Full transcript from the top three press conference after the Portuguese Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship, at Autodromo do Algarve, near Portimão in Portugal.
Featuring race-winner Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), second-placed Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes) and third-placed Max Verstappen (Red Bull).
Track interviews conducted by Martin Brundle
Q: Max, another podium, well done. It looked pretty spicy on the first lap, the first few corners? Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was very low grip. I just tried to stay out of trouble. Of course I had a little touch with Sergio, but he didn’t leave me enough space to basically took himself out. From there onwards, it was raining a little bit and I just tried to keep the car on the track. Once everything was stabilised I overtook the McLaren cars. They had a lot of grip on the first lap, I don’t know how. And then I did my own race. I went onto the medium tyres, we had good pace, but of course the gap was already so big that you can’t really do anything.
Q: Once you cleared those early runners and you could only see the Mercedes you had great pace there for a while but I guess the tyres went away from you? MV: Yeah, but also they were on the hard tyre and I think that tyre was not amazing. Today the medium tyre was the definitely the best tyre, so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had started on the medium because then I would have lost my time on the hards. Overall we finished where we deserved.
Q: Valtteri, P2. You took off, in the early stages of the race, really quickly. You looked so comfortable. Obviously the McLaren was right up there with you, Carlos Sainz, but when you got established out front you were really there, under control? Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, the opening lap was pretty good. There was a bit of drizzle and some cars behind with the soft tyre had the upper hand but I was pretty pleased I could get the lead. But after that I just had no pace today. I don’t understand why, but no pace.
Q: Take us through that overtake when Lewis… you really defended hard up the right hand side, Lewis sweeping through for the lead? VB: Of course I tried to defend, but the rate he was trying to close, there was nothing really to do. Like I said, I don’t know why I didn’t have the pace today. I was pushing hard but couldn’t go faster.
Q: We heard you calling to go onto soft tyres to finish the race. You didn’t get them of course. I think you knew you weren’t going to get them, but that’s what you wanted? VB: Yeah, I was hoping to extend the first stint a bit and go for the soft at the end but I don’t think it made any difference to the result today.
Q: Lewis Hamilton, our winner today. Congratulations we are privileged to watch you making sporting history. Wow, did you do it in style. Lewis Hamilton: Thank you so much. First of all, I really owe it all to these guys here and back at the factory for their tremendous work. They are continuously innovating and pushing the barrier higher every year, the target, and it’s just been such a privilege working with them and I’m so grateful for all the moments. The reliability has been absolutely incredible, thanks to Mercedes and Petronas and all our partners who are continuously pushing again. No one is sitting back on their success. Everyone is pushing. Pushing and pushing and pushing. That’s the most incredible thing to be surrounded by. It inspires you, that collaboration. There’s nothing quite like it. Today was tough, but it was all about temperatures today and that’s something I was able to, with the set-up, I was able to pre-empt it.
Q: It was a bit of a struggle in the early few corners wasn’t it. A little bit of rain, and rain the rain is falling now? LH: Yeah, I mean they said it was going to rain straight after the race. We got some spitting just at the start. I got a good start but then going into Turn 7 and I got a huge oversteer moment and you know, you didn’t know what was next. I really backed off massively. Arguably, I should have probably tried to defend from Valtteri but I was like “I’ll come back later on” and fortunately that’s what I was able to do.
Q: You talked about some cramp in the closing stages of the race? LH: Oh yeah. I mean, you know, it’s an incredibly physical sport but I had a cramp in my right calf. I was lifting quite often down the straight because it was about, like, pull. Pretty painful, but I had to somehow get through it because it is what it is, you can’t lift for the whole lap. You know, I could only have ever dreamed of being where I am today and I didn’t have a magic ball when I chose to come to this team and partner with these great people but here I am and what I can tell you is that I’m trying to make the most of it every single day. Everything that we do together, we are all rowing in the same direction and that’s why you are seeing the success that we are having. My dad’s here, which is amazing and my step mum Linda is here, and Roscoe, it’s a very blessed day.
