Full transcript from the drivers’ press conference after the Styrian Grand Prix, Round 2 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship at Red Bull Ring featuring the top three finishers:
Race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing).
Track Interviews conducted by Martin Brundle
Q: Lewis, congratulations, normal service resumes: pole position, victory. You had it covered today. Lewis Hamilton: Firstly I just want to say a big thank you to my team and everyone back at the factory. This has been… what a weird year it is but it is great to be back up here and to be driving and to be driving with this kind of performance. The team did a fantastic job with the strategy and then it was just for me to keep it together, stay off the kerbs and bring it home.
Q: You didn’t quite get the point for fastest lap, that went to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren on a fresh set of tyres, but you had to look after the car a little bit through the race did you? LH: Yeah, well I tried to get the fastest lap but of course on 40 lap-old mediums I wasn’t going to get it over someone on new, fresh tyres. But that’s OK, I’m so grateful to be back in first place and honestly it feels like a long time coming, obviously since the last race last year, and to come back this weekend after a difficult weekend last week, this is a great, great step forwards.
Q: it was certainly a champion’s drive and we get to race again just next weekend don’t we? LH: I love this. I love back-to-backs. Can we just go back-to-back all year long. I might need a holiday in between though!
Q: Valtteri, you’re still leading the world championship, that’s the good news, but Lewis had the pace today. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, Lewis started from the pole, he had a good start, so he could really control the race and there was not so much happening as last weekend. But from my side, I think today was damage limitation, so still got good points, still leading, so it’s not too bad. Yesterday was not ideal so that’s why no 25 points today.
Q: A good fight with Max. You got past him, he got past you, but eventually you got the job done in the end. Exciting at Turn 4 there? VB: Yeah, it was a good battle with him. Obviously I think I had quite a bit more pace than him at the end as we extended the first stint, but yeah racing closely is always good fun.
Q: So you can leave Austria and head to Hungary very satisfied? VB: Could have been more satisfied but it’s been a not bad first couple of races so looking forward to next week.
Q: Great drive Max, you tried your best to split the Mercedes and gave it everything you had. Max Verstappen: Yeah, I tried but we’re just a bit too slow, so I pushed as hard as I could and also when Valtteri was trying to pass me I tried to make it a bit difficult. I knew he was going to get by one lap later but it was at least fun because the rest of the race was pretty boring. A podium is good but still a lot of work to do.
Q: You got points on the board. Can you find any speed between now and next weekend? Have you got any goodies, any presents coming in the car? MV: I don’t know yet. We’ll look into it and then we’ll see next week.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations. It’s been a pretty dominant couple of days for you with that pole position yesterday and the win today. Now, races are never as easy as they look, or are they? Were there any concerns for you today? LH: Thank you. It’s never easy. It was a challenge this weekend, especially with the Red Bulls really picking up their pace on Friday and we obviously had some sort of issue that we were able to rectify from Friday afternoon. Nothing major. And also, the team did a fantastic job over the week to improve on some of the issues we had in the last race. Today, being able to attack a little bit more and really utilise the car… I think the Red Bulls…. well Max, was quite quick today, so it just shows that they’re definitely not a pushover. I think they’ve done a fantastic job so we’ve got to stay on our toes. We’ve got to go to places like Hungary, where the shorter Red Bull is usually very, very strong. Otherwise, it’s been a great two days and a great way to bounce back from a difficult weekend in the first weekend, where Valtteri was incredibly strong and just a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory and everyone here who has stayed. The team has stayed all week and been in every single day, not leaving a stone unturned, so that’s a huge confidence boost.
