Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Singapore Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Featuring race winner Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), second-placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard
Q: Sebastian Vettel, welcome back, 53rd victory, it’s been over a year, that must feel sweet?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it does. Obviously I’m a bit sweaty. No, I’m very happy. Great race. I think, first of all, big congratulations to the team. Obviously the start of the season has been difficult for us but in recent weeks I think we started to come alive. Really proud of everyone’s work back home. Secondly, I really want to thank the fans. Obviously the last couple of weeks for me have been not the best, but it’s been incredible to be honest to get so much support, so many letters, so many nice messages, yeah, people telling their own stories of when things might not go well and so on, so it gave me a lot of strength, belief and I tried to put it all into the track today, into the car and it’s nice when it pays off.
Q: Well, you know the game, you know there’s been criticism of late – this is the perfect way to answer it. Talk us through that strategy call. Now, my understanding is that lead car get the call on the pit stop, so when you saw Charles go past the pits did you drive that strategy call to come in and go for the undercut?
SV: It was a very late call. I thought it was a bit early, because I wasn’t sure that we could make the tyres last in the second stint. Obviously then I just gave it everything on the out lap because I saw the two cars in front of me not pitting, especially Lewis. I was then very surprised obviously the lap later to come out ahead. Then it’s been quite busy managing the tyres, going through traffic. I was trying to go through and slice through as quick as I could, maybe then to get a cushion and control it at the end but it didn’t work when the safety car came out. Obviously we controlled it to the end. The car was getting better and better. It was tricky at the re-starts on cold tyres but I think as first car you always have an advantage.
Q: I just want to push you on that. Did you make the call or was that your engineer?
SV: No, I was think… just the corner before, like Turn 21, the last turn before the pit entry I received the call. I don’t know if somebody pitted or all of a sudden the gap was big enough, but for me it worked today so I’m happy.
Q: Congratulations. Charles, astonishing performance yesterday, all looking great out front and then of course, just as I was asking there to Seb about strategy, that’s what undid this opportunity for you to win this grand prix. How are you feeling?
Charles Leclerc: Oh, it’s always difficult to lose a win like that but in the end it’s a one-two for the team, so I’m very happy for that. It’s the first one-two for the season. All the guys deserve it. We arrived here hoping for maybe a podium and we go back home with a one-two, so for that extremely happy. Then, of course, disappointed on my side, as anyone would be. It’s like this, sometimes it goes that way and I’ll come back stronger.
Q: Interesting that you say you came here maybe hoping for a podium. This track does sometimes throw an unusual result but do you have confidence that the issues that you had with the car prior to the summer are now resolved with the update?
CL: Let’s wait for a few grands prix but it looks positive here, a lot more positive than we expected. Quali pace, race pace was strong too, so they’ve done an amazing job.
Q: Just one more on the strategy. You were controlling the pace at the beginning, backing everyone up and there was no clear gap to drop into. How aware were you that the undercut was always going to be there as a risk and how much did that come as a surprise?
CL: Yeah, this was the strategy. The strategy was fixed at the beginning of the race. I stick to the plan. Then, at the end the most important thing is that we finished one-two.
Q: Max, well, more than maybe you expected coming into the race. Qualifying close but not quite as strong as we’ve seen from Red Bull in recent years… Third place though, you’ve got to be happy.
Max Verstappen: Absolutely. The whole race went well. Of course in the beginning it was all going really slow so everybody was very close together. Then I started to struggle a bit with the tyres so we boxed and actually that was quite a good call as we undercut Lewis at the end. From there onwards it was all about just managing the tyres home. It was a bit tricky with the safety cars at the re-starts because the tyres they get quite cold. In general happy to be on the podium. It’s always difficult to overtake here, so to do it by strategy is of course very positive. A good amount of points. A lot of things to analyse and to work on but still, happy to be in the top three.
Q: Three safety cars, did that take the pressure off physically, it was almost a two-hour race?
MV: Not really, because you have to warm up your tyres, so you’re actually working harder than when you are going flat out. It’s always going to be a tough race, especially at the end with Lewis pushing on, it was good, it keeps you going flat out until the end. It’s a good workout.
Q: Charles, congratulations, second place. A good result for you but it was decided on strategy. Tell us how surprised were you when you saw that Seb had pitted?