Q: Ninety-two Formula 1 victories. Extraordinary. What does that mean to you? LH: Phew. It’s going to take some time for it to fully sink in, but I was still pushing flat out coming across the line. I’m still very much in race mode mentally. I can’t find the words at the moment.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations. No one in the history of Formula 1 has taken more wins than you. You are out on your own. Can you describe your emotions as you crossed the line here in Portugal? LH: Well, thank you. I think ultimately just very proud of the job that I felt I was able to do today and the thing I was able to overcome, but also the job we have done collectively as a team and it’s just reminiscent of the beginning when I joined the team, the decision I took to join the team and what we have done since. Did I think we would get to… I knew that we would win championships. Did I think we would win as many as we have? No. Did I think we would win this many races? Of course not. But it is a phenomenal time for us and the great thing is that it’s not just me that is living with the history, it’s the whole team and I think everyone acknowledges and realises how much they are part of it, so I feel incredibly grateful to my teammates. To Valtteri, for being the contender he is, the team-mate he is, for pushing the team forwards – we’re generally rowing in the same direction whilst we are competing, and it’s been a privilege to work with him. So what a time to be alive.
Q: A lot of people are probably wondering how far you can go. How high can you raise the bar? LH: I don’t believe in the saying the sky’s the limit. It’s just a saying. It depends how much we want it, how much we want to continue to raise the bar and going by our history together, just the way we work, we don’t sit back on our results, we keep working, we keep elevating. Every race feels like the first one. I don’t know how that’s possible after all these races but for me it does, just as challenging as the first, and I think there is a lot more for us to do. Especially as we’re in this crazy time of the pandemic. We’re in a crazy time with having to also utilise our position as a business, as a leader in the business for inclusivity, for diversity, there’s a lot of work to do. So, that keeps me inspired. My team-mates, who are continuously growing, my fans who are continuously learning through this process with us all, and our sport that is slowly changing, it’s a real special time. I definitely sometimes wonder, you know, jeez I’m 35 years old. I still feel physically strong but you still wonder when is it going to tip over and lose performance but showing by today it’s not yet.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you. Let’s start at the beginning. What was the grip like from P2 on the inside of the grid today? VB: First of all I want to say massive congrats to Lewis for this amazing achievement and being part of motorsport history, mate. Actually, some of the interviewers were saying that what do I think about it because many people thought it’s never possible to break the record but that itself is a mistake and I’m sure Lewis always believed it is possible and he’ll just keep going. So, really, hat’s off. Big respect.
LH: Thank you mate, appreciate it. VB: From my side, yeah, it was a tricky race. About the start, definitely the right-hand side was rather slippery but I’m pretty sure it looked a bit weird for the spectators and for the viewers, looking at the first lap but there was actually quite a bit of rain in the first laps, so that’s why the warm up was really poor, especially us being on the Medium tyre, the warm-up was quite a bit weaker than the guys with the soft tyre, so I think I managed to make the most out of it with the Medium tyres in the first few laps but yes, it was tricky.
Q: Tell us about the pitstop. You asked for Soft tyres yet the team chose differently. VB: Yes, I did ask for the Soft tyre because I thought it would be, for me, the best thing to do. Something different, as the gap was already pretty big by that point – but then the Medium tyre started to work. We started to have a bit of vibration, which means the tyres are going to be really finished and there’s always a risk of tyre failure, so the safest thing at the end was to go for the Hard, just to obviously get the points. That’s how it went today but fundamentally the main issue for me was lack of pace, which I didn’t quite understand. Just didn’t have the pace today as I’m sure everyone could see. It was a tough, long race without Safety Cars or anything.
Q: Max, can we start please with getting your thoughts on Lewis’ achievements today? MV: We were just talking about it. Lewis says he keeps pushing because he wants to set it very high, because… yeah, I have to work hard to try to get there! It’s amazing. What can you say? It’s just incredible. An incredible achievement. Ninety-two victories and I don’t think it stops there. It will go well over 100. He’s pushing me to go until I’m 40 years old, or something. It’s a good motivation as well. Nah, anyway, it’s incredible. It looks like or course he’s also going for his seven world titles, which is very impressive. Everybody knows he’s very quick but what has also been a very strong point is that he’s also very consistent and very rarely makes a mistake and that’s why I think also he got to this number so quick. Yeah. It’s just very impressive LH: Thank you mate.
