Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Hungaroring near Budapest.
Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and third-placed Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari).
Track interviews conducted by Paul Di Resta
Q: Lewis, I can see how much that one means to you. From a driving point of view that was exactly what you had to do to go out there and win it. You fought all the way the very end to get that one done. How do you feel?
Lewis Hamilton: Tired, which is how it should be, but I feel really grateful for the day and for the team for continuing to believe in me and continuing to push to the limits and to take a risk and a chance on me. We’ve been together for seven years and it never gets old, it always feels brand new. It feels like a new win for us. If it wasn’t for these boys here and all the guys back at the factory this wouldn’t be even possible and I’m just grateful to be a part of it. Yeah, for a race to be able to push like that, I’m telling you now it was on the limit all the way.
Q: The gap was there to take that chance, to roll the dice and try something on strategy, but you had a bit of management in there with brakes, because you had nearly got Max before. Was it always going to be on edge to get that pass done?
LH: Honestly, we’ve had brake problems all weekend, having like separation of the front temperatures and glazing, and I was a bit worried. We made some changes and it still didn’t make a difference and naturally we get into the race and we have this problem, so I was doing a lot of lift and coast and not even touching the brake for half the lap. Now of course in the big stops you had to lose it. I was just trying to save as much as I could for that time when I do get a chance. It was very, very difficult to get by, defence was great, they were quite quick on the straights. But honestly I didn’t know if I could catch that 19-second gap because there is a big… my tyres were going to drop off and all these different things are going through your mind, but like the team said, you just keep your head down, so I did and kept pushing and pushing and the gap closed and closed and closed. The laps were like qualifying laps every lap. So my hat off to the team and I think if Niki was here today he’d take his hat off.
Q: I think everybody would. That’s seven wins in Hungary and a nice way to sign off for the summer break. Enjoy your rest. Max, I know you’re not going to be very happy with what happened but they had the chance to do what they did. You were not fortunately in that position (sic) but I guess you’ve got to be satisfied and Driver of the Day to say that.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, we were just not fast enough. I tried everything I could on that hard tyre to stay alive but unfortunately it was just not enough. But still, second and fastest lap, I think a good weekend overall for us. Of course congrats to Lewis for the win. He was pushing me very hard, so I like that. Today we didn’t win but again, like I said, it was a good day, a good weekend for us.
Q: What was missing today? That’s four very good races but the one we all thought you would get the job done, these guys came out very strong.
MV: Just lacking a bit of grip I guess. We tried the one stop, of course they had the opportunity to do a two and today that worked out well.
Q: Sebastian, right at the very end of the grand prix. I know these guys had a lonely race at the front but always satisfying to pass your team-mate, you did something different on strategy, and to sign off what is going to be a difficult break for you guys to bounce back?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, I mean obviously I was sitting in P4 and had nothing to lose so we stayed out very long in the first stint and then just hoped that the soft would last until the end, and it did. I think it was the fastest tyre at the end so we were able to close the gap. We had one opportunity, which I took, so happy to get some champagne now and to cool down. Yeah, we couldn’t go the pace with these two; that was quite clear the whole weekend, so lots of work ahead of us. I think it’s good now for everyone to get a break, the guys have been working very, very hard. We need maybe to charge our batteries and then the battle continues. There will be tracks that we will be better for us but still, overall we need to get stronger.
Q: With Spa and Monza coming up after the summer break you guys have got to be favourites for that with your straight-line speed.
SV: Yeah, I don’t know what other people will do in terms of updates on power unit and the engine side, so we’ll see. Obviously on paper they look better of for us. But yeah, still we know we have margin with the car. As you said it will be a busy break for us. I don’t think anyone’s mind can rest in the two weeks, so maybe we come up with some good ideas for the second half.
Q: Max coming to you, great performance by you all weekend and so much rested on that strategic call. Were you tempted to pit as well?
MV: It wouldn’t have made sense because I would have been behind then so then you know the race is lost anyway. So the only option was for me to continue and that’s what we did. Of course at one point I started to run out of tyres, I think trying to keep up with Lewis’ pace on those medium tyres, trying to keep it within a second was almost impossible. And of course you can see it coming, so for me it was not a big disappointment once he passed me, it was just a normal thing to happen. Anyway, we have to be realistic and he was just clearly faster today. Always I was struggling a little bit more for grip than him. He could keep the pressure on. Of course when you are in second you can gamble to do a two-stop. For me it was always about trying to cover him or stay ahead. With the two-stop, worst case scenario is you stay second and best case you overtake me and that’s what they did today. Yeah, then we pitted at the end as well. Of course happy to then do that fastest lap. It’s still one point and hopefully at the end of the year it will matter. Let’s see.
