Full transcript from the FIA hosted top three press conference after the Tuscan Grand Prix, Round 9 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo Internazionale de Mugello.
Featuring race winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), secondßplaced Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and third-placed Alex Albon (Red Bull)
Track interviews conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Alex Albon, well done. You must be tremendously relieved?
Alex Albon: Yeah, it was good. Obviously, a while to get here but no, it was a tough one as well, we had to work for it. But no, I’m really happy. I’m really happy. I can breathe. It feels nice to be here.
Q: You say it was a tough one. Very unusual to have to make those extra restarts, but from a physicality point of view we were all teeing this up as one of the mighty race tracks. Just how tough was it in the car?
AA: Actually, surprisingly OK. I was expecting it to be worse. But we had two red flags so that did help it. It’s brutal, especially the high speeds in Sector 2, you feel it. Otherwise I think there was more adrenaline going into my body than anything else, so I’m happy.
Q: Once again, you showed you are one of the most instinctive racers. You had to fight hard with Daniel Ricciardo, one of the other great instinctive racers out there. You seem actually relatively under control, I think I’d be anticipating the taste of that Champagne a bit more.
AA: Yeah, it was good. We just couldn’t get off the line so most of the overtakes I had to get it done on the circuit. But our car is good on the brakes, we’ve known that since day one so we can do moves like that and it’s fun to drive.
Q: Valtteri Bottas, what could have been, had that safety car restart had worked out for you. Where’s you mind at now as you realise that you didn’t get the win today?
Valtteri Bottas: It’s disappointing as obviously it was like a dream start for me for the race. The start was really good and I also managed to hold pole position for the safety car restart. I don’t really remember all the phases but it seemed there were no opportunities once I lost position at the second start, but that’s how it goes.
Q: You’re so close. You’re so close in qualifying, you are so close in the race. We’re at the half way point of this championship. What can you do now? We have a couple of weeks until Sochi, a track that you do go well on…
VB: I’ll just keep pushing. I’ll keep pushing and keep trying to get better. It has to turn out well for me at some point.
Q: You’re fit, you’re fast, but what particular area do you need to pick up on?
VB: I don’t know. I’ve lost many qualifyings this year with just a few hundredths so I think that’s the first thing: to try to get those few hundredths to my side.
Q: Lewis, I know you say you don’t look at the stats but you’ve just rounded it off at a nice 90 grand prix victories, you’re sixth victory of this year. You had to work at that one; it wasn’t plain sailing. Can you remember all of the phases of the race?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, it’s all a bit of a daze. It was like three races in one day. Just incredibly tough today. I think obviously with a difficult start. This track is phenomenal. The heat. Keeping Valtteri behind me, who’s been quick all weekend was not easy, and obviously I was behind him at the beginning. All those restarts and the total focus needed during that time. It was really, really hard.
Q: So physically tough. Any other concerns out there. We heard you talking about your tyres before the stop. You seemed to be reasonably comfortable with the, Valtteri seemed to struggle a bit more with his. Anything else out that stood our as tricky points during the race?
LH: Not really. It was those restarts. The first stint I was fine, managing my tyres and I didn’t need to stop. It was just they were worried because Valtteri had a problem and then you obviously see the things unravelling those next laps and the last one I started on the softs, which was a used tyre, and not knowing how far that was going to go. And then Valtteri appeared out of nowhere, when I saw Danny was behind, and he was on it. There were times when I was looking after the tyres and all of a sudden he would close up. So keeping that over one-second gap, because this is a long, long straight, it’s a thousand metres or whatever it is, and I didn’t want him to have DRS. My heart is definitely racing and it’s crazy to be here and have 90 grand prix victories and uh… justice for Breonna Taylor.
Q: Lewis, that has to be one of the craziest races of recent times. How do sum it all up?
LH: Hectic! Such a rollercoaster ride, I think, mentally and emotionally. Emotionally and physically, sorry. All these guys have done an amazing job. Valtteri was so quick all weekend so keeping him behind in the starts and stops we had, I wouldn’t say it was easy to stay in the zone. But really, really grateful to the team for running up and down the pit lane, I think we had the furthest to go. For their composure, I think they did an amazing job. Really proud to be a part of it. Ultimately really proud of my performance today because it was not easy keeping these guys behind.
Q: Valtteri, how frustrating was this race for you? You did everything right at the first start?