Q: And just a quick word on your race. The start on the Soft tyre and also the incident with Pérez on the opening lap. MV: Yeah, it was quite eventful. The first two laps. The start itself was quite OK. I had a good draft and, of course, down to Turn 1, it was quite low-grip into Turn 1, so I had to go a little bit wide. It was hectic also the first lap. I don’t know. In Turn 3 I had to go a bit wide and I had… I think I was behind Lewis but I had Sergio next to me. He was going around the outside in Turn 4 but then, I don’t know, he didn’t leave enough space and basically he took himself out while I was just driving on the normal line and luckily I had no damage – but then of course you lose a bit of momentum, and then I had Charles and Carlos behind, so I had to defend, but then I locked up a bit, so I had to go wide. Yeah, it was a disaster! I had no grip and suddenly those McLarens were flying. They were absolutely flying and I lost positions to them – but I also didn’t want to risk too much, because normally they are not the ones we fight against in the race. But clearly the first lap they were unbelievable. I tried to stay out of trouble a bit, tried to settle down. Then I had Kimi behind me. I was shocked about that because I thought: “Am I really going to… like, what’s going on?” Kimi was flying, probably his rally driving helped him a bit in the first lap or something because that was pretty impressive. He must have been P6? But anyway, kept him behind, everything settled down. I got into a rhythm, passed the McLarens. LH: Shows you can still do it at 40! MV: Clearly! That’s going to be so long. I don’t want to think about that yet! I started when I was 17. I don’t want to think about being 40 years old, driving in Formula 1! Anyway, then I got back into P3 and quite quickly my left-front tyre died, so a lot of graining and I had to box. Once I put on the Mediums it was fine. I think the pace wasn’t too bad. Took a few laps to settle in – but also the wind, lap to lap, it was changing quite a lot. One time you would go into a corner and it was fine. Next lap you would have oversteer. So that also didn’t make it easy to really get settled it. Once the tyres were up to temperature the pace was good and I just pulled away from the cars behind and I could do my own race – but of course they were a bit too far away from that point onwards. But anyway, quite eventful in the beginning and of course I’m still happy to be here. LH: Why didn’t you use the Medium? MV: I don’t had one set for quali and I said I wasn’t going to risk it. I didn’t think the Soft was going to be that much of a struggle.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Lewis, unsurprisingly, this is for you. Obviously you’ve made a monumental achievement today – but you’ve done with an incredible drive, one of the most dominant we’ve seen from you for a long, long time. How does it feel to have such a fitting performance to mark such a big achievement – and how do you think you were so dominant? LH: I think today… first, when I come to these races I never think of the numbers. I just never let it enter into my thought process. Today was really about… we’re at this track, it’s very, very smooth, you see the struggle we’re all having with the tyre temperatures, so towards the end of the race I was thinking about what I will and won’t say in terms of what is appropriate to say and not to say but ultimately it’s no secret, I think today was about tyre temperature. I felt through the race that I was learning, lap on lap, more about the circuit. I was trying lots of different lines and discovering new lines that worked well. The wind direction was very, very tricky, I think, today, lots of crosswinds, headwinds and tailwinds and there was some positions that you could utilise to your favour and others that kind-of get in the way. I think the key is the times when you have a tailwind, it’s minimising the loss through those stages. Set-up was something that I really focussed on. It was less about qualifying set-up, and more for the race set-up and I think today that enabled me to go one better, I guess, than before. I just felt like I was generally getting faster and faster throughout the race – but I had to keep up the pace for these tyres. That was really the key.