Q: And when you were on the same tyres compound how much did you relish that battle with Lewis?
MV: So, I think on the first tyre he never really had a shot. We were still competitive in the last sector and then when we got on the hard tyre… also with the traffic, because of that he had a few goes at me because I couldn’t do my normal lines in the last few corners and he caught up with that. And then with the defending, I tried to do it as good as I could. Luckily I could stay ahead and then he had to manage his brakes and engine a bit but you could see clearly once that was sorted he closed the gap again. If he had stayed on that one stop I think I could have kept him behind. But once he was on the medium you know it’s going to be really hard.
Q: Sebastian, strategy played a significant part in your race as well. How tough was it to get the distance on that first set of medium tyres?
SV: Very tough. I think they were in very poor condition at the end. I was happy we tried. Obviously we tried to hang in there. I think we stayed out another 10 or 15 laps after Charles pitted, just to try to do something different, maybe hope for a safety car, but to be honest by then obviously the top two were sort of gone anyways. It was really for the sake of trying something different, which looked very distant to ideal when we had the stop and I came out but then I just tried everything I had and got one chance in the end. In the end it’s not a big deal, third or fourth for the team, it’s still the same. The big picture for today is that we were not quick enough and not able to follow them right from two laps into the race.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Max, usually Red Bull is quite good on race pace and not so good on qualifying pace. Do you have an explanation why it was the other way round this weekend? Was it becauswe of the Friday, which was a little bit weird?
MV: No, I think then you can see how much margin they have when they really need to push. I think Lewis today was on fire as well, but then you see, once he really has to go for it you can see that that car is still the dominant car, it’s as simple as that. Whereas in some races it’s not as necessary. Of course they had their issues in Austria with overheating so you can’t push. Of course in Hockenheim it was tricky conditions as well so you can’t really drive to the limit of the car. But here today I think he had to go for it flat out, because I was also pushing flat out and then you can see what they are capable of as a team.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriera della Sera) Sebastian, given the hotter temperature did you expect from your car. Is it now a step back in the performances?
SV: No, I think the temperatures were fine. It was quite warm, the track was near 50 degrees as well so I don’t think so. I think we saw our limits yesterday. We got a confirmation today, so I don’t think it’s a step back, we had some bits, it was a small step forward but what it shows is that it’s not enough. It’s important that the mood inside the team remains positive, which is the case. I think everybody knows what we are lacking. Obviously we are very competitive on the straights – yesterday 6 or 7kph faster at the end of the straight compared to Red Bull and also Mercedes – but obviously we are losing quite a lot in the corners. There were some tracks where efficiency is more important, this is a track where inefficiency pays off, so whatever you have in terms of downforce is positive. That’s where we are lacking performance and in the race I think it shows even more because you are sliding and then I think we are going through the tyres faster. So not to our advantage. We have seen that as well in recent weeks, so in a way not a surprise but as I said we need to keep our head down and do the work.
Q: Thank you Sebastian. Lewis, thank you for joining us. Can you just give us your thoughts when you were 19 seconds behind with 20 laps to go?
LH: Well, firstly, Max really drove a sensational race today, as he has done particularly the last few races. When I was behind him on the hard tyre it didn’t look like he had particularly good pace – maybe he was managing to get to the end – but I had a lot of grip and I was thinking ‘I can definitely make this tyre go to the end’, because the first one I got to go quite far. But the team said we were going to a two-stop and I was thinking ‘how is this going to work out, I’m going to come out quite far behind’. But you have to put complete faith in your team because they have different viewpoint to you, so we did the stop and I came out on the mediums and I thought ‘Jeez, I don’t know if these are going to go the distance at the speed I am going to have to go’. Also Max turned up the engine mode and they started doing mid-19s. I started thinking ‘I don’t know if I’m close this gap’. I think the trajectory, they said I was going to catch him with nine laps to go and then that changed super quickly and went to last lap. So after that I had to put all doubt and all question marks out of my mind and go for the best laps I could do every single lap and consistency and not drop any time whatsoever. I had one of the most consistent period of laps that I’d had. I don’t know if he had traffic or mistakes or whatever but the gap started to chop down quite quickly. I think with four or five laps to go I had him four seconds ahead and I could see him in my sights, so maybe he’s struggling with his tyres. So after that I was like ‘OK, we’ve got a serious race on here’. It felt like the steepest wall to climb when you come out that far behind but the team had relaxed faith that we would do it and I’m grateful for their hard work and the decision.