Q: Valtteri, P4 on the grid to P2 at the flag. You mentioned damage limitation earlier. How was the performance of the car? VB: I think the performance of the car was great, obviously yesterday as well I should have been stronger. There was obviously some things affecting the performance but even from my side the lap was not that clean and I should have been at least P2, so that’s why in some things I’m going to have a look in the mirror why today was a bit more difficult and could have been possibly a good battle with Lewis. But I think, from where I started and how the race went, I think it felt like I and us as a team, we could really maximise everything, so being able to, as a team, get the first 1-2 of the year, only the second race, is obviously really impressive. Like Lewis said, I’m just really thankful for everyone. It’s a privilege to drive for this team. But, of course, I’m not 100 per cent happy because I didn’t win. That’s how it goes as a driver but Lewis did a great job this weekend and… yeah… still points-wise it’s still early days and everything is looking good, so that’s why I can’t wait for the future.
Q: Max, you were carrying some front wing damage for a large proportion of that race. How much was that compromising the performance of the car? MV: I don’t know, I didn’t look in the data. I was just pushing as hard as I could to try and stay with them, y’know? But clearly, it’s still not good enough. The gaps, compared to the guys behind were massive. I was a bit shocked. I tried everything I could but it’s still not enough. So, we’ve still got some work to do but to bounce back from zero points last week to a podium now is a good start – but I think, as a team, we want to win and we want to fight for the Championship and if you want to fight for the Championship of course you need to win races, so yeah, we need to look into it. I think we were losing quite a bit on the straight as well. So it’s a bit of both at the moment. Just need to keep on working harder to try and close the gap.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, how much was the gearbox issue over the kerbs, how much did that affect you again today and did you have to drive within yourself as a result – or were you able to push flat-out throughout? LH: No, it wasn’t a problem today. The guys did a great job during the week, understanding what the issue was. It was nothing particularly major but of course it could have had quite large consequences, so, they did a great job to rectify it and we haven’t really heard them mention it since we started the weekend. So, we were able to drive as normal today.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Max, you said you haven’t dived into the data. Can you just talk a little bit through how the car was changing and handling through the race. Heard you talking about some traction issues or driveability issues at times. How was the car for you as the race developed? MV: It was OK. Of course when the tyres are dropping off automatically you struggle a little more with the balance but there was nothing like dramatic, just the last 10-12 laps I started to struggle with the tyres but that’s it.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Max, we heard you querying the timing of your pitstop, and then you seemed to run out of tyres towards the end. Do you believe that was the decisive factor? MV: No, we were just too slow so we can do whatever we want: pitting early, late or the same, I don’t think it’s going to change the end result. So, at the time I thought we were pitting a bit early, and I knew of course that towards the end of the race I was going to run out of tyres but yeah, it is what it is. I said also on the radio at one point, never mind, just get on with the job.
Q: (Mark Hughes – The Race) Question for Max. In the initial part of the race it looked like you were hanging on to Lewis reasonably well but then they seemed to step it up. Is that a problem that you had or do you think that they just had performance in hand? MV: No, I think it’s more just Lewis pace-managing. Of course, he knows my lap times, that the gap is not closing or growing. I’m just doing my laps. There’s always a bit of margin but if I would push more, Lewis would push more, so yeah. You could see once you have to push a bit more and you have the tyres to do so, then I’m just a bit too slow.
Q: Max, how confident are you that you’re going to be more competitive in Hungary next weekend? MV: Well, we’ll just find out, don’t we! Honestly, at the moment I’m not really… I don’t know.That’s the simple answer: I don’t know. But I hope it’s going to be a bit better.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Valtteri, we know all athletes have strong self-confidence, but when Lewis has a weekend like he has this weekend and a performance on Saturday like he did, how hard is it to keep that belief that you can beat him to the Championship? VB: I think in any sport, and especially in Formula 1 – it’s quite a special sport, it’s quite easy to doubt yourself – but for the moment I have no reason to. Obviously over the years you find the right tools, how to find your confidence and the trust in yourself and what you are doing. I have no reason to doubt any of my ability or skills. I know Lewis had a strong weekend. He did a good job. Also, based on last weekend, I know what I’m capable of. So, I really feel many improvements in my driving since last year – so that’s why I’m confident it’s going to be a good battle for the Championship this year. So, I’m not going to let one weekend, even multiple weekends, drag me down. I’ve learned that. Just going to focus on the job and improving myself as we go.
