Mexican Grand Prix: Top Three Press Conference

Teams and drivers report from the Mexican Grand Prix, Round 19 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, featuring top three: winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), second placed Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), third place Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).

Track Interviews Conducted by David Coulthard

Max, Mexico loves you; you must love Mexico – your second straight win here.
Max Vesrtappen: Yeah, amazing. The start was the key. To be honest with you, I didn’t sleep very well last night, so I was really determined to win today and luckily we did that. Yeah, amazing job by the team as well. We had the right tyres available and the car was working brilliantly.

You didn’t sleep well but you made up for it with that great drive. We saw your team-mate pull out with some issue. We heard you on the radio saying “what do I need to do, do I turn it down?” Nervous moments for you towards the end.
MV: Yeah, of course, it was a shame to lose Daniel. I think we could have had a one-two, or at least two cars on the podium and of course then afterwards you want to make sure yours doesn’t retire.

A bit of a party tonight?
MV: I’m going home, so really happy about that.

Well done, congratulations. Sebastian, congratulations on your podium, your first podium here, but I guess this is a reflective moment as we see Lewis Hamilton celebrating his championship. You pushed him hard all year but in the end, it just didn’t work out.
Sebastian Vettel: No. Yeah, obviously not an easy day, but well deserved, congrats to him and his team, they did a superb job all year, so I think we need to stand there, accept that and say congratulations. Obviously I would loved to hang in there in a little bit longer, but it wasn’t the case.

You had the car at various points this year; you had some fantastic victories, where do you think championship started to slip away?
SV: Oh David, I don’t know if I answer that question now. Let me say congratulations to Lewis.

Enjoy the moment. And then finally, Kimi Räikkönen. Congratulations. One stop. That would prove quite tricky for you but was that the best strategy for your car this afternoon.
Kimi Raikkonen : Yeah, I think from where we started. I think the tyres lasted pretty OK, obviously not the fastest anymore, but there were times that was the best in the position were were.

This trip to the Americas has been quite consistent for you though, winning last time out in Austin, third place here.
KR: Yeah, I mean it’s good. Obviously we always want to more, but I cannot complain too much. We have two more races to go and we’ll try to do better.

Press Conference

What did you say to Lewis after the race?
SV: I’m not a big sharing person. I congratulated him, I think he drove superbly all year and was the better one of us two. So I told him well deserved and to enjoy it – number five is something incredible. Mainly congratulated him and asked him to keep pushing for next year, I need him at his best to fight him again

A question for Seb. If I remember correctly last year after the championship was decided here, you were really down, and today again, even if it was for us all a bit expected it was going to happen. Can you explain why you are down when the championship is decided?
SV: It’s a horrible moment. You put a lot of work in and OK, I get your point that you saw it coming. I did pay attention in maths so I could make the numbers, but still, you hang in there as long as you can. I’ve had three times now in my life that sort of disappointment, where you realise that you can’t win the championship any more and those are not happy days. You reflect not on one moment but the whole year: the work that goes in, the effort that goes in from the end of the last year until now and yeah, I think we had our chances. We used most of them, some we did not. But in the end we were not good enough.

A question for Max, about your frustration yesterday. Was that only because of missing the pole or was it also because of missing the record from Sebastian?
MV: No, the frustration was that I didn’t have an optimum package to fight for pole, because we had the same problem as in the second practice, so I never felt comfortable because of the problems and that’s why I was frustrated. In qualifying everything needs to come together and you try to optimise everything and clearly it was not optimised. I’m not there to be second or third. I want to win; I want to be on pole. At the end of the day the record for me is not a big deal, because the points and stuff are always on Sunday and that’s the most important thing.

Max, a win today is another peak in a brilliant run for you from Canada onwards. What would you say is the main difference with you now as a driver compared with the start of the year and how fine a line is it between maybe overtaking or being caught in scrapes and the level of performance you’re at now?
MV: The difference is I just listen to myself. I do my own thing, even if there are a lot of things written, I really don’t care. My dad always told me in go-karting, back in the day, if I was maybe overdriving or something, he would always tell me “Max, even if you think you are not going fast enough, it’s still fast enough”. So basically, for my feeling, I just backed it out a little bit and that seems to make me a bit faster.

A question for Seb. Is this a moment to let sink in the disappointment or is it already the first moment to bounce back?
SV: No. I don’t want to make a big deal about today. As with the question before, you could see it sort of coming, but for sure it’s different. I focus on my own, I focus on my car. It’s what you work for the whole year and when you are not anymore in control, it’s obviously not a great moment but I think it’s normal as well to have that moment of disappointment and that you are a bit down but I think I will be as strong as I can be in two weeks’ time heading to Brazil. Because that’s what my team deserves and that’s what all the guys at home in Maranello deserve and all on top all the people that have supported me, Kimi, myself and the whole team, all the tifosi all year. Maybe for now I’m not the happiest guy, but in two weeks’ time I’m allowed to step into the car that I always dreamt of driving, so plenty of things to be happy about.