Q: (Stuart Codling – F1 Racing) Question for Max. You said just now that we saw how much margin Mercedes have. That notwithstanding, you had a brilliant race today. How much confidence does that give you, that you can come back after the summer break and take the fight to Mercedes?
MV: I think there are a few tracks coming up that are maybe not as ideal for us – but of course we know we have some updates coming soon to the car and the engine, so hopefully that will again bring us closer. We’ll find out then.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Congratulations Lewis, after what happened in Germany, does this feel like a redemptive special win for you and for Mercedes, to come back so strongly?
LH: I generally don’t like to look at redemption, if that’s the right word. Naturally, you know I don’t really make a lot of mistakes and I think the last one was definitely a massive off-weekend for me, and so this weekend, these two weeks, the team have been really great and supportive and taking off the workload, allowing me to recover and really just giving me the best support group possible to take any extra pressure off. Coming to this weekend, I felt I was back on it. Qualifying didn’t go the way I’d planned and I’d hoped. Then today, once I got into second, I was like ‘OK, game on’. And I could keep up with Max, no problems. So I was like, ‘we’ve got an actual real race on here. How is it going to play out? I don’t know. We’re going to have to figure it out as we go along.’ And obviously we both know where we’re going to strategy-wise. Yeah. I truly believed I could get by him at some stage but we’re also fighting at different points in the Championship. I think if we were level on points today would have been an even more aggressive battle, I would say, in the wheel-to-wheels that we did have but obviously we didn’t need to take extra risks today. So, I think Max was really fair and great with where he positioned his car. I just always made sure I gave extra space, just in case. But, of course, going into the break, this is a great, great uplift for the team, particularly after a difficult weekend for us all in the last one. So all the guys back at the factory, a big, big thank you, and the guys here with the strategy. They’re very, very calm when they talk about the strategy like that today. “No, no, truly believed you could do it.” For sure they were nervous as hell that it wasn’t going to work. I think collectively we made it happen, so it’s good.
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) Lewis, congratulations. We saw that battle you had with Max through the middle of the race. Could you talk us through that? How much do you enjoy these wheel-to-wheel fights with Max? And how nice is it that he’s stepped up and Red Bull have stepped up this year, so you’re fighting with him on a regular basis?
LH: Yeah. It’s really fantastic to see Red Bull’s progress. Obviously we’re in a period of time, particularly this track has been a track that they’ve always been particularly fast in, in previous years and it’s really awesome for Honda as well, to see their progression. They’ve got a lot of power in that engine. So, don’t for one second think when get the… I think we all get it… the timings where we all layout… the Red Bull were quicker than us on a single lap this weekend and we thought we were relatively level in the race but we were just able to keep up with them and match their times. I think it’s going to continue for the races to come. Even the faster circuits, the engine’s going to be great in Monza, so hopefully we’ll see this battle continue for the rest of the season. And, fingers crossed, Ferrari also will take a step back towards us at some point over the next races. But going into the break, this is awesome.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Sb Belarus) Thank you very much guys for a very good job, for very nice race. I am really happy to be here. My question to Max. How do you feel close with nine championship titles.
MV: I don’t know what to say! I have none! I don’t know what to comment on this! I still have a few years, hopefully in F1, so hopefully one day I can add one. Yeah. That’s it, I think.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – F1.com) Max, at the beginning you were only two-tenths on average slower than Lewis. Then from lap 61, 62, 63 more than 2s. So the tyre disappeared completely? And Sebastian, in spite of what you said to us, that you didn’t expect much from the team here, before coming – did you expect more than sixty seconds the difference between you and the winner?
MV: Yeah. I think it’s quite normal. Lewis was on a medium tyre, pushing flat out of course to catch up, and I was on a hard tyre trying to go flat out but trying to keep the gap but yeah, I was always trying to keep it within a second because then I knew, OK, we can get to the end but at one point the tyres were gone. I started losing one and a half second a lap and then at one point two seconds, and it was just sliding and you feel the rubber is gone, so there isn’t much you can do. It’s quite normal when you have to push that hard on the tyre quite late in the race, where you normally don’t want to push as hard on the tyre. So I guess it’s a normal progression of the tyre drop off.
SV: I think some tracks you know maybe suit you, some maybe less. Despite that I think I was fairly open-minded and you know, you don’t want to accept that. So I tried everything to prove the opposite. But looking now, after yesterday, we simply didn’t have the pace of those two in particular. So there’s obviously work for us to be done. We have room to improve, in the corners is where we’re lacking. With that obviously comes the advantage on the straight, one goes with the other. But, for sure, if we could make a trade, then we would go for it. We’ve been adding small bits to the car this weekend. They were working but obviously not big enough to really get close on a track like this. There might be tracks coming up next, especially with Spa and Monza that might be better for us – but in the end our ambition is to really force things to happen, be in control of the race. Where we are now, we’re quite far away from that. So, yeah, I think the spirit is good though. The team is willing to give everything they have, continue to give everything they have. And that’s all we can do right now.