CL: I was surprised because obviously I was not aware in the car, but I guess if this decision has been made it was for the good of the team and it had to be the only way for us to do a one-two. So if it’s the case I completely understand it, but obviously from the car it’s very frustrating. So not completely happy but yeah, anyway the overall result of the weekend is very positive. We hoped for at least one car on the podium for this weekend and we go back home with a one-two, which we definitely did not expect on a track like this. So this is very positive.
Q: You’ve said already that you’re going to come back stronger. What have you learned today?
CL: Well, to be honest, today I don’t think I could have done much things better or differently. Yeah, the only thing probably is I will ask a bit more about the strategy around me and who is not, because I was not aware, so I don’t know if I should have pushed a bit earlier during my first stint. I don’t know, we have plenty of data anyway and I will analyse it.
Q: Max, great result for you to come home ahead of both Mercedes. Is there anything you could have done differently to have beaten one of the red cars?
MV: No. (Laughs). It’s very simple. I could make it a huge story, but no.
Q: So you’re satisfied that was as a good as it was going to be. After qualifying you said the performance wasn’t good enough. Was the car better today?
MV: It was a bit better. I think in the race I could follow, a bit. I was not in a position to attack but at least I could follow the cars ahead of me around, they never really pulled away. Of course initially it was all about tyre management anyway, so I was driving really slowly. I think we pitted at the right time, undercut Lewis, that was very positive and from there onwards it was just about staying alert with the safety car re-starts as well, but I think we managed everything quite well and I think for us after the difficulties we had in qualifying it was still good to be on the podium.
Questions from the Floor
Q: (Frédéric Ferret – l’Equipe) A question to Charles. In the morning briefing for the strategy, was there a plan where the second would go undercut or the first?
CL: No, we didn’t speak about that plan so I think that will be one of the discussions too to try and understand why we didn’t speak about that situation before. But it’s impossible to go through all the possibilities in a race, all of them are unique but no, we didn’t speak about this particular situation.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) Charles, you said that you didn’t know that Seb had pitted. Do you think had you known that, you had the pace in the car at that time to push that little bit harder on your in-lap and make the difference and come back out on track ahead of Seb?
CL: At that time obviously the tyres were quite dead but probably before I had quite a lot of margin. In the first few laps, obviously we wanted to go as slow as we possibly could for the guys behind to not have the window to pit. So yeah, in that period I could have done a much better job but I stick to the plan and I think that’s what helped us to do one-two today – so yeah, you can always do something better but at the end I stick to the plan.
Q: Sebastian Vettel, your fifth win here in Singapore. Welcome back to the middle seat. It’s been a while. What is your overriding emotion right now?
SV: Happy! Obviously it’s been a good night. I knew that it would be tricky from where we started. I was trying to push as hard as I can at the start. It was very close with Lewis, very fair but very close, so I couldn’t really get ahead of him. And then I knew that, usually the races around here start very slow, and I knew that Charles would probably take it easy to control the race, which he did. Back in the train obviously it’s not so easy to stay close to the car in front, looking after your tyres, so that’s what I tried to do, to be able to stay with them as much as I could once they were picking up the pace. And I knew before the race that, as soon as I get my call to box, that’s when I can try to make something with this race. So that’s what I tried to do. It was very late, just last corner before the pit entry. I pushed as hard as I could on the out-lap. I think I was surprised Lewis didn’t react the lap after – but also surprised that they had such strong pace for a couple of laps. So we obviously had to clear them, and once that was done I really tried to slice through traffic as good as I could to have a bit of a cushion and maybe control the race from there. Didn’t work when the Safety Cars came but yeah, So I think the overriding emotion right now is just happy with how the night went.
Q: (Lennart Wermke – Bild) First of all congratulations Seb, it’s been a while. You were referring to some messages that you get by fans that cheered you up, directly after the race. Can you tell us what kind of messages those were and, as you’re not on social media, how did they even receive you? Did they write letters to your house or how exactly did you get the messages?
