It would have been a bit more interesting to the end.
VB: Yeah, could have done, maybe last lap.
VB: Like a 360.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsportmagazin.com) For all three of you: how difficult were the first laps on the new tyres, because I guess you usually want to use the grip of the fresh tyres but on the other hand you have to save them a bit for the rest of the stint, so how difficult was it?
MV: I mean it’s not difficult because you’re just driving under the tyre, right? You have grip, you just decide not to use it. It was a nice feeling because if you compare to the end of the first stint, you don’t have the grip anymore and you are really hanging onto the tyre because also the rear tyres are gone, so the beginning was just all about the management. The grip is there so you actually have quite a nice balance.
VB: The track has been really, really grippy so… and actually on the out lap I managed to keep temperature instead of losing it, so actually it was OK and, like Max said, just backed off a bit in places, not to destroy the tyres.
SP: For me, I think they were the best laps of the race in terms of grip, in terms of balance, that I had today. The track was so grippy in these conditions. It was only when the degradation kicked in that made it very tricky to stay on the track, so I was pretty happy with the first 10 laps, let’s say. I think the inters were performing well and then after that it was quite difficult.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, how are you feeling about the title fight with Lewis right now? You’re back in the points lead. Were you concerned about Mercedes’s pace in the dry and wet here? Do you think they’ve now got the faster car than Red Bull?
MV: They were definitely quicker this weekend. We just didn’t get it together and also in the wet they seemed to have a bit of the edge as well. So we’ll have to analyse of course why we weren’t that competitive here and I definitely do think they probably stepped it up a bit more so yeah, even with the points, it’s not going to be easy but… I saw, you know, I think I even said it before we even started the weekend, so far we’ve had a really good year so it’s not going to change the world for me if we finish first or second at the end of the day, but I’m always going to give my best and we’ll see again in Austin how it’s going to go. We won’t give up, we’ll always try to do the best we can and hopefully, of course, at the end of the championship it’s going to be enough but if it isn’t I’m not going to sleep less.
Q: Max, knowing your car as you do, do you think you’ll be competitive in COTA? How do you think it’s going to go there?
MV: A lot of flat-out sections as well, tyre wear is quite high as well, so there are a few things to look into. I think maybe at some other tracks we can maybe be a bit better, but it’s never going to be very easy. The whole year already has been quite close, of course. Sometimes it looked like maybe we were a bit better but then sometimes also they were quite quick. I just hope that from the remaining races there are a few tracks, of course, or more than half, are better for us but we’ll find out.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Valtteri, I suspect you might not have a complete ranking of your 10 wins so far but I just wondered if the conditions and the circumstances of a race like today put this win at or near the very top?
VB: Yeah. I don’t have a list of what is the best, second, third. But yeah, it’s up there. I think overall, obviously a win is a win but in tricky conditions and actually having a bit of a margin and so on it’s high up there. The main thing is that I didn’t do any mistakes, only one that I had a bit of a snap in Turn 1 on the exit, that was the only one, but apart from that it’s really clean which is ideal and makes me happy.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, you mentioned you were feeling quite relaxed after Monza. I just wondered how things have been with the team since then, since it was announced you won’t be coming back in 2022? And how warmly did they greet your win today?
VB: I think the team has been good, nothing has really changed, everything as normal and the team has a good spirit overall and we’re really motivated for the rest of the year and working hard as always. I only saw them from the podium and when I got out of the car it was good, obviously. Yeah, everyone seemed happy.
Q: Valtteri, given that you’re leaving at the end of the year, are you still being involved in all of the meetings that you always have been or are they starting to exclude you a bit?
VB: Yes, I’m in every meeting that I’ve been in before, in these five years. If there’s other meetings, I don’t know about those, so for me, everything is normal!