VB: For sure it’s disappointing. I think frustrating is not the right word because I felt I really tried everything. At least the first part. The first race start was absolutely perfect and the restart I managed to keep my position and felt like the pace was good. Once I lost the position to Lewis at the second start I tried everything I could to get it back but I couldn’t and he obviously was faultless today and it was a pretty crazy race. It really feels like we had three races today instead of one. I tried and I feel it’s just a matter to time that things will go my way and it will come and I will keep pushing.
Q: Alex, coming to you, it’s great to see you on the podium today. After two near-misses, how much of a relief is this result for you?
AA: Yeah. It was a good race obviously. It was nice to finally get that podium but under the circumstances as well. It was a tricky race. We weren’t very good off the line so a lot of the overtakes had to be on the track. It made it exciting. We had a really good car today and fortunately we were able to extract it and do the overtakes when we needed to.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question to Lewis. Congratulations for the win. About the t-shirt that you wore at the start and at the end obviously, the Breonna Taylor t-shirt. Is this a change in the anti-racism campaign? It was always Black Lives Matter up until now. Is this an individual change – rather like Naomi Osaka’s face masks at the US Open?
LH: Not much of a change, it’s still fighting the same thing. It’s just… it took me a long time to get that shirt and I’ve been wanting to wear that and bring awareness to the fact that there’s people that have been killed on the street and there’s someone that got killed in her own house, and they’re in the wrong house, and those guys are still walking free and we can’t rest, we can’t… we have to continue to raise awareness with it and Naomi has been doing amazing, so huge congratulations to here, and I think she’s an incredible inspiration with what she’s done with her platform. I think we just have to continue to push on the issue.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for Alex. I’m going to test your memory I’m afraid Alex. Could you just talk through how you felt in the two moments after you slipped back and it looked like maybe the podium wasn’t on the cards. And can you also just talk through that pass on Daniel Ricciardo. That looked like a perfect blend of judgement and bravery.
AA: It wasn’t easy. When you lose positions at the start you always feel like it’s going to be more hard work but you never doubt that you can get back up there. It wasn’t an easy track to overtake. On the first stint I used a lot of my tyres to overtake, I think it was two cars, or whoever I did overtake and on the Mediums we were actually strong. I knew the pace was there – I was just a bit afraid because, with another red flag, it meant I would have been happy just to maintain position but the Renaults seemed to be very strong at starts and the Racing Point was also strong. I was fired up when we lost another two positions – or another position off the start – but I knew also that we had the pace. It was more about patience during the race and making sure you don’t overdrive the car too early, the tyres too early, so you had something left for the overtaking later on. And yeah, with Daniel… we were good in the last corner. That was… we’ve been good in the last sector all weekend and that’s really important for a circuit where there’s only one place to overtake and that’s Turn One. The Renaults are quick down the straights so I didn’t catch him as quick as I thought I would, and it was kind of like a last-minute dive on the outside. Of course, I was a little worried, but I left enough space and Daniel gave me enough room and I went past.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for all three drivers. First of all, a few years ago, we had a different restart procedure when you were allowed to overtake from the Safety Car line onwards. Now it’s a bit different and we saw the chaos today, probably you at the front, you haven’t seen it that much. Do you think we should go back to the old system where you can overtake earlier – and for Valtteri especially, do you take any blame for the chaos that happened behind? Thanks.
VB: We’re allowed to race from the control line, which has been there for a while, I think. Just the difference this year has been the Safety Car, they are putting the lights off quite late, so you can only build the gap pretty late on. So, of course when you’re in the lead you try to maximise your chances and I’m not at all to blame for that. Everyone can look at everything they want for it. I was doing consistent speed until I went. Yes, I went late but we start racing from the control line, not before that. So the guys behind who crashed because of that, they can look in the mirror. There’s no point whining about it. It’s just… the FIA or FOM, I don’t know who’s deciding what’s happening with the Safety Cars but they’re trying to make the show better by turning the lights later, so we can’t build a gap early and then go like the corner before the race start. They in the main straight, so maybe it’s time to think if that’s right and safe to do so.
Lewis, your thoughts please?
LH: Firstly, it’s absolutely not Valtteri’s fault at all. It’s the decision-makers. I don’t know who. They’re obviously trying to make it more exciting but ultimately today you’ve seen they’ve put people at risk. So, perhaps they need to rethink that. They have been moving switching off the Safety Car lights later and later and later and we’re out there fighting for a position. Especially when you earn a position like Valtteri earned the position of being in the lead and then obviously they are trying to make it more exciting – but today was a little bit over the limit perhaps. But he did exactly what anyone would do.
