AUTODROMO NAZIONALE MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 08: Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10, Race Winner Charles Leclerc, Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 on the podium during the Italian GP at Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 08, 2019 in Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy. (Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images)
Top three press conference after the Italian Grand Prix, Round 14 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, at Monza featuring race winner Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), second-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).
Track interviews conducted by Martin Brundle
Q: Charles, what a brilliant drive. That will go down in Ferrari legend, well done. Charles Leclerc: Thank you so much. What a race. I’ve never been so tired. Can I speak in Italian? (Continues in Italian).
Q: The great Mercedes Benz team threw everything at you, two against one, but you didn’t succumb to the pressure. CL: Yeah, I did a few mistakes but at the end I finished first. Very happy with this. I need to be careful with the mistakes but obviously none of them made me lose the position today.
Q: Well done, brilliant race. Valtteri, the fresh tyres at the end looked quite good but not quite enough to pass young Charles. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think we had a good strategy with me and I was able to go pretty long in the first stint and that opened up some opportunities at the end. But I’m gutted, you know. I was trying everything I could to get him and there was no way past. Always when I was getting close enough I started left-front locking, because of the lack of downforce and they are so quick in the straights as well. But I tried and I think it was the best I could do today.
Q: He was very strong off Parabolica, the last corner, wasn’t he, and then down the straight, so difficult to overtake. VB: Yeah, it was really difficult. We were trying everything we could with engine modes and everything, but not quite enough. Yep, we move on.
Q: Third consecutive podium here but maybe not the place you wanted to be. Thanks Valtteri. Lewis, what a dice, what a battle that was! It got a bit fruity in places. Lewis Hamilton: Fruity?
Q: A little bit close. His elbows were coming out here and there. What would be your word? LH: He did a great job. Congratulations to Ferrari and to Charles, he did a great job. A lot of pressure from Valtteri and I. I did the best I could, I think, but obviously following so closely for such a long time the tyres eventually just went off the cliff. Nonetheless, they were just quicker today – much quicker in a straight line, so even if we did get close we couldn’t pass. Not our day but still strong points for the team. We pull away from Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship and ultimately that’s what really matters.
Q: And you must be homing in on your sixth title? It must be starting to come into range in your mind? LH: Honestly, I’m just trying to do better each race. I’m not really focused on that at the moment. But of course, a healthier lead than I’ve been in in the past, so obviously I’m grateful for that. But today wasn’t a perfect race. I think this weekend some improvements to be made to my set-up and obviously within myself, so I’ll focus on that for the next race.
Q: Valtteri, congratulations, you took second place with 12 laps to go. Another lap or so do you think you could have got the win today or did Ferrari have the pace? VB: First of all, well done Charles. (General laughter, as CL is absent). We tried everything we could today as a team and personally I was giving everything I could for the win. For sure, it’s annoying because it’s so close – finishing less than one second behind the leader. But, yeah, at least I tried everything I could. We tried. The tricky bit was that they were so quick on the straights. It required us to be so close in the corners that it was not really possible to follow, leading the straight (sic), and also getting issues with brakes locking up once getting so close to the car ahead. I was pushing hard, so what can I say? Just not quite enough. Otherwise, it was a good race. I enjoyed it a lot, hunting for the win and the pace was pretty good especially in the second stint.
Q: Thank you and well done. Lewis, you put a lot of pressure on Charles today. How much pleasure do you get from that race? LH: There’s not a lot of pleasure from finishing third. Going backwards is never a great thing. Still, it was a great race. He did a great job. It was nice and tight for a long time and they deserved the win – they did a better job.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, during the race while you were trying to hunt down Charles, we heard a couple of times that it got a bit ‘dicey’ with him. There was the move at the second chicane, where he pushed you onto the run-off, and I think there was another one at the Curva Grande where you were going around the outside and he moved to the left? Was it just heat of the moment frustrations in the car or on reflection, a bit calmer, do you still think he was a bit on the limit or over the limit at times. LH: Uhh, that’s racing. Yeah, it’s just racing I guess. I had to avoid colliding with him a couple of times but I guess that’s how the racing is today. You just move forwards.
