British Grand Prix Top Three Press Conference

Full transcript from the top three press conference after the British Grand Prix, Round 4 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Silverstone.

Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) in third.

Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard

Q: Max you could have come so close to winning this grand prix, as it turns out, with hindsight, if you hadn’t come in for that pit stop for new tyres. But you must be still very satisfied with second place?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it’s lucky and unlucky. I think anyway Mercedes in the race were too quick. The tyres at one point didn’t look great, with 10 laps to go, so I was already on the radio saying “guys, you know, the right front doesn’t look very pretty. Then of course Valtteri got a puncture so I came on the radio and said I was going to back it out and then they boxed me to go for the fastest lap and then unfortunately Lewis got a puncture himself. But I’m very happy with second, it’s a very good result for us again.

Q: Otherwise, it was a fairly lonely race. We didn’t see much of you when you’re not racing wheel-to-wheel. Any other notable points from the race?
MV: No, I told my engineer to drink. Stay hydrated, it’s very important around here. It was pretty lonely, I was just trying to manage my pace and trying to look after the tyres.

Q: Charles, that’s as good as you could hope for today. The racing gods shone on you. You didn’t have the tyre issues your main rivals of course Mercedes had. Both had delaminations at the end there.
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, as soon as I heard that Valtteri had a tyre problem then I slowed down quite a lot but then I think Carlos had it a lap later and the Lewis a lap later. So on that we have been lucky but apart from that looking at us I think we have the done the best we could have done today. I’m very happy the way I managed the tyres from the beginning to the end, very happy with the balance of the car. Yes, the performance of the car is not where we want it to be, but today we took every opportunity and I’m very happy with today.

Q: We spoke before about next week’s tyre choices, which are softer again. Do you think that will be under review given what has happened today?
CL: I don’t know what are the causes, whether there was debris on the track or whatsoever, but I think Lewis cut the corner at another place on the track than Valtteri, so yeah it’s probably to review. But I can’t say. The Pirelli guys will investigate that.

Q: Finally, the winning machine that is Lewis Hamilton. I’ve heard rumour that they are going to rename Silverstone to Hamitonstone. Man, you made it difficult there for yourself. Our hearts were in our mouths when we first Valtteri have that delamination and then yourself. Talk us through that last lap?
Lewis Hamilton: Up until that last lap everything was relatively smooth sailing. They tyres felt great. Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard. I was doing some management of that tyre; he looked like he wasn’t doing any. When I heard that his tyre went I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine and the car was turning no problem, so I was thinking “maybe it’s OK”. Anyways, those last few laps I started to back off and then just down the straight it just deflated. I just noticed the shape just shift a little bit. And that was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling because I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes and you could see that the tyre was falling off the rim. And then just driving it, trying to keep the speed up, because sometimes it will come off and brake the wing and all these different things and oh, my God, I was just praying to try to get it round and not be too slow. I nearly didn’t get it round the last two corners. But thank God we did. I owe it to the team. I think ultimately maybe we should have stopped towards the end when we saw the delaminations.

Q: I guess it was Red Bull keeping you honest. There wasn’t a big enough of a gap there for you to make that decision. But you prayed and the racing gods listened you. Talk us through any communication you had on that final lap you had with your engineers, trying to understand where Max was?
LH: You’d be really surprised, well you may or not be surprised, but I was really chilled for some reason at the end. Bonno was giving me the information about the gap, I think it was 30 seconds at one stage, and it was coming down quite quickly, and in my mind I was thinking “how far is it to the end of the lap”. But the car seemed to turn OK through Maggotts and Becketts thankfully. I got to 15 and that’s where it really was a bit of a struggle and I could hear the gap coming down from 19 to 10 and I remember giving it full gas from 15 to 16 and the thing wasn’t stopping, so I got to the corner with a lot of understeer and then I heard him go, nine, eight, seven and I was like “just get back on the power and try to get the thing to turn”. I’ve definitely never experience anything like that on a last lap and my heart definitely probably nearly stopped. I think that’s probably how cool it was because my heart nearly stopped.