Question to both Ferrari drivers. You’re still in for the Constructors’ Championship. Could it help you make up for the loss of the drivers’ title?
KR: I was hoping nobody was asking! Obviously that’s our aim, as it has been all year – but I don’t know what the points are and we can only do our best and hopefully we’ll say in the fight and can catch up. Two races to go, so we’ll do our best.
SV: Yeah, as I said, I think in two weeks time we have the possibility to show once again what we can do and obviously we race for the team and as long we keep on catching, that’s good. We need some more points but I think last weekend was good for us, this weekend was good for us – so hopefully we can continue the last two races like that.

Kimi – you answered one question, might as well answer two – you lost a position to Sainz in the beginning, that sort of compromised you a bit and you lost contact, and your first stint wasn’t very good and then you have just the one-stop race. How was it from your point of view?
KR: Yeah, I think on the start, the initial start was OK, I was following Seb and then somehow that side of the road slowed down in the middle of the straight. I went on the other side but obviously I was behind Seb going through the first corner, and didn’t really want to get involved. I lost one place and got it back the next time around on the straight, so it wasn’t a big deal. It was tricky with them. I think I had more speed than the Mercedes in front of me, but tried to get past but just didn’t have enough of a good run on the straight and then yeah, my tyres basically gave up. The front tyres. It was tricky. We were planning to come in but yeah, then Mercedes came and we decided to do the opposite. Yeah, I knew that we were going to go for one stop from that point and I think the tyres, the second set was very good but obviously we needed to look after then a bit too, to make it to the end. Not an awful lot happened after that. Obviously I caught up with the Mercedes, past him, locked up at the same time and went straight and then obviously I think it was Ricciardo had some issue and stopped. Good end result, not the most exciting race but that’s how it goes.

Question for Max, what represents for you to win here at the Mexican Grand Prix for the second year?
MV: What it means. It’s of course great. We knew last year we were strong and then coming into this event we had the same hopes – but of course it’s never easy to win a race. Yeah, of course, very happy to win it for the second time in a row, and yeah, it’s a special track with the fans, they’re very passionate and the stadium section as well. I think anywhere if you win a race it’s always positive.

For Max. You just said you were mainly disappointed yesterday because the car didn’t deliver in the way you wanted…
MV: …no, the car did. The engine didn’t.

OK. But today, how were you balancing between the doubt and the focus to win. I notice you were fine-tuning the state of the tyres and the engine constantly.
MV: The only option was to win today for me. That was in my head and, of course, that’s why I was very disappointed yesterday but we made it up today, so of course I’m very happy with that.

Also for Max. Does this make… this victory also a bit a Renault victory, a revenge? Because it’s better than yesterday. The engine also gave you the victory?
MV: How do you know it’s better?

I don’t know, I’m asking.
MV: No.

We here that maybe the tyres are not giving enough chances to have open races. I see this weekend all the words about the perfect point in the degradation and everything. Max or Sebastian, tell us this could be a constant thing in the next races?
MV: I think it was a bit unexpected how the tyres behaved. Maybe with the hyper, yes but with the ultra, I think nobody really expected it to be like this. We came into this event with a few different tyre strategies but normally you always end up on the same tyres, more or less, for the race. But very quickly, in the weekend I think that we saw that the supersoft was quite a strong tyre and luckily I had two. I didn’t use any in practice, I just saved them for the race in case we needed it and clearly we needed it. So, it’s a bit of a guess.

Max, is the second time you win here. You’re the fourth driver that makes that accomplishment. What does the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez give you to have such success – and will you be prepared next year to come here and run for the Championship maybe?
MV: That’s a very far ahead thought so I don’t want to speak about that yet – but what’s good for us, at this track, it’s a lot about mechanical grip and the aero is a little bit less important but also the top speed is not that important compared to other tracks, so we are not losing out that much on the straight, and yeah, it suits our car much better. We make up a lot of time through the corners. That makes us competitive. I enjoy driving here but I don’t really think this track is a particular favourite of mine in terms of my driving style or whatever. Of course, when your car works well, you can have a good result.

Question for Seb. This 2018 has been your most difficult year in Formula One?
SV: Maybe. I don’t know. I need to think about it but in some regards, definitely yes. Yes it was definitely different to other years but nevertheless I think we shouldn’t neglect the fact that we had a very strong package, we were able to win races, we’re not in contention any more for the Drivers’ Championship but we can fight for the Constructors’. So, even if it has been a difficult year, I think still it’s been a good year for us as a team. We’re still improving – but certainly there were also things that became apparent, needs addressing, needs fixing in order to do that final step that we are looking for.

Question for Seb. Germany or Monza? Which moment is, in your opinion, is the defining moment of the season?
SV: None of the two, to be honest. For me it was more Singapore. I think, yeah, from Singapore onwards we just didn’t have the pace to keep up with Mercedes for a couple of races and then obviously some other things happened on top that didn’t help and we couldn’t score the points due to mistakes that we did, mistakes that I did. So it didn’t help. I can’t be too hard on myself with what happened in Germany because it’s not like… I’ve done much bigger mistakes this year but obviously, it was the most costly one. Unfortunately, it’s part of racing: when you push you might be sometimes pushing a little bit too hard. I chose the wrong corner as well. But anyway, it’s behind me and I’m not really thinking about that too much. I consider it part of racing and it happens to others as well. So, but yeah, seeing that struggled in the last couple of weeks, just for pace and speed was probably more defining than that.