Q: (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek.com) For Max: how and when did the damage to the front wing happen, and how much of a difference did that make to the balance of the car? MV: I didn’t know that. They just suddenly told me that I had damage to the front wing, so honestly I don’t think it was doing that much. It’s of course not ideal but I also realised that my rear end plates were also falling off, like a few bits. I don’t know, the balance is just fine but it’s just not fast enough over a lap so we just need to work on a bit of power on the straights and a bit more grip.
Q: But was the front wing damage as bad as Spain 2018; do you remember that? MV: Yeah, that was not so lovely. It was fine, yeah, there is a bit of the endplate missing but honestly they told me that I suddenly had wing damage and honestly, while driving, it felt alright.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, you said that you were shocked by the gap to the guys behind. Now that includes your teammate so I just wondered how costly was it today, not having Alex up there with you, particularly when it looked like Mercedes were waiting to play the threat of the undercut against you with Valtteri? MV: No, it wouldn’t have mattered, at the end. No. I don’t think so. It’s of course nicer, also for himself, to be up there but I don’t think today it would have mattered like last year, for example, in Hungary or whatever.
Q: (Mark Hughes – The Race) Valtteri, when you came out after your stop, much newer tyres than Max, you were catching immediately but then it seemed to stabilise and it looked as though it wasn’t going to happen and then you seemed to get a second wind. What was going on there? VB: Yeah, initially it was good. I think why the lap time stabilised, I don’t know if it was shown on TV but I went through quite a bit of traffic, there were many backmarkers and there was actually some of them, it was pretty shocking that sometimes I spent more than a lap with them having blue flags and just not moving away. They were racing each other in front of me and not really caring that they had blue flags so I hope that will be looked into so I think that’s why I lost quite a bit of momentum that time and then finally got again through pretty good free air and managed to find the rhythm again and really then it was pretty consistent and the car felt good and the pace was good so I think that was it.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Lewis, we saw you do a black power salute, both stand on the car after the race and on the podium. There was another anti-racism protest before the race, it looked a bit messier than last week with not everybody there. Have you thought about how you’re going to continue this push through the rest of the year and how are you going to bring the rest of the Formula One drivers along with you? LH: Well, we’re learning along the way. I think this weekend the drivers spoke after the drivers’ briefing about what we intended to do. The question was how long do we… some people were asking how do we have to continue to do this? Some felt like they’d… one was enough last week and I just had to encourage them that racism is here, going to be here for probably longer than our time here and people of colour who are subject to racism don’t have time to take a moment to protest and that be it. We’ve got to continue to push for equality and really to raise awareness of it so I don’t really know what else we can do moving forward but for me to have Valtteri and my team also lining and acknowledging and kneeling before the start of the race I think was really huge and I’m incredibly grateful for their understanding and this contribution to it. I think we’ve really got to think as a sport what we can do because of course those are nice signs but passion is needed, it needs taking. It’s great to… as I said before… to see Chase being so kind as to donate $1m and it’s great to see the FIA to step up and also give me a $1m but if you don’t know the problem then you can’t fix it and you know $1m doesn’t really go that far so a lot of work needs to go on with Formula 1, the FIA do really need to be a part of it and I think the drivers need to be a part of it also as we have great voices and platforms. For me, as a team, we’re keeping the car black all year long so it is… we’re going to be fighting and pushing for it all year and me personally, I think this is going to be a lifelong thing for me.