Full transcript from the FIA hosted top-three press conference after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Round 3 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship at Hungaroring near Budapest.
Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and third-placed Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
Track interviews conducted by Martin Brundle)
Q: Lewis, your 86th grand prix victory, just five behind Michael Schumacher’s seemingly unassailable record. You just had it covered. Brilliant drive. Lewis Hamilton: Thank you. Believe it or not, still pushing out there, particularly for the fastest lap at the end, but the management… what I want to say is a huge congratulations to everyone back at home at the factory, even more on the engine department at HPP. Those guys have done such a fantastic job of improving this year as well. Honestly, it was one of my favourite races to have race and whilst I was on my own for the race it was just a different kind of challenge. Of course we had great pace but it couldn’t have been without these great guys that are working, that did great pit stops, great strategy, and right at the end there, because I was managing those mediums for a long, long time, so right at the end there it was great to get on the fresh tyre and get the extra point.
Q: Your eighth victory here and you’re back in the lead of the world championship. Bit of a misfire in round one but you’re right back in it now. LH: I think round one was multiple different punches that I wasn’t perhaps ready for, but I re-focused, which I try to do between every race, and the last two have been fantastic and I think this weekend on point throughout the weekend so I need to keep this up.
Q: Congratulations Max. You went from the barriers on the formation lap (sic) to splitting the mighty Mercedes-Benz and the fans’ driver of the day. What an afternoon you’ve had? Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was not how I wanted it in the beginning of course, ending up in the barriers with the laps to the grid, but the mechanics did an amazing job to fix the car. I don’t know how they did it but yeah, incredible. So to pay them back with second place I’m very pleased with that. I think the first lap was very crucial. And from there on I think we had the right calls and we had good pace so we just kept doing our own thing and of course to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is good for us.
Q: And how did the car feel? Your mechanics finished it with literally seconds to spare to get your wheels on to make sure you didn’t get a grid penalty. Was it handling OK? MV: Yeah, it was good – like new! So it was just on time but everything was working as normal.
Q: At what point did you decide Valtteri was not coming past you? MV: You never know. I was just trying to do my own pace and I could see he was catching like a second a lap. Of course following here is quite tricky so as soon as he was within 1.5 seconds it was more difficult for him. But then of course on the last lap we also had traffic which didn’t make it easier for me on those old tyres but we managed to hang on and very happy with second.
Q: Does that feel like a sort of victory to you? MV: I thought I was not going to race so to be second is like a victory today.
Q: Valtteri, P3, quite an interesting race, quite a challenge. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it was a pretty bad for race for me to be honest. Starting second, obviously you aim to win the race, but yeah, I lost it at the start. I reacted to a light on my dash that went off. I don’t know what it was something changed on my dash and I reacted to that instead of the start light and I had anti-stall, so then I had to do the start again, so I lost it there.
Q: The stewards were obviously happy that you were still in your start box and not moving when the actual lights went out, so no problem there? VB: Yeah, no problem, but obviously I lost many places and it made the race very difficult for me. I was fighting until the end and it was pretty close to me but still good points.
Q: You needed one more lap and it was worth the gamble to put those tyres on at the end? VB: I think it was worth the gamble, yes. I think it really gave me the difference in the tyre life but it didn’t quite pay off today.
Q: Onwards and upwards, two rounds at Silverstone, super high speeds and your car should be mighty around there? VB: I think the car will hopefully good there. Yeah, I look forward to Silverstone but plenty to learn from this weekend to be stronger at Silverstone.