AA: Same comments as Lewis and Valtteri. I think when you put the control lines so far in front and then also leave the lights so late it’s pretty obvious where Valtteri’s going to take off. He’s going to take off as late as he can and I imagine the midfield know when Valtteri’s going to go and they are also trying to get a slingshot and then when Valtteri doesn’t go when they think he’s going to go, that’s when the concertina happens and it’s dangerous but it’s predictable as well in that sense because the closer you leave it or the less time you leave, let Valtteri decide when to take off, the more obvious… the shorter time he has to go so it’s quite easy to read. I don’t know if you saw but the top five were all almost doing a double formation start because we were all just waiting for the take-off. It’s dangerous. I think tracks like this are always going to be difficult as well, with long straights but definitely something could have been done better.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, about the two initial starts from the grid. The first start, when you were on pole, and you got away slowly, did anything similar happen to what happened to Valtteri in Spain and Hungary and Monza in terms of the start procedure? And then on the second start, your brakes were fully on fire, but you still steamed round the outside in turn one so did you have any odd feeling at all from what was going on with the brakes there?
LH: So the first one… every situation is different so I just went too deep and got wheelspin, wasn’t very good reaction also so Valtteri beat us off there. The second one, yeah, I basically had on the formation lap… I had a separation of my front brake temperatures by nearly two hundred degrees so I was pushing them very hard to bring the one that was down equal, and I got them up to a thousand degrees and I tried to cool them through the last corner and all the way to the start and I got to the grid and there was a lot of smoke coming and I was definitely worried as I could see… I think I saw a flame at one stage which is not good, because that burns all the interior of what is in the upright so fortunately the start was… got under way relatively quickly and I didn’t have a problem from there on but it was definitely on the limit.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) For everybody: have you raised these concerns about the late extinguishing of the lights on the safety car and the racing from the start/finish line with the FIA before? And if so, what’s been their response?
LH: I don’t remember. Has it been brought up? I can’t remember.
VB: I know that I think our team opened up the discussion again this morning before the race, saying that it’s a bit of a concern here, but they said basically they’re going to keep doing it because it’s better for the show. I think that was the reply.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you can now match Michael Schumacher’s win record at the next race in Sochi. What does it mean to you to be so close to a record that many thought would never be broken?
LH: Yeah, it just doesn’t seem real. Obviously it’s ultimately a privilege to be in a position and have such a great team and a car to be able to deliver weekend in, weekend out but I just feel forever grateful to the people that continue to work hard, I’m just a link in the chain but getting the wins is not easy when you have a great driver in Valtteri pushing you the limit, weekend in, weekend out. But I never thought that I would be here, that’s for sure.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) To all three, please: just wanted to get your thoughts on the whole experience of racing in Mugello, is it fun, is it too dangerous, is the DRS effect too strong and do you think we should come back here in future?
LH: I personally love it, I don’t know how it was for the racing but it was one of the toughest tracks to drive, I think being that it’s medium and high speed but it’s a fantastic circuit and I don’t think it was too dangerous, I think it’s more old-school with the run-off areas and the gravel so I hope they don’t change that and I would love to come back.
VB: Yeah, I think it’s great, I think it should be in the calendar every year. It’s definitely goes really high up in my list so it’s not too dangerous. Well, motor sport is dangerous, that’s how it goes but it’s an old school track and we all love it.
AA: Yeah, personally I really love the circuit. I think it’s nice to go to these tracks which aren’t your normal run-off area, let’s say mistake-free tracks. Here it was a bit more punishing and it just feels a bit more special as well to come to these unique old places where there’s a lot of history behind it.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Question for maybe Lewis and Valtteri: just going back to the starting lights, is there any risk of Formula One perhaps straying into dangerous territory and maybe safety becoming compromised for the show? We’ve also got talk of reverse grid qualifying races. It seems to be that safety was always paramount but maybe the show is coming first, I don’t know. What do you think?
LH: I don’t know. I need to think about and I don’t want to overstep the mark so I know the fans were excited with the last race, with the restart and everything so it seemed like they… if there’s a piece of paper on the track they’re going to put the red flag out and do a restart and I can understand why and that is exciting. Ultimately, these races can get boring when everyone streams out and there’s such big gaps between everyone and so this does bring it back it in. They do it in NASCAR, the put out the yellow flag all the time and safety cars, whatever, all the time to keep the race exciting, but they definitely need to take into account the safety aspect because today wasn’t particularly safe with the restart. I could almost see that coming. I’m sure they will learn from it and we will move together, the sport together.
VB: Nothing to add. I agree with that absolutely.