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) For all three: we’re obviously all done with the doubleheader at the same track, the first time that’s happened in F1 history. Just wanted to know what your take is from it. Were you surprised that it was exactly the same format two weekends in a row? Do you think there was a missed opportunity not to try something different and do you think that when we do it at Silverstone, just simply changing one of the step of tyre compounds, is really going to shake things up one weekend to the next? MV: Well, yeah, I didn’t really do a race last week so for me this was basically the first race. It was fine. Mixing tyre compounds? Well, you can only really, on most of the tracks, go harder because they don’t really allow you to go softer because then probably you end up blistering and stuff and you don’t want to go with even harder tyres so… I don’t know. I don’t really think there’s a lot of option to play with because simply I don’t think they allow us to use softer tyres for safety reasons. I don’t know really what you can do. Yeah, they stopped about the reverse grid but yeah, it would have been a bit weird to know that if you retire in the first race as I had, then you start from pole in the second. I don’t know what you can do and I honestly think it’s fine. It’s more important that we are racing. LH: I’ve not watched the races so it’s difficult to have the same perspective as you will because we’re in this bubble, it’s a bit of a different viewpoint. I definitely think we should be trying to be more creative maybe, but I don’t know what that is, I don’t have the answers for it but just shifting a tyre is not going to make any difference, literally no difference really for us. It’s a question of format: if you’re going to do back-to-back, it’s a shame we can’t reverse the circuit and go the other way but obviously that was never in the game plan when designing these circuits so… Reverse of grid? I think it would just be mayhem, if you put us all… if we qualified at the front and then you put us last it would be a bit of a difficult one and we would probably just end up not trying to qualify for the front so, it is a difficult one. I wonder if there are other series that are doing anything different that we could look into. We have these two races in Silverstone and we could definitely do something to spice it up, particularly for the second one I think. VB: I think we saw two different races even though it is the same place. Obviously the weather played a part and mixed things up a bit yesterday and it was a completely different kind of race weekend even though it was the same format, the same track. I think that’s the beauty of the sport, there are always so many unknowns and so many things that can happen, so for me it’s not really a big issue. But, yes, I agree with Lewis, I think we could be creative, it just needs to be done in the right way. I don’t know what’s the right way but I know Silverstone has lots of track layout options but who knows.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines/racefans.net) – To all three, based on what Lewis said and the conversation you’ve just had. Lewis you said during the podium interview you love racing, double-header bring it on etc. How many races in a row do you think your system could take? We’ve got another one coming up next weekend. How many in a row do you think we can handle? LH: Me, as a driver, I feel that we can do a lot of back-to-back races, the three days in between are definitely enough. So, in this kind of season I think it’s fine, but it’s not just about me, it’s about a large group of people who are on the road constantly and are going to be away from their families even longer. It’s such a challenging time to have to stay in your bubble and not see people. I think it’s really going to be heavy for our team members. I know they love racing but they do have families they would love to see, so I really hope things in the world get a bit better for us. But I think we will manage. I don’t there is anything currently that we can’t achieve if we all pull together. VB:I really have the same feeling as Lewis. From a drivers’ point of view we are really committed to this sport, like any team member is, and we just love racing, so it’s hard to put a hard limit from a driver’s point of view. At least we are in Europe so travelling distances arte pretty easy so that makes things easier, so triple-headers I don’t really see them as an issue, even if there will be many of them. But, for sure, there are many team members who have families, small kids at home, and it’s not fair to be such a long time away from their family. But it is how it is. MV: I agree with Lewis and Valtteri. It’s good that it’s all in Europe at the moment as that makes travelling a bit easier. But I do think that after here or four weeks it’s good to go home and have a bit of time off. Not only for the driver but especially for the mechanics, you know, with a family. Otherwise they could file for divorce and you don’t want that to happen! It’s good to visit family and friends and that it’s not only F1 in your head. Sometimes you need to relax and think about other stuff, because F1 is not everything. It’s part of your life but there are also other things you have to do.
Q: Are you going to squeeze in a sim race on that weekend off between Hungary and…? MV: No! I did it a bit too much, so I’m on a break, a long break hopefully!