Q: (Tom Jackson – City Press) Question for all three of you. The lack of meaningful running we saw on Friday afternoon went some way to us seeing the variation in strategy that we did today that allowed you to put on fresh tyres and go for the win and things like that. Would you, in the future, be happy to have less running earlier in the weekend, as drivers getting less track time, if it meant we got more unpredictability later on Sunday?
LH: I never really thought of it. I mean, if it can help with racing, sure. I think this weekend, not many people… I don’t think the Red Bulls did a long run, we did a long run in P1. I think one of few that did. I don’t know how much difference that made. It’s just that we did have an understanding of how far we thought we could take the tyres but somehow the other teams are able to do something similar with their strategies. But yeah… do you think it would make a difference.
SV: No, I actually like driving, so it would be quite bad to get rid of some. I don’t think it’s a lot of driving anyway. We do a lot of races but overall I don’t think we drive very much. So, it would be a pity, I think. If you want to address the racing then there’s other things to focus on other than adding or taking away a practice session.
LH: It definitely does help when you go into a race and you don’t know how far the tyre’s going to go. That is quite… I think that is not a bad thing and I think that can add to the spectacle. If you put on a medium tyre or a hard tyre and don’t know how far it’s going to go, none of us do, it definitely makes it more questionable, the strategy. So, I understand what you’re saying but we’ve got more, bigger problems, fish to fry, the way the car’s designed and things like that for the future.
Max, your thoughts.
MV: I think anyway, this year already quite often you go into the race on a tyre you haven’t driven on in practice – because you only select one. I think it’s not bad. I like also sometimes the challenge of not knowing what’s happening. I mean, the problem is most of the time, you put that tyre on, if the balance is bad it’s hard to pass, for the guy behind. So it’s more about the following where we need to work on. If the guy behind is faster, he should be able to get by. So that’s all in relation to the tyres as well. Sometimes, of course, on purpose we don’t select the hardest compound more than once because that’s mandatory. Because you know if you stick it on, even without any knowledge, you can stay ahead and just get to the end.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, lots will be made of the strategy decisions today and obviously while you say it was a great call but Max earlier said that you were on fire today so how highly do you rate your individual performance over those last 20 laps or so?
LH: Well, it was definitely a really good day today. I think today was clearly… once we got up to second I knew that me and Max were going to have a good race. Did I know I was going to get by? Honestly I was able to keep up with him, I was able to hold on to him within the two second gap and I was just trying to see whether I could make my tyres go longer than him and just kind of really studying him, I guess, really from behind, seeing how that was going. And then he started to drop off a cliff a little bit at the end and it’s really all about trying to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time. It’s not easy to follow, two seconds behind and obviously I had the brake problem as well, so I had to change my driving style quite a bit to enable this brake to go down in temperature so it meant doing a lot less braking and I had much much shorter bursts of braking and then in a lot of other places, half the lap I wasn’t really touching the brakes. So it really changes the balance of the car as well. I’m really glad of how I was able to delegate and work through that and collectively with the team, they did a really exceptional job. It will be interesting when we go back and talk about the two stop because today, this morning, we talked about the strategy and they said two stop was not going to happen and even when we called to do a two stop, I was like Jeez, I don’t know how this is going to work. A gamble’s always a good thing, it felt like a big gamble for us but at the time I felt like I had the pace on Max, I think, as I said, because I don’t know if he was backing off, or he was just controlling the pace but I felt like OK, I’m going to have a few attempts at trying to pass him but at some stage the tyres are going to go off, so I don’t know how many attempts that will be. I really don’t know how long I made those mediums go but I think it was just a collectively… a really bold, risky strategy call and then just doing the job. At the end of the day, I had to do those laps to chew out the gap that he had on me so I think collectively, as a team, we did a really exceptional job.
Q: (Péter Vámosi – Racing Line) Sebastian, you will become a father again, and with maximum respect to your personal life, can you tell us if you’re waiting (inaudible) girl and if a boy, will you be happy if he would chose your job as a racing car driver?
SV: Well, I don’t like to talk about my private life so thank you, but I think we will leave it there.
Q: (Dániel Májer – GP Hirek.hu) Now the summer break has started, the first part of the season is over so could you please rate your own performance from one to ten, one is the worst, ten is the best and explain briefly why you give yourself that mark?