Q: Thanks Lewis. Charles has joined us. Many congratulations. Second race win in the bag. It was an incredible grand prix, an incredible podium. Can you just describe the last two hours of your life? CL: It’s quite difficult – a lot going through my mind, during the race, after the race. A lot of emotions. Obviously it was very difficult during the race. Lewis was behind me. I think the biggest gap there was was maybe 1.7 or 1.8 seconds, so right behind me. I knew that Lewis rarely makes mistakes, so obviously I had to stay on it. I did a few, which never cost me a position – once was very, very close. It was crazy and then finally in the last two laps I started to believe that the win was possible. I think that with the traffic Valtteri dropped a little bit and that helped me to get a little bit of space. And then finally going on the line, I let go all my emotions through the radio. I don’t think you can understand anything that I have said on the radio, but it felt absolutely amazing, and the podium also. It’s going beyond all the dreams I’ve had since I was a child. To see so many people cheering for one team, singing all together, it’s amazing.
Q: If we were to discuss the decisive moments in today’s race, was it that choice of the hard tyre at the pit stop? CL: I don’t know. I think the strategy was good. Obviously we were in a tricky situation because we had the two Mercedes behind and I was the only Ferrari and they could play the game of going long with one car and earlier with the other. It was very tricky but in the end I rthink we made ther right choice with the hard.
Q: (Mike Doodson – Honorary) Following up on that response from Charles, I’d like to ask Mr Hamilton if he had the choice of white tyres and if they had been available would the result have been different in your opinion? LH: I mean yeah, if I had gone onto the hard tyre I probably would have had the pace to have finished second, with a tyre that goes longer, but I wouldn’t have changed the position between myself and Charles I think. They were ultimately just a little bit too quick today. I did ask in the morning if I could go to the hard tyres and they said no. They said that because we hadn’t run it they didn’t it was quick enough. I think the tyre we were on was quick but I did say in the meeting this morning that the tyre was potentially going to go off the cliff. It was because I was following so closely behind for so long, just really on the ragged edge, trying to get as close as I could to get in shooting distance of trying to overtake. But every time I opened up the DRS – I don’t know if you were going to a different power mode – but the gap would stay the same. It’s pretty incredible the speed they have on the straights.
Q: (Peter Windsor – Clarksport) Charles, congratulations. Speaking of cliffs, I’m just wondering how your tyres were in the last 10-15 laps and how much tyre management was involved? Car looked a bit squirrelly on some corners, had a few moments, a few lock-ups. How near the cliff were you? CL: The hard were quite difficult to manage. From the beginning, apart from the first two laps, or, no maybe a bit more, maybe three, four laps, I felt quite good, but then there was like a drop off of grip from all four tyres and then I’ve been struggling a little bit with front locks, and towards the end I’ve started to lose the rear, and that’s where the performance started to… where I started to slow down a little bit. They were not in a very bad shape. I believe they could have stayed where they were for quite many laps still – but yeah, I was just struggling with the rear left especially.
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) Charles, you said since Austria and the incident with Max, you changed your approach, being more aggressive. I think we saw that most clearly today in your fight with Lewis. Could you talk us through battle with Lewis, and do you think without this change in approach, you made that you would have won today’s race? CL: Obviously I think since Austria it’s clear that we can go a bit further in the way that we defend and overtake and yeah, just the aggressivity of us drivers. I believe that Austria helped me to change this approach and today it’s also thanks to this that I’ve managed to win. It was obviously very on-the-limit but… yeah, I’m happy to race like this.
Q: (Diego Sanchez – thebestf1.es) Charles, can you describe how you feel right now, just in one word – and how you chose this word? CL: I don’t know how you say it in English: Libération.… yeah, freedom. More or less this. How many laps were there in the race? 53. 53 laps felt a lot longer than 53 laps. As I’ve said, I felt a lot of pressure from behind. So, obviously, from once I crossed the finish line until now is just pure happiness.
Q: (Godina Zsolt – f1vilag.hu) Charles, congratulations. After this race win, how do you see your chances for the next races – and do you think that this could be a turning point for Ferrari in terms of the Championship? CL: We need to stay realistic. I think we expected that Spa and Monza would be very good races for our car but we also know that the next few races will be a lot more difficult for our car. So, we need to be realistic and, yeah, it’s not going to be easy. I think especially Singapore. I think it will be a nice surprise if we are better than what we expect – but what we expect – but we expect to struggle there. We’ll see in two weeks.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Last year Verstappen got a five-second penalty for a move that looked similar to what happened at the Roggia chicane today between Charles and Lewis. What do the three of you think about the black-and-white flag being employed for that move today? CL: I’ve been aware on the radio that I took a black-and-white flag for moving under braking but I’m not so sure of which move you are speaking about. If it’s the one in the right hander where we were flat-out or… after that. What it after that?