SV: There’s still a way, y’know? Obviously people were able to send messages before social media, even if that’s very difficult to imagine for some people today. A lot of little notes, handwritten letters, which… obviously if people make the effort to write something, when you find a bit of time in the evenings to go through, it’s really encouraging I have to say. Years ago, y’know, when you start its very difficult to imagine that people follow you and these kind of things but recent years, especially here, especially in Asia, I have a lot of support, a lot of fans that come over and over again. As I said, I just got a lot of energy in the last couple of weeks, just from messages that I received from the racing world, from people that I know, from a long time ago but especially fans. After Monza, and then coming here, so, as I said, people sharing their own story of when things are up and when things go down which obviously… for us everything is centred around racing but really it’s not the most important thing and, when you read through some of the notes and people’s struggles in life, some very intimate and private, you know it gets to you. It gave me a lot of belief and confidence to just keep trying. Obviously nothing was wrong in the last couple of weeks. I knew that we weren’t really far away from a breakthrough moment, sort of, but surely, you know Charles has been very strong and was right to win the last two races – but I knew on our side that we just need to keep doing our job and sooner or later things will fall in to place. So obviously I’m happy that it was rather sooner than later.
Q: (Cezary Gutowski – Przegląd Sportowy) Question to Charles. How difficult was it to keep your nerve in the car – because we heard lots of radio communications, lots of emotions. How tough was it to continue?
CL: Obviously I think during the Safety Car I was quite often on the radio. But then as soon as the Safety Car went away I focussed on the job and tried to do the best of my race. Of course, in the car it’s frustrating and then as soon as I thought a little bit more of the situation after it, then you see the things maybe a bit differently. Even though I still need some explanations just to understand fully why this decision was taken. But yeah, of course it’s always frustrating in the car because you only see your situation and you don’t see everything else.
Q: (Luke Smith – crash.net) Sebastian, congratulations. To get the result after so many questions about your form and the slump that you’ve had, how satisfying does it feel to hit back and, I guess, answer your critics?
SV: Maybe less satisfying than you think. As I said about form and stuff, I don’t think there was anything wrong. So it wasn’t like we were lacking speed or anything. I think it’s much… I think I could have done a better job yesterday. Obviously recently, I think there was nothing wrong in general. Things weren’t maybe falling in place, plus obviously I messed up in the race in Monza, that’s my mistake, otherwise I think I… you know, it’s a long race and a lot of things could happen. But yeah, overall, it’s part of the game. I’ve been around now for a long, long time and yeah, it’s just how the tide turns sometimes. I have the highest expectation on myself and I’m not happy when I’m not delivering what I know I can. Certainly I had moments this year when I was struggling to just get it out. So, I know that I can improve from there, so I can’t be happy with that – but yeah, equally I know that it wasn’t as bad or disastrous as maybe then people put it together. So, I think if you’ve been around for such a long time and you’ve had so many good moments then obviously you get hammered when there are bad moments. I think that’s just part of the game.
Q: Sebastian, is there a sense of relief this evening?
SV: I’ve had that question now a couple of times. Not… yes in a way maybe it kicks in a bit later but yeah, maybe just a confirmation that if you keep doing what you do… moments where you know that things are wrong and you need to make changes but lately I didn’t feel that any big changes are necessary. In that regarding it’s a confirmation but it’s not like ‘finally I can breathe again’. It’s not like I felt in a wrong and bad place. I knew that I have to pull through and go through it myself. So, yeah…
Q: (Don Kennedy – Hawke’s Bay Today) Sebastian, this time you don’t need to change around the number one and two signs although Charles might differ on that. But just building on from that, was this a team victory or more like a personal victory for you?
SV: I think you are very misled if you ever think that you are bigger than this team. I don’t think any individual can be bigger than this team. I said on the radio, the first thing is obviously this is a victory for the team because if you look at the hard facts then we came here after we got completely destroyed in Hungary. We had a minute gap between the leaders, the winners and us and coming here, similar track at least in terms of car specification, to be in a position where we were able to fight for pole yesterday and take control of the race, that’s a team success, as I said on the radio and that’s what I honestly feel. So of course you’re looking after your own race and for yourself but I think nothing can beat this team. I was very down after Monza for myself but up for the team and obviously today I’m a bit more up for myself but still very up for the team, as I said, because it was also a very positive surprise with how we were able to be more competitive here. Having said that, I think we still can do better; we must do better. Mercedes was very strong on the used set of softs once we all came in. I don’t think we had that pace in hand so there are still things we can look at.
Q: (Erik van Haren – De Telegraaf) Max, what is your overall conclusion after this weekend, your overall feeling? Quite happy about today or more of the disappointment of yesterday?