SV: Five, not happy with the first half. I think I struggled here and there to really get on top of the car. I think we’ve been trying a lot of things so fair enough. Obviously we wanted to squeeze out more so you’re always looking for more but I feel I can do a better job in the second half. And five is my number, so take five.
LH: So that’s the first half of the season, yeah? I’d say like 8.9, 8.8.
SV: Go ten, man. Go for it, who cares?
LH: If it wasn’t for the last one, the last race, it would be a little bit higher. I think the good thing is always to score yourself a little bit lower so you’ve more to work on. For sure, it’s been the best start of the season that I think we’ve ever had as a team and I think it’s one of the best seasons that I’ve had personally to start off, but there are areas that we can continue to work on. That’s the great thing about this sport, you know, no matter how many years and days you race there are always areas you can improve on. So let’s see if we can try and up that into the nines or try to get to the tens in the second half of the season.
MV: I don’t rate myself in numbers.
SV: What do you do instead? Letters? Or…
MV: No, I hate putting a number on it because it reminds me of school as well, which is not that long ago. I’m always quite critical and I think it always can be better. I’ll never be satisfied. I think it’s been very positive and I’ve had good results but there are always things to work on.
SV: … a number man!
MV: No I don’t.
SV: We did it.
MV: Yeah, I know but… I don’t know, I think it’s… First of all, I cannot rate myself like that.
LH: Why not, you’ve done a good job man?
MV: I know, but… I don’t know. I find it a bit weird to say an eight or…
Q: Lewis, how would you rate Max if you gave him a number?
LH: I don’t remember all the races that you’ve done other than the last three or four. You could say he’s in the high nines over the last few races but I can’t remember how it went before.
MV: I’ve had a lot of fourths, P3 and then three times fourth. P5, P3… too many P3, P4.
LH: It’s easier to rate yourself because you often remember how many mistakes you’ve made, when you’ve done good, when you’ve kind of been under par and he’ll know whether he’s been on par or below par. I think today he drove exceptionally as he has particularly in the past three or four races so if that continues he’s going to continue to operate in the high nines towards tens.
MV: Nobody’s perfect. No, it’s never perfect…
LH: It’s like an impossible number to get.
LH: It’s a hard one to get to.
Q: (Dániel Horváth – The Paddock Magazine) Lewis and Max, Fernando Alonso praised your performance on social media. It seems he enjoyed the battle as well. Would you like to see him back in Formula One and race against him again?
LH: Well, firstly that’s really awesome that he’s supportive… I was just actually watching some of the restarts, the starts of previous years and watching him from his Renault days and I remember just before I even got to Formula One watching how amazing their starts were. I don’t know how old Fernando is now but he’s always going to be a great driver. If he can get a good seat, he’s always welcome here to battle with us. It doesn’t make a difference, really, necessarily for me. I’m here to fight whoever’s here.
MV: Yeah, I think it was a bit of a shame that I never had an opportunity to fight against him in F1 so yeah…
LH: Could be a good team-mate for you.
MV: Fernando? Well, you have experience with it, I don’t know. Well…
SV: He could be your father!
MV: Yeah, it’s close! Yeah, I know. As a young father. How old is he? 36? 38! OK, well 17 is possible to be a father.
SV: Talking with experience?
MV: I don’t know. At least I don’t know.
LH: How old are you now?
MV: 21. Many years, plenty of years…
LH: Jeez. I like being in this room because I’m not the oldest!
LH: I’m 34, yeah, nearly 35.
SV: I’ll tell you, the day we get beat by somebody who’s born in 2000 and upwards. We will know it’s time…
MV: I’m not that young!
Q: Sebastian, final thoughts on Fernando? Would you like to see him back?
SV: I don’t mind. I don’t know why… I don’t think he never really liked me. I don’t think we really had a… I don’t mind him. I respect him for what he achieved and for what he can do on track. I don’t know. I guess he’s bored if he has time to write these things. So bring him back, I don’t mind.
MV: Maybe as a social media manager. To me, he’s always been very nice and good. I like that he is also now looking into other opportunities for racing. He just loves racing and he wants to win, he wants to be competitive. It’s good to see.
LH: The sport needs the best drivers in the best seats and there is still at least a seat available that’s good enough for winning and he’s good enough for winning so it wouldn’t be such a bad…
MV: Maybe he could speak to Toto.
LH: Valtteri’s great; Valtteri’s been winning. You’re the one with the extra seat, I would say.
MV: I didn’t say that.
SV: I’m not sure…