Full transcript from the top three drivers’ press conference after the Spanish Grand Prix, Round 6 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
Track interviews conducted by Martin Brundle
Q: Lewis, your beloved number 44 Mercedes has just taken you to your 88th victory, increasing your championship lead. How was it for you? Lewis Hamilton: I was just in a daze out there, I was just in a different… It felt really good. A fantastic effort from the team. Oh God, it felt really good out there today. It was a real surprise because we had this problem with the tyres. Management was very, very good and ultimately our understanding of what happened last week that we brought into this weekend has inevitably enabled us to do what we did today. I didn’t even know it was the last lap at the end. That’s how zoned in I was. I was ready to keep going.
Q: If you felt in a daze, your rivals must have felt punch drunk. You controlled the race beautifully. You had everything under control, even your own strategy, choosing your tyres for the last stint. LH: Yeah, it’s something I study very hard before the race, understanding what tyres we are going to be using and what strategy we are going to do. And as I came to understand that I could make the tyres longer than we had planned I was even potentially going for a one-stop. But I think the strategy we had was just right. There was no need to take the risk of going on the soft tyre so I had a fresh, brand new medium tyres, which I think was best. I just want to say a big, big thanks to all the guys back at the factory at this really difficult time… for everyone in the world to just continue on, keep pushing, people staying safe. I hope everyone at home is staying safe. We have to keep wearing these masks and not only protecting ourselves but other people.
Q: Max, what can we say? You split the Mercedes-Benz [cars], are you satisfied with that? Was it the best you could achieve today? Max Verstappen: Yeah, I think to be able to split them today was very good for us. We clearly didn’t have the pace like Lewis, very happy with second. The start was crucial, getting past Valtteri, and from then it was always just trying to do my pace.
Q: When Valtteri came out at the end on fresh tyres towards the end there, were you expecting a bit more trouble than you got? MV: Yeah, I mean I expected a little bit more but quite quickly, almost into that that stint I was quite happy with my tyres and he was not really catching and I felt quite comfortable.
Q: Have you got any updates coming, any toys coming where you can really take the fight to these guys? MV: Well, we keep trying to improve but of course the other ones, they keep pushing. We’ll see.
Q: Valtteri, your 50th Formula 1 podium, you got the fastest lap of the race at the end, I’ll leave you to tell us how it feels. Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think the start was the key point. The start was not good enough and I lost the position. So in the first stint I had to push hard to make some ground and then you struggle with the tyre life and in stint two I was pretty much behind Max and everybody knows how difficult it is to overtake at this track, so in the end I think the start was the bad thing.
Q: What exactly happened at the start? VB: I’m not sure. I’ll have to look at it. It seems like Lewis in front, he got a good start and I think the guys behind me got a good tow and I had no tow. I’ll have to have a look at it.
Q: And then it got pretty ‘fighty’. It was tense down into Turn 1. VB: Yeah. It’s always… Last year it was also pretty tight. It just didn’t really work for me I was kind of sandwiched. Yeah, disappointed.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations, that’s as dominant a victory as we’ve seen from you. Any concerns at all? LH: There was one moment. There was someone’s wing was on the exit of Turn 2. It was right by my right front tyre would normally go. It was a big flap. And luckily, in a split second, I managed to put it underneath the car, so my wheels either side. But other than that, no. It was a great, incredible effort from the team, which I’m so thankful for, and a real shock I think probably for us. We were not expecting tyre performance to be as it was today. On my side I had planned to manage the tyres as I did but sometimes you do and you go with that plan and it doesn’t work out the way you planned. Sometimes you have more deg than you thought, but I had much better deg today than I had through P1 and P2 and I think that’s what ultimately today made the difference. I think really the strategy that I took… Obviously we had a good start, but balancing myself, the gap between max and I, just trying to gauge where they were, because we didn’t know how far they could go and how much wear they would have compared to us. Obviously in the last race it was much, much better. But the team did a great job in understanding, analysing – we had a great debrief coming into this weekend and I’m just so proud of everyone and today I was fully in the zone.
Q: What does it say about your team to have turned around the tyre dramas of Silverstone so quickly? LH: We’ve got some incredibly intelligent people in our team. You have to say a great job was done, but also it was a harder compound this weekend and I mean… [to Valtteri] I can’t say we changed a huge amount did we? VB: No. LH: It wasn’t massive changes, but the more and more we understand about the tyres the more we are conscious of the directions we can go with the car. I still think if it was last week at the last race we would potentially still have the same problem, but don’t quote me on that. There are definitely things we need to try and improve on the car moving forwards but the balance was really great today so obviously I can’t complain. But we can’t just rest on today and that’s the great thing about this team. They never rest on our success. They continue to try to raise the bar and understand and just go from strength to strength.