Q: The first one, where Lewis went slightly off the track to the right, on your outside, on the entry to the chicane. CL: OK – to be completely honest, obviously I knew he was on the right, he braked a little bit early which I think was probably on purpose because he didn’t’ want to try around the outside. I thought I had left a car width. I haven’t seen the images to be honest. But I was pretty sure there was a car width.
Q: And Charles, what do you think of the use of the black-and-white flag? CL: As I’ve said, I think it’s good if we can race harder. Again, I haven’t seen the images so I cannot say particularly in this case but overall I’m happy if we can race harder. So… yeah… I’m fine.
Q: Lewis, can we get your thoughts? LH: We’ve just constantly asked for consistency. So, there was a rule put in place, and then it wasn’t abided by today and they used difference consequences for the rule today but I don’t really know why that was the case. It’s motor racing, I guess, and I guess the stewards woke up on a different side of the bed this morning. I don’t know.
Q: So do you not welcome the use of the black-and-white flag? LH: Well, that’s what… Verstappen should have got that last year. We’ve asked for consistency. So the same rule should apply each time – but yeah… I don’t know what else to say about it.
Q: Valtteri, your thoughts VB: I haven’t seen the whole thing, so I can’t say anything.
Q: (Daniele Sparisci – Corriere della Sera) Question to Charles. Was it more difficult to win here or in Belgium, with all this battle? CL: Here. I think it’s the first weekend in my life where the only thing I’ve got in my head is winning. Normally I focus on just the job I have to do in the car, which normally is more successful and it works better. But, since Wednesday, seeing the support we’ve had, was just, yeah, incredible. The only thing I wanted this weekend was to win in front of all the guys that are supporting us, for the team. So, it was very difficult because also during the race I was thinking to that win and how much it would mean to everyone in the grandstand here. So it was adding a bit of pressure, and as I’ve explained earlier, also I had quite a lot of pressure from lap one to the last laps.
Q: (Stephane Barbe – L’Equipe) Charles, could you describe especially your feelings on the podium, which is so different here from other places perhaps. CL: Well, it felt amazing. I have never had a podium with… I’ve never been on a podium with so many people underneath it. And to see that the whole straight was full of people – mostly red – 99 per cent red – was great to see. Yeah, as I said earlier, hearing them cheering, singing was just… a lot of emotions.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, seven times a Finnish driver is second in this race. Is it an impossible place to win here? VB: No, it’s not impossible! Not far away today, it just happens that a Finn hasn’t won here. so, maybe one day. Try again next year, obviously. Like I said earlier, I think we tried everything we could and it felt like we maximised everything with the strategy and all – but just not quite enough.
Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Charles, what are your earliest memories of Ferrari? Do you remember, for example, Michael Schumacher winning the Italian Grand Prix? Maybe just a little on that sort of background as a boy; it’s quite a while ago… CL: I’m very bad with history and I’ve got a very bad memory for my own races so yeah. For the others races, I really don’t remember anything. The only thing I can remember is maybe one of the first Grand Prix I’ve seen in Monaco, which was at the exit of turn one, I remember looking for the red car. I was playing with the small cars that you have when you are a child – I was maybe five years old or something like this. This is the only memory I have from a Formula One car probably.
Q: Can you tell us about your first visit to Maranello? CL: I went there with Jules Bianchi, who had to go there for some TV stuff and obviously he tried to let me in with him but they decided I couldn’t go in the factory. Now it’s a little bit easier to go inside but yeah, I remember obviously of dreaming of one day going through these doors and seeing how a Formula One team works, especially Ferrari. But I remember I was very impressed by the way as soon as you arrive in Maranello, which is a city, you can feel that everyone is just here, all working for Ferrari or completely crazy about Ferrari. That was very very special.
Q: Can you remember what year that was? CL: No. No. I’ve got a very bad memory!