Q: Lewis, how hard were you pushing for the bulk of that race? And how hard was it to get the medium tyre to last the distance? LH: The medium tyre definitely wasn’t, I would say, a great tyre, I think. For sure it was a better tyre than the soft for the stints. I would probably say the hard tyre definitely had more legs on it. But, obviously, to start on that tyre was… what we had done in qualifying was strong. Once I got in the lead I got that gap and I was able to manage those tyres and match Max’s times, which was positive. Then he had a couple of drops in time at some stage and I was able to maintain that while still managing those tyres. I’m constantly trying to improve how I’m managing those tyres through that stint. We don’t know when they’re going to go off. But they actually lasted really long and even to the end of that stint on the medium they were still performing quite well, they still had some rubber left. But they pitted me after Max after had done his stop and after that again it was just trying to manage that gap. It did happen to be growing during the time. Being that is it quite cool today, you can’t really back off a lot because you lose temperature in the tyres so it was still important that I stayed on top of it, otherwise when tyre temperatures drop and that’s when they degrade more.
Q: Max, it hasn’t been a straightforward weekend for you or the team here in Hungary. It’s a painful memory, but could you just talk us through the incident on the way to the grid? MV: Yeah, so I basically locked up and I came off the brakes, tried to brake again, locked again, and I just went straight on. I was already struggling the whole lap for grip and then basically just locked up and I couldn’t get out of it so I just went straight into the wall. I thought the race was over but I managed to reverse the car out of the wall. And yeah, it’s like a ‘never give up’ mentality, still. Bring the car to the grid and see what happens, right? I could have jumped out there and say it’s over but clearly you could see that after the mechanics, they did an amazing job to repair that car and I was just very happy to start the race. The first lap was really good and from the onwards we made the right calls with strategy, when to box and what tyre to put on, and to be able to split the two Mercedes cars in the race after such a difficult weekend for us is a great result and something we definitely didn’t expect.
Q: Valtteri, how worried were you after the start that you might get a penalty? VB: I didn’t really think about it because it doesn’t really change anything if your start to worry about it. It’s done and the start was ruined anyway. I was just really focused on the race and the situation and trying to get back to the front as quickly as possible and maximise every situation. Then, for a while, when you don’t hear anything, yeah, you think ‘OK, it should be fine’ and I guess you’re still within the limits. Obviously a pretty odd situation and quite disappointing because it really compromised my race.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Max, amazing drive. Some words about what you were thinking for those minutes when your mechanics were working on the car. You went off for the anthem and everything else. You seemed very calm, but I guess it was the opposite. Can you let us know what you were thinking at that moment? MV: No, I was very calm. I was like ‘let’s see if they are going to make it’ and if not then that’s it, that’s the race done, and the whole disappointing weekend would have been completed, you know. But they did an amazing job, so I was really fired up to get back in the car and show them that the effort was not for nothing, let’s say it like that. Yeah, crazy. It was a crazy 10 to 12 minutes.
Q: Max, what did the team management say to you? Helmut Marko, Christian Horner, people like that? MV: Nothing. I didn’t speak to them. I just shook hands before the race once I sat in the car, when the car was prepared – repaired. I mean, what can you say? You can have a whole conversation but I hit the wall, there is damage, try to fix the damage and then we’ll see.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Question for Lewis. Obviously the fastest lap at the end is always a bit of a risk. What was the thinking behind that? Obviously it’s extra points. Are you thinking it’s a close championship with Valtteri this year and he’s the only opposition and you’re going to need every point you’ve got, looking back to 2016 and things that can go wrong and that sort of thing? Just talk us through what the thinking behind that was and the risks that you might have been going through in your head. LH: Good question. Well, ultimately we have to weigh-up the risks and… I mean I didn’t push so much that I was going to make a mistake and go off. So it was a fully controlled lap. Look, I’ve lost World Championships in the past by one point, so I know how crucial it is to maximise on every moment and we’re in a year when you don’t know what reliability is going to be like; you don’t know how long the season’s going to be. So, yes, Valtteri had a great, particularly, first race. At the time he had the fastest lap, I had the gap, and felt that it was necessary to get that point, particularly as I felt that I’d earned the gap that I had. But things like the extra pit stop, coming in, all these different things do add to the risk factors. But, look, we’re a professional team and so long as we continue to do… y’know, keep our heads on, stay focussed, I believe it was the right decision to make.