Press Conference

Q: Lewis many congratulations. What a weekend! You’ve won at Silverstone many times but never before have you crossed the line on three wheels. Can you just sum it all up for us?
LH: Well, yeah, just as the minutes go by I feel worse and worse as I realise what just happened. I think in the heat of the moment you have the adrenalin going and I guess that fight for survival instinct comes out. I was able to stay calm and really measured and try to bring the car home but of course, I’m just sitting here thinking of all the things that could have happened, if the tyre gave up in a high-speed corner or something it would have been a much different picture. So I feel incredibly grateful that it didn’t and we just managed, but I heard that Max was catching at crazy speed. I think I got onto Hangar Straight and I could hear I think “you’re at 19 seconds” at that point and I was trying to pick up the speed down that straight but the wheel was obviously making a real mess and I was thinking “jeez, how am I going to get through these last few corners without losing too much time”. But fortunately I got round 15 and then once I got to the last two corners that was really when it was a disaster. I could hear “seven, six, five…” and I just managed to keep it together. As I said, I’m just really grateful. My team did a fantastic job through the weekend but I think we have to look into
Why we had this tyre problem. I know a few people did but maybe it was debris or something like that or maybe the tyre was just worn out.

Q: How much warning did you get?
LH: None. I was constantly looking at the tyre. It was quite smooth and was working really well through Turn 3, the thing was turning fine. So I was trying to gauge just how worn it was but I didn’t have any feeling of wear, it being particularly worn. And then it was just down the straight the thing, you could feel the RPM as I was full speed. The RPM drops as you start getting extra friction from the tyre as it’s not roiling at the same speed and you feel the balance shift to the left. So, it was a bit of panic for a second and I nearly didn’t make it round Turn 7 but after that I managed to make it through all the corners.
Q: Max, coming to you. I don’t want to labour the point at all, but had you not pitted at the end, that win might have been yours. Can you talk us through how much discussion there was on the radio about whether or not to pit and go for fastest lap?
MV: Well, it’s away easy to say afterwards but I think we were also lucky today that Valtteri had a puncture, so we gained a position, so I’m actually not disappointed at all, or anything. Once Valtteri had that puncture, OK, it’s an easy P2. So we just pitted for new tyres to make sure because I was also not sure what was going on with my tyres because normally, when you see other cars having punctures and you have pitted on the same lap you are like, well, might happen to you as well. So, you don’t want to have that problem, so we pitted just to be sure. We go out, of course with the Soft tyres and then Lewis has his puncture but also that’s unlucky. It could have been lucky for me but unlucky for Lewis, so at the end it is what it is and I’m very happy with second.

Q: And your race pace was closer to Mercedes today. Are you pleased with the progress you’ve made?
MV: Yeah. It was a pretty boring race for me. At one point I didn’t see a car in front or behind, so I reminded my engineer to hydrate – to drink – I had nothing else to do. So, yeah, we still need to improve but yeah. It is what it is. We try to find things to do while driving, just keep enjoying it.

Q: Charles, coming to you. You finished third here last year. If you were to compare the two races: 2019, 2020, do you get more satisfaction from this third place?
CL: Yeah. It’s definitely a lot more unexpected for this year. That’s for sure. We know we’ve been lucky to get on the podium but apart from that I’m pretty satisfied with the way we’ve been working throughout the weekend. For sure we don’t want to be fighting for fourth place for so long but at the moment that’s what the car is capable of. I think we extracted absolutely everything out of the strategy and the car. Very happy and a very unexpected podium but probably more satisfied than last year for the third place, yes.

Q: And in terms of your own performance, is this on a parallel with what you did in Austria?
CL: Yes, I’m very happy with it, especially with the tyre management. It was easy. We had a very aggressive downforce level coming here, so we had quite a lot of speed in the straights but very difficult around the corners. We were quite worried for the race pace, especially for the tyre degradation – but we managed to do quite a good job on that.