Q: Just finally, another record has fallen to you today. You’ve passed Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 podiums of 155. What does that mean to you? LH: I don’t really know what to say to those things. I think… yeah… it’s just very strange. All of us drivers here grew up watching Michael and one day being here. What is happening right now is far beyond what I dreamed as a kid. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I’m given every day. I think Michael was obviously an incredible athlete and driver, and so I just always feel really humbled and honoured to be mentioned in the same light as a driver like him and Ayrton and Fangio. It’s pretty cool. And I hope the Hamilton family are proud also.
Q: Max, great start, second place. Just how much satisfaction to you get from the race you drove today? MV: Yeah, it was alright. I mean, the start was OK and then I could get into the tow of Lewis, so I could get by Valtteri into Turn One. And from there on I tried to follow Lewis a bit. Of course, initially he was just managing tyres, so I tried to back out of it as well – but of course at one point Valtteri was back into P3, so you can’t drop back too much. But yeah, then, as soon as Lewis started to push a bit more I just couldn’t follow the same pace and he just drove off. So, from then onwards I tried to do my own pace, and I tried to do the fastest strategy we could do to stay out of Valtteri. That worked out quite well today, so I’m very happy with that. We split the two Mercedes cars again, so I don’t think there is much more I can do at the moment.
Q: Could you just explain a radio exchange you had with your engineer: ‘let’s focus on ourselves and not Lewis’? MV: Yeah, because at the end of the day, you can’t control what they’re doing and the only thing you can control is what we do. So we just have to make sure we do the fastest strategy possible for us.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you, a frustrating day at the office, and your race was compromised from the off. Just talk us through the start. How slippy was it on the inside there? VB: I don’t really know if there’s much difference between left and right. I don’t know the facts. All I know is that I had a bad start, at least compared to Lewis and when you’re at the front, the effect is even worse because the cars behind, they get a tow out of you. So, first I tried to move to the left, to get a tow from Lewis but then Max was already there, and then I tried to go to the right to cover the inside, but one of the Racing Points was already there. Then I had cars on the outside and one of the inside that was ahead of me into Turn One. So I was a bit sandwiched. Everyone knows on this track how tricky it is when you lose two places at the start. Of course we tried everything we could. The pace was strong and, as Lewis said, I think the tyres were holding on a bit better than expected. We tried something different at the end for me and even made an extra stop at the end for the fastest lap, which worked – but for me personally, of course, really, really disappointing today.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question for Lewis please. You mentioned the work the team did over the last week when you got out of the car, and again you said you had a great debrief coming into the weekend. What did that actually mean for you in the cockpit today. Were you doing anything differently compared to last weekend? Was it just a case of seeing what the Red Bull was doing and then squeeze your advantage? Or was there a set plan of attack when it came to the tyres? LH: There wasn’t a set plan of attack, no. I honestly didn’t change anything in terms of… I drove exactly the same in terms of managing the tyres as I have done in the past. I think probably improved the efficiency of how I drove today in terms of the tyre management. I think we just went into a little bit more detail on how we can improve with that and took it on board and was able to execute it perfectly today. So that was really… again, we didn’t really change a huge amount coming into this weekend. I think fundamentally we still need to fully understand exactly what happened last week. I think we just dealt with different circumstances this weekend in terms of different track and a harder tyre. When is the Soft tyre the good one to start the race on? Normally we go to the Medium tyre so just a lot different this weekend in terms of how the compounds worked on this track. But the guys did a fantastic job in terms of understanding that and so I think we had a pretty perfect strategy and… yeah, we will continue to do work in terms of understanding, so we can improve when we get back to those softer tyres moving forwards.
Q: Lewis, you say you didn’t change much on the car for this weekend – but did you change the way you drove it to conserve the tyres? LH: Possibly… I’m not going to tell you that!
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Valtteri, your bad start notwithstanding, where you surprised at how quick the pink cars were – or was that what you expected given their origin? VB: I think on the straight line they’re pretty good, so not really surprised with the tow they could get inside of me. And in the race pace, it only took a few laps to get through, so I think their pace was as we really expected to be in the race. So no big surprises there.