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for Valtteri. Can you explain the problem you had at the start? More in detail? Which lights did you see on the steering wheel? The shifting lights or the display? And, following up for Valtteri as well, you talked a lot about consistency last year, that you’re still missing against Lewis. Do you think today was a day when you missed this consistency again? VB: Yes, so at the start, the best way I can describe it – I’m still slightly… I don’t know in detail what kind of lights went on but yes, I was looking at the start lights and, there was the five lights on, so really just waiting for them to go off, and just before when the lights went off, something either turned on or off, I believe it was the main page of the dash changed to different colour or something – a pretty bright colour. That’s all what needed for me to react. I thought the lights went off, and anyway, I was kind of half-seeing the start lights because of the Halo and the position I was, so yeah. It was an odd situation. That’s all what I can explain now. I’m sure we’re going to review onboards and what exactly happened and I will make sure that nothing is going to be changing on the dash any more just at a crucial moment – because we don’t want any distraction like that in a sensitive moment. That obviously made this weekend one of those inconsistent weekends that you try to avoid. But it has happened, so what can I do? Learn from this, move on, still very much in the game, it’s just one bad race and if you end up on the podium in a bad race for you, that’s still OK, and nothing is lost yet so there’s no point for me take any hit in the confidence on anything that I’m doing. I think otherwise it was a strong race from my side. Just a bad weekend. Not going to let it affect. Move on and try to gain some points in Silverstone.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question for Max. Obviously you said it’s been a difficult weekend. There’s car problems, parts going on and off. It’s clear the team’s looking for answers. Do you have those answers, and are you confident there’s a short-term development direction that can make this the car you know it can be – or are you concerned that, given the opposition you’re up against with a couple of great drivers and a great car at Mercedes, you’ve lost too much time and you’ve got too much to make up in a short amount of time? MV: Yeah, I think it will be very hard, of course, to beat them but I think it’s important for us now to understand where it went wrong and then, of course, correct it and try to learn from it and try to get it back on track. And as soon, of course, as you head into the right direction, then of course very quickly you can put a good amount of parts on the car – but first we need to really understand where the main critical problem is in the car.
Max, how close have you got to understanding what that problem is? MV: We’re getting there, yep!
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Question for Lewis. I know you probably won’t care but do you think there’s a danger of this Championship becoming a bit of a procession, given how well you’re driving and good the Mercedes car is this season? LH: Not from my seat position, no! We’re working our arse off, and we’re going to continue to do that. Look, I mean, I don’t know what’s going to happen over these next races. Would I like more battle from other teams? Absolutely. But, that’s… I think the Red Bulls have been doing a great job and I think, I’m sure at some stage they’re going to make some improvements as we get into the season. The race that we had last year, for example, was fantastic, and I enjoy particularly battling with other teams. I did expect this weekend the Red Bulls to be very, very strong but I’m not quite sure what happened through qualifying, what it might be but, again, in the race, they definitely were stronger. But I think it was a pretty flawless effort from the team this weekend. In all areas, really delivered. So I think it was a little bit difficult for sure to compete when you are bringing that 100 per cent. But I’m hopeful we will still find some challenges up ahead. So, we shall see.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question for Lewis. After the sort of reliability concerns early on, particularly race one and then obviously you had pressure from Max in race two in Austria, you’ve come here to Hungary, there was a massive gap in qualifying, everyone up to fifth is lapped, you had a pitstop in hand over Max to be able to take over at the end there, and a minute to Stroll in fourth place. So, have we seen everything that your 2020 car has to offer now? LH: To this point of the year, yes. I definitely didn’t leave anything on the table today, I would say. The thing is, we all go back now and the way we work is that we… there’s a couple of minutes of everyone smiling and then everyone’s dead serious – if not already they’re dead serious. You get in there and sometimes you really have to ask them: “are you guys happy?” and then like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then we get back to work. We get our headsets on and we talk about the car. And when we talk about the car it’s not ‘everything was great’, it’s ‘this could be better, this could be better, that could be better.’ Valtteri is really great with his input and I think we try to push the team forwards, and everyone is just working to see how they can improve. No matter if there is or is not a gap between ourselves and another team, we just keep pushing and keep elevating and I think for me that’s the most impressive thing about this team.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson– ESPN) Valtteri, you were closing in on Max towards the end of that race after taking on new tyres, were you confident, when you started that final stint that you would catch him, and do you see it as a missed opportunity or was it actually quite good that you got as close as you did? VB: Of course, I need to see more data from the race and the big picture of the race. I’m sure the team is going to analyse in theory what was the best thing to do. At that time it felt like a good thing to do because the tyre difference between me and Max was quite minimal. If I would not stop and everyone knows how difficult it is to overtake on this track so yeah, I was quite happy at that point, to stop, because I knew there was a bigger tyre difference at the end and it nearly worked. Obviously there were quite a few backmarkers I had to go through, lost a bit of time during that and in the end it was a matter of one extra lap or two laps whatever so pretty close. Yeah, you can see the big picture but yeah, it was obvious in the end I was quite a bit quicker, obviously thanks also to fresher tyres but that was not quite enough but everything will be analysed, for sure.
Q: Max, if I can just ask you: how concerned were you by Valtteri’s pace at the end of the race? MV: I was a bit like last year… I was just trying to focus on my own pace. I can’t suddenly go half a second faster so I was just trying to manage the tyres. It was all looking quite good, of course but then at the end there was a bit of traffic and as soon as you get within like three seconds you get the disturbed and especially when you are on older tyres that’s not very nice so yeah, the last three laps were quite tricky but we managed to hang on so of course very happy with that. Yeah, the tyres still felt pretty OK towards the end.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) To both Max and Lewis: Lewis you made something like eight seconds in three laps on the rest of the field and Max, you were up to third on the first lap. In tricky wet conditions like that, can you both explain how you judged the conditions, the risk versus reward, what’s going through your mind in those sort of situations and what you’re thinking about when you’re gaining that sort of advantage on other people? LH: Yeah, good question I think. Every time we do those starts, sometimes people are on your tail and you feel like you’re on the limit and obviously you’re slightly wooden or the other person is finding more grip and then there are sometimes you just pull these gaps and the others are – I don’t know – caught sleeping or just not as comfortable, whatever you want to say. I think, me personally, it was, as I said, very, very slippery in those laps to the grid, really helped me gauge where the track was but already when we started that lap it dried quite a lot even from doing those laps to the grid and we waited, just in 15 minutes or whatever, it had dried quite a lot and there is this balance of going over the limit and easily risking it, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon race, you know, so you’ve really got to be cautious not to throw it all away and of course when you’re in the lead, you don’t have any turbulence from the car ahead so it makes it a little bit easier to manage it and try and find the right balance. When you’re behind other cars like Max was it’s a lot harder but we were just talking just now how great his start must have been to go down the outside of everyone and not… I need to watch it back because I don’t know what everyone else was doing on the inside to leave a gap completely open for Max but I know what that feels like… I think my first Grand Prix in Melbourne, everyone was on the inside and I went round the outside and so I empathise and know what it’s like to see that window and go for it and he obviously did a great job to recover from the laps to the grid. MV: Yeah, I think it’s like a bit of feeling instinct. You can’t plan this before you go into a race like never. Every start is different. Of course you can look at previous starts or whatever, gives you an idea of what can happen and what can go wrong but every start is different. Of course, every year you’ve got different cars around you so just anticipating and then yeah, the start itself was pretty decent but then I at one point going to the inside so I knew of course there was going to be a bit of kind of a traffic jam into the corner so I was going round the outside, I know there is grip anyway, I think I’ve done enough wet laps around here that I know there is grip there and it worked out. Everybody was focusing on the inside, trying to block each other and yeah, I could just go around the outside. That also makes your race because if I would have stayed in seventh then suddenly you’re really in for a struggle to try and get past those cars so once I got into third I could see I was faster than the Racing Points so they boxed and I continued one more lap and I think that was a good call, to jump them. Because also you don’t want to go too quickly to a slick, you don’t want to be the first one and risk that when you are in the top three and so doing one extra lap… it never really hurts that bad.