VIideo Conference

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question for Lewis. How in control were you and Valtteri throughout the majority of the race. It seemed to be fairly straightforward right up until the drama at the end. Was that maximum attack or were you holding back. And at the same time, was the team giving you any warnings to manage the tyres, to potentially avoid what happened at the end?
LH: Yeah, we were pretty flat-chat to be honest. Valtteri was obviously chasing and keeping the gap. It was between 1.2-2.0 seconds for a good period and then all of a sudden he started to fall away, so I managed to keep good pace and he started to drop away. I think it got to seven seconds at one stage. So, I’m not really sure what… I’m sure he just killed that left-front tyre, I’m assuming, and it started to drop off for him. For me, the car was feeling fine, so I kind of kept up the decent pace. To see the Red Bulls as close as they were in terms of pace, I think that’s real. And it wasn’t the case of us turning down or anything like that, or backing off. So, we can have a close race potentially next race maybe.

Q: (Christian Menath – Lewis, can you talk us through the process when you pitted. I think the Safety Car was the second everyone came to the pits which was a bit unscheduled. Did you think you could make it to the end with these tyres – and what did you talk about in the briefings before the race? How long the Hard tyre would last.
LH: Normally, this tyre usually has a long life expectancy. They said we could do almost a whole race distance with it but whether or not that’s at the pace we were going. Valtteri was obviously pushing at a serious pace for which I had to respond to, so it was quite difficult to manage it. I think they had spoken of a two-stopper that was generally a slower option for us. In hindsight, probably we would have stopped as soon as we saw Valtteri’s tyre go, we would have stopped – especially as Max had done so – as we should have come out just ahead and still had the position. But yeah, hindsight is always a great thing, as Max had said so.

Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Question to Max. Although there was no way to foresee what happened with Lewis’ puncture, do you think in future there might be an argument for, if you’re close enough to maybe pick up the pieces if they the lead car does have a problem in the last few laps to perhaps be more conservative in terms of not taking that fastest lap point and staying out, just on the off-chance? Because this is rare – but it does happen every now and again, and the gain could be potentially massive when you’ve got a car that isn’t good enough to beat Mercedes on merit?
MV: Yeah – but I could also pick up a puncture, you know, and I could lose a lot more. That’s the thing, it’s always so easy to say afterwards that we should have just continued – but who would have said that Lewis would have got a puncture? How often does this happen? Normally, never. So, I don’t regret anything. I think we made the right decision. Easy to comment afterwards. You don’t know at the time – and we felt that was the right decision, and I still think it is the right decision. It is what it is. Normally, you don’t really get punctures. Yeah. They are also the deserved winners. It’s not like I’m sitting here upset or disappointed. I’m actually very happy to be second. Normally it would have been third, so…

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question to Lewis. Just wondered if you’ve ever won or finished a race before on three tyres. Second question. Much improved anti-racism message at the start. Just wanted to get your take on that. Were you happy with the efforts this time around?
LH: I don’t think I’ve won a race on three wheels, no. There was a race when I was in Formula Renault, at Croft, where the rear suspension, there’s two rear springs and one had snapped off and so I remember driving through the corners, through the left-handers with one wheel in the air, and through the right-handers it was fine, something like that. So that was a race where I was in the lead and I managed to still win the race – just. I don’t even know how I managed to make that one work. So, that was a little bit similar to today but of course it was more extreme today and the cost was obviously a lot higher. In terms of the start, I’ve been really, really happy with what the organisers have done, Formula 1 have really put in the time. I think last week I had really great Zoom calls with Chase and Ross and then another one with Ellie [Norman] to go through the different… y’know, what we could do better together and how we could really solidify our approach and our unity together. I don’t know how it looked on TV but it felt like it was much, much better organised and it didn’t really take a lot for us to have that extra ten minutes. I think what’s really important is that we continue to keep that up because ultimately we have this incredible platform. There’s so many people watching and every single one of us needs to be reminded every now and then of how serious things can be, so that people are aware. And obviously more important is that we follow through, or they follow through particularly on the promises that they said before the first race, in terms of how they’re going to try to attack the issue within our industry. So, that will be an ongoing discussion but I feel really confident and to see, as I said, everyone’s view and movement towards it.

Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) A question to Charles. It appears that Ferrari have leaned-off the downforce a little bit this weekend to get the straight line speed for qualifying. How difficult did that make the car to drive in qualifying trim, in terms of it moving around a lot, and how worried were you about the tyre performance in the race, and happy that the race panned out the way it did, when you could have ended-up dropping back if you struggled on the tyres?
CL: For qualifying, I don’t think we were too worried. I think we were pretty confident that was the right choice but we were pretty worried for the race. It wasn’t easy today, especially during the Safety Car and for the restart after the Safety Car I’ve been struggling massively. I couldn’t put any temperatures in the tyres for many laps, and the guys behind were actually pretty close. Romain was on an used Medium and was putting me under a lot of pressure. So that was the tricky part of the race – but once the tyres were in temperature it wasn’t actually that tricky. I expected worse. We’ve done quite a good job, I think, with the set-up of the car and with the balance of the car. That was very nice to drive today.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Lewis. Next weekend obviously we’re back here at Silverstone but the tyres are going to be a step softer. So, given what happened in the last few laps, how concerned are you about that now? And to Max, if I may on the same subject, does this give you a chance to beat Mercedes next weekend?
LH: One step softer is going to be a challenge for us all and no doubt will move us all to at least a two-stop. And obviously our cars are a lot quicker this year, we’re using the same tyres as last year, they weren’t able to develop a better tyre to deal with the forces for this season, so it’s going to be a serious challenge I think, next week – but everyone’s in the same boat and naturally from today we’ll get a much better understanding of the tyre life and what we can do to be better prepared next week for the softer set that they bring.

MV: Yeah, I think everybody will probably end up doing a two-stop you know? I don’t think it will change a lot. Also, for me, I don’t think there will be a lot of changes to the way I will be driving. So I’ll probably be counting some sheep next to the track.

Do you expect to be closer to Mercedes next weekend?
MV: Normally not. It’s so big, c’mon! Maybe you find a tenth, or one-and-a-half, OK and we we are a bit closer – but it’s not close enough. I’m trying but it’s not possible at the moment. You have to be realistic. I mean you can dream, and you can hope but I think it’s way more important to be realistic because that’s how you move forward. If you keep dreaming about those chances, it’s not going to happen. We just have to keep working.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Question to Max and Charles. The man in the middle there now has a 30-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship after only four races. Simple question: can anyone stop him from winning the title this year. I know it’s early days – but can anyone stop him?
MV: No.
CL: The question is ‘can anybody stop Lewis?’ No. I think the guy that has some chances is Valtteri – but that’s it.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question for Charles. It looked like once you’d got through that tyre warm-up issue after the restart, it looked like you were in control, obviously a bit isolated behind Max but, without Grosjean being behind you at that restart, do you think you would have been able to stay ahead of the McLarens, or was that what gave you that much of a gap to stay ahead?
CL: I think we were pretty lucky having the Haas in between the McLaren and myself. Whether I would have been able to keep them behind or not, I don’t know but it would have definitely been quite a lot more difficult.

Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Question to Lewis. Just off the back of what Max and Charles were both asked. They say one no-one can stop you winning the title this year. How difficult from your perspective where you’ve got a comfortable lead already – you can afford a DNF and you’ll stay in the Championship lead – and this car does look so strong it is hard to see anyone other than Valtteri being a threat to you.
LH: Honestly, look, I’m a through and through racer at heart. I’ve grown up, particularly when you’re in karting, you’ve got the wheel-to-wheel racing, that’s what has always excited me, and that’s what gets me up in the morning. I definitely… this is not the championship fight I would have hoped for. I’d much, much prefer to be having a super-close battle with these two here because that’s what gets me going. Having to really put in… I think I’m still putting in the laps that are required but it’s not a close battle with Max in qualifying and the same with Charles. I really, really hope that in future it’s closer. It’s rules. Ultimately every team is given rules and at the end of the day we’ve just done an exceptional job collectively and you can’t fault my team for that. That’s not our fault. You have to look at the people that run the sport doing a better job moving forwards, I would say, ruling-wise. I think they’re showing some signs… I think Ross is showing us a car for the future that’s going to have us all closer. Hopefully it’s not as slow as a GP2 car, and then hopefully we’ll get some more-like karting races in the future.