Q: (Rodrigo Franca – VIP Magazine) Charles, speaking of that, you are in the Ferrari Driver Academy since a long time, in the Ferrari family so can you tell us of the importance of the programme and if that makes this podium so special and your winning here in Monza for the fans and for the Ferrari family? CL: Well, at the end, if I’m here, it’s also thanks to the FDA. There are a few people in my career who have helped me to get there but definitely the Ferrari Driver Academy is part of these persons or group of persons. We did a lot of mental preparation, physical preparation. They also helped me a lot with the simulator work so I was on the simulator quite a lot and they have tried to give me as much experience that they had from Formula One to me to grow as a better driver so obviously I believe it’s a great proof that the Academy is working properly and there are also a lot of talents coming who are very strong and I’m pretty sure they will come very soon, joining obviously me but all of us in Formula One soon.
Q: (Joe van Burik – RacingNews 365) Charles, how much did you miss the support from Sebastian in the race today? Was it extra hard, considering you didn’t have him? CL: Obviously it’s always an easier situation to have two cars instead of one but obviously yesterday Seb was extremely unlucky, he couldn’t do the lap in the second run of Q3 so yeah, but I’m pretty sure it will be better in the next races.
Q: (Fabio Seghetta – TuttoMotorsport) Charles, obviously with this win you’ve overtaken Sebastian in the drivers’ standings. Do you think the next races, apart from the good or bad performances, you will stay there or do you think that together you can try to get as many points as you can to go over and maybe challenge the two guys to the left and right of you? CL: To challenge Lewis and Valtteri will be very difficult because, as I said, I don’t think we will be as competitive as we’ve been in Spa and Monza but let’s see, obviously . I don’t know if I will keep the position ahead of Seb in the drivers’ championship. I think we need to work together and to try and have the best performance for the team. He wants to beat me, I want to beat him as much as he does but yeah, we’ll see at the end of the championship. I can’t know.
Q: (Giovanni Messi – News Formula One) Charles, two questions: the first is, what did you think of during your final lap and if you have an opinion – I don’t know – on Sebastian’s mistake during the first laps of the race? CL: On the last two laps I started to see in the grandstand that there was quite a lot of agitation, that all of the fans were jumping so yeah, I was telling myself ‘stop looking at the grandstand, look at the track, focus on what you are doing as a driver and then you can enjoy whatever there is outside.’ But it was quite difficult to stay focused on driving, seeing how much movement there was in the grandstand. And then I haven’t yet seen Seb’s mistake.
Q: (Davide Russo – Russ Formula One) Valtteri, you still believe in this championship? VB: Well there’s no point ever giving up when there’s still statistics to say it’s possible. Obviously it’s a bit of a long shot, honestly, if you’re realistic with the way Lewis is performing and the consistency he’s having. But obviously you never know. This is F1, we’ve seen crazy things happening so there’s no point giving up, I just focus as an individual, my best performance I can and for us, as a team, to keep those improvements coming, that we are doing together and by the end of the year we will see, but there’s no point in giving up.
Q: (Daniel Horvath – The Paddock Magazine) Charles, you need to beat a four time World Champion first if you want to win a race. Do you think Sebastian is the toughest teammate you’ve ever had, considering the lower categories as well? CL: Yeah, definitely. He’s definitely the most complete driver I’ve been in the same team with. I’ve learned a lot from Sebastian. He’s an amazing driver, very quick. He has a lot of experience too so the way he works is very methodical and very detailed and of that I’ve learned a lot.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, you’ve had an apparently very warm and respectful relationship with Charles so far this season, when seen from the outside. Will anything change in that as a result of your unhappiness today? LH: I’m not unhappy; of course, as I’ve said, I don’t like to go backwards but he did a fantastic job today. I gave him as much pressure as I could and we had a couple of close moments, we could probably talk about it in private together but it’s nothing major and we continue to race. I’m looking forward to many more races together.
Q: (Peter Windsor – Clarksport) Charles, amazing that you mentioned that you were thinking during the race about winning and what it meant, and I’m just interested to know what part of the lap, given the amount of pressure you’re under constantly, you were able to think about that. Where on the circuit were you actually able to think about things like that? CL: Maybe on the long straight for like 200 meters, I had the time to think. We were quite quick down the straight… not for the whole straight, only for part of it. I was thinking very quickly.