MV: Not good enough. We came here to win and clearly didn’t. Yesterday I think was worse than today but I would say it’s a little wake-up call. From Austrian onwards, it’s maybe our worst race in terms of performance, where we expected to be really good. I have a few ideas why it went wrong so we will analyse all of them and see if we can already be better in Sochi. The layout is not that amazing for us but you can clearly see if the car is working through corners or not. I think here, clearly, in too many corners the car was not working like I wanted it to. We’ll go home and see what we can do better.
Q: (Tony Dodgins – Channel 4) Charles, obviously the strategy with Seb made sense with Lewis there but once you were running one-two at the front, did you anticipate that the team might swap you back round again, as we’ve seen at other races and was that discussed on the radio?
CL: No, that wasn’t discussed on the radio. I just waited for the decision of the team, whether they thought it was the thing to do or not, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t expect anything, I just focused on the job I had to do and then waiting for them to say anything, if they had to say anything.
Q: (David Coath – Motorlat.com) Max, after the third safety car, obviously Lewis was in the DRS zone. What do you feel was the key to keeping him behind as he finished 0.7s behind you?
MV: Yeah, he was pushing hard. My tyres were going off a little bit but I think it’s quite normal. His tyres were seven or eight laps better than mine and with seven laps to go I didn’t have any problems so it really started to be with four laps to go and then you could see he was closing in so I just had to make sure I had good exits out of some crucial corners where I knew he was going to be quick. We managed to do that. I guess the people in the garage were a bit more nervous. I was just focusing on getting good exits.
Q: (Oliver Davies – sportskeeda) Sebastian, it’s just been over 391 days since your last victory in F1, roughly, but specific. How do you rank this win out of your victories in F1, because you’ve had a bit of a long wait to get back at the top?
SV: I don’t know, to be honest. Obviously I’m in a very, very lucky position to look back on so many but you always look forward to the next one. Obviously it took a while but as I said, I’m not happy if there are chances that I don’t take and obviously there were some chances, well deserved by Charles, the last weeks. Things that I should have done, could have done better but you always look forward to the next one so I’m happy for today but fairly quickly you turn the page and you want to do better the next race. It’s been like this since I started and still like this. One day maybe it’s not like this any more and then maybe it’s time to do something different, I don’t know.
Q: (Wojciech Paprota – SwiatWscigow.pl) Seb, Charles, over the last couple of minutes you said that so many things have not been discussed within the team. How would you describe the level of internal communication within the team? Is it fine, is it not perfect; how would you describe it?
CL: I think the level of how much we speak in the team is very good. Then there will always be situations that you don’t speak about, otherwise the meetings will be eight hours longer and I don’t want that. They’re already very long. I think it’s very good, the way we work but again, there will always be situations you don’t speak of.
SV: Obviously we try to speak about things in the race etc, what can happen and so on. As you might imagine, you try to get on with your job in the car but as I said previously as well, I think it’s an exception team and the team stands first. I think we aware of that.
Q: (Alex Garcia – Diariomotor.com) Question to both Ferrari guys: it’s the first time since 2008 that Ferrari has won three races in a row on different tracks and we know that Singapore has a tendency to throw up the odd result but what are the implications for Ferrari coming back to the pace that you didn’t have maybe at the start of the season?
SV: Well, I’ve been around for a while now with Ferrari and I think there’s only one way for Ferrari to be back which is when we win the championship. That’s a very harsh judgement but that’s what it is, that’s the reality. We’re working very hard on that. I think this year will be very, very difficult to turn things around with the current form that Mercedes has for the last 15 races or 14 races that we did now, but we keep fighting because anything we learn this year will help us next year, so the bits we brought here obviously are positive in terms of also looking to next year’s direction, development etc. But we need more, obviously we want to be the best team, which currently we are not. The last races have been good for us so that’s great for our self confidence inside the team for everyone, but there’s still a lot of work ahead of us.
CL: I really hope so. It will be difficult because I’m pretty sure that the other teams will bring some upgrades too in the next few races but it’s looking good. We’ve had two opposite characteristics of tracks in the last three weeks and we’ve been quick in both of them and I think it was quite a big surprise for us but for every one to be quick on a high downforce track like here. It’s a good thing and I hope it’s a good sign for the future.