Q: (Edd Straw – The Race) Lewis, obviously there are some wins there might be a spectacular pass or you cross the line with three tyres as you did the other day. But there’s other ones like this where on paper it looks very straightforward and like it was all very easy. But it seemed that the pace you had when you needed it, the tyre management, everything was really in the right window today, so does this make this one of those really high end wins, even though maybe to those watching it doesn’t look like one of those great swashbuckling victories? LH: Yeah, yeah, absolutely know what you mean, no absolutely. Today – I think both these professional drivers next to me can tell you – there are different types of races you have, when you’re obviously behind or leading, but to execute… we all try for perfection and it’s not always easy to deliver like that but today, for me in the car, I was ecstatic when I came… when I came across the line, I didn’t realise it was the last lap, I was still going. In my mind, I was like a horse with those blinkers on, I didn’t realise, I was going to keep going. But for me, it’s up there with… in terms of how I drove, really delivering, I think today is right up there with some of the best that I’ve personally felt I’ve done so for me it’s super exciting and I feel we go, weekend in, weekend out and we just move on to the next thing but what I need to make sure is I really appreciate this moment because you never know when you’re going to have another like this. As I say, we’re racing weekend in, weekend out, it’s easy, sometimes, just to forget just how amazing it is, where we are, what we’re doing and so I’m definitely going to have a glass of wine tonight to celebrate, yeah, super grateful.
Q: (Christian Menath – Motorsport magazin) Max, the radio conversation you had around the first pit stop sounded pretty aggressive from your side. Can you explain what was exactly behind that because I think there was some confusion about the Racing Point cars? MV: Yeah, I wanted to pit and they didn’t call me, so I was massively struggling on the tyres and I lost quite a lot of lap time over the last two laps so yeah, I already said on the radio, I don’t care if you pit me behind the Racing Points because of course I will pass them easily anyway, we are a lot faster, especially on new tyres so that was the conversation.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) I think I was going down the same route as Andrew Benson with regards to my question. Lewis, you said that you felt in a different head space. Andrew, I think, was mentioning the fact that Senna said something similar when he used to close his eyes and feel, like, a presence. Is that something you’re experiencing? Could you elaborate a little bit more? LH: Yeah. No, I wouldn’t say that it was anything… I wouldn’t describe it the same way as Ayrton would. I think today… I think ultimately there is an immense amount of pressure on all of us to perform weekend in, weekend out and I think the goal is always to – in the chase for perfection and being in that zone , you could be very, very close but still be slightly out and not be quite in your perfect rhythm. But for whatever reason, today I don’t know, I can’t quite pinpoint why, but today I felt like I was in the most… it was like a clear zone, the clarity that I had today whilst I was driving was… I’m sure I’ve had it before but as I said, it not always… I don’t even know how to really get into that zone, I don’t know what… it’s hard to say what helps you get into that space but of course I will evaluate this weekend and the feeling today but honestly I felt fantastic in the car. It was physically challenging but in terms of not making any mistakes, delivering lap upon lap upon lap, I was in a perfect zone and that’s the zone that I dream of being in. Of course, I never would have expected to have a lead of 24s, that’s definitely not what we thought we’d have coming to this weekend, but I really put it down to that… even when I was catching traffic I was gaining time rather than losing time which is never the case. Normally you lose time with traffic and today wasn’t the case. There were all these elements, which were just perfectly in place and I was very, very centred in my core; got to try and get there every week, every day.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) Max, you had an engine change before the race. Was it a factor at all during your Grand Prix? MV: No, no, no. We just saw something abnormal in the data so we just changed back to the other engine to be sure, so all good.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, at what point today did you realise that you couldn’t match Lewis? Was it during that first stint on the softs or were you still holding out hope that – as we saw in practice – you would be quicker on the mediums when you came in to pit? MV: No, towards the middle of that first stint when Lewis started to pick up the pace I couldn’t really follow so I knew that that was it for today. I’m just going to manage my race from now on and try to make the best of it.
Q: (Erik van Haren – de Telegraaf) Max, you seemed quite happy and not disappointed but you read a big favour today according to Mercedes so what’s your view on that? MV: Well, clearly we were not in the race. I don’t pay too much attention – we just have to focus on ourselves and not… Like I said in the race as well, we have to just focus on ourselves and not try to look too much at the others, what they say or what they do because at the end of the day you cannot control that anyway so we just have to focus on ourselves, try to improve, try to be a bit more competitive and not just rely on softer compounds or whatever, with blistering. We just have to find a bit more performance in the car and the engine to be more competitive.