Q: Max, on the topic of risk versus reward, your first flying lap through turn 12 after your incident, were you a little bit more reserved? MV: No, no. Like the first lap you go round anyway looking a bit around, OK, everything is settled but I just had really cold tyres on the lap to the grid and I locked up and just went straight so I knew… OK, I’ll go a bit rearwards on the brake bias just to make sure that’s not going to happen again but it’s not like you’re going to drive through that corner like a granny, you know. You have to keep on pushing.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Lewis, you’re now leading the championship and you’re heading for home with two races at Silverstone. Normally that would be (in front of) tens of thousands of fans there, waiting to cheer you on, but that’s not going to happen this year. You spoke at the beginning of the week about what a lift it was just to have a few fans at the airport waiting there cheering you. I just wondered if you could speak about what it’s going to be like at Silverstone, home race, no fans, what you can maybe give the fans in way of compensation? LH: I don’t want to be a debby downer or be negative but it is, unfortunate, the circumstances around the world. I’m just so grateful that we are back at work and we are so fortunate, all of us here, to be back at work and have our jobs and be able to compete again, but absolutely, the atmosphere for me, it’s night and day different. Here, it’s usually great weather most of the time and then there’s such a fantastic crowd here and obviously Silverstone, particularly, is just… there’s nothing like it. The whole year… it’s the highlight of my year, the support is insane. It grows every year and I get to interact with the fans differently on that weekend and it’s such an honour and privilege to be able to perform well and win a Grand Prix in your home country. I think people will be watching and I definitely know that the fans that go every year are going to miss it terribly. We did a test there before the first race and it was so empty and that’s what we’re going to experience when we go back but we’ve just got to remain focused and not get distracted by that or get down by it either. I’ve also felt that fans give you extra time because they just give you so much energy and it really lifts you up and you’re bubbling, you’re walking on a cloud. Obviously we won’t have that but I do interact with my fans and I don’t know what the solution is moving forward to have a better way of interacting with them, particularly during this time but I guess that’s something I will try to discover as we go along. But I just always want to send positive messages up to my fans and then to really encourage people out there. I see so many people who are not taking Covid period as seriously as others and some are really taking it seriously and I just want to encourage everyone to continue to… hopefully, I think, we are doing really great as a sport, showing everyone’s wearing a mask. There’s for sure, more we can do because there’s probably a little bit too much waste with all these re-useable masks but it’s great to see everyone taking the precautions, keeping the gaps, the distances and we have to encourage the rest of the world to do the same.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just going back to the very very start when you were on the grid and getting in the car again after the incident. What had you been told about what needed to be repaired, and what were you thinking of doing on the warm-up lap, just to make sure everything was OK and obviously how it felt around the first lap? MV: Yeah, like the track rod was broken I think, the pull rod was broken so not the easiest things to quickly change but they did an amazing job to do that. LH: They did that in 12 minutes?! MV: Yeah, 12 minutes they managed to repair that, which is crazy. I was sitting in the car, I could see the mechanics screaming at each other like ten seconds, five seconds, put the wheel on, everything. I don’t know if final piece of tape on the suspension to make sure it was sticking. I put my thumbs up and they were like, yeah, yeah, it’s fixed, so I said OK, well then here we go, let’s see. I was doing the formation laps, I was checking the wheels, I was like this feels alright, yep and during the race, nothing happened, nothing weird happens so it was fully repaired. So yeah, crazy.