Q: Lewis, how difficult was it to get the tyres up to temperature at the start? LH: So we knew it was going to be tough on the mediums. Actually, I think the engineers… they’re very – kind of – chilled about it. Yeah, it will be tough but you’ll be alright. They, like, send you out… It was very tricky and obviously it start to spit so when you’re often the first car into the corners at the start of a lap when it is spitting, you’re the first one to hit those raindrops, you’re the first one to hit those patches of circuit. It’s different when you’re in second, because you can react, often, to the car ahead but I struggled. I got to turn five which was not so bad but then in turn six I had that massive oversteer moment and realised I still had low grip and Valtteri came by, I was overly cautious, I would say, through seven and kind of just generally let them by into eight, didn’t even defend and he seemed to have more grip than me at that moment. Of course, I didn’t understand why, but I was sure that at some stage I would get there and I knew that it’s a long, long race here, so I just kept my cool and just focused on trying to keep the car, the thing on the track, not make mistakes, and keep myself in the race, keep this guy(Max) behind, because he was also right on my tail. And even on the hard, it was not so easy to get temperatures but it wasn’t as bad as it was at the start of the race.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, you mention on the radio that you had some cramp towards the end of the race. How did that happen, how did that feel, and did that affect how you were trying to get faster and faster to keep the temperature in the tyres at the end? LH: Thank you, yes, I was asking the other guys if they’d experienced anything like it. I generally didn’t drink a lot today and I remember getting into the car thinking I’m probably going to be dehydrated and I just didn’t… I never drink in the race, never. And anyways, I started having small cramp… it’s a very physical circuit but your throttle pedal, there’s lots of bumps, undulations, you’re applying the throttle pretty aggressively for pretty much every lap all the way and you never really get to rest. I was coming out of the last corner, coming round turn 15 onto the straight and I got the feeling that it was about to pull, like you’re pulling a muscle, and it popped and it hurt so much, I had to lift and I didn’t really know what to do, because every time I applied it the pain was there. But of course I can’t stay off the gas, I’ve got to keep going, so it’s just mind over matter, so I just had to keep pushing. It was pretty excruciating for a couple of laps, but then it started to kind of…. I don’t know whether blood starts rushing to it and the adrenalin takes over but I’ve definitely got a bit of a knot in my knee, my calf. Yeah, I will seek medical attention afterwards. Angela is a real physio. A lot of trainers here claim they are real physios but they are not; most of them aren’t physios. Angela’s got… MV: She’s got strong hands. She’s quite… she treated me once, it was not so lovely. Well, it was good but not so very enjoyable initially. LH: No, it’s not.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Valtteri, when you were on the medium tyres, you mentioned getting some vibrations and as this tyre was wearing, was there a particular incident that caused that or was it just the case of the wear and you couldn’t keep the tyres alive as well as Lewis? VB: I didn’t really have any big lock-ups so I think it was just that it’s quite common that when a tyre starts to be at the end of its life, it starts vibration so I think it was really just the tyre wear and that forced us to stop at that point.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Max, you were making half a joke saying you have to race until you’re 40 or whatever to beat Lewis record, but at one stage you were being spoken as a candidate for the youngest World Champion. That seems to have gone now. How frustrating is it to know that your talents are right up there but you’re unlikely to set any sort of records going forward unless you get the proper machinery? MV: Well, you just have to accept the situation you’re in because otherwise, you would become a very frustrated person if you don’t accept it, so that’s what I did. That doesn’t mean that every time… you know, I come to a Grand Prix, I always try to get the best out of it and it’s a good motivation. I can enjoy third or second if I know that I push myself to the limit, I push the car to the limit and I know that the team did everything they could. Like again, I think today they guys did a few amazing pit stops again. Stuff like that motivates me but also motivates them. I take my enjoyment out of that. And in the end of the day, yeah, I mean everybody loves winning, that’s why we are, but if it’s not possible, it’s not possible. Youngest World Champion? I mean at the end of the day, I don’t think that when I’m 40 or 50 years old I care a lot about those kinds of things. I just want to look back when I’m at that stage when I’m 40 or 50 and I look at myself in the mirror and say did you get the most out of yourself? If you can say yes, then I’m happy about that because if that means you win seven titles or whatever or zero, you need a bit of luck for that as well, to be at the right team at the right time. Sometimes it doesn’t work out like that but we’ll see. I still have a few years ahead of me, so hopefully, things will change.
Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Valtteri, along similar lines perhaps, but you have fewer years than Max, obviously, to beat this man. You’ve re-set yourself several times over the years. We’ve seen Valtteri 2.0, but the end result seems very much the same. How do you deal with someone like Lewis? How do you keep going when he’s battering you so greatly as in today, for example? VB: It’s a motivation. For me it’s… as I’ve said before, I definitely don’t want anything easy. It’s how I’ve been raced and what is my mindset, that I will always keep going and it’s just great motivation to try and beat him and it’s difficult but I know it’s possible and that’s the thing. And if I give up, it won’t ever be possible and that will be the biggest mistake to do and also what Max said, the main thing is really to give it all you have every single time, make the most out of every situation. Obviously Max is a bit younger, I’m 31 now but I still feel like I’m peaking. I’m not yet there and hopefully, soon, I will be and I also feel I still have quite a few years and I’ll keep pushing and that’s it. For me it’s very simple.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, just going back to that collision with Perez; did you pick any damage in that and did it affect the rest of your race? MV: No, luckily no damage. I was a bit cautious on that lap because I was not sure what was going to happen with the car, if I had damage or not or if something would break but luckily I looked at the car when I jumped out and nothing was damaged, so that was very lucky.